Chapter 1: Went Home and Tried To Stalk You on the Internet
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“What time is it?” she asked as she got more comfortable in her spot.
“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.
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.
Chapter 2: It’s Nice to Have a Friend
It’s been a whole month since Christen started her job and she didn’t know she could love working in PR this much. She thinks that the way the team works as a family is a huge part of it.
Something she has missed since moving on from the game. It’s not just the players who are tight knit, it’s the coaches, the trainers, the assistants, even the equipment handlers. Everyone is close and they all love and support each other and it has made Christen’s job not just easy but so enjoyable.
After the team had won the tournament everyone went to to celebrate, Christen included. She somehow ended up being the center of attention for most of Kelley and Tobins friends. Every one had noticed how much attention the two were paying their new PR manager and wanted to get to know her better.
It was definitely new for christen but she learned quickly just how kind and funny each and every one of them was.
She developed a handful of friendships with the players. Her and Kelley have been excited to spend this much time with each other and she’s enjoyed getting closer with Tobin. Not to mention the antics she’s gotten into helping pull pranks on her friends.
Even with their back and forth between the teams two camps in July, and back to club team responsibilities she remained in contact with a lot more people than she had been used to. Typically her phone was used for work emails and conference calls. Now she’s got a constant influx of group texts and memes being sent to her. She welcomes it, most of the time.
The do not disturb setting had become all too important after about ten pm lately.
Tobin had a bye week with the Thorns late August when she had called Christen asking her for a huge favor. And by huge, she meant quite literally huge.
“Tobin you spend half of your time in hotel rooms why did you think you needed a new couch” Christen said exasperated staring at the huge sectional couch Tobin had loaded onto a trailer that was now sitting in her driveway.
“I didn’t buy a house in Los Angeles for it to be a storage unit, that’s what my apartment in Portland is for” Tobin smiled at her friend as she dropped the tailgate of the trailer.
Christen couldn’t believe Tobin didn’t just have the couch delivered and let the professionals move it into her house. No instead Tobin being Tobin said she was perfectly capable of doing it herself. But she wasn’t doing it herself. She asked Christen to help, knowing her friend wasn’t going to tell her no.
It actually was going pretty smoothly until they had gotten the largest part of the couch into the house, into the hallway and couldn’t pivot it enough to get it into the living room without scratching up the walls.
At first Christen was trying to be diplomatic about the problem solving process. Tobin however felt like she was more right and was dead set on them trying her way first. So when the leg of the couch created a huge hole in the wall Christen let Tobin know just how wrong she was.
“I told you moving it that was going to hit the wall I don’t understand why you couldn’t just listen to what I had to say!”
“I did listen, Chris, I just thought if we rotated the couch it was going to be easier to move through the archway.” Tobin defended with a much calmer tone than Christen has just given her.
“Tobin you cut me off before I could even finish explaining! You didn’t listen” Christen let out a deep and frustrated sigh before walking into the kitchen.
Tobin felt guilt wash over her. She was right, she cut Christen off and didn’t even let her explain fully before convincing her to just do it her way. Tobin stepped around the stuck couch looking at the giant hole she had created and followed into the kitchen.
“Christen” Tobin pleaded softly.
“What Tobin?” she replied just as quietly.
“I’m sorry I cut you off, and I am sorry I didn’t let you finish. Can you please tell me what you wanted to do. I am pretty positive your idea will be more successful than mine.”
Christen couldn’t help but smile at how Tobin sounded. She knew she was being genuine. Tobin was genuine about everything.
“I was going to say we could unscrew the legs and it would give us like 5 inches to move around the corner”
Tobin realizes she could have avoided an argument and a gaping hole in her hallway wall if she hadn’t been stubborn. She was lucky Christen had agreed to help her to begin with and she felt awful for how it had been going so far.
They unscrewed the legs and sure enough the couch cut the corner with a good inch of slack to spare. Which made Tobin feel like she needed to do some groveling.
After they got the entire couch into place and the cushions on Christen plopped down ready for a nap.
She felt Tobin sit down next to her but didn’t open her eyes.
“I ordered Thai food from that weird little place you love so much down the street, it should be here in like half an hour”
Christen opened her eyes beaming at Tobin.
“You didn’t have to do that Tobs, you’re the best”
“I definitely needed to do something after the way I acted earlier”
Christen looked at her confused before sitting up. “Tobin, it’s fine, I'm not upset at all and it was a frustrating situation it wasn’t personal. Friends argue, we are human, it happens. We talked it out, then we figured it out and now you have a gigantic couch that you’ll rarely ever use because you’re never home”
They both laughed at the last part of Christen’s comment and Tobin let herself finally relax.
“Think of the movie nights we could have on this couch, the whole team would fit on it!”
“Yeah, I would love to see how well that pans out. The movie would never actually get watched. Maybe a few people though. Kelley and Megan, Alyssa maybe Emily.”
“And you too right?” Tobin asked
“Well duh, if you had a movie night without me after I helped move this beast in here I would have to reconsider our friendship” Christen gave her a soft smile and Tobin just leaned her head against the back of the couch closing her eyes and let out a relaxed hum.
She wouldn’t dream of having her friends over without inviting Christen. She realizes she doesn’t do much when she is in LA without Christen. And the two times they’ve been on the road it’s been the same story. Not thinking much more about it she leans over to the coffee table to find the remote. Asking if there was anything specific her friend wanted to watch before she gets a mumbled reply. Something about a nap and being woken up when the food has arrived.
Christen turned over and noticed it was dark out and the couch side lamp was on. The tv was on but the volume was hardly audible and Tobin was sitting with her legs criss crossed on the couch. She looked relaxed but focused. Her hair was in a messy bun, she was wearing sweats and a baggy shirt. And for the first time that she had ever seen, Tobin was wearing glasses.
She just laid there and watched Tobin flip back and forth between pages in a binder, writing notes and then turning to type out something in her laptop. Almost in a routine. It was a few minutes before she caught Tobin’s eyes. She watched brown eyes smile at her and then return to their work.
She realized that it was an Arsenal game that was playing on the TV. She assumed it was a game from earlier that week that might have been missed with Tobin playing two games in five days for the Thorns..in two different cities.
She had considered going home after they ate dinner but fell back asleep before she could actually get up to leave. Now she had no idea what time it was and knows she should be getting home.
Looking over at Tobin again debating on whether she should really interrupt whatever it was Tobin was so focused on.
Tobin pauses looking over her laptop smiling back at her. “Yes, sweetheart”
That was new, and different
It caught her off guard but she recovered quickly.
“I was going to ask what you were doing, and also what time it was because I should get home”
“I am sorting out some financial stuff. I do it every three months so when tax season rolls around I’m not drowning. I am also maybe doing some trades for my EPL fantasy league” Tobin laughed. “Also, it’s about 1am”
This causes a Christen to shoot up in her spot on the couch.
“Why did you let me sleep so late! I should have gone home hours ago. I am so sorry” she started to scramble trying to wake up fully.
“Chris, you can stay the night here it’s not a big deal. You were sleeping pretty hard, seemed like you were pretty exhausted. I didn’t want to disturb that, plus I don’t usually get to bed until well after midnight”
She feels way too tired to drive but she can’t stay the night at Tobins they had gotten close but she certainly didn’t think I they were that close. She also had to consider Tobin has a girlfriend. She knows lots of her teammates had crashed here after games or get togethers but this wasn’t really the same
Snapped out of her thought process she saw Tobin put her stuff aside and move off the couch.
“I have a guest room that’s nicely made up so you don’t have to sleep on my brand new couch if you don’t want to. But I don’t really think you should drive home this late”
Without overthinking it as she always did, Christen nodded in agreement and thanked her friend for her hospitality.
Tobin turned the lamp next to the couch off and they headed up the stairs. She showed her the guest bath, bedroom and slipped into her own room to find something more comfortable for Christen to sleep in.
They had both finished getting ready for bed when Christen made her way down the hall towards Tobin’s room. The door was cracked open enough so she could see inside without having to open it. Her hand was raised to knock when a voice coming from the room stopped her. She looked in and saw Tobin sitting on her bed, a book open in her lap as she read aloud. Immediately she recognized that it was scripture she was reading.
It made something in her soften, almost as if her heart strings were being pulled at. Tobin Heath has proven in every way that she was this genuine, kind, and loving person. The type that would stop to help a stranger in need, or go to the ends of the earth for her friends and family. There wasn’t an ounce of malice in her, she was never cruel, and even when she was upset or frustrated it was immediately followed by the softest and highest apologies.
Christen thinks she knows now how that probably came to be. It’s not necessarily religion or spirituality that makes a person that way. In fact it seems as though more often than not people use their religious beliefs to justify their cruelty and hatred. But Tobin was in fact the type of person who lived what she believed. She learned about love and kindness from her faith, and she carried that with her in her day to day life. It was who she was.
Taking a deep breath she knocked lightly on the door hoping desperately she wouldn’t make Tobin feel like she was interrupting something so intimate.
Pressing lightly on the door she stepped into the door frame more fully. Looking around Tobin’s room it was almost exactly what you would expect. It wasn’t particularly decorated but it was still homey.
There was a four post bed in the middle of the far wall with a dark grey duvet and matching pillows pushed off to one side. Giving the impression she probably didn’t really make her bed. A night stand on each side of the bed. One with a solitary lamp on it and nothing else, then there was the one next to Tobin. A matching lamp to the other side but there was also an alarm clock, and a stack of books, a water bottle, and two framed pictures.
A dresser was situated across from the foot of the bed that also had a few framed pictures on it. She spotted a pair of cleats, a few hats, and a t shirt that looked like it may have been haphazardly thrown there. The TV mounted on the wall was the last thing she noticed before turning back to meet the brown eyes that had never left her.
“I came to ask about borrowing a sweatshirt. I know it’s not particularly cold but I like sleeping in one. It’s kind of a comfort thing”
Tobin climbed off the bed and strode towards her closet waving Christen on to follow her.
She immediately realized why Tobin’s room was nearly spotless looking. She had a massive walk-in closet nearly the size of her room that was less than organized. She was sure there was more carpet than what the small path that had been made showed. It wasn’t that there were piles of clothes it was more like the floor was covered in enough soccer gear for an entire federation.
All of Tobins actual clothes were hung neatly on the rows of clothing wracks in her closet, with an entire wall dedicated to shelves of shoes. Christen doesn’t think she’s literally ever seen anything like it and she honestly a little jealous.
She watches as Tobin pulls a hoodie from one of the clothing racks on the walk and hands it to her. She glances down at it and no it’s the giant NC on the front.
“A Tarheels hoodie. Is this a joke?”
The smile that was playing at Tobins cheeks spreads into a toothy from. Tobin looks at the ground trying not to laugh. She’s never seen those green eyes look at her so seriously. That didn’t stop her from laughing though.
“You asked so I delivered, not sure what you expected Press”
Now she was confused. Tobin never called her Press. Like ever.
“You know I’ve been waiting for you to maybe put two and two together but I’ve decided I don’t think you will”
What the hell was Tobin talking about.
“ Tobin what are you talking about?”
“Christen Press. Number 23. Stanford Forward. Scores last second goal to win the College Cup over The University of North Carolina. You outran your defender on the flank in the last third putting yourself in a position in the box to score. If your defender had kept up with you, you would have never gotten open. But they didn’t, instead of staying in toe, the defender backs off just before the 6. And if you watch the tape there is zero reason why, and to this day I still can’t remember why I backed off of you in that final stretch. I knew that ball was coming and I think it was one of the most uncharacteristic things I have ever done. I was on your tail and then I just took a few steps slower than you.” Tobin shakes her head smiling at the ground. She didn’t seem upset at all more entertained but Christen was standing there. Speechless.
She doesn’t really remember at all. She didn’t really ever recognize Tobin, it never was a thought in her mind when she learned Tobin had played for UNC. Tobin Heath was defending her that entire championship game. She had watched film of her over and over yet all these years later she, like Tobin said, never put two and two together. As her thoughts started to come full circle the woman in front of her spoke again.
“I didn’t know it was you, then Kelley said your last name and it was like this moment of confusion. Why was there this sense of familiarity, then I saw the picture in your office and it hit me. But I thought maybe you’d eventually put it together.”
This time Christen is prepared to respond. Not so dumbfounded by the realization anymore.
“I never realized, like, ever. Jeez Tobin you look like a completely different person than I remember. We stayed on each other the whole 90 minutes but neither of us actually spoke a word to each other and I certainly never saw you again after that game did I?”
“No, I think that may have genuinely been the only other time either of us were in the same place at the same time. Which is funny because Kelley asked me if I knew you somehow, before she introduced us. I told her we had never spoken before the 4th of July. At least I’m not a liar I guess” Tobin laughs again.
This was all just a little too crazy for Christen to really process at two in the morning. Not just the idea that what was probably the best moment in her life involved Tobin, but that she was now in this short period of time, one of her closest friends. And what did Tobin mean by she backed off? She all of a sudden had a lot of questions she wasn’t really prepared to ask in the middle of the night.
“I honestly had no idea Tobs, I’m sorry? I think?”
“You have nothing to be sorry for! I just thought this was an opportune moment to expose what I’ve been sitting on, waiting for you to realize. I honestly may not have either if I hadn’t seen that picture of you and Kelley on your desk. I mean it would have eventually dawned on me. I knew who you were theoretically just didn’t put the pieces together myself. I mean I’ve tried to forget that game a million times.”
For the first time Tobin’s face fell into an expression that wasn’t quite sad but certainly wasn’t the beaming smile she was sporting just moments ago.
“You don’t actually have to wear it I just thought it would be funny”
“I’ll wear it”
Tobin’s head flew up in surprise meeting those eyes once again.
“But only out of pity for you losing all those years ago to this obviously superior football player standing in front of you.”
The mood had softened but something in Tobin’s face looked mischievous. “You know, I keep hearing all about how magnificent you are at soccer but yet aside from that one game, I’ve never seen it. I think it’s time you prove it, Press”
“Alright we will set up a pick up game and I can show you how I plan on kicking your ass instead of just telling you”
The mood of this conversation had taken so many steep turns Christen couldn’t help but yawn after noticing how tired she was again. “However, right now I am going to sleep because I am exhausted” Tobin walked behind her as she made her way back to the hallway pulling on Tobin’s hoodie and turning around shrugging her shoulders to show it off.
“Looks good on you, Chris” Tobin smiled and pulled her into a hug. After a few moments she only slightly pulled back pressing a kiss into the side of Christen’s head, whispering goodnight before pulling away completely not making eye contact and feeling Christen tense up before returning the goodnight and making her way back to the guest bedroom.
She doesn’t know why she did it. And she’s only hoping that Christen isn’t freaking out about it. Instead she stifles the rest of her thoughts and turns on her heels back to her own bed leaving the door slightly open.
Christen down the hall closes the door to the guest room and climbs into bed. Today Tobin called her sweetheart and kissed the side of her head...among other things that happened today…. she can’t process. She knows they have gotten incredibly close, very quickly but she wasn’t sure she was completely comfortable with the line Tobin seemed to be toeing.
She had never really let anyone get that comfortable with her. Even Kelley wouldn’t linger when they hugged or got too touchy like she noticed her other friends would do with each other. She wasn’t against physical touch, she just hasn’t be comfortable with a friend like that. Maybe that’s just how Tobin expressed her love, maybe that was her love language.
Christen felt the bed dip next to her and without even opening her eyes could tell it was still dark out. Which left her half asleep, half consciously confused.
“What are you doing, Tobin” she mumbled into the pillow.
“Wow, I am offended. And also why are you expecting Tobin to be in your bed”
The voice woke her up immediately.
“What are you doing here Kell. It’s still like the middle of the night” she said as she turned over to face her.
“Actually it’s 5 in the morning and I am here because my very good friend Tobin and I have plans to spend the weekend in Baja surfing. I thought she would have told you”
“Well she didn’t and I certainly wasn’t expecting you to be waking me up at ungodly hours”
Kelley laughed and booped Christen’s nose before standing back up off the bed. “Chris, Tobin made breakfast and coffee you should come down and join us before we head out” Kelley left the room. But not a split second later leaned back in looking down at the brunette still unmoved in the bed. “Don’t think I don’t have questions about why you are asleep here and not at your own place literally minutes down the road. And take that sweater off it’s offensive” Before she could answer Kelley was back out of the room again.
She didn’t get up. In fact she didn’t even realize she had actually fallen back asleep. Which in her realization causes her to start to panic. Tobin and Kelley were suppose to leave early for Mexico and she was still asleep in Tobin’s guest bed. She grabbed her phone to check the time and saw that Tobin had texted her.
Tobs: Hey, don’t worry about rushing to leave. Kelley and I hit the road early this morning but there is still coffee down stairs and a plate in the fridge for you. Feel free to stay if you want, or not. We will be back Sunday night. There is a spare key on the kitchen counter for you to lock up with.
She took a deep breath feeling a little relieved but still some sort of urgency to get up and go home. She helped herself to a cup of coffee and warmed up the plate Tobin left her in the fridge. She washed the handful of dishes in the sink, picked up a little so as not to leave any mess behind for Tobin and then locked up and headed home. Slipping the spare key onto her key ring to be sure she doesn’t lose it.
It had started to storm not too long after she managed to get home. She spent her Friday afternoon cleaning her house and packing for her upcoming trip to Chicago.
Although the National Team didn’t have anything going on until late September there was a lot she needed to do as a World Cup year was coming up and she was still getting her footing in her new role. A lot of her responsibilities could luckily be done remotely, which meant she could work from home. However, there were going to be times where she would need to be in Chicago for work.
One thing she didn’t realize when taking this job was the amount of traveling she would be doing. The packing and unpacking would really be the end for her.
It wasn’t until after dinner time when she started packing. Sitting in her closet sorting through things to bring her phone started to ring
Incoming FaceTime Call
Kelley’s face popped up after she slid the bar over answering the call.
“Kelley are you drunk?!”
“Ha, no just excited to see your face.”
“You saw it this morning remember”
“Yeah I remember but it was for like one minute and then you fell back asleep. Anyway, we were supposed to go out tonight to this really cool little surf shop turned bar but we hadn’t been there twenty minutes when Tobin ditched me. I figured I shouldn’t walk back to the hotel alone. So I called you to keep me company”
“Why did she ditch you?” Christen asked in genuine confusion. It wasn’t like she could have met some girl and went off. Tobin has a girlfriend. And Tobin isn’t really the type anyway.
“Her girlfriend called her. Tobin answered it at the bar. I didn’t hear what was said in the other end of the phone but Tobin looked like it wasn’t good and just said she needed to go back to the hotel. I really hope she doesn’t want to leave in the morning. We’ve been planning this for weeks”
“I’m sorry Kell, that kinda sucks. Does this happen a lot with Tobin?” Christen felt almost like she was asking something she shouldn’t be.
“Yes and No. When they’re apart it seems a lot like Tobin is getting in trouble for basically just living her life but when they’re actually together everything just seems fine. Like they have this healthy loving relationship. Tobin is busy though and when she gets some time to enjoy herself it’s like she’s expected to dedicate all of that time to her girlfriend. Tobin isn’t the kind of person to do anything to upset someone so she does exactly as she is asked even if I personally think it’s ridiculous”
“You said she was in a different country right?” She knew she was just prying for more information now.
“Uh yeah, has Tobin not talked to you about her?” It was Kelley’s turn to be confused.
“Nope.” She replied popping her p sound in some kind of disappointment.
“Wow, I am surprised, you guys have gotten so close I thought maybe she would talk to you of all people. But yeah she plays for PSG and lives in France full time. The time difference is one thing but the distance is another. Tobin is the kind of person who needs someone to be THERE ya know. Physically. Don’t tell her I said this,” Kelley said more seriously waiting for acknowledgement that nothing she was about to say would be repeated.
“My lips are sealed”
“They haven’t been together very long but Tobin’s game hasn’t been the same since they started dating.”
Christen is a little shocked at the information. She doesn’t think there is anything more important to Tobin than soccer. She certainly doesn’t seem like the type to let a relationship mess with that either. She kept these thoughts to herself though. She’s eating this information up Kelley is giving to her and she’s not going to let anything she says stop Kelley from continuing on.
“They played together years ago. When Tobs came back stateside they drifted apart. Then earlier this year we were in France for some friendly play and they reconnected, just in a different way. They started dating almost immediately and it felt rushed, and it’s never really seemed like it’s going completely well. She just isn’t herself sometimes”
The last admission hurts Christen a little. Tobin has to be the most happy, and smiley person she’s ever met. She thinks of the night she met Tobin when her face looked defeated and her shoulders slumped down. She didn’t like seeing her like that, or knowing it was caused by someone who didn’t seem to be treating her very well.
“Anyway Chris, sorry I just basically told you Tobin’s secrets. Maybe keep this between us if she hasn’t opened up about it. She really only ever tells me anything when she’s been drinking anyway.” Kelley was walking down a long hallway that Christen assumes is their hotel. “I’m gonna go now I’ll let you know if we are headed back early. Love you, Chris. get some sleep”
“Love you too Kelley, goodnight”
The phone turns back to her lock screen photo and she sits on the floor of her closet mulling over everything that’s happened in the last twenty-four hours. She felt a little more at ease with what had happened between the two of them last night. She thought maybe this was just settling into what would be their new normal.
Tobin had quickly become one of her closest friends. They just clicked and she welcomed that into her life after years of what probably could be written off as social isolation. Kelley’s point about Tobin needing people to actually be around physically made sense.
Her mom was a lot like that. She loved to spend time with people. She loved hugs and cuddling with her kids and husband when they had family movie nights or even just because. Some people feel more through physical affection and sometimes it is what people need.
On the other hand, it hurts her a little to know that there is a good chance Tobins current relationship isn’t going so well. She certainly would hope that with the kind of person Tobin is to everyone else, she would receive that ten fold.
She had opened up to Tobin about some the deepest parts of herself. She’s hoping her friend will feel like she can do the same.
Chicago. Nicknamed the Windy City, not actually for the amount of wind they got but she could have been fooled with the way this weather was acting.
It’s early September and she could have guessed it was late fall with how chilly it was today. She had been in meeting with some executives at USSF headquarters all week. Today she had one early morning meeting and then the whole weekend off. She still had a few days of meetings next week but would be back in LA before the weekend.
Now she was walking down a busy Chicago street holding her phone out following the google maps directions to some bistro that was recommended she try before leaving. Her hands were freezing though and it was impossible to keep her phone out of her pockets and her hands warm. It was the worst.
Making the last turn onto the street of her destination. She shoved her phone into her coat pocket hoping to gain some feeling back in her hands.
Then her phone vibrated. She let out an audible groan of frustration.
Of course. Impeccable timing.
Tobins: Hey are you still in Chicago? We are playing on the road. We’ve got a Sunday afternoon game and I thought maybe you would want to come if you didn’t have plans?
Christen: I only had plans to finally see The Bean on Sunday. But other than that, I am free and would love to come see you play.
Tobs: Cool, I will leave a ticket at will-call for you. Or two if you wanted to bring someone.
Who would she bring?!
Christen: I think one will be enough. See you Sunday Tobs!
She slipped into the restaurant finally finding some warmth and slipped her phone back into her coat pocket. She couldn’t wait until Sunday.
PTFC 4 - CRS 0
That was a hell of a game and Christen thoroughly enjoyed getting to watch from her first row seat, just feet off the pitch. Portland ran the Red Stars all over the field, putting ball after ball in the back of the net.
She cheered every time they scored and yelled every time Tobin was fouled. And maybe every time Tobin fouled someone else. When the last whistle blew she saw Tobin wave at her but head in the opposite direction. She figured she was going to sign some autographs and take pictures with fans.
Emily and Lindsey came over and chatted with her for awhile before Lindsey said her goodbyes and headed to the locker room. Christen looked around again wondering why Tobin hadn’t made her way over yet. She wasn’t anywhere to be spotted.
“I think she mentioned leaving after the game to drop her girlfriend off at the airport” Emily explained looking at Christen scam the pitch. Knowing exactly who she was looking for.
“Oh I had no idea her girlfriend was here, she invited me I just assumed I would actually get to talk to her” Christen’s hurt was obvious. Emily gave her an apologetic look. She said bye to christen and headed back to the locker room herself.
When she pulled her phone out she saw she had a text from Tobin.
Tobs: I am so sorry I had to leave before saying hi, I’m just dropping The Girlfriend at the airport and then you and I are going to see The Bean. I will be at your hotel at 5!
Christen felt the hurt she was feeling dissipate just a little. She still felt like she deserved more of an explanation than what she got but she thought that would be a conversation they would just have to have. This whole Tobin basically keeping her girlfriend a poorly kept secret was starting to get irritating. What was the deal?
She had no idea Tobin’s girlfriend was even in town. Kelley seemed happy that they sorted whatever was wrong out so that their surf trip didn’t end short but Kelley didn’t elaborate and Tobin didn’t mention it in any of their text conversations.
It seemed like a slightly big deal since her girlfriend lived on the other side of the world. I don’t think people just fly to Chicago from France for a game. She attempted to let the anger go. She wanted to enjoy their evening together and she couldn’t do that if she let lingering anger bring her down.
Tobin Heath wasn’t actually known for being punctual but Christen felt like she made it a point to be exactly on time when they made plans. At 4:59 she picked her phone up to send Tobin a text. Before she could even start typing an incoming text from her friend read that she was in the lobby.
They walked the handful of blocks it took to get to Millenium Park. Today had been a little warmer than those first few in the city but as Autumn was approaching the sun was setting earlier which meant the temps were starting to drop.
The walk wasn’t long but they could feel the air starting to get a little crisp and knew their time was going to be short lived if they didn’t hurry.
If you had asked her if she was still upset about this afternoon, Christen might have actually forgotten what you were talking about. Because watching her friend make silly faces and interesting made up dances in her reflection of the giant bean shaped sculpture was bringing her tears of laughter. Tobin Heath was a goofball and she thinks this part of her was reserved just for certain people in Tobin’s life.
“Hey let’s actually get some pictures before it’s completely dark” Tobin stopped her antics to point out they hadn’t taken any pics yet. Well Tobin hasn’t taken any. Christen’s camera roll might be full of candid shots of what she had just witnessed in the last few minutes.
They asked a gentleman nearby to snap a few photos of them. Tobin draped one arm around Christen’s waist and leaned her head towards Christen’s. After a few shots Tobin engulfed Christen into a sudden sideways bear hug and lifted her slightly off the ground.
Causing them both to laugh.
“Tobin! Put me down”
“Okay okay” Tobin was beaming at her.
Tobin grabbed her phone back from the stranger and thanked him. She scanned through the photos, her smile growing ear to ear. She would send them to Christen later.
“Hey Tobs we should head to dinner it’s getting really cold”
“Yeah of course, just one more picture”
Before Christen could ask what picture she wanted Tobin snapped one of Christen standing alone in front of The Bean.
“Tobin I wasn’t prepared!”
“It looks great Chris, plus candids are always the best photos”
She wasn’t wrong either, there was something about the light of dusk that made Christen’s green eyes just pop, and Tobin knew this. The picture was gorgeous.
At least Tobin thought so .
They found a small little hole in the wall pub to have dinner at. It was definitely Tobin’s find since the whole place was decorated with football paraphernalia from pictures, to scarves, to flags. And each TV had a reruns of games on. It was like her dream bar. They had some amazing cheeseburgers as well. So Christen wasn’t complaining.
On the walk back to Christen’s hotel she was trying to find her nerve to bring up her issue with Tobin. She watched as Tobin walked a few steps ahead of her. She had such a relaxed gait, arms swinging off to her sides shoulders dropped as her eyes scanned the bustling city around her. She would glance over her shoulder every so often to shoot a smile back to Christen and then she’d return back to the world in her head.
It wasn’t until they were nearly back that she finally spoke up.
“Hmm” she responded stopping until she met her friends pace.
“I wanted to talk to you about something and I know this is probably not the best moment of the night to start this conversation” Christen hesitated now. Was she really going to bring this up? Was it really her place. They had been friends a little over two months and yeah they were close but maybe Tobin had a good reason to keep that part of her life as private as she had.
“Do you want to come up for a bit?” The words even surprised her as she said them.
Tobin agrees quickly with a “sure” and they both headed up to Christen’s hotel room.
They discarded their coats onto the table near the door and Tobin sits on the couch placing her feet on the coffee table while Christen sits down legs criss crossed at the edge of the bed.
“What’s going on Chris, everything ok?”
Tobin looked at her with such genuine care in her eyes it almost made her feel silly for making this seem like more than it was
“Yeah, everything is okay Tobs. I just wanted to ask you ... to ask why you don’t ever talk about your girlfriend. I mean we are friends, and friends talk about stuff like that. It just seems sometimes like you’re hiding her”
Tobin’s eyes are fixed on a spot on the table under her feet and she’s biting the nail of one of her thumbs. She’s quiet for a moment before eyes flick up to Christen’s.
“I don’t mean to. I don’t really talk too much about her to anyone. Mostly because most of my friends don’t like her but also because…. well she doesn’t really like any of my friends” Tobin just looks at Christen. Her eyes much darker than they were earlier this evening
“But she doesn’t know me?” There’s a slight uptick in her voice almost like she’s giving her a reason why she should talk to her about it.
“Well what Tobin?” Now she’s confused and frustrated again.
“She’s not a big fan of you either” Tobin visibly winces after she says it, almost preparing for some kind of impact
“SHE WHAT?! I DON'T EVEN KNOW HER!” Christen isn’t yelling per se. but she definitely isn’t talking.
“It’s not personal. It’s like anyone I spend an exceptional amount of time with she just gets kind of territorial. And you and I spend a lot of time with each other. Before you go and tell me that’s unhealthy and unfair. She is working on it. We talk about it and she knows you’re an important person in my life. So she is trying to be better about not getting mad when I’m with friends. She honestly wasn’t thrilled I wasn’t headed home tonight but she had to leave and I wasn’t going to go home just because she had to”
“What do you mean? How long was she here? Tobin, I guess I’m not asking to like, spend time with her. I just want you to know that’s a part of your life I want you to share with me. We are friends and I want to be there for you the way you’ve been there for me.”
She acknowledges what Christen is trying to say. She lets her know she had only flown to Chicago Friday after playing a game in Florida. She had to be back in France. So they had only spent the weekend together. Tobin actually lets her walls down a little and admits to Christen is wasn’t the greatest of weekends. They fought more than they enjoyed their time together. There was an award show coming up where Tobin was nominated. She personally didn’t care and hadn’t planned on attending. Her girlfriend however was far more into the spotlight and didn’t understand why she hadn’t told her, or why she didn’t plan on taking her.
So they fought about it on top of their usual arguments about being apart and not spending enough time dedicated to communicating. Tobin made a joke about throwing her phone into Lake Michigan.
They both laughed.
“I hate my phone. I hate that expectation that at any moment in the day anyone could call or text me and there’s this obligation to respond immediately and I hate being available to people like that”
“You always text me back right away”
“Yeah well talking to you doesn’t feel like a chore, Chris” Tobin said almost matter of factly.
Christen was feeling a little bold with their new found honesty.
“Is talking to her a chore?” she regretted it as soon as she said it and the expression she was met with made her stomach sink.
“If I say yes that makes me a bad girlfriend right? Like talking to your significant other shouldn’t feel like that. I care about her Christen I swear I do. I’d do anything for her. But I just feel so exhausted. She asked me the other night if I’d consider going back to PSG. I can’t act like I haven't thought about it. It would make all this easier. But it’s not what I want, it’s what she wants and the only part of me that entertains it, is that part of me that wants to make everyone else happy”
“I think it’s all too important in life Tobin, to do what makes you happy. Not everyone else. I don’t think you’re a bad girlfriend, I think honestly…. you guys are just trying to figure all this out. It’s a little more complicated than the typical relationship so it’s going to take more effort and more trial by error. If you guys really care about each other, you’ll learn to take and give in the right moments”
Holy shit Christen Press was unreal
Tobin thought that was the most level headed thing anyone had ever said about her relationship, even herself. She thanked her and got up to give her a hug. Suddenly feeling a lot better about some of the things that had been bothering as far as her relationship was concerned.
Tobin looked like she was going to head out when Christen asked if she would like to stay and watch a movie.
Tobin just nodded and climbed onto the bed.
Just moments into the film, Christen was asleep on top of the comforter laying next to Tobin who was sitting against the headboard. She watched most of the movie by herself, as the woman next to her slept soundly.
She wondered if Christen slept this much all the time. It Kind of felt like every time they were together, she was falling asleep.
Tobin wrote out a small note on the hotel stationery before tucking Christen in under the blankets and quietly slipping out of her hotel room. She could have stayed and slept on the couch it was long after midnight but tonight it just felt right to head back to her own hotel.
I don’t know how I lucked into a friend like you but I am so thankful to have you. Thank you for coming to my game today and for our evening out. You were right about being more open with each other and I hope you know I would never try to hide anything from you. You’re special and important and I want you to be there for me when I need someone too. Hope your meetings aren’t too painful! Have a safe flight home and I will see you at camp next week.
PS, keep my key…. I am going to need you to water my plants this week while I’m in Portland. Thanks in advance. :)
Christen finished the letter before getting out of bed the next morning, rolling her eyes at the favor she knew she would deliver on. Just a few more meetings and she would be home sweet home.
She felt just as lucky to have Tobin too.
Chapter 3: Autumn Air, Jacket Around My Shoulders Is Yours
Music was blaring through the house while she did some cleaning and redecorating for fall. October had come so quickly and Christen hadn’t had time to get out to find some new decor for the upcoming holidays. While strolling the aisles at Kirkland’s for some cute pumpkins to place around the house, she came across a gorgeous painting. It didn’t have a price on it but she didn’t care.
She has the perfect spot for it.
So she bought it.
Stopping by a hardware store to buy the appropriate brackets for hanging it and headed home she was beyond excited to decorate her house and hang the canvas up.
Pencils, measuring tape, level, wall brackets, ladder, drill, and screwdriver. She was positive that was all she needed to get this painting up on the wall in her dining room.
The table was pushed out of the room so she could stand back and look at her handy work as she hung each bracket carefully. Each measured from every direction so that there wasn’t a chance she was putting holes in her wall she was going to have to patch up because it ended up crooked.
Christen stepped backwards down the ladder after successfully getting her fist bracket in when it all went wrong.
All the tools had been placed on the floor since she moved the table and she guesses the screw driver rolled to the foot of the ladder because now she was laying on the flooring in an immense amount of pain.
When she stepped down she did so directly on the rouge tool and slipped. She felt a pop in her left ankle and the immediate pain start to radiate into her foot and leg.
After a few moments she pulled her phone from her pocket knowing there was no way she was getting to a doctor on her own.
“Hey Chris what’s up?”
Christen tried to take a deep breath to hide the fact that she has been crying.
“Umm are you home?”
Tobin had spent the last few weeks traveling as her NWSL season was coming to an end. But she was positive she remembered her telling her she would be back in LA for a few days. She was really banking on her vague memory.
“I am in fact home why, can’t stand to be away from your bestie this long?”
Christen felt a surge of pain again and let out an audible sob.
“Christen what’s wrong? What’s going on?! Are you okay. I’m coming over”
“Tobin it’s fine I’m okay, I’m okay” she cried into the phone. “I just hurt myself and I need someone to drive”
“I’m already in the car I’ll be there in a few minutes”
Embarrassed is such an understatement Christen wishes she had a better word to describe this entire event. Slips and falls at home on a screw driver, has to call someone to drive her to urgent care, and is crying like a baby who fell on their face.
Luckily it’s not broken, although as much as she’s cried she kind of wishes it was.
“Well, we want to put you in a walking boot just to keep it stabilized and I’d like if you see an orthopedist just to get some better eyes on that but I think 4-6 weeks in the boot will get you back to 100%.”
Great. She gets to travel all over for work lugging around a giant boot.
Before she can ask any questions the doctor has his own.
“Ms. Press I wanted to ask, I saw in your chart you had some blood work done recently?”
She’s confused why that would be relevant to her ankle
“Yeah, at my last appointment—“
She pauses and looks at Tobin sitting in the chair against the wall before she finishes.
“I can step out if you need” Tobin says sensing whatever is about to be said is more private than discussing a sprain.
Christen shakes her head at her before continuing,
“I was seen for a new medication and I guess blood work was just routine before starting it.” She finished her tone obviously confused.
“I’m just asking because you had an elevated white blood cell count, with an injury it’s just something we keep our eyes out for, were you sick recently?”
“No? I haven’t been sick in years” Christen was growing more confused by the second.
“Would you be okay if we did another round of labs just to make sure. Sometimes our bodies fight off infections and we don’t even realize it. Nothing to be worried about, we just want to be proactive”
Christen nods in agreement stealing a glance over at Tobin now. This had gotten far more personal than she expected it to. After the doctor told them a nurse would be in for the blood draw soon, they sat in silence.
Tobin didn’t know if she should ask the questions on her mind or let Christen willingly inform her. Although to be honest she wasn’t even sure what questions she had. She was just confused and needed some clarification.
“I saw my doctor a few weeks ago about maybe getting a sleep aid. I tried some more natural remedies first. Even changed sleep hygiene routine, but it’s been a few months now I haven’t really been sleeping. So that’s the new medication, it’s not anything serious”
She sounded like she was almost trying to convince Tobin of something. Or to placate worries that Tobin hadn’t even expressed yet.
“Sleep? Chris you sleep like all the time”
“Like every time we hang out you fall asleep. I didn’t ever think you had trouble sleeping”
“Oh, yeah I guess I did notice that a few times we had hung out I had fallen asleep without even realizing it. I get so exhausted sometimes my body just gives in? I didn’t think too much about it”
“Maybe it’s just my presence that heals you,” Tobin said with confidence and a smug look on her face.
“You’re the worst” Christen rolls her eyes. But she looks back over and Tobin looks genuinely worried now.
“White blood count can be serious you know”
The mood had shifted and Christen wasn’t a fan of what she was hinting at now. The nurse walked in interrupting the tension.
The nurse said they would get back to her in the next twenty four hours about the results.
On the drive home they didn’t bring it up again. Christen thanked Tobin for being there for her and for not poking fun at her like Kelley absolutely would have.
When Tobin pulled into the driveway Christen insisted she could get out of the car and into the house on her own. At first Tobin allowed it and didn’t push back but helping her out of the car wasn’t what she wanted.
“Yeah?” She responded just before she was going to close the car door.
“I—“ she lets out a staggered breath rubbing the back of her head “Can I stay? Just to help out, before you say you don’t need it just let me be me. You know it’s my nature to want to help anyway I can, and I leave for Portland tomorrow so I won’t be your crutch for long” she finished giving Christen the best smile she could. It works with everyone, no one can say no to that megawatt smile.
“I could use the help tonight, I would really appreciate it actually”
She turned the car off and hopped out rushing to get to the door before Christen so she could open it for her.
Tobin made them both dinner after after helping Christen get all set up on the couch with her boot off and her ankle wrapped, and elevated with ice on it and strict instructions to stay put.
Although the tv was on she scrolled through her phone mindlessly laughing at the occasional profanity coming from the kitchen. Some of them followed by the sound of a dish being dropped or incoherent mumbling. She guesses that Tobin doesn’t actually cook very often.
There is a point where she can hear Tobin talking to someone on the phone. She only catches bits and pieces of this side of the conversation but she can tell it’s Tobin’s girlfriend she’s talking to. She decides to tune the rest of it out.
After awhile she figures she off the phone when there’s another crash followed by more profanity.
She’s looking at an email when she sees the message banner pop up at the top of her screen.
Tobs: stop laughing at me and pick a movie. Dinner is almost done.
A smile spreads across her face and she picks up the remote to find something to watch.
Tobin ultimately decides on a Harry Potter movie because apparently with the plethora of streaming services she has, Christen is still incapable of deciding on a movie.
Halfway through she can tell that Christen’s eyes are getting heavy and she gets up to grab the empty dishes off the table and wash them off. When she’s done cleaning up after the mess she made cooking she comes back to the living room to find a mess of brown hair fanned out over a pillow. Christen’s face was tucked into the back of the couch the blanket pulled up around her shoulders.
Still lost on the idea that her friend has issues sleeping Tobin walks around the couch and takes the ice off her ankle that’s rested on top of a stack of pillows. While dumping the ice in the sink she remembers that this whole ordeal came about because of a painting she guesses still hasn’t been hung.
Quickly getting to work she puts the remaining brackets in the spots that were already meticulously marked and hangs the enormous canvas on the wall in the dining room. She pushed the table back into the finish room from the hall it was moved to and starts cleaning up the mess of tools on the floor.
She had never been in Christen’s garage but the amount of organization doesn’t surprise her.
One wall is lined with shelving units that are filled with bins and containers that are labeled and marked. Classic Christen
Her car is pulled in on one side and there’s a workbench and a fridge in the opposite wall. She can see exactly where each tool goes and the spot for the ladder. She places the ladder next to the fridge and spots a photo that makes her smile. It’s the one from
Chicago. Where Tobin had lifted her up suddenly. They’re both laughing and it makes Tobin smile. It’s sharing a magnet with a picture of Kelley and Christen at their last national team game. She thinks that she must have had these printed recently.
The fridge in her kitchen was free of magnets and pictures but this one was covered in pictures and magnets. Almost as if she was allowing herself to have some form of chaos, but in secret. Tobin looks at the photo of them again and heads back inside.
Christen wakes up and sees the TV is still on and the table side lamp on the other end of the couch. She turns over a little more and sees Tobin is asleep half reclined against the back of the couch her legs stretched out towards her. She must have not found the blankets in the hall closet and grabbed the comforter off Christen’s bed instead since it’s draped over her. She just smiled and settles back into her own spot on the couch trying to not shift her ankle too much.
The smell of coffee and bacon wake her up the next morning. When she looks over Tobin isn’t on her spot on the couch anymore and the comforter is gone. It’s the sound of silverware hitting the kitchen tile and Tobin yelling “shit” that she knows exactly where she is now.
“Tobin!” she yells from the couch.
A head pops into the living room, messy bun and glasses. She thinks Tobin looks the softest this way.
“Uhh can you get me some water so I can take some pain meds and maybe get up to use the bathroom”
Tobin doesn’t say a word just disappears back into the kitchen and returns with water in a cup and ice in a bag.
When they’re done eating breakfast Christen demands that she prove to Tobin she can maneuver the stairs with her walking boot on just fine. She knows Tobin has a flight in a few hours and she doesn’t need any further babysitting.
Before Tobin makes her way home she lets Christen know she’s just a call away if she needs anything.
“Yeah a phone call and 1,000 miles away. I have been on my own for years Tobs a sprained ankle isn’t gonna slow me down”
“Okay but I’m just saying if I can help, I want to”
“My family is also very close by, much closer than Portland. You’re a great friend Tobs and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate everything you’ve done. But I will be fine”
Tobin nods and gives in. She can’t help it. It’s instinctual to help people, especially those she cares about.
“Hey, did you sleep okay last night” she asks this knowing that Christen was out before she took any medications
“Yeah, actually I only woke up once”
“My presence is definitely healing” she says with that same cockiness in her tone
“Or maybe you’re just that exhausting” Christen chirps back laughing at the gawk across her friends face now.
“Christen Press I am offended.” she says as seriously as she can “We both know Kelley is the exhausting friend” they manage to hold straight faces for just a second before busting out into laughter.
“Go Tobin before you miss your flight.”
“Come with me!” Tobin blurts our excitingly like it came out of her mouth as she thought of it.
“Come to Portland. You can watch our semi finals game and then you don’t have to worry about being on your ankle all day!”
“Oh Tobs. I appreciate it but I have to be in Chicago this week. And I will be fine on my own” Christen states it more punctually this time. Really trying to drive that point home.
“Ahh okay, thought I’d give it a shot.”
“Text me when you land.”
“Of course” Tobin smiled at her and climbed into her car.
Christen could tell she was a little disappointed but they’ve both got jobs to do and they both know it won’t be too long before they hang out again. It never really is these days. She already agreed to going to the NWSL finals game if the Thorns made it. Which was silly because they’re leading the league by a landslide.
They also had two National Team friendlies coming up and then there were the World Cup qualifiers.
This made her realize she really missed Kelley.
Her life was about to get very busy, perfect time for an injury.
Incoming Call Chris
“Hey, is everything okay it’s really early”
“Oh sorry I forgot about the time difference, I just wanted to let you know since you were there…. my labs all came back,” Christen goes quiet for a moment.
“Chris” Tobin whispers back waiting for a reply.
“Yeah so apparently I have a UTI and I guess sometimes you can get them with no obvious symptoms so just gotta finish a round of antibiotics and I should be good” Tobin doesn’t know it but Christen is smirking on the other end of the phone.
“You called me at 5am to tell me you have a UTI”
“You were the one that got all worked up about my labs when not a fiber of my being was worried, just thought I’d ease YOUR worried mind.” She emphasizes.
“I hate you right now” Tobin mumbles back sounding as though she’s ready to fall back asleep now.
“Stop being such a worry wart, Tobs. I’ll let you go back to sleep now.”
Even though it’s morning Tobin says goodnight and hangs up the phone.
Christen, however, is sitting alone in a conference room looking out an early and first snow dusts the Chicago streets. It’s her last day of three sitting in meetings organizing the next seven months of media schedules for the qualifiers, friendlies, She Believes Cup, and send off games. The federation brought in a handful of new interns which takes a lot of the dirty work off her plate but she’d be lying if she said just the thought of the next few months didn’t stress her out.
