Home > Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #2)(6)

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #2)(6)
Jenny Colgan

‘Hey,’ said Rosie, casually. There was static on the line, and somebody yelling. Somebody yelling down the phone was not at all uncommon; it meant that her mother, Angie, was phoning from Australia. As far as Rosie could ascertain, her brother Pip’s three unruly children used any instance of Angie being distracted to attempt to slaughter each other with kitchen knives.

‘G’day,’ said Angie, who had adopted an unaccountable Australian accent despite only having lived there for two years.

‘Hi, Mum,’ said Rosie, glancing at her watch. ‘Isn’t it, like, ten p.m. there?’

‘Yup.’

‘Why are the children still up? You never let me and Pip stay up.’

‘Oh, you know…’

‘Have they been locking you in the linen cupboard again? Mum, you HAVE to get tough with them.’

‘It’s three against one,’ said her mother. ‘And Desleigh thinks they’re fine.’

Rosie didn’t know her sister-in-law very well, just that she worked long hours and when she wasn’t working she liked a lot of what she called ‘me time’, which seemed to involve Angie being left with the children at weekends whilst Desleigh had spa treatments.

‘So,’ said her mother, ‘I was thinking. About Christmas?’

‘We can’t, Mum,’ said Rosie sadly. She would have loved to go to Sydney to see her family, but they were limited to Stephen’s holidays, and the shop couldn’t run itself and they couldn’t really afford the tickets and…

‘We’re coming!’

Rosie swallowed hard.

‘You’re what?’

‘We’re coming. We’re all coming to have Christmas in Lipton. And to see you and Lilian!’

‘ALL of you?’

‘Yis!’

Rosie paused for merely a millisecond as the huge and complex implications of doing this suddenly raced across her brain. Not a single sensible response presented itself, but all the myriad problems were completely overshadowed by her desperate desire to see her family.

‘That is a BRILLIANT idea,’ she said.

Rosie spent the rest of the morning serving customers in a daze, and got the red and black kola cubes mixed up twice. She was desperate to see her mother; she had felt so abandoned when Angie had left the country. On the other hand, what were they going to do with Shane, Kelly and Meridian in Lipton? They were used to swimming pools and beach parties and amazing fish caught fresh from the sea… It was entirely possible that it would rain here for three weeks solid like it had last Christmas, and unless you liked wet-weather hiking, or going to see the new Waitrose in Derby, there really wasn’t a massive amount going on. By which, she realised, she meant nothing going on. This was the country, it was quiet; her mother was always going on about all the amazing things Sydney had to offer, and the fabulous weather and…

Rosie was just working herself up into a bit of a state when the door tinged and Lady Lipton walked in. She and Rosie had always had something of a tricky relationship, although Henrietta was a dear friend of Lilian’s, and of course she was Stephen’s mother, so Rosie always felt she should make more of an effort. Before Stephen had gone off to work in Africa, he had had a terrible row with his father and his mother had taken his father’s side. While Stephen was in the military hospital in Africa, his father had had a heart attack and died. Stephen’s relationship with his mother had been very up and down ever since.

Today, Lady Lipton was looking even more imperious than normal.

‘Cough drops?’ said Rosie promptly, even though she knew that Lady Lipton fed them to her dogs, which she shouldn’t really do. A flash of panic grabbed at her: what if Lady Lipton didn’t like Angie? Angie had absolutely no problem telling people exactly what she thought of them, and if she believed this woman wasn’t being nice to her daughter, there was no telling what she would do. And, thought Rosie with a sinking heart, how would Stephen behave? She loved him with every fibre of her being, but he wasn’t like her ex, Gerard, who liked to please and get along with everyone. Stephen’s family had been always been a bit wobbly, and joining in communal games and meals would not be the kind of thing he would want to do at all… Oh Lord.

‘What’s the matter with you?’ said Lady Lipton. ‘You look like someone’s just thrown up on your slippers. Are you pregnant?’

Sometimes, thought Rosie, living in a small village where everybody knew everybody else’s business was not at all what it was cracked up to be, especially when that knowledge was wrong.

‘No,’ she said.

‘Oh, good,’ said Lady Lipton, without indicating whether this was because she didn’t approve of Rosie being with her boy. ‘Now listen. Wonderful news! Bran’s had a litter!’

‘I thought he was a boy dog.’

Lady Lipton looked at her scornfully.

‘He’s SIRED a litter.’

‘So, more cough drops then?’

‘And,’ went on Lady Lipton, ‘I’m giving one to you and Stephen. As a Christmas present.’

‘I thought you couldn’t give dogs as Christmas presents,’ said Rosie, shocked.

‘Yes, it’s political correctness gone mad,’ said Lady Lipton, which was her stock response to literally anything on earth that wasn’t exactly how it had been when she was eleven years old. ‘Anyway, would you prefer a dog or a bitch?’

‘But we don’t have space for a dog!’ said Rosie. ‘Or time to look after it, or…’

Lady Lipton looked at her as if completely incapable of understanding how a person could not want a dog – which was, indeed, exactly her state of mind. Her face clouded over. Rosie felt she’d said something akin to ‘I eat babies.’

‘Well, perhaps I’ll mention it to Stephen,’ said Lady Lipton stiffly.

Rosie had run out of steam.

‘Of course,’ she said meekly, bagging up the cough drops.

It wasn’t, she thought, as the door banged heavily behind her, that she didn’t like dogs; of course she did. But she’d grown up without any pets at all, not even a goldfish, as they didn’t really have anywhere to keep it, and the dogs she was familiar with were one or two really dangerous-looking Staffies on the estate, dogs whose owners swaggered up and down with them, letting them shit in the middle of the street, then eyeing passers-by as if daring them to suggest they clean it up. And the idea of having their little house filled with a big dog – Bran was undeniably a big dog – who would make Lilian’s nice things dirty and put muddy pawprints everywhere and need endless walks and those cans of stinky food and… Rosie sighed. Oh, as well as three strange Australian children in the house. She had suddenly stopped looking forward to Christmas quite so much.

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