“So all I have to do is toss and hit, right?”
Chuckling, I shake my head. “You’re holding your racquet wrong. Here,” I take Taeyeon’s racquet from her, “let me show you the continental grip.”
“Your fingers are much longer than mine. I doubt I can hold it like you do.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. You don’t need long fingers for this.” I smile as I hold up her racquet and run my finger down the narrow edge of the grip. “We refer to this as bevel 2. For the continental grip, your racquet needs to be perpendicular to the ground like this.” I turn the racquet and guide Taeyeon’s hand to the grip. “You want your knuckle to rest on bevel 2. Your heel pad too.”
I am in the middle of showing Taeyeon how her thumb and index finger form a “V” in this particular grip when Linda makes her appearance.
“Good afternoon, ladies.”
A few people greet her in return but Taeyeon and I remain focused on getting the grip right. Linda has other ideas, however, and it is only a moment later when she appears beside me. Her perfume swamps my sense of smell and I scrunch my nose up in agony.
“What are you doing with her?” Linda takes my arm. “Come, I want you to partner me.”
The overdone eyeliner and blood red lipstick on her face are huge turn-offs to me so I try to focus on the tip of her nose as I reply, “I’m with Taeyeon and I’m teaching her how to serve right now, so please excuse us.”
“You’re teaching her how to serve? Sweetie, this is the intermediate group. She should go to the beginner group if she needs to be taught that.”
Taeyeon tugs my hand, prompting me to let her speak. “There’s nothing in the rules that says a beginner can’t join an intermediate group. And if Krystal chooses to spend her time teaching me, that’s her choice to make.”
Linda huffs before stomping away and I find myself slightly in awe of Taeyeon’s composure. In her, I have seen the personification of the idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Taeyeon is not as fragile as she looks.
“Psst, anybody home?”
I blink. Taeyeon is waving her hand in my face, her face a picture of amusement.
“You were staring at me for a good three seconds at least,” Taeyeon says with a grin.
“Mhm. What were you thinking about?”
“Oh, nothing. I tend to space out at times. My friends say I look dazed a lot so that was probably one of those moments.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. Anyway, let’s get back to it. Since we’re on the left, I’ll demonstrate a serve to the left service box on the other side.” I pick up a ball with my left hand and spin my racquet with my right as I step up to the baseline. “What I’m doing is called the flat serve, by the way.”
I lean forward and bounce the ball a few times to get a feel of it before bringing it to my racquet to line up my serve. Rocking back slightly, I bring my racquet behind me as I toss the ball up. With my eyes on the ball, knees bent and body arced, I bring my racquet up behind me in a full arc and swing it at the ball in one fluid motion. The motion propels me into “falling” forward onto the court as the ball lands perfectly in the left service court on the other side and I spin around with a smile.
“And that’s how you do it.”
Taeyeon has a smile on her face as she says, “Do it again.”
“Yeah. Just do it.”
“Okay…” I oblige her with another serve and turn around smiling again.
“You really enjoy serving, don’t you.”
How does she know all these things. Is she a psychic?
“You’re right. The serve is my favourite part of tennis and I always get an adrenaline rush after.”
Taeyeon nods. “And it’s a pleasure to watch you serve.”
Her steady gaze makes my cheeks heat up a little and I am thankful it is less visible because of my slight tan.
“Well, enough of watching me serve. It’s your turn now.”
“I don’t think I can replicate that serve of yours.”
“And I’m not expecting you to.” Picking up a ball, I place it in her left hand and wrap myself around her so that I can hold grasp both of her hands from behind. “It’s a good thing I’m taller than you or I wouldn’t be able to see what I’m doing.”
“Oh, if that were the case, you could feel your way around me and still get the job done, I’m sure.”
I do not know if it is just me but there seems to be some innuendo going on. And frankly, it is making me blush even more. Good thing I am behind her.
I clear my throat to dispel the tension inside of me before saying, “Okay, now lean forward on your left foot.” I am fully aware of her bottom pushing into my crotch as she does as I tell her to and I have to remind myself to stay on track. “Now, you want to bring the ball to your racquet and line your serve up. Set your sights on the service box on the other side.” I guide her hands as I deliver the instructions and suddenly tennis has never felt this intimate.
“Got it. What next?” Her voice brings me back to reality.
“Rock back a little. Shift your weight to your back foot.” Wow, she really is leaning right into me. “Bring your racquet behind you like this.” I pull her arm back and guide her into the preparatory position. “When you’re ready, toss the ball up, flex your knees then swing your racquet up from behind.” I release her arms and step away from her. “Try it.”
“Okay, here goes nothing.”
I watch as she goes through the motions and clap when she succeeds in hitting the ball.
“It didn’t get to the other side,” she says with a pout.
In that moment, I find myself wondering how old she is. I mean, she looks young, (especially when she pouts like that) but her confidence and composure make me think she is older than me.
“It’s alright. Try again. But this time, try not to grip your racquet too hard. Relax it a little.”
Taeyeon tries again and this time the ball lands in the right place.
“Oh my God! I did it!” she exclaims, raising both arms in victory.
Her burst of joy infects me and I end up cheering too. “You did it! Well done!”
“I’m gonna try again. It could be beginner’s luck, you know.”
