September 27, 2020

The shock of the loss of her job - or imminent loss, at least - had been usefully waylaid by the reminder that The Goldman Open was imminent and, 'really, Vivienne, can you tell us if you're going to attend so we can draw the names for the first round?' Having fully intended to skip it, her appetite for not-so-healthy competition at a low point this year, the dawning realization that she was going to have to ask her parents for a favor in the not too distant future hastily changed her tune. She would go, she would smile, she would play, and she wouldn't get into any arguments with anyone about anything, but she'd be damned if she was doing it alone.

If Lenny and Ezra had conceived of anything close to what it would be like, then perhaps it was the four hours that Vivi had spent at a court on Saturday afternoon hitting balls shot from a machine to 'get the swing right' that gave it away. Or it could have been the increasingly frantic messages later the same afternoon as she dug through her closet and presented by way of mirror selfies a series of outfits with the request that they just tell her which one made her look skinniest. Or, perhaps, it was the incessant foot tapping on the drive out to the suburbs on the Sunday morning accompanied by a pleased proclamation that 'Chrissy - Jacob's wife - has twisted her ankle and might not be able to play in the doubles.'

Whatever it was, she was unquestionably jittery as well as vaguely regretful that she'd offered up the invitation in the first place by the time they arrived. They didn't need to be subjected to this. They didn't need to see her restless in her too white, too bright skirt that was immediately commented on for being too short as if that were possible when it was quite literally a tennis skirt, or listen to her twin nephews, Marcus and Elijah, argue over who would be allowed to act as ball boy, or sit there in the sun as her mother clicked her tongue over every shot she missed. She wasn't embarrassed by her family exactly as much as she was embarrassed by herself and how significantly they impacted on her mood, a trait that even at 24 she hadn't managed to shrug off.

The only shining light was, as ever, Gabriel, who quite literally managed to outshine everyone in a shimmery silver shorts and tank top number that he had evidently coerced his partner to attempt to match with, and it was Gabe who launched himself at her at a run and then unceremoniously dumped her back on her feet when he spotted her company.

"Is this..."

"This is," she confirmed, but it fell on deaf ears as the younger of her brothers took up Lenny's face in his hands, social boundaries disregarded entirely.

"Have you seen this girl, Vivi, look at her! She's stunning! These eyes. And, oh my goodness, hi, I'm Gabriel - Gabe's fine - and you must be Ezra. Vivienne, he's so handsome, he's nothing like-"

She cut him off with a zip motion across her mouth. "We don't say that name here."

Mirroring the gesture, Gabe let go of them both, and offered the assurance, "And my lips are sealed. You're both very welcome, I'm so glad you came. There's drinks in the cooler. You"ll need them."

As it happened, Gabe was her first match, and though he could hold his own well enough just as the rest of them, his attention span as ever got the better of him and nobody had been surprised when he'd allowed her to take all three sets, only dropping a few games in the middle set when she'd spotted her mother settling herself down near Lenny and Ezra for what was undoubtedly a politely formal conversation. She was glad for the end of the first match if only so she could hurriedly disrupt it by firmly placing herself in the middle of it.

By the time the semi-finals rolled around (the announcement of which she couldn't resist rolling her eyes at even in the eleventh year of the competition, earning her a 'don't be petulant, Vivienne, it doesn't suit you') they had - in line with the predictions she had made in the car - been whittled down to just her versus her father and her mother versus Jacob.

"I mean, what's even the point?" she asked quietly for their ears only as she pushed herself to her feet to head back to the court, using Ezra's knee as leverage. So she wasn't exactly gracious about the whole thing, admittedly. "He's going to give me the first set to keep me interested and then he'll just smash the ball at me over and over to make sure he takes the next two. Oh, and he'll make a joke at some point about how it's just as well I didn't go professional if my dad can beat me. Fucking lawyers." Still, in an effort to commit to what she had promised herself (friendly, friendly, friendly), she stuck her tongue out at them both as she backed away to the court, turning to skip the rest of the way for her annual thrashing. She wasn't so arrogant as to think it was all about her, but in her moodiest moments it did occasionally strike her as ritual punishment for her transgressions.

"They're a very sweet couple," Abigail told Vivi as they simultaneously reached for their water bottles following the announcement of the winner - Amos, naturally, as if it would ever be anyone else. "Very charming. It's nice that you have friends your own age."

Vivienne laughed at the jibe at the same time she looked over at her, erm, friends. The mere sight of them together, heads close as they talked, was enough to make her smile around her mouthful of water.

"It'll be nice for you to meet someone too, it's about time."

She swallowed more water, her own words heavy on her tongue without being spoken. The truth was right there, right in front of her and oh, she wanted to be honest, she wanted to give her relationship the dignity it deserved by being recognized, acknowledged, maybe even accepted, but oh, she couldn't. She couldn't bear the questions that would follow, the scene that could erupt, couldn't bear for Ezra and Lenny who made her so, so happy and filled her heart every day to see any of it.

"Mm. Hey, I wanted to talk to you and dad about something. Could I come by one evening this week?"

She could be friendly today, she could play tennis today, she could go home with her girlfriend and her boyfriend today, but she couldn't be courageous today.

Maybe next time.