The coco pinchard boxset.., p.82
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.82

           Robert Bryndza
 

  12.00 pm Just back from an expedition to find a phone book. Four phone boxes on Marylebone High Street were devoid of phone books and stank of wee. Finally found one in Hanover Square, the park off Oxford Street. There are six Pinchard’s in the phone book. Using some coppers I found in my moneybox I rang them all; none of them knew a Daniel Pinchard.

  Now I’m paranoid Daniel gave me a false surname. I’m racking my brains to think if I’ve seen anything official with his name on it. I haven’t.

  12.15 pm I have! His jacket! His mother had sewn ‘DANIEL PINCHARD’ in the back of his jacket. Wonder what his mother is like? She can’t be worse than mine.

  4.30 pm Phone rang again. I hoped it was Daniel, Tania or Tanya, but it was Claire calling from Scotland. She also hates being back at home. Her parents sound even stricter than mine. Her father runs a kilt making business and with Hogmanay coming up she has to help out in their shop for the next fortnight. I told her that I have to get up at four in the morning and help out in Dad’s butcher’s shop on Christmas Eve, but it didn’t sound as bad. She wished me a happy Christmas and promised that she would talk to Tania and Tanya about the nose down the chimney mix up.

  8.00 pm Am in bed surrounded by my childhood toys: dolls house, wooden horse, Sindy dolls etc. Why did my mother put them all back whilst I was away? Have had a horrible thought, what if I fall down the stairs and end up an invalid… I’ll be stuck in this room for ever surrounded by my toys from childhood. No friends, no Daniel, just my mother bringing up soup on a tray… Her shoulder pads getting bigger and bigger until she has to negotiate doors sideways. I can’t sleep. I wonder what Daniel is doing.

  10.00 pm I just screamed so loudly that Dad came rushing in.

  ‘What is it love?’ he asked blearily. I told him I’d had a nightmare, and he went back to bed. I was too embarrassed to tell him that I rolled over and lent on my glow-worm and its huge face lit up scaring me half to death.

  Monday 23rd December

  The doorbell rang early in the afternoon and I heard a familiar voice start to sing Good Kind Wenceslas. I came down the stairs two at a time and Daniel was standing in the open doorway his dark handsome face framed by his gorgeous long hair. He was singing beautifully, his voice carrying through the cold still air. I came to the bottom of the steps and joined Mum who was rapt with attention, actually clasping her pearls in joy. I’m sure if she’d known that this was the boy I had spent many a night lying underneath she wouldn’t have been so joyful, but I just watched, grinning knowingly at him as he entertained my mother.

  When he came to the end of the carol there was a brief silence as his voice faded, until we became aware of the sounds from outside once more, the cars rushing past at the end of the road, a bus hissing and roaring as it changed gear.

  ‘Thank you, young man,’ said Mum. ‘What a lovely rendition of Good King Wenceslas.’

  ‘Thanks,’ said Daniel. ‘I’m studying for a degree in music.’

  ‘How impressive,’ said Mum. ‘I’ve always thought it’s a very broad subject, classical, modern…’

  ‘I’m studying classical, the history of music. Do you know how Good King Wenceslas liked his pizza?’ said Daniel.

  ‘No, I don’t,’ said Mum.

  ‘Deep and crisp and even,’ grinned Daniel. I burst out laughing but Mum looked blank.

  ‘It was a joke, Mum,’ I said cringing.

  ‘Oh, yes… Look I don’t usually do this, but come into the hall a moment out of the cold.’ Daniel came in and wiped his feet on the mat. Mum closed the door behind him.

  ‘Karen just stay here with…’

  ‘Daniel.’

  ‘Just stay here with Daniel whilst I find him something to be on his way with.’

  She adjusted her cardigan and went off down the hall to the kitchen. The door swung closed behind her.

  ‘What are you doing?’ I said thrilled to see him.

  ‘You didn’t ring me Coco, and when I phoned you, your mum kept saying you weren’t in.’

