she did as she told him all about losing her mother, and about ho w she’d only just escaped marrying Jamie. Then they’d both fussed around her stroking her hair and mopping her tears before fetching yet another round of bellinis.
‘Darling, men can be such bitches, don’t I just know it,’ Angel exclaimed in his most diva-like fashion yet.
Lizzie’s size fives barely had time to touch the ground in this whirl of activity that had become her life. Not sure whether this was entirely a good thing, she nevertheless embraced every opportunity that came her way. Her grief was still there, but more manageable now and somehow, with all her new friends around her, it felt different.
Thanks to Katie, her new website was finished and Tilly had pinned an advertisement in her hairdressers. As she’d said most eloquently, not all the old farts round here have computers . The trip to Cornwall was still on her mind, but with a cat, a house and a fledgling business, she’d postponed it. Already her mobile was ringing and dribs and drabs of work were coming in. It was almost scary, the speed with which it was happening, as though she’d set something in motion which had taken on a life of its own.
After Darius and Ang el’s garden, she had a few commissions from clients nearby - a lawn needing manicuring here and there, or a corner of neglected garden that needed a facelift. Lizzie had found her element. And getting dressed for work was effortless too in just old jeans and whatever top came to hand. Tying her long hair in a ponytail or loose plait, she’d splodge on some makeup and be ready in no time. Jamie would have absolutely hated it!
Lizzie had yet to meet Antonia’s bête noi r, but she didn’t have to wait long. In her oldest jeans with her paint brush primed, ready to start on her stairs, there was a sharp knock at the door, then another, and Lizzie opened the door to a much older woman. Of a similar height to herself but dressed in tweeds, she had an unmistakeably school-mistressy air about her. Tilting up her head she’d frowned down her nose at Lizzie, inspecting her from head to toe. She’d then held out a dry hand, which she’d withdrawn at the sight of Lizzie’s paint-spattered one.
‘Elspeth Hepplewhite. I thought that as chairperson of the local WI, I should come and introduce myself.’
The penny dropped. Lizzie stared.
Mrs Hepplewhite peered at Lizzie more closely. ‘You were the one who was staying at that terrible pub.’ She tutted disapprovingly.
‘ My car broke down,’ said Lizzie apologetically. ‘I’m Lizzie. Er, would you like to come in?’
‘ I know,’ said Mrs Hepplewhite without a hint of a smile. ‘And that won’t be necessary. I’ve simply come to inform you about the WI. We meet on Tuesday afternoons. At 2pm. Punctually. No doubt you will be joining us.’
Lizzie opened her mouth and closed it, dumbfounded. ‘Mrs er...’
‘Hepplewhite,’ snapped the old trout .
‘I’d er love to,’ she started.
The thinly plucked eyebrows disappeared into her hair.
‘ But I-I’m not sure,’ Lizzie faltered.
Mrs Hepplewhite drew herself up and bristled indignantly. ‘Oh?’
Lizzie loathed confrontation at the best of times , but taking a deep breath she forced the words out.
‘Thank you, and I appreciate you inviting me, but I work most days. I can’t really commit myself. But thank you, very much,’ she emphasised politely, ‘for coming to ask me.’
Darren appeared , rubbing his lithe body against Mrs Hepplewhite’s legs and almost knocking her over. Then he sat on the path in front of her, fixed her with unblinking green eyes and frantically started scratching.
‘Hmmph,’ the woman snorted, then look ed with horror at her legs. ‘Well, I assume you’ll come to our Christmas fair at the very least. We rely on the locals to support it, you know.’ She bent down and scratched her left leg.