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Paper Rings

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December 2010

This was probably the most important moment of her life thus far.

In the moment...

She couldn’t tell that is was only 40 degrees outside,

that the game clock had run past the stoppage time,

that she was literally dripping sweat off her face

or that she had a UNC player on her heels at every move. All Christen could see as she entered the 6-yard box was that the keeper was off her line and that there was a cross coming she couldn’t dream of being anymore perfect. With just a single touch as it came to her feet, the ball sailed into the back of the net.

She was tackled by ten other teammates as the whistle blew sealing Stanford’s fate as NCAA College Cup champions. They had beat UNC, arguably the best women’s team in collegiate history, with a 2-1 victory in the tournament. For a fleeting moment Christen thought maybe, just maybe, she wanted to play this game forever.

 

———


Present Day

Christen looked out the window to see Kelley had pulled her car into the driveway and was honking incessantly in what could only be described as obnoxious and true Kelley fashion. She ran down the stairs grabbing a hoodie from the foyer closet and her keys off the table next to the front door and headed out locking the door to her condo behind her.

Kelley and Christen has been as thick as thieves since college but two very different careers kept them apart more often than not. Anytime they were remotely in the same geographical area they made sure to get together and catch up. Kelley’s position on the women’s national team and her club responsibilities kept her busy nearly year round. But there were times like these where their schedules lined up and they made the most of it.


As close as they might have been, she had never really considered anyone her “best friend” but Kelley was as close as she could get. Christen had plenty of very close friends, and it was nice to know that when it came down to it she could count on Kelley.

Christen had spent the last four years working for a Fortune 500 company as a PR manager, when a dream opportunity sort of just landed in her lap. She hadn’t applied or even thought of the idea of working for US Soccer Federation. But an old confidant had apparently given someone her contact information and without even a phone interview, had one afternoon found herself on a conference call with some board members from the federation asking if she would like to take over as the Manager of Public Relations for the Women’s National Team.

She may have given up football as a potential profession but it was still her passion, and very much so where her heart was. Before any official paperwork had even been signed she had notified Kelley who, in true Kelley fashion, insisted she come out and celebrate.

A friend and coincidently teammate of Kelley’s who lived in LA was having a BBQ for the fourth of July. While she was hesitant at first, she knew she had no plans whatsoever for the holiday and thought it probably would be nice to get to know some of the women she would be representing for the federation.

So here she was running out of the house in the late afternoon to spend time with a group of people she didn’t know on a holiday she wasn’t particularly planning on celebrating. At least she would have Kelley around, right?

-----------

They entered the house without even knocking which gave Christen the impression Kelley was VERY close with this friend for her to just walk in. They could hear the distant sounds of music and people talking but didn’t see anyone right away. Christen followed Kelley down a hall, past a set of stairs and into the kitchen.

“TOBINHO!”

“KELL!”

Christen watched as the two did a silly sort of run towards each other before embracing each other and laughing. It was as if they had done that exact greeting multiples times over.

There were a few other onlookers around the kitchen island, which was topped with an array of foods and drinks. Some of them giggled as the pair greeted each other. Christen couldn’t help but smile herself.

“Christen this is THE Tobin Heath” Kelley said matter of factly. “And Tobin this is Christen!”

Tobin’s demeanor had seemingly done a 180 with the blank stare she was all of a sudden sporting as she looked to the woman now standing in front of her.

It wasn’t until Kelley was waving her hand in front of her face that she noticed her mind had gone blank and she was standing there staring at Christen.

“I am so sorry, it’s nice to meet you Christen, to finally meet you. I’ve heard lots from Kell,” Tobin stumbled over her words.

“I could say the same to you,” Christen replied with a slightly entertained smile on her face.

Tobin noticeably relaxed and as if the last few seconds hadn’t happened her demeanor had snapped back to the relaxed looked she had before that awkward introduction.

Christen followed a few steps behind them as they ventured through the rest of the house to the backyard where most of the guests seemed to be gathered.

