Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty- Five

 

It started subtly at first. After Summer’s birthday, Elizabeth would come home and find one or two of Summer’s school books left on the table. By the end of the week, the table was littered with books and notes. Occasionally she would find herself catching a rare glimpse of Summer buried under her mountain of books. Summer even kept herself buried away through the Easter break defending her hiding away in the mountain of books with the constant reminder of the impending doom known as exam time.

Elizabeth hadn’t minded too much, she remembered all of the days where she was absent from spending time with Summer when she had been buried in books herself. Elizabeth had taken a three-month intensive course recently, this course gave her something that would placate the family, she had finally graduated with the high school diploma.

Elizabeth hadn’t told Summer about her graduation, the only person who knew was the one who signed her up, Caroline. Elizabeth had been so afraid of failing that she never expected to pass. Now she had, she wanted to celebrate.

Caroline had started to give Elizabeth more responsibilities now that the course was over. Elizabeth was being rotated around all the aspects of running the bakery. One thing that Caroline had tested her with, was the secrecy around some orders.

***

Elizabeth had been working on a few orders recently, but today was Summer’s last exam. They had spent breakfast preparing Summer, not that she needed quizzing on her English paper, but it didn’t hurt.

Elizabeth had been working on the to do list Caroline had set her, a few hundred miniature graduation caps and diplomas made from fondant had to be made for all of the cakes, cupcakes and cookies that had been ordered.

A few days had passed and the next mission for Elizabeth the baking of the cookies and cakes. Summer and Elizabeth had barely seen each other thanks to work and school. Although Summer’s exams were over the school still had them working hard.

***

Through all this time no one paid attention the stranger that had been lurking in the shadows just out of sight. The only people that noticed him were people he had barged past in a hurry. He was simply described as an ordinary looking guy when people told the story of their interaction. But he was always quickly forgotten.

He had barged past Summer more than once now, but she hadn’t taken much notice of him. The most recent collision had been when Summer was in rather a hurry, she was on her way to Oaks bakery to help Elizabeth with frosting a few hundred cupcakes. Simon had tried to help but his icing skills were a bit insufficient. But he had found his niche in making teas and coffees while everyone else worked.

***

A sense of relief had spread through Grimeston and Darling Honor now that graduation was imminent. There was just one person who hadn’t relaxed, Cassandra. Summer could understand, they were both concerned with College places but Cassandra was wound tight. Summer rather sweetly took the opportunity to persuade Cassandra to come to the towns “Summer Lovin’ Fayre” to relax, just for an afternoon.

While Cassandra was still reluctant about relaxing she managed to smile more than usual. She soaked up the strange humour of the town, the water fight stand had her attention for a while before she met Summer who finished her Saturday morning shift.

Summer and Cassandra were giggling watching Kingston break dancing, rather badly to the barber shop quartet that seemed to know only one song, which was sung on a loop. They struggled to take their eyes away from the spectacle. Beyond their view of Kingston however was a familiar face, one Summer really didn’t want to see.

Jamie Godson was pulling himself out of his parent’s car having spotted the fayre, and the two familiar faces wishing they hadn’t been seen. Trying to avoid the interruption that Summer had anticipated she steered Cassandra away. Cassandra joked that “men with giant butterfly nets would be in heaven here.” Summer laughed until the voice behind her made her heart sink.

“Who would have thought it? You two are secretly friends. Everyone thinks the Devonthorne Vs Darling animosity is real, just wait until I tell them.”

Cassandra whipped her head around biting back a remark about keeping silent. Summer didn’t care as much about appearances. When she turned she noticed he looked remarkably different not in the school uniform. He seemed lazily handsome in jeans and a t-shirt. She wasn’t the only one to notice, Cassandra had been dazzled. Summer walked towards the ice cream stand.

Cassandra caught up with Summer, unfortunately bringing Jamie with her. Jamie seemed intent on causing some sort of friction between the uneasy friends. Summer remained determined to ignore his efforts, the girls had maintained their stand off-ish attitude towards him.

Elizabeth decided to go for pizza with Summer and Cassandra, but with Jamie tagging along like a lost puppy it made for an uncomfortable meal. Especially when she discovered he was fluent in “moronic jerk”.

