The coco pinchard boxset.., p.26
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.26

           Robert Bryndza

  “Won’t he be working? It’s a Thursday.”

  “I’m sure they’ll let him take time off,” I said. “He’s the boss of his department.”

  “Oh,” she said, lighting another cigarette. There was an awkward pause.

  “Did you want to come with me?” I said.

  Angie quickly recovered her composure. She flipped the cover over on her iPhone and gathered her things together.

  “Angie, ‘plus one’ means spouse, doesn’t it?”

  “Course it does,” she said. “No, I’m far too busy. The bloody builders need to be supervised and… it’s fine. If you can email me your passport numbers, I’ll have my assistant arrange it all.”

  “Do you still want coffee?”

  “No, I’d better go. I’m late for a meeting.”

  She stubbed out her cigarette and clicked off in her little designer shoes with a slam of the front door.

  It’s funny how people in your life surprise you. Saying that, Adam still hasn’t called back, which is unusual for him.

  C x

  Tuesday 16th November 23.12

  TO: [email protected]

  Adam didn’t answer his work phone for the rest of the day, or his mobile. At 8pm, I pulled on my coat and walked round to his flat. I rang the bell several times before he answered. He looked exhausted, and was still wearing his work clothes, which smelt of stale sweat. When I followed him through to the living room, an Enya CD was blaring out. I noticed he had a bottle of whisky open.

  “Since when do you like Enya and Johnny Walker?” I shouted, sitting opposite him.

  “Since I need to relax,” he shouted back.

  “Well, can you turn ‘Sail Away’ off?” I yelled reaching for the remote.

  I flicked it off and the silence descended.

  “It’s called Orinoco Flow, actually,” he snapped.

  I noticed sweat was beading on his forehead, even though the flat was chilly.

  “Are you all right?” I asked.

  “Yes, yes… Just work stuff.”

  “Are you sure? You seem shaken up.”

  “I’m fine. Tell me about your day,” he said.

  “Well, if you’d read any of my messages, you’d know all about it.”

  “Um… I was busy.”

  I told him all about the meeting with Angie and the award. He seemed to relax a little, until I said we had been invited to go to New York on Thursday.

  “I can’t go,” he said instantly.

  “Why not?”

  “I’d love to, but I can’t. I can’t take time off work.”

  “You took last Friday off to come to the garden centre with me,” I said.


  “What do you mean, ‘exactly’? You’re the boss of the department, surely you can take a day and half off.”

  There was a pause.

  “No, I can’t, I really can’t,” he said.

  I got up, sat beside him, and began to massage his shoulders.

  “It’s a free weekend in New York. First class flights, five star hotel, big double bed… Stop being silly and get your passport.”

  “Why do you want my passport?” he said, shaking me off.

  “How else can Angie book the flights? She needs the passport numbers.”

  “Look Coco, why don’t you go home and I’ll take a shower and come over in an hour or so.”

  “Are you sure everything is okay?” I said.

  “It’s just work… they’ve announced redundancies today.”

  “Oh my God. Are you…?”

  “No! Not me, but I have to make people redundant this week, people with mortgages, families. It’s got me in a state. Look, go home and I’ll be over in a bit.”

  I agreed and came home, troubled.

  A couple of hours later I was dozing off in front of the television when a hand felt its way under my t-shirt. I almost had kittens.

  “Hel-lo,” whispered Adam drunkenly in my ear.

  He was crouched beside the sofa, stark naked and fumbling with a condom wrapper.

  “What are you doing?” I gulped, trying to get my breath back.

  “Ravishing you,” he grinned, leaning in for a kiss.

  He’d showered but his breath still smelt of booze.

  “I thought you were a murderer!”

  “How about a rapist!” he joked, hooking his thumb under my pyjama trousers.

  “Not funny!” I said, pushing him away.

  “Jeez, Coco. I'm trying to lighten the mood.”

