This is my first Corrie fanfic so I welcome any kind of feedback. It just seemed that there were very few Roy-centred stories so this was my attempt to understand him a bit more. Of course, being a soap character the writers could reveal things about his childhood later on which might contradict my story but I'll take the risk...
He arrived into the world a week later than scheduled; his mother would later remark that it was the only time he kept anyone waiting. It could be argued that he seemed to spend the rest of his life making up for it and it was often said that you could set your watch by Roy Cropper.
But you could also argue that he was born too early. He was born into a slightly nicer part of a drab northern city among people who made it their business to know everyone else's business, people who had lived through grinding poverty and the terror of the Blitz, and never let you forget it. He was born into a world of stultifying conformity, where to be different was akin to being a freak. And although the world changed rapidly during his early years, the lower middle class world of Wimpole Crescent, by and large, did not.
At three he already seemed to prefer his own company, curling up beside his wooden toy box in the neat little bedroom and working on his jigsaw puzzles. Oblivious to anything around him, he would make them over and over, putting the pieces together with a satisfying click and taking them apart once they were complete. Then when his tea was ready or it was time for bed he would put them all back in the appropriate box making sure all of the pieces were there, even before he could count, and stack them neatly on top of one another, always in the same order, ready for more play tomorrow. His parents watched in slight bewilderment at his insistence on having certain puzzles at the top of the pile, which was something their friends' children never did.
He quickly outgrew the simple puzzles so his mother went to a church jumble sale and found him a bigger one, this time featuring a red double decker bus, only for him to find that one of the pieces was missing. His alarming, full blown tantrum at being unable to complete the picture ensured his mother always checked anything she bought for him second hand from that day on.
At four he sat at his bedroom window watching the older children play before turning around to line up his toy soldiers, ready for another battle in the rapidly expanding world of his imagination. Even when he was practically shoved out the door to play he still preferred to watch rather than participate, standing at a distance like an alien from another planet studying human behaviour until someone would eventually notice him and invite him to kick a ball or join in with their latest game. And he usually did try to join them at first, in those early years, but in his mind he wanted to be back indoors with his toys and his safe little world in his bedroom.
At five he was invited to his first birthday party at the house two doors down. Clutching his favourite toy soldier in his hand he watched from the corner of the room while the presents were opened and sat quietly at the table while food was handed out, amid laughter and high pitched chatter. He panicked a little during a game where he had to stand in the middle of a circle, for reasons he did not understand, and once it was over tried to hide in the kitchen until one of the grown-ups ushered him back out again. But for everyone else there, it was a great party, which would set the standard for birthday parties on that street for some time to come, with fun games, delicious food and of course, a cake to be proud of. The adults, for whom birthday parties had not a part of their own childhood, assisted, scolded, and praised as appropriate, and chatted away whenever they got the chance. By the third game they were enjoying themselves so much that they didn't notice at first that the shy, withdrawn child from two doors down was missing from the room.
They found him upstairs in one of the bedrooms, playing with a train set.
The Train Set Incident, as it became known, might have been forgotten by the denizens of Wimpole Crescent had it not been superseded by other similar incidents where Roy would wander off in various people's houses or simply sit there quietly, lost in a world of his own. Desperate for her son to be like everyone else, Sylvia arranged for other children to come and play with him and even arranged a birthday party when he turned six, despite repeated protests from Roy. Under duress and the threat of punishment from his mother, he did make an effort with the other children, by bringing down some of his educational books for them to read or telling them all about the trains that he had seen going over the railway bridge. It was only when his mother tried to get everyone to sing Happy Birthday to him that he hid in his room, but at least he was present for most of the "festivities" – that year, at least.
Most people remember their childhoods as warm and sunny, but for Roy there was an abiding memory of dark clouds and rain. That suited him perfectly. He could stay inside and play with his trains or read his books. Accompanied by his grandparents he visited the library every Saturday where a whole new world was opened up to him. It was his grandparents who made sure he always had books to read, sometimes buying them as presents instead of the footballs and cricket sets his parents wanted him to play with. It was his beloved grandfather who patiently taught him board games and chess, and brought him to museums, and who brought him on a wonderful, life changing trip to Blackpool where he travelled on a real train for the first time. He missed them when they moved away but he always loved getting letters from them, with all the details of his grandfather's latest attempt to invent something that would change the world.
These were the bright spots in a childhood marked by misery and loneliness, with his parents always shouting at each other and the boys in his class making fun of him for getting good marks. He learned very quickly that he was not like other children; nor did he wish to be. Other children did not collect stamps or learn new words and record them in a little notebook for future reference. For him, social interactions were a constant guessing game, a succession of misunderstandings and confusion. He realised early on that other children did not like having their grammar corrected, nor did they enjoy listening to him ramble on about his latest hobby horse. "Why do they not like learning things?" he would wonder to himself. They did not really like him explaining why Father Christmas could not deliver all those presents in one night, or why the tooth fairy could not be interested in the teeth of human children.
