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.”

“Bed.”

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Thirteen

 

It had been a couple of weeks since the British day and the exploding kitchen, both girls had withdrawn a bit from the town. They were buried in takeaways, homework and working their shifts. They had withdrawn a bit from one another. Their free time had dwindled. Summer seemed to have withdrawn into going through her files from Archie, stories of her family. Elizabeth buried herself in sugar craft guides.

A fairly important document, one of many, was within days of being read, one that would have a potentially huge impact on her life. With this document on the horizon, without her knowing Summer stopped reading the file for the evening. Summer fixed her hair and put a little gloss on her lips before checking herself in the mirror again.

She mindlessly ran her hand through the key bowl and found one much like her dresser draw key, with an “E” Scratched into the surface. Summer left the key on the top of the post-it pile for Elizabeth before she walked out the door.

Summer walked towards the gazebo trying to steady her nerves. There sat on the bench that she had sat on with Zach on British day sat Zach all by himself doing homework. She smiled walking over to him, behind him by a few steps she called out, “the answer is always pie.”

He looked up slowly, thoroughly confused, she smiled warmly at him. “Well, ok not always pie, because sometimes the answer is cake, or chocolate or-” he had stood up and kissed her lightly on the lips causing a jolt of electricity to spark through her nerves. She smiled as he pulled away, he put his work away into a bag.

“Friday night. I am off work, Ellie and I are doing a Potter marathon, did you maybe want to join us?” Summer’s cheeks were crimson, even when he agreed and set the time. Summer still blushed all the way to work.

***

Friday’s lessons seemed to drag by slowly taking a ridiculous amount of time to get through the day. Cassandra seemed so much more aggressive than her usual self, especially when Maggy kept pushing Cassandra’s buttons under the noise of the class. Maggy was taking a risk poking that bear.

Summer had taken notice of Maggy, her game playing to be exact, and her façade. It had to be said, she was a very sly flirt, especially around the slightly more attractive male species.

Cassandra was simple, competitive and she was competing with Summer directly. Maggy, she was playing a different game, winning the teachers over with her tactile smiles.

By the time the bell rang for the end of the day Summer was itching to reach town to go and get as much junk food as she could carry. Cassandra stood in Summer’s way in the hallway, “you won’t win, you know that right? I will be the valedictorian, I will get into Harvard, Yale and Darling and you won’t stop me.”

Summer walked past her, bumping shoulders as she rolled her eyes. She had better things to do than to listen to the ravings of a lunatic. Even though it was clear Summer’s wish wouldn’t be coming true any time soon, Cassandra had no intention of leaving her alone.

***

Summer was on edge of her seat waiting with Elizabeth as they laid out the snacks, the sweets and the take out. Summer was anxious, he seemed a little late. Summer jumped out of her skin when the doorbell finally rang.

Zach walked in awkwardly when Elizabeth made the joke that as long as he didn’t give Summer’s period a reason to be late it was fine. Summer glowered and glowed red when she hissed at Elizabeth to shut up.

They sat down and the movies began, and so did the munching of food. Elizabeth started to doze off during the second movie and started to snore quietly. Summer got up and pulled some blankets over Elizabeth.

Summer returned to her seat beside Zach, who rather gently put his arm around her. Still facing the screen, they smiled wondering who would cave first. Summer took initiative and took his other hand in hers as they sat watching the movie she leaned into him a little more until her head rested on his shoulder.

Eventually they were dozing through the credits curled up next to one another.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Twelve

 

With a few phone calls made to remove the smouldering carcasses of the machines the fire crew left. With an appreciative Summer and Elizabeth, who couldn’t believe their luck; good or bad.

Summer suddenly felt hungrier than ever. She felt appreciation for their remaining machines, the microwave and kettle. The two that hadn’t betrayed them. Elizabeth stared in disbelief still, Summer went and got their bags from the hall, “the Diner” they managed to share the idea at the same moment. they pulled their coats on headed off to the Diner.

The news of the fire seemed to have spread like wildfire ahead of them, they were stopped every few moments to ask how they were doing. Wildfire probably would have spread slower to be fair.

Arriving at Simon’s they were ushered in. Summer strode over to her favourite table, where she would usually have her books out to study. Not quite a real table, but a shelf with the spare stools tucked underneath. They could have their back to the diner and relax.

Simon seemed attentive for his standards, asked with concern for them and seemed rather impressed at Summer’s flame taming skills.

With a bit of food in them they finally managed to laugh about their suicidal appliances. While this was Summer’s evening off, she still spent the time in the Diner.