  “Scaring the hell out of me, then cracking a rape joke?” I said. He was still fumbling with the condom wrapper. “Adam. Do I look like I'm in the mood?”

  “Coco, I'm being myself,” he slurred.

  “No. You’re being weird.”

  “I am a bit weird,” he said earnestly. “I am… Do you love me?”

  His beautiful caramel eyes searched my face, he looked so, vulnerable.

  “Of course I love you,” I said.

  I pulled a rug over us and he snuggled up with his head on my shoulder, and closed his eyes.

  “I need to know you love me for who I am,” he said.

  “I love you more than you know,” I said. “I think this trip to New York could be the perfect antidote to horrible work stuff.”

  “Jeez, Coco,” he said jumping up and pulling on a pair of trackies.

  “What now?” I said. “You're sending mixed messages!”

  “Am I?” he said pulling on a t-shirt. “Well, here's a message. I'm going home.”

  He stalked off through the kitchen and out of the back door, locking it behind him. I listened for a long time to the silence, the creaks of the house. He didn't come back.

  When I went upstairs to bed, I passed Rosencrantz's empty bedroom. I stopped in the doorway, the moonlight shining a bright oblong on the dark carpet.

  What do you think it is with Adam? Is he getting cold feet? He was fine yesterday.

  Wednesday 17th November 21.56

  TO: [email protected]

  I didn’t call Adam all day. It was his job to call and apologise, or at least explain — but he didn’t. Just as Eastenders was finishing, the doorbell rang. He was stood outside in the rain. I folded my arms and looked at him.

  “Can I come in?” he said.

  “Why should I let you?”

  “It’s pissing down!”

  I stood to one side and he dashed in. I took his coat and went upstairs to get him a towel. When I came back, he was sat in the living room. I draped the towel over him and switched off the TV. Silence played through the house, accompanied by rain plinking off the roof.

  “Do you want a cup of tea?” I said.

  “No. I’m fine.”

  “Did you eat?”

  “I’m not hungry.”

  It felt awkward, like we were strangers. From outside in the back garden there was a loud creaking sound. We looked up and a stream of dead leaves and water began to hurtle past the window followed by a length of guttering. It crashed onto the table and umbrella set on the terrace. I got up and went to the window.

  “Shit!” I said, craning my head up to see the damage. Water was now pouring off the roof and straight down the brickwork. “It’s gonna cost a fortune to get that fixed… they’re zinc gutter pipes, do you know how much zinc costs?”

  Adam just stared. The gutter pipe began to slip off the umbrella and tore through the fabric on its way down to the grass. He jumped up, and grabbed the cord to yank down the blinds. One side shot down but the other refused to yield and got into a tangle.

  “Let me do it” I snapped, grabbing the cord. “You don’t know how.”

  “Maybe I should just give you my balls,” he said. “You can keep them in your desk drawer along with everything else.”

  “What does that mean?” I said turning to him. “Is this about me changing your addresses? I’m sorry. I thought you’d be pleased.”

  Adam carried on staring. He op
ened his mouth to say something, and then closed it.

  “What?” I said. “Spit it out, Adam!”

  “I need a drink,” he said.

  I followed him into the kitchen. He cracked open a beer from the fridge and gulped it down, his eyes watching me over the base of the can.

  “I can see you’re stressed. Why not come to New York. It’ll help you relax. I know you can take the time off.”

  He finished the can and chucked it in the bin.

  “Why are you being like this?” he said. “You just don’t give up!”

  “Like what? I'm not like anything, Adam.”

  However, he was gone, slamming the front door and out into the pouring rain. Just then, there was a rumble of thunder and the power went out. I fumbled in the darkness to my jacket and came out of the front door. The wind and rain wheeled round and smacked me in the face. The streetlights were off too. The four-storey terraces closed in from either side of the street, blocking out even the light pollution from the rest of the city. A few cars crept along, illuminating everything from the knees down.

