The coco pinchard boxset.., p.28
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.28

           Robert Bryndza

  “A week, ever since we switched him over to pull-ups. How did Rosencrantz get on with pull-ups?”

  “Well, we didn’t have them when Rosencrantz was little,” I said. “I’d take him to the doctor if it doesn’t clear up.”

  “Do you know how hard it is to get an appointment at our surgery?” she said. “Sometimes I wish I was an asylum seeker in this country. I’d be far better off!”

  “I don’t think so, Meryl, you wouldn’t want to have to flee from an oppressive regime.”

  Tony popped behind Meryl looking as greasy as ever.

  “Morning Coco!” he said. “What are we talking about?”

  “Nappy rash and oppressive regimes,” snapped Meryl. “Both of which our government is doing nothing about.”

  “Here Coco,” said Tony, leaning toward the camera. “So sorry to hear about you and Adam.”

  “Yes, Coco, we’re very sorry,” said Meryl shifting Wilfred to her other knee. “He was the first black man we felt like we really got to know, after Lenny Henry of course.”

  “Ah yes… I felt very sorry for him when I heard about the break-up,” said Tony.

  “Adam broke up with me,” I reminded them.

  “Oh yes, yes, no. I meant Lenny Henry and Dawn French… Very sad business. Who do you think was funnier, Coco?”

  “Out of Dawn French and Lenny Henry?” I said.

  “No, out of you and Adam?” he said.

  “What’s that got to do with anything?”

  “Oh nothing, nothing I was just wondering. I thought Adam was rather witty.”

  “That reminds me, Tony,” said Meryl. “Would you set the Sky box to record The Vicar Of Dibley for me?”

  “Right-o! Nice to talk to you Coco, chin up!” grinned Tony and off he went.

  “You’re so lucky, Coco,” said Meryl. “All alone now and rattling around like Miss Havisham in your big house. I don’t get a minute’s peace. I’d give anything to be Miss Havisham right now. Of course, unlike her I’d keep up with my hoovering. Byeee!” and she vanished from the screen.

  I don’t know how Meryl and Tony manage to seem so concerned and disinterested at the same time.

  I’m looking forward to seeing you at Chris’ new play later. Shall I meet you outside at seven?

  Coco xxx

  Saturday 27th November 12.33

  TO: [email protected]

  Thanks for your message asking how I am doing. I went to see Chris’ new play last night at The Blue Boar Pub Theatre in Kennington. It was great to see him and Marika after such a long time. When my taxi pulled up, they were already there, smoking under the canopy at the front of the theatre.

  “Thank God you're here,” said Chris, hugging me. “I need more friendly faces. The bar is packed with journalists and critics.”

  “That's good, isn’t it?” I said.

  “I think the play is terrible,” confided Chris in a low voice.

  “Well, you didn’t write it, Shakespeare did,” said Marika. “Blame him.”

  “Oh you Eastern Europeans,” said Chris. “I admire your direct thinking, but it’s the exact opposite with The Bard. He’s wonderful to begin with. As a director you have to live up to his text.”

  Marika rolled her eyes.

  “Let me see you properly, Coco,” she said, giving me the once over. “You’ve lost weight.”

  “Thank you,” I said.

  “You don’t want to lose it too quickly, you’ll lose those amazing boobs of yours.”

  “I do not have amazing boobs,” I said.

  “You do,” said Marika. “I would kill for big boobs like yours.”

  “I would kill for your little pert ones,” I said.

  “Ladies, can we stop the booby-talk, I can’t cope with this right now,” said Chris.

  “So what’s Macbeth about?” asked Marika.

  “You can’t name it, Marika!” I cried. “It’s bad luck.”

  “It’s okay. It’s only bad luck to say it in the theatre,” said Chris.

  Just then, we saw the Daily Mail critic Nicholas De Jong walk inside.

  “Oh my God, I’m done for. De Jong is going to hate it,” said Chris.

  “You don’t know that,” said Marika. “You’re a great director.”

  “I think I’ve made the mistake of casting my boyfriend Julian as the lead. He’s too pretty. He’s more McFly than Macbeth. I let lust get in the way…”

  We heard a bell ringing faintly.