Summer hadn’t noticed Zach watching from a distance. Summer, Elizabeth, Cassandra and Jamie had finally found a shared humour. Jamie had bumped into Zach earlier while he had watched Summer for a distance. Safe to say, Jamie had rubbed Zach the wrong way. It seemed to reach a head when Jamie stole a lick of Cassandra’s lemon ice cream and then a lick of Summer’s bubble gum leaving the girls cringing and joking about “Jamie germs”.

That was the last straw for Zach, Summer had no idea what Jamie had said before, but that didn’t stop her stepping in when Zach flew at Jamie. She pulled the two boys brawling like children apart. Zach took another swing at Jamie but missed and caught Summer in the lip. She still stood her ground trying to pull them apart. It took Simon giving her some help to pull them enough of a distance away.

The adrenaline seemed to drain away rather quickly. Zach finally saw the blood flowing from Summer’s lip, he tried to apologised but was swallowed by the crowds while Elizabeth and Cassandra had pulled them away.

They had gone straight to the manner to clear up the mess and blood. Jamie’s nose was bleeding, and Cassandra tended to his cuts and bruises. Summer refused Elizabeth’s help insistent she would sort herself out. With her phone left on her bed she disappeared into the bathroom for a while. When she came out with her lip no longer bleeding as badly she finally looked at her phone. Eleven missed calls and four voicemails, all from Zach, deleted without acknowledgement.

***

A few hours later Jamie left and Cassandra had agreed to stay the night. Summer didn’t seem to mind, but insisted on her company to pick up some food from the Diner and the market for the movie night Elizabeth had in mind.

Summer was glad for the company, and the diversion. Not to mention the buffer that Cassandra provided. No one got to ask questions, but that didn’t stop the staring.

By the time the girls reached the market they could hear the gossiping a few aisles over. The story had escalated beyond tele novella dramatic into the downright absurd. Summer “might as well have a cape and leotard, that girl is a super hero stepping into the brawl like that, the girl is fearless.”

Cassandra broke into loud laughter and had taken to asking questions like “are red vines worthy of wonder woman?” and “are cola bottles super enough?”

It was all fun and humour until Cassandra decided that Summer needed a better superhero name. That was the last straw, Summer said they would have to work out Cassandra’s side kick name which quickly shut her up.

Still mocking “super Summer” saving the day the girls got home to find Elizabeth setting up the movies ready for the chick flicks with fairly decent brawls in the plot. Summer finally accepted she wasn’t going to live down the “superhero at the Summer lovin’ fayre” headline.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

They rolled out of bed at eleven the next day. An achievement considering, they hadn’t gotten home until the early hours of the morning. The toasts and repetitive chant of “Promitto Memorari” still seemed to echo in their ears. There were many goodbyes to endure before they were allowed to leave. They had a weak night sleep. But Elizabeth had plans.

Elizabeth had been messaging Simon to find out if it was safe to bring Summer to the Diner for breakfast or if the preparations had already begun. Sadly, it was too late to take her to the Diner without her plans being discovered so she made breakfast.

It took a bit of persuasion to get Summer up and dressed. Thankfully Elizabeth found Summer too tired to argue too much. That started to change the more she woke up, the tea and breakfast had perked her up. Elizabeth told her to get her things, they were going to the Diner.

At the door, Elizabeth insisted Summer had to be blindfolded. Summer was reluctant, she felt stupid being pulled along slowly by Elizabeth. Who stopped just after stepping up onto a curb. Elizabeth undid the blindfold.

It took a moment for Summer’s eyes to adjust, the whole town was in the square, it was a huge party. Simon and a few chefs from the Ivy Rose Inn were working on a barbeque. Watching for a moment as Simon began to lose his temper as rubs, marinades and sauces were being pushed on his barbeque as the chefs took over everything he kept getting involved in.

Summer saw the pair of bouncy castles both with a sign dictating “shoes off”. One castle was designated for kids, the other, adults. Sure enough the children were jumping on a bouncy castle sporting primary colours. The grown-ups had purple, red and blue panels on theirs.

The village strangeling, Kingston kept yelling about his champion jumping. Much to Summer’s surprise both Matthew and Stuart were jumping on the castle trying to wind Kingston up by trying to do tricks.

Standing on the grass in front of the castle Thomas was yelling at them for jumping in the wrong way. Everyone continued to ignore Thomas. His face went red, then purpled before he stormed off.

Summer and Elizabeth were enjoying that magic moment. they looked around to find a paddling pool in the town gazebo with the mysterious flying candy overhead (which was a clever use of netting) with children running with butterfly nets trying to catch the candy.

