Home > The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #3)(6)

The Christmas Surprise (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #3)(6)
Jenny Colgan

‘They actually say “she’s not getting any younger”?’ said Rosie, stung. She was thirty-three.

‘Never,’ said Stephen quickly. ‘They never say that.’

‘Hmm,’ said Rosie, who was on her way up to see her great-aunt with a little black bomber jacket, very Mary Berry, that she’d been unable to resist for her in the January sales.

‘The problem is—’

Stephen was there before her.

‘If you tell Lilian before you tell your mother, you’ll be in a heap of trouble.’

Rosie shivered.

‘Can you IMAGINE?’

Angie, Rosie’s mother, was fiercely protective of Rosie, even all the way from Australia, where she lived looking after Rosie’s brother Pip’s children, whom Rosie adored.

‘In my head,’ said Stephen, ‘they would both rise up into the sky and have a great fight.’

‘Then your mother would grow to the size of Godzilla …’

‘Let’s not tell my mother till it’s here,’ pleaded Stephen, stroking Rosie’s soft curls. ‘And maybe not even then. She’ll barely notice. Hide it every time she comes round. If she finds out, tell her we sent it to boarding school in the womb.’

‘That’ll totally work,’ said Rosie. Her eyes widened. ‘Oh my God, does it matter whether it’s a girl or a boy?’

Stephen looked away.

‘Seriously? Screw that.’

Stephen was set to inherit the huge, unprofitable, crumbling estate currently being run by his mother. His elder sister Pamela had quite a lot to say about that.

‘Yes, but …’

‘Oh God, if it’s a boy, Pamela is going to do her nut.’

They looked at each other and started giggling.

‘So,’ said Stephen. ‘Is there anyone who isn’t totally going to do their nut about this poor baby?’

Angie first. If this had been a cartoon, Rosie thought, there would have been heavy hairdryer lines coming out of the phone. All Angie’s doubts over Stephen’s suitability as husband material for her only daughter were blown away in an instant.

‘Oh moi Gawd?’ she shrieked, in her hybrid English/Aussie accent, even though she’d only been in Australia for two and a half years. ‘A boybee!!!’

‘Speak English, Mum,’ said Rosie, pink with pleasure.

‘WANNA SPEAK TO ROSIE.’

Rosie could hear Meridian, her favourite niece, on the other end of the line, and a bit of fumbling as she grabbed the phone.

‘HEYYO, AUNTIE ROSIE. WHEN ARE YOU COMING FOR SLEEPOVER?’

‘Soon,’ promised Rosie. ‘Hello, my darling Meridian.’

‘I JAMES BONG.’

‘Hello, James Bond. Listen up, James. You know I am going to have a little baby for you to play with! She’ll be your cousin and you’ll be the biggest.’

There was a very long pause. If Rosie hadn’t been able to hear Meridian’s noisy breathing down the phone, she’d have thought she’d hung up or wandered off.

‘James Bong?’

‘DOAN HAVE BABY, AUNTIE ROSIE,’ came the voice very clearly. ‘BABIES ARE PIG’S ARSE.’

‘Meridian!’ Angie said sternly.

‘Okay,’ said Rosie. ‘Well, you know I’ll still like you very much.’

More noisy breathing, then Angie grabbed the phone back.

‘I’ll tell her it’s not coming for ages. It’s not, is it? I mean, darling, you were looking quite well-rounded at Christmas …’

Rosie rolled her eyes. Anything larger than a size 8 her mother made a fuss about. She was, and always had been, quite a bit larger than a size 8.

‘No, Mum.’

‘Oh, okay, good! Right, Meridian, don’t worry about the baby.’

‘I WILL KILL THE PIG’S ARSE BABY WITH MY ROCKET CAR.’

‘She’s thrilled,’ said Angie. ‘And so am I, my love. How are you feeling? Are you sick? Have you told that old dingbat yet?’

She meant Stephen’s mother. Rosie had called her worse.

‘Not yet.’

‘Oh man, don’t let her get her claws into the baby. She’ll be sending it out chasing horses and trying to make friends with Prince George and whatever posh people do.’

There was a pause.

‘Can it make friends with Prince George?’

‘No, Mum.’

‘Ooh, I’ll have to come over. Or you guys come to us!’

‘You want me to fly to Australia with a newborn baby?’

‘You’ve got the ticket!’

Her family had given her a ticket to Australia for Christmas.

‘Anyway, babies are easy. Just coat the dummy in sugar water and you can basically pop to the shops.’

‘Thanks, Mum,’ said Rosie, rolling her eyes.

‘Also, on the flight, you give them a little bit of valium …’

‘Mu-um!!!!!!’

‘Oh my Rosie-Posie, this is so amazing.’

‘Well, Pip’s got kids.’

‘Yes, I know.’ Her voice softened, and she sounded English again. ‘But when it’s your daughter, it’s something else. Something a bit special … PI-IP!!!! YOUR SISTER’S EXPECTING!’

‘Bonzer!’ shouted Pip from what sounded like a long way away.

‘Are you out in the garden splashing in the pool this early in the morning?’ asked Rosie suspiciously.

‘Yip,’ said Angie proudly. ‘You’d love it here, Rosie.’

Rosie looked out of the window at the frost-spattered trees and the sparkling garden.

‘Maybe,’ she said. ‘But here is pretty good too.’

‘Is it as cold as it was at Christmas?’

‘It is FAR worse than it was at Christmas. And there’s not even any Christmas!’

Rosie moved to the front, where Farmer Isitt was walking his old horse. On her back were two of the village children, screaming and laughing, their breath visible on the dark air.

‘Brr,’ said Angie.

‘No, it’s all right,’ said Rosie, smiling. The fire was crackling invitingly down below. ‘And I’m fine. Hungry.’

‘You’re always hungry.’

‘Yes, thanks for that. And my bosoms … Uh, never mind.’

‘I never will know where those came from,’ said Angie wonderingly. ‘Lilian and I are flat as pancakes.’

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