Authors: Milly Johnson
Tags: #Fiction, #General
Milly Johnson is a joke-writer, greetings card creator, newspaper columnist, after-dinner speaker, poet, winner of
Come Dine with Me
author and recipient of the RNA’s Romantic Comedy Award of 2014.
She is half-Yorkshire, half-Glaswegian and is proud patron of two fabulous charities: www.yorkshirecatrescue.org and thewellatthecore.co.uk, which is a complementary therapy centre for cancer
She likes cruising on big ships, Sciolti chocolates and Peller’s Cuvée Ice Wine. She does not like marzipan or lamb chops.
She lives happily in Barnsley with her two massive lads, Teddy the dog and two very spoilt cats. Her mam and dad live in t’next street.
The Teashop on the Corner
is her tenth book.
Find out more at www.millyjohnson.co.uk or follow Milly on Twitter @millyjohnson
Also by Milly Johnson
The Yorkshire Pudding Club
The Birds & the Bees
A Spring Affair
A Summer Fling
Here Come the Girls
An Autumn Crush
A Winter Flame
It’s Raining Men
First published by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd 2014
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © Millytheink Ltd, 2014
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc.
All rights reserved.
The right of Milly Johnson to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB
Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Export TPB ISBN: 978-1-47111-463-2
PB ISBN: 978-1-47111-464-9
EBOOK ISBN: 978-1-47111-465-6
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Typeset by M Rules
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
This book is dedicated to the lovely Molly Clemit who died 15 March 2014. May she find heaven full of books, friendly cats and teashops xxx
Things will always get better.
After all, when you’ve hit rock bottom,
there’s nowhere to go but up.
‘Man, cl-that is born of a woman, hath-cl but a short time to live, and is-cl full of misery. He cometh up, and is cl-cut down, like a flower; he fleeth-cl as it were a
cl-shadow, and never continueth in one cl-stay.’ The Reverend Duckworth relished the grave drama of his monologue as he sprayed the principal mourners on the front row with a light shower of
Behind Carla, her eighty-three-year-old neighbour Mavis Marple muttered under her breath to whoever was sitting next to her. ‘He sounds like Louie Spence.’
Mavis Marple didn’t do discreet very well. Still, she did love a good funeral, and a wedding. She’d attend anyone’s in the hope of getting invited to the post-event buffet.
‘They should have umbrellas on the front row.’
‘Shhh,’ someone else attempted to whisper, although the angry-python hiss echoed just as loudly around the church.
‘Well he does,’ went on Mavis. ‘All those
‘Thou knowest-cl, Lord, the cl-secrets of our hearts-cl,’ the Reverend Duckworth went on, raising his left hand heavenward in a grand sweep. In his own head he was Laurence Olivier
holding up Yorick’s skull.
But the words were mere white noise to Carla, whose sad dark brown eyes were fixed on the coffin behind him. She couldn’t believe that Martin, her husband of ten years, was in there. In a
wide wooden box. She had the mad urge to run up to it and prise off the lid with her fingernails to see him again, just one last time, to touch his face and tell him that she loved him. He had been
torn from her too quickly. One minute he was eating a pork pie and mint sauce in the kitchen, the next he was dead on the garage floor. She wanted to see in his eyes that he knew how much she loved
him and how much of a hole he had left in her heart.
‘Arshes to arshes, dust to dust.’
‘Did he just say “arses to arses”?’ Mavis Marple asked no one in particular and set off a ripple of involuntary giggling. Carla wasn’t angry though. Funerals were a
powder keg of pressure. Had she been watching all this on a sitcom, she would probably have giggled too. The pantomime effect wasn’t lost on her: old Reverend Duckworth in his thick brown wig
attempting a National Theatre delivery, doing his best to enunciate all those elusive pure ‘s’ sounds. But this wasn’t a sitcom, it was real life. This time last week she had been
a loving wife to Martin, washing his socks, waiting for him to come home to her on Friday nights after a hard week working all around the country; and now she was a widow, holding a fat red rose
that she would place on his coffin which would soon be incinerated with him in a giant oven.
Someone’s stomach made a loud gurgling noise as if water was rushing down a plughole.
‘Sorry,’ said the stomach’s owner.
At the back of the church the huge heavy door creaked open and banged shut again, making a sound that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Hammer Horror film. Pronounced tappy footsteps
followed. Carla sensed people shifting in their seats to turn and see who the latecomer was, but she didn’t join them. It couldn’t be anyone important. There was no one here who meant
anything much to Martin. There were a few neighbours, including Mavis Marple, who might have been inappropriately loud, but was also a good woman and kindness itself. There was Martin’s
cousin Andrew over from Bridlington, whom they hadn’t set eyes on since their wedding; a few people that Carla didn’t recognise, some probably men from the local club where Martin used
periodically to play darts; and someone who looked suspiciously like a tramp who had come in for the warmth. Martin didn’t have friends and there was no one from his workplace, at which
Carla’s disappointment edged towards disgust. Her husband had given Suggs Office Equipment a lot of hard-working years and yet when Carla rang them up to inform them of his passing, the woman
on the switchboard didn’t even seem to have recognised his name. She’d said she’d email the head of sales, and took Carla’s number, but no one rang her back.
Carla mouthed a silent message to her friend Theresa.
Oh, I wish you were here.
Theresa was in New Zealand with her husband Jonty, visiting their son. How could she have rung them with
her news and spoilt their holiday? Even though a little part of her wanted to spoil it, wanted to smash up their holiday with a hammer because she suspected they were going on a fact-finding
mission, to learn if they could live over there. Their daughter-in-law was pregnant with her first child, in a part of the country that had all-year sunshine, so who could blame them? Selfish as it
made her, Carla wished she could teleport her friend over to sit at her side today, instead of Andrew and his overpowering odour of sweaty feet.
Forty-eight was no age at all to die. Carla and Martin had been robbed of many happy years together. Carla had been saving up to take him on a cruise for his fiftieth birthday, at least until
she’d been made redundant last month. It was so unfair. Martin had worked too hard – all that driving every day, constant stress to sell to clients and meet targets – no wonder
he’d had a massive heart attack. Carla dabbed at her tears with her black gloves. Her foundation stained the material. She didn’t care. She didn’t care about the swish of whispers
that was rising behind her like a tidal wave. She didn’t care about anything at that moment in time. Martin had gone out to the garage alive and well to carry in the dressing table which
Carla had finished stripping down and hand-painting.
Wait for me, it’s too heavy,
Carla had called after him.
Just let me finish basting this chicken.
But he hadn’t
waited. He had lifted it single-handedly then collapsed and died on the spot. Their marriage, snuffed out, just like the candle on a birthday cake.