Sport 13 Spring 1994
When David’s mother who is called Jean was eighteen she was in love with the butcher’s boy from the next town. He is only the butcher’s boy, says Jean’s mother and she puts a lot of pressure on Jean not to see him, for Jean’s father wears a white shirt and is a clerk in the law office in town. But I love him, weeps Jean into her pillow and she wishes she wouldn’t think about it page 38 but she can imagine his warm strong hands touching her in all sorts of forbidden places. But she’s a good girl in Jean and there’s Gerald at chapel who works in the same office as her Da and he’s seriously paying court to her so she listens to her mother and marries him. But often on a Sunday afternoon when the house is chapel-quiet an image of Thomas the butcher’s boy comes to her mind and she can feel his warm hands on her body where indeed he never touched her and where Gerald never touches her now either. And she watches him as he sleeps upright in his chair on Sunday afternoon, his tie in place and his collar as white as she can get it. And What if…she thinks. And Thomas is not a butcher’s boy any longer, he owns a chain of small supermarkets and he has married the daughter of a Cardiff solicitor.
One day when Gerald’s asleep in his chair on a Sunday afternoon he doesn’t wake up. She nudges him gently when she brings in his tea and finds that he’s gone. She doesn’t love him but she doesn’t hate him either and is sad that he’s passed away. But she thinks again of Thomas.
Thomas’s wife the solicitor’s daughter fights a long and hard battle with her cancer before it beats her. He nurses her with fierce loyalty. Does he love her? How should he know. He buries her, pays for the funeral in cash, goes home and writes to Jean. I am recently widowed, he writes. How are you placed?
They have wasted forty years with the wrong people but it is too many years. He’s no longer the butcher’s boy with the warm hands. And she’s not Jean from the post office. I will never marry again, she says, though he begs her. We were for each other, she says, but that was then. That was then. But he comes for tea on Sundays.
She doesn’t mind the sadness of the it, the waste of it, for herself, but she looks at David with his Mary and she could weep, she could scream. And she shows him Megan’s letters, though she shouldn’t, and feels pleased when something like sorrow crosses his face, which she shouldn’t. And on the mantelpiece next to the photo of David with his pale Mary and their pale daughter she puts a photo of rich russet Megan and her burnished babies. She shouldn’t, oh she shouldn’t. Wicked wicked Jean. But she thinks, for me, yes, the wrong man, but for my lovely David, Mary? When there’s Megan? So when the letter comes from Megan saying the Syrian is dying and she shows it to David she says to him, you must write to her, David. She needs her friends. In times of sadness, we need our friends.