Darling Daughters

Two cousins discover they have inherited a fresh start, the only catch the girls who have never met before have to do it together. They move to a little town and live in the old ancestral home where there’s no such thing as a real private life. Their beneficiary has left them more than they bargained for. Not only do they have to deal with what they ran from, but building a new life isn’t as easy as they thought, especially with the families dark secret being discovered.

Here are the links for the story on Amazon…

For the UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07DLH1WHR

For the US link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DLH1WHR

Here is a preview of the first three chapters just for you 😉

Chapter One

The manner fell silent.

For once the manner had stopped creaking, the wind daren’t rattle the shutters. The house had stopped living; it had fallen silent in mourning. The manner hadn’t always been this way. After all, the house had seen some truly revolutionary dinner parties. The house had played host to family gatherings and celebrations; it had seen births, christenings, communions, confirmations, after parties, birthdays, weddings and deaths. The reason for its last gathering.

The old Manner itself had begun to mourn the late, the great, Archibald Joseph Darling. The man who had bonded with the house, loving its creaks and murmurs. Archie had danced the fine line between creative genius and madness all of his life, but it was he who had exposed the house’s true personality. This was the very first house to be built on this land. Having replaced the original building after its burning down around 150 or so years ago it was returned to its former glory, and then some.

This house was the foundations for the town. A beautiful little place in New England called Grimeston, not too far from Stars Hollow. The house was made truly spectacular by Archie; after all it was his inheritance. Before Archie the gardens had been plain and simple, until he designed and sculpted a stunning water feature in the centre of the back garden with neatly encouraged tangled ivy and beautiful roses trained along the borders of the garden. The house had never looked so bright and alive.

The front garden, in its prime had pastel pink tulips lining the borders, standing to loving attention in the spring, beside the soft blush of the roses. Up the beautiful beige stone steps lead to a door, a few paces to the left a beautiful porch swing rested quietly, the doors grand though not too imposing lead into a beautiful foyer that was decorated with fresh light carvings into the wood panelling, trailing the old ivy and roses. The beautifully heavy furniture had been rested in the living room as though it had been placed effortlessly with the sweeping of a feather.

The dining room was grand and graceful; it had maintained its air of grandeur. While the manner house was neither exceptionally large or small it had its own fluidity and everything had its own place. The office was nice and warm and inviting, the bookshelves packed full of books, the old world desk, it was the kind of place Archie could relax in while working on his next idea.

The kitchen was the most modern room of the house. It was every bit as unique and quirky as you would expect of Archie. It was a lovely blend of high tech modern with an old world antique twist. The kitchen as quirky as it was, couldn’t have been much quirkier than it was, the room had its own bedroom attached. A guest room of its own; it was unused, this room, in all of Archie’s life time never housed the children that he had dreamed of. Archie had always wanted a family of his own but had never found it. That is not to say he didn’t love his brother’s children or their children, he loved them a lot. Through the limitation of distance, he always had done his best to help where he could.

Up the stairs to the second bedroom was just as grand in design as the rest of the house, even if it had become more of a storage area. The master bedroom however was nothing short of the word, beautiful. The old world antiques had spread like wildfire through the house, that old slightly magical wonder seemed to radiate through every room. But in the master bedroom the soft blues and greens complimented the dark rich woods. It was a calm peaceful room.

This beautiful house had become the stunning town feature, much to Archie’s delight as he had forged his relationships within the town. He had even offered to design the new town gazebo after it rather mysteriously burned down one summer when Archie had found himself with an abundance of time and creative ideas. The gazebo was stunning once it had been finished, not long after that Archie found himself being beloved within the town. That was until his health had started to fade, he quickly became withdrawn and sullen.

Archie in his ill health had taken his bedroom to be his sanctuary. He eventually died in the room he had groomed to perfection, in the house he had loved in the town he had come to love and become beloved.

The manner house, empty in its mourning quickly took hold of the darkness of abandonment and the thick layers of dust continued to build. The over growing garden accelerated into disrepair.