  ‘Did she now,’ I said darkly. ‘I thought you’d gone off me… I lost my handbag on the train with your number in and…’

  It was odd and thrilling to see Daniel standing in the hallway of my house in London. His presence was sexy and dangerous against the pastel flocked wallpaper. He leant in and kissed me. His mouth was a mixture of hot and cold and he tasted of cigarettes and sweets. His stubble rubbed against my chin and I felt warmth flood through me. We jumped apart as the kitchen door opened and Mum came back. This is ridiculous I thought, and I stood up straight in preparation to tell her that Daniel was my boyfriend.

  ‘Here we are, I’ve popped in some vegetables we’ve got spare.’ She handed Daniel a package wrapped up in the pale pink of the Financial Times and tied with string. It was a food parcel. Everything about it screamed charity.

  ‘Um… Thanks,’ said Daniel trying to hide his embarrassment.

  ‘I thought it was the least we could do, in the cold, well – it should keep you going.’ Daniel looked like he wanted the floor to open up and swallow him. Mum leaned around him and opened the latch on the door.

  ‘Do you have a phone number?’ I said.

  ‘Karen!’ shrilled Mum.

  ‘What? He’s a musician, we might know people who need a carol singer…’

  ‘I don’t think so, Karen.’

  Now the sound of his beautiful voice had faded, Mum saw she had an oik in a leather jacket perilously close to her Laura Ashley wallpaper.

  ‘It’s Catford 67932,’ said Daniel quickly.

  ‘Catford 67932,’ I repeated.

  ‘Merry Christmas,’ he said and he walked off down the steps trying to regain his composure.

  ‘Oh Karen,’ said Mum closing the door. ‘He’s nice to look at but you could do so much better. Kenneth, for instance.’

  ‘Why are you so obsessed with Kenneth? Do you fancy him?’

  ‘If I were lucky enough to be young like you I’d be thrilled to have the pick of an eligible young man like Kenneth. And his father Adrian is a meat distributor and Yvonne tells me the Masonic Lodge are interested in him.’

  I started to tell her about Daniel but the phone rang, and it was one of her reptilian Joan Collins friends who she talked to for nearly two hours. Which was long enough for me to lose my courage.

  However, Daniel still loves me!

  Tuesday 24th December – Christmas Eve

  We had to be up at three-thirty this morning to have the butcher’s shop open to cope with the Christmas Eve rush. At four a queue had started to form outside in the dark.

  I don’t know why Dad asks Mum to help out, she just upsets everyone. She’s always rude to Tom and Liam the two Saturday lads who come in to help, and she insists on wearing catering whites with full makeup and her best jewellery. Dad and I were both hoping there wouldn’t be a repeat of last year when she lost her gold bracelet up a Turkey. Having to root around in four hundred turkeys’ arses while she screamed the place down was not fun.

  From the moment the shop opened we argued about everything. I wanted to play Capital FM for the Christmas music, but Mum wanted a tape of traditional Christmas carols, we bickered about who should take the money and who should wrap the turkeys, which escalated into raised voices about how the turkeys should be wrapped. At this point Dad came out in front of the long queue and said in a low voice.

  ‘You two need to behave yourselves!’

  ‘What do you mean you two?’ said Mum shocked. ‘She’s a teenage girl, I’m…’

  ‘You’re just as bad,’ he hissed. A truce was called for a few minutes until a lady came to the counter who looked in a real state. She had a kind face but her clothes were tatty and her hair unkempt. When she opened her purse to pay, she was five pence short.

  ‘You need to come back when you can pay the full balance,’ said Mum condescendingly. The woman’s eyes filled with tears. I had some change in my pocket so I pulled a five pence piece out and dropped it in the till.


  ‘Merry Christmas,’ I said.

  The woman smiled gratefully at me, and went off with her bag bulging with turkey. Mum snapped and grabbed me by the back of my catering jacket and dragged me past the queue of customers and into the walk-in freezer.

  ‘Get off me!’ I said in shock.

  ‘Karen. Don’t you dare do that again,’ she said.

  ‘It’s five pence, the difference between someone eating and not eating on Christmas day!’

  ‘What if we did that for everyone? We’d go bust! Your grandfather started this business with nothing, nothing! He worked his fingers to the bone so you can have all the things you take for granted. Your nice clothes, and silly records, and that handbag which cost a fortune which you lost on public transport!’

  ‘Do you care about the poor?’

