The coco pinchard boxset.., p.63
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.63

           Robert Bryndza

  ‘This is the body of Christ,’ repeated the Priest.

  ‘But will it give ’er the body of a supermodel?’ asked Ethel. Jennifer burst into tears and fled from the altar. The rest of us took communion in a stunned silence.

  ‘She needs to learn not to cross me. Did you ’ear ’er, telling ME to be quiet! Cheeky cow,’ said Ethel as we made our way back to our seats.

  ‘Ethel. This is a funeral, and she’s Daniel’s partner!’ I said.

  ‘For all of five minutes. Great fat lump. I didn’t like ’er the second I met ’er.’

  ‘You never like anyone Daniel goes out with.’

  ‘I liked you, didn’t I?’

  ‘Pull the other one,’ I said.

  ‘Well, you grew on me,’ she said. When we sat down, Daniel was comforting Jennifer.

  ‘Grassed on me, ’ave ya?’ said Ethel.

  ‘If you mean have I told Daniel about his vile mother? Yes,’ hissed Jennifer.

  ‘’Ow dare you! I ain’t vile, am I?’ asked Ethel. Thankfully the Cathedral was filled with choral music, and none of us had to answer.

  Chris stood waiting outside the cathedral as the mourners filed past. We had to wait in line for a few minutes as people gave him their condolences.

  ‘What should we call him?’ whispered Meryl touching up her face with a powder compact.

  ‘Call him Chris,’ said Marika.

  ‘Aren’t there rules amongst the aristocracy?’ asked Meryl. ‘It would be like me calling the Queen ‘Liz’.’

  ‘He just wants people to be normal,’ I said. Looking back at my collected in-laws normal seemed quite ambitious.

  ‘Was it mahogany? Blue velvet lining?’ asked Tony when he reached the front of the line.

  ‘What?’ said Chris.

  ‘The coffin. I’ve got a frightfully good nose for a coffin…’

  ‘Tony! Don’t talk shop to Lord Cheshire,’ said Meryl.

  ‘I’m not talking shop, his dad was lying in one at the front, so it’s relevant.’

  ‘Yes, it was mahogany, and please call me Chris.’

  ‘Of course, Lord Chris,’ said Meryl.

  ‘Or is it Sir Chris?’ said Tony.

  ‘Just Chris.’

  I was at the back of the line with Adam.

  ‘Are you coming back for the wake Cokes?’ asked Chris when we reached him. I could see the cars were lining up. Rebecca was sitting on the cathedral steps crying, Ethel was giving Jennifer daggers, Meryl was arguing with Tony, something to do with China.

  ‘Do you mind if we head back?’ I said. ‘I feel like I’m going to drop.’

  ‘Of course not. You look after this little one,’ said Chris patting my tummy. We gave him another hug and Adam and I took a car back to London.

  Halfway home his phone beeped. He pulled it out of his pocket, looked at it with a resigned face and put it back.

  ‘Damn. Another company said no,’ he said quietly.

  Monday 26th March

  Today I had my twenty-two-week scan. Adam booked us a taxi to University College Hospital. This time we sat in the waiting room for an hour, and an hour is a very long time with a full bladder. Babies were crying, and one of the fluorescent lights was flickering. Just before we were seen, a young couple emerged from one of the doors lining the wall; a short dark-haired woman was in tears, supported by her tall, thin husband. Everyone looked away. I had been expecting our lovely lady sonographer from the last time, but we got a rather grubby man in his late forties. His greasy hair stood on end and big belly hung over his trousers.

  He yanked the paper across the examination table and was a little impatient when I took my time hopping up onto it. Going as far as huffing when I got in his way pulling the machine over.

  ‘If you could get up on the bed please,’ he asked.

  ‘What does it look like I’m doing?’ I snapped easing my legs up.

  ‘She’s nervous,’ said Adam.

  ‘No, I’m about to piss myself,’ I said. The sonographer seemed to find this distasteful as he squeezed a dollop of gel on my tummy and then got cracking, smoothing away.

  ‘This is your twenty-two week scan,’ he intoned dispassionately. ‘Also known as the anomaly scan where I’ll be checking for major heart problems, a cleft palate, spina bifida, anencephaly, hydrocephalus, diaphragmatic hernia, exomphalos, gastroscisis, kidney and limb abnormalities and Down’s syndrome.’

