The coco pinchard boxset.., p.84
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.84

           Robert Bryndza
 

  ‘I’d love to have grown up right in the centre of everything,’ said Daniel staring at a very rich family emerging from Hamley’s Toyshop laden down with bags.

  ‘I want you in the centre of everything with me,’ I said closing my hand over his. We pulled up outside my house just before eight.

  ‘Do you want me to come in with you?’ said Daniel.

  ‘No, it’s late and… I need to talk to my parents.’ My stomach lurched at the thought of going through the front door.

  ‘You don’t know how much this means to me, that you’ve invited us over for Christmas lunch. We get to spend the day together,’ he said, his eyes shining excitedly.

  ‘I love you,’ I said leaning in for a long deep kiss. ‘Sleep tight.’ I opened the door and got out. ‘Drive safely,’ I added.

  Daniel grinned and drove away with a wave. I watched the car grow smaller then vanish round the corner. Then I turned and went inside.

  I wasn’t prepared for the shrill onslaught from Mum when I came through the front door. She rushed at me in the hallway.

  ‘Where have you been Karen? You left me with hundreds of Turkeys!’

  ‘I was with my boyfriend!’ I shouted. ‘Okay? I have a boyfriend!’

  Dad’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

  ‘What? Who? Who is this boyfriend?’ said Mum. ‘I hope we know him – and I hope we know him in the right circumstances!’

  ‘You’ve met him…’ I said. ‘The Carol singer, Daniel.’

  ‘The one here on the doorstep?’

  ‘Yes.’

  Mum clamped her lips together and shook her head.

  ‘You should have seen this boy, Bill, long hair, leather jacket with the hem down, dropped his haitches… Karen, I didn’t raise you to go picking up carol singers on the doorstep!’

  ‘Ugh… Mother, you are such an ignorant snob!’ I shouted.

  ‘Karen,’ warned Dad.

  ‘My name is Coco! COCO!!! I met him three months ago, he’s at university with me and he’s studying music. And I love him!’

  ‘Ok, let’s all calm down and let Karen, Coco, come inside,’ said Dad. I took off my shoes and followed them through to the living room. My mother sat down in shock.

  ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ said Dad.

  ‘Because… You keep going on about Kenneth and how he’s perfect for me… and I did want to introduce him to you…but he’s not Kenneth. He’s better than boring old Kenneth, but you don’t think that.’

  There was silence as they took all this in. The fire crackled.

  ‘Well, maybe we should meet him,’ said Dad cautiously, looking over at Mum. She pursed her lips and snorted.

  ‘Well that’s handy,’ I said, suddenly emboldened with courage. ‘Because he’s coming over for lunch tomorrow, with his mother and his sister.’

  ‘What?’ said Mum leaping off her chair as if someone had shoved a red-hot poker up her bottom.

  ‘I said…’

  ‘I know what you said. You’re telling me, after eight o’clock in the evening, that another three people are coming for Christmas lunch, tomorrow!’

  ‘You’re already cooking loads of food… And I felt guilty.’ I said.

  ‘Why would you feel guilty? Have they got a house? Or are you going to tell me they live in a hut on the Thames?’ said Mum.

  ‘They’ve got a very nice house actually. I feel guilty because it’s my fault their turkey ran away.’

  ‘Ran away?’ shrieked Mum. ‘Why would it run away?’

  ‘Because I left the gate open.’

  ‘You’re telling me they keep a turkey in the garden, a real live turkey?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Bill, I think I need a large sherry,’ said Mum. Dad jumped up and poured us all one. I could see he was actually quite enjoying this.

  ‘I was cuddling it and I left the gate open and now they haven’t got any Christmas lunch,’ I repeated.

  ‘Well they should have thought of that before they put themselves in the position of keeping Christmas lunch that could run away… You don’t see me keeping pigs in the pantry or a cow in the conservatory.’

  ‘Why do think you’re better than everyone else?’ I asked.

  ‘I don’t think that.’

  ‘Yes, you do.’

  ‘I don’t, Karen!’

  ‘Fine, prove me wrong and have them over for lunch.’ I said. There was a pause as Dad handed us each a glass of sherry.

  ‘Merry Christmas,’ he said.

  ‘Look. I’ve told them to be here at twelve, so that’s when they’ll be arriving,’ I said downing my sherry in one, and with that, I left the room and went upstairs.

