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

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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.

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.

 

Darling Daughters

Chapter Nineteen

 

After a couple of days of ducking and diving Elizabeth finally managed to confront Summer over her avoiding her phone, burying herself in books and moving like the flash, moving like the speed of light in town.

Elizabeth didn’t react how Summer expected, Elizabeth was quiet, but she agreed with Simon, “just tell Zach how you feel, nicely.” Summer nodded taking her phone and walking out the door.

An hour or two later Elizabeth heard the door slam and a Summer sized blur speed into her bedroom and the music begin. “Sum, what happened?” the music went silent, “so I guess you cut the kid loose then?” Summer appeared at the door and glared coldly at Elizabeth. Elizabeth sat next to Summer who had crashed onto her bed.

“Ellie it was awful; it was like breaking up with a tiny puppy. Is it always like that? Is it always so hard?” Elizabeth looked sympathetically at Summer, before she finally replied. “Summer it’s hard for a reason, you know it is the right choice. It is never easy to walk away from someone you care for, but if it didn’t feel right in the relationship it just wasn’t right for you. That’s ok. Its ok if it doesn’t work out, it’s not failing.”

Summer shrugged when Elizabeth suggested takeaway. It seemed that takeaway was the tip of the iceberg of a few days involving takeaway, ice cream and bad comedy movies.

***

Before long it was Christmas, the girls with no plans decided to take delight in knowing they didn’t have to make a giant formal roast. Their Christmas spirit sat buried in the cupboard with the Christmas decorations. Instead they planned to hang out together and eat copious amounts of junk food. Continue reading

Darling Daughters

Chapter Eighteen

 

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

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

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

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

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

Darling Daughters

Chapter Seventeen

 

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

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

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

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

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

Darling Daughters

Chapter Sixteen

 

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

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

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

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

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