The coco pinchard boxset.., p.45
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.45

           Robert Bryndza
 

  “It’s all right, Cokes,” he said kindly. “You’ve had a lot on your plate.”

  “An yer unemployed,” went on Ethel. “Why don’t you go the ‘ole ‘og and ave yer dole book poking out of yer top pocket”?

  “Leave it, Mum!” he snapped.

  The engine squealed loudly as we hit the ramp onto the M25. It didn’t stop as we met the traffic and nudged into the slow lane.

  “Gawd, what a racket,” said Ethel. “’Scuse me! Driver? Can you put the radio on?”

  The driver switched on the radio and Magic FM blared through the coach.

  “Maybe they’ll play ‘Set Fire To Lorraine’,” I said.

  “Or that other Adele classic, ‘Chasing Payments’,” said Daniel. “Written about a debt collector who was sick of his job.”

  We both burst out laughing.

  “Aren’t you two meant to be divorced?” snapped Ethel, but we kept laughing.

  She finally shut up and spent the rest of the journey scowling at the motorway as we rumbled towards Milton Keynes. I had a good chat with Daniel. He hasn’t been able to find any work, and has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for four months.

  “I never thought one of mine would end up down the labour exchange,” interrupted Ethel. “You should be working! Yer not even fifty!”

  Daniel said he is living in Croydon, in a one-bedroom flat with a “housemate”, a female musician called Natalie who plays the bassoon.

  “Course ‘e ain’t introduced me to ‘er,’ interrupted Ethel again.

  “I don’t want to scare her off!” said Daniel.

  “Tha’s not fair, Danny,” said Ethel. “I made you very welcome when you were courting, didn’t I Coco?”

  Daniel and I burst out laughing again.

  When we got to Milton Keynes, we took a taxi to the church, and it was nearly full when we got there. Tony and Meryl seem to have undergone a makeover. Gone are his shiny beige suits, slip-on shoes and string ties, and Meryl has dropped the frumpy floral dresses. I spied them in the second row of pews, sporting sleek haircuts. Tony was wearing an Armani suit and aviator shades, and Meryl a powder blue Chanel suit topped off with a Philip Treacy hat. If you squinted your eyes you could, almost, have mistaken them for the Middletons. Wilfred was sat on Meryl’s knee wearing a long lace christening outfit.

  “Did they save me a place?” said Ethel, pulling a disposable camera out of her handbag.

  I saw that they hadn’t.

  “Oh,” she said, her face crumpling.

  We took a seat in a pew at the back just as the service began. Meryl and Tony weren’t too happy having to share Wilfred’s christening with a little Chinese boy called Richard. She informed everyone in the congregation during the photos that his parents “do a lovely Kung Pao chicken”.

  After the service, we walked back to Meryl and Tony’s for the buffet. They had paid for a huge marquee in the garden and everything that wasn’t nailed down was branded with the Funeral Pieces logo, which consists of a coffin with a cartoon hand emerging from under the lid giving the thumbs up.

  Meryl seemed rather embarrassed of me, Ethel and Daniel, and we stood out a bit amongst the elite of Milton Keynes. Lots of comfortable tanned local businessmen with their sleek wives, and some distinguished older couples from the tennis club.

  They all seem to have been tipped off that you were in jail, and their interest was bordering on the macabre. I was grilled by several of them as the waiters circulated with trays of Pimms. One thin-faced woman in an M&S twinset and pearls was eager to know all about prison life. She asked questions about shanking, razor wire, drugs, and murder. She was desperate for even snippet of information — and positively devoured the story about the Dairylea Stabber. Why is it that the British middle class is so obsessed with scandal, sex, and murder?

  I was telling Ethel to slow down on the Pimms (she’d had six glasses) when Tony tapped his glass and went to make a speech. Meryl stood beside him holding Wilfred.

  “My lords, ladies and gentlemen, welcome,” he said into a microphone.

  “Who ‘ere’s a Lord?” asked Ethel loudly. “No one?”