  Wednesday 25th December - Christmas Day

  When I stormed out of the living room last night, I was expecting Mum to follow me upstairs and let me have it, but she didn’t. I waited in my room, then I got undressed and lay in bed, but she didn’t make an appearance.

  This was worrying. She’s gone bonkers over far less, like the time I told my friend at school Mum secretly watches Coronation Street with the curtains drawn. She screamed at me about that one for days.

  Now, I’d sprung my working class boyfriend and his family on her for Christmas lunch and she was accepting it. Or was she? What did she have planned for me?

  When I woke this morning, I quickly got dressed and then poked my head out of my bedroom door. I could smell bacon frying and Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree was playing on the radio in the kitchen.

  I padded downstairs and, taking a deep breath, went through the swing door into the kitchen. The table was set with a cloth and cutlery and Dad was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. Mum was artfully arranging bacon and egg on plates.

  ‘Morning,’ I said.

  ‘Merry Christmas,’ said Mum bringing plates over to the table. She leant in and kissed me on the cheek.

  ‘Merry Christmas, Dad,’ I said sitting down, confused.

  ‘Merry Christmas, Coco,’ he said with a grin. We started to eat in silence.

  ‘So, this Daniel chap,’ said Dad. ‘Why on earth does he call you Coco?’

  ‘It’s silly,’ I said.

  ‘It’s not some sort of lovey-dovey pet name, is it?’ asked Mum trying to hide her revulsion.

  ‘NO!’ I said feeling myself go red with horror that they might think I was doing what I actually have done, quite a few times.

  ‘On my first night at Aberystwyth the student’s union organised a pub quiz and a raffle, and I won a bottle of Coco Chanel No.5 perfume. Daniel couldn’t remember my name so I became the Coco girl, and then everyone started calling me Coco. I like it.’

  ‘So it’s a nickname?’ said Dad.

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Well, Happy Christmas, Coco. At least you chose a respectable brand of perfume.’

  ‘That’s true. What if it had been Charlie!’

  Dad laughed and Mum tried to, which made her look like a snake about to unhinge its jaw.

  ‘Look, Mum, why are you being so calm?’ I asked, warily. Mum composed her face into a smile.

  ‘Because I’ve realised something darling,’ she said. ‘These people will descend on us for lunch and they’ll prove my point that they’re not suitable. It won’t be nice but I’m willing to go through it all to get this boy out of your system.’

  ‘I’m serious about Daniel,’ I said.

  ‘I know you are,’ smiled mum patronisingly. ‘And despite what you think I won’t enjoy seeing you heartbroken.’

  Mum seemed so sure of herself, so confident.

  ‘I’ve already telephoned Yvonne and Adrian, I’ve warned them what to expect.’

  ‘You’ve never met Daniel’s family!’

  ‘I have a good idea. Now you’ll be able to see Daniel and Kenneth side by side and you’ll realise just what I see, Kenneth is a catch, and very eligible. I’ve heard that Yvonne and Adrian are worth well over a million pounds.’

  ‘And that makes them better?’

/>   ‘Oh darling, you’re my daughter and I want the best for you.’

  ‘We both love you,’ added Dad.

  I realised that this lunch would be a fight, a fight for Daniel and his family, measured against the so-called perfection of the Rosebury’s.

  ‘Where are you going?’ said Mum as I got up.

  ‘I’m not hungry anymore,’ I said. I went and had a shower, and then I shut myself in the airing cupboard with the phone and called Daniel. His mother answered and I heard in the background the sound of him playing Jingle Bells on the piano.

  ‘’Oo is it?’ she shouted.

  ‘It’s Coco!’

  ‘Oh ’ello love. John Paul Belmondo is still missin'.’

  ‘I’m so sorry,’ I said.

  ‘I went out there this mornin’ and made a noise like a girl turkey, but nothin’… ’e’s gawn.’

  ‘I’m sorry.’ I said again. I tried to imagine Mrs. Pinchard impersonating a turkey. I had a vision of her pulling her teeth out and crouching down.

  ‘Does yer mum like tinned fruit cocktail?’ she asked.

  ‘I think so.’

  ‘Good, ’cos I’ve got a tin in the cupboard, I won it in the raffle down Hilly Fields. Cost a whole pound for a ticket so it should be good stuff, you know ’ow they sometimes fob you off with peaches and pears an only ’alf a bloomin’ cherry!’

