Page 55 of The Singles Game

‘Hey, Dad. I’m still in the locker room. A lady from the Programme is here for testing, and I can’t pee, so it might be a while. But she was kind enough to let me answer so you could congratulate me on my big win.’

‘Congratulations,’ her father said flatly.

‘Dad. Come on. We both know Karina was deliberately delaying match point.’

‘Mmm.’ Whenever her father murmured, it meant he disagreed. Charlie knew this, but as she always did when she knew her father was upset with her, she kept on talking.

‘I mean, really. What choice did I have? The ump was completely checked out, and Todd is silently screaming at me to serve the ball, and I know that if the situation were reversed, she would have already hammered a serve at my head. What was I supposed to do? Just stand there like an idiot, getting stiffer and more psyched out every second, and hope she decides to rejoin the match?’

‘It’s not really for me to say, Charlie,’ Mr Silver said. ‘Although you probably know where I come down on these things.’

‘The old Charlie would have waited and waited because it’s the polite thing to do, and I would have lost that match point and then the next one and then the whole thing would have spiraled into a complete shit show. You know it’s happened before! And Marcy would have been the first one to tell me that I’d made the right decision and that I’d eventually get mentally stronger with experience and not have it affect me, but I would have lost this tournament. Lost it because I was always trying to make everyone like me. No one else seems to care about that, so why should I? And it’s not even like I did anything wrong. I was completely within my right to serve the ball whenever I damn well pleased!’

‘Well, it sounds like you have it sorted, then,’ her father said.

‘Ms Silver? May we try again?’ Ms Baird asked, and Charlie was relieved.

‘Dad, I have to run. I’ll see you at the restaurant just as soon as I’m—’

‘I’m on my way back to the hotel for the night,’ Mr Silver said. His voice sounded completely neutral to anyone but Charlie, who could hear the disappointment like an electric guitar.

‘Already? You’re not going to celebrate with us?’

‘It’s so late already. And I know Jake and Todd are eager to speak with you. Let’s touch base tomorrow before my flight.’

Charlie was quiet for a moment. ‘Okay, Dad. If that’s really what you want.’ She could feel the shame in her flushed cheeks.

She hung up and turned her attention to the tester. ‘I think I can do it this time,’ she said.

This time the urine flowed freely, and after dipping a little paper stick in it, Ms Baird declared it adequately concentrated. ‘Thank you for your cooperation,’ she said. ‘You’re free to go.’

Charlie nodded and thanked the woman and headed back to her locker. She pulled a brag book from the pocket of the garment bag that was hanging there and began to leaf through it. This is what it had come to: two outfit choices, both selected by someone else, and still she couldn’t figure out how to put them together without a photographic lesson. There were tabs for all kinds of occasions – print interview, player party, television interview, airline travel, family dinners, et cetera – and she flipped to the catchall section labeled CELEBRATIONS. Monique had placed mini sticky notes on two of the dozen or so pictures featured in this section, indicating the two choices that currently hung in Charlie’s locker: a spaghetti strap silk romper that gathered at the waist and ankles and a cropped black tee paired with what could only be described as a high-waisted tutu. Figuring she’d spent enough time already both going to the bathroom and wondering how she’d go to the bathroom, Charlie pulled on the second outfit. Standing in front of the mirror, she had to admit that Monique was good at her job. The T-shirt’s cap sleeves accentuated her toned arms, and the little swath of skin that showed between the bottom of her shirt and the top of her skirt made her breasts look like they defied gravity. Even the Swarovski-studded black Louboutins gave her legs the illusion of infinity, despite the fact that Monique, at Charlie’s repeated insistence, had finally agreed to have the heels cut down from four inches to two.

Her phone bleated with a FaceTime call. Monique’s picture stared back at her. Knowing the woman wouldn’t stop calling until she answered, Charlie slid the button to the right and held her phone as high as she could with her right hand.

‘I like it,’ she said, moving the screen to give Monique a full view.

‘Where the hell are you? Shouldn’t you be at the restaurant by now?’ Monique squinted, trying to get a better look. ‘I like it, too. I knew that Alice and Olivia skirt would be perfect, and it is. Let me see the Loubs.’

Charlie pointed the phone at her feet. ‘They’re actually really comfortable at this height.’

Monique made a gagging sound. ‘If you ever tell anyone I agreed to having the heels hacked, we’re over. Just so you know.’

Charlie laughed.

‘Where’s the crown? I left a couple extra in a cosmetic pouch at the bottom of the bag.’

‘Yeah, I saw them.’

‘So put one on. Your choice. How do you like that? Who says I don’t let my clients have any creative freedom?’

‘They’re identical, Monique. One has black stones and one has pink.’

‘Yes, well, don’t you like that you can choose? Although with this outfit, and in light of the fact that you’re celebrating a huge victory, I’d strongly recommend the black.’

‘I don’t know …’

‘So wear the pink if you really like it. I can live with that.’

‘I just think it’s a little much for downtown Charleston, you know? This is like the real-deal South. Home of the cashmere twinset. Am I really going to wear a tiara to dinner?’

‘You sure as hell are!’ Monique screeched. ‘I don’t care if all the other girls are wearing every single nauseating pink and green Lilly Pulitzer print ever invented. This is about you and no one else. You are the Warrior Princess. And for chrissake, you actually just won something! So put on your goddamn tiara and own it. You may as well be at Buckingham fucking Palace right now, because you are tennis royalty and you damn well better act like it!’

Charlie watched as Monique weaved her way onto a packed airport people mover and started barking ‘Left is for passing!’ to anyone who didn’t move as fast as she did. As soon as she stepped off, she turned her attention back to the screen. ‘Now!’ she yelled so loudly that a family of four all turned to stare at her.