‘But Jade darling you’ve only just come home’ Amanda Benton objected to the announced holiday plan,
‘I know Mum’ Jade apologised sincerely, ‘but I’ll be home all the time once I start work.’
‘And’ Eme added cleverly, ‘the Lucas’s have wealthy friends down there, with sons…’
‘Really?’ their mother’s interest was sparked immediately. Eme capitalised on the opportunity,
‘Yes apparently Scarlett’s friend Ashley has invited his VERY wealthy cousin and another friend who has pots of dosh. I’m sure they’re both MULTI millionaires’ she flannelled shamelessly impervious to Jade’s look of disquiet.
‘Well in that case it sounds as though it may be a good idea’ Amanda Benton ran with the idea, ‘one of them may well fall for Jade because she is the most beautiful girl’ she gushed enthusiastically getting carried away with her theme, ‘and the other may even like you Eme for you’re not so bad at all when you make the effort…’ Eme shrugged self-effacingly and dissuaded Jade with a warning glance from defending her sister’s looks. By the end of their mother’s enthusiastic monologue she had quite made up her mind that for Jade and Eme to go down to Cornwall with the Lucas family had been entirely her own idea. Furthermore it would doubtless lead to a satisfactory romantic outcome for at least one of her daughters.
‘Phew’ Eme flopped onto her sister’s bed and exhaled a sigh of relief; ‘we only have to persuade Dad now.’
‘He won’t mind us being away for a fortnight’ Jade professed confidently, ‘he thinks that we make a material difference to his comforts but I can’t say I’ve actually seen much of him since I got here.’
‘No, I suppose that’s true’ Eme acknowledged, sorry to admit that she had been similarly neglected, ‘he does seem to have given up on all of us’ Eme fell quiet for a minute, ‘Do you ever wonder what will happen when we’ve all left home?’
‘They’ll get divorced I expect’ Jade voiced a hitherto unspoken belief, ‘they have nothing in common except for us.’
‘I suppose you’re right’ Eme agreed sadly. ‘I’m going to see if Dad still has Thursday’s Guardian for Carle and me. I’ll mention Rock so that he has time to get used to the idea.’
‘Good plan’ Jade agreed, ‘I’m going to turn in now. Night night babe.’ The sisters embraced fondly. Eme slipped downstairs quietly to waylay her father.
By the end of the week the whole plan had been agreed and a shopping expedition arranged for the following week to buy much needed holiday things. Meanwhile Scarlett and Eme spent a productive week brushing up their CVs, searching for possible jobs and making applications. Between them they had written a template application letter, which sped things up a little. Scarlett had dispatched three applications and Eme two. The job that had jumped out of the pages of the Guardian at Eme was with a well-established London based publishing house with offices in New York. Eme’s heart beat faster as she read the job description and imagined herself working as an editorial assistant, which would lead to a job as commissioning editor. Eme pictured herself sitting behind a large desk in a plushy office, spectacles perched on her nose (not that she wore glasses), her secretary buzzed her and asking in hushed tones if she could possibly be free to make lunch with… NOT. Eme shook the fantasy from her mind with an impatient eye-roll. Still she crossed her fingers for luck when she posted the application in the postbox on her route home.
As she had promised, Lily had amassed an array of holiday clothes for the sisters to try. Scarlett too had elected to join them. It was her last day in Oxford before she departed for the coast.
‘I don’t really need anything much’ she declared, ‘I have swim suits galore and shorts. I discovered all sorts that I’d quite forgotten while we packed yesterday and Mum reckons I have more down at the cottage.’
‘I haven’t even got a swimming costume’ Jade admitted,
‘I have an old black one-piece from school but nothing nice’ Eme declared eying the colourful bikinis that Lily had sourced in the right sizes. ‘You should try this Jade’ Eme held aloft a glamorous one-piece in red with a low back, ‘oh and this’ a leopard print bikini caught her eye. Her older sister had a great hourglass figure, which would look good in anything. Lily made some helpful suggestions to suit Eme’s slimmer rather boyish shape and the sisters hit the changing rooms with a pile of garments each. Scarlett and Lily kept up a flow of admiring comments as the girls modeled their outfits. Eventually they each made their selections with approval from the audience.
‘I think you should take a dress as well, or a dressier top to go with jeans or shorts. There are always beach parties’ Scarlett advised, ‘though I may have stuff that you can borrow’ she amended as she observed Eme biting her lip. Her rough tally was more than she could afford already.
‘Mum gave me some money for us’ Jade smiled, and glibly exaggerated the amount. Jade had been earning for some time and knew that her sister was worried about her student debt.
