The coco pinchard boxset.., p.76
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.76
 

           Robert Bryndza

  ‘No. We haven’t got any news of Rosencrantz,’ Adam kept saying to them on the phone. ‘And no, no one has made an offer on the house.’

  It was a gorgeous day, and in the afternoon Adam arranged for Chris and Marika to come over for a picnic in the garden. He made it look beautiful with sandwiches and tea, and he bought a big delicious oozing carrot cake, but I still felt so glum. Then Chris gave me their present, a big square squishy package tied up with a bow. I tore off the paper… and lifted out two enormous adult-sized babygros.

  ‘Oh. Thank you,’ I said confused.

  ‘The blue one is for Adam,’ said Chris. Adam picked up the giant matching blue babygro and held it up to him.

  ‘Jesus Chris!’ said Marika.

  ‘What? You said get to get them some babygros…’

  ‘For the baby! Not for them you idiot!’

  ‘I was distracted when you phoned… Do you know how crazy it is trying to run a big company?’

  I looked at Marika’s incredulous face and for the first time in days, I cracked up laughing.

  ‘You have to understand, I’m suddenly working in a very stressed atmosphere,’ said Chris. ‘I was in work mode when you phoned.’

  ‘You thought we’d wear these?’ I said through tears of laughter. ‘We’d look like two enormous Teletubbies!’

  ‘I don’t know, I thought I’d missed some new fashion trend… Oh my god, next gift!’ said Chris blushing.

  Adam went inside and came back out with a big flat package. I was still laughing when I tore off the paper. We all went silent.

  ‘I had it done before…’ said Adam his voice trailing off. It was a huge framed photo of Me, Adam, Rosencrantz, Marika and Chris. The photo was taken in the bar after the last performance of Chasing Diana Spencer: The Musical at the Edinburgh Festival.

  ‘Wow,’ I said. ‘That was such a happy night… such a happy time. Look. Rosencrantz had just graduated from drama school.’

  They all put their arms round me.

  ‘And things are going to get even better,’ said Adam. ‘This photo is to remind you there are always good times around the corner.’

  ‘Hear hear,’ said Chris. ‘I propose a toast… to Rosencrantz, love, babies and friendship.’ We all clinked our teacups.

  When we went to bed that evening I didn’t feel, all of a sudden that things were fine, but I had hope, and that felt good.

  Friday 29th June

  The past two weeks have been a drain on my resources of hope, waiting for Rosencrantz to be released, waiting for this baby to finally be born. The weather is so hot and I’ve done nothing but lie around and read books and watch TV.

  I’ve phoned Pathways Clinic three times, trying to get information and each time I’ve been firmly and politely rebuffed.

  ‘I can’t comment on a patient’s progress,’ said the smooth female voice on reception.

  ‘He’s doing well then? I presume you’d only comment if something terrible had happened.’

  ‘I can’t comment on patients.’

  ‘Has something terrible happened? Is he alive?’

  She paused.

  ‘Yes, he is alive. Nothing terrible has happened. I can’t give you any more information, I’m sorry.’

  ‘So you can only tell me if he’s alive or dead?’

  ‘Well we don’t like to put it in those terms. I’m only telling you this because you phoned.’

  ‘So I only hear from you if he’s dead or dying?’

  ‘I understand if this is difficult but your son is receiving the best care. Why don’t you take a look at our website?’ She said and put the phone down.

  I logged on to the website, but it was all generic photos of models posing as addicts, and bland ‘mission statements.’

  They could at least provide a webcam of the exercise yard or whatever they have there. I’d love just a glimpse of him.

  Adam has worked a lot at the bar. I’ve read a lot, in bed.

  Saturday 30th June

  We suddenly had viewings booked for the house, so I was forced out of bed. The estate agent asked if we could be out for most of the day. It was baking hot so Adam loaded up a picnic basket with food and drink, sun cream and my iPod. He grabbed a big umbrella and drove us the two-hundred yards to the edge of Regent’s Park. It was busy but not too crowded, full of people drinking iced coffee and sunbathing. Adam pitched the rug and umbrella in a shady spot overlooking the lake. It was deliciously warm.

