By M. Ryan
For disclaimers see Part 1
F.Y.I. -- The U.S. Womens Open really did take place in West Point, Mississippi. The names have been changed and any resemblance to any real place or persons is strictly coincidental. Really. But Vanellis is a real restaurant and I highly recommend it should you ever be passing through Tupelo. At this point I should thank my webmaster for all the hard work shes done to get this stuff posted.
Comments are welcome! email@example.com
A Good Walk Spoiled
Heat waves from the expanse of concrete at the Tupelo airport shimmered across the ground distorting the green edge of the horizon as the jet landed and the tires kicked up twin curls of gray smoke. The terminal was cool, but after four hours of driving Laura was already worn, her white T-shirt creased and limp, and just the idea of the sweltering heat was enough to exhaust her.
It hadnt been practical for Charles to drive, so he was flying. Laura waited patiently for the passengers to deplane and was finally rewarded by the sight of his tall figure coming through the door. "Kaz! You betterve brought the little bag or the heat is gonna kill me humpin a staff bag." Laura winced against the rib-cracking hug that lifted her off her feet.
"Would I do that to you? Its not the little bag, but its light. Flight okay?" She smiled as the jitters settled. Familiarity always helped with her nerves, in that way she was just like her mother. They started toward the baggage claim and she recognized some of the other golfers gathering up their baggage and clubs. Some of them would have courtesy cars, but most wouldnt. As an amateur who had to qualify, Laura was at the very bottom of the totem pole; no sponsors, no school affiliation, and no USGA title. But the Open was a model of democracy in golf. If the handicap requirement was met, a 4 for women, and a player could qualify at one of the sectional tournaments, then she could play in the Womens U.S. Open.
There were club bags everywhere in the baggage claim, hard cases and soft cases scattered and stacked all around the conveyor belt. Charles spotted his bags as they came through the flap and picked them up easily following Laura out and into the heat. "God," he panted as the air conditioning in the doorway warred with the heat and lost. "I was afraid it was going to be really hot."
Laura laughed at his discomfort, knowing that they would have a much easier time than some of the others who werent used to the heat and the humidity. "Cmon, its worse in Dallas during August."
"Yeah, but you have June and July to get used to it." They crossed the parking lot and Laura opened the back flap of the Jeep, moving her bag and clubs to make room for his. "Is the air working in this thing?" he asked opening the passenger side and wincing as the vinyl scorched his legs when he sat down.
"Like a charm." She started the ignition and turned the blower up full blast. There was a lot of traffic at the airport and it took a few minutes before they were out and on the highway. Laura pulled a map out from beside her seat and pushed it at Charles, "Were going to the Marriott, its on North Gloster, should be an exit right up here."
"Yeah, there it is." He pointed out the exit and she followed the cloverleaf around and over the highway. "The Marriott, cool. At least its not that Twilight Inn we stayed at in North Carolina I knew we were in trouble when I saw all those rusted appliances out in front."
"That wasnt a very good experience all the way around. The cockroaches were as big as my fist." Laura shook her head remembering her last Open. Probably had a lot to do with walking away, didnt it? "Well, I make a little better money now and we might as well be comfortable."
"How is the job? I know it isnt Dallas."
"Its good." She saw the sign for the hotel and put on her blinker, taking note of the restaurants clustered close by. "Rough couple of months but everything seems to be working out." She turned into the parking lot and thoughtfully considered that two months ago it looked like her career had been flushed down the toilet.
"Good, cause youre a lot more relaxed than you were in Austin." Nothing stayed hidden from Charles for very long, Laura thought, and it was always better to beat him to the punch. Youre gonna have to tell him sometime before Chris gets here. She pulled in under the driveway cover and hopped out.
"Ill get the rooms, you wanna wait?"
"No, Ill come in." Laura looked back at him and smiled. He looked every inch the pro shop staffer in tan Dockers and a striped polo shirt, and she felt a surge of fondness for her childhood friend. He held the door open for her and she slipped into the coolness of the lobby briefly thinking that the abrupt changes in temperature from hot to cold over the next week were going to make her sick as a dog.
"I have reservations for Kasdan." She leaned on the counter as the clerk went about assembling the paperwork and plastic card keys.
"Thats a suite and an adjoining room? Rooms 534 and 35, no smoking sign here, enjoy your stay. Laura gathered up the receipt and keys and stuffed them in her cargo shorts. After grabbing a map of the hotel layout they went to move the Jeep. Their room was on the end of the building so Laura parked by the side door and they unloaded the bags. "You want the clubs upstairs?" Charles asked.
"Yeah, I just have the duffel, we can do it in one trip." She hoisted the clubs on one shoulder and the bag on the other. Fortunately, the elevator was just inside the door and they shuffled on board to stand waiting until they were delivered to the fifth floor.
"This is definitely not the Twilight Inn," Charles said as Laura unlocked the door to the suite.
"This ones mine, yours is next door."
"Can I clean out the mini bar?
"I am not paying four dollars for a bag of peanuts."
Charles only laughed as Laura dropped her bags and gave him the key to his room. He left her alone for a moment and she inspected the spacious suite. I can be happy here for a week If I make the cut. No, WHEN I make the cut. She heard Charles tap on the adjoining door and she opened it. "I like traveling on your news directors salary Kaz, we should do this more often." His teeth flashed as he beat her to the usual answer. "Someday, yeah I know. So, whats the plan?" He settled his tall frame down on the sofa and opened a bottle of water freshly liberated from his refrigerator.
Laura shrugged as she stopped and sat down in the chair opposite the caddy. "Nothing tonight, maybe some dinner. Ill register tomorrow, my tee times at two-fifty for my practice round."
"Its gonna be miserable."
"I know, but its better that we get used to it. You know Im not allowed on the course without a caddy?" he nodded. "We can walk it tomorrow morning just to get a feel." She looked down at her hands and rubbed the calluses in her palms. "Thanks for doing this with me, Im sorry that youre giving up vacation time and theres no money in it for you."
"Hey, none of that. The deal is room and board and airfare. I get to pass out business cards and make contacts. This is as good for me as it is for you."
That word again. Laura swallowed. If I had a dime for all the deals Ive made, I wouldnt be hanging around waiting to be vested in my stock plan. "Okay then. Well wait to see the course and get the packet before we talk about how I want to play this."
"Its a USGA course, youre going to play it very carefully." He regarded her evenly. "Seriously, one or two under could win this thing. You go in like a cowboy with that grip and rip and youll spend two days hitting out of the weeds they call rough and going home Friday night."
"I dont play that way anymore."
He grinned, "Just checking. What else has changed by the way?"
She was expecting it, but the question caught her off guard anyway. "Why does everyone keep asking that?" she muttered. "Changed?" Stalling is not gonna help you out here.
The soft brown eyes of her oldest friend probed gently but relentlessly. "Whats happened since Austin? You could barely sit still two weeks ago, now youre not pacing, and youre not cracking your knuckles. Whats changed?" he repeated.
She grimaced, looking for an escape route. "Its complicated." Remember when you told Chris that you tried not to make assumptions about yourself, and you didnt have any family to speak of? You are such a damn liar. "Im seeing someone." Charles eyebrows raced up his forehead. "Its someone I work with, it could be real sticky."
"Little Kaz in love Never thought Id see the day.
Wait a minute! Laura froze, "Its not that way." She crossed an arm against her chest and brought her fist up to her chin, her thoughts racing. You never considered that, didja Kaz?
Not an obsession, not a distraction, just love. Oh come on, I dont even know what love is. Blindsided, her eyes were stricken when she looked at the caddy. "Its one of my anchors," she murmured. "Chris Hanson. Youll get to meet her later this week." There. It was out baldly on the table, and she tightened her jaw waiting.
Charles didnt react in any way that Laura expected; he just smiled in his slow teasing way. "Like I said, I never thought Id see the day."
The worry lifted slightly and she gave a half smile, "Youre okay with this?"
"Well, Im not telling Dad. That balls in your court." His eyes clouded, "Youre as close as a sister and the best friend Ive ever had, I want you to be happy and I know you havent been. Might be the best thing in the world that you had to leave Dallas." Charles knew it wasnt that simple, but judging by the look on Lauras face, she had other issues she needed to deal with, and sometimes she couldnt see past the nose on her face. He took a swig of water and stood up. "Its three oclock, what are you gonna do this afternoon?"
"A shower I think. Maybe a nap."
"Can I borrow the Jeep? I need some sunscreen and some other stuff. We can do dinner around six thirty seven." He caught the keys as she tossed them over. "Anything else I need to know?"
"I think weve about covered everything," she said dryly.
Charles stopped, his hand on the doorknob. "I havent seen you this relaxed since you were a freshman at UT. Whatever happens, its been good for you. Youre still too skinny though." He closed the door as she threw a pillow at him and she could hear his laugh through the thin divider.
With a deep sigh she stretched out on the sofa, wriggling to get comfortable and promised herself that shed only close her eyes for a minute. Unbidden, thoughts of the blonde reporter flooded in, filling every crevice of her mind and startling her with their intensity. Whats not to love? But real never let go, forever kind of love Am I even capable of that? The idea was sobering. Could Chris ever love me? Im such a fucking prize.
It hurt more to think about feelings that werent reciprocated than the feelings themselves and Laura growled at her own inconsistencies. She pushed off the couch impatiently and almost reached for the phone. Instead she stalked over to the mini fridge and began rummaging through its contents. Resisting the urge to break her vow of no Coke, she grabbed a bottle of juice, and without remorse for its five dollar price tag, gulped it down and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. As soon as this is over, Im gonna drink a two liter bottle of Coke in one gulp and feel it burn all the way down. Probably belch for a week and a half. With a sigh of resignation she went over to where she dropped her duffel and started to unpack.
She hung up all the shorts and shirts, hoping that she wouldnt have to iron too much, and then laid out the carefully polished and respiked golf shoes. The routine was reassuring, and by the time she was finished a measure of calm had been restored.
