Roy got into his car to drive to work, changed his mind and drove towards Sutton instead. He put the radio on and station-surfed. The Shard: I love the Shard, I hate the Shard, do you love the Shard or hate it? Motorists: bad motorists, picked-on motorists, are motorists paying too much? Will terrorists attack the Olympics? Can Murray win Wimbledon?
Holly had cried and cried and cried when they’d split up. Roy had moved out, asking for nothing from Holly or from Don and Gwen except to be left alone in the flat he’d rented in Sutton, close to the new job he’d just found. Three months after moving in he’d begun noticing a woman in the pub where he sometimes passed the time. He’d begun to notice her because she had made it clear that she had noticed him, and one evening she’d suggested they meet later at a quieter place nearby.
It was the summer of 1979. Sally was a long fingered, divorced estate agent, aged 38. She got Roy to tell her his life story, which was that he too was divorced, came from Crawley and had a golf handicap of 19. Sally asked him back to her house. Once through the door, she took his face in her hands, kissed him lewdly and led him straight to bed.
He was 24, but in her presence felt 14. Her breasts were large, she took her top off, bra off, knelt up, shoulders back, let him have a good long look. “Now close your eyes,” she’d said, and Roy had obeyed, half limp and half afraid, but she’d undressed him and devoured him and soon he was helplessly, breathlessly grateful, as though the gods had plucked him from a churning sea.
“Let’s sleep now,” she’d said, cradling him close, and the next morning he’d come again, this time from meek and thankful screwing. She’d held him by the waist, eyes kind, heels resting on his back, gently tugging him in.
Now, Roy drove past his old office; past his old flat; past the house where Sally had lived and he’d gone on to have sex with nightly, secretly, eagerly, until the first doubts and unasked questions took their toll. And then Sally told him she was giving up her job and moving to Manchester to look after her sister, who wasn’t well. Roy had told her, honestly and with a sneaking tinge of relief, that he completely understood. She’d left that weekend without a trace.
Roy had later heard a rumour that Sally had had a baby, but hadn’t tried to find out if it was true. He hadn’t dared. He’d only begun to dare many years later, liberated into anonymity by the power of the search engine. He’d got nowhere. He couldn’t even remember Sally’s second name, and maybe she’d made that up anyway.
He was back home from Sutton by half-past three. On the sofa he thought about Sally’s frankness and sexy plumpness, her ease and expertise. He watched a mixed doubles match followed by the Williams sisters winning effortlessly, learning that Serena had earlier reached the singles final.
He googled “sally + sutton + son” but it did him no good. He imagined a knock at the door, a young man, early thirties, standing there.
“Um. Hi. Sorry to disturb you. Are you Roy Paine?”
“Yes.” Something about the young man, an echo in the features. Not a salesman.
“I’m sorry, this might come as a shock, but I think you used to know a woman called Sally…”
The young man didn’t have a name. That part of the reverie never changed. Roy warmed a lasagne ready meal, drank two glasses of wine and slept the night on the sofa.
On London strives to provide the best possible writing about the capital city. Become a supporter for £5 a month (or £50 a year) and receive an action-packed weekly newsletter and free entry to online events. Details here.