The coco pinchard boxset.., p.61
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.61

           Robert Bryndza
 

  Adam got home a few hours later. His train ticket home had cost £49.95. So, essentially, we sold our car for five pence.

  Wednesday 7th March

  Adam had three interviews on Monday. He’s now had phone calls from all of them saying he hasn’t got the job. He’s been told he is ‘overqualified’ that he’s ‘not got the correct skills mix’ and that ‘despite a strong CV other candidates have more to offer.’

  On our morning walk with Rocco I asked him to go through what had happened.

  ‘Were you on time?’ I asked.

  ‘Yes!’

  ‘Do you think it’s your age?’

  ‘The other candidates I waited with were my age,’ he said.

  ‘Do you think they’re racist?’

  ‘Three of the guys who interviewed me were black, so I doubt it.’

  ‘What about your skills mix?’

  ‘Coco, I’ve worked in management for years…’

  ‘Did you brush your teeth before the interview?’ I asked, exasperated.

  ‘Coco! I just didn’t get the job!’ he said.

  I know he needs comforting, but I’m so worried about money and how we’ll manage. I’m nearly halfway through my pregnancy and my second scan is looming on the horizon. The make or break one where we find out if the baby is healthy.

  When we got home I had a message from the bank to call urgently. I phoned back, and a snotty bloke in their call centre told me our account was several hundred pounds overdrawn, and asked if we were planning to put any money in, as it’s an unauthorised overdraft. We did some detective work and discovered Tabitha hasn’t paid her rent.

  Thursday 8th March

  We’ve tried calling Tabitha, and Adam has been round to the flat, but she’s not answering. He went off to another job interview this morning, so I decided to go and pay her a visit. Tabitha wouldn’t be able to wind me round her little finger like Adam.

  I rang her bell repeatedly, but no one answered. Her curtains were drawn in the window at the front. Then I thought, what about the window at the back? It looks out onto a tiny concrete garden, which I vaguely remembered could be accessed by a little side gate. I walked round the side of the building to the back, and found the gate. It was a little taller than me and made of dark stout wood, beside it was a big square concrete flowerpot full of weeds. I thought about it for a minute, checked no one was looking, and using the pot, heaved myself up and managed to get one leg over the gate. Then I realised there was nothing to step down onto on the other side! I sat there wobbling astride the gate. I could see some people crossing at the traffic lights and coming towards me. I panicked, wobbled some more, and threw my other leg over. Using my arms I half slithered, half fell onto the concrete on the other side. I managed to land on my feet, but yanked my shoulder supporting my weight. I had to wait a few minutes until the pain passed, then took stock of where I was. I was in a dark and narrow passageway. The four-storey wall of Adam’s building was on one side, and the four storey wall of the next building on the other. I squeezed my way down the passage, feeling the bricks brush against my shoulders, until the passage opened out to a tiny square of concrete.

  The walls of the surrounding buildings towered above me, and the only light came from a little square of grey sky high above. The living room/kitchen window of Adam’s flat looked out onto this, but the curtains were tightly drawn. I put my ear to the window and could hear some muffled sounds. I held my breath and listened closer. A voice got a little louder. Suddenly the curtains opened and there was Tabitha, completely naked! Her enormous pale bosoms hung down over a giant white belly. In the background a balding man in his late forties was pulling a sheaf of fifty pound notes from his trousers. Unfortunately he wasn’t wearing the trousers. He was naked too. I froze. So did Tabitha, staring back at me. Then I saw a realisation flicker across her face. She smirked and pulled the curtains shut. I ran back to the gate, but I couldn’t heave myself up. I was trapped. I stood there for a few moments in a panic, then I heard a tapping on the window and her voice echoed along the passageway.

  ‘Coco… Coco… I know you’re there,’ she said. I ignored her. Why had I left the house without my phone!?

  ‘Coco. I think you’re in a pickle…’ she goaded. I marched back to the window. Unbelievably she was still naked.

  ‘Put some clothes on!’ I snapped haughtily averting my eyes.

  ‘It’s my flat. I can do what I want,’ she said. I turned back, taking care to keep my eyes above her neck.