  I rested my head on Adam’s lap. My t-shirt rode up and he stroked my bump. My belly button is now stretched to capacity and sticking out. Suddenly I felt a big kick.

  ‘Whoa!’ said Adam lifting his hand away. I looked down, the shape of a foot was protruding from the side of my stomach. I could see the outline of a tiny little shinbone and ankle. It disappeared and my stomach was smooth again. Then it popped out again.

  ‘He’s running out of space,’ I said. ‘It’s like he’s is poking around inside me. I can feel him under my ribs.’ We waited for a bit longer.

  ‘I think he’s still.’ I said lying back down. ‘Thank God, a bit of peace. He’s was joggling around all night.’

  ‘You know Cokes, this is lovely but we keep forgetting you’re going to stop being pregnant and an actual baby is going to come out.’

  ‘And it’s going to need feeding and changing and attention.’ I said. The tiny little outline of a foot popped out again, twice in quick succession.

  ‘Wow,’ said Adam. ‘He’s gonna be a karate kid.’

  ‘Or a dancer.’

  ‘Not my son,’ said Adam. ‘Come on boy give us another kick.’

  ‘Whoa, hang on,’ I said sitting up. ‘What did you mean, not my son?’

  ‘He’s gonna be, you know athletic.’

  ‘Dancers are athletes. Ballet dancers. What if he wanted to be a ballet dancer?’

  ‘He would get his butt whipped if he was a ballet dancer.’

  ‘You don’t want our son to be gay, do you? Like Rosencrantz.’

  ‘Come on Coco, we’re having a nice time.’

  ‘He’s your step-son.’

  ‘I know he is but it’s going to take time for me to forget.’

  I lay back again.

  ‘You didn’t answer my question. Do you want our son to be gay?’

  ‘No. Do you?’

  ‘It wouldn’t bother me.’

  ‘It doesn’t bother me either Coco. It’s different with Rosencrantz.’

  ‘How?’

  ‘He’s white,’ said Adam. This pulled me up short.

  ‘What are you saying?’

  ‘I’m stating the obvious. Do you know how difficult it is growing up as a young black boy? You want to add gay into the mix?’

  ‘You’re scaring me Adam.’

  ‘You’re scared? Coco you do realise that our baby will be mixed race.’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘You just need to be aware. I live with a little bit of racism most days. On some days, a lot. He’s gonna have that too.’

  ‘I’m sorry I didn’t think about it.’

  ‘You’re lucky.’

  ‘But the gay thing. You know where I stand on that,’ I said.

  ‘I do.’

  We carried on lying there, but Adam had really made me think. Bringing a baby into the world is the most terrifying prospect. I looked at him with a new admiration. He never ever moans about the way people treat him, but what he said, he has to live with stuff every day.

  July

  Monday 1st July

  Adam was at work today when I heard a coo-ee and Ethel let herself in the front door.

  ‘In here,’ I said shouting from the living room. I’d dropped the remote control ten minutes previously, and was still trying to pick it up. However much I bent forward or sideways, I couldn’t get my arms past my bump to the floor. She came through holding another door key and a plastic bag.

  ‘’Ere, look!’ she said, ‘I’m psychic. I brought you a grabber!’

/>   She pulled a long green grabber out of the bag, caught the remote in its pincers, and dropped it into my hands.

  ‘Thanks Ethel,’ I said. ‘Let me pay you for it.’

  ‘Didn’t cost me nothing love. The little dwarf lady on the ground floor popped ’er clogs the other day. ’Er relatives are all tall, so they didn’t want it.’

  ‘Oh, thank you. What did she die of?’

  ‘She fell face down in the bath and drowned. The warden found ’er. Stiff as a board reaching out towards the plug with the grabber…’

  I dropped the grabber on the coffee table. She perched on the side of the sofa. ‘I brought you some bits too, save you shopping.’

  I took the plastic bag and had a look inside. There was a bottle of Tabasco sauce, a packet of gelatin sheets, two slightly dented tins of sugar-free rice pudding, and a jar of seafood offcuts.

  ‘’Er family give me those, as well as the grabber.’

  ‘Thanks,’ I said.

  ‘Any news from Rosencrantz?’

