Home > Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(7)

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(7)
Jenny Colgan

‘Only,’ the voice went on, as if it hadn’t heard her, ‘only we’ve had a bit of trouble, you see.’

‘What’s happened?’

Polly looked out of the window at the seagulls circling peacefully, at the tiny crests on some of the waves. Everything was as tranquil and peaceful as it always was.

‘Well, I’m afraid Gillian has… passed on,’ said her sister.

There was a silence.

Even though Mrs Manse had been old, and somewhat irascible, she’d still seemed a very strong figure to Polly. Certainly not somebody who could simply pass away or cease to be: she was solid, formidably so.

‘But there was nothing wrong with her,’ said Polly. She found her hands at her face. ‘Oh dear. Oh dear me.’

‘I did tell her to lose weight,’ said Janet. She had some of her sister’s brusqueness, but Polly could tell it was genuine shock. ‘I told her, I told her, but she was so stubborn! Her doctor told her a million times, and I told her too. You’re too fat, Gillian. You eat too many cakes. That’s what we told her. Sell the cakes, don’t eat them. But she would never listen to anyone, never…’ Her voice dissolved in sobs.

‘Was it… was it sudden?’

Polly’s voice appeared to be wobbling of its own accord. Mrs Manse had had such a sad life, working all hours in the bakery after the loss of her only child at sea; a child she had never stopped mourning. She often went out after dark to watch for boats coming in, just in case her boy was on one of them. This had gone on for years and years and years, as her shop got more and more grubby and downtrodden and she retreated further into bitterness and regret.

‘Aye,’ said Janet. ‘Reckon. Heart attack.’

Her voice went quiet.

‘We bickered, you know.’

‘I do know,’ said Polly, who had spent a lot of time listening to Mrs Manse complaining about her new retired life and how annoying her sister was.

‘But I loved her really!’

‘I know,’ said Polly. ‘And she loved you too.’

There was silence on the other end of the line.

‘Well that is so sad,’ said Polly quietly, and she meant it. She hoped that a bit of company, someone to eat with and watch telly with and play bridge with, had made a real difference to Mrs Manse in her retirement.

‘Aye,’ said Janet Lange, sounding as if she’d pulled herself together. She sounded more like her sister again too. ‘It’s a right kerfuffle, though. Wants buried on the island and all sorts. Don’t know how she expects me to manage that.’

‘Well of course we must help,’ said Polly. ‘Let us manage all that.’

Janet sniffed. ‘Aye, well don’t go thinking she’s left you those shops or anything like that. There’ll be nowt in it for you.’

It hadn’t even crossed Polly’s mind.

Chapter Four

‘Or,’ said Huckle, ‘it will all work out fine and everything will be totally okay.’

He lounged back on the sofa looking, as usual, so relaxed it was difficult to tell whether he was awake or asleep. Normally Polly found this an endearing and comforting characteristic. It was hard to get anxious or worry too much when you were around Huckle. He always had total confidence that everything was going to be all right, and occasionally it could rub off.

This was not one of those times, though. Polly was pacing anxiously round the lighthouse tower, gazing out at the darkening sea. Neil hopped up and down worriedly.

‘I mean… it’s all the houses… all that space. I mean, Mount Polbearne is trendy now…’

‘Yes, thanks to you,’ said Huckle sleepily.

‘… and you know how nutty house prices are getting. I mean, what if her sister just decided to flog the bakeries off?’

‘And who’s going to buy a house in a village where you can’t get a loaf of sliced white?’

Polly shrugged. ‘Muriel could stock a bit of bread. Honestly, with your American businessman’s hat on, what would you do?’

‘With my American businessman’s hat?’

‘Yes.’

‘What’s that like? I mean, is it a massive JR stetson? Does it have a badge on it? Can I have a sheriff’s badge? I think I would like that. Yes, I definitely would.’

‘You’re not being as helpful as perhaps you think you’re being.’

‘An American businessman would have bought this entire place decades ago and turned it into a gift mall; I think you’re all nuts for struggling on. AND he’d have sensibly built a bridge.’

Huckle looked over. It was rarely wise to get Polly started on the bridge, and he wished he hadn’t mentioned it. He wasn’t getting out of this conversation any time soon.

‘Well,’ he said, sighing. ‘Just call Janet back and ask her what’s going to happen. Or ask her at the funeral.’

‘She just told me not to think I’ll be getting any of it,’ said Polly. ‘She sounded scary.’

‘Interesting note of surprise in your voice,’ pointed out Huckle, who’d been at the sharp end of Mrs Manse’s tongue and hadn’t enjoyed it in the slightest.

‘But if she kicks me out… what are we going to do? I mean, I’ve worked and worked to build all this up, and it could just disappear to nothing… I mean, we wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage on this place and we’d have to move and I’d have to… Well I don’t know. Get a job at a pie shop!’

Huckle smiled. ‘Ooh, that’d be great!’

‘I don’t want to get a job at a pie shop!’

‘You could be Reuben’s personal pastry chef,’ said Huckle. Reuben was their extremely rich friend.

‘I’ll stick to the pie shop, thank you.’

‘Look at it this way,’ said Huckle. ‘Human beings are pretty lazy, right? Most of them. They’re not all nutters that get up in the middle of the night like you.’

‘What’s your point?’

‘And she’s an old lady. So what’s more likely? That she’s going to supervise some expensive development pulling out ovens and putting in swanky kitchens to sell a yuppie weekend lifestyle to idiots, and make you homeless, or just leave things as they are and rake in our vast riches?’

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