The coco pinchard boxset.., p.66
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.66
 

           Robert Bryndza

  ‘Yes…’

  ‘Well… what?’

  Adam paused. ‘They’ve booked Regina Battenberg instead. I’m sorry.’

  ‘But that slot was going to be priceless for my book sales. Why does she need more publicity!’ I heaved out of the bath, wrapped myself in a huge towel and phoned Angie. Chloe answered.

  ‘I’ve just heard my interview has been cancelled,’ I said.

  ‘Yes. Sorry you had to hear from the producer. I was about to phone you,’ said Chloe.

  ‘Why?’

  ‘Well, a friend of mine is a producer on the show, and she heard that mum now represents Regina and, they decided to do a wine segment… And you’re pregnant, and Regina isn’t, and, well she is wine.’

  Chloe sounded really apologetic.

  ‘Coco I’m doing all I can to get you some press,’ she added.

  ‘What about Angie? Isn’t she my agent?’

  ‘Yes of course she is.’

  ‘Can I speak to her?’ I said.

  ‘She’s out right now.’

  ‘Where?’

  ‘She’s at the Groucho club with Regina…’

  ‘Of course she is,’ I said. ‘Can you get her to phone me?’

  Chloe said she would pass on the message, and I hung up.

  Thursday 5th April

  Agent Fergie has slumped to #108,984 on Amazon.

  Angie hasn’t returned my call. Maybe I’m just a one-hit wonder.

  Meryl has been in bed since yesterday, sulking and lamenting her youth. She’s lost interest in everything, including Wilfred. There was a brief moment of excitement when Tony rang, but he only wanted to know how to switch on the rice cooker.

  ‘You rang me for that!’ she screamed. ‘Shouldn’t Mai Ling know how to cook fucking rice?’ She slammed down the phone and ran upstairs.

  Adam told me not to watch Regina Battenberg on ‘This Morning’, saying it would only make me feel depressed. So at ten-thirty this morning, we were sitting in the living room. The television was off, and we were trying to lose ourselves in the newspapers.

  ‘She’ll be on now,’ I said glaring longingly at the blank screen.

  ‘What good will it do to watch it?’ said Adam. We went back to our newspapers.

  Suddenly the theme tune for ‘This Morning’ blared out from the portable TV in Meryl’s room, and we heard Phillip Schofield introduce Regina.

  Adam leapt off the sofa, ran upstairs, and told her to turn it down. The sound dropped and moments later he came back.

  ‘Did you see her? What was she wearing?’ I asked.

  ‘Pyjamas.’

  ‘Not Meryl, Regina!’

  ‘I didn’t see her,’ said Adam.

  Minutes ticked by.

  ‘This is torture,’ I said. ‘I’m going to watch.’ I grabbed the remote then put it down. ‘ No, I won’t… Yes, I will. No, I won’t.’

  ‘Do you want to go out?’ suggested Adam. I nodded. We got up and then Meryl started screaming from the spare room. We ran upstairs and burst in.

  ‘Look!’ she cried pointing at the television on top of the chest of drawers. ‘It’s chaos in the studio!’

  Regina’s ‘This Morning’ interview had indeed turned chaotic. Pippin had latched onto Phillip Schofield’s ear with his sharp little teeth. Holly Willougby was standing beside him helplessly, smoothing her long blonde hair and looking past the camera for help from the studio floor. Regina had Pippin in her arms and was standing over Phillip trying to separate them.

  ‘Now Pippin! Be nice,’ she was saying. ‘He thinks your earpiece is a little mouse!’

  There was a close-up of Pippin’s crazed bug eyes.

  ‘Someone get him off!’ shouted Phillip Schofield. Blood was seeping from his ear into his immaculate silver hair.

  ‘I bet you didn’t have this trouble with Gordon the Gopher!’ said Regina trying to make light of the situation. The camera then zoomed in on Holly as she quickly went to an advert break.

  ‘They should have had you on, Coco. You would never have bitten Phillip Schofield’s ear,’ said Meryl seriously.

  When they came back from the advert break Regina and Pippin had left the studio, so had Phillip Schofield. He’d been rushed to the nearest hospital.

