The coco pinchard boxset.., p.70
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.70
 

           Robert Bryndza

  ‘Oh Lord… Pickled Peacock? Got any G & T Coco?’ winked Nanette.

  ‘No, you must try it!’ said Adam. He pulled down some highball glasses and poured everyone a measure.

  ‘I shouldn’t Adam,’ I said.

  ‘Go on, a little nip won’t hurt, stout will make your breast milk sweeter,’ said Nanette. Adam poured me half an inch in the bottom of a glass. It was a deep honey colour and was surprisingly delicious.

  ‘Ooh. It’s sweet and hoppy, and unlike most bitters it doesn’t catch in the throat,’ I said feeling my cheeks flush. ‘I feel like I’m imbibing goodness and warmth, and my blood is being fortified…’

  ‘I can see someone hasn’t drunk in a while!’ Nanette grinned.

  ‘You see what looking hot does for him, he gets free beer!’ I said taking another sip.

  ‘That’s not how it is,’ said Adam.

  ‘There are these two gay guys, who own this beer company, they love Adam!’ I laughed. ‘You should sweet talk them for more of this.’

  ‘I’m interested in their brewery,’ said Adam.

  ‘And they’re interested in your cock,’ I said. I realised the beer had gone to my head. There was a silence. Nanette and Holly sipped their beer. I excused myself and came upstairs.

  It was the first time I’d felt the weight of being married. Up until now I was thrilled and horny and felt I’d got the man, a fabulous man at that. But it dawned on me that we’re doing this, having a baby, we have baggage, and we’re going to be together, forever. It felt like… How it did with Daniel.

  I called Marika and told her what happened.

  ‘This marriage is nothing like you and Daniel. For starters he hasn’t got an Ethel equivalent mother or a Meryl and Tony. And Nanette sounds lovely.’

  ‘I know… I’m cringing about the cock joke,’ I said.

  ‘Yeah. Doesn’t sound funny Cokes. Never mix drink when you meet the ex.’

  ‘Do you think I got married too quickly?’

  ‘With Daniel, definitely. You were too young and Rosencrantz came along before you knew each other properly.’

  ‘But what about Adam and me? Am I just doing it all again? Is history repeating itself?’

  ‘It might be you that’s the problem,’ said Marika.

  ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘Maybe you pick men you want to emasculate. It sounds like Adam is doing the best he can, working hard, and you still want to pick on him.’

  ‘That’s not fair.’

  ‘Come on Coco, you want the truth so you phoned me. If you want it all sugar-coated, phone Chris.’

  There was a pause.

  ‘Milan and I are fine, by the way. Better than fine.’

  ‘Sorry. It’s been a bit rough lately,’ I said.

  ‘That’s life. You can’t be on honeymoon for the next twenty years. Real life will come up and hit you in the face…’

  ‘Yes.’ I said quietly.

  ‘You’re lucky Cokes. You’ve had two loves in your life. Either way you’ll never lose out. So many women would kill to have one guy love them in their lifetime.’

  ‘I know… So what’s occurring with Milan?’

  ‘Complete and utter bliss. He’s just. He’s the best. I want you to get to know him more.’

  ‘I will. And that’s great…’ I said.

  ‘Now get downstairs. You don’t want to be one of those women, leaving the room in tears, having a headache. Go on.’

  I pulled myself together and came down. Adam was talking with Nanette in the living room. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs.

  ‘This bar can’t be a long term job solution,’ she was saying.

  ‘No. I’ll find something, my record should be sorted in the next couple of months,’ said Adam.

  ‘You’ve put the years in. You could go back into a very nice management role,’ said Nanette.

  ‘Yeah. A grey office. Grey people. A grey life. It’ll be soul destroying, but it’s what I have to do. Responsibility gives me no choice.’

  Adam didn’t say it with a laugh.

  ‘These beer bottles are so pretty,’ said Holly.

  ‘I envy these guys. They made their fortune here in London, then sold up and bought a place in the country and they make a good living from beer,’ said Adam.

  ‘Posh beer,’ said Nanette.

  ‘Exactly. This is the time; people go crazy for independent organic products,’ said Adam. ‘They sell online, they do tours of their brewery, and they are their own bosses.’