  ‘Of course I do.’

  ‘You’re a liar. You thought that woman out there was dirt, and you thought that carol singer yesterday was too!’

  ‘What?’

  ‘Daniel. The carol singer… You gave him a load of old vegetables when you should have given him money, he’s hugely talented and funny and…’

  ‘That’s enough!’ she snapped. ‘Now pull yourself together and get out there and start behaving.’

  ‘Like you?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘No. Never.’ I said.

  ‘What?’

  ‘I quit.’

  I took off my white coat and threw it at her. I stormed past my confused father who was lugging a huge ham, and out onto Marylebone High Street. The freezing wind was blowing diagonally, and sliced across my legs but I kept running. After a few minutes my run became a trudge and I found myself back at the phone box behind Oxford Street. I yanked open the door and went in out of the wind. I pulled some two pence pieces from my pocket, lifted the receiver and dialled the number Daniel had given me. After a few rings I heard the beeps and pushed the money in.

  ‘’Ello… Catford six, seven, nine, free, two…’ my heart lurched. I hadn’t thought Daniel’s mother would answer. ‘’Oo’s this?’ said the voice.

  ‘Oh, erm, hello. Um, I’m Karen, Coco, I’m a friend of Daniel’s. Could I please speak to him?’

  There was a muffled sound as she covered the phone.

  ‘’Ere Meryl love, there’s some plummy girl on the blower for Danny…’

  ‘He’s gone up the shop for matches and tobacco…’ said a younger reedier version of Daniel’s mother. The sound un-muffled and she came back on the line.

  ‘He’s gawn up the shops for a packet h’of cigarettes,’ she said suddenly sounding posh.

  ‘How long ago did he leave?’ I said.

  ‘Abaht fifteen minutes h’ago.’

  ‘And is the shop far?’

  ‘Not v’hery, a mere hawp skip and h’ajump.’

  ‘How long does it usually take him?’ I said, now feeling desperate to talk to him.

  ‘’Oo d’ya think I am, Doris Stokes?’ snapped the voice dropping all pretence of poshness. ‘’E’ll be back when ’e’s back!’

  I said I was waiting in a phone box, gave her the number and asked if he could phone me as soon as he was back.

  ‘Are you in the family way?’ she said.

  ‘What?’

  ‘Ringing ’im from a phone box?’

  ‘No, I…’

  ‘’Cos my Danny, ’e’s a good boy. ’E got into university and what with ’is modules, an essays, ’e ’asn’t got time to go round putting girls in the family way.’

  I explained I was at university with Daniel and that I just wanted to wish him a happy Christmas. She reluctantly said she’d give him the number and put the phone down.

  Snow had started to fall outside and the sky was getting dark. I tried not to feel gloomy. I was hungry and cold in a stinking phone box. A car pulled past and its headlights firing off the ice crystals on the window dazzled me. And then the phone rang! I picked up the receiver.

  ‘Hello, is this the halfway house for girls in the family way?’

  ‘Is that you, Daniel?’

  ‘Of course it is, Coco. Why are you in a phone box?’

  ‘I ran away from my mother.’

  ‘Coco, how old are you?’

  ‘I’m nearly nineteen.’

  ‘Exactly. Which means that you are free to do what you want.’

  ‘But you don’t understand…’

  ‘I think I do. You’re a damsel in distress who needs rescuing?’

  I laughed. ‘Are you going to come and rescue me on a white steed?’

  ‘Well close, I’ll get my sister Meryl to drive me over to you in her new Ford Anglia.’

  ‘To go where?’

  ‘To come here.’

  ‘You want me to come to your house?’ I said.

  ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘I want you to meet me mum.’ I heard his mother in the background say, ‘’oo d’ya want me to meet? I’ve still got the turkey to pluck!’ Daniel put his hand over the receiver.

  ‘Mum you can pluck it later!’ He came back on the line. ‘Where are you?’

  ‘Are you sure it’s okay?’ I could hear Daniel’s mother still moaning in the background.

  ‘’Course it is, and my sister Meryl wants to get out for some fresh air and show off her new car.’

  I gave Daniel the address of the phone box and replaced the receiver. Blimey. I was about to meet his family. He must be serious about me. Then I was filled with terror – what if they hate me?

