A Good Sport

Agnes had been un­lucky in love, but per­haps this time would be dif­fer­ent . . .

The People's Friend - - 8 - by Carol Waterkeyn

WHO’S that, Agnes?” I asked as a tall, rather good-look­ing grey-haired gen­tle­man walked through the door into the bar.

“That’s Ed­ward. He started com­ing to the golf club a few months ago.” My friend smirked and smoothed her bobbed hair. “I saw him first, so hands off.”

Be­ing seventy didn’t stop Agnes try­ing to at­tract a man.

I looked across and saw Ed­ward chat­ting to Ron­ald at the bar who was mak­ing him a cof­fee.

“He’s sin­gle and di­vorced. I checked,” Agnes said.

She stood up and waved. “Yoo-hoo, Ed­ward, would you like to sit with us?”

Ed­ward nod­ded and wan­dered over, set­tling on the sofa across from us. His smile re­vealed a per­fect set of teeth, his lemon polo shirt en­hanc­ing a golden tan.

“Morn­ing, ladies. Have you been out for a round?” He looked at me with his steely blue eyes. “Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met.” “We haven’t. I’m Jill.” “Ed­ward. Pleased to meet you.” He leaned over and shook my hand firmly.

“We’re just off to the driv­ing range,” Agnes butted in, “to knock off a few balls. Care to join us?” She touched him lightly on the hand.

“It’s a kind in­vi­ta­tion, but I’m play­ing my son-in-law, Scott, in five min­utes. An­other time?”

He seemed to gaze di­rectly at me when he said that, but per­haps I was read­ing too much into that look. He fin­ished his cof­fee while Agnes prat­tled on about the spa day she had just treated her­self to. Lucky for some, I thought.

“Chee­rio, then,” he said and left.

Agnes and I went to the driv­ing-range.

“Isn’t he dreamy? And such a gent. You don’t find many of those these days. You should look for your own fella, Jill.”

“I’m in no hurry, Agnes. I’m still re­cov­er­ing from the last one. I’ve looked on­line but not many men are look­ing for a fiftysome­thing, slightly over­weight civil ser­vant, are they? It’s the same as when they’re look­ing for a new car: they want a younger model with sleek lines.”

“You shouldn’t put your­self down, Jill. You have lovely hair and a pretty smile. I’m sure there’s some­one out there for you.”

Agnes turned, care­fully placed her first ball on the tee and swung her club. It was a good shot. She looked pleased with her­self. “Beat that!”

My club slipped in my hands as I con­nected with the ball.

“I think I need more prac­tice.” I felt my­self blush.

“Never mind. You are a new­bie.”

“I know, but when I took up golf a few months ago, I hadn’t en­vis­aged how rub­bish I would be at it.”

Some­how, I got into my stride and the rest of the balls fared bet­ter. Agnes’s shots were amaz­ing. If I ever got to be as skil­ful as her I would be de­lighted.

A for­mer hair sa­lon owner, she could be bossy when ex­plain­ing the finer points of golf, but her heart was in the right place and I knew she was lonely on the days when we didn’t come to the club.

Af­ter our prac­tice ses­sion, I gave her a hug.

“Thanks for your help. See you next week.” I winked. “Good luck with Ed­ward.”

She chuck­led and waved as I drove off.

The next Satur­day when I ar­rived, Agnes was sit­ting in the bar, Ed­ward be­side her. She waved me over.

“Hello, Jill. Ed­ward’s join­ing us this morn­ing on the range.” She looked pleased with her­self.

“Let me get us a drink and I’ll be with you,” I said.

“Al­low me,” Ed­ward said. “What are you girls hav­ing? Cof­fee?”

He strode to the bar, then he wan­dered back, pat­ting his pock­ets and look­ing sheep­ish.

“I’m sorry, I must have left my wal­let in my other trousers. I won’t be able to treat you lovelies af­ter all.”

“That’s all right, Ed­ward. I’m happy to pay.” I went over and bought our drinks.

“You’re very kind. I’ll pay next time,” he said as I re­turned

with the laden tray.

At the driv­ing range, Agnes stumped up the cash for Ed­ward’s bucket of balls while I paid for mine. I warmed to him. He seemed good com­pany and was com­pli­men­tary about my pal­try ef­forts at golf.

“Bad luck. You nearly had it that time.” He stood be­hind me and at­tempted to po­si­tion my arm. “Now, fol­low the ball through like this . . .”

His close­ness made me un­com­fort­able. What would Agnes think? I glanced over at her. She did look some­what put out.

“Doesn’t Agnes play well?” I said loudly and diplo­mat­i­cally. “Let’s go and watch her.”

Agnes seemed to brighten up, though the way she flirted with Ed­ward was be­com­ing em­bar­rass­ing. I went back to prac­tis­ing my golf shots and pre­tended not to hear their cheeky con­ver­sa­tion. Half an hour later, Agnes had de­cided to treat Ed­ward to lunch. I ex­cused my­self.

“I can’t thank you both enough for get­ting me out of a hole,” he said, and laughed when he re­alised the pun. “I’m sorry you’re not join­ing us, Jill.”

He leaned in and kissed me on both cheeks, and I got a waft of his strong lemony af­ter­shave.

“Bye,” I said hastily and slipped off to the ladies’ chang­ing room to get out of my un­com­fort­able golf­ing shoes. As I was leav­ing, a dark-haired woman came up to me.

“I see you’ve met Ed­ward.”

“Yes. He’s been giv­ing me some help with my swing.”

