They returned an hour later, laden with food and drink, to find Bonnie asleep on her bed.
“See?” said Anna.
Sam, having been considerably mellowed by Anna’s approach to shopping, grinned and shrugged.
“I’ll get the rest.”
He fetched and Anna unpacked. By the time he had everything in, the coffee machine was ready, so he poured himself a cup, and one for Anna. Bonnie suddenly sat bolt upright and shot out into the garden.
“There goes your cat,” Anna grinned.
Sam strolled to the door, and was in time to see a ginger cat streaking across the grass and up one of the apple trees. Anna whistled and Bonnie trotted back into the kitchen swishing her tail. ‘Job done’ her face seemed to say. Sam sat at the table, as Anna stashed the last few things in the fridge.
“I have never,” he said ruminatively “shopped so quickly, or so efficiently. My unlamented ex could spend twenty minutes deciding between two identical packs of tomatoes, and the amount of time she spent reading the ingredients of a frozen lasagne…”
“Why would anybody buy frozen lasagne?”
“Because they can’t cook the real thing.”
“Ah well. Sad. But I don’t buy ready meals. Mostly they taste like shit.”
“Truly. But herself even used them when she insisted on having dinner parties. Which I loathed.”
“Oh good. I hate dinner parties. Kitchen suppers, yes. Big Sunday lunches for friends, yes. Brunch in the garden, yes. Dinner parties, no! Not this side of hell freezing over.”
Sam laughed until he nearly cried.
“Anna on a soapbox. I love it.”
She boxed his ears lightly.
“Watch yourself cheeky!”
Bonnie flew outside again.
“I’m betting the cat came down from the tree,” Sam said.
“Probably. Is there anything you want to do today?”
“Just be here with you. That’ll be enough to set me up for work on Monday morning.” Then he tapped his forehead. “I just thought, Monday is one of Carrie’s days. I should be here to introduce you when she tips up though.”
“Cleaner cum gardener. Comes three days a week. The place would be a pigsty without her.”
“I did wonder. What’s she like about dogs?”
“Fine. She brings her own dog with her. Will Bonnie be OK with that?”
“Absolutely. It’s only cats she sees off. Speaking of which.”
Anna got up and went to the door.
“Come and look at this, Sam.”
He went and looked, to see Bonnie sitting bolt upright staring at the wild-eyed ginger cat, which crouched on the roof of the garden shed with its ears flattened. Sam laughed out loud.
“Come in Bonnie” he said “then the cat can run away.”
To his intense surprise, Bonnie obeyed. He bent to scratch her ears.
“Who’s a clever girl, then.”
Bonnie walked into the kitchen and pointedly looked at the tin of dog treats standing on the worktop. Sam obliged.
“She’s got your number, hasn’t she?” Anna remarked.
They spent the rest of the day happily, pottering, chatting, and walking Bonnie.
The next morning, Sam was getting outside a large breakfast omelette when there was the sound of feet on the patio and a brown dog of indeterminate parentage barrelled in followed by a big girl in jeans and a check shirt.
“Carrie. Oscar. Anna. Bonnie.”
Anna stood up and extended a hand. Carrie looked a bit surprised then shook hands.
“Pleased to meet you, Anna.”
She looked Anna straight between the eyes before grinning. “Makes a change for somebody of the female persuasion to be civil to the domestic staff. Most of them like to pretend I don’t exist.”
Anna grimaced sympathetically.
“Yeah, we used to get a lot like that in work. Always going on about how they couldn’t get decent staff, and then treating anyone who worked for them like they were sub-human.”
Carrie laughed out loud.
“You’ve got it. Exactly. But I have my revenge. I charge them double.”
Anna walked over to the dresser and collected a mug.
“Tea or coffee?”
Anna nodded briskly.
“Coffee then. Thanks.’
Anna brought the mug over before putting four slices of brown bread in the toaster.
“Sit. We may as well be comfortable while we have a chat.”
Deciding he was probably superfluous to requirements, Sam finished his breakfast and pushed back his chair.
“I should be home between six and seven, depending on how busy my afternoon list is.”
He kissed Anna, patted Bonnie, and left.
By this time, Bonnie and Oscar had reached the bottom sniffing stage and Anna laughed.
“Go out in the garden if you want to sniff bums, you two.”
The dogs skipped out.
“It’s a pity,” Carrie remarked “that humans can’t find out about each other by bum sniffing. Maybe I wouldn’t keep choosing the wrong men. Maybe Sam wouldn’t have married that spoilt little madam…”
“You know her?”
“To my cost. She’s stupid, and she isn’t nice. I’ll tell you one thing for free, once she finds out Sam has a woman she’ll be after trouble. She won’t be able to stomach the idea he’s making a life for himself without her. You be on your guard.”
“Thanks. But haven’t you made a snap decision about me without sniffing my bottom?’
“Maybe. Though I’m crap at picking men, my antenna for my own sex is remarkably accurate. And I like the look of your dog.”
“She’ll be delighted to hear that.’
“She? Oh shit. Oscar hasn’t been done and he’s a randy little sod.”
“It’s OK. Bonnie has been done. And if he tries any of that stuff with her she’s liable to beat him up.”
“That’s all right then. Is it OK to leave them playing in the garden?”
“Yes. If the side gate is shut.”
“It is. I always shut it, because Oscar is a wanderer.”
“Bonnie’s not. But this is still a strange place to her.”
“I get that. Now, what do you want doing today?”