Page 65 of The Singles Game

Charlie forced herself to laugh, but she really wanted to leap out of her chair and snatch the notes away from Sandrine. Natalya had said that? When? ‘What would I say to that? I actually don’t have to say anything to that. I think my win here in two weeks will speak for itself.’

‘So you’re feeling confident?’

‘Very. And until then, I have nothing more to say. It sounds like Natalya might not agree, but words don’t mean much: wins do.’ Charlie stood up, clearly catching Sandrine off guard, and reached over to shake her hand. How many interviews had she sat passively for, enduring probing and offensive question after question, always too timid or insecure or polite to do anything but suffer through it? No longer, she thought, turning her attention to the camera crew. ‘I’m hoping fifteen minutes will be enough to get the right shot. I’m afraid with my schedule today, it’s all I can spare.’

Charlie glanced over at her entourage while the translator addressed the camera crew. Jake and Todd wore dumbfounded expressions, but Dan was grinning at her. When she caught his eye, he gave her a subtle thumbs-up. As Jake chatted with Sandrine, making sure she was happy, Charlie scrolled through her news alerts. It was amazing how good it felt to control the interview. So long as she didn’t wonder how she’d feel when it was in print.

The first two days of practice in the Stade Roland-Garros were textbook. Charlie moved through her fitness and hitting sessions like a machine, taking care to stretch both before and after every workout and to carefully follow the tournament physio’s instructions on how to continue strength training without depleting energy. Todd had arranged for Skype sessions with a prominent nutritionist who specialized in professional athletes (while only using the phrase ‘big girl’ once, which Charlie felt was a notable improvement), and although none of the information the woman shared with Charlie was earth-shattering, it felt good to have someone making recommendations for each meal. The ratios of carbohydrates, protein, and fat were complicated and important: when you burned a few thousand calories every day merely doing your job, it was crucial to refuel properly. She was supposed to eat every two hours, so after finishing her final practice on the second day, Charlie turned to Dan.

‘Want to come to player dining? I’m supposed to get a protein smoothie and some yogurt parfait thing that apparently the French do better than anyone else, surprise, surprise.’

Dan shifted his weight between his feet. ‘Sorry, I can’t right now.’

‘What? Don’t tell me you have a riverboat cruise reservation? No, we’ve been here two days, I’m sure you’ve done that already.’

He laughed.

‘Private tour at the Louvre? A stroll through the Left Bank? No? You must be shopping, then. Not that you strike me as an Hermès kind of guy. Don’t you just love a store that makes you stand in line for an hour before they’ll sell you a two-thousand-dollar wallet? I know I do.’

Dan reached into his racket bag and pulled out a tattered trifold wallet made of vinyl and a strip of Velcro. ‘Hermès all the way, baby. The ladies love it.’

It was Charlie’s turn to laugh. ‘Come on, it’ll just be for a few minutes. I swear I won’t waste much of your sightseeing time.’

Dan clicked on his phone and stared at the time. He hesitated but then said, ‘Okay, I think I can do ten minutes. But only if we go right now.’ He threw his racket bag over his shoulder and leaned over to pick up Charlie’s.

‘What, have you got a hot date?’ Charlie said teasingly, but she could see instantly by Dan’s red cheeks that she’d guessed right. ‘Oh my god, you do. You have a date! When on earth did you have time to pick someone up in Paris? We’ve been putting in twelve-hour days!’

‘It’s nothing,’ Dan said, his voice cracking just the tiniest bit. He coughed. ‘Just some girl from school. She’s traveling through right now and so am I. We’re meeting up for coffee later.’

‘Sounds seriously sexy,’ Charlie teased, nearly racing to keep up with him as he strode through the grounds on the way to the player area. They each showed their credentials and took the elevator up to player dining. ‘Nothing like coffee to say I want to sleep with you.’

‘Classy,’ Dan said.

‘Dan’s getting some!’

She sang this refrain on repeat until he stopped in his tracks and turned around to face her. ‘Seriously?’

He waved toward an empty table that overlooked an exhibition court. ‘What do you want? I’ll get it.’

‘Will you get the wrong idea if I say coffee?’ Charlie asked flirtatiously.

He returned with two yogurt parfaits plus an espresso for him and a green juice for Charlie. He slid into the booth across from her and devoured his parfait in three bites.

‘Seriously, Dan. This girl is in town – in Paris! – for, like, one night and you’re taking her to coffee? Bad move. You can do better.’

‘Ah, the Charlotte Silver school of romance. Where should I take her? Straight to my hotel room? No date required?’

Charlie must have visibly flinched, because Dan immediately looked repentant. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t mean it like that.’

‘Don’t apologize. I haven’t exactly been a pillar of morality lately.’

‘Well, it’s certainly none of my business.’ Dan sipped his coffee cup and kept his eyes on the table.

‘Do you realize that I spend more time with you on a daily basis than almost anyone else in my entire life? I think we’re pretty much each other’s business.’

Dan grinned. ‘Well, in that case, inquiring minds want to know …’

‘What? Who’s better in bed? Zeke or Marco?’

‘I was just going to ask what’s going on with either one of them, but, hey, if you want to go there, consider me officially interested.’

Charlie sighed. ‘There’s really not much to report. Zeke was definitely a onetime thing. I’m going to put it in my scrapbook and look back on it when I’m old and decrepit – and in the meantime try to remind myself that I have nothing to be embarrassed about.’

Dan nodded and for a second she regretted her own honesty – who was he to judge?

There was a moment of silence before Dan asked, ‘And Marco?’