But the phone still beckoned, and cursing her lack of willpower, she dug a card case out of a pocket and fished out her calling card. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Too many numbers. She waited impatiently, not wanting to hear the machine, then sighed in relief when she heard the receiver pick up. "Lo." Chris voice was thick with sleep.
"Caught you in bed on a Sunday afternoon?"
"Oh, hey. What time is it? Salmost four. Didnt get much sleep this weekend but youd know that. Played softball, took a shower, fell asleep."
"Who won?" Laura sat down on the floor next to the bed, wrapping an arm around her knees. She could almost see the tousled blonde hair and sleepy green eyes.
"We did. Keith hit a two run dinger in the bottom of the seventh." Chris yawned and stretched.
"Yes, but how did you do?"
"Double, single, Double, and no errors. So you got there safe and sound."
"Yep. Picked up Charles and checked into the hotel. Were going out to dinner tonight and I start practice rounds tomorrow."
"Mmm. Bunch of people on vacation next week, itll be strange."
Laura pushed her bangs away from her face, "So youll be here Thursday?" For someone who didnt want an entourage, you sure cant wait to see her.
"I dont know, I need to check with my supervisor," Chris teased. "Keith found a hotel. Guess I should tell you that hes planning on coming if youre still playing on the weekend."
"Wish hed stay home, Id rather have him there in town while Im here."
"Henrys on call," Chris said, referring to the Executive Producer and third in command. "And Keith wants to see you play.
"I dont think this is a very good idea. You me half the staff and hotel rooms Do you see where I'm going here?
"I think youre worrying too much. Ill be there to do a job and I can certainly separate my private life from my professional responsibilities." Chris thought by saying it she could make it so, but she crossed her fingers just in case.
Laura rolled her eyes, recognizing that things with the blonde reporter rarely went according to plan, and wondered how she was going to handle damage control and still play decently. Remember, its just one distraction, right? "This is repetitive, but please be careful."
"What could happen?"
"The mind reels," was the dry reply.
It was the most exquisitely manicured parcel of land that Chris had ever seen. The expanse of emerald green grass was broken only by darker trees, the white of the sand traps, and the silver blue of the lake that led away from the white columned clubhouse. Flower beds and shrubs were carefully mulched with woodchips in what must have been a landscape workers nightmare. It was more like a painting than real life, a postcard of a playground for the rich and privileged.
Jody drove the station Taurus slowly following the directions of the security guards to the media lot and pulled into a space between a van and a Blazer, both marked with network logos. They both stepped out of the unit and Jody reached back to grab his photographers vest, stuffing it with batteries and tape before looping his press ID around his neck. Chris waited by the trunk, patiently looking through the press packet for directions to the media tent while the cameraman assembled his equipment. "Im not bringing the tripod just yet, Ill shoot off the shoulder," he told her.
"Okay, we need to check in with media relations, then we have to find the satellite truck corral to set up the live shots Keith booked the Sat time." Chris looked up at the sky, noting that dark gray clouds were gathering. "Im supposed to get two interviews this afternoon, then maybe we can look for Kaz." It had been a last minute decision to come out on Wednesday rather than Thursday to take advantage of some of the players availability and Chris was a little apprehensive about seeing Laura. Just a hunch, but Im pretty sure that now is not the best time for surprises.
Jody shouldered the camera and they started walking toward a cluster of tents, the asphalt radiating heat through the soles of their shoes, promising misery for those not used to the warmth and humidity of a Mississippi summer. Signs directed them to the check-in and they picked up their credentials with a minimum of fuss. Chris clipped hers on her belt next to the WBFC ID and asked directions to the Sat truck corral. One of the workers offered to take them in an electric utility cart, so Chris rode up front and Jody sat in back with the camera. Shrubbery hid most of the course from the road, but occasionally they glimpsed a group of golfers making their way through the final practice round. "The course looks fabulous," Chris told the driver, guessing that this was the golfers equivalent of a conversation starter concerning the weather.
"Been a little dry roughs not as high as it should be." He nodded as they passed another cart. "Probably get some rain tonight but its a little too late."
Okay, low rough means the course isnt as dangerous, so the scoresll be lower. Chris stored the information away in her newly acquired all about golf file as they pulled into a gravel lot filled with trucks emblazoned with network logos, and independent satellite operators. They found their network truck with no trouble and Chris confirmed their times with the operating engineer.
"Where to now?" the driver asked.
"Clubhouse lets find some players." Chris grabbed the handle next to the seat as the cart jerked forward and they were whizzing back toward the plantation style building that served as the centerpiece of Cypress Hill Golf Club.
A crowd was gathered around the pro shop where the driver let them off, most of them trying to get inside where the air-conditioning offered momentary relief from the ninety-five degree temperature. Across a small brick courtyard was the putting green and golfers milled around underneath an ivy-covered arbor. As Chris and Jody crossed over to the practice green, they heard a burst of laughter and a smattering of applause, and then a clear tenor voice broke out in song. I got drunk the day my mama got out of prison. Chris looked at Jody and they pushed through the crowd to get a better look.
And I went to pick her up in the rain There standing on the steps leading to the clubhouse was a tall black man singing at the top of his lungs with his arm thrown around their News Directors shoulders. As the reporter and photog watched in open-mouthed wonder, Laura added her rich voice to his. But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck, she got runned over by a damned old train!
"Are you rolling on this?" Chris asked Jody incredulously.
"Youd better believe it," he answered as a number of caddies, golfers and the crowd joined in the chorus.
And Ill hang around as long as you will let me, Cause I never minded standing in the rain. You dont have to call me darlin, darlin! You never even call me I wonder why you dont call me
Chris smiled broadly as clear blue eyes met hers and she felt a lurch in her chest.
Why dont you ever call me by my name?
The gallery applauded loudly and Laura hopped off the step blushing furiously and pulled her singing partner still bowing and laughing over to where Chris and Jody were standing. "Youre early," she said, embarrassed at having been caught in an activity so out of character. "This is Chris Hanson and Jody Banks, two of my very best," she said to the tall man. "And this is my caddy, Charles Cryer, he is known to spontaneously break out in country western songs on occasion."
Charles flashed even white teeth. "Little Kaz exaggerates we always sing shed be disappointed if we didnt." For just an instant Chris felt a twinge of jealousy at the closeness between Laura and her caddy as though her lover wasnt entitled to an old friend who surely knew secrets she couldnt even guess at. Charles shook Jodys hand then looked down at Chris his warm eyes lighting up, "Its a pleasure to meet you."
Jealous or not Chris couldnt stop a lopsided grin. "She was singing with you, if I hadnt seen it myself, I wouldnt believe it."
"Yeah, well dont tell anyone itll blow my image." Laura took off her hat and shook her hair loose, running her fingers through sweat dampened bangs. "We just finished our round, have you been here long?"
"Long enough to check in and catch the show," she teased. "Ive got interviews set up for later, thats why we came early."
Laura nodded, "You okay Jody?"
"Yeah, Im going to get some B roll Chris, Ill meet you back here in bout a half hour. And I got that on tape, Kaz." The photog winked as he turned to leave and was swallowed up by the crowd almost immediately.
"I wonder how much he wants for that." Laura muttered.
"What about you two, whats next?" Chris pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head as darkening clouds obscured the sun.
"Are you gonna hit the range?" Charles asked Laura.
"Think Id better before it starts raining."
"Ill get the bag." Charles jogged off to pick up the clubs, and Chris followed Laura up the hill to the practice tee, surprised that except for mild embarrassment, Laura was more relaxed and at ease than she expected in what should have been a high pressure situation. Maybe its just another game face. A solitary sport Yeah it suits.
"So where are you staying?" Laura interrupted her thoughts as they bumped shoulders, the touch making Chris want more than just casual contact.
"Were at the Hampton Inn. Its a two-room suite thing with a bed and a sleeper sofa. Guess well toss for the bed."
"Well, you could "
"Nope, Im here to do a job and so are you." Green eyes laughed back at her and Laura smirked, reading the reporters mind easily. "I wasnt going to offer, I was going to suggest that you get on a waiting list for cancellations."
Laura was chuckling at Chris chagrin when Charles caught up with them as they reached the range. There were already a number of golfers practicing, the bronze of their tans evidence of hours spent in the sun. "Hey Kaz, theyve got the pairings posted. You go at 1:10 tomorrow." Charles held up a folded sheet of paper.
"Let me see." She moved beside him to look over the list. "Good. That means Im playing in the morning on Friday." With a businesslike movement she pulled on her glove, flexing her hand as she fastened the Velcro and stepped around the ropes into the practice area proper. Charles followed Laura and handed her the driver, dropping the bag next to a pyramid of balls. Chris watched as the two of them conferred over something then The caddy nodded and came over to where she was standing and stepped over the rope. "Come on Chris, I want to get something to eat."
"Dont you need to stay here for this?" The reporter stood mesmerized as Laura swung the club a few times, all long limbs and easy grace.
"Nah, if she needs help shell ask. Besides, she hates it when I watch." Chris turned away reluctantly and they walked back down the hill to the clubhouse. Charles ducked into a tent next to the pro shop and Chris followed curiously then caught a bottle of water as it was tossed her way. "Turkey or ham?" Charles asked as he stood over stacks of boxed lunches.
"Turkey for Kaz too." He gathered up three boxes and two more bottles of water, nodded at the attendant and led her to a table set up by a portable cooling unit. "Only the players and caddies are allowed in the clubhouse restaurant," he explained as he sat down.
"This is fine, and free food is free food." Chris opened the box and lifted out a thick sandwich.
"Yeah, well eat pretty good for the next few days." He took a large bite and washed it down with the water and wiped his hands on a napkin. "This is the part where I play the big brother and ask you about your intentions."
Chris swallowed, "Excuse me?"
"You and Little Kaz she didnt tell me much so I figured Id go to the next source. Youre the reporter so youd know about that, right?"
"Im sorry, but I barely know you." Chris natural inclination was to start her own interrogation.
