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

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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. Continue reading

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?” Continue reading

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.

 

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.

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.”

 

Darling Daughters

Chapter Ten

 

Summer and Elizabeth stepped onto the porch in front of Caroline and Thomas. Reluctant in their approval of the girls being presentable at last. Summer and Elizabeth found themselves blindfolded being guided by Thomas and Caroline.

Stumbling a few times on the pavement they took slower steps reaching softer ground. Being guided across grass they were directed up some steps. Removing the blindfolds music began to play. As the smells of food finally made sense from the centre of the town gazebo.

Thomas began to speak, declaring today to be “British Day” he finally agreed, declaring the day open after explaining that Summer seemed so homesick and they couldn’t resist an opportunity to celebrate the new Darling’s in town. Summer swallowed back tears.

They were both handed T-shirts, one said “I love England” and the other “I love London” printed across the chest. The girls smiled and giggled as Thomas insisted he be the one to give the tour, after all it was a celebration for Elizabeth and Summer and he wanted to be the one to show them how happy they were that they had Darlings.

Summer tried to supress a smile with a deep breath, but she couldn’t manage it. She felt welcome and more at home in this quirky little town than she thought she would in that moment. She felt a part of the town, she felt a part of this strange, unusual family that was formed from the town. It was a little sanctuary.

Finally, Thomas left them and Caroline escorted Summer and Elizabeth to the bakeries stand. There were cupcakes decorated in the Union Jack, the English flag, little Paddington bear figures, Beatrix Potter characters, and Harry Potter designs. It was amazing.

Summer laughed at the joy of the effort, it was wonderful, even though she felt ever so slightly awkward. She was handed something in a box, she opened it to find a cake covered in stripes of all kinds of colours, a half mask made of sugar and a red rose. It took a few moments examining all the little smaller details of the cake before she beamed. “Is this a Lloyd Webber cake?” to which Caroline broke into a massive grin.

The cake was wrapped back up and handed to Summer to keep and eat. Summer was guided from stall to stall before she reached Simon. Who stood proudly, yet sheepishly behind his table, a stand filled with all kinds of English tea’s. Summer smiled from ear to ear before giving Simon a hug.

Elizabeth talked with Simon while Summer wondered off with a cup of tea. Looking through all the stands she bumped into Zach, who took the cake bag and the souvenirs she had been given and had begun to struggle with the juggling of them. His hair seemed to catch in the breeze blowing from his face.

“I don’t mind carrying it, honestly. Elizabeth looks happy.” He pointed over his shoulder towards Elizabeth smiling and chatting with Simon; Summer nodded. Zach and Summer began to walk again. He carried the cake carefully. After a while Summer found herself with an ache in her feet, “mind if we steal that bench?”

“Not at all.” His smile seemed to blow Summer away every time.

Summer laughed watching the town having around them. They watched as Simon and Elizabeth brought out a new station. “Can we go and have a look? I’m sorry I know we’ve not long sat down?”

“Of course, it’s your day after all.” Standing Summer suddenly felt a little braver, she took Zach by the hand and walked a step ahead. Her heart raced, he didn’t let go or pull away. She felt a bit relieved but so incredibly excited. Even with aching cheeks from all the smiling.

Summer found herself amused at what the town had thought of Britain. Summer relaxed passing the stalls for fish and chips. She made her way to Simon and Elizabeth who had opened the Diner serving full English roast dinners including Yorkshire puddings.

After eating dinner with Zach, Simon, and Elizabeth; Summer felt relaxed, and very full. Elizabeth stayed behind to help Simon clean up and ordered Summer to go and enjoy the town after dropping the cake off and little odd souvenirs.

Summer and Zach had spent a fair amount of time wondering about as the atmosphere began to change wind down in evening, still holding hands whenever they could. In a moment of sadness Summer remembered school tomorrow. But in this moment she had to ignore that looming misery.

Zach walked Summer home. They stood rather awkwardly on the porch. She inched a little closer to him, still holding his hand. In a moment of bravery, she rose up on to her tip toes, and lightly kissed Zach on the cheek. Returning her feet to the floor, feeling slightly red and embarrassed, she looked up at him. He leaned in and let his lips brush hers as he kissed her. He wished her goodnight.

She opened the door, he let go of her hand and wished her good night again with that brilliant smile.

 

 

Darling Daughters

Chapter Nine

 

It’s finally the weekend. That’s the sentiment they shared.

Summer had completed her homework and extra credit work by lunchtime. She had a short afternoon shift at the Diner to look forward to then some time with Elizabeth once she finished her shift.

While still home sick, Summer struggled to consider the manner home, although she was beginning to adjust to the decoration and the over-the-top-ness of the house. Neither Elizabeth or Summer had the heart to change it, even the bowl of keys on the dresser remained on the to do list pinned to the wall.

Tapping the to do list she walked out of the house towards the Diner.

For a Saturday the town seemed eerily quiet even McGuire wasn’t his usual self. He seemed to be running around giving whispered orders to groups of people nearby, but as soon as Summer approached he went silent. They exchanged a “good morning” or two and “what a lovely day” before returning to the huddle awkwardly.

