The Tennis Club

by Patrick O’Connor

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THE faces looked out at him from the photograph. All six of them. But it was the girl on the left that had him transfixed.

Who was she, he pondered?  A stupid thought really.  Judging by the clothes the photograph was taken sometime in the 1920s.  She would almost certainly be dead now or if not extremely old and wrinkly.

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And yet Jeff Saunders, 35 year old history lecturer and part-time newspaper columnist, was spellbound.

Pretty much par for the course, thought Jeff. He was a ladies' man, couldn’t resist a pretty face.

It had cost him two marriages and it was like an addiction. Meet someone, have a passionate affair and move on.

What drove all this he didn’t know, nor particularly care. Because once he was ensnared nothing else seemed to matter. He knew it was destructive behaviour but he couldn’t help it.

But now he was captivated by a woman in a photograph taken over 80 years ago.

Why?

THE Oak was an old fashioned pub. A place where the main activity was drinking beer, real beer. It was a favourite venue for journalists from the Gazette.  The booze and fag riddled hack was now an almost extinct species, but crime reporter Bill Moran was doing his best to keep the tradition going, even if it was on a much reduced scale. No long, leisurely lunches but the pub was a haven of relaxation after a day’s work.

“Pint of Pedigree Bill.”

“Cheers Jeff.”

“Well, what do you think of the photograph?”

It was Bill who had helped to get him started with his nostalgia column, "Every Picture Tells A Story".

“It doesn’t look very special to me. I mean, it’s just a bunch of people with tennis racquets. All very prim and proper in their whites. So what’s the big deal?”

Jeff frowned. “It’s something about their faces, as if they know something we don’t. Yes, they’re holding tennis racquets but, I don’t know, I just have this feeling that tennis is not what these people are all about. And look, they’re all holding hands. The men too. Very unconventional for a public pose, especially at that time. Don’t you think that’s strange?”

“Yes - a bit, but they could just be pally, that’s all,” replied Bill.

Jeff turned the picture so that it was directly in front of Bill’s gaze.  There were three men and three women.

“The girl on the left, just look at her Bill, she’s so sure of herself, so self-confident, so ... sensual.”

“She’s certainly a looker,” Bill conceded. “If she walked into the pub right now, you’d certainly perk up.”

“That’s my whole point. This photograph  - it could have been taken yesterday, it sort of transcends time.”

Bill started to get up, his glass empty. “Good grief, getting a bit deep aren’t we? It’s just six people enjoying a game of tennis. I can’t really see why it’s got you so hooked.”

“It’s just that….”

Bill reluctantly sat down again. “Look, I’m sure the readers will come up with some answers. I mean, that’s the point of the column isn’t it. You do your research, write a bit around what you can deduce from the picture and hopefully the readers can fill in the missing gaps. Anyway who sent the photograph in?”

“Don’t know much. It came in with a very brief note signed by a woman called Evelyn, no address just a mobile number.”