‘Oh great’ Eme’s expression cleared, ‘I can get both bikinis then and these shorts, and this and this and this’ she piled a vest top, espadrilles and a canvas bag on her pile. Jade chose the aforementioned swimwear plus jeweled sandals, a gorgeous paisley print maxi dress, a sarong and shorts.
‘I’m sure I have vests and tees from last summer that will do.’ The girls grinned excitedly at each other as Lily rang up the sales and applied her staff discount to the final amount. Eme skipped with excitement,
‘Thanks Lily I forgot about your discount, I can afford a couple more tops now’ she exulted.
Scarlett insisted on buying the sisters a drink on the way home to celebrate their purchases, so the trip ended felicitously for all. It would seem a long time (almost two weeks) before the Benton girls joined their friend in Cornwall.
The girls were collected from the nearest train station by William and Scarlett. Having admired William’s newly acquired, second hand Golf they had enjoyed the journey back through the winding roads towards the coast. Scarlett looked tanned and recounted happily the family activities to date and looked forward with pleasure to the days ahead.
Sea View cottage was as the name suggests set into the hillside overlooking the beach at Rock. Eme, who remembered the cottage from two previous visits, held her breath as they approached the place on the final leg of their journey.
‘Nearly there’ Scarlett advised. Eme took hold of her sister’s hand and nudged her to look. They rounded a corner to see laid out in front of them a long sandy beach with the sea sparkling merrily beyond. The stone built cottage appeared almost set on the beach from this angle, a little jetty and some fishing boats bobbed jauntily in the background. Jade let out a sigh of delight, it looked like paradise on earth. Eme squeezed her sister’s hand in silent agreement. It was awesome.
‘Isn’t it lovely’ Scarlett asked, her voice expressing pride and wonder that she could be so lucky, ‘come on let me show you round.’ William had barely pulled up beside the cottage before Scarlett was skipping around unloading bags and pointing out this and that animatedly as she led the way up to the house. William insisted on bringing up the rear with the baggage so that the girls could run on ahead,
‘Thanks Wills’ Eme called over her shoulder as they cut up the steep stone steps to the side door and racing into the cottage calling out their arrival.
‘Out here’ Scarlett’s mother called from the terrace where she was sitting in comfort reading a novel. ‘Hello Jade, Eme, did you have a good journey?’ she asked with a welcoming smile. The Benton girls stood and stared at the view openmouthed, the little town of Padstow looked like a picture postcard across on the other side of the Camel estuary. As far as the eye could see in either direction was golden sands and sparkling blue sea, the sight punctuated by little stone cottages and sailboats bobbing at anchor. ‘You’ve picked a beautiful day to arrive’ Claire smiled indulgently at their rapt enjoyment, ‘the view looks breathtaking today.’
‘Indeed it does’ Eme agreed, hardly able to peel her eyes away. She longed to be able to capture the vista in colour, if only she were a proficient artist.
‘Why don’t you get the girls settled into their room Scarlett? Then we can have drinks out here before dinner. I think Dad plans to take us out as its William’s last day and our guest’s first.’
‘Whoopee’ Scarlett grinned, ‘come on let me show you. Mum’s put you together in the twin room that has its own bathroom…’ Scarlett led the way upstairs chattering merrily as they went. William had already deposited their bags ready to unpack. Scarlett bounced on Eme’s bed while the sister’s took it in turns of freshening up in the very well appointed bathroom and hung items of clothing in the walk-in (just) closet.
Scarlett could wait no longer to divulge her news. Mr and Mrs Brooks had been down for a week and her parents had been out with them for a meal the night before.
‘Ashley is coming on Friday night’ Scarlett breathed ecstatically, ‘and we’re all invited to a family lunch at their place on Saturday. I can’t wait to see him again’ Scarlett acknowledged, her eyes shinning with anticipation. Eme smiled in return, happy for her friend, though slightly worried for her that her expectations might be too high. It had been a year since Scarlett had last seen Ashley Brooks, he may well be otherwise attached by now, after all he was six or seven years her senior.
‘What should we wear for this evening?’ Jade asked practically.
‘Nothing special, I expect we’ll just go to the pub’ Scarlett hazarded nonchalantly, ‘I’m wearing these shorts and a broderie anglaise top.’
‘I’m so not wearing shorts while my legs are milk bottle white’ Eme declared, ‘particularly when they’ll be contrasted to your bronzed pins.’ Scarlett giggled and stuck her legs out to admire the tan,
‘I do look rather gorgeous don’t I?’ she preened. Eme gesticulated rudely and pulled on one of her new vests to go with jeans. The pale blue colour and athletic shape suited her small frame. ‘You look gorgeous as well’ Scarlett allowed with an affectionate laugh, ‘and anyhow no one will notice us two when we’re accompanied by the incomparable Jade.’
