Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-Nine

 

The funeral was exactly that, a funeral. Simple, but beautiful. The birds had sung the whole service. Elizabeth had been reluctant to go, later she confessed to Simon why. At night he had been staying at the manner to help out, it was that night that Elizabeth had asked him to stay and talk to her. She told him that it was her fault. No matter how many ways he tried to change her mind, it was unchangeable.

There had been so much distance that Summer didn’t want to leave for college, but it seemed everyone in the town had stepped in her way to make sure she couldn’t find a way to stay behind to be with Elizabeth. There seemed to always be someone coming or going. They kept asking Summer to do the town proud. Simon had been the most helpful, helping her pack now that Cassandra had left. Simon even helped take all her things to the dorm suite.

The whole place felt strange. The dorm room was empty and shew as the first to arrive. The view from the window was pretty even for a ground floor. There seemed to be something faintly magical about the place again with the hustle and bustle. It distracted her for a moment.

With everything inside Simon said his goodbyes and rushed back to the Diner, or to see Elizabeth as Summer suspected, she smiled at the thought. It was time to start unpacking. Hooking up the speakers in her usual playlist she hit the shuffle and let it go.

Summer ignored the sound of the door closing, on a roll with her unpacking for the moment. A face appeared at her bedroom door.

“Cassandra?! What are you doing in here?”

“Isn’t it great? I’m your dorm mate,” she smiled widely, “I made a special request, and well here we are.”

“Oh, wow, yeah that is, sure, that is something. But why is Jamie in the living room?”

“Oh haven’t you heard? We are, well, we are together. I hope it’s not weird, it kind of just happened. But here we are the three musketeers.”

Summer nodded and said hello to Jamie before turning back to her own unpacking.

A while later she made her way into the living room where Cassandra had left a few boxes, Jamie had disappeared to sort his own dorm. Moving the sofa with Cassandra was a bit of hassle to get to a point of agreement but it got done.

Eventually Summer had some alone time to call Elizabeth. Elizabeth told her not to worry, Simon was going to keep her company and watch some bad rom-coms with her apparently he was determined to see her smile. Summer was genuinely glad.

After a bit of awkward conversation Elizabeth finally said the thing that had been on her mind. “I miss you, I wish you were here, tomorrow morning I have to go to a meeting, with Caroline’s attorney. Apparently she has left me something in her will.”

Summer offered to come back but Elizabeth insisted she stayed at the dorms tonight. She would be fine, she promised, repeatedly.

Advertisements

Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

Simon began to wake at the sound of Summer’s voice echoing in the hall demanding to see Elizabeth. He shook the sleep and fog from his brain and rushed into the hall. Seeing her soothed him a little, the relief in his eyes shone through as he guided her into Elizabeth’s room. “She looks so… small” Summer’s voice sounded as small too. Simon began to tell her what had happened.

That was until Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered open. It was an hour or two of doctors and nurses rushing around until Elizabeth was allowed visitors.

It was in that moment that Summer rushed to Elizabeth’s side once the doctor had left the room that Simon said something sweet without thinking, “you two could be sisters, the way you stick together being all stubborn like that.”

Elizabeth smiled for a half second before asking, “how is Caroline?” No one knew. Summer asked Elizabeth what happened. “It was my ex, Steve. He found me.” Summer saw the significance, Simon just stood confused when she asked, “you’re sure it was him?” Elizabeth nodded. The policemen stepped into the room to ask questions, privately.

Summer was reluctantly extracted from the room by Simon, Cassandra who had remained silent till now spoke in the hallway. “Who is Steve?”

“He is her ex, evil ex. She said he was a monster, but this? This is something else.” The words had escaped her with no air, the hall felt suffocating, like every word had begun to suffocate her. Her cheeks flushed she was angry. She wasn’t the only one Simon seemed to absorb Summer’s radiating anger. Cassandra told them both to go and get some air but neither wanted to leave.

