Sunrise by the Sea (Little Beach Street Bakery #4) - Colgan, Jenny
The sun had been out earlier that day, and the family had all gone out to play.
If you were to glance at the family, you probably wouldn’t notice anything strange at first.
It would probably make you smile to realise that the children were twins, and that they each took after a parent so convincingly – the boy his father’s double, with a shock of unruly blond hair and a wide smiling face; the little girl more cautious-looking, with freckles and her mother’s strawberry-blonde hair and pale skin.
Look closer and you would also see something flapping around them, and assume there was something wrong with your vision, because what on earth was a puffin doing there?
Avery and Daisy had come tumbling down the lighthouse stairs in their usual noisy way.
For the first year or two of their lives, the stairgate had never been opened and had basically confined the children to the barracks of the sunny ground-floor kitchen, because Polly Miller, née Waterford, was terrified of them tumbling down the lighthouse’s circular staircases and cracking their heads open. It was an even stupider idea to live in a lighthouse than it had been before the children, love it as they may.
But her hopes of keeping them safe were completely thwarted when, around eighteenth months or so, she looked away for two seconds, then turned back to see Avery holding up the bolt while Daisy turned it, and Neil (the puffin) standing on the gate, almost as if it was his idea. He certainly fluttered up the stairs guiltily as soon as Polly caught them. The days of the stairgate were numbered. She remembered it as if it were yesterday.
‘Now,’ she had said patiently, as she had a million times before, pulling them on to her lap on the squishy threadbare sofa, the blond head so like Huckle’s; Daisy so like her, ‘we don’t go upstairs.’
‘Ustairs,’ repeated Avery. Daisy nodded. ‘Ustairs . . . NO?’
Huckle had come in for lunch then, and grinned as the twins scrambled down and hurtled across the flagstone floor shouting ‘DADA!’
‘Are you teaching them that going upstairs is the most exciting thing in the world again?’
‘They opened the stairgate. Working as a team.’
Huckle hoisted the two little people up, one arm each.
‘Oh, you are brilliant,’ he said, as they giggled, and he nuzzled them both.
‘It is not brilliant,’ said Polly. ‘They start scrambling up there and someone is going to fall and kill themselves.’
‘I thought that’s why we had two,’ said Huckle, heading towards the stove.
Now, four years on, they had indeed both tumbled down several times, seemingly without injury, and retained the same basic gang set-up – boy, girl, puffin – that took getting into mischief to new levels all the time.
‘I always thought Neil would have been jealous of the babies,’ Polly was saying now, as they watched the three of them trying to play swingball – Neil hovering, then flying up when the ball came round – while she and Huckle sat out in preciously warm spring sunshine.
The lawn streamed down towards the rocks, and normally it was too windy to sit out there, but there was a spot, just behind a low wall, where the wind was blocked and you could lie down and feel the sun on your face and just for a moment everything would be warm and lovely. Unfortunately it also blocked Polly’s views of the twins, so it necessitated bobbing up and down every couple of minutes like a meerkat, and steeling yourself against the wind.
‘Neil was unbelievably jealous of the babies!’ said Huckle, astonished she’d forgotten. ‘You were in a milk coma. A nuclear bomb could have gone off and you wouldn’t have noticed unless a piece of dust had gotten on the babies. What do you think all those marks are on the cradles?’
‘I thought they were just features.’
‘Oh goodness. Bad bird.’
‘He’s a terrible bird,’ said Huckle with equanimity. ‘Almost like you shouldn’t keep wild sea birds in captivity in the first place.’
‘You shouldn’t,’ agreed Polly. ‘He keeps me.’
When Polly had first moved to Mount Polbearne, alone and nervous years ago, following the collapse of her business and engagement, in short order, a baby puffling had crashed into the bakery one night. After nursing his broken wing back to health, she had tried to release him back into the wild, but he hadn’t taken. Neil had decided that living with a baker was infinitely preferable to diving into the cold sea every day to find fish,