The coco pinchard boxset.., p.30
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.30

           Robert Bryndza

  “I’ll tell you what I told my year eights before their SATs.”


  “Revise, so get down to Insomnia Café and start revising.”

  Wednesday 15th December 08.12

  TO: [email protected]

  During my past three visits to Insomnia Café, I’ve managed to winkle some titbits of information about Xavier. He’s studying to be an architect and he works the early morning shift and weekends. He has no children “that he knows of” (his joke). His surname is Michael.

  I also went for a full six hours without thinking about Adam yesterday, but then felt weirdly guilty that I’d forgotten him for so long.

  Thursday 16th December 09.15

  TO: [email protected]

  Rosencrantz sent me an email from Meryl with the arrangements for her Sandringham Christmas. I shudder to think I was married to her flesh and blood for over twenty years.


  FROM: [email protected]

  TO: [email protected]

  The Watson’s Sandringham Christmas.

  At the behest and request of Meryl, Tony and Wilfred Watson, you are cordially invited to spend a truly memorable Sandringham-themed Christmas.

  When: 24th - 27th December 2010.

  Where: ‘Bonvivant’, Abacus Blvd, Milton Keynes, MK1 7TY

  Please familiarise yourself with the following programme of events.


  (Dress code; casual tweed)

  Guests will be expected to arrive before 4 p.m. when tea will be taken on my Royal Doulton in The White Drawing Room (small-scale replica of the one at Sandringham House)

  4 p.m. Earl Grey tea, sandwiches, scones and muffins will be in abundance. This will be a chance to take the first look at the Christmas tree, freshly dug and delivered from Norfolk.

  6 p.m. We will open gifts (following in the German tradition of unwrapping gifts the night before Christmas). All gifts will be laid out on a white-linen-covered table with name tags. (Be prepared to make a short thank-you speech if required.)

  7.10 p.m. After gifts, it is off to the Saloon for Dubonnet and gin cocktails.

  7.45 p.m. Amply refreshed, we will dress for dinner. Ladies in gowns, gents in black tie.

  8 p.m. The gong will sound for dinner (I found a nice gong in John Lewis). The Queen always arrives fashionably late at 8.15 p.m. and as your hostess I will observe the same custom. Dinner will be by candlelight in the dining room with a shrimp appetiser, followed by a main course of game and a dessert of tarte Tatin.

  10.15 p.m. Coffee, port and brandy.

  Midnight. Bed.


  (Dress code smart church outfits, no jeans or crop-tops.)

  7 a.m. Breakfast in the dining room. Bacon, sausage, eggs, toast and tea. You will be able to take your pick from the traditional English menu for breakfast.

  11 a.m. Christmas service at St Michael’s Church led by the Reverend Damian Leviticus. This is walking distance, although dial-a-ride will take my mother and any small children.

  12.30 p.m. Turkey lunch with all the trimmings. The Queen has a bird from her Norfolk estate so we have done the next best thing and ordered something from Bernard Matthews.

  2.30 p.m. Meryl’s Christmas speech. I’ve decided after all to do my own Christmas speech, just before The Queen. This will either be live in the White Drawing Room, or if Tony can get the video camera going, I’ll pre-record it.

  3 p.m. The Queen’s Speech.

  3.15 p.m. The Queen’s Speech, (The movie starring Helen Mirren).

  5.30 p.m. Charades, Monopoly whatever people want, this will be free and easy. (Fill in the enclosed form with which you’d prefer.)

  8 p.m. Turkey leftovers with a fresh lobster salad to start.

  10.15 p.m. Coffee, port and brandy.

  Midnight. Bed.


  (Warm smart tweed.)

  I’m trying to arrange a pheasant shoot, and hire a few corgis to pick up the dead birds. I will keep you posted!


  7.00 a.m. Everyone departs. Filled with happy memories of a truly unique Christmas.

  Saturday 18th December 03.37

  TO: [email protected]

  I went to Angie's Christmas party last night. Rocco was devastated I was leaving him. He howled, yowled, and barked, pacing up and down and pulling at my coat when I went to leave.