A blonde woman about her age pops her head into the room drawing her away from her train of thought
“Oh hey what’s up?”
“Last night in Chicago for awhile, wanted to ask if you would like to grab dinner?”
The way she says it is what piques Christen’s interest. She sounded nervous almost but she just brushes it off and agrees gladly.
“Kelley sit down before you spill something!” Christen yells at her from where she is sitting with her boot elevated on the table in front of her in their box. Kelley has been dancing around to the music they’ve got blaring at half time and she is on the verge of being drunk.
“Press, Tobin is killing it out there, the Thorns are up by three goals I am just celebrating for my friend.”
Christen rolls her eyes because it’s nonsense. It was only the half and she knows that’s still way too early to celebrate a victory.
She’s suspicious it probably had more to do with the bet they made on the game. Both knew Portland had this in the bag so they had to make it interesting.
Kelley bet Tobin would score. Christen said she wouldn’t get anything more than an assist.
Tobin scores twice in the first ten minutes and Christen knows she will never hear the end of it from either of them about how she could doubt her own friend like that.
Christen now has to wear a Duke jersey at a time and place of Kelley’s choosing. She knows it’s literally just to spite Tobin, and to further the “lack of confidence” as Kelley calls it, in Tobin.
The thing is she didn’t lack confidence in her or doubt her. She knows that Tobin is capable of scoring but she also knows how unselfish she can be on the pitch especially in big moments. She didn’t think it’d be a borderline blowout and a brace for the forward.
“I’ve missed you Pressy” Kelley is sitting on her lap now
She missed Kelley too. Like a lot. Since her career change and sudden new social life she’s realized she doesn’t only enjoy being around her friends on a regular basis, she finds herself missing them when they aren’t around.
“I feel like Tobin is your new BFF and I’m just here for the ride.” She pouts, but green eyes staring at her see right through it.
“Kelley I have known you for ten years no one is replacing you in my life. Stop being so dramatic, I still tell you all the things before I tell Tobin.”
“Good keep it that way. And stop liking her social media posts before mine. I know you do it. Not cool!”
Christen can’t roll her eyes harder. She pulls Kelley in to hug and then pushes her off her lap so she can actually pay attention as the second half starts.
It’s not until the medals have been handed out and all the confetti has fallen that they find their friends down on the pitch. Christen of course hobbling along. They don’t find Tobin right away but Kelley makes a backhanded comment about her girlfriend being there and she gets it.
She wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t see her at all but just as the thought crossed her mind she spots her just inside the tunnel.
They’re kissing and she immediately diverts her eyes not wanting to intrude on such a moment. She knows they’re attempting to hide themselves and she isn’t going to make herself privy to it.
A few moments later though she’s being picked up from behind and she knows it’s Tobin.
“WE’RE CHAMPIONS!” Tobin yells still hoisting her friend off the ground.
“Tobin be careful!” Christen says through her laughing. She’s lower back down slowly and they hug each other properly.
“TOBINHO!” Kelley says as she does her silly little run jumping right into Tobin’s arms
“Next stop World Cup Champs, AGAIN!” Tobin is yelling everything she says now and Christen can’t help but feel joy watching her two best friends hype each other up.
“Where are we going to celebrate? We are going out.” Kelley didn’t ask it she was stating it as if no one had the choice.
It’s nearly two in the morning at this point and half the team, Kelley, Christen, and Tobin’s girlfriend are at some dive bar that packed wall to wall playing music loud enough to rupture an eardrum.
They’re as carefree as any of them have ever been intoxicated and dancing the night away. Kelley and Emily have taken to choreographing new dances on the spot with each new song and Christen is making sure to video them all.
The night had been amazing
But it didn’t end that way.
It’s almost last call when Tobin finds Christen again after being apart most of the night.
When they had first arrived Christen had finally gotten to meet her best friends girlfriend, finally . She had to hold back a laugh when Kelley was standing behind her just rolling her eyes over the moment. She had made it very well known she wasn’t her biggest fan. It was immature but she couldn’t help but find the humor in it.
Once they had gotten inside the group was pulled in different directions. Christen had went off with a group and Tobin was attached to her girlfriends hip.
So when Tobin hugs Christen from behind it startles her a little. She isn’t drunk but she’s got more than a buzz going on. Tobin doesn’t let go immediately and she turns in arms to look at her, now just inches from her face. It’s only for a split second but that’s all it took.
She doesn’t even know how she heard it over the music or a hundred people talking but Tobin looked over the moment she did.
Her girlfriend had come back from grabbing drinks at the bar, Tobin went to find her friends and upon walking up to her snaked her arms around Christen to hug her, the moment she turned around to meet her eyes was the exact moment she heard the words “Wow Tobin, really?” And then like it had never been said, she was gone into the crowd.
Tobin dropped her arms, feeling momentarily as if she had completely sobered up, realizing how this moment looked. It was innocent. But it didn’t look like it and now she was running pushing people aside trying to find the one person she needed to explain to.
Leaving behind a very confused pair of green eyes.
Tobs: Hey Christen, I’m writing you from Tobin’s phone. I feel as though I owe you an apology. Last night I think we were all pretty intoxicated and I thought I saw something that I should have known wasn’t. I know how important you are to Tobin, I get territorial and over react, guess that comes with being away from her all the time. I just want you to hear from me that I am sorry. It was genuinely nice to finally meet you in person and look forward to the next time we hang out.
Well how the hell was Christen supposed to not like her now. She threw her phone onto the bed next to her feeling her hangover settle in, regretting not closing the curtains in her hotel room the night before as the sun is now beaming in…
It wasn’t even that she didn’t like her to begin with. She just didn’t like that someone was causing Tobin any kind of heartache.
It was days before Christen heard from Tobin though. She was starting to think that maybe this whole ordeal had ruined their friendship. She tried not to think about it, sometimes Tobin just dropped off the map. Usually for less than 48 hours but it was four days later when they had a conversation again.
She had text back on two occasions. Both in response to work related questions.
As much as she didn’t want to think about it. It was really starting to piss her off.
October 31st. Halloween. Christen felt like she would live to regret her soft spot for Kelley.
She had convinced Christen to throw a Halloween party at her place. They had a camp the first week of November and with the NWSL season over, most of the national team was excited to fly in a few days early to celebrate the Holiday.
The crowd was a mixture of old coworkers, new coworkers, and lots of footballers. She definitely didn’t invite this many people herself but again, this was Kelley’s idea. So the invite list didn’t stay short.
At this point it was Kelley’s party, hosted at Christen’s condo. And there was only one way she was going to be chill enough to let go of the control she was trying to keep. She needed a drink.
Of course she would end up spilling an unattended drink all over the floor of her kitchen while trying to make her own though. It only drives her need for alcohol. She takes two shots back to back and goes to grab towels from upstairs.
She doesn’t even know Tobin is there, but she spots Christen slipping up stairs. Excusing herself from
Her conversation she follows.
The hallway linen closet is open and although it’s obscuring Christen’s person Tobin knows she’s on the other side.
“Hey” Tobin says just above a whisper.
Christen nearly jumped out of her skin though.
“TOBIN! What the fuck.” She’s clutching her chest
Tobin has been reduced to fits of laughter. “Chris I’m not even wearing a costume how did I scare you?”
“I didn’t even hear you come up the stairs!”
Tobin is still laughing. But Christen can feel the alcohol already and she’s feeling a little bolder than usual.
“Why the hell are you even here Tobin?” She slams the closet door shut with two towels in hand trying to move past her now.
Tobin stops laughing immediately and reaches to grab Christen’s arm turning her around.
“Hey” she says quietly now looking right at Christen. “I was invited you know, by you.” She knows what Christen is talking about, but she knows it’s safer if she lets her lead into that.
“You know what I’m talking about, you can’t ignore people for days and then just pop up at their party” Christen’s words are a little slower than usual and Tobin realizes she might be a little tipsy.
“Tobin, I didn’t even understand what happened and then I get a text from your girlfriend but radio silence from you. That hurt.”
The confession at the end makes her stomach drop. She just wanted some time alone. Away from the craziness of celebrations and the parade and the hours long talk with her girlfriend after they left the bar. No one has ever cared that she drops off the grid. Or at least no one ever mentioned that they cared.
“Chris” she doesn’t know why to say next so instead she communicates the best way she knows how. She pulls her in for a hug. She can feel tears at the edge of her eyes. She won’t let them fall though. “I am so sorry. I should have just said I was taking a break, I didn’t think…. I’ve never had anyone care. It won’t happen again” she pulls back to look at her.
Christen’s expression has softened now, like a wave of relief has come over her. Then she furrows her eyebrows and before Tobin can process it she feels a fist hit her shoulder
“Ow! what the hell!”
“Don’t ever do that again. You made me feel like I did something wrong and I didn’t deserve that. So you’re forgiven, but next time Heath it’ll hurt a lot more than that”
Tobin knows she’s being more playful than serious now. She just nods, a smile returning to her face.
“What are you even suppose to be?? your costume looks stupid.”
Christen is definitely a little drunk.
“It’s not a costume, I just came as myself”
“I was right it’s stupid” Christen says smugly and turns in her heel heading back down to clean the mess up she had forgotten about. Maybe two shots one after the other wasn’t the greatest idea. But as each minute passes the alcohol is helping her accomplish her goal, she’s feeling more carefree.
Tobin follows her most of the night. They’re back to normal. Mostly.
Christen still throws a few verbal jabs at Tobin who brushes them off knowing it’s partly the alcohol talking. She’s sober and she’s okay with that tonight.
Around the time Christen falls asleep mid conversation on the couch Tobin starts cleaning up, prompting people to leave. Kelley is the last one left, waiting for her own Uber back to her hotel.
“You know Tobs, I told you to be gentle with her” it catches Tobin off guard as she clears off the kitchen counters her back to Kelley.
“I didn’t realize—“ she’s cut off though
“No you don’t get to have excuses right now”. Kelley is very calm and it’s off putting “ I know you guys are really close now, but she’s my best friend Tobin, she’s the happiest person, all the time, and I’ve seen that go away. And you haven’t gotten to see it yet but it’s hard. To watch someone like her have to suffer like that.” She pauses and Tobin realizes, Kelley is completely sober.
“You’ve somehow brought something to the table in your friendship that no one else has, not even me. I don’t know what it is but she’s more like herself than shes been in a long while. So be the person I know you are, and be a good friend to her. Just, be there for her. I apparently can’t always be there the way she needs, somehow you can”
It’s a lot to process and she thinks that Kelley almost sounds hurt by her own words but she didn’t intend for this whole thing to blow up like this. It was just a hug.
Tobin walks Kelley out when her Uber arrives, she hugs her and their conversation ends with promises and understanding.
However, it left her feeling something she couldn’t place, and it’s really bothering her. It’s unsettling.
Christen is still asleep on the couch and Tobin looks at her wondering how anyone could fall asleep sitting almost straight up. She scoops her up off the couch, carrying her up the stairs to her room. Gently leaving Christen in her bed trying not to wake her.
Spotting Christen’s boot next to her bed realizing she must have stopped wearing it, she shakes her head. Christen was more like her than she realized. Stubborn.
She thinks she successful as she tiptoes out but a voice stops her.
It’s silent. She thinks maybe she fell back asleep.
“Can you—-“ Christen doesn’t finish her sentence. She wouldn’t normally hesitate, not with Tobin. But after the other night everything suddenly feels like walking on eggshells. What’s okay and what not okay now. She never had to think about this before.
Tobin doesn’t need her to finish though. She knew right away what Christen needed. She doesn’t second guess it the way Christen does though. It doesn’t cross her mind.
She makes her way to the other side of the bed and lays down on top of the covers. She’s laying there on her back, one arm propped behind her head staring at the dark ceiling. It only takes a few minutes but she finally feels Christen’s body relax into the mattress next to her and her breathing starts to slow down.
Tobin’s mind is turned on and between wondering why Christen doesn’t sleep well, stressing about their upcoming qualifiers, and Kelley’s words tonight, she knows she isn’t getting any sleep.
Christen wakes up still in her clothes from the night before with a vague memory of how she ended up in her bed. She turns over to find the other side of her bed almost untouched. Almost. The pillow had obviously been used but the blankets were still neatly in their place. She eventually gets up to shower and change. Grateful she isn’t hungover this time.
There are two voices coming from downstairs and she has no idea who the hell could still be there.
Tobin is sitting on a stool at the kitchen island with her phone in front of her as she eats a bowl of cereal.
“Good morning sleepy head” Tobin beams at her. It’s definitely past noon.
“Hey Christen!!” A voice comes from the phone and she realizes Tobin is FaceTiming her girlfriend.
For a moment Christen freezes. Tobin slept in her bed last night. Before the ordeal at the bar she wouldn’t have second guessed it but now everything that happens between her and Tobin feels like it needs to be examined under a microscope and approved.
She forces out a half decent greeting and sees Tobin make a face at her as she turns to grab herself a bowl and spoon.
“Alright well I’m off to practice, I’ll talk to you later honey, love you” the voice comes from the phone again and Tobin returns the sentiment with a “You too” and it makes Christen cringe a little.
“How’d you sleep”
“Oh, I didn’t”
Christen is confused now. She swore Tobin was in her bed. She spots the book next to Tobin’s phone.
“Hey, is that my book?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t fall asleep last night and it was on the nightstand. It’s really good I’m like halfway done with it already. Don’t worry I left your bookmark in your spot”
“Well you better go buy your own copy because you are right, it is a fantastic book and I am not letting you commandeer it before I get a chance to finish it like the last one!”
They finish their cereal in silence as Tobin keeps reading and Christen is scanning through her upcoming schedule for their media coverage before the next couple of games. Christen gets up to wash their bowls when they’re both finished.
“Hmm” she responds focusing on the task in front of her. When Tobin doesn’t respond she looks up. The book is face down on the counter and she isn’t making eye contact now.
“Tobs what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, nothing is wrong I just had a question. One that I wanted to ask but I don’t want to push you or anything”
Christen just looks at her turning the water off drying her hands, waiting for her to keep going. Tobin takes this as an invitation.
“What—- why—“ she can’t form her question right at first.
“Have you always had a problem with sleeping?” She doesn’t like the way she asks but it was out there now.
Christen lets out a deep breath and walks over to lean on the opposite side of the counter facing Tobin. At first she just looks down at the granite. Then she meets Tobin’s pleading eyes. She knows this is coming from a place of worry. She’s not trying to pry.
“It started a few months ago. I think after my mom passed I was so emotionally exhausted all the time sleep came easy but as my life settled back into its normal routine I started not sleeping. I can always fall asleep easy but once I wake back up it doesn’t come back to me, some nights it’s a few hours, and I can manage that. Some nights it’s a half hour later I’m awake and it turns into a game of deciding when to throw in the towel and just get up. I know you want to know why I sleep easy with you around and I don’t have an answer for it. Kelley has spent countless nights here and I think she may have lost more sleep than me trying to just be there for me.”
Tobin understands their conversation from last night a lot better now.
“I’ve never had any issues with sleep until recently and my doctor is sure it’s stress related. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot I can do to lessen the amount of stress in my life. I meditate, I do yoga, I take things more in stride and allow people to help me more than I ever have. But nothing has changed. I’m hoping as time goes on it goes back to normal. I sure do miss my sleep. And I can’t always have you around so something will have to give” Christen gives Tobin a smile.
Tobin thanks Christen for opening up to her about it, she really wants to be the person Christen needs her to be. That’s kind of her nature. The people she cares about are the most important thing to her and Tobin wants to be able to be everything she can for them. Especially for someone like Christen.
“So she knows you stayed here last night?”
“And does she know you were—-“
“No, but it wasn’t asked and it wasn’t brought up because there is no reason for it to be. Honestly, I didn't think about it. You’re my best friend, Christen. She knows that.”
It still made her uneasy but she was going to try to move past the whole thing. She knows exactly why Tobin’s girlfriend got upset at the bar even if in the moment she had no clue. Their hug was too close, as innocent as it was, it looked bad from the outside. But it’s over and everyone else has moved in. She needs too as well.
“So it’s pouring down rain and I have no plans today, I propose we make ourselves comfortable on the couch and bust out some Mario Kart”
“Is that a challenge Press? Cause I am a Heath family all time Mario Kart champ”
“Oh, it’s definitely a challenge. And If I win you have to publicly announce my superiority on social media and dinner is on you” Christen is confident and Tobin won’t admit she’s a little nervous.
Christen wrecks her.
And she is trying incredibly hard to not actually be upset. She won only one race out of nine.
She only won because she threw a shell at Christen just before she crossed the finish line allowing her a split second to pass her and win. Christen relatiated by using her feet to shove Tobin over on her side every time she passed her. Forcing her to drop the controller or lose sight of the screen altogether.
Now she is grumbling under her breath as she types out an Instagram post about how Christen is “the Mario Kart champion”
Kelley is the first to comment and of course she points out how Christen is both the better video gamer and footballer. Tobin rolls her eyes at the comment and fires back a text instead of a public comment.
“Guess I’ll go find something to cook for dinner”
“Ooh I bought stuff for tacos the other day!” Christen shouts to Tobin who is already in the kitchen. She knows Tobin is pouting.
She gets up and puts music on before heading into the kitchen to help with dinner. Even though it wasn’t apart of the bet she had no problem helping cook. Especially since there was a high chance dishes would be broken if she didn’t.
Tobin was put in charge of cutting and grilling the chicken while Christen agreed to chopping up the rest of the ingredients. This was more to keep from fingers being lost.
“Oh I love this song!” Tobin turns around from her spot in front of the stove. Christen is already bouncing in place singing quietly when Tobin decides to full on break out singing.
“She took my arm I don’t know how it happened, we took the floor and she saaaaid”
Christen joins her singing louder and they’re both dancing around the kitchen barefoot and in pajamas ...the food momentarily abandoned.
They face each other as the chorus came around singing in unison
“SHE SAID SHUT UP AND DANCE WITH ME!” they can’t help but laugh at each other losing their place in the song ... then not missing a beat Tobin yells the chorus again as she goes back to dancing in front of the stove spatula back in hand almost as if she drifted off into her own little world.
Tobin doesn’t stay the night again, but Christen sleeps a little better alone than she had in months.
US 6 - BEL 0
Their second to last friendly of the year was a blow out. Tobin didn’t score but she notched three assists and Kelley managed to get one herself as well.
Christen had asked Tobin ahead of time if she would be willing to do a sideline interview after the game. She knows Tobin isn’t a fan of interviews but it’s apart of her job and she’s relieved when the answer was simply “sure”
They don’t play their last friendly before qualifiers for another five days. And while they are typically responsible about what they eat and drink before games. They’re all too pumped about the win. The drive back to LA from Santa Barbra was short enough they hit the town with plenty of time to enjoy themselves and celebrate.
Christen doesn’t go with them though. Things are getting more hectic as the year comes to a close and she still has work to do at home.
It doesn’t go without lots of attempts at convincing her to go, from multiple people. She stands her ground though
Lucky that she does, because Kelley is calling her at nearly 2am asking if she can pick her, Tobin, and Megan up. If she hadn’t already been awake she would have absolutely said no. They aren’t terribly far from her place but far enough she knows a ride share would have been pricey.
Tobin slides into Christen’s back seat first and closes the door. Before Christen can ask where the other two are at Tobin speaks up.
“You know I think I’m just gonna do. Break up with her. I don’t think I can keep doing this.”
Christen doesn’t meet her eyes through the rear view mirror instead she sees Tobin looking out the car window. She wants to reply but suddenly the two doors on the other side of the car fly open.
Kelley crawls into the front seat leaning over the center console grabbing her head and kissing her cheeks. “Oh Christen Press you are a lifesaver” Kelley was definitely drunk. “An Uber from here back to your place would have been STEEEEP” Kelley says making a face.
She brushes off her antics and turns her eyes back to the rear view mirror, Tobin has her head rested against the window now eyes closed. She figures maybe they can talk about it later, her curiosity was definitely going to get the better of her.
They never talk about it though, and she doesn’t think they ever will because it’s five days later and they’re playing their last friendly before they really buckle down for World Cup qualifiers, and who else is in town for the game other than Tobin’s girlfriend.
She knows Costa Rica has their own games for CONCACAF here in the states so it’s not as though she came all the way from France for the game.
It’s the way she’s smiling as she races Kelley up and down the pitch with her girlfriend riding piggy back she figures whatever happened to cause drunk Tobin to want to break up with her had long passed.
This back and forth was wearing on Christen. She hadn’t probed Tobin any further than the information she gave willingly about the status of their relationship.
Things seemed better. It was frequent now for Tobin to FaceTime even if Christen was around. The pleasantries are always cordial and Christen does her best to be the supportive friend. It’s only been a few times Tobin has left the group, or excused herself while hanging out because she’s getting a call, and it’s not good.
So sometimes things were going really well, and once in awhile they weren’t. She could live with that if it meant Tobin was happy. Maybe this was progress. Maybe they are finally getting to that place where they had it figured out.
Chapter 4: I'm with you even if it makes me blue
Christen was wrong. She was so wrong and she doesn’t even know anything happened until the game starts.
It’s a friendly. Nothing about this game is important except building team chemistry and players trying to prove their worth for that 23 man roster. So no one understands why Tobin has apparently lost her damn mind.
It’s not even a few minutes into the game when she gets a yellow card.
Tobin is pretty fancy with how good her slides are. She’s able to get on the ball and only on the ball. So when she slides into a player and gets a carded it’s obvious she is mad considering her body language toward the ref.
He’s still giving her a talk to when Alex comes and pulls her away.
It gets worse.
She missed multiple shots and her reactions are audible. She’s yelling at teammates now and it’s after a free kick, that shit hits the fan.
A player gets fouled in the box during the service from the kick and the opposing team is awarded the penalty... Tobin is in the ref’s face again. But this time she puts her hands on him. Not just a touch. She shoves him.
It’s the color of the card pulled by the ref on Tobin. It’s the color of Tobin’s face. Everything is red and Christen has no idea what has gotten into her friend. It’s just a friendly. She was fine before the game.
It takes three people to pull her away before she ends up doing something even more idiotic than putting her hands on a referee.
One of the trainers is escorting her into the locker room and Christen is standing next to the tunnel but Tobin doesn’t even look up to see her.
Kelley is running over to grab water before they resume play and she gets a shoulder shrug from her. She has no idea what’s gotten into her either. Christen wants to head into the locker room but she knows she needs to wait a few minutes. She regrets it anyway.
Stepping into the locker room she can see Tobin is changing out of her kit and throwing things into her locker.
“Tobin what the hell happened?”
She is still, not knowing that anyone was there. Her jaw is clenched and she knows she needs to think about what she says before she says it.
“Christen, please go away”
Christen is taken aback.
“What?” She’s pissed
“I said, go away before I say something I don’t mean.”
Her jaw might as well be on the ground because Tobin has never spoken to her like this and she would have never in a million years guessed this was a side of Tobin that followed her off the pitch. But here they were and Christen wasn’t going to comply. She wanted an answer.
“No” the response startles Tobin a little. “What happened out there, it’s a friendly Tobin and no one else was being physical except you. And putting your hands on a ref?! On a ref, Tobin! You know the game better than probably anyone who I think has ever played it. Did you lose your damn mind out there! You never touch a referee! You’re lucky this isn’t a FIFA game or you’d be out for the first qualifier!” Christen was yelling at this point and Tobin wasn’t even looking at her.
“I don’t answer to you, or really anyone else as far as I’m concerned. And right now I want to be alone. Left alone. So I’m just going to say it one more time. Go away” Tobin’s words come out slow, quietly, and intentional. She never looks up from her locker.
She only knows Christen left because she could hear her footsteps fade.
Halfway down the hall she slides down the wall sitting on the ground, finally breaking. They don’t talk to each other like this. They argue but they’re never cruel to each other. There’s never malice in their voices. She didn’t know Tobin was capable of it. There was something wrong and Tobin wouldn’t tell her.
They win and Kelley finds Christen immediately.
“What happened is she okay?” Kelley saw her disappear into the tunnel earlier assuming she had spoken with Tobin.
“She wouldn’t tell me, just kept telling me to leave before she said something she didn’t mean”
Tears are pricking at her eyes again and she just gives Kelley a sad smile and heads off the pitch.
Kelley is going to murder Tobin.
Well she thinks she is. She’s ready to when she gets back to their hotel room. But before she can get a word out Tobin is curled into a ball holding a pillow.
She’s been crying. Kelley takes back every thought of hurting Tobin now. Someone already has.
Kelley sits on the bed next to her not saying anything at first. Running her fingers through Tobin’s hair before she finally speaks.
“Tobin, What happened?”
It’s an all encompassing question. What happened to cause her bad mood, what happened on the pitch, what happened with Christen.
After she gets her breathing under control Tobin finally replies.
“I hurt Christen, Kelley, I didn’t mean to. I was mad at everything. It wasn’t personal. But I messed up”
It wasn’t where she expected Tobin to start but it was something.
“Yeah you did and I want to scold you right now about it. Actually I came here prepared to be hiding your body later. But there is something else going on Tobin and maybe you should say what is it this time instead of pushing someone away.”
She starts explaining the altercation with her Girlfriend right before warm ups started.
“I just told her I was headed back to Portland after the game. She didn’t understand why I wouldn’t go with her back to Costa Rica. I tried explaining there’s a lot I have to do before qualifiers start and that in two weeks we would be together for thanksgiving. I just flew to France a few weeks ago. This isn’t one sided by any means but she makes me feel like I don’t do enough. I sacrifice so much for her. Not because she always asks but because I want to. It’s still never enough. I can’t enjoy myself because I’m constantly worried about how she’s going to feel left out.”
Tobin goes quiet for a minute but her facial expression gives away that she’s got more to say.
“She’s been asking about me going on loan to PSG a lot more recently. I’ve stopped entertaining it completely and that’s what really set her off tonight. That I’m not in this as much as she is because I won’t uproot my life. We haven’t even been together a year. Why is everything so great and then it’s not. I don’t want us to end this, Kelley.”
Tobin cries more and it’s breaks Kelley inside a little. She remembers she has another friend down the hall who is probably also hurting. Once Tobin is asleep she slips out to find Christen.
She doesn’t look like she has cried anymore. In fact she looks like she was never upset to begin with when Kelley finds her opening her hotel room door.
Kelley sits in her bed explains to Christen what Tobin said to her. She has no idea what reaction she expected but she doesn’t think it was the one she gets out of her.
“It breaks me to see Tobin anything but happy, right now though Kelley I’m hurt and this isn’t going to be okay because you came and explained it to me. That’s her job”
Kelley understands and she didn’t expect Christen to be fine, she just wanted Christen to know why tonight happened. She’s a little irritated when Christen’s phone vibrates for the millionth time.
“Who is rapid fire texting you this late at night?”
“Oh, one of my colleagues from the federation. She’s an analyst. We went to dinner the few times that I’ve been out in Chicago for meetings she’s really cool. We’ve just been discussing the upcoming game there. First qualifier game!” Christen ends trying to gage Kelley’s feelings about how close it is.
Kelley lets out a breath and they dive into a long discussion about how the rest of this year will play out. Having Christen so close to the team now has made these talks better for Kelley. They get to break down every aspect of game play together. They both fall asleep early into the morning forgetting how terrible the night had gone.
Tobin wakes up and knows immediately there is a conversation she needs to have. One she wishes she didn’t have to but it’s all too important she does. And she is glad she woke up at an ungodly hour because she had time to make sure she gets it right.
Tobs: I have coffee and a breakfast sandwich on the roof if you want to join me.
She doesn’t even offer the “but you don’t have to if you don’t want to” because she’s hoping that isn’t an option.
She doesn’t get a response and just when she thinks it’s getting too cold to sit outside and wait any longer she seems Christen walk through the roof access doors. She’s bundled up in sweats and a hoodie, hair in a bun. Tobin definitely woke her up.
She sits down grabbing the coffee and bag from Tobin and starts eating without saying a word. Christen is getting ready to take another bite when she catches Tobin staring at her.
“Oh, nothing just you can keep eating”
Christen stretches her legs out in front of her placing her feet in Tobin’s lap. She doesn’t know what to make of it but the tension in her chest has eased up a little.
“So are we gonna sit here in silence or are you going to tell me yourself what I had to hear from Kelley last night?” Tobin knows Christen isn’t mad. Her words come off a little harsh but the look on her face tells her that she wants whatever this was to be over with and it starts with Tobin being honest with her.
Tobin starts with exactly what happened last night. The whole conversation that was had with her girlfriend. How it all led up to this. How she stormed off right before they went out for warm ups and she has no idea where she went, how she never responded to any of Tobin’s texts after the game. After she is done explaining everything and starts in on her apology. The part of this she knew needed to happen, the most important part.
“Chris, there are no words in the English language that can convey thoroughly the amount of guilt I feel and how genuinely sorry I am. I should have never, and I will never again act like that. I can’t even wrap my head around what got into me. You deserve only the best from me because you give me that, and last night I was about as awful as a friend can get. I never want that to happen again. I hate fighting with you and I hate knowing I’m the reason you’re upset. Plus, I would really like if Kelley would let me keep breathing and if this happens again you might end up filing a missing persons report”
Christen leans forward with a smile on her face and Tobin thinks she’s going to hug her when she feels Christen’s fist hit her shoulder. Again.
“I told you not to do it again!”
“This wasn’t even the same thing!”
“You’re right it was worse and I’ve decided I really hate your girlfriend so next time she wants to call or FaceTime when we are hanging out you might wanna take it outside or I’m going to have choice words for her”
Tobin doesn’t even respond. Christen has every right to feel how she feels and that’s probably Tobin’s own fault. Well that’s how she feels anyway. They finish their coffee easing back into normal playful banter and Christen has pulled her feet from Tobin’s lap and replaced their spot with her head instead.
They’re okay. But this has to stop happening. She can’t lose Christen because her relationship is on the rocks. She also doesn’t want her relationship on the rocks anymore. Tobin knows that her girlfriend will call or text today, they’ll meet up and spend hours talking it out. It’s basically become routine for them at this point. She doesn’t seem to worry too much about the radio silence she’s still getting.
Her plane is about to take off when the text comes through. She feels the blood drain from her face. She turns on airplane mode and drops the device into her bag. Closing her eyes and turning up her music. She’s got four hours to pretend she didn’t read that text. She wishes the flight would never end.
“Tobin it’s too early for Christmas decorations”
“Pffft, Chris my dear it is never too early for Christmas decorations” Tobin says placing a wreath and ribbons into the basket already full of lights, ornaments, and some other seasonal home decor.
They went to the store because Christen needed laundry detergent so she could finish her laundry and packing for her weekend in Chicago. She had two meetings before coming back home for the holiday and then right back to Chicago for the team’s game.
“Thanksgiving is a week away and then boom Christmas time!”
Christen rolls her eyes and shakes her head. Sometimes Tobin was this eloquent and mature adult , and other times she was a goofy child. Today she was the child.
“You’re not even going to be home for most of December. Qualifiers remember? Then you’re going to Jersey for Christmas”
“Who knew Christen Press was such a Scrooge!” Tobin says it loud enough for other people in the store to hear and she can feel the heat coming from her face.
Tobin is laughing at her embarrassment. They finish their shopping up and Christen drops Tobin and her fifteen bags of decorations off at her own house before she returns home.
Laundry finished. Bags packed and by the front door. Christen heads upstairs to get ready for bed. Her flight leaves at 5 am which means she will be up at 2. Not exactly her idea of a fun Friday.
Her phone is in her night stand two texts waiting for her when she climbs into bed.
Tobs: Look it’s already a winter wonderland! You know you love it!
Attached is a picture of Tobin’s living room neatly decorated with Christmas decor. But she’s still missing a tree.
Chris: Where is the tree Tobs?
Tobs: Tree? Oh no, it’s too early for a tree it will die. Christmas trees are best bought and decorated a week before Christmas.
Christen rolls her eyes at Tobin’s logic. Sure too early for a tree but everything else is okay.
She didn’t forget about her other text though, she was just trying to push away her nerves.
Nicole: Goodnight Christen, can’t wait to see your beautiful face tomorrow. Text me when you land.
This wasn’t new. It had been weeks that work texts turned to personal banter that slowly turned flirty and now they weren’t even trying to be coy with each other. Christen liked her, and she knew she liked her back. The problem was as much as Christen liked her something kept feeling off. They’d be getting along fine and then she would all of a sudden feel out of place, or they’d be clicking and then not.
Right now though it didn’t matter. She hadn’t been this close to dating in years and she was loving where it was going. Serious or not.
She turned her phone off and laid down hoping she could sleep until the alarm went off. Of course she had no such luck.
It was going to be a long day.
The weekend flew by and she was thankful. Being at home with her family and no work responsibilities was probably what she had been needing for awhile.
Her first holiday season without her mom was going to be difficult and she had been mentally preparing for it but so far things were going okay.
Spending each morning down on the beach doing yoga and then taking a walk down to the pier and back just to clear her head a little more.
Thanksgiving went off without a hitch, for the most part. She got a FaceTime call from Tobin when their teams Friendsgiving dinner in Portland started. She claims they all felt like she needed to be there in spirit but Christen is sure it was Tobin’s idea.
For the first time all week though her emotions hit her when all of the events of the day have wound down, she feels that pang in her chest. She headed home instead of starting another night with her family since she knew she would be up early to get work done.
She sat in the driveway trying to take deep breaths and calm herself. She picks up her phone after it vibrates in the cup holder. Instead of replying she just hits the call button.
“Hey how did dinner go with your family?”
Christen looks at the time on her dash. It’s barely after six pm. She felt a little guilty now leaving early.
“It went great. It was nice spending this week with them, I actually just got home”
“Oh why’d you head home so early?” Tobin knows it’s still early. Most of her friends are still over playing video games and eating dessert.
“I wanted to sleep in my own bed and I have to be up early tomorrow to prepare for Sunday’s game.”
“Christen are you okay?”
She doesn’t saying anything for a moment but at this point she knows Tobin has her number. She can tell when something is wrong and she isn’t going to try to cover it up.
“Not really, I am so stressed about work right now, my last meeting I got reprimanded for something that was out of my control and since then I can’t stop stressing the smallest things. I’ve doubted my ability to do this job. , I haven’t slept in days and doing this all without my mom, it just feels impossible, Tobin.”
She wants to cry but she doesn’t. She feels more frustrated right now than anything.
It’s quiet on the other side for a minute.
“Sorry Chris I had to take care of a thing on my phone. I promise I am listening, I want you to go inside and relax okay? I still have a ton of people over but as soon as they’re gone I will call you again and we can really talk okay?”
She agrees and finally turns her car off pulling herself inside. She changes into pajamas and tries to decompress and little on the couch. About an hour later Tobin calls her back. She had kicked everyone out of her apartment and Christen feels bad. She should have spent the evening enjoying time with her teammates. Their phone call could have waited until later that evening. It’s about thirty minutes into her phone that she feels like she is keeping Tobin from something.
“Tobin what are you doing? You sound busy?”
“No I’m good. I had to finish packing my team bag for my flight tomorrow. What time are you flying in?”
“I won’t get into Chicago until later in the afternoon. You guys are all getting there in the morning right?”
“Yeah coach has us doing a late morning film session. We are all pretty stressed about this game but I think we will be fine”
Christen hears Tobin slam something on the other end and then through a muffled speaker phone she’s talking to someone.
“Tobin what is going on?”
It’s still muffled sounds for a few seconds.
“Sorry, I had to ask someone a quick question.”
“Who? I thought you kicked everyone out”
“Oh yeah. But I left when everyone else did. I had something I needed to do tonight”
Christen is trying to figure out what the hell anyone has to do this late in the evening on thanksgiving. Unless you’re Black Friday shopping.
“Are you going shopping?”
“Ha! No I do not Black Friday shop. I just had a last minute plan change. Can you hold again for a minute?”
She can’t really hear anything going on. It sounds like Tobin dropped her phone and then it’s quiet for about a minute until Tobin is back on the phone again.
Christen is getting tired and it’s almost an hour later Tobin tells her she had to let her go anyway. They didn’t actually talk about the things she was upset about but Christen was grateful for it. Just having a mundane conversation was what she really needed.
It’s nearly midnight when she wakes up on her couch. Positive it was a noise that stirred her awake she waits for it again but after a moment it doesn’t come so she lays back down. She’s midthought talking herself into going upstairs when she heard it again.
Multiple quick thuds. Was someone knocking?
She pulls up the security cameras on her phone and sees there is indeed a person at her front door. But she doesn’t need to look further to know who it is.
She runs to the door swinging it open.
“Tobin?” Maybe she’s dreaming because a few hours ago Tobin was in Portland and she has a flight to Chicago in the morning.
She doesn’t answer Christen though, she just steps inside leaving her luggage on the porch and wraps her arms around her. Christen hugs her back. Flooded with emotions.
“Hey don’t cry” Tobin pulls back looking at her now.
“I’m just tired. What are you doing here?”
“You need to sleep”
“Well yeah but why are you here?” Christen asks again not realizing that’s Tobin’s answer.
“Because you haven’t been sleeping.”
Tobin flew two and a half hours just to stay the night with her. She is definitely dreaming because who does that.
“You just bought a plane ticket and flew here?”
“Yeah while we were still on the phone the first time, I just booked the next flight out of Portland to LA, kicked everyone out and left. Then I changed my flight to Chicago while I was on the plane.”
“Tobs” she whispers it in disbelief they were gonna see each other tomorrow. She probably would have gotten enough sleep tonight to get through the day.
“Let’s go to sleep” Tobin grabs her luggage and just leaves it by the front door as Christen heads up the stairs.
It’s nearly three in the morning now. Tobin hasn’t slept at all but Christen must be sleeping hard because she hasn’t moved an inch since she fell asleep.
It’s the first time she realizes the way this would look to anyone outside of her and Christen. She kicked her friends out and booked a last minute flight just so she could make sure that Christen not only got some sleep tonight but so that she wasn’t alone either. Friend of the year award wasn’t the thought going across anyone’s mind upon finding this out.
The thing is, she didn’t care. This was important, Christen was important. She feels like lately she has lost focus of what she thinks should take precedent in her life. It’s been about what others want from her and she has been so willing to give that she hasn’t stopped to think about what she wants. What makes her happy? Maybe she needed to learn to be more selfish.
The thing about this though was that Christen never asks anything from her. She never expects from Tobin. Tobin thinks this might be why she is so willing to do something like what she did tonight.
Christen doesn’t have to expect from Tobin for this reason though. Because she gives to her without asking. It’s both ways and this is what’s made this friendship so important to the both of them. Having someone you can count on to be there without expecting them to be. Without even having to ask.
It’s just after five when Tobin’s phone notifies her that her Uber driver has arrived. She didn’t sleep at all but watching Christen sleep brought her some kind of peace and rest that made her feel like she didn’t need the sleep.
“Hey Chris, sweetheart.”
“Hmm” she makes a noise into her pillow in disapproval of being woken up.
“I have to go, my flight is soon. I’ll see you tonight”
“Okay, bye Tobs”
Tobin doesn’t think she will remember this brief conversation at all. She leans down and kisses the side of Christen’s head.
Would she get in trouble if she missed a film session?
Her flight to Chicago starts off rough. She’s trying to get into a head space for this game. This one counts, this one is important and she has some redeeming to do after her behavior a few weeks ago.
But she can’t stop thinking about everything except soccer.
She wants to know who at USSF made Christen doubt her ability to do her job.
She wants to understand why her girlfriend had sent her that text and then refused to talk about it.
She wants to know why for weeks now her best friend is the only person on her mind. The only person she wants to be around.
She wants life to be about nothing but soccer again. When did things get so complicated. She wants things to be different. Now isn’t the time to figure any of this out though.
The second leg of her flight she finally falls asleep not waking up until wheels hit the runway.
She’s able to stay awake for their film session and heads back to the hotel to take a nap.
When Christen landed, Nicole was waiting for her in the arrivals bay. They had discussed whatever this was going on last time Christen was in town and agreed neither of them wanted anything serious out of it right now.
That’s how Christen ended up in the shower before the team dinner she was invited to, and Nicole in her bed naked and asleep. It was exactly how the last weekend went.
She didn’t mind a bit. Having harmless fun with a mature and mutually understanding adult was something she didn’t know she needed or that she could have.
She’s just stepped out of the shower when she hears the hotel room door open and close. Which was weird because Nicole was absolutely asleep fifteen minutes ago. When she walks out of the bathroom she is horrified.
“Chris. I- I- I- didn’t know I’m so sorry oh my gosh” Tobin flings the door open and walks out of the room with the coffee she had brought Christen. Christen opens the door after her and sees that Tobin is still standing right outside.
“I’m so sorry Chris I wanted to surprise you, I had no idea” she doesn’t finish but just gestures behind Christen. Her eyes are bugging out of her head.
“I just saw your girlfriend naked and maybe that’s karma for me lying to the concierge about this being my room so I could surprise you but—.”
“Whoa whoa, Tobin that’s not my girlfriend”
She gets a confused look back.
“Well like yeah it is what it looks like but we are just friends. Like with...benefits” Christen can hardly get the last half out because it sounds kind of juvenile.
“Oh.” There’s a pause. “Well I brought you coffee and I am so sorry I just barged into your hotel room”
“You’re bring me coffee at 6:30 in the evening? And what do you mean you lied to the concierge”
Tobin averts her eyes scratching the back of her head. “Well uhh- I might have said something that would make her believe we were sharing a room and that I left my card when I ran out to get coffee”
“Sharing a room? But I have a single bed that would have—— oh” Christen realized the lie that Tobin told to get herself a key to her room.
“I’m sorry I think that was probably crossing a line”
“No, you’re fine Tobin. I probably would have appreciated the sentiment more if you didn’t see the aftermath of my afternoon naked in my bed”
Tobin feels like her throat is swelling up and she’s sweating now. This got weirdly awkward and she wants it to be over now.
“So team dinner. 7:30. Are you still coming?”
“Yeah that’s actually what I was getting ready for.”
“Are you bringing” Tobin gestures again and Christen turns to look as if she was actually going to see what she was gesturing about.
“Ah, no. She just picked me up from the airport and we came back here. We aren’t, it’s not like that.”
Tobin just nods. She doesn’t think she has ever felt this awkward in her whole life and she has definitely run out of words to say.
“I’ll see you at 7:30?” Christen asks before opening the door to her room. Tobin nods and head back to her own room.
What the fuck is happening to me
“Well that’s one way to wake up” Nicole says seeing Christen resurface.
“I am so sorry that happened” Christen is pleading with her.
“No no it’s fine. Is she like… a interest of yours?”
Christen knows what she’s implying
“Oh no, funny she asked the same about you.” Christen is blushing and looking at the floor now.
“Well that is a shame because, damn she is hot”
Tobin. Hot. Yeah she had that thought too the first time she saw Tobin. Standing in her kitchen on the Fourth of July. Ripped jeans and a white t shirt sporting a backwards snapback. Always looking so effortlessly attractive. It wasn’t the only time she thought Tobin looked exceptionally hot. But Tobin was her best friend. Her best friend with a girlfriend so her thoughts stayed as innocent as the ones she had about Kelley sometimes.
She’s snapped out of her train of thought when Nicole scoots off the bed and places a kiss to Christen’s cheek before heading to the bathroom.
US 5 - MEX 1
That game was fun was Tobin’s only thought. Sure it should have been something like if we are one step closer to qualifying for the World Cup. But after her last game, playing this one just felt like fun.
She finds Christen immediately after the game on the sidelines talking to someone she doesn’t recognize. They’ve got a badge though so she assumes it’s media stuff. It doesn’t deter her though and when Christen spots her in her peripheral it’s almost too late.
Tobin picks her up in a hug and it’s kind of become how she celebrates anytime she’s excited.
“Did you see me out there!” She asks excitedly
Of course Christen did. She stands on the sidelines for every game.
“I think that might have been like one of my top five career performances so far!” Tobin might be being a little zealous about that. But she did okay a great game and she wouldn’t think to bring down how high Tobin is right now. There was no reason too. Especially the way the last game ended. This was the best outcome.
She scored once and assisted two goals. Pass percentage was 94%. And she forced turn over after turn over. Tobin was on fire.
They hang around for awhile as players sign autographs and slowly trickled back into the locker room.
“Do you have plans tonight?”
“Not seeing your ...buddy?”
Christen just scowls at Tobin. She’s trying to be funny but she doesn’t find humor in it.
“No Tobin, like I said it’s not like that. My plans were really to go back to the hotel room, order room service and try to get some sleep before we fly to Orlando tomorrow.”
“Let’s grab dinner then?”
“Just the two of us?”
“Yeah, I think most of these guys are going to bed early”
“Ahh what an idea. I’m kidding. Let’s grab something to go and head back to me room” Christen says walking out of the locker room.
“Did you have housekeeping clean your sheets?” Tobin knows how flustered Christen gets. She’s just pushing her buttons right now.
“Yes Tobin, that was two days ago. My sheets should be brand new when we get back” she rolls her eyes hearing Tobin suppress her giggling behind her.
That night Christen sleeps a solid eight hours.
Tobin sleeps about six.
Something about watching Christen sleep is mesmerizing.
