Home > Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(3)

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(3)
Jenny Colgan

When Rosie called, early in the morning was usually best, but sometimes she caught her mum and her younger brother Pip at the thin end of a long afternoon’s barbecuing and beer-drinking in the sunshine, and the children would be yelling down the phone too. Rosie felt sorry for them – she’d only seen Shane, Kelly and Meridian once and they were constantly forced to make conversation with their auntie Rosie, who for all they knew might have a huge wart and grey hair – and it was tricky to chat. But now, with Gerard having his pudding, a large bowl of Frosties, it wasn’t a bad time at all.

‘Hi, Mum.’

Four, Rosie had recently found herself thinking darkly. Four. That’s how many of her friends had met someone and got married during the period she and Gerard had been dating, before they’d even moved in together. And she’d ignored every single alarm bell. She’d been young and carefree when they met, it seemed now (though at the time she’d been desperate to meet someone). Looking at it today, from the wrong side of thirty, the idea that all that time and all that love might not be leading anywhere sometimes gave her vertigo.

Rosie had heard her family all talk about the good life down in Oz, the swimming pools in the back gardens and the lovely weather and the fresh fish. Her mother, whose patience was constantly stretched by Pip’s three children, and whose unflattering opinions on Gerard (not Gerard himself, he was perfectly pleasant, but his seeming unwillingness to marry, provide for and impregnate her only daughter, preferably all by last Thursday) she rarely hesitated to share, was always trying to persuade her down under for a year or so, but Rosie loved London. Always had.

She loved its bustling sense of being in the middle of things; its people, all nationalities, hugger-mugger on the crowded streets; theatre and exhibition openings (although she never went to any); great historic monuments (although she never visited them). She had absolutely no desire to give up her life and move halfway around the world to where, she was sure, cleaning old people’s bums was much the same and cleaning her nieces’ bums for free would be thrown in.

‘Darling, I have a proposition for you.’

Angie sounded excited. Rosie groaned mentally.

‘I can’t work down under, remember? I don’t have the qualifications or the points or whatever it is,’ she’d said.

‘Ha, oh well, who cares about that,’ said her mother, as if there was no connection between her dad leaving and her failing half her A levels that year. ‘Anyway, it’s something else.’

‘And I don’t want to … be a nanny.’

According to comprehensive emails from her mum, Shane was a thug, Kelly was a princess and Meridian was developing an eating disorder at the age of four. And since she’d moved in with Gerard and they’d got a mortgage, Rosie hadn’t been able to save even the tiniest bit of her salary. She couldn’t afford the ticket in a million years.

‘I don’t think so. Mum, I’m thirty-one! I think it’s time I stood on my own two feet, don’t you?’

‘Well, it’s not that,’ Angie said. ‘This is something else. Something quite different. It’s not us, darling. It’s Lilian.’

Chapter Two

Fudge

The facts are that fudge (and its northern, crunchy variant, tablet) appears to be an addictive substance and should be handled with extreme care. Overconsumption will result in illness and premature death.* There are those who say that eating a tangerine or other citrus fruit when one first starts to become nauseous will freshen the digestive system and allow it to consume yet more fudge: these people are pushers and enablers and should be avoided. Fudge should also be eaten in private, as the ideal method of consumption (inserting three large pieces into the left-hand, right-hand and central areas of the mouth simultaneously, then allowing them to warm and melt there) is considered impolite in many societies.

Here are the acceptable flavourings for fudge: none. Are you talking nonsense? Fudge as a flavour is one of the most divine creations in the pantheon of human endeavour. Would you colour in a Picasso? Would you add a disco beat to Fauré’s Requiem? No? So keep out the vanilla and, heaven help us, raisins. There is a time and a place for a raisin. It is called ‘in the bin’. As for liqueur fudge, it is an aberration of a level undreamed of …

1942

Lilian Hopkins charged over the meadow slightly nervously, past shadows lengthening from the golden haystacks on the other side, and the gently waving avenue of elms. She wasn’t sure if young Isitt’s bull was in his shed or not, and didn’t want anyone to see her running. He was an easygoing old thing, everyone said so. She just didn’t like the way he blew smoke out of his nose and swerved unpredictably, that was all.

Her heart sank as she saw a familiar outline sitting on the stile smoking and openly staring at her, and she picked up her skirts crossly. He didn’t put out an arm to help her up, which was annoying, because if he had she could have made a remark about his impertinence. This was actually rather more impertinent, but she certainly wasn’t going to point that out.

‘Excuse me,’ she said, lifting the pail. ‘I need to get on.’

Henry didn’t budge an inch.

‘I think I’d like to watch you climb over the stile.’

‘You will do nothing of the sort,’ said Lilian, flushing.

‘Why were you walking so strangely out there anyway?’

‘I was not.’

‘You was. I saw you.’

‘Well, stop spying on folks then.’

‘I don’t spy on folks,’ said Henry infuriatingly. ‘Anyone walks that strangely over a field, half the place is going to notice. You’re not scared of young Isitt’s bull?’

‘No!’

Henry smiled, then his face changed to sudden shock. ‘Oh here he comes now, right galloping fury.’

Lilian leapt up on to the stile and spilled half the contents of her pail. ‘Where?’

But Henry had nearly toppled back off the stile with glee, and, chuckling, headed off down the lane towards the village, leaving her in the empty field, crossly climbing the stile alone and muttering to herself about rude herd boys all the way to the shop.

He was in on Saturday too, while she was serving. The children were in with their ration cards and tightly clutched tuppences. They liked to take their time to choose, marvelling at the glass jars reflecting the light through the small windows, the colours of the humbugs and the twisted golden barley sugar. The young farm men would come in, sleeves rolled up to show off brown arms and ruddy necks, scrubbed and shaved for the village dance, spending their wages on the velvet-trimmed heart-shaped boxes for their sweethearts. At sixteen, Lilian felt it was well past time for her to find a sweetheart. Not one of the village boys though, with their mucky boots and teasing. Hugo Stirling, the largest farmer’s son, perhaps, when he came back from college. He was the handsomest boy in the village. She smiled wryly. By the time he got back from York, it wasn’t very likely he’d be looking for a shop girl. More likely Margaret Millar, whose father owned the next farm over. It would make much more sense to join up the land, even if Margaret had one eye that looked at you and one that looked at the floor, and had even worn a pair of spectacles that hadn’t improved a thing, and was always trying to put her hand on her forehead like you wouldn’t notice anything. She wore the most expensive dresses and told everyone how much they cost and how her mother had had them made up for her in Derby, rather than going to Mrs Coltiss like everyone else.

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