The coco pinchard boxset.., p.29
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.29

           Robert Bryndza
 

  “I doubt that” I said. “She’s a central London vet, she makes a fortune immunising handbag dogs. Of course she’s a catch!”

  We needed cheering up so we went for a coffee at Insomnia Café on Marylebone High Street. It’s full of twits on laptops and a latte costs £4.75, but it’s the only place apart from Regents Park Café that has a big basket full of those little milks. Whilst I went and ordered, Chris filled up his pockets for me. We found a table in the corner and I put Rocco, who was asleep in his basket, on the chair beside me. Christmas music was playing and some of the baristas were hanging lights and decorating a large tree.

  “I’ve got no work on the horizon,” said Chris, staring blankly at a pile of Christmas pannetone. “No plans.”

  “How did Macbeth go?” I said.

  “It went by without a blip on the radar. No reviews, no press, nothing…”

  “And Julian?”

  “He’s moved out. I miss seeing our iPods, side by side, on their little docks,” he said.

  “I’ve still kept Adam’s toothbrush, I can’t bring myself to throw it away.”

  Just then Lonely This Christmas began to play in the coffee shop.

  “Look, why don’t we spend Christmas together?” I suggested. “We always talk about, but we’ve never done it.”

  “That’s another sad story,” he said. “I got drunk the other night and had a blackout. When I woke up I found an email confirming I’d booked Christmas in an ice hotel in Lapland.”

  I asked him why he would book an ice hotel, as we both know he loathes the cold.

  “I vaguely remember sitting on the remote, and the Pingu DVD I have for when my niece comes round started playing.”

  “So you fancied spending Christmas with a little plasticine penguin?” I said.

  “It’s not funny. They've already debited six grand out of my bank account.”

  “Six grand!”

  “Of course, me being an idiot, I booked the penthouse.”

  Rocco woke up and sneezed loudly. I lifted the blanket and he was lying on his back, four paws in the air. He shook himself, rolled over onto his front, and tugged at my sleeve with his teeth.

  “He needs feeding,” I said and opened a couple of the little milks. “It takes him a few times to latch onto the carton.”

  “Oh my God,” said Chris. “My life is flashing before my eyes. This same café, twenty years ago, you feeding Rosencrantz, although back then the milk was in different packaging.”

  “I remember,” I said wistfully. “Back then I was a natural blonde, Amazon was a rainforest, and google was the noise a baby made…”

  “And here you are with another baby, of sorts. You've moved on with your life but I'm just as rudderless as I was then.”

  “You’re not rudderless Chris,” I said.

  “Sorry Cokes, I’m gonna go,” he said. “I told Rosencrantz I’d pop in to see him at Abercrombie and Fitch. He’s going to let me use his staff discount to buy my Christmas presents. My mother wants a new baseball cap, for when she goes shooting.”

  “I’m always here for you Chris,” I said. He gave me a hug. “Tell Rosencrantz I’ll be in to see him as soon as Rocco is on solid food.”

  He rolled his eyes and went off into the snow. I sipped my £4.75 latte and caught sight of one of the baristas behind the counter looking at me. He was dark, well built, and rather handsome. He winked. I looked round but saw he was winking at me!

  At that moment Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree started playing and the lights on the huge Christmas tree switched on. The café looked beautiful with the snow falling softly outside.

  I am totally unprepared for Christmas. Do you have a tree yet? Have you bought cards? What about decorations? Clothes to wear? Where are you going for Christmas? And what do you want? I can’t think of anything, but I can't ask people for cigarettes again. Chris did bring round an advent calendar this morning, and I had the fleeting pleasure of opening six doors at once.