  ‘It’s not your flat, you haven’t paid the rent! Are you a prostitute?’

  ‘What do you think dear?’ she cooed.

  ‘You know it’s illegal…’

  ‘What’s illegal is breaking and entering.’

  ‘What?’

  ‘This sad little patch of concrete is classed as my garden. As the landlord you have to give me twenty-four hours’ notice before you come onto the property… So technically you are trespassing.’

  ‘No! Not if you haven’t paid the rent! Are you going to pay it?’ I shouted.

  She didn’t answer, and just stood there, shamelessly, stark naked. I turned and marched back down the passage to the gate and tried to pull myself up, but my arm was killing me.

  ‘Maybe I should phone your delicious husband, Mrs Pinchard,’ her voice echoed down the passageway. ‘What would he think of you spying on me?’

  ‘Phone him!’ I shouted. ‘I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.’

  Then Tabitha was quiet. I leaned against the wall by the gate and waited. After what seemed like an age, the gate opened. Adam was standing with Tabitha and he looked mad, with me! What was most disturbing was that she was completely different around him. Like a kind, if slightly corpulent old lady. I looked at the sensible dress and shoes she was now wearing, and how Adam couldn’t be more apologetic.

  ‘What about the rent?’ I said pointedly, as we made our way round to the front of the flats.

  ‘Tabitha has explained that she’s having some troubles at the moment, but it should be paid very soon,’ said Adam.

  I looked at her.

  ‘I’m on to you,’ I said. She pulled a woe is me face and went back indoors.

  ‘What the hell were you doing?’ asked Adam on the walk back home.

  ‘I saw her through the window, she was taking money for sex Adam.’

  ‘Oh my God, Coco. You can’t just go and break into her garden.’

  ‘Did you hear me? A prostitute. I was right. And that’s not a garden it’s a crappy square of concrete.’

  ‘Coco. Enough. Now thanks to this we don’t have a leg to stand on with getting the rent out of her.’

  ‘She has to pay.’

  ‘Yes but we have to go through the correct procedure. Do you know how many rights tenants have? You can’t just climb into her garden and peer through the windows.’

  ‘This is so unfair,’ I said. We carried on walking. ‘But you do believe me?’

  ‘Coco,’ said Adam rolling his eyes.

  ‘No. You have to believe me. She is a prostitute. Now I know you were being polite to her but you do believe that she is a prostitute?’

  Adam stopped and took my hands.

  ‘Of course I believe you,’ he said. I felt hugely relieved.

  ‘How was your interview?’ I asked.

  ‘I never got to go in. I had a hysterical call from my tenant that my wife had broken in and was being threatening.’

  ‘She threatened me!’

  We came to Baker Street station and Adam stopped.

  ‘Coco, please. I have to go back to this company and hope that they’ll still let me interview. I told them my wife was ill.’

  He took out his ticket and went through the tube barriers. I watched as the top of his head disappeared down the escalator, but he didn’t look back. Then I trudged home.

  Friday 9th March

  Still no rent from Tabitha. We’ve had to transfer some of our precious savings to clear the overdraft. Ad
am had three more interviews today, and is experiencing interview fatigue. The people from yesterday agreed to interview him, but then said no. He’d told them his wife was claustrophobic and had been scared to take the wheelie bin out.

  ‘That’s ridiculous,’ I said. ‘No wonder they didn’t give you the job.’

  ‘It’s not that ridiculous. You can get fined if you don’t take your bin out, then there’re other fines if you put recycling items in with normal waste…’

  There seemed to be one glimmer on the horizon. Angie wants to meet me on Monday, my publishing house has come up with some marketing ideas they’d like to run past me.

  Monday 12th March

  I helped Adam choose a tie this morning for another interview. He must be doing something right because he keeps getting interviews. He just doesn’t get the jobs. He looked so good in his black suit, so sharp and lean and handsome.

  ‘I would hire you in a second,’ I said. We walked to Baker Street tube together, and parted at the bottom of the escalator. Adam was taking the Jubilee line into the City, I was grabbing a district line train out to Chiswick.

  ‘Good luck,’ I said. He leaned down and kissed me.

