Barton Cottage By A.P. Maddox
© A.P. Maddox 2017
Barton Cottage is an adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most beautiful and beloved classics—Sense and Sensibility—reimagined and set in the picturesque Piedmont of modern-day North Carolina. Follow Caroline & Ashelynn Hathcock as they leave their family home, lose their hearts and navigate their way through life’s challenges.
Barton Cottage will be posted on the Little CAB Press blog—one chapter at a time—in 28 parts, from now until December 21, the end of which culminates in the Christmas season!
(YA/NA fiction/romance, Word count: 1763)
Volume 1 Leaving Northland
(Read Chapter 5 Part I here)
Chapter 5 The Drawing
Part II Goodbyes
Sarah stood in the kitchen, peering through the glass of the French doors, smiling at the site of Caroline and Conner sitting together in the garden. Dottie walked up next to her—arms crossed—scowling at the same sight.
“Don’t they look cute together?” Sarah remarked.
“No, they don’t!” Dottie snipped. “My mother and I have invested too much into his future. When the time is right, he will marry a woman who will further his career. Any other girl will have to be disappointed.”
Sarah’s eyes widened. “How can you be so cruel?” she asked. “Do you really care more about political power than your own brother’s feelings?”
“He doesn’t have time for feelings! He’s following in my father’s footsteps. Do you not remember my father was a powerful and respected United States Senator well on his way to the White House when he died of a stroke? Conner will finish what Father started! And that girl has already entangled him in deceptions and lies!”
“What lies? What do you mean?” Sarah asked.
“You heard for yourself, Conner said he was going to spend the day with a college friend but he was with her! I saw them together with my own eyes. She made him lie so he could spend time with her.”
Sarah’s mouth gaped open. “There must be some misunderstanding,” she uttered.
“Well, don’t misunderstand this,” Dottie said, “my brother will be president one day and your daughter will not be at his side!”
Sarah stared at her, eyes wide with shock. “I do remember your father Dottie. He was a good and kind man. He would have wanted Conner to make his own decisions.” She shook her head before continuing, “And as for my daughter, she is an amazing young woman who will make a wonderful companion to a worthy young man one day and if Caroline and Conner choose each other, they will have my blessing.”
Dottie was unmoved, she remained cross-armed and glaring out the window.
Sarah sighed and left the room.
In the garden, Conner and Caroline sat in silence for several moments before Conner finally said, “Caroline, you must have questions and I…”
Dottie came toward them, walking briskly from the house. “There you two are,” she said with a pretentious grin. “Conner I’ve been looking all over for you, Mother would like you to call her right away.”
“Can it wait?” he asked.
“No,” she stressed, “she’s been waiting all day to speak to you and it’s urgent!”
He looked at Caroline with sorrow in his eyes and stood to walk inside.
Dottie grinned victoriously at Caroline and followed her brother.
Caroline waited until they were out of sight before heading straight to her room.
Upstairs, Sarah sat at her computer, searching the web to find a suitable place to move to. While she browsed, an email came in. She opened it to find a message from her cousin. As she read it, her feelings of frustration at Dottie were replaced by feelings of excitement at the news her cousin’s letter bore.
Dearest Cousin Sarah,
I’ve heard a rumor from family members you may be looking to move from Northland. We would be thrilled to have you and your lovely daughters come to Winston-Salem and live with us at Barton! We have a delightful four-bedroom cottage just a short distance from the main house and it’s sitting empty waiting for the perfect occupants. I would love to see your family fill it. I’ll take whatever rent you feel you can afford, (we can discuss that later), I know you are on a fixed income for the time being. The cottage is available at the soonest possible moment you’d like to take it. I hope you’ll consider it!
Sarah jumped up and clapped her hands. This was a blessing which couldn’t have come at a better time. She hurried down the hall toward Caroline’s room, calling the other girls to follow as she went.
“I have some great news,” their mother said as soon as the girls were gathered. “How would you like to move to Winston-Salem? My cousin has a four-bedroom cottage on his estate and he’s willing to rent it to us for whatever we can afford!”
Maggie gasped and began tearing up. The reality of leaving Northland fell like a thick fog over the room.
Caroline offered the first reply, her voice despondent after the day’s events yet trying to sound cheerful for her sisters’ sakes. “Mom, it sounds like just what we need and with school almost out, it comes at a perfect time.”
Ashelynn followed Caroline’s lead. “I think it sounds adventurous, Mom, and you know I can’t wait to get away from Snotty Dottie!”
“Do we have to go?” Maggie asked.
Sarah gently took Maggie’s face in her hands. “It’s the right thing to do for our family. I know you aren’t happy about it, but everything will be alright, I promise.”
The Hathcock ladies were quieter than usual at the dinner table that evening.
