Home > Christmas at the Cupcake Café (At the Cupcake Café #2)(9)

Christmas at the Cupcake Café (At the Cupcake Café #2)(9)
Jenny Colgan

‘Nope,’ said Issy without hesitating.

‘Come on, just a taste. In France they let the kids drink wine with their meals.’

‘And they eat horses and have mistresses. When we decide to be French, Darny, I’ll be sure to let you know.’

Darny scowled. ‘What is there to eat, then?’

‘Have a couple of bananas, and I made you some fruit toast,’ said Issy. ‘And there’s a lasagne in the oven.’

‘Fruit toast? I can’t believe you run a cake shop and all I get is fruit toast.’

‘Well, learn to bake your own cakes then.’

‘Yeah, not likely,’ said Darny. ‘That’s for girls.’

‘Scared?’ said Issy.

‘No!’

‘My grandfather baked hundreds of cream horns a day till he was seventy years old.’

Darny snorted.

‘What’s funny?’

‘Cream horns. It’s rude.’

Issy thought about it for a while. ‘It is a bit rude,’ she allowed eventually. ‘Men make wonderful bakers, though. Or they can do.’

Darny had already scarfed the fruit toast and was peeling a banana. He glanced at the phone.

‘I’m expecting him,’ said Issy. ‘Any minute.’

‘I don’t care,’ said Darny instantly. ‘He’s probably in stupid meetings anyway.’

He looked out of the back French windows that led on to the dark patio. He could see their reflections in the glass. The house looked cosy and warm. He wouldn’t admit it, but he did like having Issy there. It was nice. Not that she was … she wasn’t his mum or anything like that. That would totally NEVER happen. But compared with the drippy women Austin had brought home over the years, she was probably all right he supposed. And now she was here, well, it was almost like they had a nice house like his friends did, and everything was kind of all right when it really hadn’t been all right for a really long time. So why was his stupid brother in stupid America?

‘You know the schools in America, right?’ he asked, faux-casually, trying to steal some raisins from the mixing bowl. Issy smacked his hand lightly with the wooden spoon.

‘Yes,’ she said. Issy had, in fact, never been to America, which made it a bit difficult to calm Darny’s fears.

‘Do they have … do they have a LOT of guns at school and things?’ he asked, finally.

‘No,’ said Issy, wishing she could be more sure. ‘I’m sure they don’t. Absolutely not.’

Darny’s mouth curled in contempt. ‘And do they sing all the time?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Issy. ‘I just don’t know.’

The phone rang.

‘Sorry,’ said Austin. ‘The meeting ran on. They wanted me to meet a few more people and pop into their board meeting …’

‘Wow,’ said Issy. ‘They’re obviously impressed by you.’

‘I don’t know about that,’ said Austin. ‘I think they just like hearing me talk.’

‘Don’t be modest,’ said Issy, cheerful, but with a slight wobble in her voice. ‘Of course they love you. Why wouldn’t they love you? You’re amazing.’

Austin heard the emotional tone in her voice and cursed internally. He hadn’t wanted to think, hadn’t wanted to even consider, what it meant if he was offered a job here – and it seemed to be shaping up to be more than that. Not just a job; a real career; an amazing opportunity. Given the state of banking at the moment, he was lucky to have a job at all, never mind a career that was going places. And the idea of making some real money for once, instead of just bobbing along … Issy had the café, of course, but it was hardly a big earner, and it would be nice for the two of them to do some lovely things … take a nice holiday … maybe even … well. He didn’t want to think about the next step. That was a bit too far in the future. But still. It would make sense, he told himself firmly. For whatever lay ahead. It would make sense to have a nest egg, to have a cushion beneath them. To be secure. Together.

‘Well, they have been very nice …’ he conceded. ‘How’s Darny doing at school?’

Issy didn’t want to say that she’d seen him in the playground in the company of a teacher being marched quickly to the gate. She tried not to get too involved in the school, even though she worried about Darny, the smallest kid in the year, and the only one without even one parent, almost as much as Austin did.

‘Hmm,’ she said.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Making Christmas cake. It smells amazing!’

‘It smells foul,’ said Darny down the speaker phone. ‘And she won’t let me taste it.’

‘Because you said it smells foul,’ said Issy, unarguably. ‘And it’s about twenty per cent proof, so you can’t have it anyway.’

‘Austin would let me have it.’

‘No I wouldn’t,’ came the voice down the phone.

‘When we have proportional representation,’ said Darny, ‘I’ll have more of a say around here.’

‘If you get on to teen voting rights, I’m hanging up,’ warned Austin.

‘No, don’t …’ said Issy.

There was a silence as Darny gave the phone a rude gesture, then, muttering darkly about how things would change around here when teens got the vote, he grabbed a bunch of bananas and disappeared upstairs.

‘Has he gone?’ said Austin eventually.

‘Yup,’ said Issy. ‘He seems in a pretty good mood tonight, actually. Maybe school wasn’t as bad as all that.’

‘Oh good,’ said Austin. ‘Thanks, Issy. I didn’t really think puberty was going to kick in till a bit later.’

‘Oh, it’s not too bad yet,’ said Issy. ‘He’s still talking to us. I think that goes altogether soon. Although his trainers …’

‘I know,’ said Austin, wrinkling his nose. ‘I’d kind of stopped noticing the smell before you came along.’

‘Hmm,’ said Issy. There was another pause. This wasn’t like them at all. Normally there was no end to the conversation. He would tell her what was up at the bank; she would mention funny clients or whatever it was Pearl and Caroline had had their latest fight about.

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