Coco pinchards big fat t.., p.9
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       Coco Pinchard's Big Fat Tipsy Wedding: A Funny Feel-Good Romantic Comedy, p.9

           Robert Bryndza
 

  The last few days have been heaven, wandering through Bratislava. The old town is full of elegant buildings painted in bright pastel colours, like rows of sumptuous cakes decorated in smooth royal icing.

  We’ve done the same thing every day. Wake up late, eat a huge breakfast and then walk to the main square in the old town and choose a cafe, where, we’ve sat drinking endless cups of coffee and smoking.

  Two days passed before I realised we hadn’t really said much to one another. We are in Cafe Mayer, which has the air of a 17th century French salon film; all pink and decadent with a soaring ceiling.

  ‘Why do we do it?’ I said.

  ‘Do what?’ said Marika.

  ‘Christmas…’

  ‘Well, we don’t really have a choice.’

  ‘We do! Yet we spend an inordinate amount of time preparing events for people we wouldn’t spend ten minutes with any other day of the year.’

  We carried on smoking for a bit.

  ‘You know, you can stay with me,’ I said. ‘If you need to rent your flat out.’

  Marika smiled. ‘Thanks… I don’t know what I’m going to do about a job.’

  ‘Well, you’re not going to panic,’ I said. ‘You can stay as long as you need to.’

  ‘Maybe I could start a company offering Christmas breaks, like what we’re doing now,’ said Marika.

  ‘What? The anti-Christmas package deal?’ I said.

  ‘Yes, no relations or acquaintances allowed. Just time spent relaxing, with friends.’

  Rocco barked.

  ‘And pets, of course’ said Marika.

  ‘We’ve done nothing for the last few days and its been the best Christmas since… well since Rosencrantz was little,’ I said.

  We watched the empty square as snow began to fall.

  ‘Come on, lets do a bit more nothing,’ said Marika. ‘We’ve got to get back to the real world soon,’ and she ordered us more cake and coffee.

  Thursday 30th December 14.08

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  On our last night in Bratislava we got dressed up and went to the UFO. A huge circular restaurant which sits high above Bratislava on top of a bridge. The Waiter, at first, said we couldn’t come in with a dog, but I pretended I was the wife of the British Ambassador and Marika pulled out her Slovak I.D card and pretended she was the sister of Dara Rolincova (a famous singer in Slovakia who shares her surname).

  ‘To 2011 being the most incredible year,’ said Marika when we were sat looking out over a panoramic view of the city.

  ‘Where we move forward successfully, you away from teaching,’ I said.

  ‘And you away from Adam,’ said Marika. ‘You’ll have to get over him sometime Cokes, better to do it now than waste more of your life.’

  I took a deep breath and we toasted to the future.

  We’re just about to start the long drive home. We should be back tomorrow afternoon, will you be back from the Ice Hotel Chris?

  Coco x

  Friday 31st December 15.43

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Me and Marika are home. We’re going to have a sleep and then do you want to come over and bring in the new year?

  PS You’ll also need to bring some booze.

  January 2011

  Monday 3rd January 08.28

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  Happy New Year! I’m full of beans at the thought of a fresh start, new challenges, and moving forward. I spent New Year’s Eve with Chris and Marika, and we agreed to make big changes to our lives.

  Chris had a rather spiritual Christmas at the Ice Hotel. He was deeply moved by the Northern Lights, which appeared several times during his stay. On his last night, he saw a vivid image of Judi Dench’s face amongst the aurora. He’s convinced this means great things are in his future as a Theatre Director.

  On New Year’s Eve, we stayed in and watched the movie In Her Shoes with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette.

  This has inspired Marika to change career direction completely, and become a Dog Walker. She’s moving into my spare room and is out now tramping the streets of Marylebone distributing leaflets.

  I am going to channel all my energy into forgetting about Adam, and concentrate on my career and the launch of Agent Fergie. This year is all about moving forward!

