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Authors: Julia Williams

Summer Season

BOOK: Summer Season
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Julia Williams
The Summer Season

To the memory of

Alfred Thomas Clark 1890–1918
Ernest Ophir Clark 1896–1916
And Jemima Clark 1863–1944 who must have been so brave

Contents

Edward

Edward dreams of Lily. She comes to him in the…

Edward and Lily

‘Edward, you never said you were coming!’ His mother rose…

Part One

Summer’s Lease

Chapter One

‘Come on, girls, time to get up! Important day today.’…

Chapter Two

Different sounds. That was the most unusual thing about living…

Chapter Three

It was dark, just the way she liked it. Kezzie…

Chapter Four

Kezzie poked her head out of her bedroom window. The…

Chapter Five

Late. Late again. Joel hated clockwatching, particularly when he had…

Chapter Six

Lauren pushed Sam up the road on her way back…

Chapter Seven

It was Kezzie’s first morning working at Joel’s. She’d set…

Chapter Eight

Lauren was feeling frustrated with Joel. While she was sympathetic…

Chapter Nine

After Lauren left, Joel and Kezzie dragged the trunk, paperwork…

Chapter Ten

Lauren was still smiling when she let herself in. As…

Chapter Eleven

‘So?’ said Troy, as Lauren came downstairs after she’d got…

Chapter Twelve

‘Girls, do you remember who I said was visiting today?’…

Part Two

Spring Fever

Chapter Thirteen

‘The girls go to bed at 7 p.m. sharp,’ said…

Chapter Fourteen

‘So, you’re going to trust me with the girls again?’…

Chapter Fifteen

‘So you think you’ve got New Horizons?’ said Eileen, at…

Chapter Sixteen

Kezzie timed her arrival at work the next day for…

Chapter Seventeen

Kezzie spent several days mulling over what Joel had said.

Chapter Eighteen

Lauren couldn’t stop thinking about Troy, as she pushed Sam…

Chapter Nineteen

‘Right, buckets and mops at the ready,’ said Lauren to…

Chapter Twenty

‘OK you guys, let’s get cracking.’

Chapter Twenty-One

The party was in full swing by the time Lauren…

Chapter Twenty-Two

‘Ouch, my head hurts.’ Kezzie woke to find sun pouring…

Chapter Twenty-Three

‘Come on, Sam,’ said Joel. ‘Here’s Nanny. We’re going to…

Chapter Twenty-Four

The next morning, Kezzie woke up feeling even worse than…

Part Three

Summer’s Promise

Chapter Twenty-Five

It wasn’t just Kezzie who was unimpressed by Lauren’s news;…

Chapter Twenty-Six

Joel snuck in to the Summer Fest meeting, late again.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

The weeks were speeding by and already June was upon…

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Joel didn’t look at Kezzie, but stared into the gathering…

Chapter Twenty-Nine

‘So, have you been to Wimbledon before?’ asked Lauren, as…

Chapter Thirty

Kezzie flew round to Eileen’s house.

Chapter Thirty-One

Lauren woke up with a headache. She hadn’t slept well.

Chapter Thirty-Two

Joel had taken Sam to pick up his mum for…

Chapter Thirty-Three

‘This is looking great,’ said Eileen. She had come over…

Chapter Thirty-Four

‘Right, how are we doing?’ Eileen asked, as she arrived…

Chapter Thirty-Five

Joel was astonished to get back at 11.30 to find…

Chapter Thirty-Six

Kezzie stood in disbelief. Richard was actually standing before her,…

 

Edward dreams of Lily. She comes to him in the garden, holding a bunch of pansies. It is summer and she wears a sun hat, which falls down her back.

‘Here, for you,’ she proffers, ‘to ease your heart.’ She laughs, and her long, dark curls fly loose down her back in the summer breeze. It is always summer, with the Lily of his dreams.

He reaches out to touch her, to feel her, to know that she is once more real and dear to him, as she ever was. As he does so, she scatters petals to the wind, and her touch on his hand is as light and insubstantial as the breeze. As soon as he grasps her, she is gone away from him, to a place he knows he cannot reach.