In Orlando they beat Panama 3-0
Tobin scores again.
She felt unstoppable.
Christen has been sleeping every night.
It’s at the airport on their way to New York for their Final against Costa Rica that Kelley asks what’s been going on with Tobin.
“I don’t know, she’s just all of a sudden playing crazy well”
“Nothing like happened though?”
“Kelley if I knew of something I would tell you but she snapped out of whatever it was her and her girlfriend were going through I guess”
“Has she talked to you about it? Like what’s happened since then?”
Now that she thought about it Tobin had only brought her up once in nearly three weeks. She thought maybe that was because she made it clear she didn’t want to be around when Tobin talked to her but now the team is about to face off against them. and despite already qualifying for the Cup, they want this win.
They both look over at Tobin who is asleep on the floor with her head laying against her back pack.
“I just hope this game doesn’t go the way the one in November did. “
Kelley O’Hara jinxed it. She’s sure of it.
Tobin has always been diplomatic on the pitch, her girlfriend however isn’t and Christen assumes whatever their issues have been lately aren’t actually resolved because when Tobin goes down hard because of her, she walks away shrugging her shoulders and Kelley is in her face in a flash.
It’s the fourth time in the first half Tobin has been fouled hard and the look on her face isn’t anger but defeat. She looks tired. The trainer is checking her out for far longer than Christen is comfortable with. Meanwhile half the team has pulled Kelley off to the side line, she still gets a yellow for the misconduct.
Tobin is escorted off the pitch straight to the locker room and Christen follows.
Last time she walked into the locker room like this Tobin had hurt her.
This time Tobin is sitting up on a gurney her socks and cleats discarded on the floor. One of the trainers wrapping her ankle.
“Just a sprain” Tobin is so calm.
“Are you okay?” Christen asks, not concerned with the ankle.
“Yeah just a sprain didn’t you hear me?” Tobin is smiling at her.
“Was she checked for a concussion?” Christen asks the trainer seriously.
“She didn’t hit her head at all so no”
“Christen what’s wrong?” Tobin doesn’t understand why she’s concerned about her head. It was her ankle she injured
“Tobin your girlfriend is out there fouling you like it’s a UFC match and you are injured and you’re acting like— like—“ she doesn’t even know how to finish her sentence.
Tobin reaches out for her hand and pulled her closer to the side of the gurney. The trainer was done wrapping her ankle and had placed a bag of ice atop her foot.
They’re eye level with each other and Tobin just closes her eyes and presses her forehead to Christen’s. They stay like that for a moment. Eyes closed. Tobin pulls back away and squeezes Christen’s hand and gives her a toothy grin.
“I’m okay Chris. Physically, a little hurt. But emotionally, I just . I’m okay”
“I don’t know how Tobin that out there didn’t look like you should be okay.”
Tobin’s face falls a little and she looks down at the ice on her ankle.
“The night I flew back to Portland, the day after our big fight and my red card. She texted me. Usually that’s how it goes. We argue and I have to wait until she comes around. We talk it out and then we are okay, until the next time. She texted me, and I was expecting her to want to talk but instead it just said. “I think we need space until you can learn to compromise with me like we are in a real relationship” and I didn’t know what to say back. So I didn’t for a few days. Which probably made her think I agreed with her. Then when I brought it up she said we weren’t gonna talk about it. So I haven’t spoken to her since then. Until right now out there on the pitch. But I wouldn’t call that talking. She was yelling at me a lot.” Tobin almost has a hint of humor in her voice and Christen is just standing there utterly perplexed.
“So you guys broke up?”
Tobin lets out a weird laugh
“No, no we haven’t. That’s the bizarre thing is I have been so worried that one of us is just gonna call it quits I’ve avoided talking to her instead. I care about her so much. We use to be such good friends I thought this whole relationship was going to work seemingly. But this isn’t who I am. I don’t know what I want and I think I have to figure that out ya know?”
“What are you gonna do?”
Tobin shrugs her shoulders and Christen wants to tell her that should be a sign right there. But she won’t. This is a moment of growth for Tobin. One of those things that moves us along in life and she knows her friend has to learn that for herself. She will be here every step of the way though. That’s what Tobin would do for her.
Tobin joins the team when they get their medals for winning the tournament and she is all smiles with her teammates. Her girlfriend nowhere to be spotted. Christen notices that she doesn’t look for her either.
They’ve got three weeks until January camp. They’re slotted for the World Cup. She doesn’t feel like there is any reason to be doing anything than smiling.
The text comes at nearly three in the morning. She was in bed watching an early morning Arsenal game. She didn’t care that she had to stay up to watch it, she hung out with Kelley and Christen until well after midnight so she saw it as perfect timing.
The Girlfriend: Tobin, we can’t keep doing this. This is shitty but I think we knew this was coming. I think it’s best we go back to friends. Good luck in Worlds. I’ll be cheering you on.
She drops her phone next to her on the side of the bed. Ozil scores with a chip right over the keeper and she bounces up yelling in excitement. She takes another glance back at her phone. It’s still lit up on her lock screen. She smiles at the picture.
Her and Christen making silly faces for a photographer after the tournament final last week.
The photo had been shared with her and she managed to get a copy without the giant water mark in the middle to save on her phone. She knows that text would have wrecked her if it wasn’t for the support she had from her best friend through all of this. Everyday she would talk with her girlfriend, and everyday they came closer to knowing it was going to end. So everyday for almost a week she was eating dinner with her best friend trying to work through what was happening.
She had the most level headed best friend, ever.
Christen flew to Portland with Tobin for the weekend to celebrate a mutual friend’s 30th birthday. It was a huge bash. Christen thought there was no way one person could know THIS many people.
But being a professional athlete she guesses you meet more people than you realize.
She actually ends up spending most of the night hanging out with Emily and Lindsey. Tobin ran into an old PSG teammate and they’ve been MIA most of the night.
These two proved to be the life of the party though. Christen didn’t drink much, but enough to enjoy their antics more than she normally does. She’s got a buzz going on and Emily trying to break dance to a country song that’s playing has her in literal tears.
“So Who was the hot blonde leaving your hotel room back in Chicago?” Emily asks her bluntly
Chris chokes on her drink.
“Hmm a friend” she tries to keep it simple
“Yeah her bed head definitely said I’m here for the g rated sleep over, Christen”
She was caught.
“She is a friend, Emily. Just a friend I have adult sleepovers with. Except we don’t sleep and no one stays over”
“HA! You owe me twenty bucks Horan!”
“You guys made a bet? On what?!”
“Lindsey said she was your secret girlfriend and I said No Lindsey, she’s definitely just sleeping with her because no girlfriend would be cool with how close her and Tobin are”
“What do you mean what? To a passerby you two might as well be dating. We just know better.”
“Emily, you couldn’t be further off, we are very platonic best friends”
“Oh okay Pressy, and I’m a bad dancer”
Christen and Lindsey both started laughing.
Later in the evening Christen is sitting alone on the couch when Tobin finds her. She sits next to her putting her arm around her.
Christen has had quite a bit to drink now and is hyper aware of Tobin’s arm. Emily’s words have been swarming her foggy mind all night.
So the alcohol speaks before can grab the reins.
“Do people think we are too close?”
Tobin removes her arm now and turns to look at Christen
“What are you talking about? You’re my best friend and yes we are very close. I don’t know too many best friends that people basically don't automatically assume they’re dating. Look at Emily and Lindsey. The whole world thinks they’re dating.”
“See that’s the thing Emily said people think we are dating”
This is news to Tobin.
“Who says that? I literally have never heard anyone say that”
It’s like Tobin is getting upset and defensive now.
Tobin rolls her eyes. Before she’s something though Christen’s phone is vibrating. It’s an incoming call and she looks over and Tobin before standing up to step out and take the call.
It’s been twenty minutes so Tobin goes looking for her.
She finds her on the roof, leaning over the railing looking out at the Portland skyline.
“It’s much prettier at sunset than it is in the dark” Tobin speaks up loud enough for her to hear from a distance.
She walks up to her hands in her pockets keeping some distance between them because she senses that Christen is upset about something.
It’s quiet for a minute
“I am intoxicated” Christen says like she’s stating a fact
“And I get a call from the same asshole who felt the need to tell me I didn’t handle inappropriate press questions correctly a few months back. He criticizes everything I do now. Like even if I schedule something wrong or I pick one player to do an interview over the other he always has a comment about it”
“Is he your boss?”
Christen scoffs “not technically, he is the head of our team but not the head of the department. He’s only the head because he’s been on the team the longest. He isn’t in charge of anyone really. Just more his job to keep things organized. Anyway, I submitted a schedule for media stuff for January camp and he couldn’t just email me Monday. No he has to call me on a Saturday night to correct me. I am drunk! I don’t want to be having this conversation” Christen looks amused now
“Then let’s not have it because fuck anyone who doubts you” Tobin is far more serious looking now.
There is something in her eyes tonight that Christen hasn’t seen before and she doesn’t know if it’s just the alcohol or not.
Christen hugs her laying her head on her chest for a moment.
“Hey I have an idea” Tobin pulls away from her and she realizes just got cold it is out here when Tobin’s body warmth is gone.
She grabs Christen by the hand and pulls her to the other side of the roof. There’s a pool, a seated area with a fire pit and a few grills. Tobin turns around to look at Christen backing away from her and pulls her shirt off.
What the fuck.
Christen is going to blame this moment in the alcohol. She scans Tobin up and down who is now smirking at her unbuttoning her pants.
“Tobin! What are you doing?”
But her pants are gone and she’s standing outside, Mid December, in Portland, Oregon in nothing but a sports bra and boxer briefs. And damn she is something else.
It’s the alcohol
Tobin runs the last few feet and jumps into the pool.
Christen is standing a few feet from the edge now waiting for Tobin to come back up.
“Hey Chris” Tobin’s voice is low, like saying her name is a secret and she folds her arms along the coping and rested her chin on them. “You should come in, the waters great”
“You’re a damn liar Tobin Heath your lips are already turning purple.”
“Okay fine,” Tobin pushes herself up off the edge and climbs out and Christen can’t process that she gave in that easily because the water heading down Tobin’s toned body was having an effect on her she had never experienced before. The moment is short lived though because arms are wrapped around her and she’s screaming as Tobin runs and jumps back into the pool, taking Christen with her.
Christen unlike Tobin is fully clothed.
She’s freezing and her jaw is quivering but time she makes to the side but Tobin grabs her belt loops keeping her from getting out. And now she’s got Christen pinned to the side of the pool.
“I-I-I’’ g-gonna kill y-y-you T—“. But she’s cut off when Tobin’s lips meet hers mid sentence. The kiss is soft and she stills for a moment waiting for Christen to respond and Christen doesn’t have time to think about what is happening because her body is betraying her. Hands in Tobin’s hair now she’s kissing her back. It’s still slow and intentional. When Tobin pulls away they’re startled by a voice coming from around the corner.
“Hey Tobin are you out here?”
They both duck down lower into the pool so they aren’t seen. They hear the doors close a few seconds later and climb out.
“Thanks now I’m going to get hypothermia”
“Nah you’ll live”
“Says the girl with dry clothes to change into”
“I have no regrets” Tobin says as she grabs her clothes off the ground and heads back to the roof access door. Christen is shivering. She isn’t sure she can make it a whole block back to Tobin’s apartment.
She does though. Tobin was right she lived. They fall asleep under a pile of blankets together. They don’t talk about what happened. Christen partly hopes when they wake up neither of them will remember
Chapter 5: I’ve Been in a Daze Since the Day That We Met.
“Tobin, you’re picking out a tree. This isn’t rocket science”
She got no response as she watched Tobin weave in and out of the rows of trees. They drove almost all the way to Big Bear Mountain just to pick out a Christmas tree. Because the ones in the Lowe’s parking lot weren’t good enough. Something about “tradition” and “cheating Christmas” and “real people cut down their own trees”
She just rolled her eyes.
But here she was standing next to a tree Tobin had marked as the best one she had seen so far but “needed to make sure there wasn’t a better one”. She was told to stand there and not move. Christen felt like a human land marker.
“Alright Chris I think that’s the one, let’s cut it down!”
Tobin popped out of the tree line and before Christen could register what was happening she was pelted with a snowball.
“TOBIN!” She watched her stand there in a fit of giggles. “I am freezing cold, tired, and did not agree to cutting this thing down! You can cut away but I’m out”
“Uhh it takes two people Christen, why do you think I brought you all this way”
Christen gave her a dirty look. This was not what they agreed on.
“Tobin you told me this was a Heath family tradition and that you couldn’t do it alone, that it would make you sad. You never said I would be performing manual labor for a tree you could have bought for way cheaper and way closer to your house. Already unearthed. And ready to decorate.”
Christen shoved her hands back into the pockets of her coat. She was freezing and the sun was starting to set. It was getting cold quickly. She was going to have to help Tobin if she wanted to get back in the car faster. She was gonna wait for her to beg though .
“Okay so maybe… I lied”
Christen’s head shoots up in bewilderment
“It’s not reeeeally a Heath family tradition. I just wanted to cut down a real tree and then go grab some hot cocoa or coffee afterwards. Make my own kind of tradition. I didn’t think you’d go along with it when I mentioned how far the drive was…. and the whole cutting it down thing.” Tobin was looking at the ground tracing lines in the snow with her shoes.
Christen was putty in Tobins hands. The look on her face. Her sad tone. Gah how does she always do this
“Where is the tree saw” Christen said pulling her hands out of her coat. Tobin was going to owe her. And big time. Tobin pulled her beanie off her head and carefully placed it on top of Christen’s. “There, now you won’t be so cold” Tobin smiled and leaned over to pick up the saw.
It was much easier to cut the tree down than Christen had originally thought but she made Tobin drag it to the little shed where it was wrapped for them and then placed on the rack of Tobins SUV.
“There’s a restaurant with a cafe about twenty minutes down the mountain, we can stop there if you want”
Tobin just looked at her smiling. Christen looked back at her furrowing her eyebrows in confusion. “What?”
“Christen Press are you helping me with my plan to start a new tradition”
She rolled her eyes, again.
“I just want something hot to drink since you forced me out here into the freezing mountains for a damn tree. So I am trying to find the closest place I can bring my body temperature back up from borderline hypothermic”
“You are so dramatic”
“I am not!”
“How about this, I have stuff for hot chocolate, and all my tree decorations waiting to be hung, and the number to a great take out place all waiting for us at my place. Besides stopping at some small town coffee shop would probably turn this into some kind of hallmark movie” Tobin had a cocky smile on her face as she pulled back onto the highway.
“In your dreams, Heath”
“Every night, sweetheart”
She didn’t have to look over to know how red Christen’s face was.
Christen just rolled her eyes….again.
The drive back was rather quiet but not awkward. they listened to Christmas music and chatted about holiday plans.
Tobin was rather laid back the whole drive, but as soon as they had pulled into her driveway she was practically bouncing in the driver's seat. It was comical how quickly she managed to get out of the car and get the tree unhooked from the rack on her car.
Things went from chill to not so chill once they had to get the tree into the stand though.
“I was holding it perfectly upright Tobin you aren’t screwing the rods in the right order”
“Christen that’s not even a thing, if the tree is upright then it doesn’t matter how you screw them in”
At the moment the tree was leaning against the wall not very screwed in to the stand…. The two of them were standing next to it arguing.
“If you screw one rod in too much before another it’s gonna sway the tree!”
“Not if you’re holding it upright! Which you weren’t even trying to do, probably because you didn’t even want to help me with the tree in the first place!”
Christen opens her mouth to say something but an exaggerated breath comes out and she turns to walk out of the room.
“Christen-“ Tobin calls after her but she’s already started to make her way up the stairs.
Tobin, left to her own devices, gets the tree up and screwed in ... mostly straight. When she’s done she heads upstairs and knocks on the guest bedroom door but there’s no answer. Out of the corner of her eye she realizes her own bedroom door is cracked open letting just a sliver of light out into the hall.
Tobin pushes the door open slightly to find Christen curled up in a ball asleep in the middle of her bed. Her heart sank. She knows they bicker about things here and there. This wasn’t an argument that either of them would be upset about tomorrow. But she knows she should have just apologized instead of leaving Christen to be by herself.
For a moment she stood in the doorway watching her sleep. She realizes she does this often enough to warrant it as borderline creepy. But she can’t help but watch how peaceful she seems to be when she’s asleep. Sometimes she’s so stressed or running around working nonstop, that watching her in this state is something to behold. After a few moments she finally makes her way to sit at the edge of the bed.
“Hey Chris” she pushes a stray curl out of her face watching as she starts to stir. “Sweetheart, I ordered dinner you should come downstairs” it earned her a hum back but she still hadn’t quite woken up.
“Christen, I will eat all of the pad Thai, to myself”
“No you won’t” Christen said muffled into the pillow. Tobin smiled knowing she was conscious enough now to hear her. But instead of trying to coax her with food Tobin pulled the rest of the comforter off jumping up on all fours hovering over her now. Tobin leaned down over her head to whisper just over her ear. “I will eat the entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s I got you from the store if you don’t get up”
Christen quickly flipped over to her back staring at the honey eyes now hovering just inches above her. “You got me ice cream?”
Tobin’s mouth spread into a knowing smile and just nodded.
“Well why didn’t you lead with that!” Christen pushes Tobin out of her way crawling out of the bed and heading out of the room but she stops short of the door and turns around.”Are you coming?”
She shook her head in disbelief and hopped off the bed to follow her downstairs.
Now they had an agreement. Tobin would sit on the couch with a good vantage point of the tree, and Christen would choose what ornaments would be hung. If something looked out of place or asymmetrical Tobin would direct her. Teamwork. No arguing.
“Look at me tree decorating and eating at the same time” Christen chimed as she hung an ornament with one hand, holding a take out container with the other.
“An Olympic worthy event, really” Tobin said sarcastically.
“Hey I am very talented and very good at multitasking”
Tobin just nodded taking another bite.
“Oh Tobin is this you! You don’t have any teeth!” Christen was laughing now handing her the ornament she had pulled from the box.
It read Christmas 1994 on it with a small cut out picture of Tobin at six years old.
“Did you sing ‘All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth’ that year?”
“I didn’t, in fact I think my mom has it on a home video somewhere. Oh man that was so rough. I lost all four of my front teeth so close together. I couldn’t talk right for months!”
“Well I sure am glad they grew in” Christen jokes grabbing the ornament back making her way to the tree to find a place to hang it.
“Would you not be my friend if they hadn’t” it was an absurd thought to have but Tobin played along
“Oh absolutely not, your smile in like 87% of the reason we are friends”
“My smile accounts for that much of the reason that you befriended me? What’s the other 13%?”
“You always have my favorite ice cream in your freezer” she said matter of factly
“I feel so loved” Tobin clutched her chest playing into the joke more.
Christen hung the last ornament in the box and set it aside stepping back to look at the tree. “I think we did a pretty good job”
All of a sudden Tobin set her food on the coffee table and hopped over the back of the couch mumbling with a mouth full of food.
“I can’t understand you with food in your mouth!” She called after her.
Tobin came back around the corner with her camera in one hand and a tripod in the other. “I said wait I have a great idea. And that idea is, we should take a picture with the tree!” Tobin’s excitement for Christmas was almost always at full capacity as it grew closer to the holiday. Christen felt as though she couldn’t be responsible for diminishing that, no matter how over the top it got sometimes.
She watched as Tobin set her camera up and adjusted the settings. She went from kid on Christmas morning to intent and focused as she tweaked with the settings, making sure it was just right. Since the only light in the room was coming from the lights on the tree and the tv it was a little darker than ideal for a photo.
Before Christen could ask where she should stand Tobin took her by the waist pulling her closer. She wrapped her arm around her back in return. Tobin pushed the button on her remote and they smiled as the watched the red light flash before capturing the picture.
She went to pull away but Tobin stopped her.
“Wait one more!”
She leaned back in expecting they would just take the same picture in case the first didn’t turn out. Someone blinked or stopped smiling too early. Tobin had other plans though.
As the last red light flashed Tobin leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. Instead of catching her off guard though Christen just laughed.
“There, one for my Christmas card, and one for my scrapbook”
Tobin stepped away to review the photos she had just taken. Christen was stuck in the same spot though. Smiling at her as she took down the tripod.
“Christmas Card Tobs?”
“Yup! I’ve got a picture of me and the fam from this summer, one of me at the NWSL championship game, and now this one to complete the little collage you can make for the design”
“So I make the cut for your Christmas card. I didn’t realize people took Christmas card photos with their best friends”
“Sure they do. I mean people take Christmas pictures with their dogs”
She said it so nonchalantly Christen genuinely felt like Tobin didn’t realize how putting that picture on a Christmas card might come off as…. more than just friends.
They never talked about that night in Portland. They didn’t talk about what happened, and once Christen realized that things between them continued on as if it never happened, she just went with it. Because why make things awkward. Chalking it up to Tobin not remembering or it just being a drunken moment between two best friends.
Tobin is her best friend. And the best thing that had happened to her in awhile. She would do anything to preserve that.
Tobin spent time editing the photos and uploading them while Christen changed into pajamas.
They had cleaned up all the boxes from the decorations and ornaments, swept up the needles from the tree and put away their take out.
“Hey Tobs did you put on the hot chocolate?”
“Yup, it's on the stove right now” she replied without looking up from her laptop as Christen entered the living room walking straight to the kitchen.
A few minutes later Tobin looked up as a mug full of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows was placed on the table in front of her. “You’re a saint, Chris”
“You put it on, the least I could do was pour into mugs for us. Besides, I needed to grab that pint of ice cream with my name on it in your freezer!”
“You changed your name to Ben or Jerry?”
“Ha Ha Tobin” Christen said unamused
Christen was sitting on the couch now, turned towards Tobin, wiggling her feet into her lap where her laptop was sitting.
“I’m glad you like using my lap as a foot rest but it is currently hosting my laptop” Tobin moved her laptop a few inches to make room anyway.
“Who is playing?” Christen asked noticing the game that was now on the tv.
“Trail Blazers and the Warriors.”
Christen just hummed in acknowledgement as she took a bite of her ice cream.
Tobin closed her laptop and set in on the coffee table trading it for her mug Christen has just placed in front of her. She took a sip refocusing her attention to the game. They sat quietly watching the game until halftime when Christen got up to put their glasses away.
“Hey do you have New Years plans?”
Christen didn’t answer right away as she grabbed a blanket to use before returning to her spot on the couch. Propping her feet right back into the lap they were in before.
“Uh not anything specific. Figured I’d just be with family. Why?”
“Well one of the players for the Trail Blazers is having this Player's Ball. It’s on New Year’s Eve, it’s essentially a charity event for his foundation. All of the Portland based athletes have been invited. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go but it seems like most of my teammates are going and I get a plus one. If you didn’t have plans I was just going to ask if you would be interested. Free food, free alcohol, a chance to get all dressed up”
“Doesn’t sound like a very Tobin Heath type of event to me”
“Yeah, one of the reasons I wasn’t planning on going. Lots of cameras and media and too much small talk with people I don’t care to have to talk to. But, it is a charity event. His foundation is for youth development in sports and that’s important to me, figured I can endure some media for a good cause.”
“Black tie I’m assuming?” Christen asked with genuine curiosity.
“Are you going to wear a black tie?” Tobin chipped back at her
“Who even said I was going? And maybe I will wear a black tie”
Tobin chuckled but didn’t respond.
“I don’t have any real plans and would love to go. Any reason to buy a new dress. Plus I should probably be donating to charity more anyway. And it sounds like a ball”
They both laughed now at Christen’s poorly placed pun.
“I will go ahead and RSVP”
It was well past midnight when they made it upstairs. Christen heading straight to Tobin’s bed like it was routine. She laid down immediately plugging her phone in and turning over.
After a few minutes she felt the bed dip behind her but Tobin’s bedside light never went off. She turned to see what Tobin was doing.
Sitting up against the headboard, scriptures in her lap reading silently, she didn’t even notice Christen turn over. Christen remembered the first night she stayed here, feeling again like she was intruding on an important moment she turned back over.
Not more than a minute later she heard the light go off and Tobin shift down the bed to lay down. She was still for a moment before Christen felt an arm wrap around her pulling her back. She stiffened at first. They had spent a lot of time sleeping in the same bed but they always kept to themselves. Before she could think too much about it though her body relaxed on its own.
“Goodnight, Chris” Tobin whispered, it was the last thing she heard before sleep finally over came her.
Kelley and Tobin were in the parking lot of the pier before the sun came up. Stopping on their way to the beach for breakfast they sat in Tobin’s SUV finishing up the last bites of their breakfast sandwiches and sipping coffee before catching the early morning swells.
Kelley came back into town to spend a few days with Christen and her family before heading back east for the holiday. She wanted to take this opportunity to get some surfing in as well. Luckily Tobin also happen to still be in town. They both had flights out of LA later that day, waking up with the sun to catch a few waves was completely worth it to the both of them.
Tobin yawned getting out of the car as the first light of day began to give life to the beach. She climbed up and unhooked both boards as Kelley dragged herself out of the car.
“Come in Kell we don’t have a lot time this morning and I have a feeling it’s gonna be a good tide”
Kelley rubbed her eyes and tried to find the excitement to surf. She wanted this, she was just exhausted.
Tobin was the first to manage a few good runs before the tide settled a little. Kelley hasn’t caught anything but she was finally waking up enough to converse.
“I think I can feel the coffee taking over now” Kelley croaked out, obviously still tired. She was sitting on her board a few feet from Tobin as small waves passed under them.
“Ahh you just need one good run Kell, let the water wake you up”
Kelley learned forward folding her arms and resting her head down on the board.
“How’s the girlfriend?” She asked mumbled into her arm.
“She broke up with me”
Kelley shot up to look at Tobin now wide awake.
“When dude? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tobin hesitated a moment before the next words just fell out of her mouth.
“I kissed Christen”
If there wasn’t water between them to slow her down Tobin thinks by the look on Kelley’s face, she would be dead. “Uhh Kell can you like say something and stop staring at me like that”
“You. Did. What?”
Tobin doesn’t answer.
“Tobin I have the highest opinion of you and we will get to the part about how you kissed my best friend after I told you to BE GENTLE WITH HER BUT GOD TOBIN I NEVER THOUGHT YOU WOULD DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT”
Kelley was yelling but her volume wasn’t what threw her. It was the underlying accusation..
“Whoa Kell, I kissed Christen AFTER the break up! And Christen didn’t tell you? I thought she would have told you!”
Kelley raises her arms up and gave her a look of confusion.
“I thought Christen would have told you that she broke up with me! Weeks ago. I didn’t say anything I mean I haven’t told anyone but Chris but you two tell each other everything I just assumed she would have said something”
Kelley’s entire demeanor had changed at the information. “I’m sorry Tobin, she didn’t say anything I didn’t know”
“Dude, it’s okay just I should have told you myself I just... I haven’t told anyone except her. I’m not sure why, I’m trying to figure that out I guess” Tobin was fidgeting with cord attached to her ankle. “It’s been weird, I cared —- care, so much about her and I do love her but maybe I was never in love. That has to be it because why would I otherwise feel so much relief when she broke up with me? It daunted me for months I feared it would break me. I couldn’t think about us not being together but then it happened and I was fine”
Kelley takes a moment to process everything that Tobin has just told her.
“And you kissed Chris after all of this?”
She nods in confirmation.
“How long after? Has it happened again?”
“It wasn’t that long after and no it hasn’t happened again we never even talked about it just kept on like it never happened.”
“Tobin, I was serious when I said to be gentle with her. I know she can hold her own and I’m way too protective but she’s not someone you can use as a rebound or lead on—“
“Kelley! Christen is not a rebound it was just a kiss I don’t know, it was just this moment where it happened and I didn’t think about it happening, it happened and then she was kissing me back and I didn’t think” Tobin almost sounds frustrated.
“Yeah that seems to be the problem Tobs, you didn’t think. Do you understand the gravity of that? What if Christen thinks you have feelings for her? Do you have feelings for her?”
“What? I—-no? I mean I care for her, I love her but as my best friend. I don’t want to screw that up.”
Kelley takes a deep breath because her mind is going a million miles a minute. She is really confused why Christen hasn’t mentioned any of this to her. They’ve told each other all of the important things in their lives for nearly ten years.
“Tobs, I think you guys need to talk about it. Clear the air and make sure there isn’t some confusion on her part because I sure as hell would be confused if my best friend who just broke up with her girlfriend, kissed me. I mean you see how that looks right?”
Tobin nods and starts to paddle back out slowly away from Kelley. She wasn’t trying to get away from her. She needs to clear her head and the waves were a perfect way to do that. She never meant for any of this to happen, it just did. She would never admit how she felt about the kiss, or that she didn’t regret it. But this can’t change things, her friendship with Christen was something incredible and special and the idea of losing that made her stomach hurt. This was a conversation she didn’t want to have.
Kelley follows Tobin out as the swells start back up and she looks at her friend paddling ahead of her, hoping and praying that things work out. She wanted to be mad at Tobin but right now she just feels like she needs to be her friend. Support her. How did things get so messed up?
“Thank you for driving me to the airport, Chris”
Tobin had planned on taking an Uber but with the holiday traffic Christen insisted she just drop her off. She wasn’t going to argue it, she was more than happy to have Christen drop her off”
“Anytime Tobs. I would have dropped Kelley off too but her flight is far later than I plan on being awake”
Tobin wraps her up into a hug. The conversation with Kelley had been on her mind all morning and she knows they need to talk but it’ll have to wait until after Christmas. Right now she wants to enjoy the few moments they have with each other before New Years.
“You okay Tobs?” Christen leans back to look at her but doesn’t detach herself completely. Tobin just needs and gives her tight lipped smile before leaning back on breathing into her hair. “I just wanna go back home and sit on the couch with you and watch a movie”
Christen couldn’t for the life of her understand where this was coming from. Giddy, child like Christmas loving Tobin had disappeared. “Tobin, you love your family and you hardly see them and it’s Christmas, what’s gotten into you? Are you okay?”
She finally removes herself from the embrace.
“Yeah everything is fine. It just feels like everything is moving so quickly lately. Sometimes I want to stop time and pretend the outside world doesn’t need me so much .”
This didn’t clear anything up for Christen though. Tobin wasn’t making complete sense.
“I’ll see you in a week and we can crash on the couch and marathon Harry Potter. Go have fun with your family. Enjoy your favorite holiday and text me when you land”
Tobin pulled her back in for one last hug, placed a kiss into her hair and then picked her duffel bag up off the ground as Christen waved to her and got back in her car. This was going to be a long week.
Christen: Hey Tobs when did you put up a gallery wall?
She sends the text after using her copy of the key to Tobin’s house to sneak in and place the Christmas gift she got for Tobin under the tree while she’s out on the east coast. What she wasn’t expecting was to see a gallery wall of photos newly hung on the wall where there use to be a huge hole.
The hole had only recently been painted over after a quick patch job was done months ago and never completed. She figured if she annoyed Tobin enough about it she would finally paint over it. She didn’t figure she would take it one step further and decorate the whole wall.
There were lots of photos of Tobin and her family. Pictures of her and her sisters, some of her brother and her, lots of her nephews and of course her parents. Then she had an array of old and new pictures with teammates. Each of them made Christen smile. Three of the framed photos however stood apart from the rest. Three of them featured her. The first was from their evening out in Chicago. She had that picture on her own fridge. The second was from the first night they met, she had never actually seen this one. It was the moment Megan walked by and snapped a quick photo of Tobin’s arm around her, both of them smiling. They didn’t look like two complete strangers taking a photo together. The third, this one made her stomach feel like it was floating, her heart beating against her chest.
It was from the other night. When they took a picture in front of the tree. Tobin has her arm around her back and Christen has both her arms wrapped around Tobin’s torso, she's got her face scrunched up in a huge smile and Tobin is kissing her cheek.
She realizes I’m this moment, looking at this photo that is way past that line of things friends do, there was something right in front of her that she hadn’t seen.
Her phone buzzes in her back pocket drawing her out of her moment.
Tobs: Christen it is nearly 3am here, so the real question is why am I waking up to a text in the middle of the night telling me you are in my house? Also, Merry Christmas.
She sees the time at the top of her phone screen it is in fact, almost midnight, meaning it was almost Christmas Day.
Christen: I wanted to surprise you with your Christmas present so I let myself in to leave it here. I love the wall. I love that I am apart of it.
Tobs: When I started scrapbooking I realized I didn’t want to hide all my favorite moments in a book, I wanted to share them with others. You are important to me, and I want to share that with others too.
Christen: I’m just glad you painted over that hole finally.
Tobs: way to ruin a moment Chris
Christen: I’ll let you get back to sleep. Merry Christmas, Tobin, call me later?
Tobs: I’ll call you after dinner. Your present is under your bed by the way, looks like I got around to being sneaky first! Merry Christmas, Christen.
Christen places Tobin’s present under her tree. She snaps a picture and sends it to Tobin. Before she leaves though she heads upstairs. Making her way down the dark hallway to Tobin’s room she switches the light on.
In her attempt to bee line for the closet, the impeccable cleanliness of Tobin’s room stops her. The best side table that is usually full of books, pictures, and miscellaneous items is now almost completely cleaned off. Just the lamp and two framed pictures remain.
The first is Tobin and her nephews, the second is the same photo Tobin has downstairs the one that seems to do things to Christen’s central nervous system. Her head is swarming and she just sits down for a minute. She remembers what she came up stairs here for.
Quickly finding the hoodie hanging in its place in Tobin’s closet, Christen pulls it off the hanger, slips it on and heads back downstairs.
Considering it’s going on two in the morning she figures everyone in her house would be asleep but luck was not on her side. When Christen walks through the front door of her family’s home her dad and two sisters and standing in the kitchen talking and goofing off with each other.
She tries to hurry up the stairs but her older sister is around the corner before she can be out of the line of sight.
“Whoa, walking in at 2am on Christmas morning wearing a UNC sweater? Who have you been with?”
“No one, I had to run an errand the sweater is Tobin’s I borrowed it.” She almost wants to lie and say she’s had it for awhile or make up some scenario where she got it because she was cold and there was no other option.
“Riiiight, well we are hanging out if you want to join us?”
“I’m pretty beat so I’m gonna head to bed but see you first thing in the morning!”
Most nights she spends some time tossing and turning. Thinking of her laundry list of work and personal tasks she needs to check off. Tonight though she falls asleep with ease, almost carefree.
Christmas flies by in a whirlwind of present giving, cooking, and enjoying family. Tobin calls Christen before bed that night and they end up FaceTiming until Tobin looks over in the middle of a story to find Christen passed out. She takes a quick screenshot and ends the call. She keeps finding herself stealing small moments like this while Christen is asleep.
She only stays an extra day on the east coast before flying to Portland. She lands pretty late and is heading down the concourse when she’s getting an incoming FaceTime call.
“Tobin! You will not believe this awful thing I just found out”
Tobin is glad she still has her ear phones in because despite the late hour, the airport is bustling with people. She can just make out what Christen is saying as she weaves through the crowds.
“Give me just a sec Chris I am almost out of the airport”
“Okay but hurry this is next level gross”
She furrowed her eyebrows holding the phone up to make sure Christen sees her face of both disgust and confusion before even hearing what she has to say.
“Okay I am getting into my Uber now, shoot”
“Did you know that some species of spiders have teeth. TEETH TOBIN!”
Tobin is laughing so hard the driver looks in the rear view mirror trying to not laugh himself.
“Christen where did you hear that?”
“It was in this kids' book about teeth that I was reading to one of my little cousins.”
“Did you fact check this because honestly, Chris, I think what you’re referring to are called fangs”
“No, Tobin is said TEETH. Why on earth would I put that into google. I don’t sleep as it is so you want me to have nightmares!”
Tobin has literal tears coming down her cheeks with how hard she has been laughing
“Did you really call me about an urgent matter to tell me this false fact”
Christen just groans.
“Whatever Tobin, Don’t believe me, but when you come across a spider with teeth—“
“Fangs” Tobin interrupts her
“TEETH. Don’t come crying to my to kill it” Christen says smugly.
“I already come crying to you to kill spiders so let’s not pretend that’s going to be any different” Tobin admits this easily. She isn’t ashamed that she won’t kill spiders. She lost all sense of dignity over it when Christen came by and found her standing on her kitchen table after losing sight of one in her kitchen.
“I’m gonna head to bed but I’ll see you tomorrow?” Christen says mid yawn.
“Yeah I will pick you up just send me your itinerary again”
“It’s already on your calendar, I added it this morning. Goodnight Tobs.”
“Night Chris—- wait! Did you get my present?”
“Oh shit! No, today is the first day I’ve been home all week!” Christen is sliding off her bed to look underneath it. “Do you want me to open it over FaceTime” she said setting the box on the bed.
“Uh, this is probably weird, but no, you should open it alone and then you can tell me what you think”
Christen finds this odd but doesn’t think twice about it.
Christen drops the phone next to her on the bed sitting cross legged in front of the small box. It’s wrapped in blue wrapping almost perfectly. She doesn’t think she herself could have done a better job.
She peels back the tape carefully unwrapping it as if she needed to preserve the paper. Underneath is the infamous orange of a Nike shoe box.
Upon actually opening the box it’s immediately obvious that the contents of the box do not include a new pair of shoes.
She pulls each item out one at a time. The first is a box of sparklers that she examines and then places on the bed. She pulls out a seashell next. Then a sticker that says Pivot in the friends logo font. She laughs remembering the day they moved that giant couch. The next item is a keychain with the infamous Bean sculpture on it that read Chicago, IL on the bottom of the picture. If she was being honest it’s the ugliest keychain she has ever seen but the sentiment warms her heart.
She’s starting to get it now.
Lining the bottom of the box is a folded up black and red piece of cloth. She pulls it out and realizes it’s a Thorns Jersey. It’s Tobin’s jersey, and by the look… and smell of it. It hasn’t been washed. Under the jersey though were three more items. A book, a folded up piece of paper, and a piece of dark card stock. She removes the book first. It’s her book. One of the ones Tobin stole while she was still in the middle of reading it. Then she pulls out the card stock. It’s a Christmas card.
On the front there are three pictures. Tobin with her family, Tobin after the NWSL championship game, and Tobin and Christen smiling next to each other in front of Tobin’s Christmas tree.
One for my Christmas Card
The words run through her head.
On the back there is a paragraph.
This year has brought me blessings I could only imagine asking for. Each day I am thankful for these people, and for this game I have been blessed to play. The people I have met, the places I have been, and all the victories and losses alike have brought me to where I am. This year was exceptional.
-The Happiest Holidays, Tobin.
It was such a simple message. Most people divulge about all the wonderful things that happened to them that year, bragging about their kids or their vacations. Tobin’s was humble, and grateful.
The last item was the letter. Christen all of a sudden became anxious. All of these items were so sentimental. And with everything that’s happened between them lately she would be a fool to think this letter could contain things she isn’t really ready to handle. She picks it up and unfolds it.
Merry Christmas! I couldn’t think of what to get you for Christmas if I am being honest. Just because I didn’t want to be materialistic. I wanted it to mean something and while most of these things will probably be tossed eventually, I wanted to show you how important our friendship is to me and how great you have made this year for me. Each item represents a moment this year that I found memorable.
The Fourth of July, and when you got so angry that Kelley and I dragged you to the beach in the rain, our time in Chicago, helping me move my couch (you can’t deny how much you love it now), the championship game, all the books I keep stealing from you, and of course, decorating for Christmas. It’s always the small things that mean the most. Thank you for these memories. Hope you had a good Christmas.
Tobin Heath, the sentimental. She didn’t see that one coming. She sent Tobin a long text expressing how much she loved the gift, although yes most of the items would probably not be kept. She promised not to throw away the jersey. Despite it’s smell.
Her concern about what that letter could have potentially said was mostly washed away. Replaced with a feeling of gratitude to have a friend like Tobin. Someone who put genuine time and thought into the meaning of her gift. It wasn’t a gift card, or an item of clothing. They were small and seemingly insignificant items, but to her they meant the world. No one did things like that for her.
New Year’s Eve
The previous couple of days were spent bouncing around all over Portland. They explored the city some, Tobin got fitted for her suit, and Christen finally found the dress she wanted to wear for the Player’s Ball.
Tobin had taken a max of 25 minutes to get ready. And in an attempt to not mess up her hair or suit she had been standing in the kitchen instead of sitting….. waiting.
“Chris, come on we are already late!” She yelled up the stairs.
“Tobin, just five more minutes okay!”
Tobin rolled her eyes as the smell of perfume and hairspray filled the hallway now. She walked back to the kitchen and picked up the almost empty tumbler of whiskey, finishing off the last bit before rinsing the dish and putting it in the sink.
“Okay I’m ready to go” Christen said entering the kitchen.
Tobin was glued to the floor, speechless.
“Hmm where have I seen that look before” Christen said in a low but amused voice walking more into the room. Tobin had a similar expression the night they met.
Tobin still hasn’t said anything.
Christen was wearing a strapless floor length gown. Her hair fell around and down her shoulders. She was wearing a light but noticeable amount of makeup. The faint amount of eyeliner made her eyes almost glow.
“You look, so beautiful” Tobin could barely get her voice above a whisper.
“Thank you, you don’t look half bad yourself”
Tobin had a tailored suit on. Dark gray high water dress pants with black oxfords, a white button up tucked in but the top two buttons left undone and a very fitted blazer. She left her hair down tonight and decided to forego makeup. She knew she looked good, but next to Christen, she didn’t even compare.
“I thought you said this was a black tie event?” Christen points out Tobin’s lack of tie. She earns a smile back but no verbal response.
Tobin is still having a hard time forming coherent thoughts. While she hopes the effects she is currently experiencing aren’t obvious, she knows it’s obvious.
“We should get going” Christen reminds her.
“Uhh yeah the Uber is here” Tobin slips her phone into her pocket and follows Christen out the door.
Maybe it’s the low buzz of the whiskey she drank, but Tobin knows one thing about tonight.
Immediately after they arrive they are escorted to a small red carpet area surrounded by media. It’s not Tobin’s scene at all, and honesty it’s not Christen’s either but to her surprise Tobin takes her hand leading her to the start of the velvet rope with a smile on her face. For just a minute or two they pose together for a few pictures. They’re joined by a few other Thorns players, and two guys she recognizes from the Timbers. For Their last photo they all pose together for a final shot before they make their way into the venue.
Each table is decorated as elegantly as you would imagine for a multi-millionaires charity ball. This included assigned tables with name cards placed atop each plate. Tobin finds theirs quickly and pulls Christen’s chair out for her before asking what she wants from the bar. She declines the offer for a drink as a server pours water for the table.
Their table is primarily Thorns players, one guy who plays for the Timbers and his wife, and another couple who she yet to find out their affiliation. Everyone is in great spirits over dinner as they get to know each other better.
Christen is somewhat star struck as a few of the NBA players get up to make speeches after dinner is over. She leans over asking Tobin questions here and there about some of the speakers. When speeches are done there is a period of time for people to make pledges. They have a financial goal for donations to reach before midnight and after plates are cleared by servers the evening is open for dancing and socializing.
Christen excused herself from the table to make her donation. The table where people are filling out forms of surrounded and she doesn’t know most of them but a voice calling her name pulls her attention. It was one of the guys they posed with on the red carpet. She can’t remember his name but she knows he’s a forward for the Timbers.
“Hey!” She tries to act normal.
“Christen right?” Oh god he knows who she is and she can’t for the life even remember the name that is plastered on his jersey she has seen a million times.
“You look stunning tonight”
“Thank you, you look pretty good yourself!” She tries to pay back the compliment as genuinely as possible but is hoping this exchange will be short and sweet.
“I didn’t know Heath was dating such an incredibly beautiful woman, I have to give her props you are definitely out of her league” His time was genuine. He wasn’t trying to be THAT guy hitting on a woman. He was paying her a genuine compliment. This wasn’t going to be short and sweet.
“Ohhh, we aren’t dating. She’s my best friend” she tried to explain diplomatically but the awkwardness was probably palpable.
“I am so sorry. I mean you could have fooled me though. You two look amazing together tonight. Anyway, sorry for the assumption. Hope you have a good night Christen.”
“No apologies needed, hope you have a good night as well”
It dawned on her that this was definitely going to be something they needed to talk about. She quickly made her donation and headed back to the table.
Her earlier decision not to drink tonight was starting to lose its appeal. They had spent most of the evening at this point just talking to people who came and went with the exception of Lindsey and Emily who stayed at the table with them.
Christen hasn’t even noticed Tobin’s hand on her thigh just above her knee until she shifted back in her chair trying to get a look at the line at the bar. Tobin was engrossed in a story being told to the table. Conflicted about getting up she leaned over to whisper in her ear.
“Hey I think I’m gonna grab a drink”
Tobin moved her hand away.
“I can get it if you want?”
“No, you’re listening, I’m not. I’ll be right back” she gets a nod back and Tobin is back to the story.
She orders and finishes her drink at the bar. For the first time in six months, she has started to allow her thoughts to drift over that line she was subconsciously trying not to cross.
What was really going on with Tobin.
Yes, they are best friends and they are incredibly close but lately the touches, the cuddling, some of Tobin’s choice of words. She can’t keep looking past it. There’s still the fact that Tobin is very newly single from a relationship she didn’t choose to end, one she made very apparent she didn’t really want to end.
