The coco pinchard boxset.., p.25
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.25

           Robert Bryndza
 

  Just then, the phone on my desk rang. I wiped away a tear and picked it up. It was Angie.

  “All right love? You finished the bloody book yet?” she said, exhaling cigarette smoke down the line.

  “I’m trying to finish but you keep ringing me to ask if I’ve finished…”

  “I need you to come up with a new title,” she said.

  “You said The Duchess Of York: Secret Agent was perfect?”

  “Oh it is,” she said. “I love it. The PR people love it. Your editor thinks it's genius.”

  “Then what’s the problem?”

  “Well, your publisher thinks it’s too long for Twittering purposes.”

  “I don’t understand?”

  “Twitter is playing a big part in your book launch next year. A Tweet can only be a hundred and forty characters. They think using thirty-three of them for the title is a waste.”

  “We’ve sat through twelve meetings about the title, where everyone has agreed that they love The Duchess Of York: Secret Agent. As my literary agent, can’t you put your foot down?”

  The low drone of a drill started up. Angie is having the basement of her new house excavated for a swimming pool and hot stone massage room.

  “Look, Coco,” she shouted above the noise. “When you get a six figure advance — you're in hock to the publishing house. If they say the title has to be shorter, it has to be shorter. You think you can come up with something by tomorrow?”

  The drilling moved up an octave. I felt like telling her it was thanks to my six-figure advance she would soon be splashing about in a private swimming pool, but she started shouting at her builders so I put the phone down.

  Rosencrantz poked his head round the door.

  “That's the last of the boxes, Mum,” he said. “All that’s left is Bitch, do you want her to stay here?”

  “No, she belongs with you.”

  I gave Bitch a last cuddle and he took her downstairs.

  I stared at my screen for a few seconds then switched it off. I went to Rosencrantz’s bedroom — all but empty apart from a Dieux Du Stade calendar hanging on the wall. A naked French rugby player smouldered back, glancing over his muscled back and impossibly perfect behind.

  From the window, I could see Daniel and Adam down in the driveway, helping Rosencrantz fit his boxes into the boot of Daniel’s car. Another tear escaped my eye.

  “‘Ere love,” said Ethel, appearing at my elbow. I jumped. She has real stealth for a decrepit old bag. She pulled a tissue from her sleeve. I took it and blew my nose.

  “I knew this day would come, just not this quickly,” I said.

  “‘E's twenty-two love… ‘E's gotta spread 'is wings.”

  “Why does he need to spread them south of the river? It's so rough.”

  “It'll toughen ‘im up, put hairs on his chest. Or at least now ‘e's payin’ rent ‘e'll not be able to afford Veet, so the hairs on his chest'll grow back.”

  Down in the driveway, Rosencrantz loaded in the last box and Daniel closed the boot. The moment had come. All that stood between now and empty nest syndrome was a warm glass of Asti Spumante.

  “Oh lord, you'll be fine love,” said Ethel. “You'll do the Shake’n’Vac and move the toy boy in… speak of the devil.”

  Adam came through the door, all lithe and muscular in a tight t-shirt and jeans.

  “Hey come on, what’s this?” he said, pulling me into his arms and planting a soft sweet kiss on the top of my head. “He’ll only be twenty minutes away by car.”

  “What about rush hour?” I sobbed. “The journey time across London doubles.”

  “Let it all out, love,” said Ethel, proffering another tissue from her cardigan. “I was the same during the change.”

  “I am not going through the change!” I snapped, blowing my nose.

  “If yer say so,” she said, winking at Adam.

  “Ethel, I am not going through… Anything…”

  “What's going on?” said Daniel, coming in with Rosencrantz.

  “Just your mother, ill-informed as usual,” I sniffed.

  “It’s just basic science, Coco,” said Ethel, lighting up a fag. “The only women 'avin babies at your age are Italian and pumped full of hormones.”