  Friday 6th April

  Agent Fergie is down to #140,458

  But Winetime Regina’s book, which has been published for nearly a year, has gone back into the chart at #20.

  I feel that I can’t escape what is happening. Everywhere I look Regina Battenberg is there. I went to get the newspapers this morning and the ‘This Morning’ catastrophe was the main headline.

  The front page of the Sun carried the headline, BITTEN-BERG, and there was a grisly freeze frame of Pippin’s ‘sofa attack’ on Philip Schofield.

  The Express went for SOFA SAVAGED!

  The Mirror carried the same photo with the headline,

  PUT PIPPIN DOWN!

  I left the newsagent in disgust. When I came home Meryl was sitting in front of my laptop in the kitchen.

  ‘Look Coco, I’ve joined my first Facebook group,’ she announced.

  The SAVE PIPPIN Facebook group has ten thousand members and counting.

  ‘Apparently a journalist at the Mirror is calling for Pippin to be put down,’ she said.

  ‘I’ve seen. I don’t want to talk about this,’ I said.

  ‘But don’t you want to save Pippin?’ asked Meryl.

  ‘He won’t be put down,’ I said.

  ‘But if you join this Facebook group we can make sure,’ she said. ‘Look I’ll log you in. What’s your password?’

  ‘No it’s okay.’ I said.

  ‘Just tell me your password and I can do the rest.’

  ‘No Meryl.’

  ‘Come on Coco, support a cause.’

  Something in me snapped. I ranted at Meryl for ten minutes about what bullshit this all was. I said if she really wanted to support a cause, she should piss off back to Milton Keynes and save her marriage. I then came upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom.

  There was a knock at the door shortly afterwards. It was Meryl. She was standing in her coat with Wilfred.

  ‘Coco dear, I’m just going to be off.’

  Adam came up beside her.

  ‘You don’t seem yourself.’

  ‘I’m fine,’ I said.

  ‘Well be that as it may. Adam thought you might like a bit of space… I’ve arranged to go and stay with Daniel in Hampstead. Jennifer is off playing the bassoon on tour and I thought I could cook for him and we could spend some time together.’

  ‘Okay,’ I said.

  ‘Thank you, for everything,’ she said. ‘And I hope you feel better soon.’

  I gave her a hug and Adam took her off to get the hearse from Chris’s old house.

  Sunday 8th April

  Agent Fergie is down to #167,958

  Winetime is #7

  It was a gorgeous morning. Adam came up behind me when I was gloomily staring out of the kitchen window.

  ‘Come on love,’ he said putting his arms round me. ‘Let’s do something fun today. Let’s drive to Hampton Court Palace. It’s so sunny. You can put the audiobook of Agent Fergie on your iPod and we can listen on the way. I’m proud of you having this book published.’

  Chloe had emailed me the audiobook version, for my approval, ahead of its release next week. I’m not sure what I’m meant to do with it, it’s already been recorded.

  ‘Okay,’ I nodded. He wiped a tear from my cheek and told me to get ready. I downloaded the file Chloe had sent onto my iPod, and just after eleven we set off in our new car. I was really looking forward to hearing the Agent Fergie audiobook, but we couldn’t fathom the stereo in our new car. It wasn’t until we neared Hampton Court Palace that I got the iPod to connect.

  ‘Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L James,’ came the recorded voice through the stereo.

  ‘What?’ I said. I looked at my iPod.

  ‘Chloe sent me the wrong
audiobook,’ I said pulling out the iPod lead, but it kept on playing.

  ‘It must have downloaded into the stereo, can it do that?’ I asked.

  ‘I dunno, that Atlas guy kitted the car out like a mini DJ booth,’ said Adam. I fiddled about, trying to turn it off, but the speaker lights started to flash and the audiobook began to boom out.

  ‘Jesus Coco! Turn it down!’ said Adam. I tried, but it got louder, unbearably loud. We pulled into Hampton Court Palace, and ground to a halt in a queue of cars trying to find spaces in the busy car park.

  ‘Find a space!’ I shouted. Adam started shouting but I couldn’t make it quieter. In a panic I pressed buttons wildly. The audiobook skipped forward to where Anastasia was being spanked on the bottom. It was desperately loud now. I had to open the window.

  ‘Pull over Adam!’ I said, ‘turn the engine off!’