  There was an awkward silence. Meryl made eyes at me to shut Ethel up. Tony went on,

  “I’d like to thank you all for coming to this the christening of Wilfred Ogilvy Thatcher Watson, our little miracle.”

  “Yeah, ‘e is a miracle. Did yer know, they thought Meryl was barren!” said Ethel loudly.

  Everyone turned round to look at her. Tony swallowed and went on.

  “Please enjoy the food, it’s lovely to see you all here.”

  Then Meryl grabbed the microphone and shifted Wilfred onto her other hip.

  “If you get the chance, please log on to www.funeralpieces.co.uk,” she said. “We have everything you need to give a loved one the send-off they truly deserve… Now I have something very exciting. Wilfred has been learning a little poem and he’d like to share it with you all.”

  She put the microphone to Wilfred’s mouth, and started to recite lines from ‘The Lake Isle Of Innisfree’, but Wilfred was having none of it and made barking noises.

  “Now come on, Wilfred,” said Meryl, getting angry at the poor boy. “Mummy will start again, I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree…”

  Wilfred batted the microphone away.

  “Oh fer gawd’s sake, give the little bugger a break!” said Ethel.

  “I’m sorry, I don’t know who that is,” said Meryl.

  “It’s all right,” said Ethel. “I’m only the fucking Nanna… ‘Ello Wilfred, iss me, Nanna!”

  Wilfred saw her and clapped his hands in delight.

  “Mum! Really!” shrilled Meryl. “Not in front of Wilfred, I’d hate his first word to be…”

  “Oh chill out, Meryl,” said Ethel. “’E’s got the best of everything… ‘e’ll be fine.” She noticed everyone looking at her in disgust. “You see how posh Meryl looks in ‘er posh garden with you poshos? Well, what you don’t know is that she was very nearly a bastard!”

  “Right we need to leave, NOW!” said Daniel.

  We grabbed Ethel, an arm each, and dragged her away from the marquee.

  “She was!” shouted Ethel, as we passed horrified faces, “I 'ad to walk down the aisle in white with a huge bump!”

  I finally got home at eleven in the evening. The SuperBus had to keep stopping in lay-bys on the M25 so Ethel could be sick.

  I had a long bath and I thanked God I am with you, Adam, and that waiting for us when you are released is the most wonderful life.

  All my love, Coco xxxx

  Saturday 11th June 22.47

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  I was in the middle of my regular Adele listening party with Adam when someone buzzed at the door.

  “I’ve been calling you for ages,” said Holly, Adam’s daughter. “I had to get the train from Heathrow.”

  “My mobile doesn’t have a signal here,” I said. “I thought you were in America?”

  “Well, I’m not,” she said earnestly, in case I hadn’t worked it out. “My work visa ran out.”

  She came into the living room with a huge handbag hooked over her tiny wrist.

  Have you met Holly? She is beautiful and willowy but rather thick.

  “Is there really no signal?” she said getting out her iPhone. “How do you ask Siri?”

  “Siri?”

  “You know on the iPhone… I ask her everything. Where to eat, what to do on my days off, where I can get my nails done.”

  “Well, you can ask her to get your luggage in,” I said, indicating the front door and her pile of cases in the hall.

  “What?”

  “I’m not room service. I take it you’re staying here?”

  “Well, yeah. You’re dad’s… dad’s…”

  “I’m his fiancé,” I said.

  “Then yeah I’m staying, if that’s okay?”

  I said it was fine. Rocco emerged from the garden and started
barking at her.

  “Wow, what’s that?” she said.

  “Rocco, my dog,” I said.

  He barked louder and advanced on her. She jumped to her feet.

  “What’s he doing?” she said.

  Rocco circled her, rounding her up like a herd of sheep to the front door and her suitcases.

  He sat in the threshold of the door and barked at her.

  “He wants you to bring your suitcases in,” I said.

  Holly looked at him uneasily and reached for her case. Satisfied, Rocco trotted off and let her haul her stuff inside. I was impressed. My little Maltese pup had achieved more than two parents with open cheque books have managed in a lifetime. To show I wasn’t a complete cow, I ran Holly a bath, and whilst she was soaking, I rustled up some cheese on toast with a glass of wine.

