The coco pinchard boxset.., p.36
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.36

           Robert Bryndza
 
“I’m Lee, from McMahon Lettings,” said the young lad.

  “You’re my estate agent?” I said. He didn’t look old enough to buy cigarettes. “I thought the viewing was this afternoon?”

  “Yeah, I had to move it,” said Lee.

  “We found them on the doorstep,” said Daniel, pulling a couple of mugs from the kitchen cupboard.

  “Who’s ‘we’ and who’s ‘them’?” I said.

  “Me and Mum… We came over to get some of our things, before you move house, and we saw young Lee here with Mr Trattore, the guy who is viewing the house.”

  “So why are you both in here?” I said.

  “Well, Mum said she knew the house better than any of us,” said Daniel. “Would anyone else like tea?”

  “Ethel’s showing him round?” I shrilled.

  “Yeah,” said Daniel.

  I dropped my bag and dashed out.

  “I thought she’d be good at it, a woman’s touch and all that,” he shouted as I came upstairs. As I rounded the bannister, I heard Ethel’s voice in the bedroom.

  “Now in there tha’s the en suite. En suite is a French word, it means ‘avin a loo in the bedroom.”

  I went through as Ethel was demonstrating the bidet.

  “I’m not sure what it means in English, but you use it to wash yer arse,” she said.

  A handsome and elegant Italian chap dressed in crisp dark jeans and a striped shirt looked up with a smile on his face. He seemed to be amused by Ethel’s tour.

  “Oh, this is ‘er ‘oo I was telling you about,” said Ethel.

  “Hello Mrs Pinchard,” he said, speaking with a rich accent. “I am Salvo Trattore. I think I would like to rent your beautiful home.”

  “Oh… wonderful, so you like the house?” I said.

  “I love it, it’s very elegant.”

  “I thought it would be good to finish with the bidet,” said Ethel, signalling me to help her up off it.

  We came back downstairs and Salvo shook hands with Adam and said he would have to be going. I took him to the front door where he said, “Does she come with the house?”

  “Who?”

  “The housekeeper?”

  I had to stop from smiling. “Ethel? Um, no, afraid not. I’m taking her with me.”

  “That’s a shame… Good help is hard to find,” he said.

  He kissed me on both cheeks, and drove off in a smart little Porsche. I came back into the kitchen as Adam was showing Daniel how to work the coffee machine.

  “’E looks ever so rich, that Italian,” said Ethel. “‘E seems like a lovely man. So refined.”

  “He wanted to know if you came with the house,” I said.

  “You what?” said Ethel.

  “He thought you were my housekeeper.”

  Adam bit his lip to suppress a grin.

  “‘E thought I was the char lady? I ‘ope you set ‘im straight?”

  “Yes, of course,” I said.

  “The cheeky bastard. I’ll ‘ave you know this dress is from Debenhams, and it weren’t cheap!”

  Lee, the estate agent, who had been watching all of this said he would sort out the “paperwork and stuff” then slunk off back to his office.

  “To think you’re paying him five percent and Mum did all the leg work,” said Daniel.

  He pressed a button on the coffee machine and hot milk squirted out and hit the ceiling.

  “So tell me again why you’re both here?” I said irritably, grabbing a cloth.

  “I came to get me salad spinner,” said Ethel accusingly. “You’ve ‘ad it fer years.”

  “Um… I gave Mum a lift,” said Daniel.

  I’ve never seen a piece of salad pass Ethel’s lips but I told him to try the attic. Daniel went up whilst Ethel stayed cooing over Adam.

  “‘Ow are yer bearin’ up love?” she said.

  Adam told her about the hearing.

  “You’ll be fine,” she said patting his hand. “We ‘ad a little pep talk on the phone, din’t we? I told you things would get better, ‘an they ‘ave. Thanks to me, Coco’s rented out ‘er ridiculously big ‘ouse.”

  “Adam was here when it happened, we don’t need your commentary,” I said, heaving myself up on the kitchen island and scrubbing milk off the ceiling.