  Tuesday 7th December 09.19

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I spent ages last night stuffing empty mini milk cartons with titbits of dog food, meat and peanut butter. They were like doggy canapés when I’d finished, but Rocco saw through my attempts to dupe him and barked for milk. He woke me at four, five, and six this morning. There was none left in the house so I had to put him in his little wicker basket full of towels and make a trip back to Insomnia Café. It was one of the only places with the lights on so early. The handsome barista who winked at me was working and, on closer inspection, I have decided to upgrade his description to gorgeous. He smiled with the cutest dimples and asked what I wanted.

  “A latte please,” I said.

  Rocco poked his nose out from under his blanket.

  “What kind?” he said, placing a cup under the huge silver coffee machine.

  “A latte… It’s got lots of milk in it,” I said helpfully.

  “No, I know what a latte is,” he grinned. “What kind is your dog?”

  “Oh, he’s a Maltese,” I said.

  The guy had on a tight white t-shirt. On his left pectoral a name tag said, ‘Xavier’.

  “I've got a large sausage,” he said.

  My eyes strayed to the bulge in the front of his tight black trousers.

  “Sausage dogs are a lovely breed,” he added.

  “Yes, of course,” I said, dragging my eyes back up to his.

  Then I couldn't think of anything else to say. The milk bubbled and squawked as he steamed it in a big jug. When he turned to brew the coffee, I grabbed a couple of handfuls of Rocco’s little milks and slipped them into the pockets of my winter coat. Xavier finished my latte in a swirly pattern, before pressing on a takeaway lid. He leaned over the counter and pulled up the towel. Rocco rolled over and stuck his four paws in the air, yawning.

  “You be a good guard dog on the way home,” he said.

  Rocco opened one eye, sneezed on Xavier’s hand and settled back down to sleep.

  Xavier came round from behind the counter and opened the door for me.

  “Go carefully,” he winked. “I’d hate to see you fall over.”

  As I shuffled off in the snow, I felt a little thrilled by the encounter.

  Back at home Rocco drank and drank until he'd emptied sixteen little milks. He then watched me intently whilst I made him a little bowl of plain rice with some organic wild boar meat puppy food (£7.95 a tin) mixed in, but he sniffed it dismissively, then pranced out to pee in the hallway. So I've found myself with another man I'm cooking for and cleaning up after.

  Love, Coco x

  P.S. Would you babysit Rocco for a couple of hours? I promised I’d go and see Rosencrantz at work.

  Wednesday 8th December 15.37

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I’ve just been to the Abercrombie and Fitch store to see Rosencrantz. It feels more like a nightclub than a clothes shop. It’s a huge building on Savile Row with video screens filling the windows and music pumping out. The smell of cologne hits you about five hundred yards before you reach the entrance.

  Oscar was standing outside, topless, in a pair of jeans and flip flops greeting customers as they streamed past, ogling him.

  “Hey Mrs P!” he said with a big grin.

  “Aren’t you a bit cold?” I asked.

  “I’m allowed to wear a woolly hat,” he said.

  A group of hysterical Japanese girls appeared and started taking photos.

  “Sorry Mrs P, I need to concentrate now,” he said seriously, as if he were about to perform a heart bypass. The girls threw themselves at him and he almost toppled over.

  Inside the lighting was low, making the artfully laid out tables of folded clothes look even more tempting. The supermodel staff were all dancing unselfconsciously to the music.

  I spied Rosencrantz boogying away on the second level and climbed the dark wooden staircase to meet him.

  “Hello love,” I shouted.

 
“Hi Mum,” he said, carrying on dancing. “Are you on your own?”

  I said I was.

  “The manager isn’t keen on my family visiting.”

  “Why?”

  He told me that Ethel had been in yesterday with her friend Irene, but they hadn’t twigged that Abercrombie and Fitch is a clothes shop. Ethel went up to the till and ordered half a cider and a port and lemon.

  “Nan was really rude to the guy serving,” he said. “When he told her she couldn’t have a drink, she accused him of being ageist and then barged behind the till to pour her own.”

  “What happened?”

  “He called the manager and had them escorted off the premises. She’s now barred from every Abercrombie and Fitch in the UK.”

  I started laughing.

