The long winding driveway passed through the clear-cut grass on both sides. Cordelia Firthe could breathe a sigh of relief—she was home. From an architectural standpoint, this land was gorgeous. Considering their property was forty acres wide, they hired gardeners and indoor staff to keep the manor looking pristine and in top condition. Her favourite part of the property was the ocean view; which thankfully, was by her bedroom window. It was one of the many things she would miss when she inevitably moved out of the Firthe Manor. Glade Bay was a lovely seaside town that provided many comforts, but she was ready to leave.
Water glitters from the two-story tiered fountain as the limo pulls into the crescent driveway, splashing upon to the flowers that line the circular structure. Cordelia waits until the limo stops before she opens the door, adjusting her white denim jacket. She slides her shades in place, prepared to embrace the sun. Living in St. Antilla upped her heat resistance.
“Here, I’ll grab one of those.” Cordelia ushers to take the smaller suitcase from her assistant Sadie’s hands—thankful that she wore cream coloured flats. She takes the handle and paces up the ivory stairs, the large ornate doors open without effort.
The grand staircase lined both walls, spanning the entire room. Fine embroidered details lace the borders of the stairwell, showcasing the craftsmanship of the manor's construction. The wall’s ornate wallpaper gleamed against the chandelier lights—her home was a masterpiece to behold. It was customary that all members of the household lined the foyer when an important guest visited their home. She noted that there were new hires, which isn’t entirely surprising. Her mother was finicky. Cordelia glanced over to a woman with a willowy frame that belonged to no other than her mother. Standing beside her is her father, dressed in a tailored grey suit. He was a tall, lean framed man. Small oval glasses sit upon the bridge of his nose. His short blond hair resembles her own as his steel-blue eyes radiate with love. He pulled her into a strong hug, letting out a soft grunt as his grip on her increases.
“I missed you so much, my girl.”
“Dad, you say this every time I come home for the summer.” She rolls her eyes, but her smile remains.
“I know, but that changes nothing—you’re the only daughter I have.” He says, easing off of Cordelia—looking her over before he mentions, “It baffles me how you look almost paler when you return. Are you sure you were at Thermidor?”
“Yes, I’ve been University of Thermidor for the last seven years,” Cordelia says. “You know that. I have to lather my body from head to toe with sunscreen. I swear, I’ll smell like coconut for my entire life.”
“Yes, you do. Anytime I get a whiff of coconut, I’m reminded of you.” His smile is sincere. “How was the airport this time?”
Cordelia crosses her arms in disapproval. “Do you want the truth?”
“Ah, well. It’s good exposure.” He said with a hint of amusement in his voice. “It’ll toughen you up.”
“Every year, it becomes more and more aggravating. I don’t see why you think I’ll ever get used to commercial flights.” Cordelia still didn’t understand why her father didn’t let her use their private jets, but she supposed it’d be irrelevant soon. She would move out in the next couple of months—she’s not sure how to break the news to her father.
Her father turns to greet Sadie, who addresses him cordially. Wow, Cordelia’s comment really must have gotten to the girl.
Cordelia paces toward her mother. She’s a tall woman, standing at five foot eleven. Her pale green gown sat beautifully on her willowy frame. Cordelia’s positive that in her younger years, her mother had been a model. She had jet black hair in her youth, but it had turned silver in her twenties—bound back in a tight bun. It only stressed her exquisite porcelain features. She was a beauty to behold.
“I’m happy to see you’re safe.” She looks Cordelia up and down. “We‘ll get someone to put your bags upstairs; you and I need to have a little talk.”
Cordelia winces. That’s not ominous whatsoever.
“Merise; now isn’t the time. Let’s wait before we tell her.” Her father interjects.
“Aleck, you spoil her. She needs to learn how to be responsible.”
“She’s still young. Let her enjoy her youth.”
“Twenty-five isn’t young. We went over this last night...” Her mother says in a low commanding whisper.
“Mom. Dad. I’m right here.” Cordelia mutters through her rouge coloured lips. “Can we keep the politics out of the foyer, please?”
“Freshen up, I’ll be waiting in my study.” Her mother curtly nods before turning towards her study. Cordelia frowns.
“Don’t look so upset. You know your mother and I worry about you.” Her father pats her on the shoulder.
