When Archie Met Rosie written by Lynda Renham, publisher Raucous Publishing, is available NOW in ebook format. The ebook is also included in the kindleunlimited scheme.
I am so pleased to be able to share with you all today Chapter One to Lynda Renham’s latest romcom, When Archie Met Rosie. Lynda Renham’s writing style is very witty with great character descriptions, you can’t help but have a smile on your face when you read her romcoms. If you find yourself enjoying chapter one do check out the ‘to buy’ link above; the story sounds like the perfect summer read.
Don’t you just hate those people who win at everything without even trying? A flutter on the horses or a scratch card at the newsagent and they’re laughing all the way to the bank. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed all the way to the bank. I’ve cried maybe, but that’s usually on the way back from the bank. I once considered robbing our local Barclays. I did seriously. That’s what desperation does to you. I don’t often think about robbing banks, just in case you think I do. It was only the once. Times can be hard sometimes, especially when Frank blows all our money on Millwall. The football club, that is, not the town. Not that anyone in their right mind would spend their money on Millwall, the town or the football club, but then I do sometimes wonder if Frank is in his right mind. Anyway, I digress. There’s a lot of expense involved in robbing a bank, I discovered. I’m telling you this now, just in case you were thinking of robbing a bank yourself. You need a pair of tights for a start. Not just any old pair either. A decent pair costs you a fiver. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can think of better things to spend a fiver on than a pair of nylons, that I’m just going to pull over my face. I did try an old laddered pair, but you could see my features. Not as good as you normally would, admittedly. It resembled a balaclava with one too many holes. Frank said I ought to wear it all the time.
‘It’s a great improvement,’ he’d laughed.
And then there’s the rucksack. You’ll need one of those. All the best bank robbers have rucksacks. We have one, but the zip is broken. It would be just my kind of luck to have the newly stolen banknotes scattered through the streets of Essex. The expense of a new rucksack was a bit daunting too, especially as Frank only uses it when he trudges down to the off-licence. It nicely holds a six-pack, he’s fond of telling me. It takes a lot of planning, does this bank robbery business. After all, you don’t want to be bursting into Barclays brandishing your P’tit Clown 74560 automatic plastic gun at the wrong time of day, do you? Midday would be a perfect time for me because it’s when I have my lunch break, but have you seen the queues? There’s bound to be one pissed off customer wanting to be a hero, who’d think nothing of wrestling me and my P’tit Clown 74560 plastic gun to the ground, while I’d be yelling, ‘Get your hands off my P’tit, you moron.’
I know what you’re thinking. I have no idea why it’s called P’tit. I imagine, because most of the people who buy it are tits, like me. Let’s be honest, how many bank robbers buy their plastic guns from Amazon? Bank robbers like me, that’s who. Anyway, last but not least, you need a getaway car. If you saw our old Fiesta you’d understand why it wouldn’t have worked. For a start, there’s no door on the driver’s side. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Obviously, there is a door. It would be a touch chilly without one and clearly illegal. It just doesn’t open. No one is sure why. Sam offered to replace it with a spare yellow door he had lying around the garage. Our Fiesta’s black and I didn’t fancy driving around in a lookalike stripy tiger, so I said no and anyway, everyone would have recognised it on the Crimewatch reconstruction. It also takes forever to climb over onto the passenger seat. It’s okay climbing over when you’ve got plenty of time. If your pantyhose got caught on the gearstick, you’ve got time to sort yourself out, haven’t you? But when you’ve got a fleet of police cars after you it’s a whole other ball game. I’m okay getting one leg over the gearstick but it’s my dodgy hip in the other leg that’s the problem. I’ve been known to get stuck in the Lidl car park before now, my crotch nestling nicely on the gears while some kind passer-by hoists my gammy leg over it. Frank says I only do it to pull the blokes. Huh, like I need another one. Although, I have to admit, it is often men who come to my rescue. I guess women are suspicious of a woman sitting on a gearstick. It’s not something you see every day is it? They probably think I’m doing something sordid. I think the men just want a gander up my skirt. They certainly get that. Anyway, the point is, I don’t imagine a kind passer-by is going to give me a leg over after I’ve just robbed Barclays bank, and quite right too.
