Darling Daughters

Chapter Eighteen


When December finally began the town started to prepare for the annual winter festival. However, Summer and Elizabeth were only just treading water from the piles of work that they always seemed to be buried in. When term time ended and the celebratory spirit descended on the town Summer finally seemed to have found a slightly lighter mood. The first Christmas away from home.

On the first day of the holidays the town had its own sparkling aura of Christmas that had blanketed the place in frost. Summer had done the homework she had been set. All family obligations had been dissolved. The air was cool and crisp and the town just seemed magical.

Elizabeth and Summer headed to work as a team of volunteers began to decorate the gazebo, the centre of the net of fairy lights spreading through the town. Stands were being erected on the crisp grass snapping below their feet.

Zach stopped by the Diner on the way to the market for his shift. He pulled Summer aside to ask if she was still ok to go to the festival with him. She nodded. After he left the Saturday morning rush started to come to a quiet lull. Now that she wasn’t rushed off of her feet she began to over think, feeling awkward. She could now be considered a trust fund kid; even if she and Elizabeth had those opportunities they didn’t want to give up their work. As far as they had decided, it was for emergencies only.

Reality had set in for Elizabeth and Summer, in terms of their education, their future had been laid out for them in no uncertain terms. Along with startling clarity that Matthew and Stuart had deemed Zach and Simon unsuitable. Summer had remained silent through that particular lecture, she found herself in quiet surprise when she realised that they were right, Zach wasn’t “the one”. When she accepted that everything has a shelf life, an expiry date, it didn’t have to be forever. It was both a liberating and a sad realisation.

Summer seemed to keep glossing over her pensive thoughts, when Elizabeth walked in for a quick lunch they smiled and joked. But that conversation seemed to rest just behind those smiles. Elizabeth was resentful, Simon was great, he’s a great friend, but somehow it didn’t feel like enough.

Summer’s shift seemed to drag until she was able to go home and change. When Elizabeth joined Summer on the porch they watched Zach come down the road. Elizabeth watched Summer’s face, it didn’t seem as happy as she had expected. She seemed pensive before she finally smiled.

Walking into the town square was beautiful. In the evening everything seemed that much more magical with all the twinkling lights. The cold air danced in their breath and the smell of hot food; the hot cinnamon churros, donuts, mulled wine, hot dogs just seemed so alive in the dead of winter. Even when the snow began to fall in soft gentle flurries they still felt warm, more so with thick hot chocolates.

Elizabeth decided to separate from Summer and Zach and found herself staring at the Diner. Inside she saw Simon fiddling with streams of paper. For a moment she paused before finally deciding to go and speak to him. Determined to walk through the door marked closed she was on a mission. Even if it was just for five minutes she would get him to come to the winter festival.

In the dark corner of an alley stood a man watching Elizabeth cross the road to the Diner before turning his back and walking through the crowds pushing past Summer and Zach in a determined rush, unapologetically.

Summer and Zach were unimpressed by the rude stranger and strolled over to the bonfire to warm up a little more. The soft crackling of the flames gave off a romantic glow. Gently Zach spoke as he held her in his arms, she was already feeling a bit awkward but his words made things worse. “There is something I wanted to say, Summer, I love you.” The world seemed to slow down uncomfortably around her, like all eyes were on her. She was unable to speak, thankfully the phone ringing in her pocket drew her attention. She made her excuses and ran home, not accepting his offer to take her home. She ran until it was safe to turn the alarm off of her phone to remind her about her morning shift the next day.

When Summer got in she collapsed on her bed exhausted and ready to bury her head in the sand and avoid her phone.

Elizabeth got home an hour later after having a cheerful evening hanging around with Simon. She returned smiling, deciding to check on Summer fast asleep. Summers phone rang again with Zach’s number, noticing the string of missed calls she putt the phone by Summer’s bedside. She covered Summer in a blanket before going to bed.


In the morning Summer buried herself in invented work, redoing her homework so that it was “better”. When Summer’s phone charged back up she saw the missed calls and texts from Zach. A guilty knot in her stomach made her turn from her phone to go and make a nice cup of tea.

Elizabeth trudged into the kitchen and retrieved the cup of tea Summer was offering her. “Hey how late did you get home?”

“Not too loud! Not too late.”

“Ellie are you hungover?”