Edward dreams of Lily, and awakes to a cold hearth, a lonely old age and tears forming on his face. One day soon, he knows he will join her. Why can’t it be today?

Edward and Lily

1890–1892

In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love …

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘Locksley Hall’

‘Edward, you never said you were coming!’ His mother rose to greet him as Edward came into the garden; she was sitting entertaining as was her wont. He hadn’t let her know and he had walked up from the station so as to surprise her. Now he was caught, left-footed, wanting to have her to himself, unwilling to share her with these strangers spilling out of the rose arbour on the veranda, which overlooked the garden, nonchalantly sipping tea, in the wilting summer heat.

‘I wanted to surprise you,’ he said. Her delight at seeing him was infectious, and he couldn’t keep up his feelings of discontent for long. He was here, back where he belonged at Lovelace Cottage, a larger residence than its name suggested, nestling in roughly an acre of land on the Sussex, Downs where they bordered Surrey. The air always seemed better here, purer, away from the fetid smells of London where he was studying.

‘Come, sit,’ she said, linking her arm in his, ‘you must eat, I insist.’

‘Sorry to break up your party, ladies.’ Edward bowed slightly, tipping his hat. He vaguely recognized some of his mother’s companions, worthy women of the parish all, but there were one or two new to him; he had after all been away for several months.

‘You haven’t met Mrs Clark, have you?’ his mother made the introduction. ‘She’s our new vicar’s wife. And we’re very pleased to have her. The church flowers have never looked more beautiful.’

‘Oh, that’s Lily’s doing, not mine,’ said Mrs Clark. ‘My daughter has a way with flowers. Always had, ever since she was a little girl. She works magic in the garden at the rectory I tell you.’

‘Then she has something in common with Edward,’ said his mother. ‘You know he studies Botany, don’t you?’

Botany – a subject his late and unlamented father had been very sneering about. John Handford had wanted his son to follow him into the family business – as an importer of exotic goods from the colonies – it was a business that had made his father rich enough to buy this beautiful house and gardens. But like his casual acceptance of Edward’s mother, his father hadn’t appreciated what he’d had. The house and gardens were merely signs of his success, possessions to be gloated over, just as Edward’s mother was. He’d never appreciated the beauty and the peace here, preferring the hurly-burly of city life that had always sustained him.

When he’d died five years previously, Edward’s father had left the house to Edward and the business jointly to Edward and his mother. Edward had sold his share of the business to his cousin Francis, who was more suited to it than he. His mother had retained her share, which provided an income on which she could live comfortably, while she ran the house in Edward’s absence. They were both much the happier for it.

‘Talking of Lily, where is she?’ said Mrs Clark. ‘It really is about time we were going.’

‘I could sense she was getting bored with our conversation,’ said Edward’s mother, ‘so I sent her down to the wood.’

The loosely styled ‘wood’ was an area of the garden that Edward had long wanted to change, but had so far lacked time and funds to do so. In the spring it was full of blue-bells, but the trees were old and creaking, and overshadowed the house too much in Edward’s opinion. He longed to cut them back and open up the space in the middle to make a more formal garden. It was his hope that after he had completed his studies, he would design gardens for the gentry, and he planned to start here.

‘I’ll go and fetch her,’ offered Edward, happy to escape the clacking of the women for a moment. The veranda steps led down to a green lawn, which fell away from the house for nearly two hundred feet. In the bottom left-hand corner the offending trees stood in a dip, and Edward made his way down to it. He couldn’t see any sign of anyone at first, so he strode through the trees to the clearing, where he caught sight of a tiny, dark-haired girl, framed in the sunshine. She was wearing a white muslin dress, and peering intently at the flowers in her lap. Long, brown curls tumbled down her back, and her sun hat was slung halfway down it. Her dress was covered in grass stains, and her hands looked rather grubby.

Edward’s first impression was of a small, and no doubt tiresome, child, and he immediately regretted his offer to fetch her. Then she looked up at him and his preconceptions fell right away. Her green eyes opened wide and her perfect heart-shaped mouth formed an ‘oh’ of surprise at seeing him, and her slender hands flew to her mouth, as she blushed prettily with embarrassment. This was no child, but a girl on the verge of becoming a woman. Her radiant
beauty was like nothing he had ever seen before, made more charming by her unconscious ignorance of it.

