‘Let’s take the stairs,’ Marco said, pulling her along.
The couple turned and stared at them. ‘They recognize me! They know I’m high! It’s going to be everywhere tomorrow!’
‘Shut up!’ Marco hissed directly in her ear. Charlie was stunned into silence. It was the first time she had heard him get upset. He was a mental monolith of steady mood and no excessive emotion, both on and off the court. Entire articles had been written on Marco’s mental toughness – and, beyond that, his admirable poker face – and Charlie had never, not once, witnessed a chink in the armor. Until now.
As she followed him toward the stairwell, something caught her eye. One of the doors on her left opened just as they were walking past it. It was dark inside the room, and Charlie thought she could see two men standing just inside, whispering. The voices were familiar. She stopped for a closer look, but Marco pulled her along. Was that Jake? It sure sounded like him, but there was no time to investigate. They hiked down two floors to her room, where Marco dug in her back jeans pocket and pulled out her room key. He murmured comforting things the entire time, always reassuring her that the high would wear off soon, that she should just go to bed as planned. After making sure she had water and confirming her alarm was set for six-thirty, he kissed her on the cheek and left. ‘I’ll order a wake-up call from Reception as well,’ he said as he walked out. ‘Good luck tomorrow; you’ll be great.’
‘Charlie? Charlie? Can you hear me?’ The voice that called out now was male, but it wasn’t Marco. It was Shawn, and she was still standing at the podium, answering questions after her first-round French Open loss.
‘Yes, of course I can hear you,’ she said.
‘Can you clarify this report stating that you failed a drug test?’ Shawn asked, once again waving the offending paper.
Charlie’s eyes shot to Jake. He seemed to consider his options before stepping in front of her to take the microphone.
‘I will state unequivocally that Charlotte’s so-called failure on the drug test is in no way relevant to her performance this morning. It was a technicality, nothing more.’
‘And this video that was posted to YouTube late last night? Can you comment on this?’
The room had quieted enough that now Shawn’s phone was sufficiently loud for everyone to hear. Charlie couldn’t see what was happening on the small screen, but she could hear a woman’s voice – undeniably her own – shouting, ‘I’m all fucked-up, Marco! I need this to stop. I need it to stop right now!’
Jake cleared his throat and leaned toward the microphone. ‘Charlotte has no comment right now. Thank you for understanding.’ And while the voices came in from all directions, Jake gripped Charlie’s arm in the exact same way Marco had the night before and pulled her out of the room.
the lindsay lohan of tennis
TOPANGA CANYON, JUNE 2016
‘I’m so humiliated,’ Charlie moaned. ‘Do you even know what they’re calling me now?’
‘The Delinquent Princess? So what? It’s not that bad.’ Charlie could hear a spoon scraping against a bowl and then Piper, through a full mouth, said, ‘It actually sounds kind of chic. Pot is legal in a whole bunch of states. I don’t know how many, but it’s a lot.’
Charlie snorted. ‘Jake is annoyed, but at least he sort of understands how it all went down. Todd is irate. Listen to this.’ She pulled out her phone and scrolled to find the text.
‘“I never even thought it possible for you to do something so epically, indescribably, undeniably DUMB.” He capitalized “dumb.” Just in case I missed it.’
‘That’s just Todd being Todd.’
‘Don’t kid yourself. That’s not the last he’ll have to say on the topic – there’s going to be hell to pay with him. And that’s if he doesn’t fire me first.’
‘You pay him, Charlie, not the other way around.’
‘You’ll apologize and tell him how much you’ve learned from the experience, and he’ll get over it. Just like everyone else.’
‘Maybe. But there’s my father, too. He’s so disappointed he won’t even speak to me.’
‘Your father misses the sweet little girl in braids who always said “please” and “thank you,” even as people walked all over her. He’ll get over it.’
Charlie lowered her voice. ‘Sometimes I catch him looking at me with this expression like Who is this person in front of me? It’s awful, it truly is.’
The walls in her father’s new cottage were wafer-thin, and he was reading right outside her door. His door, actually. He had insisted on taking the living room pullout and leaving Charlie the bedroom, an argument that had grown heated quickly. It brought together so many different issues, none of which either of them seemed ready to address: his new accommodations and what they implied about his financial situation; her fall from grace; Todd’s involvement; the great distance they both felt now that they weren’t discussing anything substantive. When she had instinctively bought a nonstop ticket from Paris to Los Angeles after her humiliating first-round loss, she hadn’t thought about anything other than getting home. Home. It never made sense for her to have her own place when she was on the road forty-eight weeks out of every fifty-two. She thought about it every now and then, how it could be nice to have her own apartment somewhere – but whenever she got serious enough to consider it, she changed her mind. Why pay rent and utilities and furnish something for a few weeks a year? Especially when she had enough frequent flier miles saved up to fly or stay anywhere on earth, at any time, virtually free of charge? And for those times when she needed a day or two to decompress, to rest and relax and have someone take care of her, she had her family home. Until now. She felt guilty admitting it, but had Charlie even remembered her father had already moved into this depressing, on-property guest cottage, one deemed to have fallen too deep into disrepair to house the club’s actual guests, well, she probably would have stayed in a hotel. Or not come home at all. Which of course made her feel even worse.
‘You’ll deal with it, and so will he. You didn’t get arrested for prostitution, did you? Because that would be hard to recover from. Heroin would be a big problem. And as far as I know, you didn’t kill anyone. So, all things considered, I think the world can get over you smoking a joint.’