Home > Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #3)(10)

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #3)(10)
Jenny Colgan

‘I don’t believe schools get to pick and choose their hours,’ said Xanthe, smiling thinly.

‘Course they do,’ said Polly. ‘It’s not written on holy tablets that they’re shut during August, is it? It’s not, like, the law.’

‘School hours are the law,’ said Xanthe. She might as well have said ‘I am the law’, and Polly started to bristle.

‘Laws change,’ she said.

‘You think we should change the laws of England to accommodate Mount Polbearne?’

‘Well that escalated quickly,’ murmured Huckle. ‘What is this, a coup d’état?’

Polly sat back, fuming. ‘I just think that if you wanted to find a way, you could.’

‘We have budget cuts to make and staff to keep safe,’ said Xanthe. ‘The world doesn’t begin and end with Mount Polbearne. Even if the road does.’

‘I hope she misses the crossing cut-off tonight,’ muttered Jayden, sitting just behind them. There were small noises of agreement and the kind of shuffling that denotes a large group of people who are quite tired now and want to go home or to the pub.

Suddenly the door to the hall burst open, and everyone turned to look as Reuben and Kerensa marched in, Reuben looking as usual extremely bullish.

‘Hey!’ he shouted, as if everyone wasn’t looking at him already. Behind him, Kerensa looked uncharacteristically deflated and a little pale, Polly noticed. She hadn’t seen her friend in a while – Kerensa worked sporadically and Polly on her own admission had very much gone into hibernation the last month or so. The idea of getting dressed up to go out somewhere when you first had to take off the seven layers of clothing you were already wearing didn’t seem to appeal. They’d texted, of course, but the unpredictability of the Mount Polbearne signal meant they’d hardly spoken on the phone. Now Polly perked up to see her, but she couldn’t help being slightly worried at the same time.

‘Hey?’ She waggled her eyebrows in Kerensa’s direction, but got no response.

‘Hey, everyone,’ Reuben went on. ‘Great news! Glad tidings and all that stuff! So, anyway, we’re totally having a baby!’

Polly jumped up. Huckle rolled his eyes. Only his showboat of a friend would use a public meeting to announce something like that. Nonetheless, everybody clapped and cheered, happy to hear good news. Reuben and Kerensa might live in a huge mansion on a private beach, but new babies were new babies and, right now, very welcome.

Polly ran up to hug her friend.

‘I am going to kill you for not telling me,’ she said fondly. ‘Seriously. I am going to absolutely kill you.’

‘I wasn’t going to tell anyone,’ said Kerensa, sounding horrified. ‘I haven’t got my head round it myself yet.’

‘How far gone are you?’

‘About eight months, apparently.’

‘You’re NOT!’

‘I am. I know. Don’t kill me.’

‘But that’s not even possible.’ Polly was absolutely stung. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

Kernesa shrugged. ‘I didn’t know. I didn’t realise.’

‘You didn’t realise? How thick are you? Didn’t Reuben guess?’

‘Not until tonight.’

There was something strange about Kerensa. Polly turned to look at her, then glanced over at Reuben.

‘Is he handing out cigars?’

‘I told him not to do that.’

‘Are you feeling sick?’

‘Sick, fat, everything.’

Polly stood back. This wasn’t like Kerensa in the slightest.

‘Seriously, Kez. Why… why didn’t you tell me?’

But Kerensa just shrugged, and Polly, hurt, made her promise to come over later, because Reuben was insisting on taking everyone to the pub and it looked like it was going to be quite a noisy night.

‘So in conclusion,’ said Xanthe, obviously annoyed that attention had been diverted away from her, ‘I have to say that the case for a school in Mount Polbearne has not yet been successfully made.’

Reuben raised his hand to stop the hubbub and turned around.

‘Oh yeah, you should have a school here,’ he said. ‘That’s an excellent idea. I’ll send my kids over. Nice. Brilliant. Okay, that’s sorted.’

‘Well, Health and Safety say the local council couldn’t recommend a school facility on these premises,’ said Xanthe thinly.

Reuben stared at her for a moment.

‘Who cares?’ he said eventually. ‘I’ll buy it and open my own school. No problem. Private school, we can do what we like. Free to local residents, of course. Then we’ll charge a fortune to gullible Russians and I’ll end up even richer than I am now. Which is very rich.’

The room applauded. Xanthe looked horrified.

‘But the hours…’

‘My school, my hours,’ said Reuben, and on this general wave of cheerfulness, the meeting broke up and the villagers swarmed out into the biting cold and down to the warmth of the pub, except for Jayden, who had to get the taxi boat out to take a furious Xanthe back to the mainland, where she had self-importantly parked her car on the forecourt rather than in the designated car park, and thus found it up to its axles in seawater.

‘I can’t believe how you can live out there,’ she hissed, once she’d finally got it started.

Jayden looked at her, blinking, and to his credit didn’t say, ‘Because it’s not full of people like you.’

Chapter Five

The next day, Polly left Jayden touting doughnuts to the blearily hung-over and headed straight out over the causeway to visit Kerensa.

Reuben and Kerensa’s mansion had recently had a complete overhaul and was now freshly redecorated. Reuben had been going through something of a Game of Thrones phase, so the place had gone from frenzied gilt to a kind of peculiar medieval mishmash, full of tapestry and gigantic wooden throne-style chairs. Tartan curtains hung from wrought-iron poles and great oil paintings had been shipped in. There were also lots of candles. Polly thought it was spooky. Kerensa was just pleased she’d managed to talk Reuben out of getting a kestrel.

Polly rang the ridiculous deep clanging bell and was let in by Marta, the maid.

Kerensa was half lying on a dark purple chaise longue next to a huge roaring fire that looked like it should have a pig over it roasting on a spit. She still wasn’t smiling; she still looked pale and wan.

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