“No… yes… don’t you have work to go to?”

“Fine I get the hint; I’ll see you later?”

“Yeah, yeah, Sum your phone?”

“Nah its ok you know where to find me.”

“Avoiding someone?”

“Oh look at the time. See you tonight.”

Summer walked out the door with earphones tucked into her ears, a grumpy expression and nothing connected to her earphones. Dashing through the door of the Diner Summer pulled her coat and scarf off. Summer worked in a blur all morning. She darted around, the epitome of efficiency. So efficient Simon could see her avoiding something.

“Summer, it’s quiet, relax, have a break” Summer shook her head at him and carried on cleaning tables. After the determined steering of Simon, she sat down with Simon sat with her, he convinced her to just say what was bothering her. The words seemed to spill and tumble from her lips as she explained all about the winter festival and about what Matthew and Stuart had said about the men in their lives.

Simon sat quietly and listened for a few minutes. “Well, if Zach isn’t the right guy, if it doesn’t feel right, you need to tell him. Just sit down and tell him how you are feeling. You need to be prepared to hear what he wants; but you need to be sure of what you want, believe me, it’s not always easy to stand your ground.”

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Seventeen


When the sun rose on the day of the debutante ball Elizabeth and Summer were feeling hopeful. Summer and Elizabeth had been stealing moments to do paperwork to access the accounts attached the buildings.

It was a rush, a chaotic rush for both girls that day, when they picked Zach and Simon up they were trying to calm their nerves enough. Even when they arrived at the building for the ball they felt the intensity of their anxiety. When they split from one another to different areas of the building Summer and Elizabeth had to wait in the debutante girls waiting area. Summer and Elizabeth helped one another with their dresses and their hair. They quietly observed the other girls amidst the cloud of hairspray and debates over lipsticks, lip glosses and nail varnishes.

In a darker corner a few of the girls were grimacing as they drank shots in an attempt to calm their nerves. Something Elizabeth wouldn’t have minded doing herself. Elizabeth pointed out a girl to Summer, the girl was having a meltdown due to her lipstick being a bit too pink.

It took a while for the girls to be ushered into the hallway with their appropriate gather or in Elizabeth and Summer’s case, grandfather. One by one they were called down the staircase. Elizabeth lead the way as she emerged on the staircase, Summer peered after her. Elizabeth seemed to glide down the staircase, Summer couldn’t help but register the smile on Simon’s face as he waited to receive her. He seemed to beam, it couldn’t have been more of a perfect smile for him, even if he had that furrow in his brow, perhaps he was more nervous than he let on.

Soon it was Summer’s turn, her mind raced but she kept her face in that structured smile. She avoided locking eyes with anyone. Her heart raced, what would she do with the way she felt now Zach was in her eye line. He was smiling and beaming at her, and the smile she wore felt false. She was nervous, her hand was shaking when he took it.


Finally, after the cattle market dance was over as Elizabeth had named it, the girls sat to eat at their table, enjoying the odd prod of playing with the floating candles in the fishbowl with ivy and white rose petals strewn on the table. Everything in the room just seemed so bright, so white, so sparkling.

A little while after the meal Zach stood up, as if pulled by a string, and asked Summer to dance. She tensed for a second before agreeing and taking his hand. She didn’t like eyes on her, she had been stripped of things to hide behind, her hair, her shyness. Summer’s dress seemed to increase the awkwardness of the dance.

Rather awkwardly, almost clumsily, Simon stood and offered his hand to Elizabeth asking her to dance. Accommodating the dress Elizabeth allowed herself to follow Simon’s lead, relaxing in his arms he laughed and talked with her.

But Summer and Elizabeth were unaware of the eyes watching them. Matthew and Stuart were engaged in whispered conversations.

At the end of the ball, Zach was the first to be dropped off at home, Summer smiled with a brief kiss goodbye still in her poufy dress. When the girls dropped Simon off there was a little awkward moment where they sort of hugged before he disappeared off into the dark Diner.

When the girls walked through the manner, they praised the house for not having a smog cloud of hairspray and drunk girls in white dresses. No overwhelming clouds of perfume. They fell asleep on the sofa giggling at the evening and the exhaustion in every inch of their bodies.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Sixteen


The next few days passed in a hectic blur. The girls both had to balance work, school work, homework and preparations for the debutante ball. Without the looming threat of Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day and they looked and felt exhausted.