  ‘I told you we couldn’t talk to him Ethel,’ I said. She looked troubled and fiddled with her handbag.

  ‘Coco, I’ve got to come clean about something… You know I accused ’im of nicking that twelve quid out me ’andbag?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Well ’e didn’t… It were Kim Jong Lill.’

  ‘Who?’

  ‘Kim Jong Lill we call ’er. Real name’s Lily Kim. She’s a nasty old Chinese lady who’s just moved in on the fourth floor.’

  ‘Kim Jong Il was Korean,’ I said.

  ‘Was she? Anyway. Kim Jong Lill knocks on me door this morning and says ‘I’m sorry, I’ve been diagnosed as a kleptomaniac, here’s your twelve quid back.’ Hands it back to me with no shame.’

  ‘Why did she take it in the first place?’

  ‘She’s a kleptomaniac Coco!’

  ‘But do kleptomaniacs normally give things back?’ I asked. Ethel ignored me.

  ‘To think I blamed me own grandson, me own blood!’

  ‘You can sort it out when he’s discharged.’

  ‘Oh Coco, I can’t bear ’im to think that of me…’

  ‘He loves you Ethel. He’ll understand it was a mistake.’

  ‘Yes, well. That Kim Jong Lill better watch out. Other stuff’s gone missing too…’

  I told Ethel not to resort to violence. It’s led to her having to be re-homed before.

  Tuesday 2nd July

  Last night I had terrible nightmares. In the first I had gone into labour…

  I had gone into labour and the only person who could drive me to hospital was Adam’s daughter Holly. It was a dark night, and a storm was raging outside the car. Holly was in the driver’s seat, I was laid out in the back in agony and we were lost. The pain was getting worse, and the baby was coming fast.

  Holly had suggested I put on a pair of tights to try and slow things down, so I’d pulled a pair on and they were very itchy.

  Holly was driving very fast using one hand, and in the other she held her iPhone.

  ‘Siri, where is the nearest hospital?’ said Holly into her phone. There was a bleep, and it wasn’t Siri’s voice that answered. ‘Yer a long way from the nearest ’ospital love,’ came Ethel’s voice through the speakerphone.

  Another agonising contraction came over me and I felt I had to push.

  ‘I’m going to have to push soon Holly!’ I said.

  ‘Siri, should Coco push?’ said Holly into her iPhone.

  ‘Gawd no! With them tights on, the baby will be mush, like putting fruit through a sieve,’ came Ethel’s voice.

  Another contraction shot through me, the pain even stronger, and I felt a soft little head emerge between my legs and press against the tights.

  ‘It’s coming!’ I gasped. ‘It’s going to get mushed!’

  I felt a stinging pain and the head came further out, but it was now huge. It kept coming, it bulged against the tights and I lay back in agony. I lifted my skirt and saw that it was Ethel’s head, squished against the tights like she was about to rob a bank. I screamed but she kept coming, the tights began to fray and ladder, and she broke through with a manic grin on her face.

  I woke up screaming, covered in sweat.

  ‘Coco! It’s okay!’ said Adam.

  ‘Ethel, it was Ethel! Where is she?’ I said shaking off the covers and trying to see past my bump.

  ‘You had a bad dream,’ said Adam. ‘It’s okay. You’re safe.’

  Both he and Rocco were regarding me with concerned eyes. My breathing slowed and I realised it had been a nightmare. I lay back and adjusted my big pillow.

  ‘Oh, God it was so real.’

  ‘I’ve heard it’s a late pregnancy symptom, bad dreams,’ said Adam.

  ‘I was in a car and I gave birth to Ethel,’ I said. Adam laughed. Why do dreams always sound silly when you recount them? You can never quite translate to others how real they were. I was relieved I hadn’t tried to explain the role of the tights...

