Darling Daughters

Chapter Six

 

Walking past the gazebo back to being a brunette felt weird for Summer as the sunlight streamed through her hair. Her thoughts centred on how unnatural it felt to have natural hair for the first time in years. No longer the girl with red and black hair, she felt out of sorts. A loss of her identity. Summer bumped into Elizabeth, who wanted to check she was following orders.

Summer made her way to work. She arrived received a few compliments from a couple of customers. She couldn’t shake the feeling inside her, the dip in her sense of identity. In a sweeping flood Summer’s homesick hit her in the stomach, simple things like a decent cup of tea, fish and chips and a traditional Sunday roast niggled at her. Grimeston suddenly felt lonely. The down was eccentric; she was given an opportunity to start fresh but this had drained her.

She felt herself changing, no longer identifiable as who she thought she was. Even learning the local Americanisms. She was even flirting a little with a very handsome young man.

She had enough of hearing encouragement to not be nervous and to be herself, but she didn’t know who she was. Before Orkney she knew who she was. The girl with cool hair and a brilliant mind. Now maybe one of those might be true. Her latest fear was stepping into Darling Honor and still standing out but not for the right reasons.

She was lost, just like every girl her age. She didn’t notice Elizabeth watching her. Slowly Summer began to think that she might not be alone in this feeling. Summer looked up scanning the sea of grass, she saw Elizabeth leaning against a lamppost.

Summer stood and ran towards Elizabeth and just demanded a hug. That is all she needed right in that moment. Taken back Elizabeth obliged Summer as a few tears streaked her cheeks. There was a moment of silence between them breaking from the hug.

“Ellie, I am so sorry if I have been, you know, a bit difficult recently. I just sort of miss, you know, knowing who I am.”

“Oh Sum, you finally called me Ellie.”

“You finally called me Sum.”

They hugged again. “Wanna go grab something to eat?”

“God yes”

With that both girls walked arm in arm towards Simon’s to have something that they didn’t have to cook, neither one feeling like dealing with the kitchen or the washing up.

(Skip waiting for me to post and order the book here )

Darling Daughters

Chapter Five

 

Reluctantly Summer got dressed knowing that she had to go into a school she had just started in order to leave. Elizabeth shared the daunted mood, the cloud of frustration hanging over them as they warmed up the left over takeaway for breakfast.

Waiting for Elizabeth, Summer was leaning against the door when the Grimeston High head teacher called her into the office. Summer would be required to spend the full day in school.  Summer shrugged and made her way to the first class handing her teacher the note the head had given her.

“Oh, so you are the new girl? Summer. Well apparently today is your last day. What happened? Couldn’t hack an American state school?”

Summer swallowed her initial response. Taking her seat, she took a deep breath. “Nothing like that, personally, I couldn’t care less and I think you couldn’t care less either. It was simply a miss-understanding during the move. Monday I start at a school where my uniform would make a Ribena berry wince.”

The class remained silent, the teacher a little surprised, instructed the class to read. Summer rolled her eyes and took out the prospectus guide for Darling Honor. Summer found restraint hard reading through paragraphs, her cynicism and sparkling silent sarcastic commentary running internally left the only signs of her unenthusiastic agitation written on her face.

The day dragged on. Finally, in her last class, she had found most of the teachers had insisted on her doing some work. Luckily the final teacher didn’t care less and she resumed the prospectus browsing. She reached a section she finally had some interest in, a segment of her family. The Darlings a list of their achievements relating to the school and their academic accomplishments. She began to appreciate just how inspiring the Darlings were, in that appreciation her own self-doubt ate at her.

When the bell rang Summer made her way to her locker emptying it of the little she had stored in it. Managing to turn a corner she bumped into someone and the contents of her arms slipped from her grasp. She ducked down to find that the person she had bumped into was helping her pick things up. “We haven’t scared you off already?” He smiled. Summer gently denied and reluctantly mentioned her transfer being to keep her family happy.

