More of the NaNoWriMo story – phew this is hard work!! Forgive typos proof reading comes later!
Jade Benton arrived home the following day to a very different though no less enthusiastic welcome. Jade, as the eldest and most beloved amongst the sisters, was subject to an array of greetings reflecting the characters of those that bestowed the salutations.
‘Jade, you look lovely, doesn’t she Mum? I’m so pleased your home you’ll be able to hear me practice my routine’ from Lara.
‘Hello Jade you could help me learn my lines too’ from Kylie.
‘Jade won’t be interested in your silly theatricals’ Meg Ann declared loftily, ‘you look very well Jade. I’m writing a theological treatise, I can read it to you if you like.’ Jade responded affirmatively to all of the requests, smiling fondly on each of her sisters for however silly they were she remembered them all as babies and loved them all.
‘Jade looks beautiful, doesn’t she girls’ Amanda Benton admired her eldest fondly. The most attractive of her daughters filled Amanda with hopes for a successful marriage. She dreamed that Jade with her porcelain skin, blue eyes and blonde curls would attract a rich and famous suitor. Amanda prided herself that Jade had inherited her good looks and sometimes wished she had not thrown herself away on a bookish university professor. She could have had anyone.
Lewis entered the mêlée to greet his eldest daughter with affection,
‘It’s nice to see you my dear’ he offered simply, ‘perhaps we may have a quiet chat later when your mother has finished with you?’ he added in a wryer vein.
‘Yes of course Dad, and Eme’ Jade caught her closest sister by the hand and squeezed her fingers, ‘we’ll catch up properly later.’
‘I don’t know how you do it, you have the patience of a saint’ Eme complimented later that evening in the privacy of Jade’s bedroom. The younger two had been ferried to a friend’s birthday party by their father who would collect them later. Their mother was entertaining one of her girlfriends which entailed drinking large quantities of wine and ‘twerking’ enthusiastically around the living room to the accompaniment of pop videos. ‘It’s no wonder Lara and Kylie are out of control our mother gets worse…’ Eme rolled her eyes skyward.
‘She has to have some fun’ Jade reproofed her sister gently, ‘Father is more staid than she.’
‘I suppose so’ Eme responded reluctant to censor her father, ‘he doesn’t really lavish much attention on her I suppose. Anyway tell me all your news.’
‘Aunt and Uncle Jardine are well, they sent particular love to you and hope that you will be visiting with them soon’ Jade had lodged with their relations when she had first gone to London for her nursing training. I saw William a couple of times…’
‘Really?’ Eme’s eyebrow shot up questioningly,
‘Not like that’ Jade responded with a wistful smile, ‘at least not on my part. I think William may have er feelings for me. You don’t mind do you?’ Jade suddenly looked aghast, she had quite forgotten Scarlett’s grand plan for William and her sister.
‘No, course not silly, I love William like a brother. He’s home did you know?’
‘Yes he told me he was visiting this weekend before he goes down to Plymouth. It would be a hopeless long distance relationship anyhow with me here in Oxford’ Jade added practically.
‘We’re invited around for Sunday lunch’ Eme informed.
‘What all of us?’ Jade sounded alarmed by the prospect,
‘No just us two I think. Henry and Lily might be there, but maybe not, you know what he’s like uses the house like a hotel his mum says. Sandy definitely not he’s gone to scout camp for a week. William will be and maybe a couple of his school friends.’
‘That’s nice of them to ask us. How’s Scarlett?’
‘Fine, we’re going to start a job search on Monday. She want’s to get a few possibilities lined up before they go down to Rock for August.’
‘What does she want to do?’
‘She’s not really sure but with History of Art she should be able to get something local. Oxford doesn’t exactly have a shortage of museums.’
‘Is that what she wants then?’
‘Mm she’s like you’ Eme smiled broadly at her older sister, ‘prefers to swim in a small pond.’
‘Is that what I’m doing?’ Jade asked, faintly surprised, ‘I did feel a bit lost in London so I expect that you’re right. I’m glad Carle’s going to be around. I expect that she’ll miss you.’
