The coco pinchard boxset.., p.56
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.56
 

           Robert Bryndza

  ‘They won’t hurt you, will you Steve and Bob?’ she said scratching both of them. They ran up and started to lick my leg. I looked down at their huge incisors, millimetres from my skin.

  ‘It’s okay. They love cream, hand cream, body lotion, come on, it’s okay,’ said Marika coaxing me down.

  ‘What about face cream? I put loads of face cream on,’ I said imagining my face being torn off by their appetite for L’Oréal.

  ‘I brought them something to play with,’ said Marika. ‘They’ll be fine when they settle.’ She took off her backpack and pulled out two enormous lumps of bone, covered in bloody meat. ‘Here you go boys,’ she said and tossed them away from us. The Alsatians ran over and settled down to chew.

  There was silence.

  ‘Marika, I need to talk to you,’ I said.

  ‘Hang on,’ she said. She pulled out her phone and started to call someone.

  ‘Marika, I’m trying to tell you something,’ I said. She put the phone on speaker and held it out in front of her, like they do on reality shows. Chris answered.

  ‘Marika, is she with you?’ he asked, his voice coming through a little tinny.

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Hello Cokes. I love you,’ he said.

  ‘I love you too,’ I said, confused.

  ‘And I love you Cokes,’ said Marika.

  ‘Ok, we all love each other,’ I said. ‘Now I need to tell you something.’

  ‘Just before you do Cokes. We want to re-iterate that we love you. It hasn’t escaped me that you’ve been weird these last few weeks,’ said Marika. ‘I’ve been keeping Chris updated.’

  ‘She has, Coco,’ said Chris. I could detect excitement along with worry in his voice.

  ‘Ok. I’m sorry I’ve been weird. I’ve wanted to tell you both, but I promised Adam we’d keep it a secret, but now it’s resolved and I’m past the twelve week mark.’

  ‘Oh Coco, has it been hell?’ asked Marika. ‘The mood swings, weird sweating, your nose running, and you threw up on my doorstep!’ She took my hand. ‘Congratulations.’

  ‘Yes. Congratulations Coco,’ said Chris through the speakerphone. ‘Getting through the cold turkey is the hardest bit.’

  ‘Hang on. What? Cold turkey?’ I asked. I looked between Marika and her phone. ‘You think I’ve been on drugs?’

  ‘Not hard drugs like Cocaine or Heroin… We thought maybe something quite middle-class, like painkillers,’ said Marika.

  ‘Paracetamol or Ibuprofen,’ said Chris. ‘Once you pop, you can’t stop…’

  I started to laugh and shake my head.

  ‘Well, what is it Coco?’ asked Marika looking genuinely concerned.

  ‘I’m pregnant,’ I said. I repeated it again to her shocked face. She suddenly squealed in excitement, dropped the phone and grabbed me in a hug.

  ‘Oh my God! Congratulations!’ she said. Chris demanded he be picked up, and what followed was an enthusiastic barrage of questions: What sex is it? When’s it due? What names have we picked out? Can they be Godparents?

  I said I hadn’t thought of anything yet.

  ‘Do you want me to get the foetus on the list for Eton and Cheltenham Ladies’ College?’ said Chris.

  ‘Hang on guys,’ I said. ‘It’s early days. I’m really sorry I haven’t told you till now. It’s been a horrible time. The shock of finding out, then deciding whether to have the baby. Then we had the scan and that decided things.’ I pulled out the ultrasound pictures from my coat and Marika had another round of squealing.

  ‘God I wish I was there! What does it look like? ’ said Chris through the speakerphone. We described the scan as best we could, and I promised to email him a copy.

  ‘I miss you two, I miss London. I’m missing all this,’ he said.

  ‘Get on a plane then,’ I said as Marika hugged me again. ‘Come home!’

  ‘No, I should stay here, try and make a go of it,’ he said. We sat there in silence.

  ‘Are you okay?’ I asked.

  ‘I’m fine Cokes. I’m relieved you’re not a drug addict, and so happy you’re going to be a mum, again. Look I’d better go.’ He rang off.

  ‘I hope he’s okay, maybe he’s the one we should be worried about?’ I suggested, but I couldn’t get anything sensible out of Marika, as she kept squealing excitedly.

  ‘Oh my God Coco! A baby. I’m going to be there all the way. I’ll babysit, oh a baby!’

