The not so secret emails.., p.14
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       The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard (A Romantic Comedy), p.14

           Robert Bryndza
 
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  “Morning,” he said. He began to water a row of sweetcorn.

  “Looking good,” I said. “I mean your plants.’’ He smiled. His lips, I thought, are beautiful and full, and his teeth are so white … then I realised he had said something to me.

  “What?”

  “You’ve been digging,’’ he repeated, louder.

  “Yes, I’ve been digging…” I said. I didn’t know what else to say. I heard Ethel clear her throat and she was standing in the shed doorway with a box of PG Tips.

  “You want me to save the tea bags, for yer eye bags?” she said, loudly, looking between Adam and me.

  “Adam, this is Ethel, my Mother-in-Law,” I said. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I saw him trying to work me out, had he been thinking I was single?

  “Hello,” he said.

  “Yes, hello,” said Ethel putting on her posh voice, “she’s just div-horcing my son. The marriage dis-hintegrated, he’s taken up with an American girl half this one’s age.” I gave her a look, and we all stood in silence for a moment.

  “Well,” he said, “I have to get on. Nice to see you.” And with that, he shook his empty watering can and disappeared into his shed. I lit up a fag and said to Ethel that I didn’t want tea and that we should go. It seems every conversation I have with him is a public relations disaster.

  When we got home, Ethel looked fit to burst with her piece of fresh gossip. Rosencrantz had just come down from the shower and was rooting around in the fridge. She hoisted herself onto one of the breakfast stools and announced,

  “Yer Mum ‘as a new friend.”

  “Oh,” said Rosencrantz from inside the fridge. When he stood up, he saw her gleeful face.

  “Oh, that kind of friend,” he said. “Cool.”

  “E’s black y’ know,” she said, looking for a reaction.

  “So?” said Rosencrantz.

  “Yer Mum and a black man? The ‘ole street ‘ll be talking.”

  “That’s enough Ethel,” I said. Rosencrantz busied himself making toast.

  “Rosencrantz,” I said. “I’m not like your Father, I’m not jumping into having a relationship. He, Adam, is a very handsome man I have talked to across my Allotment a couple of times … Maybe it’s a flirtation, but so mild that it was pretty much imperceptible. That really is it.”

  “It’s cool,” said Rosencrantz buttering his toast.

  “Yer Dad’s with a yank, and yer Mum with a black man!’ said Ethel trying to stir. “At this rate you could go on Jerry Springer!”

  “Stop it!” I said angrily. I went upstairs red in the face and left Rosencrantz to lecture her about tolerance. What must he think of me, now he has been led to believe I have a boyfriend? After all the talks we had about Daniel copping off with some yank, I mean American.

  Tuesday 27th May 10:45

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com, marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  I wasn’t sad to see Meryl and Tony collect Ethel. After mining me for information about my life, and fixating on Adam, I had had enough of her.

  They looked very rosy and relaxed when they arrived from their weekend away. In fact, Tony was so relaxed he was willing to break their ‘maximum two people in the Hearse’ rule, and let Ethel sit in the front between them. I nearly told him to bung her in the Coffin and nail it shut.

  Meryl waited until Tony was outside putting Ethel’s case in before giving back the Sex And The City box set. She slid it across the table wrapped in a Pashmina.

  “I’ll collect the scarf next time,” she said hastily when I went to unwrap it. She didn’t say anything else about their weekend, but Ethel had told us all the gossip over dinner the previous night.

  Meryl and Tony have been trying for a baby! Meryl met the wife of a fertility expert in one of her cookery chat-rooms (as you do), and invited them over for dinner. One thing led to another and Meryl has been paying a fortune for hormone injections. He recommended they get away to relax and try to get pregnant.

  “I just ‘ope they don’t do what that Dave Beckham did,” said Ethel, “an name it after the place what they bonked in. Scunthorpe Watson would be a very cruel name.”

  I never knew how much they wanted a child. Apparently, they have been trying to conceive for years. Meryl had always scoffed at the subject of children, saying they would play havoc with her carpets.

