16 Between the lines

Sitting on the balcony of one of the Arthur Ashe suites, Gabriella counted in her head how many times she had played on Ashe compared to her sister. She had played seven times when Lulu had only played five times. Moreover, Gabriella had managed to win two of her matches on Ashe.
Being American, the twins had been scheduled on Ashe quite often but never for themselves alone. It had always been their opponent – a Top 5 player at least, or the defending champion – they had to play when stepping out onto the US Open center court. If they played lesser opponents the twins had been scheduled on a show court but not on Ashe.
This year it was different. At least for Luella it was. Due to the ranking points she had gained with the Wimbledon title she was the highest ranked American woman right now. As the sixth seed she was scheduled on Ashe because of herself now.

She had waited with Lulu in the locker room and she could tell that her sister was terribly nervous. Suddenly all eyes were on her. She was a Grand Slam winner and had to perform at her best in her home Slam.
Gabriella however was still ranked in the Top 20 and played her matches on the outer courts or on Grandstand, the second largest show court. Since Stanford they hadn’t switched matches and she felt much better that way. She was slowly working herself up the ranking, she trained harder and was hitting with Elise, Amanda and Natsumi in practice now.
She had had a good win today, and the good thing about it was that it was all hers. She would win and lose on her own terms now. No analysis of the draw to be made in advance, no Luella who made her play the tricky opponents, no heartbreak when Lulu had played for her and had lost the match.
Regarding her tennis, she couldn’t be happier.
But there was something she thought about all the time. Someone.

Down on the court Luella had just hit a very good winner down the line and the crowd roared with excitement. Gabriella sighed. Yes, she would have liked to play that match here on Ashe. But there was no need at the US Open to abandon her track, not even a possible clash between Lulu and Sasha.
Once again she thought back to the night in Cincinnati. It had been pure luck that she had had a sudden craving for sweets and had taken the elevator to the next floor.
In hindsight the kiss in front of the vending machine had been a brilliant idea, as Sasha had lost the following day in Cincinnati and never reached the quarter final where she could have played Lulu. Gabriella was suddenly in a very comfortable position. Sasha assumed that it had been Lulu who had kissed her. But her reaction was not – as Gabriella had feared before Cincinnati – to confront Lulu about it, but to avoid her sister at all costs.
This morning on the way to the gym she had felt that Sasha had relaxed as soon as she had found out that she had bumped into Gaga not Lulu. And still she had held the conversation short and had settled in the back of the gym to prevent Gaga to come over.

She almost felt a bit sorry for the Czech. Late at night she sometimes thought about Sasha when lying in the dark hotel room. She recapitulated the sensation she had felt just before she had leaned forward and had touched Sasha’s lips with hers. A rush of adrenaline had gone straight to her heart exploding into tiny coconut flavored shivers when they kissed. What had amazed Gaga was the fact that Sasha hadn’t slapped her in the face but had kissed her back instead. The melody of the pressed vending machine buttons still rang in her head.
She wondered if her behavior in the locker room in Roland Garros and again the kiss in Cincinnati really had to do only with Lulu and Sasha or maybe was directed by her own interests. It had undeniably been the most intense kiss she had had with a girl so far. And the more she thought about it, the more she craved for another one.