  “Let's talk about something else. Like when do I next see my gorgeous son?” I said pulling Rosencrantz into the hug with Adam.

  “You mean our son,” said Daniel.

  “We all know who you are,” said Rosencrantz, shooting him a look.

  “Well, I seem to have been airbrushed out of existence in this house,” said Daniel sulkily. “I've just noticed the photo of me from the downstairs toilet has gone.”

  “We all got sick of you grinning down at us when we took a dump,” said Rosencrantz.

  “It was a creepy photo, Daniel,” I said. “You were unshaven and hung over with your arm around Minnie Mouse.”

  “We had a lot of fun at Euro Disney,” said Daniel. “It holds very happy memories for me… When we were a family.”

  “Yeah, you should have thought about that before you got caught bonking that bird in the bedroom,” said Rosencrantz.

  “Rosencrantz! Don't talk to your father like that!” I chided.

  “Yes, it’s all been forgotten, Rosencrantz,” said Daniel.

  “Hang on, I haven't forgotten about it,” I said.

  “Well, you're moving him in pretty sharpish,” said Daniel, pointing at Adam.

  “Adam and I have been together for over a year, and we’ve been divorced for eighteen months, Daniel. What’s sharpish about that?” I asked.

  The three men in my life were all puffing out their chests and shifting on their feet. Ethel's beady eyes were lit up in anticipation of a fight.

  “Look, let’s all calm down,” I said. “It's all water almost, but not quite, under the bridge. Let's go downstairs for a nice drink.”

  On the way out Ethel said, “Tha’s a cracking backside, oo is 'e?”

  We turned and regarded the naked French rugby player on the wall.

  “That's Pierre Rabadan, Nan,” said Rosencrantz, unhooking the calendar and removing the last thing that showed this was his bedroom.

  “Yours ain’t bad neither,” Ethel said, winking at Adam. “I could balance my mug of Bovril on there. Do yer do keep fit?”

  Adam regarded his bottom bashfully saying he’d started doing Jiu-Jitsu a couple of times a week.

  “Don't you dare fall for her charm,” I hissed at him as we all went downstairs, Daniel moaning that his mother hadn't complimented his bottom. I took a last look back at Rosencrantz's room, now the spare room — and shut the door.

  I held onto Rosencrantz for a long time before he got in the car with Daniel and Ethel for his drive across the river, and I kept up my waving and happy smile until they were out of sight.

  “Come on now. No crying,” said Adam slipping his arm round my waist.

  “He’ll be all right, won’t he?”

  “He’s got your brains, Daniel’s cunning and Ethel’s gift of the gab — he'll be fine.” We came back inside and I closed the front door.

  “It’s just me and you now,” said Adam. “We have the whole house to ourselves.” He tucked a lock of hair behind my ear, and leant in for a kiss.

  “I have to finish the book,” I said weakly.

  “Sorry, the book will have to wait,” he said, flashing a devilish grin. “I’m taking you upstairs… now.”

  I shrieked as he chucked me over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift and climbed the stairs as if I weighed nothing.

  “Ethel’s right,” I said, squeezing his impossibly pert behind. “You could balance a mug of Bovril on there.”

  “It’s all yours,” he growled, chucking me on the bed.

  He made me very late for my deadline… I’ve only just finished the book and emailed it off to Angie.

  Love Coco xxx

  PS We must arrange to meet up soon. It’s been ages since I saw you and Marika. I feel I’v
e been neglecting my best friends.

  Monday 15th November 08.14

  TO: rosencrantzpinchard@gmail.com

  Rosencrantz,

  How was your first night in your new home? Did you go out? Be careful on the streets of South London late at night and please remember to carry the little travel size can of anti-perspirant I got you from Superdrug. It's just as good as mace.

  Phone me when you get this.

  Love Mum xxx

  PS the new title of the book is Agent Fergie. I think there is now going to be confusion between Fergie the Duchess Of York, Fergie from the Black Eye Peas and Alex Ferguson the Manchester United Manager. Angie, however, is thrilled we have lopped off twenty-one characters for twittering purposes.