"Look, Im not Let me start over." Charles took a deep breath, "When Kaz came to Austin two weeks ago she was wound tighter than a cheap watch and nothing but skin and bones. She shows up Sunday and its like a whole other person, except shes still too thin."
Chris raised an eyebrow, "Does she know youre giving me the third degree?"
"Are you kidding?" Charles snorted. "Shed kill me. Im invading her privacy, and if you know her at all, youd know that." He shook his head impatiently, trying to make a point without betraying any confidences. "Kaz isnt Oh hell, for someone whos run one of the busiest newsrooms in the country, shes not very "
"Experienced? Youre not telling me anything I dont already know," Chris said softly, touching him lightly on the hand.
"Why you? Im not trying to be insulting," his mouth tightened, "Its just that no ones ever gotten close She cried in Austin. Ive never seen her cry before, I wasnt sure she could."
Chris bit her lip considering what the caddy said. Hes got the answers; do I know the right questions to ask? "What happened in Dallas?"
Charles snorted again. "It didnt start in Dallas, that was just the explosion. It started with that stupid fucking deal she made with her Dad."
Charles blew out an exasperated breath, "Look Chris, this isnt my story to tell. Youre better off asking Kaz."
Asking Laura was out of the question, she stood a better chance with the caddy. Chris nodded to herself as she came to a decision. "I love her Charles, nothing you say will change that." She gazed across the table at him, a smile playing across her lips. Saying it out loud made her realize there was no going back. "You asked me what my intentions are. I intend to be around for a long, long time. Now you can either help me out, or get out of the way." Chris calmly took a sip of water while she flexed her reporters muscles. Now answer the questions and tell me the story. "What deal?"
For a moment Charles didnt answer, then he nodded grudgingly. "Ten years. She promised her Dad ten years in the news business. She thought it would make him happy because it was the only thing he ever really asked for and she wanted his approval, I guess. He didnt give a rats ass about the golf, that wasnt a way to make a living."
"But her Mom "
"Was an amateur. Sarah never turned pro, and she was a snob about that. She was one of the USGA muckety mucks. She wanted Little Kaz to play but not necessarily as a pro. Then Kaz won her first U.S. Amateur in 95. That was great cause that made them the first mother-daughter to ever win it. Then Sarah got sick and Kaz blew up at the Open She just fell apart." Charles looked down his face creased in a frown remembering. "Sarah died right after that and Kaz won her second Amateur. She told me she was going to talk to her Dad about the deal theyd made, but the son of a bitch went and got himself killed and after that she wouldnt go back on her word."
"Bosnia." Dont make promises you cant keep. When did she tell me that?
"Yeah. Kaz quit golf then. Came home one day and she was sitting on my steps. Told me to sell her clubs." Chris could feel her heart breaking for the woman who had packed up a part of her life and given it to a friend to discard, only to turn to a job where she was disliked and unappreciated. "They made her News Director," she whispered.
"Uh Huh, I didnt see her for over a year. She just buried herself in work. Wed hear things but we never saw her. Then I came home one day and there she was sitting on my steps same as before. This time she wanted to know if I could get her on at Oak Hills, thats the club where I teach. She wanted to play a round." Charles face lit up. "I couldnt get her on fast enough."
Chris played with a potato chip thoughtfully. "If she won the Amateur in 96, she had a two year exemption for the Open. Why didnt she play last year?"
"My Dad didnt think she was ready, and both of them decided to take the chance on qualifiying this year." Charles opened another bottle of water. "See, before when she played, her game was all power and pretty wild. She might hit a ton, but she didnt always know where the ball was going. She made it work by sheer determination. Now its different. Her short game is fabulous and the rest of it is more controlled. Her swing was always beautiful, but now " he shook his head in awe, "Really good athletes always have a special awareness of themselves Their mind knows what every part of their body is doing at any given time Like a Michael Jordan or a Mark McGwire. They can make a tiny adjustment and it makes all the difference. Kaz is like that." He stopped and his eyes fairly drilled into Chris. "But only about golf. Or news. Anything else and shed be " he searched for a word, and not finding one, Chris supplied it.
Charles looked down and nodded. "So you know." Chris pushed her food away and leaned back crossing her legs. She had her answers and now things made sense. She was mulling over the information when the caddy stood up and interrupted her thoughts. "So Im asking again, why you?"
She gave him a lopsided grin as she got to her feet. He was even taller than Laura was so she had to look up quite a ways. The answer was already on the tip of her tongue and she thanked whatever God it was who looked out for her charmed life and drawled, "Just lucky, I guess."
Lori Kendall was a good interview, and Chris thanked her for her time as Jody removed the Mic from the front of her shirt. The young golfer was from Arizona State and she answered the questions with a lot of charm and told some humorous anecdotes. It was going to be a good story; two interviews had already provided the framework and Chris was counting on the Open to do the rest. So she was pleased and happy as they packed up the gear and left the media room to haul it back to the Taurus. But a group of grumbling golfers, caddies, and tournament officials were gathered around the door peering out as rain fell in a steady downpour.
"Aww great," Jody muttered, setting down the camera and light kit in the hall. "Might as well wait it out. We still have about an hour before we have to be at the sat corral." He took the tripod from Chris and laid it next to the wall and they both tried to get out of the way of the milling crowd.
A slender woman with dark curly hair tried to ease by and caught sight of Jodys ID and the Logo on both their shirts. "Hey are you guys from WBFC?" At their nod she stuck out her hand. "Jan Sheffield, Im with the network, we were supposed to get with you some time tomorrow."
"Chris Hanson and Jody Banks." Chris supplied. "Weve got some sat time booked with one of your trucks, what else did you need?"
"Your news director " She checked a clipboard that marked her as some kind of producer. " Laura Kasdan is playing and we want an interview."
Chris looked at Jody, "Um, youll have to talk to her, this is her vacation and she was pretty clear about staying out of her hair."
"Yeah, but shes one of ours so that makes it interesting. Do you know where shes staying?"
"No." Chris lied. "Youd better just go through media relations and set it up that way."
Instead of being insulted, the dark haired woman laughed. "Protect your boss and your job, I get it. Okay Ill do it the old fashioned way. See you around, Chris Hanson."
They watched her continue down the hall then open an umbrella and scamper out into the rain. "Boy, I never thought of that," Chris reflected. "The network chasing her down. Shell freak." She glanced sideways at Jody. "Did you get some video of her practicing?"
Jody scratched his jaw. "Yeah, wasnt easy." He pointed down the hall where two dripping figures in rain ponchos were coming towards them. Chris couldnt help but smile. Of course she was prepared, she plans for everything.
Lauras hair was slicked back and damp from the rain. One more walking tour around the course and she finally admitted to Charles that there was nothing more they could do to prepare, so they wandered back. Laura had hoped she would stumble across the reporter and Charles had gamely followed, not once questioning her. "Hey. Get everything you needed today?"
"So far, so good. The network folks are looking for you though." Chris swallowed as the difficulty of their forced distance hit her squarely when she looked into clear blue eyes.
"Mmm. Bet they gave you the Shes one of ours spiel."
Chris laughed. "Howd you know?"
"I have magic psychic news powers." She shrugged, "They sent an Email. Wanna get something to eat?" For the first time in weeks Laura was starving.
"We have to do the satellite uplink. Besides what happened to staying out of your hair?" Chris said the last bit for Jodys benefit, hoping to be forgiven someday for deceiving a friend.
"I think shes tired of me." Charles wry observation was perfect and the cameraman grinned and replied, "Okay but youre buying."
"All right then. Go and do your uplink for the Six. Ah, thought I didnt know?" Laura clicked her tongue at the look on their faces, "Magic psychic news powers, remember? Tell Keith no horn blowing. Then well meet about seven at my hotel The Marriott, room 534." People were leaving the hallway as the storm eased and Jody bent down to pick up the camera. Charles grabbed the light kit and Laura hoisted the tripod onto her shoulder. She and Chris hung back as the two men ducked out the door and jogged to the parking lot, the rain slowing to a light drizzle. "You were right." Chris murmured, "Maybe this wasnt such a good idea."
Laura didnt have an answer; she just gave a light squeeze to the smaller womans shoulder before heading out. With a sigh Chris followed, the weather matching her mood exactly.
"Youre really good Chris, how long have you been in Burkett Falls?" Jan Sheffield was frankly admiring as Chris got the all clear and took the IFB earpiece off and wrapped the cord around her hand. It had been a smooth uplink and a fun live shot to do; now they were finished for the day.
"A little over two years, just started anchoring in prime though," Chris answered as she rolled up the Mic cord and handed it to Jody.
"Your first job?"
"No, I was in Atlanta for a while. Market sixty-one is not entry level, Jan."
The other woman smirked, "Neither is Atlanta, maybe you should have stayed."
"Ah, but I didnt want to."
"Well at least let me give you a lift back to the media lot. If you see your boss, tell her we already put in a formal request for an interview and wed really appreciate her time." Jan led them over to an electric cart on the edge of the corral and motioned for them to join her. Chris watched as Jody silently hopped on the back. The photog never said much around other people, but Chris knew shed get his observations later and she was looking forward to them with some amusement. Jan dropped them off right next to the Taurus with a promise to see them later. With some relief, they got into the station vehicle and headed to the Marriott.
"She wants you." Jodys laconic statement jerked Chris out of her drifting thoughts and caused her to face him in alarm. "Excuse me?"
He gave a slight chuckle, "Bet she tells you to send a tape to her boss and shell put in a good word if you wanna make the jump to network."
"What makes you say that?" Jody was seldom wrong and Chris had learned to listen to the resourceful photog.
"The Sat Engineer was talking. Really Chris, you oughta be flattered."
She was. A little. Network, she thought, Wow. Chris had never considered much past getting to the anchor desk, and the idea was attractive in an ego building kind of way. She gave a half smile as she turned to look out at the landscape. What would Laura say? Then she shrugged; it wasnt even a possibility for three years.
