When Anna had enthusiastically approved the house, even going so far as to purr when she saw the huge kitchen with its shiny red Aga, and Bonnie had given her seal of approval to the big rear garden with its tiny orchard, they moved Anna’s things in from the camper.
“You don’t have much stuff.”
“Got a bit more at Ted’s house. But not a lot. I’m not big on stuff.”
“Me neither, but all the women I’ve ever known have always wanted stuff.”
“Yeah. I can’t get my head around that. Plus, I never dared have stuff when mum was at home. She trashed it when she had a drink. By the time we got her into the care home, minimalism had become a habit. Now where can we put my china Bonnie?”
“There’s that cabinet in the hallway. I found it in one of the sheds I knocked down. It’d look well in there.”
“It would. Did you find much else?”
“Yeah. All the wood for the kitchen cabinetry, the big oak chair that’s also in the hallway, three very old Agas, and a lot of rats. The Agas were a lucky find, though, I exchanged them for the new one in the kitchen. Apparently there’s a booming market for reconditioned Agas of venerable years.”
“I love the one you have.”
“We have. The house is ours, nitwit.”
“Idiot. I haven’t been here ten minutes. You can’t go giving me half your house.”
She waved her arms in exasperation.
“Anyway is the Aga oil-fired.”
“Yeah. And fiendishly expensive to run.”
“I expect it is, but I can chip in there.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I do, Sam, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m not going to sponge on you.”
“I’m sure of that, but can you afford? I mean will you need to get a job? How long can you…”
He ran down and looked embarrassed. Anna laughed.
“Let’s go sit down. Then we can do the money thing.”
“I think we’d better.”
They got coffee and sat at the kitchen table.
“You first,” Anna said.
“Okay. I earn a thumping big salary. Plus my parents died in a road accident just before my marriage broke up. I was their only chick, so I inherited a lump. Enough to buy this place and do it up. Plus a bit to save for the future. You?”
“More complicated than your situation. I had a good job. There will be a fat pension when I’m fifty-five. Originally, I planned to run away when that happened, but in the end I didn’t have to wait that long. My mum had an aunt who the family didn’t talk about. She ran off to London and went on the stage. But then she found a better way to earn a living: wealthy men. My brother, Danny, and I thought it would be fun to get to know her, and Dad agreed. So we found her and she turned out to be a grand old girl, living in a gloomy great mansion flat in Chelsea with a lady companion. She welcomed us with open arms and we saw as much of her as we could. When Danny got a job in the smoke he wound up living with her and being totally spoilt by the lady companion. Incidentally, it was aunt Ruby who paid for my mother to be cared for in the home. She set up a trust fund that paid for mum’s care until she died, then the money went to the home so they could take on another dementia sufferer whose family was at the end of its tether. But I digress. When aunt Ruby died Danny inherited the flat, and I got a big chunk of money, which bought my house and paid to have an annexe built on for my dad to live in. Danny kept the flat, and did it up with his own hands, making a super-modern living space of it. He settled in happily, and lives with his partner in a state of connubial bliss – when they are in London that is. For some reason best known to themselves, those two bought me a lottery ticket – and the bloody thing only won the jackpot. I tried to share it with them, but they wouldn’t have it. I was firmly told to start enjoying life. The rest, as they say, is history.”
She stopped speaking and Sam pulled her onto his lap. “Does that mean you are a properly rich girl,” he teased.
“Oh yeah. I’m loaded. But you can’t exactly be on the breadline.”
“I ain’t. So aren’t we lucky.”
Then he cuddled her close.
“Is your dad still alive?”
“No. He died five years ago, just after mum. I don’t think he wanted to go on without her. I missed him a lot, but I was lucky enough to let the annexe to a young couple who are related to Mr Patel who runs the mini market around the corner from my house. They are the ones who are renting the whole house now and want to buy it. Maybe I’ll sell it to them.”
“You should. You won’t be needing it any more.”
“I hope I won’t. But you might get tired of me.”
“Not going to happen.”
She sat quietly in his arms for a few minutes then kissed his cheek.
“We need to go food shopping” she announced firmly. “Your store cupboard and your freezer are a disgrace. Frozen pizza. Ready meals. Not on my watch…”
“Do we have to?”
“Yup. And you get to push the trolley.”
“Okay. If you say so. But don’t I need to stay here with Bonnie?”
“No. Good try though. However, she has her bed and she’ll be fine.”
Sam tipped Anna off his lap and got up obligingly.
“Doesn’t that dog have any vices?” he asked plaintively.
“Umm. Only one. She chases cats. Especially cats on her patch.”
“Good. Because there is one bugger that comes in and shits on the flower beds.”
“There won’t be. She’ll see it off. Now. Supermarket.