  ‘I never knew you were into this,’ said Nanette.

  ‘Well, I’ve had the misfortune to discover what I want to do with my life when I’m up against a brick wall,’ said Adam.

  There was a silence. Then I could hear very softly that Adam was crying.

  ‘You should talk to Coco,’ said Nanette.

  ‘That would go down badly,’ said Adam. ‘She’s about to have our baby. We’re broke… She thinks I’m having an affair.’

  ‘With who?’

  ‘I dunno.’

  ‘Are you, Adam?’

  ‘No! I go to work and I come home.’

  They were silent for a few minutes, and then Nanette got up to clear away the takeaway cartons. Like a kid on the stairs I darted back up before they could see me.

  Adam came up later and quietly got in bed beside me. Rocco jumped up and snuggled down between us. I think we both lay awake for a long time, but we didn’t say anything.

  Monday 7th May

  Adam was offered the double Bank Holiday shift at the bar, which was a lot of money, so Nanette insisted he go and do it. I was worried about spending time with her alone, but I needn’t have been. We spent a lovely day in the garden, drinking and chatting. Then in the evening Rosencrantz came over and took Holly out to the pub, and we stayed in with a take-away.

  ‘Do you mind my pictures on the wall?’ asked Nanette when we’d polished off the food. I looked at the Lido pictures, and the one Adam had had to buy a new frame for.

  ‘Not at all, they’re beautiful,’ I said. And I was so pleased that I meant it. Adam came back at two-thirty, exhausted, and climbed into bed beside me. Holly and Rosencrantz came back at four-thirty, completely drunk. In the end I had to go down and tell them to be quiet. Rosencrantz was lying on the kitchen floor, and Holly was buttering his forehead.

  ‘Look! I’m having Toastencrantz!’ shouted Holly, as Rosencrantz giggled.

  ‘Be quiet and go to sleep, both of you!’ I snapped like an old washerwoman. I know this sounds silly, but telling them both off really made me feel like we are an extended family.

  Saturday 12th May

  Today was Nanette and Holly’s last day. I’ll be so sad to see them go. This morning I took Rocco for a walk with Nanette round Regent’s Park.

  ‘You always look so at peace with everything,’ I said as we made our way round the lake. ‘What’s your secret?’

  ‘You should always do what you want. You shouldn’t be a people pleaser… But you shouldn’t upset others either.’

  ‘Sounds incredibly easy and difficult at the same time.’

  ‘I haven’t always been like that Cokes,’ she said. ‘I was a terrible bitch to Adam for our last few years.’

  ‘Did you always know you were…’

  ‘A big ole lesbian? Yeah. Deep down. But when you’re growing up no one tells you it’s normal, so you do what people say you should do. I got married. We had Holly.’

  ‘How did you tell Adam?’

  ‘I didn’t. He caught me with another woman.’

  ‘Who?’

  ‘The girl who delivered the post,’ said Nanette a little shamefacedly.

  ‘How come you two get on so well now?’ I said. ‘I found Daniel in bed with Snow White, not THE Snow White obviously, a girl who was playing Snow White in panto. Even three years on he drives me crazy.’

  ‘We didn’t get on well at first, but over time he understood. He said I should be who I am. It’s the best thing
anyone has ever done for me.’

  ‘Oh crap,’ I said.

  ‘What?’

  ‘I’ve been giving him such a hard time lately… I heard what he said on your first night here. About going back to work in an office.’

  ‘Which he’ll do for you, I’ve no doubt,’ said Nanette.

  ‘But shouldn’t he get to be who he is too?’

  ‘Are you equating my latent lesbianism with him working in an office?’ she grinned.

  ‘No, I just think he should be happy.’

  ‘You’ll work it out,’ she said cryptically. ‘He tells me you’re quite a fascinating woman, you make things happen without realising...’

  Sunday 13th May

  Nanette and Holly left at lunchtime, and Adam went off to work the afternoon shift.

  My chat with Nanette kept going round in my head. I didn’t feel like a fascinating woman, and how do I make things happen without realising, surely I have to decide to change something?

