Home > The Summer Girls (Lowcountry Summer #1)(8)

The Summer Girls (Lowcountry Summer #1)(8)
Mary Alice Monroe

“Exactly the point. They’ll show her off. And she’ll wear them well,” Marietta replied, thinking of Harper’s proud bearing. “You see, Harper is the closest in age to mine when I received these pearls. And I do think the cream-colored pearls will complement her creamy skin tone.”

“Creamy?” Lucille’s chuckle rumbled low in her chest. “She might be the whitest white girl I’ve ever known.”

Marietta smiled at the truth in it. Harper’s skin never tanned in the sun; it only burned—no matter how much lotion she applied.

“She has that fair English skin like her mother. Georgiana James,” she said with a sniff of distaste, remembering the cool, expensively tailored woman who had snubbed her the last time they’d spoken. “I swear she must apply her makeup with a trowel. She looks positively cadaverous! And she claims she has royal blood,” Marietta scoffed. “Not a drop of blue blood flows in those veins. I daresay not much red, either. But dear Harper really does have the most soulful eyes, don’t you think? She gets that color from the Muirs . . .”

Lucille rolled her eyes.

Marietta folded the pearls into her palm and wondered about the young woman who lived in New York City and kept her distance.

“It’s Georgiana who’s poisoned Harper against us,” she declared, warming to the topic. “That woman never loved my son. She used him for his good looks and his family name.” Marietta leaned closer to Lucille’s ear and whispered dramatically, “He was little more to her than a sperm donor.”

Lucille clucked her tongue and frowned, stepping back. “There you go again. You don’t know no such thing.”

“She divorced him as soon as she was pregnant!”

“You can’t hold that against the child.”

“I do not hold it against Harper,” Marietta said, affronted. “It’s her mother, that English snob who thinks Southerners are a pack of ignorant rednecks, whom I hold a grudge against.” She waved her hand dismissively. “We all know that Parker wasn’t the easiest of men to live with, God rest his soul. But not to let him see the baby after she was born was heartless. And he was already so out of sorts at the time.”

“ ‘Out of sorts’?” Lucille repeated. “That’s what you call him being drunk all the time?”

Marietta fought the urge to snap a stinging retort at Lucille in defense of her son, but Lucille had gone with her to New York to put Parker into the first of several rehabilitation clinics. The sad truth was that Parker, for all his charm and wit, had been a notorious lush. It was what had killed him in the end.

Marietta didn’t want to think of that now and resolutely placed the choker in a velvet bag and moved on to the second necklace.

Thirty-six inches of perfectly matched, lustrous pink pearls dripped from her fingers as she lifted them from the velvet. A small sigh escaped her. She had worn this exquisite, opera-length strand of pearls at her wedding, and later for more formal occasions, when the pearls fell below her chest to accentuate countless glorious long gowns.

“This necklace will go to Dora,” she said.

“She’s the bossy one,” remarked Lucille.

Marietta’s lips twitched at Lucille’s ability to nail the girls’ personalities. “Not bossy, but perhaps the most opinionated of the girls,” Marietta allowed. Dora had followed the course of most traditional Southern young women. She’d married Calhoun Tupper, a man from her social circle, soon after graduating from college. Dora dove headfirst into her role as wife in support of her husband’s banking career, her community, her church, and, later, her son. Like Marietta, she had difficulty getting pregnant, but, again like Marietta, she at last had a son.

“The length will elongate her figure,” Marietta said.

“She’s a big girl. She could use that length.”

“She’s not big,” Marietta argued for her granddaughter. “She simply has let her figure go.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean anything bad by that. I like women with some flesh on them. Can’t stand those skinny ones with their bones poking out.”

It wasn’t Dora’s full figure that concerned Marietta as much as her unhappiness. She wasn’t just overweight, she was overwhelmed. Marietta slipped the long necklace into a separate velvet bag. Then she lifted the final necklace.

This was a single strand of large South Sea black pearls. The magnificent baroque-shaped pearls had an undertone ranging from pale silver to deep black with a layering of iridescent hues. She thought of Carson with her dark hair and skin that turned golden in the summer from hours in the ocean. With her penchant for travel, she would appreciate a necklace so exotic.

“And this one is for Carson,” she said with finality.

“She’s the independent one,” Lucille added.

“Yes,” Marietta agreed softly. Secretly, Carson was her favorite granddaughter. It might have been because she’d spent the most time with the motherless girl when she’d come for extended stays after being unceremoniously dumped by her father when he was off on a jaunt. But Carson was also the most like Marietta, passionate about life and not afraid to accept challenges, quick to make up her mind, and a tall beauty with a long history of beaus.

“Is Carson out surfing?” Marietta asked. Carson had been the first of the girls to arrive at Sea Breeze.

“Oh, sure,” Lucille replied with a chuckle. “That girl is up with the birds while the rest of us are still in bed. She’s not lazy, that’s for true.”

“She’s happiest when she’s on the water.” Marietta looked again at the mercurial colors of the pearls and thought of that same quality in Carson. Fire and ice. She was warmhearted to the core but quick to cool. It worried her that her beautiful granddaughter couldn’t find a place—or a man—to hold her. Something dark burned in her soul, like these pearls. That was dangerous for a woman’s heart. Marietta let the pearls slowly slide from her finger into the velvet bag.

She looked at the three velvet bags lying on the coverlet. It was an old woman’s prerogative to own up to the mistakes of her life. She recognized now that her sins of omission with her son sowed the seeds of the problems in his marriages. Yet it was too late now to worry about the daughters-in-law, disappointments all of them. But her Summer Girls . . .

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