  “What am I doing, dating?” I said.

  “You’ve left it too late to cancel,” said Marika. “Xavier is out there in a taxi.”

  “I can't go!” I said looking down at his Rocco’s pleading face. “Look!” I knelt down and he stood on his back legs and put his fluffy paws against my cheek.

  “I'll only be gone for a couple of hours,” I said. His little eyes searched my face, but he didn't understand and cried even more. I left quickly, hearing his howls from inside as I crunched down the snow-covered path to Xavier.

  “Hello,” I said when I climbed in the taxi and sat beside him. He looked very fashionable and young in a tight red shirt and a black bow tie. He also smelt lovely.

  “Hello,” he grinned, leaning in and kissing me on the cheek. “You look great.”

  We didn’t say anything else for the rest of the journey to Angie’s. I was devoid of conversation, and we passed it in awkward silence with the taxi driver eyeballing us in his rearview mirror.

  Angie’s house looked beautiful. Her living room with its double height ceiling was decorated to within an inch of its life with acres of fairy lights, and three huge Christmas trees. Her giant fireplace was filled with logs and a fierce fire was blazing. The sash windows were all open, but the room was still sweltering.

  “Hi love,” she said, squeezing through sweaty people to kiss me. “Who’s this?”

  “This is Xavier Michael,” I said. “He’s thirty-eight and training to be an architect.”

  Angie shook his hand.

  “Sorry, I’m not hiring anyone new,” she said, “although my builders are making a right royal fuck-up…”

  “No, he doesn’t work as an architect yet, right now he’s a barista.”

  “You look a bit young to be called to the bar,” said Angie, exhaling smoke and squinting at him.

  “No, a barista… he works in my local coffee shop.”

  “Oh, I see…” said Angie, nodding with a sly smile. She went off to mingle, and on her way past whispered, “You dirty cow, picking up a tradesperson.”

  “Is she your sister?” said Xavier, grabbing us drinks from a passing waiter.

  I realised Xavier knew nothing much about me either. I went to tell him what I did, but Angie came back with her son, Barry.

  “Tell him how good further education is,” said Angie to Xavier. “He’s just been released from Feltham Young Offenders Institution, he could do with further-educating himself out of the shit.”

  She then pulled me away to talk to my editor.

  More guests flooded in and I lost sight of Barry and Xavier. Several drinks later, after talking to my editor, cover designer, and the Head of Media Strategy at my publishing house (they are planning a huge launch for Agent Fergie in the spring), I set off to find Xavier.

  Angie’s new house is huge. I climbed three flights of stairs, searching in bedrooms and bathrooms all tastefully decorated in Molton Brown colours. I came to the top landing and noticed a small door ajar on one wall. I pulled it open and climbed up a narrow little staircase which was very tatty in relation to the rest of the house. The cool air hit me as I came out on a flat piece of roof high above London. Xavier and Barry were standing together. They started laughing.

  “Shit, I thought you were my mother,” said Barry, collapsing into giggles.

  “She’s not my mother!” said Xavier, exploding in laughter.

  I sniffed the air.

  “Is that marijuana I can smell?”

  Xavier and Barry looked at each other
and laughed again.

  “Are you smoking…”

  “Don’t tell my mum, she’ll flip,” said Barry taking a joint he’d had behind his back and inhaling.

  “What? She’d do a back flip? Is she a gymnast?” laughed Xavier.

  “No, she’s my agent and my friend!” I said. “And she’d kill you if she found out. Aren’t you on probation, Barry?”

  “Yeah!” He carried on laughing.

  “Barry! It’s not funny. I don’t know why you insist on breaking your mother’s heart. And smoking weed fries your brain and makes everything seem futile. Please don’t waste your life!”

  Suddenly the little door opened. Barry dropped the joint but it skidded into the middle of us all. Angie appeared.

  “What are you all doing?” she said. “I can smell weed.”

  Angie always looks in control but as she searched Barry’s face for an answer, I could see she was scared. She looked so vulnerable.

