Laura had dropped Tabitha off at school.
With nothing else better to do, she took a walk directly to Langley college and handed in her application form. All she could do now was wait. Now she had a few hours, where she didn’t have to work, visit, or think of someone else, and Laura wasn’t sure what to do with herself.
But without a car, it was difficult to go anywhere. Buses only ran every half an hour. It would be so much easier to learn to drive. Over the years, Laura had attempted to learn, but after failing the first time, had never tried again. There were occasions when Martin was at work, and she wanted to take Tabitha to Beale Park, but no buses went in that direction.
Martin had taken them there a few weeks before.
It was his way of helping take her mind of things and it had been a good day. They fed the swans and talked about the different variety of exotic birds – including an operatic parrot, who sang every note in tune. In the middle, was a little sand play area, where they built sandcastles together, pretending they were on the beach. The weather had been on their side. Even when it started to rain, it didn’t dampen their fun.
Tabitha talked of nothing else.
Laura scrolled through her phone. Elizabeth, her newest contact, gave her an idea. With one swift press of the button, and a few moments of ringing it was answered.
‘Elizabeth, it’s me, Laura. I just wondered, I’ve dropped my daughter off at school and I’m at a loose end. Did you fancy going for a coffee somewhere? The Baker’s Oven in Windsor. Fantastic I’ll see you there.’
She hung up and walked across the park.
It was warm for the time of year, there were no customary golden leaves on the grass. If this weather kept up, there would probably be a cold winter to follow. But there was something about the soft, just frozen flakes, when they melted into warm hands, which always gave Laura a sense of wonder.
As a dog walker was chasing after an errant German Shephard, Laura jumped aside. He rushed towards the trees and shouted sorry. It was always something she considered, but soon disregarded because dogs were hard work. With both herself and Martin working, there would be no-one there during the day to look after it.
In the last few weeks, Laura tried to keep busy at home. All her cupboards were sorted out, and there wasn’t a room that hadn’t been vacuumed more than twice. She needed to get out of the house. A chat with a new friend was the right thing to do.
She stepped inside the café, with only a few early morning customers, and noticed Elizabeth straight away. On the table, were two stainless steel teapots. A selection of cream cakes. Laura, for a second and no longer, thought about her blossoming waistline. She sat in the chair and rubbed the soles of her feet.
‘Hi Laura, you okay?’
‘Yea fine, just need new shoes that’s all.’
‘I didn’t know what to choose, so I got a mini selection of everything.’
‘All good to me, although I’ve been eating a lot of doughnuts lately. Do you mind if I have one?’
‘Go ahead, that’s what they’re there for.’
Laura picked up the jam doughnut and watched as Elizabeth poured out some tea.
‘So what’s been happening with you?’ Laura asked, not really knowing how to start.
‘Do you know Giles Bakery?’
‘Yea, it’s been empty for years.’
‘I brought it.’
‘Wow, that’s a big step I must say.’
‘What made you think about buying the shop?’
‘A lady called Betty. You’d like her. I went into her book shop the other day. I was looking for some baking books, and she has quite the selection. We got talking about the empty shop next door for sale. I just intended to look in the window, but I saw the for-sale sign and it was for the estate agents I was going to later that day.’
‘So you decided to make an offer?’
‘Yea, stupid really, but someone made an offer on my place, and I was able to buy it without even having a mortgage. It’s got a two bedroomed flat upstairs, so I wouldn’t even have to look for somewhere to live.’
‘You’ve really thought this through.’
‘Not really, I’ve no clue in what I want to do next. I mean the shop will need renovations done to it. I haven’t really worked the ins and outs of everything, but I have always wanted to bake. I’m quite good at it.’
‘Why didn’t you do it sooner?’
‘My mum mainly, she kept on telling me that I had to have a career. Squashed my dreams flat. That was another reason why I wanted to move, didn’t want to remember about all my failings.’
‘Mum sold her house too, and because she isn’t allowed to profit from the sale, it all goes to me. It’s such a lot of money though, just for a three bedroomed house. That is with it going under its value. But Mum wanted rid, and so do I.’
‘We’re all going through a bit of a change aren’t we?’
‘Yes, but for the better.’
‘So what are you up to, apart from seeing me that is?’
‘I’m not sure, but I’ve applied for a college course. I’ve just been there today, handed in the application form.’
‘What are you studying?’
‘Business Studies, I know I didn’t quite believe it myself.’
‘I might have to do the course. When I started thinking about buying this shop, I didn’t realise quite how much work needed to go into it. There’s the freehold to think about and all the renovations needed. Not to mention the cleaning that will have to be done. I went to the flat the other day. I’ll definitely need to do some redecorating and plumbing work.’
‘I could ask Theresa to help you, she’s done some painting in her time.’
‘She wouldn’t want to help me; she’s your mum’s friend not mine.’
‘I told her, I met you. I reckon you’d get along and there’s Lucy as well. She wouldn’t mind helping you out if you needed it.’
‘That’s kind of you, but ask them first, don’t just expect them to help.’
‘Of course not, but we all know, none of this is your fault, you were just taken in by an expert at manipulation.’
‘Even so, it seems a bit strange don’t you think?’
‘No I don’t. We all need friends, and they wouldn’t mind.’
‘Well don’t be surprised if they say no.’
‘I doubt that, if I’m prepared to talk to you like a friend, they will too.’
‘You might be right but ask them first.’
‘How’s your mum anyway?’
‘Surprisingly okay, but she’s got the help she always needed in prison.’
‘Maybe she should have done it sooner . . .’ Elizabeth said. ‘That wasn’t a good joke.’
‘No, maybe you’re right, without the prison sentence that is, but at least she’s agreed to speak to Sheila, so we might hear some good news after all.’
‘That’s great news!’
‘She’s going over there this week. I’ve a good feeling she will listen to her, but if she doesn’t, then I’ve accepted that too. I can’t control how Mum deals with this, any more than she does with me.’
‘I’ll keep my fingers crossed all the same.’
‘So, when do you move in?’
‘Next week, it’s been empty for a while. The person buying my house hasn’t got a chain. I’m a little scared and fed up with all the boxes, but it’s kind of cleansing getting rid of all that stuff. Especially my mum’s ornaments. I never liked them. At least the charity shop will give them a new lease of life.’
‘How are you doing with all the packing?’
‘It’s going slowly, especially being on my own.’
‘Do you want me to come over with you now? I don’t have to be in work till later.’
‘Actually, I’ve an appointment at my solicitors, but there is something you could do for me if you don’t mind.’
‘I was meant to collect some books from Betty, at Book’s Galore. It’s on the high street. I forgot she’s closing early today. Pilates class of all things. Could you go and collect some books for me, take them back to mine? I will send you over both addresses.’
Elizabeth handed over a set of keys. ‘I’ll meet you back at the house and we can make a start on more boxes then.’
‘Is there anything I can do when I get to yours?’
‘Put the kettle on, I’m sure we’re going to need it, if I’m to be ready for next week.’