The coco pinchard boxset.., p.13
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.13

           Robert Bryndza

  However, this morning we were barely in the courtroom for ten minutes. A stern but disinterested female judge heard the case and ordered that Rosencrantz pay $75,000 to the Winding Pathways Drug Treatment Center, $2,000 to the State of California and that he had to leave American soil by 6pm.

  We shook hands with Gregory on our way out; an entourage of assistants, mostly young women of attributes, surrounded his blindingly white smile, and he presented us with our bill for $5,000.

  I paid it and we got into a cab. I was glad to leave. It all felt very, very grubby. What about the poor kids who don’t have money?

  I am relieved, but I don’t know how to deal with Rosencrantz? Do I need to dole out some punishment? He looks like he has suffered enough. I was caught smoking weed when I was fifteen behind our shop by my dad. I was lucky enough just to be walloped with his slipper.

  We’re about to board. Cannot wait to be home. Looking forward to seeing you.

  Coco xxx

  Tuesday 5th May 02.14

  TO: [email protected]

  Just sorted through a pile of post and found my decree nisi.

  I am divorced.

  Tuesday 5th May 17.56

  TO: [email protected]

  I was asleep on the downstairs sofa, when the bell woke me. I staggered up and opened the front door. Meryl was standing there with Ethel.

  “Oh there you are, Coco,” she said, as if she’d been searching the doorstep for hours. “As you haven’t answered any of my messages, I thought I would bring Mohammed to the mountain. Not that you look like a mountain,” she added quickly.

  “Looks like she’s lost a bit of weight,” said Ethel, peering at me with a surprised look on her face.

  Meryl pushed past, clutching her driving gloves, with Ethel in tow. I was left to bring in her suitcase.

  I followed them into the living room where Meryl was poking around the wilted potted plants and Ethel was sitting on the sofa, trying to make the television work.

  “What are you doing?” I asked.

  “I told Christopher to come over every day and water,” said Meryl, yanking the head off a dead Amaryllis. “How was America?” she breezed, as if I’d been on holiday. “Daniel told me all about Rosencrantz, what a scamp!”

  “Why ‘int yer Sky box plugged in?” said Ethel, jabbing at the buttons with a dismayed face. “You’ve wiped everything!”

  “Oh Coco,” said Meryl, “she’s been looking forward to Celebrity Wife Swap all week.”

  I asked why she’d brought Ethel back.

  “Now come on Coco, be fair,” said Meryl in a condescending tone. “We’ve all got to pull our weight.”

  I explained, as nicely as I could, that I am barely home myself, and I’ve already pulled my weight, looking after her for two months.

  “’Er?” said Ethel, looking up from the leads at the back of the television. “What am I? Chopped liver?”

  “Look,” said Meryl, grabbing Ethel and planting her back on the sofa. “She’s settled here.”

  “No,” I said, helping Ethel up. “She’s been settled at yours for two weeks.”

  “Exactly,” said Meryl, pushing Ethel back down. “Coco, you have a responsibility too. We’ve driven all this way.”

  “And an ‘ole series of Watercolour Challenge has gone down the tubes too,” said Ethel, jabbing the remote again.

  They both looked at me as if I had done something terrible.

  “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!” I shouted.

  Meryl’s mouth opened and closed, Ethel looked at me for a moment and then tried to get the batteries out of the remote. Rosencrantz stumbled in wearing his pyjamas and with his hair on end.

  “Is everything all right?” he said. “I like heard some fucking mad woman screaming.”

  “Could we watch the toilet language, thank you Rosencrantz,” said Meryl. “Come on,” she said, prising the remote out of Ethel’s grip. “I don’t think Coco’s very well.”

  “I’m fine!” I said, catching sight of my mad hair and knackered face in the mirror. “I just object to… I’m tired and, Meryl, if you were Indian, you wouldn’t object to caring for your own mother.”

  “I’ve never heard anything so silly,” said Meryl. “I think you need some rest.”

