- How to Impress and Invest Toward a Second Date
- 10 Best Tips on How to Succeed in a LDR
- How You Know When It’s Time for Them to Meet Mom
- 5 Ways to Start Putting Yourself Back Out There
- How to Know When It’s Time to Let Go
The list goes on…
“Kate, I know I promised you this article and I know I said I would do it if it meant choosing new topics to write about in the future but-”
“Christen,” Kate raises her voice in a gentle manner, no anger or frustration in tone. Only enough volume to get Christen to listen. “Have you ever been in a long distance relationship?”
“Well,” Christen stammers, “no, but-”
“Okay. How do you know when it’s time to let go?”
“Well that could be for a lot of reasons-”
“Name one,” Kate challenges.
Christen’s eyebrows knit togehter slightly and her words catch in her throat under the pressure.
“I’m sure you can name a few. I know you’re not stupid,” Kate continues, “but that’s beside my point.”
“I- I don’t think I’m understanding…”
“I think you understand me well, Christen. Like I said, I know you’re not stupid.”
Christen gulps down a whole lot of nothing. “No… I’m not stupid,” she agrees.
“Okay,” Kate smiles softly in agreement. “So what’s all this then?”
“Kate, I can’t do the article. I just…I feel stupid writing it and it doesn’t seem right and I’ll write any of these or anything else you ask of me if it means moving on from this piece.”
Kate eyes her for a long moment, leaning back into her chair, one arm crossed against her chest and the other with her hand up to her face, a few of her fingers resting lightly on her cheek.
“Why don’t you tell me what the real issue is.”
She takes a deep breath, runs her hands along her dress, sets her eyes on the floor for a moment, and then looks up and straight into Kate’s eyes. “When I asked for this assignment, it was completely out of self-interest. You know how much I love and value my job here. I will never be able to thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to do what I do here, but I’ve wanted to explore more. I don’t want to be writing the dating section every issue, especially when I, myself, am not dating. Or, haven’t been dating in a while… Anyway, I realized that it was wrong of me to seek someone out for the sole purpose of trying to get something else out of it; something that is only beneficial to me. Now that I’m halfway through the ten days and I’ve gotten to know Tobin in some sense -that’s her name, Tobin- I don’t want to continue on writing this article if I just randomly scoped her out with questionable intentions.”
Kate is quiet for another moment, looking over the list and the small amount of absolute shit writing that Christen supplied her as a sorry excuse for a draft of the How to Fall in Love in Ten Days article.
“Can I be honest with you?” Kate finally asks, not looking up for a few seconds.
“I’d hope that you would only ever be honest with me.”
Her boss lets out a small chuckle as she finally looks up at her. “I knew about your plan all along.”
Christen eyebrows furrow deep together and she blinks a few times as if not fully understanding what Kate said.
“Brian was nearby when you told Ali, Julie, and Alex about your plan to not actually try to fall in love. That you would pick someone, do everything possible to not fall in love, and then write a conclusion to our readers that it’s not possible to fall in love in ten days.”
“Kate, I... ” Christen whispers out. “I’m so sorry.”
“Like I said, I know you’re not stupid.”
Christen knows exactly what she means. She’s not stupid. She knows now that it was wrong to dive head first into an assignment like this with her intentions clouded by selfishness. She knew it all along, but she so badly wanted to just write something she really cared about. She wanted to like what she wrote. She wanted to be interested in it. She wanted to value and love the process like she knew was possible.
“I shouldn’t have…” Christen clears her throat and pushes back her burning tears. “I should have known better. I did know better. I’m sorry. I can’t explain how sorry I am.” One hot tear falls onto her cheek and she pushes it away as fast as she can. Kate stands from her seat at her desk, grabbing a tissue as she does and sits by Christen on the small sofa in her office. “Thank you,” Christen whispers, immediately dabbing at her eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m crying.”
“Sure you do,” Kate says, pulling her into a side hug for a second, then grabbing Christen’s free hand in one of her own and giving it a small squeeze. “Why don’t you tell me why.”
Christen has always been thankful for Kate. She was the Editor in Chief of one of the most popular magazines in the world and she was a complete hardass when she needed to be, but she was always a human and a woman before the title. But still, a small part of her hates letting herself cry in front of her boss like she’s some sort of therapist for her.
“I’m not mad. Confused, sure. But I’m not mad, Christen. Just tell me why.”
She feels her breath leave her nose in a relieved sigh involuntarily. “I’m tired.”
Kate blinks once, slowly, as a small sad smile spreads on her lips.
