The coco pinchard boxset.., p.2
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.2

           Robert Bryndza

  If it ends up on YouTube, he’s dead.

  I’m now hiding upstairs in bed with the bottle of Drambuie. They’ve all moved to the music room. Daniel is thumping out ‘Good King Wenceslas’ on the Steinway piano and the rest of them are singing along. I keep hearing Meryl’s shrill voice saying, “Where is Coco? We need someone to sing the descant.”

  Six more days to go.

  Miss you!

  Coco x

  Friday 26th December 23.33

  TO: [email protected]

  I’m sorry you are having such a terrible time with your family. Why do we do it every year? I suppose the threat of your parents disinheriting you is kind of a reason. Marika loves to go back to Slovakia because it’s her real home. What’s my reason? I’ve never got on with my in-laws and relations with Daniel are at an all-time low… You know what it is? I’m a cheap venue. I’m the only one with enough room for everyone. I should charge them! How much is your family paying for the villa?

  When I came down this morning, Meryl was cooking bacon on the George Foreman grill Tony gave her yesterday, and Ethel was drinking the drained-off fat from a tea cup. The Christmas tree had been rotated to the silver side, even though technically it is the coloured side today. I’ve turned it back. It’s war.

  Daniel had already left for his first Boxing Day show at 10am. After lunch of sausages on the George Foreman grill, we took the Tube down to Richmond and saw the matinee. I must give him credit, he’s done a brilliant job with the music, but the script is very far from the traditional Snow White. In this version, Postman Pat lives with a red Power Ranger next door to the seven dwarves.

  We went backstage afterwards and met a girl called Sophie who played Snow White. She made us all tea, and berated Daniel for his four sugars, which was a tad overfamiliar for my liking. She looks the type who might wake up with seven men in her bed.

  We made some small talk. I ignored Daniel. He ignored me. Rosencrantz quizzed him, asking him if there was a homosexual subtext to Postman Pat living with the red Power Ranger. He’s studying Queer Theatre next term at his drama school and has been encouraged to investigate gay undercurrents in popular culture.

  Daniel was at a loss, until Ethel saved him by saying, “Don’t be a prat Rosencrantz, everyone knows Postman Pat is married.”

  On the way home in the car, Meryl said it had spoilt the magic, seeing behind the scenes. I reminded her it wasn’t really that magical on stage, especially when Dame Dolly Mixture sung ‘It’s Raining Men’ with too much hairy cleavage on show and the Power Ranger bouncing around in his Lycra.

  At bedtime relations between Daniel and me were still frosty. I kept getting flashbacks of Snow White stirring his four sugars lasciviously. I tried to initiate make-up sex but the bloody Horlicks Meryl insisted on making him kicked in, and he fell asleep when his head hit the pillow.

  We haven’t done it since they lit the Advent crown on Blue Peter (nineteenth December). I know our sex life is less vigorous now but we usually seem to make up for it around the festive arguing.

  I can’t sleep so I’m just out on the landing trying to get my iPhone to synchronise with my computer. I’m not having any luck. Meryl and Tony, however, have been synchronising for the last twenty minutes. It’s not very vocal, but the headboard is loud. I’d wondered why Tony declined his usual Horlicks.

  Saturday 27th December 09.44

  TO: [email protected]

  Dear Rosencrantz,

  No. I won’t bring you up a bacon sandwich in bed. I’m not your slave, and I don’t know how to switch on the George Formby grill.

  P.S. If you’re coming downstairs, could you bring my reading glasses? They are on my bedside table. The papers have just arrived. I want to see if Chasing Diana Spencer made the Top 10.

  Saturday 27th December 18.04

  TO: [email protected]

  Window Box Winemaking has stayed at number 1 in The Times non-fiction charts for the sixth consecutive week. Regina Battenberg is on the cover of the Saturday Review with Oz Clarke. In the picture, they are on her balcony in Croydon, enjoying a glass of her Croydon Beaujolais. Regina is wearing a tiara — who does she think she is?