Summer began to talk about her afternoon before the implosions. Elizabeth listened to Summer talk about the draw and what she found inside. The thoughts of the talk slipped Elizabeth’s mind and Summer was in no mood to remind her. She was just happy for a lucky escape.

The next few days were spent eating out at the Diner but that didn’t stop Summer from spending stolen free moments going through the files. She had discovered strange stories from Archie that left her smiling. Funny stories about things he had seen, family dinners, just odd little things that made him that much more real.

Elizabeth didn’t share the same curiosity around her draw just yet. She had buried herself in learning new skills, trying to practice new things with Caroline after the bakery was cleaned and tidied, they practiced new ideas after her shift.

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Darling Daughters

Chapter Eleven

 

Early Monday morning the alarm destroyed the silence. It took a while before Elizabeth and Summer were sat together eating breakfast. Summer’s exhaustion was obvious, the late night and heavy workload were taking their toll. “Sum, when we get in tonight I need to have a bit of a chat with you.”

“What about?”

“Just a few things, I just want to talk to you about something.”

“I don’t need ‘the talk’ talk.”

“We can talk this evening.”

“What is it about Ellie?”

“Look I just want to talk to you about something.”

“About Zach?”

“He might reach the highlights. But really, we need to talk about something ok?”

“Fine.” Summer slumped off to finish getting ready.

***

The air was cool and crisp; autumn was turning quickly into winter. The chill in the air sent shivers down the girls as they hopped in the car, it had been a while since they had acquired it but somehow the car had developed a layer of fun little car accessories inside, an indoor clutter. It was just a knickknack storage hiding place.

Elizabeth dropped Summer off to school before she said goodbye she reminded her to be on time tonight for their chat. Summer rolled her eyes and disappeared. Even now Elizabeth knew she sort of missed Summer.

***

Summer got home and reluctantly finished off her homework. Her motivation wavering, she closed the last book and toyed with the keys in the bowl on the dresser table waiting for Elizabeth. Summer examined the keys one by one, finding a key with a rather jagged “S” scratched into it. The familiarity niggled at her thoughts.

Summer bent down in front of the dresser, the lower shelf had the same “S” scratched into the surface near the lock. Tentatively she pushed the key into the lock and turned, there was a faint click. Gently she pulled the draw but it didn’t budge. Standing she adjusted her position and pulled on the draw harder.

The draw opened, within it looked as though it hadn’t been opened in a long while, there were leaver arch folders full of papers and note books. Old photo albums that smelled like old paper tucked in stacks with letters; some formal, some with the familiar scrawl of Archie Darling. Carefully Summer extracted the contents of the draw and took the files trying to keep them in order into her bedroom.

Summer took the file at the top, with a large “One” scrawled over it. Taking the file to her desk she opened it to find files of papers. Each one with her name somewhere on them, throughout. She returned to the dresser and locked the draw before bringing the key into her room and placed it in the small jewellery box in her bedside table.

The air cooled as she read. Summer had managed to get a few paragraphs in when she heard Elizabeth returning. Marking her page, she put the files and notebooks into a storage box and tucked it under her desk.

Summer strolled into the kitchen assuming the coast was clear. She turned on the oven to preheat while she began to prepare the potatoes. The air was quiet, before a shockwave hit her and made her heart race, a loud bang, a very loud bang that echoed through the house. Elizabeth came rushing downstairs.

Both the fridge and the cooker had committed suicide, their insides engulfing in flames. A heartbeat saw Summer rip the plugs from the sockets near the fridge and countertops that she could reach.

Elizabeth was on the phone to the emergency services while Summer pulled oils and flammable liquids from the cupboards surrounding. Their hearts were racing. Summer pulled out the heat proof oven cloths from the draws and ran them under the tap. Taking a risk with Elizabeth’s back turned and the fire service not here yet Summer wrenched the oven door open and slung a couple of the heat proof cloths soaked in water over the oven door and slammed it shut.

Elizabeth turned at the noise and pulled Summer back from the oven. Summer wrenched herself free as the fire crew came through the door and took over.

The fire crew looked at Summer’s use of the heat proof cloths. “Where did you come up with the idea for the cloths?”

“My mum managed to set our grill on fire by accident a few years ago, I put it out in the same way, strangled the fire.”

“That’s actually quite clever, especially at your age.”

“Thanks, I’m used to putting out one kind of fire or another.” Summer smiled, she caught Elizabeth looking at her with an expression she couldn’t read.

“I’m surprised; didn’t the heat scare you?”

“Honestly in that moment, I didn’t feel it, fire doesn’t scare me. It should I know, but some people see the ferocity and destruction, I see soothing and the creation of something amazing in its wake.”

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