Lola's House (Lola Series)

BOOK: Lola's House (Lola Series)
8.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Lola’s House


Digital Edition
Copyright © 2013 by Suzie Groers
All rights reserved

design by Derek Murphy

hapter One


I’m slumped over the counter, prodding numbers into the calculator.  I’ve done this about five times already and every time it confirms what I have been suspecting for a while.  I’ve got no money and I’m going to be living off noodles and porridge oats for the next ten years.  I sigh in frustration and toss the calculator in the bin.  Then I have second thoughts and fish it out again quickly, it’s not as if I can afford to buy a new one. 

Things ha
ve been getting quite tough lately.  I own a vintage clothes shop, but to be honest it’s getting harder and harder to get any decent vintage stock nowadays.  Business has been a bit quiet, so I’m getting desperate trying to work out how to increase my cash flow, and my brain physically aches from thinking about it for every waking hour.

just wiping a splodge of ketchup off the back of the calculator, when the old fashioned bell clangs above the shop door.  It swings open, bouncing off a display of hats and gloves just behind the door, and teeters precariously before righting itself again.  I really need to put that somewhere else, I think for the third time this week, as Chrissie strides into the shop.  Chrissie has been my best friend since what seems like forever, I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t around. 

My face lights up. 
In one hand she has a cardboard carrier with two takeaway cups of coffee, and in the other what appears to be a paper bag full of food.  

, Lola, thought you might be hungry so I’ve bought you some lunch,’ she says, plonking the bag down on the counter and I delve into the top of it like a woman who hasn’t eaten in a week, hoping I’m going to find something chocolaty inside.  I rustle around in the bag and bingo - the chocolate muffin doesn’t stand a chance as I’m already pulling off the cellophane wrapper, ready to sink my teeth into it.

‘You’re out and about early for Thursday, Chrissie, no work today?’ I ask her as I pull the top off the steaming cup of coffee and hold it up to her.  ‘Cheers for these by the way.’ 

‘I had the morning off to go with Poppy for the final fitting of her dress.  I thought I told you about it?’ she says, stirring her coffee.

I shrug my shoulders
, unable to answer without spraying muffin crumbs everywhere.

‘Anyway, I th
ought I had better let you know, I’ve booked you a place on her hen night,’ she waits and gives me a searching look over the top of her coffee cup.

My face falls and I put the muffin down on the counter.  ‘You can have this back then, you know I don’t do hen nights.’

She pushes the muffin back into my hand. ‘Don’t be silly, Lola.  It’ll be fun, you’ll see, and you need to get yourself out there and have some fun.  All you ever seem to do is work in the shop, then go home and work some more, so I think it’s time to take a break, don’t you?’

She look
s at me with her big blue eyes and I mentally kick myself for getting dragged into it.  Last thing I want to do is wander around with loads of drunken women wearing some ridiculous outfit and getting slaughtered on vodka shots.  I’m not a party pooper, really I’m not - it’s just that last time I ended up in accident and emergency when I fell out of the doors of a stretch Hummer.  Okay, it wasn’t moving at the time, but I sustained a really nasty scrape on my elbow and it’s no fun spending three hours in casualty when you’re wearing a pink tutu on your bottom half and a tee shirt with ‘I’m a naughty girl, please spank me’ emblazoned on your top half.

I groan, ‘I’m not going to get out of this am
I?  Okay, I’ll come, but only under duress, and I’m not wearing fancy dress, or getting in a stretch Hummer,’ I add, taking another big bite of the muffin just to make me feel better.

‘Excellent, I knew you’d be up for it, you’ll need to give me your deposit
then as Poppy has to pay for the tickets and arrange the hotel.’ I see her cringe inwardly as she waits for the next explosion.

I spray crumbs across the counter. ‘Hotel? I thought it was a hen night. When did hen nights turn into weekends, and how much is that going to cost?’

Chrissie wriggles uncomfortably on the stool on the other side of the counter.  ‘Well it’s two hundred quid
, but technically, it’s more of a weekend away than a night out so you’ll get your money’s worth, and you agreed you do need a break.’