  Coco x

  Monday 3rd January 09.11

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I was putting down an old sheet of newspaper for Rocco to pee on, when I noticed this article;

  LOCAL MAN CHARGED WITH FRAUD. Metropolitan Police last night arrested and charged an NW1 resident in connection to a £200,000 business fraud. Police questioned Adam Rickard 38, of Baker Street for several hours before releasing him on bail pending a court appearance. The fraud pertains to an eleven-month period Mr. Rickard spent working at XYZ Event Management as a Heath & Safety Officer.

  The article is from The Marylebone Comet, dated November 17th last year — the same time Adam ended our relationship.

  Monday 3rd January 11.12

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I have more news. Rosencrantz popped in on his way to an audition and found me staring at the newspaper article.

  ‘Jeez Mum, this is huge!’ he said. I told him I had been trying Adam’s phone number, but it seems to be disconnected.

  ‘You want me to help you find him?’ said Rosencrantz.

  ‘What about your audition?’ I said.

  ‘I can be late,’ he said taking off his coat and booting up my laptop. ‘It’s only for a corporate video about the dangers of asbestos inhalation…’

  It took Rosencrantz a mere thirty-seven minutes to track down Adam’s whereabouts. He friended Adam’s daughter Holly on twitter. She’s on a gap year in America (a gap from what? The last I heard she was doing a two-week cake decorating course at Watford College) anyway, it seems money talks and when we suggested emailing her a hundred pounds via PayPal, she sang like a canary.

  I stood over Rosencrantz's shoulder whilst we waited for Holly to instant message the address.

  ‘Is this a good idea Mum?’ he said. ‘What if Adam is guilty? He dumped you, and he’s guilty?’

  ‘I can't imagine Adam would steal a two hundred thousand pounds.’

  ‘Spoken like a true naive woman.’

  ‘I’m not naive!’

  ‘Well, you thought butter wouldn't melt in Dad's mouth, then you caught him in bed with his mouth...’

  ‘Rosencrantz!’

  ‘Just saying…’

  ‘No. I have to go and see him, I need to talk to him, if only to get closure.’

  ‘Oh I see,’ said Rosencrantz. ‘That’s what you’re calling it, closure. Well, just don’t get carried away and let him put his closure in your mouth.’

  ‘Rosencrantz! I’m not one of your friends you can talk to that way,’ I said. Then there was a little plinking noise as Holly’s message came through.

  ‘Hurry, open it!’ I said. Rosencrantz clicked on the message, and the following address popped up;

  14 The Street

  Rochester

  Kent

  ME1 6BV

  ‘What? What’s he doing in Rochester?’ I said.

  ‘Where is Rochester?’ said Rosencrantz.

  ‘Couple of hours outside London… Why would he be there?’

  ‘Holly says she would be willing to give you a full breakdown of her father’s movements for another two hundred,’ said Rosencrantz reading off the screen.

  ’She’s a money-grubbing little minx,’ I said. ‘But I’ll bear it in mind. First, I’m going to drive to Rochester. Attempt the element of surprise. Can you look after Rocco?’ He was curled up asleep on Rosencrantz’s lap.

  ‘Yes, my asbestos inhalation role can wait!’ He said. ‘And Mum…’

  ‘What?’

  ‘Don’t do anything stupid.’ Rocco opened one little eye, as if in agreement with Rosencrantz. I just nodded and grabbed
the car keys.

  By some miracle, I’ve cracked how to work the built in GPS screen in the Land Cruiser, but I’m stuck in a long line of traffic on the M25.

  Ooh, the traffic is moving, better go…

  Tuesday 4th January 10.12

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I made it to Rochester by lunchtime. It was a world away from London with a cobbled high street and several antique showrooms. An old man with a twirly moustache doffed his Panama as I passed. How did Adam end up here?

  I found the address, a terraced house on a lane running parallel to the high street. Smoke curled from a chimney as I opened the gate. A low shiny black door confronted me at the end of the path. My heart climbed into my throat as I reached out for the huge knocker, but the door opened and there stood Adam.