Her enthusiasm has me smiling as I stand back and watch her try a few more times. Afterwhich, I pick up a couple of balls and work on my serve too.
Several serves later, I hear Taeyeon’s voice as I bend to pick up another ball. “Your serve is different from the one you taught me.”
“You’re right. It’s different. The one I just tried to do is called the kick serve. It’s the hardest out of the four different serves. I’ve been practicing it but I’ve yet to master it.”
“Need some help over here?”
I turn at the sound of the voice and smile. “Yeah, I could do with some help, Coach Kwon.”
Coach Kwon points at Taeyeon. “Is she your friend?”
“Yes, she is.”
Taeyeon extends her hand. “Nice to meet you Coach.”
“Linda told me you’re a beginner, is that true?”
I frown as I spot Linda at the other court. Why won’t she leave us alone?!
“Yes, it’s true.”
“Well then, I would suggest you go over to the beginner group. You’d learn more over there. Our coach will teach you the different grips, serves and you can learn all the basics there. I’m afraid you wouldn’t learn as much here.”
Taeyeon simply smiles and shakes her head. “I’m not really here to learn tennis so it’s fine. You don’t have to worry about me.”
Coach Kwon is visibly surprised by her answer. “Er, I’m not sure I understand. Why would you be here if you’re not interested in learning tennis.”
“Well, it doesn’t really matter why I’m here, does it? I’m a member of this sports club and for some reason, I feel inclined to sign up for this particular tennis session on Thursdays. It’s as simple as that.”
Coach Kwon looks from Taeyeon to me and back again. Then, she shrugs. “Alright then. If this is what you want. Now gather round, I’m going to teach the continental forehand slice.”
Needless to say, Taeyeon is not able to keep up with the pace of the session. I offer to teach her but she insists that I join the others and tells me not to worry about her. She then heads to the bench beside our tennis bags and sits, draping her arm over the back of the bench like a boss. For a while, I stand facing her, not knowing what I should do but she points at Coach Kwon and mouths the word “go”. So that is what I end up doing.
I jog to her as soon as Coach Kwon is done with us and sit beside her. She tosses my towel to me the moment I am seated.
“Nice slicing moves you got there, Krystal.”
I can feel my cheeks heating up again and bury my face in my towel to hide it. “Thanks.”
“Are you a competitive player? Or recreational.”
“Why don’t you compete? You looked pretty good out on the court. I mean, I’m no expert at tennis but even I can see that you’re easily the best player in this group.”
I smile and shake my head. “Nah. I’m not good enough for tournaments with the skills I have. Unless you’re talking under eleven tournaments,” I say with a laugh. “But I might even lose to an eleven year old if I’m not careful. Those kids are ferocious on the court.”
“Have you played in a tournament before?”
“No. It’s always been an interest. A sport that I enjoy playing. I’ve never thought about playing competitively.”
“I see. Well, it’s nice to have a hobby like this. You get to exercise, keep fit and have fun all at the same time.”
“Speaking of exercise, I’ve been meaning to ask you, what do you usually do here?”
“What do I usually do?”
“Yeah, you know, like what would you be doing if you weren’t here with me.”
“Oh, that. Well, believe it or not, I’m not actually sporty. I don’t enjoy doing sports all that much.”
“Why would I be a member of this sports club if I’m not into sports?” Taeyeon is smiling as though she can read my mind. “Let’s just put it this way, coming to this sports club is part of my job.”
“Part of your job? Aren’t you a member?” My eyes pop wide open as an idea strikes me. “Oh, you must be one of those spies, right?”
“Me? A spy?” Taeyeon laughs with her mouth wide open. “No, no. I’m not a spy and your imagination is quite wild, Krystal.”
“Well, if that’s not it, then what are you? Why is coming to this place part of your job?”
“I’m not a spy, but I’m an agent.” Taeyeon’s smile turns into a cheeky grin as I blink, feeling confused. “I’m a real estate agent, Krystal.”
“Okay, but I still don’t understand. Why would coming here be part of your job if you’re a real estate agent?”
Taeyeon looks at me meaningfully. “I deal with expensive real estate. The ones that are worth millions. And the people who would live in them can be found in a sports club like this one.”
“So you come to this sports club to extend your network among the rich?”
“Mostly to maintain relations with my clients. It’s a bonus if I befriend someone new.” Taeyeon winks at me and my response is a shy smile. “So, to answer your question, I would be at the driving range with a client if I weren’t here with you.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t be here then. Maintaining relations with your client is more important than saving me from Linda.”
“Who said anything about saving you from Linda?”
“Why else would you ask to be my partner? You obviously overheard my conversation with Linda, right?”
Taeyeon shakes her head and looks away. “Oh Krystal, you’re much too naive.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, there’s the rich. Then there’s the rich. I noticed you the first time I saw you, Krystal. In the changing room. I noticed your Buscemi sneakers. Your Valentino shorts. And your Range Rover car keys.”
“Are you saying you helped me because you thought I’m rich rich?”
“It’s not the entire reason but yes, the fact that you’re rich rich played a part in my decision making process.”
“What if I’m not as rich as you think I am? Would you still save me from Linda next week?”
Taeyeon gives me the once over. Then, in a slow and deliberate manner, she says, “You’ll have to wait till next week to find out.”
x to be continued x