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 )