  When I reached Marylebone High Street, I sheltered in the doorway of a posh deli. I tried calling him, but got his voicemail. The rain fell harder, splattering on the awning above.

  The power cut appeared to stretch across half of London. I hurried past the dark tube station to his flat, and let myself in with my key.

  A silhouette of Adam was sitting on the living room floor by the bay window, intermittently lit up by the flashes of lightning outside. I heard a tsk as he opened a can of lager and I sat beside him. I reached up and stroked his wet hair. He tilted my chin up and kissed me urgently.

  “You’re beautiful, Coco, don't forget that,” he whispered hoarsely.

  He put his finger to my lips, and then traced it down my throat. I reached down and slid his wet t-shirt up and over his head. The heat of his muscly chest hit me. I fumbled with his belt as we quickly undressed, and made love on the pile of wet clothes as the storm raged outside. All our worries fell away and it was just him and me.

  Afterwards he pulled me through to the bedroom. We climbed under the covers shivering, and snuggled up in his cosy bed under the window.

  The storm was receding but rain continued to hammer on the roof. We lay there watching the water run in rivulets down the window.

  “I love you,” I said. “But I am not having secrets between us. If you want secrets, you know where the door is. Well, of course this is your flat, so I know you know where the door is… My point is that it’s a metaphorical door and…”

  But Adam had already drifted off to sleep. He looked so peaceful and beautiful. I traced my finger along his handsome profile.

  “Okay. You sleep,” I whispered. “I’ll give you the ball breaker speech tomorrow.”

  I woke up just before seven the next morning with the sun streaming through the window. Adam’s side of the bed was empty. After a while, I couldn't hear any noises from the bathroom or kitchen so I got up.

  On the kitchen table was a note.

  It was one of those moments where you see your life from outside your body. The ground tipped under me as I read what Adam had written. He said he was sorry, but he didn't want to move in, and he didn't want to see me anymore. I quickly dressed and ran home, hoping I would find him in my kitchen grinning with his suitcases, and that this was just a bad practical joke. When I let myself in all the lights were on from last night, but no Adam. I then ran back to his flat. This isn’t happening, I thought, this isn’t what’s meant to happen. When I reached his front door, I dug in my pockets for his key, but it wasn't there. It had been taken off my key ring! I banged on the door, but nothing. Eventually I walked back home.

  I keep calling, but he's not answering. I am supposed to be packing for New York. I can’t face myself in the mirror, let alone get on a plane.

  Thursday 18th November 06.17

  TO: [email protected], [email protected]

  Angie refused to let me cancel going to New York. She said a lot was riding on me showing up and accepting the award. I asked her what, exactly?

  “Well, the Doris Finkelstein Foundation has already booked flights and accommodation,” she said. “And a ceremony is arranged. Besides, don’t you wanna bask in the glory? Do you remember how hard it was to get this book published?”

  “Of course I do.”

  “And how many people who’ve just been dumped would kill to be whisked off to foreign climes and recognised for their talent and success?”


  “And the publicity means your American publisher will issue a new print run of Chasing Diana Spencer and a new eBook edition with a hefty promo on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You forget that I earn money from your books too,” she said pointedly.

  There was a silence.

  “Oh crap. What time is the flight?” I said.

  “Ten in the morning. I’ll pick you up in a taxi at five,” and she put the phone down. I presume this meant she was coming too.

  Trying to work out what to wear and pack nearly killed me. I couldn’t plan. My brain kept going back to the realisation that Adam had dumped me, and a cold horror trickled through me. Then I kept racking my brains if there was anything I needed to do, but I have no pets that need feeding, no plants that need watering, no boyfriend or son at home anymore to chivvy along. I can just drop everything and go to New York. I spent years wishing I could just drop everything and go somewhere at the last minute. It doesn’t seem such fun in reality.

  The taxi pipped its horn outside just before five, and I left the house in the darkness with my face scrubbed clean of makeup and my wet hair scraped back in a ponytail.

