Home > Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(10)

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(10)
Jenny Colgan

Lilian sniffed loudly. ‘I dare say you don’t want to be here any more than I want you here.’

Lilian spoke in a posh accent with a touch of the local flattened vowels. She sounded very different from Rosie and her mother. Angie’s dad, Lilian’s big brother, had left Derbyshire long ago to make his fortune in the smoke. It hadn’t quite worked out like that in the end. It occurred to Rosie, sitting herself down on an immaculate floral sofa, that maybe they were the downwardly mobile end of the family.

‘No, I’m thrilled,’ Rosie lied, squirming at her aunt’s rudeness. ‘It’s like a holiday in the country.’

‘What, forcing me out of my home?’

There was an awkward pause.

‘Mum just said maybe you needed a bit of help,’ said Rosie, gently.

Lilian sniffed. Rosie took this, correctly, to mean that Lilian did indeed need help but couldn’t bear to admit it.

‘Well, the local doctors are no sodding use.’

‘How did you break your hip?’

‘Practising for the ice-dancing finals.’

Suddenly Rosie felt tired. It had been a long day, and she and Gerard had been up late the night before. When Gerard had said he was going to be busy in the coming weeks, a tiny worm in Rosie’s head questioned once again why he didn’t just come up for the weekends. She wasn’t in Swaziland. Why did she always have to make all the moves?

She looked around again at the cosy room. Lilian had been born in this cottage. Never married, just focused on the business and stayed in the same village all her life. It seemed so strange.

‘Do you get to London much?’ she asked, knowing it was a stupid question as soon as it came out of her mouth.

‘Well, obviously David Niven telephones me when he’s in town, but apart from that …’ Lilian stopped herself. It wasn’t this girl’s fault she was getting older and everything was packing up, and it was the most irritating, frustrating thing she could possibly imagine to have no bloody hope of getting any better, and seeing this frumpy thing bounce in to look after her. This young woman didn’t have the slightest clue what an incredible luxury it was to hop on a London train whenever it took her fancy, darting hither and thither without a care in the world, and thought Lilian was just a broken toy that must be packed somewhere neatly out of the way.

‘Hmm,’ said Lilian. ‘Are you hungry?’

Rosie wasn’t, really. She’d eaten three enormous and vastly overpriced sandwiches on the train to give herself something to do, apart from staring out of the window and worrying about Gerard. When she came back to London, would he meet her at the railway station and suddenly drop down on one knee and she’d have to pretend to be surprised and make her face look all wide-eyed and appealing? She’d have to remember to put on extra make-up, and everyone around them in the station would smile and maybe even clap, like in a movie or something … Yes. That was definitely what would happen. Then she’d opened her eyes. Gerard didn’t even like getting down on his knees to tie his shoelaces he made old groany noises.

Lilian glanced back towards a door that obviously led to the kitchen. It occurred to Rosie that Lilian might be very hungry; if she wasn’t mobile, it was a bit of a mystery as to how she was feeding herself. The house was very tidy; how did she manage that?

‘You could make tea …’ Lilian said. ‘Only if you want some. It’s easy to find everything.’

Rosie turned to her. There was a lot less hostility in her aunt’s tone.

‘OK,’ said Rosie carefully. ‘Yes, actually, I’m really hungry. While I’m in there, can I rustle you up something?’

‘Oh, hardly anything for me … I eat like a bird,’ said Lilian defensively, willing the girl to hurry up. She was desperate for a cup of tea; her arthritis meant she could no longer lift the kettle.

Rosie stood up and headed into the tiny, immaculate kichen. Ornate old-fashioned tins were lined up on the white surfaces, labelled flour, sugar, tea. Unfortunately they were all empty. Next to the kettle – the old-fashioned kind, which stood on a gas hob – there was a half-empty box of loose tea, a kind of sieve and a flowery teapot covered in a knitted cosy. Rosie stared at it all for a while.

Once she’d figured out how to light the gas, which flared up with a pop, she peered into the kitchen cupboards. They weren’t empty. But what she found surprised her. Instead of bread, pasta and cans of beans, there were packets and packets of sweets. Rainbow stars and jelly fish and cola bottles and Black Jacks; Minstrels and Maltesers, Highland Toffee and great slabs of Fry’s Chocolate Cream; soft little flying sauces and jelly flumps; twists of rhubarb and custards; Wham Bars and chocolate eclairs and wrappers Rosie couldn’t even identify. She opened up drawer after drawer, but it was the same story everywhere: jelly tots and jelly beans, lemon sherbets and fizz bombs, bubble gum and Parma violets.

No wonder her great-aunt’s bones weren’t healing well, Rosie realised. This stuff was pure poison. But if it was too hard for her to lift a pan; too difficult to cook every day … She went back into the sitting room to announce that, starting tomorrow, she would do a shop and cook for them both, only to find her aunt snoring tiny baby snores, head nodding on to her chest, in front of the dying fire.

‘Lilian,’ she said, quietly at first, then more loudly. She suspected Lilian’s claims of not being deaf in the slightest were probably a little overstated, and she was used to working with the elderly. ‘Lilian. Lilian. Come on. Let’s get you to bed. We’ll eat better in the morning.’

Leaning heavily on Rosie – she weighed about as much as a child – Lilian let herself be led into the neat, small bedroom at the back of the house. Once there, she pretended to be half asleep, and Rosie let her professional nursing training take over, as she efficiently found a nightgown and helped the old woman change and toilet. Pretending to be asleep meant Rosie didn’t get a thank you, but she decided on balance it might be best for both of them if it stayed that way. She looked at the tightly tucked white bedspread. It didn’t look like it had been pulled back for a while. There was nothing else for it. Carefully, Rosie bent down – bending from the knees, not the back, as her nurse manager must have yelled at her a million times – picked up the old lady and tucked her into bed, as cosy as a child. She placed the tea on the side table, mixed with cold water in case of scalding.

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