Tadeas was on the tennis court. He was waiting for his friend, William. Since they were teenagers, they enjoyed playing tennis with each other. They met once a month to play there at Hackney Downs. Afterwards, they usually went to Brunswick East Bakehouse.
At exactly 9am, William was approaching him, a big grin on his face. “Hello, Tad,” he greeted his long-time friend warmly.
He dropped the tennis ball he had been holding onto the court. “Hello, Will.”
They shook hands and clapped each other on the back. “How have you been?” William asked as he unbuttoned his denim shirt to put on his white tee shirt. “Are you still avoiding the dating scene?”
Tadeas unzipped and pulled his jacket over his head. He was wearing his polo style tee shirt underneath. He removed his trousers which were over his shorts. “Actually, I’m seeing this beautiful older woman.”
“Yes. I met her at my father’s club. She was there alone. I went up to her and introduced myself.”
“Good for you. How much older than you is she?”
“About ten to twelve years.”
“You always had a weakness for older women, haven’t you? Remember you had a crush on my oldest sister?”
Tadeas laughed. “I’d forgotten about that. How is she doing?”
“She’s married with four children. They’re little rascals, the lot of them but I love them.”
“What about you? Any wedding bells?”
“As a matter of fact, I’ve asked Luci to marry me.”
“Shocking, isn’t it? But, I did pop the question and she said yes.”
“That’s great. Congratulations. When’s the wedding?”
“Next year April. You’ll come, won’t you?”
“Of course. I won’t miss it for the world.”
“You’ll get the invitation in the mail. There’s going to be a bachelor party. I’ll let you know when it is.”
“The last bachelor party I went to was my cousin’s and it was pretty raunchy. I cringe whenever I think about it.”
“What on earth happened at that party?
“The guys had a girl do a naughty dance move for the groom for a drink or beads. I think one of the other guys, I can’t remember which one, ended up asking her out. I think she turned him down, though. It turned out that she had a boyfriend. I’m not sure her boyfriend would have approved of her little act.”
“Don’t worry, my bachelor party will be tastefully done. No lewd dances or acts or anything like that.”
“That’s a relief.”
“If you’re still dating the older woman, bring her to the wedding.”
“Sure. Ready for a solid game of tennis?”
“I’m always ready.”
They played three matches, winning a game each and then, Tadeas won the third. As they sat down, taking a breath and sipping water, Tadeas grinned at his friend. “Great games.”
“You play like a pro.”
“Thanks. So, do you. Too bad neither of us thought of playing professionally.”
“It would have been great to play guys like Federer and Nadal.”
“Yes, it would have been. Grab a bite to eat at The Vincent?”
“Sure. I can do with a serving of their Spicy Veggie Hash.”
They got dressed and went to the local café restaurant. William ordered the Spicy Veggie Hash with a Mocha and Tadeas ordered the Healthy option which consisted of Two poached eggs, smoked salmon, beetroot, avocado, feta cheese, fresh tomato, sourdough and Chai Latte. “How do you like your new job?” Tadeas asked him.
“It’s great. And the people I work with are great. How about you? How are things between you and your supervisor?”
“Still the same. She still gets under my skin.”
“Does she still address you as Mr. Gray?”
“I think she’s just playing with you.”
“Well, I don’t like it.”
“Is she attractive?”
“I haven’t noticed.”
“Sure you haven’t. By the way, a very attractive woman just walked in and she’s standing over there, staring at you.”
Tadeas followed his gaze and his heart leaped in his chest when he saw Velma. What on earth was she doing there? “That’s my supervisor.”
“Well, it looks like I’ll finally get to meet her.”
Velma went over to their table. “Hello, Tadeas,” she said when she reached them.
“Hello,” he replied. “This is my friend, William. William, this is Velma Moore, my boss.”
William smiled at her as they shook hands. “Nice to meet you, Ms. Moore.”
“Likewise. Please call me Velma.”
“Would you like to join us?” William asked much to Tadeas’ chagrin.
“Thank you, but no. I’m meeting someone.”
Tadeas looked at her, wondering if that someone was Akello.
“Oh, he just arrived. Enjoy your brunch, gentlemen.” She excused herself and walked away.