  “It’s not funny, Mum. There’s now a CCTV picture of Nan in the staffroom, and underneath it says what to do if you see her.”

  “What do you do if you see her?”

  “Trigger the silent alarm and then Security comes.”

  “I wish I had that for when she pops round to the house,” I said.

  “How about I meet you in the Starbucks opposite in ten minutes,” he said. “I’m due for my lunch…”

  He joined me as promised and we had turkey cranberry sandwiches and gingerbread lattes amongst the chaos of Christmas shoppers traipsing in and out, laden with bags.

  “They’ve asked me to work on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day,” he said through a bite of sandwich. “It’s triple time, so I said yes… It means I won’t be able to come with you all to Auntie Meryl’s.”

  “Meryl’s?” I said.

  “Yeah for Christmas.”

  He saw my face.

  “Aren’t you going to Auntie Meryl’s?”

  “No. I haven’t been invited,” I said.

  “Dad is, so is Nan. I just assumed you would be… Well, I’m definitely not going now.”

  I spent the rest of lunch being nonchalant and saying it was all fine, but it wasn’t. A soon as I said goodbye to Rosencrantz, I dived into a shop doorway further down the road, and called Meryl. She wasn’t in and her phone went to voicemail.

  “Watson Funerals! We take care of any body…”

  The pun hurt my ears as much as her voice did. I debated leaving a message, but I didn’t want to end up actually being invited for Christmas. I just wanted to make a fuss about why I wasn’t.

  Wednesday 8th December 20.37

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Meryl is really rubbing it in now. She’s just emailed her round robin Christmas letter. I’ve attached it below.

  ATTACHMENT

  FROM: meryl.watson@yahoo.com

  TO: cocopinchard27@gmail.com

  Dear Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Tradespersons,

  It barely seems like yesterday that I sat down, pulled up a pouffe and reached for the Basildon Bond to write to you with season’s greetings.

  Apologies for me emailing this letter, but with more work on than ever at our Undertaker’s business (a mass shoot-out at our local kebab shop has been keeping us very busy), I haven’t had time to organise my stationery. Not that I am too upset; Royal Mail's Wallace and Gromit Christmas stamps are a classic example of this country's slipping standards. Should Queen Elizabeth the Second really share a stamp with two lumps of modelling clay? What is wrong with a nativity scene at Christmas? Moreover, why are we no longer permitted to lick our stamps? They've all gone pre-adhesive, no doubt due to some ridiculous European law for fear that the old ones were too high in calories or that we may cut our tongues. Saying that, it hasn’t fazed Tony as he was never much of a fan of all the licking I made him do!

  2010 has been a glorious year. I gave birth to our beloved son. He was very punctual and arrived on time, but thanks to a blunder at our local NHS Trust I couldn't have the water birth I so desired. According to the midwife, someone had stolen the plug for the birthing pool.

  It was a long labour — 126 hours — and I am proud to say I survived the whole ordeal on just half a paracetamol. Wilfred Ogilvy Thatcher Watson came into the world at 2.03 in the morning on 14th March weighing 13lb 12oz (ouch)! He is my little angel, a gift I never thought I would get so late in life.

  And gosh, he’s a very advanced baby! I’m quite positive he has already learnt to read. He always claps his hands in delight when he sees the Waitrose sign as we drive to do the weekly shop.

  Watson Funerals had its best month ever in August (twenty-three people died after contracting Legionnaires disease from a mucky Jacuzzi at the leisure centre), so in September I decided to completely redecorate the house. I’ve had the living room and drawing room remodelled as almost an exact replica of Sandringham House, The Queen’s private residence. We have our own version of The White Drawing Room and The Saloon!

  This will be Wilfred's first Christmas, so we’ll be reconnecting with family, spending the festivities with those we really care for: my brother Daniel, mother Ethel, nephew Rosencrantz and Tony’s family. I’ll be pulling out all of the stops. As we now share the same decor as The Queen, I’ve decided we’ll have the same Christmas! We’ll be having the same food, and following the same programme of events, although I won’t be addressing the nation at 3pm. I leave that to Her Majesty!

