The coco pinchard boxset.., p.77
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.77

           Robert Bryndza
 

  ‘He won’t leave you hun,’ said Marika.

  ‘He won’t,’ added Chris.

  ‘What should I do?’

  ‘I hate to get all businesslike Cokes,’ said Chris. ‘But I need to know if you’re going to buy Strangeways Farm. I’ve had another offer, and I need to tell them yes or no.’

  We parted ways on Baker Street. I grabbed some milk in the Tesco Metro then made my way home. I waited for the traffic light to change then waddled across the road. I reached the pavement and rounded the corner to my house. I stopped. The pavement in front was being cordoned off. A van had pulled up, and some young guys in jeans and sleeveless hi-visibility jackets were unloading red plastic barriers. I watched as they placed them on exactly the same bit of pavement as my dream. I looked at the steps up to my front door in the distance, but it was empty.

  ‘Excuse me,’ I said to a one of the guys. ‘What are you doing?’

  ‘Re-surfacing,’ he said putting down the last barrier.

  ‘With cement?’ I asked.

  ‘Yeah.’

  I clutched my chest in horror. ‘Since when?’

  ‘There’s been a sign up about it for a month,’ he said pointing to a tiny square taped high up on the lamppost. It was written in a miniature script, impossible to read. It must be a co-incidence, I thought.

  I walked along a little then stopped. I had a feeling someone was behind me.

  I turned.

  A woman who looked like Regina Battenberg had just crossed at the traffic lights further down and was walking towards me. She wore jeans and a dark short-sleeved blouse. Her long black hair was down. The woman spotted me and started to hurry towards me. I panicked, dropped my shopping and began to waddle away like a mad little weeble.

  I heard the woman call my name. I turned, and saw she was gaining on me. I hurried even more. I had an image of this Battenberg-a-like putting her head down and galloping towards me like a werewolf clutching a knife. I gave a squeak of fear and ran up the steps to the front door. I scrabbled around in my handbag for my keys… I dropped them on the floor… I was now in a blind panic. She had now reached the end of my road, just a few houses away. Any second she would appear between the gate posts. I pulled the dead woman’s grabber from my bag and lunged for the front door key…. I hooked the grabber through the key ring and hoisted my keys up. I found the right one and scrabbled at the lock until it went in. I turned the key, fought my way through the door and slammed it shut, locking the dead bolt and pushing the chain across.

  I nearly peed myself when Rocco barked, I stumbled forwards, knocking a pile of letters off the hall table with my bump. I saw my sweaty wild face in the mirror.

  ‘It was a daydream,’ I said. I waited for half a minute, I breathed. Then the doorbell rang! I looked at Rocco. It rang again. I put the chain on and opened the door.

  The woman stood facing me on the doorstep. She had on flat tennis shoes, blue jeans, the aforementioned black blouse, and a canvas bag slung over her shoulder. She looked to be in her sixties; her long hair was dyed black and hung loose, but she had a pale face devoid of make-up

  ‘Hello, Coco dear,’ she said. ‘It’s me. Regina Battenberg...’

  I looked her up and down. Her eyes were very tiny, her lips were thin.

  ‘Don’t you recognise me dear?’ she said.

  ‘No.’

  ‘Good. I’m going incognito. Can I please come in?’

  I opened the door and she came in. She took her shoes off.

  ‘Would you like a drink? I think I’ve got some nice white wine in the fridge.’

  ‘No thank you, but a soft drink would be fandabidoze,’ she said. She seemed nervous. We went into the kitchen, and she perched on a stool at the breakfast bar whilst I got a jug of lemonade from the fridge. I watched her cuddle Rocco, her red nails disappearing into his pale fur. My mind was whirring, it was all so bizarre.

  ‘Regina. You’re going to have to help me out,’ I said putting down the jug and pulling two glasses out of the cupboard. ‘Why are you here?’

  ‘I’m here to say sorry,’ she said, but first I have to give you this. She opened her bag, pulled out a little white envelope and slid it across the breakfast bar. On it was written “MUM x” I tore the envelope open and inside was a note from Rosencrantz.

  I looked up at Regina who was watching me closely. I leaned across and tried to hug her but my bump nearly knocked her off her stool. She laughed and came round to hug me from the side. The shoulder of her blouse smelt of lavender.

  ‘Are you okay dear?’ she asked.

