Tie Break

by Bonnie



For disclaimers see Part 1.

Part 5

Chapter 6

January 2002

Anne had woken up with a monstrous headache sometime in the late morning and her condition hadn't improved. Her mood had taken a steady nosedive since she had gotten out of bed. It had almost hit rock bottom by lunchtime.

When she had opened her eyes, the remnants of her nightmare still clouded her mind and her ability to formulate thoughts that went beyond darkness, anger, and shame. Damn, she had thought, that hasn't happened in quite a while. Wonder what brought that up. She never knew when the nightmares would hit her, and she never really remembered anything concrete about them. All that lingered in her conscious mind were distorted images of faceless figures who accused her and haunted her, but she could never hear exactly what they said.

A part of her was glad about that small blessing, of the fact that her waking memories could not conjure up the same images and sounds that seemed to torture her mind while she was sleeping. Another part of her, however, was disturbed by her inability to form a clear picture of those images or to hear the choir of accusations. That part wanted to find out what they were and be able to do something about them.

Anne had a practical mind. She knew that there were a lot of things in her life that could have given her these bad dreams. Hell, she could name a handful of reasons right now, and guilt and shame definitely went hand in hand with all of them.

She hadn't been there for Pete when he had needed her the most. She still hated herself for that. He had been lost, alone, and he had suffered under their father. That bastard. And she had run away and had done nothing about it. Urrgh. I need to do something about this headache. This is killing me.

She had been rude and distant to Shana, treating her best friend like she wasn't even there. God, I really treated her like shit for a while, Anne groaned involuntarily. She had ignored her completely, had not even spoken to her for a long time after that damn party. That day sure cost me a big part of my life. I've never felt so emotionally amputated before. My heart had been ripped out, and I still felt the phantom pain in the hole it left in my body. I never thought I would get over that particular blow.

She had let Shana feel every single ounce of her pain, had knowingly made her feel bad. I wanted her to hurt like I was hurting. I was such an asshole then. We should have talked. I should have talked to her, should have seen that she was confused. But I was blind, and we both paid for it.

Carlos had been Carlos. Anne felt the bile rising in her throat at the mere thought of the man. No sense in spending any thoughts on him. That's only going to make me feel even worse. And I refuse to believe he has the power to enter my dreams for even a fraction of a second. But she knew deep down inside that her belief was founded on hopes and wishes and had nothing to do with the truth. He had entered her nightmares more than once over the last twenty years.

All those women she had taken - used and discarded like so much garbage would be more correct - well, they had gotten what they had craved. A night with the notorious bad girl of tennis. She had felt no remorse then, had relished their attention, their fights over her, but it was different now. Now she knew that not all of them had been just after her body and some pleasurable hours of empty sex that made them forget the miserable place life could become.

She knew that at least some of them had offered her their friendship and given freely of their feelings in addition to their bodies. Those were the women she had treated the worst. She had used the bodies and had deliberately and sometimes cruelly hurt the feelings. She herself had felt nothing. She flinched at the thought, a rush of shame making her head throb even worse than before. She couldn't remember many of the names, let alone the faces, of the women. Maybe it's their faceless figures that are trying to get revenge in my sleep. In the end, she had simply used those women to forget Shana.

Forget the woman she had loved. The woman who had broken her heart. The woman she still loved.

It had never worked, and so she had finally given up trying. Trying to forget the love of her life, trying to find someone else. Although Kevin was probably right. What I did to those women would probably not count as trying to find someone else after all. At some point she had resigned herself to the fact that she could never love anyone else.

Only Shana.

Then there was the man she had killed. Another large shadow that loomed over her conscience, pressing her down with its weight, sometimes smothering all the light that surrounded her. It had been an accident, a fact she had grudgingly, reluctantly come to accept through years of talking to Kevin, Shana, and her mother. But the guilt and the feeling of being responsible for the death of an innocent man were still eating at her. In the end, she had never stopped believing it was her fault. Maybe it's him in my dreams. I would deserve that, wouldn't I?

Anne went into her small kitchen in the hope that a strong cup of coffee would help to alleviate her headache. Maybe I should drink a pot, or better yet a bucket of the stuff. She was always careful around pain medication, usually trusting her very fit body to cope with whatever was ailing her, but today she fervently wished for some magic pill that would make her feel better. A pill that would make her forget about her nightmares and the reasons that might have caused them. A pill that made her forget that Shana was coming later in the day. Forget that she had promised herself that today would be the day she told Shana about her feelings.

Anne groaned and concentrated on fixing her coffee. I need caffeine. Now. Where's that intravenous caffeine link when you need it the most? Finally, the coffee maker made the gargling sound that alerted Anne to the fact that her wait was over. She quickly poured herself a mug of the strong brew and lifted it to her nose, inhaling the aroma that to her meant heaven at this moment.