  I came home to find Adam bustling about with a J-cloth.

  ‘Hey babe,’ he said. He’d unpacked the kitchen and was polishing the chrome coffee machine. ‘How did it go?’

  I told him that they had thought it was more feasible I could be a middle-aged ibuprofen addict than a forty-four-year-old mother. My laptop, which was sitting on the kitchen island, began to trill. It was my ex-sister-in-law Meryl calling on Skype.

  ‘Oh, not now,’ I said.

  ‘We might as well tell them, get it over with,’ said Adam.

  Meryl and Tony came in to view. Little Wilfred was sitting on Meryl’s lap, with big solemn blue eyes. A row of china geese on the living room wall were taking flight and vanishing above Meryl’s neatly-coiffed hair.

  ‘Hello Coco! Adam!’ she said. ‘We’ve just heard the news that you’re with child!’

  ‘Congratulations,’ said Tony, his red face bearing corpulently down into the camera.

  ‘Thanks,’ we chorused.

  ’Say congratulations to ex-Auntie Coco and Adam,’ said Meryl to Wilfred.

  ‘Don-dat-tulations,’ he said shyly.

  ‘Wilfred wishes you sincere congratulations,’ said Meryl, as if she were translating a political interview on the BBC, and not her toddler.’

  ‘Ethel just rang,’ said Tony. ‘Told us you’ve had a scan!’

  ‘Yes, I’m twelve weeks gone,’ I said pulling out the baby scan.

  ‘Do you know what it’ll be?’ asked Meryl.

  ‘Not yet.’

  ‘Well? What does the ultrasound show?’ said Tony.

  ‘The ultrasound only shows the outline and only in black and white,’ said Adam.

  ‘Well, which will it be, black or white?’ asked Tony. Meryl nudged him.

  ‘Tony!’

  ‘What? It’s a legitimate question.’ said Tony.

  ‘Yes but –’

  ‘But what?’

  ‘Go and get the potatoes started,’ she hissed. ‘Go on!’

  ‘Ah. My wife seems to be caught up in the PC brigade! Roger wilco, pip pip Coco, Adam. Very happy for you whatever colour or race your baby will be. Here, what if it comes out green, or yellow!’ said Tony.

  ‘Just go!’ said Meryl pushing him off the chair. Tony adjusted his belt and sloped off to the kitchen.

  ‘Tony means jaundiced, of course, when he says yellow, not Chinese, though if it’s Chinese it would be lovely also,’ said Meryl. ‘I take it he or she will be, um, a mixture, a lovely cultural mixture I expect, Adam?’

  I shot Adam a look to help poor Meryl out of her politically correct quagmire.

  ‘Yes, I expect the baby will be mixed race,’ grinned Adam.

  ‘Lovely,’ said Meryl going uncharacteristically red. ‘Well look, well done and I’ll keep in touch. I’ve got a mountain of hand-me-downs you can have, a breast pump, and a lovely Villeroy Boch potty, which I’ve only let Wilfred poo in on special occasions.’ She flashed us her Margaret Thatcher smile and then rang off.

  ‘Is anyone going to have a normal reaction to you being up the duff?’ said Adam.

  ‘I’ve still got to tell Daniel,’ I said.

  Thursday 2nd February

  Adam offered to come with me, but I said I’d like to go alone and tell Daniel. I haven’t seen him in ages; in fact I don’t know if I’ve seen him since we got married, which would make it almost five months. I texted him to ask if he would like to meet for a drink. He said he would be in Covent Garden to pick up some new sheet music from the Dress Circle music shop. I caught the tube across to King’s Cross
and bumped into him on the platform. He was looking good; he’s lost some weight and his hair is very long, past his shoulders. He was wearing a beaten-up old leather jacket and jeans, and he had his guitar slung over his shoulder.

  ‘Hey Cokes,’ he said as my train whirred past and away. I gave him a hug. We made our way through the crowds and found a spot on a Piccadilly Line train to Covent Garden.

  ‘Where’s hubby number two?’ asked Daniel as we rocked through the dark tunnel.

  ‘He’s at my house – I mean our house, Adam’s and my house…’

  Daniel laughed. ‘Ah, poor bastard. He’s just like I was, under the thumb eh?’

  ‘No. Where’s your girlfriend?’

  ‘Jennifer’s not coming.’

