‘Is it weird that we are both potentially sleeping with someone who—?’
Charlie held up a hand. ‘Just don’t.’
‘Okay, I won’t. But for the record, it is super-weird.’
‘I can’t even.’
‘Night, C. I’ll see you first thing in the morning.’ Jake waved to their father, who was patiently waiting near the tent’s entrance.
Charlie didn’t bother telling Marco she was leaving, and he didn’t so much as glance in her direction when she took her father’s arm and walked out onto the street.
‘Everything okay?’ her father asked, and Charlie could tell he was carefully calibrating his voice to sound interested but not overly pushy.
‘Yes, why wouldn’t it be?’ She followed as her father led her to the leafy residential street, where they started walking uphill back to the main village.
‘Just because you didn’t seem to say good-bye to Marco.’
‘It’s over between Marco and me,’ Charlie said quietly. She hadn’t planned to say it, but the moment she heard the words, they felt right.
‘I’m sorry, honey,’ her father said, sounding surprisingly sincere.
‘He doesn’t even know yet,’ Charlie laughed. ‘But I think it’s safe to say that the only one who’s going to lose any sleep over this is Todd. And maybe the publicity people at the WTA. I don’t think you have to worry about Marco’s feelings.’
Her father hugged her. ‘Of all the things that keep me up, I assure you that Marco Vallejo’s feelings are not one of them.’
Charlie laughed. ‘You must be happy to hear he’s getting the ax.’
Mr Silver stopped walking and turned to look at her. ‘I’ll say it again. I’m only happy if you are, Charlie. You know that, don’t you? With Marco, with tennis, with everything – I only want you to be happy.’
Charlie could feel her throat begin to tighten. ‘Thanks,’ she managed. ‘You’ve always taught me that. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to say the same. I’ve been awful about the Eileen thing.’
‘I wouldn’t exactly put it—’
‘No, it’s true. I have. Like an immature brat who can’t think about anyone’s feelings except her own. I owe you an apology.’
They looked at one another; her father’s smile was tinged with sadness.
‘I know it’s not easy, Charlie. All these years it’s been just us, and now there’s someone else. And not just anyone, but Mom’s best friend. It must feel … bizarre.’
‘It does. But not the part about you finding someone – I’m so happy about that. Eileen just brings back so many memories of those horrible days right afterward, you know? And I know it’s crazy – like, grounds for institutionalization crazy – but I guess there’s always some small part of me that thinks Mom might come back one day. With you married again, and to Eileen, well, where would Mom go?’
‘I know exactly what you mean, sweetheart. That crazy thought is part of why I’ve only ever dated, and never really committed. But I’ve come to think your mother didn’t want me to stay frozen in time, unhappy and alone. Now, don’t get me wrong – if I had been the one who died first, I would’ve been very happy for your mother to remain a chaste and devoted widow for the rest of her life. But she was a better person than that. Before she died, she must have told me a thousand times that she wanted me to have a full life. To fall in love again. After making sure I was all set up to take care of you and Jake, it’s what she wanted most.’
They crossed the main street and walked down a cul-de-sac toward their rented townhouse. Mr Silver unlocked the front door and immediately plugged in the electric teakettle.
‘I’d like Eileen to start coming to tournaments,’ Charlie said. ‘And not just local ones, like UCLA. If she wants to, that is.’
Mr Silver looked at her. ‘I think she’d like that,’ he said, his voice catching. ‘I know I would.’
Charlie crossed the kitchen and hugged her father. She allowed herself to relax into the embrace, resting her head on his shoulder and inhaling his familiar smell. She squeezed as tightly as she could and thought of how long it had been since they’d done this.
‘I’m going to go up,’ she said, suddenly exhausted.
‘No tea? I made you the herbal mint just how you like it.’ He handed her a steaming mug.
‘I’ll take it upstairs with me. Thanks, Dad. I love you.’
He wiped the counter with a dishrag. ‘I love you, too, sweetie. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I hope you know how proud I am of you. Finals of Wimbledon … I can barely wrap my mind around it.’
Charlie couldn’t help but smile.
‘Oh, and, Charlie? I was lying before.’
She stopped and turned around. ‘About what?’
‘I really am happy that you’re ditching Marco. I think he’s an ass who is completely unworthy of my daughter. There, I said it.’
Charlie laughed. ‘I never would have guessed.’
‘Well, you’ve got to give me credit for keeping my mouth shut as long as I did. Not easy for a dad. You’ll see one day. But, yes, he’s … a total douchebag.’
‘Good night …’
Charlie walked into the bedroom that was decorated in muted shades of gray and ivory, all very soothing and inoffensive – like all of England – and finished her tea. She changed into a tank top and PJ shorts and had just crawled under the covers when she heard a knock on her door.
‘Dad? Come in,’ she called out, relieved that she wouldn’t have to be alone with her thoughts quite yet. How was she ever going to sleep the night before the Wimbledon final? Or, worse, what would happen if she didn’t?
‘It’s me,’ Jake said, looking especially handsome in the blue blazer he’d worn to the party. ‘You’re not sleeping yet, are you?’
‘Yeah, right. Come in, close the door,’ she said. He threw himself in a heap at the end of her bed, the same way he’d been doing since they were kids.
‘I’d kill for an Ambien. I don’t even know the last time I took one, but I remember it was pretty fantastic.’