  She strode out of the door pulling along Ethel and the suitcase. I sat on the sofa as I heard the engine rev up and the hearse pull away.

  Rosencrantz sat down and asked if I was okay. I shrugged.

  “I just like played the answer-phone messages,” he said. “There were five from Auntie Meryl, and one from your new agent, Angie. She’s reminding you about some deadline tomorrow.”

  My book outline is due tomorrow and I had completely forgotten about it! The reason we have no television is that the electricity has been cut off. Daniel has stopped all our direct debits. Chris, ever the saviour, has come to the rescue again and offered me bed and motherboard. I am tapping away frantically on my laptop in his spare room.

  Wednesday 6th May 09.01

  TO: [email protected]

  Just home. Just sent outline to Angie. I am worried. I did rather pull it out of my arse at the last minute, well 4.15 this morning. Got sidetracked watching Battlestar Galactica with Chris, hence it ended up having a science fiction theme.

  Rosencrantz has paid the electricity bill from his own money and left me a lovely note saying how he wants to make me proud and he is turning over a new leaf.

  I’m off to bed. Love you.

  Wednesday 6th May 17.46

  TO: [email protected]

  Was up at 2pm woken by the doorbell, I had fallen asleep on the sofa in my coat and shoes. Outside was a horsey woman in her sixties wearing dungarees.

  “Ah, you’re ready,” she said. “Good girl. Come on.”

  I stared at her for a moment.

  “Come along,” she said. “I haven’t got all afternoon.”

  I followed her out shutting the door behind me. I am not sure why. Luckily, I twigged halfway down the road that this was the meeting I had arranged in April about having an allotment, and the woman must be Agatha Balfour of the Augustine and Redhill Allotment Association.

  Did you know that, hidden away from the bustle of London, there is a whole group of little allotments, just past the outer circle of Regent’s Park? Thirty long plots surrounded by tall trees and populated by a load of wild-haired old men digging in trousers held up by string. I couldn’t work out where they’d come from. I had never seen them before. The streets around here are full of tourists, businessmen, and alpha mothers power-pramming.

  As Agatha strode ahead up the hill, I struggled to keep up. My heels kept sinking in the soft earth. A few of the old men stopped gardening to stare at me in my floor-length fake cowhide coat, and a couple made mooing noises. I caught up with Agatha standing on the brow of the hill. The land sloped away, showing off a wonderful view over Regent’s Park, the lake, and metropolis beyond.

  “Wow,” I said out of breath.

  “Yes,” she said, “and your patch looks over it.”

  She indicated an overgrown strip of soil with a yellow shed at the end.

  “Right. Tea,” she said, bustling toward the shed, pulling a key out of her overalls, and inserting it in the lock.

  Inside it has been beautifully kept, with neat wooden shelves. In one corner were two fading deck chairs and a little table. On the workbench in front of the window sat an old paraffin stove and lots of clay flowerpots.

  “Now,” said Agatha, handing me a little kettle. “Water.” I looked for a tap but she rolled her eyes. “Water butt, outside.”

  Whilst I filled the kettle, I looked at the allotment next door. It was well tended with a smart shed, but the best feature was its scarecrow. A dressmaker’s mannequin was buried in the earth up to its knees. Stuck on its head was a black beehive wig and glued underneath was a cut-out of Amy Winehouse’s face.

  When I came back, Agatha had lit the sto
ve and there was a warm smell of paraffin and used matches.

  “I like the scarecrow next door,” I said.

  Agatha produced milk and digestive biscuits out of her dungaree pockets.

  “Yes, terrifies the birds nicely,” she said.

  I said it really captured Amy Winehouse.

  “Who?” said Agatha.

  I explained who Amy Winehouse was. Agatha’s face clouded over.

  “That doesn’t sound very appropriate,” she snorted.

  “Well, you didn’t know who she was until just now,” I said. “It’s funny, ironic.”

  “Hmm,” she said.