Maybe Tobin needed some kind of rebound but Christen wasn’t going to be it. That would ruin this friendship they built and she would be damned. They needed to talk, maybe just put some boundaries out there. She thought things were fine after that kiss but she’s starting to think she might have been a little blind to what has been really happening.
She loves Tobin. Like she loves Kelley. Tobin is special. Like how Kelley is special.
She wouldn’t admit it to Kelley but Tobin was definitely special in a very different way than Kelley.
Tobin was, well Tobin. She is so kind, and funny, humble, and gentle, and she does things to Christen that she can’t explain and holy fuck Christen ….
She almost chokes on her drink at the realization. The bartender asks if she’s okay and she just nods and downs the last of her cocktail. Looking across the room she realizes the table she was at is now vacant. Scanning the room she sees who she is looking for.
Tobin is on the dance floor dancing and laughing at Emily and Lindsey. She makes her way over to them.
As she steps up next to them the DJ announces they have just five minutes until the ball drops. She expects him to return to the hip hop music he was playing but instead something slow starts. Tobin takes the opportunity to lace her fingers into Christen’s before she can decide to stay or go.
She pulls her in removing her hand and placing it on Christen’s waist, she complies laying her head on Tobin’s shoulder. They’re slow dancing, not an inch of space between them.
Somehow, in this moment, without a single word being uttered, without a conversation, everything feels different.
They don’t say anything, just continue dancing like that until the end of the song starts to fade out. They don’t detach themselves. Christen leans back looking into those honey colored eyes.
The DJ starts the 60 second countdown as some of the servers walk around handing out flutes of champagne.
They each take one with the arms still wrapped around each other’s backs. They join in on the count down surrounded by strangers holding their glasses.
Tobin stops counting and looks over at the woman next to her, who is smiling and still counting down.
Christen feels eyes on her
Turning to look at Tobin she stops counting
Tobin’s eyes shift down to her lips
Christen’s do the same
‘Happy New Years’ erupt all around them and Aude Lang Syne starts to play.
Christen feels lips on hers and for a moment it’s silent. The cheers, the music, the world stills as she gently presses back into Tobin returning the kiss. She hears the music again first, and then is brought back to reality when confetti is hitting her face.
Resting their foreheads against each other’s Tobin speaks first. But it’s just a whisper.
“Hi” she’s got that megawatt smile going on.
“We should drink these” Tobin says lifting her glass up. She clinks it against Christen’s.
“Happy New Year, Christen”
“Happy New Year, Tobin”
The moments after are short lived as their friends find them again.
The night is long from over since the event was listed to conclude at 2am, and Tobin seemed to be intent on enjoying every moment of the event.
After she’s worked up a little bit of a sweat on the dance floor Christen excuses herself to grab some water.
Her clutch vibrates a few times. She is sure she has plenty of happy new year texts. She pulls out the phone but realizes it’s not hers it’s Tobin’s.
It’s locked but preview screen is lit up.
Her stomach sinks.
iMessage The Girlfriend: Saw pics on IG, you look hot as hell…
She couldn’t see the rest of the text but she didn’t want to. Christen didn’t mean to see it. And she wishes she could take it back. Everything she had been thinking lately, and feeling, and realizing. She wants to take it all back. She knows a few months ago she would have been happy for Tobin. Things were so rough in her relationship she would have been elated for her. But now, things were different. Unspoken yes, but still different.
Just her luck Emily was walking towards the table.
“Hey Em, can you give this to Tobin, I am all of a sudden not feeling well. I think it was the champagne I’m gonna head to the hotel”
Christen was lying and she felt guilt over it but she needed out.
“I can go grab Tobin if you want?”
“No! I mean no it’s fine she’s having fun and I’m just gonna go lay down”
“Okay?” Emily is obviously not completely buying it but she isn’t one to pry.
Christen grabs the coat on the back of the chair next to her and heads out.
“Hey Tobin!” Emily calls out over the music. “Christen told me to give this to you” she hands Tobin the phone.” said she was heading back to the hotel. She doesn’t feel good”
“What?! Christen what? She doesn’t have a hotel she’s staying at my condo? What do you mean she isn’t feeling good where is she”
Tobin felt frantic.
Emily just shrugs her shoulders irritated. She was just the messenger
Tobin tears away from the dance floor searching for her but doesn’t find her anywhere. She dials Christen’s number but it goes straight to voicemail. She does it over and over.
It takes a few minutes to get an Uber back to her place. She foregoes the elevator running up the stairs and rushes into her place. But it’s pitch black. She’s not there.
Tobin is sober, confused, and worried. She pulls up her messages and sees she has one unread. Her heart skips a beat for a moment. Before she realizes who it’s from.
The Girlfriend: Saw pics on IG, you look hot as hell. Christen is one lucky woman. I should have seen that coming, you guys fit. Wish you would have told me! You’re still important to me Tobin, you’re still my friend. Let’s catch up soon? Hope you had a Happy New Year.
She wants to type a text back that it isn’t that way. Or it wasn’t? She doesn’t even know. They’ve kissed twice now and tonight they were both sober enough that there wasn’t an excuse.
Tobin realizes, Christen must have seen this text. She hasn’t changed the name in her phone because she hadn’t even touched the contact in a month. It wasn’t intentional.
Anger starts to rise in Tobin. She didn’t do anything wrong and she wasn’t going to run around Portland looking for Christen over this. If she wanted to react this way, Tobin figured she could figure it out for herself. They’re friends and Christen should have asked her about this, not run off leaving her behind at an event she invited her to. They’re adults, there were better ways to handle this.
Tobin thinks that maybe what she thought was happening between them was now all in her head.
So she decides in that moment to let it go. She’s not doing this.
She isn’t getting her heart broken again.
Chapter 6: Meet Me In The Afterglow
Christen: Tobin, I am sorry I left last night I owe you an explanation. I’ve called you a bunch of times and even left a few voicemails. Can we please talk about this? I am so sorry.
She sent the text off after finding a spot to charge her phone at the airport. She had a ton of missed calls from Tobin along with voicemails and texts. Her phone had died right after she ordered an Uber back to Tobin’s place to grab her belongings. It was on the way to the airport, after changing her flight, that realization of what she had done set in. She sent off that text before boarding her flight waiting until the last minute for a response. It never came though.
The first few nights Tobin doesn’t sleep, she leaves her phone off most of the time and when she does turn it on she regrets it. Eventually she flies back to LA so that she can get everything sorted out for the three weeks she is about to spend at camp with the National Team. Everyday Christen has texted, called, and left voicemails. Tobin ignores them.
Well she doesn’t ignore them completely. She reads the texts, she listens to the voicemails but she doesn’t respond. She hopes that maybe she will stop. That the next time she turns her phone off it won’t light up with notifications.
The only time she has left the house has been to train on her own first thing each morning. After she has put in a few hours she returns home and doesn’t leave. It’s only a full week after locking herself away does Tobin finally respond to Christen.
It’s been a week since that night now. She hasn’t talk to her since.
Tobin is reporting to camp this morning and she knows a lot of people are going to have a lot of questions. Questions like where the hell she has been, why she hasn’t answered her phone. And if shes being honest she doesn’t really care to answer to any of them. She feels like she’s had her heart stepped on twice in the last few months and she feels damned if anyone is going to think they are entitled to answers. This camp is about development and preparation for the World Cup this summer. That’s all that matters.
She is in and out of the locker room before anyone else shows up. Forgoing the trip in the team van. Jill might kill her for it but it’s a blow she’s willing to take. Her warm ups are on and she’s doing some solo drills on the field when she hears the first group emerge from the locker room. They’ve got about an hour before the first real team meeting and everyone has come out to stretch and run drills.
Tobin has a shot lined up on an open goal when all of a sudden the back of her shirt is being pulled roughly in the opposite direction.
“What the hell, Kell”
She doesn’t answer Tobin, instead forcing her towards the sidelines away from the team.
Tobin starts walking willingly because this is ridiculous. They stop when they’re far enough from everyone else that no one could possibly over hear this conversation that’s about to take place.
She knows Kelley is looking at her but she refuses to make eye contact. If she is being honest, she just wants her to get whatever she needs to off her chest so she can go back to ignoring everyone and warm up.
“Tobin, dude, I love you and I need you to say something because this, this thing you’re doing. It’s not healthy.”
The words shock her a little. She anticipated some full blown Kelley rant about how she has been acting but this was unexpected.
“I’m not ready. The other night it--”
“Broke you? Cause that’s what it did to her too you know. It broke her, Tobin. I kind of want to strangle you and hug you at the same time. I’m not going to kill you right now because there is someone who would have my head over it, but she’s wrecked dude.”
Tobin turns and walks away. Kelley doesn’t fight her about it.
A week earlier
Tobin had waited a few days to answer Christen’s onslaught of texts and calls she had been outright ignoring. It was kept pretty simple. They were both back in LA ahead of camp coming up and Tobin said she could come by if she wanted to talk.
Christen showed up literally minutes later. It was obvious she wanted to rectify the situation. Tobin however just wanted answers and it became apparent quickly that they weren’t on the same page.
From the moment Christen had left that night she felt guilty. It was an immature way to respond to something like that and she knew Tobin had done nothing wrong. Or at least she was sure of it. Tobin had thus far been very forthcoming about everything going on with her relationship. She figured if they were trying to work things out or had been in contact Tobin would have shared that. She made a snap judgement and she was regretting it.
She walked into Tobin’s house with her guard down, her heart in her hands.
She let herself in and found Tobin sitting at the counter in her kitchen. She set her phone and keys down on the counter across from her not saying anything right away.
“Did you come over here to just stand there or?” Tobin’s words were harsh. She remembers the night in the locker room, after the red card. She didn’t want to ever see that Tobin again, but right now. She was sitting across from her.
“I came here to apologize. I came here to explain and talk this out. The way adults handle their problems.” Christen’s tone was accusatory.
“Oh so now you want to talk? To act like an adult? Where was that a week ago Christen? Don’t come in here and act like I am the one handling this situation poorly. You what, read a text, a partial text! on my phone and decided you didn’t want anything to do with me after that? You know my passcode you could have read the whole thing. But Jesus, you didn’t even give me the decency of telling me yourself you were leaving. Let poor Emily do it and leave me to pick up the pieces.”
Christen couldn’t tell if she was going to yell back or cry. The look in Tobin’s eyes made her heart drop.
“I made a mistake Tobin. A mistake I quickly tried to fix but here you are hiding in your house ignoring everyone refusing to be apart of this?”
“I shouldn’t have to be apart of anything. I didn’t do anything wrong and you put me in a corner like I did. I’m supposed to be able to count on you Christen, to understand and to think the best of me before you think the worst, but I guess I was wrong about that. You two must have that in common”
Tobin didn’t mean it. But it came out and it triggered something in Christen. She was not going to compare her to her ex.
“Tell me how you really feel Tobin. Oh wait you don’t do that do you. Instead we can just keep dancing around whatever this is” she waves her hand between them “and you can keep saying things, and do things, AND KISSING ME, as if it means nothing and we will just never talk about it.”
“At least you admit I’m not the only one not talking about it.” Tobin bites back at her.
They both go quiet for a minute. The tension seems to wane but when Tobin speaks again it’s the last thing either of them truly wanted to hear.
“I think you should go because I don’t think we come back from this” Tobin was speaking softly now. No more yelling.
Christen is shocked. It’s a fight. It’s not like their other fights no, but to throw away everything because of this?
“Tobin, you don’t mean that”
“No, I do mean it. I can’t take being hurt again and if something so simple as lack of communication brings us here, not trusting each other, then I can’t do it. I won’t. So, you should go.”
Tears are streaming down Christen’s face now and for a moment Tobin wants to grab her and wrap her in her arms. Pretend none of this ever happened. But she can’t, she’s hurt and the look on Christen’s face is only breaking her more. She doesn’t watch her leave but she hears her open and close the front door.
Tobin leans forward and breaks. Sobbing audibly into her hands. She blew this up and she can’t be sure it was the right choice.
Day three of camp and everyone is settling in. Most people leave Tobin to herself when they aren’t on the field. When she steps onto the pitch she leaves the whole outside world at the touch line and gets to work.
It’s easy to be herself on the pitch. Leaving the hurt and anger behind and relaxing. It’s at the end of the day when she steps back off she is faced to deal with it.
At lunch Kelley refuses to let her sit alone like everyone else has been doing. They sit in silence for awhile before Tobin breaks it.
“Is she somehow managing to absolutely avoid me or is she invisible now?’
It’s day three and Tobin hasn’t seen Christen once.
“What?” Kelley says with a mouth full of food.
“Christen, I know she’s here but I haven’t seen her once”
Kelley is looking at the food on her plate silently for a moment.
“Tobin, she took a leave of absence. She hasn’t been here at all. You know what today is right?”
Tobin shakes her head slowly. Kelley just stares at her waiting for the dots to connect.
“Her Mom” Tobin is barely audible and she sees her friend nod sympathetically.
After a few moments of thought she checks the time on her phone and slides away from the table without saying other word to Kelley. Tobin finds Jill out in the hall and asks to speak with her privately.
The sun starts to set so early this time of year and the two hour drive killed what was left of the high afternoon sun. When she pulls into the driveway she figures there’s maybe thirty minutes of daylight. Jill let her take the rest of the afternoon off after basically pleading her case without letting Jill even get a word in edgewise.
Tobin is making her way down to the beach, climbing over the rocks to a lookout over the cove, not too far from where her original destination was. As she gets to the top she can see a figure in the distance, just a silhouette against the last bits of sun over the horizon. She climbs down the rest of the way.
“Did you know the light after the sun has gone down is called Afterglow? Well technically afterglow is any remnants of light after the source of the light is gone, but it applies to sunsets too.”
The sky was painted with deep pinks and oranges.
Christen doesn’t turn around to look at her but responds.
“What are you doing here Tobin? You are supposed to be at camp”
“No, I’m not” She finally turns around to see tousled brown hair framing Tobin’s face, she’s still in her warm up shorts, a hoodie and wearing sandals. She knows she came straight from camp. “There isn’t anywhere I am supposed to be right now, except right here” Her expression was serious and Christen didn’t know what to make of it. She didn’t know what to make of anything Tobin did lately.
As Tobin stepped closer Christen stiffened and she stopped. Her heart sank. But then she felt her whole body being jolted a step back as arms wrapped around her torso.
She took a deep breath and pulled her in tighter placing a kiss to the side of Christens head as she felt her start to shake, quietly crying into Tobin’s shoulder. They stayed like this for a few minutes. She could feel the sobs slow in her arms.
“I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I’ve been someone I don’t recognize, I’ve lost my mind. I don’t ever want to be either of those things with you. The idea of losing you physically hurts me and I thought you were going to hurt me, so I hurt you first. I never want to do that to you, I can’t lose you Chris, because now, I don’t know who I am without you. This was entirely on me and I punished you. I don’t know how to even start asking for forgiveness but I’ll spend the rest of my life showing you how sorry I am if that’s what it takes to make sure I never lose you.”
Christen squeezes Tobin tighter listening to her words. She isn’t sure she can pull away to look at her right now, so she doesn’t. She can hear her sniffling though. Her chest tightens knowing Tobin is crying. Things got so messed up so quickly.
“She would have loved you, Tobin.” Christen moves to wipe her face on Tobin’s pullover and then lays her head back down. They’re still holding each other looking out as the sky slowly turns from pinks and oranges to a light purple. “Everything about you, you wouldn’t have had to win her over. But she would have given you a hard time at first just to mess with you. The same way you do to embarrass me.”
Part of Christen wants to lean back and finally look at her but she stays right where she is at, as to not to lose her nerve for what she needs to say next.
“I let myself assume the worst because it meant I could avoid talking about this thing we won’t talk about. We both have to admit that’s exactly why this blew up the way it did. We communicate really well but when it came to this… I know we both avoided dealing with it. Maybe for different reasons but neither of us want to lose each other and so we resort to self sabotage. That’s what I did when I left on New Years, that’s what you did the other night. I know you Tobin, I know you didn’t mean anything you said but fuck it still hurt that you would even say it. You don’t have to ask for forgiveness, but you do have to keep a promise.” Finally leaning back to make eye contact she can see that Tobin has been crying, she doesn't know how she kept so quiet about it because she has full on alligator tears coming down her cheeks now.
“You have to promise me that you’re always going to be my best friend, and that we will always assume the best before the worst and we will always, always talk it out. We are gonna fight Tobin, that’s human nature but it can’t ever be like this again. I can’t take it. I mean it this time.”
“I promise.” She doesn’t say more than that. Tobin can’t.
“And we do need to talk about this, whatever this is. But I don’t want to do it tonight. Right now I need my best friend, I haven’t slept in weeks and today was… today was hard. But I need to do this because being away from you has been difficult and I can’t stand watching you cry.”
Christen leans forward and places a gentle kiss to Tobin’s lips. She can taste the tears that she has been wiping away. She brings one hand to Christens hair and slowly returns the kiss. It’s not urgent, it’s gentle and slow. They break apart after a few seconds and then Christen places her head back on her shoulder.
“ Yeah Tobs?”
“When did you steal my sweater from my closet?”
Christen giggles. She’s wearing it right now.
“The night I snuck in to put your present under your tree. Did you ever open it?”
“Uhh, I haven’t even taken the tree down yet.”
“Tobin! Christmas was three weeks ago!”
“Yeah, well taking down Christmas decorations was exactly on my priority list.”
Christen knows what shes saying. Tobin doesn’t have to tell her how that last two weeks have went. She’s been doing the same things.
“I will swing by your place and grab it, and I’ll bring it to you at camp next week.”
“Kelley said you were on a leave of absence?”
“Just through tomorrow, then I’ll be back. Can you stay tonight or do you need to get back?” Christen was bracing herself for disappointment that she was going to need to drive the two hours back to Santa Barbra tonight.
“No, Jill told me to take tomorrow too but I am slated to do some one on one with her during the team’s recovery day to make up for it.”
It’s nearly dark when the two of them make their way up the cove and back to the house. Christen had wondered how Tobin found her. She told her the story of how she came straight to her parents house and knocked on the door and her Dad told Tobin where she was before she even had to ask. Christen stops Tobin in the driveway and asks if they can drive back to LA so she can sleep in her own bed. Her sister had picked her up the night before so she didn’t have her car with her.
Tobin waits for her in the car but it isn’t long before they are back on the road to Christen’s house. The drive is quiet, she sings along softly to the radio looking over occasionally at a mess of curly black hair leaned against the window. She had to have fallen asleep no more than a few minutes into the drive.It’s not until they are pulling into the driveway when Christen turns her head and smiles sleepily, stretching in her seat.
“Hey Tobs, I’m gonna shower real quick before bed”
Tobin places her keys on the table and nods at her before she heads up the stairs. She takes a look around the condo seeing that it has some resemblance to the current state of her own house. The dishes are piled in the sink, the garbage is full, there is clutter all over the counter and the piles of blankets, and scattered dirty dishes on the coffee table in the living room are a tell tale.
She starts with the living room and the garbage cleaning up and throwing away wrappers and to-go containers and bags. The house is almost back to its typical cleanliness when Christen comes back downstairs. Tobin is finishing up a few dishes as two arms wrap around her stomach and she feels a head resting on her back. “Tobs you didn’t have to do all this” she feels the guilt pang in her chest that Tobin had cleaned her house.
“I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. You shouldn’t have to worry about anything this week, especially chores. Today was hard for you, and these past couple of weeks have been hard, so let me do what I can okay?” She nods into her back agreeing with her, placing a kiss to her shoulder.
Rinsing the last dish and placing it in the dishwasher Tobin moves to grab the soap she needs, forcing the embrace to end. Once the washer is started she grabs Christen’s hand and pulls her back in, facing her this time.
“I see you put my sweater back on. Are you a tar heels fan now, Press?”
“In your dreams, Heath”
“Hmm every night, sweetheart”
She’s said that before, this time though Christen doesn’t have to over analyze the meaning.
Tobin takes her own turn in the shower and changes into some clothes she had left there at some point. Christen is already in bed laying on her side reading a book by the time she had finished her bed time routine.
Sliding under the covers she is intentional on leaving space between the two of them. They had slept like this for months, together but apart. That eventually changed of course, but they still haven’t talked about the elephant in the room so Tobin attempts to be respectful and keep her distance.
Christen has other ideas though. She places the book on her night stand and turns the light off before scooting all the way under the duvet facing Tobin. She moves closer until her head is against Tobins chest.
Hesitantly, Tobin lifts her arm to allow her to move a little closer before slowly moving her arm around Christen. She’s holding her as they face each other.
This was new, they hadn’t slept like this before and Tobin felt like it was far more intimate.
“Stop over thinking it and go to sleep.”
It was as if she had read Tobin’s mind. The realization that she was tensing up doesn’t dawn on her until she relaxes more into the embrace. Tonight might be personal record for how quickly Christen had fallen asleep, and she finds that she isn’t too far behind.
KO: Dude, are you okay? You just disappeared yesterday and I thought maybe you went to see a trainer or take a nap but you weren’t at dinner last night and I went to meet you for our run this morning and you didn’t show?
Tobin heard the text go off and rolled over to check it. It was just after 5am and typically she would be awake to go for a run with Kelley. Even in camp they took time to themselves in the morning to go on a run and grab breakfast or coffee.
Tobinho: Made a deal with Jill to take 24 hours off, will be back this afternoon.
KO: Is everything okay?
Tobin looks down watching as the woman wrapped up in her arms continues to sleep with a peaceful expression on her face.
Everything was definitely okay .
Tobinho: Yeah Kell, everything is okay. We can talk at tonight at dinner.
KO: Did you go see Christen?
If anyone ever said Kelley was intuitive they would be right, that or she just knew her friends well enough to know that Tobin’s sudden change in wanting to be social definitely had to come from fixing what was causing her to retreat in the first place.
Tobinho: Kelley it’s 5am, we will talk later.
Incoming Call KO
Tobin answers but doesn’t say anything.
“Tobin” She can hear her whispering on the other end.
“What do you want?” She tries to say it loud enough that it’s audible but not so much that she wakes up Christen.
“Where are you?” Kelley doesn’t ask with curiosity in her voice or even concern. She’s teasing.
“I am in bed, Kelley. Trying to sleep”
“Whose bed? Cause it’s not your hotel room bed” Kelley is still whispering but it’s more like she’s talking and pretending to whisper.
“Kelley, Christen is asleep and I would like to not wake her up, so we can talk about this later, okay?”
“HA? I knew it” Kelley yells and Tobin jerks the phone away from her face. She feels the body next to her shift but after a moment she thinks she is in the clear.
“What?” She bites back almost above the whisper she had been keeping.
“I’m happy for you”
Tobin rolls her eyes and says goodbye again before hanging up and silencing her phone. The next time she wakes up it's to green eyes smiling up at her.
Chapter 7: Didn’t See It Coming
On the drive back to camp the two of them agreed to talk everything out during the break between camp and the She Believes Cup. As eager as Tobin might have been, the World Cup was the most important thing on her mind and this camp was a crucial training opportunity.
Christen understood, and deep down she didn’t mind trying to settle back into just being them before trying to figure out the rest of this thing between them. So that’s what they planned on doing. Setting boundaries, being friends.
Camp felt as though it had lasted longer than three weeks for Tobin. She could have sworn months had passed since she had actually been in her own home. When she walked through the front door she threw her bag down just inside and tossed her keys into the bowl on the table in the hallway.
Making her way through the kitchen grabbing water from the fridge and a granola bar from the pantry she still hasn’t noticed anything different. She plopped down on the couch letting herself sink into the cushions. Just as she was deciding to become one with the couch permanently, she shot up opening her eyes and scanning the living room.
There wasn’t a trace of Christmas to be found. All the decorations, including the tree were gone. There is only one suspect and she just happened to be coming over for dinner. Tobin started brainstorming ways to thank her for not only putting away the holiday decorations but for tidying up the mess she had left behind from the weeks she spent moping on the couch.
Before executing any plans for the day she needed a shower. The surprises apparently didn’t stop with the kitchen and living room though. She was standing in a towel now, fully expecting to have to dig through her closet for something to wear, but instead she found the floor of her closet completely exposed, and recently vacuumed. A sight she hadn’t seen since the day she moved in.
All of her clothes had been washed, folded, hung, and put away. All of her soccer stuff now had its own place on a new shelving unit that most definitely wasn’t there a few weeks ago. She grabbed a pair of joggers and a tee shirt, the minimally socially acceptable outfit above straight up pajamas, before heading out to run some errands.
Christen walked through Tobin’s front door, having abandoned knocking or ringing the doorbell a long time ago. She had been in meetings all day and was still dressed in pant suit and heels. Even living close by, going home and changing first would have made her far more late than she already was.
Tobin had planned for dinner at 7 and it was after 8 at this point. She figures Tobin waited to start cooking when she enters the kitchen and Tobin is standing in front of the stove singing. It takes a moment but she realizes over the music that’s playing and the concert she is putting on, Tobin didn’t hear her come in.
Christen intends on savoring this moment. So she stands there quietly seeing just how long it takes for Tobin to notice she’s there. At one point Tobin fully turns around to grab something off the kitchen island before returning to the stove, still so caught up in her own little world she doesn’t see someone leaning against the fridge. The whole song passes and fades out as Tobin keeps singing the chorus to herself.
She finally gives herself away when she can’t hold back her giggles anymore. Tobin drops the utensil she is holding and screams at an octave she probably didn’t even know she could hit.
Christen is now in full blown hysterics.
“Christen Annemarie Press, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU!” Tobin’s voice actually cracks a little at the end causing Christen to stop laughing.
“Oh my gosh Tobin are you crying?”
Tobin squeaks out a ‘no’ as she holds back involuntary tears. She pulls the dish towel that was placed on her shoulder and throws it down on the counter bracing her arms against the granite now, not making eye contact with Christen.
“Tobin, I’m sorry” Christen puts her hand on her shoulder.
“It’s fine, you just really scared me. I didn’t even hear you come in!”
Christen laughs a little at how pitiful Tobin looked now.
“Is dinner almost done?”
“I just finished, can you set the table while I go grab some wine from the garage ?” Tobin asked, her voice almost back to normal.
The table is completely set and Christen is scanning over emails when Tobin finally makes her way back into the house from picking out a wine. She leans over to place a kiss on Christen’s head whispering a soft hi as she moves to sit across from her.
“How were all your meetings?”
“Long, and honestly a little overwhelming. Even with the She believes Cup, friendlies, and send off series coming up the only thing anyone focuses on really is the World Cup. I mean I get it, but I feel like I need to take on one giant at a time” Christen is exhausted and it comes through ten fold in her voice.
“I’m sorry, I know how overwhelming it can be as a player and I don’t have to handle all the logistics, just show up and play my best game every time, occasionally answer some questions and take some pictures” Tobin tried to make light of the whole thing and it manages to pull a smile that spreads to green eyes and she thinks she never wants to see that face look anything but happy.
“How was your day?”
“Amazing, I did like, nothing minus a couple errands this morning I just relaxed, played some video games, napped ... in freshly washed sheets” Tobin is smiling at Christen now who is sporting a slightly embarrassed look. “You didn’t have to do all this Chris, you literally cleaned my whole house.”
“Well you cleaned mine when things were not the easiest for me, I just wanted to return the favor, make things easier on you after such an intense couple of weeks, besides I like sleeping in sheets where I can still smell the fabric softener, and I know you haven’t washed them for a duration of time that I am certain I don’t actually want to know.”
“You also wanted that Christmas tree gone didn’t you?”
She can see Christen smiling over the edge of her wine glass and she just shook her head at her.
“Maybe the thought of coming over and seeing that thing a month after Christmas really bothered me”
“Enough that you drove all the way down here from camp at some point and did ...I don’t actually know what with it, remind me to come back to that ... and then went shopping for a new shelving unit and organized my entire closet and washed literally everything in my house. I would even go as far as to bet my throw blankets in the living room are clean now too” Tobin pretend to peer over her shoulder stretching to look into the living room like she could actually tell the difference from that distance.
“Tobin just let it be”
And when she sees that smile beaming at her across the table, she does just that. She lets it go. It was a sweet thing for her to do, a very Christen thing, to find a way to serve someone else in what she thinks is a simple way, but it meant a great deal to Tobin. Enough for her to spend the better part of the morning trying to find something to show her appreciation. Dinner was just a small part of it.
“I will let it go but I did want to repay you somehow so just promise me you won’t go on with the ‘Tobin you didn’t have tos’ and ‘Tobin you should haves’ okay?”
She’s met with an exasperated sigh at first but Christen agrees and Tobin stands to leave the dining room taking their now empty plates with her.
Tobin returns with a small garment box and places it on the table between her and Christen.
Christen gives her a look of uncertainty but pulls the sides of the box up seeing gray fabric sticking out just a little now. She pulls the sweater out of the box and holds it up in front of her.
“I figured you keep stealing it, so I might as well just give it to you”
“You went and bought a new box for an old sweater?” Christen joked before pulling the hoodie on over her head. Now sporting the Tar Heel blue NC logo on her chest.
“It seemed nicer than just throwing it at you” Tobin defended.
“You know I love it”
They exchange smiles before Tobin cleared her throat making it obvious she’s headed towards changing the subject.
“So Saturday night a big group of us are going out, do you want to join us?”
“Who is us?”
“Oh don’t act like you aren’t friends with the whole team and half the newbies” Tobin chides and takes a swing of her wine.
“I actually have plans”
“Yeah, maybe next time?”
“For sure” she tried to hide her disappointment. “Are you going to Chicago for work?”
“No everyone I need to meet with next week will be here in LA, thank goodness.”
“Is your uh ... friend going to be here too”
This makes Christen roll her eyes in frustration. “Yes Tobin she will be there, we work together”
“Let’s not go there okay, a lot is going on right now and tonight I just wanted to enjoy an evening in with my best friend. Not talk about that”
The term Christen uses causes Tobin to cringe a little. They had made progress that night out at the beach, or she thought they had but the last few weeks it was back to business as usual. They were just friends and they acted accordingly. Her hope that they would have that conversation sooner than later was fading. She wasn’t going to push though, Christen never made her feel like she was still on the outs for the way she acted after New Years but Tobin knew things were still very fragile.
“I’m gonna head home okay. I still have work to do and the paperwork I need is on my desk at home. We will talk tomorrow yeah?”
Tobin gives her a quite Yeah in agreement and feels like she somehow messed this up again. Christen thanks her for the seater and hugs her before slipping out the door.
Christen is working in her office Friday morning when the doorbell goes off and she’s confused about who could be stopping by in the middle of the day when she usually wouldn’t even be home.
Whoever is ringing her doorbell though is doing it incessantly.
“Who the hell” She whispered to herself as she reaches for the door
Wet brown hair, honey eyes, and a beaming smile were standing on the other side ready to push the bell again when the door swung open.
The Frustration melts away immediately.
“Hey Chris” Tobin looks like a giddy child for some reason.
“Hi Tobin? I didn’t know you were dropping by”
“Oh I just wanted to swing by and say hi, I was driving home from the beach and since you’re just a few lights before me on the way back… I brought lunch” she holds up a paper bag. “Figured you could use the break?” An almost pleading tone escapes as she shrugs her shoulders
Christen lets her in graciously, accepting the break from staring at her computer all day.
They sit in the office eating and exchanging small talk that turns into Tobin ranting excitedly about the upcoming night out with her team.
“And you’re not worried about the cup that starts next week?” Christen chastises her a little bit
“Our first game isn’t until Thursday night. The alcohol will be long out of our systems before we report”
“Okay” Christen’s tone comes across as not entirely convinced.
Tobin leaves after an hour letting her get back to her work. She doesn’t want to leave, she wants to have that conversation they’ve been putting off and she’s starting to think if they keep this up they’ll be at square one again. Tomorrow won’t be any good either, Tobin wants to be compelled sober when they finally sit down for it, and tomorrow night she has no plans of being sober .
Christen: Thank you for lunch today, I needed to be brought out of the bubble of stress I created for myself. Your spontaneous visit was very appreciated.
Christen: I canceled my plans tomorrow, I’d love to still join you guys if you’ll have me?
Tobs: Anytime. And of course you can still come! Be at my place by 7!
Tobin waits an hour but she doesn’t hear back.
Tobs: I miss you tonight.
Tobin was more or less referring to the fact that she was in bed alone and it had started to feel foreign to her. Sleeping without Christen. However it became more far and few between since New Years. She would stay over or ask Tobin to stay when it had been a few days since she slept. Other than that it didn’t happen as often as it used to. She tried to pretend it didn’t bother her though. She was asleep when a response finally came through.
Christen: Miss you too Tobs. I’ll see you tomorrow, goodnight.
Everyone agrees on a far less fancy bar downtown. Not everyone was dressed to the nines and tonight was meant to be more relaxing and fun. Plus Tobin had dressed in a tee shirt and jeans. Anywhere with a dress code was out of the question.
The bar is a little more laid back for a Saturday night but still crowded enough that the dance floor is full. Despite their group being on the larger side they manage to secure enough seats at a table along the wall opposite the actual bar top. Tobin makes sure to slide in next to Christen. Kelley pulled a chair up at the end of the table next to them.
A few drinks in and half the group is on the dance floor the other half engaged in conversations at the table. Tobin and Kelley are among those who hung back. Christen had been more or less coerced to the dance floor and Tobin was having no part of it.
“You guys talked yet” Kelley said unexpectedly catching Tobin mid drink.
She audibly gulps and looks away from Kelley to the table looking at nothing in particular.
“Kelley don’t give me that disappointed mom tone okay. I just feel like she has distanced herself from me a little and I don’t know how to proceed”
“So talk to her?” Kelley states obviously.
“You say that like it’s the easiest thing in the world. I know I have said it a million times but she is my best friend and—“
“You don’t wanna mess that up. If I had a dollar every time you two said that I could retire. Tobin friends, not even best friends, do the things you two do.”
Tobin rolls her eyes.
“Tobin, friends don’t sleep in each other’s bed almost every night of the week. They don’t casually hold hands at the dinner table, or run plans by each other before doing literally anything. They certainly don’t kiss each other, and friends don’t look at each other like you do. You’ve hardly looked away from where she’s been on the dance floor all night. So stop pretending like all you two are, is best friends, no one buys it anymore”
Tobin took a moment to process everything Kelley pointed out as she stared over at where Christen was standing and laughing with Emily and Lindsey. The alcohol was slowing her ability to respond the way she might if she was completely sober. So she just doesn’t. Kelley gets the hint quickly and stands to grab them more drinks.
A moment later Christen is sliding back into the spot next to Tobin speaking just loud enough for the two of them to hear.
“Hi” Tobin smiles back and places her hand on Christen’s knee.
“I think I need some fresh air it’s pretty hot in here”
Tobin just nods and stands up behind her allowing herself to be led out of the bar. February air in LA is crisp but not too cold. So Tobin can’t tell if the chills covering her body are temperature or Christen induced when she gets pulled in close to Christen’s body once they reach the sidewalk. Christen has her arms folded between the two of them and her head resting on Tobin’s chest now.
Tobin wraps her arms around her back holding her in place.
“You cold already?”
“No, I just wanted to be closer to you”
The chills are definitely Christen induced.
“Do you wanna go home?” Tobin offers not sure what exactly is going on with Christen.
“Not at all, I really did just want some fresh air, and a moment alone to be close” Christen steps back out of her embrace and threads her fingers into Tobin’s before pulling her back towards the entrance.
Once inside Christen leads Tobin back to the dance floor, their hands still linked. Tobin shoots a look over the to the table hoping to make an escape last minute but she’s greeted by a bunch of her teammates and knows she won’t be going back to her spot in the corner of the bar anytime soon.
It takes awhile but Kelley’s words stop running through her head and she relaxes finally enjoying the night the way she has intended to.
“You did it first!!” Emily is yelling at Tobin across the kitchen bar they are seated at.
Before last call came around and half the group ended up back at Tobin’s not wanting to quite call it a night. They were intoxicated but not sloppy drunk. The atmosphere had been light, full of jokes and laughter. The kind of night no one wanted to end willingly.
“I did not! I said I was going to steal her bag but I put it back not even a minute later, you actually hid it and she had no clothes after her shower!” Tobin was almost yelling back at Emily.
“Tobin Heath you were going to steal someone's clothes while they were showering!” Christen chides at Tobin.
“I didn’t do it!” She defends laughing.
“I would have never guessed you of all people would do such a thing”
“Heath comes off as this no nonsense kind of person but you should see some of the pranks she has pulled off” Lindsey adds and half the room agrees with her.
Christen just shakes her head meeting Tobin’s eyes. They smile at each other not saying anything for a moment and then turn their attention back to what everyone else is talking about now.
At some point Tobin realizes that Christen isn’t in the room any more and excuses herself to find her Roaming the house she spots the back door is slightly ajar and she guesses that is where she will find her.
Sure enough leaning against the railing on the deck looking out into the yard that’s lit up by the moonlight, is Christen.
Tobin approaches her making herself known with a quiet whisper. Before she has the chance to ask why she’s out here alone though, Christen has pushed Tobin into the railing of the deck, kissing her with some sense of urgency. She responds at first but stops quickly.
“Whoa, Chris” Tobin pulls away but leaves her forehead resting against Christen’s. “What’s going on”
Christen doesn’t respond.
“Chris? I don’t understand. We can’t keep doing this” She is sure that she hasn’t said anything coherent but Tobin is mostly sober and she knows the woman standing in front of her probably isn’t, until she starts yelling.
“Doing what Tobin? we don’t even do anything”
“I don’t want to talk about this right now—“
“Oh that’s rich, I guess we'll just keep doing this back and forth, cat and mouse façade. I don’t wanna talk about it, you don’t want to talk about it” Christen is standing a few feet away now.
“You know what’s not true. I’ve wanted to talk about this for weeks now but you keep coming up with reasons not to and don’t interrupt me this time or making an excuse or point blame because I have taken a lot of that Christen.” Tobin is calm, and her voice is as serious as Christen thinks it’s ever been. “ I have respected your boundaries and I have continued to be who you have wanted me to be but we can’t deny that this relationship we have is beyond us being best friends now. I don’t know what your reservations are. I thought maybe it was my last relationship but that ended over two months ago, and we’ve talked about where I am with that. But yet we can’t talk about us.”
Tobin goes silent for a minute. Christen stands there just staring at her.
“I don’t understand why you won’t just let me love you”
Tobin is speaking just above a whisper but Christen feels like her ears are ringing.
“I guess we can just keep not talking about it though” she takes a step forward, away from the railing and back towards the house passing Christen. She stops though right next to her. Eyes don’t meet hers but she places her hand on the back of Christen’s head and places a gentle kiss to her temple before continuing inside.
Christen sits on the deck couch for what feels like hours. This time it’s her that messed up. But she can’t honestly explain why she has been acting the way she has. It wasn’t Tobin’s fault but she was still punishing her, punishing them both.
The house was quiet when she finally made her way back in heading to bed. She knows the other rooms are occupied by everyone who crashed here tonight and her only option is a small unoccupied spot on the couch or Tobin’s bed. She picks the latter trying to muster the courage she will need if Tobin is in fact still awake.
Her bedroom door is slightly open, and a dim, almost nonexistent light making its way through the space. As she pushes the door open she sees Tobin passed out in her bed, the tv playing what she assumes is a pre-recorded Arsenal game.
Instead of slipping under the covers she sits on the side of the bed facing Tobin.
“Tobin” after a few seconds she tries again. “Tobs”
“Hmm” she mumbles and turns over
“Can I sleep here?” Christen sounds like a kid asking their parents to sleep in their bed in the middle of the night. This causes Tobin to sit up though.
“Of course, why wouldn’t you be able to sleep here, you never have to ask”
Tobin’s hair is tossed to one side of her head and she’s got an oversized hoodie on. Her eyes are half lidded and her eyebrows are furrowed. Christen thinks she’s never looked cuter.
“I just thought maybe you wouldn’t want me to after earlier”
Tobin sighs and scoots closer to her reaching over and tracing the inside of Christen’s hand that’s resting on her knee.
“Christen, there will never be a night I don’t want you sleeping next to me. That ball is always in your court”
“I’m sorry about earlier”
“You don’t have to be sorry, we’ve kissed before I’m just tired of doing it like that”
“Not about the kiss, Tobs. I won’t ever be sorry for kissing you”
She finally looked up from where she had been watching her finger traces invisible lines into Christen’s palm.
“About not saying what’s been on my mind, about us not talking about this and I know this isn’t the right time either but I need you to hear me out okay?”
She’s get a nod in confirmation to continue
“This all happened unexpectedly and it wasn’t unwelcome but I certainly ignored what I was feeling for a long time and I guess when it felt okay to admit it I didn’t want some grand confession or a first date or a cliche. I just wanted to keep being us. These feelings came so organically it felt like an injustice to try and label it all and I got scared. I wanted to say this maybe not when you’re half asleep and after a night or drinking but..” she pauses looking right at Tobin.
“I want to let you love me, Tobin because I want to love you.”
“Christen are you sober”
It was a weird question to ask considering what she had just admitted.
“Cause I want you to remember this moment perfectly”
Before she could process what Tobin had said her hand was on her cheek and she was kissing her softly. Completely unlike the kiss they shared earlier. Tobin pushed further but not with urgency, it was tender and filled with intention. Like she had waited her whole life to do this. Christen did all she could to convey that same sentiment back to her.
Suddenly Tobin was wrapping her arms around her and pulling her down on top of her. She let out a noise and laughed as they hit the bed. Laying there smiling, their faces inches apart Christen leaned down reconnecting their lips softly once again.
“Let’s get some sleep. Tobs”
Tobin never even reopens her eyes, pulling the blanket over them, Christen still laying on top of her.
Christen doesn’t ever want to sleep another night not next to Tobin.
The US had unsurprisingly made its way into the She Believes final and the team was enjoying their recovery days in Clombus ahead of the final against France.
Tobin woke up earlier than everyone else to run and grab a coffee before the Premier League games started. A full morning of back to back matches while laying in bed sounded like the perfect recovery day.
Tobin used Christen’s key card to let herself back into the room she had slept in last night hoping to not wake her as she returned to the room.
What she didn’t expect was the second body in Christen’s bed cuddled up next to her.
“I leave for an hour and you come in here and steal my place? You know she only thinks of you as a friend right Kell?” Tobin was gently hitting Kelley with the pillow now trying to get her up.
“Yeah well she use to think of you as a friend too Tobin.”
“Ha Ha. Get out of my bed and off my girl”
“Oooh your girl?” Kelley teased as she moved to get further under the covers instead of leaving
“You know what I meant Kelley, now get out of my bed”
Christen was awake at this point but confused about what she was waking up to.
“Kelley, what happened to what happens at Stanford stays at Stanford?”
Tobin thinks her jaw might have actually hit the ground at some point. But she hits Kelley for real with the pillow now.
“You two slept together?!” She asks loudly.
Kelley and Christen are laying side by side and turn their heads to look at each other then look at Tobin busting up laughing.
Tobin stands in front of them with a dumb founded look.
“No Tobin, we didn’t sleep together, we just made out once or twice” Christen admitted.
Kelley sees the look on Tobin’s face and jumps up making a run for the door before she has the chance to hurt her.
Once Kelley is gone Tobin stares at Christen, her eyes following her around the room.
“You didn’t tell me you two were a thing!”
“Because we weren’t, we were in college, you want me to make a list of every person I’ve ever kissed”
“Only the ones that I’m friends with”
Christen crawls on the bed towards where Tobin has been sitting since Kelley left. She leans in close to Tobin’s lips but doesn’t make contact.
“Then it’s just Kelley and it was a long time ago, stop worrying” she places a chaste kiss to Tobin’s lips and pulls the coffee out of her hand as she backs off the bed again.
“Hey that’s mine”
“You didn’t get me one?”
“I didn’t think you would be awake at six in the morning”
“I most certainly would not be without coffee, and I’d still be asleep if two children weren’t having a pillow fight next to me.”
“I wouldn’t have been having a pillow fight if Kelley had kept her hands to herself”
“Were you jealous Tobin? I mean you realize you were the one who slept next to me all night right”
Tobin grabs the pillow and puts it back at the top of the bed as she climbs back under the covers and reaches out for the coffee Christen is now offering back. She slides in under the covers as well and drapes herself over Tobin tucking her head into her shoulder.
“You don’t need to be jealous, Tobs. You’re the only one I want to sleep next to”
She feels warm lips placing a kiss on her forehead as she makes an honest attempt to fall back asleep.
Before the first game even started, she can feel that Christen had fallen asleep against her. She runs her fingers through Christen’s hair nabsentmindedly, sipping her coffee. If not for the coffee she was currently drinking, the calmness of her current situation would have her fast asleep as well.
They stay like that through the entire first match before Tonin has to slowly slip out from under the woman sleeping on her to use the bathroom. When she returns Christen has wrapped half her body around the pillows that she was using.
It was almost noon before they’re both actually awake again, the game Tobin was actually looking forward to is on and they’ve ordered room service avoiding having to leave the bed whatsoever. She’s taking notes laying in her stomach, head in her hands watching the game with Christen reading a book leaning up against the headboard behind her.
“Why do you take notes when you watch the men’s game?” She asks Tobin. “I mean it’s not like you’re watching film for an upcoming opponent”
The comment earns her a laugh.