Anyway, I never did rob the bank. I’m Rose Foster by the way, but everyone calls me Rosie. I like that. It makes me feel young. I live on the Tradmore Estate in Dagenham, Essex. It’s quite well known. Ask anyone where it is, and they’ll be able to tell you. They’ll no doubt look at you with fear in their eyes and advise you to stay away. Tradmore Estate is a regular feature in our local paper. We’re quite famous, although I suppose infamous is the correct word. We’re well known for our raves and raids, usually in that order. We’ve been on Jeremy Kyle too. That is, a few of my neighbours have, not us. I really don’t have the time to go on Jeremy Kyle. I’d love to live somewhere else, but Frank doesn’t believe in mortgages, says they’re a noose around your neck. We can’t afford to rent a house, so I guess I’ll stay on Tradmore Estate until they bring me out feet first. Although, knowing Frank, he’ll bury me on the allotment if it means saving some money. It is expensive dying, isn’t it? More expensive than living if you ask me. Frank works at the greyhound track in Walthamstow and I work three half days at Waitrose and two evenings at Cineworld in Romford. I like that job. They give us free popcorn on Saturdays. It’s rare to get something for nothing these days isn’t it?
Anyway, I’ve seriously digressed. Frank says I can talk the hind legs off a donkey. The reason I began talking about people who easily win things is because, I actually think, any minute now, I’m going to win something. Yes me, Rosie Foster, who never wins anything. I’m desperately wishing I’d had that glass of white wine that Shirl had offered earlier. It would calm my shaking hands. I’m at the Gala Bingo. That’s a joke isn’t it? After I’ve just rabbited on about how I don’t bet. I only come once a fortnight. It’s our girly night out. It’s cheap, cheerful and a bit of a laugh. I’ve never won so much as a quid, until now … right now. All I need is two fat ladies and number one. I can barely breathe. If I win this … Oh God, if I win this, it will be five thousand quid. My head spins at the thought. What would I do with five thousand pounds? Apart from pay the back rent of course.
‘Twenty-two,’ shouts the caller. ‘Two little ducks …’
‘Quackety quack,’ yells Shirl beside me.
I feel sick. This is all I need. It would be just like me to throw up just as I’m about to shout house and win five thousand quid.
‘On its own, number one,’ shouts the caller.
That’s me. Oh bejesus, I’m starting to think robbing the bank might have been easier. I’m likely to have a heart attack if this isn’t over soon. I’ll be carried out feet first from the Gala Bingo Hall instead of our flat. Oh well, at least the funeral directors will be pleased. There’s no stairs at the Gala Bingo. I hold my breath. I just know that someone is going to call ‘house’ any minute, and I feel sure it isn’t going to be me. I’m Rosie Foster, from the Tradmore Estate. I don’t win the bingo. I never win anything, not even a goldfish at the funfair, and everyone wins a goldfish, don’t they?
‘Two fat lad …’ Shirl begins but she doesn’t get to finish because I almost knock her off her stool as I jump up.
‘House,’ I yell. ‘House.’
‘I’ve only gone and won,’ I say turning to Shirl.
‘You haven’t,’ she says, straightening up.
I’m shaking so much, I can barely speak.
‘Let’s see your card darling,’ says the caller.
What if I got a number wrong? I wasn’t concentrating properly at the start. What if …?
‘Congratulations darling, you’ve won five thousand pounds.’
‘I have?’ I stammer.
‘Lucky cow,’ says Shirl, squeezing my arm.
‘Well done,’ says Doris, draining her wine glass and struggling not to look jealous.
‘I can’t believe it,’ I say finally. ‘I never win anything.’
