CHARLIE followed them into the kitchen and stood with his head bent like a schoolboy waiting to be told off.
Iris took charge.
“You two sit down,” she said. “I’ll put the kettle on, shall I?”
The problem would be finding clean mugs clean anything, really. Had Charlie really done no washing-up since he’d moved in? That was what it looked like. At least there was hot water in the tap. She filled the sink, washed three mugs and put a pile of other dishes in to soak.
The fridge held fresh milk but not much else.
“No biscuits, sorry,” Charlie said.
“Never mind biscuits,” Iris said. “You’ll make yourself ill, Charlie, if you don’t eat properly.”
Sandy leaned forward.
“I was never going to take it over, you know,” he said. “I wish I ”
“I know,” Charlie said. “It’s a pity, but there you go. You’re a credit to the family, Sandy. A clever lad. And I think the old Boat is in good hands, from what I’ve heard. It’s just, after all these years living with other people around, I can’t get used to being on my own.” He lifted his coffee with a shaky hand. “How long are you here for?”
“I’ve got a few weeks before I need to go back to Switzerland,” Sandy said.
Charlie’s eyes lit up.
“You’ll stay here? I’ll make up a bed for you.”
“I’ll do it,” Sandy said. “You sit there, Uncle Charlie. The place needs a bit of straightening up, I think you’ll agree. You’ll feel better when it’s clean and tidy.”
“I’ll make a start, shall I?” Iris said. “Sandy, why don’t you get your car and take Charlie to do some food shopping? Good healthy stuff, mind.”
When they’d gone she found Charlie’s radio and turned on the classical music channel. Then she rolled up her sleeves and looked around, smiling ruefully at herself in the dusty mirror. It didn’t look as if she’d have any problem filling the rest of her day.
Judy left the large, squashy parcel until last, recognising Marilyn’s handwriting. Her mother never gave up trying to get Judy out of her favourite jeans and checked overshirts. What would it be for this year’s birthday?
“Mum, that’s lovely!” Holly exclaimed as Judy held up a floaty top in a shade somewhere between blue and purple. “You’ll look great in that colour.”
Judy thought of the drawer full of pretty things her mother had given her over the years, most of which she’d never worn.
“Why can’t she chose something more practical?” she asked, feeling guilty as she spoke.
“Because,” Holly said, “that’s all you ever choose for yourself.”
Judy had to acknowledge the truth of this.
“But it’s such a waste,” she said. “I can’t even pass them on to you as we’re different shapes.”
“Why should they go to waste?” Holly asked. “Wear that one tonight. Corin’s going to make a special dinner for you, early, before the customers arrive. I’ll be your waitress for the evening!”
“But ” Wearing the top wasn’t just a matter of pulling it over her head. She’d have to find her smartest pair of trousers to go underneath it, and the length of them dictated digging out her one pair of high heels. And what would her usual face be like, above such glamour no make-up and easy-to-care-for hair? She would look ridiculous. “You know I hate getting dressed up.”
“We’ll have a makeover session, if we have time,” Holly promised. “And I’ve got some earrings that would look perfect with it.”
Judy smiled at her, thinking how lovely it was living with her even-tempered elder daughter again.
Holly’s hazel eyes and long lashes were enhanced by immaculate make-up, but to Judy’s mind she would look just as gorgeous without any. But she was looking pale and, Judy realised, had not eaten much lunch.
“Are you all right, love?” she asked.
“I’m fine.” Holly jumped up. “Right, madame, your bedroom, five-thirty? You bring yourself. I will bring my make-up bag and straighteners. Prepare to be amazed,” she said to Tom as he came into the kitchen.
“Amazed about what?” Tom asked but Holly left the room laughing, declining to enlighten him.