  There was an awkward silence, it went on and on, and we just stared at each other. He was thinner with big bags under his eyes, but my heart skipped along a little faster at the sight of him. I finally blurted out,

  ‘So, Rochester. It’s quite historical.’

  ‘Yeah,’ said Adam. ‘I haven’t been to the castle yet.’

  Then I punched him in the face.

  ‘Ahhh!’ he yelled clutching at his face with one wide shocked eye showing. ‘What did you do that for?’

  ‘What do you think? For everything. For not telling me!’ I shouted. ‘And now you’ve busted my hand…’

  ‘Your hand, what about my face? And how did you find me?’ He said.

  ‘Holly. I bribed her with a hundred quid.’

  ‘Bloody hell! Why would she do that?’ he said. I wanted to say because she’s a conniving and lazy daughter, but I kept my mouth shut.

  ‘Are you going to invite me in?’ I said.

  ‘Are you gonna punch me again?’ he said checking his lip for blood.

  ‘I haven’t decided yet…’

  He regarded me for a minute, and then led me through a low hallway to a sitting room. It was very frilly and flowery with pictures of cats in teacups and a couple of those Anne Geddes babies dressed up as bumble bees.

  ‘Is this your house?’

  ‘Why would it be my house?’ he said.

  ‘I don’t know. It seems I don’t know anything about you. Is your name really Adam?’

  ‘The house belongs to Serena, my boss from my old job in the Civil Service.’

  ‘I thought Serena was a lesbian?’ I said.

  ‘She is,’ he said clearing some papers off a chintz sofa so I could sit. ‘Should she have pictures of Ellen and KD Lang?’

  ‘No… Is she here?’

  ‘No, she’s on holiday with her girlfriend.’ I looked around again and then sat down.

  ‘Adam. What’s going on?’ I said. ‘Please.’

  Over coffee, he told me everything. Last summer his employer, XYZ Event Management, hired an outside company to do a cost effectiveness audit. The company discovered that two hundred thousand pounds was missing. The money had been siphoned off through hundreds of fake Taxi invoices.

  On November 16th last year, he was called into his Boss’ office where three Police Officers from the Fraud Squad were waiting. They told him he was being arrested for fraud. Adam thought at first that it was a joke. Then the Senior Officer produced bank statements from a savings account in Adam’s name. The statements showed that over a period of eleven months, £200,000 had been claimed through fake Taxi invoices in Adam’s name.

  ‘But that’s huge amount for Taxi journeys?’ I said.

  ‘It’s a huge swanky events company. Every day scores of employees are cruising round London in Taxis,’ he said. ‘The fake invoices were for a few hundred pounds every day. The money was paid into my savings account, then every day withdrawn from a cash machine. It added up to £200,000 over the eleven months.’

  ‘How did you not know this was happening to your bank account?’ I said.

  ‘It was an old savings account I never check. I thought it only had a few quid in it. All I can think is that someone at the company stole my identity.’

  ‘How? Even I don’t know your pin numbers.’

  Adam paused.

  ‘What Adam?’

  ‘Do you remember when I first got the job and I left my wallet at the office over the weekend?’

  ‘Yes, but it was still there on the Monday when you went back to work.’

  ‘I never told you, but I had all of my pin numbers and internet banking codes written on bits of paper in my wallet. This whole fraud thing started just after I’d left my wallet in work.’

  ‘So you think another work colleague has done this?’

  ‘It must be.’

  ‘Who?’

  ‘I don’t know. It’s an open plan office with a hundred employees. They forged my name on the invoices; they accessed the bank account online at the office. They even ordered a new cash card in my name.’

  ‘What about the cash machine where the money was withdrawn? Don’t they have cameras?’

  ‘Whoever it was found an old cash machine without a camera. It also happens to be on my daily route to work.’

  ‘What’s happening now?’ I said.