He didn’t stop smiling, “I’m Zach, does that mean you are leaving town?”

“Nope, I am staying put, I hope, just a lot of travelling. I am Summer by the way.” She returned his smile. Feeling a little giddy.

“I know. Do you want a hand with this?” It wasn’t as much of a question, he had already stood up and started walking. Summer caught up with him as they walked in the direction of the manner. She found herself offering him some fizzy but he gave her a strange look at her Englishisms. He declined saying that he had to get on to his shift at McGuires, not wanting to be late, he had to run. “He didn’t look to bad running away” she caught herself thinking.

Shaking her head Summer made her way to catch up with Elizabeth on her way to the Diner for her shift. Elizabeth had spent the day with Caroline learning the perfect cupcake recipe and her secret techniques for frosting. It would be safe to say Elizabeth had found her mentor, an idol to work with, someone able to magic up rows of dainty beautiful cupcakes that streamed from the counter to the displays. It was taking time but Elizabeth was learning the techniques to reproduce the cupcakes able to almost replicate Caroline’s work. Caroline really had taken Elizabeth under her wings.

At the end of her shift Elizabeth made her way to see Summer, the ever whizzing blur serving customers in the rush. Elizabeth picked a stool she found a stolen second with Summer as she and Simon served customer after customer in rapid succession. Summer had decided to work full shifts at the Diner until she had to go to Darling Honor.

A niggling feeling in Summer’s gut told her this time wouldn’t last long. Her free time would dissolve on Monday. Towards the end of her shift she recognised a face at the window, unable to stop. Elizabeth said good bye and made her way home.

Summer had been serving customers when Simon handed her coffee as she started to slow in the post rush lull. Simon offered to drop her off later, there had been someone lurking about a bit by the window. Summer merely shrugged drinking her coffee. The face at the window walked in and asked for coffee.

Simon locked onto him asking him why he stood outside if he wanted coffee. “Coffee is served inside not at a window, what do you think this is? A drive through?” Summer laughed and said she would take over. Simon looked confused as Summer began a little awkward small talk with Zach making him the coffee.

Zach still seemed a little shy and shocked by Simon’s earlier outburst. When Summer disappeared from view Simon took the opportunity to ask Zach what he was doing outside. “I er… I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted caffeine.”

“That is what decaf is for. We are closing.” Simon retorted, still eyeing Zach with suspicion.

Simon kept his promise and took Summer to the manner, on the way he smirked, “you know I think he likes you.” Eyeing her sideways as she laughed.

“He can’t. The two of you seemed pretty close, maybe you are the object of his attention.”

“No, not a chance, not with the way he was looking at you, I wouldn’t stand a chance.” He winked.

Arriving home Summer walked through the door to be greeted by a letter in her face. Skimming over it the gist explained that unnatural hair colours were not permitted at Darling Honor and that the disobeying of the dress code would have severe punishment. Elizabeth told Summer she had booked her in to get her hair dyed back to brown. She would have to have her red and black toned back to brown.

Elizabeth was anxious not wanting to mess up when she knew the family would hear back. She urged Summer not to make an issue of this. Summer didn’t have the energy to argue even if she wanted to. She had to agree.

(Skip waiting for me to post and order the book here )

Darling Daughters

Chapter Four

Waking up in the manner felt surreal, every single morning. Summer was not only waking up in a new home it was a new town and country. Summer had woken early, aching all over, even getting ready for the day felt like a draining effort.  By the time Elizabeth woke up Summer was attacking the garden. Elizabeth held a little resentment in that moment watching Summer from the window. She was at the right age for this fresh start, she had so much more potential than her.

It took Elizabeth a moment to shake these thoughts directing her attention to the stack of letters on the dresser as she watched the sun stream through the window. Snapping from her distraction she shook off her thoughts and got herself dressed and ready to brave helping in the garden.

