The coco pinchard boxset.., p.14
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.14

           Robert Bryndza
 

  My shed has been a great place to work. I brought up some cushions and throws and an oil lamp but it hasn’t endeared me to the Allotment Association. This morning an old man called Len banged on the door with his walking stick and shouted, “You gonna grow anything?”

  I said that I was planning a row of carrots but hadn’t had the time and resources yet to implement it. This didn’t go down well.

  “Talk English,” he barked. “You’ve bloody well sat up here for a week using it as an office. Read yer contract. We’ll take it off yer if you don’t turn over some soil in the next week!”

  The last part of his sentence was particularly loud which disturbed a dozen or so blackbirds and made the heads of a few old gits pop up above their fruit bushes.

  When he had gone, I took my contract out of the drawer. It states that I have to keep at least 75% of it for growing fruit and vegetables and weed the other 25%. Right now, I have 100% weeds.

  I gathered up my things and walked out in my heels and long coat, looking every inch the allotment abuser.

  Wednesday 20th May 14.56

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  I went to Homebase with Chris to celebrate completion of the book treatments. I am planning to make my allotment shed a permanent writing space, and if I have to do a bit of gardening, so be it.

  I was happily queuing up at the till with four bags of manure, waiting for Chris to fetch some solar lights for his garden, when the people behind started to get fidgety. The woman at the checkout said, “Will your husband be much longer?”

  What should have been a silly mistaken comment hit me like a truck. I have no husband, I am a lonely middle-aged, single woman buying horse shit.

  A cold trickling sensation began inside my chest and I started to see stars. They multiplied and I heard myself say, “I’m going to faint…”

  My legs buckled under me and everything went black.

  When I woke up I was lying over my bags of manure and the checkout lady was spritzing me with a plant spray. Chris was kneeling beside me, clutching his cheek. She had slapped him round the face for being hysterical. I’d been unconscious for five minutes. They wanted to call an ambulance but I said I was fine, and left clutching my manure with Chris clutching his face.

  “I’m single,” I said.

  “And fabulous,” said Chris, but it came out as “thabulous.”

  Friday 22nd May 13.37

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Has your bruising gone down? I wouldn’t sue the woman at Homebase. She looked very old school; in her day, you did slap someone round the face if they were hysterical. It’s just a pity she had to do it three times…

  I started on my allotment today. I borrowed a strimmer from Mr Cohen next door. He was very glad to oblige when I rang his bell but I heard Mrs Cohen moaning in the background, “Can’t she afford to buy one? She’s been in the papers lately.”

  Mr Cohen quickly shut the door, and came out to his shed.

  “We haven’t seen Daniel around much,” he said.

  “Yeah, um, we’re divorcing. I am on my own now,” I said awkwardly.

  “I’ve forgotten what that feels like,” he said wistfully. Mrs Cohen was watching us suspiciously from the living room window.

  Maybe being single won’t be all that bad. The Cohens used to be such a colourful, glamorous couple, but years of grating on each other seems to have worn them down to beige. Maybe Daniel and I were just on the cusp of beige, and fate intervened to save us from it? Maybe this is the next colourful chapter of my life?

  I thanked Mr Cohen for the strimmer, and walked up to the allotment. Len appeared, leaning on his stick.

  “That won’t get the weeds,” he said, tapping the strimmer. “It’ll just chop the ‘eads off. You need to dig ‘em out.”

  “This is just to make a start,” I said. “Do you know where the nearest power socket is?”

  “Yeah,” he laughed. “My lounge.”

  He pointed out that the strimmer was petrol powered. I blushed and pulled the starter. After twenty minutes, it roared into life.

  It took ages to raze the whole plot of weeds. Strimming is not as easy as it looks. When I switched off the motor, the silence twanged around. I hadn’t seen the handsome guy arrive. He waved and came over.

  “Hi, I’m Adam,” he said holding out a dark, wedding-ring-free hand. “I realise I’ve never introduced myself.”