——


Before it had even gotten dark enough to set off fireworks, Kelley O’Hara was drunk and running around doing some sketchy things with their probably illegal pyrotechnics.

Christen sat at the end of the deck on a couch with a pillow in her lap and her own drink she had been nursing all evening, watching some of the tom foolery of the evening play out in front of her. A few people gathered on one side of the yard lighting off fireworks, a few people jumping on an in-ground trampoline (she had questions about given the only known occupant of this home was a grown adult) and some others gathered around a firepit that was situated in the middle of the deck.

She had been introduced to a handful of Kell’s teammates as well as some other friends of theirs that had been invited to the party. Any hesitancy she had was surely washed away as she realized, even surrounded by mostly strangers, that it was nice to be socializing with people her age, or really at all. She couldn’t remember the last time she attended a social gathering that wasn’t directly work related.

Corporate life had kept her so busy that when she was able to find time to go out, she found herself preferring to stay in.

Now, however, she sat alone as those around her conversed quietly to each other. She sat and watched the fire, too deep in to realize it had actually started to get dark out, until she was brought out of her stupor when she felt the cushion of the couch dip from someone sitting down next to her.

“Must have something really important on the brain.”

She heard the voice before she really registered the words.

Christen turned her head and was met with the most breathtaking smile. Delaying her response to a now very embarrassing length of time. It was her turn to dip into a blank stupor.

“I uhhh- yeah just zoned out I guess,” Christen said recovering quickly, hoping Tobin didn’t notice.

“Sorry if I interrupted some heavy thinking, I just saw you’ve been sitting alone for quite some time now, and I’d be a terrible host if I let my guests be alone.”


“I’m not alone, I am surrounded by people, and I’d be a bad friend if I didn’t let Kelley, do well.. Kelley things,” Christen laughed out the last part of her sentence as both their eyes travelled to the part of the yard where a few people were now chasing each other with sparklers.

Tobin dropped her head letting out a breathy laugh. “Yeah, Kelley is nothing short of entertaining, and maybe a little crazy.”

“A little?” Christen laughed more genuinely now. “You should have seen her in college, I’ve never been the adventurous type, but with Kelley around I did things I probably never would have imagined doing.” She had a knowing smile on her face now.

Tobin couldn’t help but admire how beautiful the woman next to her was. The smile painted across her face as she spoke and how her green eyes popped in the light of dusk.

“I’d love to hear some of those stories,” Tobin replied.

“Yeah maybe one day,” Christen said, not thinking much of the words or what they really meant.

Both of them looked up when a woman came and stood in front of them telling them to say cheese.

It caught Christen off guard, especially when Tobin threw her arm around her shoulders like they were the best of friends. The stranger, who Christen remembers was introduced to her as Megan, snapped the picture and walked off as if the moment had never happened.

Before either of them could break the silence a loud crack shot over head causing them both to look up and see the lights of the fireworks that were starting. The sky quickly became lit up one after the other as firework shows for the holiday had officially begun.

The moment, of course, passed quickly though because from across the yard multiple loud cracks went off at the same time. In the middle of it all was of course Kelley, who had let off multiple firecrackers at once, whether on purpose or accident, scaring half the guests in the yard.

Tobin stood up and started walking towards the house. Quickly, she turned around before she opened the glass door and smiled at Christen.

“I’ll be right back”

Then she disappeared into the house.

—-
She was lost in thought again when she heard her approach again.

“Everything okay?”

“Oh yeah, just thinking deeply again.”

“You know, Kelley is a very intelligent human being, and absolutely hilarious but sometimes I think she doesn’t use her common sense,” Tobin joked and changed the subject completely.

“Yeah sometimes book smarts don’t always transfer to everyday life,” Christen joked back.


“So what about you? Your Stanford smarts transfer over to everyday life?” Tobin says through a half smile, letting Christen know she is toying with her.

“I happen to have a very healthy amount of book and street smarts just so you’re aware.”

