Heartbreak Tennis*

“I’ll let you know my movements but definitely see you later,” Seb’s message.

Seb is coming back this evening.  Can’t wait to arrive home, switch on actual Wimbledon and put the artichokes on to boil.  Mum is on Centre Court – maybe will see her on the television.

This morning Seb travelled with me to the Office and it was so lovely to have him sitting next to me on my bus.  

Now, however, I haven’t heard from him all day about what time he’ll be back.  So, do I:

1.  Make two artichokes: one for each of us.

2.  Make just one artichoke, for me, assuming that he’s not coming back till later.

3.  Save the three artichokes for tomorrow night when have A Guest for dinner.

The phone rings.  It’s Seb.

“Hello my darling,” I say.

“I’m so terribly sorry,” Seb says.  “I left my phone at my dad’s and I was terribly worried that you’d be trying to get in touch and then my dad was kind enough to take me to an exhibition and…”

“But you’ve found it,” I say, flooded with relief that nothing bad has happened to him or to his phone.  “Do you want an artichoke?”

“Of course I want an artichoke,” he says.  “Excellent.”

“So, where are you?” I say, because need to know how long it will take him to get here, so know when to start the artichokes.  As we know, they need fifty minutes or so.

“Oh, I’m still at my Dad’s,” he says.  “I’m just finishing this cup of tea and then I’ll set off.  So let’s say an hour and a half, although I’m sure it won’t take anything like that long.”

It’s bound to take longer, I think, because it’s you, my darling, and every expedition that you undertake takes three times as long as it ought to.

“See you soon,” I say, returning to the television and putting the sound back on.

“He’s just signed a new underwear deal,” the commentator says.  “He’s got a lot of body things going on at the moment, Wawrinka.”
“This is where Sousa shouldn’t let him hit the serve down the middle,” says actual John McEnroe.  Woohoo!  Hey Mac!  Ah – the sweet sound of the best commentator in the world.

The phone rings.  It’s Seb.  Again.  About thirty minutes after his last call when he was setting-off-in-ten-minutes.

“My father is very keen to meet you,” he says.  

“I’d love to meet him too,” I say, wandering out into the garden, away from the tennis.  Can see that need to change my birds’ water and refill their food.  Again.  There must be Chicks.

“He said he could take us out to dinner tonight but I explained to him that it would be a bit too much for you,” Seb says.

“I would really love to,” I say, “but your dad lives near my office, so it would mean getting the bus all the way back there and…”

“I know, my darling,” he says.  “I explained to my father that it’s not a good idea tonight. I was just telling you about his offer, to illustrate that he’s very keen to meet you.”

My stomach sinks as I think why-can’t-I-just-be-normal.  Anyone else would switch the artichokes off and just jump on a bus and meet her boyfriend and his Dad at a restaurant.  Anyone else would have a quick shower, pull on a little black dress and apply some make up on the bus.  On herself whilst sitting on the bus.  Not give-the-bus-a-makeover.  Obviously.

“I’m sorry my darling,” I say.  Of course am in my sleepwear and haven’t washed and have no plans to do so.  “So where are you now?”  Obviously he hasn’t set off yet.

“I’m on my way,” he says, sounding triumphant.  “I’m out of the front door and walking down the road and I can see the station ahead of me.  I don’t mind a cold artichoke.”

Am just so happy that soon, in a mere three or four or five hours, he will have achieved a forty minute journey and he will be Here.  With me.  Watching Wimbledon.

Happy First Monday of Wimbledon everyone!
*1977.  By Amelia Walden.  Tennis romance novel.

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