Coco pinchards big fat t.., p.23
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       Coco Pinchard's Big Fat Tipsy Wedding: A Funny Feel-Good Romantic Comedy, p.23

           Robert Bryndza
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  'My brother’s gone to dump the machine,’ he said. 'Can I wash my hands?'

  'Sure,' I said. ‘Help yourself.’ I left him to it, but then popped my head back round the door to ask if he’d like a drink. He was now turned away from me, washing his hands. On his back was a stunning tattoo of an Eagle. Inked across his muscular shoulders were the wings, beautifully etched in a blue-black ink which complimented his smooth brown skin. The body of the Eagle continued between his shoulder blades and its talons ended at the base of his slim back. As he washed his hands, his powerful shoulders flexed, and the Eagle rippled and flexed along with him.

  I must have been standing there for a while because he turned. I cleared my throat,

  'Would you like something to drink?'

  ‘Yeah. You got any more of that amazing ice coffee?' he said. He grinned and ran his wet hands through his hair. I watched his arm as water ran from his wet hand, down his forearm and across his large bicep. I swallowed.

  'Yes. I’ll get you some… one… well I’ll make two, one for me and one for you. Oh look I’m a poet.’

  'And you don’t know it!' he grinned.

  'Yeah,' I said, going red and realising I was in the danger zone with this guy. Rocco rolled over on the bathroom floor and regarded me with a judgmental little eye.

  I busied myself with making the ice coffee. He came out of the bathroom, still in just his shorts.

  ‘Where do you want me?’ he said.

  ‘Um, I think outside is best,’ I said. I didn’t tell him where I really wanted him. The chant in my head started up again Adam Adam Adam Adam…

  I put the coffee on a tray and made my way out to the garden. On the way out, I tripped on the edge of the fake grass and went flying. I hit the ground with an embarrassing thud. Xavier rushed over and helped me up. I hopped about a bit while he picked up the glasses and the tray. He shook the last of the coffee dregs off the glasses, and put them down on the table. I was leaning on the edge of the sofa keeping the weight off my throbbing leg.

  'Let me see,' he said softly. He crouched down and ran his hand over my knee.

  'Does it hurt badly?'

  'No, well, yes,’ I said. He massaged my knee.

  'I don’t think anything is broken,' he said. Men always say that, but how do they really know? Unless they’re a doctor? However, I just gritted my teeth gratefully. It hurt a lot.

  'You need to keep rubbing, to get the blood going and it won’t hurt as much,' he said, still crouched by my leg. He carried on rubbing. His movements became slower and his fingers moved under hem of my shorts and brushed my thigh. I felt a tingle of longing move up my leg. I looked down at him. A lock of his hair had fallen across his face. I pushed it back up over his forehead. I put my other hand on one of his powerful shoulders. He stood up to face me. I noticed he’s a little taller than I am. He smelt intoxicating, a mixture of sweat and soap. He gazed at me intensely and slowly curled his hand around my waist and pulled me toward him. Pressed against him I could feel him getting hard. I averted my eyes and looked at his chest, he put his hand under my chin and tilted my face to his. He licked his lips and leant in to kiss me…

  Suddenly there was a huge crash followed instantly by a terrible sound from Rocco, a high-pitched squealing. I broke away and hobbled into the living room.

  The giant bookcase by the sofa had toppled over, it hadn’t fallen quite flat, and one corner was propped uneasily on the edge of the coffee table. The squealing was coming from under the bookcase.

  'Oh my god!' I cried. 'Rocco! He’s underneath! Help me move it.’ There was another clattering sound as someone tore downstairs from above. Then a quick knock on the front door as Shane burst in.

  'Shit, Coco! Are you okay?'

  'The book case, help, Rocco is underneath,’ I said. He was still squealing like a banshee. It sounded like he was terribly hurt.

  Shane and Xavier grabbed either end of the bookcase and tried to heave it back up against the wall. It wouldn’t budge.