 

 

Chapter Two

Some very many miles away the wind was whistling violently across a sea filled with turmoil. Somewhat reflecting the soul f one particular passenger on the ferry sat sullenly with dark expressions. A beautiful girl whose face seemed to, in its own mystery, reflect the deep grey sky that dragged the wind through the sea. Coursing waves had encouraged a sickly shade of green nausea.

The girl had sat unable to drag her eyes from the turbulent landscape. In her sweating palms she gripped a letter, once again she read the scrawl of writing, now almost known to her by memory.  Her saving distraction, an invite to visit relatives she had not long discovered, ready to embark on the new journey for the beginning of the summer.

The girl had no reason to believe in luck, she had prayed to herself that there was more than what met the eye. She had put her family through a search engine, she could barely believe she was related to this inspiring family. She had always believed she was less than ordinary, always so lacking; yet somehow she never could fit in among her peers. Her way of thinking did nothing in conforming to regular convention. Ever the oddball, after all how could she believe the world to be reflecting the turmoil within out on the sea she was sailing.

Her eyes flicked back to the envelope, “Miss E M Darling”. She didn’t feel like a Darling, not by any measure; they were great, inspiring, creative, and so it seemed sheer genius. Not once had she dared to believe herself a fraction as wonderful.

The light was dimming as the boat settled at the dock. Stepping from the ferry, with her luggage in tow she was greeted by a man with wild greying hair and a beaming smile he introduced himself as her great uncle, Stuart Darling. His deep brown eyes flickered over her luggage as she noticed a second man bringing a car to stop by the side of them as the man jumped out with an excited grin and introduced himself as her grandfather, Matthew Darling.

She insisted on loading her luggage into the car herself as they drove no more than five minutes down the road to a pub. Its old chintzy style seemed so traditional and exquisite as she walked up the staircase as they stopped for a drink.

They sat and discussed the minor tales of the journey, finally reaching the topics of interest for her company; her parents, her upbringing and her education. Falling completely fascinated by the nuances of the American upbringing. Yet she found herself with no way to claim a talent. She told them that she had no real natural skill. The men looked into their near empty glasses for a moment, taking a measured sip before they dared respond. Not for a single second did they believe that she could be untalented. After all, she had the family way of thinking.

For the first time in a long while she allowed herself to truly relax; she was able to breathe freely and talk openly.

However cold the Orkney air was, it felt like each breath was filling her with love and peace, to calm the turbulent tension that flooded her soul. Somehow the wind that blew through her hair was awakening her body and mind. Somehow Elizabeth felt reborn.

***

While Elizabeth slept quietly in the strange new bed, a few doors down the hotel hallway sat a girl. Alone in the darkness staring at the clock watching the minutes drag past. As time passed her eyes grew heavy in the early hours of the morning.

As the sun rose behind the unlined curtains and began to stream into the room the alarm clock started buzzing in the ears of the girl as she turned it off dragging herself from her bed. Walking past the mirror, not looking at the reflection mimicking her.

The wind whistled and howled at the windows as she dressed and went to breakfast, today was her day of freedom for the first time since she arrived, she was free until dinner were her uncles insisted on a large family meal.

So until dinner she could embrace being a free agent, and this free agent was hungry. Breakfast was the number one mission. AS she stepped out of her room, the creaking door made her wince. She walked down the hall to the dining room. Within minutes the owner of the hotel was bombarding her with questions as she drank her tea.

Today she was stealing away to the beach near the museums that she had been dragged to yesterday. After all, today she could spend as much time on the icy beach as she desired. Just as she left the dining room to grab her bag for the day she bumped into a troubled looking young lady. She apologised and ran double speed to her bedroom. She packed her purse and taking an extra blanket. She looked at her note, “Hey Summer, your cousin is landing today, so tomorrow is a nice family dinner, have a great day, see you then, love Grandad S x.”