“I'm sure you do. Her? I don’t think so.” Cordelia slouches when she walks toward the stairwell, leaving concern on her father’s face. Fatigue settles into her bones as she takes small steps. The sound of her heels against the checkered tile brings her momentary solace. She stops in her tracks when a certain portrait grabs her attention. The painting was of a round-faced child of seven years with her long blonde hair tied back with a light blue bow, matching the colour of the dress she wore. The painter did an excellent job on her eyes. Strangers would never know she had a tantrum the day they commissioned the painter. Her parents expected that the painter would censor her displeasure. Instead of a sniffling face filled with anger, the portrait portrayed a smiling, well-behaved child. Staring back at herself, Cordelia realizes that she looked like a doll. Her girlhood immortalized—forever.
Her feet carry her towards her gold-rimmed bedroom door. The coolness of the curved brass handle is reminiscent to her. She opens to see a room of girlish proportions—a queen-sized canopy framing a fluffy white bed. Her end tables matched the gold and eggshell frame, complete with a matching vanity near the curtain laced window. Her pale blue walls were free of dust—the staff keeping on top of the dusting. Yolanda—the majordomo was strict as hell—even more so than her own mother. Speaking of, she now realized that the woman wasn’t in the foyer—maybe she was sick.
Sparkles of light dance off the waters, creating a picturesque view of the Oceanfront from her window. She saw snippets of the sandbar below. As a child, she’d use the corner ledge of the wall to escape from her bedroom, spending many nights along the shoreline. Akerley even used this secret route to sneak into her room at night—which, her parents never caught on to. It was easy enough to do, and this side of the house wasn’t quiet—the waves made sure of that. It was truly a shame Akerley had to propose to her—the last thing she wants to do is get married.
Cordelia sat down on the bed. She observes one valet bring in her suitcase, kindly placing it near her door. She smiled at the passing valet before leaning back first onto her plush bed sheets. Her plump lips parted as her eyes lingered on the ceiling. She breathes a deep breath. It hits her—this would be the last summer in her room. It feels bittersweet.
She hears a soft knock on her door.
“Cordelia?” Her mother walks in, uninvited. “Listen, I can’t sit by without talking to you. Come to my study.”
“Sure, I don’t need a moment to rest my eyes—not at all.” Cordelia remarks in a sarcastic tone.
“Please, pretend that you have a morsel of respect for me.” Her mother mutters. “Now, come.”
It was moments like these where Cordelia appreciated St. Antilla; her mother couldn’t scold her from overseas—well at least, in person. She couldn’t wait to go back. She follows her mother down the hall to her study, taking a seat once they arrived. She invites Cordelia to sit down in the modern space. She closes her silver-rimmed laptop, her emerald eyes staring right into her daughter’s steel blue ones. It intimidates Cordelia; she promptly sits in the cream coloured chair opposite her desk.
“Cordelia, you’ve spent seven years in your business program,” She begins.
God, not this again. This wouldn‘t be the first time they had this conversation…
“Yeah, I’m still trying to figure things out. I was having trouble in one of my classes—the professor is a right tart.” Cordelia crosses her arms, emphasizing her frustration.
“You’ve been saying that for the last seven years—and despite my intuition, your father reassured me you’re still trying to figure things out. And, I believed him mostly. Yet, when I sent someone out to see what you were up to—Cordelia—I can’t even start with you. You’re flunking your classes, paying others to do your work?! Drinking, and ending up with injuries that not only could ruin your reputation—and that of the company—but you could have died!”
“Okay, I know that last year was out of hand, but understand this—I lost my best friend to a man that knocked her up—and I didn‘t have anyone else. I got upset, and yes, I drank a little too much. I don‘t see the problem!”
“She had a baby—and was taking responsibility. Cordelia, you honestly believe you’re the one deserving of pity? I thought her responsible nature would have rubbed off on you, but it seems you’ve reverted to how you were. Do you even have any intention of finishing your degree?”
“Obviously, but I’m still figuring things out.”
Merise sighs, shaking her head in defeat. “Your father and I agreed to freeze your tuition until further notice.”
“So? Once I get my shares deposited into my account, I can go back on my own.”
“No, you can‘t. I took it upon myself to change the contract—you‘re not to get a penny of those shares until you show an ounce of responsibility.”
“What?!” Cordelia’s eyes vibrate in shock—her back stiffens. “Mom, you’re not serious—I need those shares to move out!”
“I am very serious Cordelia. Don’t bother crying to your father. He agrees with me—it’s time for you to grow up.”