  PPS Miss you.

  Monday 15th November 23.36

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Hi Marika,

  Adam surprised me after work with a takeaway box of the most beautiful handmade sushi. I went upstairs for a shower and when I returned, he had lit candles, laid it all out on the table, and he presented me with a bunch of pink roses and a glass of chilled champagne.

  “Here’s to my amazing girlfriend finishing her wonderful new novel. I am so proud of you and I love you,” he said, as we clinked glasses.

  “I love you too,” I said.

  As we drank he winked at me, and I pretty much melted there and then. It was our first night alone in the house now Rosencrantz has moved out and as we ate, he asked if he could start moving his things over at the weekend.

  “We’re really going to do it, and live together?” I said.

  “Yep, we’re shacking up! Do you want to keep your bed, or I should I bring mine?”

  “Let’s have yours,” I said. “It’s the cosiest bed in the world.”

  “My bed it is then,” he grinned, topping up our glasses.

  Throughout the meal, there was the thrill and anticipation of drunken champagne sex — and he didn’t disappoint. We did it on the kitchen island! It was a bit cold on the smooth granite and apart from accidentally getting a bit of hot Wasabi in a delicate area, it was incredible. It’s just what happened afterwards…

  Adam got up to pour us both another glass of champagne. He pulled on his boxers, and as I was admiring his tight abs, he farted. It wasn't accidental, he sort of leant to one side, let rip, then carried on topping up our glasses.

  “Whoops,” he grinned, placing my glass beside me on the kitchen island. I lay there with my mouth open.

  “You've never done that before!” I said, sitting up and retrieving my knickers, which had been flung across the room and landed on the juicer.

  “Course I have. We all do it.”

  “You've never done it in front of me before,” I said.

  I think I was mortified that that stage in our relationship had suddenly announced itself.

  “You don’t want me to have gut ache, do you?”

  “No, but we just had the most amazing sex and…”

  “And what?”

  “Well, it was like… movie sex.”

  “What? Porn?”

  “Not porn! It was romantic…”

  “Coco, I’m supposed to be moving in. What? We’re not going to fart in front of each other?”

  “No! I still want the romance to last a bit longer,” I said.

  “So I'm supposed to hide in the bathroom and run the water, like you do at my place?”

  “I do not do that.”

  “You do,” he grinned.

  I went red, and fumbled my way into my bra.

  “It's okay, Coco… I tell you what, let’s get it over with.”

  “Get what over with?” I said.

  “Go on, let rip.”

  “What? No!”

  “You must need to after all the rice and booze.”

  “It’s champagne, not booze,” I said, opening the dishwasher and loading in the plates.

  Adam was laughing.

  “Come on Coco. I love you, you love me, it’s perfectly normal. You and Daniel were married for years. What did you do then?”

  “Let’s talk about something else,” I snapped, aware I was maybe being a bit unreasonable. “I’m going to put some washing on.”

  “Do me a favour and put these through on a hot cycle,” he said grabbing his bag and chucking his smelly gym gear at my feet.

  I stomped off to the washing machine. As I watched the water fill up through the glass, I felt embarrassment and fear. I wanted to still be thrilled and aroused by Adam. He’s been like a fantasy come true. So gorgeous, and funny, and the sex is the best I’ve ever had. I know I’m being silly, but is this the beginning of a slippery slope to drudgery? I was married to Daniel for twenty years and, at the end, we were just flatulent and irritable with one another. I don’t want that to happen to Adam and me.

  Tuesday 16th November 10.43

  TO: adam.rickard@XYZeventsmanagement.com

  Is it a busy day at work? I keep ringing but your phone is going to voicemail. I just spoke to Rosencrantz, he is settling in to his new place. The other two guys he is sharing with are actors who were at drama school with him. I asked if I could pop round later and be introduced.

