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Bette and Tina appreciated the advice, but it wasn’t needed. The very first thing they’d noticed when they pulled the Lexus to a stop on the driveway earlier was the colour of Helena as she came down to meet them.
‘Oh my God,’ Tina had said quietly.
‘Fuck,’ said Bette.
‘I didn’t know English people could go that colour,’ said Angie.
Helena’s hair was much lighter brown and her skin all over a burnished gold. She was wearing a sleeveless white blouse with khaki combat shorts and Timberland boots. Around her wrists were various leather and string bracelets, and her brilliant blue eyes had a vivacious sparkle that made her seem unreal, like a hot, gay Indiana Jones.
Now, at the dining table, she still cut a dashing figure as she reached for dish after dish and piled her plate high with everything she and Bette had rustled up.
‘I know, it’s bonkers,’ she said to Tina, when she saw the look on the blonde’s face. ‘I’m burning four thousand calories a day.’
Tina looked at Bette. ‘I think Angie might be in for a shock.’
Dylan laughed. ‘The others work differently to Helena and Concetta.’
‘Yes, they merely do eight hours of back-breaking labour,’ Helena said, with a laugh. ‘We do most of that and another three or four on top, by the time we’ve looked at the forecast and done our walk round and our samples.’ She took a sip of wine. ‘No two days are the same, you see, with microclimates. The rain, the soil, the sun, the wind – we have to look at it all, for three different soil types, every single day.’ She looked at Bette, and then at the food. ‘But that’s what we love, isn’t it? Art meets science and, when you get it right, it ends up . . .’ She tilted the wine in her glass. ‘. . . delicious.’
She went back to eating with gusto. Tina glanced at Bette. She was eating too, but there was that smile – small, inward-focused – of someone both deep in thought and completely thrilled.
Saturday morning brought rain. Around eight o’clock, Bette stood on the balcony of what used to be Tina’s room and looked out at a fine mist as steam rose off the vines. To the east, the sky was brightening and the air was warm and muggy.