  “Oh God, that’s the fifteen minute call, I’d better go,” he said.

  We wished him luck and he moved off through the crowds and into the pub.

  “Do you want some crisps?” said Marika. “Feed you up a bit?”

  “I don’t fancy food at all,” I said. “I can’t sleep… I just keep checking my phone and wishing…”

  “The hospital would call to say Adam’s been involved in a hideous accident?” said Marika.

  “No, just wishing that he’d call…”

  “Ah, you’re still at the stage where you miss him. Let me know when you get to the wanting to seek revenge stage. That’s my specialty!”

  I gave her a weak grin.

  “Come here you,” she said, putting her arm around me. “Let’s go watch some Shakespeare and get pissed.”

  The after show party was held at Cathedral private members’ club in Soho. We commandeered a table in a quiet corner and Chris treated us to cocktails all night.

  “I did this play to try to kickstart some work for me,” said Chris after we had sunk a few rounds. “My momentum has ground to a halt since I directed Chasing Diana Spencer: the Musical… I should have taken up the offer to stage the nativity play at my niece’s school.”

  We both laughed.

  “I’m serious. Benenden is one of the top private girls’ schools in the country. I would have got more exposure directing a bunch of twelve year olds in 'Follow that Star’.”

  “Well, it's only November,” I said. “Can’t you change your mind?”

  “No. they’ve given it to a trainee director from the Royal Court Theatre.”

  “Well, I thought your boyfriend did a good job as Macbeth,” I said. “Didn’t he, Marika?”

  “He was terrible,” said Marika. “Nice to look at, but how do you say it in English? He couldn’t act his way out of a bag…”

  I kicked her under the table, wishing she would just lie for once.

  “A paper bag,” said Chris. “He couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag.”

  We looked over at Julian on the dance floor; he was drunk and dancing on his own, dry humping one of the pillars in a kind of pole dance.

  “He’s losing interest in me,” said Chris. “I think we’re at that stage in the older guy, younger guy gay relationship where the Stockholm Syndrome is wearing off.”

  We both laughed.

  “I’m serious, I seem to land these young guys and then I have to keep hold of them by buying them designer gear and paying their bills.”

  A dark-haired young guy danced up to Julian and, without much introduction, they began snogging.

  “And now I’m single,” said Chris. “Someone say something to cheer me up, please?”

  “I had a blind date last Friday with a complete moron,” said Marika. “I slept with him, then didn’t return his calls. Then he turned up on Monday at school as our Head OFSTED Inspector. He’s deciding on the future of my job and the school.”

  Chris and I laughed.

  “It’s not funny!” she protested.

  “It is, a little bit,” said Chris.

  ‘You’re right… Let’s forget about all of this crap, go somewhere else and dance,” said Marika.

  “Okay. You two grab a cab, I have to go and dump my boyfriend,” said Chris, as if he was popping to the bar for a packet of dry roasted peanuts.

  We moved on to a pub in Soho with a late licence. We danced, drank, and almost forgot our worries until the bar started thinning out, and th
e staff flicked the lights on. When we stumbled out, we were shocked to see it was light; it was almost six in the morning.

  We waved goodbye to Marika who got the train home. Chris and I flagged down a taxi on Old Compton Street, which dropped me off at the Tesco Metro in Baker Street.

  “Thanks hun,” I said. “Will you be ok, after Julian?”

  “I’ve got you and Marika, I’ll be fine,” he said.

  I kissed Chris goodbye and made a dash inside Tesco to grab a pint of milk.

  Where I ran into Adam. He was fresh from some kind of exercise, showered, and looking in rude health in a red tracksuit. I was wearing last night’s crumpled clothes and had the remnants of last night’s eyeliner smudged across my cheek. We stopped for a moment, and stared at each other, then he muttered “Excuse me”, leaned across and took a pint of skimmed milk. I watched him walk away and go through the self-checkout. I was in shock. Rooted to the spot. I couldn’t move. I stared as he dropped coins in the paying dish, took his receipt and left without looking back.

