The coco pinchard boxset.., p.44
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.44

           Robert Bryndza
 

  The real coup was the seating! Have you seen those kind of low squishy outdoor chairs that are all the rage? I got two large white ones (they were branded all over with the words MOËT & CHANDON). I also got a matching low table.

  When they had carted it all through the house for me, I didn’t know what to say. I had little money left from my budget for a decent tip, so I gave them each a bottle of £1.49 wine.

  “Oh, is this the stuff from the organic vineyard?” said one of the guys. “The boss is trying to get hold of it.”

  “Yes,” I lied. “Yes, it’s very crisp.”

  I said goodbye and they left, looking thrilled.

  I arranged the seats and dotted the bamboo and yuccas against the fences, and when it was dark, I switched on the canopy of fairy lights. It was stunning. It covered up the terraced houses at the edge of my vision and it could almost pass for some tiny exotic rooftop nightspot. I came inside to get my cigarettes and noticed a high whining sound. I followed it to the electricity cupboard and pulled it open to see the meter whirring round like the clappers and the numbers going up and up and up. I quickly turned off the lights outside and settled for my poo bags.

  I was sunbathing this morning, when I heard the buzzer go. I picked the barking Rocco up, and opened the door.

  It was Marika.

  I was a little taken aback to see her after so long. It’s been just over six weeks since I slapped her round the chops.

  “Hi,” she said.

  “Hello,” I said.

  We looked at each other for a moment.

  “Can I come in?” she said.

  “Sure.”

  I stood aside to let her pass and closed the door behind her. She put her bag on the kitchen counter and went to shrug off her shoes.

  “Don’t worry about those,” I said. “Have you seen the state of the carpet?”

  She knelt down to cuddle Rocco and he rolled over and lay back whilst she scratched his stomach.

  “Do you want a coffee?” I said.

  She nodded.

  “It’s nice, Coco,” she said as I led her through to my new garden. “But this is, well, it’s very like the champagne stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition…”

  “I think it was the champagne stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition,” I said.

  We sat down in the champagne seats and took a sip of our coffees. There was then a silence.

  “I’m sorry if I suggested that Adam was guilty,” she said.

  “I’m sorry, really sorry, that I slapped you round the face,” I said.

  We sat in the sun for another moment.

  “Coco, this feels inevitable telling you this,” she said. “But me and Greg, we broke up.”

  “I’m sorry,” I said, lighting us each a cigarette and passing one over to her.

  “I broke up with him… I suppose it was another ‘Marika fling’ as you and Chris say.”

  “I don’t say that.”

  'I’ve heard you and Chris use that expression before.”

  “Well, I’m sorry.”

  “Are you? Really? I feel like you and Chris prefer me single — silly single Marika. You haven’t even asked what happened.”

  “Give me a chance! What happened?”

  “He’s married with kids.”

  “How many?”

  “Five.”

  “Five?”

  “Yeah. They all live in Forest Hill. Five minutes down the road, for God’s sake!

  “And you didn’t know?”

  “Course I didn’t, I’m a fool. I wondered why he always kept popping out to check his lottery tickets on Saturday and Sunday, then the mid-week draw.”

  “How did you find out?” I said.

  “We were in Tesco, and he asked me to help him fill out a lottery ticket. He didn’t know how. Then it all came out…”

  “I’m sorry, really.” I said. I reached out and squeezed her hand.

  “I’ve missed you Coco,” she said getting teary. “You could have called me.”

  “Marika… If you remember, I was going through stuff with Adam. It’s taken you six weeks to come over.”

  “You were the one who slapped me! I never laid a finger on you.”

  “Adam had just been sent to prison! What did you expect? I could have done with you. Really.”

  “I feel like I’m in this box with you and Chris; ‘oh it’s only Marika, her life is a mess, she loves to get drunk and then sleep with wildly inappropriate guys who then rip out her heart and smear it down the wall’.”

  “I’ve definitely never said that.”

  “But it’s true, I’m always getting my heart broken, and I never learn anything.”