It was torture, watching Elizabeth in the room, tears were falling from her eyes. Summer couldn’t take it anymore. She stormed in. Standing by her side she took Elizabeth’s hand and refused to leave. The police reluctantly agreed to Summer but refused to let Simon in.

Summer stood by Elizabeth and held her hand as they asked their questions. Finally, with most of them answered Summer asked one, “what about Steve?”

With reluctance they confirmed that he had disappeared but tried to reassure them there was a warrant on his head. That wasn’t the only news they had. They had little choice but to inform them, that due to her injuries and the smoke, Caroline hadn’t made it through the night.

Elizabeth broke down, knowing the news before the words had escaped the officer’s lips, that fraction of doubt of telling her. Summer held tighter to Elizabeth.

Simon had been listening through the crack of the open door. He strode in beside the girls ignoring the officers. Tears had been staining his face, but the fresh wave was unmistakeable as he moved closer to Elizabeth who was shuddering with her sobs.

***

It was a few days before Summer was able to take Elizabeth home, with her left arm and right leg in casts she had to be wheeled out. It was going to take a little while to mend her broken bones, but longer than her heart Summer had thought. Simon picked them up from the hospital. The hardest part was the drive past the bakery, Elizabeth had barely spoken since they knew about Caroline, she had barely said or done anything.

Cassandra helped them settle, Summer had asked her to stay and she had obliged. Summer disappeared to Lavenders florist and picked some flowers. Returning to the manner, with a little help she wheeled Elizabeth out and put the flowers on her lap. Continue reading

Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-Seven

 

Summers absence over the two weeks had lead Elizabeth to be a hive of productivity. The house was clean, the laundry and ironing had been done. In Elizabeth’s opinion the house was perfection. Except for the mess and chaos that Summer brought with her. Elizabeth had gotten so used to hanging around with Summer it was like she had lost a sister, even if it was for two weeks, she felt lonelier now than she had in a long time.

Thankfully Summer was due back the next morning, something Elizabeth was now well prepared for. She was very well prepared at home, but at work she wasn’t prepared for what had happened over her lunch break. In her absence the bread dough ball had become a mountain and it was going to take a lot of work for her to tame. Elizabeth found herself cursing this particular recipe before setting to work.

Caroline had closed up while Elizabeth finished baking off the dough that had been put into the hot ovens. Caroline was elbow deep in the display stands when the door opened. The man she had heard rumours of, the rude one, always in the hoodie and grey slacks stood in the doorway. The one who had barged past so many people.  Caroline told the man they were closed, but he smiled calmly, “it’s ok, I’m just here to see Ellybeth.”

Caroline looked at him for a moment, no one ever called Elizabeth that. He put his rucksack down on the chair and made it clear he would wait. Caroline disappeared to the door way, still keeping an eye on the man. “Someone here to see you.” Caroline grimaced, Elizabeth walked towards her, “I’m not sure you want to see this one.” Elizabeth walked into the room buttoning up her cardigan. “I’ll check on the ovens honey, yell if you need me.”

Elizabeth nodded, not quite noticing Caroline’s tone. Her face went white as a sheet when she heard the man’s voice. Continue reading

Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty-Six

 

Come Monday morning Darling Honor were very unimpressed by two students wearing visible marks from a brawl. It turns out that was heightened by the gossip that flew around the school thanks to Jamie. Summer had an obviously cut lip that didn’t seem to help her though. There was one consistency to the rumours, Summer broke up a fight between a couple of boys.

In truth Summer ignored it. She ignored the hype around the choosing of the valedictorian. The only thing she cared about was what her options would be for college even if she knew she had no choice. Cassandra was an anxious ball of energy. Even after an in theory relaxing weekend with Elizabeth and Summer.

When Summer returned that evening after a day of enduring Cassandra’s nervous chatter Summer walked into the kitchen to find a pile of letters on the counter. Elizabeth’s mail still in the mix, but Summer picked out her letters. Not wanting to deal with the pile of letters right this moment, her shift at the diner was speeding towards her. Summer threw her post into her bag and got ready for the next few hours.