‘Hallo,’ she said, shaking the daisies from her lap, as she rose in some disarray. He could see that even standing she was small, but her petite frame couldn’t hide her womanly figure. He swallowed hard again. ‘Are you Edward?’

‘Yes,’ said Edward, still reeling from how wrong his first impression had been. ‘How did you know who I was?’

‘Oh, your mother talks about you all the time,’ said Lily. ‘It’s Edward this and Edward that. How did you know my name?’

‘Your mother sent me to fetch you,’ Edward offered.

‘Oh,’ Lily pulled a face. ‘I was enjoying it here. No doubt I shall be summoned back home to face Papa and be told off again for my hoydenish ways.’

She looked down ruefully at her stained skirt. A stray curl fell across her face and she absentmindedly pulled it back, reminding him again of the child he had thought her to be.

‘Are you often told off for being hoydenish?’ Edward said, laughing. There was something so lively and disingenuous about her, it was impossible not to be enchanted.

‘All the time,’ said Lily, with an impish look on her face. ‘I don’t know how it happens but I was so interested in seeing the plants, I hadn’t realized I had made such a mess of my clothes. Did you know you had heartsease growing in this wood? It seems such a shame to hide it. If it were my garden, I’d cut down some of these gloomy oaks and make a proper garden here, to show them off.’

‘Oh, would you now?’ Edward was caught between captivation and irritation. She really was the most enchanting creature he’d ever seen, but he rather resented her telling him what to do in his garden.

‘Oh dear,’ Lily looked stricken. ‘I shouldn’t have said that should I? Please forgive me; it’s none of my business what
you do in your garden. It’s just that gardens are rather a passion of mine.’

‘Are they?’ said Edward with a smile. ‘They’re rather a passion of mine, too.’

 

‘Have I drawn it properly?’ Lily looked at him anxiously, as Edward came over to see how her work was progressing. In the six months since he’d left university, Edward had become used to having Lily for his assistant on his expeditions into the Sussex countryside to document the flora and fauna. Her mother, Lily confessed, had given up trying to keep her at home and teach her how to be ladylike. And though it was an unconventional career choice, learning about flowers was still an important part of Lily’s education, so Mrs Clark had been easily persuaded to let Lily come on these trips with him, so long as Sarah the housemaid accompanied them as a chaperone. As it happened, Sarah was rather fat and lazy, so more often than not she’d accompany them as far as the first field, and sit down to await their return. It meant that Lily and Edward were spending more and more time together, and Edward for one was not sorry.

‘It’s perfect,’ declared Edward, impressed by the delicacy of the poppy that Lily had painted. She had a natural affinity with plants, and a talent for drawing them technically. It was Edward’s plan to put together the material he had collected to make a small book about the plants of Sussex, in the hope that not only could he earn some money in his own right, but also build up a reputation as a serious botanist. His desire was to go abroad, to visit far-flung corners of the globe and make his reputation by bringing back exotic plants the like of which the world had never seen.

‘Hark at you,’ teased Lily when he told her. ‘Who do you think you are? A mighty explorer like Doctor Livingstone?’

‘No,’ said Edward, very serious – Lily’s laughter made him
realize just how intensely serious he could be sometimes, ‘I just want to see the wonders that are out there. Imagine trekking through the Amazon, or scouring the deserts of the Sudan. There’s such a huge world out there, I want to go out and explore it. I want to find something new and different. I’d bring it back for you.’

‘Oh, would you, now,’ said Lily, her laughter putting him in mind of silver bells. It was impossible for him not to feel cheerful when he was with Lily. It was as though she made the sun shine. ‘Suppose I don’t want your smelly plant. It might be poisonous for all I know. Besides, why do you want to search for the exotic, when we have perfectly good flowers of our own here?’

‘I could take you with me,’ he said. ‘You could come as my assistant.’