Fifteen minutes later they were standing outside room 534 and Chris couldnt keep from grinning as Laura jerked open the door and waved them in. Charles was sprawled on the couch channel surfing and Jody plopped down beside him. "God this is huge, I was wondering where all your money went." Chris comment caused Laura to raise an eyebrow.
"It goes to that fancy country club."
"Yeah but you drive that old Jeep and you live " Chris stopped short as she realized where her commentary was going and how personal it sounded. With a glance at Jody she muttered, "Sorry."
"Sokay. You ready for dinner? Come on guys, Im hungry."
Charles clicked off the TV and tossed the remote down. "Were going to Vanellis again, its a Greek and Italian place," he said to Jody. "She likes it so Id better get used to it."
"Im paying so I get to choose." Laura smiled, surprised that she felt happy and relaxed and was looking forward to the dinner. Okay, so anything personal with Chris was strictly off limits, but things were going well. I can handle this. She looked over at the blonde reporter and green eyes almost took her breath away. Oh sure, you can handle this. Its gonna be the longest four days of your life.
Laura was nervous but doing her best not to show it. Sprawled in a chair next to the putting green, she sat like a cat at rest, deceptively at ease, but ready to pounce. A sleeveless white polo shirt was tucked into soft cotton olive green shorts and logo-free tan baseball cap held her hair in a ponytail threaded through the opening in the back. Dark green and white saddle shoe spikes completed the outfit, nothing unusual or memorable about it except in the way it was worn. Laura almost jumped out of her skin when warm hands came down on her shoulders. "You okay?" Chris voice was so welcome she almost laughed.
"He went with Charles somewhere. I think your caddy has decided to run interference for us. Your muscles are really tight." Laura turned to look at Chris, relaxing as she felt the reporters hands gently knead the tension out of her neck.
"Good ol Charles," she murmured. "Coach, confidant, and nag. You look nice."
"Thanks. I have a station shirt in every color imaginable, even my no-no colors." Chris crouched down next to Laura, clasping her hands in front of her. Dark green shorts complimented a paler green polo shirt. Sunglasses covered the eyes that Laura knew would be crinkling into a smile. "So just half an hour to go?"
"Yep. Then I see if all the work was worth it."
"Do you know the two women youre playing with?"
Laura nodded, "Barbara Nelson is British big hitter but shes got a case of the yips."
"Explain?" Chris balanced by laying a hand on Lauras arm.
"Shes having trouble putting. Susan Fisher is a fortyish mother of two and shes really good. She beat my Mom at the Amateur in I guess it was 82, she won it three times in a row. Susan rebuilt her game last year and its paying off."
"Like you did?"
"Yeah." Laura closed her eyes and focused her attention on the part of her forearm where Chris hand lightly rested, centering on that one patch of skin. She could smell the floral perfume and the shampoo the blonde woman used. It was more than comforting and she gave in to a light shiver despite the heat and blinked her eyes open only to see the sunglasses removed and a look of uncertainty in the eyes that devoured her face. "What?"
"Youre not at work, youre playing golf at one of the finest courses in the country with the best golfers in the world. Has it ever occurred to you that you should just enjoy it?"
The breath caught in Lauras throat. "It couldnt possibly be that easy," she murmured.
"Kaz, its time." Suddenly Charles was there, lifting the bag up and slinging a large white towel over his shoulder the yellow USGA caddy vest in place with her name on the back. Laura tightened her jaw and swallowed as she rose to her feet. With no inhibition and disregarding the photographer standing behind the caddy, Chris threw her arms around Laura in a hug.
"Good luck." She mumbled into the taller womans shoulder, then drew back and smiled shyly. "Sorry Ive always been a toucher." Then to Lauras surprise, Jody did the same; thumping her on the back and grinning from ear to ear. For the second time in as many minutes, the News Director was speechless.
"Come on Kaz." Charles nudged her toward the first tee and with one more backward look she was gone, the clacking of the metal spikes on concrete stopping as they stepped onto the grass and started up the hill.
"Shell be okay." Chris was firm in her belief. "Lets go."
Laura checked in with the starter and introduced herself to the crew that would be following their group for the day; two scorers and the young man who carried the sign with their scores posted. After pocketing a scorecard with her yardage book she and Charles stepped up to the tee box where a pair of ornate brass geese served as markers. Laura touched one of the rounded heads absently, her nervous hands needing activity.
"Little Kaz! Its so good to see you again." Susan Fishers greeting was sincere as she reached up to clap Laura on the shoulder. "Heard about the show yesterday Charles, hows your Dad? We were wondering when youd come back and play."
"Susan good to see you too. Barbara "
"Kaz." The Englishwomans voice was clipped and Laura could already see signs of her famous impatience. "Itll be slow today," she said dourly.
They posed for the obligatory photo, the three women representing five Amateur and two U.S. Open titles. Moving to stand with the caddies Laura waited for her introduction. Charles stripped the Kazmanian devil head cover off the driver and handed the club to her with a grin.
"Teeing off at 1:10, two time U.S. Amateur Champion from Dallas, Texas, Laura Kasdan."
Chris clapped with the rest of the crowd as Laura bent over to tee up the ball, barely even taking a practice swing. The marshals held up their hands for quiet and before the gallery had even settled, Laura was into her takeaway. Long arms swept the club back and then powered through the ball sending it straight down the center of the fairway. Chris could see a pleased smile and then the game face was back in place.
The other two women were introduced and they both hit booming drives to the delight of their audience. Then the players, caddies, scorers and part of the crowd left the stage that was the first tee to head down the hill onto the course for their first round of the Open.
"She didnt even use a driver. That was a two hundred and fifty yard 2 iron." The man standing next to Chris couldnt say enough about the power displayed by Barbara Nelson. They were on the fourth hole and Laura had just birdied number 3. Now all three women were waiting for the green to clear.
Chris was absolutely fascinated by the crowd and the golfers. She stopped for a hole to observe the group behind Lauras since it contained last years Open winner, Mi Ja Song, and Stacey Kim the Amateur Champ, who had applied lipstick three times by the third hole. Okay, its a hundred degrees and youre playing in the U.S. Open. Maybe looking pretty shouldnt be your top priority.
She and Jody laughed at the absurdity and then at their own hypocrisy when Chris asked Jody if he had her makeup bag.
God its hot. Chris looked over where Laura was leaning on a club talking softly to Charles and nodding. She looks great, not sweating at all. She was playing well and staying out of trouble. According to Charles that was the game plan; nothing dangerous and play the high percentage shots. It was all so much mumbo jumbo to Chris. I just want to spend some time with her.
The green finally cleared and all three women hit quickly. Jody left to get some B roll of the college students they were following and Chris fell in behind a group of women who had apparently decided they were going to stick with Laura for the rest of the round. "Shes just gorgeous," one of them gushed, "And those eyes " Chris groaned inwardly.
Another par for Laura and they were on their way to the 5th tee when the weather warning sounded just as lightning streaked across the sky. The safe house was just behind the tee box and the tournament officials started herding golfers in that direction. Chris was wondering what to do when the rope was lifted in front of her and Laura was gesturing for her to follow. "Come on. Wheres Jody?"
"He went to get some video." Chris ducked under and trailed after Laura over to where Charles was waiting. "Did you know you have your own fan club? They were ooooing and aahhhing over your eyes."
"Dont tell her that, she already has a big head." Charles handed Laura a bottle of water. "Seen any good stuff?" They walked toward the house where a crowd was gathering.
"Its been interesting. How long do you have to wait here?"
"Depends on the weather." Charles answered. "Right now theyre more worried about the lightning, I dont think well get any rain." He maneuvered his tall frame and the bag through a small opening onto a covered porch ringed with wooden benches.
"So do you just go in and raid the fridge?"
Laura chuckled, "Something like that." Laura always hated rain delays especially if she was in a rhythm. But Chris was here, and that was something shed never had before. After covering the clubs, Charles went inside to get some relief from the heat, but Laura stayed outside with Chris, not wanting to change her bodys temperature too dramatically. She cleared her throat nervously, wondering how she could be so intimate with Chris and still be so awkward at times. "How was sharing a room with Jody?"
"Not much fun. He snores louder than you do. I closed the door and I could still hear him."
"I dont snore." Laura dropped her voice as another group of golfers came under the porch. Chris sat down on one of the benches and Laura joined her, offering the bottle of water.
"You keep telling yourself that."
"There you are Chris. Figured Id find you here. You must be Laura Kasdan Jan Sheffield, Im one of the Producers for the network coverage." Jan was dressed impeccably and looked like the heat wasnt bothering her one bit. "Do you ever check the message board?" she asked Laura.
"No." Was the frank reply.
Jan didnt blink and Laura got the idea she would be dealt with the same way the producer handled annoying talent. "We want to do a sit down interview this afternoon, will that be a problem?"
"Id rather do it tomorrow." Laura took the water back from Chris and took another sip. "Im gonna be wiped when Im finished here."
"Still, it would be better "
"Look, I appreciate the difficulty but tomorrow is better, Im playing in the morning."
"Sure." The Producer backed off. "Ill get someone to coordinate the time. Weve got a set in the clubhouse, thats where well do it." She smiled down at Chris, "Ill see you at the Sat trucks later."
Chris watched her leave, puzzled by Lauras reluctance to cooperate. "Id think youd be a little more understanding, you know what its like when you cant get an interview."
Laura snorted, "But Im just fluff filler a kicker. Im not a story and I know that. She knows I know that. There is nothing unique or different about the people who make it to network Chris, they only pursued the opportunity. Now when the network does the chasing, thats a different story."
Chris frowned thoughtfully, "Didnt you ever want to work for one of them?"
"Nope. That was my Dad. What about you? Any network aspirations?" Laura was curious, wondering for the first time how she would handle Chris ambitions when her current contract ended.
"I hadnt really though about it till yesterday." Chris honestly admitted. "Something Jody said Its a little far away isnt it? At least three years." Im supposed to want that In three years Ill be twenty-eight, the same age you were when you took over at KDAL.
