Home > The Singles Game(7)

The Singles Game(7)
Lauren Weisberger

‘And, well, I think we should at least have a conversation – as hypothetical and unlikely as it is – about what things look like if this injury turns out to be more … intractable.’

‘You mean if I can’t recover from it?’

‘I’m sure you will, Charlie. Dr Cohen is the best, and he’s certainly seen this before. But of course every person is different, and all bets are off when you’re talking about someone who needs to perform at your level. It’s a lot more complicated.’

‘So what are you saying? Because I think I understand, but I can’t quite believe you’re suggesting it.’

It wasn’t so unheard-of that the women argued – they spent more than three hundred days a year together – but it was usually about mundane things: assigned seats on the plane, when to meet for breakfast, whether to watch House Hunters International or Property Brothers. But suddenly this conversation felt fraught with something Charlie couldn’t quite identify.

Marcy held up her hands. ‘I’m not suggesting anything more than we consider all the possibilities. If you are one of the small but real percentage of athletes who can’t make a full recovery from this very serious injury, I think we need to talk about that.’

‘I see.’

‘Charlie, don’t be like that. I believe in you. But some things are out of our control.’

‘This isn’t one of them,’ Charlie said quietly.

‘I know you think that, and trust me, no one hopes you’re right more than I, but there is a very real possibility that an injury like this could be … lingering.’

‘Career-ending. You may as well say it; it’s what you mean.’

‘Fine. I will say it, then. Career-ending. Now, we are both hoping against hope that it’s not true for you – and it probably won’t be – but it is something we should talk about.’

Charlie hoisted herself from the water. Marcy handed her a towel. Charlie didn’t feel the least bit self-conscious about her nudity, even now, even despite their conversation – it was like being naked in front of her own mother. Once again she wrapped it around herself and sat next to Marcy on the bench.

‘I disagree. I really don’t want to talk about it.’

‘Okay, but I think—’

‘And if we’re being completely honest with each other, I’m upset you’re even considering it.’

Marcy cleared her throat. ‘It has nothing to do with my opinion of you, or your game, or your ability to overcome this. It’s statistics, Charlie. Nothing more, nothing less. Some people will come back from this, and some won’t.’

‘So what’s the alternative?’ Charlie asked as she wiped away a sweat rivulet that ran down her forehead. ‘Give up? Is that what you’re saying?’

‘Of course not. We need to see this through. Hopefully everything will be fine.’

‘Fine? That’s our big goal? For everything to be fine?’ Charlie knew she sounded peevish, but she couldn’t help it. The irritation she’d felt mere minutes before was quickly becoming outright anger.

‘Charlie.’ Marcy’s voice was quiet and controlled, just like her. Just like Charlie, too, until the dreaded fall at Wimbledon had come along and blown up not just her ankle but her entire life. The last few weeks had been the longest stretch since she was four years old that she hadn’t so much as picked up a racket. Always she had wondered what it would be like to have a break, take a real leave from tennis, live a normal life. Now she knew, and it was awful. Granted, going to rehab and lying on the couch in her father’s house wasn’t exactly like sipping margaritas on a Caribbean beach, but Charlie had been astounded to realize how much she missed playing. She was eager to get back. More than eager – desperate – and the last thing on earth she needed to hear was her trusted friend and coach suggesting that maybe tennis wasn’t really in her future.

‘Marcy, I want to make something very clear here: I will come back from this injury. I will get into the top ten. I will win a Grand Slam. And I need you to believe that. I’m twenty-four, Marce. Not old, but certainly not getting any younger. If I’m ever going to make it really big, it needs to be now. Not in two years. Not in three. Right this very moment. I’ve worked too hard to give up on myself now, and I hope you won’t either.’

‘Of course I’m not giving up on you! No one believes in your potential more than I do. But part of being a professional is being able to have honest and rational conversations about the reality of a situation. That’s all I’m trying to do here.’

‘You’re assuming that I’m going to quit over my injury because you did over yours,’ Charlie blurted out, and instantly regretted it.

Marcy flinched as though she’d been hit but didn’t lose her composure. ‘You know that was an entirely different scenario.’

It was Charlie’s turn to be quiet. Was it so different? Marcy had torn her rotator cuff not once but twice. The first time she’d chosen rehab instead of surgery, and the injury hadn’t healed entirely. By the time it happened a second time, it was potentially too late for surgery to do much good. She should have at least tried it – all the doctors thought so – but instead, at age twenty-seven, Marcy had announced her retirement.

‘If you say so.’

‘If I say so? Charlie, they put my odds of making a full recovery, enough so I could play again, at ten percent. Meanwhile the surgery could possibly have done more damage than good, and the rehab was going to be a year or more. Where exactly was I going with news like that? Not up in the rankings, that’s for sure.’

They’d walked back into the air-conditioned part of the locker room, and Charlie was starting to shiver. She grabbed another towel and draped it over her shoulders before turning and looking Marcy straight in the eye. It felt exhilarating to speak so plainly, so directly – it was something she almost never did. ‘I need you to push me right now, to tell me that I’m going to come back from this stronger than ever. Not question whether or not I’ll ever play again,’ she said softly.

‘You know that’s not what I’m doing.’

‘But that’s how it feels.’

‘We obviously have a lot to talk about. We’ll figure this all out, sweetie, I promise, but I have to run. I’m meeting Will at Dan Tana’s. It’s our anniversary tonight.’

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