‘She thinks she will but she’ll get used to me being away soon enough. At the moment she has little but Ashley Brooks on her mind…’
‘She’s still in love with him then? And you Eme, anyone special?’
‘No, I think I’ll have to join a convent with Meg Ann’ Eme teased. Jade giggled,
‘That I can really see.’
‘What about you Jadie? I’m sure you have a queue of blokes after you.’
‘You sound like Mum’ Jade reproached, ‘it’s not true at all. I hardly ever get asked, Jade was thoughtful for a moment, ‘there was one doctor who was a bit keen earlier in the year but it was just too embarrassing seeing him on the ward and everyone joshing me about him. In the end I finished with him.’
‘Poor chap’ Eme commiserated,
‘I did feel terrible’ Jade confessed, ‘he took it badly’ she had decided at the time that she must move away soon as may be, the atmosphere had been terrible. ‘I wasn’t comfortable seeing someone I was working with at close quarters like that’ Jade confessed.
‘Oh dear there’ll be lots of disappointed doctors at the Radcliffe then’ Eme jested, ‘well at least our mother won’t be too disappointed, she has much higher expectations for you. You must marry a millionaire at least.’
‘Eme stop it’ Jade admonished, laughing never the less, her sister was partially right their mother did have strange match making notions. ‘I don’t see where I could possibly meet such a chap anyhow. I don’t exactly move in such exalted circles.’
Sunday lunch with the Lucas family was fun and led to an unlooked to opportunity for Jade to widen her circle. The girls arrived as invited and were greeted on the doorstep by Henry dispatched by his sister who was employed in the kitchen.
‘Hello, hello,’ he greeted with a cheeky grin, ‘how are my two favourite girls?’ He hugged Jade and Eme in turn ‘I like your hair Eme’ he bestowed with his head on one side after a careful appraisal, ‘and of course the beautiful Jade is beyond compare.’ Eme shook her head at Henry. The boy was incorrigible. At seventeen he was completely self-assured largely owing to his attractive appearance and a consequent gaggle of female admirers. He had undoubtedly grown into a handsome young man. Eme surveyed Henry openly; he was already a little taller than his older brother, broad shouldered and lean. His crop of fair hair was artistically jelled looking slightly at odds with his chiseled storybook hero features. Gray eyes, perfect straight nose, a wide mouth and strong jaw line sporting a sprinkle of stubble. He’ll be gorgeous when he fills out a bit Eme surmised.
‘Like what you see?’ Henry preened,
‘I’m stunned into silent worship’ Eme returned sardonically, to which Henry laughed completely un-phased,
‘Carle’s in the kitchen with Mum putting the finishing touches on the buffet, Lily’s here already and we expect James and Nathan anytime soon’ Henry notified as he led the girls through the house to the sun room at the rear.
‘Oh it looks lovely’ Jade breathed admiring the long table laid with glasses and cutlery to one end with platters of various foods down the center, with the patio doors rolled back the eye was drawn from the house to the terrace and onwards down the immaculate garden.
‘Doesn’t it’ Henry remarked, sneaking a cocktail sausage from under its cover.
‘You’ll be in trouble’ Jade chided with a smile, ‘oh hi Lily, how are you?’ First Jade and then Eme greeted the younger girl who had been best friends with Henry since nursery. Lily lived up to her name in languid grace at the same time as trashing it completely. Her hair was currently cut short and dyed black; she also exhibited a ring through her right nostril that rendered her beauty rather fierce and alien.
‘Hi Jadie, hi Eme, it’s so nice to see you’ Lily proclaimed in her gentle voice with a shy smile totally at odds with her appearance.
‘It’s nice to see you too’ Jade rejoined genuinely, she had always liked Lily,
‘When did you get that done?’ Eme asked grimacing at the nose ring, ‘doesn’t it hurt?’ Lily giggled shyly,
‘It’s not a real one, just stuck on with eyelash glue, ‘Mum would go ape if she saw it…’ Lily pulled a ‘y’know how it is’ face and shrugged her shoulders expressively. Lily’s mother, would strike terror into the heart of most young people so they did get it. Eme laughed and felt comforted that her own younger sisters were only travelling the same road of minor rebellion.
