If only his salary were a few thousand more, or Max earned more from his painting, Roger mused as he trudged up the hill. Then they could afford to live somewhere else rather than Princess Row. Up the hill the other side of the Lewes Road, for instance, in the area known as Hanover. The houses might not be much bigger than number 4 Princess Row, but they were distinctly more classy. Of course, somewhere up the Ditchling Road, maybe one of those side roads near Fiveways, would be even better. Still, he reflected, one can=t have everything. He did at least have a roof over his head and somebody loving to come home to in the evenings, which was more than a lot of people could say.
>I=m home,= he called as he pushed open the scarlet door.
>Good grief, is it that time already?= Max ran down the stairs from the back bedroom studio, wiping his hands on a piece of rag that looked suspiciously like Roger=s favourite tea towel. >I was finishing that picture of the pier and hadn=t noticed how late it had got. How was your day?=
>Bloody. Absolutely bloody awful. Everybody expects everything to be done by Christmas and there just isn=t time. I=m almost tempted to throw a sickie for the next couple of days.=
>Never mind, love.= Max put his arm round Roger=s shoulders. >Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax in a warm bath while I get supper. There=s a bottle of Valpolicella in the kitchen.=
>That sounds like bliss, but I want to see your painting first.=
Roger envied Max his ability to put paint onto canvas and produce something you could look at. It might sometimes take an effort to see just what was depicted, but that only made the picture better in Roger=s opinion. Take this latest one. If Max hadn=t told him the subject was the pier he would have needed to look carefully for ten to fifteen minutes to work that out.
>Hmm,= wondered Max. >I=m not sure that I=ve really captured the vibrancy as well as I would have liked. A soupçon more vermilion perhaps? What do you think?=
Roger stood in silence for a moment while he pondered this.
>No. There=s just a hint of danger there; too much red would overdo it. I think it=s just right as it is. In fact, I would say it=s one of your best works ever.=
>Right. Wine and bath for you. And you might pour me a glass while you=re at it. I=m doing that Greek dish we liked so much B remember? In that funny little place in Corfu? I finally managed to find the recipe. Mind you, getting the ingredients was a bit of a job. I tracked down the last ones in a Turkish grocer=s along the Lewes Road, but it=ll have to be lamb instead of goat=s meat. Still, that shouldn=t matter too much.=
>Mummy, you are buying me a puppy for Christmas, aren=t you?=
If only I had a shilling for every time she=s asked that, thought Nikki. A puppy seemed to have been the only thing on Katie=s mind for months now and she had somehow convinced herself that Nikki would buy her one for Christmas despite her mother=s continued denials.
Nikki could have done without having to explain again her reasons why a puppy was out of the question as she was desperately trying to finish the pendant with matching earrings that had been commissioned through the shop which sold her products. It was wanted as a Christmas present and she was due to deliver it that afternoon.
Irena wandered in and out of the shops trying to decide whether or not she should buy Christmas decorations. Living alone, she had never bothered with them, but with Tom coming for lunch on Christmas Day she thought perhaps she ought to do something. In the end she bought a poinsettia and a small bunch of holly and decided that would be enough if she could just find a festive table covering and some matching paper napkins. She already had plenty of decorative candles, but perhaps they would be a bit over the top for lunch.
What she should buy as a present for Tom was a bigger problem. His only interest outside work was cricket, but she knew nothing about the sport so didn=t see that she could buy him anything connected with it. She settled for buying a sweater from Marks and Spencer. If it was the wrong size or he just didn=t like it, they would always change it.