Home > Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(2)

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(2)
Jenny Colgan

Well, it was grown-up, she supposed. It wasn’t quite what she’d expected – she hadn’t remembered the meeting where she’d volunteered to do all the housework, but he did earn more money. And the fact that it was so tiny, with no prospect of a move on the horizon.

Still, that was adult life, wasn’t it? And she and Gerard were settled now. A bit too settled. But settled. She could, it was true, do without all her girlfriends eyeing her deliberately when that Beyoncé song played. They’d been telling her for ages that if he didn’t put a ring on her finger by their second anniversary, he wasn’t serious and in it for the long term. She had closed her ears and chosen not to believe them – Gerard was cautious, and safe, and didn’t make big decisions lightly, and that was one of the reasons why she liked him.

But still, at the end of that long, long day, when her mother had called, she couldn’t deny that she was annoyed, cross, feeling hard done by, backed into a corner and emotionally blackmailed – and a teeny tiny part curious.

Their last night had been sweet and sad all at once.

‘It’s only six weeks or so,’ she’d reminded Gerard.

‘Yes, so you say,’ he said. ‘You’ll be round-the-clock caring from now till the end of time. And I shall stay in London and waste away.’

Gerard rarely looked like he was going to waste away. Round of head and tummy, he had a cheery countenance, like he was always on the verge of a laugh or a joke. Or a sulk, but only Rosie got to see those.

Rosie sighed. ‘I wish you’d come. Just for a bit. A long weekend?’

‘We’ll see, we’ll see,’ said Gerard. He hated any change to his routine.

Rosie looked at him. They’d been together so long now she could barely remember when they first met. He’d been at her very first hospital, when she was just out of a nearly all-female nursing college and dizzy with excitement at having a little money and a job. She’d hardly noticed the small, jolly pharmacist, who turned up occasionally when drugs were late, or rare, or urgent, and always had a quip, although she saw he was kind to the patients. He’d make silly remarks to her and she dismissed them as standard banter, until one night he’d joined them on a work night out and made it clear that he was actually a bit more serious than that.

The other, more experienced nurses had giggled and nudged each other, but Rosie hadn’t minded about that. She was young, she’d had some pink wine and she was open to new people, and at the end of the night, when he offered to walk her to her tube stop, then tentatively took her hand, she suddenly felt alive with possibility, excited that someone could be so clear about fancying her. She’d often found that kind of thing confusing before; crushing helplessly on men who were out of her league, ignoring chaps with whom she later realised she might have had a chance.

Rosie often felt that she’d missed a meeting every other girl in the world had had, when they were about fourteen, in which they’d learned how the boyfriend-and-girlfriend thing actually worked. Maybe the PE teacher had taken everyone aside, like she did with the period-and-BO talk, and briefed them all thoroughly. This is how to tell who fancies you. This is how to talk to a guy you like without making a complete idiot of yourself. This is how to politely leave a one-night stand and find your way home. It was all a bit of a mystery to Rosie, and everyone else seemed to find it so easy.

Meeting Gerard at twenty-three seemed like the answer to her prayers – a real, proper boyfriend with a good job. At least it would get her mum off her back for once. And right from the start he’d been keen. She was a bit taken aback to learn he was twenty-eight and still lived with his mother, but hey, everyone knew how expensive London was. And she enjoyed, at least to begin with, having someone to look after; it made her feel grown-up to buy him shirts, and to cook. When, after two years, he suggested they get a place together, she’d been absolutely delighted.

That had been six years ago. They’d bought a tiny grotty flat that they both felt too tired to do up. And since then, nothing. They were, if she was totally honest, in something of a rut, and perhaps a little separation might just … She felt disloyal for even thinking it. Even if her best friend Mike was always rolling his eyes. But still. It might just shake them up a little bit.

The bus driver grunted. Rosie jumped up, reaching for her bag, and followed his beard, which he’d nodded in the direction of a tiny pinpoint of light, far away. Rosie realised this must be the village, and that they must be at the top of a big hill. Cripes, where were they, the Alps?

That agency day, Rosie had been looking at the pepperoni pizza box and wondering for the thousandth time how she could expand Gerard’s diet. She liked to cook but he complained that she didn’t make anything quite like his mum did, so they ate a lot of takeaways and ready meals. She was also thinking about her job.

She had absolutely loved working in A&E as an auxiliary nurse. It was busy and exhausting and sometimes emotional, but she was never bored and always challenged; occasionally ground down by working at the sharp end of the NHS, but often inspired. She loved it. So of course they closed the unit. Only temporarily, then they were going to reopen it as something called a Minor Injuries Unit, and she was offered the chance either to stay on for that, which didn’t sound very exciting, or to relocate, which would mean a longer commute. She’d suggested to Gerard that they move, but he wanted to be close to his own hospital, which was fair enough. Even though an extra bedroom, maybe a little bit of outdoor space, might be … Gerard didn’t like change, though. She knew that about him.

So, in the meantime, she was doing agency work, filling in for sick or absent auxiliaries wherever she was required, often at only minutes’ notice. It had a reputation of being easy money, but Rosie knew now that it was the opposite. It was a grind – everyone used the agency staff to do the absolutely crappiest jobs that they might ordinarily have had to do themselves – the travelling was murder, she often worked double shifts with no days off in between, and every day was like the first day at school, when everyone else knew where things were and how everything worked, and you were left scrabbling in their wake, desperately trying to catch up.

Then, that day, the phone rang.

‘Darling!’

Rosie’s mother Angie – there was only twenty-two years between them, so sometimes she was Mum and sometimes she was Angie, depending on whether Rosie felt like the younger or the older person in the conversation – still, after two years, found it difficult sometimes to coordinate telephone calls from Australia.

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