She finished the first mug in no time and was halfway through her second when she realized that the coffee wasn't really helping her head. And it certainly wasn't the magic pill she had wanted. Just the opposite, in fact. She walked over to the kitchen table and slumped down heavily into one of the chairs.

The tall woman buried her forehead in her hands and leaned her elbows on the kitchen table, trying to find a comfortable position in which her head didn't hurt so much. It was just too difficult to balance her head on her neck today, and she needed the support of her arms to carry the weight of her brain which was being attacked by memories of worse days, of days past, and yet weighing her down in the present. Unwillingly, she let her mind wander back to the day she had finally felt she deserved the nickname the tabloids had given her for her relentless game. Anne 'Killer' Patakis.

October 1995

The day would have been beautiful if she hadn't felt so damn bad. It was another warm and sunny fall day in the south of Germany, but all Anne wanted to do was curl herself into a ball under the covers and go back to sleep. She chanced a peek at the bedside clock in her nondescript hotel room.

9.30 in the fucking morning. Too damn early.

Anne groaned and turned around, hoping to get another hour of sleep in before getting out of bed was unavoidable. She faintly remembered that there was something she was supposed to do today, somewhere where she was supposed to be, but right now it was simply too complicated to think of that.

Her movement was halted by something warm and unmoving on the other side of her bed. What the hell ?

She carefully opened one blue eye to examine the unexpected obstacle. Long blonde hair tumbled over a pillow that was held in a death grip by what looked like pretty muscular arms. Most of the body was covered by the blanket they shared. OK, come on, Anne, think. Who was it this time? The problem was she couldn't remember any details about the night.

All she knew from the fact that she wasn't alone was that she must have been either very tired or very drunk. She hated sharing her bed and she hated waking up with someone even more. Disgustedly, she moved away from the other woman, suddenly very aware of their nakedness and the heady scent of sex in the air. Can't have been too exciting. I can't remember a thing. The sex was probably lousy. Well, time to find out who got lucky last night She was sure that even dead drunk the other woman would consider herself lucky. Anne knew she was that good. Nobody had ever complained, no matter how drunk she was.

Anne rolled out of bed and put on the robe that lay on the floor next to the bed. She slowly walked over to the table in front of the window and poured herself a glass of water. She emptied the glass in one long gulp and poured herself another one, continuing this way until the bottle was empty.

Definitely dehydrated. What the hell did I drink last night? A nagging feeling in the back of her head told her that she should be worried about her lack of memory and obvious blackout, but she pushed the thought away. Nothing to worry about. A long, hot shower and I'll be as good as new. She walked over to the bathroom. After two steps she stopped and turned around to the bed.

Gotta find out who that is first. Gotta throw her out.

She took the three steps to the blonde's side of the bed and roughly yanked at the blanket that covered her. Hmm, nice body. She pushed the blonde hair from the woman's face and was finally able to see the features that were half buried in the pillows. She was still dead to the world, not even noticing the rough handling.

Well, well, well. Karen Lundqvist. Anne's brain had no problem providing her with the name that went with the woman in her bed. Even in her state of mind, it was hardly possible for her to forget one of her biggest rivals on the tennis court. So I fucked Karen.

With that realization came the memory of where she had to be later in the day and what she was supposed to do. Another groan escaped her at the information her mind offered her. Today was the day of the semifinals of this nice little tournament she was playing right now. Oh, God, I need to wake up.

She walked purposefully into the bathroom, forgetting about throwing Karen out. She shed the robe and took a long look at her reflection in the mirror. Her usually bronze skin had taken on a grayish patina and her eyes were bloodshot and dull; almost all color had vanished from their vibrant blue. She looked into the eyes of a stranger, almost not recognizing the haggard face of the ghost that looked back at her.

When did that happen to me? That's not me anymore. Shocked, she touched the mirror with the fingertips of her right hand in an attempt to ground herself and to make the reflection look like her again. It didn't work.

I need that shower now, she decided and entered the shower stall. She turned the water on and stepped into the hot spray. The hot water had a very relaxing effect on her and after several minutes of just standing there she felt the tension of the morning follow the water down the drain. With the relaxation came some of her memories from the night before.

She had met Karen in the player's lounge after her quarterfinal, and the blonde had offered to buy her dinner at the club that hosted the tournament. Karen had never before shown any interest in spending time with Anne, so the offer intrigued the dark-haired woman and she agreed. She had nothing better to do anyway.

They had enjoyed their dinner and had decided to take a drink at the bar afterwards. Karen had, of course, refused to drink anything alcoholic since she knew she had to play the next day. Anne had no such scruples. She had long before given up on being a model athlete.