Tobin smiles looking at the fire and takes a sip of her beer, not responding. It’s in the moment Christen registers so many of the features in Tobin’s face she hadn’t noticed before. The dim lights over head and the fire illuminate her eyes, and cast a slight shadow on what she notices is a very chiseled jawline. She thinks that maybe she’s never seen someone so simply beautiful in her life.

In the few hours she has known Tobin, everything about her comes off as simple and not complicated or complex, but laid back in every way. She knows she’s making a judgment on a person she barely knows, but something tells her she is right about this. She also doesn’t realize that she is basically staring until Tobin calls her out on it.

“See something you like?”

“Sorry, just lost in thought, once again,” Christen responds, quite obviously flustered at being called out.

“You know you’re really easy to mess with.”

She rolls her eyes at the woman’s statement, returning her eyes to the fire, sipping her drink that she's barely touched. She knew Kelley would without a doubt be drinking recklessly tonight and someone was going to have to drive them both back to her place.

“ So Christen...” Tobin starts, not taking her eyes away from the flames dying out in front of her “Tell me more about yourself, I know most of my other guests pretty well but all I know about you is how amazing Kelley says you are at soccer and that you are easily flustered.”

She smiles at the comment and for the first time all night finds herself engaged in a conversation that doesn't start and end with an introduction. Somehow the conversation had come so easily to the two of them. She doesn’t think she has ever sat and talked with a stranger and felt such ease as she did in that moment. The next few hours they spent getting to know each other, sharing ridiculous stories about their mutual friend, and of course Tobin taking any opportunity to embarrass her new friend. Or at least that’s what Tobin would like to think about the woman sitting next to her.

Christen told Tobin some of her favorite Kelley stories, about the job she had just left and some of the nerves she had about working for USSF.

Tobin just listened intently, soaking in everything the woman next to her had to say. Smiling when she talked about more serious things and being brought to tears from laughing so hard at some of the crazy stories they shared.

Tobin slouched down on the couch with her feet propped up on the edge of the fire pit with Christen now facing mostly towards her with her legs brought up to her chest. They don’t even know how long they had been talking before Christen looks around, noticing that most people had left or are now inside. She wonders what happened to Kelley and thinks maybe she should go find her when someone’s cell phone starts to ring.

Tobin reaches into her back pocket, pulling her phone out.

“Hey Babe,” Tobin answers, moving to sit up more properly on the couch.

She doesn’t know why, but the greeting makes her cringe a little when she hears it. Tobin moves to stand up and walks down the couple of steps that lead into the yard. She can’t make out what's being said but Tobin looks both animated and frustrated on the phone. After a few moments, a look of defeat crossed her face, her shoulders slump and she finishes the conversation nodding as though the person on the other end could see her. Christen can’t help but feel almost sad for her, but quickly recovers that feeling and stands to go find Kelley.

Kelley is passed out on the couch in Tobin’s living room with a few others. She isn’t sure whether to wake her or not. Instead, she moves into the kitchen and starts throwing away trash, finding dishes to put away the leftover food. She knows this isn’t her house, or the house of a person she should feel comfortable rummaging through the cupboards of, but she can’t help but want to help. She hears the glass door close in the other room and sees Tobin standing in the archway of the kitchen smiling at her.

“Making yourself at home?”

“Sorry, everyone is passed out and I would hate for you to have to clean this all up on your own, plus you looked pretty busy,” Christen bites out that last part.

“Ahh yeah sorry about that, just girlfriend problems. Sorry... not problems, I shouldn't say it like that...it's just frustrating. The way it is sometimes, I’m sure you know.”

Christen just smiles and nods as if in agreement that yeah sure, she knows. It’s not that she doesn’t. It’s just relationships haven’t really worked out for her since college. She works too much and so she wrote off that part of her life some time ago. She knows being content and happy alone is healthy and it’s something she had grown into nicely. So, no, she didn’t know but she was okay with that.