“It’s how I learn new things. I see someone dribble the ball a certain way, or a trick move I don’t know and I'll write down the player and the minute it happened in the game. Then later I can go back and study it, then once I’ve studied it I can practice it until I’m capable of doing whatever move it was I saw before.”
She knew Tobin was passionate and dedicated but she never realized how much time Tobin spent studying the game, not just playing it. She watches as she continues taking notes throughout the game. Even trying to keep an eye out for things that she thinks Tobin might write down.
During half time Tobin takes the hotel stationary she had been writing on and rips out a page from the back scribbling a few words on it before she starts making small folds around the edges.
Christen isn’t paying her much attention anymore and is enveloped in her book when the weight on the bed shifts. Honey brown eyes are peering over her book at her.
“What are you doing?” Christen almost asks in a sing-song voice
“I made you something”
Tobin holds out a small circle. It a little thick but neatly made by what looks like meticulous folds.
“What is it?”
“One of three things I learned from an origami book I checked out of the library in middle school. It’s a paper ring. I can also do paper cranes and paper cups. Although the latter is kind of useless”
Tobin slips the ring into Christen’s middle finger and gives her a half smile.
“Thanks Tobin, I’m not sure it’ll hold up long being paper and all, but I’ll keep it somewhere safe”
She leans down kissing her sweetly and leans back pulling her book back up redirecting her attention, ignoring the heat in her face.
Tobin rolls back over facing the TV as the teams are taking the pitch again for the second half. She’s rambling now, something about Auba notching another hat trick this season… Christen just looks at her as the game starts back up, her heart felt so full. A small and simple moment, it was just a silly paper ring, they weren’t even officially dating but Christen felt like she’d be damned if that wasn’t going to change soon. Why they had put it off, why they avoided it for so long, the whole idea was slowly becoming lost on her.
The day of the tournament final was busy. It started earlier than Tobin would have personally like but she was excited to play.
“Hey Kelley have you seen Christen?” Most is the team was dressed in their kits ready to head to the tunnel. But Tobin hadn’t seen Christen at all since she had left the hotel that morning.
“No, I haven’t seen her at all today. Was she not out on the sidelines with the media during warm ups?”
Tonin shook her head. That’s normally where she would find her before or after warm ups for games. If nothing she knew she would be seated somewhere on the bench or standing somewhere near the tunnel during the game. It’s a tournament final. A busy day for everyone.
At the half it’s US 1 France 1.
It’s been a very fast tempo game and both teams defenses have been putting up brick walls. Tobin hasn’t felt this frustrated during a game in awhile. Nothing is connecting, her crossed into the box are cleared and anything that comes into the box to her misses or she doesn’t get a good enough touch.
Surprisingly they don’t get drilled during halftime. Instead they come up with a new plan of attack to break down France’s back line. They’re sure France is planning to do the same to them so they shift their formation and head back out.
Tobin scans the sidelines again but she still hasn’t seen a single sign of Christen. She thinks that maybe she decided to sit in the stands for the game and refocuses on getting another ball in the back of the net.
In the 87th minute she does just that. Off service from Rapinoe into the six yard box Tobin uses her heel to chip the ball backwards right over the keepers leg. She looks to the sidelines again as her teammates swarm her.
No one familiar to see.
There is one minute of stoppage that is spent playing keep away from the French before the whole team runs off the touch line celebrating another tournament win. Tobin doesn’t join them though jogging to the sideline searching around for Christen. She starts asking around to some of the staff that would have seen her if she had been out there. Everyone just shakes their heads at her going back to basking in the moment.
Focusing now on celebrating Tobin gets her medal, shakes hands, takes pictures and then finally heads back into the locker room where everyone is dancing and celebrating. Kelley is the first to bombard her.
“TOBINHO YOU BROUGHT IT HOME FOR US! YOU READY TO DO THAT SAME THING FOR US AT THE WORLD CUP?!”
Tobin smiles at the thought. Scoring a game winner like that in a World Cup final? That’s a day dream come true.
“Kell, did you ever see Christen?”
Kelley shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head going back to dancing to the music blaring through the locker room.
Tobin makes her way to find her phone in her bag.
No missed calls
She slips into the hallway outside of the locker room and hits the call button. It goes straight to voicemail and now she’s worried. She was just distracted before, assuming Christen was caught up with one particular journalist or sat in the stands instead of standing out on the sidelines like usual.
There was no reason to panic though. Christen probably had a good reason to not be at the game if she in fact wasn’t there. The only thing is, Tobin knows Christen and if she was sick or had to leave she would have left her a text or voicemail. And right now her phone was off.
Once Kelley is aware of the situation she keeps them both level headed. She’s back at the hotel or she got caught up with media stuff and they’ll see when they get back is essentially what she gets from Kelley after they leave the locker room showers.
Except they don’t see her. The hotel room lights were off and Christen’s phone and purse were gone but her suitcase was still there, phone charger still plugged in. She’s not there and hasn’t been for hours.
Tobin heads down to the front desk to ask if she had been there at all recently. No luck from the receptionist though so she heads back up to the room to find Kelley sitting on the bed talking on the phone with someone. Tonin stands there quietly watching intently. Kelley looks angry and keeps nodding her head and “mhmimg” she hangs up after another minute and takes a deep breath looking at Tobin.
She doesn’t need to speak though. Tobin can feel her heart racing, she knows the blood has drained from her face and she can see the words leaving Kelley’s mouth but her body reacts before she actually hears the words, she’s out of the hotel before her brain finally processes it.
Her heart beats faster but the world is definitely moving slower. She can’t remember everything Kelley said but parts of it stick to her pricking at her senses.
There was an accident on the highway.
She stopped to help.
She's in the ICU at Wexner Downtown.
Chapter 8: no one can fall for you quite like me
Tobin is sitting on a bench legs stretched out in front of her with a book in her lap. The rain hitting the window and gloomy sky is almost comforting as the afternoon beings to wane. She’s been sitting in that spot reading for hours lost in the pages she’s been flipping through all day. If it wasn’t for the occasional text message the actual time would be lost on her too.
It’s the repetitive vibrations coming from under her leg where she had placed her phone that draw her away from the book once again. More than once the idea of dropping the phone in the trash can had crossed her mind.
Incoming Call KO
“Jeez Tobin, What a way to greet a friend”
Tobin doesn’t respond, just waits for Kelley to state why she is calling
“What are you doing, Tobin?”
“You really should get out and get some fresh air, maybe shower. I’d bet you haven’t done that in days”
“I showered this morning Kelley, and going outside in the pouring rain isn’t really what I want to spend my time doing. Plus this book is really good.”
“Any changes?” Kelley knows this will effectively change the subject.
“Not since yesterday, if things change you know I will call you. It’s a waiting game Kelley.” Tobin hangs her head rubbing her eyes trying to fight off exhaustion. Kelley had been calling her multiple times a day and each time she gave her the same answer. One of these times she thinks she will just stop answering.
“Just don’t forget to sleep and eat okay? I mean you still have to function even if you don’t want to. It’s gonna be okay Tobin, we know that. Just keep me updated”
“You know I will Kell” it’s the last thing she says before hanging up the phone dropping it on the cushion of the bench between her legs. The fabric is made up of an odd pattern and she starts absentmindedly tracing the shapes against the harsh blue background. Over the last few days she had become all to familiar with the patterns tracing them when she couldn’t fall asleep or simply out of boredom. The bench she was sitting on stretched across the entire wall of the room,with plenty of room to stretch out and sleep. Despite its size however, it was in no way comfortable.
A couple of nights she almost gave into the fact that across the street was a hotel bed she was paying for that was going unused. She commended herself for at least using the shower. Even if this morning was the first time after three days of going without.
“Hey Tobin we brought an early dinner, we are gonna eat downstairs if you wanted to join us?”
Christen’s sister has quietly entered the room startling her a little. She gave her a quick nod standing up and placed the book down on the pillow behind her.
Four Days Earlier
Tobin is running through the front doors of the hospital looking at the signs hanging from the ceiling, looking for the direction of the intensive care unit. After a moment she asks one of the staff passing by and runs towards where they are pointing before she can even say thank you. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, she reaches the fifth floor and follows the arrows pointing back and forth down hallways leading her to a triage desk.
“I am looking for Christen Press, last name P R E S S” Tobin is out of breath. More out of panic than the running. The receptionist is typing and clicking and Tobin can’t stand still. It’s only been a few seconds but the stress of how long it’s taking her to find a room number is obvious.
“Room 572” she says pointing down one of the hallways and Tobin is running again.
She flies into the room when she sees the number on the plaque outside the door. No one is in the room except the person lying in the hospital bed. Tobin is still processing the scene when she feels arms around her. Her vision blurring she can feel the same arms guiding her to a chair.
A few moments later she feels like people are talking at her. It’s a few minutes before she gets a word in doing everything she can to convince the Doctor it would legally be totally fine if they told her what was going on in regards to Christen’s current state. After a lot of convincing the doctor broke down everything for her.
A witness states that Christen had pulled over the vehicle she was driving to help with an accident, she did everything right. Her hazards were on, she was parked in the shoulder. The accident had caused multiple cars to block a lane after having collided. She had asked someone if emergency services had been notified yet and volunteered to call. She was sitting in her car on the shoulder when a driver who wasn’t paying attention to the road had to swerve to avoid hitting the cars blocking the lane. They swerved into the shoulder hitting the car Christen was in.
She was brought in with multiple contusions, a probable head injury, and a few bruised ribs but nothing major. She was unconscious when the ambulance arrived but the problems didn’t start until she was en route. For an unknown reason she had stopped breathing. Multiple times.
The doctor explained that even with the bruised ribs there was no apparent injury to the lungs. Because she continued to show signs that she couldn’t breathe on her own they had placed her under a medically induced coma with a chest tube, hooked up to a breathing machine.
The medical staff had made multiple attempts over the first two days to see if they could remove the tube. Each time Tobin felt like she wasn’t going to be able to take it anymore. After 72 hours they were finally able to remove the tube, but she was still medically induced and had to wear an oxygen mask. Her saturation levels were still low and they didn’t want to wake her too early.
Her family had flown in that night staying in a hotel across the street. At some point Christen’s dad volunteered to move their belongings from the team hotel to the one they were staying at. Tobin didn’t argue. She had been sleeping on the bench under the window each night, never leaving the room except to grab food.
Tobin had finally left and showered at the hotel after they removed the tube this morning. The low saturation levels had slowly been improving throughout the day. The doctor mentioned to her that even in her coma there was a chance Christen could hear much of what was going on around her. So Tobin had been spending the days talking to her, giving her play by play of soccer games, and including her in the current book she was engrossed in.
She would fall asleep in the chair next to her bed holding Christen’s hand. Every time she woke up there was a short lived moment of hope that she would look over and see green eyes looking back. Each time disappointment flooded her.
Tobin wasn’t a doctor, or any other type of medical professional. She knew there was a lot she didn’t understand, that didn’t keep her from being frustrated with them anyway. If there wasn’t an injury to her lungs then why couldn’t she just breathe on her own. She had a concussion and some bruised ribs. She should have been able to go home.
Tobin can feel the tears pricking at her eyes as she makes her way back to the room after eating dinner with the Press clan. They were still eating when Tobin left. She appreciated how understanding they had been. Never questioning her sleeping in the room, or almost outright refusing to ever be somewhere she couldn’t keep her eyes on Christen. They came and went throughout the day. Always being there when the doctor needed to speak with them. Always bringing Tobin food even though she insisted they didn’t need to.
When she makes it back to the room Christen’s doctor is talking to the nurse as they both look at the iPad in front of them discussing whatever it was they were looking at.
She shoots Christen’s dad a text that they should head back up so they could hear what the doctor has to say.
“Christen’s levels are finally in the green and we are going to go ahead and allow her to wake up. It could happen quickly or take hours, she will be groggy and very confused, her voice will be hoarse. What we want is for her to relax and allow everything to happen slowly. If everything goes smoothly tonight and her O2 levels stay up, she should be okay to go home in the next day or two”
Tobin grabs her hand after the doctor leaves, laying her forehead where she has their hands joined together. The room is quiet for awhile as they all sit wondering when she might begin to wake up.
Half awake all she can hear is someone singing faintly and the smell of something ...burning. Sitting up a little too quickly Christen pulls the blankets off of her and pads down the hallway and the few steps down into the kitchen. A sight she has happily gotten use to, Tobin singing and cooking. Tobin admitted she never cooked this much before she met her. Walking up to the stove standing behind her, Christen wraps her arms around Tobin’s waist and presses a kiss to her shoulder.
“Hmm smells burnt, baby”
“Hey! I only burned one piece of bacon, the rest are a little crunchy a little chewy”
“So you’re saying these are perfectly cooked?” Christen pulls away, quickly picking up a piece off the plate next to the stove.
“Chris save them for breakfast!” Tobin swatted the dish towel at her she jumped away.
“I was just making sure they were as perfect as you were claiming, I might make a chef out of you yet, Tobin Heath” Christen smiled at her and quickly grabbed another piece before dashing around the counter and out of the kitchen. Tobin switched the burner off and went after her catching her halfway down the hall pulling her into a hug and kissing her softly.
“Hmm morning, you have bacon breath”
“You’re the one who kissed me” Christen defended but Tobin just leaned back in to kiss her again.
“You should be resting in bed” Tobin’s demeanor turned more serious but not firm.
“I am fine” she replied emphasizing every word slowly. The concerns came from a good place but it was getting a little old. Any little thing she did Tobin was there reminding her to take it slow, or to not push herself. She had already compromised on so much to reassure her that she would be just fine but sometimes it wasn’t enough. She wasn’t upset about it, Christen just knew that she was fine. However, no one could seem to convince Tobin. Not even the doctor she had seen twice since being discharged from the hospital.
“Well, Miss ‘I Am Fine’, I wanted to make you breakfast in bed and in order for me to do that, you have to be in bed”
“Fine” Christen conceded. She placed a quick peck to Tobin’s cheek and made her way back to the bedroom.
A week earlier
“Tobin I’ll be fine in LA my family is there, you have preseason training starting and that’s where you need to be”
“ I understand your family is there but they have jobs and lives they can’t be there as often as I can, I’m not saying they aren’t capable I’m just saying I won’t be gone 8 hours at a time, five days a week”
Tobin had been trying to convince Christen to come back to Portland with her until she was back to 100% but Christen was putting up a surprising amount of push back.
“All my stuff is in LA”
“Then I’ll go get whatever you need” Tobin wasn’t going to let her win this one.
“That’s way too much to ask, you already have a plane ticket to Portland, you’d fly to LA just to grab my stuff?”
“Chris, I don’t have a plane ticket to Portland yet, I cancelled it not knowing how long I would be here, so we can both fly to LA, pack and then head to Portland. I usually back two or three suitcases to bring before the season starts anyway. Please don’t fight me on this. You’ve got to let people take care of you and I want it to be me, so just agree with me so I can book our flights ok?”
Christen closes her eyes and huffs out a shallow breath. It takes just the slightest nod for Tobin to jump up and kiss her on the forehead before pulling her phone out. She knows she has to stop being stubborn about certain things. It’s a lot harder these days with Tobin always there to call her out on it. She would be discharged in the morning and she knows in her current state there are a lot of things she won’t be capable of doing herself for awhile.
After breakfast Tobin got dressed for training while Christen turned the television on, hoping she could fall back asleep for awhile. Deciding on a movie she didn’t entirely care to watch, while instead watching Tobin throw things into her bag that were haphazardly placed on the floor when she got back from training yesterday.
“What time are you done today?”
“Uhh, probably around three. I can text you and let you know for sure. I made grilled chicken and asparagus for lunches so you don’t have to worry about cooking and I will be home in time for dinner”
Christen just stares at her for a moment, watching her struggle to pull socks on without bending over. “You know I can cook for myself, and do basically anything else, not that I don’t appreciate it, I just want you to understand that I’m not as fragile as you think”
She watches as Tobin walks over to sit on the edge of the bed next to her, tucking hair behind her ear. She could melt at the way she smiles at her.
“I know you’re not fragile, but two weeks ago I was convinced I had lost you. And for almost a week I laid on a bench in your hospital room praying that you would wake up, and breathe on your own. So I won’t apologize for treating you like you’re fragile, I know you’re not, but until I can shake those feelings I wrestle with day and night, I’m going to watch you sleep and I’m going to cook for you, and I’m going to do the laundry, and anything else I can to make sure you continue to heal without any setbacks. You can vocalize if it’s too much and I will back off, I can respect that, I won’t baby you forever. But you still have bruises and stitches and those tell me, you need to take it easy. I can pick up the rest. My job isn’t that demanding ok?”
Christen nods in agreement letting Tobin’s confession ease her a little. They kiss goodbye and Tobin slips out a few minutes after she has fallen back asleep.
For the first time in a long time, Christen sleeps soundly on her own. It’s welcome, and refreshing.
“My mom called today to get an update on how things were going” Tobin was speaking from her place in the kitchen to where Christen was situated on the couch half watching a movie, half on her phone.
“Yeah?” Her answer was a little half hearted but Tobin doesn’t notice
“Yup, told her we got into Portland last night and have just spent the day unpacking and resting, she did however ask me what I got my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day.”
This draws Christen’s full attention to Tobin who she knows is purposefully avoiding eye contact with her as she takes a bite of whatever she had just pulled out of the fridge.
“Oh really? So what did you tell her” Christen was going to play along with this little game.
“I told her that Valentine’s Day was forever ago, and then I told her all the dirty details of my gift, she did NOT like just how detailed I was” she’s holding back a laugh trying to maintain her serious demeanor in order to convince Christen.
“Tobin Heath I can’t believe you would lie to your mother like that, we both know the most action you’ve gotten has been strictly over the clothes. What did you really tell her?”
“Well I really did tell her my present was too dirty to speak of, she did not like that answer, but not as much as me telling her that I don’t have a girlfriend.” Tobin almost bites out the last few words. They were the point she was trying to make. They both knew that. Nothing was official between them still and this was a dance they were tired of dancing.
“Oh well, isn’t that just a shame” she replies dramatically. “I definitely got MY girlfriend something for Valentine’s Day but I guess I have to take it back now that I don’t have one”
Tobin perks up a little.
“I didn’t tell you? I am a terrible friend then because I have been telling everyone else. Are you sure I didn’t tell you?” Christen is smiling from ear to ear at her own antics and their effect on Tobin who is slowly making her way into the living room, not breaking eye contact.
“You are definitely a terrible friend” she leans over the couch bracing one hand against the back and the other on the cushion leaning closer to Christen. She is beaming, her toothy smile plastered across her face. “and as your best friend I should have absolutely been the first person to know” Tobin leans down and kisses her, keeping her body weight resting on her arms, making sure not to press into the woman beneath her.
“So what did you get this girlfriend of yours?” She’s leaning back enough to make eye contact but not too far away that the moment ceases.
“Well I hid it in under herbathroom sink in a cute little box, I thought she would find it sooner” Christen shrugs her shoulders playing it up a little more.
“The one to the left of your sink” acknowledging for the first time to Tobin that she was her girlfriend.
Tobin hops off the couch and races back into the bedroom and comes back into the living room a few seconds later holding the box. She sits on the couch at her girlfriend’s feet opening the present a little slow, trying to hold back her excitement.
“A Lillard Jersey?!” Tobin looked like a kid on Christmas morning.
“Figured it could go with your Christmas present which is coming up soon right?”
“Yeah, the game is next weekend. Christen Press, has anyone ever told you that you are the best girlfriend a girl could ask for?”
“No, but I’d love to hear it”
Tobin is leaning over her again, her face no more than an inch from her lips.
“Christen Press, you are the best girlfriend anyone could ask for” it comes out as a whisper across her lips and she leans up closing the space to meet Tobin’s.
“So did you get me anything?”
“Of course I did you goof” Tobin hops off the couch again. Christen can’t help but laugh. She’s dating a twenty-seven year old child.
Hobin: Hey Sonney are you busy?
Emily: Nope what’s up?
Hobin: I need a big favor, I will pay you and feed you
Emily: I’m already walking out of my house tell me where to go!
Tobin can’t help but laugh at her eagerness
Hobin: I need you to pick me up some groceries and bring them to me, I’m in a precarious position and can’t get to the store anytime soon. You can stay for dinner, and I’ll Venmo you. My door is unlocked.
Emily: Sounds good to me just text me what you need!
Tobin sends her the list of items she needs from the store and places her phone back in the coffee table and picks up the Xbox controller resuming the game she was playing. Christen was asleep on her chest, laying between her leg on the couch.. They had fallen asleep like this while watching a football game and Tobin wasn’t going to move an inch until she absolutely had to.
Less than an hour later Emily walked through the front door meeting Tobin’s eyes immediately.
“This was the precarious situation you were in?!” Emily is in disbelief
“Shhh!” Tobin replies pointing at Christen her own eyes widening in response to how loud her friend was being. “Yes, I wasn’t going to wake her. Plus you agreed and I’m paying you remember”
Emily shrugs and places the bags on the counter before joining Tobin in the living room sitting in a chair and grabbing another controller.
“How is she doing, and how long have you been like that?”
“Uhh, three hours? And she’s good, really good. Not as much as she leads on but I can tell she’s better. She got her stitches out this morning. I Wasn’t a fan of watching that” Tobin’s voice expressed her frustration. Emily assumes it caused Christen some kind of discomfort, in turn making Tobin upset. “The bruises on her ribs are finally starting to fade. She says they aren’t as sensitive as they were but I accidentally rolled into her last night and she winced. So I don’t completely believe her”
Tobin has been playing FIFA on her own for hours and is actually really excited to not be playing against CPU’s. She isn’t happy when Emily beats her the first game but she wins the next two before Emily is convincing her to switch games. Tobin still beats her playing Mario Kart. She confesses she wants to continue to only play on the same teams from here on out.
“Do you want to start the grill and I will wake her up?” Tobin suggests when her stomach starts to grumble louder and louder.
“Thought you weren’t gonna wake her?”
“Well a woman has to eat sometime”
Emily opens the door to the deck to fire up the grill. Tobin stares at Christen for a few moments, soaking in this moment.
“Christen, you gotta wake up sweetheart”
“Hmm why” she shifts on top of Tobin, but it’s not productive. She just curls up more into her.
“Because it’s dinner time and I promised Emily I would make her dinner”
“Why is Emily here” she still hasn’t moved.
“Because you decided to take a nap on top of me and I needed groceries so I paid her to bring them to me”
Christen looks up at Tobin with her eyebrows furrowed. She could have easily just woken her up and moved from under her and went herself. Christen would have fallen back asleep.
“You didn’t have to go through all of that just to avoid waking me up. I would have fallen back asleep”
“Hey Grill is on!” Emily pops her head through the opening of the door. “Hey Chris”
“I’m gonna go shower” Christen moves off of Tobin for the first time in four hours and stretches. When she’s disappeared up the stairs and down the hall Tobin finally gets up herself to prepare dinner.
She is incredibly thankful Emily is a great cook because she’s got the grilling down but her friend manages to whip up some solid mash potatoes and grilled veggies, two things she had no idea how to make. She thinks she might have been embarrassed when she asks Emily to teach her if she wasn’t so impressed with her.
They’ve got all three plates made and everything set out on the coffee table before Christen is done with her shower. Tobin lets Emily know that she will be right back but not to wait for them to eat before she runs up to see what is taking so long.
“Hey Chris, OH! I— I am— I am sorry” Tobin stutters out when she realizes she walked in on Christen still in a towel.
“Tobin, you’ve seen me in less clothing”
“Yeah, but you’re in a towel. I didn’t mean to—“
“You’ve seen me in a swimsuit!” Christen is stating everything very matter of factly but Tobin is still avoiding eye contact.
“But you weren’t naked!”
“I am pretty sure I was naked under my swimsuit, in fact I’m pretty sure I am always naked under my clothes” Christen laughs.
“You know what I meant, Chris.” Tobin is still looking at the ground. “Anyway, dinner is done I’m gonna go back downstairs now” she shuts the door quickly. Christen shakes her smiling down at the drawer she had open.
When Tobin sits back down in the living room she picks the wine glass up from the table and starts to chug it.
“Dude, are you ok”
Tobin just gives Emily a thumbs up. She’s not going to tell her that she’s completely flustered and slightly turned on by the fact that she just saw Christen in nothing but a towel. It wasn’t just the towel that was causing an issue, it was the thoughts that came afterwards and wouldn’t go away
Christen is lying in bed reading a book while Tobin ran to the store to grab a few things she needed for training this week. She had planned in meal prepping for breakfast but since Christen wa staying with her she figured she would just do lunches too.
She walks into the bedroom with a freezer bag full of ice in her hands and approaches Christen with it.
“What?” Christen looks up at her confused.
“It’s for your ribs, the doctor told you today the healing could be aided by icing, so you’re going to do 15 minute in and 15 off until we go to sleep”
“Christen we had an agreement remember, I would stop trying to help you with everything if you promised to follow exactly what the doctor said. I held my end of the deal” Tobin doesn’t need to finish the statement, she extends the bag again and Christen takes it placing the bag on the left side of her torso. She winces at first and Tobin almost wants to rip the bag away. But she needs this, it’s going to help.
Tobin sets a timer and climbs into bed next to her grabbing her own book.
Each time the timer goes off she watches as she applies or takes the ice off. At one point she pulls gently on the fabric of Christen’s shirt asking silent permission to lift it. She gets a nod approval. The bruising has changing from deep purples and blues to yellows and browns. Tobin traces them gently barely grazing her skin. She looks up to Christen and kisses her temple without removing her hand. Seeing her like this breaks her heart. Watching her heal, and progress each day though was easing that knot in her chest. The knot that formed the moment Kelley had told her why Christen never showed up to the game.
After an hour or so most of the ice has melted and Tobin took the bag back to the kitchen to dump the water out. By the time she got back upstairs Christen had already asleep.
She slides under the blanket next to her and scoots closer but not too much, she tries to avoid making any unwanted contact resulting in hurting her or waking her. As soon as Tobin relaxes she feels an arm snake around her torso.
“Thank you for taking care of me, Tobs. I know I’m stubborn, but I need it”
She scoots a little closer and closes her eyes.
“You’re welcome, sweetheart.”
One morning after Tobin had left for training, Christen decided it was time to attempt yoga again. She had been doing some stretching everyday but it wasn’t always super comfortable. Today was the day.
The mid-morning weather was perfect as spring was getting closer, so she decided to roll her mat out on the deck. The stretching was coming along much easier and felt less uncomfortable and more relaxing than it had before. If Tobin knew she thinks she wouldn’t be too excited about it. The doctor still hasn’t cleared her completely but she was taking it way easier than she might have if her girlfriend wasn’t keeping her in line.
She had Tobin to thank for a speedy recovery. She knew that much.
After putting her mat away and grabbing a snack she sits on the couch realizing she has a missed call from Kelley.
She hits the call at button.
“Hey Kell what’s up?”
“Just calling to check in, Tobin allowing you to be by yourself finally?”
“Ha ha, she does it because she cares.”
“I know she does, I wouldn’t have done anything differently if I were in her place. Glad to hear you’re healing well though. I want you on those sidelines again for our upcoming games.”
“Is that all I’m good for? To be your personal cheerleader?”
“Nah, that’s just a part of the package deal. No but really Chris, we all miss you and we are excited to have you back with us. As long as Tobin doesn’t try to body guard you the whole time”
“You already know she will, Kell. She’s gotten a lot better and is letting me do stuff on my own without asking if I need help. She still watches me sleep though. I don’t actually know if she is sleeping at night. She falls asleep everywhere now, and always by accident. She fell asleep eating dinner the other night”
She can hear Kelley sigh over the phone.
“You should have seen her in the hospital, Chris. Every time I FaceTimed her she looked more and more sunken. I can only imagine with how independent you are, that letting someone do everything for you is hard but listen Christen. I saw her that week look a way I had never seen her look before. Soccer might mean the world to Tobin, but to her you are the world. Let her be overbearing, it’s going to be annoying but it’s also going to help her be okay again too.”
“I’m doing my best. I think the sleeping thing might be the only thing now. Well, that and she wouldn’t let me play in the pick up game we were both invited to”
“You should not be playing contact sports” Kelley chides.
“Alright well I will stick to pickle ball and croquet”
“Gross those are old people sports, and lame.”
Christen is in a fit of giggles while Kelley remains completely serious about her stance on her friends choice of alternatives to football.
“I’m gonna go shower and let you go, Kell. I will see you next week?”
“Yup! Love you, Chris, glad to hear you’re doing better than Tobin leads on”
“Love you too, Kell”
Christen hangs up and shoots her girlfriend a quick text.
My Love: Hey, can you bring home sushi for dinner? Also, stop telling Kelley falsehoods about my current state of recovery! We both know I can almost kick your butt again on the pitch ;)
Tobin sees her text during her break for lunch, she confirms dinner but doesn’t respond about Kelley. She sends off a separate text directly to her friend that she doesn’t need to tell Christen everything she says.
It’s been three weeks since the accident and Christen is relieved to be completely cleared by the Doctor, with only a few warnings of easing herself back into day to day demands. She’s still sensitive around her ribs but the places where she had stitches are healing well. She feels good, and it came at a perfect time. The game she got Tobin tickets for would have been a bummer if she was feeling the way she had been for the previous three weeks.
“This is the best Christmas present ever. I don’t know how anyone will top this. Even you. You outdid yourself our very first Christmas and now it’s all downhill from there”
“Hey!” Christen shoves her playfully.
They were sitting courtside at Moda Center for one of the Trail Blazers last home games of the regular season. Even though they were seeded for the playoffs the atmosphere of this game had end of season written all over it. The crowd was roaring and there were few times it was quiet enough to hear what the person next to you was saying.
Tobin was excited. The kind of excitement very few occasions had brought out in her. She felt like she was lucky to witness this Tobin. The megawatt smile, twinkle in her eye, wouldn’t admit how giddy she was if you paid her kind of excited.
The first half of the game was exciting but the score went back and forth.
It was now late in the third quarter the Blazers had a twenty point lead and they were both cheering as the atmosphere was soaring. An overall feeling of elation swept the arena. There was still plenty of basketball to be played, but this moment was the kind you just get caught up in. You don’t think about how there is still time for a come back for the other team, you’re just focused on the now. The feeling of the moment
The end of the third quarter buzzer goes off and everyone is on their feet. Tobin slips her hand into Christen’s.
“Hmm?” She turns to look at Christen who just looks down at where their hands are connected.
“Are you okay with this?” She figures she must be because she’s the one that did it. “You know in public? In Portland. Where everyone recognizes you”
She has to process what Christen has just said to her because she didn’t think about it. She kept her last relationship very underwraps. Zero PDA, no social media posts. Nothing. She wasn’t really out but she didn’t necessarily hide it either. Christen seemed okay with this though. So she was too.
“Yeah, I’m okay with it” Tobin smiles at her and squeezes her hand to reassure her. They sit back down before the fourth quarter gets started.
The game ends with a thrilling win over the Utah Jazz. 131 to 102. Tobin feels on top of the world tonight.
The feeling is brought down a notch though as they walk back towards her condo hand in hand. A realization consumes her thoughts while Christen is telling her a story.
She loves this woman
She is still half listening when the thought keeps replaying in her head. They come to a crosswalk and stop to push the button to cross. Tobin pulls on Christen’s hand a little so she's facing her. At first Christen just smiles but then she thinks that Tobin has never looked at her this way before.
“I love you”
The words are out before her brain can process them. They linger in the air between them now. And Tobin isn’t sure she actually said them at first. But the shock on her girlfriend’s face assures her, she did in fact say them.
Tobin already knew she loved Christen but admitting she was in love with her? That was a risk. To admit it out loud was taking a chance she hadn’t quite yet thought about. She had been falling for her from the start. The night fireworks lit up her face and her green eyes captivated her. It took her way to long to realize it but in hindsight she knows that she already knew.
Those words though, that admission, they just hung there and Tobin wasn’t going to let them.
“I am so in love with you, Christen. I’m not afraid to admit that because I’m not afraid of ruining our friendship anymore, or afraid of losing you. It doesn’t feel too soon, or rushed. It just feels right. This is it, all I want, us like this. Not just best friends. Us, in love.”
Christen closes the space between them wrapping her arms around Tobin’s neck and kisses her deeply. Tobin wasn’t always a woman of many words but damn when she spoke her words were always perfectly strung together. She would read novels of the things Tobin said if she could.
“I love you, too. I am in love with you, Tobin”
Chapter 9: when i come home, I’m gonna hold you so close
It has been weeks, countless weeks since Christen could remember a night where she hadn’t slept in complete peace. It took some time for her to admit at first that Tobin has an insane effect on her sleep. She knew stress was a huge factor to the chronic issues she was having but once they fell into this routine it seemed like she wasn’t struggling anymore. When things got rough between them she could see the patterns coming back. Long nights without sleeping, days where she felt like a zombie.
It’s been almost six weeks since the accident and even though the bruises have long healed, her stitches have been removed and the scars already starting to fade, Christen was still staying with Tobin in Portland. Neither of them ever discussed the length of time she would be staying and Tobin wasn’t acting as her volunteer caregiver anymore. Neither of them had any immediate reason to go back to LA either with Tobin’s season starting Christen had started working remotely.
Things has fallen into a new normal for them. Tobin would go to training, Christen would work during the day. In the evenings they would cook together or order take-out, occasionally braving the city for a night out. Some might have called it domestic bliss. Christen was content, until Tobin had to fly out for a few days for her first away game. It was the first time either of them had ever really broached the subject of Christen going back home. Tobin would only be gone three days though.
Christen mentioned booking a flight home, and Tobin tried to passively suggest her staying since it was only one road game and then she would be home for three consecutive weeks.
Saturday morning, game day, rolled around and Christen found herself sitting on Tobin’s couch alone eating the small breakfast she made herself and sipping on a mug full of freshly brewed coffee. Tobin’s game was on at noon but she figured there was plenty of other soccer games to watch on a Saturday morning.
Thursday afternoon when she dropped Tobin off Christen had been so busy with work the rest of the day without her flew by. The first night was the so bad. Sleep had come easy and by the morning she had clocked a few hours but more than a handful of times she had woken up and turned over expecting to find someone who wasn't there.
Friday she was able to finish work early. Busying herself with household chores, errands around the city, and an evening hot yoga session kept her mind pretty busy. She enjoyed spending everyday with Tobin, without a doubt. However, the alone time was welcomed. After spending years of being alone most days, she felt as though she was finding herself grounded when the opportunity to spend time alone again presented itself.
Friday night was worse though, she felt relaxed but sleep wouldn't come. They had FaceTimed for a few hours before Tobin started to fall asleep on the other end of the call. Lying awake at three am, in Tobin’s bed she had a fleeting thought that both excited and scared her. She shook it away though hoping sleep would just happen upon her.
The Thorns played Orlando in Orlando, a mid afternoon game on a Saturday. It was already hot and humid in Florida but despite not being acclimated to the weather the Thorns managed to dominate scoring their first three points on the road with two assists from their best forward.
Emily rushed Tobin after the final whistle almost barreling her over jumping into her arms.
“Tobin! I love your face dude! And your feet they’re pretty cool too”
Tobin laughed at her basking in the excitement. She could admit she had an overall feeling of elation lately but winning games lifted her above that. Winning games she played a big factor in did that even more so.
“So where is Chris? I’m surprised she didn’t tag along. You two are rarely apart anymore”
“First of all, we spend plenty of time apart, and she had to get some work done and the traveling would have just taken too much time away from that” her voice faltering a little from its initial joyous tone.
“Sure whatever you say dude. You two practically live together”
“We are living together” Tobin defended not realizing what it meant before she said it.
“Wait for real? As in legitimately living together? She moved in with you? I know they have all those cliches about women loving women moving fast but I guess you two practically lived together before you were dating anyway” Emily was rambling and at this point Tobin was only half listening.
What she said wasn’t wrong but it also wasn’t exactly factual. Yes, Christen was currently staying with her indefinitely. But there was a definite in there eventually. At some point Christen would go back to LA.
“Emily I didn’t mean it like that dude. I just meant like, since the accident she’s been living with me. We aren’t like exclusively living together” Tobin explained rather diplomatically
“Oh” was all Emily squeaked our awkwardly after letting her honest feelings about the situation known. “If it’s any consolation, if you two were actually living together I don’t think it’d be weird or too soon. I don’t think anyone would think that. It’s you guys.” Emily shrugged as if the last part of her statement was supposed to just explain the rest of what she was trying to explain.
Tobin kind of nodded and smiled at her. She knows what she was getting at. It oddly didn’t make her feel weird about the idea. She was right. Even before things turned into what we’re now. They were at each other’s places more often than not. But she knew Christen and the thought of bringing up a more permanent living situation to her would be too much.
The more she thought of how long she had been away from her, the more she just wanted to be back home.
Christen was putting away laundry after taking a long nap that afternoon. She had managed to stay away for the duration of the game but mid afternoon hit and she was a goner.
It was after dark when she managed to get up and out of bed. Christen grumbled knowing the nap was refreshing and much needed but her sleep tonight would suffer because of it.
Standing in Tobin’s closet she could hear the sound of the front door opening and closing. She froze in fear until she heard an all too familiar voice calling out her name.
“Chris?” Tobin called standing in the entryway of her condo. The lights were all on but there were no sounds coming from the living room or kitchen. “Chris!” She yelled a little louder.
She could suddenly hear loud footsteps quickly coming towards her and then she was there. Christen was rounding the corner running at her and yelling Tobin’s name as she launched herself into Tobin’s arms.
Twice today she was almost knocked over.
Christen wrapped her arms and legs around Tobin hugging her tightly. She returned the hug.
“I missed you so much, Tobs” Christen spoke into her shoulder still wrapped around her girlfriend who was holding her up.
“I miss you too, babe”
Christen released her legs allowing herself to be put down keeping her arms around Tobin’s neck.
“What are you doing home, I thought your flight was tomorrow morning? I was supposed to pick you up”
“After the game I decided I just wanted to be home. I didn’t want to be away from you any longer. And I really missed my bed” she laughed a little knowing the last part was just a cop out. She really missed Christen. Leaning forward to capture her lips for the first time in days. they both smiled into each other.
“Hmm I missed that too”
“Well there is more where that came from if we can stop standing in the hallway” Christen raised both her eyebrows suggestively. Tobin grabbed her suitcase and made her way back to the bedroom to put her stuff away at a record pace.
It was only a few minutes before she resurfaced from the bedroom in pajamas. Christen was sitting on the couch browsing through movies. Tobin sat down beside her before laying back against the arm coaxing her to move to lay down as well. Christen curled up into her side resting her head on her girlfriend’s chest.
“I really missed you” Christen sounded more vulnerable this time around.
“I missed you too” Tobin paused for a moment. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, I just don’t sleep well when you’re not here. I don’t understand why but I will say that I am not a fan. I enjoy my alone time but I don’t like being lonely. Made me think about what’s going to happen when I go back to LA. I mean it wouldn’t be for too long because the World Cup is so close now but it’s still a little daunting”
Christen doesn’t say anymore but Tobin doesn’t respond. Her mind is racing with what Emily had said earlier. The thing she literally couldn’t stop thinking about since the end of the game. It was one of the biggest reasons she switched her flight. She didn’t want to be apart from Christen when she didn’t have to. This was new to her. The few relationships she had been in were almost always long distance, she was used to seeing whoever she was dating based on how it revolved around team travel and the occasional planned trip to wherever.
Christen was right here though. Her job schedule lined up with Tobin’s most of the time. They owned homes in the same city, and right now she had the one person she wanted to be with most laying on her chest worrying about what would happen when they were apart. It wasn’t something she ever had to worry about.
Emily was right, they haven’t been dating for very long. It would be entirely too soon to approach the idea of living together full time. No matter how much time they spent at one another’s places anyway. Tobin needed her to be there.
“Tobin?” Christen lifted her head pulling her out of her thoughts.
“Hey, I’m sorry I was listening. Just thinking” she reached up and brushed the hair out of Christen’s face as she rested her head on her hands, looking up at her now.
“Thinking about what?”
“Ah, just something that Emily said earlier. It’s nothing you just reminded me” Tobin was trying hard to play it off but Christen wasn’t buying it.
“What is it?”
This is Christen, she knows they can talk about this. No one is going to freak out.
“She just, she said something about how we basically live together and I incorrectly defended myself by saying we are living together. But I meant like temporarily of course. Then she went on about how it wouldn’t be surprising if we were already living together because we basically have been for months anyway. I just kept thinking about it and then you brought up going back to LA. And I know you need to go back,that’s home, and this was supposed to just be until you were better and you are now. I don’t know I haven’t really come full circle yet with my thought process.”
It was Christen’s turn to go silent. She wasn’t panicking like her girlfriend might have begun to think she was. It was just a lot to process. They had a rough road getting to where they are. Albeit not a bad one, just rough. She didn’t want this to be another thing they danced around or waited to come back to in a few weeks or a few months. So she tried to find the first step and went with it.
“What do you think that would look like?”
Tobin was a little caught off guard by the question but immediately began to mentally search for her answer.
“Uh, I’m not sure. I think right now we would just be here in Portland. And then one of us could I guess sell or rent our home in LA and consolidate our things into one place and spend the off season there.”
“Tobin Heath, have you already thought about this”
Christen sounded almost playful and it eased the tightness in Tobin’s chest.
“No not really, I mean yes but not that part of it, the idea of us living apart after being together like this. It made me a little sad to think about but we haven’t been dating for very long. Living together would be a big step. On the flip side of that though, we were basically living together long before we started dating so maybe for us, it wouldn’t be so big?”
“Would we sell my condo or your house?”
Tobin left out a shallow breath and hummed I’m thought for a second.
“Well I guess it depends on what would be more financially smart as far as selling or renting. My house is quite a bit bigger but we don't need the space necessarily. If you are thinking what’s smarter long term though we would want to keep the house because of the space and we already have this condo here in Portland”
Christen couldn’t help but smile at the way Tobin walked her through her thought process. And every time she would say “we” instead of “you” or “I”. Tobin might deny it but she thinks to some extended she has definitely thought about this. Instead of giving feedback though she just kept asking the questions that any couple in this situation would need to discuss.
“Okay so obviously financials would have to be a sit down and crunch numbers discussion, but what would we need the space in the house for in the future”
That was a loaded question.
She said it so simply
Tobin didn’t have to think about the answer. It came out so naturally like she was answering a simple yes or no question. Moving in together? Big step. Talking about a family? Out of the ballpark.
“A family?” Christen could feel her heart rate picking up and was hoping the way she was laying against Tobin that she didn’t feel it.
“Well not anytime soon. I’m talking five to ten years in the future. I think it would be smart to keep the bigger house knowing that’s a possibility than to sell it and turn around in five or so years and by another. I’m not trying to scare you I’m just— wait, so do you not want kids?”
“What? I mean yeah I want kids I just hadn’t ever given it a lot of thought. I spent a long time being single and even when I dated it was never long enough or serious enough to have an honest discussion about kids. That’s—“
“A big deal” Tobin finished for her and she just nodded back.
“I didn’t mean to worry you or scare you into thinking I want to start a family anytime soon. That’s definitely a discussion and a plan for far into the future. But I think it’s a factor in planning what house to keep or not.”
Tobin reached up and ran her thumb across Christen’s forehead trying to soothe the worried look on her face. Maybe this was too much too soon. The more questions she asks though the more confident her answers, and now Tobin thinks she went a step too far.
“So selling the condo would probably be the way to go then since your house is bigger and we are there more than my place anyway” the gears in Christen’s head are turning as she talks and Tobin just nods not wanting to push any further. “I know it feels soon. But at the same time it doesn’t. It makes no sense to be living in two different places if we are sleeping in the same place every night, and Tobin…” Christen pauses knowing that what she is about to say will solidify this thing that they’ve almost sprung on each other. “I don’t want to sleep anywhere else but with you”
“Are you telling me you don’t want to sleep with anyone else but me?” Tobin jokes
“Alright you perv, I said anywhere else not anyone else, way to turn a serious conversation into a joke”
“I wasn’t trying to turn it into a joke. I don’t want to sleep anywhere else but with you too. Everyday I get to live life with you and I never had that with someone. You walking into my life, it’s been like puzzle pieces coming together that I couldn’t figure out where they went before. So living together isn’t scary, and the thought of one day having kids, even if it scares you it doesn’t scare me because it’s what I’ve always wanted. After soccer after this part of my life and my career, there is more to want and I’m not afraid to admit I want that, with you.”
She could feel that her eyes were welling up but she wasn’t going to try and fight it. They weren’t full blown tears, just a physical reaction to the overwhelming emotions as she admitted this vulnerable piece of herself out loud.
“Christen can I ask you something?” Tobin sits up a little wiping those tears from her eyes.
“Why did you stop playing soccer?”
The change of subject was a shock for Christen. She sat up moving away from Tobin. There were few people who knew the reason she had stopped playing. It had never been brought up before between the two of them. She thought perhaps Tobin wasn’t all that curious. The longer they had been friends the less and less she worried about having to explain it. But here it was, almost like a slap in the face. One of things things deep down she hated talking about. If she was going to be honest about it with anyone though. It had to be Tobin.
“I don’t really talk about it”
“You don’t have to I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked”
Christen reaches over for her girlfriend’s hand, meeting her eyes and shaking her head. This was okay, and she didn’t need to say that out loud for Tobin to understand.
