The coco pinchard boxset.., p.21
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.21

           Robert Bryndza
 

  I hesitated, which didn’t go down well. I told him that I have a million things going on, and that maybe it’s a bit fast. This went down even worse. He said as my girlfriend I should meet his daughter.

  “I didn’t know I was your girlfriend!” I said.

  “I invited you to the Summer Ball!” he said, looking stung.

  “Where you referred to me as ‘Coco’!”

  The atmosphere became rather frosty. I plumped up his cushions, and said I had to go to rehearsal.

  Why is this all happening at once? Two months ago I had no relationship and acres of time but now, everything is screaming for my attention. Byron fined me, again, for being late. I am down £30 and it’s my bloody show.

  I have to go back to Adam later. I said I would pick up a prescription for him.

  Monday 27th July 19.55

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  At lunchtime, I rushed to the chemist, then over to Adam’s with his antibiotics and got back to rehearsals a minute late. Byron fined me, again. Then I realised I had left my iPhone on Adam’s coffee table.

  I went back after rehearsals to be met with a furious look. You know what he did? He spent the afternoon reading through the sent emails on my iPhone. He wanted to know why I hadn’t told him about sleeping with Marek in Slovakia, or about Daniel staying the other night. He read everything I had written. About him, about my divorce. Everything.

  We had a nuclear row. He told me I wasn’t the woman he thought I was, and that I was “just like the rest”.

  I grabbed my phone and stormed out, shaking. Should I have told him about Marek? I know Adam had asked me on a date before Slovakia. Is that grounds for cheating these days?

  I clicked back through my messages and saw that I had indeed gone into detail about my night with Marek and that I had told Adam, and I quote “I haven’t slept with anyone since my husband”, when in fact I had.

  I cannot believe he went through my phone messages. He seemed so confident.

  Tuesday 28th July 15.15

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Nothing from Adam. I conducted an informal poll during today’s rehearsal. So far, everyone except Byron said they had looked, or would look, through the messages on a friend/loved one’s phone.

  Tuesday 28th July 23.01

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Rosencrantz has left his phone on the kitchen table and gone up to bed. I am not going to look.

  Tuesday 28th July 23.12

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Still not looking.

  Tuesday 28th July 23.51

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Okay! I couldn’t stop myself. I looked. It was empty apart from a text message, which said, “HI MUM. TOLD YOU YOU WOULD LOOK! LOVE R X”

  He heard my shriek and came downstairs.

  “You should give this guy Adam another chance,” he said when he took his phone back. “Maybe he’s only guilty of really liking you. More importantly, he’s like well fit.”

  Wednesday 29th July 23.40

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Went up to water my allotment, but once again was sidetracked doing rewrites for the preview tomorrow. Agatha was roaming around, and collared me.

  “It seems once again you’re getting the cheapest office space in central London,” she said, lighting a roll-up and indicating my dead tomato plants. “To think poor Mr Bevan laid down his life on this allotment.”

  I said he’d had a heart attack hoeing.

  “Well, be that as it may, you are in breach of contract,” she said. “You are using this space for commercial purposes. I’ll need you to vacate by the end of the month.”

  I smiled and looked her in the eye. I asked her if Len had managed to plant his Hampton Court grapevine, or if it was still down his trousers. The colour drained from her face.

  “Oh, so you’re in on it too?” I crowed. “That’s rather serious, isn’t it? Thieving from royal property.”

  Agatha huffed and puffed, saying maybe she was being harsh and that all I need to do is “buck up” with my watering. “And if you need any manure,” she said, “I’m sure I can spare a sack.”

  Ha ha!

  Angie can’t come to the preview tomorrow; her child prodigy author has had a tantrum and is refusing to deliver his next manuscript. She has to drive up to Oxford and bribe him with an Xbox 360.