Cordelia’s mute—she might as well have had her tongue cut off. She stares at the ground in horror—her freedom was crumbling before her.
“You’ll live here, and starting next week, you will shadow my activities at work. You’re the Heiress to Firthe Hotels and Suites, and it‘s about time you acted like it.”
“That‘s not fair—I was promised those shares as soon as I turned twenty-five. It’s my right!”
“You’re owed nothing.“ Her emerald eyes are icy.
Cordelia stands up, her fingers ball up into fists. “We’ll see about that.”
“I’m serious—your father won‘t budge. He agrees that it‘s time for you to learn the work ethic your father and I need to run this empire. If you can prove that you’ll change, we’ll reinstate your tuition. If your grades go up, we can see about giving you access to your shares.”
Cordelia couldn't believe this… Her life—it’s ruined.
“Then throw me out.” Cordelia turns away. She’s not hearing any more of this. “Anything will be better than this hellhole!”
“Don’t challenge me—because I assure you Cordelia—you will lose.” Merise presses her fingers against her forehead. “I’ve had it up to here with your childish behaviour.”
“But nothing I do is ever good enough for you—it never has been.” She growls. “If you are so upset with me, then why bother bringing me home?!”
“Because I’m worried about you—people who live like you don’t have very long lives. You’re out of control—why can’t you see that?”
“You don't care about my well-being. You’re only concerned with the image of this family—which is ironic—because you’re not even a Firthe by blood.”
Cordelia can’t take this anymore. She slams the door, stomping off to her room. If her mother thought she could force her hand, she had another thing coming. Merise would regret tampering with her shares.
“Sadie, could you ready my car? I’m going out tonight.” Cordelia instructs Sadie when she opens the door. Her row with her mother ended swiftly; she’s been in her room ever since. Hours had passed, but she didn‘t care. She’s too angry to eat.
“Miss, you haven‘t spoken a word since your argument. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I need you to take me downtown. It’s just for some fun—since the bat from hell’s trying to strong-arm me.” Cordelia mutters, fixing her hair into a stylish messy bun. She slips on a black sequined dress in front of Sadie, not noticing the girl’s wide auburn eyes on her physique. She adjusts her strapless bodice, lifting her chest for scenic purposes. She applies her mascara thickly, lining her eyes darker than she normally would. “If this is my final night to raise hell, let it be the wildest night I’ll ever have.”
“I hate that place…” Sadie mutters under her breath. She was referring Hidden Treasures—an upper scale lounge that gave its patrons a different name upon arrival. It was a place advertised as fun and mysterious, but really, it’s where wealthy people could get into trouble. Cordelia was one of their regulars when she came home for summer vacation.
“I don‘t know what your mother said to you, but surely it will resolve itself?”
“She‘s crossed the line.” Cordelia pats her face with powder, getting rid of any blemishes on her skin. “Mark my words, I’ll never forgive her for this. If she messes with my freedom, I’m going to mess with hers.”
Sadie says nothing, choosing to stay clear of Cordelia and Merise’s disagreement. “I’ll ready the vehicle.”
With Sadie out of the room, Cordelia stews in her thoughts. Her mother would be sorry for backing her into a corner. Cordelia slips on her black striped heels, carefully tiptoeing out of her bedroom. Her father would be in his study at this time, catching up on the latest news.
Much to Cordelia’s relief, he wasn’t suspect of her visits to Hidden Treasures. Thank goodness—he would die if he learned what Cordelia did—or would do—to strangers. What she hears next is unsuspected—shattering glass. She hears her father’s grunts, and—oh god! Cordelia takes a sharp breath as she leans against the ivory wall.
She hears her Dad’s high-pitched yelp; whatever it was, she couldn’t leave her father in peril. She’s not a coward.
What she finds inside is disastrous. Newspaper lined the floor, the spilled wine soaking through. Shards of glass littered the entrance. She halts her breath; a man wearing a black leather jacket has her father pinned against his desk—muffling his mouth. Cordelia immediately wants to retreat; both anxiety and fear course through her limbs. She can’t leave her father to fend for himself!
Cordelia carefully grabs a stool near the door, lifting it over her head as she tiptoes toward the enemy. She freezes when she sees the silver handgun in his gripped hand. She drops the stool out of fright—the perpetrator’s violet eyes meeting hers.
She's going to die.