Laura watched the idea flicker across the blonde reporters face. "Itll go by before you know it." She turned to look out over the course without really seeing any of it. Shed been right from the beginning; Chris was too good to stay in a medium market forever. Three years thats all, then times up For both of us. Laura passed the water bottle back to Chris and they sat there in silence, unable to do anything but wait for the game to resume.
There wasnt enough cold water in the world Laura decided as she leaned on her elbows against the corner of the shower and waited for her body temperature to come down. After the forty-five minute weather delay, play had continued except that she, Barbara, and Susan had had to wait for practically every shot. That was the problem with playing with the two fastest women on tour, and Laura hadnt slowed them down at all.
But the heat was oppressive, and judging by the way the veins were standing out on her hands, she wasnt drinking enough.
She twisted her head under the spray breathing through her mouth as the water streamed down her thick dark hair. Over and over she played the round in her head wincing at a few lost opportunities but pleased overall. Not bad, and even though scores were really low, 4 under is great. Susan finished at 7 under and Barbara was at even par. The course was not playing like a typical Open, and unless an act of God caused the rough to grow an inch or two over night, scoring records were going to be set.
After a while Laura was chilled and she adjusted the taps to warm the water. By the time she had shampooed her hair and soaped her body she was starting to feel a little waterlogged and a lot better. Without drying off, she stepped out of the shower to put on a terry robe and left the bathroom dragging a brush through her hair as she went. The room was cold and she adjusted the thermostat before lying down on the bed. Just a little nap, so tired. Almost immediately she drifted off, dreaming of endless green fairways stretching as far as the eye could see.
Laura snapped awake, blinking and swallowing in confusion. Looking at the clock she saw that shed only been asleep for an hour, then the persistent knocking that had awakened her resumed its steady rhythm. She stumbled to her feet groaning at the stiffness in her legs and made her way to the door. Without bothering to look through the peephole she opened it.
"I know Im not supposed to be driving station vehicles, but it was only a few blocks and there were no cameras or stories involved, so I thought I was pretty safe."
Laura tried for a snappy comeback, but drew a complete blank. Speechless again? This is starting to become a habit. She shook her head, disoriented before trying again. "Youre here," she croaked, stating the obvious.
"Where else would I be?" Chris smiled gently. "I figured that you wouldnt feel much like going out so I brought some dinner." The heat seemingly had not affected the reporter; she looked as cool and relaxed as when she started the day. The only evidence of a day spent in the sauna that was Mississippi in June was the healthy gold tone of her skin that contrasted nicely with a white T-shirt and denim shorts.
"Wheres Jody?" Laura stood back as Chris came in balancing several bags and boxes of something that smelled wonderful.
"Asleep Dead to the world. I think hauling that equipment around in the heat did him in. Your names up on the leaderboard, you know, big as life in a three way tie for fourth." She pushed the door shut with her hip and crossed the room to set dinner on the round table next to the sofa.
"You cant win it on Thursday, Chris."
"I know, but you didnt lose it either. I brought enough if Charles wants to eat with us."
Laura ran a hand through her damp hair trying to restore it to some kind of order. "He was going out somewhere, he took the keys to the Jeep."
"Then its just dinner for two I guess."
"Yeah." Laura stood quietly as Chris opened the boxes and distributed pasta salad and marinated chicken. "Im hungry," she observed in a mildly surprised tone.
"Good. I brought all kinds of things to drink since I wasnt sure what you had." She pulled out a chair for Laura, patting the back lightly. "Sit down and eat, I promise youll feel better." The tall woman made no move to sit down, and Chris was getting a little concerned as she pulled several bottles of Gatorade and fruit juices out of the bag. "Its not a very good vintage but you need to drink it."
Laura gave herself a little shake and went over to the chair "Youre a good friend." Chris raised her eyebrows at her choice of words but said nothing as Laura sat down and exhaled. "I feel a little foggy right now."
"Hard day. What time did you get out there this morning?"
"A little after seven. Too early, I know." She took a bite of the pasta and hummed with pleasure, enjoying the different spices. "Vanellis?"
"Hard to believe that I had to come all the way to Tupelo, Mississippi to find my favorite restaurant." Laura ate it all and most of the chicken before leaning back in her chair, stuffed to the gills. "How did your day go? I didnt see you after the 12th."
Chris wiped her mouth with a napkin and bobbed her head. "Good. We got some stuff on those two girls were following, and the uplink for the Six went well." It was different and fun, and shed enjoyed working with the folks from the network. "Jan Sheffield asked if Id be interested in doing a little crowd interview filler piece for them to run on Saturday. Do you have any problem with that? They may not even use it, but I thought it would be good for Jody and me."
Laura swallowed. So, it starts now. "I dont think thats a problem, and youre right, the exposure would be good for you." She felt a little curl of hurt in her gut, and tightened her jaw, determined not to show it. Standing up from the table she gathered up the empty boxes. "Im going to, uh, put on something to sleep in. Theres about six movie channels on the TV if you want to take a look." She made her escape to the dressing area, dumping the boxes in the trash along the way and Chris let out a sigh of exasperation, wondering where she had stepped wrong. It didnt take long for the reporter to decide on a course of action and after counting to one hundred she went to the door of the bathroom and tapped lightly. "Okay, what did I do?"
The door opened and Laura was drying her face with a towel as the faint scent of soap and toothpaste drifted out. The terry robe was missing, replaced with an oversized T-shirt and fleece shorts. "Nothing." She tossed the towel down on the vanity and snapped off the light. "Im just worn."
"And nothing. The heat just got to me and Im worried about it." With an attempt at a casual shrug she tried to move past Chris without touching the blonde woman or meeting her eyes, but Chris stepped in front of her, not buying the excuse. "Im sorry Chris, but I m really tired." Trying to hide her weakness was wringing out Lauras last bit of strength.
"Then come to bed." It was a simple request spoken softly and Chris gently took the taller womans hands in hers, and kissed them tenderly. Dazed, Laura offered little resistance as she was led across the room and when Chris pulled the covers back she sat on the edge of the bed. "Scoot over." Another simple entreaty and Laura complied, lifting her legs onto the bed and moving to the center. Chris sat up against the headboard placing a pillow behind her back before cradling Laura against her shoulder, her hand threading through the dark mass of hair.
"Sorry." Chris barely heard the mumbled apology.
"For what? Exhausting yourself?"
"For being a jerk." Laura wrapped an arm around Chris waist. "Jodys gonna notice youre gone."
"Not for a while at least. What time do you want to get up?"
"Six." Chris looked to make sure the alarm was set then turned out the lamp. In the darkness Laura moved closer and Chris brushed her lips across the top of her head. A murmured question caught her by surprise. "Did you always want to be a reporter?"
"Yes." The answer was immediate. "I was interested in print journalism at first, then I found out that in TV I could tell the story too. Ego I guess." She gave a light squeeze, "All you news directors bitch about the talents ego."
"Mmmm. Yours is pretty healthy."
"Ah, but we take all the risk. If the cast goes down the toilet, the viewer doesnt blame the producer, they say that Tom and Chris are idiots." Chris could feel Lauras chuckle and she smiled. "Oh, and you arent the least bit conceited Miss Four Under Par?"
"About some things. We always say whatever it is that makes you good on the air makes you hell to deal with off it. You do a good job, have I told you that?" Lauras speech was slurred and Chris knew she was almost asleep. With a sigh she closed her eyes, intending to stay for just a little while.
The thunder woke her after three and she swallowed, her mouth dry. Laura had moved and was lying on her side facing away from Chris; hands curled up under her chin. Not much of a cuddler but shes learning. Carefully Chris leaned over and kissed her temple, then eased out of the bed and slipped her sandals on. Will she even miss me when she wakes up? "Love you." Chris whispered then felt her way to the door, closing it softly behind her.
The alarm went off at six and Laura slapped at it, managing to stop the buzzing without throwing the clock off the nightstand. Groggily she hugged a pillow to her chest, inhaling a familiar floral fragrance. Chris. Laura scrambled to sit up, but her senses told her that she was alone in the suite and her shoulders sagged in disappointment. Still it was more of Chris than she expected and she hadnt slept that peacefully in weeks.
Early tee time.
Priorities. The part of her brain that was discipline and determination forced her out of the bed and over to the adjoining door. "Charles," she knocked twice and turned the knob, "Its six, I want to be out of here by seven." She peeked around the edge of the door and saw his head lift up.
"Yeah buddy, and its gonna be hot." She left the door open a crack and went to the table where Chris had left one of the bottles of red Gatorade. It wasnt cold, but Laura cracked open the seal and downed half the bottle anyway. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand she took stock of her bodys condition. Not too bad, drink more today or theyll be sticking IV needles in your arm. The previous days exhaustion was replaced with cautious optimism as she flexed her shoulders and heard the joints pop. She went to the closet and started laying her clothes for the day, choosing a blue shirt to go with khaki shorts. Four under par. Youd think I knew what I was doing.
A good nights sleep made all the difference. Thanks Chris.
"Are you somebody?" A woman held out a hat and a sharpie pen to Laura in a plea for an autograph if she was in fact somebody.
"Oh look, thats Mi Ja Song!" The woman turned to chase down the new object of her affection and Laura was immediately dismissed. Shaking her head she continued up the path to the practice tee where Charles already waited and quickened her steps when she saw the slim figure standing next to the caddy.
"Morning. Did you get any sleep?" Laura surprised herself by draping her arm around the reporters shoulders.
"Enough, I think." Chris let her eyes rove over Lauras face and smiled. "When we checked in they let us have a golf cart today. Did you have anything to do with that?"
"It seems I still have some influence."
"Kaz, youd have some influence if you were a pig farmer in Abilene," Charles said as he zipped up a pocket on the side of the club bag. "Wanna hit a few?"
"No, Im warm enough." She slid her arm off of Chris shoulders with a pat, "Whats on the agenda today?"
"That filler piece for the network. Dont forget the interview after your round."
Laura grimaced, "I know, but if I dont make the cut itll all be moot."
"Dont even say that," Charles chided, "One shot at a time, one hole at a time, one day at a time."
