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Tennis Greats of the Past

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“Miranda?” Emily called tentatively, walking closer to her boss. Her boss who did not like to be interrupted when she was practicing with the automatic serving machine. Her boss whose tennis serve could be classified as a lethal weapon under the right circumstances.

“Yes, Emily; viens, viens!” She beckoned her impatiently.

“Leslie called.” Emily started hesitantly. “It’s… about the fundraising tour?”

“Yes, what about it?” Miranda’s racket made contact and Emily jumped a little.

“The schedule has been set and… one of your matches… is a doubles round.”

“I suspected I would play doubles at some point.” Miranda shrugged, unimpressed.

“No, I know. It’s just… your partner. They… they...”

Miranda turned to Emily and a serve flew past the older woman and she didn’t bat so much as an eyelash as she stared the redhead down. “Don’t say it.”

Emily felt as though she was going to be sick to her stomach. She took a deep breath and, in the softest voice she could make and still be heard, whispered, “Jane Adler.”

“Unacceptable.” Miranda huffed. “Surely, I must be playing against her at some point… We have the most legendary rivalry in the history of the sport.”

Another ball sailed past, this one passing dangerously close, still Miranda seemed not to notice it.

“I know! I think maybe…” Emily bit the inside of her lip. “They want it to be friendly? Since it is for charity?”

“The whole ‘Tennis Greats of the Past’ was insulting enough already!” Miranda snapped. “The only reason why I agreed to it instead of just writing a check was the chance to play Jane Adler again and break that interminable tie.” She spat the word as though it left a bitter taste in her mouth.

“Of course, Miranda.” Emily agreed, clutching her clipboard anxiously.

“Call them back and tell them that I will not have her as a doubles partner.” Miranda growled. “I don’t care if it is a fundraiser. Switch me with Barker or Tanaka.

“I will only play against Jane Adler.” Miranda slammed a ball with gusto. “I am so tired of her hiding behind that ‘media darling’ routine. I will play her and once and for all prove that I am the superior athlete.”

Gritting her teeth angrily, she drew her arm back and her racket made contact with the bright green ball. The ball slammed into the back wall with so much force that it ricocheted off the back wall and Emily had to jump back as it hurtled toward her.

Miranda huffed and smoothed out her tennis skirt.

Emily blinked. “Miranda, you’re in the best shape of your career.”

“Yes, I am.” Miranda thwacked the next ball, this time it landed in-bounds and she awaited the next serve. “So, call whomever you need to call but I will not be in attendance if I am not playing against Jane Adler.”

“Maybe they wanted you to doubles partner with her because you are so much better?” Emily offered cautiously.

“Of course I am.” Miranda lobbed the ball over the net. “I don’t spend my time opening coffee shops and publishing baked goods cookbooks.

Call the committee, Emily. I don’t think I should need to ask you a third time.” Miranda said menacingly as she slammed another ball which came very close to hitting Emily.

Emily had the good sense to hear the subtext ‘next time, I shan’t miss.’

“Yes, Miranda.” Emily nodded agreeably and excused herself back to the house.

She opened the backdoor and found Nigel preparing Miranda’s midday meal. She frowned. “Word to the wise… I’d throw out that rabbit food and make her a steak. She’s out for blood today.”

“She’s Miranda fucking Priestly, she is out for blood every day.” Nigel shook his head dismissively. “And this is not rabbit food. This is baby kale with lemon, parmesan, and roasted chickpeas. I’m her nutritionist and lifecoach and I will not be bullied.”

“It’s your funeral.” Emily mumbled. She put the phone to her ear.

The backdoor opened again and Miranda stepped through. Nigel looked up and caught her eye and felt like he had icewater in his veins.

“What’s that?” She asked, looking down her nose at the salad.

“That is…” Nigel started, attempting to gather his strength. “It’s… it is…”

“While we’re young.” Miranda smirked, grabbing a perrier from the counter and cracking the seal.

“It’s my lunch.” He said finally. “I was just about to make you a filet mignon.”

When she didn’t immediately move on, he added, “with bacon.”

She took a swig of her fizzy water, giving a minute nod of approval. His shoulders relaxed and he sighed inwardly. “I’m going to take a shower. Emily?”

“I’m on with Patrick now.” She called from the other room.

As Miranda ascended the stairs, Emily re-entered the kitchen, putting the phone down on the counter. “He said ‘I’ll check with Ms. Adler, I’m sure she’d be happy to accommodate Ms. Priestly’s request.’ Can you believe that?”

“That Jane Adler is nice?” Nigel scoffed as he pulled a filet from the refrigerator. “Yes, I can. We’re talking about the woman who takes the time to greet all of her fans at any event. They paparazzi’d her kissing a baby at one event.”

