‘Christmas crackers? It’s only October.’ Titch carried on topping up the Corner Shop till with change.
‘Now that I’m a grandmother – even though it makes me feel old, just saying that – I want to get organised early this year.’
‘Well, you’re lucky, Mary, because I have actually just ordered in quite a few boxes. They should be here in the next couple of weeks. I’m also going to set up a Christmas Corner, just like Rosa used to. I’ve lots of little trinkets coming and special flashing Santa lights for the window. I do love it when it starts to get festive down in the Bay.’
‘Ooh, me too. Well, save me a box of crackers, love. I want good ones, mind. Decent presents that don’t just get thrown in the bin.’
‘“This is the lovely gift I got from my cracker present last year” – said nobody, ever,’ Titch laughed.
‘Hmm, you’ve got a point there.’ Mary took a puff on her inhaler, waited a few seconds then put it back in her coat pocket. She blew out a long whistling breath before saying, ‘I can’t believe you’ve been in here a year now, duck.’
‘I know – mad, isn’t it?’
‘And you’re nearly cooked with another little one too. Just goes to show – life turns on a sixpence. You never know what’s around the corner.’
Titch rubbed her heavily pregnant belly. ‘In this case the Corner Shop. Did you want anything else while you’re here?’
‘Ah. Yes, I do. Some of those special savoury dog biscuits for Hot Dog please, for when my girl visits. And that reminds me, here’s some cookies for the biscuit tin.’ Mary reached into her bag and handed Titch a plastic container full of scrumptious home-made treats. ‘You don’t want to be getting a sugar lull in your condition, now, do you?’
‘Aw, that’s kind. I’m actually seeing Rosa later; I’ll take some with me.’
‘Perfect. Send her my love.’
‘I will, and have a good day, Mary.’
The older woman went to leave, then turned around to caution Titch. ‘Christmas may be a-coming and I know you’ll be busy, but don’t you be overdoing it with a baby on board, Titch love.’
Rosa Smith peeked her head around the nursery door and listened; on hearing her son’s soft little sleeping breaths she tiptoed back down the winding wooden staircase of Gull’s Rest.
Thank heavens for a best friend like Titch, who had guided her every step of the way through mothering her four-month-old. She had been completely unaware that a baby needed so many naps. Rosa got herself a cup of tea and sat down at the kitchen table. With luck, she would be able to concentrate on her charity paperwork before the little munchkin woke up and consumed every second of her time.
On seeing her coming down the stairs, Hot, the Smiths’ lively dachshund, bounded off his bed and started to bark, hoping for a walk. For a small dog, he could make an ear-splitting amount of noise. Closing the gate which stopped the mini-dachshund from attempting to climb the steep stairs, Rosa rushed over to the noisy hound, picked him up and gently closed his soft brown whiskery snout with her hands, rubbing her nose against his. ‘Shush now, Hotty boy,’ she told him, ‘or you’ll wake Little Ned and then there will no W.A.L.K.’ She spelt the trigger word out, so as not to cause any more doggie delirium.
‘Here, come on.’ The little wiener dutifully pitter-pattered behind her to the kitchen door, where she set him free to run around the secure garden in search of seagulls, which of course he never caught; just barked incessantly at the mere sight of one flying overhead.
Yawning loudly and running her hands through her curly brown mop, Rosa came back through to the open-plan modern living area and popped a couple of logs into the basket next to the log-burner. Lifted by the autumn sunlight streaming in through the wide, sea-fronted bay window with its curved window-seat, she allowed herself a massive, noisy stretch.
The window-seat was probably what had most excited her when they viewed the house. It was here, in rare moments of peace, that she would sit watching the comings and goings of Cockleberry Bay beach life against the rhythmical ebb and flow of the tides. Resting her small body along the comfy blue-and-white seagull-printed bench cushion, she yawned again. Pain from her son’s sore gums had caused him to wake twice in the night and she was knackered. Maybe a