“Anything the matter?” Frank asked as everyone was finishing up.
“Well,” Sarah said slowly in a dignified manner, “we have been offered a home in Winston-Salem on my cousin’s estate. I’ve accepted it and we’ll be moving as soon as school is out.”
Dottie perked up with a look of elation but Frank protested. “I don’t understand. Why are you moving?”
Sarah explained, “It’s affordable, sounds comfortable, the timing is right, and it will lessen the congestion in what is now… your home, Frank.”
Frank looked to his wife, who seemed pleased with the news. “Oh,” Frank stammered. “Well, I suppose it’s not too far and you’ll call to let me know how you are doing and if you need anything, won’t you?”
“Of course,” Sarah told him—realizing now no monetary offers of help would be forthcoming—the promise would go unkept.
Frank looked slightly concerned but no encouragements for them to stay were offered.
Caroline glanced at Conner to gauge his reaction. He seemed shocked and saddened but she wondered why it would matter to him now—after today?
Noticing the direction of her oldest daughter’s gaze, Sarah added, “Conner, I hope you will feel welcome to come for a visit anytime you’d like.”
“Thank you,” Conner simply replied.
School ended on a Thursday, and the moving truck arrived Friday morning.
“Why such a large truck?” Frank commented while standing out front, watching the moving crew load boxes of the girls’ personal effects. “They don’t have that much stuff, there’ll be room to spare in there.”
Suddenly Dottie came bursting out of the house shouting, “Frank, Frank, did you tell them they could take the grand piano?”
“Of course not,” he replied, as his wife grabbed his arm and hurried him inside.
“Well then tell them they cannot have it!” she insisted.
The Hathcock ladies were in the parlor, watching the piano being prepared for moving. Sarah walked over and calmly explained, “This piano was given to Ashelynn as a birthday gift from Grand Uncle James. He specifically stated in his will that she would retain ownership of it.”
“Frank,” Dottie hotly demanded, “do we have a copy of Uncle James’s will?”
“Yes, we do, but it won’t be necessary to read it,” Frank replied apologetically. “I do remember reading that the piano belongs to Ashelynn.”
“Well, I want to see it myself!” Dottie demanded with a snort.
Conner observed the scene from the doorway and walked over to put his hand on his sister’s shoulder. “Let it go, Dottie. You can get another piano,” he said with a soothing yet authoritative voice.
Dottie gritted her teeth and stormed out of the room.
Conner slipped out the back door to the patio. Caroline noticed and followed.
“Thank you,” she said, “for helping out with Dottie just now. It would have been the last straw if Ashelynn had to leave her beloved piano behind.”
“You’re welcome,” he said. “You’re all going to miss Northland very much aren’t you?”
Caroline nodded. “We came here when I was just seven. It’s been home for a long time.”
“If I know you, though,” Conner said, “you’ll make your new home a happy place for your mother and sisters. You’re the strength of your family, Caroline. That much I can clearly see.”
He looked into her eyes, and she thought for a moment he might confess he was falling in love with her, or at least say he was going to miss seeing her each day.
“I’m actually leaving too,” he said. “My visit here has been wonderful and terribly eye-opening all at the same time.”
He paused and she hung on the quietness, wondering what he was thinking. Was she part of the wonderful or the terrible?
He went on, “There are some things I must work out…”
She let out a breath she didn’t even realize she’d been holding.
Sarah poked her head out the door. “The truck is ready to leave, my dear. We’re following them to Barton. If we don’t go now, they’ll leave without us.”
“They’re done already?” Caroline asked.
“Yes dear,” she said. Looking at Conner she added, “You may have a moment but make it quick.”
She looked into his eyes, so many questions she wanted to ask. Did he think the same as his sister? “No time for silly girls!” She had heard it from Dottie but it was best she didn’t hear it from him. Even if he could put it into kinder words, it still meant the same.
She hugged him. “I’m going to miss seeing your face every day Conner Burroughs,” she whispered as emotion welled in her throat. She let go and studied the details of his handsome face once more before turning to go inside.
Everyone assembled out front; Frank and Dottie were not the hugging types, so none were given. Goodbyes were said and the Hathcock ladies looked over their old Northland home one more time before climbing into the car.
They headed out, down the long driveway, leaving Northland; bound for their new home. Sarah drove slowly, and Ashelynn began to bid Northland farewell as if to memorialize the old place. “Goodbye grand house, goodbye majestic trees! No one will ever love you as much as we did. We will remember you forever.” Maggie sobbed on Caroline’s shoulder while everyone wiped tears away. Leaving Northland was harder than they had imagined and sadness misted their eyes like a soft steady rain for the remainder of the drive.
Up next in Chapter 6: Barton—A new home!