  “That’s not true… At least you know how to fill in a lottery ticket.”

  She looked at me, and then we both burst out laughing.

  “You’re a bitch, Coco.”

  “And you’re an even bigger bitch, Marika… Do you want to stay for beans on toast on my Ideal Home Exhibition stand?” I grinned. She grinned back at me.

  I had a feeling things were going to be okay between us. We got chatting outside in the warm evening, and we stayed up so late she ended up sleeping over on the sofa.

  One weird thing happened though. The next morning, just before she left for her dog walking, she said she’d had vivid dreams all night of an old lady dusting the bookshelves behind the sofa. I told her I’ve had the same dream.

  “Goes to show how exciting our lives have become,” she said.

  It’s true, I have had the same dream three times now… Anyway, I think my mind is wandering too much with all this free time. I can’t wait to see you on Friday.

  All my love, Coco xxx

  Saturday 21st May 17.12

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  I have to tell you about my first visit to see Adam. The London part of the journey was okay — we zipped past the new Olympic Stadium and through Essex. Then, when I had to change trains in Norwich, the world seemed to take on a slower, drawn out pace.

  I asked a guard if the train pulling up was the one for Cambria Sands and he looked at me if I’d asked him something mind boggling then said, “Uuuuuuy dunt naaaaaaaaw, that muuuuyyt be.”

  Luckily it was. The train creaked and groaned its way out of Norwich and soon we were lost in the flat, bleak and misty fens. Alongside us ran rippling grey waterways with brown reeds swaying lethargically in the wind. For some reason the rail wasn’t in a straight line and we wound our way through the waterways.

  I was the only person who got off the train at Cambria Sands Station. It was misty and cold and the wind was screaming across a flat expanse of bare grass from the sea far in the distance. The station was a concrete platform on stilts.

  As the train creaked off into the mist, I pulled out my phone and called one of the taxi numbers advertised on a rusting sign. Ten minutes later, and completely frozen, I saw on the horizon a taxi speeding toward me. I noticed the only way off the platform was a thick rusty set of steps. I climbed down and got in. The driver cheerily asked, “Where to?” and didn’t bat an eyelid when I said the prison.

  We drove towards the sea, and after a few minutes, the prison came into view. What shocked me the most was that there were no gates or razor wire, and we pootled up to the house as if we were on a jaunt to a National Trust property.

  “This is the right place?” I said.

  “An open prison don’t have high walls. The prisoners are trusted to stay,” said the driver.

  I imagined Adam walking out with me, and us going on the run. I think the driver saw the look in my eye.

  “Course, if they’re caught, they spend the rest of their sentence rotting in a Category A prison,” he said.

  I thanked him and he dropped me in the full car park.

  The process of security checks was similar to Belmarsh, but once through I was shown into a visitor’s area, which more resembled a library coffee shop, with comfortable chairs and low tables. Visiting times are in
shifts so there were only around fifteen inmates with visitors. Adam looked better than when I last saw him. We hugged long and hard, and we were even able to walk hand in hand to a vending machine where I bought him six Kit-Kats and five cans of Coke.

  “Are you sure?” he said, as it all clunked into the tray at the bottom of the machine.

  I leant in and gave him a long sweet kiss. We sat back down and he said he had news. I perked up, thinking it was good news.

  “I’ve decided not to appeal,” he said.

  “What!” The room turned to look at us.

  “Now hear me out,” he said. “Natasha came to visit me yesterday.”

  “Nice of her to tell me.”

  “She’s billed nearly four thousand for three paralegals who haven’t really found any other evidence. There are a few inaccuracies from the forensic computing analysts…”

  “Why isn’t she looking into Sabrina Jones! It’s her! She’s the one who took the money!”

  “She said they have checked her. They’ve run a credit and a background check. She’s clean.”

  “She is not!”

  “Coco. Please…”

  “Why are you doing this? Why are you lying down and accepting defeat?” I said.