Elizabeth had been mindlessly chatting with Summer when Simon arrived; insistent once again to help return the gardens to the glory he remembered. Elizabeth couldn’t help but poke a reminder to Summer that she had school on Monday as she returned to removing some of the waste plants. The progress from wild jungle back garden was slow. But with a little assistance it might not take as long as Elizabeth anticipated.

With less than a week to go until Summer would slip into life at Grimeston High, she couldn’t shake her nerves no matter what she tried. The nagging feeling that they had forgotten something kept creeping up on her. Summer had always hated school. It left her panicked with a knot in her stomach that threatened to creep up her throat and choke her.

With as much done in the garden as they could stand, Elizabeth and Summer had decided Simon would be joining them for dinner. While Elizabeth finished clearing away Summer made a dash to the market while Simon went home to clean himself up and check in on the Diner.

On her return McGuire appeared from around a corner jumping into asking Summer when they would be intending to fic the house back to its “wonderful historical integrity”. Summer shrugged and made her excuses to leave wanting to return to the manner.

***

Elizabeth toyed with the letters on the counter reading them in slow succession. Summer had been bustling about for another day in the Diner as Elizabeth relaxed waiting for the nine-thirty start. The letter in Elizabeth’s hand, the scrawling handwriting of Archie. She had been reading a little passage about the house when her phone alarm rang to urge her to the market for her first day.

***

Elizabeth found herself being accosted by a relatively old but lively lady who had taken an instant liking to Elizabeth. Testing her with getting the items she requested. The lady spoke kindly, softly and warmly to Elizabeth. At the tills the lady asked Elizabeth if she would like to work for her in the bakery. “I could do with a lovely young girl like yourself to help out. To let you in on a little secret dear, I have always wanted to poach a member of staff from somewhere.” Elizabeth shifted uneasily when the woman announced that she was much too nice to work for Thomas.

Without even a thought Elizabeth accepted. Thomas had spent the majority of the morning from the moment she had stepped through the door to the moment the lady had asked for her help badgering Elizabeth about the manner. Continuous lectures about the “historical integrity” and “town continuity” had been winding Elizabeth up.

The lady introduced herself as Caroline, and promised not to mention the words “historical integrity”.

Elizabeth’s first afternoon in the bakery was busy. She had no time to drift her thoughts beyond the tasks she was given. Finishing up for the day she made her way to the Diner to meet Summer and discuss dinner plans for the evening.

Strolling through the square Elizabeth’s thoughts drifted to the evening she arrived in Orkney. The final hours of her twenty-first birthday. Reaching the Diner Simon ordered Elizabeth and Summer to sit at a table and eat.

***

By Monday morning Elizabeth was half way through the pile of letters, some spam, some welcome notes, a few bills and the usual “Dear occupier you have won a million dollars! Fill in this form to receive your money.” Which promptly found its way into the tearing jaws of the shredder.

Summer’s anxiety this morning was obvious. Today was her first day at Grimeston High. Kitted out with notepads and stationary she still felt unprepared. Making her way up the steps into the building she felt disorientated as she made her way to report to reception. Elizabeth watched Summer walk into the school before making her way to the bakery.

Summer felt the stress rise as she found herself put on the spot to introduce herself. At the first chance she could she went and sat in her chair. Summer sat through the class making notes. It seemed to be a majority of the crowd were friendly enough as she carried on through the day. Sneaking out at lunch to see Elizabeth.

***

Elizabeth finished for the day making her way to the Diner to wait for Summer. Reaching into her bag for another letter she discovered she really should have opened it much, much sooner. Her heart had dissolved from her chest and reappeared in her throat.

“Dear Miss Darling,

It is our understanding that Miss Summer May Darling will be joining our lovely school, Darling Honor Prep. We understand that the Darling family has already paid her fees and uniform costs until graduation.

Her uniform and school bag will be delivered the week before our start date. The school week begins on the next Monday from the dispatch of the uniform.

I expect to see yourself and Miss Darling upon arrival for an introductory meeting.

Looking forward to meet you both.

Regards

Mr Alexander Maiden.”

