Saturday. Ged's day. Best day of the week. When Jean usually pops over to see her sister. If I play my cards right we'll hardly see each other till tomorrow. Home game today too. Rovers playing City. New man in our team. What they're supposed to be paying this Spanish guy would buy every house in the street. We'll soon see if he's worth it. Lazy morning, A couple of pints, go to the match. This evening, drop in at The Grapes. Then Match of the Day. That'll do me nicely.
Bit of nonsense in bed this morning with Jean pretending to be asleep when I get up. Her choice. If that's what she wants, two can play at that game. She's had a couple of crying jags lately. Not saying what it's about, so I reckon it's a women's thing. Her age and all that. No sign of Herself coming downstairs yet, so fill the cereal bowl and add milk – red top now since I went on that new diet. Hope it's going to work. Certainly need to lose a few pounds if I'm honest. Settling down to glance at the Daily Mail and see what all these celebs I've never heard of are up to just now. Postie pushing mail through the door. Some junk mail about double glazing – another forest gone in Brazil to send those things out, I reckon − and a letter for me. There was something addressed to the Dragon, but that just goes directly onto the hall table. No way would I open that. Don't make the same mistake again, Ged. Once bitten and all that. What's hers is hers ─ and what's mine is hers. House Rules apply. That's Numero Uno in the list. Like the sign in a pub he'd seen somewhere. Toilets. Gents left. Ladies always right.
Official looking. Good quality envelope. Return address ─ Aitcheson, Pringle, and Patel. Solicitors, Bristol. Don't know them. In fact, don't think I know anyone there. Remember taking Adam to see the S.S. Great Britain once years ago. Otherwise – no connection with the place. Perhaps there's a rich uncle who's died and left me a fortune? That'd be nice. Freedom at last. Alleluia, brother! Sadly, things like that don't happen to me. It's going to be a good day. I can feel it in my water. A Red-Letter Day. Not till you've read it, Ged. Red/Read. The wordplay was so weak he grimaced as it came into his head. If that's the best you can do this morning, old boy, I shouldn't bother. Here goes. Let's see if it's an early Christmas present from an unknown admirer. Whoever you are in Bristol ─ go on, make my day.
Dear Mr. Symington,
It is has become my sad duty to advise you of the death of your old acquaintance, Mr. Peter Randolph of Bourton-on-the-Water, who passed away on Wednesday last, April 27th. I gathered from Mr. Randolph, in our only meeting some weeks ago, that contact between you and him had lapsed somewhat in recent years. He did make it very clear to me, however, that he remembers you very well, and was most insistent that I pass on to you the enclosed letter. I have not been made aware of the contents of the letter, merely its importance to my late client.
I also have a verbal message from Mr. Randolph to pass on to you. Before he left us for another place, he arranged for a nurse at the Hospital ─ clearly, one who was with him near his end ─ to inform me that his exact last words were 'I'm going now, Ged. I wish you were with me.' Mr. Randolph gave me very precise instructions that his final words were to be passed on to you exactly as they were relayed to me.
Sorry as I am to be the bearer of sad news on this occasion, allow me to offer you the services of myself or another of my colleagues if you need professional advice over this or any matter.
First reaction. Typical Solicitor Speak. Touting for business. Ghouls. Don't like 'em. Don't trust 'em. Pete Randolph. My God. That takes me back. Must be twenty-odd years since we last spoke. So, the old sod has gone, has he? Listen to me. Old sod? We were about the same age, still, just ─ but only just ─ on the right side of fifty. Wonder what finished him? That's no age to go. Perhaps it's in his letter. Pete called himself a principled man. Wrong word. Boring, dull, strait-laced, humourless. Too serious. He took it all to heart, that was his trouble. And the fall out when it came? All over just a measly couple of hundred quid. OK. So, I wasn't altogether straight with him, but he treated it like the start of World War III. Then Jean went and chose me instead of him but he wouldn't accept it. Bad loser. Last I heard was he'd married and moved away. Come into money or something. I remember now. Jean bumped into him somewhere and told me his wife died after they'd been married just a few years. Wouldn't wish that on anyone. Rotten for him. Mind you, as it turned out, I wish Jean had married him instead of me. Life would have been so much better all round. I wonder if she ever thinks that? Perhaps she does the way she is sometimes. Ours is certainly not a marriage made in Heaven. Still, you can't turn the clock back, no matter how much you want to. But married to Pete Randolph. Surely not him. Wimp. That's life. Still. at least we have the kids, so I suppose I should be grateful for something. Not kids now, of course, whatever a father thinks. Adam doing so well up in London – chip off the old block, brainy like that he'll go far. Kathleen ─ lovely girl. Mother's good looks and a much nicer temperament. There's a young chap somewhere sniffing around her but I haven't met him yet. Andy, think I heard her call him. Aye, lots wrong with the marriage but we managed to produce two good 'uns there. Let's have a look at what Moaning Minnie's on about as if I can't guess. He's typed it out too. That's typical. Just what I'd expect of him.
