The coco pinchard boxset.., p.59
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.59

           Robert Bryndza

  ‘Oh, I’m sorry Sister Brown. Maybe you should give them a sniff?’ said midwife Justine.

  ‘Sniffing things for junior midwives is not in my job description,’ she roared, and slammed the door behind her. Midwife Day sat for a moment then broke down.

  ‘I’m sorry…’ she said waving her hands in front of her face. ‘It’s just, everyone here thinks I’m rubbish… It’s not my fault someone brought a urine sample in an apple juice bottle.’

  ‘You are very close to the Tesco Metro,’ I commiserated. She pulled some blue paper towel from the dispenser behind her and blew her nose loudly.

  ‘Can I ask you something Mrs Pinchard? Do you think I’m a good midwife?’

  ‘Uh, yes. And as a good midwife, what should I do about the dog biscuit?’

  ‘I turned down the chance to go to Afghanistan, and deliver babies on the front line,’ she said blotting her tears. ‘I was scared of the conflict, but a regional doctor’s surgery is far more brutal.’

  ‘So… What about me, and the dog biscuit?’ I asked. ‘I’m worried I’ve harmed the baby.’

  ‘I doubt you’ve harmed your baby Mrs Pinchard,’ she said composing herself. ‘Dog biscuits have to be manufactured as safe for human consumption. How many did you eat?’

  ‘Just one, and it was little. Do you think I should have my stomach pumped?’

  ‘Goodness no! You’re having plenty of roughage in your diet?’

  ‘I think so.’

  ‘You’ll poo it out soon enough. How are your poos?’

  I didn’t know how to answer a question like that, especially when it was so conversational. I said they were very firm. I almost felt like I had to ask her back to be polite.

  ‘I really wouldn’t worry,’ she said. ‘And thank you, for saying I’m a good midwife.’

  I left realising that the next few months would be taken up with awkward conversations about bodily functions, and I’m sure a selection of men and women I’ve never met before would have a good poke around in my nether regions (I’m talking about doctors, of course).

  I came out of the surgery into the cold. I had no coat. I felt embarrassed and stupid. I hurried home to see Adam; he would make me feel better.

  When I got in, he was in the hallway adjusting a huge framed black and white photograph of Brockwell Lido. Adam’s ex wife Nanette is an artist, and she had taken the photo, which is very beautiful. But after everything that had happened, I took it as another affront.

  ‘Hey Cokes,’ he said. ‘How did it go with Regina Battenberg?’

  ‘Why is that hanging on my wall?’ I said, putting my handbag on the now clear hall table.

  ‘I’ve almost finished unpacking,’ he said. I walked through to the living room where he’d hung another of Nanette’s photos, of Tooting Bec Lido.

  ‘What the hell is all this?’ I shouted.

  ‘What?’ he asked, shocked. ‘These are my pictures, I thought you liked them in my flat?’

  ‘Yes, in your flat, but they look bloody awful here!’

  The living room was now unpacked. He’d put down the huge Axminster rug, the plastic was off the sofas and chairs, bookshelves were filled, the television was plugged in, and a fire was burning, casting a warm homely glow over everything, but I just kept ranting.

  ‘Where is the mirror that goes in the hall? Where is the picture collage of Rosencrantz that goes there?’ I shouted advancing on him like a crazed terrier. I finally had him backed up against the bookshelves when he said,

  ‘Coco. It’s my house too….’

  I yanked the Tooting Bec picture off the wall and hurled it to the floor. The glass shattered. Rocco whimpered and ran out. Adam just stared at me.

  ‘I ate dog biscuits!’ I shouted.

  ‘Okay,’ said Adam cautiously. ‘Do you want some more?’

  ‘Why would I want some more?’

  ‘Are you craving them?’

  ‘I’m not craving bloody dog biscuits. I ate some of Regina Battenberg’s by mistake.’

  ‘Why was she eating dog biscuits?’