  “Just give me a few days to settle in, then we’ll have you and Adam over for a dinner party,” he said.

  Dinner party! He sounded so grown up.

  I’m sorry about last night, if I over-reacted about you farting. I was being an idiot. If it happens, it happens. Real life is all about the good and the bad, and I want a real life with you, forever. I cannot wait for you to move in.

  This leads on to my new project. I can help you with moving in here.

  I have already added your name to my WI-FI network. It's now called COCO&ADAM, so when we switch on the computer it says, ‘COCO&ADAM connecting’. How sweet is that?

  I am also going to make a start on some other stuff, changing your addresses so all your bills come here.

  Call me when you get this.

  Love Coco xxx

  Tuesday 16th November 10.52

  TO: adam.rickard@XYZeventsmanagement.com

  Or I can make the WI-FI read ‘ADAM&COCO connecting’. It’s not a problem.

  Tuesday 16th November 11.12

  TO: clivethenewsagent@gmail.com

  Morning Clive,

  Could you please change Adam Rickard’s regular delivery of Top Gear Magazine and Men’s Health to my address. We are moving in together.

  Kind regards

  Coco Pinchard

  Tuesday 16th November 11.34

  TO: orders@primrosehillvegboxes.co.uk

  Dear Primrose Hill Vegetable Boxes,

  I currently have a large fresh vegetable box delivered each week. My partner, Adam Rickard, has your seasonal root vegetable box. Would it be possible to merge his root vegetable into my large box?

  My address is:

  3 Steeplejack Mews

  Marylebone

  London

  NW1 4RF

  With thanks,

  Coco Pinchard

  Tuesday 16th November 14.43

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  I was clearing out one side of the wardrobe for Adam when the doorbell went. I peered through the peephole to see Angie standing outside smoking a cigarette with the wind whipping her dark hair about.

  “What you doing, girl?” she said when I opened the door.

  She was dressed in her usual Chanel power suit, her shoulder pads dangerously close to her ears. She ground out her cigarette end with a tiny pointed Jimmy Choo, and eased a fresh one into the corner of her mouth.

  “I’m making some space in the wardrobe for Adam. He’s moving in.”

  “You’re gonna make him live in the wardrobe? Poor bastard,” she said.

  “No, he’s moving into the house,” I grinned.

  She rolled her eyes and came in.

  “I need to talk to you,” she said. “I just had a meeting at the Groucho Club, so I thought I’d swing by o
n my way back to the office.”

  We went through to the kitchen and she perched at the breakfast bar as I filled the kettle.

  “That’s a big detour,” I said. “Is everything okay with the manuscript for Agent Fergie?”

  “Yes, the book’s fine, and they’ve just commissioned a cover designer. I’m here to tell you that you’ve won a literary award!” she grinned, and exhaled smoke through her teeth.

  “Oh my God! The Costa Book Award?”

  “No.”

  “The Orange Prize for Fiction?”

  “Nope.”

  “The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award?”

  “No.”

  “The Edgar Allen Poe Award!”

  “That’s for mystery writers, you twerp.”

  “Then what?”

  “The Doris Finkelstein Literary Recognition…”

  “The what?”

  “It’s an American award. It’s a big deal in the States, loads of famous authors have previously won it,” said Angie.

  “Is there a cash prize?”

  “Well, that’s the thing. There’s no cash prize per se. It’s so prestigious that the ‘prize’ is attending a ceremony to sign your name on the wall of the Doris Finkelstein Library.”

  “Oh…”

  “In New York, I hasten to add! Which means they want to fly you and a plus one over for an all-expenses paid weekend.”

  “A free trip to New York!” I screamed excitedly. “When?”

  “You fly out Thursday for the ceremony on Friday.”

  “That’s quick?”

  “These things are always last minute.”

  “I can’t wait to tell Adam. We’ve both been so busy with work we haven’t had a holiday in ages…”

  Angie looked up from scrolling through her iPhone.

 
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