  'Shit! Man it weighs a ton,' said Shane. They strained and heaved managing to lift it a foot or more. I crawled under pulling away at books and papers which had slid off the shelves, trying to get to Rocco who was now howling so much I thought his back was broken. I finally saw his furry feet; he was caught inside one of the shelf partitions. Just then the guys managed to lift the bookcase a little more and the wooden partition between me and Rocco lifted, he darted out and jumped into my arms. I shuffled back and clear of the bookcase. The guys couldn’t hold it any longer, they let go and it landed on the coffee table, which then collapsed and the whole lot crashed to the floor.

  I stood there with Rocco in my arms shaking.

  'Jeez…' said Shane. 'That could have been really nasty.’ He noticed Xavier standing in just his shorts.

  ‘This is, uh,’

  'Hi mate, I’m Shane, I live upstairs…' he said.

  ‘I’m Xavier,’ they shook hands.

  'Were you trying to move this?' said Shane

  'No. We were um… outside,’ I said. Xavier looked at me. ‘We suddenly just heard it fall.’

  'How the hell did this thing fall?' said Shane.

  'I don’t know, we were just… We weren’t in here and heard the crash.'

  ‘Had you moved it away from the wall?’ said Shane.

  ‘No,’ I said. ‘I haven’t touched it.’

  'Shit that’s weird,' said Shane circling the mess. 'It’s a fucking behemoth with a low centre of gravity, it shouldn’t have just toppled…I study engineering,’ he said by way of explanation for his interest.

  'Come on Shane, we need to get this upright and help Coco clear up,' said Xavier. They both went to grab the bookcase.

  'No. No, it’s okay,’ I said. 'Please can you just… I’ve had a shock and I just want to calm down Rocco and I don’t want to put it back up against the wall.' Rocco was still shivering in my arms and I was in shock in more ways than one.

  ‘Is everything alright?’ he said looking between Xavier and me. I said everything was fine. Shane said to let him know if I needed anything, and then went back upstairs leaving me with Xavier.

  'Can I do anything?' he said.

  'No, thank you,' I said clutching Rocco. He came to stand beside me and rubbed my arm.


  ‘I really like you Coco,’ he said. ‘You’re…’

  ‘I’m sorry. I think you should go,' I said. He regarded me for a minute.

  'I have a fiancé,' I said. 'He’s called Adam, he’s in prison, and I’m waiting for him.'

  I thought of our wedding, still booked for the end of August. I tried to smile but tears came instead.

  ‘I’m sorry, but you need to leave,' I said. Xavier nodded sadly. He shucked his vest top over his head and opened the door, and he was gone.

  I took Rocco over to the kitchen, put him gently on the counter, and checked over every inch of him, gently squeezing his paws and running my hands along his back, stroking his head. He seemed fine, just very shaken. I gave him some treats and a little drink of water. I then went to the fridge and poured myself a huge ice-cold spritzer. I let him drink a little out of my glass and sat with him on the table beside me, trying to process everything.

  What if that shelf hadn’t fallen? What if the shelf had fallen a second earlier and crushed Rocco? I thought of the beautiful cat I had seen earlier. And Xavier, beautiful Xavier…

  I suddenly noticed the patch of exposed carpet under the bookshelf. It was a lovely pale blue against the grey of the rest of the carpet. On it was an old photo album. I got up and went over to it. It was very thin, no doubt squashed by the weight of the huge bookshelves and made of padded velvet. It was tied shut with a greasy old ribbon in a flattened bow.

  I picked it up and came back to the kitchen counter. Rocco who was still sitting there, sniffed it as I undid the ribbon. As I turned the thin cardboard pages they creaked with age. It was filled with a selection of 1950s photographs. Black and white pictures o
f ladies with dyed black hair and those Dame Edna glasses posing in front of their cars, back when cars where a luxury you took out on a Sunday afternoon for a drive. I found myself searching for the lady I saw in my dreams. I finally found her in the last photo. A slim younger version in a twinset perched on the bonnet of an old Daimler. She was smiling into the camera. The picture was taken outside this flat.