  Forty tense, freezing minutes later, I heard a low whining noise a bit like a plane coming in to crash-land. A pea-green Ford Anglia zoomed round the corner of Hanover Square with steam escaping from beneath the bonnet. A young woman with long brown hair was poking her head out of the driver’s window trying to see past the steam. Daniel’s head appeared out of the passenger window. I came out of the phone box and waved at them.

  ‘Here she is, pull in here Meryl,’ said Daniel. The car swerved and came to a stop beside the pavement. When the engine was off, the car let out an exhausted hiss and even more steam. Daniel opened the door and grabbed me in a big hug. I put my hand up and ran my fingers through his hair, which smelt divine. His sister Meryl got out of the driver’s side and came round to the front. She was only in her twenties, a little older than Daniel, and dressed like a beatnik in a donkey jacket, brown chord trousers and a long green roll neck jumper.

  ‘Fiddlesticks!’ she exclaimed slamming her hand on the bonnet.

  ‘She’s stopped swearing since she joined the young conservatives,’ said Daniel out of the corner of his mouth. I smiled at her and said hello. Meryl turned and gave me the once over.

  ‘So this is Coco,’ she said. She seemed surprised, like maybe she was expecting a stripper in nipple tassels and not the nice winter coat I was sporting. I suddenly wondered what kind of girls Daniel usually went out with. I got the impression he was more experienced, and he certainly hadn’t needed a map the first time we…

  ‘Hello,’ I said snapping out of my head. ‘Daniel’s told me so much about you,’ I said automatically.

  ‘Has he? What?’ said Meryl heaving up the car bonnet. I realised Daniel hadn’t really told me anything about his older sister, other than that she was a bit weird and frigid.

  ‘I hear you’re a Tory?’ I said hopefully.

  ‘Which means you’re not,’ she said. ‘I thought a nice girl like you would shy away from Socialism - I can’t imagine your family, being as well-to-do as they are, would contemplate going back to the eighty-three per cent tax rate and the frankly potty policies bandied about by that old fool Michael Foot!’

  I stared at her. ‘Um, I don’t really follow politics,’ I said. There was an awkward silence as she opened the bonnet and we all peered at the workings of the car engine.

  ‘I think it needs some water,’ said Meryl finally. ‘Daniel, see if that pub will give you some.’

  Daniel grinned and went off. We stood there in silence for a moment as the car began to make a
ticking sound.

  ‘What do you do, Meryl?’ I said.

  ‘I’m a typist at my local doctor’s surgery,’ she said, a little defensively.

  ‘Oh. Do you find you get a lot of bugs?’ I asked.

  ‘No, I’ve been there for a few years now, and I’ve built up my immunity…’ I wondered why she’d agreed to come all this way and pick me up. I wasn’t getting much warmth from her.

  Then I asked her about the car and she started to talk proudly about how she’d saved up for it. It had cost five hundred pounds, which was over two months’ wages.

  ‘Did it take you a long time to save all that?’ I asked, pleased I’d hit on a good topic of conversation.

  ‘Yes, although my housekeeping takes a dent out of wages; Mum doesn’t get much from her job as a cleaner. How much do you pay your mother in housekeeping?’ she asked.

  ‘Um… I’ve never had to,’ I said sheepishly.

  ‘So you get to keep all your wages?’

  ‘I’m a student… and my parents give me an allowance,’ I blushed.

  ‘Aren’t you lucky,’ said Meryl giving me an icy stare.

  ‘I do work, when I’m home,’ I added. ‘My father owns a butcher’s in Marylebone.’

  ‘I’ve heard,’ said Meryl. There was another silence, she pursed her lips and tapped her nails impatiently on the pea-green paintwork of the car’s bonnet.

  Oh God, I thought. She hates me. Luckily Daniel came running out of the pub with a huge glass lemonade bottle full of water and a funnel. He unscrewed the cap on the radiator and filled it up. Meryl looked on proudly as he leaned into the car and started the engine with a roar.

  ‘Marvellous!’ she said closing the bonnet with surprising force. A very pretty young blonde barmaid in a low-cut white shirt and too much makeup came out of the pub.

 
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