——

Tobin washes dishes as Christen finishes putting food in containers that Tobin pulled out for her. She places them in the fridge and turns back to look at Kelley sound asleep.

“She can stay her tonight if you wanna get going.”

“I can wake her it’s not a big deal,” Christen says hesitantly.

“I can drop her back off at your place in the morning, I know you have her car. I am more than positive she will be more appreciative if we let her sleep.”

Christen nods and heads towards the door to grab her shoes and keys. Tobin follows her down the hall towards the front door.


“Thank you so much for letting a stranger crashing your bar-b-que.”

“Ahh you’re not a stranger, well not anymore anyway. I had a lot of fun. Sorry we didn’t really finish our conversation,” Tobin says with a small amount of regret in her voice.

Tobin opens her arms engulfing Christen into a hug that she reciprocates. It probably lasts longer than a normal hug between two strangers but neither of them feel uncomfortable about it.

As she walks down the driveway she turns around when she hears Tobin tell her to drive safely and have a goodnight. She smiles back at her and tells her she will.

--------

Christen crawls into bed that night and does something she thinks might qualify as stalker behavior, but she hadn’t been able to stop wondering how to learn more about Tobin since she had left her house.

At first, finding her on Instagram didn’t seem too weird. I mean doesn’t everyone do that when they meet new people nowadays? She figured maybe it was more weird that she went through literally all of her photos dating back to a time, that if she had accidentally liked a photo.. Well it would definitely come off a little stalker-y.

It’s not until she has spent more than an hour now going through her Twitter as well that Christen knows she might have crossed a weird line. Especially when she has resorted to straight up just googling Tobin.

She’s been playing professional soccer for years so there is plenty of random information, interviews, and videos dating all the way back to what she would guess is a teenage Tobin. Even some random information about the woman she guesses is Tobin's current girlfriend.

All she wanted was to know a little more about the girl, now she feels like she might know too much and should she ever talk to her again. She knows she will have to downplay knowing a lot more than what they talked about tonight.

They went on about college, their families, and growing up playing soccer. Tobin asked a lot of questions about her new job with USSF and seemed genuinely interested in everything Christen had to say, even though she knows the business side of soccer can be incredibly boring and political. She calls it quits and turns over, trying to ignore the lingering thought of the information she had seen about the woman Tobin is “rumored” to be dating.

-------

She’s laying on her couch reading a book when she hears the front door open and close. Kelley plops herself down on the other end of the sectional where Christen had planned on spending most of her day, alone.

“Chris.”

“Yes, Kelley,” she replied not looking up from her book.

“Get dressed we are going to the beach today.”

Christen finally lowered her book looking over to Kelley. ”I don’t think so,” raising her book back up to cover her face.

“Dude, I’m only in town this week and the ocean is the best cure for a hangover.”

“Kelley, it looks like it’s going to storm outside and I don’t surf so there is no incentive for me to go.”

Kelley is offended at the lack of acknowledgment that she would only be in LA for a few days and Christen didn’t want to spend the most time she could with her. “First off, it’s just June Gloom, not storm clouds, Second, we haven’t hung out in months and I want you to come with me, plus Tobin is sitting in your driveway waiting for us and I think it’s rude to keep people waiting.”

Christen dropped her book and sat up quickly looking at Kelley. ”Um, Kell, it’s July not June, and why would you tell someone I’m going to do something I never agreed on doing. I don’t want to go to the beach when there is no sun and it’s most definitely going to rain.”

She was exasperated. Mentally she was prepared to spend a whole day inside on the couch in pajamas reading and enjoying the storm that was clearly looming.

So she couldn’t even begin to tell you how she ended up in a swimsuit in the back seat of Tobin’s SUV on her way to the beach. She looked out the window at the clouds. It was definitely going to rain and she was definitely going to kill Kelley O’Hara.

She turned back, facing forward and caught Tobin looking at her through her rear view mirror. She flashed Christen a quick smile and returned her eyes to the road as they pulled into the parking lot.