  ‘Thank you.’

  ‘’Ow about a tin of condensed milk for the pud? An’ I think I’ve got some pickled walnuts in the back of the sideboard…’

  ‘Yes, look can I speak to Daniel please?’ I asked, realising that sooner or later Mum would spot the wire for the phone and hoist me out of the cupboard to make brandy butter. The sound of Jingle Bells ceased and Daniel was summoned to the phone.

  ‘Merry Christmas, sexy,’ he said.

  ‘Look, Daniel,’ I said. ‘I’m so excited about you all coming, but I have to warn you… there’s no other way to say it. My mother is a snob, she looks down on everyone and she’s got this awful couple coming called Yvonne and Adrian, with their equally awful son Kenneth who Mum seems to want me to marry. Please just promise you’ll still love me afterwards whatever happens?’

  ‘Course I will. You’re my Coco. Trust me I can charm the pants off any woman.’

  ‘Daniel!’

  ‘That came out wrong, your pants are the only ones I want to charm off.’

  Then I heard his mother shouting, ‘’Ere Danny ’ave a sniff of these pickled walnuts, are they meant to look like this?’

  ‘Right, I’d better go, see you at twelve,’ he said. ‘Love you.’

  ‘Love you too,’ I said. I wasn’t hopeful about lunch.

  The Roseburys rang the doorbell at eleven-thirty. Mum’s high heels appeared first as she came running down the stairs. She was wearing the white off-the-shoulder cashmere sweater Dad had given her plus the entire contents of her jewellery box.

  ‘Yvonne!’ she cried opening the door where the Roseburys stood. They stamped the snow off their shoes and came in bearing expensive wine, vintage port, a huge piece of Stilton and a giant bouquet of flowers.

  I dreaded what Mum would say when Mrs. Pinchard handed over the condensed milk and tinned fruit.

  ‘Oh! Thank you!’ cried Mum. Dad helped Yvonne out of her coat. She was wearing an identical off-the-shoulder cashmere sweater in red.

  ‘You got the Nicole Farhi in cashmere too!’ squealed Yvonne as she and Mum admired each other.

  ‘Great minds think alike Bill,’ said Adrian gripping my father’s hand. Both he and Kenneth were dressed in shirts and ties with dreadful knitted Christmas jumpers.

  ‘Merry Christmas, Bill,’ said Adrian pulling out a cigar.

  ‘Merry Christmas, Adrian!’ said Dad doing the same. They swapped cigars and held them to their noses.

  ‘This is the life, Bill, rolled on a Cuban virgin’s thigh,’ said Adrian raising his eyebrows lasciviously. Kenneth stood moodily by the door.

  ‘Karen, say hello to Kenneth and take his coat,’ parroted Mum.

  ‘Hello. Coat please,’ I said holding out my arm.

  ‘Not like you’re working in the coat room of a public house… You’ve got her all flustered Kenneth,’ said Mum. Kenneth muttered something neutral.

  ‘I’ve got my boyfriend coming,’ I announced loudly.

  ‘Oh! Boyfriend indeed,’ said Adrian, going all bug-eyed at the thought of me being with a boy. ‘What does your father think of this?’

  ‘Well, Adrian, he’s going to have to come through me first,’ said Dad being all comedy macho.

  ‘Oh Kenneth, do give Coco your coat, don’t stand on ceremony,’ smiled Mum. He handed me his jacket and they all went into the living room. I had to admit, it looked great. The room was candlelit, with fairy lights twinkling on the tree, the fire was burning and holly hung around the mantelpiece. Nat King Cole gently crooned in the background encouraging us all to have a merry little Christmas.

  ‘Oh Evelyn your tree is beautiful,’ said Yvonne. Mum did a coquettish little laugh and zipped out, returning with a silver tray with champagne and glasses.

  ‘Bill would you?’ asked Mum. Dad started to open the bottle of Moet & Chandon.

  ‘Shampoo eh? Business must be good…’ grinned Adrian. Mum subtly twisted the bottle round so the label was showing, and Dad popped the cork. As we clinked glasses Mum started going on about how I’d invited some people over at the last minute, some friends who were having trouble at Christmas. She made it sound like they were coming to us as a soup kitchen!