‘Well, you have now.’
‘Shall we quit while we’re ahead,’ suggests Doris.
I nod. I want to go home and tell Frank. Maybe we’ll open that bottle of Prosecco that Waitrose gave me last Christmas. After all, five grand is something to celebrate isn’t it? Not that I have any intention of telling Frank exactly how much I’ve won. I’m soft but I’m not that soft. Money burns a hole in Frank’s trousers quicker than a firelighter. I’d like it to last us a bit longer than twenty-four hours.
‘Shall we go up west on Saturday?’ asks Shirl, ‘Now that you’re flush and all that.’
‘I’m saving it,’ I say.
Shirl and Doris look at me.
‘Saving it for what?’
‘I’d like to go to Paris,’ I say without thinking.
The fact is, I’ve always wanted to go to Paris. I fancy climbing up the Eiffel Tower. The view from there must be amazing, I imagine.
‘What do ya want to go there for? It stinks by all accounts.’
‘That’s Venice, you dopey mare,’ laughs Doris, zipping up her fake Mulberry. ‘Paris is romantic.’
‘So, you won’t be taking Frank then,’ giggles Shirl.
I try Frank’s mobile, but it goes to voicemail. He’s probably got the tele up loud. You have to in our flat to cover the noise of the neighbour’s shouting. If you like Jeremy Kyle, you should come to ours for the day. You’d love it.
We walk home arm in arm. We feel safer like that. I’ve got my five thousand quid tucked into the corner of my old Top Shop tote. The man at the Gala Bingo was reluctant to give me the cash at first.
‘It’s normally a cheque,’ he’d said.
I didn’t want a cheque. It would go straight into our bank account and straight out again to pay the overdraft. It was Frank’s fault we had that. He’d wanted part ownership in a greyhound. So now, not only do we have an overdraft but also part of a dog. I don’t know which part, the useless part probably, knowing our luck.
‘We’ll get our money back,’ Frank had assured me.
But, of course, we hadn’t and instead had accumulated interest on our overdraft. I’ve had this tote bag for donkey’s years and I keep checking that there are no rips in it. That’s sods law isn’t it? You put five thousand quid in your bag thinking it’s perfectly safe and don’t realise you’re dribbling tenners along Romford High Street. I’m not though. I know that, because I keep checking behind me. We arrive at the Tradmore Estate and I try to ignore the used condoms that litter the grass verge outside our block. A policeman hovers outside the main doors but I don’t think anything of it. There are always police around the estate. It makes me feel safe to tell you the truth.
He straightens as we approach the doors.
‘Mrs Foster?’ he asks.
Doris and Shirl look at me anxiously.
‘I’m Mrs Foster,’ I say.
‘What’s ‘appened?’ asks Doris worriedly.
‘I’ve got bad news I’m afraid,’ he says removing his hat.
It’s got to be bad hasn’t it, if they take off their hat? I must have had a tear in my bag after all. They’ve no doubt been collecting ten-pound notes all over Romford.
‘Oh,’ I say, glancing into my bag.
‘Your husband, Frank Foster, is dead I’m afraid.’
‘Dead?’ I repeat.
I sway, and Shirl supports me by the arm.
‘You could ‘ave waited until she was sitting down,’ says Doris crossly.
How can Frank be dead? He was watching the tele.
‘Sometimes it’s best just to say it,’ says the policeman.
‘Are you sure?’ I ask.
Oh dear, that didn’t sound good, did it? It’s as though I want to be sure he’s well and truly brown bread.
‘He fell into the road I’m afraid. He’d had a bit too much to drink and the Domino’s Pizza van …’
Frank was killed by a Domino’s Pizza van?
‘Domino’s Pizza?’ I repeat.
‘He liked pizza,’ says Doris.
That’s wonderful isn’t it? I win five thousand on the bingo and Frank decides to walk in front of a pizza delivery van. Now I’m most likely going to have to spend my winnings on Frank’s funeral.