  Christian Grey was now spanking Anastasia harder. Other cars in the queue were beeping; mothers with small children were unpacking picnics with scandalised looks on their faces.

  I opened the passenger door and it blared out like an explicit megaphone. I quickly slammed the door shut.

  ‘Turn the bloody engine off Adam!’ I shouted.

  ‘I have, the key is out!’ he said.

  ‘I know some people think it’s acceptable to listen to mummy porn!’ shouted one woman across the car park. She was holding her hands over her little girls’ ears. ‘But you could wear earphones!’

  That’s it I thought. Earphones. I grabbed my handbag and found the iPod earphones. I fished them out and tried to find the earphone jack for the radio, but there was nothing.

  By now the cars behind us were honking and a crowd had gathered round. Then there was the low level woo-woo of a siren as a police car drove along the line towards us, and came to a stop.

  It was then that Adam discovered how to turn the car stereo off. The silence rang through our ears, but two police officers had already climbed out of the car.

  ‘Good morning,’ said one with a bristly grey moustache leaning on Adam’s side. ‘Could you get out of the car please?’ We climbed out.

  ‘We’ve had a complaint about noise pollution of a pornographic nature,’ he said.

  ‘That was quick,’ I said. ‘Why are you never around when we really need you?’

  Adam shot me a look.

  ‘You are aware that you must adhere to acceptable levels when you play music in the car?’

  He looked at the coloured lights flashing on the speakers in the back window.

  ‘We were listening to an audiobook actually,’ I said. ‘And it’s a bestseller. ’

  ‘We’re going to need to look inside your vehicle,’ said the police officer with the moustache.

  ‘No problem,’ said Adam. The younger policeman opened the driver’s door. He leaned across to where the tax disc slots in.

  ‘Why aren’t you displaying a valid tax disc?’ he asked.

  ‘We are,’ I said.

  ‘Where is it then?’ said the policeman. Adam and I looked inside, it was gone. I found it in a wet little ball under the seat. Then I remembered Wilfred.

  ‘Did Meryl sit in the front with Wilfred?’ I asked Adam.

  ‘Yeah,’ said Adam.

  ‘He ate the bloody tax disc,’ I said trying to smooth it out for the police officer. I held out the pieces of chewed paper, which bore no resemblance to a tax disc.

  ‘My nephew chewed it,’ I said.

  ‘Well where is this nephew?’

  ‘He was dropped off yesterday, with his mother… at her hearse…’ I said. Adam shook his head.

  ‘OK. Who is in control of this vehicle, right now?’ said the officer with the moustache.

  ‘I was, am,’ said Adam.

  ‘Ok. Can I have your driving licence?’

  Adam took it from his wallet and handed it over. The two policemen went back to their car and read Adam’s details into the radio. After a burst of static, something incomprehensible crackled through, and the two officers went into another gear. They handcuffed Adam!

  ‘Hey! Hey! What’s going on?’ I demanded.

  ‘Mr Rickard we have a warrant out for your arrest. You absconded from Cambrian Sands open Prison last August,’ said the policeman with the moustache.

  ‘No, his sentence was squashed!’ I said. (I meant to say quashed).

  ‘Is that what he told you?’ The younger officer smirked.

  ‘Radio again, he’s been cleared, he went to court!’ I said.

  ‘Coco, its okay. Phone my solicitor,’ said Adam.

  ‘It’s Easter.’

  ‘Then we’ll pay triple,’ said Adam, and that was the last he said before he was driven off. I stood there in shock. A man who had been standing with his family said,

  ‘They’re very good speakers, where did you get them from?’ I ignored him.

  The crowds began to clear and I got back in the car. I realised later that I should have phoned someone – Rosencrantz, Chris or Marika – but my only thought was Adam. They’d taken him to prison once before by mistake, so it could happen again!

  I managed to get the car started but the pedals were so sensitive. I bunny-hopped my way out of the dusty car park, pushing the seat back even further to protect my stomach from the steering wheel. I turned out onto the road and zoomed along panicking wildly. I drove past fields and thought, where am I going? I came to a crossroads and a sign which read Kingston-Upon-Thames. As far as I could remember Kingston-Upon-Thames was pretty big, so I assumed that would be where they’d taken Adam.