  A thought jolted through my brain. He always drinks full cream milk. Since when does he drink skimmed? Who was he trying to impress? Suddenly, I was convinced he was seeing someone else. I dropped my milk, ran out of Tesco, and tried to find him amongst the crowds, but he had vanished.

  I then set off for his flat and rang the buzzer. When no one answered, I hammered on the door. It opened suddenly, and I came face to face with a middle-aged woman.

  “Who are you?” I demanded.

  “I beg your pardon?” she said, shocked. She was wearing a pink towelling dressing gown, her grey hair was scraped back in a ponytail, and she wore specs on a silver chain.

  “It’s you. Do you drink skimmed milk?”

  “Who are you?”

  “Don't play games with me,” I said and barged past her and into the flat.

  I stopped short in the living room. It was full of boxes, some wicker furniture, books, and an old PC with a tabby cat sleeping on the monitor. I turned to her.

  “Where did you put Adam's stuff?” I demanded.

  “I’ve just rented the flat from Adam Rickard, if that’s who you mean,” she said. She looked scared. “Whoever you are, I need you to leave. Now… Or I'll call the police.”

  I looked around once more and then ran past her out onto the street. I was cold and tired so I came home and sat in last night’s clothes thinking… Adam has moved? What's going on?

  Although, I now realise that woman is probably his new tenant, and not his girlfriend.


  Wednesday 1st December 16.02

  TO: [email protected], [email protected]

  I slept fitfully again last night and dreamt about Adam standing at the top of the stairs in his red tracksuit. I started climbing towards him, but halfway up, the stairs turned into an escalator going the wrong way and, as fast as I ran, I couldn’t reach him.

  I woke at five bathed in sweat. I couldn’t face staying in bed, so I came down to make a cup of tea. I flicked the radio on and heard that this is the coldest start to December in twenty years. As it got light, snow began to fall, swirling around lazily before settling on the ground. It carried on snowing and soon the grey streets were transformed.

  At half nine there was a knock at the front door. Through the peephole, I could make out Rosencrantz with Wayne and Oscar, all rugged up with the snow whirling around them. I quickly opened the door and pulled them inside.

  “It’s like London is shut down. There’s no people about, no trains or buses running,” said Rosencrantz excitedly.

  “How did you get here?” I said.

  “A dodgy mini-cab, with a driver who was willing to risk it.”

  I took them through to the kitchen. They were all grinning oddly.

  “It’s a nice gaff you’ve got, Mrs P,” said Oscar, unzipping his jacket.

  “It’s elegant, homely,” said Wayne, unwinding his scarf theatrically. “Is the kitchen Ikea? Klöepenklund? Flöngenfart? Skänka?”

  “Um, I don’t remember,” I said. “Rosencrantz picked it out for us when he was thirteen.”

  “It’s a Conran kitchen,” said Rosencrantz. “And the grooves on the draining board were cut with a laser.”

  “That’s really cool,” said Oscar.

  I didn’t understand why they’d trekked across London in the snow to admire the kitchen, and Rosencrantz was still wearing his huge winter coat.

  “Have you had any breakfast?” I asked.

  They all shook their heads, smirking.

  “Why not put the kettle on, Mum?” said Rosencrantz knowingly.

  I turned to fill the kettle and when I turned back, there was a tiny Maltese puppy sitting on the kitchen island.

  “Do you like him, Mum? I had him in my coat,” grinned Rosencrantz.

  “What are you doing getting a dog?” I said. “Do you know how much work a dog is? And you’ve just gone and got a job!”

  “He's for you,” said Rosencrantz. “So you won't be lonely.”

  The little dog stared up at me with eager little eyes. I opened my mouth to say, I can't have a dog, I haven't got time! But, I have got time. Too much time.

  The boys were watching curiously, much like they do when a new animal is introduced into a cage at the zoo. I reached out and the little white pup licked me, and then put his tiny furry paw in my hand. I gently scooped him up. He was so soft and beautiful and he snuggled into the crook of my arm. I started to well up.