Tadeas saw a man he had never seen before greet her with a hug and a kiss on each cheek. Who was this guy and what happened to Akello? He watched as they sat down. Velma was facing him while the man sat with his back to him.
“What’s the matter?” William asked him.
“Nothing,” Tadeas muttered, turning away.
“I know you pretty well so I can tell when something’s bothering you. Does it have to do with running into your boss?”
“Why did you have to invite her to join us?”
“I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have done that but I was just being polite. Is that what’s bothering you?”
“This is the second time we’ve ended up eating at the same place. We bumped into each other at the restaurant where Briony and I had dinner. She was there with an African man.”
“Who’s the guy she’s with now?”
“I don’t know.”
“A new boyfriend, perhaps?”
“I don’t know.“
“All right, all right. Let’s forget about your boss and her companion. Here come our orders.” The waitress arrived and set everything down. “Hmm. This smells and looks good.”
Tadeas tried not to let Velma’s presence bother him but it wasn’t easy. He toyed with the food on his plate. Why of all the places in London, did she have to wind up here? And who was the man? Was he another “friend”?
William saw that his friend was distracted. “Let’s talk about Briony,” he suggested. “Do you have a picture of her? I’m curious to see what she looks like.”
“Yes, I do.” He whipped out his cell and found the photos he had taken of her when they were at the farm and showed them to William who whistled.
“You’re right. She is beautiful and she looks really good for her age.”
Tadeas pursed his lips. “She isn’t that old, you know.”
They finished eating their meals, lingered for a bit and then paid their separate bills. As they stood up, William asked, “Are you going to say goodbye to your boss?”
“Do you think I should?”
“All right.” He led the way over to the other table. “We’re leaving now so, we wanted to come over and say goodbye,” he said to Velma. His eyes shifted to her companion who looked to be in his mid to late fifties. There were streaks of grey in his hair.
“Did you enjoy your meal?” she asked, looking at both of them, her gaze lingering on Tadeas.
“Yes, we did,” William replied. Then, he looked at her companion.
“Where are my manners? Let me introduce you to my friend, Karl. Karl, this is Tadeas and his friend, William.”
“Pleased to meet you both,” Karl said, shaking their hands. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” he said to Tadeas.
“Oh?” That surprised him. He looked at Velma. What had she been telling this man about him?
“You’re Sir Hamilton Gray’s son.” Karl said to him.
“Yes, I am.” His eyes shifted again to Velma who was watching him and then back to her companion. “Do you know my father?”
“Not personally, but I know about him. I’m a great admirer because he has done a lot for youth cricket and disability sports charity. He has broken down so many barriers and has empowered disadvantaged and disabled young people like my nephew.”
“Yes. My father has done a lot of charitable work. It’s one of his passions.”
“I understand that his other passion is Art. I saw one of his paintings in Tate Modern. It was really quite impressive.”
“Yes. Art is something he was always interested in and he decided to take it up later in life. Well, we really must be going.”
“It was nice meeting you both,” Karl said, extending his hand.
Tadeas shook his hand. “Likewise. Enjoy your meal. Goodbye.” His gaze shifted to Velma. He excused himself and walked away. William bade Velma and Karl goodbye after shaking their hands again and followed him.
“What’s got you so riled up?” William asked him as soon as they were outside. “Is it because the man knew who you were?”
“She must have told him.”
“So what? What’s the big deal?”
“To her, I’m just a rich man’s son.”
“What would you like her to see you as then?”
“Tadeas, the Visual Designer at Signal House.”
“Are you sure that’s why you’re so upset?”
Tadeas looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I think?”
“I think it upset you more to see her with him.”
“Why should I be upset about that?”
“Maybe because you’re attracted to her–“
“Don’t be absurd,” Tadeas snapped.
“What’s so absurd about that? She’s an attractive woman and–“
“I’m not attracted to her.”
“All right. So, you’re not attracted to her and it didn’t bother you to see her with him. We’ll leave it at that.”
“Yes, let’s leave it at that.”
They headed towards the train station. It was after one and it had warmed up so Tadeas carried his jacket in his hand. On the ride to Liverpool, they made arrangements for their next match which would be the following month. At Liverpool, they parted ways.