  I had prayed that Chasing Diana Spencer would hit the Top 10, but no, nothing. However, my agent Dorian texted to say that I have just broken the WH Smith Fiction Top 100 — at number 100. Meryl and Rosencrantz offered to come along and see it on the shelf.

  We walked round to the little WH Smith at Marylebone Station but their book chart only went up to number 50. Then Rosencrantz was contacted via Facebook via his iPhone to meet up with friends, so Meryl asked if I fancied riding the tandem to the branch in Holborn.

  After overcoming the thought that people might see us as a couple of mad lesbians, I loved being the passenger. Meryl expertly steered us across London, shooting down alleyways, across parks and through little quaint streets I’d never seen before.

  Meryl made me pose for a photo next to a small pile of Chasing Diana Spencer, and even distracted a sales assistant whilst I swapped them with a load of Ruth Rendell mysteries on the ‘recommended read’ shelf. Then she took me to Starbucks.

  “This coffee isn’t exactly all celebratory, Coco,” she said, eyeing me over the top of her Frappuccino, before arranging her features into a smile, which always makes her look a bit like Margaret Thatcher. “You should let Daniel go and do this Windy Whistle show.”

  “Whistle UP The Wind,” I said.

  “You know he has issues about being breadwinner,” she said. “And the house.”

  “This. Again,” I groaned.

  “Your parents left you a very nice house, Coco. He can never compete, he could never get you that himself. You know, I looked up a house like yours on the Internet. A million pounds it was selling for!”

  “It’s our house,” I said. “It’s always been our house.”

  “All I’m saying is it must always be a knock to his… manhood.” I didn’t like her knowing use of the word “manhood”. I wanted to tell her that the tiny penis on Christmas Day did NOT represent Daniel, but it felt awkward. Meryl and myself are not exactly Sex And The City girls.

  “Look, it was never about me not letting him do this job,” I said. “He should do a job he loves. He just makes bad business decisions.”

  Meryl excused herself and went to the loo. A minute later my phone went. It was Daniel.

  “I’ve just heard you made the WH Smith chart,” he said. “Congratulations!”

  “Thank you,” I said suspiciously. “So we’re talking now?”

  “Course we are,” he said. “Look Cokes. You know that feeling you have about getting in the charts? That’s the feeling I get at the thought of launching Whistle Up The Wind.”

  There was a silence.

  “And, Tony just texted me,” he added. “He looked up the production company on Companies House. They’ve posted profits for the past six years. It’s kosher.”

  “Okay,” I said. “Do the job, but promise you’ll involve me next time?”

  “Wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. “I love you Cokes! You’re the best.”

  I got off the phone as Meryl came back. She was a bit too surprised to hear Daniel called. She’d probably phoned him from the loo. I wouldn’t be surprised either if Ethel hadn’t been up on the roof of Starbucks, feeding dialogue down to Meryl via an earpiece. I think they all played me like a fiddle.

  Marika is incommunicado in Slovakia. She forgot to pack her phone charger. You know how I found this out? She used the last bar of her battery to text Rosencrantz, asking him to change her Facebook status to ‘Snowed in, and forgot to pack my phone charger.’

  It makes me think I should join Facebook. What else am I missing?

  Sunday 28th December 10.14

  TO: [email protected]/uk

  Dear Apple,

  My son and I were each given one of your iPhones for Christmas, and I just have a technical query about the touch
screen interface. I couldn’t find the answer to my particular question on your website.

  Does it matter if the screen has been sprayed with Windolene? My sister-in-law has a real thing about greasy finger marks on shiny surfaces and cleaned both of our phones when she did my patio window. They seem to be working fine, but please advise.

  Coco Pinchard

  Sunday 28th December 13.04

  TO: [email protected]

  The Christmas tree is currently set to coloured baubles, though it seems to change when I’m not looking. I spent the morning in the kitchen with Meryl, perched on one of the breakfast stools, smoking and watching her bake. She always insists on showing me how to make bread, even though I look far from interested.

