The not so secret emails.., p.7
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       The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard (A Romantic Comedy), p.7

           Robert Bryndza
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  Nothing has changed. They have put even more machines around your Nan’s bed so now only two of us can be in her room at a time. I’m sharing shifts with Tony; your Dad is going in with Meryl. It doesn’t look promising.

  Tuesday 3rd March 19:00


  I held Daniel’s hand on the way home in the taxi tonight. The latest news from the Consultant is bad. He doubts Ethel will ever wake up, she was starved of oxygen for twelve minutes.

  They have placed Electrodes on her temples but there was little sign of brain activity, not even when we put on her favourite, The Jerry Springer Show. The Hospital has started talking about the ‘option’ to switch off her ventilator.

  Rosencrantz has just come home from classes and lit up one of my cigarettes. I didn’t say anything. Ethel would be proud, her saying has always been, ‘cigarettes maketh the man.’

  Meryl is mopping the kitchen floor. Again. Tony is outside in the gloom oiling the Tandem and Daniel is playing some dark dramatic Rachmaninoff on the piano.

  Wednesday 4th March 23:56


  Thank you for the Lilies that you both sent. Ethel would have loved them, but flowers aren’t allowed in Intensive care. When we got back from the Hospital tonight we opened some wine and all sat in living room looking at old photos of Ethel. She was scowling in most of them, even the ones from her own wedding. The only picture we found of her looking happy was taken in 1949, when she won a ballroom dancing competition at the Catford Working Men’s Club. She looked like a different person, young, beaming in a slim elegant gown next to Daniel’s Dad. I asked them why she never smiled.

  Meryl told us Ethel had had all her teeth out after the war and that the false ones she was given were too big.

  “Why didn’t she get smaller ones?” asked Rosencrantz.

  “Couldn’t afford to,” said Daniel. “Then when Dad died and left her with two small kids and no money, life was hard. I suppose she got used to not smiling.”

  The Hospital had been pushing us all day to make a decision about turning off Ethel’s life support. After more tests, it is almost certain that she will never wake up. We opened more wine and it felt like a horrible version of Jury duty, discussing the pros and cons of keeping Ethel alive. In the end it came down to the fact that she told us on many occasions,

  ‘If I’m a vegetable, switch me orf, don’t faff, and don’t waste the lectric bill dithering.’ A cloud descended over the room as we realised we had made the decision.

  Meryl, Tony, and Rosencrantz drifted off up to bed; Daniel and I were left alone. One lamp was glowing and the fire was beginning to die down. The rain rattled on the roof. He leant over and topped up my wine glass.

  “Could I get some warder?” He said.

  “Oh Daniel, drop the accent,” I said. “You sound like a bad Cliff Richard impersonator.” I went into the kitchen, and when I came back with a glass of water, he was crying. He took a long drink and wiped his eyes.

  “I thought Mum would live to see her four score and ten.” I put my arm around him.

  “You want to know why I did it? Why I cheated on you?”

  “We don’t need to do this now,” I said.

  “I don’t want to end up like my Mother. Bitter, miserable and never achieving anything,” he said. I asked him how shagging a twenty year old would help him achieve something.

  “She needed me.”

  “I didn’t need you?” I said, hurt.

  “Yeah, I’ve gone and you’re fine”

  “I am not!”

  “Mum said you’ve been living the life of Riley, out on the tiles with Chris, Marika enjoying this house, which I could never have bought you, no matter how hard I toiled.” I went to protest, but I realised Ethel wouldn’t be able to defend herself ever again. Damn, I thought. Even on her deathbed she’s getting one up on me.

  “I’m just, nothing,” Daniel said, and began to sob. I sat beside him.

  “Do you know how proud I am of you?” I said. I stroked his hair and held him close. “I need you so much.”

  He pulled away, looked into my eyes, and kissed me. It was like a switch being flipped in my stomach, flooding me with heat. Before I knew it, we were racing up the stairs, tugging off our clothes and having the most passionate sex in years. Afterwards I lay in his arms on the bare mattress of our old bed. He traced his finger slowly down my stomach.

  “Coco,” he said, staring into my eyes.

  “Yes,” I said breathlessly, his finger tracing lower.

  “I want you to do something for me.”

  “Yes?” I whispered, closing my eyes.

  “Would you switch off my Mother’s life support machine?” I pushed his hand away, got up, and scrambled for my clothes.

  “What?” he said. “Meryl says she can’t, she won’t let Tony and I couldn’t… Please.”

  I struggled into my jeans. “Why did you have to ask me now?”

  “Well,” he said tapping his watch as if we were late for the theatre. I pulled on an old t-shirt. He lit a cigarette and passed it to me.

  “Please,” he said. “I would do it for you. Please.” I couldn’t say no to his pleading face. I said I had to go and came back to the spare room. I cannot sleep. What have I done?

  Thursday 5th March 14:30


  We got to Whitechapel at eight this morning. There is nothing more depressing than a shabby Victorian-era hospital on a cold grey day. I knew when we saw Ethel, that we were making the right decision. When we arrived at Intensive care, she was dressed in a fresh gown. A Nurse had just finished bathing her. He was a nice chap but he had very bony fingers. Ethel hates bony fingers, they give her the creeps.