  ‘No. Not really all that fandabidoze…’ I grinned. ‘Thank you for doing this.’

  ‘He’s a lovely lad Coco. I’ve seen him somewhere before…’

  ‘He’s my son.’

  ‘Oh, I know that. Was he in a play, or was it a film?’

  ‘He was in Chasing Diana Spencer: The Musical, at the Edinburgh Festival… Remember? You had a show up there too.’

  ‘Of course, yes. So many things are a blur…’ she took a sip of her lemonade and looked off into the distance, contemplating.

  ‘So, you were in Pathways with Rosencrantz for?’

  ‘Alcohol? Yes. My name is Regina Battenberg and I’m an alcoholic.’

  ‘I always thought you were a bit eccentric.’

  ‘I am dear, but I’m also a swallower when I should really be a spitter.’

  ‘What?’

  ‘Wine Coco. When I started out I only used to have a drink with my supper. But Window Box Winemaking changed everything. There were product launches, and television shows, personal appearances at vineyards. I grew up very poor Coco. Spitting out perfectly lovely wine was abhorrent to me, so I swallowed. I swallowed an awful lot…’

  ‘But you’re better now?’

  ‘Yes. I experience every day with an alarming clarity.’

  ‘Are you writing a new book?’

  She laughed.

  ‘I don’t know if there is much market for a teetotal holocaust denying wine connoisseur.’

  ‘You didn’t deny the holocaust.’

  ‘I can barely remember what I said Coco. But that is not why I’m here. I’m here to apologise to you, for my ninth step. I’m very sorry.’

  ‘Thank you,’ I said.

  ‘I knew you were eating Pippin’s dog biscuits…’

  ‘That’s okay.’

  ‘And I stole that slot on ‘This Morning’ from you…’

  ‘You did?’

  ‘And do you remember when you came to watch my show at the Edinburgh Festival?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘And I called you up on stage to do that bit where an audience member stomps on the grapes in the bucket.’

  ‘It was a bowl…’

  ‘Yes a bowl. Well I planted that corn plaster in the bowl.’

  ‘I know you did.’

  ‘I could see how embarrassed you were when I held it up to the audience.’

  ‘I was.’

  ‘I’m sorry… You have such nice feet Coco. I kept seeing you around Edinburgh wearing such elegant sandals.’

  ‘Thank you.’

  ‘Look at my feet!’ she said pulling off the socks she was wearing. Her feet were lumpy and swollen with a prominent bunion on each toe. ‘I’ve got such horrible feet.’

  I realised then and there that Regina Battenberg was no longer my nemesis.

  ‘What are you going to do?’ I asked.

  ‘I’m not sure,’ she said. ‘I’ve earned all this money. I thought maybe I should start to enjoy it. My son and his wife live in Australia, and they’re expecting. I think I might pay them a visit, let my hair go grey, and fade into delicious obscurity.’

  She gave me another big hug. As she was leaving I asked if she knew what Angie was doing.

  ‘The last I heard she went to Burning Man,’ said Regina.

  ‘Burning Man? The thing in the desert?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘The hippyish thing with no mobile phones,
no hair straighteners… no irony?’

  ‘That’s the one dear,’ she said. She kissed me on the cheek and made her way down the steps. At the end of the road hailed a taxi. She still had to go and apologise to Martin Amis and Sue Pollard. Quite why, I’m not sure. We’ve said we’ll keep in touch. I’ve no idea if we will.

  Adam came home late after his double shift at the bar. I showed him the letter, and explained to him what had happened.

  ‘We should go for it,’ I said. ‘We should accept the offer and move to the farm.’

  ‘You won’t regret this Cokes, I’m going to make an amazing new life for us,’ he said and threw his arms around me.

  Thursday 4th July

  So much has happened in the last 24 hours. After his initial excitement, Adam has gone into panic mode. We phoned Bonham & Son last night and accepted the offer. I then phoned Chris and told him we were going to buy Strangeways farm.

  Then Adam quit his job at the bar, and I booked a removal company to come and re-pack everything.

  ‘I’m so unprepared to start a micro-brewery,’ said Adam. ‘That batch of beer I made was disgusting… What are we going to do?’