  “See, Adam? See ‘ow she bites me ‘ead orf at every turn…”

  Adam didn’t know what to say.

  “‘Course, I’m the one what always mends things between us. Did you ‘ear? She dumped me at Christmas, like one of them dogs in a cardboard box…”

  “What she doesn’t mention is I drove her to the airport and got her priority boarding,” I said.

  “She should look after ‘er own. I know ‘er an’ Danny are divorced but a mother-in-law ain’t just fer Christmas, she’s fer life!”

  Adam nodded along with her sagely whilst I cleared up the rest of Daniel’s mess.

  Daniel finally came downstairs with Ethel’s manky old salad spinner, then my phone rang. It was Lee, the estate agent.

  “Mr. Trattore is going to rent for £4,200 per calendar month,” he said. “The price is a little higher than we advertised, because he’d like to move in on the fourth.”

  “The fourth of March?” I said.

  “No, this Friday, the fourth of February,” said Lee.

  I came off the phone in shock.

  “Where you gonna live?” said Ethel.

  “We’re moving in with Marika,” said Adam.

  “Ooh, you’ll be just down the road from me!” said Ethel. “And Adam, if yer need a salad spinner, you know where I am.”

  It seems like I will never escape the old bag.

  Thursday 3rd February 17.40

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I never imagined how I’d pack everything up and move. There are four generations’ worth of crap stored in this house. However, that myth was busted with one phone call to Big Yellow. They sent round a team of scarily efficient packers who had everything boxed up and in a giant van within six hours.

  All I’ve kept is some clothes, toiletries, a few books, my laptop, and some paperwork I really can’t do without. Everything else will sit in a warehouse in East London for the next year.

  Marika has gone ahead in the Land Cruiser with Rocco. It’s piled high with our stuff. Adam is in a meeting with one of Natasha’s associates, preparing for the court case.

  Salvo Trattore is going to bring his own furniture. I’m sat in the living room and it’s really odd. I’ve never seen it empty before. It’s so big. I’ve walked from room to room and only really noticed the space. I don’t know how we will cope in Marika’s back bedroom. How is Devon treating you?

  Friday 4th February 11.03

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  It was strange waking up in our new home this morning. Our room isn’t small but it’s piled high with our suitcases. Me, Adam and Rocco lay in bed for a few minutes, listening to a train click clack past outside the window, and then we crept out to the kitchen. Marika had left a note to say she would be working all morning. Her dog walking enterprise is really taking off and she’s making good money.

  She had prepared us a welcome breakfast. A big plate of cheese, cold meat, some lovely crusty bread, and a little golden block of butter. There was a selection of Nespresso capsules, laid out next to her Nespresso machine, watched over by the life-size George Clooney cut-out she got by bribing the guy in the Nespresso Store on Regent Street.

  We now have our own shelf in the fridge, a space each in the bathroom cabinet, and there is a clipboard by the phone with a sheet of paper for us to write down who we call on the landline.

  I was quite enjoying the novelty of sharing a house until I came out to the car to get a bag of shoes I’d left in the footwell of the back seat.

  Someone had thrown a brick through the driver’s window and stolen them, along with the car radio and my Ray Bans, which were in the glove compartment. I have just moved the car to a spot outside the house
and we’re waiting for someone to come and replace the window.

  Now I miss home.

  Friday 4th February 22.27

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  After the car window was fixed, we went to report to a police station to say Adam had moved. However, we had a problem finding a police station. The local one round the corner had a sign outside saying that it’s only open on a Friday between 1.45pm and 2.30pm, and that it’s only manned by volunteers from the community. It was 2.50pm and two old ladies were outside. One was just locking up, whilst the other was carefully carrying a half-completed jigsaw on a tea tray. I could see there hadn’t been much crime fighting going on. They were very sweet though, and suggested we try the nearest police station which was in Sydenham.

  When we arrived we discovered Sydenham Police Station has just been converted to a Pizza Express. After a rest, a glass of wine and a plate of dough balls, we drove over to the mega police station in Lewisham.