  ‘I forgot what a pain it is to wear a suit every day,’ he said grimacing and running a finger under his shirt collar.

  ‘Don’t moan about the pain of looking good,’ I said. ‘Try being a pregnant woman. I need maternity clothes, maternity bras.’

  ‘You might get some sexy new clothes, if Angie has lined up magazine interviews. Don’t they come with stylists?’

  ‘Here’s hoping.’ I grinned and we went our separate ways.

  When I came out of the tube in Turnham Green a text message came through from Angie.

  CHANGE OF PLAN.

  MEETING NOW IN THE GEORGE IV

  ON CHISWICK HIGH RD. A x

  The George IV sounded very pub-like. Would Grazia or Cosmopolitan want to meet in a pub I thought? The George IV was a pub, but a very nice one. Angie was outside smoking furiously. Since the smoking ban she avoids pubs, so my heart lifted a little. For her to set foot inside one meant the meeting must be important.

  ‘Alright Cokes?’ she asked blowing smoke out of the corner of her mouth. I gave her a hug.

  ‘I’m sorry for what I said…’

  ‘What did you say?’

  Shit, I thought, she didn’t remember…

  ‘The thing I said about Barry being a drug addict. I know he’s cleaned himself up and it was a bit of a low blow…’ I started to say more but Chloe came outside.

  ‘Hi Coco. Mum, we need to get inside as Aerone can only give us twenty minutes.’

  Angie stubbed out the cigarette with the pointed toe of her tiny designer shoe, and we went inside. A huge overweight lad was sitting by a flashing fruit machine. Several crisp packets were open on the table, and he had a pint on the go. I was expecting us to move past him, and over to some smart executive in a cosy corner, but Angie and Chloe stopped at his table. He rose, hitching up his tracksuit bottoms.

  ‘Coco this is Aerone Eldersson from Mashed Potato Productions,’ said Angie. He shook my hand.

  ‘Another drink?’ she said.

  ‘Lager top,’ said Aerone. He had a thick London accent.

  ‘Coco? What about you?’

  ‘I’ll just have a J20,’ I said.

  ‘She’s got a baby on the way,’ said Angie rolling her eyes. She went off to the bar with Chloe.

  ‘Me too,’ he grinned.

  ‘You too what?’ I said.

  ‘I’ve got a baby on the way too. A beer baby!’ he lifted up his t-shirt to show a huge saggy belly, covered in mousy hair. I gave a high pitched laugh then we sat in awkward silence until Angie and Chloe came back with the drinks.

  ‘Right let’s get down to business,’ said Angie when we were all settled. ‘Aerone is a very talented reality tv producer.’

  ‘I prefer guerrilla documentary film maker,’ said Aerone.

  ‘He’s done some groundbreaking stuff for cable,’ said Angie. ‘Shows like, ‘Exhuming The Parents’, ‘Romanian Spider-Baby’, and ‘Serial Killer Cribs’ to name a few. I’ll let him do the rest of the talking.’

  Aerone went on to say that he’s making a new documentary series called ‘Unknown Knowns’, where people known for one thing, reveal a fact about them that nobody knows.

  ‘Where do I factor into this?’ I said.

  ‘Well your ‘unknown known’ is that your husband was in jail,’ said Aerone. I looked at Angie.

  ‘I think a better way of pitching it, is that Coco refused to believe Adam was guilty, and she didn’t stop until the sentence was overturned,’ said Angie.

  Aerone went on to say that they’d like to interview me and Adam, so we can tell our story. They’ve found news footage of his release, and the TV company has been granted permission to film inside Belmarsh Prison.

  ‘We’d love to take you and Adam back to his original prison cell and film your reactions,’ said Aerone.

  I looked at them all. Aerone was grinning, so was Angie. Chloe was busy writing things down.

  They were serious.

  ‘Can I have a moment with you Angie?’ I asked.

  ‘No probs, I need to take a shit,’ said Aerone. He squeezed past us and loped off.

  ‘What’s this got to do with my book launch?’

  ‘Everything. This is about you Coco, your life,’ said Angie.