Christen hadn’t realized she was holding her breath when she stepped out of the car a few moments later.

What was that.


——-

Tobin and Kelley had caught some amazing runs the first hour or so out on the water but the swells had calmed down and the two were now sitting out on their boards just chatting while Christen sat in a beach chair reading her book.

When a loud crack of thunder hit over head, Christen jumped and immediately stood up yelling for Kelley to come in. But before she could start to gather her belongings sheets of rain began to fall.

Christen saw the two out on their boards trying to paddle in as she shoved everything into her bag grabbing Tobin’s keys she had left with her and made a run for the car. However, no matter how many times she hit the unlock button the car wouldn’t unlock.

So she stood there, drenched from head to toe now, watching as Kelley and Tobin made their way to the car with the board under their arms. Laughing.

She couldn’t believe the two of them were laughing as she was growing more and more angry.

Tobin walked around Christen, stepping up to strap her board to the rack on the top of her car.

Even in her annoyed state, Christen couldn’t help but once again notice how relaxed Tobin always was. Even with sheets of rain pouring down on them, she moved just moved in such a relaxed way. As she stepped down, she looked at Christen, who was holding her keys straight out for her. She had a very fed up look as water dripped down her face.

Tobin couldn’t help but think how cute she looked but didn’t say anything, instead taking her keys and unlocking the car with one press of the button.

Christen doesn’t think she could possibly be more irritated now. She just climbs in the car and towels off her face and hair grumbling about how dead Kelley is when they get back.

“I told you it was going to rain, and I still came with you. Never again, Kell.”

Kelley just laughed.

“I’ll make it up to you by cooking you lunch when we get back, would you like to join us?” Kelley asked, turning to look at Tobin who was focused on driving.

“I mean, if it’s okay with Christen, I don’t have any plans but I also don’t want to—“ before she could finish Christen spoke up from the back seat.

“It’s fine Tobin, you are welcome to join us for lunch. Kelley owes us both.” She shot daggers in her friend’s direction.

“You know Pressy, Tobs here is the one who told me to convince you to come out.”

Tobin looked at Christen through the rear view mirror with guilt and a little bit of fear in her eyes. All she saw were beautiful green eyes gawking back at her. Maybe she shouldn’t stay for lunch.

It was relatively quiet for the rest of the short drive to Christen’s condo.

For the second time in the last twenty-four hours, Christen was asking herself: What was that.

——

Kelley showed Tobin around the condo while Christen went upstairs to shower and change. Kelley got started on cooking lunch as Tobin continued to carefully wander around the house.

She came to a set of French doors slightly ajar and let herself push one all the way open and peek in. It was clearly an office with a huge desk taking up space against one wall. Two monitors and tons of files neatly stacked. Seems like a Christen thing to do. Keep her chaos organized.

There were some pictures scattered around tucked into small spaces around the desk where they fit just right.

Most of them seemed to be the same three people at various stages in their lives. She guessed it was the two sisters Christen had mentioned to her the night before. She spotted a familiar face in another.

Kelley and Christen holding the NCAA championship trophy together in their Stanford kits. Tobin stopped for a moment, something had occurred to her that she hadn’t quite been able to place, but the photo next to it caught her eye before she could dwell on it… This one was with two people on either side of Christen in her Stanford graduation robes.

Her parents, Tobin thought.

Then there was one right next to the computer monitor. A little bigger than the rest. Two women standing on the beach just after sunset, the sky behind them was an array of deep pinks and purples. Tobin has picked it up looking at how stunning Christen looked. She was wearing a hoodie and shorts with her arms around the older woman next to her in the photo.

“That was last summer, my mom and I at the beach near my parents’ home.”

The voice startled Tobin and she placed the photo back down.

“I’m sorry the door was open, I didn’t mean to intrude.”

She was just met with a soft smile as green eye stared towards her standing in front of the desk. She watched how poised the woman in front of her was, wearing a pair of very short shorts and a hoodie. Much like the photo she was now holding that Tobin had just put down.