  There was a pause. Agatha gulped her tea and took out some paperwork. It was a contract, which she asked me to sign.

  “I’m very glad this patch is going to someone younger,” she said. “Old Mr Bevan found it all too much in the end.”

  “Was he ill for long before he died?” I said.

  “No, it was all quite sudden,” she said. “He’d only just been saying to me, that morning, that he was trying to get on top of the weeds, and ironically, he did. Keeled over just beside the shed. You can still see that little flat patch where they found him, still clutching his hoe.”

  I looked through the window and saw where the long grass was bent round in a small body shape.

  “Right,” said Agatha. “That’s us done.” She gathered up the milk and biscuits, and handed me the key. “Happy gardening.”

  I only stayed for ten minutes after she had gone. I don’t have a clue about gardening and I was so jet-lagged that my mind began to play tricks. Amy Winehouse was being buffeted by the wind and she looked like she was eyeballing me, and the thought of Mr Bevan lying dead outside gave me the shivers. What will I do with an allotment?

  When I got home, I had a text from Angie at BMX. It just said;

  Pls cum 2 my office 4 meet tmrw @ 9am.

  I am looking back over my proposal. What was I thinking?

  Wednesday 6th May 23.48

  TO: [email protected]

  I can’t sleep, it’s dark and a little cold, but my body is still on LA time and ready to eat a nice lunch. Marika came over tonight, she is very unhappy. She has just been turned down for a Key Worker Mortgage because she has never taken UK citizenship, even though she has paid fifteen years of income tax and national insurance here. She wants to buy her flat in Dulwich from her landlord, who is selling.

  “I’m going to have to bite the bullet and move further out,” she said with a shudder.

  I offered her a room here, but to get to Dulwich by 7.45am she would have to deal with the Tube/overland and a bus five days a week. It’s a shame, as I used to love it when she was our lodger.

  In other news… Rosencrantz went back to The Dramatic Movement Conservatoire today, and found that no one had really noticed his absence. Artemis Wise was picked up in Calais trying to board a ferry and is now in custody. There is a witch-hunt on as to who knew about his embezzlement. Rosencrantz quite innocently asked his singing teacher if she could give him an update on what he has missed (in class) but she got very flustered and dropped a metronome on her foot.

  Anyway, you are probably fast asleep. I should have taken some of those Melatonin pills you offered to get my body clock back on track.

  Thursday 7th May 11.04

  TO: [email protected]

  After only an hour of sleep, I had to get up for my meeting with Angie. When I arrived at her office, she was on the phone and motioned me to sit.

  “Listen,” she said. “You shouldn’t have signed the bloody contract if you knew he had commitments with the Cub Scouts!”

  She slammed the phone down.

  “Bad day?” I said.

  “What’s that phrase?” she said, leaning forward to light my cigarette. “Never work with children or animals? It should be never work with parents. One of my new authors, who’s seven, is writing a book on higher mathematics … Autistic as hell, but a nice kid, however the mother. Ugh… Anyway, we’re here to talk about your book proposal; Greg-O-Byte: Some Androids Are Different.”

  She looked at me and raised her eyebrows.

  I explained that it might be a little radical, especially as a children’s book.

  “I know you wanted literary fiction,” I said. “However, I thought it would be good if kids could read about being gay, under the euphemism of being a robot, not fitting in. My son is gay and I think, well, I am proud of my reaction to him telling me,” I gabbled. “I’m sorry if it’s not marketable.”

  “Not marketable? You’re kidding?” she said, her face lighting up. “It’s fucking brilliant. We love it. Fresh, funny, fucking great.”

  ”Really?” I said.

  Angie pressed a button on her desk,

  “Celia, tell Coco what you thought of her idea.”

  “Fucking brilliant,” came the voice through the intercom.

  “See,” said Angie.

  “But it’s a kid’s book?”

  “Kids is a great market to tap, all those little fuckers with pocket money and pester power. Do you know how much the Tooth Fairy pays these days?”

  I said I didn’t.

