Home > Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(9)

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(9)
Jenny Colgan

Polly introduced herself, hoping that they would say that her speech about Gillian had been nice. They didn’t.

‘Aye,’ said Janet. ‘Hello.’ She was exactly like her sister, Polly thought. Janet and Gillian: peas in a pod.

‘I’m so sorry for your loss,’ said Polly. ‘Especially after you’d just moved in together.’

‘Yes, I’ve got all her stuff cluttering up my place now,’ said Janet ungraciously. ‘Saves cleaning out the flat, I suppose.’

‘Right,’ said Polly. ‘Good.’ She looked at the two men. The older of the pair was busy with his phone. He gave Polly a quick glance, as if checking to see if she was of interest and finding she wasn’t.

‘This is Jeremy,’ said Janet, perking up for the first time. ‘And this is Malcolm.’

‘Hi,’ said Polly.

‘Hi there,’ said Malcolm, looking round. ‘Wow, this place is a bit of a dump. Is there anything to eat?’

‘It’s coming,’ said Polly, flustered and looking around for Flora handing round the food. ‘Did you never come to Mount Polbearne to visit?’

‘Yeah, when we were little,’ said Malcolm. ‘Didn’t think much of it, to be honest. Not much going on round here, is there?’

‘Oh, that’s a… shame,’ said Polly. She tried to catch Flora’s eye; she was meant to be circulating with the sandwiches, but instead she was standing gormlessly at the door and people were swarming around her to help themselves. Polly suspected that the fisher boys would eat everything in two seconds flat. Flora was holding the tray at an angle with one hand and twirling her hair with the other, and didn’t see Polly at all. Not for the first time, Polly wondered if she was really cut out to be a boss.

‘Ridiculous business living on an island,’ sniffed Janet. ‘Honestly, I told her a hundred times to move in with me before…’

Suddenly the tough, weather-beaten face started to crumple, and the teacup she was holding began to slip. Polly caught it and saw, all at once, the vulnerability behind the crabbiness. She put her hand on Janet’s arm.

‘I told her,’ said Janet. ‘After Jimmy died. I told her. It’s no good shutting yourself away in the back of bloody beyond. She could have picked herself up on the mainland. Got another life. She wasn’t that old. She wasn’t too old.’

Polly looked at Janet’s two sons, but one was still on his phone, and the other one, Malcolm, was staring straight ahead as if this all had nothing to do with him. Tears ran down the old lady’s face, and Polly put an arm round her shoulder.

‘I know,’ she said.

‘I never wanted to come back here, you know,’ said Janet. ‘I never wanted to. She turned it into a bloody… mausoleum.’

Polly nodded.

‘She was always so bloody stubborn,’ said Janet, as Polly passed her a tissue.

‘I think you two were a bit alike, maybe?’ said Polly.

Janet nodded. ‘Aye, mebbe.’

She wiped away her tears crossly, as if embarrassed at showing so much emotion.

‘I think,’ said Polly, ‘those months she got to spend with you were some of the happiest she ever had.’

Polly believed this: the cheerful complaining Mrs Manse had done, particularly about Janet, every time they’d had cause to discuss the running of the bakery, had indicated a woman definitely perked up. The fact that she hadn’t had longer to enjoy it was very sad.

Janet almost smiled.

‘Aye, mebbe you’re right.’

‘CHEESE CURL?’

Flora had obviously recovered herself a little, and plunged into the heart of the group, staring straight at Polly to make sure her boss knew she was doing what she’d been asked.

‘Oh hi, Flora,’ said Polly.

‘No, no thank you,’ said Janet, her mouth pursing and her face taking on a strict expression. Malcolm helped himself to four, pushing them into his mouth one after another.

‘Who’s paying for this?’ observed Jeremy, lifting his head briefly from his smartphone. ‘God, the reception in this place is a disgrace.’

Polly thought that Jeremy not comforting his crying mother was a bit of a disgrace, but wasn’t going to mention it.

‘Yeah, Mum…’ said Malcolm, grabbing another couple of cheese curls before Flora could make a getaway, and looking businesslike.

Polly’s heart started to beat faster. They must have discussed it. They must have an idea what they were going to do with the bakery. She wanted to turn her head to look for Huckle. Knowing where he was in a room was the best thing, she had found, in almost every situation. Janet had shaken off her arm and had wiped the tears from her cheeks with a real cotton handkerchief.

‘Yes,’ she repeated. ‘Who’s paying for this?’

‘Well, we just did it in the bakery, you know. Out of respect.’

Janet coughed and looked very formal.

‘As you know, I’m my sister’s executor. I take the role very seriously, obviously, and would want to stick exactly to the rules.’

‘Of course,’ said Polly, suddenly feeling sick to her stomach. ‘Of course. Whatever Gillian would have wanted.’

Malcolm was looking around for more food. When he spotted Flora, he summoned her back with a brusque movement of his fingers.

‘And, of course, my two wonderful boys,’ said Janet, looking at the unprepossessing specimens with beaming motherly pride and the closest thing to a smile Polly had yet seen from her. ‘They’re the businessmen of the family. Malcolm’s going to run all of Gillian’s concerns until we work out the most profitable, and best, way to deal with her legacy. I think that’s fairest for everyone, don’t you?’

Polly didn’t know what to say. This was so sudden. She’d got used to running her own business, making all the decisions and facing almost no interference from above.

‘Now Jeremy’s terribly busy doing important work in the city… He’s quite the big noise in Poole, you know!’

‘Okay,’ said Polly.

‘But Malcolm is going to move out here, keep a close eye on things. You know, you can’t be too careful with staff! And you did burrow your way in pretty close, hmm? Got your feet under the table? So we’ll be taking a look at that.’

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