  With a flick of his wrist he changed direction with the scanner and peered at the screen sticking his tongue out. He continued staring, changing direction with the smoothing motion. Each time he did this he switched sides with his tongue. Minutes ticked by. I squeezed Adam’s hand and tried not to panic.

  ‘Why can’t we hear the baby’s heartbeat?’ I asked.

  ‘Oh, I muted it,’ he said, as if it were a repeat of ‘Midsomer Murders’ and not our baby’s vital signs.

  ‘Can we hear it please?’ asked Adam. The sonographer reached down, not taking his eyes off the screen and pressed a button. The same whoomph whoomph sound like a tennis ball in a tunnel came out. It was strong and vital like before.

  ‘That sounds healthy.’ I said. The sonographer said nothing. He flicked his wrist, and his tongue switched sides.

  ‘Riiiiight. Um, will you just excuse me for a moment?’

  ‘What’s wrong?’

  ‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ he said. He got up and left the room. He’d left the scanner on the side of the machine so the sound of the heart had stopped. A breeze from under the door played across my stomach and made the gel feel even colder. The clock ticked.

  ‘There’s something wrong, isn’t there?’

  ‘We don’t know that,’ said Adam.

  ‘He’s gone to get a doctor, there’s something wrong with our baby… I knew all that drinking and smoking in the first trimester was bad.’

  ‘Coco, please.’

  ‘No, we have to prepare for the worst. What if…’

  I didn’t get to finish as the sonographer came back in. He took his seat, squeezed some more gel on my stomach and resumed smoothing. With his other hand he slipped a can of Tango out of the pocket of his scrubs and onto the counter beside him. The tongue switched sides once more.

  ‘Right. Everything looks okay,’ he said. With a quick movement he swung the screen round. It showed a face, a close-up face with eyes, a pouty mouth and a button nose. A little hand came up and our baby began to suck its thumb.

  ‘Are you sure? You’re sure everything is okay?’ I asked. overwhelmed to see our baby again.

  ‘Yes. All clear, spine is fine, skin all there, everything in correct proportion.’

  He turned the screen round again.

  ‘Hey, we were looking,’ I said.

  ‘Other people are waiting too.’

  ‘Just one more minute…’

  He actually huffed and turned the screen round, but he’d spoiled it. Our little baby wiggled about and waved his arms.

  ‘Do we get a printout?’ I asked. The sonographer huffed again and printed some images.

  ‘I really have to ask you to leave…’

  ‘Oh hang on, what about the sex, of the baby?’

  ‘It’s our policy not to reveal the sex due to wrong gender terminations.’

  ‘I don’t care what it is. I just want to know.’

  ‘I’m very sorry. I can’t tell you.’

  ‘But you know?’

  ‘As I said. It’s our policy not to reveal the sex due to wrong gender terminations.’

  I noticed the can of Tango sitting on the side.

  ‘You went out to get a drink didn’t you?’

  ‘Here are your images.’

  ‘You left me here to get a bloody drink, didn’t you?’

  He twitched his tongue from left to right.

  ‘Mate that is not cool,’ said Adam. The sonographer dropped his singsong corporate tone and got whiny.

  ‘I have set breaks but we’re running behind… I have no chance to ge
t anything to drink.’

  ‘What do you think it did to my stress levels when you buggered off?’ I asked.

  ‘I’d mind your language,’ he said.

  ‘And I’d mind your etiquette. If you want to be rude and abrupt go and work in a bloody bank, not here. Now before you enjoy your Tango. Tell us what sex our baby is. ’

  He did a weird smile and his tongue twitched again.

  ‘As I say, it’s our policy not to reveal the sex.’

  I couldn’t hold my bladder any longer. I wiped off my belly and ran for the loo. I grabbed the first cubicle and, my God, the relief. When I came out Adam was waiting by the lift. When we were inside and the doors closed, he grinned.

  ‘We’re having a boy!’ he said.

  ‘What? How did you find out?’

  ‘The sonographer told me.’

  ‘How did you get him to?’

  ‘I nicked his can of Tango.’

  ‘Very funny. Did you threaten him?’

  ‘Yeah. I said he could only have it back if he told me.’

  ‘Come on, you must have threatened him?’

  ‘No, all it took was the Tango. It’s sad. He wanted that can so badly, enough to spill the beans. A boy!’

  We walked along and found a Starbucks. Taking a seat in the window we talked excitedly about our new son.