“It’s not complicated really. Just embarrassing or frustrating” Tobin squeezed her hand this time reassuring her that it was okay to keep going.
“When I graduated I still Hadn’t been called up to the senior team. And I know a lot of people don’t get call ups right away but I was getting all kinds of lucrative offers from overseas I couldn’t understand why the only team I wanted to play on didn’t seem to want me. I played for two seasons in Europe and then I retired and went into PR. Effectively giving up any chance I had to be called up. All before I was twenty four. I mean I could have still made the U-23 but my pride got in the way. I knew I was good enough and the fact that they didn’t see that struck something in me that I regret sometimes. I’ve moved on from it since. It would be unhealthy to still be upset or dwell on that decision I made. I gave up on my dreams because I valued someone else’s opinion over my own.”
Christen felt like she needed to catch her breath. She didn’t talk about this often if at all, in fact most of the time she chose not to think about it. Occasionally she would run into someone who knew about her professional career, or people she played with asking why she wasn’t still. She was honestly surprised it had taken this long for her girlfriend to ask.
“Have you ever considered coming out of retirement?” the question there Christen and she whipped her head up to look and Tobin who was sitting on the cushion next to her now. “I mean Christen, jeez, you’re one of the best players I’ve ever seen. Even in our pick up games you beat out some of the top rated defenders in the world”
“Those a pick up games, Tobin” Christen’s words had an edge on them that Tobin wasn’t expecting.
“You really think we just stop playing at an elite level because it’s a pick up game? We don’t give it our all but we still go out and play intentionally. I’m not trying to convince you Chris, I was just asking.”
“I don’t think it’s an honest reality. I don’t allow myself to play into ideas like that and not just because it’s unrealistic, but because no one gets a call up to the senior team at twenty eight, and also because as much as I would have loved to have spent my whole life playing soccer, I am doing a job that allows me to be apart of that world and do so much more than just play. I get to do so without sacrificing it if I were to do something like take a leave of absence or start a family.”
It was her reality now. Christen had come to terms with never playing on such an elite level again but new doors and opportunities had presented themselves and she learned to be thankful for everything she has now. It took a long time to get here and she didn’t want to go back to the what if’s of her soccer career. She has a soccer career and she is loving it, why would she put herself through that again. That’s all she was trying to get Tobin to understand.
“I understand that. I never meant to come off as me trying to convince you, I guess for me there isn’t anything else and I know there will come a day where I hang up my boots and then I’ll move on to something else. Right now I know I can’t empathize but I want you to know that any career decision you make I will be right here to support you everyday. I’m so proud of everything you’ve done, you blow me away. Watching you go out there and transform into this incredibly professional and level headed person in the midst of the chaotic media. I can’t handle it most days but you do it so effortlessly. I’m so proud of you, Chris.”
A soft smile reaches Christen’s eyes and Tobin leans forward to kiss her with reassurance. Neither of them saw this conversation going this way but they figured there were things that needed to be said that hadn’t yet. If there was anything to learn from the ways things had already gone between them, it was that things were better talked through than put aside.
“Sorry this conversation got to derailed” Christen offered leaning back and threading her fingers through Tobin’s.
“Yeah I guess we never really came to a consensus on the whole living together thing”
“How about for now we just keep doing what we are doing. Trying to worry about moving and selling a house before such a hectic and stressful summer, just doesn’t make sense. I’ll be on the road with you for all the national team’s games, we will be in France together for the cup. Why don’t we wait until we get back at the end of the summer to sort everything out.”
She squeezed her girlfriend’s hand and Tobin gave her a half smile but never met her eyes. She was looking at where her hand was fidgeting with a string on her pants. She was perfectly fine with them waiting to officially figure it all out until after what would be a very busy summer was over. The cup should definitely be the number one thing on her mind and ultimately her only focus right now. But she couldn’t shake what her heart was yearning for. She didn’t want to stay here in Portland between FIFA breaks alone while Christen went back to LA.
“Tobin? What’s wrong?” Christen could tell she wasn’t completely on board with what she had said
“Nothing is wrong, I just guess that plan doesn’t really cover what’s going on right now. Are you going to go back to LA now?”
“Oh Tobs, when I said we should keep doing what we have been doing , I meant this too. Me being here, I want to stay here with you while you are on assignment for the Thorns. If you’re okay with that?”
Finally realizing they were on the same page, Christen watched Tobin’s face brighten up as she nodded. She was far more than just okay with that.
“Tobin if you don’t hurry up you are bringing groceries in yourself!”
Christen yelled from the kitchen finishing her coffee waiting for Tobin to resurface after they had finished breakfast. It was just their luck that the one day they had to run errands it was pouring cats and dogs outside.
“I’m coming I’m coming!” Tobin came bounding down the hall and the handful of stairs into the kitchen. “Let’s go!”
“Took you long enough!” She was exasperated at this point. “And you’re driving” Christen threw the keys across the kitchen island tag Tobin and headed out the door. Tobin in heel.
Christen had made some stipulations about staying in Portland , one of them being that the condo could not keep looking or feeling like an unorganized storage unit. Another was that they were going to get a new comforter for their bed. A flat sheet and quilted blanket were not cutting it.
That became their first errand of the day. Also leading to their first argument of the day. It started with Tobin laying on a bed in a Pottery Barn playing a game on her phone instead of being a proactive participant in this search.
“I’m not going to walk around this store alone while you lay there and play a game like a five year old kid waiting for their parents”
“You’re the one who wanted a new bed set and I already said you could pick. I don’t know why I can’t just chill here until you decide?” Tobin wasn’t helping her case as she was still sitting on the edge of the display bed, her girlfriend on the edge of fuming just feet from her.
“Because it’s OUR bed Tobin, you should still at least like it. I want your opinion as well. Sure I can pick a few out but I would like us both to decide on one.”
“If it keeps us warm why does it matter what it looks like?” Tobin shrugged her shoulders and watched as Christen all but stomped away groaning. She knew she was suppose to follow so she hopped off the bed and followed her.
Some forty five minutes of browsing they finally found a duvet and cover that was mutually agreed upon. It took some time but Tobin came around to giving genuine input. She realized the more she contributed the faster the whole ordeal was going to go. There was also the fact that she didn’t like that Christen was annoyed with her. As they stood in line she wrapped her arms from behind her and rested her chi on Christen’s shoulder, peppering sweet kisses to the side of her face or shoulder and telling her how much she loved her.
Tobin would be lying if she said she didn’t know exactly what she was doing. Christen Press turned to putty in Her hands when she was sweet on her. It didn’t get her out of everything but she knew it would change her girlfriend’s mood after how this errand went. They still had a handful of things to do today and she would rather not play defense for the next few hours.
Last stop of the morning was the grocery store. Something Tobin had been doing on her own for years. Even with Christen living with her she still went alone and just picked up whatever items Christen would text her or write down on a post it before she went. Today however Christen was in charge. She found herself more than okay with that since not only did she hate shopping but she hated cooking.
“Tobin where is the list I gave you last night?” Christen was searching through her purse frantically. She had given Tobin the list and asked her to put it in her purse but not it was literally nowhere to be found. “I asked you to put it in here so we wouldn’t forget it and it’s not here”
“I didn’t put it in there Chris, I uploaded it to your phone”
“I downloaded this app last night that allows you to upload grocery lists, even calendars and to-do lists, you can share all kinds of stuff. It allows multiple people to edit and share so we can have a joint calendar and a joint grocery list. I put it on your phone”
Christen just smiled at her from the passenger seat. It was incredibly unlike Tobin to use an app like that, but it was very much like Tobin to do something that thoughtful. She watched as she showed her how the app worked and where to find the list she uploaded. Tobin had even went as far as to merge their calendars together so they could see whenever one of them had a meeting, training, game, or day off. She even included their morning errands for the day.
“You put an afternoon nap down on the schedule for today” Christen laughed at the absurdity of it.
“I mean I’ve got to get in a nap today. If it’s on the schedule it’s got to get done!”
“Just don’t turn us into one of those couples who start scheduling sex”
The words left her mouth as a joke before she could bite her tongue. And she immediately felt the air between them get a little tense. They had approached that gray area a few times. Making out on the couch or even in bed getting worked up but always backing off and cooling down before either of them took it further. This wasn’t one of those things they needed to talk about. It was more like this unspoken agreement they both had that they weren’t there yet. Tobin hadn’t slept with anyone for awhile. Even towards the end of her last relationship things hadn’t been happening in that department. She knows however that Christen had her arrangement with Nicole. She knows Christen spent time in Chicago just after New Years and while Tobin wouldn’t ask her girlfriend, she knew things were still going on between the two before Christen came down to camp.
But the joke came out anyway, and now Christen was wishing she could take it back. She listened to Tobin let out a dry, breathy laugh but it was awkward and they still had to grocery shop.
“Well I definitely won’t if you won’t” Tobin’s own joke was meant to lighten the mood. They were sitting in the car in the grocery store parking lot and the rain was getting heavier. “We should go in before this gets any worse” she pointed at the windshield getting a nod.
The drive home was a little quiet. The music was playing just over the sound of the heavy rainfall and words were exchanged sparingly. An “I’m ready for a nap” and “what do you want for lunch” spearheaded small talk. Between them, the awkwardness has faded. As they shopped Tobin continued her gentle assault of stolen kisses and random touches. Mingled with some goofing off of course.
The smiles they earned her, with the occasion scolding for child like behavior put them back into their comfort zone. Christen kept her hand in Tobin’s the whole drive home. Occasionally the hand would leave hers to aide Tobin’s driving but it found its way quickly back to its place in hers.
She pulled into her parking spot in the complex garage to avoid the rain. There were far too many things to bring into the house and getting soaking wet in the process didn’t sound like fun to either of them.
“I’ll get the bedding, you get her groceries” Christen proposed as she hurriedly got out of the car.
“Hey!” Tobin yelled as she quickly opened her own door running to the back of her SUV quickly. “You just want to take the bedding in as an excuse to not bring any of the groceries in. If you’re too busy putting it in the wash you don’t have to help.”
Maybe two people who had only known each other for the better part of a year wouldn’t know the other that well, but Tobin could read her girlfriend inside and out. And the smile Christen was trying to fight with a very serious expression was the tell tale. What Christen didn’t realize was that her eyes were her give all. If Tobin wanted to know how serious she was, it wasn’t anywhere on her face except her eyes. Right now they were doing their worst at hiding the smile she wanted to fight off.
“Okay fine I don’t want to bring in groceries, and I’m kind of excited about new bedding but it has to be washed and dried before we can use it.” She was pulling off that serious facade a little better now. Tobin rolled her eyes and pushed the button on the key fob to release the hatch so they could unload.
Christen hurried inside to throw everything in the washer while Tobin brought in their groceries and unloaded them. When she was done loading the washer she grabbed the mail key from the hook and headed out to brave the rain one last time for the day.
As she rounded the corner of the building she ran square into someone’s back.
“Oh I’m—- Tobin?”
“Christen what are you doing I was grabbing the mail”
“So was I”
“So you get to play with our new bedding and grab the mail no way!” Tobin grabbed the key from Christen and took off down the stairs towards the sidewalk to the mailbox. Christen chased after her right into the rain.
“You already have a key give that back!” She grabbed the back of Tobin’s coat pulling her in as she tried to take back the key in Tobin’s hand. She was holding it above her head as she backed towards the boxes blocking the one they needed to get in to.
“Tobin we are getting soaked just let me get the mail”
“Nuh uh” she said still blocking the boat and holding the key up.
“Tobin Powell Heath you are such a child, just get the mail” Christen gave in. She was already soaked head to toe by now. Tobin put her arm down but didn’t turn to unlock the box. Instead she kept her hand on Christen’s waist leaning towards her.
“You look beautiful” the confession was just a whisper off the edges of Christen’s lips. She surged forward wrapping one arm around her neck and running her fingers through her girlfriend’s wet hair. She felt Tobin slow the kiss but not pull away. They were making out in the rain, on the sidewalk, in the middle of the day.
“Chris we should go inside” Tobin let out breathlessly
Christen didn’t open her eyes. She took a moment to steady her breathing. Then she nodded and felt a hand take hers and pull her back towards the building.
All it took was a moment for Tobin to get the door open before she picked Christen up by her thighs wrapping them around her waist and pinning her against the front door kissing her again. This time with a little more sense of urgency. At first Christen matches her need but she thinks if this is the moment, she doesn’t want urgency.
Tobin senses that something has changed and pulls away for a moment looking into her girlfriend’s eyes searching for something
Christen just looked at her and without words Tobin knew what she wanted. She let her down and followed her up the stairs and down the hall. The bedroom was painted gray from the light emitting through open curtains. She closed the door quietly behind her and watched Christen rid herself of her soaked shirt. Reaching out running her middle finger from the back of Christen’s hand to her shoulder, Tobin felt as the goosebumps appeared causing the hairs on her arms to stand.
Before making another move though, she looked at her again. Stepping closer unsure if she had the self control to ask her burning question. Christen stood there half naked in front of her, with wanting eyes.
“Chris, are you sure?” She whispered it unintentionally.
Christen grabbed her face and nodded leading her back to the bed.
Tobin was a goner.
She could tell the sun was starting to set shortly after she woke up because the room had darkened. The gray outside was still bright enough to see though. Rain pattered against the windows gently now. Far less heavy than what the early afternoon had brought.
The window above her bed illuminated Christen’s exposed back as she slept peacefully, Tobin’s lone cover sheet resting across her lower back. A hundred life times could pass and she thinks this sight woukd still continue to be one of her favorites. Countless nights Tobin had stayed up to watch her sleep. Now she was watching her nap and tracing faint lines with her hand across her back.
Some time had passed and A loud clap of thunder hit startling Tobin and causing Christen to finally stir. Before opening her eyes though she let out a gentle hum. Tobin stopped her movements momentarily.
“Hmm keep doing that. It’s soothing”
She smiled and continued tracing lines.
“Don’t fall back asleep though, I invited Kelley and Emily over for dinner”
“Nooo” Christen whined “I want to stay in bed for the rest of the night”
“Well if you’re in the bed then you can’t put all that new bedding you’re so excited about on the bed. and it happens to be almost be done in the dryer”
Christen popped her head up looking over at Tobin.
“You sly dog, you knew I wouldn’t want to get up”
Christen hopped out of the bed and pulled on a pair of sweats and a t shirt discarded on Tobin’s floor with little regard to its cleanliness.
“What time are they coming over?”
“6. So we have two hours”
“Wow, two whole hours huh?” Christen sauntered to the side of the bed Tobin was still laying on. She must have been up awhile because she was showered and dressed. “We could do a lot with those two hours”
“Hmm yes we could but I still have to prepare food for the slow cooker and you need to shower” Tobin placed a quick peck to her lips and got back out of the bed.
“Yeah?” Tobin stopped halfway out of the door to look back.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Christen”
Game one of their send off series before they leave for the World Cup and Tobin felt as relaxed as could be. She waited for Kelley and Allie who were still in the locker room before heading out to start warm ups.
Kelley and her broke off to stretch and pass the ball back and forth. Tobin was mid laugh after Kelley butchered a kick and almost slipped when she was stopped in her tracks. She felt like ice cold water had been poured over her.
It was unmistakable. Christen was standing on the sideline just outside the tunnel talking animatedly with another woman. Tall, long blonde hair, and her hand resting on Christen’s bicep as the two of them laughed.
“Tobin dude what are you doing?” Kelley stood next to her trying to meet her eye line. It took a moment but then she saw it too.
“Dude, they’re not a thing anymore chill out. They work together and that’s it” Kelley gave her a small shove trying to kick her out of her angry stupor. Tobin just stood there eye brows furrowed, it was more annoyance than anger and she knows she won’t shake it before the game.
“Tobin! Dude! Come in!” Kelley was pulling her at this point. But Tobin couldn’t look away. When the whistle blew and the team headed into the locker room to change for the game Tobin was the first to head back.
She walked right passed the two women who she had just been staring down without making any eye contact or acknowledging her girlfriend when she called out for her.
Christen figures she just didn’t hear her over the music and the crowd, but she realizes differently just a few minutes into the game when Tobin is called for a foul.
It was highly unnecessary, and dangerous to do with the World Cup right around the corner. But it was the arguing and cursing Christen could hear from across the stadium that tipped her off. Tobin would never act like this in a game that doesn’t matter. She might get riled up for a missed handball, or wrongful offsides but to foul another player midfield and then argue it?
Tobin was angry about something and the last time she was like this it didn’t bode well for anyone.
When Tobin gets a red card for spiking the ball after another foul call, Christen wants to go after her as she storms off the field to the locker room. She had never seen her so uncomposed. But she doesn’t go after her. At the half she doesn’t follow the team off the pitches either. And when the game is over for some reason…
…..Christen still doesn’t want to find her.
Chapter 10: you are gold, you are all i see
Tobin has been laying on the bed of her hotel room on her back staring at the ceiling for over an hour now. Her team was out celebrating and she was here sulking in her hotel room instead of enjoying a victory. Sure she got ejected from the game. But it wasn’t a FIFA game and it was just a friendly, tomorrow when she woke up it wouldn’t matter. What mattered right now was that her girlfriend was nowhere to be seen after the game and she had yet to make any effort to text or call her.
If she is being honest, she was hoping that she would hear a knock on her door before she got a text or call. She’s ready to reach over and turn the light off when that knock finally comes though. She sits up slowly waiting to hear it again. Making sure she wasn’t hearing things. Quickly though the raps on the door come again.
Opening the door just slightly she sees the one person she has been hoping for all night.
“Tobin?” She barely cracks out before she sniffles. Tobin swing the door open quickly upon hearing the remnants of what she assumes is her girlfriend crying.
“Christen what’s wrong?” She pulls her in but Christen pulls away slightly.
“I am so sorry, Tobin. I am so sorry” she’s sobbing and Tobin just pulls her in more. She can feel her own tears pricking at her eyes. Slowly guiding them all the way into the hotel room she finds the edge of the bed and they sit next to each other. Tobin is only slightly confused about why Christen is apologizing but she figured she knows why. It’s an apology she would only half admit to wanting, but it came at the hands of her crying girlfriend. She would forego it in a heartbeat.
“I should have come to the locker room after the card but I was nervous because I didn’t want us to fight, not that we had anything to fight about, but then it dawned on me that Nicole was there. So instead of clearing the air and talking to you I ignored the whole situation and I have got to stop doing that. I have to communicate with you more and I am so sorry I haven’t been better about that. We talked about it and I just haven’t been good about it.”
Tobin places her hand under Christen’s chin and pulls her head up to meet her eyes. She’s never seen those green eyes so sad, and in the moment she knows she never wants to see them like this again.
“I forgive you, and I was upset but it wasn’t just about Nicole it wasn’t even just about us. I let that frustration take over my composure on the field and it’s my own fault I got that card. I’m not upset with you at all, all I wanted tonight was to see you. To talk to you and hold you because tonight kind of sucked”
“Hold me” Christen sounded as if she was almost pleading.
Tobin moved them up the bed and pulled her into her chest before pulling the covers over them as Christen wrap her arms around her torso. She placed a lingering kiss on her forehead before pulling back a little and resting her head on the same pillow. They laid there in silence for a few moments.
“I wish we were at home”
Tobin’s words caught Christen off guard a little. She looked up to see Tobin’s face almost in pain.
“I just want to be at home, in our own bed”
Christen didn’t miss that detail.
“Are there any flights out tonight?” Christen wasn’t necessarily in the mood for getting on a flight tonight but if it meant Tobin got what she wanted, them at home in their bed. Then she would happily get on a flight.
“I haven’t checked but I can?” she went to reach for her phone but Christen bested her to it.
“I’ll check, why don’t you get everything packed up” Tobin gave her a tight lipped smile and gave her a chaste kiss before moving off the bed again.
Christen looks up from where she was changing their flights in her phone. “Yeah, baby?”
“I love you”
“I love you too, Tobin”
She doesn’t have to open her eyes to know, the sun has definitely not come up yet. Before reaching a complete consciousness she tries to snuggle back into the warmth of her spot in the bed. It’s only a moment later she realizes why she was woken up to begin with. Christen sits up in bed seeing the sheets and blankets on Tobin’s side of the bed pulled back.
Then from behind the closed bathroom door she hears the awful noise for the third time. The noise that woke her up. Tobin was throwing up in the bathroom at five in the morning. Christen moved off the bed and knocked lightly on the door calling Tobin’s name softly.
There isn’t an immediate reply so Christen tries again.
Christen finally turned the doorknob, cracking the door open. She lets out something between a sigh and an “aw”. Tobin was curled up on the bathroom floor in an oversized hoodie and sweats. She had fly away hairs from her bun stuck to her forehead making it obvious she was sweating. Kneeling down Christen placed the back of her hand to her forehead. As she suspected, Tobin was burning up.
She reached down and shook her lightly trying to get her to wake up. Tobin rolled over and looked up not saying a word. Her face was pale and clammy. It only took a little bit of coaxing before she stood up with some physical aid, and made her way back into the bedroom and under the covers.
Tobin had fallen back asleep almost instantly but Christen stayed by her side for a few moments pushing her hair off her face trying to figure out what to do.
While she slept, Christen searched the apartment for any kind of cold or flu medicine to help bring down the fever and subdue the vomiting. Her efforts were fruitless and the grocery store didn’t open this early. Pulling up a pharmacy search on her phone proved to be a little more helpful before she hears Tobin call her from the bedroom.
“Chris” Tobin squeaks out, again sounding utterly pitiful.
“Hey, hey, I’m right here” Christen said as she walks into the room sitting down on the side of the bed.
“Can you get me water?”
She nods and returns a few moments later with a glass of water setting it on the nightstand.
“I’m going to run to the pharmacy? I’ll grab some soup and crackers as well. Just text me if you need anything else ok?”
Tobin gives a quiet acknowledgment after finishing her water and rolls back over.
Before heading out to the store Christen places a bowl on the nightstand then grabs a washcloth from the bathroom soaking it in cold water and rings it out, placing it on Tobin’s forehead.
On the way to the store Christen gets the idea to call Tobin’s mom to ask her some advice on what to do with Tobin while she is sick. The conversation was short but proved extremely helpful. Like learning that Tobin doesn’t like carrots in her chicken noodle soup, that she loves pedialyte popsicles (which comes off as a very Tobin thing Christen thinks) And, that Tobin rarely ever gets sick, but on the rare occasion she does, it’s usually pretty bad, and almost always lasts far too long.
Her trip took a little longer than expected, having decided to drive out of her way to a twenty-four hour grocery store a little further than the local pharmacy. The longer she was away the more anxious she got about leaving Tobin home alone sick.
The traffic on the drive home started to cause her more stress than she had felt just being away. She knew if she called Tobin she wouldn’t answer. Getting home quickly was the only thing that was going to placate her anxiety. Walking through the front door she quickly placed the grocery bags on the counter and made her way back to the bedroom.
Tobin was still asleep, but sweating profusely. Christen placed the back of her hand to Tobin’s forehead pushing aside the hair plastered to her face to feel just how hot she was. She gently woke her up long enough to get her to take some medicine and change into shorts and a loose tee shirt. It only took a few moments for Tobin to be asleep again.
It isn’t until after noon that she hears from Tobin again. While she certainly needed to be resting, it made Christen a little weary how hard she had been sleeping. On the plus side she wasn’t awake and throwing up. Tobin perks up just a little upon seeing Christen enter the room with a tray. She places it gently on the bed as Tobin slowly sat up doing her best to smile at her.
“Chris, what is all this?”
“Well, I called your mom this morning to get some insider information on how to deal with a sick Tobin Heath. So I made some chicken noodle soup and toast, no carrots, and if you can keep this down I have some popsicles for you in the freezer to help replenish those electrolytes. I also texted Mark and let him know you wouldn’t be at training today” she explains brushing her hand across Tobin’s cheek and pushing a few fly away hairs behind her ear.
“No carrots? This is homemade soup?” Tobin croaks out somewhat pitiful sounding.
Christen nodded with a tight smile, momentarily acknowledging that there was literally no push back from Tobin about missing practice.
“Oh babe, you are too perfect” Tobin says almost out of breath.
“I’m not but you deserve only the best. I have to finish some work but I want you to relax and eat. I think you are allowed another dose of medicine after you eat. Do you need anything else?”
Tobin looked around the room after a spoonful of soup slowly shaking her head. Christen explained she would be just down the hall in the living room.
It was hard for her to focus on work though. After grabbing the tray back from the bedroom when Tobin was finished the state her girlfriend was in was breaking her heart a little. She was pale and sweaty with a look of pure exhaustion on her face. An hour was all it took before she was throwing up her lunch, Christen hated how helpless she felt not being able to provide any relief for her.
The rest of their evening had went all the same. Tobin would get a couple hours of sleep in, attempt to eat only to reject it shortly after and on and on again.
The next day was more of the same with a slight glimmer of hope around dinner time. Tobin had been asleep for the longest period of time at once before actually getting up to find Christen doing dishes. She slowly dragged herself to the couch before answering the question she heard over the running water.
“What did you say”
Christen turned the water off and walked around the counter to meet Tobin on the couch.
“I said, why are you up? You should be resting!” Christen asked and pleaded at once.
“I feel a little better and I wanted to keep you company, plus I am going to get bed sores if I spend another minute in that bed” Tobin gave her girlfriend a playful smile getting nothing but an eye roll in response.
“Well, I can warm some soup up if you think you can keep anything down?” she asked with a clear lack of confidence.
“I don’t want to eat, just water for right now”
“Okay, but Tobs, if you can’t keep anything down come tomorrow, you are going to the doctor” Christen explained, eliciting a groan from Tobin.
“Tobs, it’s been nearly 72 hours since you’ve eaten, and you can’t even keep water down. You at least need to get some fluids in you ok?”
She finished up the dishes while Tobin browsed through her unwatched recordings of games before ultimately deciding on a movie instead. Christen had brought a few pillows and a comforter from the bedroom out to the living room and made herself comfortable between Tobin and the couch.
“You sure you want to be this close to me” Tobin asked weakly, starting to obviously decline from her earlier state.
“Ahh a few germs don’t scare me, just no kissing. I don’t do throw up breath” Christen said making a disgusted noise before placing a quick kiss to Tobin’s cheek.
“Hey, I brush my teeth afterwards, everytime” she defends half heartedly.
“Tobin, go to sleep love” Christen noticed a while ago that she had become a little less peppy, and despite taking medicine around the clock, her fever was becoming a little more apparent the longer she laid behind her.
Christen woke up drenched in sweat and unable to move, momentarily panicking before realizing that it’s Tobin, who is almost completely on top of her asleep. The only light in the room is coming from the tv and she thinks it must be after midnight. Reaching over with her right arm she pulls her phone from the coffee table and sees it is in fact just after one am.
Reaching up to feel Tobin’s forehead and realizes that she is burning up. Doing her best to get Tobin to shift off of her without waking her too much, Christen slips off the couch to grab the thermometer from the bedroom. She swipes it gently across Tobin’s forehead waiting a few moments for the results.
She goes into a straight panic. The previous couple of days her temperature had fluctuated between low-grade and 101. But this was grounds for going to the emergency room. The internal battle of waking Tobin up only lasts a few seconds because there is no way she isn’t taking her to see a doctor.
Sitting with her eyes closed head leaned back against the wall, Christen took a deep breath as she realized how hard fighting off sleep had become. When she heard the doctor walk back in the room she sat up and moved her chair closer to the bed where Tobin had been sleeping the last few hours.
“Promise to get you out of here soon, I am sure you are both exhausted.” The doctor began. “Labs came back positive for her flu test, everything else was negative. So from here it’s just keeping that temp down, staying hydrated, and bland foods until she is out of the woods. Pretty nasty case of the flu, but she will be ok. We did give her some stronger meds so she will probably be loopy for a few hours. My bet is she sleeps through most of it. Should the fever persist, or any of her symptoms worsen, bring her back right away. Do you have any other questions?”Christen shook her head and thanked the doctor before he explained the nurse would be in with discharge papers.
A few moments later Tobin began to wake up for the first time since they had administered her IV.
“Hey, how are you feeling” Christen whispered now sitting on the edge of Tobin’s bed.
“Hmm, you’re so pretty Chris”
Christen let out a quiet laugh and rolled her eyes a little. Tobin was definitely a little loopy.
“You’re my best friend you know that?” Tobin continued.
“You’re my best friend too, Tobs”
“Can I tell you a secret?” Before Christen could respond though Tobin continued “I really want you to be my girlfriend, like my best friend and girlfriend” she said in what could be passed off as a poor attempt at whispering. Christen couldn’t help but laugh. Tobin’s eyes weren’t even open when she exposed her, quote on quote secret.
“Well you’re in luck, because I am your girlfriend”
Tobin’s eyes shot open and a smile plastered her face. “Wow, well then I am so lucky” she said before she closed her eyes again.
Christen didn’t have a chance to respond though because the nurse had walked in at the tail end of Tobin’s comment. She made sure to wake Tobin fully so she could take out the IV and allow Tobin to get dressed.
It was nearly dawn before they made their way back out to the parking garage where Christen had parked Tobin’s car. She wasn’t surprised when Tobin had slept the whole way back to the apartment and crashed on top of the bedding after just barely making it in the door.
After preparing herself once again for bed, she climbed in next to Tobin who she had managed to get under the covers. For a few moments she laid there contemplating the drug induced, but tender words, Tobin said at the hospital. She felt just as lucky to have Tobin in her life. Not just as her girlfriend, but also her best friend. Seeing her like this had been breaking her heart all week and a trip to the hospital really hurt her. Seeing Tobin like this was not something she wanted to experience again. As her eyes got heavy she realized that after the week they had been having,they were both overdue for a long nap.
By the end of the week Christen had taken note on the progress Tobin had made. Eating more and staying hydrated, but still sleeping around the clock. By Friday evening things had finally taken a turn for the better.
Tobin had been in bed for hours by time Christen decided to turn in herself. There were faint sounds coming from down the hall though not too long after she had fallen asleep, and she noticed immediately Tobin wasn’t in bed. Slipping from under the covers she made her way down the hall in nothing but the oversized tee shirt she threw on to sleep in.
Blinking rapidly to adjust to the bright lights of the kitchen she finally registers the music playing from a record player Tobin has on a bookshelf. Something she was positive at one point was just decoration. Tobin herself standing in front of the stove whistling along to the song faintly floating through the apartment.
Christen slowly wraps her arms around her girlfriends waist from behind leaning her head against her back. She can feel Tobin chuckle a little without breaking her whistle.
“Why are you awake?” Christen asks more rhetorically than anything
“I woke up starving and I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich”
“Tobin, it’s after midnight.”
Tobin reaches over to turn the stove off and turns in Christen’s arms to face her placing a kiss on her forehead before wrapping one arm around her waist and taking the other in her own hand. Before she could register what was happening though, Christen was being gently lead into a slow two step, matching the song now playing.
Resting her head on Tobin’s shoulder she allows herself to be rocked back and forth as they danced slowly around the small kitchen.
“Who is this” Christen asks without lifting her head.
“I like it”
They let the song play out before Tobin finally pulls back to kiss her girlfriend for the first time in nearly a week. It’s short but soft and Tobin think she hasn’t felt this good in ever. She’s still exhausted thiugh and the late hour is getting to her already. When they make their way back to bed Christen reaches over to pull Tobin into her. She sleeps easier that night with the worries of the past week behind her.
“TOBIN HEATH! MY MAKE UP!”
“I don’t know why you wore makeup! We are getting in the water later! Besides, you don’t need it” she says slyly, shrugging and leaning down to kiss the side of Christen’s face that isn’t caked with whipped cream from the funnel cake they were sharing. It was Tobin’s idea to spend their last free Sunday, before they leave for the World Cup, in Seaside.
The boardwalk was surprisingly not too busy for a weekend at the start of summer. The weather not too hot, and Tobin admitted it being the first day she finally felt like a functioning person again after essentially being bed ridden with the flu.
“Well I guess it doesn’t really matter either way now” she replied using a damp napkin to wipe the rest of the whipped cream off her face.
“How about this, we head down to the water early, I’ll get some surfing in, and you can read that new book you brought along, and then we can go mini golfing?!”
“Why do you present that plan as if mini golfing is my prize for allowing you to surf?” Christen replies slightly unimpressed.
Tobin leans in close to whisper in Christen ear. “Cause I’ll let you win”
“Oh Heath, you don’t have to let me win, I’m gonna kick your ass”
She is only slightly taken aback. “You’re on Press” she finished with a chaste kiss to her girlfriends lips before standing up and heading back towards the car to grab her board.
Christen realizes that she has seen Tobin in various states of dress. Including completely naked. More times than she even cares to count actually. But something about the way she looks standing there with her wetsuit pulled down just below her hips with her bikini top exposed, casually talking to a stranger she had been going on runs with, just does something to her.
The thing is, no matter how many times she watches Tobin surf, every time she peels her wetsuit down like that, Christen’s brain short circuits, just like it is now. So she doesn’t hear the people next to her, or the group of friends yelling warnings as some college age guy crashes into her knocking her out of her chair along with all her belongings.
Tobin only hears the commotion afterwards and makes her way over quickly to where the guy who was trying to catch a football thrown too far, had completely trampled over her girlfriend.
“I am so sorry” he pleads helping Christen up out of the sand. He’s attempting to pick up her belongings and place them back where they were. “I really am sorry I was running backwards not watching where I was going are you okay? Did I hurt you?” He seems genuine so the rage she wants to feel is softened.
“It’s really okay, I’m not hurt. Just a little shaken up from being run over.”
“I really am sorry, we should move our game somewhere else”
“No it’s okay, just maybe watch out a little closer to where you’re running” Christen offers with a smile before brushing the rest of the sand off her legs.
“I feel like I should say sorry again but maybe at this point I’ve said it to much, I do mean it though!”
They both laugh a little not noticing Tobin had finally made her way back up the beach to where Christen had been reading.
“I guess instead of saying sorry again maybe I could show you how apologetic I am? We are going to a concert tonight up near the boardwalk, maybe you would like to join us?”
Tobin took this opportunity to make herself known by clearing her throat. Christen snapped her head around to see the displeased look on her face.
“Oh, hi, I’m Zach I was just apologizing for running your friend over and was —“
“Hey Baby, I saw what happened are you okay?” Tobin interrupted, half lying before he could finish, placing her board in the sand and running her hand down the side of Christen’s face as if she was looking for any injuries. Christen placed her hand on top of Tobin’s, realizing what she was doing. She just nodded and looked back and Greg who was still sporting a dopey smile. Unphased by Tobin’s slightly rude, and territorial antics.
“So as I was saying there is this concert tonight! My buddy plays guitar for one of the bands and if you guys would like to come I could get you tickets, no charge. As an apology, for literally running you over”
Christen speaks before Tobin can say anything rude to Zach, who she realizes wasn’t trying to hit on her. He was being genuine. “Actually we don’t have plans tonight so we would love that, and really I’m okay you don’t have to keep apologizing. I’m Christen by the way, and my friend here is actually my girlfriend, Tobin”
“Cool! Well show starts at 8:30, I can leave tickets with your names on them at the gate. Nice to meet you Christen and Tobin! Sorry about the circumstances though, again” Zach says before picking his football up and waving them off before jogging back over to his friends.
Christen turns to see Tobin scowling like a child. She can’t help but giggle a little. “Tobin, he was harmless and obviously just being genuine, stop pouting”
“I am not pouting I don’t like the way he was attempting to hit on you or ask you out”
It takes everything for her to not roll her eyes. She wants to validate Tobin’s feeling. She understands them, but she can’t help but feel like this is what tends to set Tobin off a little. “Tobs, I don’t know if you realize this, but people stare at you all the time, like a lot. And sometimes it makes me jealous, but then I remember, you’re mine. Sometimes I think you get caught up in who is looking at me or talking to me and forget that you are the only one I want. A little jealousy can be cute but you don’t need to feel threatened”
“I don’t feel threatened” Tobin defends but softens after the words leave her mouth, realizing that maybe, she does a little. “I don’t mean to get territorial, or defensive, I just want people to know you’re mine. And not like I own you kind of way, but in a look how lucky I am that I get to love you kind of way.”
Christen doesn't reply, she knows it does necessarily warrant a response. She wraps her arms around her neck and kisses her sweetly tasting the salt from the water still dripping off of her.
“So we are gonna go to the concert tonight?”
“Only if you let me beat you at mini golf”
Tobin was laying in bed scrolling through her phone listening to the buzz of Christen’s toothbrush coming from the bathroom. Just a moment later she heard her finish and saw the light flicker off in her periphery. Christen climbed under the sheets and laid her head on her Tobin’s chest as Tobin continued to scroll.
“Oh I love that one!” Christen said looking up at the phone.
“Yeah I think it’s one of my favorites too.”
The picture was taken before the concert. After they changed out of their bathing suits and headed back down to the beach. Tobin wanted to talk along the shore for awhile. The sun was almost gone and as they walked towards the boardwalk a couple had stopped them and asked if they wanted their picture taken. There was only just enough light left in the sky that nothing needed to be brightened. Christen had both her arms wrapped around Tobin with her head on her chest, they were both smiling from ear to ear. This one was going in a frame Tobin thought.
She knew it was her favorite but she scrolled through the photos of the day picking a few others she liked. Christen chimed in on a few, some she wanted deleted, some she wanted for herself.
“I wish I could take days like these and save them. So I can relive them again. The next two months are going to be so crazy I feel like we won’t get to spend time together like we hope. I’m not sad, because this is what I play for. This tournament, this opportunity. But I want you to be apart of every moment of it”
“Tobin, I will be. I’ll be in the stands every single game, and we will get to be together on recovery days, and on film and training days I’ll be around. In and out but around. Yes, it’s going to be crazy. But at least I get to be there with you. I could be stuck here instead. So let’s be grateful for that.”
“I am grateful. So grateful” Tobin says with emphasis but falls silent staring at the dark ceiling now. “Hey Chris?”
“When we were talking about like, the future, did I scare you?”
Christen could tell Tobin had suddenly become anxious. “Scare me how?”
“I feel like the things I talked about, they are things that are really far out there in the future and I thought maybe I got ahead of myself. Said things that we aren’t ready to talk about?”
“You didn’t scare me, and I don’t think there isn’t anything we aren’t ready to talk about. I think we could talk about anything. You want to talk retirement homes? Let’s do it” Christen says confidently but Tobin can sense the humor in her voice and relaxes a little. “Tobin, I want everything with you. You’re my best friend and I think we got lucky that way. So maybe I don’t want to go trying to have kids tomorrow. But would I like to talk about us living together in a serious and very present way? Yes, would I like to keep the conversation about marriage ongoing? Yes, because one day, I do want to marry you, not tomorrow, but one day. So no, I don’t think we could talk about things too soon. Talking is good. We should always be on the same page. About paint colors, and marriage, and kids, and retirement homes”
“Paint colors?” Tobin leans up laughing at the one small detail.
“Yes absolutely, I will not live in a house with someone who paints the walls of their home green” she says with finality
Tobin chuckles and lays back down pulling her closer.
“You are such a dork”
“I am not, I am classy and have taste.” She defends pulling the covers up higher getting into a more comfortable position to sleep. “Go to sleep now, it’s like two in the morning”
Tobin closes her eyes as a smile spreads across her face. In this moment, she never wants to know what it’s like without Christen by her side.
Chapter 11: no matter where you are, ill be there
“Dude if you don’t stop staring at your phone”
“I am not staring at my phone!” Tobin defended
“Tobs, you have picked it up like twenty times in the last couple of minutes. She said she would call when she gets here didn’t she?” Kelley wasn’t actually annoyed, it was just way out of character for Tobin to be so attached to her phone. They had landed in France the day before and Tobin hadn’t put her phone down since then.
“Yeah, she said she would call but her flight was delayed so I don’t know when she will call. I just…. I guess, no I know I miss her. It’s been a week since we have seen each other aside from Facetime calls.” Tobin put her phone face down on the table in front of her before leaning back into the couch deflated.
“I know, it’s just your head has to be here. I know we don’t play for another couple of days, but she will be here long before that. It’s not like you to stress about this kind of thing. Maybe you should do some yoga and meditation like Pressy. A relaxed and chill Tobin is the Tobin we need heading into these games”
“My head is in the game Kell, I can promise you that.” Tobin pauses for a minute then continues with an admission. “I told Christen I wanted to marry her, and even though we both have already talked about that being in our future… me bringing it up again kind of shifted her mood the last few days we were together. It’s been the same on FaceTime.”
Kelley is quiet for a minute, leaning against the headboard looking up at the ceiling momentarily before returning her line of vision to Tobin who was laid against the couch in their hotel room.
“What exactly did you say, I mean you didn’t propose right?”
“No!” Tobin defended quickly. “We both have talked a lot about our future and agreed, like yes marriage is in the cards but it’s out there.There was an instance the other day where I said it in the heat of the moment. She said she isn’t freaked out I think that maybe, despite us talking about it, I want it more than she does”
“Whoa Tobs, first of all that girl loves you like crazy. Crazy like if you did propose to her she would say yes kind of crazy. You guys have been dating what? Six months? That is kind of quick for like marriage talk” Tobin deflates again against the couch. “But, I get where your head is. You love her and the two of you are kind of unexplainable. It’s like the moment you two met it was just meant to be, even if it took you forever to get it together. So minus the relationship you were in, the two of you have been spending all your time together for nearly a year now. So crazy yes? Do I understand it though? Also yes.” Kelley feels some pride in her statement. As if what she just said was smart as fuck. “Wait, what heat of the moment did you say it? Not like during-“
“No!” Tobin quickly cuts her off before she suggests that Tobin would say something so important in the middle of sex.
It wasn’t even like a big moment. I just felt compelled to say it.
A week earlier
Tobin and Christen had flown to LA so Tobin could fly with the team to New York before they made their final departure for the World Cup. Christen was staying behind in LA for a few days before a few members of the federation also headed to Europe. There was a media team already there that she wasn’t apart of.
They had planned one quick final date before Tobin left knowing it’d be over a week before they saw each other again. Christen picked Tobin up to grab brunch near one of the surf spots Kelley and her frequented.
“They have the best waffles in the world I am sure of it” Christen says humming in content after one last bite of her breakfast.
“Oh Chris, they have these amazing breakfast dessert pastries that are like waffles in France you will die for. Almost a Belgian waffle but they stuff them with anything you could think of. Those are the best waffles in the world”
“So are you gonna take me to this wonderful place?”
“Absolutely, I’m going to give you the best tour of France. All my favorite places. We won’t have a lot of free time but I promise all my free time is dedicated to you”
“You know I’ll be pretty busy too, even on the days you aren’t playing or training”
Tobin nods in acknowledgement but the wheels are turning in her head. She isn’t one to plan things out meticulously but she thinks it would mean a lot to the woman sitting across from her if she made them a little itinerary for the days they would be able to explore. A smile curls at the corner of her lips involuntarily.
“What is going on in that head of yours?” Christen asks tenderly
“A plan, but you can’t know it yet”
Christen groans a little but gives in to letting Tobin keep her secrets. She’s usually an open book with her so the element of surprise is somewhat welcome.
They pay the bill and head down towards the pier to take a walk on the beach. They’ve both come to really love doing this together. A mutual love of the ocean and being together just enjoying each others presence, small talk with sporadic moments of comfortable silence.
As they walk hand in hand at the edge of the water Christen stops suddenly pulling Tobin back a little unexpectedly.
“Tobs is this a shark tooth?!” She says picking up a triangular shaped object from the sand that was a little larger than a quarter.
“I think it is” Tobin replies checking it out as Christen hold it in her palm lifting it closer to her so she could get a better look.
“I have literally never seen one on the beach before, I use to look all the time as a kid. This is so amazing!” Christen was smiling from ear to ear visibly excited over finding the tooth.
Tobin couldn’t help but smile at her. Christen was still rambling on about how excited she was looking around at the sand beneath them hoping to find another. Tobin took her hand again and pulled her body into her own, kissing her slowly. She pulled back slightly opening her eyes just inches away from Christen’s face. Her eyes were still closed but she was smiling.
“I love you so much”
“I love you too, Tobs”
Tobin reaches her other hand over feeling the newly found object clutched in Christen fingers, pulling her back into the moment that had originally filled her with the joy she was feeling.
“I can't wait for the day I get to marry you”
Tobin said it before she could actually process the words. She knew it wasn’t an unspoken thing between them, but this was different. She didn’t panic though. She watched Christen’s smile only falter a little before she leaned up and places a chaste kiss to Tobin’s lips and turned back to the edge of the water pulling Tobin along with her.
The lack of response was what freaked Tobin out a little. Well that, and the fact that she so impulsively said THAT.
“So that was it” Kelley seems unimpressed with the moment Tobin had just described to her.
“What do you mean” that was it?” Dude, that’s something you say when you’re like engaged or something. Not just walking on the beach with your girlfriend”
“Dude, I think you’re too worried about it and I also think you’re letting social expectations dictate what you say to your girlfriend. Why don’t you just ask her?”
“Because, I already had to do that once before, I had to ask her if us talking about the future scared her”
“She said it didn’t.”
“Okay, then I think you have your answer.”
Tobin’s phone starts ringing before the conversation can continue.