‘I can’t say I really like it, or the hair but hey’ in her turn Eme shrugged dismissively, ‘what the hell.’
A ring of the doorbell alerted them to new arrivals. The reception committee was joined by William who thundered down the stairs to greet his best friends from school. Nathan, James and William had been good friends throughout high school. Eme and Jade had known the boys forever too. Both of them fancied Jade but neither had ever made an approach; Eme wondered if the status quo would change now that Jade was back in Oxford. She observed slyly as first James then Nathan greeted her sister once they had exchanged back slaps and fatuous remarks with William.
Her sister, Eme detected, greeted each with equal pleasure. Nathan appeared to be less at ease with her than James but it was impossible to spot anything other than initial shyness. It must be a couple of years since they had met. Eme was surprised to find herself the object of Nathan’s attention after the ice had been broken. He spent several minutes engaging her attention drawing her out about her future intentions. Eme brought him up to date humorously detailing her so far failed ambitions,
‘It is so much easier to dream of a successful career than to get down to making one’ she confessed with a wry smile, ‘Carle and I have made a pact to start job hunting in earnest next week though’ she excused her frivolity. Nathan listened attentively to her lively account of their inactiveness since commencing the holiday and deemed it a just reward for working so hard for their finals.
‘Mm I think you give me too much credit’ Eme grinned, ‘for I didn’t work half so hard as I should have.’
‘William says you could get a first’ Nathan remarked. Eme smiled and hedged,
‘No, he exaggerates! Anyway no one likes a smart-arse’ she dissembled, ‘what about you. Last time we met you were working for your dad.’
‘Still am’ Nathan grimaced, ‘it’s not so bad though…’
‘It’s all right for some’ James interrupted teasingly, ‘I could do with a little nepotism to help me up the career ladder. Some of us have to go through interviews, suck up to our managers and such other delights.’
‘Yeah there speaks golden boy’ Nathan retorted in jest, ‘he’s only just gotten a second promotion this year while I’m still just about trusted to make the tea.’
Scarlett joined the others as they drifted out onto the terrace and continued to josh each other good-humoredly.
The buffet was a great success, the informal style of eating lending itself well to multiple conversations between different parties. Once the food had been decimated the boys elected to play a game of French cricket while the girls cleared up, loaded the dishwasher and made coffee. Reassembled on the terrace Claire Lucas introduced the subject of their intended August in Cornwall.
‘We wondered if you both would like to spend a fortnight with us this year?’ Claire aimed at Jade and Eme. ‘We weren’t sure about your work commitments Jade but you would be more than welcome. Henry and William will only be with us for the first week or so. William has to start work in Plymouth and Henry’s joining Lily’s family for the second part of the month.’ Eme looked across at Jade expectantly, it would be cool if her sister could spend some time with her and Scarlett, and it had been years since they had taken a holiday together.
‘Thank you soo much. I’d love to if you really have room for me as well?’ Jade smiled in delight. Sun, sea and sand before she started in earnest at the Radcliffe would be awesome.
‘Brilliant’ Scarlett enthused, ‘we’ll have loads of fun. We usually sail, surf and swim and there are picnics and beach parties, depending on whose about…’ Scarlett’s enthusiasm was deflated for a moment while she considered the possible absence of Ashley Brooks from the scene. Claire smiled inwardly,
‘I spoke to Amy Brooks yesterday’ she declared artlessly, ‘The Brooks will be down for most of August and they are expecting Ashley to join them for a week or two. Apparently he is bringing his cousin down and one of their school friends.’ Scarlett tried and failed to suppress a grin of delight. ‘We have an invitation from them for a buffet lunch already.’ Claire’s announcement was greeted with a buzz of pleasure as the girls discussed timing, arrangements and a necessary shopping spree.
‘Come to Top Shop’ Lily put in enthusiastically, ‘I can help you choose. We have lovely swimwear, shorts, tees and stuff and you can have my staff discount and Henry’s’ she added generously. The girls all agreed to the idea and in their excitement quite forgot to admire the boy’s sporting prowess.