  ‘Yes, but I’m a writer.’

  ‘The problem is, that on its own that doesn’t sell,’ said Angie. ‘If you’re Dan Brown or Regina Battenberg it’s no problem, but for you we need an angle.’

  ‘What about magazine articles? Grazia, Cosmo?’ I said.

  ‘They said for now they’re not looking for the prisoner’s wife angle…’

  ‘What do you mean the prisoner’s wife angle?’

  ‘It’s a great angle Cokes,’ said Angie

  ‘Well, I can’t do this,’ I said. ‘I don’t want to be exploited for some cheap documentary. Nor does Adam. He’s trying to find a job, think what would happen if someone saw it?’

  ‘Coco we’ve made a big effort to set this up,’ said Angie. ‘Aerone is much in demand. I had to, well, not beg, but close enough.’

  ‘Is there really no magazine interested? Not even a little corner piece in Take a Break?’

  Chloe and Angie shook their heads.

  ‘So what are my other options?’ I asked.

  ‘We’ve got Regina Battenberg’s quote for the front of the book, ‘I laughed and laughed and laughed, what an imagination this author has!’ said Angie.

  ‘And there’s social media,’ said Chloe. ‘Start going on Twitter and Facebook.’

  ‘Does that work?’

  ‘Well, your publishing house would like you to,’ said Chloe. ‘We don’t know if it does work. But we don’t know if it doesn’t work either, and of course everyone’s doing it, so until it’s absolutely proved that it doesn’t work, we think you should do it.’

  ‘So what do I put on social media?’ I said.

  ‘Just, you know, tweet about stuff and mention your book,’ said Angie.

  ‘But keep stuff about your book to a minimum,’ said Chloe. ‘People get really pissed off.’

  ‘So you want me to go on social media to promote my book, but not mention my book too much?’

  ‘Yes,’ said Chloe. There was silence. Aerone came back from the toilet and I, very nicely, apologised and said I wasn’t interested.

  ‘No biggie. I didn’t have a clue who you were anyway,’ said Aerone. He hitched up his trackies and left the pub.

  Wednesday 14th March

  The rent still hasn’t been paid.

  Chloe emailed me a list last night of all the social networks I should join: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Circles, Stumbleupon, Goodreads, Tumblr, Digg, Reddit… Diaspora.

  When I published Chasing Diana Spencer in 2008 all this barely existed. Even ebooks barely existed. Facebook
was just something you arsed about on, and Twitter was something that only Stephen Fry did.

  I decided to start with Twitter, as I have some minor experience, and an old twitter account. I logged on and sought out Regina Battenberg. She seems to be doing something right because she has nearly a million followers. Her latest tweet reads,

  @ReginaB Ah! just found a drinks coaster I was looking 4 down back of sofa #luckyday

  She had included a picture of herself with the drinks coaster, which was plain and made of cork. This tweet has had six hundred re-tweets, including one from Colin Thomas the head of The House of Randoms; the CEO of the publishing company! He had replied saying,

  @RandomColin I love that coaster! #wineoclock

  Imagine if I went into a meeting with Colin Thomas, and started talking about finding a coaster down the back of my sofa. He would look at me if as if I were mad; he’d tell me to stop wasting his time. Yet on Twitter these banal conversations are the norm. I don’t mean to be a misery, and I see how Twitter can be fun, but couldn’t someone just come out and say it’s a load of old bollocks, and reassure us we don’t have to do it.

  The problem is that the Prime Minister and the US President are doing it too. If they think they’re going to miss out, I think we’re in trouble. I sat there for two hours with my hands poised like chicken feet over my keyboard, trying to think of something to tweet, but I couldn’t. I just don’t get the rules. If there are any rules?

  Friday 16th March

  I’d forgotten what social media really is about. Spying on people. Over the past few days I’ve been spying on Regina Battenberg’s Twitter feed. She’s been going to a lot of celebrity parties with Angie.

  On Tuesday Regina Battenberg tweeted pictures from a lingerie launch party. Most of Angie had been cropped out of the picture, but I could just make out her ear next to Regina, who was carrying a goody bag of free knickers.

 
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