I had been sitting around for half an hour waiting for Josie to get here. She had left earlier that morning to drop down to the video shop and return our weekly borrows, and had promised to get to the green with the truck by nine. It was one of those moment that I wished I hadn’t chickened out so when it came to learning how to drive. I needed the truck here with its food-laden boxes, and Josie the driver was nowhere to be seen. I busied myself straightening out the tablecloths and rearranging what meagre goods I had for the fiftieth time. All the while my head replayed the scene between me and Jo from the night before.
Jo was a good liar to say the least, but it took an amazing liar to fool a gossip. And Josie did not fool me at all when it came to her friendship with Joshua Hastings. I had suspected long ago when Jo started dolling up on Friday nights, swapping her usual jeans and T-shirt for little vintage dresses and mascara. But last Friday night confirmed my suspicions. She thought she concealed her blush when I went along with her subject change, but Charli Greene did have the sharpest eye when it came to picking out these things. I knew that Josh was a good person, a man worthy of my little sister, but there was still something within me that wanted her to stop loving him. Joshua Hastings had been consumed by Mollie’s death, and I didn’t want Josie to have her heart broken. I knew all too well about broken hearts.
“Charli, how are you?” said the voice of Mrs Palmer, breaking my train of thoughts.
“I’m great,” I lied, automatically pasting the cheery-Charli smile on my face, “How are you? Where’s Nyree?”
“Oh, she’s off having fun with the other kids. I’m great too, just suffering a massive craving for your apple pies though,” she said, winking and laying her hand on her stomach.
I glanced at her abdomen from the corner of my eye as I wrapped her a slice of my pie. There was a slight bulge there, big enough to be a sure sign of a child growing.
“Ella! Congratulations! Is it a boy or girl?” I said, smiling.
“Don’t know yet. Dr Hastings said give it a few more weeks and he can tell me for sure,” she said, her eyes shining.
She reached out for the pie, and I took the money from her hand. As I crouched to retrieve the money box, I laid my own hand against my stomach. It was still flat as a board, not giving the slightest clue that I was with child. But I knew for sure, because I had cleared out the pregnancy test stock at the chemist, and every single one turned out positive. Suddenly the image of my last fight with Ben came reeling back, and I lost my balance.
“You ok Charli?” said the anxious voice of Ella Palmer.
“Couldn’t be better,” I answer, pulling myself up, “Here’s your change. Enjoy the pie!”
I lowered myself slowly down onto the fold-up chair in the corner of the food tent, my hands shaking. Sharp words from Ben dug hard into my mind, screaming and yelling just as he had on that last day. It felt like it was so long ago, yet he left just two nights before. I had been stupid to think that telling him the truth would make everything ok, that he wouldn’t judge me, that he wouldn’t condemn me for what I did the night of Mollie’s death. But who was I kidding. He was Mollie’s favourite cousin, and I guessed no amount of love from me would let him accept the fact that I had a hand in Mollie’s death. It was an accident, but I was guilty nonetheless. And now this child, our child, will not have a father because of me. Me and my stupid mouth.
“Charli? Sorry I’m late,” apologized Josie as she rushed into our tent with boxes piled in her arms.
“Oh, it’s alright,” I said, somewhat absentmindedly, “No one came yet, save Ella Palmer.”
“Oh, good. I thought I would be real late,” explained Jo as she unpacked the containers, “Told Josh I would lock up, and I ended up locking the car keys inside his house. Kinda had to climb the window.”
“Josie! Now you’ve got ladders in my new hose! Why didn’t you just call him to get the keys?” I said, shoving all memories of that night into a corner.
“He was busy with his stall,” she mumbled, “Plus, it was stupid of me.”
I suddenly felt a real need for a walk. Standing up, I grabbed my purse and made my way out through the maze of containers.
“Jo? Mind looking after the stall this morning? I’ll take over at lunch and then you can have your fun,” I said.
“Yeah sure,” she agreed, then yelled an afterthought, “If you see any new keyrings, get it for me!”
I nodded as I walked away from our stalls. How could I forget Jo’s keyrings collection? I wandered aimlessly among the isle of stalls, stopping here and there to pick up a few things. Before I knew it lunch was approaching. I started to head back, my arms wrapped around a new antique vase that I got from Ellen Kirtle.
“Charli! Been through all the stalls?” Joshua Hastings stopped me in my path.
“Nearly. There’s so many though,” I told him, “I’m sure the number of stalls grows every year.”
“My tent is bigger this year,” he said.
I smiled and told him that I was jealous. Which I was after he asked for Josie. She was so lucky to still have a man asking after her.
“She’s on the stalls,” I told him, then proceeded to explain why I wasn’t there myself.
“You mind keeping back some food for me?” he asked, smiling.
“Why not go over there now and get some?” I said, up to some mischief and feeling almost my old self again, “I’m sure Josie will be thrilled to see you,”
“Why do you say that?” he asked, perplexed.
“No reason…” I walked off, a smile on my face.