Home > Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(5)

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(5)
Jenny Colgan

‘Wow! I do remember! It was rubbish, having a relative who ran a sweetshop but we never got to go there. Is she still alive?’

‘Rosie!’ said Angie reprovingly, as if she’d been popping in to visit Lilian every week for the last twenty years.

Lilian was Angie’s aunt, the spinster sister of Mum’s beloved dad Gordon, and she lived in the village in Derbyshire her family came from, for reasons completely uninteresting to an eight-year-old who’d just overdosed on liquorice allsorts.

‘She must be a hundred,’ said Rosie absently.

‘Mid-eighties,’ said her mum. ‘Definitely getting on a bit. Although she was always one of those spinstery women who look old from about forty. Not that you’ll be like that,’ she added, hastily. Rosie hadn’t actually been thinking that, but it was nice of Angie to give her a complex about it. Since Angie had moved to Australia she’d come over all Kath and Kim and got into aquarobics and bleaching her hair and wearing Lycra pastels and having a deep tan, which had the effect of making her look simultaneously much older and much younger than fifty-three.

‘But she still writes. And she sent sweets for the monsters, even though you know how sugar exacerbates Kelly’s asthma, and chocolate sends Meridian hyper.’

Rosie started boiling up the kettle. ‘But why are you telling me this, Mum?’

‘Well,’ said her mother. She paused. This wasn’t like Angie at all, who if she needed something tended to holler about it. ‘Here’s the thing.’

‘Mmmm?’

Rosie had a sudden premonition this might be like the time Angie tried to get her to diagnose Kelly down the phone. Only a bit worse.

‘The thing is, Rosie, she’s in a spot of bother. And you’re the only one in the family who …’ Angie left the sentence unfinished. She didn’t have to finish it for Rosie to feel instantly cross.

‘Who what? Who doesn’t have a job? Who doesn’t have any children? Who doesn’t have a husband to look after?’

Rosie knew what people thought about her. It was a very sensitive spot. Why did she let her lovely mum always wind her up?

‘OK, calm down,’ said Angie. ‘Darling, you know I didn’t mean it like that. But.’

‘But what?’ said Rosie, conscious that she sounded like a truculent teenager. So Angie explained.

‘So of course you said no.’

Rosie had bought Gerard an ice cream straight away. She saw to her pleasure that the kiosk also stocked flying saucers. She loved the interplay between the tasteless exterior and the sharp hit of sherbet inside them, and ordered some immediately. It was only the promise of ice cream that could force Gerard out on a Grand Prix day, even a glorious summer Sunday like this one. He really wanted to stay inside with the curtains drawn and watch cars racing round a track, then play a computer game that involved cars racing round a track.

Rosie wanted to tell herself not to worry, she had loads of friends she could go and visit by herself, but the problem was that over the last year or two those loads of friends had all started sprogging their heads off like there was some terrible shortage of babies in London. They would either be having ‘family time’, which sounded gruesome, or they’d be at some horrible gastropub trying to eat a relaxing meal while mopping up vomit, growling at each other as to who was the most tired and who had changed the last nappy, and trying to get a forkful of food into their own mouths while frantically jiggling a baby and talking about how it was either the greatest thing ever or the worst thing ever and often both at once. Rosie liked babies, she really did, but by the time her new-parent friends got round to asking her how she was doing it was almost always in the form of ‘So, when are you and Gerard going to have one of these?’ and she’d got tired of brushing aside the question. Gerard wasn’t at all tired of brushing it aside. He liked to say, ‘Ha, Rosie’s already got one big kid to look after.’ Then he’d laugh. Heartily.

‘Where’s my flake?’

‘I didn’t get you a flake,’ said Rosie, trying not to look at his ever-growing paunch. It didn’t matter, she told herself. She wasn’t a model, was she? Everyone got older.

‘Hmm,’ said Gerard. There was a pause. ‘I wanted a flake.’

The more Angie had explained it to Rosie – there had been several phone calls and a long and emotionally punctuated email – the crosser and more hemmed-in Rosie had felt. The situation was this: Lilian, who had apparently been happily living a quiet life in a sweetshop in Lipton for several thousand years, had suffered a bad fall and needed a hip replacement. Whereupon it had turned out that perhaps she hadn’t been living a perfect life after all, that there was almost no money left, that it looked like the shop wasn’t even open, and there was no one to look after her. As she hadn’t (‘selfishly’ snorted Angie, and Rosie had reproved her at once) had any children, it fell on the rest of the family, which couldn’t be Angie or Pip in Australia, or Angie’s brothers who were retired or point-blank refused, and all their kids had families of their own – yes, all of them, Rosie was delighted to learn. In short, Lilian needed to be cared for and put in a home, and her shop and the attached house needed to be sorted out and put on the market and sold to pay for the aforementioned home. And was there a single unemployed nurse in the family?

‘I’m not single, I’m not unemployed and I’m not a nurse, I’m an auxiliary nurse,’ Rosie had retorted. ‘Apart from that, spot on.’

‘So,’ said Rosie to Gerard, ‘here are the reasons I can’t go. And you have to listen to all of them and not just say, “You’re being very selfish, Rosemary,” hundreds of times like everybody else has.’

‘Hmm,’ said Gerard, trying to pretend to be listening.

‘Number one, I live here, and I’m looking for a new job of my own.

‘Number two, summer is in full swing and I don’t want to miss lots of cool outdoor stuff.

‘Number three, I don’t know anything about running a shop or selling a shop or any kind of business at all.

‘Number four, if I wanted to be an unpaid nurse I’d still be doing my old job, ha ha ha.

‘Number five, I don’t even know this woman. What if she has dementia and starts knocking me around?

‘Number six, she’s Angie’s aunt. She should do it, I’ve only met Lilian a couple of times.

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