The Corner Shop in Cockleberry BayBy: Nicola May
‘Are you sure you’ve got the right person?’
Rosa took off her bright blue woolly hat and scratched the back of her head, causing her dark brown curls to become even more unruly.
The tall, pinched-faced solicitor nodded. ‘Yes, of course we have. Evans, Donald and Simpson do not make mistakes. You, Miss Larkin, are now the official owner of the Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay.’
He handed the bewildered twenty-five-year-old a battered leather briefcase and pointed to a small combination padlock on its brass clasp.
‘Here. The will stated that you - and only you - can open this, using your date of birth.’
‘This is all very strange,’ Rosa said. ‘And where exactly is this Cockleberry Bay?’
‘Devon, dear, Devon.’ The solicitor looked under his rimless glasses. ‘I take it you know where that is?’
‘I may have a cockney accent, Mr Donald, but I’m not stupid.’
‘Well, open it then.’ The solicitor was shifting from foot to foot in anticipation. He confided, ‘We’ve been wanting to know what’s in there for days.’
Showing no emotion, Rosa gazed at him with her striking green eyes and asked coolly: ‘Is there anything else I need?’
‘Er, no - but are you not going to …?’
‘I need to get to work.’ Rosa put her hat and scarf back on, zipped up her fur-lined bomber jacket and headed for the door. ‘Thank you so much for your help.’
And she was gone.
The solicitor peered crossly out of the window of the offices in Staple Inn and watched as the young woman, the briefcase in her arms, strode across the frosty cobbled courtyard and out into the bustle of London’s ancient legal quarter.
‘You’re late again, Rosa. This is a discount store, not a charity shop.’
‘Oh, turn that frown upside down, Mr Brown. I’m here now, aren’t I?’
But there wasn’t even a glint of the usual smile from her now reddening supervisor.
‘I’m going to have to let you go, Rosa. I need committed staff and to be honest, I don’t think you know what that word means. You’ve had all your warnings. I will speak to Head Office, and they will settle your final pay.’
Rosa sighed. ‘Really?’ When Mr Brown said nothing, she picked up the briefcase from the floor and added: ‘Whilst you’re at it, maybe you could tell them I’ve been wanting to stick this shitty, unfulfilling job right up their pound-coin-shaped backsides for weeks anyway.’
Rosa’s elderly neighbour was putting a holly wreath on her front door when she arrived at home, mid-morning.
‘You’re back early, dearie.’
Rosa murmured under her breath, ‘And Ethel Beanacre wins the award for the Nosiest Neighbour of the Year.’
‘What was that, love?’
‘Nothing, Ethel, just talking to myself.’
The sight of the worn briefcase secured further interest.
‘Robbed a bank, have you?’ Ethel’s awful cackle reminded Rosa of Catherine Tate’s ‘Gran’ character.
Rosa scrabbled for her key. ‘Don’t tell anyone, will you.’ She put a finger to her lips and winked.
‘So, are you going back to work later?’ The old lady pursed her lips. ‘Can’t be doing with that dog of yours barking until you come back at lunchtime.’
Ignoring her, Rosa shut the front door, put her back against it and slid down to the floor. An excitable mini-dachshund charged up to greet her and began licking her face with gusto.
‘It’s not a good day, Hot Dog,’ Rosa told him. ‘Mamma’s got the sack again.’ She stroked his smooth brown coat. ‘However, all is not lost, since I am now apparently the owner of a shop somewhere miles away. What do you think of that, eh?’
‘What are you on about?’
‘God, Josh, you made me jump! What are you doing here?’
‘Well, I do live here.’ He yawned. ‘Needed a lie-in. Big Christmas drinks last night - you know what us rugby boys are like.’ He smiled. ‘No rent again this month then, I take it? It’s a good job I like you.’