Home > The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #3)(4)

The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #3)(4)
Jenny Colgan

‘Don’t be daft,’ said Tina. ‘So has about a hundred per cent of everyone. Half the babies on earth wouldn’t have been conceived if their parents hadn’t got off their box.’

‘Yes, I suppose,’ said Rosie. ‘Cor.’

Tina shook her head.

‘It’s lovely news, but I’m so sorry.’

‘Why?’

Tina’s head took on a pitying tilt.

‘Well, you know … you’ll have to postpone the wedding.’

Rosie blinked twice.

‘That hadn’t even occurred to me,’ she said, thinking about all the fretting she’d been doing about the seating plan, getting her relatives over, coping with Stephen’s horrid posh friends, dealing with her new mother-in-law. ‘Yay!’ she added.

She texted this news to Stephen. WOO HOO! came a text back about thirty seconds later. She giggled.

‘I think he’s happier putting off the marriage than he is about the baby,’ she said to Tina, who looked totally scandalised. ‘And it will give me loads of time to dedicate to yours,’ she went on quickly. ‘I can help you out more.’

Tina brightened immediately. ‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘And everyone will think mine was the best.’

‘Yours was always going to be the best,’ said Rosie. ‘Crumbs, believe me, I’d got about as far as bridesmaids in kilts.’

They reopened for the post-school rush, Rosie slightly calmed down by Tina’s good sense about babies – and she should know, she’d had twins at twenty-five, had had to raise them on her own, and they were turning out fantastic.

‘Of course, the actual having of them isn’t that nice,’ said Tina, but Rosie made a dismissive gesture. That was at least eight months away. Plenty of time to worry about it later.

The sweetshop filled up with little faces beaming cheerfully as they made their choice from the vast array on the shelves that covered the walls of the shop, with its mullioned windows, its large glass jars, its golden bell, and the old adverts on the walls for Cadbury’s and Fry’s.

Today Ethan wanted flying saucers, and as he was the toughest kid in the school, everyone else immediately started to clamour for those too. The girls, including Tina’s daughter Emily, were going through a candy necklace phase, which made Tina grimace, as it left red and orange saliva marks on absolutely everything, plus there was an odd thing going on amongst the elder girls where they would all buy one and then compete to be the last to eat it. Rosie made a mental note to stop stocking them; it wasn’t good for them. Maud the doctor’s receptionist popped in for chocolates, and when Rosie looked enquiringly at her – normally she bought them at the weekend so she could watch her reality voting shows with a box by her side – she made a face and said, ‘Don’t look at me like that. It’s February and still full of snow. I’m sick of it. Chocolate will help. I’m hibernating until the sun comes out again. It’s like Narnia: always winter and never Christmas.’

Oddly, Rosie had got so used to the weather that she had barely noticed that snow had been falling for three months. She didn’t really expect it to finish before April anyway.

‘Oh Maud,’ she said.

‘It’s all right for you,’ said Maud. ‘All exciting, newly engaged, second winter in the countryside. Try your forty-eighth. All I want is to be on a yacht in the Caribbean. Is that seriously too much to ask?’

‘You could try asking Hye.’

There was a pause, then they both laughed uproariously at the idea of getting the greedy, selfish head of the practice to do anything as generous as that, even though the rural GPs all made a good living.

‘Thanks, Rosie,’ said Maud. ‘You’ve cheered me up already. I might even try and keep these till the weekend.’ She looked at them sadly. ‘Probably not, though.’

The freezing February air blew into the cosy shop as Maud left, and Rosie found herself counting up … September, maybe? She’d need to do the sums. But a lovely autumn baby, the leaves red and gold on the trees, the harvest sun beautiful, huge and heavy in the sky … She was lost in a reverie when she saw the small, thin figure standing in front of her, eyes blinking behind his glasses.

‘Ahem,’ said Edison. He was one of her steadiest customers, an extremely literal child with a hippy mother, Hester, who made him wear hand-stitched items and thus ensured his unpopularity at school. Hester’s New Age beliefs and dislike of refined sugar didn’t stop her from constantly asking Rosie to babysit. Rosie had also helped deliver Hester’s new baby, Marie, at Christmas.

Edison was walking by himself again, after spending time in a wheelchair following a dreadful accident before Christmas. Stephen had saved his life, but he had still been injured. All the attention during his recovery – particularly now, when he was walking, carefully, with a large and ornate stick – had done wonders for his confidence.

‘Hello, sir,’ said Rosie. ‘Have they stopped spoiling you to bits at school yet?’

Edison frowned. He wasn’t very good at being teased.

‘I don’t think I am tebbly spoiled,’ he said, pushing up his glasses. ‘I am most likely not to have tantrums mostly.’

Rosie couldn’t imagine Edison crying about anything.

‘I was only teasing,’ she said. ‘Are they being nice to you?’

Edison frowned.

‘They mostly say, “Edison, you can play football with us.” But I don’t play football now. And I didn’t play football before. Hester says ball games are just male greshun.’

‘Does she?’ said Rosie blandly. Her thoughts on Edison’s mother’s contemporary parenting style were always best kept to herself. ‘Well, maybe when you get rid of the stick you can play.’

Edison looked terrified.

‘But what if the ball hits me, Rosie, and breaks my glasses?’

‘You could just say “Ha ha, I don’t mind” and play on.’

‘But if I was hurt and there was blood?’

‘It’s only a ball, Edison.’

‘I’m scared of balls,’ said Edison gloomily. ‘Can I have some Edinburgh rock?’

Rosie pulled down the jar.

‘Are you sure,’ she asked, as she always did, ‘you don’t want to try something else?’

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