  Thursday 29th May 15:43

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I’ve spent the last couple of days at the Allotment with Rosencrantz and Marika. Rosencrantz is on his reading week and Marika had some free days because her students are on exam leave.

  I wish you would come too. I will keep Len away from you. We are planting Raspberry canes and Blackcurrant bushes.

  Rosencrantz left the Allotment early tonight to begin a new job, working in a bar on the High Street; he keeps saying he needs to start paying his way. I have told him that he doesn’t need to and should concentrate on Drama School, but he won’t listen. He is still not right and I don’t know what to do. Marika just says I should give him time and space.

  Adam wasn’t at the Allotments.

  Sunday 31st May 17:33

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Adam showed up today, just as I was packing away. My obsession with wanting to see him has built up over the past few days, so when I opened my mouth to say hello, a barrage of thoughts came tumbling out.

  “My Mother-in-Law, is my ex Mother-in-Law because my husband cheated on me after Christmas.” I blurted. “It was me who left him. I’m divorced.”

  “Oh,” he said. “Okay.” There was a pause.

  “Do you smoke?” I said, offering him a cigarette.

  “No,” he said. “My mother died of cancer.”

  “Mine too!” I said a little over enthusiastically, “I mean, mine too,” I repeated, in a more serious tone. “I need to stop, smoking that is.”

  “Well, there’s the pub, I’m just off for a drink, that’s non-smoking,” he said.

  “Yes, it is,” I said. He grinned.

  Then, realising, I said. “I’d love to come to the pub.” You would think I had never spoken to a man before.

  I said I would lock up and dashed into the shed and scrabbled around for a teaspoon. I didn’t have a mirror. As far as I could see, I didn’t have any manure on my face.

  I straightened myself up and came back out locking the door. A beautiful pale young girl, who can’t have been more than late twenties, was standing with Adam. I stopped in my tracks. She was tall and dressed in that wonderfully tousled Boho style. Her long dark hair was fashionably messy. She held a small branch covered in light pink blossom.

  “Smell this,” she was saying, holding the blossom up to Adam’s nose, and leaning on his broad shoulder.

  “Mmmm,” he said, “Cherry.” The ‘mmmm’ sound he made was so deep, and expressed so much pleasure in him. The rumble of his voice went through my stomach, and made me tingle.

  “Where did you get this? I hope you haven’t been scrumping,” he scolded, playfully. He looked up and saw me. The girl followed his gaze and gave me a warm perfect smile. The bitch.

  “Ah, Coco,” he said. “This is Holly my…”

  “I just remembered. I have to get home to my cat…” I blurted out, feeling ugly and out of my depth. I hurried away up the hill waving and gurning.

  “Okay, Maybe another time,” he called after. I turned back and gave him another flapping wave, which was just as silly as the half walk half run I was doing. He has this calmness, which throws me. He’s so laid back and sexy and of course he is dating a hot Model in her twenties… Of course he is. I’m a naive idiot. Like he is going to be single!

  And what about this fake cat I suddenly have to run home to? I must remember I have a fake cat, if he asks me again. If he even speaks to me again. On the corner of Baker Street, my phone went, and it was Meryl.

  “I’ve got some super news,” she said breathlessly. I thought she would announce she i
s expecting twins through IVF called Torquay and Bude, but she said,

  “Tony and I have just put down a deposit on a sheltered housing unit for Mother. It’s in Catford!”

  “Sheltered housing?” I said.

  “Yes,” she trilled. “We’ve been looking at accommodation options, obviously you said no, and Daniel has had to sacrifice his home… So we thought we would invest some of our hard earned shekels. Mother won’t own it, but she can live there for as long as she lives.”

  “Great,” I said. “But, I never said no, and Daniel hasn’t sacrificed his…”

  “We thought Mum should be back where she feels happy, in South London,” she said ignoring me. “I’ll keep you posted with the details, byeee.”

  I will be the closest one to Ethel again, the one who she phones if she can’t get the lid off something, or if she has a fall.

