A new email from Kristie was factual and light and came with photographs attached: grandchildren Tom and Ella in big hats, elder daughter Leila smiling, perhaps through doubt and pain. Younger daughter Lucy had gone back to Cambodia. Roy replied: great photos, weather here still wet, making progress with the loft. He was grateful for the workaday tone of the exchange, its dearth of intimacy or probing concern. He believed that he loved Kristie, but he was glad she was away. She would miss him if he died, but not for long. His passing would bestow a new age of freedom on her: the freedom to go on the safari holidays that did not appeal to him; the freedom to buy the puppy she’d hankered for since Lucy left.
Roy decided to make a long weekend of things. He brought the last of the boxes through from the garage and more down from the loft, grouping them on the kitchen table. Then he took courage, drew a formal photo album from one of the boxes, took it through to the living room and placed it in a space he’d cleared for it on the coffee table.
Its cover was ivory white, embossed with silver hearts. Every inside page had a protective tissue leaf. It was pristine, perfect, the product of days, weeks, months of sifting and choosing, of dithering, agonising, ever-extending ecstasy for all the women involved. He saw that Gwen had entombed the album, perhaps decades before her death, encased it against the erosions of heat and light, perhaps in order to forget it, yet also maybe to ensure that it could some day be exhumed should anyone ever feel the urge. That “anyone” could only be him.
Roy Illtud Paine and Holly Beryl Beardshaw had been joined in matrimony on 7 May 1977. The service had been held at a church in Holly’s home town of Horsham and the reception at a nearby country house. Holly was an only child and her parents had spared no expense. Roy opened the album at the first page then quickly shut it again. He went out to get some petrol. He had a bath. He weighed himself nude: 13 stone five. He poked through Kristie’s side of the bathroom cabinet and found right at the back a crumpled package containing two tired-looking sanitary pads. Roy puzzled over what their presence meant.
He cooked a lunch of sausages, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans buttered bread and oven chips followed by a slice of cake and ate it off a tray as Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, the ladies fifteenth seed, gave Sharapova a tough time. She won the first set six-four and broke at the start of the second. Roy began to root for her, an emotional girl, an underdog front-running against the steely tournament favourite.
Lisicki clinched the match with a second serve ace, bringing Roy to his feet in wonder at her courage and her joy. She leaped and danced, laughing, crying, both. “It’s my favourite tournament, I love playing on grass, I love the crowd here,” she bubbled in the post-match interview. She was gushing, gauche, thrilled. “I just love it,” she declared, and Roy was just a bit in love with her.
He remembered Holly telling him that she and her best friend had got tickets for Wimbledon one year. This had puzzled Roy, because Holly wasn’t interested in sport. He’d asked her, “Why are you going?” She’d replied with one word: “Legs.”
All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.
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