  “If I do appeal, I go back to Belmarsh. A new trial could take months, or be put off, and then I would have to go through being re-categorised again and without Chris’s dad helping me it could be months.”

  “So you just want to stay in jail?”

  “Yeah, Coco it’s so wonderful.”

  His brow furrowed and he reached out and held my hand.

  “I have my own cell here. They don’t even call it a cell, it’s called my room… I can go for walks, see the sea. I’m working in the admin office. In a few months I will be enhanced and have even more freedom, and then next spring I’ll be able to go out. We can go on visits. I can even come and see you in your flat.”

  “But it’s four years!” I shrilled.

  “Coco. Please,” he said, his voice low. “If I’m going to get through this without killing myself then this is the only way.”

  This pulled me up short. I took his other hand.

  “What? Have you thought about…”

  “Yes, but only once. You being there for me is the only thing keeping me going.”

  I looked into his eyes at all the pain and the hurt.

  “Okay,” I said. “Okay. No appeal.”

  “And you’re not going to stalk that girl, Sabrina,” he added. “I heard all about you going to her house.”

  “From who?”

  “Ethel. She writes to me every week.”

  “She does?”

  “Yes, she’s not all bad.”

  And that’s how we had to end the conversation as the bell rang. I held him for as long as I could, pressing my face into his warm chest. He put his face in my neck, and then he had to go.

  It was only when I went to get my coat that I realised the top of my jumper was wet with his tears.

  The journey home was a slow horrible reverse. Luckily it’s now light and I didn’t have to wait on the windy platform in the dark. I got home just before ten; Rocco was so pleased to see me.

  Thursday 26th May 18.11

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Rosencrantz came over this afternoon and we had a glass of wine in the garden. He said that he had been on a mission for Adam.

  “What do you mean?” I said, lighting us both a cigarette.

  He pulled a bag from his rucksack and handed it over.

  “What’s this?”

  “Well, open it Mum, obviously,” he said.

  Inside was a copy of Adele’s 21 album and a digital watch.

  “It’s not my birthday for a few more weeks,” I said.

  “There’s a note too,” said Rosencrantz.

  He had Rocco on his lap who was straining to see inside the bag. I pulled out this note. I was so touched I thought I should attach it.

  ATTACHMENT ADAM1

  “Adam also says to say sorry. He can’t call you until next week as arranging this burned out his phone card,” said Rosencrantz.

  I nodded gratefully.

  “And make sure you listen at exactly the right time,” he said, putting the watch on my wrist.

  “I will,” I said, wiping my eyes.

  I have a date on Saturday night!

  Monday 30th May 16.37

  TO: rosencrantzpinchard@gmail.com

  Thank you again for sorting out the Adele CD. I listened at exactly 8.30pm and I really did feel close to Adam. I also loved 21, no wonder everyone is talking about it. It’s wonderful.

  I just met your Nan for a cup of tea at The Brockley Mess café. It was warm and sunny so we sat out on the pavement. She had been to put flowers on Grandad Wilf’s grave. He passed away forty-one years ago.

  I was expecting her to be quite melancholy but she stomped up to the table and slammed down her best gloves and handbag.

  “I’m fuming!” she said. “Bloody Wilf.”

  “Did someone vandalise his grave?”

  “No, iss covered in pigeon shit, and I broke me emery board trying to scrape the damn stuff orf.”

  She pulled out two halves of her nail file and held them up.

  “It’s not Wilf’s fault,” I said.

  “Isn’t it?” she said. “You know ‘e was a pigeon fancier? That ‘ead stone attracts scores of the little buggers and they shit all over it. Even from beyond the grave ‘e’s still winding me up.”

  After we ordered some tea, I told her about Adam and the Adele 21 album listening thing.

  “Oh that Adam, ‘e’s good as gold, such a shame ‘e’s in the slammer,” said Ethel. “I love Adele, all us old girls at the ‘ome ave got 21. She can’t ‘alf sing.”

  “I love ‘Rolling In The Deep’, and ‘Someone Like You’ breaks my heart,” I said.

