Home > The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #3)(10)

The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #3)(10)
Jenny Colgan

Rosie smiled and kissed him. He winced to see the worry in her eyes.

‘Don’t,’ he said. ‘You’re young, fit and healthy. It’ll work out. It’s why you’d want Stephen’s grumpy babies that’s the real mystery here.’

She smiled.

‘Thanks.’

She turned round before she left, hoping to catch him in a moment of weakness.

‘So, are you and Moshe coming to dinner, then?’ Moshe was Moray’s boyfriend.

‘Are you trying to catch me in a moment of weakness?’

Rosie nodded.

‘Yes.’

Moray’s reluctance to come out to the village had surprised the more metropolitan Rosie for a long time, and nothing seemed to be changing any time soon. Rosie thought he was worrying unnecessarily. Moray thought people who weren’t him seemed to have all sorts of very clear ideas of what it was like to be him that he didn’t necessarily share. But they didn’t let it stand in the way of their friendship.

‘Have we or have we not just had a long conversation about keeping our relationship professional?’

‘Yes,’ said Rosie. ‘And we decided not to, remember?’

She shook the envelope at him, and for a moment both their faces became pensive once more.

‘Soon,’ said Moray, kissing her gently and waving her off with a worried look. ‘Soon. And call me …’

Rosie nodded and swallowed hard.

‘I will,’ she said. ‘I will.’

And now here she was in the clinic. It was full of bored, unhappy-looking women, many, she noticed, a great deal older than herself. The clinic dealt with a mix of private and NHS clients, but Rosie was simply there to see a gynaecologist. On the walls were arty black and white pictures of babies. Bit tasteless, she thought. Or maybe it was focusing the mind. Either way, she tried not to look at them, and listlessly leafed through an old magazine.

‘Miss Hopkins?’

Rosie couldn’t believe what a throwback she felt, but she did slightly wish they were married already. She flashed the vintage ring perhaps more obviously than she might have done otherwise.

Dr Chang was incredibly glamorous, the type of very slender thirty-something woman Rosie had once upon a time emulated. She had a put-together look, together with matching shoes and a bag, and properly blow-dried hair. Rosie felt an odd urge to impress her, but wasn’t sure how. It certainly wasn’t with this X-ray of her Fallopian tubes, which Dr Chang was examining now on the light box on the wall.

‘You see,’ said Dr Chang in a loud, quite posh voice, as if Rosie were peculiarly stupid, ‘there is evidence of growth here, and here, and bad blocking here and here. You were very lucky to get pregnant at all.’

This made Rosie bristle. There had been nothing lucky about it … Then she thought back over the sweet joy of those two special months, and thought she was going to tear up again. Noticing, Dr Chang slid a box of tissues over her desk in a brusque movement. Rosie wondered how many women had cried in her office. All of them, probably.

There was much more in a technical vein, but basically the message was pretty clear: it had taken the miscarriage to show what Rosie now knew. Now she thought about it, she’d never – in her twenties with her then-boyfriend Gerard, or even before – had a pregnancy crisis, or anything to worry about. She thought she’d just been lucky. Obviously not.

Dr Chang discussed options: a fairly full-on IVF procedure which apparently they should have started a couple of years before they’d actually met; surrogacy and other words that made Rosie want to be ill; and adoption.

‘I’m sorry it’s not better news,’ said Dr Chang finally. ‘You’ve just been unlucky, I’m afraid. If you desperately want a baby, there are routes you can take, but I have to warn you, they are expensive and sometimes heartbreaking.’

Rosie swallowed. She hadn’t wanted to tell Stephen about the appointment today; she didn’t want to bother him, particularly when they’d agreed not to try again for another year, agreed to relax, put it out of their heads.

But next year the odds would be even worse than this year, and so on and so on. And if she’d ever wondered whether or not she wanted a baby – although she was crazy about her nephew and nieces – knowing she was pregnant had made it very clear to her that she did.

She let the tears run down her face.

‘Is your other half here?’ said Dr Chang, her expression becoming slightly more sympathetic.

Rosie shook her head.

‘I didn’t want to worry him,’ she whispered.

‘Well,’ said Dr Chang, ‘if you want to tackle this, you’re going to need to be able to talk about it. Talk about everything. This kind of thing can challenge even the strongest relationship, you know.’

Rosie nodded. She thought they were strong … but were they strong enough for this?

Stephen wasn’t used to Rosie not being there when he got home, and he missed her. But it gave him a chance to call his PTSD therapist. He didn’t like doing it when Rosie was around; felt it was selfish to impinge on her misery, and he wasn’t even sure she wouldn’t be angry that he was discussing it with an outside party. But he was upset too, and he found himself worrying all the time. If Rosie couldn’t carry a baby properly in a wealthy country with good medical care, what chance would Célestine have in a country that wasn’t yet developed; that had proper hospitals only if you could afford to pay?

He thought back to his time there. He had loved Africa from the second he had set foot on its soil; smelled its smells: the bright colours everywhere, the blazing sun, the optimistic lives being lived in the most difficult of circumstances, contrasting so strongly with his spoiled, discontented friends from university. He was young, fit and full of the desire to do some good. And although a certain level of disillusionment was necessary – essential from the point of view of the charity who’d hired him – nonetheless he took satisfaction from small victories when large ones were hard to find. He worked hard on anything practical he could do, and put his teacher training into use in the most unusual situation possible: a school with anything between thirty and seventy students, depending on the harvest and the rains, of varying ages, who spoke a mixture of English learned from Nigerian television, French, and the local language.

It is hard to tell who will make a good teacher until they are tested. The most unlikely characters thrive in front of a room full of pupils. In his private life, Stephen was reticent and distant, a hangover from a lonely, awkward childhood of feeling different from the other Lipton children but not being able to quite understand why, as well as a strict father who wanted his son to be a mirror image of himself, and found a quiet, sensitive, poetry-loving boy rather than a hearty, hunting-shooting-fishing type bound for Sandhurst very difficult to deal with.

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