"See what I have to put up with? Zen and the art of golf game management."
Chris grinned, "Just play like you did yesterday."
Laura unwrapped a new golf glove and slapped it on her thigh before tucking it in the waistband of her shorts. "Easier said than done," she muttered.
"Its just a golf cart, why cant I drive it?"
Jody only rolled his eyes and snorted derisively as he braked to allow some pedestrians to cross in front of them. They had caught Lori Kendall on 16 and followed her through the 18th. It looked like she was going to make the cut since she finished the day at even par, leaving her at 2 under for the tournament. Their other college student didnt fair as well; Terri Stockman was going to finish a dismal 17 over par, her first Open experience less than memorable.
"We should be able to catch Kaz at the turn. How does the cut work again?"
Chris held on as they flew around a corner dangerously close to some azalea bushes. "Really, I could do a better job of driving this thing." Obediently Jody slowed down. "Its ten strokes within the leader, ties included, or the top sixty scores."
The name Kasdan was holding steady in the middle of the leader board and had moved to 6 under. Laura was also leading in the statistical category of most greens hit in regulation but when Chris mentioned that to Charles, the caddy shook his head, "We dont talk about that. It just means shes sticking to the game plan."
They pulled up close to the tee on the 9th hole and Chris hopped out." Im going to walk for a while, is that okay with you?" She picked up a bottle of water and made her way through the crowd, craning her neck to see who was on the tee box. Laura and Charles were easy to spot; both of them much taller than the others on the elevated grass mound.
The routine was familiar to Chris now. She watched Laura spin the club, thump it down and look down the fairway. Half a practice swing, then a moment of stillness before the graceful power exploded. The gallery became more appreciative with every drive, and Chris recognized a few faces that had followed this group of golfers on the day before. Charles took the driver and Barbara teed off with no practice swing and then they were all striding down the fairway as the clubs rattled in the bags.
"You were with her yesterday werent you?" A tall tanned woman in Ray Bans fell into step beside Chris. "Laura Kasdan I mean. Weve been following her She sure is fun to watch."
Chris nodded, "Shes my boss."
"Really? I know shes an amateur, what does she do?"
"Shes the News Director at a TV station."
"Cool, so youre in TV too?" Two other women joined them.
"Yeah. Are you from around here?" Chris slipped into reporter mode.
"No, we drove over from Pensacola We try to do a couple of LPGA events every year and this was pretty close, so " She shrugged. They came up parallel to Susan Fishers ball and stopped when the course Marshals held up their hands for quiet. A well hit fairway wood left the ball short and right of the green and then Barbara Nelson hit hers to the edge of the green. Twenty yards further was Lauras ball and the gallery moved forward. She was in the middle of the fairway and Chris watched her nod at something Charles said, then she took the club and waggled it as she set up.
Laura didnt wear sunglasses when she played, so her emotions were on display after she made contact with the ball. Concern first, then optimism, and finally a pleased grin as the ball bounced to the center of the green before her game face slid back into place.
Chris turned to the three women who were still standing next to her. "Would you mind doing a quick interview on who youre following? Itll only take a minute." She waved at Jody who was had parked the cart in the shade. He grabbed the camera and headed their way.
"Sure," she said flattered at being asked.
"Let me get your names." Chris had her notebook out and was scribbling away as Jody framed the shot. A few minutes later she was thanking them and jumping into the cart hoping to see Laura putt for eagle.
The putt didnt fall, but she made the birdie and the red 3 for the day went up on the leaderboard. Now at 7 under, Laura left the green passing next to Chris and Jody. With a wink she handed the ball shed just pulled out of the cup to a girl standing outside the ropes and smiled when she squealed in delight. Then all three golfers and their caddies went across to the clubhouse to use the facilities before taking on the back nine.
The pars added up faster than the birdies and Laura found herself grinding her teeth at missed opportunities. Play had slowed considerably and by the 15th tee she was pacing along with Barbara. After a look at Susan the three of them decided to duck under the ropes and go stand in the shade of some trees, mixing with the gallery and causing the security people to mutter into their walkie talkies.
"So how is life in the real world, Kaz?" Always friendly, Susan started the conversation.
"Im not sure TV news qualifies as the real world." Laura responded dryly.
"Heard you ran into some trouble in Dallas." Susan asked the question but Barbara chuckled.
"Is there anyone who doesnt know about that?"
"Assume that if you keep playing like you are right now everyone is going to know," Barbara said in her droll British manner.
Laura resisted the urge to crack her knuckles and turned to scan the crowd that had moved away from them at the urging of the Marshals. She spotted the camera first, then Jody and gave a brief wave, smiling as his head popped up from behind the viewfinder. Her searching continued until she spotted the pale gold of Chris hair. The reporter was chatting animatedly to a man and a woman, and Laura felt a smile shape her lips just from watching her. Chris looked over at that moment and their eyes met.
Electric calm. Weird. Laura felt a shiver and suppressed a laugh.
"Were up." Susan nudged Lauras shoulder and they walked back to the box. Gotta find some strokes somewhere.
She found one on 15. The long par 5 almost spelled trouble when her second shot landed in the pot bunker on the left of the green, but a nice out left her a very makeable putt for birdie. Another par at 16 and a six-inch tap in birdie on 17 left Laura breathing a little easier on the tee box at 18.
She drank some water and draped a cold towel around her neck as they waited for the group in front to move up. "Looking good Kaz." Charles told her as he wiped off the ball and passed it over. "Finish up and Ill buy you a drink."
Laura yawned a little nervously and tossed the towel back to the attendant before pulling her sweat-dampened glove on again. The birdie on 17 gave her the honor and she rolled one of the orange tees between her fingers before teeing up the ball. The crowd completely surrounded the final hole and bleachers ringed the green as they waited expectantly for the drive. One twirl of the club as she pictured the flight of the ball, then the address. Swing easy, all the way through. She felt and heard the contact; already analyzing the motion before she ever lifted her head to follow the ball. It was a good, long, safe drive and relief washed over her in waves.
After the others hit, she walked up the fairway with her head down. It wasnt a particularly tricky hole, but it could certainly make a golfer pay for a lack of concentration. Strokes could be made up and lost here and thats what made it a perfect finish.
Laura flipped out her orange yardage book then looked for the sprinkler head at 125 yards out. Finding it, she paced off the distance to her ball. She stepped out of the way, waiting for Susan to hit first since she was the furthest away. 115 to the front of the green pins ten yards back. No wind, should be a wedge. She turned and Charles was already handing her the club.
Susans shot landed safely on the green then it was Lauras turn. She put a little more into it than she intended and winced as it rolled a good twenty feet past the hole. Impatiently she stripped off her glove as she waited for Barbara to chip up. Then all three were striding to the green to the sound of applause from the gallery.
Two putts later and the round was history for Laura who escaped with a par, as did Susan. Barbara three putted and fell to 1 over par. Since Susan was in the clubhouse at 10 under, the chance of the Englishwoman making the cut was slim.
5 under today and 9 under for two days, you really couldnt ask for more Kaz. She signed her score card and left the scorers tent only to be buttonholed by a USGA Media Rep and led to the media room. And I still have to do that one on one interview. Crap. All Laura wanted was a shower. She and Susan were ushered to a table and someone gave them bottled water, then the questions started. Most of them were for Susan, since she was the more recognizable, but a few went Lauras way. "How does it feel to be the low amateur?"
"Everyone isnt finished yet."
"Is the heat or the crowd bothering you?"
"No." Like Im gonna tell you it is?
"What do you do for a living when youre not playing golf?"
Oh boy, someone didnt do his research. "Im the News Director at WBFC in Burkett Falls." There was a moment of silence and Laura could feel Susan holding back a snicker.
"What are you hoping to accomplish here, Ms. Kasdan?"
"A top ten finish would be nice. Mostly Im tuning up for the U.S. Amateur."
"If youre successful here, do you think it will influence you to turn pro?" The question came from the back of the room and Laura almost knocked over her water bottle when she heard the familiar voice.
Chris. What is she doing? "No. Not anytime soon." Puzzled, she looked into green eyes and tilted her head. You couldve just asked. Why here?
The rest of the questions were for Susan, and Laura made her escape down the hall only to run into Jan Sheffield. "Just who I was looking for. You werent going to skip out on me, were you?"
"The thought had crossed my mind."
"Uh huh. Lets get you wired up. Hey Chris, did you want to sit in on this?"
Laura smirked without turning around. Didnt even have to look knew she was there. "Id really like to, okay with you Laura?"
"Sure," she said with fake sincerity, but Chris just patted her back and chuckled.
The production assistant tried to help her with the Mic, but she waved him away and did it herself, looping the wire expertly before clipping it to her shirt. Some other assistant powdered her face to kill the shine and she knew it would be paste in a matter of minutes. Robin Gardner, the networks host for womens golf coverage came in and introduced herself before settling into the chair across from her. "When we first talked about doing this, we really had no idea youd be so high on the leaderboard You were more of an interesting sidebar. How would you judge the Open Championship so far?"
Laura opted for the cliché answers. "The course is in beautiful shape and everyone has been just great. Its been a fabulous experience."
"Call me Kaz."
"Right. You won the 95 and 96 Amateurs but you dropped out of the competitive spotlight. What have you been doing?"
Hardball? Okay. Laura shifted in her seat. "I concentrated on my career in Television News. It took up a lot of my time."
"So why come back?"
"Things change, I wanted to play again and this seemed like a good opportunity."
"Okay, cut." Robin looked at Laura and raised a perfect eyebrow. "Youre not giving me much here."
A tight smile crossed Lauras face. She knew she was being hostile, but couldnt seem to stop herself. "Robin," she leaned forward and spoke softly, "I am not going to tell twenty million viewers my reasons for quitting. I will tell you about rebuilding my game and how much work it took, how much time it takes to balance a career with amateur competition, or I will tell you what I think the USGA needs to do to get more people including women and minorities interested in golf, but dont ask me to explain why I walked away. That aint gonna happen."