“ I am in the lobby checking in, sorry I didn’t call when we landed my phone was dead, I charged it in the van on the way over”
“I will be right down” Tobin says scrambling to find her sandals and room key throwing up at a hand at Kelley to wave goodbye.
She think this hotel might have the slowest elevators in the world, or the universe is just trying to torture her. When it finally hits the first floor she’s almost out of the doors before they could properly open.
Standing next to the concierge desk ruffling through a bag was a head of dark wild curls belonging to a woman in joggers and an oversized hoodie. Tobin wrapped her arms around her burying her face in her neck as Christen abandons the search for whatever item in her bag, pulling Tobin in closer and relaxing into her embrace.
“I missed you so much”
“You have no idea” Tobin responds without letting go. “Do you want to go up and get unpacked and take a nap?”
“Actually I slept like the whole flight so I just want to change and then we can grab something to eat?”
“I have a team meeting in forty-five minutes but we are free to do whatever for dinner” Tobin explains hoping she is willing to hold out a little longer for dinner
“That’s actually great, I can shower before we head out” she gives Tobin a quick kiss before they head towards the elevators.
The team meeting is recorded for behind the scenes footage and Tobin is totally used to the camera that are always moving around the rooms they meet in. So naturally she has also gotten accustomed to ignoring them. This time she can’t though. She tries and Kelley and Emily both scold her despite the fact that she hasn’t actually done anything. Except stare.
There is one particular person in the room that usually isn’t here and if Christen was here she knows she’d be scolding her too. Nicole, an analyst not a media rep, was there directing the media coverage for US Soccer. Tobin is fully aware she had no reason to be acting the way she is. In her defense she isn’t actually acting any specific way, but she didn’t understand why she was here... She just keeps glancing over at her and the two people next to her are the only ones who have noticed.
The meeting is pretty short considering they had trained most of the day together. It’s all schedule related. Meal times, film blocks, and curfews. Once the team is let go for the night Tobin tries to book it out of the room back upstairs.
But the universe is out to get her again.
“Hey Tobin!” The voice calls from a few feet away.
“Hi” she replies more confused than anything.
“We have you down for some behind the crest stuff and wanted to know if we could knock it out real quick?” Nicole explains and Tobin knows she can’t just say no.
“Sure, in here?”
“Actually we have a conference room setup for all of our media stuff if you wanna follow us it’s just down the hall”
Tobin lets out an exaggerated breath after half heartedly agreeing. She spots Kelley wide eyed from across the room before stepping out to follow the small crew down the hall.
Nicole isn’t the one to interview her but she is the one who preps Tobin for the interview. Feeding her the questions before they film. Discussing the purpose of this specific part of the series. Tobin is actually mid film when she sees Christen’s and Kelley enter the media room. There are a few other players lingering after also providing some footage and she watches them make their way to a group on one side of the room.
When Tobin is done Nicole thanks her graciously. Acknowledging that interviews aren’t her thing but they are really grateful for her time and wishes her good luck with the group stage games.
Tobin chastises herself a little after the interaction. Without letting her imagination run wild, she gets it a little. Why Christen might have been drawn to whatever it was they were. Nicole was actually an incredibly kind person. She made the entire process bearable making sure that Tobin was completely comfortable with everything they did. It was time to actually let it go.
She walked over to where Christen and a group of her teammates were chatting. Leaning her head on Christen’s shoulder as she was explaining something unrelated to soccer to her teammates.
“You ready for dinner?”
Christen noticed the short response but it had been a long day they could discuss everything over dinner.
“You ready for the game?” Christen had just finished a salad as they were waiting for their entrees.
“More than ready, just ready to get out there and play” Tobin smiles and takes another sip of her water. The air between them wasn’t awkward but had almost a feeling of fatigue. As if something just needed to be said so it could relax. They could relax.
“Your interview go ok?”
“Yeah actually it was short and sweet and the questions were general and obviously carefully prepared for me. I appreciate that, I know most people understand I hate doing them”
“Yeah, Kelley came to my room after the team meeting…”
Christen didn’t elaborate, she knew Tobin was either going to ignore the situation or come right out with it. This was her way of edging her on to it.
“She saw Nicole approach me and probably felt like I needed to be supervised or something.”
“She said you were kind of out off during the team meeting, I wanted to make sure you were okay” Christen felt like she was walking on eggshells. They had talked about this a few times, even walking through the entire friendship Christen had with her coworker. She made sure to be as transparent as possible. Tobin and seemingly let it go.
“She is really kind and made me feel super comfortable and the whole thing was very low pressure. I don’t mind doing press conferences and interviews if she’s the one handling the environment. I know how things went before, and I’m sorry. I’ve got a bit of a jealousy streak and I can promise you with this, from here on out, it’s completely professional. I’m sure she’s a good friend and I know there is nothing to worry about.”
“Good, I’m glad. I wasn’t worried about all that though. I just want you to feel comfortable. She knows things between her and I are all work now and she respects you. She’s very professional. We are all here to keep our heads in the game and our eyes on one goal. She is a little out of her element here, being in charge of a lot of different departments. Thanks for being civil” Christen was basically giving a pep talk now and Tobin couldn’t help but chuckle.
It’s these small moments between them, the comfortable and easy ones. That make her realize how much she loves Christen. The thought brings her back to earlier in the evening though, her conversation with Kelley.
“Can I use one more minute to be not focused on that goal and ask you something?”
Christen looks up with her eyebrows furrowed in confusion but just nods.
“That day at the beach-“
“Tobin, stop. You’re overthinking it again, I was a little bummed about you leaving a few days ahead of me. It just reminded me. What you said was fine okay? I love you. Let’s focus on winning this team another World Cup okay?”
Every time something seemed to happen between them, a little bump in the road, turbulence. It got easier. For a moment she thinks back to New Year's Eve, wishing that it could have been this easy from the beginning. But Tobin knows nothing worth having is ever easy. Shifting that to the games ahead was all that mattered now.
Two weeks. They were two weeks into the tournament and had, as expected, made it out of group play into the knockout rounds. It had been two of the best weeks in some of the players lives. Tobin doesn’t think she’s really ever had this much fun playing and the atmosphere around her going into the next game has her feeling invincible.
The next three days were focused on recovery,rest, and film. Which meant for the first time in three weeks Tobin and Christen were getting to eat dinner alone. They resorted to grabbing food to go and cuddling up in Christen’s hotel room bed away from the shenanigans of the team. Tobin had become a little frustrated with settling for quick kisses in passing and catching up as they were headed in different directions for the day.
Tonight Tobin was happy to be laying in bed with nowhere to be, reading Christen’s book to her aloud while she laid her head in her lap. Enjoying a few hours they felt like they could steal away from reality. When Tobin finished a third chapter she set the book down and ran her fingers through Christen’s hair just basking in the moment.
“Two more weeks right?”
“If we keep winning, yes two more weeks. And if we take it all home, maybe like one more week of craziness at home but right now I am just focused on Friday”
“Then we can take a really long nap right?” Christen asked hopeful that the crazy lives they were living would finally slow down after this. She knew she was wrong though.
“Sure but when I wake up from that nap I have club duties to get back to” Tobin leans down and places a kiss to her head before slipping out from under her and off the bed to pull on a hoodie.
“I wouldn’t normally admit it but, I’m actually a little nervous about this game. The first few games were competitive, but we felt relaxed. The game against China felt a little more amped but… I think this game is really going to test us, Germany is a good team.”
Tobin laid back down and let a breath out slowly.
“Hey, you guys have looked so composed and playing like a well oiled machine. I know pre game jitters are normal but I believe in you guys and so does most of the world. Let’s just relax tonight. It’s the first time in weeks we’ve been alone, and I know the only thing anyone wants to focus on is the next game, but for a few hours can we stay in our little bubble?”
“Hmm our little bubble huh?” Tobin raised an eyebrow slowly leaning in closer to where Christen was laying. “What do we do in this little bubble?” She finally closed the distance between them peppering kisses across Christen’s face before she would answer.
Christen wrapped her arms around Tobin’s back and pulled her all the way down onto the bed. Tobin leaned back looking into Christen’s eyes smiling.”I think we do just this” Christen finally answer and kissed her back.
“I like this” she replied before leaning over and turning the bedside lamp off.
China 0 - USA 2
Tobin makes her way over to the sidelines after the post game huddle and lifts Christen up off the ground, spinning her around.
“I am so proud of you, baby. You assisted both of those goals. Blew me away”
“You liked that?” Tobin says a little cockily. She’s flying right now knowing they are going to the quarter final against a team they have beaten three times this year already. She’s not in a head space thinking they’ve got it in the bag. But the energy and the confidence behind her team has shifted and in her bones, she thinks they might just take it all home, again.
“I like watching you play”
“Well I guess it’s a good thing I get to play a lot then. Hey, I’ve gotta shower and we have a meeting later but tomorrow is recovery and film which means tonight I am taking you out on a date. A real date. To celebrate, but also because you deserve it.”
“Shouldn’t I be the one taking you out? You are after all the one who just won a very important World Cup game?”
“I’ll let you take me out after the next one”
“Oh very confident of you to assume you’ve already won the next one.” Christen is being playful with her and at this point Tobin is starting to think she hates some of the rules in place during this tournament. There’s nothing more she wants to do than to take her girlfriend back to the hotel and have her way with her.
Tobin leans in closer so that she can whisper for just Christen to hear using her sleeve to cover her mouth from onlookers.
“Does that turn you on? Me being confident? Or is it me winning that does it?”
Christen closes her eyes biting the inside of her cheek cursing herself slightly at the effects she’s allowing this moment to have on her. They are both technically working. She takes a moment to compose herself before giving Tobin’s shoulder a light shoved
“Go shower. And when you life that trophy over your head, I’ll show you just how much you winning turns me on.” Christen bites out just above a whisper walking towards the tunnel away from a beet red, Tobin.
Christen finished up things at the stadium roughly an hour after the game was over and took one of the shuttles back to the hotel before most of the team had even made it out of the locker room. She sent Tobin a text letting her know she was going to shower and nap. Not expecting to hear from her about their plans until after the team meeting.
Tobs: I made reservations at 7:30 I will be by your room to get you around 6:45. It’s going to be fancy, so dress fancy.
Tobin’s text made her smile as she curled up for a nap. She had about an hour before she would need to start getting ready. She shoots a quick text back before turning over
My Love: I will be ready and dressed fancy just for you. I love you.
It’s only after 6:30 when Tobin knocks on the door of her girlfriends hotel room and she isn’t surprised one bit when Christen opens the door and takes her breath away.
“Damn” Tobin lets out in a whisper looking her up and down.
“Don’t look too bad yourself there, where did you get a fitted suit on such short notice?”
“I didn’t get it on short notice. I have had this planned for a few weeks actually” Tobin admits remembering her little itinerary she put together for the days she was absolutely certain they were both free. This was the only real date night she managed to plan but she made sure to go all out for it. Knowing for a fact Christen had packed at least one nice dress.
“You have how?”
“Remember If I tell you all my secrets how will I keep the mystery in our relationship alive” Christens rolls her eyes as Tobin leans in pressing a kiss to her cheek and moving out of the door frame to allow Christen to step out into the hallway so they can head out for their date.
They took an Uber to a small but very nice restaurant just far enough away that Tobin wouldn’t be spotted by fans. After enjoying a crazy amount of food Tobin tells the waiter they are going to forego the dessert, confusing Christen, but insisting it’s all apart of her plan. When they exit the restaurant Tobin grabs Christens hand, lacing their fingers, as they walk down the street together in comfortable silence.
Tobin is the first to speak after a few minutes as she continues to lead Christen down another road getting further and further from where the night life seemed to be booming.
“You probably don’t remember it, but one of the nights you were in the hospital, before things went downhill” Tobin pauses and Christen can sense that she is trying to keep her emotions in check.
“I had my head laying on the bed holding on of you hands, and you squeezed it, just barely, and it was the first time in days that you weren’t just laying there. I felt like my heart was going to beat it’s way out of my chest and I just knew in that moment, I could never lose you. That if this relationship for some reason didn’t work out we would have to still be friends because you came into my life and you changed it in such a way that it I can’t ever go back. It was such a small moment, but it felt so important”
Christen can feel a tear escape and she reaches with her free hand to quickly wipe it away. The movement draws Tobin’s attention to her and she stops them on the sidewalk. “I didn't mean to make you cry I’m so sorry baby”
“It’s okay, Tobin. I just, people always tell me I have a way with words. And it’s almost always related to work. I’m good at that but you, sometimes you say things and I think I’ve never heard someone speak the way you do, and when you talk about me, about us, like that you make me feel the same way. I love you so much, and I can promise you I am in this, nothing is going to happen between us that we won’t ever work out. So you never have to worry about losing me.”
Tobin doesn’t respond this time but instead pulls a box from her pocket, but quickly stops and looks at Christen. “This is not what you think it is I promise okay.” She finishes pulling it out and opens it for Christen. It’s a silver necklace with what appears to be a small plain rectangular plate. When Tobin flips it over there is a very small T engraved into the left side of it.
“This is super cheesy and I realized that only after I got it, and I planned on giving it to you after dessert tonight. I just wanted you to have some piece of me with you all the time and that probably seems like possessive so you don't have to--”
Christen kisses her to stop her rambling. Tobin doesn’t talk much to begin with so when she rambles it’s obvious she is nervous. Christen knows this.
“It is very cheesy, but I love cheesy and I love it.”
The rest of the walk to the place Tobin planned dessert for them is short and Christen verbally notes that she is probably not suppose to be condoning this kind of eating during the world cup but the night has been perfect and when Tobin tells her it was her favorite place while she played for PSG she lets it be their little secret. They share some ice cream contraption with pastries she has definitely never heard of, and is positive Tobin butchered their pronunciation by the way the guy behind the counter cringes at her French.
They make their way back to the hotel just in time for Tobin to be in for curfew. They are both a little bummed at ending the night earlier than they might have at home. Knowing they won’t be sleeping in the same bed tonight. Something Tobin thinks more about than Christen. She hasn’t mentioned not being able to sleep lately and Tobin hopes that its a good sign.
“Tobin, tonight was perfect, thank you for planning this .I kind of don’t want it to end..”
“I could, stay ya know?” she offers trying to look innocent. Christen doesn't buy it though.
“You already asked Lindsay to cover for you didn’t you?”
Christen shakes her head but leads them into her room with their hands laced together. She doesn’t think she has ever felt so grateful for what she has in her life as her and Tobin fall asleep wrapped up in each other for the first time in weeks.
It is some kind of irony that the World Cup Final is not only against France in France, but on the Fourth of July. It could only be more ironic if it was in England, against England Tobin thinks. They are getting off the bus at the stadium and she is trying to take everything in one breath at a time. They made it this far and all that is left for them to do, is play their very best for 90 more minutes.
Christen was super busy the day before and they haven’t seen each other since their hotel room dinner after the semifinal. She knows that she will be on the sidelines today instead of in the stands. Tobin wasn’t stressing about them not having seen each other though. They both had been busy and she thinks that her girlfriend may have even put some distance between them to allow for Tobin to get her head in the right place for this game.
She likes to just live in the moment. Not dwell on the past, but as she sits in the cubby of her locker she reflects a little on the last month of her life. This incredible journey that she has been on, with this team, getting to do it with the love of her life right there along for the ride. Her family is here now. It feels all encompassing and she allows a smile spread across her face at the thought of lifting that trophy over her head again in a few hours. She knows there is work to do first and she is going to put everything she has out on the field.
When she goes to pull her shorts on a small white envelope falls out of them. It’s blank but she has a feeling she knows who it’s from since very few people have access to the locker room.
I am so proud of you and all you have accomplished on your journey to get here. I am grateful you have allowed me to be such a personal part of it. Not just because it’s my job. One year ago today I met the person who changed my life for good and I can’t wait to celebrate that with you, no matter what happens tonight. Here’s to one full year of us.
PS, if you do win, there is a very long overdue present waiting for you ;)
FRA 0 - USA 0
The team is frustrated and it goes without saying why. They are controlling the game, out playing France in possession, and they’ve got sixteen shots, nine of them on goal. These are all the things they already know and all the things their coach is yelling as they first enter the locker room. Tobin’s brain is processing though. A few things she had picked up on the French defense. They were falling apart slowly and eventually one of those shots was going to go in but they couldn’t wait until that happened by chance. They needed to tactically change a few things so Tobin speaks up as she finishes her realization. “Coach I have an idea”
So now they have a plan, and she hopes, no prays, it works for them because this game could easily be 5-0. The French is lacking speed, and they’ve been pacing, so now they’re gonna press. As soon as that second half whistle blows Tobin goes off like a cannon with Pinoe keeping in line on the other side of the pitch. She doesn't find out until much later that it only took 17 second for them to score in the second half. For Tobin to score. And she can feel the energy of the stadium erupt. She is dogpiled after her goal and it doesn't stop there.
Final FRA 0 - USA 4
They scored four goals in less than twenty minutes and used the last twenty-five to play a possession game. When the final whistle blows her eyes shoot to the bench looking for everyone wearing US track suits knowing somewhere among them was the one and only person she wants to celebrate with immediately. Tobin sees her and she doesn’t have to think, or process her body just knows. Before she realizes it she meets her next to the bench, picks her up and kisses her wrapping her hand around her neck. It surprises Christen. They never talked much about being public. But at the moment neither of them care. There will be headlines, and pictures, and conversations. In this moment though neither of them let it cross their minds.
When Tobin finally puts her down she feels her girlfriend tighten her grip on her leaning their foreheads together.
“Hey Tobin?” Christen whispers into Tobin’s lips
“I can’t wait to marry you one day”
The celebrations continue on as expected. They lift the trophy and the individual awards are handed out. Tobin finds her family in the stands and spends some time with them before following her team back to the locker room where the chaos ensues. Christen gets to be apart of it but she stands back allowing the players and other staff to enjoy spraying alcohol everywhere. She can’t wipe the smile off her face either way.
Kelley makes her way over tho Christen who is standing alone watching the insanity around her. She slips her arm around Christen's shoulders
“Chris, we won ANOTHER WORLD CUP! I am so happy you are here. I am happy you are with Tobin. And I better be her best man at your wedding because without me, you guys wouldn’t have each other.”
She almost wants to blame Kelleys behavior on the copious amounts of alcohol she has consumed in such a short period of time but she knows in all honesty, it’s just Kelley being Kelley.
“Have I never thanked you for that?” Christen says sarcastically
“You have not!”
“Well thank you, Kell. For dragging me out to celebrate this job. A year ago I couldn’t even imagine this. Any of it. I am very thankful for you. And there is no wedding Kelley, not anytime soon anyway. We aren’t in any kind of rush. We have our whole lives ahead of us.”
“Yeah well that’s lame, I think you guys should get married now. I know Tobin wants to marry you, I say you just do it.”
Okay Kelley IS drunk Christen thinks. If they hadn’t been so transparent with each other, she knows Kelley’s words would have freaked her out before. But she knows where they are and so does Tobin. She doesn’t think she has ever been so happy, and so content in that.
Kelley shrugs off the silence quickly rejoining the party and Tobin makes her way over again greeting her girlfriend with a kiss.
“You taste like beer” Christen says slightly disgusted.
“And I believe you owe me some kind of over due reward” Tobin says arching an eyebrow causing her girlfriend to laugh at her.
“Oh don’t you worry your pretty little head baby, it’ll be waiting for you when we get back to the hotel. After you have showered and brushed your teeth”
Christen kisses her again and picks up a beer of her own deciding to join in on the celebrations. There was a time when she wanted this for herself as a player, and although that dream had died years ago, she too way apart of this team. She got to wear her own World Cup medal, and while it wasn’t the same, she was going to celebrate like it. Moments like this usually only happen once in a lifetime. She makes eye contact with Tobin from across the room and they both smile at each other. It doesn’t ever seem to matter where they are or what they are doing, just like this moment here, when she looks to find Tobin, she is always there. Always.
Chapter 12: she call me goose I call her maverick (they just jealous cause we got love)
Christen had been changing into pajamas after a shower waiting for Tobin to come upstairs to bed. But she knows Tobin should have been upstairs by now, they had both agreed that it was time to get ready for bed but Christen had showered, brushed her teeth, and gotten dressed with no sign of her girlfriend.
“Tobin?” Christen yelled out their bedroom door hoping the sound carried down the stairs. She could hear Tobin reply with a faint “Yeah” So she yelled back down again asking if she was coming up. She got another “Yeah” and just a few moments later she could hear Tobin running up the stairs.
Christen was already in bed focused on something on her phone. Tobin was already in pajamas. Christen thinks she must have come up and changed while she was in the shower even though she didn't hear her at all.
“Hey babe, did you bring the book up at all?” Christen asked not looking up from her phone.
“Yes, did you want to read some before bed?”
Before they had even started dating Tobin had gotten herself accustomed to basically stealing any book Christen was reading before she could finish it. When they started dating it was a little easier, since they spent most of their time together, at each others homes, the book wasn’t usually stolen, instead just commandeered. They started a new tradition though, where they would take turns reading whatever book the other was interested in, out loud to the other. Two birds one stone. Plus Christen loved being read to, something she doesn’t think she grew out of. And Tobin never seemed to mind reading to her.
So tonight they were starting a new book together.
“Oh before I forget I am going out with Kelley for brunch tomorrow and then she is coming to finish help setting up for the party, and since you took care of the obnoxious decorations outside, we will take of the inside”
“Chris, they are not obnoxious, you are just scared of the flying witch I put in the tree”
“Tobin, I was not scared of it. I was caught off guard after coming home from a long day at work to an animatronic witch flying at me in my own yard.”
Tobin was fighting back a fit of giggles has her girlfriend glared at her waiting for her to stop.
“Chris your reaction, oh your face was so funny. I totally saved the footage from the security camera.”
“YOU. DID. NOT!” Christen was shocked and maybe slightly amused that Tobin would do that.
“Also, I did a ton of setting up while you were in the shower”
“Babe, you already spent the whole day finishing up the office you didn’t have to do that too. You’ve been doing so much around the house lately, and you just came off a championship game, you deserve a break.”
“Eh. I’ve got like five weeks before my next game, keeping busy around the house will be good for me.” She leans in and gives her a kiss before opening up the new book she had set on the bed side table.
“Are we ready to read now?” She asks Christen who still hadn't put her phone down.
“Yeah just one sec, confirming things with Kelley”
Christen places her phone down on the table and slides down on the bed turning towards where Tobin was resting against the headboard. Every night for over a month now they had been doing this. The first few times was when Christen had flown up to Portland to stay with Tobin as she finished up her NWSL season. Sealing them a winning year and another championship felt like the icing on the cake of what had been an absolutely perfect year, well at least so far
“So what are you and Tobin dressing up as, for Halloween?”
“Kell, it’s a surprise. I told you this the first two times you asked” Christen gave Kelley a knowing look across the table they were sharing over an early lunch.
“I know but if it’s couples costume I just gotta know! Gosh you two are such dorks I bet it’s like Peanut Butter and Jelly or something even cheesier. And Tobin is the cheesiest part of it isn’t she?!” Kelley started to get excited again. Christen felt like she was a little too obsessed with this Halloween thing
“You’ll see on Saturday” Christen said with finality and shrugged her shoulders.
“Okay fine, change of subject. How is the house stuff coming along?”
“We close next Monday if all goes well. They inspection will be done sometime this weekend then all the papers get signed and I will have officially owned and sold my first home”
Kelley senses the change in Christen’s demeanor as the explains how the rest of the process will go over selling her condo. She had battled with the decision for weeks. After a long conversation with Tobin they had both agreed that they wanted to officially live together. And it didn’t make sense for Christen to own a second home when Tobin already had two. They were big giant steps they were taking but that wasn’t where Christen’s hesitancies were coming from.
“Well I think that’s great! You guys have been shacking up from the beginning so this will be great for both of you. And I only have one place to stop when I want to see you both.”
“Yes Kelley, that’s why we moved in together, to make it easier on you.”
“I know you’re being facetious Christen, but I really am happy for you guys. You’ve both just evolved so much since you found each other-“ Kelley paused for a moment before realizing- “BEFORE I INTRODUCED YOU TWO. Gosh I just realized I am responsible for your happiness”
“I went to Stanford too, Chris. I know big words. And that’s all you got from that. Was my use of the word facetious?”
Christen laughed and ignored the rest of what Kelley said. She was thankful for everything that had led her to the outpouring of happiness life had brought her over the last year. She didn’t need to make her friend’s head any bigger about it than it already was.
After their meal the two of them made their way back to the house to finish decorating for the Halloween party Christen and Tobin were throwing.
Kelley made sure to do a full walk through of the house commenting on all the changes Christen had made since moving in. What she didn’t tell Kelley was she had been working crazy hours and it had actually been Tobin who had unpacked most of the boxes, and made sure that everything was put away to make it look like they genuinely shared the home. Everyday that Christen would come home she would notice something new.
Some of Kelley’s observations were blatantly Christen, but most of them weren’t and it made Christen love Tobin just a little more.
Her favorite changes were the way Tobin’s bedroom and become theirs, her new home office Tobin had completely redesigned on her own, building a built in desk and shelving unit in what was the downstairs guest bedroom, but over all, the gallery wall in the entry hall.
Christen had come home one day from work a little early and Tobin was still building the desk in the office but had most of Christen’s office stuff unpacked. She had stood in the doorway watching Tobin organize stuff as close as possible to the way she had it before the move. When she asked where the pictures were, Tobin said she placed the NCAA tournament one on the bookshelf where she also kept her championship team pictures and medals etc., The graduation picture was hung behind the door of the office with a few others, And the sunset picture of her and her mom, was hung on the gallery wall.
Tobin had once said each picture on the wall was a moment of significance in her life. Moments she wanted to display because they were the most important ones. This was just one of her ways of making her home, theirs.
Pictures of the two of them already hung there but this one was just Christen’s and it meant more than she could really find words to express.
When Kelley pointed it out she did so already knowing that it wasn’t Christen who did this.
“Tobin is one of the most thoughtful people in the world. She always thinks of everything doesn’t she” Kelley said still looking at the wall of photos.
“Yeah, she’s good like that.”
Kelley looked at the photo of them that night on the Fourth of July, then she scanned over to the one of them in Chicago.
“Wait, Christen when was this? How have I never seen this before?”
“Kelley that was last summer, like a month after I started my job”
“You and Tobin hung out in Chicago?”
“Yes?” Christen didn’t understand where Kelley was going with this. That picture was taken nearly a year and a half ago and it had been hanging on the wall since last Christmas. Kelley remaind quiet for a few more moments
“Kelley what is it?”
There’s a smile playing at the corner of her lips before she looked down for a moment and met Christen’s eyes.
“I don’t know if I believe in that whole soulmates business, but if that was taken last summer, then I’ll be damned”
Christen is completely lost.
“Chris, you guys look like you were in love already in that photo and it was six months before you guys got together and Tobin was still-“
“Yeah I know” Christen cuts her off.
“Hey I didn’t mean it like that, I don’t think either of you had a clue then that you’d be where you are now. I know you guys really did start off as just friends. I just saw this and realized you two really do make so much sense ya know?”
“That one isn’t even my favorite”
“You mean there is a picture even more sweet and gross of the two of you”
Christen points out the Christmas picture they took last year, when they were still just friends.
“ Christmas Eve I came over to sneak Tobin’s present under her tree and I saw she had put this wall together and that picture was up there of us, I hadn’t really seen it before. But when I saw it, it was the first time I realized I loved Tobin. Maybe I wasn’t in love with her yet, but I loved her.”
“Does she know that?”
“I have no idea, probably not.”
“You should tell her”
Christen didn’t respond at first but decided on changing the subject.
“Alright Kell, lets go finish decorating so I can stop stressing about it, and you’re helping me put that witch out in the yard in the closet to scare Tobin! .”
“Hey babe can you get the door” Christen called out from the kitchen while Tobin was checking herself out in her aviators in the mirror, thinking Christen couldn’t see her. She could.
“Tobin what are you dressed as a mechanic?”
Tobin made a faux offended expression while letting Kelley into the house. A moment later Christen came around the corner wearing a matching outfit and it clicked in Kelley’s head.
“No way! You guys are Goose and Maverick! Wait let me guess Tobin is Goose and Chris, you’re Mav”
“Nope!” Tobin exclaimed “Christen is the Goose to my Maverick”
“There is no way Christen is the side kick, or should I say wingman, in this relationship” Kelley said laughing as the three of them made their way back into the kitchen.
“You’re right Kell, I am not the sidekick in this relationship”
“Ha! Knew it! You’re a total Goose, Tobs”
”but-” Christen continued “She is the Maverick to my Goose” she leaned over and kissed Tobin’s cheek as Tobin looked at Kelley smugly.
“Besides, Maverick is the stud, studs always get their way with the ladies ”
“TOBIN!” Christen turned around and chided Tobin.
“Gross guys, I don’t want any part in your weird Top Gun role play. Gross”
“There’s no role play Kelley, you’re the gross one. Besides what are you supposed to be?”
“I am a coach” she said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“You look like you just came from the gym”
Kelley heard Christen mumble something about her lack of creativity before she walked out of the room.
Lindsey and Emily turned up to the party a little later than everyone else and Christen realizes when they walk into the living room why Kelley had chosen to dress like a coach.
The two walked into the room donning head to toe Stanford gear, and unpleasant looks on both of their faces.
“Ooh what bet did you two lose” Tobin yells loud enough to get the attention of most of the people in the room.
“Nice to see you two ladies finally showed up” Kelley says sliding up next to them. “You see a few months ago these two fine athletes wanted to make a monetary bet against who could score a goal first in our upcoming games, who would it be? one of them, or me? And a few weeks ago when we played that friendly against Chile and none of us had yet to score since the bet—“
“You scored on that corner kick” Christen pointed out knowingly.
“Yup, but I didn’t want their money, just their pride” Kelley smiled hooking one arm around each of their shoulders.
“I take it back, Kelley, your costume was very creative”
“Who is ready for some shots!” Kelley yells as the party resumes itself and Emily slips away to make quick work of the promise Tobin made her about DJing.
A few drinks in and Christen realizes mid conversation with one of Kelley’s surf friends that she hasn’t seen her girlfriend in awhile. After a little bit of hazy searching she finds her on the couch outside with a few others sitting around the fire pit.
“Talk to me, Goose” Tobin says and Christen straddles her lap.
“I was missing you in there, didn’t know where you went” Christen scans Tobin’s face for a moment. She realizes despite the onslaught of drinking everyone has been doing, Tobin is probably pretty sober.
“It got a little loud, and it looked like you were having fun so I just slipped out here for a bit. I knew you’d find me. You always do” Tobin finished her comment with a quick kiss to her girlfriends lips before leaning back into the cushions of the outdoor couch, resting her hands on Christen’s hips.
Christen feels the blood rush to her face and she recognizes that it is definitely a mix between Tobin’s natural effect on her and the alcohol. She submits to the urge and leans down capturing Tobin’s lips with hers a little more urgently than the kiss they had just shared. “You. Look. So. Sexy. In. This.” She says between kisses.
“Hmm” Tobin hums pulling away eliciting a sound of disappointment from Christen. “When did we tell people to leave by again?”
“Tobin, you have set a precedent for your friends, they’re not leaving they’re going to crash on any sleepable surface in the house until they wake up hungover tomorrow”
“Darn me and my fantastic hospitality” she replies with a smug smile on her face.
Christen doesn’t respond instead pulling one of the buttons on the front of Tobin’s costume out of its hole opening it up exposing more skin.
“Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash” Tobin says in a serious voice.
“That’s the top gun quote you’re going with right now?”
“You got a better one, babe?” She says running her hands up her girlfriend’s sides as Christen nods not responding right away.
“Hey ya big stud, take me to bed…. or lose me forever” Christen says in a time that shoots straight through Tobin
Tobin’s eyes widen and her eyebrows shoot up before she immediately stands up forcing Christen off her lap and grabbing her hand leading her back into the house.
They only manage to make it the stairs before Tobin has her backed into the wall pinning her there littering kisses up and down Christen’s neck. “Tobin there are still people here” she said breathlessly.
Tobin only pulls back a little breaking her ministrations momentarily. “Yeah well they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, so I guess you’re going to have to be quite huh?” She uses the momentary distraction to wrap her arms around Christen waist hoisting her up to wrap her legs around her, causing Christen to giggle as she carries her the rest of the way down the hall to their bedroom.
“What the hell happened, Tobin?”
Tobin was laying across the couch on her deck with a beer in her hand staring at the cloudy skin through the pergola above her.
“Your guess is as good as mine, Kelley”
“No for real Tobin where the hell is my best friend”
“I DONT KNOW!”
The yelling startled Kelley but she was still pissed.
“I don’t know” Tobin whispers this time and she really doesn’t know what happened. A Few hours ago she woke up next to Christen blissful as ever and now Christen’s cell phone was sitting on her bedside table but Christen and her car were gone.
They had an argument. Well, Tobin feels like Christen had an argument and Tobin has no idea where it came from or what happened.
“Look Kelley, I didn’t call you over here so we could fight about whatever happened. I just thought maybe you know where she would be. Her dad and sister said they’d call me if they heard anything. I went to all of our normal places already. I figured she would come back home eventually”
“What did actually happen Tobin?”
Tobin lays back down taking a swig of her beer acknowledging that it’s still not even noon and she’s on her way to being more drunk than she was at the party the night before.
A few hours earlier
“Hey Chris, what time do you have to be at the office to sign all of your closing papers tomorrow?” Tobin asked from the bathroom where she was drying off from her shower.
“I don’t know, Tobin” Christen snapped in an annoyed tone which threw Tobin a little.
“Are you okay, babe?” She said poking her head from around the door frame looking into the bedroom.
“I’m fine Tobin”
“Okay well it just seemed—“
“Why are you doing this?” Christen snapped back getting up from the bed before Tobin could finish.
Tobin all of a sudden felt like she was walking on eggshells, trying to methodically think out the right response because she had never seen Christen act like this, ever.
“Chris, I’m going to be honest I don’t know what’s going on”
Christen was putting clothes on and ignoring Tobin who was still standing in the doorway of the bathroom holding her toothbrush in her hand, frozen in place.
“Chris, baby what’s wrong?”
“Do you think we did this too soon?”
The question shocked Tobin. They had talked about moving in together for months. Christen had waited months to list her condo so they made sure they were moving at a healthy pace. This felt like whiplash.
“I mean what if this goes south Tobin and I just sold my house. The first house I’ve ever owned and where do I go then? It just seems like maybe we didn’t think this through” Christen was talking so fast Tobin could barely keep up.
“Whoa, Christen slow down a second” she said reaching out for her girlfriend but Christen pulled away and walked out of their room.
“Christen!” Tobin followed her.
“Stop Tobin I just need some fresh air okay I think we need space”
Tobin couldn’t process the last five minutes. She just stood in the entryway of the house confounded. She didn’t register the tears on her face for a few moments before she managed to collect herself and grab her keys and phone.
“I’m glad I tried to call before I left or I would have never heard her phone ringing in our room”
“And you guys didn’t talk about this or anything before?” Kelley asked just as confused as Tobin had been all morning
“Kelley, we woke up, we did some things , then I hopped in the shower I was just wondering what time she was going to be gone tomorrow. I knew she had the inspection and closing coming up it was a benign question. It was a perfectly normal morning up until then. We haven’t argued in so long I can’t even remember. I mean we bicker everyone does, but gosh Kell, Christen has never acted like that before.”
“She has once before” Kelley replied getting Tobin’s attention.
“The day before we graduated college, I asked Christen right before our last night in our dorm if she was ready to take the world on. Her and I going off to become pro soccer players. She snapped at me about needing to take my excitement down a notch. She didn’t yell she was just all of a sudden upset”
“That was this morning” Tobin whispered.
Kelley nodded understanding exactly what had happened.
“She left and I found her in our favorite spot in the library like two hours later. She apologized immediately but she had been crying. She said that she wasn’t sure she was ready for such a huge change. It’s not easy I don’t think for her to process or handle change even if she is excited for it. I think she gets in her head and suddenly it’s scary. But I think I know where she’s at”
Tobin jumped up at Kelley’s words but Kelley’s gently pushed her back to her seated position.
“Let me handle this one ok? Maybe drink some water and sober up before she comes home? This wasn’t your fault Tobin. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.”
Kelley grabbed the key from her key ring and slid it into the lock unsure if it would still work. She heard the sound of the deadbolt moving and sighed in relief. Stepping into the house she tried to close the door quietly. It echoed anyway.
The house was completely empty which made it easy for her to scan the rooms on the first floor not spotting Christen anywhere. She made her way upstairs seeing the master bedroom door cracked open.
“I’m in here”
“Hey you” Kelley said stepping through the threshold and into the room slowly sliding her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
“You just know me too well don’t you? Tobin call you?”
“Yeah she’s pretty freaked out Christen, and I can’t blame her”
“I messed up this time didn’t I?”
“Christen if you think this messed anything up I’m
Afraid you don’t know just how loved you are”
Christen looked at her confused as Kelley made her way to sit next to her up against the wall facing the empty bedroom.
“A year ago, I was so mad at her but I made her sleep here with me anyway. I couldn’t sleep without her, still can’t. God I love her so much it scares me. I wanted nothing more than to live together. I was excited when we decided to go for and list this place. It just sold quicker than I imagined. This morning while she was in the shower I realized that after tomorrow this place won’t be mine anymore and I think I would have processed it okay—“
“But she asked when the closing was”
“Yeah, I swear she can read my mind sometimes. I don’t know what came over me. We have never talked to each other like that, I mean even in some of our worst arguments. I just, we aren’t cruel to each other and I was cruel this morning”
“I think Tobin would forget about it in a heartbeat if you asked her to”
“She’s it for me Kelley”
“I know, and you’re it for her. And I know this feels like it might be a big change but you said it yourself, you guys have been basically living together for over a year now. Before you were even dating you guys were taking turns sharing houses. It’s not the change you think it is, but Christen, if Tobin is it for you, then it’s time you start talking and stop running when things get scary. She will let you run a million times if that’s what you need but she deserves—- you both deserve to talk it out. It may not seem like it but she gets scared too.”
“I’m sorry, Kelley. Don’t apologize to me, go apologize to your girlfriend. She’s drunk and I think at some point while looking for you this morning she bought out all of Costco’s Halloween candy”
“She was looking for me? And she did what?”
“Yeah I guess she drove around to all the places she thought you would be. And yeah dude there are like pounds upon pounds of candy on your kitchen island that were not there last night.”
“Tobin is the type to hand candy out to kids on Halloween isn’t she?”
“Yes she is. You got yourself into this one”
Kelley said leaning her head on top of Christen’s who had her head onKelley’s shoulder.
“Guess I should go home” Christen looked around the room again.
“Home.” Kelley smiled at her “Go home Chris”
Tobin was swinging back and forth in the hammock in her backyard drinking water and trying to keep herself from worrying too much. Kelley had told her Christen was fine and on her way home. It had just been over a half hour since she got the text and she knew it should have taken no more than ten minutes for Christen to get home. Before her thoughts can run away from her though the back door slid open.
“Hey Tobs” she said sheepishly before joining her on the hammock. Tobin wrapped her up trying to hide her own tears in Christen’s neck. “I am so sorry, I love you so much, Tobin”
“I love you too, so much”
“I am so sorry for this morning, I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what came over me and I acted like someone I’m not and I said things I didn’t mean. You don’t deserve that”
Tobin cupped her face wiping away tears and just smiled at her for a moment.
“Christen, you are everything I deserve and more than. We have so much growing to do but we get to do it with each other. There are going to be days when my mood isn’t the best and we will have to talk it through but as long as you never forget that I love you we are going to be fine.”
“I was so cruel”
“No, you weren’t and you aren’t. God Christen you are so tender to me you don’t even realize it. You bring me flowers for no reason other than to see me smile, and you hold me when I’m upset over Arsenal games. My equipment bag is always packed with a note from you even if you’re not home when I leave for a game. You are incredibly patient when I’m upset. And you are so kind to me in a way that only exists between us. You are not cruel and you don’t have it in you to be cruel. I love you, and while I would love to never fight again, that’s impossible, couples fight. We’ve come very far and we’ve got a long way to go, just talk to me okay. I need you to talk to me”
Christen nodded leaning into her girlfriend trying to keep tears at bay. “I’m not scared, just so you know. I want this. I’ve wanted this for a long time and I don’t want you to think I don’t or that I’m second guessing it. I just panicked this morning. I know nothing is going to happen to us.”
“That’s okay, I would probably have similar feelings selling my first house. No matter the circumstances. But I didn’t ever actually doubt you didn’t want this. I know we are in this together”
“What did I ever do to deserve you, Tobs. And when did you get so level headed?”
“I learned that from you. And I ask myself everyday what I did to deserve you so I guess we are on the same page there too”
“Did you really but a million pounds of candy to hand out tonight?”
“Oh yeah, I love handing out candy on Halloween. Plus I picked out some scary movies to watch tonight”
“Ugh, you know scary movies make me jumpy”
“I know, but I wanted a good excuse to hold you under the blankets and maybe make out a little” Tobin admitted confidently.
“After everything that happened this morning that’s what you were thinking about?”
“I knew you’d come home, I mean I was worried but I already had this planned, and like I said last night, you always find me. And I knew I’d get to kiss you and make up and then later we’d get to make out while watching scary movies.
“One track minded”
“Maybe” she leaned over and kissed Christen before pulling her back into her chest letting the hammock gently swing them back and forth.
The following weekend Tobin and Christen found themselves with a whole Saturday free of obligations for the first time in what they think might be the entire calendar year. So naturally, they decided to fill it with errands and cleaning the house.
They were walking through IKEA looking for a new organizer to put in their guest bathroom. Christen realizes quickly how unproductive this specific errand was going to be. Tobin had been stopping to point out every single item she found faciating or would approach Christen with a “we need this because”
And then Christen had to take the time to explain to her why no.
At one point Tobin had the bright idea of them painting their bedroom a new color. She brought it up three more times and Christen knew that she might be able to fend off the idea today, Tobin was definitely going to keep at it.
But then Tobin pointed out a chest of drawers that matched their bed frame perfectly and she knew immediately where this was going. Something about “there are twice as many clothes now” “we need the extra room” “I’ll put it together myself”
So upon getting home they split the list of chores that needed to be done. Christen insisted the cleaning was a top priority over putting together the dresser. She’s more than positive she has never seen Tobin clean so fast or enthusiastically, but she also thinks the same could be said for someone wanting to put together ikea furniture.
The whole house had essentially been vacuumed, swept , mopped, Cloroxed, and dusted. The laundry was all washed and put away, and Tobin had even washed both cars.
The interesting part of their day came when they had to move the current dresser in the master down the hall into one of the guest bedrooms.
“You take the lead on this Christen, last time we moved furniture together I put a huge hole in the wall” Tobin tried to make light of that situation it Christen’s eyes told her that she wasn’t amused.
“Why don’t we just shuffled it sideways and then slide it down the hall?”
“You’re sure that's gonna work?” Tobin asked
“Are you questioning it? Or do you have a better idea?”
Tobin shook her head and started to shuffle the piece of furniture sideways to get it out of the door. So far Christen’s plan was working fine. They managed to get it lined up enough to slide it into the hall. The challenging part was what came next.
Tobin knee getting it from the hallway into the guest bedroom was going to be the hard part. Since the master bed was at the end of the hall, it was easy to just slide it directly out. However, the guest bed was not only around a slight corner but also off to the side. The angle was weird and looked impossible but Tobin had already learned once to not argue the fact of the matter when it came to this particular activity.
“Okay so what if we just move and pivot and move and pivot until we can get it into the room” Christen’s suggestion was definitely not confident but Tobin agreed and tried to go for it.
They got the dresser around the awkward corner easy enough but Christen was over confident about the angle initially needed to get it into the room. She told Tobin to go ahead and push and the sound that followed made her close her eyes and clench her jaw waiting for the response she was about to get from her girlfriend
“You okay there Chris?”
“Yeah I’m good, Tobin” she replied still refusing to look back at her girlfriend
“What about the walk, is the wall okay?” She could tell tobin was joking back laughter and she knew what was coming. They fought about this last time because Tobin insisted she knew what to do and put a huge hole in the wall.
Now Christen had put a hole in the wall and she wasn’t ready for the karma that was going to bite her in ass for it.
Without turning around she could sense Tobin’s body right behind hers.
“Don’t worry baby, I won’t say any I told you so’s or talk about Karma.” Then Tobin was gone. She came back a minute later with some tolls to take the dresser apart before finishing moving it.
Christen was laying in the bed sipping a glass of wine and reading while Tobin had finally started her project of putting together their new piece of furniture.
“How’s it going down there babe?”
“Just fine Chris”
“Okay just seems like it’s taking you quite some time to get started”
“I am organizing so that I don’t get confused by the Swedish directions. And I don’t think you have a whole lot of room to be chummy with me tonight babe. I didn’t put any holes in the walls today”
It took nearly an hour before Tobin had managed to actually make it even resemble something like a dresser. Christen had at some point slipped downstairs to make dinner and brought Tobin up a plate before heading back downstairs.
When she retrieved the plate from Tobin the drawer had actually looked like it was nearly done.
“I just have to put the drawers on the tracks and it’s go to go” Tobin said cleaning up some of the tools she used
“And my clothes aren’t going to fall out of it the second I put them in?”
