Home > The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #3)(2)

The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #3)(2)
Jenny Colgan

So even despite the odd spewing moment, it took Rosie a couple of months to notice that she was feeling a little peculiar most of the time. She assumed it was just excitement at the way their lives were going, and even then she was busy in the shop and assumed it was nothing, and she couldn’t possibly go to Malik’s shop – the local Spar, which sold everything – and buy a pregnancy test because it would be round the village at the speed of light and everyone already had more than enough interest in their lives together, thank you very much, so she’d have to wait to drive into Carningford, the nearest large town, AND she hadn’t mentioned it to Stephen in case he got unnecessarily worked up (proposing to her was, she sensed, probably enough of a gigantic upheaval in his life for one year).

It was late February when she snuck away one Monday morning, telling Tina she was going to check out some new Parma violets, and drove to Carningford at top speed. Then when she left the chemist’s, with shaking hands, she realised that she couldn’t wait after all and had to go to the horrible toilets in the shopping centre that were full of teenage girls shouting. She wondered how many people before her had done exactly the same thing, how many people had had their lives changed in this exact space simply because it was close to the chemist, and she looked at it and didn’t understand what it meant, and read the instructions again and still didn’t understand, and then finally accepted that there were two lines, clear as day, one straight, one a little wobbly; one was her and one was Stephen, and together they meant …

‘Oh my God,’ Rosie said, dropping down onto the loo seat. ‘Oh my God.’

In the next booth over, a couple of teenage girls were talking loudly in a strange accent that was half local, half an attempt at a kind of London slang.

‘So I says to him, awriight …’

Rosie fumbled for her phone and thought she was going to drop it straight down the loo. She wanted to wash her hands, but oh, she was here now, and what was she going to do anyway, she couldn’t call outside.

‘So I says to her, you backs off RAGHT NOW, innit …’

Stephen didn’t keep his phone on in class; she’d have to call the office. She tried to keep her voice steady when Carmel, the school secretary, answered, although it was considered very odd to call a teacher in the middle of the day.

‘You want Stephen? Is everything all right?’

Rosie thought again how, even though she didn’t miss London very often, she had rather enjoyed its anonymity.

‘Fine!’ she trilled. ‘All fine! Great, in fact! Just a little thing …’

‘Because you know it’s choir and he’s a bit busy …’

‘I’ll be two seconds,’ lied Rosie.

‘I’sa gonna duff you up,’ said the voice loudly from the next cubicle.

There was a silence.

‘I’ll just get him,’ said Carmel.

Rosie rolled her eyes, her heart hammering in her chest.

‘What’s up?’ said Stephen, when he finally got to the phone. ‘Carmel says you’re being duffed up!’

‘She NEVAH,’ came the voice.

‘Uh, no,’ said Rosie. A mucky toilet in a horrible going-downhill shopping centre with two screeching fifteen-year-olds – a reminder of what awaited them one day – wasn’t exactly how she’d dreamt of this moment.

‘Um, it’s something else.’

‘Good.’

‘So AH says, YOU UP THE DUFF?’

‘Who are you with?’ said Stephen.

Rosie closed her eyes.

‘Nobody. But listen …’

‘An’ SHE says, SO WHAT IF I AM, an I’m like, SLAG …’

‘I’m up the duff,’ said Rosie.

‘Wha’?’ said the girls next door.

‘Mr Lakeman, I need go toilet, please,’ came a small voice from Stephen’s end.

‘What?’ said Stephen, who thought that saying ‘pardon’ was common.

‘Um. Uh.’ Rosie realised she was about to burst into tears.

‘Um, yes,’ said Stephen desperately.

‘Yes?’

‘No, I’m talking to Clover Lumb. I mean, yes?’

‘UH,’ said Rosie. Her hand was shaking as she held up the little stick. ‘Yes. I mean. I think so. No. Definitely. Yes. YES.’

There was a long pause.

‘Oh my goodness,’ said Stephen. ‘Miss Hopkins, you do not mess about.’

Rosie choked, half laughing, half crying.

‘Plus, I was rather under the impression that I’d already sealed the deal.’

‘That’s right, I did it all by myself.’

Stephen let out a short. barking laugh.

‘Oh Lord, I guess it was always going to happen sooner or later.’

‘I did tell you we should get central heating.’

‘This really is quite a lot sooner, though, isn’t it?’

For a moment Rosie forgot all about the horrible toilet, the fact that it was freezing, the obviously earwigging girls next door, the whole new world that had suddenly flung itself open in her face. Despite everything to come, it was, as it so often was, just her and Stephen, in their little bubble, just the two of them, while the rest of the world faded away to white noise.

‘BAD sooner?’

She could hear the warm smile in his voice, and everything around her suddenly became warmer too.

‘Lord, yes. Awful. You can tell my bloody mother.’

‘Well you can tell Lilian.’

They both thought for a second about Rosie’s beloved great-aunt.

‘No, we can tell her together,’ said Stephen eventually. ‘Anyway, order a lemonade in the Red Lion and it’ll be common knowledge all over town in about fifteen seconds.’

The two girls were pretending to do their make-up at the counter when Rosie emerged from the cubicle, purple in the face. They looked at her shyly.

‘Uh, congratulations,’ said the first one, who had been the loudest. Her normal voice was back. Rosie couldn’t help smiling.

‘You guys are the only people who know,’ she said. ‘Whoa, that’s the weirdest thing.’

She breezed home again, hugging the secret close to her all day, letting it keep her warm in the cold. Stephen called again at lunchtime, reporting that he had done absolutely nothing useful with fractions but in the end had just got the children to practise their number bonds.

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