With Summer flying about the diner she didn’t notice her bag fall from the peg, or Simon pick it up. He didn’t have the intention to pry, but the small stream of letters that fell out piqued his curiosity. He read the return address labels and called Elizabeth asking her to get to the Diner as soon as she could.

Within ten minutes Elizabeth and Caroline appeared in the Diner which was crammed full of people who had heard rumours. Summer returned from her short break having a snack. Everyone had their eyes to her, darting their gaze from Elizabeth to Summer. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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. Continue reading

Darling Daughters

Chapter Twenty

 

Summer found her negotiation skills tested trying to organise a day when she could go to Darling College that Darling Honor would agree to.  She had to avoid days with mock exams and major class projects, and rather reluctantly Summer had to accept headmaster Maiden’s orders that Cassandra would go with her to look at the college.

Summer had overheard Cassandra bragging about her excursion to Maggy who pouted, this was one excursion she wouldn’t be able to get away with joining. Valarie however seemed more curious if it meant Cassandra would be going to a college party. Summer struggled to suppress her laughter. But even that hadn’t escaped Cassandra’s notice.

Cassandra approached Summer in the girl’s bathroom, it was less an approach and more an ambush. Summer began to feel confined and cornered, something that she had always hated. “Cassandra move.”

“No, I want to talk to you about something.”

“Can I at least wash my hands while you talk.” Cassandra looked her up and down and stepped out of the way.

“I will be valedictorian.”

“Good, I don’t care”

“Sure you don’t”

Summer rolled her eyes and turned to face Cassandra. The threat in the air was clear, Summer really didn’t care, she felt an old helpless anger bubbling from her throat. “Listen to me Cassandra, because this is the last time I will say this to you, I don’t care! I honestly don’t, I have no interest in being valedictorian, I want to get this year done, get it out the way. I don’t care about valedictorian, I don’t care about you and I certainly don’t care about this damn school.”

“Sure you-”

“I haven’t finished talking. Leave me alone. Seriously, I have had enough. You think you are scary, I’ve known worse than you, so go take your conspiracy theories and put them where the sun doesn’t shine.”

Cassandra stood open mouthed when Summer finished turned and walked away. For once Summer had stood up for herself in a way she had never done before. She had stood up for herself, something that felt very strange and left her shaking on the inside.

***

Summer woke early with a nervous stomach. When she pulled herself from her bed and got dressed she came stumbling into the kitchen pulling on her shoes. A blurry eyed Elizabeth trudged into the room, “coffee, coffee, coffee” she mumbled. Elizabeth groaned, she sat on the chair drinking her coffee while Summer darted about preparing for her day trip. Today was the trip to Darling College, after about half an hour they were on the road to Darling College.

Elizabeth was in a hurried mood, she had a one track mind focused entirely on her to do list as long as her arm. Dropping Summer off was just the start.

Elizabeth dropped Summer off nearby, she had felt like a walk. Elizabeth drove off leaving her walking up the path to Darling College.

Summer enjoyed the walk, peace before she had to face Cassandra again, something that she had avoided. The birds sung and it all seemed so picturesque. It was peace in chaos. Summer’s blood ran cold for a moment hearing Cassandra call her name.

“I thought you would have changed your mind when you found out that I will come here.” Summer didn’t bother to suppress her smirk as she waited for Cassandra to catch up.

“You should be so lucky, I belong here, despite your obvious connection.”

“Not bitter are we Cassandra? You do know, it’s really not attractive.”

“You sound like my mother.” Summer’s face fell, the tension subsided for a moment. Their walk continued in silence. While there was unease between them, they both had a nervous energy. The further along the path they walked the silence became a little unbearable.

“I’m sorry.”

“I know, and for what it’s worth, so am I.”

“Thank you, I guess we should probably try to get along, today is going to be a long day and we are going to need to get along. Us fighting, here it’s not something I want getting back to my grandad. Truce?” Summer offered her hand. Tentatively, Cassandra shook it.