  ‘I’ve been charged, and I’m on bail for a court appearance later in February.’

  ‘Have you got anyone representing you?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘And what does he or she say?’

  ‘He keeps saying he's not having much luck…’

  ‘That doesn't sound good enough,’ I said. I went to the window. It was already starting to get dark. Adam got up and turned on the light, we both winced at the brightness.

  ‘Why? Why didn’t you just tell me?’ I said.

  ‘I wanted to protect you. You’ve been building your dream. Agent Fergie is coming out soon, and I know it’s going to be huge. Daniel almost derailed your career when you split up. I didn’t want to do that to you again. You have an amazing career.’

  ‘Yeah well an amazing career isn’t much fun without an amazing guy to share it with,’ I said.

  ‘So I’m amazing enough for you to smack in the gob?’ he said. Under the light, I could see his face was swelling up. I took him through to Serena’s kitchen where I found some ice and wrapped it in a tea towel. I pressed it gently on the bruise forming under his eye.

  ‘I have to ask you this,’ I said. ‘And I need to hear the truth. Did you do it? Did you steal the money?’

  ‘No,’ said Adam. ‘No, I didn't do it.’ There was something in his eyes; I knew he was telling the truth. I took a deep breath.

  ‘Okay,’ I said. ‘I believe you. Now you need to get your things together. You're coming home.’

  It was the first time I ever saw Adam cry and I didn't think any less of him for it. I held him for a long time, and then he went to kiss me. I remembered what Rosencrantz said and started packing his suitcase, which was on the floor by the sofa. Then we drove home.

  I didn’t say much during the journey. Part of me was overjoyed, part in a blind panic thinking; what happens now?

  It was snowing again when we arrived back in London. When we turned the corner to my road, I could see a huge van in the driveway, its back doors open and jutting out onto the pavement. I parked by the kerb as Oscar emerged from the van heaving a giant mattress.

  ‘Hello Mrs P,’ he said resting the edge of the mattress to catch his breath.

  ‘What’s going on?’ I said getting out of the car.

  ‘We’re helping Marika move her stuff in,’ he said.

  A muffled voice came from the back of the van saying, ‘Why have you stopped, bitch?’ Wayne appeared round the other side of the mattress lugging a headboard.

  ‘Hello Mrs. P!’ he said. Then Adam got out of the car. The boys looked him up and down with a practised glance, like scanning a bar code. I almost heard the beep as they registered that Adam is hot.

  ‘Is this?’ whispered Oscar.

  ‘Yeah, it is. Hi I’m Adam,’ said Adam holding out his hand. Oscar shook it, his fai
r complexion turning red.

  ‘Hello,’ said Wayne proffering his hand. ‘And I here I was thinking there was no one around who could work an Alan Key.’

  Poor Adam didn’t know how to respond to that.

  Rosencrantz and Marika emerged from the house followed by Rocco who came running up yipping and yapping through the snow. Their faces lit up when they saw me. When they saw Adam, they went quiet.

  Rosencrantz stopped for a moment than rushed forward and gave him a big hug. There were tears in his eyes.

  ‘Are you okay?’ he said. Adam nodded. Marika held back.

  ‘I’ll need an explanation. Before I start hugging,’ she said.

  ‘It’s okay,’ said Adam. ‘If I can come inside, I’ll tell you what’s going on.’

  An hour and a couple of bottles of red wine later Adam finished telling the story. I had quietly bustled around in the background as he talked, making salad, heating up a couple of frozen pizzas and trying to organise my thoughts about Adam being back in my life.

  ‘Jeez,’ said Rosencrantz. ‘I’m so sorry.’ He poured Adam more wine.

  ‘Hang on, hang on,’ said Marika. ‘Isn’t your mortgage around two hundred grand?’

  ‘Marika!’ I shrieked as I used a pizza wheel to divide a deep crust pepperoni.

  ‘What? You’ve got to think of these things Coco,’ she said regarding Adam warily.

 
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