This time I spray coffee over the counter. 
‘Two hundred quid? I can’t afford that.’  I get a wet wipe out of the packet and wipe the debris off the counter, my face scowling.

‘Of course you can, you can’t be that short.  You’ve got this shop and you live in a mansion.’ 

‘I don’t live in a bloody mansion. It’s a Victorian house and it’s costing me a fortune in renovations at the moment.  I’m getting permanent palpitations just thinking about the amount of money I’ve been throwing at it and it still doesn’t look any different from when Gran left it to me.  As for the shop, times are hard and people don’t want to part with their money.  I had one of my best gowns stolen only yesterday.’  This was true - a woman had come into the shop and given me the run-around, asking me to fetch this dress and those shoes, nonstop, for about an hour and a half.  She looked like she wasn’t short of a bob or two either; she tried on several different vintage gowns and then left without buying anything, but after she had gone I noticed the nineteen fifties gown, I had bought from America only a couple of weeks ago, had disappeared. 

‘Oh come on
, Lola, you’ll enjoy yourself, you know you will,’ she says, batting her eyelashes at me.

‘Looks like I haven’t got much choice, so it had better be fun packed. 
But if I see one stretch Hummer, I’m out of there, quick smart,’ I say with a grimace.

Excellent, I know you won’t regret it,’ Chrissie claps her hands in victory.

‘In return, can you look after the shop for an hour while I go and check on the builders?  Ned said they’d be finished with the roof this afternoon and I just want to check everything is okay before they slope off for the day.  Muriel wi
ll be here at one to take over.’  I glance at my watch noticing I haven’t got much time.

‘Okay, but only if I can try on some stuff while I’m here.’

‘Help yourself, sweetie,’ I say, as I grab my coat and bag from the back room. ‘I’ll be back soon - if Muriel needs me she can get me on my mobile.  Catch you later.’

Chrissie ha
s already stopped listening as she picks up a Mary Quant mini skirt and holds it up against her very slim middle. I dash out of the back door to the car park, hoping I haven’t been blocked in again.  But of course, once out back there’s a dirty big transit van parked behind my little Peugeot. I get in the car and honk the horn twice, which is a signal to Sandip from the restaurant next door to come and move his vehicle.  The car park is about the size of a handkerchief, so we have worked out a way to tell each other to move, without having to actually go looking for the driver. 

Sandip c
omes out waving at me apologetically, so I flash him a big grin, and wave back.  He gets in his van and points furiously at his mouth.  I’m not sure what that is all about, maybe he’s telling me he’s just come back from the dentist I think, so I put on my most sympathetic face and wave my thanks as I back the car out and turn around.  I glance into the rear view mirror and wave to him again, and then notice there is a big lump of chocolate muffin stuck in my teeth. 

After sucking and tonguing the offending piece of cake from my teeth for five minutes, I
am nearing my street. Even before I’ve turned the corner I can hear AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, blaring out at what seems like a hundred decibels.  As I pull onto my drive I can see Kev playing air guitar, on a large cross head screw driver, which he is wielding dangerously in front of his body, while he stands in the middle of my driveway.  I honk my horn again, this time the signal for what the hell are you doing annoying my neighbours when you should be working.  Kev carries on with his fake strumming, bouncing his head and rattling his brain to and fro, although in Kev’s case I doubt there will be any noticeable damage.  He has a red and white bandana tied over his shoulder length hair, two long flappy bits at the back of his head are flying about furiously as Brian Johnson screams his way to the end of the song.

At the sound of my car horn Ned
comes out onto the drive.  He pulls open the car door to let me out and laughs to himself.  ‘He missed his vocation in life did our Kevin.  Should have been one of them heavy metal singers in tight trousers, but he got tonsillitis when he was little and was never the same again, not after they took ‘em out.  I told our Betty we should have claimed compensation from the hospital but she doesn’t like to make no waves.’