  Fuck.

  June

  Monday 1st June 10:19

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  After one phone call, the world seems golden. The Publisher who is extremely interested in Greg-O-Byte: Some Androids Are Different wants to meet with Angie and me at Cathedral Members Club tomorrow morning! She loves the book treatments I’ve written. Angie says it is very important that I arrive half an hour early, so she can brief me on a few things.

  This time tomorrow I could be a children’s author with a publishing deal! Now what should I wear? I am just Googling pictures of JK Rowling, for inspiration.

  Tuesday 2nd June 13:44

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Rosencrantz helped me pick out what to wear. I tried to emulate JK Rowling with a plain trouser suit. She always manages to combine looking stylish, intelligent, aloof, yet wise with a twinkle in her eye, which hints it could really be worth getting to know her.

  Try as I might, I found myself looking as far away from JK Rowling as I could; Margaret Mountford’s younger sister. I must have my hair cut. I haven’t done a thing with it since Daniel departed.

  I spent so long over what I should look like that I was very late. I emerged from the sauna like conditions of the Northern Line with hair plastered to head, and when my iPhone had a signal, frantic messages from Angie came pinging through. It took an age to hail a black cab.

  When I reached Cathedral, she was smoking furiously outside the tiny entrance down to the bar.

  “Pinchard? What the fuck? I told you nine forty-five!” she said, grinding the stub of her cigarette into the pavement with the point of her tiny Louboutin.

  I apologised, she looked me up and down, and then dragged me by the arm into one of the lifts. She jabbed a finger on BAR and the doors closed.

  “I needed to talk to you,” said Angie carefully, her face tense. The lift began its descent.

  “I’m sorry. It was The Tube, then an age to wait for a…”

  “Quiet,” she said. “This is important. Your name is Kathy Trent, and I need you to not mention Chasing Diana Spencer. Ok?”

  “What?”

  The lift slowed to a ping. The doors opened into the bar. A friendly mid twenties blond sat waiting in a confession box booth, she waved.

  “Please, just trust me,” said Angie. “There is no time.” She pulled her face into a smile and led us over to the blond, who introduced herself as Louise Mulholland from Mulholland Avenue Press. I went along with Angie and introduced myself as Kathy…

  “Trent,” said Angie sliding into the booth and throwing me a look. We ordered Iced tea and got chatting.

  Louise was there to make an offer, an offer for a Greg-O-Byte novel, and four other Greg-O-Byte stories to form a series. Angie seemed to relax until a tall, overly tanned man holding a huge cardboard cut out emerged from the back of the bar, where Cathedral has private dining rooms for its VIP members. The man clocked Angie, who was trying desperately not to be seen, and came over.

  It was Michael Brannigan.

  The life-size cardboard cut out tucked sideways under his arm was of Anne Brannigan, presumably promotional material for The Anne & Michael Brannigan Book Club.

  “Ange!” he drawled, “How’s tricks?” Louise sat up enthusiastically and introduced herself. Michael then turned to his attention to me. I felt sweat prickle across my forehead and between my shoulder blades.

  “I know you,” he frowned. I could see it coming in slow motion. Angie’s mouth flapped soundlessly.

  “Coco. Pinchard,” he said angrily. The cutout of Anne Brannigan grinned manically.

  “No, this is Kathy,” said Louise looking between us. “Kathy Trent, she’s written a wonderful MS.”

  “No. This woman is Coco Pinchard,” he announced, a little like the reveal in an episode of Poirot. “

  Louise looked confused.

  “Is business that bad Ange?” said Michael. He shot me one last look and walked away.

  “Am I missing something here?” said Louise. I glared at Angie, who was still trying to think up a lie. The silence stretched on until I offered her my hand,

  “I’m sorry. I am Coco Pinchard.” I said. Why? Why did I re-introduce myself? Louise closed her laptop.

  “I need to see if I can catch Michael Brannigan,” she said coldly, and gathering up her things, she left.