  ‘Is she busy polishing her trombone?’ I asked, a little cattily.

  ‘It’s the bassoon she plays, not the trombone. And she didn’t come because she’s only got four points left.’

  ‘On what?’

  ‘Weight Watchers’ points. If she came with us she’d have to use two of them for a drink, blah blah blah…’

  ‘Jennifer isn’t fat,’ I said.

  ‘Well she’s almost a fourteen,’ said Daniel, as if she were bed-bound with obesity.

  ‘I am a fourteen!’ I said. ‘Well, I’ve got an excuse…’ I bit my lip. I hadn’t planned to tell him on the Piccadilly Line. We were silent until we had a spot in the clanking lift up to Covent Garden.

  ‘I think it’s ’cos you’ve got good tits for your size,’ said Daniel.

  ‘What?’

  ‘That you don’t look like you’re, you know... Big girls with big tits look less big than big girls with small tits…’

  ‘I’m not big.’

  ‘No, ’cos you’ve got the tits to soften it, you know?’ An elderly lady in a smart suit was staring at us.

  ‘Go on, just objectify us Daniel. Women are simply objects with varying sized tits hanging off them,’ I snapped. The elderly lady was now looking at me disapprovingly. Why not Daniel? He started the tit debate.

  ‘Alright, sorry. Voluptuous. I like voluptuous girls. I did marry you,’ said Daniel.

  ‘Oh thank you. Thank you so much,’ I said. We emerged into the crowds surging past the station. Daniel suggested the pub beside the covered market.

  It wasn’t too busy and we found a seat in a cosy corner. A flirty young waitress approached with her pad. Daniel ordered two steak and blue cheese pasties with a pint of Guinness. Then he checked out her backside as I ordered the same minus the Guinness. He watched her pert little backside slink away, then said,

  ‘Eating for two, Cokes?’ I suddenly felt sorry for Jennifer at home, miserable, and saving up her four points whilst Daniel ordered fatty food and ogled the twenty-year-old waitress.

  ‘Yes,’ I said. I kept staring at him.

  ‘Yes what?’

  ‘Yes, I am eating for two. I’m twelve weeks pregnant.’ The waitress slinked up with our drinks. He stared at me as she put them down, then slinked away.

  ‘Ahhhh. Good one Cokes. Very funny.’

  ‘I’m not joking. Look.’ I pulled the ultrasound scan out of my pocket. Daniel grabbed it and stared. He handed it back then took a sip of his Guinness, changed his mind and downed the whole pint. He sat back.

  ‘You’re having an abortion, yes?’

  ‘No.’

  ‘But you’re old! What? You had IBF?’

  ‘You mean IVF, you moron. And no. I conceived naturally.’

  ‘What’s natural about it?’

  ‘Don’t you dare be disgusted by me! What’s natural about you thinking you can have it away with that waitress? I saw you. She’s what? Eighteen and you’re nearly forty-six!’

  Daniel still looked disgusted.

  ‘It’s different. It’s biological that guys go for younger women. It means they’re more likely to have a good baby.’

  ‘A good baby. You are such a dick Daniel.’

  ‘You’re just jealous.’

  ‘Yeah really jealous. You look like you’ve got it all sorted…’

  We stared at each other for a few minutes.

  ‘So. When are you having it?’ he asked.

  ‘August.’

  He carried on staring.

  ‘You could say congratulations!’ I said.

  ‘What is it? Attention seeking?’ he said.

  ‘No.’

  ‘You need a gimmick to promote your next book?’

  ‘It wasn’t planned and I conceived naturally. What’s gimmicky about that?’

  ‘So you’re just doing it to piss me off?’

  ‘Yes. Adam and I decided to conceive a child which we’ll be responsible for for the rest of our lives, just to annoy you.’

  ‘So you’re saying you and Adam are serious?’

  I started to laugh.

  ‘Don’t laugh at me. You’re making a big mistake, I’m telling you. That baby won’t be happy.’

  I stopped laughing.

  ‘Is that what you think?’

  He nodded. I was really angry now.

  ‘Is that the same jacket you had at University?’

  ‘Yeah, still fits,’ he said.

  ‘And the same guitar?’

  ‘Yeah. I was going to busk later.’

  ‘So a forty-six-year-old busker is giving me tips on how to live my life?’

  ‘What’s wrong with busking outside the Royal Opera House? It’s bloody good money.’

