In can be infinitely easier to say something over the phone. Losing big has a sucker punch impact, and in-person words and looks and sentiment can be like needle pricks and sometimes like a big numbing wallop.
You can forget it for stretches of time, you can read a good book and laugh at something on your phone, before it crashes back down to knock the breath out of your lungs, and sends you spiraling. Nothing will ever quite be the same again, and you have to figure out a way to be okay tomorrow.
Somehow the loss landed on Christen, someone who never should have been put in that circumstance in the first place. She was really a wreck, but Alex almost wasn’t allowed to grieve, and in some ways that was just as hard. Kelley could see the pressure on both of their shoulders, the shattering feeling of missing a vital penalty, as well as the pressure to be a new leader, and to continue on with the fire from the year before. No one was happy.
They’d gone home, flights back to their respective places, definitely not the way they’d wanted. When Kelley got home, Sam wrapped her up in her arms and they cried. It felt silly, sometimes, because it was both just a game, but also such a big game, too. Regardless, she sat there on the couch, snotty and sniffly and Nikki cleaned up the tissues later. They do say that the higher the rise the harder you fall, and this was a nosedive.
Sam was obviously disappointed, too, but she’d grown accustomed to the taste of smaller victories, which made the big losses a little easier to swallow. No one was expecting Australia to win gold, just like no one was expecting the US to lose in the quarter-finals of the Olympics, a year after a blowout World Cup win.
Kelley shuffled towards her room, wearing the same pajama pants and Stanford tee she’d been in the last two days, and she honestly didn’t care. The window in her room was open, optimistically hoping for some breeze to cut through the New Jersey humidity. The sun was barely set, and she sat there in the blue haze. She tried to lay down and rest, but it was truly too early for bed and too late to do anything else.
She felt a buzz under her pillow, and grabbed for her phone, noting a few missed texts and some new emails she was committed to deal with later.
Alex: How are you?
Alex typed for a few seconds, paused, Kelley watching the bubble pop up a few times. She stopped, and suddenly Alex’s kissy face contact photo popped up on her screen. Kelley swiped to answer, and sat back against the pillows, reaching around for the cable, to plug her phone in to charge.
“Do you want to watch something?”
Kelley leaned over to the table on the other side of her bed, and grabbed her laptop, opening it and typing in Netflix in her browser.
“What do you want to watch?”
“I don’t know, something I don’t need to pay attention to.”
“Mmkay, let’s just pick up somewhere random in Friends.”
“Alright I could SWEAR I’ve never seen this episode. I think I remember Fun Bobby, but also… the one where Monica has an alcoholic boyfriend? No idea.”
“I don’t remember seeing it either. It’s like this weird, mid season 2 episode that didn’t have to exist but does.”
“Chandler always had the best lines, especially earlier on.” Alex could feel herself settle into the call, as if the stress of losing was just a little less painful, every time she could laugh about something else.
“Could I BE any funnier?” Kelley came in strong with her Chandler impression, and it made her feel a little more at home, curled up on her couch.
They watched another episodes.
“Ohmigod, babe, promise me if you get married you will NOT wear hats.”
“What? Ew. No.”
“Good. I’d boycott on purely fashion grounds.”
“I promise I will leave executive aesthetic decisions up to you.” Kelley yawned, snuggling in further underneath her bedspread, pulling it up and around her shoulders.
“Good. I am excellent at wedding planning.”
They let the silence sit comfortably between them, before Alex heard the garage door open.
“Hey listen, Serv is home, and I’m gonna go hang out with him for a bit. Are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah, you go. I should probably get to bed at some point.”
Quiet again, neither really wanting to go.
“I think we’re going to be okay, Kel.” Alex threw the blanket she was snuggled under off of her legs, and pulled her knees up, picking at a stray bit of chipped polish on her toes.
“I think so, too.”
“I love you.”
The side door to the garage opened.
“I love you too.”