The decorate your own cupcake stand was busy. The magician nearby kept making the cakes disappear. There was a small stage and sound system being set up in another corner. The other side had a movie being projected onto a large sheet.

There was a three legged race and bobbing for candy, but it wasn’t water that they had to contend with, it was jelly, and lots of it.

With the open bar providing the drinks. Summer and Elizabeth took a bottle of water and walked around looking at the silly competitions, games of pass the parcel which was interesting. An adults and child version. Summer would have loved to have swapped the parcels around.

Summer took a moment to realise what Elizabeth had done, again. She threw her arms around Elizabeth, it was perfect.

Summer dragged Elizabeth to the bouncy castle and began to try trick jumps just to annoy Thomas. They only paused to take a break to watch Simon explode from frustration at the barbeque station. He had a yelling fit before storming off to the bouncy castle that was empty. He struggled to climb up and balance for a few minutes finding his feet. He began bouncing like a mad man until his expression broke and fell into fits of laughter.

Elizabeth felt a surge of childish energy and took the opportunity to run at Simon and tackle him. Before long they had broken out into a game of chase on the bouncy castle that infuriated Thomas as it spread through the party.

Even as the sun went down the party continued. Although the children had disappeared and it became exclusively adults who had split into teams occupying corners of the party with buckets full of water balloons at their disposal before a session of karaoke before they began to call it a night and go to bed.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-Three

 

The girls felt spoiled for certain. They were almost ready at the deadline that Stuart and Matthew had set them. The music had kept them moving at a pace. Elizabeth was nervous and shy at the attention the gown brought her, she looked stunning. As for Summer, she felt giddy and strange, and very grown up.

They sat in silence in the car that had been sent for them, they were awkward and very nervous. Neither knew what to expect. They didn’t know where they were going. It took a while before Summer developed a sense of where they might be headed to.

Arriving at their destination Stuart and Matthew had taken to being their guides to where they were meant to go. Summer and Elizabeth felt it strange, walking around Darling College. Summer hadn’t seen this route before, not on the tour, this hidden area of campus. They had ben lead through what felt like a labyrinth until they arrived in a beautiful courtyard.

Summer hadn’t expected such a beautiful hidden cove in Darling College. Elizabeth and Summer squeezed one another’s hands tightly. As they made their way down the steps they heard the gentle trickle of music that sounded so soft and sweet. The dresses and suits whirled around the room.

Both girls were guided firmly to what could be assumed the centre of the space best described to be a dancefloor.

The stars above shone through the room, like the only light they would need as the light seemed to multiply and shatter from the glass, the glittering dresses and the shining silver. The girls had been introduced to almost everyone in the room. Some guests were close to their age and seemed to find this normal and natural.

All were the friends of their grandfathers, yet all of them were some form of Darling College, some past, present and future members. All congratulating Summer on her birthday who felt increasingly awkward being on parade like this.

***

Having met most of the people in the courtyard and danced too many times. Summer’s grandfather introduced her to a Mr (something) Alexander, she hadn’t heard his first name, or she couldn’t remember it for some reason. So she smiled and prayed she wouldn’t have to use his first name. Summer was told that his son was at Darling this year, away next year and then back to do the rest of his college years. Summer smiled politely barely absorbing this information.

She discovered, with a quick question in her grandfather’s ear when the man’s attention was drawn away that he was called Justice Alexander. She nodded and kept her thoughts to herself, even if she suspected his parents to have a sick sense of humour. Justice introduced his son bringing him into the group, “this is my son, William” Summer’s eyebrows could have hit her hairline for all she knew. “William this is Summer Darling, the birthday girl herself.”

The panic shot over William’s features for a moment as he placed her name and face. The boy who had stumbled into her while he was drunk. Summer smiled and said nothing about it. She kept her responses polite.

Justice urged them both to dance. William took her hand and lead her to the dance floor. “Should I be wearing safety gear and steal toecaps just in case?” She jested, trying not to draw attention to his obvious squirming.

“Should I? I’ve seen your grandfather dance, and if your skills are inherited… well that would be unfortunate.” Summer took the opportunity to slyly step on his toes. “Ouch what was that for?”

“My foot slipped, here was me being nice keeping your indiscretions quiet. Thank heavens you haven’t stumbled yet.”