  “I’m smoking a joint,” I said suddenly.

  “You're smoking a joint?” said Angie, incredulously.

  “Yes, I am,” I said picking it up off the floor. “Sorry, it’s my joint.”

  “I, um, showed her up to the roof, to smoke it,” said Barry.

  “Why the hell are you smoking weed, Coco?” asked Angie.

  “I prefer the term medical marijuana,” I bluffed.

  Angie carried on staring, showing another emotion I’ve never seen before: shock. I put the joint to my lips and took a big drag. Behind Angie, Barry was frantically signalling to me, and I realised why. It was super-strength and hit me like a train.

  “Why are you on medical marijuana?” said Angie in a low voice.

  “Um… menopause…” I muttered.

  “Ok… uh, okay,” she said, seeing Xavier. “Sorry. Just please don’t smoke drugs in front of my son. You know how hard it’s been to get him away from this stuff.”

  “Sorry,” I gulped and flicked the rest of the joint over the edge. We watched the ember slowly float down to the street below.

  “Now come on, Barry,” said Angie. “I’ve got an author of mine I want you to meet, he lectures at Cambridge. He might be able to swing you a place.”

  They went off and closed the little door behind them. Xavier grinned at me.

  “So you’re an author and she’s your agent?”

  “Yes,” I said, feeling the roof begin to spin.

  “And you just covered for her bad boy son? You’ve got a wild side.”

  Xavier suddenly leant over and kissed me. Without thinking I kissed him back. The joint did something reckless to me. I started to unbutton his shirt and run my hand across his chest which was firm and hot. We kissed harder and I moved my hand across his abs and down. Whatever I had inhaled was messing with my head. I closed my eyes and imagined it was Adam kissing me, it was Adam I was touching.

  Suddenly, something very warm and thick landed with a thud in my palm, and carried on along my wrist. I opened my eyes and looked down. He’d unzipped his trousers, presenting me with the most enormous penis I’ve ever seen (and this was in minus temperatures too)! I screamed and leapt away.

  “What? Are you okay?” he said.

  “I thought it was a snake!” I shrilled, then started laughing uncontrollably. Xavier hurriedly tucked it back in his trousers. He looked embarrassed and a little betrayed. I realised I was being unfair to him, and that I was rather wasted. I suddenly felt sick. I ran to the railing of the roof and threw up over the side. I threw up again and felt Xavier gently hold my hair back for me. When I’d finished he offered me a tissue.

  “I’m sorry,” I said.

  “Do you want me to take you home? I mean, drop you off at home?”

  I nodded.

  He helped me down all the flights of stairs, through the party and out onto the street. There was a gaggle of people stood around staring up at the house and Angie was watching a black cab drive away.

  “What’s going on?” I said.

  “A right fuck up, that’s what! I invited the head of Harper Collins UK, cos I’m inches away from a five-book deal with them, and when he arrives he gets splattered in vomit on the doorstep.”

  “Oh… how terrible,” I said.

  Xavier raised his eyebrows and managed to hail a passing cab. We thanked Angie, jumped in and drove back to my house.

  “Goodnight,” he said, as I climbed out of the cab.

  “Goodnight,” I said. And he shook my hand.

  I scuttled out of the taxi and up the snowy path to the door. I turned to wave but the taxi had gone. When I got in Marika was asleep on the sofa with Rocco curled up beside her, his head on her shoulder. The fire had died down and they looked so cosy, so I came up to bed.

  Saturday 18th December 12.53

  TO: [email protected]

  At six o’clock this morning I was woken by a Skype call coming through. It was Meryl. When her white drawing room came into view, it looked like a crate of Christmas decorations had exploded over everything. A ladder stood by the wall and Wilfred was screaming in the other room. Meryl was sat in front of the computer, hair on end, holding a nappy.

  “Coco, does this look normal to you?” she shrilled, holding the contents of the nappy close to the webcam.

  “It’s six o’clock in the morning,” I said, recoiling.

  “Wilfred did a green whoopsie!” she said. “Did this ever happen with Rosencrantz?”

