Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop

Page 13


Rosie had found a box in the attic full of ancient Christmas decorations. Among them were a couple of lovely old wood carvings that were clearly hand made from long ago – seeing their varying degrees of proficiency, she wondered if they’d been done at school by Lilian’s brothers. Lilian confirmed this, so Rosie saved them whilst letting the disintegrating tinsel and tarnished baubles head for the bin.
As she made up the vast Christmas order for the shop, Tina, who was an online shopper extraordinaire, came in and announced the most amazing half-price Santa she’d ever seen.
‘But online shops aren’t delivering,’ said Rosie. ‘Because of the weather.’
‘Yes, they aren’t delivering to normal people, that’s why it’s half-price before Christmas,’ said Tina, who’d nearly gone bankrupt from her bad habit. ‘But they’ll always deliver to me.’
Rosie smiled and looked at it again. It really was lovely: a miniature Santa train, with empty carriages they could fill with sweets, tootling round a little model village with its roofs all covered in snow and candles in the windows.
‘It looks like Lipton,’ she said.
Tina nodded.
‘I know,’ she said. We must get it. We’ll cause a scrum.’
Rosie thought briefly of the amazing bright lights and astonishing designer displays of Oxford Street. It was hard to imagine a tootling train being the centre of attention. But then Malik’s was currently displaying a pyramid of discounted tinned macaroni cheese, so she supposed things could be worse.
‘You’re on,’ she said.
‘It whistles!’
‘I said, you’re on!’
‘Yay!’ said Tina, who wasn’t really allowed to shop any more. ‘I ordered it last week.’
Rosie rolled her eyes.
‘So what are you getting Jake for Christmas?’
‘Oh, nothing interesting,’ said Tina sadly. ‘I wish I was a millionaire. No offence.’
‘None taken,’ said Rosie promptly. ‘I do too.’
‘But I saw this beautiful Burberry shirt he’d look amazing in, and this really gorgeous cashmere scarf.’
‘Jake wouldn’t like any of that stuff.’
‘No,’ said Tina. ‘But fantasy Jake I go out with in my head does.’
‘I thought Jake was your fantasy Jake.’
Tina’s face softened.
‘Oh, he is, he is. But, you know.’
Rosie did know. Jake was gorgeous and charming and worked as a farm labourer. His usual outfit was a rubber waistcoat to avoid stains and a hacking jacket Rosie strongly suspected was older than he was.
‘What do you think he’s going to get you?’
Tina shrugged.
‘I don’t know. Last year he got me a pair of socks.’
‘But you’d only been going out five minutes last year.’
‘And it was a very nice pair of socks.’
Tina rolled her eyes.
‘Okay, okay.’
Rosie sold two pounds of parma violets and said hi to Anton, the fattest man in town. Formerly, he’d been going for the fattest man in the country. The fact that he was now only the fattest man in their village was, Rosie felt, a credit to him. And slightly to her, given that she controlled his sweet intake in a way that frankly counted as an act of charitable giving.
Anton looked around.
‘Christmas decorations!’ he said cheerfully.
Mr Dog came padding up to lick his hand, as he always did. He was growing bigger and hairier by the week, but no less lazy and affectionate. Rosie was madly in love with him, to Stephen’s alternate amusement and slight annoyance. He kept banging on about how their dogs were bred to work, but every time Rosie turned her back, if she whipped round quickly enough she would catch Stephen skritching Mr Dog behind his ears or secretly telling him how he was the best fellow in the world, yes he was, yes he was.
‘He likes you,’ said Rosie.
‘He likes fish and chips,’ said Anton.
‘A small! I had a small!’
‘What’ll it be? I feel like a drug dealer.’
Anton smiled dreamily, his face slack as he perused the shelves.
‘We’re pushers,’ said Tina. ‘I think we just need to deal with that fact.’
‘Never,’ said Rosie.
‘How’s that young boy of yours?’ said Anton, without taking his eyes off the shelves he must have known by heart.
‘Not so young,’ said Rosie. She still went pink even now, nearly a year after they’d started dating. ‘Actually, he’s really well.’
‘I can’t believe he loves teaching,’ said Tina. ‘Who’d have thought?’
‘I know,’ said Rosie, thinking back to the bitter, empty shell of a man she’d met when she first arrived. ‘It’s healed him, I think. Inside, really. You should have seen him this morning, off with their Christmas song. It’s about bells. Edison keeps reciting it to me to show me how fast he can do it. I’m quite fed up with it, and the concert isn’t for another three weeks.’
‘Raspberry creams!’ shouted Anton, his lips practically smacking in satisfaction.
‘You may have four,’ said Rosie.
‘Eleven,’ said Anton.
‘Four plus one for good behaviour,’ said Rosie.
‘I make that nine,’ said Anton.
Outside, the village was quiet. The snow was falling, still falling, the sky a grey blanket that made it feel as if day had barely come at all. Jake was labouring down at Isitt’s farm, trying to work out what he could buy for a girl as special as Tina. Stephen was leading his children in another rousing chorus of ‘Sweet Bells’ in the Portakabin by the side door of the school. Anton and Rosie were bickering in their familiar way; Lilian was dozing by her window, remembering a curly-haired lad who threw snowballs at her way past the age when lads threw snowballs at girls.
Edward Boyd had hit the outskirts of town. Glancing anxiously at his father, who, thank goodness, appeared to have fallen asleep, he felt his wallet for the card that nice young doctor had given him. Maybe, after all, it was time. Maybe it was. But his dad… he was his dad. Years of summer holidays at Scarborough, and practising his spin bowling and… He wasn’t sure quite when he’d noticed his dad wasn’t well. He’d always been a quiet man, injured in the war, a good father – there had been holidays and pocket money and fixing up a motorbike and rugby league matches, but sometimes James was so introverted it had been hard to notice at first that something was wrong.