  Prisoners were being ferried in and out at an alarming rate, and we had to wait three hours before someone on the desk could see us.

  We got to Marika’s at seven, but heard she was occupied in the bedroom. She’s started dating a fellow dog walker whom she met at a drinking trough on Hilly Fields common. (Their dogs were the ones doing the drinking.)

  In the small flat, we couldn’t escape the soundtrack of Marika’s bedroom Olympics, so Adam suggested we take Rocco for a walk.

  There wasn’t much to look at on a cold dark night in February. Adam took my hand and we walked past a long row of terraced houses broken up by corner shops and Chinese take-aways. It was very depressing.

  “How much further do you want to go?” I moaned. “We’ve been on our feet all day.”

  “I can’t go back to Marika shagging some bloke. He’s going to come out of her room and want to shake my hand, and I don’t want to have to think where it’s been.”

  I laughed and he put his arm round me as we passed a row of shops. There was a small supermarket called ‘Mr Gogi’s’, a key cutter, a launderette, and a Post Office. We carried on past the train station and came to a set of gates with a path leading up into a wooded area. Once inside we let Rocco off the lead and he scampered excitedly up the path. We followed him up a long set of steps and came to the most beautiful church. It was small with a tall spire and, in the moonlight, the flint walls sparkled. Candles glowed invitingly through the stained glass windows in soft reds, blues and greens.

  “Shall we go inside?” I said.

  “What about Rocco?” said Adam.

  “I’ll stick him in my coat.”

  Inside the church, it was so peaceful. Not that outside was particularly loud, but the everyday hum of traffic ceased when we walked through the door. We made our way down the aisle to sit in one of the wooden pews. It smelt of dust and incense and wasn’t overly grand, but simple and beautiful. There was a fresh spray of lilies on the altar, and the stone arches were smooth sandstone, with carvings on the ceiling.

  I felt so safe and relaxed. I took Adam’s hand and without thinking said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get married here?”

  He turned to look at me.

  “This isn’t a proposal,” I added quickly. Adam carried on staring. “All I meant is that this church would be nice for a wedding…”

  “You’d marry me?” he said incredulously.

  “Well, maybe, hypothetically… but you’re not asking, are you?”

  “No, I’m talking hypothetically too,” he said hastily.

  We sat awkwardly for a few more minutes listening to the sound of Rocco’s snoring coming from inside my coat. We both went to say something, but then my phone beeped. It was Marika saying the coast was clear.

  We jumped up, eager to get out of the church and eager to be warm in bed. We didn’t mention the marriage thing again. We did meet Marika’s new man, Greg. He used to work in The City, but after burning out, and quitting his job, became a fellow dog walker, like Marika. He seems pleasant, and he’s good looking. We just wished he’d been more attentive with how his dressing gown was arranged when he sat on the sofa.

  Sunday 6th February 21.13

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I quite like the area Marika lives in. There is a beautiful deli, a park and an incredible Indian Restaurant. We went there for a meal last night with Rosencrantz, Marika, and Greg. Afterwards we all walked back to Marika’s and saw on the huge electronic billboard above the train station a poster for Agent Fergie.

  It was very quiet in the dark street as we all stared at it.

  “That’s wicked, Mum,” said Rosencrantz.

  Then there was an electronic whirring as the plastic strips moved round and the next advert came up.

  “What are we looking at?” slurred Greg.

  “It’s my Mum’s new book,” said Rosencrantz.

  We waited a minute and the advert whirred round again.

  “Oh… Cool beans, can you get me a signed copy?” said Greg.

  “I won’t get any until next week…” I said.

  “She doesn’t get many. They’ll be in shops on the twenty-second,” Adam added pointedly.

  Greg had wormed out of paying for dinner by saying he had forgotten his wallet. So, we all had to chip in for him. I wouldn’t have minded but he ordered so much food that was wasted and a triple shot of thirty-year-old whisky that he didn’t even finish.

  There was an awkward moment.

  “We’ll be sure to buy a copy, won’t we?” said Marika.

  “You bet!” said Greg.

  They then headed home whilst we walked Rosencrantz to the train station.