  ‘Why am I dreaming about you?’ I said. I eased the photo out from its little cardboard corners and turned it over, but all that was printed on the back was the Kodak Eastman symbol. I searched through the album a few more times, but it was just photos.

  I put the album on the table and poured another big drink. For the rest of the evening I sat with Rocco out in the garden, him on my lap, thinking.

  I’m not at all scared, but there is something very odd about this flat.

  Friday 29th July 21.14

  TO: [email protected]

  To Prisoner AG26754 Adam Rickard

  We had a viewing party at Ethel’s yesterday afternoon. It was the premiere of Rosencrantz’s TV advert, during an episode of Midsomer Murder’s on ITV3. It was me, Ethel, Chris, Marika, Wayne, Oscar, and of course, Rosencrantz.

  Rosencrantz seems to be the Matinee Idol of The Aspidistra Sheltered Housing in Catford. The old ladies worship him. They attend all his performances, we all went to see him in The Don’t Drink Or Do Drugs Puppet Show a few weeks ago, and those who still have good use of their knees gave him a standing ovation.

  The episode itself caused a lot of excitement (it was the one where you see Orlando Bloom’s bare bottom). Then just after an archery arrow to the chest killed him, the episode went to an advert break, and there was Rosencrantz!

  ‘Have you had an accident in the last five years?’ came the voice over and there he was, dancing away to some jazzy samba music before tragically slipping over. He also did a piece to camera where he said that Inter-claims helped him to sue his dance school for five thousand pounds on a no win no fee basis.

  At the end of the advert, everyone cheered and clapped. I was so proud of him, and Ethel got one of the Wardens to open a couple of bottles of Asti Spumante and we all gave him a toast.

  'Speech!' yelled Ethel’s friend Irene. 'Give us a speech!' Rosencrantz rose to his feet.

  'Thank you for organising this Nan, I love you, and thanks to all my biggest fans here.'

  The old ladies chorused him with a sedate 'woo-hoo.'

  ‘Most importantly I want to thank you, Mum,' he said. I sat up in surprise. 'You’ve always been there for me, always. When I was a kid and wanted to perform, you encouraged me. You paid for me to go to Drama school. You even risked everything to rescue me from jail in America.'

  There was a collective gasp from Rosencrantz’s elderly fan club.

  'It was only Class C drugs!' said Ethel chastising them all. 'An’ it was a set up!’

  'Now you’re having a rough time Mum, especially when you have to go and visit Adam. So, I got you a present.’

  He handed me a little box. I opened it, a little miffed. Inside was a car key. I looked up. The whole room was on the edge of their seats/high backed armchairs.

  'Look out of the window Mum,' said Rosencrantz. I got up; the eyes of the television lounge followed.

  Wayne had slipped out at some point and was standing at the kerb beside a midnight blue Smart Car. He leant in the driver’s side, beeped the horn, and waved. I looked back at Rosencrantz with my mouth open.

  'I bought you a car Mum,' he said. 'Its second hand, but it looks sweet.' The old ladies cooed like pigeons. I grabbed him in a bear hug.

  'He looks like a young Tyrone Powell,' I heard one of them say. We all went down in the lift, and out to the car.

  'How much did this cost?' I said stroking the deep blue paintwork.

  'Not important,' he said.

  'How did you get it?' I said suspiciously

  'Relax it’s kosher. I used some of my insurance advert money.’

  'It’s true,' said Wayne. 'I went with him to choose it.'

  'And look, I got a doggy seat belt for Rocco so he can ride with you.'

  Chris, Marika, and Oscar all grinned as I eased myself into the black velvety drivers seat.

  'They’re cheap to run. The man in the garage said you could probably get to Norfolk and back for fifteen quid. You also don’t pay any congestion charge,’ said Rosencrantz. I looked at the shiny new car and I was so taken aback.

  I drove Chris, Rosencrantz, and Marika back to my place, which was a big squash as there was only room for one passenger. I parked the car outside the flat and it felt so wonderful to be mobile again, so exciting to have a car.