  ‘They were for her dog! I’ve made an idiot of myself… and I left my coat…’

  Adam bit his lip and regarded me for a moment. He thought I was an idiot too. I ran upstairs, came into the bedroom, slammed the door and threw myself on the bed. I recalled doing the same thing when I was eleven years old. I lay there in a rage. Slowly, I stopped hyperventilating and noticed he had put the bedroom back together beautifully. My favourite sheets were on the bed, my pyjamas under the pillow. My bedside table was loaded with all my things, my Kindle on its charger; the books I’d recently bought from Waterstones. The piece of crystal ammonite I love, and my Roberts digital radio. He’d even tuned it to my three favourite stations. I haven’t listened to it in ages, but he’d remembered I listen to Capital Radio in the morning, Classic FM in the afternoon and Radio 4 in the evening. Daniel barely remembered anything about me after twenty years of marriage. My phone rang. It was Angie.

  ‘Good news love, Regina Battenberg said yes to the quote, we’ve settled on, I laughed and laughed and laughed, what an imagination this author has! Sound good?’

  ‘Yes,’ I said. There was a pause. ‘I’m okay Angie, thanks for asking.’

  ‘You left your coat behind Cokes… You know Regina Battenberg isn’t that bad, when you get to know her. If it’s any consolation love, my Barry used to eat out of the dog’s bowl when he was little and it never did him any harm.’

  ‘Yeah, but he became a drug addict, Angie...’ Immediately I wished I hadn’t said it. Angie hung up on me.

  Wednesday 22nd February

  I lay in bed as the sun went down, and waited to see if Adam would come upstairs. He didn’t. At one in the morning, I opened the bedroom door. I couldn’t hear the television. I crept out onto the landing, and down the stairs. I heard Adam snoring softly. When I got to the bottom of the stairs. I saw he was asleep under a blanket on the sofa. Rocco, the little traitor was lying on his feet.

  ‘Why are you down here?’ I whispered. Rocco twitched his ears and gave a little snort. I tiptoed upstairs, and got back into bed. It was the first night since we got married last August that we’ve slept apart.

  I got myself really worked up. By two in the morning I was convinced Adam was going to leave me. Angie was going to let me go too. And everyone else in my life has moved on. Chris is in America, Marika has Milan, Rosencrantz has his own life. Even Daniel has a girlfriend, albeit one who has to count her Weight Watchers’ points.

  It would just be me and Ethel. Luckily I fell asleep, just as things got ridiculous, imagining how I would ask Ethel to move in and split her pension with me.

  I woke up at ten the next morning. The sun was blazing through the bedroom window. Rocco was lying in the doorway watching me. The house was silent. I got up and came downstairs. Adam was nowhere to be found. He’d folded up his blanket and put it back in the airing cupboard. His phone was gone from the kitchen, and so was its charger.

  I rushed up to the bathroom and his toothbrush was missing. Panic reared its ugly head. He’s moved out! I thought, Oh my God, he’s left me and moved out!

  I stood in shock for a few minutes, with only the sound of the kitchen clock ticking. I switched on the coffee machine and tried to think. What would I do as a single mother? The light blinked on to say the machine was full of capsules. I didn’t have a clue how to empty the machine. I stared at that little red light, mocking me. Then I thought about all the other things I couldn’t do, like work a bottle steriliser, or know what temperature a baby’s bathwater should be…

  Then the front door slammed, Adam strode in in his leather jacket and put a full Tesco bag on the kitchen island. He came over and pressed a button on the coffee machine. A little drawer at the base of the machine popped open full of empty capsules. He looked at me for a second, then started to unload the bag. He opened the fridge and put milk and butter inside.

  ‘I got you a new toothbrush,’ he said holding
two up. ‘Do you want green or blue?’

  ‘Blue!’ I cried rushing at him and throwing my arms round his neck. ‘Blue, or green, I don’t care!’

  ‘It’s just a tooth brush.’

  ‘It’s not, it’s everything. It’s you. I love you. I’m sorry…’

  ‘I’ve taken the other photo down,’ he said.

  ‘No let’s have them up. I like them. I like Nanette,’ I said. ‘I just feel like I can’t cope with anything.’

  Adam sat me down and we had a long talk. He told me to try to enjoy life and live in the moment. Stop trying to be perfect at everything.

  ‘You are a great writer. A great mum. And I’m not going anywhere,’ he said.

  Monday 27th February

  Living in the moment is tough. I’ve spent the past few days trying to appreciate the simple things. Trying not to worry that I haven’t heard from Angie, or that Adam hasn’t had any job interviews, or what it will be like when this baby stops being a bump and becomes, a screaming baby. Then I had a phone call this morning, which really made me appreciate what I have. It was Chris saying his father had a colossal heart attack on the golf course this morning and is dead.