Summer didn’t bother to mask her curiosity or her suspicion. She walked a little slower past each small crowd suddenly silent on seeing her.

“Ignore them, they are crazy” wise words from Simon as she got through the door. She still eyed him with equal suspicion. The Diner was quiet for a Saturday afternoon, and the distinct lack of explanation infuriated Summer with every quiet conversation hushed in her presence. On her occasional glance across the square she could see the kiosks being set up with carts and stands; but still no explanation, no matter how much she asked.

Struggling not to take it personally Summer eventually gave up asking.

At the end of her shift Summer met up with Elizabeth on her way out of Oaks, discussing dinner plans. They had their mission, cook dinner, see if they can find homes for some of those keys and watch some bad TV or food channels.

***

Exhausted the girls were still tucked up in bed at eleven thirty on Sunday morning. It was a loud knocking on the door that reverberated throughout the whole of the house to wake them up. Elizabeth was just as unhappy at the infernal racket as Summer as they opened at the door still bleary eyed from sleep in their pyjamas.

Dismayed at the door at the state of Elizabeth and Summer stood Caroline and Thomas. They ordered both girls to go get themselves presentable.

With the door closed both girls muttered and shuffled to their rooms pulling on jeans and t-shirts and raking their hair with a brush.

“Do we have to go with them?”

“Yup, no where we can hide in this damn town?”

“Great.”

Darling Daughters

Chapter Eight

 

It was towards the end of the week and both Elizabeth and Summer felt thoroughly exhausted. Elizabeth had been part of the marathon for the wedding order. Finally, her first day off this week had arrived, it was also Friday, much to her relief. However, that didn’t exempt her from waking up early to take Summer to school. But with that kerfuffle over Elizabeth now found herself at a loss of things to do, even with a to do list as long as her arm.

Elizabeth managed to get the food shopping done in the market with relative ease, a little nagging from Thomas had her rather grumpy. Elizabeth got the groceries home and put away, standing in the kitchen a little at a loss of what she wanted to do next. Her eyes fell onto the speakers and put music on, itching the volume a little higher at a time. She began to clean the house, in no time at all she was singing and dancing as she swept the floor occasionally pausing to use the handle as a microphone.

Elizabeth didn’t notice the door opening, or the figure of a man stifling laughter as Elizabeth continued to dance about with her back to him. A spin with the broom, she caught sight of him and screamed in surprise catching her feet below her she fell back on herself. Coming into the room to catch her, rescuing the damsel on the floor, Simon pulled her to her feet in hysterics.

Standing on her feet Elizabeth glared at him, picked up the broom and caught him on the shoulder telling him off. Finally, he had stopped laughing and apologised to her. Elizabeth was already red in the face from exertion and embarrassment.

“I’m sorry I swear I would have walked away, but it was such a show, a wonderful concert.” Elizabeth clipped his shoulder again with the broom at his sarcasm. Her eyes narrowed as he picked up the can of polish and the duster and began singing. Not sure if he was trying to offend her she glared, until her expression softened as he swayed and got into the song. Finally, Elizabeth caved and continued cleaning and breaking into laughter.

After a long while the living room and kitchen looked brighter and tidier. Reaching the final encore. Elizabeth smiled as she pulled a soda out of the fridge and handed it towards Simon, slumping on the sofa next to him, both a hot sweaty mess.

Simon pulled a small rusting key with a tag hanging off of it, “Archie” was scrawled across the label.

“Great another key, anyone would think Archie had a key fetish.” Continue reading

Darling Daughters

Chapter Seven

 

Summer rejected the alarm on her phone and rolled over burying her head in her pillows refusing to get up. Elizabeth burst into the room singing loudly and badly in an attempt to make Summer leap from her bed. Summer threw a cushion at Elizabeth’s head and missed. Determined Elizabeth kept singing until Summer rose from the sheets in a tangled mess.

Elizabeth passed Summer her school uniform and walked into the kitchen. Having spent most of the summer holidays trying to tidy the house the girls just wanted to relax this morning.

Hitting the shuffle on the speakers the girls got dressed and ready, eating breakfast singing and dancing along to cheesy pop.  By the time the fun was over they had to move swiftly to drop Summer off at Darling Honor before Elizabeth could make her way back to town for work.

The building before the girls stood tall and forbidding. Summer took a deep breath entering the cast iron gates. Teenagers swarmed through the hallways, Summer felt disorientated until she heard her name as she was tapped on the shoulder and lead towards headmaster Maiden’s office.

Summer’s heart raced as the door opened as she was called inside. By the desk sitting down was a tall, grey, stern looking portly man scanning a folder as he asked her to sit. Summer obeyed the icy grey eyes that met hers.

He waited a moment before he introduced himself, “I am your headmaster Alexander Maiden, the headmaster of one of the very few elite schools. Here you have the potential to become anything you want, if you apply yourself. However, it is not possible to cruise your way through this school doing the bare minimum.” Summer felt the knot in her chest tighten as she was handed a behaviour code to sign and the other school codes. She couldn’t escape the feeling she was signing her life away. Continue reading