“Did he have his wal­let with him?” she asked, one eye­brow raised.

“Ac­tu­ally, no. He’d for­got­ten it.”

The woman low­ered her voice.

“Just watch him. He has a habit of do­ing that. He’s work­ing his way round all the women at the club, and he never re­pays any­one.”

“Oh.” I was shocked. “Thanks for the warn­ing.”

I would have to warn Agnes, too, though I doubted she would be­lieve me. She was al­ready be­sot­ted.

I rang her the next day. “Hello, Jill. I can’t talk long – Ed­ward is tak­ing me shop­ping.”

“Oh.” Things had ob­vi­ously moved on. “I see. Well, ac­tu­ally it’s Ed­ward I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Sorry, Jill, Ed­ward’s just pulled up out­side. Such a smart sports car. I’ll ring you back later.”

“OK, but be care­ful.” But she’d al­ready put the phone down.

When she rang that af­ter­noon, Agnes was full of it.

“Ed­ward and I had such fun yes­ter­day. I treated him to lunch. He has very good taste. He knew ex­actly what wine to order to go with our meal. We de­cided to splash out and have the steak, too.”

“You mean you splashed out on the steak,” I said crossly.

“Don’t be a grump be­cause I’ve caught my­self a man and you haven’t. Sour puss.”

“Sorry. How was your shop­ping trip?”

She told me he had treated her to a cup of cof­fee, then re­alised he’d left his credit card at home.

So when he had seen a blue jacket he wanted – that matched his gor­geous blue eyes per­fectly, she said – she had lent him the cash.

“Oh, Agnes, you didn’t!” “Why not? He’ll pay me back.”

I took a breath, then re­vealed the bad news.

At first, she was in­dig­nant, but when I told her what the lady in the cloak­room had said, the penny dropped.

“Oh, Jill, I feel such an idiot. I was flat­tered, but now, oh, I’m so an­gry! What can we do to stop him? I don’t care so much for my­self; I can af­ford it. But it might be dif­fer­ent for other women.”

“Well, I had a word with Ron­ald, the bar­man at the club. We have an idea.”

Ed­ward walked over to meet us as soon as Agnes parked.

“Ed­ward,” Agnes gushed, “how lovely to see you. Thanks for join­ing us.”

“The plea­sure’s all mine.” He gave her a hug.

I felt sick. What a toad. “Have you got the golf balls?” I whis­pered when Ed­ward was out of earshot.

“They’re in my pocket,” Agnes hissed. “Ron­ald said they’re the ones Ed­ward uses.”

The first hole went with­out in­ci­dent, though Agnes played like a be­gin­ner.

“Good­ness, I’m off my stroke today. Look­ing at your hand­some face is putting me off, Ed­ward.”

She gig­gled and he chuck­led as he pot­ted his first ball for a par three. Agnes took six shots and I took eight.

We played the sec­ond hole the same way.

“Looks like it might be your day, Ed­ward. Do you fancy a lit­tle bet on the re­sult?”

“Good idea, al­though I’d feel mean tak­ing money off you,” he added.

“That’s OK, there’s a long way to go yet – though I won’t mind if you beat me,” Agnes chirped. “Shall we say a hun­dred pounds?” She turned to me. “You don’t have to bet, Jill.”

“That’s a re­lief! I’m bound to come in last. Go ahead, Agnes.”

As she hit the ball, it flew straight into the air and seemed to go for miles. Sud­denly she’d found her form.

“Good shot!” Ed­ward called. “Your turn next, Jill.”

My pa­thetic at­tempt didn’t go far, as usual. I watched as Ed­ward’s ball took flight.

“Oh, smash­ing shot, Ed­ward,” I said.

When we neared the green, Agnes was wait­ing for us. Ed­ward’s ball was in the bunker. He’d ex­pected it to be on the green, and it took him ages to find it.

This bad luck was re­peated over the next few holes.

“I don’t un­der­stand it,” he mut­tered, swip­ing at the grass with his club. “I can’t re­mem­ber when I’ve played so badly.”

We changed tac­tics at the last hole. Ed­ward took his turn, and when we reached the green Agnes was there, grin­ning.

“Ed­ward, you got a hole in one! You know what that means, don’t you? You have to buy every­one in the club­house a drink.”

I’d have to warn Agnes, though I doubted she’d be­lieve me

Wait­ing at the bar was a group of ladies, all known to Ed­ward. In on the plan, they cheered when Agnes an­nounced that Ed­ward had man­aged a hole in one.

He went through the usual rou­tine of check­ing his wal­let.

“I’m afraid I’ve mis­laid my card.”

“That’s OK,” Ron­ald said from be­hind the bar. “I’ll start a tab for you. You can pay the club to­mor­row.”

“Don’t for­get you owe me £100 for win­ning,” Agnes chipped in. “And there’s the mat­ter of a cer­tain jacket.”

His face red, Ed­ward beat a re­treat to make a phone call.

His em­bar­rassed son-in­law turned up to set­tle the debts. We heard the ar­gu­ment in the car park.

“Ev­ery month you’ve pulled this ca­per,” his son-in-law shouted. “Well, that’s the last time I’m bail­ing you out. And your rent-free stay with us is over. We want you out by to­mor­row.”

“Where will I go?” Ed­ward pleaded.

“You’ll find some other mug to put you up. I’m past car­ing, and so’s Sue. We’ve had enough.”

Agnes and I looked at each other. Les­son learned, we de­cided. And we burst out laugh­ing. n

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