  ‘What about names?’ I said. ‘I like Thomas. Tommy…’

  ‘Tommy Rickard? He’d sound like a simpleton. What about Richard?’

  ‘Ricky Rickard?’ I said.

  ‘Le Bron?’

  ‘No! I quite like Quintus,’ I said.

  ‘No, you’ve had your crack at obscure names with Rosencrantz.’




  ‘No! Why does he have to have some weird name?’

  ‘A name is like a brand,’ I said. ‘You have to choose something to set your baby up in life.’

  ‘Keith?’ said Adam.

  ‘Keith Rickard. No. He’d sound like some regional radio presenter. Late Night With Keith Rickard…’

  Adam’s phone rang, he pulled it out of his pocket and answered. He listened and a huge smile broke out on his face.

  ‘That’s great, no really happy, thanks Serena,’ he ended the call. ‘I’ve got a job!’ he grinned.

  ‘What? Your old job?’ I squealed happily.

  ‘Yep. Civil Service, Band two.’

  ‘What does that mean?’

  ‘A fabulous salary, six weeks holiday plus a day off for Christmas shopping and the Queen’s birthday!’

  ‘Oh my God,’ I said relieved. I gave him a huge hug. ‘I love you, you’re so brilliant.’

  ‘They have to put it through HR and everything, as a formality, but she says I can start in two weeks.’

  We walked back home floating on air. The baby is well, Adam has a very secure job, life felt perfect. As we rounded the corner to our house, we were still in a state of bliss.

  Then we saw a hearse parked outside. The faint strains of the ‘Teletubbies’ theme tune floated toward us. The driver’s door opened and Meryl’s head popped out, hair on end. She was half shouting to get our attention, and half singing the Teletubbies’ tune.

  ‘Adam, Coco! Dipsy, La-La, Po- o - over here, say hel-lo. Hello!’

  ‘Meryl. Are you okay?’ I asked as we hurried over. Wilfred was dressed in a nautical-themed outfit and strapped in his car seat with an iPad.

  ‘I’ve left Tony!’ she said dramatically. She slammed the door and came round to the passenger side. Her eyes were red from crying.

  ‘What? Why?’ I said.

  ‘I’ve told him that’s it, it’s… time for the teletubbies, time for the teletubbies!’

  ‘What have you told him?’ I said as Meryl pulled a tissue from her handbag and blew her nose.

  ‘I’ve told Tony it’s, time for tubby bye bye’s!’ Meryl yanked open the passenger door. ‘Wilfred don’t fast forward to the end. Sit nicely while I talk to ex-Auntie Coco and ex step-Uncle Adam!’

  Wilfred looked solemnly at us all and began to prod at his iPad.

  ‘Meryl, what have you told him?’ I asked trying to get her to focus.

  ‘I caught him in our local Budgens with, tubby custard yayyy! Yes lots of tubby custard!’

  ‘Meryl!’ I shouted, closing the door on the hearse. ‘Leave Wilfred. Tell me. What is going on?’

  Then she broke down completely. I left Adam to bring Wilfred, and helped Meryl indoors, pleading with Rocco not to jump up when we got in the hallway. I took her into the kitchen and we sat down at the breakfast bar.

  She told me through tears that Tony has been having an affair. He has recently made three trips to China to talk to a factory about making some ‘Only Fools and Horses’ three-wheeler themed coffins for their funeral business, (Meryl’s idea). There Tony met Mai Ling, the nineteen-year-old daughter of a local factory manager.

  ‘He’d told me about her, how helpful she was, translating for her father,’ said Meryl. ‘Tony even posted pictures of him with her on Facebook when he was away. I even ‘liked’ them.’

  ‘How can you prove Tony was having an affair with this Mai Ling?’ I asked.

  ‘We saw her in Budgen’s last week,’ she said bitterly. ‘Of course Tony pretended it was a coincidence… Then I found out she’s rented a flat above Budgen’s, so she could improve her English.’

  ‘Oh Meryl,’ I said giving her a hug. Adam came in carrying Wilfred who was now asleep.

  ‘It’s our Budgens, Coco,’ said Meryl. ‘It’s got a very nice bakery, they’ve always got fresh rolls, even on Easter Sunday. We go there for all our bits. It turns out Tony’s been going there for more bits than I realised.’ Meryl gave a heaving sob.

  ‘Shall I put Wilfred in the spare room to sleep?’ asked Adam.

