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.

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