  I was sat outside in the garden when she emerged in a long LA Lakers football shirt, cut off denim shorts and her hair in a towel. She looked stunning. She came and sat on one of the Moët seats and started picking at her cheese on toast.

  “I like your garden,” she said. “It reminds me of the Polo Lounge, in LA…”

  I looked at the astro turf, broken washing machine, and my old flip-flops on the floor and decided she was being polite.

  “So what happened with your visa?” I said.

  “Well, I got my American work visa and my Visa card mixed up… My Visa card expires in 2014, and that’s when I thought I could stay in America until. I told the cop this, but they still had me deported.”

  “Why were you stopped by the police?” I said.

  “I was jaywalking on Hollywood Boulevard.”

  “And what were you doing in LA?”

  “I was working for a bit. I was kind of a cake decorator slash model. I stopped modelling because of all the chauvinistic men. Then I started working for this cake decorating company and the owner was just as bad; he called me a stupid girl!”

  “Why?” I said.

  “I mixed the wrong red for the icing on a Spiderman cake… I mean isn’t red, red?”

  “So what did you do after that? Mind you, I have a fairly good idea because that Visa card you were talking about is in your father’s name and I’m paying the bill.”

  “Yeah, about that, I’m gonna get a job. I’ll pay you back,” she smiled.

  It was a warm lovely smile and I almost envied her being on a different planet. The fact her life is all over the place doesn’t seem to bother her.

  She wanted to know when she could visit Adam and I told her we could arrange it for when I go next week. Unexpectedly, she got up and gave me a hug.

  “Of all the women Dad has slept with, you’re the nicest,” she said.

  Again, I think this was a compliment. She said she was jet lagged so I found some extra blankets and made up the sofa for her. Then I came back out here with my laptop. It is such a beautiful warm evening and apart from the noise of Holly snoring in the living room, it’s idyllic.

  I have no idea how long she is here for. As always, she is a bit vague…

  Anyway, I’m off to bed.

  Love you, Cokes xxx

  Friday 18th June 09.41

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com, marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Holly surprised me this morning with a cup of coffee and a little plate of cupcakes with red icing and chocolate sauce drizzled over.

  “Happy birthday,” she said. “Look, I made you Spiderman cupcakes…”

  “How appropriate for the birthday of a forty-four-year-old woman,” I smiled, sitting up in bed.

  “Who’s forty-four?” she said innocently.

  “Me,” I said.

  “Oh my God, that’s so old!”

  I stopped grinning.

  “When did you make these?” I said. “And where did you find all the ingredients?”

  “I went to that shop round the corner. I didn’t have any money but the man was so nice… he told me I could pay him later.”

  “He gave you the stuff for free?”

  “No, I have to pay for it eventually,” she said, twisting a length of hair between her delicate fingers.

  I couldn’t believe it. Mr Gogi in the corner shop is as tight as a duck’s arse. Once he wouldn’t let me off when I was short 1p for a tomato!

  “Isn’t that the right colour red for Spiderman?” said Holly, holding up a cupcake.

  “Yes,” I lied.

  She grinned happily. I took a bite and pronounced them rather tasty.

  After breakfast we started the long journey to see Adam, and we arrived just after lunch. He was looking well, and was so excited to see Holly. He has a new job with responsibility, working in the hospital wing, and he now has his own room with an en-suite bathroom and shower.

  “You’ve got a shower?” I said. “I have a jug in the bath.”

  I regretted it as soon as I said it.

  Adam gave me his gift, a small envelope. I opened it and inside was a piece of black card. On one side, he had written in silver ink (borrowed from another inmate called Mick, seven years for GBH).

  To my beautiful Coco, life is for the living…

  “Turn it over,” said Adam.

  I did and taped to the back was a white feather.

  “Wow…” said Holly. “What is it?”

  “The other night after association I went back to my cell and I prayed, something I never do. I prayed that you would be safe. The next morning this white feather was on the floor of my cell.”