  We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

  Meryl, Tony and Wilfred Watson

  The cheeky cow! To think all the years she came here for Christmas, ate my food, and pulled my crackers! I’m seething.

  Thursday 9th December 10.45

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Marika phoned me from the staff room at work. I asked her what I should do about Meryl.

  “Remind me what the problem is?” she said. “You haven’t been invited to spend Christmas with her?”

  “That’s right.”

  “Or Ethel, or Tony or your idiot ex-husband…”

  “Yep.”

  “And you’ve always said it was your dream to spend Christmas on your own?”

  “Yes…”

  There was a silence.

  “Are you still there?” I said.

  “Yeah, I’m just waiting to hear what the problem is?”

  “It’s the principle,” I whined.

  “People who bang on about ‘the principle’ never get far in life,” she said. “What’s Meryl’s number? I could phone and remind her of the principle involved and demand you be part of her Sandringham Christmas.”

  “Don’t you dare!” I said.

  “Just leave it then, Coco. It’s her problem, not yours. Buy her a really shit present, like stretch mark cream.”

  “Hey, I could get Tony some Viagra off the internet too!”

  “Talking of Viagra, what’s going on with that hottie at the coffee shop?”

  “Who? Xavier? Nothing!” I said.

  “How often have you been to the café?”

  “Well, lots. I’ve been going in to get milk for Rocco. He’s very sweet and a bit flirty.”

  “Maybe you should do something. God, woman, you’ll regret your timidity when you’re a pensioner. You make life far more difficult than it should be…”

  I came off the phone and thought maybe I should do something. Shake things up a bit.

  Monday 13th December 11.36

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Thank you for your chat the other day. Over the weekend I had a think and you’re right, I do make things too complicated. I’m going to stop thinking about Meryl and have the most wonderful, selfish, lazy Christmas, eating sushi and a whole tin of Quality Street under the Christmas tree.

  I also did something about Xavier. It did strike me that he might be gay (the hot ones usually are) so I dragged Chris out of bed to Insomnia Café.

  “He’s straight,” announced Chris the second we walked through the big glass door.

  Xavier hadn’t even turned round; he was bent over re-stocking the fridge.

  “How
do you know?” I whispered.

  Xavier was wearing his tight black barista trousers and smart black shoes.

  “It’s his underwear. See? He’s wearing some grey boxers off the market. Any respecting gay guy with his body would most certainly be wearing designer undies.”

  Sure enough, Xavier had a big pair of grey briefs bunching up and spilling over his waistband.

  “That’s great,” I grinned.

  “For you,” he huffed. “I’m going back to bed.”

  “Don’t you want coffee? My treat.”

  “No, I’ll use my machine at home. At least my machine won’t reject me like a hot, straight guy,” and he stomped off in his snow boots.

  Xavier made me a latte as usual, and as he was warming the milk, I took a deep breath and invited him to come as my date to Angie’s Christmas party next week. He looked a bit surprised — but he said yes! How impressed are you?

  P.S. Can you babysit Rocco whilst I’m at the party?

  Monday 13th December 13.12

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Marika has just phoned me from the staff room.

  “Are you mad?” she cried. “What are you doing inviting some random guy from your local coffee shop to Angie’s Christmas party?”

  “He’s not random. He’s Xavier.”

  “Okay, where does he live? What’s his surname? Has he got a wife? An ex-wife? Has he got children?”

  “I don’t know,” I said sheepishly.

  “Well, you should find out before the party. All these people you work with are going to ask about your date, and you can’t say I don’t know… They’ll think you’ve hired an escort.”

  “You said I should do something!”

  “I meant flirt back! Look Cokes, that’s the lunch bell, I’ve got to go…”

  “What should I do now?”

 
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