  ‘I have to come back to London,’ he said listlessly.

  ‘What can I do to help?’ I asked.

  ‘Can I stay with you, just for a bit? My house is all closed up.’

  ‘Of course. Aren’t you going to your parents, I mean your mother’s house in the country?’

  ‘No. Not right away. I just need somewhere to… She’s already telling me I’m now the head of the family.’

  ‘She’ll need help to organise the funeral,’ I said.

  ‘No, that was arranged years ago. My mother booked the cathedral back in the 1980s… It’s just… ’


  ‘Coco. I’ve inherited his title. I’m now Lord Cheshire.’

  I didn’t know what to say, congratulations? Chris mumbled that he’d let me know the flight times then rang off.

  Tuesday 28th February

  There was a piece on the BBC News website today;

  Sir Richard Cheshire, businessman and entrepreneur who patented the ‘Cheshire napkin’, has died aged 79. He suffered a heart attack during a game of golf at the Brookwood Country Club in Surrey. Despite efforts to revive him on the fourteenth hole, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

  Richard Cheshire may not be a familiar name, but it is estimated that at least 80% of the UK population has used one of his super-strong super-absorbent napkins.

  Born in 1943 to a working-class family in Kent. He was educated at Thornton Heath Grammar, and went on to read Chemistry at Oxford, developing a groundbreaking method of manufacturing a plastic/paper hybrid. This, coupled with a keen business acumen, led to the birth of the Cheshire durable paper napkin.

  In 1963 Richard married the honourable Edwina Roquefort, herself an outspoken and controversial figure. In 1990 she was given a four-year suspended sentence and 300 hours of community service for shooting her gardener in the tentacles. She maintains it was an accident, and that the gardener in question “got in the way of the pheasant.”

  In 1981 Cheshire was created a Baronet for services to manufacturing. One of only two people to be bestowed this honour since 1964.

  He leaves his wife, Lady Edwina, two daughters, and a son Christopher who inherits his title.

  It’s a shock to see it in print. Chris is now Sir Christopher 2nd Baronet of Borringbrook! I’m also a little shocked at the lack of proofreading at the BBC. Lady Edwina shot her gardener in the testicles, not the tentacles.


  Thursday 1st March

  Marika and Rosencrantz came round at six, bringing some of Chris’s favourite sushi, and four bottles of champagne. They busied themselves putting it out on plates, whilst Adam rooted round in one of the unpacked boxes and found some extra glasses. We were all a bit tense, not quite knowing what we were going to say to him.

  ‘What time does he land?’ asked Marika.

  ‘He told me five o’clock, so he should be here around seven,’ I said.

  ‘Who’s picking him up?’ asked Rosencrantz.

  ‘I booked him a taxi,’ said Adam. Then Ethel appeared in the kitchen doorway. Rocco ran up to her for a cuddle.

  ‘’Ello loves,’ she said putting a Tesco bag down on the kitchen island.

  ‘What are you doing here?’ I asked.

  ‘Oh thas’ nice, good to see you too Coco,’ she said taking off her coat and folding it over a chair. ‘I’m ’ere fer Chris.’

  Rosencrantz gave her a big hug.

  ‘Ooh you smell nice love,’ she said. ‘Woss that you’ve got on?’

  ‘It’s the new Paco Raban,’ he said. ‘A two month anniversary present from Oscar.’

  ‘Is ’e comin’ tonight? Seeing as I’m the only one not invited,’ she said.

  ‘No. He’s up north, filming a part in Emmerdale. He’s a sexy passerby who mends a puncture for Lisa Dingle,’ said Rosencrantz. His voice had a tinge of bitterness.

  ‘Gawd she’s a poor old cow Lisa Dingle…’ said Ethel. She went and hugged Adam and Marika.

  ‘I didn’t hear the doorbell. How did you get in?’ I asked.

  ‘If you really don’t want visitors, you should put the deadbolt on Coco,’ she said poking at some mahi mahi on a plate. ‘Someone could break in and ’ave is way with you, although I think you’d be safe… ’ow far gone are you?’

  ‘I’m eighteen weeks,’ I said, as she hugged me.

  ‘Thas’ gonna be a big baby! Congratulations.’

  ‘Thank you. Now can I have your key?’ I put out my hand and she reluctantly placed another door key in my palm.