  “Oh, didn’t you?” I said, feigning nonchalance, “I’m Coco.” I said, pulling off a glove and shaking his hand. “Sorry about the noise, but I’ve been threatened with eviction for not digging.”

  “I’ve put in an application for a Marilyn Manson scarecrow,” he said. “But I don’t think it’ll be approved.”

  I laughed a bit too hard, then scrambled for something to say.

  “I’m a writer,” I said. “That’s why I’ve been in the shed a lot staring at you, well not staring at you but facing your direction… you know. Thinking, stuff.”

  He asked what I wrote. As I started to tell him his phone rang.

  “Sorry, I have to take this,” he said.

  I stood there whilst he walked off to his shed. Several minutes went by and I began to feel stupid. He had seen me finish what I was doing, so we both knew I was waiting for him. I felt like a love-struck teenager. After a couple more minutes he was still chatting, so I waved at him, and shouted, “Um, got to go.” He nodded and turned back to his call.

  I slung the strimmer a little butchly over my shoulder and trudged back home.

  He is younger than me, and completely out of my league, yet I want to go back and talk to him again. What if he is gay? You fancy coming to help me dig tomorrow, and use your gaydar on Adam?

  Friday 22nd May 18.09

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  I spent all day up at the allotment, but no Adam. Good job, as Chris and I got filthy digging up weeds and spreading manure. I stink of it.

  At lunchtime, Len came past and eyeballed Chris, who had brought some very fancy cloth deckchairs and a hamper of Waitrose goodies. He leaned in and took a deep inhale.

  “Lovely… ‘oss shit,” he said.

  Chris panicked and offered Len a slice of quiche.

  “’Oss shit!” said Len.

  “Excuse me?” said Chris.

  “’Osssss SHIT! Good fer yer lungs!” shouted Len, spraying Chris with spittle.

  Chris just looked at him. Len muttered under his breath something about yuppies and staggered off tapping his stick.

  “Who in God’s name was that?” he asked.

  “Len, the Don of the Allotment,” I said. “It’s teeming with old gits.”

  Then I realised how good this was. There didn’t appear to be any other women my age or, God forbid, younger. I could flirt with the lovely Adam unheeded.

  “You should be back out dating,” said Chris. “Play the field. When did you last have sex?”

  “February.”

  “February?” he shrieked, sounding scandalised. “You MUST have sex!”

  Is he right? Must I? I am only just psyching myself up to a bit of mild flirtation. Since the divorce papers arrived, I have started to glance at men I see in the street, but I get the same feeling about sex as I would about a bungee jump: I can’t imagine myself doing it.

  Saturday 23rd May 08.34

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Just had a call from Daniel where he ticked me off for inappropriate behaviour towards his sister and mother. He said I had broken the vow he had made to Ethel that our home is her home, etc. He reminded me that the house is not being signed over until our decree absolute in three weeks so it is still half his house. I asked him why he didn’t say this before.

  He told me Ethel is coming to stay until Tuesday whilst Tony and Meryl “Get some R & R in Devon.”

  Meryl has obviously got to him. He was always more scared of her than me. They are arriving in four hours. So, lots of notice. Great…


  Saturday 23rd May 13.55

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Meryl and Ethel arrived on time in the hearse, which always draws a few looks. My outburst, and throwing them out, wasn’t mentioned. Meryl stuck to safe topics. The weather; “Clement.” The M1; “A carve-up.” And Susan Boyle; “Women in my church group can sing far better.”

  After twenty minutes of small talk, Meryl bade Ethel farewell and asked if I would walk her out to the hearse. She got in and rolled down the window with a stern look on her face. I thought, “Here it is, the talking to.” Instead, she said, “Coco, as you know, me and Tony are going away, alone… I wanted to see if I could borrow that television programme you have? Um…”

  I looked at her blankly. “Walking With Dinosaurs?”

  “No,” she said, going red and flustered. “You know the thing we watched, together, when Mum was poorly?”

  “Oh…You mean Sex And The City?”

  “Shhh. Yes. That. Could I borrow that?”

  “Sure, take the box set,” I said, and went and grabbed it. “I’ve put the one we watched inside, on the top,” I smiled, handing it through the hearse window.