  I am willing to give Adam another go, but he has to ring me. Doesn’t he? Two wrongs don’t make a right, do they? I lied, but he invaded my privacy. Surely, we are quits…

  However, he should ring me. Shouldn’t he?

  Friday 31st July 23.59

  TO: angielangford@thebmxagency.biz

  We got through the preview of the show. In the audience was myself, Chris, our friend Marika, and a baying pack of out-of-work actor friends of the cast, who whooped and cheered at every sentence. I wish my ex mother-in-law had been able to see it; she is always blunt and honest.

  Clive, who played piano at the auditions, came along. He looked even more disheveled than before. He said the show “has legs”. I agreed with him, but the legs are rather wobbly.

  Jason’s hand is much better. He has to go back to hospital for more steroid injections tomorrow, which should see him through August.

  Chris has taken Rosencrantz and the rest of the cast to Cathedral. Nothing good ever happens for me there, so I came back to continue working.

  I have sorted out the train tickets to get the cast up to Edinburgh on Monday. I have the Queen’s state robes on a thirty-degree wash, now I am off to bed.

  August

  Saturday 1st August 10.01

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  I am a bag of nerves about travelling up to Scotland. I should have gone and got drunk with the others. Rosencrantz has been showing me photos on his iPhone from Cathedral. They all blagged their way up to the VIP “pulpit” and were posing with a look-a-like of the Pope. Rosencrantz has also been saying who “got off” with who. It is as follows:

  Clive and Byron (there is a forty-year age gap)

  Chris and Jason (Chris was seen popping a painkiller into Jason’s mouth, seductively, for his bad hand)

  Beryl and Hugo (weird, says Rosencrantz, as Beryl plays The Queen and Hugo plays both Prince Phillip and Prince Charles)

  Rosencrantz said he could have got off with Andy Lobster, the blond good-looking actor who plays Hans Von Strudel the Queen’s butler. Everyone is convinced he is “bi-curious”.

  The only person not to “get-off” with anyone was Spiffy Mc Cready, who plays Camilla Parker-Bowles. She, apparently, is asexual.

  What kind of business is my son going into? I should have made him take that job Ethel got him when he was seventeen, photographing criminals at the police station.

  Sunday 2nd August 10.15

  TO: angielangford@thebmxagency.biz

  Jason has phoned me, very, very upset. He had to go back to hospital this morning. The ligament in his hand is more damaged than they thought and he has been advised not to play the piano for three months! He is pulling out of coming to Edinburgh. He is devastated, so am I.

  WHAT DO WE DO? We don’t even have a CD with the music on!

  Sunday 2nd August 10.40

  TO: angielangford@thebmxagency.biz

  Chris has suggested hiring Clive… He is barely out of rehab but I don’t think we have any other choice. Clive doesn’t have a mobile phone/email address or fixed abode, but according to Rosencrantz, he went back to Byron’s last night. I am going to drive up to Byron’s house in Walthamstow and talk to him. I only hope he is coherent. Byron is always going on about how she brews beer in her airing cupboard.

  Sunday 2nd August 15.01

  TO: angielangford@thebmxagency.biz

  Chris and Rosencrantz came with me to Byron’s house in Walthamstow, “to protect me”. They can’t weigh more than eighteen stone between them, but the thought was nice.
r />   Byron has a room in a huge student house. When she answered the door, she was still in her dressing gown, and untouched by the hand of Clive. It seems Rosencrantz had got his gossip wrong.

  Clive only came back to Byron’s after confessing he didn’t have anywhere else to go. Beryl had crashed on Byron’s other sofa. She was sitting in a long Frankie Says Relax t-shirt, which looked odd with her Queen Elizabeth II wash and set. Byron was still in the same ZZ Top t-shirt; I have never seen her wear anything else.

  I asked Clive if he would consider coming to Edinburgh, and being the pianist for all twenty-six of our shows.

  “Something told me last night to lay off the sauce,” said Clive, with tears in his eyes. “I’d be honoured,” and he kissed my hand.