  “A fucking fiver for a tooth! That’s a paperback… David Walliams wrote The Boy In A Dress book which was a huge hit, and Geri Halliwell’s got her Eugenia Labia.”

  “It’s Lavender, Eugenia Lavender,” I said.

  “Yeah, they’ve made kids’ books cool again. I think Greg-O-Byte could be huge.”

  “Great,” I smiled, feeling relieved.

  Angie explained that they have had a meeting and they want to pitch it as a series of ten books!

  “Wow. I didn’t really intend to write a series.”

  “I know, fate innit,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d end up divorced with three kids and a bucket fanny, but there you go.”

  I laughed, despite my reservations. Angie then opened champagne and bombarded me with ideas for her pitch for Greg-O-Byte: Some Androids are Different. She wants to approach the major publishing houses over the next few days.

  Her enthusiasm was contagious, but not quite enough. On the train journey home, I just couldn’t feel excited.

  I don’t know if it is the exhaustion or too much champagne. I spent two years researching and writing Chasing Diana Spencer and it died on its arse. I knocked this idea out in a jet-lagged few hours and she is talking a series of books? I think I am simply being very ungrateful, am going to try to sleep. I have to write a treatment for the first three books for next week.

  Sunday 10th May 12.43

  TO: [email protected]

  I finally slept a full night. Angie called yesterday morning. A publisher came back about the proposal, and as well as the outlines for the first three, has asked for a treatment of all ten books! I decided to come up to my allotment; there are fewer distractions… or so I thought.

  I had not noticed before that a large part of my patch is covered in an old moulding royal blue Axminster carpet. I stuck my fag in my mouth and lifted the corner. Underneath was compacted dry soil and scores of wood lice teaming over the woven backing. I recoiled with a yelp and my lit cigarette fell on the carpet.

  A handsome guy came out of the shed next door and watched me chasing my lit cigarette being blown across the carpet. He said, “Hello.” I retrieved my fag and, on closer inspection, saw he was very handsome, I guessed late thirties.

  “Got it!” I said going red, and he laughed. I hope with me.

  “It’s for the weeds,” he said.

  “What is?”

  “The carpet,” he said. “Keeps the weeds down.”

  “Ah,” I said, noticing Amy Winehouse had disappeared. “Where’s your scarecrow gone?”

  He said he’d had a letter from the Allotment Association saying it is a bad role model for the kids who come up here.

  “Oh,” I said. “Did you tell them she’s the first scarecrow to win five Grammy awards?”

  He la
ughed. I expected him to introduce himself, but he just started to dig. Maybe he knows I talked to Agatha Balfour about his scarecrow. I smiled and went into my shed, sat down and got the stove going. As it spluttered to life, I looked at him through the window. He had on baggy blue jeans and a tight black jumper. His tall athletic frame wore them very well.

  A mad thought popped into my head. I realised that if he turned round and asked me to sleep with him, I could do (not that he would). It was the first time I had thought about being legally single.

  I have forgotten about sex, new exciting sex, I mean. The sex with Daniel was always good, but I began to think about peeling this guy’s clothes off, and what he would look like. He looked like a guy who worked out and ate right, tight behind, muscular thighs, lovely pecs, and a square jaw…

  I didn’t know I had been staring at him for so long until the kettle started to scream loudly. He turned and saw me. I looked away and grabbed for the milk bottle, but I couldn’t get hold of it properly and I did one of those juggling acts before dropping it with a crash. I grinned stupidly at him and bent down to clear it up. By the time I’d finished, he had gone.

  It feels rather comfortable sitting here in a shed. I wonder how often Mr Bevan sat here. He probably never thought he would keel over by the water butt.

  Sunday 17th May 10.47

  TO: [email protected], [email protected]

  Sorry for my lack of contact but I had banned my iPhone from the writing proceedings. It was just too tempting to tap away. Especially as you two got so excited about the Handsome Man. (I still don’t know his name.) He has been here a few times, but all we’ve done is wave.

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