Thursday morning saw Summer reach across her table to turn her alarm off to find a hot cup of coffee scald her fingertips instead of the alarm button. Summer jolted awake and saw the figure sat at the end of the bed, Elizabeth. Elizabeth stood and turned the alarm off silently and pointed at the kitchen.

Summer followed Elizabeth into the kitchen and her jaw dropped, before them was a beautifully restored kitchen with sparkling new appliances. Everything seemed to be a balance of the notes they had made and left on the counter top during their arguments of what it should look like. It had somehow turned into a kitchen that voiced both of them equally. Most importantly the question on both of their minds, “how the hell did this happen? When did this happen?”

Summer’s phone rang, on the other end was Stuart. He asked them how they liked the new kitchen, he had the men fit it yesterday while they were out. Summer opened the fridge door, it was full stocked for the first time. With a lot of healthy products. Elizabeth had begun to make breakfast by the time Summer came off the phone from thanking them.

Summer had a moment to herself, locked in her bedroom after breakfast scanning a document from the file that had been relegated to the box again after the arrival of their grandfathers. That file contained deeds to an apartment block, in her name. Summer examined the dates, her birthday, behind it attached with a paper clip was a letter from Archie. Archie had transferred the building in her name, and provided that the excesses and profits were deposited into the attached account with all tax, insurance and maintenance already removed. Summer found herself undecided whether to laugh or cry. Suddenly it felt like an overwhelming weight was sat on her chest.

Summer put the papers back into place when Elizabeth knocked on the door. She asked if Summer wanted to come and help her pick up the desert for the dinner with the grandfathers. Summer slipped her coat on and followed after Elizabeth passing the gazebo she thought of Archie, he had built it. Feeling momentarily closer to the mysterious man. The gazebo was now covered in reds, ambers and golds, twinkling lights and decorations for the season.

“This place, it feels like a whole other world. This new start and everything that has happened feels like a dream like I am reading a fairy-tale. The draw contents are just remarkable like a through the looking glass story. There is so much I don’t understand. Like you can feel these giant holes, things that he hasn’t said. He wants so much for us.”

“I know. Sum, there is something I wanted to talk to you about with those draws, and as wonderful as the stories are, he has left me some deeds to an apartment block with an account. I don’t know how much it is, I only saw the papers last night, and well I just wanted to be honest with you.” Guilt bubbled in Summers throat as Elizabeth continued. “So when I read that I couldn’t sleep, so I went to make coffee and saw the kitchen and well, then I sat in your room and waited for you.”

Summer looked into Elizabeth’s eyes, “relax, I found a similar set of paperwork this morning too. But its ok, so we got the same birthday present, it can only be a good thing. But Ellie, sitting there while I sleep thing, stop it, it’s a bit creepy, like the appearance of the kitchen out of nowhere.”

Leaving Oaks they passed the Diner and watched Simon bouncing around serving customers. “Hey Sum, I bet his meal tastes good.”

“I bet that’s not all you want to taste.”

“Shut up. It’s a bit weird isn’t it, not going to the Diner today?” Summer nodded before they waved at Simon as the passed by. Elizabeth fired off a quick text on their walk back home.


They were running about ten minutes late to the holiday home. The architecture was amazing and imposing, looming over them like an intimidating monster. A stout maid answered the door and they were ushered inside where they were quickly welcomed by Stuart.

The meal was celebrated without a hitch, and controversy was avoided. Until they retired to the living room for drinks and began to take charge of conversation. Summer’s education took the highlight when she was informed that she “simply must experience Darling College” and was told she must at least take a tour and of course, apply. Summer squirmed throughout the conversation until their attentions turned to Elizabeth.

Well, all hell broke loose so to speak, when they found out Elizabeth had never graduated high school. In an instant they had strong armed her into getting some form of equivalent. By the end of the evening both girls returned to the manner feeling numb and exhausted.

Thanksgiving dinner had gone exactly as they had expected. And now, with only a day’s break between now and the ball Elizabeth and Summer were forced to prepare themselves for total embarrassment.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Fifteen


Summer had made a large headway through the files and folders from Archie, and by Sunday morning with all of her homework complete she pulled out the next file to read. Elizabeth had started on her draw with Summer kept so busy, with no decisions made about the kitchen. The quiet of the relaxed Sunday morning was unavoidably disturbed by the doorbell ringing.