“One thing I love about getting to work here in LA was that I get to be so close to my family. When my mom got sick it seemed like fate. To get to be here with her everyday.” Tobin felt a wave of sadness over take her. “She passed back in January and it’s been the most difficult thing I have ever had to go through. I’d like to think I’ve lived a pretty happy and easy life. Sure, there were times when soccer got hard, school was difficult, maybe a bad break up or two felt impossible, but nothing ever made me feel like I was broken or damaged. These last six months though, life has just been different.”

Tobin knew there wasn’t anything to say. There aren’t appropriate words for this moment and she didn’t know Christen well enough to have the right to say anything. Which made her wonder why she even opened up to her about this to begin with. But then again, every conversation they had in their day long friendship had come so easy, maybe she felt that too.

“Sorry, I overshare sometimes and that was probably a little heavy.” Christen wiped a tear from her cheek that had escaped her watering eyes.

She felt a warm hand reach up and grab hers. She looked over, met with Tobin’s brown eyes that said more than words ever could. She felt the “I’m sorry,” “Is there anything I can do?” “I’m here for you,” that pleaded with her. Tobin squeezes her hand and then let it fall.

“You didn’t over share, I appreciate you telling me. The more I know about you, the easier it is for me to be a good friend.”

Tobin seemed pretty set on being Christen’s friend.

They both let out small and quiet laughs before hearing Kelley yell for them from the kitchen.

Perfecting timing Kell.

They all spread across the couch, watching a movie and enjoying their lunch. The storm had picked up substantially so they insisted Tobin stay until it calmed down a little. She only pushed back a little arguing that she lived just a few miles down the street and it’d be safer to leave before it got dark. Ultimately, she lost the fight and settled back in for another movie while they decided on ordering pizza.

Tobin threw a few comments out there about how it was okay for delivery guys to drive in the storm but somehow not her. She stopped complaining after the food had arrived though.

It was just after 8pm when their movie had ended. Kelley got up to put the dishes on the coffee table away. Tobin got up to stretch and collect her keys when she noticed on the chaise lounge end of the couch Christen was fast asleep with a quilt hanging half-way off of herself.

She walked over and fixed the blanket properly over the brunette. Not noticing the eyes watching her from the entryway to the kitchen.

Tobin whispered a very quiet goodnight to her before making her way to the kitchen to say goodnight to Kelley.

She was leaning with her back against the island as she entered. Kelley didn’t make eye contact at first but spoke before a Tobin had the chance.

“So do you and Christen like know each other somehow?”

She was shocked at the question. It came out of left field and almost annoyed her for some reason.

“What are you talking about, Kell?”

“Sorry, you two just seem like you know each other.”

“No, last night was the first time I have ever spoken to Christen. We just kind of hit it off ya know? She’s an easy person to talk to. That’s all, you would have known if we had met before Kelley.” Tobin was so confused at where any of this was coming from. She had more than enjoyed getting to know Christen last night and she just wanted to hang out again when she told Kelley to invite her today. Not once did she think there was any type of motive behind her actions but clearly Kelley did and she wasn’t a fan of that.

“I’m sorry, Tobs. I am I just let me imagination run away. You’re the best human being I know aside from Christen, should have known you two would be fast friends. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t see that before now. Just be gentle with her. She is an incredible person but this year has been hard for her. She can handle herself but she needs good people in her life more than she will ever admit.”

Tobin took the time to mull over exactly what her friend had just told her. “You know me Kell, And she seems like a really cool person, so I’m looking forward to the three of us being amigos.” Tobin tried to make a little bit lighter of the situation. “Anyway I have to get home and shower before the girlfriend is awake and wants to FaceTime.”

Kelley noticed her annoyance but she wouldn’t comment. Tobin had been that way for awhile now but this wasn’t the moment to breach that topic. Long distance is hard, being on different continents was probably impossible.