  “Thank you!” she trilled, and drove off, her face a deep crimson.

  When I came back in Ethel had opened a bottle of Lambrusco Bianco and sent Rosencrantz off to the shop for a packet of my cigarettes. She offered me a glass, and for the second time in the space of an hour, Daniel’s in-laws surprised me.

  She raised her glass to toast me! She said that despite being posh, I had been a “fairly good” daughter-in-law and she hopes we keep in touch. We clinked and I went to make a little speech of thanks, but she launched into a tirade about Daniel.

  He is in a relationship.

  “She’s twenty-five,” said Ethel, sitting back and pursing her lips for effect. “She’s religious and she’s American!”

  “Oh,” I said.

  I was more surprised by how little I felt. Lots of things have happened lately, and I think I may be getting over Daniel.

  It seems now I am no longer with him, I have ceased to be her enemy. The glass of lukewarm wine seemed to be an entry into Ethel’s circle of slagging off. I joined in with the tirade, just a little bit, as I figured it would make the weekend go a bit easier. Daniel’s new girlfriend is called Kendal.

  “Why would you name your kid after a mint cake?” said Ethel, incredulous, “Americans!”

  When Rosencrantz returned with the fags, I let him hear all about it and went for a peaceful smoke.

  I keep thinking about Adam.

  Sunday 24th May 19.43

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  I was up early this morning and read the papers with coffee and several cigarettes in the garden. Ethel came clicking out on her frame about eleven saying, “What you doin’ out ‘ere?”

  “Relaxing.”

  “You’ve got a son in ‘ere in tears,” she said.

  I jumped up and followed her to find Rosencrantz huddled over a bowl of cereal, crying.

  “Don’t cry, boy,” said Ethel, rubbing his arm.

  “What’s wrong?” I said, putting my arm round him.

  “Just everything, everything’s gone,” he sobbed.

  Instinctively I looked around the room.

  “’E’s not talking about the bloody furniture,” said Ethel. “’E means ‘is life!”

  I didn’t know what to do, and looked on, helpless.

  “’Ere, let yer Nan spark up for yer,” said Ethel.

  She took a cigarette from a packet on the table and lit it, pressing it between his lips. He inhaled and exhaled.

  “Better?”

  Rosencrantz nodded.

  “I need a number two,” announced Ethel, indicating I should talk to him as she shuffled out.

  I sat down and we had a long chat. I have been so absorbed since we got back from America that I hadn’t thought, or hadn’t realized, he was going through things too. He’d appeared so resilient, slotting back into life.

  He still feels deeply betrayed by Christian, who seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. His phone number is not working and he has mysteriously left his course at the London School of Fashion.

  “And Dad hates me,” he added.

  “No, he doesn’t,” I said. “He’s just a …” I nearly said something I shouldn’t. “He’s just having a mid-life crisis.”

  “Well, he didn’t seem to want me around when we stayed with him… and that Kendal girl.”

  “He was with her then?” I said, sharply.

  “Yeah. Dad said we had to be careful around her, because she was from a very religious family and didn’t approve of gays… I didn’t want to tell you. I knew you would be upset.”

  I hugged him tight. He has been working to protect me, but all I have been doing lately is thinking about myself.

  I spent the rest of the day with him and Ethel, talking, and we all went for a walk in Regent’s Park and had ice cream by the boating lake. He’s still not right. It’s something I can’t put my finger on, still something he is not telling me.

  I never thought much about parental responsibility when I was with Daniel; we shared it very well, and it just seemed to happen. Suddenly being on my own with him is hard.

  Monday 26th May 14.47

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

  I took Ethel up to see the allotment this morning. I proudly showed her my clean, freshly dug-over soil.

  “Shame yours is just muck compared to all the others,” she said and went to put the kettle on.

  Adam came out of his shed, dressed in faded jeans and a tight white t-shirt. He looked great.

  “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 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 yer know,” she said, looking for a reaction.

  “So?” shrugged 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’d 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.

 

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