  ‘With your talent you should be inside the Royal Opera House conducting an opera you’ve written!’

  ‘I haven’t written an opera.’ he sniffled.

  ‘I know. How can you have let this happen?’

  ‘What?

  ‘You’re frozen in time. Still a bloody eighteen year old.’

  ‘I am not!’

  ‘You’ve jumped from one woman to the next and let them take care of you. You went from your mother, to me, back to your mother via a few skanks, and now Jennifer with her house in Hampstead and trust fund.’

  ‘Leave it out Coco.’

  ‘No. You tell me this baby won’t be happy, but I’ve already cared for two children, Rosencrantz and YOU.’

  We sat in silence eyeballing each other. Then Daniel said he was going for another drink. I watched him walk off to the bar. I remember Chris constantly telling me that I was the enabler in Daniel’s and my relationship. I thought it was fancy chat from his therapist. It was a revelation to finally understand.

  ‘Have you got two quid?’ asked Daniel popping his head back from the bar. I gave him a look. ‘What? I’ve only got fifty six pence on me…’

  ‘Daniel,’ I said. ‘You need to realise something. We are divorced. You cheated on me and left me. Things aren’t the same anymore.’

  He stared at me. ‘Okay. But have you got the two quid? Come on you can afford it.’ he looked back at the waitress decorating the top of his Guinness with a four leaf clover, she grinned at him.

  ‘I can, but I’m not giving it to you.’

  ‘Come on Cokes,’ he said doing his cheeky little smile.

  ‘I’m not your enabler.’

  ‘Oh enabler. Did Chris pull that out of his arse again?’

  ‘Let me put it another way. This whole cheeky little Peter Pan act was fun in your twenties, you even got away with it in the early part of your thirties.’

  I watched the waitress waiting for Daniel, and she looked like she wanted to give him more than a pint. He nodded at her and pulled a face.

  ‘I’d say you’ve got a couple of years left of being the sexy older man before you’re in Roger Moore territory with no chance of a James Bond pickup.’

  Daniel looked shocked.

  ‘Now I say this with love. Get a life.’ I picked up my handbag and left him owing two quid to the horny waitress.

  Friday 3rd February

  We ordered in pizza tonight, to celebrate having told everyone that I was pregnant. I was just thinking that everything would be perfect if Rosencr
antz was here, when the doorbell rang. He was standing outside in the snow with Oscar.

  ‘Peace offering?’ he said holding up a present wrapped in a bow. They came through to the kitchen, and Adam grabbed some extra plates and glasses from the cupboard.

  ‘I want to say sorry to you both,’ said Rosencrantz. ‘I was just a bit shocked. You’re gonna be the most amazing parents.’

  He gave me a big hug.

  ‘And I get to have a baby sister… or a brother?’

  ‘We won’t know for a while,’ said Adam hugging him.

  ‘Congratulations Mrs P, and Mr R,’ said Oscar hugging me and shaking Adam’s hand. ‘Or are you now Mrs R ?’

  ‘Um, bone of contention Oscar,’ said Adam pouring us all some wine.

  ‘Well, my professional name is Coco Pinchard,’ I said. ‘I think it would cause complications…’

  ‘You can have both, Mum,’ said Rosencrantz. ‘Or you could go double-barrelled! If Oscar and I get married, we could be Pinchard-North or North-Pinchard.’

  There was silence. Oscar cleared his throat nervously.

  ‘Although I think Oscar wants to keep his name,’ said Rosencrantz. ‘He’s getting far more acting work than I am. He’ll probably be hugely famous before the end of the year.’

  ‘You’ll get work,’ said Oscar kindly.

  ‘Well my agent seems to think I should shape up,’ said Rosencrantz pouring himself some more wine.

  ‘He just suggested you go to the gym and bulk up a bit,’ said Oscar.

  ‘I’m naturally slim,’ said Rosencrantz. ‘We can’t all be muscle men like you.’

  ‘Well you’re not going to get fit pouring another glass of wine, and I’m not dealing with you sloshed again,’ said Oscar.

  There was another awkward silence.

  ‘Well, look, congratulations to you both,’ I said hugging Rosencrantz. ‘On being a couple.’ Oscar grinned back. He has the cutest dimples.

  ‘I propose a toast,’ said Oscar. ‘To a beautiful healthy baby.’ We all clinked glasses.

 
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