  ‘I’ve never met a real life Lord before,’ said Ethel. ‘Well, I once went backstage in Bromley and met Michael Flatley after ‘Lord of the Dance’, but I don’t think that counts…’

  ‘Chris wants to be treated normally. He’s just lost his father,’ I said.

  ‘I din’t come empty ’anded,’ said Ethel pulling three bottles of Lambrini out of the Tesco bag.

  ‘Ah Lambrini,’ said Marika. ‘We used to mix this with Blue Bols, didn’t we Cokes? What did we call it?’

  ‘Anti-freeze,’ I grinned.

  ‘Sounds hardcore,’ said Adam.

  ‘It was, there was this one time Coco got so drunk that she…’ Marika saw everyone’s expectant faces. ‘Maybe that’s a story for another time…’

  ‘’Ow much money do you think Chris ’as got now?’ asked Ethel, changing the subject.

  ‘Ethel his dad isn’t even cold, let’s talk about something else.’

  ‘We’re all thinking it, Mum,’ said Rosencrantz sheepishly.

  ‘I heard ninety million,’ said Adam.

  ‘I heard a hundred,’ said Marika.

  ‘An ’undred million quid!’ shrieked Ethel.

  ‘Whatever we’ve heard. We’re just going to act normally,’ I said. ‘Chris is grieving.’

  ‘An ’undred bloody million quid!’ cried Ethel again.

  The doorbell rang.

  ‘Shit, do I ’ave to cursty?’ she asked.

  ‘I Googled greeting a Lord, and you have to use his title unless he invites you to call him otherwise,’ said Rosencrantz.

  ‘That’s ridiculous,’ I said. ‘No one is curtseying, or calling him anything other than Chris.’

  The doorbell rang again and we all fussed our way to the hall. When I opened the door, Chris was standing in the drizzle, looking nothing like a Lord. He was wearing a gold bomber jacket, ripped jeans, and sliver high-top trainers.

  ‘Oh Coco!’ he said falling into my arms on the doorstep. His blond hair was sticking wildly out from under a baseball cap and he had foregone his contact lenses for glasses. We all gave him a hug.

  ‘Yer Lordship,’ said Ethel, and she squatted down as if she’d stopped in a motorway lay-by to relieve herself.

  ‘Please, no Ethel, get up,’ said Chris. She stayed in her squatt
ed down position.

  ‘Ethel, get up!’ I said.

  ‘I can’t,’ she groaned. ‘My bloody knees ’ave gorn!’ Marika and Rosencrantz pulled at her arms, and Ethel slowly rose to a standing position with a loud click.

  ‘I won’t do that again yer Lordship, if you don’t mind love,’ she said.

  ‘Don’t do it ever, I just want to be normal,’ said Chris. ‘Please just call me Chris.’

  ‘Come on gaylord let’s get you a strong drink,’ said Marika. ‘I take it gaylord is allowed?’

  Chris grinned bleakly.

  ‘I’ve so missed you all,’ he said. Marika took him down the hall to the kitchen.

  ‘An ’undred million quid an’ ’e dresses like that!’ whispered Ethel watching the back of his gold bomber jacket.

  ‘Stop it,’ I hissed. ‘Go and offer him some sushi!’ I followed Adam and Rosencrantz outside where they were helping the taxi driver unload a series of Louis Vuitton cases onto the pavement.

  ‘Good job you ordered him a mini van,’ I said seeing the cases pile up. ‘How many are there?’

  ‘Fourteen’ puffed the taxi driver, red in the face. ‘Who is he? I’ve driven Joan Collins and Victoria Beckham and they pack lighter than him.’

  ‘He’s Lord Cheshire,’ piped up Rosencrantz. The taxi driver rolled his eyes and heaved another huge case.

  I went back into the kitchen where Marika was now pouring the Lambrini and Ethel was shoving a tray of mahi mahi under Chris’s nose. He was sitting on the floor cuddling Rocco.

  ‘How was your flight love?’ I asked.

  ‘So much turbulence,’ said Chris. ‘And I left my Xanax in my luggage. I had absolute clarity, which was awful.’

  ‘Get this down you then,’ said Marika handing him a full glass. The landline began to ring, so I went and hunted for it under the luggage piling up in the hallway.

  ‘Hello, hello? Is this Coco Pinchard?’ said a posh smoker’s voice. It was Chris’s mother.

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