  The fluorescent light fizzed and the rhythmic sound of the Ventilator sucked air in and out of her lungs. Her fringe had been combed off her forehead, which she would have hated, and without her teeth, her scowl was sunken and diminished.

  “I think we should all like say something, before we do this,” said Rosencrantz. We took it in turns. Rosencrantz went first and told her he loved her. He said that he would endeavour to sleep with Rupert Everett, as he promised her he would.

  “I always thought you would live like long enough for me to like tell you all about it,” he said. There were raised eyebrows from everyone. Tony went next, and promised her coffin would be of the best quality.

  “We’ve got a marvellous selection in at the moment, Cherry, Maple, Oak, all with lovely brass features. Goodbye.” Meryl went next. She was crying so much she could barely speak, so she just kissed Ethel on the cheek. Then it was my turn.

  “Ethel,” I said. “Goodbye. I know we have had our differences but I hate that this has happened to you…and in case you can hear, they asked me to press the switch. I didn’t volunteer.” I took her comb and combed her fringe back over her forehead, just how she always wore it.

  Daniel went last, and if I’m honest, he did go on a bit, giving a long lament that she will never get to see him realise his full potential. I half expected Ethel to open one eye and croak,

  “Pull yerself together you big girl’s blouse.”

  The Consultant was getting twitchy, as this had gone on for some time. He gave me a nod, and I walked over to switch off the life support. I was confronted by a confusing array of plugs. The hospital hadn’t said exactly what I had to do, and I didn’t feel like I could ask. I took a deep breath and pressed a switch. A pedestal fan by the bed sprang to life and swirled all Ethel’s Get Well cards off the bedside cabinet. The second switch turned on the television and the opening credits of This Morning boomed out.

  “Excuse me,” said Meryl to the Consultant as if she were lost in Sainsbury’s, “Could you direct my Sister-in-Law to the correct plug?”

  I felt an inappropriate laugh rise up in my chest, which burst out. The
y all exchanged scandalised glances.

  Apologising, I took a deep breath and pressed the correct switch. The Ventilator filled her lungs one last time and slowly wheezed to a stop.

  “Her chest is still rising!” said Rosencrantz.

  “This is sometimes normal,” said the Consultant kindly. “Many patients do carry on breathing for a few minutes.”

  “So right now she’s, like dying?” said Rosencrantz. We all looked at Ethel. She had a serene scowl on her face. Meryl gave a deep sob so Tony and me took her out, Rosencrantz and Daniel followed. We had no interest in seeing what little colour Ethel had left drain from her face. We went down to the Cafeteria, ordered coffee, and sat staring into space. I don’t know how long we had been there when the Consultant appeared at our table.

  “It seems Mrs. Pinchard is breathing unaided with a stronger pulse,” he said. “Now, this is an awkward time, it could go either way, but she has shown stronger life signs in the last hour. Much stronger than we’d expected.”

  We are still at the Hospital. Ethel has now been breathing unaided for four hours. Meryl is in on the phone trying to get in touch with the Steakhouse we had booked for a memorial lunch. Tony had put down a deposit of fifty pounds. He is pacing up and down saying,

  “I know this is an emotional time, but fifty pounds is fifty pounds.”

  Friday 6th March 11:09


  Ethel has now been breathing by herself for twenty-four hours. The thought of arranging a funeral had been bad enough, but now we are trying to prepare for what Ethel will be like if she wakes up. She could have serious brain damage.

  When we got back last night, I went outside with Daniel to share a cigarette. We both squeezed onto the shed step at the end of the garden and looked out across London. It was clear and we could see for miles. Daniel pulled me into his coat.

  “I’d like to try again,” he said exhaling smoke into the glowing sky. “I love you, and the thought of losing you like I nearly did Mum is just awful.”

  “You’re going away,” I said.

  “Not forever,” he said looking into my eyes. “I want to make it right. I’m sorry. I love you.”

  He kissed me. We slept together again, properly, in our bed. Why is high emotion such an aphrodisiac?

  Friday 6th March 17:33


  Marika can be so blunt sometimes. She phoned this morning to say my emails have become very ‘Mills and Boon.’ She said she is deeply sorry about Ethel, but that I am sleepwalking back to Daniel, who is exploiting the situation to make himself feel better, and win me back. I hung up on her.

  Ethel, it seems, is tougher than we thought. At 3pm, she opened her eyes and told Meryl that she looked like she was retaining water, ‘gallons of it.’ At 3.15pm, the doctors ran tests to check for brain damage. She could not remember the Prime Minister’s name, but she did know who the current landlady is in Coronation Street. They are calling it an unprecedented recovery.

  Saturday 7th March 10:14


  I thought you would be supportive of my decision. What about when you and Marika have gone back to people who, in your case, were blatantly not right for you?

  Gus the married Banker? He dumped you three times and you had to pretend you were reading the Gas meter when his wife caught you in their downstairs cupboard. And Marika wasted two years with John the PE teacher who destroyed her confidence and had her at his beck and call.

