The coco pinchard boxset.., p.27
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.27
 

           Robert Bryndza

  “Come on Coco, come with me to some dive bars,” she said, pulling her dress back down. “You’re my only single author. Sometimes you have to get under one man to get over another…”

  “Well, you can do that on my behalf,” I said. “Just make sure no one puts anything in your drink.”

  “It takes a lot to tranquillize me,” she said with a brittle laugh. We hugged and then she was off into the night.

  I had a shower then ordered room service. A handsome waiter delivered mouth-watering macaroni and cheese and turned down my bed (he turned down the bedcovers — not any salacious offer I made him). Then I ate Reese's Peanut Buttercups from the mini bar in front of back-to-back episodes of As Time Goes By, Keeping Up Appearances, and Are you Being Served? on the PBS channel.

  I met Angie the next morning for breakfast. She didn’t look happy.

  “Didn’t you meet anyone?” I asked.

  “A divorced stockbroker who offered to take me home.”

  “Where was home?”

  “Staten Island…”

  “Why didn’t you bring him back here?”

  “You can smoke on Staten Island. I was climbing the wall for a fag.”

  “What was it like?”

  “I never got to his place, I got motion sickness, and his toupee blew off into the water. A passion killer on both counts.”

  After breakfast, we took a non-smoking cab to the Doris Finkelstein Library. It was colossal with a carved ceiling as high as a cathedral, gothic arched windows and row after row of long tables. At the very end, past the thousands of books lining the walls, were rows of seats facing a raised stage and a giant projector screen. A hundred or so audience members and journalists sat waiting.

  “This looks huge…” I hissed to Angie as a young chap in a canary yellow suit rushed over. “I thought it would be low key and I was just writing my name on a wall.”

  “We’re in New York,” whispered Angie. “They don’t do low key.”

  “Hi, hi hi!” said the guy flashing white teeth through an immaculately trimmed beard. “I’m Darryl, head of media communications and public relations here at the library.”

  “Who are all these people?” I said.

  “Ooh. We have Vogue, the New York Times, Elle, and the New York Post… PBS, and some civilians, but don’t worry, they’ve paid to be here.”

  I started to sweat. What if I had to make a speech? Angie had said nothing about making a speech.

  “How long have we got before it kicks off?” snapped Angie irritably. “I could murder a fag.”

  Darryl went pale and took a step back from Angie.

  “No, it’s okay she means, can she have a cigarette?” I said.

  “I’m sorry ma’am. We haven’t time. I need you to take a seat.”

  We moved past everyone with Angie muttering darkly, and took our seats on the front row. I was placed next to Doris Finkelstein herself, who was in her eighties, very elegant with twinkly eyes. She was wearing blazing diamond earrings and a huge fur coat, despite the fact we were indoors. I shook her tiny hand which was as dry as paper.

  “I’m so pleased you made it all the way from London, England,” she purred sweetly.

  I grinned but my mouth was so dry my top lip got stuck above my teeth. A small square of the wall that wasn’t covered with books was covered in signatures. A big piece of Perspex, which must usually be in place to protect the signatures, was propped against the wall. I went to ask Doris what happens next when the lights dimmed and the huge video screen lit up.

  A gravelly movie-trailer voice-over boomed through the auditorium.

  “Coco Pinchard is unique, she’s a one-off…”

  My book publicity photo filled the screen, and we zoomed in on my grin as dramatic music began to play.

  “Readers have fallen in love with her Britishness, her charm, her rapier wit. We are here today at the Doris Finkelstein Library to salute her work.”

  Then there was a montage of photos taken at book signings.

  “Coco’s debut novel, Chasing Diana Spencer, was a unique work of comic originality which re-imagines a history where Prince Charles fell in love with Camilla, not Diana. It has been described as a stunning debut, a sublime work of comic fiction.”

  Then there were photos of when we staged the musical.

  “Not only was it a bestseller worldwide, but it played internationally in theatres as Chasing Diana Spencer: the Musical in Edinburgh, Scotland, London’s West End and off-Broadway in the Alice Clayton Theatre.’