Robin nodded slowly. "So how did you go about rebuilding your game, and why did you think you had to?"
Laura chuckled, "I have a great coach, and I finally decided to listen to him. His son is my caddy "
"Aahh." Laura groaned as the masseuse worked on the muscles of her lower back and clenched her teeth when he hit a particularly sore spot. She was in the trainers room, where four massage tables had been set up, and all four were occupied.
"Hey. Interesting interview." Chris sat down on a chair next to the table where Laura was being worked on. "Certainly reminded me of why youre the news director and Im not."
"Oww, how did you get in here?"
"Running away again? This isnt off limits to the press and besides, Charles told me where you were."
"Good ol Charles, the rat fink." Laura jerked as the masseuse hit another tender area.
Chris leaned in, "Dont talk about your caddy that way, he and Jody are going bar hopping tonight."
"Really." Chris answered with a wiggle of her eyebrows. "Though Im not sure how much bar hopping one can do in Tupelo. Should tie them up for a few hours anyway." As if a light switched on, Chris suddenly became aware of the vast expanse of naked flesh stretched out on the massage table. The sheet only covered Laura from her lower back to her knees, and the sight of the masseuse manipulating muscle that Chris had intimate knowledge of was disturbing, distracting, and arousing all at the same time. She swallowed as her breaths started coming in shallow gasps. "I uh, when youre finished here Ill wait outside. Right outside." She stood up and practically stumbled to the door.
Laura winced again and wondered what was going through the reporters head.
They had dinner at a steakhouse that boasted the largest salad bar in Mississippi, Laura still managing to remain anonymous despite the fact that the town was crawling with golf fans. "You gotta wonder how many six foot blue eyed women wander through here on a regular basis," Chris observed as Laura unlocked her hotel room door. "No ones asked for your autograph yet?"
"Well, a couple have asked but they thought I was someone else." The room was clean again and she went to the fridge automatically and got out some water. "Want some?" she offered.
"No, Im good." Chris walked over to the sofa and picked up the remote to turn on the TV. "Hey, youre on SportsCenter."
"No kidding." Laura grinned in childish delight as she watched herself birdie the 17th all over again and Chris smiled at her reaction, She works in TV but this is still a thrill for her. She sat down on the sofa and tugged on Lauras hand in an invitation to join her. "You were great today. All that hard work is paying off."
"Mmm." Laura exhaled and plopped down with an unusual lack of grace. "Not yet, well see."
"Is that all youre hoping for, a top ten finish?" Chris asked, one hand moving to play in dark hair.
Laura turned and regarded her lover as blue eyes darkened with emotion. "No Chris, Im playing to win. I always play to win."
"But just in golf or news, anything else and shed be lost" Chris frowned slightly as she moved her hand to the back of Lauras neck, pulling her closer until she could just barely feel their lips touching. Slowly she traced the outline of Lauras lower lip with the tip of her tongue before kissing her in earnest. Then her hands were pushing the long lean body back against the cushions, wanting to reacquaint herself with the woman who dominated most of her waking thoughts.
Chris could feel Lauras hands against her abdomen unsnapping her shorts to pull her shirt free from the waistband and make contact with warm skin. She moved to bury her face in the fragrant mass of dark hair before nipping at the pulse point on Lauras neck. With a growl of frustration she pulled at the front of the shirt keeping her from touching all of the flesh she wanted to. "Damn polo shirts." A brief snort of laughter vibrated the body underneath hers and Laura stopped what she was doing to yank the offending garment over her head. Chris claimed Lauras lips again as she ran two fingers around the edge of Lauras sports bra.
Breaking off the kiss she looked down, "No hooks Youre not helping me out here."
An eyebrow arched, "We could just stop and strip," Laura breathed with a smile.
"Wheres the fun in that?"
Limbs tangled and clothes eventually came off so that skin slid on skin and Chris could touch and taste to her hearts content. Laura arched against her, and as always, she never made a sound as the shudders of her climax wracked her lean body.
Chris laid her head over Lauras heart, listening to the pounding slow and become steady and even again. She closed her eyes and stopped herself from saying the words that threatened to spill out. How can I love someone so much and not say anything? Chris swallowed the niggling fear that even if she said it, the feelings might never be returned. And isnt part of her better than none of her? It was a new feeling, this insecurity and Chris thrust it back into a dark corner of her mind. "You okay?" the question rumbled under her ear and she pushed herself up, her arms supporting her weight.
"Fine," she grinned. "And you?"
"Considerably better than just fine." Laura moved quickly, reminding Chris about the power and grace of her body as she reversed their positions. "You got a little sun today." She bent down to kiss a shoulder and trace a line down the middle of the smaller womans body.
The callused hands that gripped a golf club so confidently began to explore Chris compact body, coaxing shivers and soft cries from the blonde woman. Again and again Laura brought Chris close to the brink, only to back off and start a new attack. Finally she finished what she started and winced when Chris dug her nails into her shoulders as her hips bucked. "Kaz," she ground out, "You are a tease."
Laura waited for the smaller body under hers to calm then smiled against Chris throat. When the air conditioning kicked on she shivered lightly. "Im a little cold, how bout you?"
"Uh, no. I have a blanket, youre the one whos exposed." Chris was hit with a blast of cool air as Laura left the sofa and she whimpered at the sudden loss of warmth. Laura was back a moment later, draping the blanket that she robbed from the bed over the two of them as she settled back on the sofa.
"How much time do we have?" Laura murmured as she pulled Chris closer.
"I told Charles to call first." Chris smoothed the hair on Lauras forehead, "Probably ten or eleven. This is harder than I thought." Laura didnt answer so Chris cleared her throat and went on, "I always thought that Id meet someone while I was doing the things that I like to do. Like softball or running or something like that. But you know, I spend most of my time at work and I like my job, so why is it such a mistake to get involved with someone I work with?"
"Because Im not just someone you work with, Im your boss. And there are other considerations"
Chris sighed, "I know. It would just be nice if something in my life was simple."
"It would be nice, but it wouldnt be nearly as interesting."
On Saturday after the cut, there were two in each playing group instead of three, so things moved along a little faster. Laura was in the second to last group and her partner was a Swede who was even taller than she was. Carin Andersen had an impressive list of tour victories to her credit and was a bit of a maverick on the course. With her long baggy cargo shorts, her skintight black sleeveless top and black golf shoes, she needed only a wallet on a chain to complete the biker chick image. Carin actually owned a Harley and she and Laura bickered over the merits of the American cruiser versus Lauras Triumph Thunderbird.
The most amazing thing about the Swede was her ability to get in and out of trouble. Hole after hole she landed in the rough, the sand, the tall fescue, and the woods, but somehow she managed to pull herself out of trouble with some miraculous shot. Carin finished at even par, which given the extent of her errant shots, was pretty impressive. Even though Laura was disappointed with her 3 under score, she enjoyed the round thoroughly and actually trudged from the Scorers tent to the Network booth with a smile on her face.
Keith was there, along with Chris and Lisa as they wired the Mic and powdered her face again. This time Robin Gardener was a little friendlier as she asked about the round and Laura was enthusiastic as well. After wishing her good luck, Robin dismissed Laura and she stripped off the Mic before handing it back to the production assistant. "Howd it look?"
"Better than yesterday." Chris said dryly and Lisa laughed, "Still working on those social skills, huh Kaz?"
Laura rolled her eyes as they moved to the hall. "Who else is here?"
"Just us and Jodys wife. Trey couldnt make it." Keith led them down the hall to the Media room. "This is going to be kind of tough for you. Don Farmer called yesterday and he said that we are to No Comment anything about you in Dallas, so my guess is theyre already asking questions."
Laura nodded, understanding how the game was going to be played, hell, it was her game. The Media rep led her to the table and she faced the reporters. She wasnt a kid, she was one of them but any hopes for professional courtesy vanished with the first question. "Miss Kasdan, why did you leave Dallas?"
"That is between me and my employers." Laura folded her hands and waited for the next shot.
"You had an exemption for last years open, why didnt you play?"
Laura really thought about answering truthfully. Because I sucked. "I wasnt prepared to play in the open last year." Dont ask, dont ask, dont ask.
"Is it true that you struck an anchor in Dallas?"
Godfuckingdamn. It always came back to Dallas, the one professional failure that everyone could point to. Any serenity that might have been left from her night with Chris and a good round of golf vanished and left a bitter taste in her mouth. "I cant comment on that. I thought we were here to talk about golf?" Laura waited a beat. "No? Then Im outta here." You were right Barbara, everybodys gonna know.
She was out the door before the Media rep knew what happened.
Laura headed for the locker room but as luck would have it she ran into Chris and Jan Sheffield huddled together in the hall. The golf has been great, its just when the media gets involved it all goes to hell in a handbasket. Laura caught the words resume tape and suddenly she was back in Dallas watching events spiral out of control. The dark machine took over and she was powerless to stop it.
"Excuse me Jan, could I have a word with you?" Laura crooked her finger at the producer with a grim smile. "Just a second Chris."
Laura turned and crossed her arms, using her glare to full effect on the network lackey and lowered her voice. "Let me be a News Director for just a minute Am I mistaken or are you soliciting one of my contracted employees?"
Jan smirked, "Laura "
"Kaz then. Contracts are broken all the time or bought out. Any station could use some spare cash."
"Id rather keep my talent. Just because youre network and were an affiliate does not exempt you from a lawsuit for tampering.
"Oh I dont think
Laura snarled, "Oh I do. Chris, are you finished here?"
Chris jerked back in alarm. Whats going on with her? "Sure," she said in a puzzled voice.
She shrugged at Jan as she passed and it didnt go unnoticed by her boss.
Laura was still wearing her spikes and they clacked over the threshold when she pushed open the door and stepped outside. The crowds were thinning and Chris followed the taller woman out past the courtyard to the place where Charles had left the clubs. "What is wrong with you?"
Laura whirled around, her posture stiff and angry. "Do you want to pursue a network opportunity now?" Please say no. Say of course not, Im happy where I am.