  “My favourite is ‘Set Fire To Lorraine’,” said Ethel sipping her tea.

  “No, it’s ‘Set Fire To The Rain’,” I said.

  “No Coco, it’s ‘Set Fire To Lorraine’,” she said.

  “No it’s not…”

  “It is!”

  “No!”

  “Coco, love, you’ve only just got the bloody album. I’ve ‘ad it on a loop since Pancake Tuesday, and I'm tellin' ya, it’s ‘Set Fire To Lorraine’.”

  “It’s not!” I said. “It’s a metaphor, setting fire to the rain.”

  “Listen, love. If you’d read up on it, and iss been in the papers a lot, you’d know Adele writ the album about a painful breakup, and this song is about ‘ow much she ‘ates the other woman, hence ‘Set Fire To Lorraine’.”

  “So Adele is singing about wanting to burn another woman to death?” I said.

  “Yeah, ask anyone… Gawd Coco, I never thought I’d be more hip than you.”

  “Adele is more elegant than that!” I said. “A woman would never sing about setting fire to another woman.”

  “Wouldn’t she? I bet you’d love to dump a jug full of unleaded on that Sabrina and set a match to it!”

  The argument went on, and in the end I tried phoning everyone to confirm it was ‘Set Fire To The Rain’, but no one was answering. I even asked the waiter but he didn’t know, the damn fool. The argument progressed to raised voices, and in the end, I was so annoyed I got up and stormed back home. When I got in, I grabbed 21 out of the drawer. IT IS ‘Set Fire To The Rain’!

  I hate it when Ethel thinks she knows it all. Remember that whole episode a few Christmases ago when she insisted that John Bon Jovi was called Long John Bovis? And when your Aunt Meryl had the ‘Radioactive Thyroid’?

  UGH!

  Anyway, sorry to go on. Thank you again, love. And if you see your Nan, tell her it’s ‘Set Fire To The Rain’!

  Mum xxx

  June

  Monday 6th June 10.19

  TO: submit@prisonlink.net

  For Prisoner AG26754 - Adam Rickard

  I went to Wi
lfred’s christening on Saturday. It was every bit as hideous as I thought it would be. In fact, its hideousness exceeded expectations.

  Rosencrantz wormed his way out of going. He was rehearsing for a new acting job, a TIE tour of London schools called The Don’t Drink Or Do Drugs Puppet Show.

  I travelled up to Milton Keynes with Ethel and Daniel. I haven’t seen her since the ‘Set Fire To The Rain/Lorraine’ argument and I haven’t seen Daniel since, well, I can’t remember. We were all broke, so we took the SuperBus from Victoria Coach Station. It only cost a pound each way, but you could see every penny of it in the battered dirty seats. All the windows were painted shut so we sweltered in our synthetic fabric christening outfits. I wore a rose-coloured suit, Ethel was in some flowery creation, and a Queen Mother-style hat with feathers, which shed everywhere and stuck to our sweaty skin. Daniel wore a brown suit.

  “What yer doin’ in that old thing?” said Ethel, looking at him in dismay as we took our seats on the coach. “There’s gonna be posh people at this christening!”

  “I paid a hundred and fifty quid for this suit,” said Daniel.

  “Iss bloody brown, and yer’ve got black shoes on!”

  “What do you think, Coco?” he said.

  “It looks nice,” I said truthfully.

  “Thanks Cokes,” he said gratefully.

  “An’ what about yer bloody hair!” said Ethel.

  Daniel has grown his hair out, and it now hangs past his shoulders in a good mix of salt and pepper. He also has a short beard; ‘scruff’ I think they call it. I sat there looking at him with a tinge of pity as Ethel told him he was “a shambles” and that he was “entering a house of God and not a betting shop”.

  “I blame Rosencrantz,” she trilled as the coach pulled away from the station. “Ever since ‘e bought yer that True Blood box set for yer birthday, you’ve fancied yerself as one of them werewolves!”

  “I’m sorry, I completely forgot your birthday,” I said to Daniel.

 
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