  It looked like a goose feather; it was pure white and perfectly formed.

  “I don’t know where it came from,” he said. “My door was locked, we don’t have feather beds or pillows in here, the windows were sealed and my cell is bare. When I told one of the guys who comes to the hospital wing, he said that a feather appearing is the sign of a guardian angel, and I want you to have it.”

  “Me?” I said.

  “That’s lovely, Dad,” said Holly. “I smuggled a Taser through customs at Heathrow. That’s my guardian angel.”

  I grinned at Adam and leant across the table and gave him a kiss.

  “Ahhh. So when’s the big day?” said Holly. “When are you two getting married?”

  “Well, we have a wedding booked for August the nineteenth but…”

  “Hang on,” said Holly, pulling out her iPhone. “I think I’m free… Siri, when is London Fashion Week…?” she said, speaking into her phone.

  “BUT,” I said. “Your Dad is in jail for… well, it could be four years.”

  “Oh,” she said. “I’m sorry. God I’m so stupid…”

  Luckily, the bell rang for the end of visiting, and I didn’t have to comment on that. Adam gave Holly a long hug and told her to stay safe and visit whenever she could. Then he asked if she could give us a minute.

  “Coco,” said Adam, as the other prisoners were filing out. “I want you to do something.”

  “What?”

  “Start living your life again.”

  “What do you mean?” I said.

  “You’re just waiting around for me. Living in poverty in that scuzzy flat, not going out.”

  “I’m waiting for you,” I said reaching out and touching his arm.

  “You know you could be waiting until 2019.”

  “I thought you were being released early?”

  “It’s not guaranteed. Think about it. In 2019 we’ll both be in our fifties. There’s so much out there. You’ll get your house back next year and…”

  “What are you saying? You don’t want to be with me anymore! Don’t you dare dump me on my birthday, Adam Rickard. I’m not being dumped by someone who’s in jail on my birthday!”

  “No, I’m not…” Adam put his head in his hands, and then one of the prison guards came and told him he had to leave.

  “I fucking hate this!” he shouted, and then he was pulled away.

  “I’m waiting for you,” I shouted after him. “Whether you like it or not!” but Adam was gone.

 
; Holly had been standing a little way away, watching. She came over and hugged me.

  “He’s lucky to have you Coco,” she said. “So am I.”

  I didn’t say much on the long journey home, and neither did Holly. We got in very late, and after giving Rocco a walk, I found her already tucked up asleep on the sofa.

  I spent a long time thinking in bed. It’s strange how when so much is taken from you, you start to think about the otherworldly. Adam and myself would never have entertained thoughts of angels, or said prayers when we were riding high. I put the card with the feather on my bedside table and stared at it for a long time before I fell asleep.

  I woke up at nine and when I tiptoed through to let Rocco out, Holly was already up and outside drinking coffee.

  “You’re up early, for you!” I grinned.

  “Yeah, I think it’s time I let you have your place back,” she said. “I’m gonna get a train up and see Mum. It’s about time, she’s like rung me loads.”

  “Are you sure?” I said. “I was starting to enjoy having company.”

  I helped her pack and made her a sandwich for the journey and then around midday, she called a cab for the station.

  “Thanks Coco,” she said. “For giving me somewhere to stay.”

  “I hope you were comfy on the sofa,” I said.

  “I’ve slept better than I ever have here,” she said. “But I have had this weird recurring dream, about this sweet old lady dusting the bookshelves… but it’s probably just me being a ditzy brain!”

  After she had gone I opened the door and the sun streamed in. I made some toast as Rocco gobbled down his food. I didn’t feel scared, but I’ve had the same dream again four times in the last week! Love you guys, thanks for your cards and presents, Coco xxx

  Saturday 25th June 21.13

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk

  Adam has been locked away for 100 days now. There are 1,284 days left until he is released — IF he gets parole. I have stopped doing any more addition as it’s killing me. I think we’re going to have to listen to a different album soon. Adele, for all her gorgeousness, has sunk me into a deep, deep gloom.

 
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