Home > Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #2)(10)

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #2)(10)
Jenny Colgan

‘Oh my God,’ she breathed.

‘My mother’s been,’ said Stephen neutrally.

‘I told her we didn’t want a dog,’ said Rosie, feeling she had to get her defence in first. But she couldn’t help it, her curiosity was piqued. She knelt down and stared at the little creature. It had misty blue eyes and was basically a gigantic ball of grey fluff.

‘Well of course we want a DOG,’ said Stephen. ‘This isn’t a DOG. It’s a MOP.’

Rosie held out her hand. The tiny thing crept out to sniff at it and she smiled encouragingly. Stephen braced himself against the door frame and opened the wine bottle with a large popping noise.

‘She said it was one of Bran’s. She didn’t say she hadn’t studded him. He’s obviously got some tarty mongrel bitch up the duff. This dog can’t work, it’s completely useless. My mother is such a witch.’

But alas, it was too late. Rosie had scooped the ball of fluff into her arms and buried her nose in it. The puppy was wriggling and squirming with pleasure.

‘Who’s a big beautiful boy, then? Hm? Who’s a lovely boy?’

‘Just as well you don’t want a dog,’ said Stephen, pouring two large glasses. ‘Mother said you were dead against it.’

‘But it didn’t stop her,’ muttered Rosie, completely entranced by the little creature.

‘It would be nice to have one of Bran’s offspring,’ said Stephen. ‘Not this one, though.’

Rosie clutched the puppy tighter.

‘What on earth are you talking about? He’s gorgeous.’

The dog obligingly licked her hand.

‘I’ll get Mother to take him back.’

‘You will not,’ said Rosie crossly.

Stephen looked at her with a mixture of fondness and exasperation.

‘But you don’t even want a dog, and this is a rubbish dog!’

‘Ssh,’ said Rosie, putting her hands over his tiny silken ears. ‘He can hear you.’

‘You said you didn’t know what a dog would do all day.’

‘Guard the shop?’

‘Please!’

‘Stay out in the garden?’

‘I don’t think so. I’ll take it back.’

‘NO!’ Rosie felt the little rough pink tongue licking her hand. ‘No. We’ll think of something.’ She realised this was one of the many, many things she was adding to her list of things to sort out in her head later, but she didn’t care.

They sat down. Rosie ate one-handed whilst stroking the dog on her lap.

‘We’ll need a name for him.’

‘You know you can’t eat with a dog on your lap. It’s unhygienic and will give him bad habits.’

‘He’s not a dog! He’s a tiny little baby.’

The dog whined obligingly and Rosie gave him a little bit of stew.

‘Rosie Hopkins, put that dog down immediately! You’re both filthy animals!’

‘Shan’t!’ said Rosie.

‘In that case I’m going to have to do things to you that aren’t appropriate in front of minors.’

Rosie squealed and jumped up as Stephen attempted to smack her bum from the other side of the table, hopping nimbly out of his way.

‘I can’t believe our entire life together is predicated on you trying to hit me with that stick,’ she said as she went through to put the kettle on. ‘It’s like Fifty Shades of Earl Grey.’

Later, she made up a little bed for the dog, still unnamed – Rosie was finding it hard to resist the urge to call him ‘Fluffy’ or ‘Rainbow’ and Stephen would narrow his eyes at her and say that if they absolutely had to keep the common mongrel mutt, there was nothing wrong with ‘Monty’ or ‘Archibald’, and they hadn’t managed to agree yet, so she was calling him Mr Dog in the interim. He whined a little, but as she wrapped him up in the old red blanket that she’d stolen off a holiday flight a long time ago in the distant past when she used to take actual holidays, he quietened down, and nodded off to sleep in his little doggy way.

‘I want to congratulate you on putting up with the awful, terrible concept of having a dog,’ said Stephen as they went up to bed.

‘I still can’t believe you were just going to go ahead and get one when you knew I didn’t want one,’ grumbled Rosie sleepily.

‘Because I don’t actually know you at all and thus took you completely at your word when you were so adamant you didn’t want one.’ He gently slung his arm around her neck, which was his way of pretending it wasn’t useful to him to have a little help going up the narrow pull-down stairs to their room.

‘Oh,’ said Rosie, feeling his chest against hers, and wondered if this moment, as he nuzzled her neck, when they were so very close, would be the right time to drop the bomb that six of her very, very noisy relatives were descending on their little idyll for Christmas. Oh, it was weeks away, she thought. Plenty of time.

Chapter Four

But there was not, as it turned out, plenty of time at all. Two things happened in Lipton – one small, one big – which were to change the situation faster than any of them had ever thought possible.

Firstly, two weeks later, the snow still hadn’t stopped falling. All the online shopping places had given up delivering, which was agitating, Rosie realised, because her winter wardrobe, even in her second winter in Lipton, was still inadequate; in London, after all, you were never really more than two minutes from a boiling hot tube or bus journey. Last year she’d eventually been forced to splash out on a parka that had made Moray laugh, hard, for longer than was strictly necessary and tell her she looked like a small child playing at being a Dalek, and this year she really needed gloves and a scarf and a hat that actually matched, given that she was going to be wearing them for a reasonable proportion of the day, every day. And suddenly Malik’s principle of stocking the Spar with as much tinned food as was possible made a lot of sense; Stephen made them buy lots, and bottled water in case the pipes froze up, which Rosie thought was very over the top, and quite exciting, even though Stephen warned her that it absolutely wasn’t, at all.

Rosie shook her head.

‘No,’ she said. ‘Me and Mr Dog take it very seriously indeed, don’t we, Mr Dog?’ And she made his little head shake.

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