08 When in Rome…

A loud honk from the street had woken Amanda. The rising kerfuffle of Rome was drifting up to her hotel room window making it impossible to go back to sleep. She picked up her watch from the nightstand and checked the time. Still too early to get up. Her match was scheduled third on the Campo Centrale. But she didn’t want to go back to sleep either. Soon her mobile would buzz anyway. Like it did every day. Like a clockwork. She smiled. It was only a matter of time that the sound would make her jump up.
Since the tour had hit the magic red dust she felt better. Stuttgart had been a good result for her reaching the semi final even though she had done better last year having been a finalist in the German tournament. Her ranking had been gradually slipping in spring and she needed a good result in the Eternal City. So far it looked good. She was doing well in Rome. Today she would play in the quarter finals against local favourite Andrea Flavione. It would be a tough match but not impossible. Andrea would feel the pressure of the crowd like Amanda did in Australia.

She rolled over and grabbed her mobile from the nightstand. It was 7.13 AM. Why hadn’t it buzzed yet? She put it down again looking at the stucco that ornamented the high ceilings. For the last three weeks she had been woken by messages from Elise. First they came every third day, then every other day, and since she was in Rome her texts came every morning. Usually Elise only wrote little innocent and goofy messages like “Hey, how are you?” or “Good morning” and on match days Amanda was sure to receive a “Good luck! I’ll keep my fingers crossed.” Amanda usually would answer with a likewise short text.
There was nothing in her words to indicate that this was more than the beginning of a nice, easygoing friendship. And yet, Elise’s persistency was surprising the Australian.
Amanda had to admit she had become accustomed to the reliable sound of her mobile buzzing. Two days ago she had even considered to turn off the alarm clock, which was due at 7.15 AM, after Elise’s texts had begun to drop in punctually at 7.10 AM. Since Stuttgart they hadn’t spoken but it seemed that the good-night kiss after their doubles win had been only that and Amanda had racked her brain in vain.

The alarm bell went off and Amanda shut it off immediately. Elise hadn’t written a message. The Australian got up, stumbled into the bathroom and began her morning routine.
After she had dressed in her joggers and a shirt she picked up her mobile again. There was no message from Elise. Suddenly, Amanda was worried. Of course, she told herself, there would be a simple explanation for Elise’s silence but Amanda couldn’t help feeling troubled by the missing message. She sighed. That was exactly what she didn’t need before an important match.
Maybe Elise was stuck in a dead zone. Sure, that was it, Amanda calmed herself down, and there was only one way to find out and put her at ease again. She dialed Elise’s number.
Waiting for a second, she heard the dialing tone, so the service was available.
Embarrassed by what now seemed an overreaction, Amanda was just about to hang up again when Elise answered the phone.

“Hey.” She sounded surprised and awkward at the same time.
“Hi, Elise,” Amanda tried to sound cheerfully. “How is your tournament going?”
Elise was playing a challenger to get more matches under her belt and gain some ranking points. It was going fine, she answered. She had reached the quarter final which was however suspended due to rain. Amanda could hear in her voice that Elise was waiting for Amanda to come forward with whatever reason there had been for calling her.
“Will you try to qualify for Roland Garros?”
“Yes,” Elise answered. “Of course.”
Of course, she would. Amanda felt stupid. Suddenly, all week’s excitement over Elise’s texts felt like a trap. These were probably mass messages directed to several people at once and not her specifically. Once again she had fooled herself and gotten herself into an awkward position with that German girl. She could hear Elise breathing on the other side of the line. She really had to stop making a fool out of herself.
“If I qualify, ” Elise began, ” would you like to play doubles with me?”
“No,” Amanda quickly answered. “No, thank you. I really have to concentrate on singles in Paris. I have to defend too many points.”
That Elise fully understood and there was nothing to talk about. After a quick exchange of pleasantries they hung up.