Obviously, she still had been charming enough to get the blonde into her bed, alcohol or no alcohol. Anne had a magnetic personality, something she had come to realize in the space of the last eighteen months. When she turned on her charm, other people, men as well as women, found it very hard to resist her. She had very deliberately seduced Karen and had used her considerable expertise in the realm of sex to keep the Swede up most of the night.

It wasn't the first time she had done that to and with another player. Apart from her massive amount of natural ability and talent, one of the reasons she could live the life that she did and still win tennis tournaments and be a world class player was that she often seduced her opponents and then intimidated them by treating them like dirt. Most of the time it worked perfectly.

So. Karen Lundqvist was the strongest candidate for the final, playing against a rather inexperienced German player in the second semifinal. Which is actually before my match. Bingo.

By the time Anne had finished her shower she was grinning evilly, looking forward to the final almost as much as she was to throwing out the blonde Swede. She dressed quickly in sweats and a loose T-shirt and prepared herself for the task of rousing Karen.

That's when she realized who she'd have to beat to get to the final. Shana. All her energy left her at once and she felt like a deflated balloon. With the Shana factor and the way I feel today, I'll never have a chance against her. She's going to wipe the floor with me.

Now Anne was even more determined to throw Karen out, knowing she would need some time to prepare for her match against Shana. She walked over to the bed and shook the blonde's shoulder. Slowly, the blonde's blue eyes opened and zeroed in on Anne. The tall woman could clearly see the confusion in those eyes, which was followed closely by a smile that made the Swede's face light up.

She's beautiful, Anne thought for a second. But she's nowhere near as beautiful as Shana. She's not Shana. Jesus, where did that come from? She shook her head. I don't need this now.

"Good morning, gorgeous," Karen said with a smile in her voice.

"Get up and get out," Anne replied harshly.

"Huh?" The blonde looked confused. "What do you mean?"

"Don't they teach you English where you come from? I said get out!" The dark-haired woman turned around and walked to the window, ignoring her guest. She could hear Karen sniffle from the bed, but no sound of her getting up and dressing.

"Are you still there?" Anne asked coldly without turning around. "I thought I made myself clear."

She looked over her shoulder at a very confused and humiliated blonde. "I'll be generous. I'm going to give you two minutes to get dressed and get out of this room. After that time I'm going to throw you out myself." She paused for effect, knowing exactly what she was doing to the other woman. "Just the way you are."

Karen dressed quietly while Anne looked at her with a smile that never reached her eyes. She knew she was behaving deplorably, but also knew it was the only way for her to handle these situations. Better they hate me than like me. Makes life much easier. None of them could love me anyway, they better realize that from the start. And I couldn't love them. I will never love again. Never. I don't need anyone.

Anne heard the door open and Karen's cold whisper. "I hate you, Anne Patakis!" How often have I heard this? I don't care. Maybe 'Killer' is the best word to describe me after all.

The tall woman concentrated on the street below her window and wondered why there were tears in her eyes.

She was still unsettled when she walked onto the court in the afternoon. She strolled over to her chair as casually as she could. Her eyes wandered to the other side of the net, to Shana. They hadn't met yet because the club offered them the luxury of separate dressing rooms. When Shana arrived, Anne looked up at the sound of her feet and realized with a start that she had long since lost the ability to look her former best friend in the eyes, and in the single moment of clarity that thought offered her she realized that she wanted to change her life and go back to the way she was before. If she knew half of what I was doing nowadays, she would hate me. I don't want her to hate me. God, what have I done?

The match went exactly the way most of their matches went. Shana won the first four games before Anne got her body to function properly in the blonde's vicinity. Still, today was different. The taller player noticed that she wasn't able to keep her emotions under control. She was frustrated by her unforced errors and by Shana's brilliant passing shots. The linesmen were obviously blind, and so was the umpire. Anne lost the first set in a stunning twenty minutes, winning only one game.

The second set didn't go any better and Anne got angrier by the minute. She kept kicking the floor, the balls, her chair, everything she could get before her feet. She cursed and shouted at herself, the linesmen and the umpire. After two games in the second set she found herself fined for her behavior, which made her even angrier. She was totally out of control.

Then it happened. Another nice serve from Shana, which she was barely able to reach. She stretched herself as far as she could, bringing the head of her racket just behind the ball. The ball bounced off the racket's frame with incredible speed and shot like a cannon in the direction of the umpire at the net, hitting him at the temple.

There was a deathly quiet in the stadium for a second. Then a collective gasp escaped a multitude of lungs when the man slumped to the side and fell off his chair with an audible thud.

Anne didn't notice what was going on. She was too intent on her own mistakes and her inability to play she was used to. She was already positioning herself for Shana's next serve when she noticed that the blonde player was running to the side of the court to a form lying there. At that moment Anne realized that something had happened. Shana was kneeling next to what was obviously a fallen man and the chair umpire was on her way over there as well. Anne decided to take a closer look at what was going on.