  They came inside and I made us all spritzers. The shelf was still looming large and toppled in the living room, so we came outside and sat on the Champagne sofas.

  I had told them all about the photo album and we’d chewed it over for a few hours, coming up with nothing. Chris had just started talking about something else when Marika gave a yell.

  'What is it?' I said.

  ‘Look! Someone’s split the edge of the lining and made a compartment. There’s something in here,’ she said. She carefully pulled out a sheaf of old newspaper cuttings and put them on the table. We sifted through them.

  ‘It’s all crap,’ said Chris with disappointment in his voice. ‘Local newspaper crap.’

  Rosencrantz was sitting opposite, and started to sift through them again. He unfolded one of them, a full-page article about a street fair, which was on in 2010. I noticed an article on the back and choked on my drink.

  It was a photo of Sabrina Jones.

  I screamed and grabbed it. The photo was taken outside the Magistrates Court in Camberwell, Sabrina was reaching out to try to prevent a photographer from taking her photo. Underneath was written;

  Suspended sentence for £40,000 benefit thief

  A 27-year-old South London woman has been given a suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to five charges of benefit fraud amounting to almost £40,000.

  Sabrina Colter of Woolwich, London was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, at Woolwich Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 14 May 2010.

  Colter pleaded guilty to five offences of dishonestly, making false statements, and creating false documents to obtain benefits amounting to £39,568 at an earlier hearing on Wednesday 22 April. She was also ordered to return the money she took and pay £500 costs.

  Colter had previously been given a conditional discharge in 2008 for not declaring that her mother was her landlady, but continued to falsely claim Housing and Council Tax benefit using four separate identities.

  'This is her!' I said.

  ‘I thought she was called Sabrina Jones?’ said Chris. ‘This article says she’s Sabrina Colter.’

  'She must have changed her surname!' I said. I looked at the paper again. It was her, the fine wrists, and the long blond hair. Her face was twisted into the same angry snarl I saw when she was on the phone by the Thames during the trial.

  'Surely this means something?' said Rosencrantz.

  'It means everything!’ said Marika. 'If they didn’t know about her criminal record for fraud, it casts doubt on her reliability as a witness.’

  'And if they didn’t know about it, it’s new information to present in an appeal!' I shrilled.

  I jumped up and phoned Natasha, but just when I need her, she has left for her two-week summer holiday in The Maldives. Her secretary said she’s on a plane for the next twelve hours and unreachable.

  I then grabbed my things and said I was going to go round and have it out with Sabrina.

  'Mum that’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard,’ said Rosencrantz. ‘She doesn’t know you know. Isn’t that your trump card?'

  ‘If you go round, she’ll probably call the police,’ said Chris. ‘You look ready to kill her.’

  ‘And it wouldn’t help Adam’s appeal if you get arrested,’ added Marika.

  I had to admit they
had a point. I came and sat down and tried to stay calm.

  Now that they have all left, I’m feeling increasingly frustrated. I’m also creeped out about all of these coincidences. The dream I kept having about the old woman pointing behind the bookshelf… It’s her photo album…

  However, I am so excited. We have a crack at an appeal! Phone as soon as you can. I love you, and we are going to get you out of prison!

  Coco Xxx

  Saturday 30th July 21.06

  TO: [email protected]

  All the wind seems to have been taken out of my sails. I haven’t heard back from Adam, he must have received my email letter by now. He didn’t call before we listened to Adele, which he always does.

  Natasha isn’t answering her mobile and the offices of Spencer & Spencer are not open until Monday. Is the legal profession the only group of people who still have a two-day weekend?

  I am so close to going over to Sabrina’s flat and, I don’t know, breaking in and looking for the cash, smacking her in the gob. Anything to make something happen!


  Monday 1st August 13.12

  TO: [email protected]

  I haven’t heard from Adam. It’s been several days now, he normally phones before our listening party on a Saturday, and writes a letter, which he times to arrive on a Monday. When the post arrived this morning with nothing but junk mail, I phoned Cambria Sands Prison switchboard to ask if there was any way I could talk to him.

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