Marianne didn’t know who she was speaking with, but she did know that the woman did not sound American.
“My name is Kerstin Eckmann. I am calling on behalf of the women’s football team, Turbine Potsdam, from Potsdam, Germany.”
“Potsdam, Germany? Outside of Berlin.”
“Yes?” Marianne says this with hesitance, still scanning the voice for any traces of familiarity.
“I call today to invite you to a three-day training session here in Germany with the team. We are at our Winterpause, and are currently recruiting new talents to join our roster.”
“It’s our winter break. Too cold for football in Germany now. The season resumes in February.”
“Football. I love that you call it football.” Marianne is looking at Julia’s reflection in the living room window. Julia is behind her at the kitchen table, playing a game of Solitaire. Her hands move across the table’s surface, away from her face, not holding a cell phone. Nothing suspicious.
“Soccer to you, yes?”
“You are acquainted with Viola Odebrecht?”
Viola played on Marianne’s team their freshman year. She was a tall, thin girl, blonde like Marianne, hair always pulled up in a tight bun like a ballerina. She didn’t speak much to her teammates, and rumor had it that, in her dorm room, she would cry on the phone to Germany four days out of the seven. Because of this, most of Marianne’s American-born teammates kept clear of her, especially since the American women’s team fell to the Germans in the semi-final match of the World Cup. They didn’t trust her, thought she thought she was too good for Division 1 college soccer, but Marianne liked her although they never spoke off the field. She thought Viola had a killer foot, lofting the ball perfectly in the air on corner kicks for their taller teammates to head on toward their opponents’ nets. Viola led the league in assists, but she did not return sophomore year.
Marianne says, “How is Viola?”
“Very well.” Marianne notices a change in Kerstin’s voice. Finally, they have something, or someone, in common to speak about. “She has recommended you. You played together at University in Boston. She says you will make a perfect midfielder for our team.”
“I’m more of a forward, actually.”
“You don’t play in the midfield?”
“No. She does.”
“Yes, but you never?”
“No. I play up front.” Marianne is watching Julia in the window watching her. She puts her hands in the air as if to say, “I don’t know!” Julia is shuffling the deck, eyes unblinking.
“Would you like to learn? To play the position?”
“I guess. I’m sort of short, though.”
Kerstin laughs. Marianne thinks that it is only partially forced, about 35%. “That’s okay. You know German?”
“No, but I am familiar with your country.”
There is a short silence, and then, “Good. We can pay for airfare for one and a hotel room in Potsdam for five days. You should arrive early so that you can adjust to the time difference and give your best performances.”
“It will happen in January, after the holidays. This is a very exciting opportunity for you. The team boasts players from three national teams, including our own. But there are also players from Brazil and Sweden, and possibly one coming from France. You would be our only American.”
Marianne didn’t like being told what was a good or exciting opportunity for her. She didn’t like people making plans for her without her first being notified. “Okay. That’s nice.”
“You have management? An agent?”
Marianne looks again at Julia. She says, “No.”
“Good,” Kerstin says. “This makes things very easy. Let me give you my office number, and is this the best way to contact you? At this number?”
“Yes. But how did you get it?”
“I called your family’s home. I spoke with your aunt, Kate.”
Kate’s name makes Marianne straighten her back and move the phone away from her mouth, checking again to see if Julia is still at the table. She is, pulling cards from the half-deck in her hand in groups of three. Count: one, two, three, then flip. When Marianne grabs a pen to take down Kerstin’s number on an old receipt on Julia’s end table, she has to ask Kerstin to repeat it.
Kerstin says, “You got it now?”
“Yes. But that’s a strange number.”
“Things are different in Europe.”
Marianne says, “Okay.”
“There will be some papers to sign, but I will contact you about this later on. I thank you for your time and look forward to meeting with you in Potsdam, Marianne.”
“Thanks, Kerstin,” Marianne says, and it sounds strange to her, saying the name of a woman who she does not know, has never seen, but who seems to know much about her and obviously feels comfortable saying her own name. It’s as though this makes Kerstin, and their new relationship, entirely real, and Marianne’s not sure if this is okay.