  The Sunday Times Rich List came out today. Meryl is beside herself that your father, Sir Richard, is 497th.

  “Why didn’t you tell me you were friends with royalty?” squealed Meryl.

  I explained that your father isn’t royalty, but was knighted for services to catering in 1999 after patenting a super-strong paper serviette. Meryl said if they had known, she and Tony would have had you on the top table at her fortieth birthday ‘do’.

  She asked why Daniel and I haven’t had any other friends round for mince pies.

  “After twenty years of marriage you must have some joint friends?”

  I said we didn’t, really.

  “You poor thing. It’s Daniel, isn’t it?” said Meryl. “He can be rather self-absorbed in his music. I’m glad I have Tony… I’m very fortunate in that respect.”

  She gave me a look of such pity that I excused myself and went into the living room. I had to have a good look at Tony to remind myself how fortunate I am.

  Relief washed over me. His flies were undone, his Christmas tie was decorated with dried egg yolk and gravy, and he was reading a well-thumbed issue of Undertakers and Funeral Directors Digest. He takes his job as an undertaker very seriously, as does Meryl. I’d already had it thrust in my face several times to see the ‘Mortician’s Tip’ Meryl wrote in with, advising mixing a little baking powder in with foundation to prevent the latter clotting when it hits the embalming fluid.

  Ethel was sat beside Tony, watching the Food Channel. I turned and saw Regina Battenberg, looking rather rough in high definition, plugging Window Box Winemaking. The wine critic, Jilly Goolden, was tasting her Croydon Beaujolais.

  “Looks like pisswater,” said Ethel, through a mouthful of Quality Street.

  Jilly put it more eloquently as reminding her of “Pick ’n’ mix in a bottle.”

  “Why isn’t that publisher, or that useless agent of yours, getting you on the box?” said Tony. “This Battenberg woman doesn’t need to sell any more books.”

  He had a point, so I went and phoned Dorian. I got his assistant, Emma, who said he was too busy to take my call.

  “He’s in a crisis meeting,” she said breathlessly.

  “Why?” I said.

  'We’re worried about Regina’s wine being likened to pick ’n’ mix. It’s a sensitive time, what with Woolworth’s going bankrupt.”

  I heard Dorian yelling in the background and she put the phone down.

  I’m up in my office again. The only place I can call my own. I want my house back, especially the kitchen, even if all I use the gas hob for is lighting fags.

  Tuesday 30th December 17.09

  TO: [email protected]

  Meryl has surged through the house and cleaned it from top to bottom. She had a row with Daniel after hanging a Magic Tree air freshener in the piano, the only place she couldn’t get to with the crevice tool on the hoover.

  Daniel’s contract has come through for Whistle Up The Wind. It’s touring some large venues in North America, but rehearsing above a supermarket in Peckham. This hasn’t allayed my fears.

  Wednesday 31st December 16.47

  TO: [email protected]

  After lunch M + T went back to Milton Keynes on the tandem, and I took Ethel home. They all said thanks for a wonderful time. Did we have the same Christmas?

  There is a patch of carpet worn away under the tree. I should have put my foot down on Christmas Eve and had only coloured decorations.

  January 2009

  Thursday 1st January 00.15

  TO: [email protected]

  Fireworks from the London Eye are bursting above my head, filling the garden with reds, yellows and blues, but I am on my own. I don’t know where Daniel is. He promised he would be home by eleven.

  Happy New Year x

  Thursday 1st January 00.31

  TO: [email protected]

  Thank you for the video you emailed of the cork erupting from a bottle of Champagne in slow motion. Very arty but an old-fashioned phone call would have been nice. Have you heard from Dad?

  Thursday 1st January 00.38

  TO: [email protected]

  That picture you just emailed of you dancing on a podium. Is that your father with you? Why is your father with you? What’s he doing dancing on a podium?