  Despite this, I always supported you. This is my marriage of twenty years. Family is family, you love them unconditionally.

  Now I have to go. That dick head Tony has started a row about something with Rosencrantz.

  Saturday 7th March 12:05


  Wherever you went, you can come home. Meryl and Tony have gone.

  Saturday 7th March 12:12



  In your haste to depart, you left your Carmen rollers.


  Saturday 7th March 13:23


  Rosencrantz, where are you? Meryl and Tony have gone. I am sorry Tony got so nasty with you, the arrogant greasy bastard. They both vanished upstairs after you stormed out. An hour later, Meryl knocked on the living room door and they came in all packed and dressed in their cycling gear.

  “I think we’re going to leave,” said Meryl frostily and they walked out with their Lycra shorts whistling, slamming the front door.

  They’ll be back; we’re a free place to stay when they come to London. Do you think you will be home soon? Your Dad wants to play us some songs from Whistle Up The Wind. It’s ages since we all sat round the piano together.

  Saturday 7th March 15:01


  Oh god! Oh god! Oh shit! I have just sent the email I was meant to send you, slagging off Meryl to Meryl by mistake! Damn this email invention. In the olden days (pre-1994) if you mistakenly addressed mail you had so many ways of backing out at the last minute; not writing the envelope, not licking the stamp, not going to the postbox. Where are you?

  Saturday 7th March 15:54


  This just arrived from your Aunt. She thinks Tony won the argument.


  FROM:, TO:


  You sent me an email by mistake, was it destined for Rosencrantz maybe? Not wanting to pry, I have deleted it unread. However; my eyes could not help but pick out the word ‘bastard’. Why are you sending this to your son? Surely as a ‘Writer,’ you could afford to put your point across more elegantly?

  We made it back on the Tandem in two hours fourteen minutes and twelve seconds. We did have the wind in our backs, and Tony is always a better cyclist after winning an argument.

  I will be popping down to see Mum in the week. Don’t worry. I won’t be staying. I will get the train.


  P.S - RE the Carmen rollers, I can think of several places you could put them. You take that big house for granted! Nevertheless, if they are really in your way, send them on and I will reimburse you for the postage.

  Saturday 7th March 16:30


  Dear Meryl

  I’m pleased to hear you made it back on the Tandem in record time. Has Tony calmed down after his row with Rosencrantz? It was a very trivial argument, don’t you think? I dug out one of my Harry Potter novels and looked up the house system at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Houses are Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin, not Silvikrin as Tony insisted.

  Rosencrantz was right, Silvikrin is a brand of hair shampoo designed to nourish, condition and pump up volume. Maybe whilst you are waiting for me to send your Carmen rollers you could try it. It could help you achieve the volume your hair lacks.

  Keep me posted with what you find out about Nursing Homes. I hope that what Mrs. Braun said about getting the Local Authority to blacklist Ethel was just in the heat of the moment.


  Monday 9th March 10:43


  Who is this ‘friend’ you are staying with? You’ll be back tomorrow to say goodbye to Dad, won’t you? I’m arranging a trip out to see him when his show is in Los Angeles at Easter, if you would like to come?

  I have always asked you not to take sides. Please can you respect that now? Your Dad loves you very much. I’m not trying to play happy families, and I have not forgotten what has happened. It just wouldn’t hurt to spend some time together, the three of us. Fancy joining us for a walk around Regent’s Park later?

  Wednesday 11th March 23:44


  How was the flight? I miss you already. The last few days
were so idyllic, just talking and spending time together. Your Mum was moved out of Intensive care today, earlier than they had thought, and begins physiotherapy next week. So far, it’s just me coming to Los Angeles for Easter.

  Chris and Marika are ignoring me, so is your son.

  Love Coco xxxx

  Thursday 12th March 18:01


  Who did you bring home last night? In future, it would be nice to be introduced, and it would be polite to be asked before you have overnight guests. I heard your bed going like the clappers. For my own peace of mind I am going to assume you, and whoever, were jumping up and down on it to the music you were playing. I know you have your iPhone on, so please when you get this call/email.


  Thursday 12th March 20:13


  I have just spoken to Rosencrantz. He would like to come to Los Angeles at Easter and he wants to bring his new boyfriend. I asked him why I haven’t been introduced. He said they haven’t reached the ‘parental introductions’ stage. I said it seemed serious as they are at the jumping up and down on beds stage. The chap is called Christian, and it seems he is a man of means. He is willing to pay his own airfare.

  I think it’s all happening rather fast. I have demanded I be introduced to him on Saturday night.

  Coco x

  Thursday 12th March 23:13


  Is five days too quick to get into a serious relationship?

  Thursday 12th March 23:17


  I am not talking about Daniel and me. I was talking about Rosencrantz. Now I know your real opinion on us getting back together…

  Also, how much longer is Marika going to keep ignoring me? I am not stupid; I know what I am doing. Daniel has apologised. We are taking it slowly, but we are most definitely back together.

  Friday 13th March 14:02

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