Evie loved children. After a bit, 'Any time you need a sitter, just give me a ring,’ said Evie, and from time to time Alison had taken her up on this. The children liked it when Evie came to take care of them. She always brought them sweets or little presents, taught Larry card games, and was deft and loving with Janey, liking to hold the baby on her knee, with Janey's round fair head pressed against the solid bolster of her formidable bosom.
Now, she bustled to the stove, filled a kettle, stooped to the oven to inspect her cake. 'Nearly done.’
'You are kind, Evie. But isn't it time you went home? Jack'll be wondering what's happened to his tea.’
'Oh, Jack went off to market today. Won't be back till all hours. If you like, I'll put the children to bed for you. I have to wait for the cake, anyway.’ She beamed at Larry. 'You'd like that, wouldn't you, my duck? Have Evie bathing you. And Evie will show you how to make soap bubbles with your fingers.’
Larry put the last chip in his mouth. He was a thoughtful child, and did not commit himself readily to any impulsive scheme. He said, 'Will you read me my story as well? When I'm in bed?'
'If you like.’
'I want to read Where's Spot? There's a tortoise in it.’
'Well, Evie shall read you that.’
When tea was finished, the three of them went upstairs. Bath water could be heard running and Alison smelt her best bubble-bath. She cleared the tea and stacked the dishwasher and turned it on. Outside, the light was fading, so before it got dark, she went out and unpegged the morning's wash from the line, brought it indoors, folded it, stacked it in the airing cupboard. On her way downstairs, she collected a red engine, an eyeless teddy bear, a squeaking ball, and a selection of bricks. She put these in the toy basket that lived in the kitchen, laid the table for their breakfast, and a tray for the supper that she and Henry would eat by the fire.
This reminded her. She went through to the sitting room, put a match to the fire, and drew the curtains. The room looked bleak without flowers, but she planned to do flowers tomorrow. As she returned to the kitchen, Catkin put in an appearance, insinuating himself through his cat door, and announcing to Alison that it was long past his dinner time and he was hungry. She opened a tin of cat food and poured him some milk, and he settled himself into a neat eating position and tidily consumed the lot.
She thought about supper for herself and Henry. In the larder was a basket of brown eggs Evie had brought with her. They would have omelettes and a salad. There were six oranges in the fruit bowl and doubtless some scraps of cheese in the cheese dish. She collected lettuce and tomatoes, half a green pepper and a couple of sticks of celery, and began to make a salad. She was stirring the French dressing when she heard Henry's car come up the lane and pull into the garage. A moment later he appeared at the back door, looking tired and crumpled, carrying his bulging briefcase and the evening paper.
'Hello, darling.’ They kissed. 'Had a busy day?'
'Frantic.’ He looked at the salad and ate a bit of lettuce. ’Is this for supper?'
'Yes, and an omelette.’
'Frugal fare,’ he leaned against the table. 'I suppose we're saving up for tomorrow night?'
'Don't talk about it. Did you see Mr Fairhurst today?'
'No, he's been out of town. Where are the children?'
'Evie's bathing them. Can't you hear? She stayed on. She'd baked a cake for us and it's still in the oven. And Jack's at market.’
Henry yawned. 'I'll go up and tell her to leave the water in. I could do with a bath.’
Alison emptied the dishwasher and then went upstairs too. She felt, for some reason, exhausted. It was an unfamiliar treat to be able to potter around her bedroom, to feel peaceful and unhurried. She took off the clothes she had been wearing all day, opened her cupboard and reached for the velvet housecoat that Henry had given her last Christmas. It was not a garment she had worn very often, there not being many occasions in her busy life when it seemed suitable. It was lined with silk, and had a comforting and luxurious feel about it. She did up the buttons, tied the sash, slipped her feet into flat gold slippers left over from some previous summer, and went across the landing to the children's room to say goodnight. Janey was in her cot, on the verge of sleep. Evie sat on the edge of Larry's bed, and was just about to finish the bedtime book. Larry's mouth was plugged with his thumb, his eyes drooped. Alison stooped to kiss him.
Чтобы распечатать файл, скачайте его (в формате Word).
Ссылка на скачивание - внизу страницы.