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

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

‘No!’

‘Budge!’

‘NO!’

Rosie began to wrestle with him, avoiding, as ever, his weaker left leg, until eventually Stephen suggested that if she really needed warming up, he had a plan, and she found that she liked that plan.

Afterwards, now cosy (as long as her feet didn’t stray to the far regions of the mattress; if she didn’t think it would turn Stephen off for ever, she would have worn bed socks), she felt herself drifting off to sleep, or she would have done if Stephen hadn’t been lying so rigid next to her. He was pretending to be asleep, but she wasn’t fooled for a second.

Still distracted by the heavy weather, she turned round to face him in the moonlight. Rosie liked to see the moon, and the countryside was so dark they rarely closed the curtains, a novelty she was so keen on it made Stephen laugh, as if it were a house feature. Stephen looked back at her. Rosie had curly black hair that she was always trying to wrestle into straight submission, but he loved it when it curled, as it did now, wild and cloudy around her face. Her eyes were direct and green, her face freckled. Her skin glowed pale, her curvy body lit by the moonlight. He couldn’t resist running his hand round her waist to her generous hips. He could never understand for a minute why Rosie worried about her weight, when her body was so voluptuous and lovely.

‘Mm,’ he said.

‘What’s up with you?’ asked Rosie.

‘I’m fine,’ said Stephen. ‘And don’t look at me.That wasn’t an “I’m fine” I’m fine. That was an “actually I am TOTALLY fine” I’m fine.’

‘That one’s even worse.’

‘Ssh.’

Rosie glanced towards the window.

‘It’s weird out there.’

‘That’s what you said the night you heard the owl.’

‘Come on, owls are really scary.’

‘As opposed to drive-by shootings in London?’

‘Shut it.’ Rosie did her proper cockney voice that rarely failed to make him laugh, but she could see in the light, as her fingers traced his strong brow, his thick dark hair flopping on his forehead, his long eyelashes, that he wasn’t even smiling.

‘It’s just kids.’

‘I know.’

Stephen had been waiting for a job to come free at the local school for a while. He had only ever taught overseas, so had been considered underqualified and sent off to do his time in various schools, including one in central Derby that had taught him a bit, but nonetheless he was still nervous about tomorrow.

‘So what are you worried about?’

‘Because I’m not just their new teacher, am I? They all know who I am.’

Stephen was from the local family of landed gentry. Even though he’d rejected everything they stood for, and broken from his parents – he had now made up with his mother, after his father had died of a heart attack – his every doing was subject to constant speculation in the village. Rosie also got her fair share of snotty gossip for going out with him, as several local worthies had had him in mind for their own daughters, but she kept this from him as much as possible.

‘Well that’s good,’ she argued. ‘All the young mums fancy you and all the kids think you’re Bruce Wayne.’

‘Or they all still think I’m a sulky pretentious teen,’ said Stephen sorrowfully.

‘Well that’s okay too,’ said Rosie. ‘You’ll get on well with the kids.’

She could tell he was still wearing the brooding expression.

‘We should definitely have had this conversation before we had sex,’ she said. ‘Then the relaxing bit could have come later.’

The moonlight caught a glint in his eye.

‘Well, maybe…’

She grinned at him.

‘You know, for a wounded war dog, the Right Hon. Lipton, you still have some moves…’

Just as he moved towards her, however, she leapt up out of bed.

‘Snow!’ she shouted. ‘Look at the snow!’

Stephen turned his head and groaned.

‘Oh no,’ he said.

‘Look at it!’ said Rosie, heedless of the cold. ‘Just look at it!’

The previous winter in Lipton, after an early flurry, it had simply rained all winter; they had had hardly any snow at all. Now here it was, great big fat flakes falling softly all down the road, quickly covering it with a blanket of white.

‘It’s settling!’ shouted Rosie.

‘Of course it’s settling,’ said Stephen. ‘This is the Peak District, not Dubai.’

Nonetheless, with a sigh of resignation, he got up and pulled the eiderdown off the bed and padded across the cold wooden floor to Rosie, wrapping them both up in it. The snow flurried and danced in the air, the stars peeking out between the flakes, the mountains great dark looming silhouettes in the distance.

‘I’ve never seen snow like this,’ said Rosie. ‘Well, not that’s lasted.’

‘It’s bad,’ said Stephen soberly. ‘It’s very early. Lambing was late this year; they’ll need looking out for. And no one can get around. It’s treacherous for the old folks; they don’t clear the roads up here, you know. People get trapped for weeks. We’re barely stocked up, and we’re in town.’

Rosie blinked. She’d never thought of snow as a serious matter before. In Hackney it was five minutes of prettiness that bunged up all the trains then degenerated quickly into mucky, splashy roads, dog poo smeared into sleet and big grey slushy puddles. This silent remaking of the world filled her with awe.

‘If it blocks the pass road… well, that’s when we all have to resort to cannibalism,’ said Stephen, baring his teeth in the moonlight.

‘Well I love it,’ she whispered. ‘Jake’s going to drop us off some wood, he said.’

‘Ahem,’ said Stephen, coughing.

‘What?’

‘Well,’ said Stephen, ‘he’ll probably be nicking it from somewhere that belongs to my family in the first place.’

‘It’s just ridiculous that a family owns a whole wood,’ said Rosie.

‘Ridiculous or not, I can get Laird to deliver it for nothing,’ said Stephen. ‘Seeing as it’s, you know. Ours.’

‘Yeah yeah yeah. Because your great-grandad times a jillion shagged a princess by accident,’ said Rosie, whose interest in Stephen’s ancestry was hazy. ‘Whatever.’

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