 

Elizabeth sat in silence. The reality sunk in. She would have to pull Summer out of Grimeston High. She had to inform the school and arrange the morning off. She needed coffee. There was so much more to do on the list already.

When Summer arrived she was handed the letter to read. Elizabeth waited nervously, hiding behind sipping her coffee. Simmer didn’t react, not in the way Elizabeth had expected. She watched as Summer’s eyebrows raised into her forehead before she finally lowered them. Summer simply stood and began her shift.

Elizabeth asked if she was ok, between customers Summer assured her it was fine. Unconvincingly. Sumer absorbed herself in the ebb and flow of customers. Her avoidance of being near Elizabeth had betrayed her “it’s fine.” After a little while Elizabeth left.

At the end of Summer’s shift she made her way home to meet Elizabeth to start the new to do list. Summer took a gentle stroll through the square up to the gazebo. As she sat on the bench, she watched the world go by as a group of boys played about on the grass, messing around. After a few moments she stood up and sighed as she made her way back to the house.

Walking past the broken porch swing she smiled. Going over to it she rested her hand on it, as though it could share her feelings. A moment or two later she walked through the front door of the manner.

Elizabeth handed Summer a parcel. Tentatively she opened it to discover a skirt that was below the knee and in need of hemming. It was a pleated, plaid black and plum skirt. A plum blouse, white socks, black shoes, black and white hair scrunches and a black and plum rucksack. The school coat and tights in black. Summer was mortified. The uniform was not the uniform she had expected after years of bottle green blazers, white shirts and black trousers; she had a chance to dress in nicer colours, although the styles and cuts were much more feminine than what she would choose herself.

Elizabeth disappeared from sight with the skirt and hemming tape leaving Summer alone with the uniform. Sitting down on to her bed she ordered takeaway. At least breakfast tomorrow would be a nice left over medley.

(Skip waiting for me to post and order the book here )

Dinner of the week

Roast chicken thighs with mega mushroom risotto

So this weeks outstanding dinner was a mushroom risotto with chicken. Reviews were that is ‘banging’ and worth making again.

So here’s what I used… (plus chicken thighs that were roasted plain) I admit I cooked this in a wok.


2 chicken oxo, large white onion, olive oil, small cup white wine, 1 tsp of mixed herbs, garlic granules, onion granules, about 2 punnets of mushrooms, small bit of lemon for juice
Mushrooms (1 punnet chestnut, white and even a punnet of shitake because we could get hold of them), frozen peas, risotto rice

So how did I do it? Well I started with the onions gently frying them until they turned translucent and then added risotto rice I had to eye ball it because I’m lazy.

It’s not a big tub like around half a litre at most!

Darling Daughters

Chapter Three

A low slung mist clung tight to Grimeston.

In those quiet early hours of dawn, the only sound to be heard was the quiet hum of a car engine cruising slowly through the town. It passed by the large open town square of a truly picturesque town.

In the back seat of the car sat two very exhausted Darlings. The bloodline formed of the very founders of this town.

Pulling up to the manner house the girls drowsily stepped from the car, removing their baggage. The fog began to lift and rise as the car drove off into the rising mists. Elizabeth and summer watched it leave before facing their new home.

The front garden, an overgrown jungle stretched before them. It seemed to be that every leaf and stem was tangled and intertwined over every surface from the walkway to the porch steps. Dragging their heavy bags and suitcases up the driveway to the porch steps crushing the long grasses growing wildly beneath their feet. Pulling the heaviest case free they pass up the porch steps and past the broken porch swing the girls shared a look of anxiety before they opened the creaking door.

Creeping inside the doorway they drag their bags behind them and slide them beside the door they ventured into the darkness before them.

Finding the light switch in the thick dusty darkness they saw their first glimpses of their new home. The furniture shapes before them covered in thick heavy drapes covered in dusty. Without thought Summer dove into her shoulder bag and pulled out a notebook and pen and started to jot herself a list. As they made their first adventure the dusty grand staircase.