Sighing Summer put the papers back under her desk, the formal looking file abandoned. The impatience of the doorbell driving her mad. Elizabeth came to the doorway just as Summer opened the door to find both of their grandfathers, Stuart and Matthew standing in the doorway with two oversized boxes in their hands. Boxes with ridiculous bows thrust towards the girls.

Matthew strode straight into the fire marked kitchen with obvious dismay on his face. He handed them two very formal looking invitations. Stuart found obvious amusement from Elizabeth and Summer sharing looks of horror and confusion at two rather elegant invitations. Followed by the handing over of a guidebook.

Matthew explained they would be staying in the other house, a “holiday” home from home just outside of Grimestone. He told them he expected them both there at seven pm sharp on Thanksgiving with no exceptions.

The girls exchanged a look of bewilderment finally being instructed to open the boxes with the ridiculous bows on top. Summer’s jaw dropped and Elizabeth’s eyebrows seemed to be aiming to join her hairline. They hoisted the large white poufy dresses from the boxes. Summer couldn’t resist the joke on her lips in sincere hope it was just that, “are we being married off?” Elizabeth elbowed Summer and Matthew looked disappointed.

“No, Summer, they are for your debuts into society on Saturday, we will be your chaperones, but we will leave it up to you to choose a nice handsome man to be your dates for the evening. Everything you need to know is in the booklets. But we need to know their names by tomorrow. We had to pull a lot of strings to get you in this season. Do not even try to come up with an excuse.”

With the final nature of his words Matthew and Stuart left on urgent business and walked out the door, leaving Summer and Elizabeth dumbfounded.

It took a few moments for the power of speech to collide with their thoughts.

“DATES? We have to find dates! Are you kidding me?” Summer was the one to break the silence, but Elizabeth still had something to say about it.

“It’s ok for you, you can ask Zach, but me? No I can’t. I won’t! I don’t have the time, this booklet is like one million pages long, see!” She flustered herself about the book. “I can barely lift it.”

“You’re exaggerating”

“Am I? Am I really? How are we meant to have it all memorised and ready by Thursday, because that is what they expect. Let’s see what do we need? Dates, shoes… shoes I love but what else? Dates that have tails, like suit tails, could you imagine if they had real tails. Oh no. There is a dance and presentation, I am going to fall or trip or flash someone. Which would be hard to do in a meringue, but me? I would find a way. You know why I hate marshmallow dresses? Because they are giant sized death traps that makes it impossible to pee like a normal person!”

Summer pulled the dress from Elizabeth’s hands and pinned her arms to her sides as Elizabeth continued ranting from the kitchen to the door. Smoothly Summer picked up her keys and bag and threw a coat over them both and directed a ranting Elizabeth all the way to the Diner.

Elizabeth was steered into a seat and slumped into a heavy silence when two coffee cups appeared before them. Filled with steaming hot black coffee by Simon.

“You! You’re a man! He’s a man! Ellie ask him. Please keep the coffee coming, just think, beautiful coffee fountains and we are all good.” A delirious Summer gushed as Elizabeth processed what had just been said.

“Oh my god! I couldn’t, could I? Simon please, I am desperate?”

“What? You better be joking Ellie, that is really inappropriate.”

“No, I mean please…” Elizabeth thrust the guidebook under his nose. “Please, please, please, they just sprung it on us. You get to see us humiliated and swanned about on display like prize cattle at a county fayre.”

Simon looked around, Elizabeth had been drawing attention. “Will it shut you up?” He hissed at Elizabeth who was now following him around the Diner, hands clasped together as he served. She made her best puppy dog eyes at him as he tried to get her to sit down. “Fine! You better look ridiculous.” And he walked off behind the counter while Elizabeth sat grinning triumphantly. Summer sat there with a sly amused smile waiting.

It dawned on Elizabeth that the whole Diner had heard, even Zach stood in the doorway before moving to sit next to Summer who reluctantly admitted she had the same fate. Tentatively she asked him to come with her.

“It will cost you, five awful bad movies, of my choosing. Your company at the Winter Festival all evening, that includes the walk around the lake and the bonfire together.”

