I told Juliet that I hated her because she pretended to be a bigger Take That fan than me. The band Take That, from the nineties. The boy band. She wasn’t a bigger fan. She only liked Mark Owen, and she had both of their albums on tape but she didn’t have any of the videos, or a t-shirt, or anything. I saw her twenty-three years later with her baby. I knew it was her because we were friends on Facebook. We were at Caitlin and Jack’s wedding in North London. Everybody was drunk.
I said Juliet, it’s lovely to see you. I said and who’s this little chap? She said the baby’s name was Mark Owen Byers, which I found suspicious. We hugged.
I said remember when you said you were a bigger Take That fan than me? Because that was the first thing I thought of when I saw her.
She said no. She gave me a critical look.
Her husband had recently left her for somebody else that we went to school with. I knew this from Facebook.
She said what do you do now? And I said that I had inherited some money and I used it to follow the tennis player Marin Cilic around the world.
She said that she’d never heard of him.
I said I know but he’s actually ranked number eleven in the world. She said who’s number one?
I ignored this and I said what are you doing now, apart from looking after Mark Owen?
She said she wasn’t doing anything. She hadn’t worked since she got married. She said she hated when people asked that question, because she had to say nothing.
I said well, you’re a mother.
She said, I know, but I got nine A stars at GCSE.
I said I remembered. She got the best GCSE marks in our year and everybody thought she would grow up to be an impressive person. I didn’t say that but I thought it.
About half the girls we went to school with were at the wedding. About half had children and the other half didn’t. Some of us looked old. We were all drunk and pretending to each other that our lives were deliberate.
She said, what do you mean, follow him around the world?
I said, every year the men’s tennis tour works its way around the globe staging tournaments on different surfaces. Grass, clay and hard-court. Cilic will probably play ten to fifteen tournaments this year. I try to be there for as many as I can.
She said, I’ve literally never heard of him.
I said that I understood that, but regardless, he was the number eleven ranked tennis player in the world. I said some people had once predicted he could be a top five player, but she had to appreciate, this was the toughest era of men’s tennis ever.
She said it must be difficult to play in the toughest era of men’s tennis ever. You could be amazing and still nobody might know who you are.
I said I know, exactly.
I felt that we were establishing a rapport.
She said honestly, I don’t really like Caitlin and Jack.
I said no, me neither. Caitlin is condescending. Jack is a little bit racist.
She said, yeah seriously. She said, I actually do remember when you said you were a bigger Take That fan than me. It hurt my feelings.
I said I was sorry, but I still thought that I had been a bigger fan.
She said yeah, but she had named her child after her favourite member of Take That, whereas I seemed to have switched my affections to the number eleven ranked tennis player in the world.
I said does your husband know that his child is named after your favourite member of Take That?
She said he does now, and then she started to cry. We had all drunk far too much.
I said Juliet, I’m sorry. It’s okay.
She said she was starting to feel like she was going to have a disappointing life.
I said I knew how she felt. But I said Juliet, you have to remember, this is the toughest era of men’s tennis ever.
She said I know, I know, I know.
About the Author: Catherine Barter has recently moved to London to work in the lucrative world of radical bookselling. Her first novel is still unfinished. She can be found on Twitter, here: @okayjane
Story Song: "Back for Good" by Take That