Kelley hugged her and walked her to the door, thanked her for hanging out today and told her to text her when she got home safely. Tobin made some joke about looking for her if she didn’t show up to camp tomorrow morning. Kelley didn’t find it funny but she gave her a fake laugh before telling her bye again and closing the door.

——

Christen woke up to a game on the TV and Kelley writing in a notebook, sitting next to her on the couch.

“Hey sleepyhead.”

“What time is it?” she asked as she got more comfortable in her spot.

“It’s 10:30.”

“What game are you watching?”

“Watching some film for the game this weekend. Work never stops.”

Of course Kelley was spending her free time working. Soccer was her life as much as it had always been. The two of them used to stay up until nearly dawn in their apartment watching old games of their upcoming opponents.

They had spent weeks on end watching UNC games trying to prepare for even just the thought of facing them in the College Cup, and it certainly paid off. For Kelley nothing had changed, she still watched, studied and took notes. Breaking down every aspect of the opponents play.

“Did Tobin leave?” She said, finally opening her eyes all the way and leaning up in her elbow.

“Yeah about two hours ago, she said thanks for letting her hang out.”

“I mean anytime, she seems really cool.” Christen was walking towards the kitchen now to grab a drink. Kelley caught the way her friend seemed so nonchalant about it all. Maybe Kelley was just overreacting to it all. They really did seem to hit it off and she knew she needed to let her friend branch out more.

——-


Media Day.

She knew her new job was going to be incredibly rewarding. She knew the organization and the team were beyond professional and would help her every step of the way but it didn’t keep her from being nervous.

It was media day for the Women’s National Team before kicking off an invitational tournament. She should take some comfort in that. Thankful she wasn’t hired before a World Cup or during an Olympic year. This was just simple get to know the player interviews and questions about new calls ups and how the team was working on their chemistry.

All she really had to be in charge of was making sure the media didn’t get out of hand and that players were where they needed to be at the right time. That was all she had to handle today. Easy Peasy.

And just her luck, it was easy. After interviews were done she got to head down to the pitch with the team as they started their practice. She luckily wasn’t in charge of any photographers, the only media presence left at the stadium. Tomorrow they would start the tournament with a face off against Costa Rica.

Christen would be lying if she said watching the team practice as she watched from the sidelines didn’t give her a pit in her stomach. She could have been out there. She should be out there, but she was the reason she didn’t get that chance and she knew she had no one else to blame. She tried to find that thing in herself that was genuinely happy to even be working with soccer in some form.

There were a few times she caught herself staring at just how amazing Tobin was. Mesmerizing was probably the most accurate description. The way she just flowed with the ball. Every dribble, every touch, and every shot just so fluid like the ball was just an extension of her.

A few times Tobin looked up and saw her standing there watching. She would smile or wave and then refocus. When practice was all but called, Kelley had found her on the sideline striking up a conversation about how they’re changing some attacks tomorrow. Kelley was rambling on about something typically Christen would be enthralled to hear about but some new visitors on the pitch caught her eye.

“Ah, what are they doing here, isn’t that like spying or something?” Kelley asked, running towards the small group of women now on the side lines.

Christen noticed they were wearing warm up gear with the Costa Rica crest on them. She had hardly noticed since her eyes were glued to the one person Tobin was standing behind, her arms wrapped around her torso, and her chin rested on the woman’s shoulder.

She was sure that an opponent should not be here if another team was practicing, but then again practice was technically over. She didn’t know why she felt so off all of a sudden.

She wouldn’t admit it was the presence of Tobin’s girlfriend. She placed the frustration on the idea of one team being at another practice when they shouldn’t be.

A notification popped up on her watch. She had a post practice meeting she forgot about. She turned and headed back to the tunnel. Leaving her confused feelings back out on the pitch.

Christen wouldn’t realize her frustration was in fact not because of the other team's presence. Or that her new found friendship with Tobin had already meant something to her. She couldn’t wait to watch the team blow Costa Rica out of the water tomorrow.