  I went round to the Boots at Marylebone Station to see if they had a beer making kit. It felt lame, but I couldn’t think of anything else. Boots was full of harassed looking women buying Jamie Oliver Sandwiches and Nurofen, and the shop assistant thought I was mad. I’m sure you used to be able to buy beer-making kits from Boots?

  I then tried the bigger Boots on Oxford Street, and a very enthusiastic young girl told me to try the Boots in Piccadilly Circus. In Piccadilly Circus an older lady took me to a shelf with rows of clear plastic pouches containing squares of fabric with a picture of a teddy bear. When I explained I wanted a beer, not bear making kit she told me Boots no longer stocks them.

  Then I did what I should have done in the first place. I pulled out my phone, and Googled it. I found a place in Borough. I took the Bakerloo line over and grabbed the first reasonably-priced beer making kit. I had to take a taxi back as the box was enormous. When Adam came home from work it was sitting on the kitchen table.

  ‘What’s this?’ he asked. I told him I’d overheard what he said.

  ‘I wish you hadn’t,’ he said.

  ‘I’m glad I did, because it made me realise I was very self-absorbed, and I wasn’t thinking about you.’

  Adam put his arms round me.

  ‘You’ve got the right to be self-absorbed. You’re carrying our son.’

  ‘No, but you were trying to explain about your dream, and I made those stupid comments. Having a dream is very important.’

  Adam gave me a long deep kiss.

  ‘I love you,’ he said.

  ‘I love you too.’

  He turned the huge box round and looked at it.

  ‘Would you really like to run your own micro-brewery?’ I asked.

  ‘In theory, but that’s not going to happen. This will be fun though, thank you.’

  ‘When I talked to Chris last week, he said he’s selling some land… There’s a house and land, it’s a sort of farm.’

  Adam stopped in his tracks. ‘What are you saying?’

  ‘I don’t know. I’m just floating ideas around. Hypothetically.’

  ‘So, floating this idea… Hypothetically. How would we buy it?’

  ‘We’d sell the house.’

  ‘As simple as that?’ he said.

  ‘Well everything is simple when you talk hypothetically.’

  This conversation had escalated far quicker than I had bargained on.

  ‘But what about this place, your job, your friends?’

  ‘Well, hypothetically speaking again, I can do my job anywhere. And the land is on the Cheshire Estate so that’s one friend.’

  ‘Wouldn’t you miss London?’

  ‘I’m quite tired of London.’

  ‘They say when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.’

  ‘Maybe I’m tired of my old life, Adam. This house is my old life with Daniel. We’re about to start a new family. Maybe it would be good to start afresh?’

  ‘Imagine bringing up our little boy in the country,’ said Adam. ‘He could play in the fields, we could teach him about business.’

  ‘How would you teach him about business?’

  ‘He could have a hen or two and sell the eggs. I always wanted to do that when I was little boy.’

  His face was all dreamy, I don’t think he was being hypothetical anymore.

  ‘And in the country, his daddy wouldn’t have to destroy his soul in some office for the next twenty years,’ I said softly.

  ‘Are you serious Coco?’

  ‘I don’t know. Maybe.’

  ‘You really think we should have a microbrewery?’

  ‘I never really thought I would be a successful writer,’ I said.

  ‘Cokes. I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve seen pictures of big stainless steel drums and labels on fancy bottles, but how do you even make beer?’

  I pointed to the beer making kit. ‘Here you go,’ I said. ‘Time to find out.’

  Adam was thrilled with the kit. He opened the box, and pulled out a giant white plastic drum with a lid, lengths of pipe, a huge thermometer, sachets of yeast, and clear bags of squishy hops. There was also a huge booklet he immediately became absorbed reading. I couldn’t get anything more out of him so I went and watched the telly. He was still reading at nine, so I took Rocco out and had a shower… I listened to the news on Radio 4 and then read a little. As the shipping forecast came on, I went downstairs. The stove was covered with pans, and the microwave was working too. A dish of water was spinning inside, full of clear plastic pipes.

  ‘What are you doing?’ I said.

  ‘Sterilising everything… Then I make the beer.’

  I went to the kitchen island where he had the hops in a big bowl. They were dark green and slightly moist. They smelt divine. He came and took them from me.