  Behind her, the half-decorated Christmas tree slowly leaned into shot then fell, scattering baubles and tinsel.

  “Oh fiddlesticks!” screamed Meryl, leaping up and kicking the Christmas tree. “I’ve been decorating this Norwegian Spruce all night! No wonder the bloody Queen has servants! I’ve still got three days of catering and a grouse shoot to try and organise!”

  She gave the tree a final exhausted kick and sat back down.

  “Won’t a grouse shoot be hard to organise in Milton Keynes?” I said.

  “It’s all under control,” she said through gritted teeth. “Now please Coco, look at this whoopsie!”

  I peered at it and confirmed it did look unnaturally green. She jumped up shouting, “Tony! TONY! Get the car ready we need to go to hospital NOW!”

  She hurdled the giant Christmas tree and ran through the living room door. I suddenly remembered something,

  “Didn't Ethel just buy Wilfred some crayons?” I shouted.

  Meryl returned wearing her coat with her car keys in one hand and the nappy in the other.

  “Meryl, check where the green crayon is!” I said.

  She dropped the nappy in the doorway and rushed out again. I sat looking at the empty room for a minute as Wilfred carried on wailing. Marika shuffled up behind me in her dressing gown. On the screen Tony appeared in the doorway and slipped over on the nappy with a cry. Then Meryl rushed back.

  “The green crayon is missing!” she shouted happily. “I repeat, the green crayon is missing!” Then she slid over in the mess on top of Tony.

  “Is this YouTube?” asked Marika blearily.

  I had to turn the camera off as I was laughing too hard.

  Tony phoned back a little while later. I was feeling very bad about laughing. I felt worse when he said that they had discovered bits of the green crayon in the nappy, and that Meryl is frantically trying to get the stain out of the carpet. I could hear the carpet cleaner, Meryl and Wilfred all screaming.

  “I think I'm going to make her a cup of tea and pop in some Valium when she's not looking,” he said wearily. “She hasn't slept in days you know… This bloody Sandringham Christmas. I just wanted to sit under the tree with Wilfred and watch his face as he opened his prezzies.”

  I don't usually have much time for Tony, but I felt very sorry for him. He wished me a Merry Christmas and put down the phone.

  I joined Marika and Rocco downstairs for egg on toast and little milks. I told her about my antics at Angie’s Christmas party.

  “Jeez Cokes, I knew you’d gone o
ut dating too soon,” she said. “But even a normal person would struggle to create that much drama. Still, every cloud has a silver lining.”

  ‘What’s that?”

  “At least you know Xavier would be good in the bedroom department.”

  “He’s not going to be in any department,” I said. I then went on to say I was having second thoughts about spending Christmas alone.

  “You’ve got Rocco,” said Marika. The fluff, sat on the floor beside me, gave a little indignant bark.

  “I know,” I said picking him up. “But what if we get lonely and depressed? The snow has melted, it’s just grey old London outside again, and I can’t face putting up any decorations.”

  “You could come with me to Slovakia,” said Marika.

  “What about Rocco?”

  “Bring him too, get him a puppy passport and we can go by road. You’ve got that new car you never drive, let’s use it.”

  Tuesday 21st December 22.21

  TO: [email protected]

  I have been running round today sorting out Rocco’s puppy passport. This morning I went to Marylebone train station and tried to figure out how I would get him to sit still in the instant photo booth. I screwed the seat round until it was as high as possible, but Rocco is so tiny that only the very fluff atop his head was in the frame. The seat was also too smooth for him, and his furry paws kept sliding off. In the end, I had to twist it to its lowest setting and crouch with Rocco balanced on my head. Try as I might I couldn't keep him still and press the button to take the photo.

  Just as I was about to give up, the curtain was pulled open. Xavier looked through the gap.

  “Oops sorry,” he said and quickly pulled it shut.

  After a moment, his voice came through the curtain, “Is that you Coco?”

  “Um… yes,” I said.

  He opened it again, and looked at me with Rocco balanced on my head. His face broke into a grin.

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