Summer wasn’t on the islands by choice, her grandfather had commanded her presence. With a push from her mother and over 24 hours travelling on coaches and ferries she arrived. Since then she had barely had a free moment to herself. Summer had come to feel a little claustrophobic. So today on her trip to the breach, a little food and a book she was ready to spend time just by herself.

As Summer got to the place where the road meets the beach she felt a warm pull inside of her as she made her way down the rocky surface to the beach as her trainers half sunk into the soft sand. She chose a clear seaweed and jellyfish free spot of sand to put out the picnic blanket which threatened to blow away with the wind into the sea. Using her bag as a weight she managed to set herself gingerly on the blanket. Pulling the spare around her shoulders she took a few ginger sips of hot tea from her flask as she opened the cover of her book.

Her grandfather had handed her the book on her first day reading his writing scrawled inside the cover, “This book belongs to Miss Summer May Darling. May she find it forever helpful. Love your proud grandfather Stuart Darling.” She smiled as she turned the page to begin her journey.

After an hour or two a few chapters later she looked up to find she was no longer alone on the beach. The girl she had bumped into, quite literally in the hotel was walking a few feet away by the shoreline. She seemed distracted.

Summer put down her book and yelled out a warning to the stranger about the jelly fish. In an instant the stranger had almost leapt from the shoreline halfway. Her trainers slipped back on in an instant.

As the stranger approached, Summer decided out to introduce herself. The stranger smiled and introduced herself “thanks for the warning, I am Elizabeth.” The girls chatted a little until two figures appeared and approached the two girls talking.

“Ah good I see you’ve met your cousin,” Matthew grinned.

***

After returning to the hotel to change for dinner Summer went up to her room confused. The way that it had been explained was that uncle Matthew was Elizabeth’s grandfather, the daughter of his late son Edward. Summer had explained to Elizabeth on the way up to the rooms that she had taken on her mother’s maiden name.

Summer now had a cousin to get to know, rather a secret cousin it seemed. It was different discussing and explaining things around the older members of the family, and the quiet car journey to the hotel seemed to pass in silence. The beautiful rolling scenery occupying the attention of the passengers.

***

Sitting down to dinner in the fading light Stuart spoke softly, “the reason the both of you are here, the reason for this dinner was because, as you recall, your uncle Archie died recently and his will was found.” The words lingered wistfully in the silence.

“Archie loved you both very much and thought of you as his own grandchildren, much like our children. Archie has made you the heirs to his estate. The both of you have inherited properties that he has been renting out for a while. They have been in the family for generations of Darlings. But you have also inherited the family pride, Darling Manner.” His words met stunned silence.

“Darling Manner has remained in our family ever since it was built. It is in a quaint little town called Grimeston in New England. But I must make myself clear, you both must live there. At twenty-one, Elizabeth, you must become Summer’s legal guardian as she is after all, only seventeen. This will be a chance for a fresh start for the both of you to get to know one another.” He sighed deeply, “the rented properties will form your living allowance once the paperwork has been completed and submitted. This should be used to do a little work on the house, it is my understanding it needs a bit of a tidy up, and of course you must use this to pay a bulk of the bills. Although, I suspect you may also need to find jobs.”

He took a moment, allowing his words in the stunned silence to mellow before continuing. “We will of course be visiting you every so often, but the two of you have flights booked for tomorrow, so we must be rather timely now so that you can pack once the papers are signed.” The air held the warm smell of the wood burning in the fire.

“Summer, your mother has encouraged this move, she supports it. You will be going to a lovely school; all fees will have been paid for once the paperwork is completed. As I understand it your uniform will be delivered before the term begins.”

The girls had stopped listening and their minds had run wild since the mention of a fresh start, just nodding appropriately. Both were running from their past the moment they left their homes. Why not continue doing so?

Elizabeth and Summer signed the paperwork for almost an hour. Finally done they were handed an envelope with instructions they were told would help them on their arrival. With that both girls were sent to the hotel to pack and to rest.

 

 

Chapter Three

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.

 

 

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