  Angie was perched inside the taxi looking stunning in a blood red Chanel suit, full makeup, and a matching red patent leather clutch bag.

  “Jesus, Coco,” she said as I climbed in beside her.

  “What?” I said blearily, doing up my seat belt.

  “We’re off to New York not the pound shop. At least put some bloody makeup on.”


  “I can’t talk to you until you put on some lipstick,” she said pulling a gold Chanel lipstick out of her clutch.

  “Fine, don’t talk to me,” I said.

  “Coco, I’m serious. You look like a pile of shite.”

  I huffed a bit and applied the dramatic red to my lips.

  “And put these on,” she said handing over a pair of giant black sunglasses.

  “I can’t see a thing,” I said when I’d slipped them on.

  “But I can. Now you look like someone who is trying not to be someone, as opposed to nobody not managing to be anybody.”

  “I’m taking them off,” I said.

  “It’s either wear them or I pay the taxi driver to hold you down whilst I forcibly apply mascara. Your eyes look like two piss holes in the snow…”

  I wouldn’t have put it past her, so I kept them on.

  “You’ll thank me when we get to the First Class lounge,” she said.

  She was right, of course. Now we’re sitting in the British Airways First Class lounge I am blending in with all the rich bitches. Angie hasn’t mentioned Adam, which I am thankful for, but she did offer a choice of Xanax or Valium to go with the complimentary champagne. I plumped for Xanax.

  “You sure love?” she said. “The Valium is stronger.”

  “No, I like the sound of Xanax, it’s a palindrome — it can be pronounced the same way forwards and backwards.”

  “Bloody writers,” she said popping a Valium on her tongue and jerking her head back to swallow it in a well-practised move.

  “I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have invited you on this trip. You’ve always stood by me.”

  “It’s fine,” she said. “But I’m warning you, I can’t do slushy emotional girl chat, and if you suggest we get cupcakes to cheer us up, you can fuck off to economy.”

  “It’s a deal,” I said from behind my shades, d
owning the pill with a gulp of champagne. Angie reached out and squeezed my hand.

  “He’s an arsehole and you deserve better,” she said.

  I didn’t say anything, I just squeezed her hand back. The problem is, Adam isn’t an arsehole, he’s wonderful. That’s what makes the situation even more confusing.

  It’s still dark outside, with just the winking lights of planes taking off and landing. I think the Xanax is kicking in. I feel much better, and I have a sort of slack smile on my face.

  Saturday 20th November 23.14

  TO: [email protected], [email protected]

  We’re staying at the Four Seasons overlooking Central Park! I’m sitting in the grand soaring lobby lit by Tiffany lamps; above me is a backlit onyx ceiling. A sexy vibe pervades the air as the staff glide about, all young and gorgeous, filling their crisp immaculate uniforms with firm, toned bodies. I feel like a grubby Brit, with the teeth God gave me and legs I haven’t shaved in a few days. I just want to be at home, in a tracksuit, by the fire.

  I have an elegant, cavernous room with a giant four-poster bed and floor to ceiling windows. My view over Central Park and the skyscrapers has been framed by a boiling sky. Torrential rain has streamed down the window since we arrived, and if I look down, I can see it continue falling to the tiny cars and people on the streets far below.

  Last night Angie was desperate for me to hit the bars with her.

  “I’m not in the mood for what you look like you’re in the mood for,” I said, through the gap in my door.

  She looked amazing in a tiny purple Versace dress, pinched in at the waist, and towering heels. She swept in past me and I closed the door behind her. She rummaged around in her tiny bag.

  “Well, you can at least stick these on for me,” she said, pulling out a sheaf of nicotine patches. “This non-smoking city is doing my head in.”

  “There’s not much of you covered up to put them on.”

  “Stick six of them on my back,” she said sliding up her dress. I gingerly peeled the backing off the nicotine patches and stuck them on.

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