  He cuddled me and I drifted off to sleep again, but the nightmares came back…

  It was a hot afternoon and I had some very heavy bags. I was walking home from the Tesco Metro on Baker Street. I rounded the corner to our house and saw Rosencrantz being brought down the steps by two police officers, the same two who’d been at Chris’s house the other night. I started to walk towards Rosencrantz, but the pavement became wet and sticky. I looked down. I was wading through wet cement. Red plastic barriers surrounded me. Rosencrantz was now being loaded into the police car and one of the officers put his hand on the back of his head to guide him in. I was now stuck in the cement, my feet wouldn’t move. I tried to shout, but nothing came out of my mouth. I turned and looked behind me. Regina Battenberg was further down by the traffic lights, walking along the pavement. She was dressed in her gold turban and long coat and I realised she was walking towards me. The police car’s engine started, it streaked past me, and Rosencrantz didn’t notice. I turned back; Regina Battenberg was advancing closer, her red lips curled up in a smile revealing a row of sharp teeth. She reached inside her coat and pulled out a knife. The blade glinted as she held it up with her scrawny arm…

  I woke up again, with a shout. Adam woke up a second later with a jolt.

  ‘What? What happened?’ he asked, rubbing his face.

  ‘Another nightmare,’ I said.

  ‘What was it?’

  ‘I’m not telling you.’ I noticed it was half past four and getting light so I heaved myself up and came downstairs. I made some tea and sat, and slowly reality began to seep back. Adam came down at eight thirty, just as Bonham & Son’s rang. One of the people who viewed the house has made an offer, and they want to move in as soon as possible!

  I was lying on the sofa watching BBC Breakfast with Rocco when Adam came bouncing through with the news.

  ‘Already? I thought we’d have ages to wait?’ I said. ‘I can’t move now, what about Rosencrantz?’

  ‘He’s coming out of reha… of the clinic in nine days. It’ll take more than a week to exchange contracts,’ said Adam.

  ‘This is his home. He can’t come out and be homeless. You know how susceptible homeless people are to addiction.’

  ‘He wouldn’t be homeless. He could stay with Daniel.’

  ‘That’s a recipe for disaster…’

  ‘Or us.’

  ‘I thought you said you didn’t want to see him ever again?’

  ‘I’m thawing.’

  ‘What about his work? He can’t be an actor and live miles from London. What if he has to have more doctors’ appointments?’

  ‘Coco. There are three other people depending on this move.’

  ‘Me and you.’

  ‘And him,’ said Adam pointing at my stomach. He looked at me.

  ‘Adam, you want me to make a decision right now?’

  ‘Jesus, Coco! We can’t wait around. There’s no chain, it’s the asking price…’

  ‘What do you mean Jesus Coc
o? I’ve lived here my whole life, Rosencrantz has lived here his whole life, and I’m weeks away from giving birth. I can’t make this decision lightly.’

  Adam stomped upstairs and got ready for work. As he was leaving, he said. ‘FYI. We had made a decision. Now you’re backtracking and affecting everyone.’

  Later on I met Marika and Chris for a drink in the cafe at Regent’s Park. In this heat I can hardly walk. I’m pretty much spherical now. If it didn’t risk crushing the baby I’d seriously consider asking friends to roll me to places. We sat down at a table under some trees with iced lemonade, and I recounted the argument.

  ‘Everything Adam said makes perfect sense. And as he left he made a good point, we had made a decision, but all I could think was, since when do you use the phrase FYI?’

  ‘Eeuw,’ said Marika opening a sachet of sugar and putting it into her coke. ‘Milan said capishe the other day,’

  ‘You’re adding sugar to Coke? Do you know what sugar does to babies?’ said Chris in horror.

  ‘It’s a craving Chris,’ snapped Marika. ‘And I have two babies in here.’

  ‘What does sugar do to babies?’ I asked.

  ‘It makes them sweeter,’ said Marika. ‘Now back to you Cokes. Unlike you, I have been reading my baby books and it says that in the final weeks of gestation the mother emotionally pushes the husband away to care for her baby.’

  ‘I can’t stand the word gestation,’ said Chris.

  ‘But this is about Rosencrantz as well,’ I said.

  ‘Who is also your baby,’ said Marika. ‘He needs you.’

  ‘What was it like when you came out of rehab Chris?’ I asked.

  ‘Tough. I came and stayed at your house, remember? When your mum and dad went off on the QEII.’

  ‘See, you needed a home and you came to my house, I mean our house. Shit, I’ve only been married for eleven months. What if he leaves me…’ my voice trailed off when I realised that could be true.

 
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