"Ged. By the time you read this, I'll be dead. I know you won't miss me, so let's not pretend. There are a few things I want to say for you to remember me by:-
.First. We were pals once. What you did to me over the half-share of the win on Littlewoods all those years back was about as low as a so-called friend could sink. To lie and say the coupon had been lost and never posted all for the sake of £237.54, my half share, was the mark of an unprincipled, contemptible thief. Yes. That's what you are. A thief. Then, to lie to Jean that I had invented the tale of our 'Gentlemen's Agreement' to make yourself look better in her eyes than I did – well! So, you two married and I know all the details of how badly that turned out. ALL the details. I expect you didn't know that.
Your lie has cost you dearly in more ways than one. When the football pools declined as the Lottery took over, I started to buy the occasional ticket. Your half share – if the verbal deal and handshake agreement we made had been honoured by you, and had still been in existence ─ would have made you a seriously rich man from the massive win I had a while back. At least someone we both know very well is now a wealthy lady. My will has seen to that.
Point 2. I have a son. Andrew, a lovely boy who is now 22. I'm very proud of him. He's met a young woman, Kate, and it seemed quite serious between them. When I found out who she was I had to step in, and they're no longer an item. Not something I enjoyed doing, but something I felt I had to do. After all, a man can't marry his half-sister, can he? You work it out for yourself. He's upset, and I gather she is too, but it's for the best.
Finally. Jean knows all about your latest fling. Yes, Kimberley-Jane, the teenager who claims you have made her pregnant. The way it's looking, you will probably be free to marry her in due course. She's a scrubber and the two of you should be well suited. I take it you do know she's seeing a young chap of her own age as well as the meal ticket she probably regards you as.
It hasn't been easy for me to type this letter ─ in the physical sense, that is ─ so I'll end now with a PS. Jean has been sent a copy and knows what it contains. Not that any of it is new to her. We've been seeing each other for years.
The late (by now) Peter Randolph.
Jean came into the room, paper clenched in her hand. This is it, Ged. Nowhere to hide. No time now to do anything. No case to make. Can't be the innocent wrongly accused bloke in the dock. Just stand there and take it. It being whatever pain and punishment she was capable of. And as the years had shown him, that was plenty. She stood there and stared. You'd think that over a quarter of a century a man would have learned to read all his wife's moods and feelings, wouldn't you? The utter contempt on her face was something different, more intense than anything he remembered from their lives together.
The attack when it came was not the aggressive tirade like the many others of their married years. Instead, she spoke like a woman who knew what to say, had thought about it in advance, and wanted to say what she had to say in as few words as possible. A woman in a hurry.
"Just for the record, Kate is not Pete's daughter. She's not yours either. So she and Pete's son are perfectly OK together. I shall tell her that. You needn't bother. It's no business of yours who her father is."
"I'm taking Kate with me when we go this morning. Where we're going is not your concern, and we'll be taking the car. Next week I'll have two important meetings – with the Bank to sort out my new wealth, and then to start divorce proceedings. And I intend to take you for every penny a good lawyer can squeeze out of you. After all, we don't want that young tart you've been seeing to get too much of what's left, do we? A solicitor is already in touch with you. That's handy. You're going to need one. "
The soon-to-be ex-wife paused as she left the room. "And by the way, Adam isn't yours either. I have Pete to thank for him. Pete, the man you despised, lied to, and stole from. A man worth ten of you. I just wish I'd realised that twenty-five years ago. If you need to contact me, use my mobile number. Don't call unless it's really important."
I stood at the window and watched the two of them leave, banging the door behind them. Neither of them looked back. Me, a man with no wife, no son, no daughter. So much for Saturday, my best day of the week - Ged's day.