"I was just asking "
"Come on Chris, a network seduction is about as subtle as a jackhammer." Just say no, you werent interested. Say you wouldnt leave.
"I know that."
Laura reached for the only weapon she could think of and flung it out, mindless in her need to hurt as much as she was hurting. "And if you want to break that contract, Ericas the one youll have to go up against."
Chris paled. "Thats a rotten thing to say."
"Get your tape ready." Laura hoisted the bag over her shoulder and started walking to the parking lot.
The anger boiled up and Chris chased after her boss. "You cant just throw that at me and run away Oh wait, thats what youre really good at."
"No one twisted your arm Chris, you chose." Laura opened the back of the Jeep and tossed the clubs in. "And like it or not everyone pays for their choices." Some things you never quit paying for.
Chris exhaled angrily, "Lisa and Charles were right about you. You dont have a clue about anything outside golf or news."
"Charles was right Lisa was right. Was there anyone who wasnt right about what I am?" Laura snapped.
"Yeah, me." Chris shot out bitterly. "I thought you could learn to care about something else. So what was I? A convenient diversion...Just a body to pass the time with?" She could feel an ache in her chest that threatened to stay with her forever. I will not cry. "So thats it?"
"Tell Charles I took the Jeep." Laura jumped in and started the engine, squealing rubber on her way out of the lot. Chris turned and slammed into Keiths solid form. Oh goddamn. "Did you hear "
"Everything." He adjusted his glasses in what Chris knew was his all-purpose nervous gesture. "It certainly explains a lot." He dropped his hands, not sure what he should do. "I suspected you were I mean it doesnt matter to me."
Chris sighed. "Who else knows?"
"That youre gay, or that youre sleeping with Kaz?"
Chris covered her eyes. "Both I guess."
"No ones said anything about Kaz, but I can think of just a few people whove mentioned the possibility that you might be gay." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and shifted his weight from foot to foot. "Come on. I found three more hotel rooms. Kazll freak when she gets the bill. Ill just drop you off and you can have one by yourself to crash in."
She gave a short laugh to keep from crying. "Okay, but wed better find Charles."
As she walked back to the clubhouse Chris shook her head. Its television. Everybody looks. Professional infidelity is nothing in this business. She stopped as a thought suddenly occurred to her. Unless you couldnt tell the difference between personal and professional infidelity.
At one oclock on Sunday Laura shut down every thought that had nothing to do with golf and took the driver from Charles.
"The last group on the last day of the U.S. Open. If you can walk down the 18th fairway with a chance to win it, youll have done better than I ever did." Laura remembered her mother saying the words as clearly as if shed said them yesterday. Well, she was in the last group, but whether she would have a chance to win it would remain to be seen.
"Just you and me Kaz." Susan Fisher smiled at Laura and briefly thought that Sarah Kasdans daughter was more dangerous than anyone she was likely to play against on tour. "Your mother would have been pleased to see you with a chance to beat me."
"Yes she would. But Im not my Mom."
"No youre not."
Susan was introduced and teed off first since she was the leader at 15 under. Like a surgeon, Laura drove her ball precisely down the center of the fairway and started walking even before it finished rolling.
The course was stingy on that Sunday afternoon. Laura continued to play flawless golf with no bogeys, but she didnt find a stroke until she birdied number 7, a par 3 over water to an elevated green. Susan bogied number 8 to fall to 14 under. On the teebox at number 9 Laura took the time to study the leader board, noting that no one was within five strokes of her score. She tightened her jaw and looked up at Charles who was regarding her with a worried look. Waiting for me to fall apart? Not this time.
The crowd was growing, gathering in more spectators as the final group finished each hole and up at the 9th green the bleachers were overflowing. Laura flexed her shoulders before twirling her driver, then caught sight of a blonde head in the gallery just up from the tee box. All the sun has made her hair even lighter. Shaking her head at the break in her routine she went back to where Charles was standing and wiped her hands on the towel slung over his shoulder.
"Yeah," she sniffed. "Just lost it for a minute." Walking back, she re-teed the ball and swung, disappointed at the slight hook that put her in the rough on the left.
Again she purged her mind of anything that didnt relate to the course and her game and managed to get the ball out of the rough and into the fairway to set up for another par. At least I can still putt.
She and Susan stopped at the turn and Laura strode quickly through the locker room to run cold water over her hands and face. She ran through the remaining holes in her mind looking for opportunities, violating one of her cardinal rules in the process. Theyre out there. I just have to find them.
Back out into the heat and Laura was greeted by another long par 5. Susan birdied it to move back to 15 under and Laura settled for another par.
11 and 12 were adventures at the beach as Laura landed in the sand traps on both holes. Still she managed to make par. Charles was starting to get nervous, his usual cheerful manner evaporating along with the opportunities to make up strokes, the only consolation being that Susan couldnt break the par wall either. Finally on number 16 Lauras second shot landed just two feet from the hole and she had another birdie. She tossed her putter down and took off her hat running her hands through her hair before tying it up again and threading her ponytail through the back of her hat before heading to the 17th.
Laura was one stroke back with two holes to play but the birdie had given her new optimism, and since she had birdied 17 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday her confidence was growing.
183 yards, water on the left, sand around the green, a little wind from the right. Laura asked Charles for the seven wood, and he passed it to her. She placed the ball on a tuft of grass without a tee and spun the club. After a half swing she set up and drew the club back smoothly, reversed the motion and swept through, hitting slightly behind the ball.
Laura knew it was trouble as soon as it left the clubface and headed left catching the edge of the green and rolling down into the sand and close to the water. Shit! She ground her teeth, "Am I wet?"
"I dont know, could be on the edge." Charles took the wood and slipped the cover on. "Well look."
Susan landed hers in center of the green some twenty feet from the pin and they all started the walk to the green. The course Marshals were gathered around the sandy area called the beach that led from the green to the water. As Laura approached her heart sank because apparently her ball had.
Well not quite. Half of it was sticking out of the water and she and Charles stood staring down at what looked to be an insurmountable obstacle.
"What happens now?" Chris turned to Lisa her eyes concerned.
"She can go back to the tee and hit another shot but shell be hitting her third shot. Then its pretty much all over cause she cant make up two strokes to tie, not really, and thats only if she finished with a four here."
"So it is over." Chris felt the disappointment welling up from underneath the hurt she was already sure she couldnt deal with.
"She could play it where it lies, but thats a big risk. She could lose a bunch of strokes just getting it out of the water.
"What will she do?"
Lisa gave a snort, "What she always does."
"Go back to the tee box and try for the 4. Hold your position." Charles was adamant.
Laura wiped her mouth, "Charles, I have no position. I am an amateur and Im not playing for money. This could be my last best chance and Im not throwing it away. If I go back to the tee, Ive already lost." She smiled bitterly at the caddy and squeezed his shoulder. "My choice, remember?"
He looked down and nodded then turned away to reach for the bag, pulling out the wedge and handing it to her. "Cant ground it."
Laura nodded and bent down to untie her shoes, pulling them off then tucking her socks inside before handing them to Charles. She cringed a little as she realized her ridiculous tan was on display for all the world to see, her white feet contrasting with the bronze of her legs as though they had been dipped in paint. Shouldering the club she stepped into the water and set up behind the ball. She practiced the angle of the swing before digging in and with one final calculating look at the green, Laura swung down as hard as she could.
She was drenched by the splash and the ball popped almost straight up. Her first thought was relief that she had at least gotten out of the water, but the ball landed above the hole and started rolling and Laura only needed to hear the roar from the crowd and see the look of incredulity on Charles face to know what had happened. Scrambling out of the water, she made it to the green, bare feet coated with sand and pulled the ball out of the cup. Awkwardly she acknowledged the crowd with a wave and walked back to where Charles stood with her shoes.
"Aw, Kaz." He grabbed her in a bear hug. "Its always better to be good and lucky."
Laura took the shoes and the towel and sat down to clean her feet. She got them on and wiggled her toes dislodging some of the remaining grit and stood up to see Susan make par. So, you have your chance. Whatever else, you came through here. She looked at the ball then searched the crowd as they all started to move to the 18th. Stop looking, you wont find her. But she did and without knowing why she walked over to the ropes where Chris stood, the plastic of her all access ID card reflecting the late afternoon sun like a beacon. Laura swallowed as she got closer and wished that she were wearing sunglasses so she could be as shuttered as the reporter was with hers. She leaned over and pressed the ball into her hands, the crowd building and pushing around her. "Here, hold on to that." Then the Marshals were moving her along to the next tee.
A good 250-yard drive and Laura was halfway home. Susans drive landed close by and they headed for the center point of the hole, the crowd applauding in waves as they passed. Susan hit first and placed it about ten feet from the hole. The gallery went wild, sensing a birdie opportunity and a possible playoff if there was a tie. Laura swept the club a couple of times across the grass before stepping up to her ball. Easy, dont over swing.
It made the green easily and rolled inside Susans. She gave the club to Charles and he grinned. Stripping her glove off she walked up the fairway of the 18th hole in the last group, on the last day of the Open, for a chance to win. The applause and cheers were deafening, but Laura had never felt so empty in her life. Because this isnt all there is.
She marked her ball and tossed it to Charles to clean as Susan lined up her birdie putt. Stepping back she watched the older woman stroke the ball with a firm touch. It never wavered from its path, and the oooooohs of the crowd exploded as it dove into the cup.
Make this for a playoff tomorrow or miss and lose. It was as simple as that. Laura walked around the ball, looking for any kind of break or clue that would tell her the right line. Six feet, Ive made a million of them. She stood over it slightly longer than normal and that might have been what made the difference. The stroke was sure, but the line was wrong and it missed the hole by a scant inch.
Laura closed her eyes and shook her head ruefully as she walked up to tap in. Susan had won her first Open and Laura was the first to congratulate her. Turning she looked for Charles but spotted Chris first instead and Laura remembered everything she had lost.
Second place sucks. Dont let anyone tell you differently.
Continued in Part 11
Comments welcome! Let me know what you think.
Return to The Bard's Corner