“You have more faith in me than that right?”
“We will see how much faith I have in you when I put all of our clothes in the drawers. Thanks for doing so much today” Christen reaches out and grabbed her waist pulling her closer as she leaned against the footboard of their bed.
“I don’t mind errands and chores when I get to do them with you” Tobin smiled at her softly.
“Well you even went out and washed the cars today, that wasn’t even on our list!”
“Yeah, well figured it would earn me some brownie points later tonight”
“And what is it exactly you think you’ll need brownie points for later tonight” Christen pretended like she didn’t know what Tobin was talking about
“Oh I think you know….exactly what I will be cashing in on tonight” Tobin places a chaste kiss to Christen’s lips.
“Why don’t you go shower and I’ll start putting away the laundry yeah?”
Tobin kisses her again before she picked up the rest of her mess and headed into the bathroom.
“I love you”
“Love you took babe, go shower!”
Christen was organizing their clothes and putting them away in drawers according to their types. There were a few hoodies that Tobin had folded for some reason instead of hung. One of them being the UNC sweatshirt Christen had claimed as her own a long time ago, despite never wearing it out in public. She shook out the hoodie so she could place it in a pile with other articles that were going to be hung instead of folded.
She noticed a small object fall out and hit the ground after she placed the hoodie down.
It was a small piece of paper wrapped up and folded into a ring, except the corner had become untucked allowing the paper to unravel itself more. She picked it up and examined it before remembering where it came from.
That night in the hotel when Tobin had folded it for her out of the hotel stationary. She pulled on the untucked part and gently unfolded the paper realizing there were words written on it. She remembers Tobin taking notes on the game they had been watching. She wonders what kind of things Tobin wrote down about the players. Probably some new tricks, or impressive defensive formations.
But the first couple of words cause her heart to start pounding and she feels the back of her knees hit the bed. She turns listening to make sure the water is still running in the bathroom before she keeps reading….
We are sitting in this hotel room together tonight, and I know you aren’t even my girlfriend yet but I want to tell you I love you. I am so in love with you. You’re the only one I want. I love the easy stuff, the complicated stuff and everything in between.. Us going from friends to this was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve waited my whole life for you and one day I know I’ll buy you a shiny and expensive ring, but I just want to say, I’d marry you with this paper ring if you’d let me.
Christen picked up her phone and texted Kelley knowing she was the only person who was going to understand what she had to do…..
To Kelley: I need you to pick me up ASAP.
Chapter 13: tonight I will make you mine if you let me (this is the part where you check yes or yes)
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Tobin stepped into the bedroom using the towel in her hands to dry her hair from the shower she had just taken. She didn’t expect Christen to actually have put all the clothes away by the time she had gotten out. But yet they were all put away in their new dresser she had successfully assembled.
“Hey babe” Christen got Tobin’s attention stepping back into the room. “Uhh Kelley is picking me up we are going to grab some ice cream from that place over by the mall”
“It’s kinda late was Kelley planning on coming over?” Tobin was a little confused but not all that committed to being questioning the sudden plans.
“No, just figured since you guys are going surfing tomorrow she could stay over and you could both drop me off in the morning”
Tobin dropped the towel suddenly avoiding Christen’s eyes trying to think of how to carefully proceed. She did intend on surfing with Kelley tomorrow but not after she dropped her off at the airport. She had other plans for the morning and she didn’t want anyone knowing. Not Kelley and especially not Christen.
“Uhh yeah, that sounds like a plan.”
Christen didn’t catch wind of her change in demeanor at all, especially not since she herself was trying to hide unsettling emotions.
She walked over to where to Tobin had sat down at the edge of the bed giving her a chaste kiss and asking her which pint of ice cream she wanted before slipping out of their room.
When Tobin heard the front door shut downstairs she grabbed her phone off it’s charger scrolling through the contacts trying to find the one person she needed to call right away.
After what she felt like was too many rings the call was picked up.
Hey, can we meet up somewhere other than my place tomorrow? Christen invited Kelley over and I can’t have her telling Christen I was with you.
“Okay Christen why am I getting ice cream with you at 9:30 at night?” Kelley said rubbing her eyes while sitting in the driver's seat of her car in pajamas.
“Kelley just start driving and I will explain everything”
Kelley shrugged her shoulders and pulled out of the driveway making her way out of the neighborhood somewhat directionless.
“Has Tobin talked to you at all about proposing?”
Christen blurted it out more than asked and it almost made Kelley slam on the breaks.
“Christen did she propose and now you’re running away?”
“What! No! I just need to know if she’s said anything to you other than what we’ve talked about.”
Kelley wasn’t sure which direction this was actually going but she figured it was important if Christen had her drive all the way over to pick her up to talk about it.
“Dude, all we’ve talked about as far as that goes is that she definitely wants to marry you. I mean you already know that much you’ve both talked about it. But it’s been a long time since she has mentioned it”
Christen lets the words swim through her head for a moment trying to piece together anything over the last few months that could point towards the answers she feels like she needs.
“Do you think she feels differently now?” She asked almost timidly.
Kelley makes a sound that’s mostly a laugh but started off as a scoff and as she pulls into the parking lot she was directed to go to she turns to Christen putting her car in park.
“Christen, I don’t know where this is coming from and it is so unlike you to be confident in yourself but I can promise you Tobin wants to marry you. I don’t know when she plans on making that happen but I am more sure of that than anything else. I can try to get some answers out of her if you want me to?”
“No, we’ve worked way too hard on communication to turn around and do something like that. This is just different because if she is planning anything I don’t want to ruin it for her. But she has stopped bringing it up which I guess I hadn’t noticed”
Kelley tried to assure her that she was over thinking things a little. Whether Christen wanted her to or not though, she was now curious herself if Tobin had made any plans. Luckily she would have plenty of time to interrogate her tomorrow after Christen left for Chicago.
Tobin and Christen woke up early the next morning so that she could make her flight to Chicago. To say neither of them were thrilled to be apart for a week was an understatement. There had been a few attempts on Tobin’s part over the weekend to get Christen to just work from home but Christen has assured her every time there was restructuring going on, which meant meetings she would have to be there for or she would be fired.
Her response to that was that she was okay if her girlfriend got fired, she insisted she “could provide for both of them and then they’d never have to be apart” Christen laughed but she knew that Tobin was aware she enjoyed working, and especially enjoyed this job.
Parking the car on the curb of the departure drop off Tobin hopped out and grabbed her girlfriends luggage before she could do it herself.
“You sure you don’t want to be a homemaker?” Tobin asked again wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist.
“Hmm, while that is a very honorable thing to be, I have very little interest” Christen placed a lingering kiss to her lips and then pulled away to grab her purse from the front seat. “I will see you Saturday night and I’ll face time you after dinner tonight, you should get back to Kelley before she wakes up and burns our house down making coffee”
“Hmm our house” Tobin said simply enjoying the way it sounded knowing she would never get enough of hearing it. “I love you, have a safe flight and text me when you land”
“I love you too, and I will. Be safe surfing” Christen called out quickly before walking through the terminal doors.
Tobin got back into her car and headed back towards the freeway. She’d have to text Kelley she had to run some errands before picking her up. It was the only thing that would keep Kelley off her back about not coming right home after dropping her girlfriend off at the airport.
She was nervous about the plans she had made this morning. Which was, that she originally had planned on having this meeting in her own home, a place she could feel in control.
Kelley was sitting on her board a few feet from Tobin who had been ready to call it quits on the surf. There was an ocean storm coming in and they were experiencing the cliche “calm before the storm”. This morning had seen some great swells but as the tide went out the surf went from mush to nonexistent.
“Hey I found out something interesting this morning”
“Oh yeah” Tobin said still looking at the horizon hoping for anything she could get a run on.
“Yeah I found out your ex girlfriend is in town”
Tobin whipped her head around to meet an expectant look on her friends face.
“Okay? What’s it to me?”
“I thought you guys were still friends, I guess I expected to hear it from you and not her. PSG is playing a game at the Rose Bowl Friday, a few of us were invited. Didn’t know if you knew or if you were going”
“I’m flying out to Chicago Thursday morning”
“Oh, I didn’t know you were going to spend time with Christen, sorry if I upset you. I just- you guys use to be friends before everything I thought maybe that was still the case”
Tobin didn’t respond at first still looking out to the horizon. Kelley continued to watch her face searching for anything to tell her she hadn’t just pissed her off.
“I’m surprising Christen, I made reservations for us at this restaurant she wants to try on Friday night. And we are still friends. Chris and I had dinner with her while we were there for the World Cup. We talk occasionally.”
“Are you going to see her while she is here?” Kelley was digging for something and Tobin wasn’t sure what it was but she thinks it has to do with the fact that she was incredibly late getting back home this morning. Her friend didn’t entirely buy her story about errands, or the traffic she called about.
“I feel like there’s an actual question you want to ask, and if you can just ask it so I can stop stressing about what you’re trying to get at I’d appreciate it. You’re disrespecting the vibe out here and you know that’s against the bill of left and rights”
Kelley rolled her eyes at first but decided to come out with it
“Where were you actually this morning?”
“Not with my ex girlfriend, or any other girlfriend. You know I’m not that kind of person and it hurts a little you’d think I am” Tobin turned her board around and started paddling back in.
When Kelley caught up with her on shore she apologized profusely. She didn’t want Tobin to think that’s what she thought.
“Tobin—“ she rubbed her eyes with one hand before coming out with what she had been aching to ask all morning “are you going to propose to Christen?”
“I’m just wondering if you had any plans to? Don’t tell her I told you but she’s starting to get curious if you’re planning on it”
“Dammit” Tobin said under breath smiling at the ground in front of her.
Kelley doesn’t respond but is completely confused now.
“That woman is something else” she says shaking her head. “Is that why she called you last night?”
“If I tell you this Kelley you have to keep it to yourself and ONLY to yourself”
Kelley nodded again but quicker
“After the World Cup I bought a ring, I knew it was too soon but I wanted to have it because I knew that when the right moment came I wanted to be prepared and already have it. I didn’t want to plan some big gesture, that isn’t what Christen would want. So it has sat in a drawer for a few months now. Until this morning, I called her dad last week and set up what was supposed to be breakfast at my house to ask him” Tobin paused to make eye contact with her friend giving her a knowing look.
“So when that got a wrench thrown into it we met up for brunch and then he brought me a ring he recently had sized for Christen so that I could take the ring I bought to get accurately sized. I don’t have a plan, I have no idea when I’m going to do it but when the moment is right I’ll know and I want to be prepared. Did she tell you why she’s suspicious?”
“No, she wouldn’t tell me what set her off just wanted to know if I knew anything. Is that why you’re going to Chicago?”
“No, it’s still not the right time. But it’ll be soon”
Four days of meetings and she was spent. Another full day of meetings like the one she was currently sitting in was going to really do her in. The only good thing that had come out of this week was the jerk that use to be on her team was let go “due to professional differences between USSFs vision and his current career path”.
This current meeting was mandatory because she was now essentially the co-manager of their media and public relations team. The position should have just solely to her cohort, but apparently this was done at the request of said colleague. Christen gladly and graciously accepted to the position, but that also meant she accepted that she would be traveling more. And would be sitting in meetings like this one more.
Half of these meetings could have easily been emails. Another good chunk of them didn’t actually even apply to her. The rest she actually had to speak in or run.
So here she sat at a conference table in a Chicago high rise completely zoned out of whatever was being said. Watching the snow start to fall outside filled her with some sense of awe before the dread of having to go out into it came over her.
She was drawn out of her stupor realizing the meeting had let out and people were filing out.
“Hmm yeah?” She said not moving from her spot at the table.
“Someone is here for you, did you want me to send them in here or to your office?”
“My office is fine just give me a minute to get there before you send them down”
Christen gathered her belongings and exited the conference room heading towards her tiny office. An office she always had but rarely actually saw the inside of. Traveling might have been exhausting but she knew she would take having to go back and forth to Chicago if it meant that her full time office was still in the comfort of her own home
She hadn’t been sitting in her office chair for more than a moment or two before there was a quiet knock at the door. After inviting whoever it was in she went back to reviewing her notes from her day full of meetings. Whoever entered the room didn’t speak immediately but instead cleared their throat which sparked some annoyance in Christen. After the day she had she didn’t need some colleague hassling her.
However, it wasn’t some colleague there to hassle her about meetings or dinners. Instead she was met with the warm honey brown eyes she has been missing since Monday morning. There on the other side of her desk was her girlfriend holding a bouquet of flowers and a brown paper bag that smelled a lot like Chinese food.
“I hope you’re not too busy to have an early dinner with me”
Christen walked around the desk throwing herself into Tobin’s arms kissing her with a sense of urgency.
“Well hello to you too” she said setting the bag of food and flowers down on the desk before turning back to continue what Christen had started. She used one foot to shut the office door and lifted Christen up to sit on the edge of the desk without breaking their current make out session.
“God, I have missed you” Christen said breaking away and resting her forehead to Tobin’s chest. Tobin kisses the top of her head and took a step back without completely breaking apart from her. “What are you doing here?”
“I booked a flight the same night you booked yours. After you mentioned how long you’d be gone I knew I’d have to come see you. That is entirely too long to be away from you”
She hums in appreciation for what her girlfriend has done for her. She hadn’t planned on this week being as grueling as it had been but Tobin was exactly what she needed right now. They ate their dinner as Christen typed her notes up exchanging stories about how their week went.
“So what do you have planned tomorrow night”
“What makes you think I have something planned?” Tobin quipped back putting her feet up on the corner of the desk sitting in the chair opposite Christen.
“What makes me think you have something planned is that I know you, and knowing you means I know that you didn’t come out here without planning some kind of elaborate date or night out”
“You know me too well”
The next night Tobin surely followed up on the plans she had indeed made. They had reservations to the restaurant Christen had mentioned a few times before but never had the time when she was in town to go try it out.
“Oh, I have never been so full before in my life. Who agreed to a five course meal?” Tobin groaned leaning back a little looking over and her girlfriend who was sipping her wine.
“You still want to go to millennium park after this” Christen giggled watching Tobin compose herself again as if she wasn’t just slumped over feigning pain.
“It’s part of the date isn’t it, can’t go skipping out on me now babe.”
They walked the distance from the restaurant to the park since the snow had let up over the last couple of hours. Christen kept herself pressed into Tobin’s side the whole walk, trying to keep warm. She smiled as Tobin would alternate from humming Christmas songs to commenting on things they saw along their work.
When they approached the park they could see people gathered near the skating rink, waiting in line. Christen grumbled a little about having to stand in the line so Tobin suggested they just keep walking instead.
“You have a weird obsession with that bean you know” Christen said walking up behind Tobin who was using her reflection to make faces at her girlfriend.
“Chris, it’s like one of the coolest things in the world”
Her only response was an eye roll.
“Do you remember the last time we were here?” She asked drawing Tobin’s attention away from her reflection for a moment. “We took that picture, and Kelley didn’t even notice it hung in your hallway until just a few weeks ago”
“Our” Tobin said walking closer to Christen making sure she had her full attention.
“Our hallway. Anyway, I told her that Christmas night I snuck into your house, our house, that I saw you had hung that picture and it was the first time I realized that I loved you.”
“You love me? How embarrassing ” Tobin said with humor in her voice. Christen however just shot her a disapproving look because she was being serious and of course Tobin was making a joke out of the moment.
“Sooo Kelley asked if you knew that and I said I didn’t know, she told me I should tell you. So I guess this is me telling you. The moment seemed fitting.”
“That night was one of my favorites so far with you. You looked so beautiful I felt as if I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. It wasn’t even in a romantic way, just couldn’t believe someone like you existed.”
Christen calls Tobin a sap trying to downplay the feelings that are swimming through her chest. She’s so in love with this woman. She didn’t think feeling like this was possible but yet here she is standing in the frigid cold air of the night walking around a city, more content than she has ever been. It would be a lie if she said that she didn’t think Tobin had come to Chicago with some other ulterior motives or intentions. But the way they’re standing with their arms wrapped around each other tells her this isn’t quite that moment.
Thanksgiving had creeped up on them so quickly Christen was panicking a little about hosting. They decided against splitting the holiday and instead came up with the idea of doing a Friendsgiving barbeque. They expected that maybe their families would join them alongside a few teammates and friends who would be around as well. Neither of them expected both of their families and half the team and their significant others to rsvp.
The only saving grace was that because they decided on a barbeque dinner, everyone was planning on bringing something and they were only responsible for the main foods that they were grilling. Tobin had also managed to convince Christen’s dad to take over the job of manning the grill even though she was met with push back about how they were hosting so they should be the ones doing the dirty work. She lost that argument though.
Their house was now packed with people. Tobin of course being who she was had made her rounds to everyone making sure they were all taken care of and enjoying themselves. Christen was busy in the kitchen finishing up the handful of dishes she had prepared for dinner.
“Do you need any help?” Tobin asked while she scanned the finger foods displayed across the kitchen island.
“You can stop eating all the food”
“Hey, we bought these finger food for eating not for looks! Everyone seems about ready to eat though, your dad has everything off the grill and I made sure the buffet tables we set up are stocked and ready for chaos”
Christen leaned over and kissed Tobin’s cheek in appreciation for how well she was handling everything. It was keeping her grounded herself.
“Can you take those pies outside for me and then we can get everyone to gather outside to bless the food and they can start making their plates”
Tobin didn’t respond but grabbed Christen by her waist gently and turned her so they were face to face. “I am so thankful for you” she said looking into green eyes that softened at her admission.
“I’m thankful for you too. And I don’t want to ruin this moment but we really need to get the rest of the food out there”
“Okay okay” Tobin said but pulled her girlfriend closer before leaving and whispered into her ear. “I can’t wait to show you just how thankful I am later”
Christen was still frozen in her spot trying to recover from the feeling of being flush after Tobin’s words.
Dinner went on without a hitch. Despite it being late November the weather outside was perfect for everyone to find spots throughout the yard and across the deck to eat. Their families mingled quite a bit and even though it wasn’t their first meeting, it provided both of them with a sense of content that everyone managed to get along so easily.
They had managed to play a round of charades with almost everyone participating. The amount of laughter could have easily been heard around the block considering the number of people they had crammed onto the deck in their back yard.
By the time the sun had started to go down most everyone had left. Christen’s dad had stuck around even though her sisters said their goodbyes after dinner. Tobin’s brother was the only one who had stayed behind for awhile after her family had also left. Her family had been in town all week and they had the pleasure of showing them around town, knowing they’d be headed out of town Thanksgiving night.
A small group of them had managed to get the food put away, most of it sent home with other people. The kitchen was cleaned and the dishes mostly done. Now they sat gathered around the fire pit in the backyard enjoying sharing stories with one another. Tobin sat with her arm across the back of the patio couch, Christen laid against her chest. Kelley shared the couch with them and Christen’s dad sat in a chair retelling them a story about Christen as a child. A few of their teammates were still gathered around as well.
The conversation and attention had turned to someone else when Christen’s father made eye contact with Tobin and nodded his head towards the house before excusing himself to grab another drink. She tapped her girlfriends shoulder and excused herself as well asking if anyone else needed another drink before slipping inside.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“You get the ring back get?” He asked with just the slightest amount of excitement in his voice.
“Yeah just last week. I still don’t have a plan though. If that’s what you were going to ask” Tobin was nervous now. Christen’s dad was the only person who knew anything about the ring.
“No, I know there’s no rush kid. I just wanted to let you know she’s been talking to her sisters and I’m not the best at keeping a poker face so if she mentions anything to me, I might be a goner.” He smiles at Tobin softly.
“I know it won’t happen before the holidays are over, it's just not the right time yet ya know? Soon though. It’ll happen soon”
“Like I said Tobin, there is no rush. You’ve got my blessing and I know you’d have her moms too. You’re good for her and I’d say she’s probably good for you too. Waiting for the right moment is important, you’ll know when it’s right” he gives Tobin a hug before suggesting they grab their drinks and head back out before someone comes looking for them.
“Let’s never host another holiday again” Christen says sliding down the bed and pulling the covers up over her shoulders. She watches and Tobin leans on the door frame of the bathroom brushing her teeth.
“It was one holiday. And we didn’t even have to cook everything. Plus, it was nice having both of our families here and some of our friends. Besides we probably won’t be together for Christmas”
Tobin slipped under the covers herself and pulled her girlfriend into her chest.
“Maybe we can work something out, I know you want to be here but I’m sure I can convince my family to do an early Christmas and then we could fly back here if you want?”
“Tobin, I know how important it is for you to be with your family for the holidays. We are already spending New Years together. We can have our own Christmas after we are both back here in LA”
Instead of responding Tobin let out a small huff. She didn’t want to split the holiday or spend it apart. This was technically their first Christmas together and she wanted it to actually be spent together. Talking about it right now though was pointless. She’d let herself come up with a plan first. This Christmas was going to be special.
“What time are we driving to the tree farm?” Christen was yelling back and forth with tobin who was pulling the Christmas decorations from the attic.
“Okay, well then you better hurry up with your decorating” Christen yelled again but jumped in surprise when Tobin showed up right next to her.
“You mean our decorating. I will never understand why you are such a Scrooge my dear”
“I am not a Scrooge!” She defends trying to keep a serious face
“Oh yes you are, you did this last year too”
“No idea what you are talking about. I fully remember supporting you fully in your holly jolly endeavors”
Tobin was belly laughing now.
“That’s what you’re going to call me decorating the house and getting a tree? My holly jolly endeavors.”
She finishes taking the boxes of decorations downstairs and allows Christen to get ready for their trip to the same tree farm they went to last year. This time however they planned a whole night out of it. Dinner at a small diner in the town, cutting down a tree, hot cocoa in a small coffee shop. Very hallmark like. Well that’s what Tobin thinks. It’s what she’s hoping for.
The drive up to the tree farm was a lot quicker than they expected. Picking a weekday to drive up meant they avoided rush hour traffic as well as any holiday traffic to and from the mountains. Tobin really wanted this night to be perfect.
It hadn’t been more than ten minutes before Christen started complaining about how cold it was getting. Tobin assures her that if she actually helped pick the tree out it could be cut down faster, she tried but it didn’t actually help any.
“Tobin I really like this one”
“Which one?” She says popping out from the next row over where she was kicking snow around thinking this might be fruitless. Buying a tree too early meant it would die, but apparently waiting this close to Christmas meant she had missed out on a tall tree that was actually thick and full instead of scrawny looking.
“This one! It’s a little taller than last years but it’s still really full you can’t even see the trunk.”
“Chris it’s perfect! You found the best one. Maybe you’re not such a Scrooge after all” Tobin jokes and Christen gives her a playful shove. She does her best to hold the tree in place while Tobin saws it at the base of the trunk. Despite its size the trunk was luckily a lot smaller than expected.
Tobin lets one of the farm workers help her load it to the top of her suv. They’ve got it strapped down and are back in the car in record time and Christen couldn’t be more thankful to have the heat blasting through the vents. She’s scrolling through the Christmas playlist on Tobin’s phone when her girlfriend makes it back into the car herself.
“Everything good to go?”
“Yup, you ready for dinner? We are a little behind schedule.”
“We’re on a schedule?” Christen asks stopping her browsing to look across the center console over at her girlfriend.
”yes, we have a lot to do tonight” Tobin responds matter of factly and outs the car in drive.
“I thought we just had the tree and dinner?”
Tobin lets out a breathy laugh with a grin spreading across her face avoiding Christen’s gaze.
“Yes, the plans are getting the tree, enjoying a nice dinner together, grabbing hot chocolate and walking around to see the Christmas lights, then we are going to go home and decorate our tree, and maybe something special along the way?”
Christen narrows her eyes at Tobin who was obviously hiding something but doesn’t push any further. She knows Tobin won’t give it up and it’s Christmas, whatever magic her girlfriend is trying to create she doesn’t want to ruin.
The diner they have dinner at is decorated wall to wall in Christmas decorations with classic Christmas songs playing over a record and for a moment Christen doesn’t believe it could be real. Their table is candle lit which fits the mood of how dim the rest of the restaurant is. And of course their server is wearing what Tobin calls an adorable ugly Christmas sweater.
“Tobin, I can’t walk out in the cold to look at lights”
“Why not?” Tobin asks all of a sudden very concerned
“Because I’m too full to move, that pumpkin pie did me in”
“Chris, we have to go look at lights it’s apart of the plan!”
Christen gives her the same look she gave her in the car. The plan was to look at lights, looking at lights was part of something else.
“You keep talking about schedules and plans and it makes me feel like you’re hiding something”
Tobin’s jaw drops in dramatic offense to her claim.
“I would never hide anything from you!” She says defensively.
“That’s a night fat lie and you know it! You kept it a secret from me for two weeks that we were taking a trip to Mexico.”
“That because it was a surprise. There’s a difference Christen.”
“So your plan tonight is a surprise?”
She lets out a huff and looks at Christen softly.
“Babe, there is no surprise or anything I’m hiding from you. I just wanted tonight to be special so can you please just enjoy the moment and stop worrying”
Christen nods trying to push away the nerves she’s worked up all on her own. Since the night she found the note her and Tobin have had a serious talk about marriage once. She wasn’t able to get much out of her and they didn’t discuss anything different than what they had talked about previously. Kelley had become a moot point at getting any information. She didn’t want to go behind Tobin’s back to begin with but she figured at the very least she would have told Tobin that they had talked about it.
Then there was the weird sneaking around her dad and Tobin had been doing a few weeks back. She knows Tobin doesn’t think she has a clue but while using Tobin’s phone to text her sister one night that she had forgotten hers at home, she saw they had met up for breakfast on two separate occasions in Tobin’s texts. She wasn’t trying to find information or snoop. It was completely by accident she had come acrossthe messages.
So it had been a few weeks and at this point she felt like she was driving herself crazy over all of it. Anytime Tobin did anything remotely special she felt like there was some ulterior motive to it. If it wasn’t happening tonight she figured it wasn’t happening anytime soon.
Tobin order them both a peppermint hot chocolate to go from the cafe a few shops down from where they ate dinner. The main road of the town was decorated like the North Pole and the cobblestone roads only gave it that much more character. The Christmas lights display they put on lined the side roads where homes and shops alike had gone all out. Most of the displays were set to music and some were even interactive.
A few families had made their way up to see the lights as well. Kids climbing into a sleigh to take pictures with Santa who sat outside an old craft store. Christen’s favorite though was a veterinary office that had giant Christmas ornaments painted on what she assumed way plywood hanging from their store front. On each ornament was the name and painting of an animal up for adoption.
As they walked back towards the center of town Christen was telling a story when out of the corner of her eye she saw Tobin had stopped walking. She turned around to see Tobin kneeling down. Her heart dropped for a moment.
“Tobin, what are you doing”
She was met with the one smile Tobin had that she didn’t have to question its meaning. It was mischievous. She watched as she rose from the ground shrugging her shoulders. Her hands behind her back now and Christen took two steps back raising her hands up.
“Tobin Powell Heath, do not throw that snowball at me!”
Before she could dodge it though, the snow hit her chest dead center, coating the front of her jacket.
“Tobin!” She said now running after as Tobin took off, her planning her retaliation.
Tobin’s favorite was the display in the town square, where a small park had a walkthrough display with candy cane lights and arches lined with both lights and mistletoe. As they walked under each archway she made sure to press a kiss to Christen’s cheek and occasionally stopped to make sure to kiss her properly. The very last archway that exited the walkthrough had just a single twig of mistletoe hanging from it.
This time Christen stopped Tobin and placed her hand on Tobin’s cheek looking at her lovingly for a moment before leaning in placing a gentle kiss to her lips.
“I love you, Tobin”
“I love you too”
Christen looks up one hand still holding onto Tobin’s coat realizing that it had started to snow.
“Oh my gosh it’s actually snowing” Christen says giddy as a child on Christmas morning. Her eyes beaming at Tobin.
She looks on for a moment watching Christen reaction to the light snow that had started to fall. She realizes that they should probably get on the road and back down into the city before it picks up anymore, but she wanted to soak in this moment. This was more than what she wanted out of tonight. Her plan was to get Christen to feel the Christmas spirit. It wasn’t that she actually felt like she was a Scrooge, all she wanted wanted for her girlfriend to feel that same spirit she feels every Christmas. That magic feeling. The snow was a complete surprise, but not an unwelcome one.
“Chris, you said you were actually going to help decorate the tree” Tobin is standing in her pajamas holding a box in one hand and hanging ornaments with the other.
Christen however, is laid on the couch sipping a glass of wine in her pajamas as well, the ones that just happen to match Tobin’s.
“Baby, I am helping, I’m making sure they’re all evenly distributed. It’s easier to see when you’re further away.”
“Can you at least grab the stockings and hang them on the mantle?”
She grumbled a little about getting up but grabbed the new stockings they had bought to hang them on the mantle of the fireplace. One with a T and one with a C embroidered on the front. She hung Tobin’s first before grabbing hers.
“Hey, there’s something in here. Did we stick something in it at the store and forget to pull it out at the register?” She said worried she had somehow accidentally stolen something
Reaching inside she pulled out a square red box. She held it in her hand for a second taking a deep breath before turning to see Tobin standing there, smiling at her.
She pulls the top off of the small box revealing a white and red ornament that had the words engraved on it:
Christen and Tobin’s
There was a picture in the middle. One they had only taken a few hours earlier.
“When did you do this? How?”
“I bought picture paper the other day, so while you were changing I pulled up the pictures we took tonight on your office computer and printed one out quickly. Placed it in the ornament I ordered online a few weeks ago and quickly placed it in the stocking before you came back downstairs. I figured getting you to find it would be the easy part”
“Was this your surprise?”
“Babe, I told you there are no surprises. I just wanted tonight to be special. I do have a Christmas surprise planned but you’ll just have to wait until Christmas for that”
“We won’t be together on Christmas though?”
“You’re right but I have everything very carefully planned out so I don’t have to be there for the surprise. Kind of like last year” Tobin says pulling Christen into her by the waist. “Now I have to go grab my tripod so we can take our Christmas card picture.”
Christmas Eve came pretty quickly and Christen had been spending all of her time at her Dad’s place since dropping Tobin off at the airport a few days before. She woke up earlier than usual, feeling a little on edge for a reason she couldn’t place. There was a text from Tobin waiting for her that didn’t help her nerves at all.
Tobs: Hey, check your wallet on your phone. ;)
Christen pulled up the wallet app on her phone confused as to why in the world she would need to look at an app she never used.
There were two items that immediately pulled up. Both of them boarding passes. One of them from LAX to Newark.
She had picked up after the first ring, as though she had been waiting by the phone.
“Chris, I already planned this out with your Dad. He’s spending the holiday with your sister, and he wanted you to have the chance to be here this year. I agreed we would spend next year in LA”
“Tobin Heath you are too much. I’m not even packed!”
“ Well go get packed, you have a few hours. I’ll pick you up at the airport. It’s snowing here so pack a few extra layers. Love you”
“Love you too. Can’t wait to see you”
She hung up the phone and rushed home to pack a bag, but only after scolding her dad just a little.
Tobin rolled over in bed realizing it was still dark outside, but approaching sunrise. Her phone telling her it was just after 6 am. She figured her family would be up soon to open presents and that her chance to fall back asleep would quickly be taken away. Before turning back over though she looks at the woman asleep next to her. Christen had a delayed flight because of the snow and ended up not getting until close to midnight. They had both passed out almost as soon as they got to the house.
She sat there for a moment watching her sleep, and couldn’t be happier to get to spend today with her. It had been a crazy year and there were so many morning she had woken up wishing Christen was next to her.
Having everyone in one place for the holiday meant the world to her. In that moment, watching Christen sleep, something dawned on her and before she could think on it too much she gently woke Christen up.
“Chris, baby can you wake up?”
Christen’s eyes fluttered open trying to process that Tobin was the one waking her up. The sky outside was just turning into a light enough gray that you could see the snow falling outside the window although the sun hadn’t come up yet.
“What’s wrong?” She said groggily but sat up a little more against the pillows stacked against the headboard.
“I want to ask you something but I need you to be awake”
“Okay, I’m awake now” she says just over a whisper trying to really wake herself up.
Tobin tries to hide the sniffle that is making an attempt to escape but she can’t and it causes Christen to become much more alert than she was.
“Baby, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing is wrong” Christen wipes a tear from her cheek not quite believing her.
“I woke up next to you this morning and I just realized how happy I am. Like in that exact moment seeing you laying there asleep next to me, on Christmas morning. I’m just so happy you’re here”
“I’m happy to be here too”
“ I don’t want to ever know what it’s like to not wake up next to you, not just on Christmas but everyday. I planned on doing this when I felt like it was the right moment, I had no idea when that would be, so I’ve been literally carrying this around everywhere. This morning I just knew that this was the right moment. It’s not some grand romantic gesture. I mean we’re just laying in bed but I don’t think grand gestures are our thing. I think small insignificant moments are our thing. So I want to ask you…” Tobin feels another tear escape as she pulls the small box out in front of them. The box she had just moments ago taken out of the nightstand drawer.
“Christen, will you marry me?”
Christen knows a small gasp escaped from her mouth but she doesn’t say anything else. For weeks every time Tobin has brought her flowers or made a big homemade dinner, or when she showed up in Chicago unexpectedly, even the night they bought their Christmas tree she thought maybe that was the moment. But Tobin was absolutely right, they weren’t about grand gestures. Everything between them was created in the small moments.
She realizes can’t find the words to speak so instead she nods as tears of her own trail down her cheeks. Surging forward she grabs Tobin by the nape of her neck and kisses her.
“Is that a yes?” Tobin asks pulling away the ring still in her hand between them.
“Yes, a million times yes”
Tobin slipped the ring onto her hand and kissed her again before placing her hand on her cheek wiping away her fiancées tears.
“Merry Christmas, baby”
We are at the end here! It’s been a ride.
Chapter 14: She'll love you If you love her like that
Life, while not lived in moments, is remembered just as such. Memories holding the fleeting details of moments throughout our lives. Somehow holding on to the finer lines, the hues and the shadows,and the emotions of great and epic moments but not forgetting the heavy ones, the hard ones. Those moments longed to be forgotten. It’s the inbetween, that fills our lives. The mundane and monotonous, that we forget to remember. Those are often the ones that are meant to be cherished the most. The ones worth the finer lines.
Tobin placed the frame she was holding on back on its hook staring at the photograph beneath the glass. It was one of those moments, the mundane ones. An unplanned photo that took far too long to coordinate, and just a moment to move on from. Taking a step back she looked at the wall full of frames with photos. Some of them grand and great, others just fleeting moments in life. Each one reminding her of how precious time can be. How important it has become to cherish each and every moment.
Glancing at the wedding photo,at the center of them all made her smile, a day full of moments. Even tough ones.
“You know it’s like bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony right?” Kelley insisted on trying to assure Tobin things were under control. “Kell I am also technically a bride, and neither of us care about tradition or superstitions, if she needs me now, i'm going”
Tobin made her way into the room where Christen was supposed to be getting dressed. She knocked lightly before cracking the door a little announcing herself. When she finally slipped in closing the door and locking it behind her she turned to see Christen sitting in a chair, wearing her simple yet beautiful dress, eyes red and cheeks tear stained.
“Not getting cold feet are you” as she crossed the room kneeling down in front of the chair, trying to keep some humor in her voice.
“You know that's not it”
“Ah, good. I didn’t think so but figured I’d check” Tobin paused for a moment meeting sad green eyes looking down at her. No words had to be spoken here. They both knew why the air was heavy, why no matter how wonderful the day turned out to be, there would still be someone missing. This was them making space for what needed to be felt.
“Do you want to dance with me?”
The question elicited a chuckle from Christen, which made Tobin smile. She stood offering her hand but Christen just looked at it. “Baby, we are supposed to dance later, you know, after we are actually married. Plus, there isn’t any music”
“I don't think that’s ever stopped us from dancing before?”
With a deep sigh she took her hand standing to face Tobin who pulled her in gently swaying back and forth. Neither could say how much time had passed before Tobin finally spoke up her voice just above a whisper passed her ear.
“You know as much as I would love to stay here with you forever, there are a lot of people waiting for us, and I’d really like to go out there and say some vows so I can finally call you my wife”
All it took was the help of a few bridesmaids to remove any traces of tears. They checked one another over before deciding to head out together when one of the bridesmaids, an old college friend of Christen's, insisted on snapping a quick photo. They obliged even though they’d have hundreds if not thousands from the wedding photographer. It was a sweet and simple photo of them, gentle smiles, their eyes fixed on each other.
Out of all the professional photos they sorted through after the wedding. It was that one they felt belonged hanging on the wall of their home.
She traced a finger only barely over the frame of that photo remembering all the grand moments from their wedding day. She would still mentally recite her vows every once in a while, never wanting to forget a single word, always remembering the promises she made and kept every single day. Even if she was given the occasional reminders. Tobin took a deep breath with the ghost of a smile still on her face from the flood of memories from her wedding day. Taking a few steps over as her eyes land on another favorite. A moment so deeply representative of how insane and unpredictable life can be.
As the whistle blew, the world suddenly slowed down, everything went quiet and her breath caught in her chest. Tobin watched her teammates running to hug and tackle each other, the stadium louder than life. But the seconds stretched into what felt like hours as the world stopped reminding her of what this meant. Standing in a place she wasn't sure she was going to ever be again. Just over a year ago, before life took her by storm throwing every plan she had out the window, reshaping life as she knew it. Changing every idea of the future she ever had and simultaneously creating new ones.
Eighteen Months Ago:
Christen was trying to finish up dishes from the early breakfast she and Tobin had made together before driving down to spend time with her family for the day. Tobin’s phone had already rung through an entire call once, only a few seconds had passed before it started up again. She knew Tobin was showering upstairs and the vibrating against the hard granite countertops was really testing her nerves.
It was the third day in a row she had felt on edge for no good reason. Snapping a few times at Tobin in moments completely uncalled for and then bursting into tears immediately after apologizing. So she shut the water off and picked up the phone answering the unknown number.
“Yeah” she snapped
“Oh I was trying to get ahold of Tobin but I guess I really needed to speak with both of you”
The voice registered in her head as the man on the other end of the call spoke.
“I’m sorry Daniel, I'm just a bit tired. I didn't mean to be snappy, How are you?”
“I am doing well but I will get right to it unless you would like to wait for Tobin? It’s probably something you both want to hear together”
Daniel was the lawyer who had been working with them through an adoption agency. Most of the time his phone calls were about paperwork. She figured Tobin had forgotten to sign something or send a document over. But before she could think about being anxious over his tone of voice Tobin stepped off the last step of the stairs, using a towel to dry her hair.
“Who is that?” Tobin mouthed
“Uhh actually Daniel Tobin is right here” She said, raising her eyebrows at Tobin. Tobin dropped the towel on the counter and raced around the kitchen island as Christen put the phone on speaker.
“Hi Daniel” Tobin spoke, making him aware she was also there.
“So I know we have only been working together for a month and from the beginning we set the expectation that this process could take a long time. I know that you guys have played the waiting game with trying to conceive through IVF and IUI. It’s been a long process for you and so this morning when I was contacted by the agency I wanted to call right away”
Tobin and Christen looked at each other, sharing looks of anticipation and shock.
“You’ve been matched with an expecting mom, there are some medical complications she is dealing with and there is no other family, and…. she is due in a week. But before you get too excited, I want to inform you that she has having twins”
“Twins” Tobin said just above a whisper, feeling the ground under her spinning hoping that the weight of her leaning against the counter would keep her from passing out.
Daniel waited quietly for one of them to say something before proceeding.
Christen just stared at her wife, who had gone pale. They had been waiting for this, trying to have a kid for almost a year before they finally decided on trying to adopt. Christen had taken every measure possible to make their efforts successful. Quitting her job, mediating more, easing every amount of stress, and eating every kind of food recommended. Nothing had taken though. They gave it one last go over a month ago but when the time had come the test said negative. It was then they made the decision to look into adopting. Daniel had told them that this could be a long process and they expected it to be.
Before she could register what was happening she bent over the nearby sink throwing up her recently consumed breakfast.
“I’m okay” she croaked out looking at Tobin who was still standing there like a deer caught in headlights
“I can give you time to think about it if you need, it's obviously more than expected, but I will say for this particular case we would need an answer soon. There is a foster family lined up already should this not work out”
Tobin suddenly checked back into reality looking at her wife, tears now falling down her cheeks. Without saying a word she just started nodding.
“Yeah?” Christen let out her voice scratching. “Are you sure, should we talk about it?”
“Do you want to talk about it? I mean we’ve been trying to get here for almost a year. It’s not what we expected but I’m in. Undoubtedly, I’m in”
“Okay, okay, okay” Christen said as if the information was still rolling over in her head. She grabbed her wife’s hand and turned to look back at the phone on the counter realizing Daniel was probably sitting there listening to their reaction.
“So, I am hearing that we want to proceed?”
“Yeah, we do,” Tobin said confidently, a smile matching Christens as they both tried to hold back any more tears.
Two weeks later Tobin found herself on the edge of passing out on the couch. The clock on the wall reading somewhere between 4 and 5 am. She was in the same clothes she had put on two days before, clutching the baby monitor in one hand and a pillow in the other. She was on full time duty at the moment. They had only had the babies home for two days before Christen got sick. Obviously worried about passing a bug on to newborns with no immune systems, she had isolated herself downstairs in the guest bedroom. Just as Tobin’s eyes began to close though she could hear Christen throwing up in the bathroom.
She let out a deep sigh and turned the volume up on the monitor before setting it down on the coffee table and knocking on the bathroom door asking if her wife needed anything. But there was no answer.
“Chris, are you ok?” Tobin began to panic just before the bathroom door opened.
Christen stood there looking surprisingly okay for someone who had been throwing up just moments before.
“Tobin” She said as if she was about to say something terrifying.
“I think I’m pregnant”
Before she could process the news though cries came from the monitor in the living room. Cries from the two newborn twins they had adopted just days ago. The ones who never slept and ate all day long, and never wanted to be put down.
“Pregnant?” Tobin whispered to herself as she ascended the stairs to take care of the crying babies. Too tired to react with anything but complete disbelief.
There on the field, after the whistle blew signifying the end of her fifth World Cup final, her fourth win. And as the world began to speed back up she looked into the stands where her family was. By time she had made it to the field gates a staff member had already ushered her wife and kids down to the field. Immediately scooping up the twins, one with each arm she leaned over the baby strapped to Christens chest to kiss her wife.
When the doctor had confirmed their last shot at IVF had taken, the test was a false negative, and Christen was in fact pregnant, her first thought was that it was time to hang up her boots. There was no way they could have three kids under two with her traveling so much. Especially not when two years ago they thought having one kid was going to upend their careers. But they did it. They managed it because Christen knew Tobin had so much more to give to the game and if anyone could make it work it was them.
They made it work, standing on that podium with her family she knew every sleepless night, and travelling with way too many suitcases, finding a nanny who could be there to aid Christen during training and game days, the tears, the stress, and exhaustion. Every bit of it was worth it, every bit of it was for them.
That picture would be a favorite of hers, no matter how many more she took in life, standing there knowing what it took to get there, making that photo, that grand moment that was an accumulation of the mundane and monotonous, of sad and hard moments. Every one of them worth it.
The sound of the laundry room door closing down the hallway broke her of her reverie. Walking back over to straighten out the photo she had just hung on the wall before taking a mental trip down memory lane. The chaos behind that photo making her chuckle. “I can’t believe we managed to even get that photo,” Christen said walking up beside her holding an empty laundry basket. “All the laundry is done, and I am going to bask in that achievement for the whole eight hours it's going to last” she said before leaning over pressing a chaste kiss to her wife’s cheek.
“Chris, can you please grab your son?” Tobin yelled holding her 3 and 4 year old daughters back from running off again. “Why is he only my son when he is being mischievous?” Christen deadpanned as she carried her son over to where her wife and daughters were waiting for Tobin’s mom to snap a quick family photo.
They knew wrangling all three kids at the same time at a family bar-b-que was going to be arduous at best.
“Because when him and his twin sister are mischievous together, they're suddenly MY children”
Tobin replied kneeling down with her three year old trying to wiggle out her arms. Christen kneeled beside her pulling both the twins into her arms before they could off again. “Okay guys just smile for five seconds and you can go run with your cousins to your heart's desire” Tobin said before smiling at the camera.
As soon as the photo was snapped all three children took off in different directions.
Tobin stood and grabbed her wife by the waist pulling her in. “They can all be your crazy kids at bedtime” She said before leaning her to kiss her. “Kidding, they can always just be OUR kids, mischief and all, maybe we should have another? Mix things up”
Christen’s face dropped before trying to pull out of the embrace. “I’m kidding?” Tobin defended pulling her back in.
“We have been out number since day one there is no way we would survive a fourth” Christen said breathless as if the thought itself had exhausted her. She leaned her head against Tobin’s chest watching their kids run around the backyard with their cousins.
“You ready for bed?” Tobin asked, taking her wife’s empty hand.
“Baby, I am always ready for bed” Tobin kissed the top of her head before turning to turn the hallway light off, leading them upstairs, stopping at each bedroom door to check in on their sleeping children before finally making it to bed themselves.
“I love you” Tobin whispered into the dark, like it was some best kept secret.
“I love you, too” she replied wrapped up in her wife’s arms, the thought of her kids sleep down the hall leaving a smile on her face as she fell asleep.