Each Sunday his parents insisted on him attending Sunday School even if they weren't attending church themselves, all scrubbed up and presentable. As his scientific knowledge increased, he became less interested in the stories they were taught about Creation and Noah's Ark, but there was one aspect of this weekly ritual that he did enjoy. Every week the class would be given a memory verse to learn from the Bible for the following week, when they could win their choice of a pencil or eraser or some other paltry reward that they could use in school. No wonder Roy enjoyed it; he had a good memory for verses and soon had a fine collection of pencils, each inscribed with some kind of virtuous message, "Seek ye the Lord", "Jesus is King" and many others. They were cheaply made and the leads broke easily but it was the achievement that was the important part. Other children could run faster than him and could make friends easily, but he could remember things better than they could.
He knew he was not the son his parents had wanted. Their communication with him often seemed to consist entirely of orders and complaints. "Go outside and play!" "Stop asking so many questions!" "Why are you always talking about trains?" Nothing he ever did was right; not to them anyway. He helped around the house and did his best at school but by the time he was eight or nine they were too busy fighting to notice anything he did.
At ten, his father left, never to return. The deep scars caused by this abandonment and betrayal by the man who was supposed to provide for him, would never be healed. He was no longer just the weird kid at school, now he was the weird kid that didn't have a father. Sometimes he cried about it at night. He even prayed to God to bring his father back. "I'll try and be like the other boys," he promised through the tears. "I won't go near my train set and I'll play outside and learn about football and do whatever he wants me to do. Just please, bring him back."
But as time went by his father did not return. After the divorce came through Roy gradually forgot about his prayer and began to reassure himself, despite his heartache, that perhaps this was for the best. His father could marry again now and have a normal son, a boy who would like pop music and football and who didn't use big words or spend days on end constructing model railways. But it still hurt. Sometimes, when he lay quietly in bed at night, he could hear his mother crying in the next room. He tried his best to help her, running errands, making her breakfast at the weekends and trying to stay out of her way the rest of the time but already their lives were like two parallel lines as they grieved separately for a man who would leaving an aching void in both of their lives.
With all the upheaval and uncertainty in his life it was no wonder he failed the 11 plus. It would be an eternal source of disappointment to him, but he still had his books and his trains, which was really all that mattered to him. Looking back, he realised that he had learned so much more from books and educational programmes on the television than he ever did at school. As an extra bonus, he was also less likely to be tripped up or have his school books thrown in a puddle when he was in his own little sanctuary.
Despite the misery of it all, Mr Laycock, his history teacher, was a great inspiration to him and much more enthusiastic about his job than any of his colleagues at Waverly Secondary Modern. Roy would follow him around when he was on playground duty, full of endless questions about Waterloo, the Civil War, or even the Great Northern Railway, believing himself to have found a like-minded friend at last. Eventually, Mr Laycock had to tell him gently and tactfully not to follow him any more and to "go and talk to your friends instead", perhaps not realising that the awkward schoolboy in front of him did not have any.
As his teenage years flew by he became more self-sufficient than ever, partly because he had no choice when his mother worked so hard at her two jobs to provide for them both. He cooked his own meals and took great pride in his creations; they were certainly better than the dinners they gave you in school. He borrowed recipe books from the library and watched cookery programmes on TV, taking careful notes in his cheap Woolworths notebooks. Mrs Jones, an elderly lady down the road who often sent him on errands, taught him her own recipes with great patience and allowed him to read her complete set of Encyclopedia Brittanica, something no-one else on their avenue owned. And cooking tasty meals was one of the few ways he could make his mother happy, for a little while at least.
His mother rarely nagged him to go to church now and he was glad of that. God had not brought his father home nor had he made the bullying stop. It would be a source of great bitterness between him and God for many years to come but for the moment it freed up even more time for him to spend on his railways which were expanding rapidly beyond his bedroom and, in many ways, prospering better than the real ones. Many of his childhood toys were incorporated into these little worlds – his soldiers and farm animals could be readily transported as could his marbles and the tiny black beads from the penny bazaar that served as rather shiny but serviceable coal. Furthermore, a comprehensive train timetable was always on hand to lend authenticity to the proceedings.
His excuses for not coming down to tea on time became far more elaborate. Sylvia became used to his protests about how the 4.15 from Chester was due in at any moment and how there was a connecting train to Windermere that needed to depart on time or the 4.25 to Leeds would not be able to pull in to that particular platform, leaving passengers stranded. She would simply roll her eyes, place his tea in the oven on a low heat and hope for the best. And "hoping for the best" did not always simply refer to the quality of his meal, but to the rest of her son's life. Occasionally, in her more philosophical moments, she wondered what would happen to him, if he would find someone to marry him or would he bore to tears every girl he met, rambling on about timetables and the differences between steam and diesel engines.
And she wondered too, what went on in that head of his, in a world she could not share.