It was a few days after Easter break when Summer had once again, like on many evenings found herself in the library. She spent less and less time in her dorm room, somewhat avoiding Cassandra who had been gushing quite frequently about some mystery man she had yet to reveal. It was easier for Summer to avoid hearing about the guy on Cassandra’s mind. It felt tiring if nothing else.
One change Summer had embraced was the ginger hair dye. It had become a little like a shield for her. Though she didn’t need a shield, sat in her favourite corner of the library, books around her. It was her favourite place to be right now.
She smiled when she noticed a note fly onto her desk. “Get your glad rags on Darling (evening gown please) and meet us at the library in an hour… We are celebrating so chop chop! Promitto memorari!”
Summer grinned packing her books up, looking adorably goofy in that moment, she walked right past Cassandra who was in the middle of a heated discussion with the librarian over a book.
Somewhere over an hour later Summer returned to the library to find a familiar note attached to a masquerade mask, waiting for her. A few girls had arrived donning heir masks, each a filigree metal mask, with a tiny bit of sparkle, resting on prop sticks to hold them in place. They headed towards the now familiar path chattering and giggling as they made their way onwards to Summer’s hiding place.
Before long they were in that beautiful room that was Summer’s personal haven from prying eyes. The place when the library was too public, she would disappear here and remain undisturbed. Entering the room, they saw faint shadows in the darkness moving around the room. The girls were guided until each was stood beside a man in a mask.
A voice demanded quiet in the room before an announcement was made, “tonight we celebrate a return, but now, we dance.” The lights began to hum into life. A hand took Summer’s an unknown friend taking her hand hiding behind his mask the music began and the room became a kaleidoscope of dancing figures.
From a distance, watching the room was an acquaintance of Summer’s, it was the guest of honour, William Alexander. His circle of companions talking as he watched the room. Being filled in of campus news meant being filled in of one of the great retellings still humming through campus, the heated argument of the Darling’s roommate, and the root of it, the competition. William listened when the debate grew to if the competition was still on, Summer had withdrawn almost completely with boys on campus, with nearly everyone on campus. These meetings were the only place she was seen to be remotely social.
William’s expression beneath his mask, had it have been visible, would have been furious. Part of him wanted to rip his mask from his face, walk outside, get some air and punch something. She was an acquaintance, but he knew when he had to tell his father about the event he would have no choice but to mention the rumour, his father would already know and he was being tested. What made it worse is that those rumours would be getting back to her family without a doubt. She had had enough humiliation.
He wanted to have a genuine conversation with her, no masks, no lies. He was told to keep an eye on her by her family, make sure she had fun at college. This wasn’t the case. There was little he could do to fix it.
Instead of leaving he hoped to see something positive and good that he could report. Finally, he managed to find her in the crowd. Taking her hand for the next dance. She was smiling and slightly out of breath.
“Enjoying the evening?” He asked hoping she didn’t recognise him.
“Of course, you?”
“Of course, you kept the ginger, you look good.”
“Thank you, so no one seems to be telling but who are we celebrating the return of?”
“A legend” He smiled.
“This is silly, no one has said anything.”
“Perhaps that’s the point, to just enjoy the evening?”
“Perhaps,” They let the conversation die and just enjoyed the rest of the dance and let the missteps cause a smile, a grin and a laugh. Before another hand took hers and William walked back to the edge of his group of friends.
Summer danced and laughed as the dusk transformed into dawn. Eventually, exhausted and elated she made her way back towards her dorm, with a smile from ear to ear. She slipped her heels off and walked barefoot along the cold ground soothing her feet. The relaxation with every step echoing through her body. She walked gleefully down the hall, maintaining her happy demeanour when she walked past the drunk sleeping body in the hall, Jamie lay in a ball outside her dorm.
Summer felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, not just for her, but for Elizabeth. Even though Summer was approaching the start of finals, the light of being able to go home and hanging out with Elizabeth felt like a great summer ahead of her.
She had heard about the builders and contractors now working in the bakery. She had loved hearing about Elizabeth’s dates with Simon when she called. She especially loved Elizabeth frustrating Simon with new flavours and ideas for her bakery. It seemed Elizabeth was constantly experimenting and sharing her creations.
Summer knew that the bakery would be open before long, she found herself day dreaming of helping out with the opening few days with the hum and buzz of customers, but she knew, there was more than just the hum and buzz to think of. It would be hard, especially for Elizabeth. Summer couldn’t help but feel proud that Elizabeth was living again, no longer hiding from the shape in the shadows, even if he was still on the run.
Summer was grateful in that moment when her head hit the pillow. Things were working out for Elizabeth, it meant everything knowing that it could happen for her too.
For those of you wanting to get your hands on the ending… here is the pre-order link for Darling Daughters! Releasing 22nd August 2018