Hetty's Farmhouse Bakery 2018(2)

By: Cathy Bramley

I shook my head. ‘A section of electric fence has come down; he had to stay and mend it. They’re escape artists, those sheep. I’m sure they patrol the edges of each field looking for weak spots.’

She laughed at that.

‘And it would help if parents’ evening was actually in the evening instead of three thirty in the afternoon,’ I added.

‘I suppose it’s hard for him to take time off in the daylight. He’s a grafter, your husband.’

‘So am I!’ I retorted.

‘I know you are; you are Super Woman!’ She whipped out her mascara and flicked it over her pale lashes. ‘I’ve seen you racing across fields on a quad bike in winter to rescue a new-born lamb, your red hair flying. I’m in awe. You even look sexy in a woolly hat and wellies. Whereas I look like a garden gnome.’

She could never look like a garden gnome. I smiled, watching as she took her time to do her face, even though we were already late. In many ways we were chalk and cheese, but she was as close as family; the sister I never had.

We met when we were sixteen. My parents had just emigrated to Cape Cod, leaving me home alone. They’d planned on waiting until I went to uni, but Dad received an offer to buy his business unexpectedly and so after reassurance from me that I’d be fine, they’d decided to go early. I’d thought living on my own would be fun, but I’d been lonely and, although I hadn’t liked to admit it, a bit scared too. Mum called constantly to check I was okay. I’d said I was fine, but secretly I wanted them to come back.

Then Anna came along. She’d been living with her glass-half-empty grandmother since her mum had died and the two of us gravitated to each other like magnets. Before long she’d unofficially moved in and we’d been close ever since.

Dan sometimes grumbled about Anna and me living in each other’s pockets, but I thought it was par for the course when you lived in a small village like we did. Besides, he was probably a bit envious of our friendship. His own best friend, Joe, left home after college and never came back. I’d been sad about it, but my husband was a man of few words and shrugged it off as ‘one of those things’.

‘You’re right; Dan does work longer hours than me,’ I admitted. ‘But it frustrates me sometimes. Introduce yourself as a farmer and everyone puffs out their cheeks, sympathizing with what a hard life you have. But say you’re a farmer’s wife and people go all misty-eyed imagining a contented, apple-cheeked woman in an apron, sliding pies into the oven before settling down to bottle-feed an orphan lamb …’ My voice petered out. Anna tried to suppress a snort. Okay, so that was me to a T.

‘Oh, shut up. Anyway, Poppy’s last report was less than glowing and I would have liked some moral support this time.’

‘Wouldn’t we all?’ she replied with a sigh.

I grinned at her. ‘Really?’

Anna was a single parent; her son Bart was in the year above Poppy. He was my godson and I loved him almost as much as I loved Poppy. Anna had attended every appointment and meeting since the day he was born and was rightly proud of how well she coped on her own. But she was exceptionally protective of Bart and a bit of a control freak.

She pulled a face. ‘Okay, probably not, but sometimes I think it would be nice to share the burden.’

To be fair, I did most of the domestic and childcare duties by myself too; it was part of my job description as a farmer’s wife. Besides, being a farmer wasn’t exactly a nine-to-five job; if it was light, Dan was at work and if it was dark … well, he’d probably still have things to do.

‘The burden being your gorgeous, caring, well-mannered son?’ I nudged her arm playfully. ‘Poor you.’

‘Good point well made.’ She inclined her dainty head. ‘Come on, stop fannying about or we really will be late.’

She locked the car and set the pace at a swift march across the car park towards the school entrance, where our children would be waiting in the hall. She pulled a bottle of perfume from her bag without breaking her step and spritzed it liberally in a cloud around us both.

‘Sorry, but I honk,’ she said, laughing as I began to cough. ‘I’ve had unprotected sex, two asthma attacks, a vomiting incident in the PE toilets and an unexplained two-inch gash to a forehead and I need to get rid of the smell of disinfectant.’