‘Don’t be silly’ Jade brushed off the compliment, ‘my beauty is solely a rumour circulated by our mother.’
‘Yeah and her jurisdiction doesn’t reach down here’ Eme joked. The three girls cantered down the stars and spilled out onto the terrace sparring gleefully. William and his father greeted the newcomers with pleasure and Joe Lucas outlined his plan for the evening, as predicted by Scarlett, an informal supper at the local pub.
‘Cool’ Scarlett approved as William circulated with glasses of bubbly. Joe made an amusing toast to his son’s future success and to welcome ‘much more attractive’ replacements for his departure.
‘It’s a pity you two missed James and Nathan, they spent a week with us at the beginning of the month; still I understand from your mother’ Joe indicated Claire as his source, ‘that we are to expect substitute entertainment in the form of Ashley Brooks and his friends’ he cast a mischievous expression across at the girls.
‘Dad!’ Scarlett protested colouring slightly, ‘we can manage perfectly well without chasing men.’
‘Well I don’t expect any of you three to have to do any chasing’ Joe professed gallantly, ‘hey Claire?’ he turned for support feeling a little out of his depth as he received a look from his daughter.
‘Don’t tease Joe’ Claire recommended, ‘your outnumbered.’
‘Anyone for a refill?’ Joe retreated to the safety of dispensing bubbly whilst the women admired each other’s outfits and Scarlett gave them the lowdown on the local. The Rock Inn had been modernised and had gained a bit of a trendy image over the years that the Lucas family had holidayed in Rock.
‘I like it though’ Scarlett professed, ‘the view from the balcony is awesome and you can sit and watch the sun go down while you eat on a nice evening’. As it was indeed a clement evening Claire had taken the precaution of calling to book a table. The party made their way the short distance to the pub on foot, breathing in the sea air and admiring the view as they wandered.
The pub was heaving with holidaymakers inside and out. The party wormed their way through the inside crowd and out onto the relative peace of the balcony with relief. Admiring eyes followed the girls as they made their way in Joe’s wake bearing out his earlier prognoses. Claire smiled as they settled at their table and attracted a waiter without delay. She congratulated herself on having booked and was also amused at the effect that her charges wrought on the place. She observed covertly many an appreciative glance cast in the direction of their table as she pretended to peruse the menu. She already knew what she would eat.
Claire observed the girls dispassionately. Her mother had always paraded Jade as the beauty of the family and she was a very pretty girl. But, Claire approved, this prejudice had never affected Jade’s personality. In fact Jade was modest with no airs and graces. Claire’s glance acknowledged the blonde curls, peaches and cream complexion, large expressive cornflower blue eyes set in a perfect oval shaped face; and her figure was impressive, tall and long limbed yet with generous breasts, a small waist and shapely hips. But Eme too was a nice looking young woman. Unconventional with her pixie haircut, yet undoubtedly attractive; her green eyes sparkled with intelligence and humour from the heart shape of her delicate visage. As for her own daughter, Scarlett, Claire sometimes though that she was in the shadow of her friends. But just now she looked more than pretty her mousey hair bleached by the sun looked lovely in the loose uncontrived up do. The suntan had smoothed her skin and her brown eyes looked large and soft outlined by the pre-holiday eyelash tint. Scarlett smiled widely to reveal her perfect (after three years of wearing a brace) teeth. Yes, Claire acknowledged inwardly her daughter looked well; she hoped that the long looked for meeting with Ashley wouldn’t dampen her spirits. Scarlett would feel hurt if he showed a preference for one of her friends.
The extend family dined in perfect harmony. The food was excellent, the ambience perfect and with the rest of the holiday laid out ahead of them they had everything to look forward to. William’s departure was a slight dampener but as he seemed totally sanguine on his own behalf no one dwelt on the occasion.
‘I may even make it down for another weekend before you leave’ he reassured philosophically.
‘That would be a treat’ Claire smiled fondly on her eldest, glad that he seemed inured to Jade’s charms once more. She had wondered at one time. A long distance relationship wouldn’t help him to settle and make the most of his career opportunities.
The girls all promised to be up in time to see William off in the morning and retired to bed. The two travellers exhausted by the long day. The Benton girls thanked their hosts sincerely delighted by their good fortune and said their goodnights.
‘We’ll spend the day on the beach tomorrow, it’s going to be another lovely day’ Scarlett promised, hugging each of the sisters, ‘sleep well, see you at breakfast.’