Home > Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(6)

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(6)
Jenny Colgan

‘Number seven. I don’t want to. I’m not sure that’s going to cut it. Anyway. Lots of good reasons that don’t make me a really selfish person.’

‘You forgot number eight, me,’ said Gerard, who had nearly finished his ice-cream cone and was looking thoughtfully at the van.

‘No I didn’t,’ said Rosie. ‘But you, I figure, could look after yourself for a few weeks.’

In fact, though she wouldn’t have admitted it under torture, Rosie had kind of thought, given that Gerard had come straight from his mum’s house to their own flat and seemed to treat it in very much the same way, that one positive thing might come out of this: a few weeks of doing his own laundry and paying the bills himself might be good for him. Angie told her off all the time for babying him, which was hilarious, because Angie babied Pip so much she’d actually moved right across the world to work as his unpaid skivvy, whereas Rosie sometimes felt lucky if Angie managed to remember her birthday. That would have been the only positive side of such an arrangement. If she was going to go. Which she wasn’t.

‘So what did she say to that? To your list?’

They were walking along the South Bank together, clutching their ice creams and flying saucers – Gerard had explained he needed another one because he didn’t get a flake first time round – and looking at the artists and the people out promenading, riding bikes and pushing buggies. On the riverbank in London, Rosie leaned against the railings over the Thames. Boatloads of tourists were going up and down, taking snaps. The view was incredible: the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, all the way round the curve of the river to St Paul’s Cathedral. Bathed in golden high-summer light, the city was stunningly beautiful, full of young families enjoying the day; long-limbed young couples in matching sunglasses heading towards art galleries; happy groups of Italian teenagers whacking each other with their rucksacks. Rosie felt so happy to be a part of it; to be a tiny cog in the buzzing, brilliant wheel of their city.

‘Well …’ said Rosie.

Gerard sighed. ‘Oh, come on. You’re not being soft?’

‘Well, it is family …’

‘Did Angie kick your arse?’

‘It’s not about being soft,’ said Rosie. ‘It’s about … well. I’m only agency at the moment. And it’s family.’

‘Hasn’t she got any kids of her own that can do it?’ said Gerard. ‘It’s not very fair that it’s you, you don’t even know her.’

‘I know, but.’

‘Did you even give your mum the big long selfish speech with all those number things in it that you just gave me?’

Rosie felt an idiotic wimp. Her mother was always telling her to be more assertive with Gerard (or ‘the ring-dodger’, as she liked to call him). Gerard was always telling her to be more assertive with her mother. Ironic, as he still called his mother Mummy and they had lunch there every Sunday because Rosie couldn’t possibly make roast pork as well as his mother could, which Rosie had to agree with as she could rarely spend two hours perfecting crackling, although just the odd Sunday off every now and again would have been nice. Even if they’d been having a tricky time and Gerard had slept through his work alarm because he’d been up all night playing Portal or he’d spent the holiday money on trainers, she still had to sit there every seven days and listen to the usual litany of what a genius Gerard was and how brilliantly he’d done at school and how much everyone always liked him and how successful he was. At first Rosie had found this endearing, how close they were, mother and son. Now, she wasn’t too sure. Gerard’s mother’s subtext always seemed to be, ‘With me, he is perfect. Don’t you dare ruin it.’ And Gerard would sit there, refusing to eat his vegetables – at thirty-six – and basking in the admiration. The most easygoing of men, the one total no-go area for teasing was, undoubtedly, his mum.

‘Well, I know, but I have the training, and no, she never got married or anything.’

‘Oh. Lesbo,’ said Gerard.

‘No, I don’t think so … well, maybe. But I think she was just – Christ, she must be ancient. I think all the men went off to the war and got killed and then there was nobody left.’

‘Did she get really fat and spotty on all those sweets?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Rosie. ‘I don’t know anything about her. Except she needs help and I’m her—’

‘Lackey,’ said Gerard.

‘No, I mean relation-wise.’

‘Yeah, what are you?’

‘I’m her great-niece,’ said Rosie.

‘Great-niece?’ said Gerard, dobbing her on the nose with ice cream. Rosie laughed but wiped it off, still thinking.

‘You never know,’ said Gerard. ‘Maybe she’s got thousands in a box under the stairs and she’ll make you her heir.’

‘Ha,’ said Rosie. ‘That’s right, someone in our family with money. Hilarious. Anyway, I know for a fact she hasn’t, because that’s why I’m going: she’s had to run that crumbling old sweetshop for ages, years after she should have retired. I think if there was a big box stuffed with money she might have used some of it to get hold of a nurse and get herself into a decent home.’

‘Mmm,’ said Gerard. ‘But how long for?’

Rosie shrugged.

‘Well … I mean, I can apply for jobs, obviously, while I’m up there. But I need to get a buyer for the shop, find her a home, check she’s all right then sign something with a lawyer, so the money from the shop goes straight to the nursing home. With a little bit for me for expenses, Angie says, to pay for my time. There’s a house with the shop, so it should be a useful bit of cash if I can sort it all out.’

‘That sounds like shitloads of work,’ said Gerard, ‘in the middle of bloody nowhere. With some old bag who doesn’t know you from Adam and will hardly pay you anything.’

‘I know, I know,’ said Rosie, sighing. ‘What could I do? You know what Angie’s like.’

‘She lives in Australia,’ said Gerard. ‘What’s she going to do, attack you by satellite-phone death ray?’

‘I know. Maybe I should try saying no again. Will you come and visit me?’

‘No chance! I’m allergic to the countryside, and they don’t have KFC.’

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