“Fair enough, thank you, for not saying anything.” Summer nodded and smiled. The tension faded for a moment between them, understanding the need for privacy.

Out of the corner of her eye Elizabeth watched Summer dance with William. Slightly upset that she hadn’t spent much real time with Summer doing something she wanted to do. Elizabeth promised herself that tomorrows plan would be a good opportunity. After all, she had gotten to know Summer well enough to see that goofy side dying to come out, even though everything seemed so serious right now. She just needed to unwind a bit.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-Two

 

Of course not much changed when Summer and Cassandra went back to school. Though it was a bit easier to get on with her day. Thing’s between them were tentative, it often depended on Jamie and the attention he showed Summer who remained nothing more than polite. Summer would have to occasionally remind Cassandra of her lack of interest which soothed the tensions.

Summer had her focus on making a list of TV shows she wanted to binge watch for her birthday in the hope that Elizabeth had accepted her request of a quiet day. But that was far from Elizabeth’s intentions. However, she wasn’t the only one with intentions for Summer’s birthday. Stuart and Matthew were plotting something. All Summer wanted was to let her eighteenth pass by.

The grandfathers had approached Elizabeth and told her their plans to fly over for Summer’s birthday so they had to keep the day open, and their plan’s secret from Summer. Elizabeth didn’t want to keep this secret from Summer, who told her that evening.

By the time Summer’s birthday arrived the knot in her stomach from the anxiety she had, now sat in her throat. that was until the seven am drum roll on the front door. More annoying than workmen going wild on a road at six am, this knocking refused to stop.

By the time both girls had pulled themselves out of bed to reach the door they both looked unimpressed. Possibly contemplating if it would be considered premeditated if they assaulted the person on the other side of the door.

Elizabeth yanked the door open to find both grandfathers standing in front of them. Elizabeth caught herself, Summer refused to abandon the “if looks could kill” stare as confetti was showered down over her head. Summer turned and trudged into the kitchen to put the kettle on.

The grandfathers looked at the grumpy girls and congratulated Summer on her birthday for the fifth time this morning. They handed both girls a gift bag. At the bottom of the bag filled with tissue paper was a small box, with a business card within. El found the exact same card, for a dress shop. It took Matthew explaining that they had to go to the dress shop and pick two dresses, one needed to be appropriate for this evening. Summer and Elizabeth felt slightly awkward and thanked them before being ordered to go and get ready.

On Summer’s return to the kitchen they were marched by Elizabeth to the Diner for breakfast. When they walked through the door Simon guided them to a table covered in balloons and streamers. Summer couldn’t help but laugh.

They had a nice relaxed breakfast before Matthew and Stuart insisted it was time to go dress shopping. Where they would end up being told that they had to wear the long glittering gowns for this evening, out of the three dresses they would end up receiving, each very different in hemline and style they felt like a whole other version of themselves.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-One

 

When Summer and Cassandra reached the gates, the scale of the grandeur and elegance that confronted them dwarfed Darling Honor. Darling College excelled on the forbidding. As their eyes finally became accustomed to the building ahead of them, they allowed their focus to shift towards the students heading to lectures.

They stood inside the gates for the first time, swallowing their nerves, in that moment the girls let their own quarrels fade to nothing and let the excitement rise. Cassandra put her fingers around Summer’s hand and squeezed. Summer tensed until she saw the excitement of a child in Cassandra’s eyes. She relaxed, amused that her mortal enemy, or so it seemed at times could be that excited.

Taking a deep breath, they headed towards where they assumed the reception would be. The closer they got they noticed a man walking towards them. “Miss Darling, Miss Devonthorne, what a pleasure to meet you both. I am Dean Forrester, I’m fairly casual with titles, I like to be ‘down with the kids’ as they say.” Summer and Cassandra cringed. “You may need to excuse my enthusiasm; it has been a long time since we had a Darling intent on studying here. Not since Edward Darling, Elizabeth’s father who I believe is your cousin? I met him once you know, lovely man. Anyway, I have been asked to give you a tour and fill you in on Darling life.”

He guided them out of the reception area. Cassandra and Summer shared a look. Just out of ear shot Cassandra whispered in Summer’s ear “trust us to end up with the over excited labradoodle.” They stifled their giggles while Forrester had a brief exchange with a passer-by, the girls had carried on walking.

“Excuse me” they chimed walking past a blocked hallway not waiting for Forrester who caught up with them. Summer began to hatch a plan as they walked.

