OH, I wish we could go,” Judy said for the umpteenth time, gazing in frustration at the computer screen which showed that the B&B was booked solid for the next two weeks.
Tom squeezed her shoulder.
“I know. But they’ll get a feel for the place, ask all the right questions. But selling up here . . . there’s a thought.”
“We’ll tell Louise and Mother this afternoon but stress that it’s only a possibility. Lou should be back about four.”
“Are you finished on the computer?” Tom asked. “I thought I’d have a look to see what properties in the street are fetching.”
“Corin said his parents would chip in.” Judy stood up to let Tom sit on the office chair.
“Would invest. That’s how Philip and Verity would see it. And that could mean they’d want some say. Interfere. Or expect to stay for nothing, bring their friends. His golfing pals.”
Judy had to laugh.
“Philip’s rather overbearing, I agree, but I think I’d get on with Verity if we knew each other better. You’re right, though. Their involvement would have to be clear. I’m more concerned about whether there’s living accommodation for four people.”
It was Tom’s turn to be soothing.
“Holly and Corin will find out about that. It may be all pie in the sky anyway, Judy. Are we having a joint mid-life crisis even considering it?”
“Well, we are in the middle of our lives, if you think about it. I’ve started to make oofy noises when I sit down. But we don’t need to make a crisis out of it. Just a few changes.”
“Buying a hotel four hundred miles away? Just a few changes!”
The phone rang. Tom went to answer it and Judy left him to it.
They hadn’t said anything to Louise or to Marilyn about Holly’s phone call. But now that things had moved on, it was time to tell the rest of their family what was in the air. So Judy was annoyed when Louise breezed in after school with Eddie one step behind her.
“Lou, you know your gran will be here in a minute. We want to have a serious chat with you and Granmar. We have something to tell you.”
Eddie seemed to get her drift even if Louise didn’t.
“That’s fine, I’ll be off. See you tomorrow, Lou,” he said.
“No, don’t go, we were going to download music from that band.” Louise looked at Judy. “Surely you can say whatever it is in front of Ed?”
“It’s a family thing,” Judy started to say, but the unmistakeable rattle of Marilyn’s old Mini could be heard and she went out to guide her mother into a parking space.
How did she drive in those heels, Judy wondered, as Marilyn got out of the car. With the shoes she wore smart black trousers and a pink blouse with wide sleeves gathered at the wrist. Her hair and make-up were immaculate.
Judy looked down at her own jeans and baggy checked shirt. Guiltily, she thought of the top Marilyn had given her last birthday, blue and green, in a flattering fitted shape. It was upstairs in her wardrobe, along with the gauzy scarf from Christmas and all the other pretty garments Marilyn had chosen for her.
“Macarons!” Marilyn flourished a white box. “Lemon. Violet. They look too good to eat but I expect we’ll manage.”
“Can you put them on a plate, Lou, please?” Judy said, making tea. “Sit down, Mother. Here’s Tom now.”
Marilyn acknowledged her son-in-law by blowing a kiss.
“Goodness. Quite an air of mystery! What’s going on?”
Between them, Judy and Tom related the plan so far.
“So,” Tom concluded, “Holly and Corin are going to view the hotel next week and we’ll take it from there.”
Louise almost choked.
“And what about me?” she said when she could speak. “Have you forgotten that I have my ‘A’-levels in a few months?”
“Well, we thought ” Judy began, but Louise jumped up.
“I need to think. Eddie, come on.”
Eddie looked at Judy apologetically before following Louise out of the kitchen.
Marilyn put down her cup.
“Scotland. How lovely,” she said calmly. “We honeymooned in Scotland, your father and I. The Isle of Arran. Where’s your hotel, did you say?”
“By Loch Lorn in Argyllshire,” Judy said. “But of course we don’t want Lou to change schools ”
Marilyn helped herself to a violet macaron.
“She can stay with me until she finishes school. We’ll have a ball.”
Judy didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
“That’s wonderful. If it happens. But I don’t like the thought of leaving you, Mother. It’s so far away.”
Marilyn patted her hand.
“Planes, trains, automobiles. E-mails. Phone calls. Texts. You need a change, both of you. Your father didn’t like taking chances, Judy, and look at him, a heart attack before he was fifty. Now, do you think your own place will sell quickly?”
“I was wondering.” Judy looked at Tom. “Jim next door runs a B and B, too, and his wife looked after ours when we were on holiday, remember? I got the impression they were keen to expand.”
“I’ll sound Jim out,” Tom said. “No harm in asking. Any takers for that last lemon one?”
“You help yourself, dear,” Marilyn said, getting out her mobile phone. “I’ll text Louise. Tell her I’m looking for a lodger.”