  ‘Everything has to be sterile.’

  ‘I had a shower,’ I said. He pulled one of my blond hairs out of the bowl.

  ‘I’m sure with you in it, it would be delicious but it must be sterile, just hops, grain, malt extract, water and yeast.

  ‘How much longer will it take?’ I asked.

  ‘I need to steep the grain for a couple of hours in this sacking, and then I add the hops and the yeast. Two or three hours.’

  ‘It’s almost one in the morning.’

  ‘I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I stopped now. Thank you Coco.’

  He grabbed me and gave me a deep kiss, I felt a little spark again.

  ‘How about a little break with a yummy mummy?’ I said tracing my hand across one of his pectorals and down to his tight abs.

  ‘Ooh! The water has just reached optimum temperature,’ he said pulling away and fiddling with the stove.

  ‘So you’re going to see to that and let me cool off?’ I said half joking. He ran and pulled out various bits of equipment.

  ‘Coco. You are the best and I promise I’ll make it up to you.’

  ‘Okay,’ I said. I picked up Rocco and carried him to the bedroom. He settled down on the end of the bed and I fell asleep.

  Adam shook me awake at quarter to four.

  ‘Where shall I put your knickers?’ he whispered in my ear.

  ‘Ooh, so I get some action after all… Just put them on the bedside table.’

  ‘What? No,’ said Adam. ‘I meant your knickers in the airing cupboard. I need space, for the beer.’

  ‘Just shove them over,’ I said disappointed.

  ‘But won’t they get creased?’

  ‘Do I look like the kind of woman who irons her knickers Adam?’ I said, turned over and fell back to sleep. I woke again when the alarm went off at six-thirty. Adam was in bed beside me, but he sat up and pulled on a t-shirt.

  ‘You’re the best, Cokes,’ he said, standing up and stepping into some running shorts.

  ‘I am?’

  ‘You bought me such an awesome professional beer kit – you bought me a hydrometer.’

  ‘I did?’

  ‘Thanks,’ he leant over and ki
ssed me.

  ‘I thought you should have one,’ I said.

  ‘You don’t know what a hydrometer is, do you?’

  ‘No,’ I grinned. He then started going on about gravity and readings before skipping off downstairs to check the beer. I turned over and went back to sleep.

  I was shaken awake at ten.

  ‘Coco, Coco!’

  ‘What?’

  ‘Come with me!’ He pulled me out onto the landing. Outside the airing cupboard, everything had been emptied, bed sheets, underwear, duvet covers. I hadn’t realised how much the airing cupboard holds as it was now filling half the hallway.

  ‘I’ll clear this up later,’ he said. Rocco trotted after us and climbed on top of the pile of clothes, circled a couple of times and lay down. He snorted happily and looked at us with curious eyes. Adam opened the airing cupboard door. The huge ancient boiler was now visible at the back, painted pillar-box-red by my father. It clicked and hissed. On the biggest wooden shelf was the giant forty-litre plastic container. There was a strong smell of fermenting beer, sugar and yeast.

  ‘What do you think?’

  ‘It’s a big white container,’ I said.

  ‘What else do you see?’

  ‘Our laundry on the floor. Rocco giving our clothes his doggy smell…’ Rocco gave a wuff. ‘Which is lovely of course. Can I see inside?’

  ‘No. We absolutely can’t open this container. It needs to be kept at one temperature.’

  Adam had a born again Christian sheen to his face. He went off to work a different person. Happy.

  Friday 18th May

  I am officially twenty-eight weeks pregnant today. So in twelve weeks I will give birth. My bump is now prominent, and it takes two hands cupped together to cradle one of my gargantuan boobs. If ever my milkshake would bring all the boys to the yard it would be now. However they would see my enormous bottom and leave the yard fairly sharpish. I’m now barrel-shaped, which is good because I’m competing for Adam’s affections with a forty-litre barrel of fermenting beer.

  I stood in the shower this morning for a long time. Excited and scared. I phoned Chris yesterday, and today we are going to look at some of the land he is selling. Strangeways Farm is a two-storey house with substantial land. If we do buy it, the first thing we’ll do is change the name.

 
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