A Year at The Cosy Cottage CafeBy: Rachel Griffiths
Summer at The Cosy Cottage Café
By Rachel Griffiths
Allie Jones loves her cosy cottage café in the picturesque village of Heatherlea. She has her independence, two grown-up children and two cute cats. Life is settled and she thinks she’s happy.
Author Chris Monroe has it all. Critical success, a luxurious London apartment, and the kind of jet-set lifestyle most people dream of. But something’s missing.
When a family bereavement throws these two old friends together, they begin to question the true meaning of happiness.
Love is in the air, but do Allie and Chris have room in their hands-on lives for more than a summer fling?
“Such a terrible loss, Mrs Burnley. I really am sorry.”
Allie Jones nodded solemnly as the elderly woman dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.
“She was a good friend… all these years.” Judith Burnley’s watery eyes burned into Allie’s. “Since school you know? Even though she was a few years older than me, we were still so close.”
“I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.”
“Dreadful. Dreadful.” Mrs Burnley’s emphasis caused a tiny bead of saliva to land on her chin. “I still can’t believe she’s gone. Although it was a lovely service.”
“Oh good. I would have gone myself but I had to be here to get everything ready.”
“Of course you did. Her son said some very nice things about her. He’s a good lad that Chris Monroe.”
Allie chewed her bottom lip, wondering how long she was supposed to stand with the older woman. After all, what length of time did social etiquette demand? Plus, she really didn’t want to discuss Chris right now and had been trying not to think about him too much.
“I hope someone says positive things about me at my funeral. At my age, I probably don’t have much time left…”
The word made Allie think about the miniature quiches in the oven. She needed to rescue them. Five more minutes would mean perfect pastry but any longer and they’d be ruined.
“I’m sorry, but I need to get back to the kitchen. I have a thousand things to do before everyone arrives.”
Mrs Burnley’s grey eyebrows shot up her heavily powdered forehead.
“I have quiches in the oven that will burn,” Allie added, in case the urgency of the situation was in any doubt. She placed a hand on the older woman’s arm. “Again, I’m sorry.”
Mrs Burnley seemed placated. She gave a sharp sniff then headed across the café to a group of women standing near the log burner. Their uniform of black skirts and jackets paired with flesh-coloured tights, made Allie think of a nature documentary she’d once seen about crows, especially as they took it in turns to cast inquisitive glances around the café.
Allie picked up two used cups from a table near the counter then went through to the kitchen. The quiches should have been ready before the funeral party started arriving. She was sure the service had been scheduled for eleven o’clock and hadn’t expected anyone to turn up at the café until around noon. But the group of women had arrived promptly at eleven thirty-five, so Allie guessed they had left the small village church as soon as the final hymn had been sung.
Allie hadn’t seen Chris Monroe in years. After he’d left the village, he rarely returned. Allie thought she had an idea why, having known his mother – the rather harsh Mrs Monroe – since she was a child, but there could be other reasons she knew nothing about. Whenever she’d asked Mrs Monroe how Chris was getting on, her stock response had been ‘he’s travelling with his writing’ and that was as much as Allie had known. Until a week ago, when she’d received a phone call out of the blue, from Chris himself.
The call had been polite and brief, not allowing for more detailed pleasantries or a potted history. In fact, if Allie was being honest, Chris had been a bit rude and rather cold. But business was business and she wasn’t going to turn down a job. Besides, where else would they have held the wake? At one of the village pubs? Allie knew that Mrs Monroe would never have been happy with that. The old woman had seen the local pubs as dens of iniquity and would, no doubt, have turned in her new grave had her son chosen to hold her wake surrounded by locals enjoying a lunchtime pint.