Forrester continued to talk for over an hour and a half over loading them on information on the courses they offered, the library and additional lectures.

While on their tour the girls spotted a coffee cart. Cassandra made the suggestion of sampling the coffee. Forrester didn’t much like the idea and tried to coerce them into to sticking to the tour schedule. That was of course until Summer took an opportunity, “I could really murder a cup of tea right now, it’s so hard to find somewhere that knows how to make tea, just right.” She let her words sink in for a moment before sighing ever so slightly. She caught Cassandra’s eye and smiled. Rather reluctantly Forrester agreed they could get a cup of tea as long as they resumed the tour schedule after.

Ten minutes later Forrester had them back on the route no longer badgering Summer with questions about the Darling family being resident again in Grimeston. He guided them towards the magpie aviary. Summer found herself thoroughly entranced, “I love magpies, so quirky and did you know they are the smartest birds for their brain size. Such characters-” She found herself distracted again watching the magpies hop about in a happy chatter. The aviary was huge, she wanted to climb inside and just immerse herself in that other little world within the college.

On the way to student housing they heard a raucous up ahead. “I’ve been wondering something, I guess it’s something you see in the movies, but, are there any secret societies here?”

“What? No. That would be impossible.”

Cassandra and Summer were bored of their guide and had, had enough of Forrester’s over enthusiastic approach. They had finally finished the tour of student accommodation. Summer was determined to explore without their puppy guide.

The source of the raucous they had heard earlier came into sight, a group of “slightly” drunk students were walking towards them. One took a stumbled and landed on Summer, both entangled on the floor for a moment. Forrester’s face was a picture when he pulled the boy off of her to help Summer up. “Miss Darling, I am so sorry, take my hand.” He turned to the boy who was swaying a little, “Conduct yourself appropriately.”

The boy grinned “of course” and winked awkwardly.

“Miss Darling are you alright?” Forrester had turned back to Summer. The boy behind him snapped straight as if he had heard her name for the first time. Summer nodded, wiping the back of her trousers, “I’m fine, please just call me Summer.” The boy apologised, examining her with his eyes, unsteadily she nodded and walked ahead.

Forrester guided them away, Summer looked back to see the boy who had fallen on her still staring after her as his friends started to pull him into a building.

Summer was certain enough was enough of this tour. “This tour is very informative and we do appreciate it, but I do believe that Cassandra and I would like to explore at our own pace. It could be beneficial if we could see what interests us, I am sure you are very busy, should we have any questions would it be possible to seek you out?”

He stumbled on a response, torn from his duty and from the tour. Summer smiled softly in the hope he would take the bait and let them go. Reluctantly he agreed. Cassandra and Summer thanked him and turned on their heels before he could call them back.

After a while of Cassandra leading the way, Summer had discovered a lot about Cassandra. It was all rather strange, the both of them talking without being vicious. Their conversation was interrupted by the now very much more intoxicated boy from earlier. “Come join us” he offered his hand to her. Summer took Cassandra’s hand instead, “maybe another time” and took a step away until she felt a hand on her shoulder.

“My name is William, by the way.” They nodded but their eyes had fallen on the coffee cart ahead. “Nice to meet you, but we are on our way to get coffee and your friends are calling for you.” She smiled. As they walked away he yelled at them, “I love your accent”. Summer laughed as they walked towards the coffee, their main thought.

Summer took a moment of caution before dismissing it, “Cassandra, wanna come back to Grimeston?”

Cassandra was visibly surprised, but she couldn’t find a reason to decline. Summer suggested going to the Diner. “I want to ask you something.” Cassandra blurted out. Summer nodded for her to go ahead. “Do you like Jamie? As in like, like.”

“Oh hell no. Not in any kind of like.”

“Oh. I think he likes you.”

“I think you like him.”

“I… So? It doesn’t matter.”

“Honestly, he is not what I want. At all. To be honest, I am sure there are plenty of reasons for him to like you, I mean your definitely no air head like Valarie.”

“I’m not pretty.”

“You are, when you’re not being obsessively competitive about the valedictorian thing. There’s no reason to be so hard on yourself.”

“He likes you though.”

“Because I don’t like him. To him everything is a game. To be honest, you are better off finding a new crush, he wouldn’t be able to keep up with you.”

“You underestimate him.”

“Like I said, not interested.”

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