Home > Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #2)(5)

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #2)(5)
Jenny Colgan

The bell above the door, taken apart, degunked and cleaned, now made a healthy ting when rung, which it did now. Rosie, distracted with counting change from the till, hardly glanced up until she saw who it was.

‘Good morning, Edison!’

Edison was the son of Hester and Arthur Felling-Jackson. His mother was terribly up on all the latest fads in childcare, which meant she had been utterly horrified when he had befriended Rosie, with her refined sugary ways (although not too horrified to let Rosie take care of him whenever she was out at yoga classes). This morning he was wearing a coat, with an ethnic scarf wrapped tightly around the bottom half of his face, nearly coming up to his glasses, and the kind of ridiculous hat people bought when experimenting with substances at music festivals. Rosie wished Hester would just let him wear clothes like the other kids, it might help him make a friend. Plus, it made him a little difficult to understand.

‘How’s your mum doing?’

Edison’s mother was pregnant again. She had announced this by sending a round-robin email declaring that she was ‘with Mother Gaia’, so no one had known what she meant until she started appearing with a noticeable bump. It was difficult to tell how pregnant she was, however, as she had started pushing out her stomach and huffing and groaning from about two months on, so it seemed to Rosie she had now been pregnant for about two and a half years.

Edison sighed. He was a very literal child.

‘I don’t want to watch.’

‘You don’t want to watch what?’

‘I don’t want to watch the baby coming out.’

Rosie raised an eyebrow.

‘Well that’s okay,’ she said, her hand going out instinctively to the strawberry bootlaces she knew he loved. ‘I’m sure Hester won’t make you if you don’t want to.’

Edison looked at the floor.

‘She says I need to understand Patacky.’

‘Patacky?’

‘Why men are naughty to women ALL THE TIME.’

Rosie thought for a bit. It was still early. She sipped the coffee she’d brought in in her special Scrabble mug.

‘Do you mean “patriarchy”?’

‘Yes!’ said Edison. ‘That’s what I said.’

‘So she’s going to make you watch… hmm.’

Rosie decided under the circumstances just to get back to organising her new line of chocolate animals.

‘Did you know babies come out of baginas?’ said Edison.

‘I did know that,’ said Rosie, although she also knew that her elder niece Kelly referred to it as a foofoo. She supposed Hester’s way made more sense.

Edison sighed sadly.

‘Are you going to have a baby?’ he asked. ‘Out of your bagina?’

Rosie nearly dropped some of the chocolate animals.

‘Well if I ever do,’ she said, ‘I promise you don’t have to watch.’

‘Good,’ said Edison. He glanced at the chocolate animals.

‘No,’ said Rosie. ‘It’s too early. Edison, can I ask you a favour?’

Edison frowned.

‘Do I have to go on a march?’

‘No.’

‘Okay.’

Rosie bent down. He was getting taller, she noticed, and needed a haircut. His glasses were smeared. She didn’t quite understand why cleaning Edison’s glasses was against Hester’s principles, but she took them off him and set about with a wipe.

‘Now, do you know what’s happening at school today?’

Edison shrugged.

‘Some kids will be mean to me because of my superior intlechew?’

‘Uhm, possibly,’ said Rosie. ‘Learn to clean your own glasses, please.’

She handed them back to him and he blinked, looking surprised at how clear the world seemed.

‘No,’ said Rosie. ‘You have a new teacher starting.’

‘Oh yes!’ said Edison. ‘Mr Lakeman. He hops. Does he hit people with his stick?’

‘Is that what you think?’ said Rosie, appalled. ‘No. He has to use the stick to walk sometimes.’

‘It’s not a hitting stick?’

‘Edison, you have never been hit in your life. You have to stop worrying about things.’

Edison’s brow furrowed.

‘It’s a very big stick.’

‘Can we forget about the stick, please? All I was going to say is, it’s his first day. Do you remember your first day at school?’

‘Every day is like my first day,’ said Edison, sadly.

‘Okay,’ said Rosie. ‘Well, it’s Ste… Mr Lakeman’s first day. So can you be very nice and kind to him, please?’

‘I’m always nice to teachers,’ said Edison in surprise. ‘Even when they say, “PLEASE put your hand down, Edison, I think we’ve all heard enough now.”’ He did a surprisingly accurate imitation of Mrs Archer, Stephen’s predecessor. Rosie smiled.

‘Okay, good,’ she said. ‘He’s lucky to have you in his class.’

There were only two classes at the little village school, under and over sevens, with around fifteen children in each. The local council talked from time to time about bussing them out to Carningford, the nearest town, but the village was dead set against it. The school house, next to the church, dated back to Victorian times and had high windows and a pitched roof with a bell, and two entrances with ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ carved in stone. There was a hopscotch outline painted on the playground concrete and a Portakabin for music and art, i.e. making gigantic amounts of noise and mess. Playtime could be heard all the way up the main street.

Rosie compared it, sometimes wistfully, to the school she had gone to in London, which had had a locking door and a tiny playground and hundreds of huge kids everywhere kicking out at other kids. Here, the great hills cast shadows in the winter sunlight and the children tore out at the end of the day in their blue sweatshirts, satchels flying, charging home to run about with the friends they’d known all their lives, on farms or big meadows. Rosie wished Edison realised what a lovely place it was to grow up.

The phone rang in the shop. They had kept the original, with the heavy old rotary dial. Lilian didn’t want to get rid of it, which meant that whenever Rosie wanted to call someone, she always did it on her mobile phone for the speaker, and that was annoying because Lipton’s signal was erratic to say the least. In fact, she thought, that was probably Lilian now. She’d got her a mobile phone with enormous buttons that didn’t do anything except make phone calls. The shop was speed dial 1, and the price plan she was on allowed free local calls. This meant in practice that quite often Lilian would just call and leave her phone on speaker, occasionally chipping in with her remarks on the business of the shop. Newcomers to the village found the disembodied voice rather alarming, particularly when it was recommending them which liquorice to buy or telling Rosie off for over-ordering watermelon-flavoured candy that nobody liked. But everyone else was used to it; it was just Lilian, and most people had a friendly word for her as they came in and out.

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