Home > Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #1)(8)

Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #1)(8)
Jenny Colgan

‘Do you need a hand to get it out to the van?’

She nodded, too sad and tired to even think of being sarcastic.

They got the sofa to the lift in silence, both of them thinking back to a couple of years ago, when the men from the delivery company had arrived to set it up, and Chris had teased her over how excited she was, given that it was only a bloody sofa, then asked the men if they would have bought such a boring colour, and one of them had said no, he had white leather at home, and Chris had said, see, that was funky.

Once it was safely in the van Polly had hired, they looked at each other, not knowing what to say. Polly’s commitment to trying to be as sunny and upbeat as possible suddenly deserted her. She was on her way, completely alone, to an utterly strange destination, against the advice of everyone she knew, leaving the only life she’d known for seven years. The enormity of it all weighed her down.

‘Thanks,’ she managed, trying to think of something less trivial, less useless to say about everything they’d been through together.

‘Pol…’ said Chris.

‘Mm?’

‘I’m really… Well, you know.’

‘I don’t know,’ she said, her heart racing. She didn’t know how much he felt the sadness of what had happened to them both, and all their hopes and dreams. Certainly he’d never once talked about it. He had withdrawn so thoroughly, she worried about him.

He looked at her, those narrow blue eyes she’d once found so attractive. She steeled herself not to cry.

‘Well, I am,’ he mumbled.

Polly leant forward. ‘You are what, sweetie?’

‘Oh Pol, don’t make me…’

‘I think you might feel better if you do.’

She held her ground. There was a long silence. Then, finally:

‘I’m sorry. About everything. I know it wasn’t your fault.’

‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry too. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work. I don’t think either of us could have worked any harder.’

‘No,’ said Chris, holding her gaze at last. ‘No, we couldn’t have.’

And they had, oddly, shaken hands.

As she drove away from the crowded streets of Plymouth and hit the open A roads through the downs, the sun was shining in the rear-view mirror and Polly tried to feel she was moving into the future.

‘We’ll be okay, sofa,’ she said, glancing behind her.

‘Oh Christ,’ she realised, ‘I’m the kind of woman who talks to sofas.’

It was after lunch when she finally arrived on the island. She’d had to wait an hour this time for the causeway to open. She was absolutely, she realised, going to have to get organised with the timetables; this was really inconvenient.

As she waited, she bit into the petrol-station sandwich she’d bought on the way. It was disgusting. One thing Polly took very seriously was her bread, and this was no good at all. While she ate, she gazed out of the window at Mount Polbearne. There were comforting-looking lights dotted here and there, their reflections shimmering in the water. From this distance you couldn’t see that things were a little dilapidated.

At last the causeway cleared fully. Very carefully and tentatively, sure that one slip would lead her to a watery grave, she drove the van across and turned left at the car park, taking it straight to her brand-new front door – or, rightfully speaking, side door. One thing about moving to a tiny deserted nothing of a place was that she could park anywhere; there were no meters, or even lines on the road. She fumbled for the large keys Lance had handed her when she’d signed the contract (for, in the end, about five pence more than the discount she’d demanded; she had to leave him with some pride after all), and climbed out of the van. She had hired the vehicle for a few days – enough time to find someone to lug the bed upstairs, she thought – but for now she took only the absolute bare essentials. Although as these included her coffee machine, carrying everything was not that easy a job.

As she opened the side door, she looked at the downstairs shop on Beach Street. It creeped her out a little bit. Who knew what malevolent creatures might be lurking there… She gave herself a little shake. It was only a bakery, she realised, recognising one of the shapes as an oven. The place had probably failed once it became clear that in the hierarchy of beautiful little coastal towns in the south-west of England that people wanted to visit whilst eating a sausage roll, Mount Polbearne came in at about number 5,000, and people were too nervous about the causeway flooding over to hang about for long anyway.

The island had seemed pretty cheerless before, even with Kerensa’s bracing presence. But now, in the wet wind of a cold spring day, with nobody else around, it felt utterly desolate. The sea, which Polly had hoped would provide something relaxing and comforting to look at, was grey and choppy and angry-looking, and made her feel nothing but slightly chilled. Sighing, she put down her bags (and the coffee machine) on the stone step outside the faded wooden door, which had obviously once been green, and fumbled for the heavy key. The door swung open, creaking, and immediately banged back in the strong wind. Her pile of books was starting to flap ominously. She pushed the coffee machine in to hold the door open and went back to the van to retrieve her suitcase and a selection of black plastic bin bags. Thirty-two was, she felt, a little old to still be banging on with black plastic bin bags. She should probably have a full set of luggage that matched. Not Louis Vuitton or anything like that, but… Well. Something more than a wheelie case seemingly designed to bump down the aisle of a plane against people’s ankles. And she had a sports bag of Chris’s. It wasn’t, she reflected, much to come away with.

The rest was boxes of bits and pieces, many more than she’d hoped. She’d started to heave them out of the van when she heard a rattling noise behind her. She glanced around, nearly toppling over a box, to see that the pile of books she’d put down by the door had been caught by a stray gust of wind and had actually taken off, pushed up, up by the force of the breeze.

‘AARGH!’ shouted Polly. Most of her books had gone into storage, but she had kept back a few; a very specific few. When she was feeling down in the dumps, she wanted comfort, and comforting reading, and she’d decided that the present situation called for a binge. So she’d held back her childhood books, the dusty old eighties editions she’d read so often the covers were falling off. Inside each jacket was her name and address, carefully printed: ‘Polly Waterford, age 11, 78 Elder Avenue, Plymouth, England, Europe, the world, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe.’

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