Summer smirked agreeing to the terms feigning reluctance to those conditions. His smirk gave him away. With crisis averted and far too much coffee in their systems the girls began to draw up to do lists with lists of lists.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Fourteen


Grimestone had become incredibly cold as Thanksgiving approached. The bitter air had encouraged the old woollens to be pulled from musty bags and boxes to be given another life.

The kitchen was still fire damaged, with Elizabeth and Summer furiously debating the colour schemes that should be used it didn’t seem likely to change in the near future. Elizabeth was becoming quite frantic wanting to make Summer’s first Thanksgiving was truly special. Summer couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

The most that Summer was willing to plan was her Saturday evening. Summer would be meeting up with Zach after work, although she was on the late shift. That didn’t stop Zach squeezing in spending a bit more time with her by choosing a stool by the counter register to steal the odd snippet of conversation when she had a moment. Which wasn’t as often as he would have liked.

By the end of her shift, and by the end of the date Summer was exhausted when Zach walked her home. Summer tensed as they reached the porch, only for a moment, just before his lips met hers and she melted a little in his kiss goodnight. Snapped wide awake by Elizabeth who opened the door in the moment, like an ice cold bucket had been thrown on them they jumped apart. He bid them both a good night and disappeared.

Elizabeth asked Summer how her evening went, the one-word response of “good” didn’t cut it.

“Summer, do you remember I said I wanted to talk to you about something?”

“Yes… What?”

“I know you know all about safe sex and all that. So don’t worry. But I wanted to talk to you about the emotional side of it.”

“Oh gross. Do you have to?”

“Yes. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made.”

“You’re not my mum.”

“No, I know I’m not, but I hoped I wasn’t just your cousin, I hoped I was your friend too.”

“You are.”

“So can we talk?”

“I guess.”

“Good.” Elizabeth sat Summer down on the sofa and handed her a small glass of wine. “Because neither of us like to talk about private things.”

Summer took a sip and waited for Elizabeth to sit down with her glass. She took a few sips before she spoke again. “I must have been around your age, and the guy I was seeing at the time, well, he was a mistake, a big, huge undeniable mistake. I felt a lot of pressure from him to have sex, I always felt inadequate and he played on that.”

“Oh Ellie, I’m sorry. But you do know that isn’t Zach right?”

“I know, and if he ever pressured you or made you feel like my ex made me feel, I would probably kill him. Don’t look at me like that.” She took another sip. “Things got worse when we finally did have sex, it wasn’t romantic like they tell you in the movies. When you aren’t comfortable, when you have been coerced it doesn’t feel wonderful like the greatest thing ever. When you have doubts it doesn’t feel how they tell you it should. It feels invasive, like your whole body is no longer yours. Like I said from that point it got worse, you don’t need to know about that, but I do want us to have an honest relationship with one another and I know to do that, I have to be honest even with the things that frighten me the most.”

“Ellie, I wish that had never happened to you, whatever it was.”

“In some weird way I am glad that it did, it made me a whole lot stronger and wiser, and if it didn’t I couldn’t tell you what I know now.”

“Which is?”

“Don’t settle, I see you with Zach and I can just feel you just going with it, going with the flow of something just ok. I’m not saying it has to be bells and whistles. He’s a safe guy, a good guy and I get that. I am definitely not saying try a bad boy, because I know how bad things can get. I am saying find someone who just gets you. Makes the whole world light up in a single smile, who infuriates you a split second later. Someone who you can be your true self around. Someone who makes you feel like you are safe, like you are at home in their arms and nothing could change that. That person, you are worthy of that.”

“So are you. Don’t pull that face, YOU are WORTHY. Don’t think that you aren’t worthy, don’t hurt me like that. I can see all that good in you. I’m not the only one either.”

“Sum, please, at least think about what I said, I saw you tense that second before his kiss, I saw you making all the first moves, you are chasing something that you know is just not there with him, not natural to you. Summer, I know it kind of sucks, I do. But whoever your first is with, make sure you are being true to yourself, both you and he deserve that. You deserve someone who gets you.”

“You mean like you and Simon?”

“What? No, no there is nothing going on with us.”

“That’s not the impression I get, you two get on pretty good.”

“Ah grown up time is over I think, I’m going to exercise the whole legal guardian thing and tell you its time for bed.”

“Ellie, if you like him, go for it.”


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