‘Shocking shocking, man,’ she declared with a coquettish smile. ‘I suppose Sarah would have to accompany us as my chaperone then. I don’t think she’d make it past the first step into the jungle.’

Her pretty green eyes danced across her face, and her boisterous curls spilled out of the plait they were supposed to be in and tumbled down her back. Edward took her upturned chin in his hands and kissed her gently on the lips.

‘You don’t have to come as my assistant,’ he said. ‘You could come as my wife.’

 

A wife.
To have a wife
. That would be quite a thing. Edward turned the word over in his head. In a few short months Lily would be his, and nothing could ever take them away from one another. In the meantime, much to the amusement of his mother, he had finally started work on creating the garden he had always envisioned, but now with renewed purpose; it was to be a wedding present for Lily.

‘Look at this!’ he would cry every day, as he pored over
plans and read books about the gardens of the past. He was transfixed by the idea of creating a knot garden in the Elizabethan style – a knot garden that would be a symbol of his love for Lily.

‘Look at what, Edward?’ his mother would retort with humour. She was pleased for him, he knew. She was very fond of Lily, and only desired her son’s happiness.

‘See here,’ Edward would say, pointing out the patterns in the
Compleat Gardenes Practice
, a reference guide from the sixteenth century, which he was using to give him ideas to utilize and improve upon. ‘The way they created geometric patterns and wove the plants together. I could do something similar. It will be a knot garden the like of which no one has seen. And Lily will love it forever.’

‘I’m sure she will,’ said his mother, smiling. ‘With such a genius behind it, how could she not?’

Edward ignored his mother’s gentle teasing, and concentrated on his plans. He designed the garden with careful precision. He would wall off the bottom part of the garden, where the old oak trees grew, and place the knot garden centrally, enclosed by gravel paths. From the edges of the paths to the wall would be flowerbeds full of perennials. For the knot garden itself he planned to use box with an interweaving of ivy and rosemary in heart shapes, the centrepiece to include the letters E and L. As was the current vogue he planned to fill up the gaps with bedding plants: heartsease, which was abundant in the area, forget me nots, gloxinia, but in each of the four corners, he left space to plant flowers for the children who would make their happiness complete. And so Edward toiled on his garden, planted in love with hope for the future; a garden he could be proud of forever.

 

‘Where are you taking me?’ Lily was clearly bursting with curiosity as he led her, blindfolded, down the garden.

‘Shh, it’s a surprise,’ said Edward. He had worked hard to keep secret from Lily what he had been planning over these last few months, pretending that the trees at the bottom of the garden had become unsafe, as a way of keeping her away from the garden. He hoped that she would love his garden as much as he did, having poured his heart and soul into the project. He felt it was quite possibly his best work to date, and maybe the best he would ever do.

‘I hate surprises,’ said Lily, ‘come on, please let me peep.’

‘No,’ said Edward firmly, ‘the sooner you cooperate the sooner you can see it.’

He took her by the hand.

‘Watch out, there’s a step here,’ he said, as he led her down into the garden. He pushed open the wrought iron gate he’d had specially commissioned. ‘Now you can see,’ he pulled back her blindfold, which was the scarf that tied her summer hat on her head.

‘Oh, Edward!’ Lily clapped her hands over her mouth in delight as she gazed on the fruits of his labour, a garden set out in love and hope. A knot garden of hearts weaving rosemary, ivy, forget me nots, and gloxinia, with borders of the heartsease which gave their village its name.

‘Do you like it?’

‘Like it? I love it!’ She danced excitedly down the paths. ‘Did you do this for me?’

‘Of course I did,’ he said. ‘It’s a love knot garden, dedicated to my one true love.’

‘Edward, I don’t know what to say.’ Lily came back to him and threw her arms around his neck.

‘Just say you love me,’ said Edward, with feeling.

‘Always,’ said Lily, ‘always.’

He held Lily fast, and kissed her on the top of her head. Then he led her to the far end of the garden, where they
sat on the wrought iron bench he had had specially made, with their initials on. Never had he felt more happy and content. This would always be their special place. A garden to represent their married life, a life that he knew, with Lily by his side, would be well worth the living.

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