Hetty's Farmhouse Bakery 2018(6)

By: Cathy Bramley

‘I take all your points on board, Miss Compton, and my husband and I will see to it that Poppy starts showing more interest in her studies.’

‘Good.’ The teacher started to shuffle her papers. ‘Because her schoolwork has to take precedence over her love of nature.’

Poppy pushed her chair back and stood up. ‘Do you want your usual half-dozen eggs tomorrow, Miss?’

Miss Compton’s cheeks turned pink. ‘Er, yes please, Poppy.’

Poppy nodded. ‘Okay, but you still owe me a pound from last week.’

The teacher fluttered her hand up to her neck and smiled sheepishly at me. ‘I didn’t have any change.’

‘Scrooge,’ said Poppy, hefting her school bag over her arm.

‘I beg your pardon?’ Miss Compton’s head reared up.

‘The main character in that old book,’ she replied innocently. ‘And the answer to my question is up to one hundred times a day.’

‘Oh right, yes.’ The teacher’s blush deepened. ‘Well done.’

One nil to Poppy, I thought, with a rush of pride as we walked out of the school hall.

Chapter 2

‘Home?’ Poppy asked, pulling off her school tie and flinging it on to the back seat a few minutes later when we’d made it back to the car.

I grimaced as I did up my seat belt. ‘Sorry, love, shopping first.’

We set off to the sound of Poppy complaining that for once she’d just like to get home at the same time as normal people. She usually travelled on the school bus, which due to its circuitous route took over an hour to reach Sunnybank Farm. I reminded her that at least she’d only got one more day before school finished for a week and promised her a treat if she pushed the trolley for me.

I was keen to get home too but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a proper supermarket while we were in town. Carsdale only stretched to a couple of little grocery stores, both of which were very pricey, and although I bought local as much as I could to support them, it was nice to do a big shop every now and again.

With Poppy steering the trolley and me tossing item after item into it, we soon managed to accumulate a mountain of food and after half an hour we headed to the tills. The shop was busy and by the time we’d loaded all our shopping on the conveyor belt, quite a queue had built up. Poppy wasn’t keen on packing, so while she retreated to sit on the bench with her pot of pomegranate seeds, chosen as her treat, and check for vitally important messages on her phone, I began loading the bags.

And then an image popped into my head: my little blue purse sitting on the kitchen table.

‘Oh no,’ I said suddenly, with a bolt of panic.

I’d taken my purse out of my bag to pay a bill over the phone this morning. I reached for my bag now, already knowing it wouldn’t be there.

‘What’s wrong?’ asked the cashier, a pale-faced girl who, judging by the long and consonant-heavy name on her badge, may have been Polish.

The other people in the queue stopped to stare as I rummaged in my bag. My phone, car keys, bottle of water and tub of dog treats: all present and correct. No purse.

‘I haven’t brought my money,’ I said, feeling the heat rise to my face. And my armpits. ‘I’m so sorry; I can’t pay for my shopping.’

A collective groan went up from the queue, two of whom had already started unloading their shopping on to the belt. The two behind them pulled away from the queue and dashed to the other open till.

‘No cards at all?’ The girl blinked at me with large worried eyes.

‘Poppy?’ I called, grasping at the ultimate straw; I didn’t even know why I was asking. ‘You haven’t got any money on you, have you?’

Bless her, she reached into her blazer pocket. ‘How much do you need?,’ she said, holding out a handful of coins.

‘Ninety-five pounds,’ said the pale-faced assistant, chewing her lip. ‘You might have enough to pay for the pomegranate.’

Yep. Definitely one of those days.

Poppy strode out ahead with the car keys, leaving me to return the trolley. I stowed the empty shopping bags back in the boot and we headed for home.

Before long we’d left the supermarket and relative metropolis of Holmthwaite behind but my darling daughter was still laughing.