Home > Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #3)(7)

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #3)(7)
Jenny Colgan

‘You all right?’

She nestled reassuringly into his arm as he leafed through the post, stroking her hair gently.

‘I’m okay really,’ she said, muffled. ‘I just needed a quick cuddle. Mrs Corning wanted to give me one, but I was worried she’d break a hip.’

‘Did you call your mom?’

They exchanged a look.

‘The usual?’

‘Yeah.’

Huckle sighed. Polly’s mum wasn’t really one for answering the phone. Or going out. Polly had never noticed until she’d left home how reclusive her mother actually was; she never invited friends over, never had people in, very rarely went out, only socialised with her own parents, both now gone. Because that was how Polly was raised, it hadn’t even occurred to her to question it, until she’d gone out into the world and discovered loads of other people actually having fun.

‘Just tell her to come down here! Breathe some fresh air, take some walks, get some colour in her cheeks. It’ll do wonders for her.’

‘She can’t,’ said Polly. This was not the first time they’d had this discussion. ‘Seriously. It’s impossible. Last time I tried to get her out, she told me she couldn’t because she’d miss Doctors. Doctors,’ she went on to an uncomprehending Huckle, ‘runs on BBC One five days a week and has done for about seventy-two years. You can watch Doctors or you can actually have a life, but it’s tricky to do both.’

‘She should see an actual doctor,’ said Huckle, and Polly grimaced. They’d been there before, too. Her mother wasn’t sick, she was just… introverted. That was all. It was all right to be quiet in a world full of shouting social-media extroverts, wasn’t it?

‘Well, call her again when you get home,’ said Huckle. ‘Hey ho,’ he added, picking up Samantha’s letter. ‘What’s this?’

‘Meeting for a possible school,’ said Polly. ‘Have you seen Neil?’

Huckle snorted. ‘Have I seen him? He’s practically sitting in the Aga. I have never known a bird so fond of his home comforts. If he isn’t careful, we’re going to end up roasting him for supper.’

‘That’s not funny,’ said Polly, who had a total blind spot as far as the cheeky puffin was concerned. ‘Still no sign of Celeste?’

Celeste was Neil’s girlfriend; or rather, he had mated with another puffin and they had been nesting round the back of the lighthouse. Their first egg, to Polly’s absolute dismay, had not hatched. Celeste had been fairly grumpy with them to begin with, so this tragedy hadn’t necessarily changed her attitude that much, and then one day she had simply upped and left. Polly had been so heartbroken, Huckle had had to put her to bed. It had taken all his powers of persuasion to convince her that birds couldn’t actually imagine the future and therefore Neil had absolutely no idea what he was missing out on, though even now she didn’t exactly quite believe him.

It was true, though, that as the weather had turned colder, Neil was quite happy to eep until the door was opened, then march in and settle himself down cosily in front of the stove for a snooze. He seemed more or less entirely unfussed about his longer-term prospects.

‘Puffins shouldn’t even be this hot!’ Huckle had said, looking at the bird stretched out contentedly in front of the oven. ‘They’re going to die out as a species!’

Polly had skritched Neil behind the ears fondly, and he had fixed Huckle with a beady eye.

‘Okay, okay,’ said Huckle, who was mostly pretty good at hiding his feelings about sharing his life with a small black and white seabird.

They locked up the bakery and headed out into the already darkening afternoon. As they rushed across the pebbled esplanade and up the steps to the lighthouse door, the clouds scudded across the sky and handfuls of rain and seawater hit them in the face.

‘Guh,’ said Polly. ‘Seriously. Why couldn’t we have opened the Little Caribbean Beach Street Bakery?’

Huckle smiled.

‘We still could,’ said Polly. ‘We could get Neil a very, very small straw hat.’

They shut the door behind them, and Polly took off her wet boots and put the kettle on.

‘Oof. Right. I am not moving out of here tonight.’

Huckle was standing by the door, still studying the letter he’d grabbed from the counter.

‘Are you sure we shouldn’t be going to this?’

Polly frowned. ‘A town meeting?’

‘Yes, well, our town meeting.’

They looked at each other.

‘What’s this about?’ said Polly suddenly.

‘Well,’ said Huckle. On the small kitchen table was a large ledger book. ‘The honey… I mean, the honey thing isn’t going too well…’

‘That’s all right,’ said Polly. ‘I’m not taking off this coat till spring. You can also sew me into my underwear if you think that would help.’

Huckle poured tea for them both and indicated she should sit down.

‘Listen, I’ve been thinking.’

‘Uh oh,’ said Polly, her heart starting to beat a little faster. ‘I’ve been thinking’ was one of those phrases, like ‘we need to talk’ or ‘you’d better sit down’, that brought about a modicum of panic. It reminded her of her horrible break-up with her ex, Chris, and the loss of the business they’d built up together. She hated those kinds of conversations.

Huckle took her hand in what was clearly intended to be a reassuring manner but that unfortunately had completely the opposite effect.

‘What is it?’ she said in alarm.

‘Oh. Well…’

There was never any rushing Huckle. He was a slow-talking, laid-back boy from the American South who could normally calm Polly down in any circumstances, no matter how frenetic she got. She hoped he would manage it now.

‘I was just thinking ’bout our wedding.’

After Reuben and Kerensa had had the most over-the-top crazy themed wedding ever a couple of years back, Polly and Huck had vowed never to do that, telling each other that they’d have something small and intimate. But small and intimate was proving harder and harder, seeing as how literally everybody in the village thought they would be invited, plus Polly’s family and all her old friends from home, who complained they never saw her these days since she’d moved away to the back end of beyond. She could have pointed out it was only two hours away but didn’t need to, as quite often people turned up with a carload of buckets and spades to spend their summer holidays at her house, which was lovely but could get a little tiring when she had to get up at five a.m. and her guests were carousing till all hours and begging her to join them.

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