  The photos were of Rosencrantz, Chris and me with the cast on the Royal Mile, then at the opening nights in London and New York.

  Then there was a montage of the television interviews I have done,

  “And fear not, after her exciting debut, she’s kept on writing. She has a new novel due to drop in spring 2011. And she still finds time to support numerous charities!”

  “What charities do I support?” I hissed at Angie.

  “Well, you adopted that hippopotamus in Africa last year; that counts doesn’t it?” she hissed back.

  One of the final photos was of me and Adam at the Edinburgh Festival, when I got the Fringe Award… He had his arm around me and we looked so happy.

  I gulped. Angie squeezed my hand. Finally, the voice-over was saying, “The Doris Finkelstein Library is proud to honour… Coco Pinchard.”

  The audience applauded. Darryl appeared on the stage and held out his hand. I went up and gave a rambling speech about how happy I was. I wasn’t really; the Adam photo had been like a drive-by shooting straight to my heart. I thanked everyone. I thanked Angie, who was now grey from lack of nicotine. Then the photographers surged forward and took several shots of me signing my name on the wall. I noticed among the signatures Stephen King, Doris Lessing, John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, and JK Rowling. I then had some photos taken with Doris who refused requests to take off her fur coat.

  “It’s my body armour,” she said through her smile as the cameras flashed. “Never let ‘em see your ass.”

  I never quite found out the significance of her tip as we were whisked through a hundred goodbyes and out onto the street. The sun had come out and, even though it was cold, New York looked so much more alive.

  “Quick,” said Angie. She saw an alleyway between the library and an apartment block and dragged me down it. She lit up a cigarette and the colour returned to her cheeks. “Oh my God,” she sighed. “That’s better than sex.”

  She offered me one and I lit up. We smoked in silence for a few minutes.

  “I vowed I would never fall so hard for a guy again after Daniel left me, and here I am again,” I said.

  Angie didn’t comment, she just carried on smoking.

  “Haven’t you got anything to say?”

  “I’ve got plenty,” she said. “The question is, do you want to hear it?”

  “Maybe.”

  “Coco, were you in that room just now?”

  “That’s a stupid question.”

  “Is it? It’s so frustrating. You have this amazing career at your fingertips, yet all you concentrate on is what Adam has done to you. Sure, it’s horrible, but get a grip, woman. There’s more to life than having a boyfriend.”

  “You’re so opinionated,” I said.

  “That’s what my third mother-in-law says,” said Angie through a cloud of smoke.

  “You’ve got three mother-in-laws?”

  “No. Four. They all hate me. Bet that makes having Ethel look like a picnic,” Angie grinned.

  We stubbed out our cigarettes and flagged down a yellow cab.

  “Where to?” said the taxi driver.

  “How about a walk in Central Park?” I suggested.

  We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring. We walked through Central Park and ate cheese, mustard and pastrami subs from a deli straight out of a Woody Allen film. We were toying with the idea of going across to the Statue of Liberty but we both had blisters from our shoes, so we headed bac
k to the Four Seasons and ate dinner looking out across the city that never sleeps, winking and blinking in the dark.

  “To Coco,” said Angie holding up her glass. “May she open her fucking eyes, because there’s a whole world out there for the taking — and I want twenty percent of it.”

  I rolled my eyes and we toasted.

  After dinner, Angie headed up to her room for a conference call and I grabbed my swimsuit and went to check out the pool. I was glad to find it empty. It was beautifully done, all steel and coloured lights, and I spent a happy hour gliding about underwater. I felt weirdly safe, thousands of miles away from all the troubles at home.

  Now just as I am starting to enjoy being in New York, we have to leave.

  Monday 22nd November 03.36

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com, marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Just back home to a text from Adam:

  PLSE PHONE GAS/WATER/ELECTRIC & COUNCIL TAX 2 HAVE MY NAME TAKEN OFF UR ACCOUNT.

