Leila rang. “Hi Dad.”
“Hello, my darling.”
“How are you?”
Roy had just weighed himself nude: 13 stone six.
“I’m fine,” he replied, reaching for something, anything, to restore his modesty, even though Leila was 6,500 miles away.
“What have you been up to?”
“Oh, sorting through Granny and Grandad’s bits and pieces, mostly.”
“That must be sad.”
“Well, it’s not too bad. Bit strange.”
“Listen, I’ve got something to tell you.” Leila’s voice had dropped to secrecy level.
“What?” Roy became tense. Was she going to say something about Glen?
“It’s just that, well, mum…”
“She’s worried that you’re not OK.”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” said Roy. He’d picked a pair of pants up off the bedroom floor and had them pressed them protectively against his groin.
“I think Auntie Nerys might have been in her ear,” Leila said.
“Listen, I’m fine. I’m not depressed. I’m not having a crisis. I’m not contemplating suicide.”
“OK, if you’re sure.”
“I’m sure. Tell Mum to stop fretting and enjoy her holiday. How are you?”
“Oh, I’m fine…”
Roy buried his annoyance under the build-up to the women’s singles final. Williams was playing Radwanska, one of that pack of pony-tailed east Europeans who weren’t very east European. Roy propped his laptop on his pyjama knees and got to know her better.
In fact, Radwanska really was east European, a full and proper Pole. On the BBC website Virginia Wade declared herself a fan. “Radwanska is somebody I really like to watch,” she wrote. “She’s one of the few players who has to make up for her lack of power with her brain.”
Roy framed the coming contest in his head: smart Radwanska, subtle Radwanska, serve-returning Radwanska; underdog Poland’s heroine Radwanska; Radwanska the brains facing the Williams brawn.
Roy searched for images of her: a nice face, he thought. Then he found a beach shot of Williams in a green and black bikini. She looked divine.
Roy went to bathroom and weighed himself nude: still 13 stone six.
Williams won the first set easily, thumping serves, clubbing returns. Radwanska took only one game and was soon four-two down in the second set. She rallied, though, heroically, and Williams wobbled. With Roy willing her on, Radwanska won the second set seven-five. The young Pole became his other daughter, Lucy, the determined outsider, undaunted by the threat of greater might. But then Williams hit an incredible four straight aces to level the final set at two-two. Radwanska didn’t take another game.
The champion, winning Wimbledon for the fifth time, climbed up to her supporters’ box, kissed her mum, her dad, her sister Venus and several other women. Back on the court it was her turn to be kissed, chastely on both cheeks, firstly by the Duke of Kent, and then by several other bashful men.
With a glance up at the sky, she told Sue Barker that she thanked Jehovah. Tearfully, she also thanked the women in the box who’d helped her to not die two years ago.
She referred to Radwanska as “Agie” and asked the crowd to give her vanquished opponent more applause. Radwanska chewed gum pensively, perhaps a little desperately, as if no one except her had yet noticed that she’d gone to work in carpet slippers by mistake.
Roy felt his affections switch towards the victor who concluded by declaring that although she was aged 30, it helped that mentally she was less than half that age.
He googled “serena + williams + jehovah” and read that she’d told a Twitter follower “I don’t date” and had been quoted in a magazine as wishing to marry a man of faith, referring to Corinthians 6:14: “I think it’s important when you marry to be evenly yoked.” This meant, apparently, that Christians shouldn’t become too entangled with unbelievers.
Roy thought of Leila and Lucy and hospitals and death and God and destiny and struggle and anger and success. This did not bring him happiness.
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