  When we got home, Marika was in the bathroom and Greg was in the kitchen. He was sat at the table eating the carrot cake I had bought.

  “Hey guys,” he said.

  We watched him for a moment but he didn’t say anything. It was from our shelf in the fridge. He then went to the sink where he plonked the dirty plate, leaving half the cake uneaten!

  “Night guys,” he said and sloped off to bed.

  I was so annoyed.

  “Calm down,” said Adam, putting his arms round me. “It’s just a bit of cake…”

  “I know, our cake. How rude is he?”

  I really hope Marika isn’t going to move him in!

  Wednesday 9th February 10.31

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Angie is managing my book launch with the utmost secrecy. I’m not allowed to talk to journalists. She has only permitted email interviews, which she has written herself. I picked up a copy of The Metro newspaper today and read an interview with an author where she raved on about how much she loves the royal family, and is obsessed with all things royal. I was thinking what a saddo the author was, until I noticed that it was me! I phoned Angie straight away.

  “I don’t love the royal family and I don’t dream about going to a garden party, or being made a dame,” I said when she answered.

  “Darlin’, what are you talking about?” she said. I heard the click of her lighter and a deep exhale.

  “This interview in The Metro, about Agent Fergie. ‘Oh to be Dame Coco Pinchard and meet the Queen,’ that’s what I said, apparently.”

  “Oh, that. Coco the public are mad on royal stuff at the moment, what with the wedding of William and that scrawny brunette…”

  “Kate.”

  “Yeah. Princess Kate, who’d have thought? It’s hip to be a royalist. That’s why I’m using it in this interview.”

  “But I’ve always prided myself on being a socialist, that’s my belief.”

  “Ha! You’re a champagne socialist at best Coco, and the first rule of promotion is that your beliefs can’t be too concrete.”

  “But…”

  “Thanks to me you got a huge advance, and your last book sold like hot cakes, am I right?”

  “Yes, but…” she didn’t let me finish.

  “Did I ever disappoint you? I know what I’m doing.
Coco, your books are amazing, but without clever marketing you might as well write one out in longhand and put it on the shelf above your bed.”

  “Could we at least make me sound like a hip royalist then? People are going to think I’m an old spinster in a flowering apron who invites strangers for tea to look at her royal mug collection.”

  Angie has suggested I join Twitter as @CocoPinchard. I can do some tweeting about my life and what I like, and my publishing house can do some tweeting too.

  “It’ll give people an insight to your personality,” she said. “But for God's sake don’t mention anything about Adam!”

  Thursday 10th February 11.44

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  I have a hundred and sixty followers on Twitter! Many of whom have read my books, also Marika and Chris have read my books. I hope you are ashamed of yourself Ms. Langford ;)

  I’ve also been welcomed to Twitter by a journalist from The Independent and another from the Daily Mail. This is quite fun.

  Sunday 13th February 14.43

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Greg has stayed at the flat for six nights in a row. He’s all but moved in! He’s eating the food off our shelf in the fridge. Every morning he nabs the newspaper I’m paying for to be delivered. He’s even wearing Adam’s pants! Admittedly, that was a mistake, as all our stuff has to dry on the same clothes dryer in the living room.

  I don’t know how to broach the subject of Greg with Marika, particularly the pants, but she seems so happy with him and I’m being all British and I don’t want to rock the boat. On the upside, I have five hundred followers on Twitter!

  Tuesday 15th February 12.22

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Adam had a meeting with Natasha yesterday about his case. She pretended to be the defence QC and grilled him mercilessly. I met him afterwards on The Strand. I had forgotten it was Valentine’s Day yesterday, so when he asked if I fancied McDonald’s I said “yes” without protest. We set off up St Martin’s Lane towards Leicester Square. The wind was cold and outside the Duke of York’s Theatre we were caught up amongst the chattering theatregoers before the show, spilling out onto the street with plastic glasses from the bar. I envied their carefree laughter, and I felt homesick. I wanted to be back living here amongst the fun and buzz of Central London.

 

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