  I am still a little worried, he looks in a bad way, but at this late stage, we don’t know any other brilliant pianists who can come and work for us for a month, on non-equity rates and at twelve hours’ notice.

  I went upstairs to use the bathroom, and on my way out Beryl was waiting for me on the landing.

  “Coco,” she said with a low voice. “Can you tell me something, honestly? Do you think I can act?”

  “Um… yes, you’re very good,” I said.

  “You hesitated,” she said.

  “Well, you threw me? I hired you on the basis that you could act.”

  “It’s Hugo,” she whispered, with tears in her eyes. “He had a small part in the comedy film, The Naked Gun.”

  I looked blank.

  “Jeanette Charles,” she said, “was also in The Naked Gun, she played Queen Elizabeth II, you know when Leslie Neilson has to save the Queen… She’s the most famous Queen-a-like.”

  “Oh yes,” I said, remembering.

  “Hugo says if this musical transfers to London, you will replace me with Jeanette Charles.”

  I assured Beryl that she is fabulous and perfect and will be my Queen whenever, wherever. I realised how horrible actors can be. Hugo is very jealous of Beryl. On a selfish note, however, it was a good endorsement of her faith in the project.

  We bade farewell and took Clive with us. After we dropped off Chris, Clive asked if we could talk, alone in the car. Rosencrantz excused himself, and went indoors.

  “Coco,” he said holding my hand. “You might just have saved my life and know I will do you proud. I will champion your show day and night. I will lie down in the mud so your shoes remain spotless. I am your devoted servant.”

  He hugged me. He was skin and bone.

  “You only need to play the piano, but thank you,” I said.

  When we got in, I ran him a deep bath and gave him a pair of Daniel’s old pyjamas. I put his clothes through on a hot cycle. The only things in his pockets were a scruffy little address book and his tin of tobacco.

  Sunday 2nd August 19.30

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  We all slept in late, then Rosencrantz made a huge brunch of eggs, bacon, beans, and toast. Late afternoon I took Clive up to see the allotment and we watered everything. It shouldn’t need doing for a couple of days. I left you some gin and tonic in the shed.

  The ground was rather bumpy, and Clive is very frail. He had to put his arm through mine for support.

  “Oh Coco, this is wonderful,” he said. “I always wanted a little piece of England to call my own.”

  He then knelt beside me and recited from Shakespeare, “‘This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.’ Richard the Second.”

  He took my hand and kissed it.

  Someone cleared his throat. We turned and it was Adam. He was tapping his empty watering can on the ground. Clive let go of my hand and held his out to Adam.

  “Good evening, I’m Clive Richardson. How are you acquainted with this marvellous woman?”

  “Adam Rickard,” he said, shaking Clive’s hand and eyeing him suspiciously. “So you’re off tomorrow, Coco?”

  I said we were leaving at 6am. There was an awkward pause. Clive made for the shed, but wobbled so I grabbed his arm again. Adam looked at me petulantly.

  “Well, good luck. I have to go,” he said, and turned and walked away.

  “Affair of the heart?” asked Clive, as we watched Adam stamping along the rows and out onto the road.

  I merely nodded. I have no time to try to fathom the workings of his mind. I still have so much to do: pack, plan our route, plus the stuffed corgi hand puppets have finally arrived, and each one needs a squeaker sewn inside.

  Monday 3rd August 12.00

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I wish we were on the train with the rest of you. London to Edinburgh in four and a half hours would be bliss. Rosencrantz and I are tootling along quite well but I think we will be much later than the promised 3pm. I took a wrong turn at the last motorway junction and ended up coming back towards London. We only realised when we stopped for coffee and saw the same waitress. I should have twigged when we passed The Angel Of The North, twice…

  Monday 3rd August 23.57

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  We finally arrived at ten this evening. I feel sick. I think it’s nerves, and all the shortbread we have scoffed since passing Hadrian’s Wall.