  Thursday 1st January 00.52

  TO: [email protected]

  I was so pleased to hear from you. I wish I’d come to your party in Bratislava. Thank you for the pic of the stripper you sent. He’s gorgeous.

  However, your text read, “I bought the stripper poisoned and cold!” I’ve been racking my brains, then realised it must be your predictive text. Did you mean to write “I bought the stripper Smirnoff and Coke”?

  Maybe it’s the baby oil on your fingers… ;-)

  Daniel stood me up.

  Thursday 1st January 12.04

  TO: [email protected]

  Daniel turned up last night at the NYE party Rosencrantz was attending at the KOKO club in Camden. Rosencrantz was not impressed. His father had brought with him the Wicked Queen, Snow White, Dame Dolly Mixture and a couple of Dwarves – all in costume.

  What was he thinking? Daniel is trying to squirm his way out of it, saying the punch at their after-show party was spiked and he got carried away. I am furious with him for standing me up. Rosencrantz is equally furious. Daniel was thrown out of KOKO after leaping off a podium and attempting to crowd surf the VIP area…

  I received a phone call from Dorian. I have three book signings lined up and an interview on the seventh for the London FM Breakfast Show. It gets a million listeners!

  I came off the phone excited, went up to the bedroom, and told Daniel very loudly all about it. He is in bed hung-over and throwing up in a bucket.

  Friday 2nd January 11.35

  TO: [email protected]

  I drove Daniel to work. On the way he asked if we could pick up Sophie (Snow White) from hospital! She spent yesterday in a ward at University College London Hospital with suspected alcohol poisoning. Which is ironic, as it was the Wicked Queen who was buying her Apple Martinis all evening.

  Sophie was stood waiting outside Goodge Street Station in her Snow White costume, her lips tinged black from where they’d pumped her stomach. She seemed in a mood with Daniel and barely said thanks when I dropped them off in Richmond. Maybe it’s good he is going to be off working with a more professional bunch on Whistle Up The Wind.

  Afterwards I drove to Stansted Airport and picked up Marika. She looked so thin. She’s lost nearly a stone.

  The village where her mum lives has no running water. When the blizzard hit on Boxing Day, the bucket froze in the well. They had to break the ice on the deep end of the swimming pool and the chlorine gave them the runs.

  When the road gritters made it through, Marika and her sister went to Bratislava for NYE. She went a bit wild and slept with a stripper in the corridor of the Best Western Hotel! They couldn’t get into her room; his baby oil ended up everywhere, and neither of them could get purchase on the door handle.

  I took her straight home. She has to mark two hundred and fifty of her pupils’ GCSE science projects before term starts Mond

  She looked depressed when we pulled up outside her flat in Dulwich.

  “Hello London, goodbye fun,” she said.

  I have missed Marika, and you.

  Saturday 3rd January 15.01

  TO: [email protected]

  Dear Dorian,

  I have been to two book signings today and both have been a disaster. I know January is a dead time for retail so I thought I might have been placed in a prominent area of the bookshop.

  This morning in Bromley, I was put right at the back, in the Business section, where two people asked me if I was the old blonde woman, Margaret Mountford, from ‘The Apprentice’. This afternoon I trudged out to High Barnet where I was put in the Royal Interest section and a woman asked me if I was David Starkey!

  I know I have short blonde hair, and I was wearing my glasses, but it’s no excuse. When I’m in Oxford Street on Tuesday, could you please make sure they know who I am, and that I’m sat far away from the Art section? Being mistaken for Andy Warhol would send me over the edge.


  Sunday 4th January 11.34

  TO: [email protected]

  The drear of January has begun. I took down the Christmas tree and put it behind the shed. Its needles had all fallen off, leaving just a brown skeleton. I put it down to decoration-related stress. Daniel is working, Rosencrantz is out doing God knows what and Marika is still marking GCSE coursework.

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