At the top of the hallway they approached the master bedroom. The first thing either of them noticed was the dust, the thick smell of dust. The room was intensely elegant even the simple attached bathroom, but the need to sneeze drove them from the room. Taking an envelope from the dresser table bearing Elizabeth’s name.

After closing the door to the main bedroom Elizabeth opened the letter of instructions and saw that it was hers. “Once its cleaned up a bit I am sure it will be ok” Summer reassured Elizabeth. Summer tried the next door, the handle was stiff, and the door. It opened about an inch or two and that was as far as it would go. The view of the room hidden by piles of paper and furniture. Summer sighed closing the door once more as she made the walk from the upstairs rooms down towards the kitchen.

Summer noticed the door in the kitchen wall, just like in the instructions. Taking a deep breath, she turned the handle, Elizabeth followed behind her. The bed looked comfortable enough, despite the layers of dust. The back of the door had an envelope pinned to it, it had Summer’s name in beautiful handwriting swirled on the envelope.

The girls looked over their respective envelopes. Inside the envelopes was a welcome note. It spoke of the many keys around the manner for the furniture; some lost, some in the oddest of places. Summer and Elizabeth would need to search the house and work out which key belonged to which ancient piece of furniture.

After a short while they had found the keys to most of the bedroom furniture and cabinets. Having sorted through the piles of keys the only locked furniture remained the old office desk, a trunk and a beautiful dresser unit near the foyer. On that foyer dresser unit sat the bowl they had used to hold the keys.

Searching through the kitchen they found it stocked enough of equipment. But the food in the house, was out of date by far and growing lifeforms. The immediate clear out began in the kitchen, out went the lifeforms, the grime and top layers of dust in an attempt at quick hygiene improvement.

One thing was for certain, they were both very hungry.

After a quick wash and change of clothes the girls grabbed their handbags and made their way out of the door. Jumping over the chaos of the green below their feet they ventured into the unknown of the town. Following the path, the taxi had taken back towards the square. The morning air was cool and crisp with the sun beginning to warm the path around them.

Summer and Elizabeth peered through the window of a café as they watched the morning bustle of people flowing in and out picking up their morning coffee. Above the door they eyed the sign carved beautifully naming this place “Majesty Antiques”. Across the glass of the door another sign, “Simon’s Diner”.

The girls took their first few steps inside looking around. The tables were filled with people; eating, talking and laughing. Elizabeth and Summer caught two stools near the counter towards the till.

“So you finally decided to come in then.” The guy behind the counter had caught their attention. “I’m Simon. Do you know what you want?” Elizabeth beside Summer who looked at him inquisitively as a menu was thrust in front of her.

“Do you do tea? Like real, proper British tea?” Summer’s question had in turn thrown Simon, as well as her accent.

“No. Coffee or coffee.” He replied putting a mug in front of each of them and pouring from the hot coffee pot before making a round of the customer’s coffee pot in hand. Returning he asked what they wanted, a dual response of “pancakes please” was met with a nod and disappearance.

The girls began discussing the garden and the repairs. Deciding they would need real help with the porch swing and the anxiety of dealing with the back garden. Trying to develop some kind of plan.

Part way through the discussion revolving around the porch swing they heard a man sat quite closely clear his throat rather loudly repeatedly behind them. They turned around to find the source of the disruption. They were greeted by a slightly rotund greying man. “Well you must be new, I am Thomas McGuire, I own McGuires Market just over there. It’s lovely, do visit. But I am also the sort of counselled voice of this wonderful town. So what brings such beautiful young ladies like yourselves to this humble little town?”

The girls exchanged a look between one another before Summer spoke. “We’ve just arrived; this is my cousin Elizabeth-”

“Most people call me Ellie.”

“Ok, I stand corrected this is my cousin Ellie and I am Summer but most people end up calling me Sum.” Summer felt a wave of self-consciousness sweep over her as she realised that all eyes had fallen on them.