  Edinburgh was warm and buzzing with activity, even late at night. Banners for the Festival were being strung between lampposts. We passed the Royal Mile, which is the main high street in Edinburgh’s old town. It is cobbled and filled with gothic stone buildings, several churches, and quaint little shops selling whisky and thick jumpers. This will be the Festival nerve centre for the next month. Everyone will be out in all weathers; buskers, fire eaters and actors promoting their shows, giving out flyers and performing on stages dotted along the cobbles which stretch up to Edinburgh Castle sitting floodlit on the hill.

  When we found The Carnegie Theatre, we joined a queue of cars for the loading bay. I couldn’t wait to see where the show would be performed. I had this twinkly vision of a little theatre with polished wood and plush red seats. This was dashed quite quickly. The Carnegie Theatre is, in fact, a series of disused vaults in an old abandoned abattoir. We weren’t allowed in because the fire brigade had to pump out water before they can unstack the chairs.

  We unloaded our props on a small square marked out in the loading bay. A sign was taped above it, which read:

  CHAFING DIANA SPENDER: THE MUSICAL

  Three squares down, there was a huge fake plastic balcony, covered in fake plastic grape vines. Boxes of wine and cups were stacked up to the ceiling. I walked over and saw the sign, which read:

  REGINA BATTENBERG’S WINDOW BOX WINEMAKING LIVE!

  Rosencrantz noticed me standing with my mouth open and came over.

  “I wanted to tell you, but we thought it was best you didn’t know, whilst you were writing.”

  “What?”

  “We found out last week. Regina Battenberg is doing a chat show here.” He put his arm around me.

  “In the same theatre?”

  “Yup.”

  “In our theatre?”

  “She’s got the 7pm slot… Were we right not to tell you?”

  I suppose it made sense, but now I have a horrible, horrible feeling about being here, being compared and ridiculed. The pressure is even greater.

  A girl in a hard hat came over and told us to get moving as the cars were backing up. I didn’t have time to think and we unloaded the rest of the props and costumes.

  Palace Apartments were no better. Everyone was waiting on the pavement in the dark with their suitcases. As we got there, Mrs Dougal, the landlady, arrived to let us in. She was wearing a kilt and a headscarf and showed us where we have to feed in fifty pences for the electricity meter.

  Quite why the actors applauded this, I don’t know. They seem to applaud most banalities told by anyone with a little authority. When Mrs Dougal had gone, we chose our rooms. I am sharing with Chris, and Rosencrantz is with Clive. Palace Apartments was once a proud, elegant Victorian terraced house, but plaste
rboard partitions appear to have been thrown up with no regard for ambience. The bay window in the front room is chopped in half by a thin wall running along the middle, and where it doesn’t quite meet the glass, bog roll has been stuffed in the gap.

  However, the actors all seemed thrilled, having apparently stayed in far worse. Spiffy was telling everyone how she was concussed when the ceiling collapsed on her once during a tour of Arsenic And Old Lace with Lesley Joseph.

  “I still did the matinee,” she said proudly.

  Byron, to her credit, has been amazing. I went to see her in the little office she had set up in what looks like the old scullery.

  “You heard about Regina Battenberg?” she said.

  “Yes,” I said.

  My eyes began to well up and to my surprise, Byron hugged me. The ZZ Top t-shirt was kicking out a whiff, but I was grateful and hugged her back.

  “I may be a complit butch,” she said, looking me in the eye, “but I think thus is a fantistic show and I’m only a butch because I want it to be a big hit.”

  “Thanks Byron,” I said.

  She then showed me how she had hacked into the Wi-Fi signal in the pawnshop next door so we can look at our online ticket sales. We have sold nineteen tickets for the whole run. It doesn’t even equate to one ticket for each show, but it is a start.

  I know Regina Battenberg is going to wipe the floor with us.

 

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