Another scene I cut from the published version of After Wimbledon. The first part of the book went through quite a lot of reworking, so this scene doesn’t quite fit into the book. In the final version, Joe plays on Centre Court in the first round so this conversation became irrelevant. Prior to this scene, Lucy is chatting with Sam and that conversation was absorbed into one of the book scenes.
I’ve just got back to practising, and I’m actually starting to feel pretty good, when Joe appears. He’s striding towards me at full pelt, racquet clenched in one hand, his shoulder-length hair swinging around his neck and dark eyes flashing.
‘Honestly,’ he says, as he approaches. ‘It’s blatant favouritism.’
Here we go again.
‘What is?’ I ask wearily, stopping practice again.
‘Haven’t you seen the schedule yet?’
Yes, I have. That’s how I knew this was coming.
‘They’ve put me on Court 1 in the first round, while Pennington is on Centre!’
‘They’ll have wanted you both playing last up so you’re on prime time TV. They probably flipped a coin to decide who got which court. Why do you always have to take it so personally?’
Joe glowers. ‘Of course I’m taking it personally, when it’s a personal insult. When I win the tournament I’ll be world number one again and this time I’ll be staying there.’
‘Of course you will…’ I start to say, then stop. I can’t announce Sam’s retirement, least of all to Joe. ‘…you’re the better player,’ I finish quickly.
‘Of course I am.’
Excessive modesty is not a problem for Joe.
‘Well, all you have to do is to go onto Court 1 and play brilliantly and then they’ll probably put all your other matches on Centre,’ I say, trying to sound supportive.
Christ, I’m sick of this routine. I must be crazy to even fantasise about dating another tennis player.
Mind you, I bet Sam doesn’t get himself worked up over crap like this.
‘Of course I’ll play brilliantly. I am brilliant.’ Joe looks quite insulted.
I have to agree about Court 1. He shouldn’t play there, his ego won’t fit.
‘Yup,’ I say, starting to bounce the ball again. ‘So why don’t you go be brilliant on your own court so I can practise?’
Joe isn’t listening, he’s staring intently into the distance. ‘Did I see Pennington sniffing around you before I arrived?’ he demands, eyes snapping back to me.
I can’t help rolling my eyes. ‘He was not sniffing around, he just said hello. We belong to the same club, that’s all.’
Joe’s eyes are narrowed. ‘I don’t trust him,’ he says. ‘He’s probably trying to get to me through you.’
I doubt it would work.
‘That’s crap, Joe,’ I say, resisting the urge to bounce the ball off his head. ‘And you know it. He doesn’t play dirty and I wouldn’t let him.’
‘Good,’ Joe says.
‘I need to practise. Later.’
He strolls off.
I could stay on the tour and break up with him.
I go back to serving.