She walked over to the commotion with slow, unsure steps. Something in her was telling her that she didn't want to be there anymore. The umpire was talking to some official while Shana was touching the man's shoulders. When the blonde noticed the taller woman coming their way she got up and intercepted Anne.

"Anne," she said quietly. "It was an accident."

Anne was confused. What had happened? "What was an accident?" she asked, still moving towards the still form on the ground. "What's going on?"

For the first time in months the two friends looked directly into each other's eyes. Anne noticed that the green eyes she knew so well were filled with tears.

"Anne, your return hit the net umpire in the head."

"Return umpire head how?" The tall woman was utterly confused. "I didn't notice anything."

"No, the way you behaved today I'm sure you didn't notice a thing," Shana said with a slightly bitter undertone. She had been getting really pissed at Anne's behavior over the past months. Today had just topped it off. She pulled herself together. "He's unconscious and we've already called the tour doc--"

The doctor arrived at that second and both women made their way over to the man. Anne looked down reluctantly. He was in his late forties or early fifties, she assumed. He had reddish-blonde hair and a large, strong body. The doctor checked him over and then looked at them with a serious expression.

"I'm afraid we have to get him to a hospital as soon as possible. This is serious."

"How serious?" Anne heard a voice asking and discovered it was her own.

"Very," came the short reply. "There's a swelling at his temple that doesn't look good, and he's totally unresponsive." He turned to direct the approaching paramedics to the victim. It only took them a minute to secure him on a stretcher and transport him off the court and to the nearest hospital.

Anne felt lost and more alone than she had felt in a very long time. She tried to put on a mask of indifference to cover up her reaction. She felt utterly responsible for the man's condition. It was her racket that had sent the ball his way. Her uncontrolled behavior that had made her inattentive. Her behavior from last night and her irresponsible ways that made her too slow to properly hit the ball.

Then Shana was there, stroking the small of her back in slow, small circles, whispering soothing words, and Anne felt the last remnants of control leave her body. She felt herself taking a shuddering breath and then she started to cry and couldn't stop it. She cried for the man she had hurt, and for her brother, and for her relationship to the woman who stood right beside her now, comforting her.

Anne withdrew from the match, letting the umpire know she was unable to continue. She and Shana left the court together. They quickly showered and dressed and headed off to check on the injured man. Together.

At the hospital they were told that he had died in the ambulance.

The next day Shana called her for the first time since her brother's birthday party 18 months before. Well, the truth was that Shana had called her several times, but she had never answered the phone when she had seen Shana's number on her cell phone display or on her Caller ID. That day she wanted to answer.

"Hello, Shana." She knew she sounded weary, but she couldn't change that if she tried.

"How are you?" was Shana's first question. After eighteen months she still cares.

"I'm fine," Anne lied, not knowing what else to say.

"You're lying."

"What if I am?"

"Would you like to talk about it?"

"I don't know what to say. What is there to say?" Anne took a shaky breath. "How can you even offer that after all that I've done?"

There was a small pause on the other end of the line. "There's a lot to talk about, but we could start by talking about yesterday." Another small pause. "And I'm offering because I lo-- think you need it, and so do I."

"I don't want to talk over the phone," Anne replied. I wonder what she really wanted to say just now.

"I could be over at your hotel in about fifteen minutes."

"No!" Anne said quickly. Not after that night with Karen here. I don't want her here. She would know, somehow. "Can I come and see you instead?"

"No!" came Shana's answer just as quickly. "I mean my parents are here and we wouldn't have any privacy. You know how they are." A laugh that sounded forced to Anne's ears came over the line. "Listen, why don't we meet in the lobby of your hotel and then find some quiet place together?"

"Sounds good to me." Anne listened to Shana's breathing for a while, then decided to leap over the shadow of her broken heart. "I'm sorry for everything, little one. So sorry."

She could hear Shana's surprised gasp at the other end, and half expected her not to say anything. Then she could hear a very quiet "So am I."

Anne decided to end the call so that Shana could come over. Suddenly she was impatient to see her friend in person. Friend? Yes, we might be able to be friends again. Hopefully. Anne felt a part of her burden become lighter at the thought. "Thank you for having the courage to call, Shea," she simply said.

"You're welcome. See you soon."

Both women ended the phone call a little reluctantly, finding it hard to sever that newfound connection. Then, both women broke into a flurry of activity to make themselves presentable for the other one.

January 2002

Anne once again lifted her coffee mug to take another sip of the now cold beverage. That day was probably the worst day of my life. She ignored her tear-streaked face and running nose. She was a mess, and she knew it. But

But the day also brought back Shana and the beginning of the long journey to being friends again, and with that a lot of possibilities.

Anne took a deep breath and decided to pay her brother a visit before Shana arrived. Hopefully, the long walk to the cemetery would clear her head.

TBC in Part 6.

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