Home > Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(10)

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(10)
Jenny Colgan

Malcolm grunted. Polly stepped backwards and just nodded dumbly. She caught hold of the side of the table.

‘So you’re moving to Mount Polbearne?’ she said, trying to keep her voice light and pleasant. Malcolm rolled his eyes.

‘Well, I’ll be in and out, yeah. Till I get things shipshape, know what I mean? No more slacking, huh? But I’m pretty busy. And I don’t want to get buried alive in this hole.’

This seemed an awkward thing to say at his aunt’s funeral, but Polly didn’t mention it.

‘So are you leaving a job to come, or…’

Malcolm looked bullish.

‘Uh, no, I’m kind of between things right now. I’m like a consultant? On lots of different stuff?’

‘Okay,’ said Polly. But she didn’t feel like it was okay at all.

The old bell that still hung precariously in the ruined tower at the top of Mount Polbearne began to toll solemnly, and the fishermen doffed their caps as they left the building and followed the coffin. A hearse couldn’t fit through the narrow winding streets, so the coffin was carried by Janet’s two sons, Archie, Jayden, Huckle and Patrick. Once again, Tarnie was conspicuous by his absence. No one at this funeral was not thinking of the last time they’d been together when somebody had died.

There was a glowering sky outside; it wasn’t raining, but it was certainly threatening it. A few disconsolate day trippers at the harbour wall were looking about confused, unsure as to why everything was closed up. The entire town trudged slowly up round the winding cobbles, heads down against the wind, which whipped high this close to the sea and this far off the ground. Polly wished she had Huckle’s hand to hold, or that her best friend Kerensa was back from whichever ridiculous holiday she was taking right now, but no such luck. She stayed close to Muriel, who ran the village shop.

‘This is awful,’ Muriel was saying. Her baby, Marina, popped her head out of her sling and looked around with a worried expression on her face. ‘I know. It’s okay, baby. She should be having her morning nap in the storeroom,’ she confided. ‘She can only get to sleep to the smell of cumin and aniseed.’

‘Is there anything you don’t stock?’ said Polly. ‘Apart from bread, obviously.’

‘Well, that frees up a lot of space,’ pointed out Muriel.

The old churchyard was beautiful in a strange way. The graves were very old and overgrown, the ancient stone crosses tilted on their sides, nearly all the writing eroded by the years and the wind and the sea. A few names repeated again and again: Perranmor; Tarnforth; Kirrin. It was mostly women and children. In Mount Polbearne, the men died at sea, and the sea held their bones and their histories and their stories for ever more.

The freshly dug grave looked grim in the shadow of the ruined church. This was not a place for new burials; it seemed strange and odd, as if all the ancient skeletons were bunching up to make room.

‘Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was,’ said the vicar quietly as the men, with the help of the sturdy undertaker from the mainland, tried not to fumble lowering the large coffin into the ground. Gillian had, Polly thought, always been big.

‘And the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.’ And she made the sign of the cross over the grave.

At this, Polly stepped up with the bag she had brought specially, and everyone took a handful of flour from the sack and threw it on to the top of the coffin, as Mrs Manse began that long journey from which there is no return. And everybody there hoped with all their hearts that her husband and her son would be waiting to greet her at the end of it.

Chapter Five

Polly was staring out of the window expectantly whilst trying to pretend that wasn’t at all what she was doing, even though she knew it didn’t matter as they were so ridiculously high up anyway: no one could see in. She’d changed her clothes, put on a nice flowery shirt. She was slightly out of the habit of getting dressed up, didn’t really know what to wear for meeting a member of Huckle’s family. She’d spoken to his parents on the phone, of course, but this was something different.

She knew Dubose was younger than Huckle, and that they got on, but he’d never really held down a job or stuck to anything in the same way as his big brother, and now he was working on a farm in between travelling stints. But he sounded like fun. Polly couldn’t believe how important it was to her that he liked her. Both her sister and her mum had fallen in love with Huckle in about ten seconds flat. She hoped it worked both ways.

‘And don’t poo.’

Neil was sulking because Huckle hadn’t taken him to the bus station. Polly had tried to cheer him up by bringing home his very favourite thing in all the world, a box full of polystyrene packing pieces. When he thought she wasn’t watching, or when she left the room, she could hear him jumping into the box and stomping up and down, kicking at the pieces with his little webbed feet. When she came back in, he’d immediately flutter out of the box and stand facing away from her, staring out of the window.

The sky was pink-tinged when she saw the causeway gradually emerge, and soon after that she heard the roar of the motorbike banging up the cobbled streets. It was the noisiest thing on the island by far, but Polly could never hear it without smiling in anticipation. She nervously touched up the lipstick she didn’t normally bother with, and descended the stairs.

A tall, slim figure stepped out of the sidecar and took off the spare helmet, shaking his head to reveal a mop of blond hair very like his brother’s. His face was narrower than Huckle’s, with a pointed chin, and pale blue eyes that looked absolutely primed to laugh.

‘WHOA!’ he said, looking up at the lighthouse. ‘NO WAY! You live here?’

‘Way,’ said Huckle, lifting out a stained suitcase. He came round to stand next to Polly. ‘And this is —’

‘Whoa! Yeah! Holly!’ said Dubose, coming over and kissing her excitedly on both cheeks.

‘Polly,’ said Polly.

‘Even better,’ said Dubose, twinkling at her. ‘In fact that’s exactly what I said, it’s just my strange exotic accent made it difficult to understand.’

Polly couldn’t help but smile, even as Huckle was rolling his eyes.

‘Come in,’ she said. Dubose let Huckle carry his bag.

‘Where’s Neil?’ said Huckle, as they tramped round and round up the steps, Dubose exclaiming every five seconds.

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