  As I carried on driving, the country road merged into one with houses and buildings and then I was in the centre of everything. Roads merged, junctions snaked away, sign upon sign showed one-way systems with banks of traffic lights. The car stalled, I couldn’t get it started and a lorry behind me beeped. A little Fiat to one side beeped also and tried to over-take me. I was surrounded. Then something weird happened. It was as if all the heat in my body began to sink down and out of my feet. My head and arms went cold and numb, and then my chest, I started to see stars. I tried to lift my hand then everything went black.

  I was lying down under the cosiest blanket. It smelt very clean, antiseptic, but not that horrible antiseptic that stings your throat. This smell was nice and minty. Then the sound came back cars beeping and grinding gears. An ambulance was looming beside me and a young girl with a pleasant face was leaning over me. I could smell the road and exhaust fumes but the lovely minty smell was stronger.

  ‘Minty,’ I mumbled.

  ‘Is that your name?’ said the girl who I could now see was wearing a paramedic uniform.

  ‘Mmmmm. Minty,’ I repeated.

  ‘Okay Minty, we’re going to move you into the ambulance,’ she said. I can remember thinking that I must tell her my name isn’t Minty and then everything swam back to black.

  When I woke up again things seemed more urgent. I was lying in the ambulance and the sirens were going and I could feel we were moving fast.

  ‘The baby’s heart beat is slowing right down,’ said the paramedic. I felt a sting in the back of my hand, and cold seeping up my arm. I tried to say something, but a big plastic mask came down over my face and it all went grey.

  I woke again in a hospital on a bed with a curtain round me. I tried to lift my arms but leads and cables were wrapped around them. I was also in a hospital gown. Where are my shoes? I thought wiggling my toes. And my bra and knickers? For a while I just accepted the situation. The bed was comfy, and I could hear a couple of girls behind the curtain in the next cubicle looking at Heat magazine. I listened to their chatter, as they made their way through some interviews, a film review and then they got to Torso of the Week.

  Rosencrantz likes that, I thought, and then it all came back.

  BAM!

  I had a son, and I had a baby with a weak heartbeat. I began to shout ‘HELP! HELP!’ A Nurse came running through.

  ‘It’s okay Minty,’ she said. ‘I’m Nurse Julings.
’ My heart bleep machine was increasing.

  ‘Is my baby alive?’

  ‘Yes Minty your baby is alive.’

  ‘What happened?’

  ‘You had dangerously low blood pressure, but we’ve stabilised both you and the baby. Calm down Minty,’ she said pushing my arms down onto the bed.

  ‘My name isn’t Minty…’

  Another Nurse swished open a gap in the curtain, came through and swished it shut behind her. She was very tiny with blond hair.

  ‘This lady isn’t Minty.’

  ‘Can you tell us your name?’ the blonde nurse asked in a sing-song voice.

  ‘It’s Coco, Coco Pinchard.’

  ‘We’ve had a right problem identifying you, can I call you Coco?’

  I nodded.

  ‘You had no bag or ID with you, and your car was still registered with an Atlas Priftis, we’ve been calling him, but no one is answering. Is that your partner?’

  I shook my head.

  ‘It’s my car,’ I said.

  ‘What’s your address, Coco?’ I couldn’t remember. I racked my brain. Tears began to fall.

  ‘It’s okay, Coco. What’s your date of birth?’

  Again I couldn’t remember.

  ‘I’m forty-four,’ I said.

  ‘We women are never allowed to forget how old we are,’ said Nurse Julings trying to make light of it. They swished out of the cubicle. I could hear the girls in the next cubicle again; they were talking in low voices. It seems they thought I was mad.

  ‘I’m not mad,’ I said. They went quiet. ‘I’m really not…’ Why is it that people automatically seem mad the second they say they’re not? I tried to think of something normal to say.

  ‘So who is Torso of the Week?’

  ‘Let’s get out of here, it’s just a cut on your knee,’ said the girl and they left the cubicle. I heard their voices fade down the corridor saying, ‘That’s well freaky man, how did she know what magazine we were reading?’

  Nurse Julings swished back into the cubicle.

  ‘Nothing is coming up for Coco Pinchard.’

  ‘What?’

 
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