Mother and daughter spent the next few moments immersed in culinary details.
'I've still got most of my last Saturday's wages upstairs', Louise explained, 'so I'll go round the corner shop and get some sausages and bread rolls. Emma told me she'd bring tomatoes, beans and a couple of onions, so we'll have a right royal feast. But... I was wondering, have you got any special 'treats' in the freezer that you would donate to your lifelong good cause ... me!?'
'What a nerve you've got, Miss ', laughed her Mum, 'but just for your cheek, yes, I do have some biscuits and little fruit pies I'd be willing to 'donate'!
Barter and banter time eventually over, the rest of the morning disappeared in a flurry of activity. By eleven o'clock, the chores were finished and Louise, complete with bulging hamper and beach bag, sat on the back doorstep, waiting for Emma and the boys.
Soon she heard their rather old but well loved car growl to a halt outside the house. After a lot of teasing about the size and weight of the hamper, when Peter struggled to fit it in the boot, they were off.
'Bye, Mum! See you this evening. Enjoy yourself at the fête.' Louise waved to the receding figure leaning out of an upstairs window, then settled herself back in the none too comfortable seat with a sigh of contentment. Comfort was not high on her list of priorities when the prospect of a day at the beach stretched invitingly before her. She turned and grinned at her companion on the back seat, who had been briefly introduced by Peter as 'my friend Alex' while the car was being loaded.
The face that smiled back to her was brown and dimpled, beneath a shock of fine, black hair. 'You look happy as I feel. May one enquired whether it's for a special reason, or simply a general love of the world and mankind as a whole?' Alex's hazel eyes smiled approvingly at the pink and white picture before him, as he spoke the words in an exaggeratedly 'posh' voice.
'Oh, I think life in general - though mostly the prospect of a long summer holiday before college starts in September, I suppose.' Louise felt immediately at home with this sturdy but slim young man, so close by her side in the cramped spaces of the small car that she could feel the heat of his body like the radiant warmth from a convector heater. If it had been winter, she may have appreciated it a little more, but, nonetheless, it gave her an inexplicable feeling of sharing, and even...belonging. Her mind searched for the right word to capture the sensation that the proximity of this boy produced in her, but without success. It was totally beyond anything she had ever experienced before.
While they embarked on a verbal voyage of discovery with each other, Louise tried to imprint his separate features on her memory. The eyes she had first labelled hazel, varied from clear grey that appeared to be lit from within, to rich, warm brown, as the light altered with every twist and turn of the car through the town. Strong white teeth, although neat in appearance, were uneven enough to give them an identity all their own, whilst each smile of the sensitive lips sent the dimples flashing on either side of his mouth. A kind face, that matched the gentle, well spoken voice. Louise knew instinctively it would always be the face of a little boy, however many years left their mark upon it. Perhaps it was the almost comical snub nose that would achieve this effect, or the small, neat ears and overall vulnerable shape of the head and neck that contributed to this air of a permanent Peter Pan.
As she sat there, happily talking to Alex, Louise was suddenly aware of a strange sensation in the region of her diaphragm. It was as though the heat of the sun had gradually focused on the closed petals of a flower and forced it to bloom to welcome the day; a joyous, many petalled, bright golden sunflower. Could this be the dawning of the magical, elusive thing called love? For an instant, she felt as though she was whirling through endless galaxies of spinning stars, only to be brought back to earth with a bump as the car stopped.
She realised they'd come to a halt in a gravelly car park, in full view of the bluest sea imaginable, and she heard Alex saying 'Come on - no time for daydreaming. We're here!' as he reached out a firm hand to help her from the car.
Now the day was really beginning.