  ‘We need a habitable house first. I’m not having our baby live in that place with the single glazing, Formica and floaters in the loo…’

  Friday 5th July

  We met Chris and drove out today to Strangeways Farm. When we opened up the house, my nesting instinct kicked in with a vengeance. I marched round, with Chris and Adam running after me.

  ‘These have all got to go,’ I said pointing at the crumbling appliances in the kitchen.

  ‘I’ve got my baby belling stove, and that Euro 2008 beer fridge which could tide us over,’ said Adam.

  ‘No. I want a completely new kitchen like the one I’ve got at home.’

  ‘Cokes. You could have the baby any day… isn’t it too much?’

  ‘You wanted to do this Adam, and I do too. But our baby must have the same quality of life as we do in London. Like the Queen Mother wanted when she was booted out of Buckingham Palace.’

  ‘She wasn’t booted out, her daughter became Queen,’ said Adam.

  ‘And what she actually said was that she wanted to be kept in the style as to which she was accustomed,’ said Chris.

  ‘You got that Adam? The style to which I am accustomed. So we’re having a new kitchen.’

  ‘Have we got enough time?’ he asked.

  ‘Well you’d better get cracking,’ I said. Adam nodded nervously and wrote it down. We then went upstairs.

  ‘This bathroom needs to be ripped out. I want a shower and a bath, no worries if we can’t get a bidet; I only ever used ours at Christmas to defrost the turkey. Put in a heated towel rail and new double-glazed windows. In fact double-glaze the whole house. No, triple-glaze!’

  We then went to the bedrooms.

  ‘Hire a skip, get rid of it all…’ I said shuddering at the wonky little single beds. ‘What’s under these carpets?’ Chris and Adam hurried to the corner and pulled up a piece of the thin moulding carpet. Underneath were floorboards.

  ‘Lovely. Hire a sander and a polisher.’ We came back downstairs.

  ‘I want a new front door, and a new back door, thick wood with proper locks and no glass. I want a new toilet down here.’ I said as we came into the hall. ‘We also need fast broadband, telephone, a Sky box, and a letter box with those little bristles on it.’

  ‘Why with bristles?’ asked Adam. A gust of wind roared round the house and lifted the letterbox up with a thwap.

  ‘That’s why… Have the central heating checked. If there are any doubts, have it replaced. Ditto the loft insulation.’

  ‘I love a woman in control,’ said Chris looking at me with Judy Garland-esque love in his eyes.

  ‘I’m nesting,’ I said.

  ‘Extreme nesting,’ said Adam staring at the pad.

  ‘That sounds like an amazing idea for a reality show,’ said Chris, ‘Extreme nesting!’

  ‘You were a bit theatrical there,’ grinned Adam as he drove us back home along the M25. ‘It was for Chris’s benefit, yes?’

  ‘No. I was serious Adam. You had this idea to move and I’m now on board a hundred per-cent.’

  ‘You need to be realistic Coco. Everything you asked for, in less a month?’

  ‘I am realistic. I know what you can achieve. You need to make it happen.’

  ‘Have we got enough time?’ said Adam.

  ‘I don’t know. But if anyone can do it, you can,’ I said. Adam was quiet for the rest of the journey home.

  Saturday 6th July

  Our solicitor Mr Parkinson phoned this morning to say that contracts on the house will be exchanged in twenty-eight days. I was on the computer choosing new windows when Adam answered the phone.

  ‘That’s far too slow!’ I said. ‘Tell him there’s a baby on the way. Tell him I’m not crossing my legs and holding it in for anyone!’

  ‘I’m not saying that!’ hissed Adam with his hand over the receiver. I heaved myself up and grabbed it from him.

  ‘Hello Mr Parkinson, I’m very pregnant,’ I said.

  ‘Ah, hello… um, Ms Pregnant,’ said the solicitor.

  ‘No, my name isn’t ‘very pregnant’, I’m Coco Pinchard, homeowner, and I am very pregnant. We need you to move a bit quicker please with this whole house selling thing.’

  ‘Mrs Pinchard I assure you, I’m moving as fast as I can, but you have to understand there is a process.’

  ‘Mr Parkinson, I’m going through my own process here,’ I said. ‘My boobs are already producing milk…’

  There was a pause.

  ‘They are?’ he asked uncomfortably.

  ‘Yes, and at any moment my mucus plug could disintegrate, and my waters break… I’m only a sneeze or a spicy curry away from pushing this baby out.’