Emily shuddered, remembering, “yes, and all that extra time spent having her picture taken with little monsters, the match got pushed back a half hour. A match with,” Emily pointed to the ceiling as they heard Miranda’s shower starting. “Her highness. A match which Miranda lost - and she swears six ways from Sunday that she lost because the evening sun got in her eyes.”

“Was that the match where she made three ball boys quit?”

Emily rolled her eyes a little. “No, it was the match where she made the line judge cry.”

“Same match when she got suspended from the club for two weeks?”

“Different match, same club.” Emily corrected. “She won that match though.”

The filet mignon sizzled as Nigel flipped it. Emily looked down at the salad. “You can have that, if you want. I already ate.”

Emily thought about it, she sighed, “no, I’m on a diet.”

“It’s a salad.” Nigel insisted.

“It has unnecessary calories.” Emily shook her head. “I need to stay svelte. Miranda and I are going to Paris in the spring for a tournament.”

“I’m going to let that go - for now.” Nigel said pointedly, grabbing a plate from the cupboard. He pulled the bacon wrapped fillet from the heat and set it on the plate.

“That smells divine…” Emily said wistfully. Her phone rang and she picked it up. “Miranda Priestly’s office.”

Nigel rolled his eyes.

A melodic laugh wafted through the phone. “Emily Charlton?”

Emily froze, the blood draining from her face. “Y-yes.”

“This is Jane Adler.”

Emily nodded weakly. “I know…”

“Patrick called me and told me that Miranda was unhappy with the schedule?” She said, her voice sweet. “I’m, of course, a little disappointed that we can’t put our differences behind us. I asked Patrick to make her my doubles partner - I do think we could make a wonderful team. I’m more than happy to play Miranda, though.”

“Okay.” Emily replied, still stunned.

“I told Patrick as much but I wanted to call you directly to let you know.” Jane continued. “I look forward to playing her, actually; it’s always fun to play against her.”

Emily chuckled helplessly.

“Give Miranda my best, okay?”

“Kay.” Emily furrowed her brow, pulling the phone from her ear and hanging up.

“You look like someone just ran over your dog.” Nigel chuckled.

“Jane Adler just called. She wants me to give Miranda her best.” Emily snorted.

“I have no doubt that Adler will give her best.” Miranda said in a low, menacing voice behind Emily.

Emily laid a hand over her heart, turning to her boss.

“Her best will not be sufficient.” Miranda shook her head with a smug grin. Nigel held up the plate of gourmet steak and Miranda grabbed it from him unceremoniously.

**

“You’re wicked.” Gabby grinned as Jane hung up the phone.

“All I said was to give her my best.” Jane shrugged. “Let’s overnight a signed copy of the book to Miranda.”

Gabby laughed. “That’ll drive her crazy.”

“I don’t know what it is about that woman but she really gets under my skin. Nobody doesn’t like me; I’m nice to everyone.”

“I know you are, mom.” Gabby pulled herself up to sit on the counter. “But this is Miranda Priestly we’re talking about. Miranda Priestly of the four ex-husbands.”

“I have an ex-husband too…” Jane pursed her lips.

“Yeah, but, like, that wasn’t your fault.” Gabby insisted, “I love dad, don’t get me wrong, but that was a shitty thing he did.”

“Gabby…”

“No, like, he wanted to raise us to be good people and then he cheats on his adoring, amazing wife and knocks up a thirty year old?” She held up her hands, “just saying. That’s a dick move. If some guy cheated on me? Dad’d kill him.”

“We’re all… at different places in our journeys, Gabby.” Jane shrugged.

“Oh! Patrick told me that Jovan Balmont just confirmed. I suggested, since you were short a doubles partner, that perhaps he could arrange a coupling... there could be something there…”

“Gabby…”

“Come on, mom. You and Jovan always had that thing.”

“What ‘thing?’” Jane’s eyebrows went up, “we had nothing of the sort! I was happily married.”

“You have chemistry with him! That doubles match with you and Jovan where you played Miranda and Pierre Amal? The stuff of legends!”

Jane scoffed. “Ha. Jovan and Pierre hardly played, Miranda practically pushed Pierre to the sidelines and then I… I confess that my competitive spirit got the better of me as well...”

“Well, you won.” Gabby grinned. “And Jovan hugged you, picking you up and spinning you around? That’s what people want to see.”

Jane shook her head again. “My matches were never so well attended as when Miranda and I played.”

“That works out then. Since you’ll be playing her now. Maybe you’ll even get another boost from Jovan… you know what they say, the best way to get over someone is to get under someone.”

“Are you trying to pimp out your mother?” Jane snorted.

“No, I just… you seem sad.” Gabby admitted. “You haven’t been out on a date with a man since Adam the Architect.”

“I’m not sad…” Jane sighed. “I’m just single. Which, Gabby, is not a crime. And now I’ve got something to occupy my time… getting back into shape to wipe the court with Miranda Priestly.”