‘And I’m sure he would have been a star
, Ned, but could we keep the music down a bit do you think.  The neighbours think they’re at a Glastonbury encore,’ I ask, as I get out of the car.  Ned is apparently a master builder who came from the West Country many years ago to be with the love of his life Betty.  He works with his son Kevin who is nice enough, but works better with plenty of direction.  Ned had been recommended to me by Chrissie’s brother who knew some people, who knew some people that had had a kitchen extension built. 

‘Have you finished the roof?’ I sa
y, looking up at the house looming over me.

‘Yes love, we got it all done see,’ he sa
ys, pointing up to the top of the house.  ‘Your tiles are all on as requested, your gutters are as good as new, we had a bit of bother with your soffits and your downspout was in the wrong place, making a hell of a mess it was, but we’ve fixed it so you’ll be dry as a bone in that there house.’

‘Well that’s a relief
, Ned, at least I can start on some of the plastering now and make it more liveable.’

He sucks in air through the gaps in his teeth and shakes his head violently.

‘What does that mean?’ I ask him, knowing I’m not going to like the answer.

‘It’s your electrics missus,’ he answers, shaking his head again.

‘What’s wrong with my electrics?’ I say, the electrics seem fine to me. 

‘They’re shot to shit,’ he sa
ys, hooking his trousers up by the belt loops, which having their own agenda begin to slide back down again.

‘Shot to shit?  Is that building terminology?  What does that mean Ned?’
I screw my face up.

‘It means they need to be ripped out and replaced.’

‘What, all of them?’ I say, feeling exasperated.

‘Aye, the whole lot, missus.’

‘How much is that going to cost?’ I brace myself.

He suck
s his teeth again and I wince waiting to see what sum will be plucked from the air.

‘I can do most of it myself see, young Kevin over there
ain’t too good with electrics.  He gets a bit nervous and sweaty, so I’ll have to get Barry, my brother-in-law to come in and give me a hand.  I can keep the costs down a fair bit that way, but with new wire, and plug holes and a whole new fuse box it might mount up a bit.’

‘Are you sure it needs doing, it seems fin
e to me, everything works okay,’ I am confused, I haven’t experienced any problems with the plug sockets or light switches.

‘No missus, I made a cup of tea earlier and there was smoke coming out of the plug
hole in the kitchen and then there was a little sizzling noise.  So I took off the plug hole and there it was, shot to shit.  I had a little poke around in the hall where there’s no plaster, and it’s the same throughout.  You don’t want the house burning down to the ground in the night when you’re fast asleep in your bed, especially now you have that nice new roof on do you, love?’

I sh
ake my head in desperation and try to block out the image of me burning to death in my bed.  I’ve always loved this house, so when my Gran left it to me I felt like I’d won the lottery.  I spent a lot of time here when I was growing up and to be able to live here now was more than I could ever dream of.  But I never realised it was going to turn into a money pit.  I need to find a way to raise some extra funds to pay for all the unexpected jobs that keep cropping up. 

‘Okay, well you had better work out some figures for me
, Ned, but try and keep the costs down as much as possible, otherwise I’ll have to sell the house just to pay the bills,’ I say, feeling resigned to yet more expense.

‘Right ho, missus will do.’

‘Oh and Ned, please call me Lola.  You don’t need to call me missus all the time.’

‘Right ho miss...Lola,’ he blushes a little, and hikes his trousers up nervously.

‘Okay, well I’ll leave you to it, better get back to the shop and earn some more money.’


On the drive back to the shop I stop at a red traffic light and watch the cars zooming across the junction.  To be honest, life has been a bit shit lately, I’m sorry, but there’s no nice way of putting it.  I’ve got the humungous house that is sucking the life blood out of me with its constant needy demands.  Its haemorrhaging money like there’s no tomorrow, and with no sign of a completion date in the next millennium.  I’ve got wannabe rock star builders that constantly need kicking up the arse to keep them moving.  If I don’t keep an eye on them they will spend their time supping tea and playing air guitar, when they should be cracking on and getting the job done.  Added to that I’ve got a business which, to be frank, has turned into the Mary Celeste.  I’m going to have to start dragging people in off the street at this rate. 

BOOK: Lola's House (Lola Series)
8.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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