Charlie had planned to serve a nice, semi-homemade meal and ask calmly and confidently for Mr Silver’s support in hiring Todd. She was going to do it regardless, but the whole thing would feel so much better if she knew her father was behind her. ‘I was going to cook for you.’
‘Thanks, sweetheart, but why don’t you go ahead. I won’t be home until later. Or tomorrow.’
‘Tomorrow?’ Charlie asked, incredulous. Her father never, ever went out on dates when she was home, never mind slept over at some random woman’s house. She made a mental note to ask Jake if there was someone special.
‘I have to run now,’ he said in answer. ‘Love you,’ and he hung up.
Charlie pulled a frozen garlic bread from the freezer and scanned the package for heating instructions. Just as she popped it into her father’s surprisingly sophisticated toaster oven, Charlie’s phone rang.
It was Marcy. As soon as Charlie had gotten home from her meeting with Todd, she’d emailed Marcy to ask about dates for a visit. Marcy lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, and it had been forever since Charlie had been to her home. The WTA offices were located nearby, and Charlie planned to meet with officials about her coaching change at the same time. It was going to be a truly hideous conversation, but Charlie knew it had to take place in person. On Marcy’s home turf. At the very minimum, Charlie owed her that.
Charlie made herself answer the phone. ‘Hi, Marce!’ she said brightly. Even though the two of them communicated daily, it was almost always by text or email.
‘Hey, Charlie. How are you?’
‘Um, pretty good. Ramona was her usual charming self today. But I have to admit, she knows what she’s doing. My wrist is a non-issue now, and I really feel like the foot is getting a little better each day. There’s no pain anymore; now it’s just building up the strength.’
Marcy had visited twice during rehab, but her IVF process and Charlie’s inability to play yet made it silly for her to shuttle back and forth more often.
‘I’m so happy to hear that,’ Marcy said now.
‘Yeah, she’s been great.’
There was an awkward pause. Then Marcy said, ‘Charlie, I hope you won’t mind me being direct, but we’ve known each other long enough that we can be honest with each other, right?’
Instantly, a small, hard knot formed in Charlie’s throat. ‘Of course,’ she managed to choke out, hoping she sounded normal.
‘Why do you want to come see me in St. Petersburg this week?’ Marcy’s voice was calm and curious, but Charlie thought she could hear a twinge of suspicion.
‘I told you, Marce, it’s been forever since I’ve been there. I’m feeling better now and could use a break from the scene around here. I’d love to see you and Will, and of course I can swing by the WTA offices and maybe hammer out some—’
‘You said you’d be straight with me, Charlie.’
Marcy was right, she deserved honesty – but this was not a conversation Charlie wanted to have over the phone. As difficult as it was going to be, Charlie was determined to do things the right way.
‘Charlie, I don’t want to make this any harder for you than I am guessing it is. And maybe I’m waaaay off here, so I’m going to ask you a straightforward yes-or-no question, and I’d really appreciate it if you could be honest.’
‘Do you want to come down here so you can fire me?’
Charlie’s silence was all the confirmation Marcy needed. ‘I thought so,’ she said quietly.
The word ‘fire’ was so abrasive-sounding, so clinical, that Charlie wanted to argue with her, but there was no denying the truth in the question. Instead, the knot in her throat grew tighter, and it loosened only as the tears began to stream down her cheeks.
‘I’m sorry, Marcy. I wanted to have this conversation face-to-face,’ she said, hating herself for letting it all unfold this way.
‘I know you did, Charlie. And I appreciate that, I do. But we’ve never gotten hung up on formality before, so we shouldn’t really start now. I didn’t want you to have to drag yourself across the country just to tell me something I already suspected.’
‘You did?’ A sob escaped and Charlie clamped her hand over her mouth.
‘Yes. I know you haven’t been happy that I haven’t wanted to travel as much in the past year. You clearly know that Will and I are trying to get pregnant, and I’m sure you wonder how that’s going to affect you.’
‘No, Marcy, it isn’t—’
‘You don’t have to apologize. It’s natural. This is your career; I certainly understand your concerns. I’ve had a lingering feeling that you blame me for what happened at Wimbledon. We both know that was a fluke – and you were points away from winning that match – but I do accept that I played a role in that entire debacle, and I’m sorry for it.’
‘Marcy, please, if you’ll just—’
Her coach’s voice was strong and steady. ‘My only wish is that we could’ve been more open about these things. Actually put them out there and addressed them before you felt the need to look elsewhere.’ Then, after a beat: ‘My father-in-law is currently in LA on business. He’s a pretty big tennis fan, as you might imagine, and he saw you and Todd meeting in the lobby of the Standard. It wasn’t hard to piece it all together from there.’
Charlie felt like she’d been punched. ‘I’m sorry, Marce. The timing was so weirdly coincidental. I’m coming back, he wants to come out of retirement …’ She didn’t know quite what else to say.
‘He has quite the reputation.’
‘I know. I haven’t hired him yet. I, uh, I wanted to talk to you first.’
Marcy cleared her throat. ‘I appreciate that, Charlie. Your trying to come down here and everything. I just … I just hope you know what you’re getting yourself into.’
Charlie didn’t know what to say, probably because she didn’t really know what she was getting herself into. It was all starting to feel very real.
Marcy cleared her throat. ‘Look, I don’t want this to end badly. I can imagine this isn’t easy for you either, and I want you to know that, first and foremost, we’re friends. It’s been an honor coaching you these last years, but more than that, I’ve felt privileged to get to know you as a person.’