  ‘Coco, stop!’ hissed Adam trying to grab the phone from me. I batted him away.

  ‘And Mr Parkinson, do you know how difficult it’s going to be to get me to move out if this baby arrives? I’ll be nesting… Do you want to have to deal with a territorial nesting woman?’

  Mr Parkinson cleared his throat awkwardly.

  ‘Well, um Mrs Pinchard, I’ll take this all on board and see what I can do.’

  ‘Thank you,’ I said.

  ‘Jeez Coco,’ said Adam when I came off the phone.

  ‘Jeez what? I’ve had to listen to doctors and midwives talking about me like a farm animal. I might as well use all this indignity to my advantage.’

  Sunday 7th July

  With terrifying efficiency I have chosen a kitchen and bathroom for the new house, hired a company to supply new windows and doors, and found a contractor who will do it all in the next three weeks.

  Mr Parkinson rang and was relieved when Adam answered. He said he’s managed to work a miracle and all parties will be coming round tomorrow to exchange contracts.

  Result.

  Monday 8th July

  I lay awake last night imagining what our new owners would be like. It would be wonderful if they were creative types. A Turner Prize-winning artist, or a prominent left-leaning journalist, an actor – or even a writer. Well maybe not a writer, or at least not one who is more successful than me. I still nurture the fantasy of having a blue plaque installed on the wall outside reading: COCO PINCHARD, WRITER, LIVED HERE 1967 - … actually, the blue plaque can wait. I have a lot more life I want to live. Still, it does make me realise just how bloody long this has been my house. It will be surreal to finally leave.

  I was still tidying up old tights and Rocco’s squeaky toys when the doorbell rang. The new owners and their solicitor accompanied Mr Parkinson. The new owners weren’t remotely arty, a rather fat sweaty banker in his fifties and a mousey woman with a bowl cut. They introduced themselves as “the Warburtons”. As if they were a vaudeville act, not two individual people.

  ‘Good lord woman, I can see why the urgency to move!’ said Mr Warburton, taking in
my huge bump. Mrs Warburton was terrified of dogs and screamed when Rocco padded up and stared at her.

  ‘He’s very loving,’ I said, but she began to hyperventilate so I let him out in the garden. Adam showed everyone into the kitchen and we all crowded round the breakfast bar and went through the paperwork. Then we all signed the contracts, and that was it. I thought it might have been more memorable.

  ‘Right,’ said Mr Parkinson eyeing my bump as if it were about to explode. ‘All parties are going to work very hard to get this finalised in the next ten days? Yes?’

  Everyone nodded.

  ‘Bloody good to hear,’ said Mr Warburton. ‘Poor old Celia is getting hotel fatigue.’

  ‘That soon?’ I said. ‘I’m not due till the eighth of August…’

  Mr Parkinson looked exasperated. ‘Mrs Pinchard, we’ve all worked very hard to put this through at an extraordinary speed for your impending offspring.’

  ‘I’m not a farm animal!’ I said. ‘I will give birth when I give birth. Do you know how hard it is? People think it’s easy…’

  ‘Oh it’s not easy dear, both mine were breach, seventeen stitches,’ said Mrs Warburton.

  ‘Why do people have to say things like that?’ I shrilled. ‘It’s not helpful!’

  There was an awkward pause.

  ‘Look, let’s let nature take its course,’ said Mr Warburton. ‘Celia, I’ll buy you that cruise on the QEII you keep harping on about.’

  ‘I want one of the big suites,’ she said warming to this. ‘And I want to sit at the Captain’s table.’

  ‘If you’re really good, I’ll pay him extra to bounce you on his knee with no knickers on!’ Mr Warburton said raising his eyebrows at Adam conspiratorially.

  ‘Fine,’ said Celia. ‘Nice to meet you all, I’ll be waiting in the car.’ She hitched her handbag over her arm and left.

  ‘So we’ll complete? When?’ snapped Mr Parkinson.

  ‘You will aim for Coco’s due date and if anything happens before, I’ll work out a solution,’ said Adam taking me in his arms. ‘Is that okay Cokes?’

  I nodded and put my head against his chest.

  ‘Fine,’ said Mr Parkinson. As everyone left, they must have thought we were nuts. I feel we are a bit nuts too. The solicitors went off down the steps to the front gate as Mrs Cohen came out with a duster.

 

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