  ‘Could we come and stay with you both?’ said Meryl. ‘I’ve got nowhere else to go.’

  Adam looked at me.

  ‘What about all your friends in Milton Keynes?’ I asked.

  ‘They’re fair weather friends Coco, you were right.’

  ‘I never said that.’

  ‘But I could see you were thinking it, at Wilfred’s christening.’

  I was racking my brains to find an excuse.

  ‘I thought of driving over to you, straight away,’ she said softly. ‘You inspired me, with how you picked up the pieces, when you found Daniel in bed with that girl… you’ve rebuilt your life.’

  ‘Of course you can both stay,’ I said. Adam’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

  ‘For a few days,’ he added.

  ‘Thank you Coco, and you too Adam,’ she said.

  A little while later I came out with Adam to the hearse. He grabbed Meryl’s suitcases and I stuck a visitor’s permit on the dashboard.

  ‘Why did you say she could stay?’ hissed Adam.

  ‘I was trying to think of an excuse! You could have said something…’

  ‘Like what?’

  ‘I don’t know, that we were about to start remodelling for the baby?’

  ‘Yeah, that would have been a good one,’ he said wistfully.

  Adam took their cases up to the spare room, and I poured Meryl a large gin and tonic and ran her an equally large bath. When I came back down Adam was sitting on the carpet with Wilfred and playing quietly with some building bricks. I stood in the doorway for a moment, just watching them. That’s going to be us in eighteen weeks I thought and tried not to panic.

  ‘Is she okay?’ he asked.

  ‘She’s having a bath with a large G & T.’

  ‘Did you tell her not to lock the door… you know.’

  ‘I don’t think she’s suicidal,’ I said. ‘This is Tony we’re talking about.’

  Tuesday 27th March

  The landline rang just after midnight, which set Rocco off barking, and then Wilfred crying. Adam ran downstairs, and called up that it was for me. It was Angie’s daughter Chloe.

nbsp; ‘Is everything alright?’ I asked, when I’d waddled my way down to the phone.

  ‘Mum asked me to call you and say that Agent Fergie has just gone on pre-order through Amazon and iTunes,’ said Chloe. Meryl appeared at the top of the stairs in curlers and cold cream clutching Wilfred.

  ‘Ok thanks. No offence Chloe, but why isn’t Angie phoning me?’

  ‘She’s got a meeting tonight about Regina, there’s a big media deal on the horizon for Regina Battenberg,’ said Chloe.

  ‘So the book is now published and that’s it, no publicity, nothing?’

  ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know, I’ll have to talk to Mum,’ said Chloe.

  ‘Can you get her to ring me please?’ I said. The doorbell rang which set Rocco and Wilfred off again. I said I had to go, and put down the phone. Adam got to the front door before me, where Mr and Mrs Cohen were standing in their matching rain macs.

  ‘Oh, who are you?’ asked Mrs Cohen. Adam introduced himself and I came to the door beside him.

  ‘Hello Mrs Pinchard. Is your husband here?’

  ‘I am her husband,’ said Adam. The Cohens looked surprised.

  ‘But you’re so um, um youthful,’ said Mrs Cohen.

  ‘Adam is only six years younger than me,’ I said.

  ‘Of course,’ she said. ‘Now. We’ve just got back from France, with a car full of fine wines and cassoulet, and there is a hearse taking two-and-a-half spaces outside. Do you know anything about it?’

  ‘Yes, sorry it’s my sister-in-law,’ I said.

  ‘Well I hope she’s not dead inside?’ said Mr Cohen. He wasn’t joking.

  ‘No I’m here, very much alive,’ said Meryl coming down the stairs holding Wilfred. Mrs Cohen looked at him, confused.

  ‘Have you given birth already?’ she asked.

  ‘Yes, earlier this evening,’ I said. ‘I’m still a bit sore; as you can see he weighs nearly two stone!’

  ‘Mrs Pinchard, there is no need to be rude,’ said Mrs Cohen. ‘I never understand what goes on at your house, the police raided you last year, several times your mother-in-law has been very foul mouthed, and when your son was a teenager there were so many half-naked men clambering out of his window that the wisteria was almost bald!’

  ‘You know what Mrs Cohen?’ I said. ‘Piss off. I’m done being polite. You can piss off. Go and enjoy your cassoulet and stick that French bread up Mr Cohen’s arse, give him a treat.’

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