Home > Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(6)

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(6)
Jenny Colgan

‘I know,’ she said. ‘It’s a tough living.’

Archie looked out of the window. The fishing boats made such a pretty sight, all pitched up in a row, their masts jangling in the faint breeze.

‘I didn’t… Until we started getting all these tourists,’ he said, ‘I didn’t realise how soft other people had it.’

Fishing, Polly knew, was in your blood or it wasn’t. It was a vocation you were born to; otherwise, it was just too tough.

‘It’s not like that really, you know,’ she said. ‘You see people coming here in big cars and relaxing and walking along the beach and eating ice cream and you think that’s what they do, but it isn’t. It’s their holidays, that’s all, like when you went to Cyprus that time.’

‘Four years ago,’ grunted Archie.

‘They all have their troubles too. Working really long hours in horrible offices for horrible bosses. Moving paper round all day and hating it. Commuting an hour there and an hour home every single day to do a job they hate that means they never see their own children.’

‘I see too much of the buggers,’ said Archie.

Polly grinned. ‘That’s because you’re a good dad,’ she said. ‘Now, I’ll take the sausage rolls down. You go sit on the bench over there and have a snooze, and I’ll wake you up in an hour.’

Archie looked at her.

‘I don’t want the lads to think I’m slacking.’

He was trying so hard to live up to the memory of Tarnie, and it was taking its toll.

‘I’ll tell them you’re helping me shift something in the shop. Something really large and dirty and heavy,’ said Polly. ‘Covered in spiders. Okay?’

Archie nodded thankfully, and Polly walked him round the corner to an out-of-the-way bench between the old town cross and an empty stone horse trough. It was a sunny spot, and Polly noticed that his eyes closed almost immediately.

Down by the harbour wall, the wind was gustier. The rest of the crew were on the boat. Dave had started out as a beekeeper, sent by an agency last year, but his terrible fear of bees had meant he had ended up on the sea instead. He had turned out to be born to the job; a genuine fisherman who loved the water and, as they said, could sniff out fish. Then there was little Kendall, the youngest, who grinned endearingly at Polly, his eyes fixed on her paper bag, and Sten, who was new, a big Scandinavian chap Polly barely knew.

‘Hey,’ she said. ‘Archie’s just helping me with something.’

Kendall grabbed at the bag and inhaled it.

‘Oh that smells good good good!’ he said. ‘Did you bring us sweets for afters?’

‘I don’t sell sweets,’ Polly told him for the millionth time.

‘Is Archie having a rest?’ said Dave.

‘No, he’s —’

‘Because he needs a rest.’

The others nodded their agreement.

‘He keeps trying to do everything,’ said Kendall. ‘It’s okay. He’s fine. He just gets a bit panicky. Tarnie wasn’t panicky.’

‘He wasn’t,’ said Polly, and they were silent for a second.

‘He was a bit shouty, though,’ said Kendall. ‘Archie isn’t shouty.’

‘Well there you go,’ said Polly. ‘When he gets back, tell him you knew he was working, otherwise he’ll never take ten seconds off ever again.’

‘He has to,’ said Sten, speaking for the first time. His accent was slow and deliberate. ‘It is dangerous to run a boat on not enough sleep, ja? He needs to make himself relax.’

Polly smiled. ‘I’ve never understood how anyone’s meant to make themselves do that,’ she said. ‘But yes, I agree.’

She went back and zipped through the rest of the lunchtime rush with Jayden, people cheerfully queuing halfway up the quay. This made her happy every time she saw it. The fact that people were there, day after day, handing over money for something she’d made with her own hands! Sometimes it didn’t quite seem real; she wanted to rush up to someone eating a bun and say, ‘I made that, you know!’

She managed to avoid the temptation.

Once they’d cleaned up after lunch, if everything had gone – and it usually had – they’d close. Very early starts to get everything ready on time meant that by 2 p.m. Polly had normally already been on her feet for nine hours, and there was still cashing-up to do. Huckle tried to schedule his appointments so that he could sometimes nip back for an hour or two and, for the only time all day, they could relax, laze in bed for an hour, chat and laugh. Then he would be out again and Polly would cash up, start setting the dough for the next day, make supper and begin all over again in the morning.

Today, as she walked back into the empty lighthouse – it felt even emptier when Neil wasn’t there – she could hear the home phone ringing. She furrowed her brow. She did use the home phone from time to time – the mobile signal could be a little erratic – but not that often, and certainly not in the daytime. She’d spoken to her mum yesterday and everything was fine there. It must be Huckle; he must have been held up somewhere.

Polly mounted the stairs two at a time, wondering how long the phone would ring for. There was no point in rushing, she thought as she rounded the first landing. Getting up took as long as getting up took, and if she tried to rush, she wouldn’t have enough puff to speak when she did make it up there.

The phone stopped, then instantly started again moments later. Polly swallowed and carried on. This wasn’t a good sign. Unless it was a particularly committed salesperson.

She swung round the balustrade into the very top room, below the lamp itself. The phone had been there when they’d moved in and they hadn’t changed it. Polly rather liked it. It was obviously old coastguard issue, in a bureaucratic grey colour with stubby white buttons, many of which had mysterious functions she didn’t understand. It also had a stern brring brring that reminded her of black-and-white war films.

She picked it up.

‘Hello?’

The voice on the other end was quavering but strong.

‘Is that Miss Waterford?’ it demanded formally.

‘Uh, yes.’

‘This is Janet Lange. Gillian Manse’s sister.’

‘Of course,’ said Polly, steadying herself against the sofa, a chill entering her heart. ‘Is everything okay?’

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