03 Eavesdropping on the heart

His whole life had changed in a couple of days. From sporadic freelance writer and photographer Tom Richardson had made it to full-time freelance writer and photographer. He was working for the WTA now, producing entertaining little tidbits for its website. Last week he had mainly done interviews and two photo shoots with some of the lower ranked girls at the Sydney tournament. He had only arrived in Melbourne yesterday, but this day had already been busy.
His first assignment seemed easy enough. He met Elise Renard at the reception desk and soon enough found a quiet place to do a little fun interview with the young German. She had been a Quarterfinalist only a year ago but now was fighting her way back into the upper ranks. Today however was not a good day for the German. She had lost her qualifying match and was out of the Australian Open before it even started. Accordingly her mood was a little dampened, even though she seemed quite endearing.

“What do you like most about playing in Australia?” Tom asked her.
“The weather,” Elise answered, adding that the people were also very nice. Hearing her mellow-voiced answers Tom soon settled into autopilot. This would be another half hour of boringness he suspected plus another hour of editing the boringness. Why not add a little spice, he wondered. He didn’t have to use it in the end. He hesitated for a second but then went with it.
“Are you looking forward to dancing with a particular player tonight at the player’s party?”
It caught her off-guard. She laughed nervously then grabbed the water bottle. Her reaction set Tom’s antennae buzzing. Apparently he had hit the mark.

“There are a few hot guys out there,” Tom tried to get her talking, but she was still holding on to the bottle gulping little sips. “Who’s your favorite?”
“I’ll keep it to myself.” She grimaced in embarrassment. Dear Lord, Tom couldn’t help thinking. So German! How much more fun would that question have been with one of the British girls.
“Yeah, you’re right,” he managed to say. “I would do that, too. Most girls would name Ted Curry as a favorite though. At least that’s what I have heard.” Tom smiled at Elise.
“I guess,” she muttered shrugging her shoulders. She looked like she had never heard of Ted Curry.
This girl was too tight, Tom figured. Why would anyone at her age become so nervous being asked about guys. Wasn’t she traveling with her parents all the time? Yes, that must be it. Well, it was actually something they could talk about: her French father, who was also her coach. Tom sighed.
“Well, back to tennis then,” he suggested.
“Yes, thank you.” She relaxed again and put the bottle down.

They talked for another twenty minutes about tennis, music and her come-back from injury. After she politely thanked him and said good-bye, Tom watched the young girl leave the lobby. He was a bit puzzled by the German. But then he got up himself. Why worry?
This was Australia and what a difference two weeks make, he thought. He put on his sunglasses and, pulling his hand through his long red hair, he took a step out into the bright sunlight. He had a new job, a new life and, he smiled as bright as the Australian sun, since Perth he wasn’t single anymore.