  He’d also left a little cardboard box on the doorstep containing some of my CDs a couple of bras and a jumper I’d left at his place.

  All positive thinking evaporated and I got mad. Really mad. I wished I had smashed something of his when I had the chance, thrown a pot plant at his sixty-inch flat screen television, or plunged his X-box into a sink full of cold water. I scoured the house for something, anything, that belonged to him but there was nothing to say he’d ever existed here, apart from his red toothbrush.

  I snatched the toothbrush out of the cup, strained and cursed as I tried to snap it in half — but it wouldn't budge. What are they made of? I sat down on the edge of the bath with the toothbrush in my hand and cried. I then wiped my eyes and placed it back in the cup. Stupid, huh?

  Monday 22nd November 16.43

  TO: customerservice@britishenergy.com

  Dear British Energy,

  I am trying to get the name Adam Rickard removed from my British Energy Gas/Electricity account 2098562039485. I am severely jet lagged and I’ve spent a futile day on the phone to your helpline in India. I have spoken to various elderly Indian ladies with names like Emma and Jane, even a Donna who seemed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Coronation Street. They have all stated that I need to send something in writing, on headed notepaper, which can prove Adam Rickard doesn't wish to live at this address.

  Adam Rickard did write a letter to me, but he didn’t use headed notepaper. Who dumps someone else using headed notepaper? Maybe a member of the aristocracy — but Adam is far from being an aristocrat.

  As a last resort to try to get this resolved, I have scanned in the note from Adam Rickard ending our relationship. I hope this is now proof enough and the matter will be dealt with as a matter of priority.

  Sincerely,

  Coco Pinchard

  ATTACHMENT - DUMPED.JPEG

  Thursday 25th November 17.43

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I’ve been over to see Rosencrantz in his new place in Lewisham. He’s sharing a little terraced house just down the road from the Docklands Light Railway Station. The door was opened by a huge chap with fake tan and dressed as a genie.

  “Did you rub the lamp?” he boomed theatrically, raising his eyebrows.

  “Oh hello,” I said. “Have I got the right address? I’m looking for my son, Rosencrantz Pinchard.”

  “He’s not in right now,” said the genie coming out of character. “Are you Mrs Pinchard?”

  “Yes, hello,” I said. “I’m Coco.”

  “I’m Wayne,” said the genie, offering a huge hand covered in gold rings.

  A tall lean blond guy with a beautiful face appeared behind him. He was dressed in workout gear: shorts, and a sleeveless t-shirt.

  “This is Rosencrantz’s fabulous mother!” said Wayne.

  “Hi Mrs P,” said the other chap, also offering his hand. “I’m Oscar.”

  “I’m the brains, he’s the brawn,” grinned Wayne. “He’s as thick as two short planks but lovely to look at.”

  “Call yourself a genie? I’d like to see you try and squeeze into a lamp,” grinned Oscar.

  “I’m big boned!” said Wayne, winking at me.

  They showed me through the hallway and into a small front room. The place was a tip, but homely. Wayne said that an old lady had lived in the house since the fifties, and when she died, they carted her off and rented the place out with all her belongings still in situ.

  “Why are you dressed as a genie, Wayne?” I asked.

  “I’m doing TIE, for my sins.”

  “What’s TIE?”

  “Theatre in Education, a tour of local schools with a clapped out version of Aladdin. Today’s school was a bit rough,” he said.

  “One of the little bastards stole his clothes out of the changing room, so he had to come home on the bus in his costume,” grinned Oscar.

  “Luckily I keep my wallet and keys in my magic lamp,” Wayne said. “Would you like a cuppa tea, Mrs P?”

  “Yes, please. Do you know when Rosencrantz will be home?”

  “He got a job interview,” said Wayne.

  “Don’t you mean a casting?” I said, pushing a pile of magazines along the sofa and sitting down.

  “He’s got an interview at Abercrombie and Fitch to work in their Savile Row store over Christmas,” said Oscar.

