Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

Simon began to wake at the sound of Summer’s voice echoing in the hall demanding to see Elizabeth. He shook the sleep and fog from his brain and rushed into the hall. Seeing her soothed him a little, the relief in his eyes shone through as he guided her into Elizabeth’s room. “She looks so… small” Summer’s voice sounded as small too. Simon began to tell her what had happened.

That was until Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered open. It was an hour or two of doctors and nurses rushing around until Elizabeth was allowed visitors.

It was in that moment that Summer rushed to Elizabeth’s side once the doctor had left the room that Simon said something sweet without thinking, “you two could be sisters, the way you stick together being all stubborn like that.”

Elizabeth smiled for a half second before asking, “how is Caroline?” No one knew. Summer asked Elizabeth what happened. “It was my ex, Steve. He found me.” Summer saw the significance, Simon just stood confused when she asked, “you’re sure it was him?” Elizabeth nodded. The policemen stepped into the room to ask questions, privately.

Summer was reluctantly extracted from the room by Simon, Cassandra who had remained silent till now spoke in the hallway. “Who is Steve?”

“He is her ex, evil ex. She said he was a monster, but this? This is something else.” The words had escaped her with no air, the hall felt suffocating, like every word had begun to suffocate her. Her cheeks flushed she was angry. She wasn’t the only one Simon seemed to absorb Summer’s radiating anger. Cassandra told them both to go and get some air but neither wanted to leave.

It was torture, watching Elizabeth in the room, tears were falling from her eyes. Summer couldn’t take it anymore. She stormed in. Standing by her side she took Elizabeth’s hand and refused to leave. The police reluctantly agreed to Summer but refused to let Simon in.

Summer stood by Elizabeth and held her hand as they asked their questions. Finally, with most of them answered Summer asked one, “what about Steve?”

With reluctance they confirmed that he had disappeared but tried to reassure them there was a warrant on his head. That wasn’t the only news they had. They had little choice but to inform them, that due to her injuries and the smoke, Caroline hadn’t made it through the night.

Elizabeth broke down, knowing the news before the words had escaped the officer’s lips, that fraction of doubt of telling her. Summer held tighter to Elizabeth.

Simon had been listening through the crack of the open door. He strode in beside the girls ignoring the officers. Tears had been staining his face, but the fresh wave was unmistakeable as he moved closer to Elizabeth who was shuddering with her sobs.

***

It was a few days before Summer was able to take Elizabeth home, with her left arm and right leg in casts she had to be wheeled out. It was going to take a little while to mend her broken bones, but longer than her heart Summer had thought. Simon picked them up from the hospital. The hardest part was the drive past the bakery, Elizabeth had barely spoken since they knew about Caroline, she had barely said or done anything.

Cassandra helped them settle, Summer had asked her to stay and she had obliged. Summer disappeared to Lavenders florist and picked some flowers. Returning to the manner, with a little help she wheeled Elizabeth out and put the flowers on her lap.

It felt as though the town was staring, no one knew what to say or do. There was an abundance of sympathy. Everything seemed so isolating.

When they reached the charred remains of Oaks, the reality hit harder. There where stacks of flowers, teddy bears, cards and photos laid so gently by the police tape.

Summer put the brakes on Elizabeth’s chair and took the flowers from her lap. Elizabeth stayed wilfully silent, even with the tears threatening to engulf her.

Summer turned to see Simon emerge from the Diner. It all felt too distant, like a million miles separated her from everyone and half that between her and Elizabeth. She didn’t know how to reach her. Summer turned back to Oaks with the flowers in her hand and put them down on the pile that had been built over the days.

Elizabeth was shuddering. Summer crouched beside her, the flecks of broken glass left behind still glimmered in the sunlight.

The girl’s shirts were sodden with the waves of tears. Simon didn’t know what to do, he just stood beside them. The sun kept shining, the birds singing and it just felt wrong. Everything had changed and stopped and yet there was nature still determined to do as it pleased. It infuriated Summer, but consoled Elizabeth like Caroline in that moment was there.

Summer kept trying to pull herself together, to keep herself together for Elizabeth, as much as she could. But when Cassandra made her stand, it felt too hard. Summer broke into Cassandra’s shoulder while Jamie stood beside them both.

They were no longer alone outside Oaks. A crowd had gathered around them as the sun was setting. They had been there all afternoon, save for some trips to the Diner to use the bathroom. Simon had brought teas for everyone over to the crowd. Kingston had spilt most of the coffee’s he had brought over, but the thought was there.

Tissues were spread between them and candles as everyone stood waiting for it to get darker. Slowly the regular church goers stopped their prayers and began to sing. One by one the crowd picked up the song as the candles were lit.

Finally, late in the evening the girls were made to go home to sleep. Casandra and Simon stayed behind. Summer hadn’t been sleeping but sat in her room staring into the darkness. Simon insisted on being there in case Elizabeth needed something.

There was no arguing, no one had the energy.

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