  “Don’t you want him?” said Rosencrantz anxiously.

  “Yes, he’s perfect,” I said. “I’m just… I haven’t slept much.”

  Wayne pulled a lace hanky from his bag and handed it over, and Oscar patted my shoulder.

  The puppy stood up in my arms with his front legs on my chest and licked my tears with a tiny pink tongue.

  “He's so cute!” said Oscar, ruffling his little mop of silky fur.

  “He's a matinee idol!” declared Wayne, clasping his hand to an imaginary décolletage.

  “He’s a pedigree,” said Rosencrantz. “His parents are show dogs… Oscar’s mum is a breeder.”

  “We all chipped in,” said Oscar.

  “Thank you, boys,” I grinned. “I never dreamed I’d get a dog… What should I call him?”

  “We thought you could call him Rocco,” said Wayne.

  “In tribute to Rocco Ritchie,” said Oscar.

  “Madonna’s son,” added Rosencrantz.

  “Hello Rocco,” I said.

  Rocco sneezed in approval, gave me another lick and I put him on the floor. I made the boys tea and toast, and we spent a happy hour watching Rocco sniff and explore the kitchen. Then they said they would leave me to bond with him.

  “We’re going to have a walk through St James’s Park and take some snowy photos,” said Wayne, pulling a camera out of his bag. “These two are my models.”

  “Thanks, boys, for everything,” I said tearfully as they left. They waved, then pulled up their hoods and crunched off in the snow.

  When they’d gone, I realised I had no food for Rocco, no bed or bowl, lead or coat. The poor little thing was starving, but the cupboards were bare. I scrabbled around the kitchen as he shifted on his little paws, snorting and wuffling impatiently, and finally unearthed some of those little UHT milk creamers you put in coffee. I opened one and knelt down, offering him the tiny pot of milk. He went crazy for it, lapping away hungrily, all the time watching me with his little brown eyes. I opened another and another and soon he had drunk six. He licked my hand happily, then stretched out on the kitchen floor and fell asleep.

  I’m just about to brave the snow and stock up on doggy things.

  Friday 3rd December 14.56

  TO: [email protected]

  Rocco won’t eat! I’ve made him beef stew, grilled chicken, pork chops, all in his lovely new red bowl, but all of which he’s sniffed at dismissively then turned on his little paws and pranced off. Not only t
hat, he’s rejected all forms of dog food, from the big butch tins to the little gourmet foil containers.

  The only thing he will touch is those little milks. I have to open each one individually and hold it out for him to lap at. Myself and Chris have made frequent trips to the coffee shop in Regent’s Park, the only place we can get our hands on the little milks.

  With all this snow London is eerily empty, well, at least the bits I’ve seen. The parked cars are covered in a layer of ice.

  Despite his disinterest in food, Rocco seems to be thriving. He showers me with affection, he never leaves my side, he’s even taken to toilet training. Every two hours he gives a little bark and I let him out in the back garden. I have dug a little path for him in the snow, and he scampers along it to do his business, then scampers back, and I wrap him up in a towel to keep warm. He even sleeps on the bed curled up beside me!

  How are you enjoying your school being closed? I wish you could make it across here. I’ve got a big fire roaring in the living room.

  Monday 6th December 16.14

  TO: [email protected]

  After a weekend of Rocco still not eating, Chris came with me to take him to the vet. The snow is so deep and he is so tiny that I carried him in a little wicker basket. He lay there happily with his head poking out from under a blanket. The vet said that Rocco seems to be growing and is perfectly healthy. She suggested I try and hide cottage cheese or peanut butter in the little milk containers, and then normal food, in the hope he’ll start eating properly.

  The vet is a beautiful young Irish woman. Her examination room was filled with pictures of her and a dashing dark-haired chap. I don’t think she’s been in London long. As she put Rocco back in his basket she asked me and Chris how long we’d been together.

  “We’re both single,” I said, which hung desperately in the air and I saw a tinge of pity in her eyes.

  “How has she got a man?” asked Chris when we were back out on the snowy pavement. “She must spend half of her time with her hand up a cow’s backside.”

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