  “Wait! Louise!” shouted Angie. “Coco I’ll… See you,” she said and ran off, just catching the lift carrying Louise and Michael.

  I was left to pay the bill.

  Wednesday 3rd June 18:36

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  What time is it? I have been in bed all day, I thought Angie would ring and I then I thought I might ring Angie, but neither materialised. Either way it’s all a mess, my career… life. Yes, I would love to go over to Marika’s with you. Let’s do the train, and then we can both drink.

  Wednesday 3rd June 22:02

  TO: rosencrantzpinchard@gmail.com

  I didn’t know you had the night off work, which is good, you should take a few more nights off. I would have made you something to heat up if I had known. I have been over to see Marika with Chris, I should be home soon. We just boarded the train back to Charing Cross. If you like, I could pick you up something to eat from the Tesco Metro on Baker Street?

  Mum xx

  Wednesday 3rd June 22:36

  TO: rosencrantzpinchard@gmail.com

  I think the Tesco will be closed by the time I get there. Our train ground to a halt half an hour ago. We are stuck on the tracks beside some disused office blocks and scaffolding. I have no clue why. Other trains seem to be scooting past us with no probs.

  Wednesday 3rd June 23:12

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  We are still on the train. It broke down just before New Cross, we think. There have been no announcements and the lights have just gone out. I have been and banged on the door to the driver’s compartment, but no one is answering.

  Thursday 4th June 00:00

  TO: rosencrantzpinchard@gmail.com

  Love, we are stuck, the whole train seems to have powered down and the last train out of London has just gone past, packed with people on its way south. We have tried to call National Rail Enquiries but it is ringing out. Is there anything on the news? Bomb scare, person under a train, wrong kind of leaves on the track, etc.

  Thursday 4th June 00:40

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Chris has got us scared. He thinks the Driver is dead. Why would we stop for so long? We have walked the length of the train and spookily there is no one else on board. It’s dark, and in the wind, the carriage is making creaking sounds. I drank too much wine at yours and there is no toilet on the train. I am eyeing a Burger King cup, which someone left behind on a seat. If we are stuck much longer, I might have to use it. Chris is going to phone his father, who plays golf with someone on the board of WestSouth Trains.

  Thursday 4th June 01:12

  TO: rosencrantzpinchard@gmail.com

  Sorry I didn’t let you know what is happening, but my phone is about
to die. We are still in the same place. I have my key, so you can lock the front door. When we get to Charing Cross, we will have to find a taxi so I have no idea when I will be back.

  Thursday 4th June 11:36

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  We spent the whole night on the train! Can you believe that nobody came to our rescue? We couldn’t prise the doors open and our phones died. What if there had been a fire? We moved into First Class, thinking the seats might be more comfortable but the only difference seemed to be that each seat had a little white napkin headrest.

  The sun came up at four, and, glinting off the office blocks, was surprisingly beautiful. I managed to hold on until almost 5am but then I cracked and had to use the Burger King cup. I made Chris move out of First Class and, concealing myself in the foot well between a set of four seats went about the awkward task of peeing into the cup, which was, thankfully, Burger King Tower Menu size. Mid stream, the lights flickered on in the carriage, the train lurched forward and the Bing bong automated announcement came to life saying that, ‘we would shortly be arriving at New Cross.’ I screamed and had to hastily finish, as the platform came into view with several bleary eyed commuters.

  We thought there might be a news crew from the national, or at very least, regional news waiting to document our plight but everyone assumed we were two scruff bags that had caught the first train.

  When we pulled in at Charing Cross, I was furious. Chris went to find the Station Manager, but I thought of someone better to take out my anger on. I walked along Charing Cross road to Angie’s building.

  I barged past her assistant and into her office without knocking. Angie was sitting with her back to the door staring out at the tourists teaming up Shaftesbury Avenue.

  “Coco,” she said, turning round. “Fucking hell, what happened to you?” she pulled a bottle of Glenmorangie out of a desk drawer, and poured us each a measure into cups from the water cooler. She caught me off guard.

 
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