“Well it is a pleasure to welcome you ladies, I trust you will attend our exciting town meetings and take part. What an elegant accent Summer, do you mind me asking another question?” He didn’t wait for a response. “What is your surname? So that I can of course organise a welcome to Grimeston card and where have you moved to?”

Summer stared restraining a few sarcastic remarks, struggling. She nudged Elizabeth gently. “What do you mean?” Tumbled out of Elizabeth’s mouth. Seeing the long formation of answer forming behind a rather exasperated but gleeful Thomas Summer spoke up desperate to eat her pancakes. “Both of our surnames is Darling. We have just moved into the manner.”

The room fell silent. She began to panic that she had said something wrong in her haste to return to her breakfast. In half a moment Thomas was positively beaming and gushing talking a rapid, rambling nonsense.

Hastily both girls excused themselves paying before they left making excuses of paperwork. Not before they had been forced to announce their ages and reassure them that Summer was going to high school, and having to repeatedly reassure Thomas that they would be fixing the garden after he had named it an eyesore.

The girls extracted themselves fully and began to wonder around the town gathering their bearings ignoring the whispers that surrounded them. Retreating to the gazebo they sat hoping to take a few moments alone. Only to be interrupted by Simon stood in front of them. “Archie built this. I helped him, I was about thirteen but my dad made me help him, and with the garden. It used to be so beautiful. I want to help fix it up.”

The girls were quiet. Before summoning an answer. “You don’t have to. You barely even know us, it’s fine.” Elizabeth couldn’t ask favours from someone she didn’t know. He ignored her saying he would stop by tomorrow and help. Ellie made her way to the high school to enrol Summer before she made her way back to the manner.

As Summer approached the manner her heart sank seeing the extent of the garden in the cold light of day. She took a deep steadying breath as she carried the groceries over the garden path and up into the house. She packed them away and sighed as she looked back out into the garden. She stood for a moment before turning on here heels and getting changed.

She strode outside with a determined air she pulled the shed open. Clouds of dust whirled at her. She pulled out some gloves and tools wiping them off on a rag and turned to begin hacking away at the plants covering the hard stone of the path. Ripping and tearing and cutting away at the plants. Finally, after a bit of effort she began to see the grey concrete below, stained by the green of her efforts.  She had never been so happy to see concrete.

Concentrating hard she ignored the chattering of passers-by. She moved to the next step creating a pile of dead leaves, stems and vines. As Summer reached her third slab Elizabeth arrived with a full envelope of information from the local high school which she left on the hallway dresser before going to get changed.

Elizabeth returned to help Summer picking up the piles of plants Summer was making quick progress with along the old pathway. Within the next hour or so they had cleared the pathway. Taking a break, they sat on the porch steps admiring their work, however small in the scale of what they had yet to do.

Their attention diverted as Simon walked up the garden path carrying cups of coffee and a bag from his diner. He looked at the girls sat in front of them handing them the coffee, “here, I heard you had started to hack at the garden and thought… well, here is a coffee and a couple of my donuts. Good effort, even though you started without me.” Their jaws had dropped, they thanked him. In a heartbeat he had directed himself to a corner of the dense garden and began to clear it away, the girls jumped to their feet forgetting their coffee to pull him away; instead they ended up helping him.

They found that the people had stopped going by talking about them and began talking to them. Summer mentioned that they would both be looking for a job, other than tidying the manner.

As the sun had begun to set, the inside of the house no longer remained forgotten and the state of the rest of the house had begun to nag away at them once more. Elizabeth decided to call it a day thanking Simon for his help. Summer tidied the things away looking back at Simon and Elizabeth sharing a laugh.

“Hey Summer, if you could still use a job, would you mind helping out at the diner now that Ellie has a job at the market?” Summer stared at Simon in disbelief, this town seemed genuinely nice. Not the city life she knew. She accepted the job with thanks before Simon bid them both goodnight and left.

(Skip waiting for me to post and order the book here )