  “If you can call it work,” said Wayne. “All Oscar seems to do is stand outside with his shirt off flirting with the punters!”

  “I fold some jumpers too,” grinned Oscar. “I’m just going to grab a shower,” he added.

  “I’m about to put some dark stuff through on a hot cycle, do you want me to do your workout gear?” offered Wayne.

  Without any warning, Oscar stripped off his shorts and t-shirt down to his briefs. I couldn’t help admire how beautiful he was. They both went off and Wayne came back ten minutes later with a full tea set, side plates, and a giant chocolate cake. I was in heaven.

  “I'm sorry to hear about your feller,” said Wayne as he poured. “Rosencrantz said he was the one.”

  “Did he?”

  “Yes. Nice, was he?”

  “Yes…” I said awkwardly.

  “Knew his way around a woman?”

  “Um…”

  Luckily at that moment Rosencrantz arrived back home.

  “Hi Mum,” he said, giving me a huge hug. “I see you've met the guys.”

  “Yes, they’ve been very hospitable,” I said.

  “And I approve of Mrs P,” said Wayne to Rosencrantz.

  Oscar came down the stairs dressed in a tracksuit with wet hair.

  “Hey man, how did the interview go?” he said.

  “I got the job!”

  Oscar did a high five with Rosencrantz.

  “Oh love, that’s wonderful,” I said proudly.

  “Come on Oscar,” said Wayne. “Let’s give them some peace.”

  They took their tea and disappeared into the kitchen.

  “Shall I show you my room?” said Rosencrantz.

  We went upstairs to a little bedroom with a view of the railway sidings behind the house. A train clattered past. I sat on his bed, which was neatly made, with Bitch sitting on the pillow.

  “Dad phoned me, fishing for the gossip. So did Nan,” he said sitting at a little table, which had his TV and laptop on it.

  “What did you tell them?”

  “That you and Adam had parted company.”

  “Well, he dumped me, Rosencrantz.”

  “I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of hearing that… What are you going to do now?”

  “I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t got any work on till the book is published next year. I’m off to see Chris’ new play tomorrow night, the one he’s been directing. Do you want to come?”

  “I can’t, Mum. I’ve got staff training in the evening at Abercrombie and Fitch.”

  “I’m so proud of you, supporting yourself,” I said.

  “I could move back
home? If you’re lonely,” he said.

  “No! I’m fine. It looks like fun here, you should enjoy your freedom. That Wayne seems interesting.”

  “He’s great.”

  “And Oscar is gorgeous.”

  “I know… I’ve already shagged him.”

  “Rosencrantz! I’m your mother!”

  “What? I figured shagging him was the sensible thing to do.”

  “How is shag… sleeping with him sensible?”

  “There’s no sexual tension now, we can just be friends. I recommend doing it with all your same-sex friends.”

  “What, so I should jump into bed with Marika?” I said.

  “No! I only recommend it if you’re gay. With sex out of the way, me and Oscar can be really good friends.”

  “What about Wayne?”

  “Oh no, we haven’t shagged Wayne. We think he’s asexual. The only thing that seems to excite him is his Royal teacup collection; he’s got the Coronation, and Charles and Diana’s wedding.”

  “Isn’t he lonely?”

  “We’re all lonely, in one way or another,” said Rosencrantz looking out of the window. “Course, I’m lucky. I’ve got a wicked mum.”

  He leaned over and gave me a long hug.

  On the train home I tried to get my head around it all. I thought I understood what life was all about, but I’m now more confused than ever.

  Friday 26th November 13.14

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Meryl Skyped me this morning; she pinged into view with baby Wilfred on her lap, screaming his head off with a face like a little red beef tomato. I thought she might be calling about Adam, but she asked if I would take a look at Wilfred’s bottom. Before I could even say hello, she pantsed the poor kid and held his bare backside up to the webcam. There was a prickly red rash dotted across his skin.

  “What do you think it is?” asked Meryl, settling the screaming Wilfred back on her knee.

  “It looks like nappy rash,” I said. “How long has he had it?”

 
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