The coco pinchard boxset.., p.15
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.15

           Robert Bryndza
 

  “I just ‘ope they don’t do what that Dave Beckham did,” said Ethel, “an’ name it after the place what they bonked in. Chagford 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 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 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 asked, 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 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 me.

  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 is expecting twins through IVF called Torquay and Bude but she said, “Tony and I have 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 stay 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 blonde sat waiting in a confession-box booth. She waved.

  “Please, just trust me,” pleaded Angie. “There’s no time.”

  She pulled her face into a smile and led us over to the blonde, 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 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 cutout 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 ca
me over.

  It was Michael Brannigan.

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

  “Ange!” he drawled. “How’s tricks?”

  Louise sat up enthusiastically and introduced herself. Michael then turned 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. Angle’s mouth flapped soundlessly.

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

  “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 reintroduce 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 then I thought I might ring Angie, but neither materialised. Either way, it’s all a mess, my career… my 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 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 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 SouthWest 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. Thankfully it was 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 will 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 the 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 Angle’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 teeming 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.

  “I know. You hate me,” she said, pushing the cork back into the bottle.

  “You made me look ridiculous,” I said.

  “If you had turned up on time, I could have explained.”

  “Okay. Explain.”

  Angie sat down. She took a deep breath.

  “I can’t sell a book by Coco Pinchard. You are effectively blacklisted. Your old agent Dorian, your publishing house and Michael Brannigan have seen to that.”

  “Seriously?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Why did you take me on?”

  “I like a challenge. I thought I could get you a deal under a pen name.”

  “A pen name!” I spat.

  “And your reaction just proved how much you hate that idea,” she said lighting a cigarette. “But it may have worked. I have no doubt the Greg-O-Byte series would have been a huge hit. Eventually we could have said who they were really written by. You know how the press loves a comeback.”

  I drank my whisky.

  “So this is it?”

  “Coco. I cannot sell anything you write at the moment. Maybe I can do something with the rights to Chasing Diana Spencer, in a year or two. I hate to say this but you should find something else.”

  Angie pulled a business card out of her pocket and passed it across her desk.

  “My friend is the headmistress of a shit hot independent school in Kensington… Give her a call, they need an English teacher.”

  I walked home. I couldn’t face getting back on a train.

  Friday 5th June 14.46

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Chris’s father spoke to the director of SouthWest Trains. They launched an investigation into why we were stranded and found that the driver was at fault. Like me, he’d needed to pee, and thinking that t
he train was empty, halted by a thicket of trees and jumped out to relieve himself. However, he got lost in the dark and the trees, finally emerging in Grove Park this morning, suffering from shock after a night spent lost in the woods around Greater London.

  As an apology, the managing director has sent over to Chris several cases of vintage wine and a hamper of artisan breads and cheeses. Half of me is disgusted. If we were ordinary customers, we would have barely been refunded our tickets. The other half is really looking forward to some free wine and cheese, you fancy joining? How about a late night picnic up at my allotment? It’s very warm and the view over London is beautiful.

  Saturday 6th June 11.11

  TO: agatha@augustine.redhillallotments.co.uk

  Dear Agatha,

  Last night I fear I sparked an incident, which I am sure will be relayed back to you. I wanted to pre-empt this by sending an email.

  Just after 1am this morning, I was at the allotment with a couple of friends and we encountered Len with several other gentlemen. My friend Christopher was bundled into a headlock after picking and eating a raspberry. Despite efforts to explain who we were, and that the raspberry was mine, Len would not let go and, in self-defence, was hit over the head with a clutch bag.

  As far as I know, I am allowed to utilise my allotment twenty-four hours a day, and I wasn’t aware you’d commissioned an elderly task force to protect the fruit crops at night. It’s lucky no one was killed.

 

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