  ‘It’s my boyfriend’s family,’ I clarified.

  ‘Well, just someone from university,’ said Mum airily.

  ‘No. I like Daniel a lot,’ I said.

  ‘Well, we’ll see about that,’ said Mum through gritted teeth.

  ‘You don’t get to tell me who I can go out with,’ I growled.

  ‘Bill!’ shrilled Mum. ‘Why don’t you take Adrian outside and enjoy those cigars.’ The two dads went off gleefully. ‘Kenneth, I’m going to show your mother my new Le Creuset range – I got it last week and Delia swears by it. Why don’t you talk to Karen about what you’re getting up to at Keele.’

  Mum ushered Yvonne out leaving Kenneth and me standing awkwardly together.

  ‘So… Is Delia your housekeeper?’ asked Kenneth after a pause.

  ‘She means Delia Smith, you know? The television cook?’

  ‘Oh, yeah,’ Kenneth nodded, there were droplets of sweat forming on his upper lip.

  ‘Do you want to take that jumper off?’ I asked.

  ‘I’m fine,’ he snapped.

  ‘Well you don’t look it, at least move away from the fire.’ He slammed his glass down on the table and yanked his jumper over his head. Underneath he was wearing a starched white shirt and tie.

  ‘Better?’ I smiled.

  ‘Yes.’

  He folded the jumper up and laid it on the arm of the sofa. We stood in silence.

  ‘Can I just say that I really do have a boyfriend, and despite what our parents want…’

  ‘You can stop flattering yourself,’ he said. ‘You’re hardly my type.’

  ‘What do you mean by that?’

  ‘Well,’ he said sneeringly looking me up and down.

  ‘You can piss off!’ I snapped. I went to leave but the living room door opened softly and my mother and Yvonne poked their heads inside.

  ‘How are you two getting along?’ asked Mum. Yvonne was standing beside her looking equally hopeful.

  ‘Oh wonderful,’ I said. Kenneth gave me a look.

  ‘Karen! Charge Kenneth’s glass,’ snapped Mum as if this would make us fall hopelessly in love. They both left the room. I grabbed the glass out of his hand and went to the sideboard. I began pouring more champagne when, through the window into the back garden, I saw a young guy poking his head up over the fence. His hair was gelled up and blow-dried into a Simon Le Bon style, and he had an orange scarf twirled theatrically round his neck. He caught s
ight of me, stared angrily for a moment then his head vanished.

  ‘God, how long does it take you to pour a drink?’ said Kenneth sarcastically.

  ‘There was some guy trying to get over the fence,’ I said, handing him his champagne.

  ‘Was it your boyfriend? Trying to escape?’ he smirked.

  ‘No this boy was trying to climb in actually…’

  Kenneth became rather tense.

  ‘Hang on. What did he look like?’

  ‘I dunno. Blond, Simon Le Bon haircut…’ Kenneth gulped and gripped his glass harder, and then the doorbell rang. It was Daniel. He was wearing dark trousers and a white shirt open at the neck. His silver St. Christopher glinted against a glimpse of hairy chest. He looked gorgeous.

  ‘Merry Christmas, Coco,’ he said leaning in for a kiss.

  ‘Where are your Mum and Meryl?’ I asked.

  ‘Oh, um. They’re just parking the car,’ he grinned.

  ‘There are loads of spaces out the front, aren’t there?’

  He shrugged oddly and I took him through to the living room where everyone was now standing with drinks. Mum was a little annoyed at how warmly he was welcomed in. Daniel even called my Dad Sir, which earned him several brownie points. Twenty minutes of sipping and chatting passed before Mum started making noises about the dinner being ruined.

  ‘Where did your mum park, Daniel? Tottenham?’ I asked. Then the doorbell rang.

  ‘That’ll be them,’ said Daniel, obviously relieved. Mrs. Pinchard and Meryl were standing on the doorstep with their hair slightly on end as if they’d emerged from a tussle. Meryl smoothed her hair nervously. Mum appeared with Dad, Adrian and Yvonne and they all said an awkward hello.

  ‘’Ooh, yer jumper’s slipped,’ said Mrs. Pinchard pulling Mum’s off-the-shoulder firmly back on-the-shoulder. ‘Wouldn’t want one of yer boobies popping out… well not until we’ve lit the Christmas pud!’

 

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