“I just don’t know what I was thinking. I was frustrated with where I was in writing here and completely changed who I was instead of changing how I lived.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, you know I’m not exactly thrilled to be writing in the dating section every issue,” Christen says with a nervous laugh, recieving a nod and a small chuckle in response, “I think that I was willing to completely change who I was in order to get my pick at my assignment for the next issue. I was willing to get involved with someone romantically without a care for their feelings, or even mine if I’m honest. I was rude and a total bitch to my best friends. I was willing to lie,” she lists off. “Instead I could have been looking at the ‘how’s in my life. How I could be a better writer. How I could be a better person. How I could be deserving of writing a peice I so deeply desired to write.” She takes a deep breath before her last statement, hoping to the universe that her voice would make it through. “How I could be the kind of person that deserves to be loved the way I want to be loved.”
The tears begin to flow again and before she knows it, Kate is grabbing another tissue and wiping them for her.
“Christen, you deserve love. You don’t need to be a perfect person to deserve love. None of us would be deserving of it if that were the case.”
Christen nods in understanding, letting her tears be wiped and her hair pushed out of her face.
“You are so smart and so beautiful. I know you’re a good person, Christen. That’s why you’re here right now,” she says firmly. “What’s really happened with…” she asks in the form of a question, drifiting off in search of a name.
“Tobin,” Christen supplies with a watery chuckle.
“Tobin,” Kate repeats. “I’m assuming there’s more to it with her than what you gave me in that draft?”
Christen nods. “Uh, we’ve actually already had a few… mishaps I guess you could say.”
Kate raises an eyebrow in question.
“I was trying to keep myself from actually developing feelings for her, which obviously didn’t work,” she lets out a bit of an incredulous laugh. “I just read things wrong one night and assumed she was looking for something… more .”
“Sex,” Kate supplies bluntly.
“Sex,” Christen laughs as her cheeks heat up, feeling like a teenager talking to her mother.
“And she wasn’t,” Kate finishes for her, Christen nodding in confirmation.
“I freaked out thinking I messed it all up and went too far when she stopped us and I left with the excuse of having work the next morning. So she got worried that she scared me off because she’s really big on affection and I guess I wasn’t very good at reciprocating it without her having to… I guess request it. Meanwhile I’m processing my attraction to her and trying to accept the fact that I do like her. Anyway, she came over and we talked through things and agreed we both aren’t ready for sexual intamcy right now… but then she fell asleep with me at my place and we both freaked out the next morning- yesterday morning.”
Kate lets out a breathy chuckle, bringing her hand up to her forehead at how messy the last few days had seemed for Christen.
“Yeah,” Christen agrees as if to say ‘I know right’, laughing along with her boss. “It wasn’t even a big deal. Or it shouldn’t have been, anyway. We were just watching a movie after we talked and we both fell asleep until morning. She was running late for work and I kinda rushed her out of my apartment because I thought things were just a complete disaster.”
“Oh, dear,” Kate sighs in a semi-amused tone. “I’m hoping you’ve talked since then?”
“Yeah,” she nods, “We went to dinner and talked things through… again,” she laughs. “I think we’re actually on the same page now. At least it feels like it.” There may as well be a twinkle in her eye to match the grin she gives Kate.
Her boss smiles back at her in kind, squeezing her hand once more. “Good. I’m glad things are working out for you.”
“Yeah,” Christen nods softly, “me too.”
“So you don’t want to move forward with this piece because you’re scared or because you feel like you’re using her?”
Christen hadn’t even considered the former until now. She sure as all hell was scared. Feelings are never not intimidating, but she didn’t consider being scared of writing it.
“Both, maybe… All I know is that I’ve had this heavy sense of guilt and I haven’t been able to shake it.”
Kate nods in understanding, leaning back into the sofa in thought. Christen watches her carefully, trying to keep her fingers from tearing at the tissue in her hand and her heart from beating out of her chest from her nerves.
“I’m not going to lie, I was kind of excited to see what you would do with your original pitch,” Kate chuckles, “I myself wasn’t sure that falling in love in ten days was possible, but I was excited to see you try.” Christen’s ears burn as she turns sheepish and silent. “Do you want to know why I keep assigning you to the dating section?”
Christen lets out a quiet, “Why?”
“Because,” Kate drawls, “I kept getting the sense that, as much as you could give to it, there was still something you could take from it.”
“My own relationship advice from my non-existent relationship?” Christen can’t help but laugh at the thought.
“No,” Kate shakes her head, trying not to laugh along, “an opportunity of some sort.”
Then, it clicks.
“Tobin,” she says quietly in revelation.
“Possibly,” her boss adds a noncommital shrug, “If you think she’s the opportunity you need to take, then sure.”
“Right,” Christen says more to herself than anyone.
“As for the piece…” Kate starts, letting her lips quirk when she sees Christen grimace. “Ah, yes. Work. The lovely thing we’re all here to do.” Christen laughs in reply, her shoulders easing at Kate’s light tone. “What do you think of restructuring it?”
“Restructuring? What do you mean?”
“Re-title it. Re-envision it. Reconsider your place in it.”
“So a whole new piece essentially?”
“No, not exactly,” Kate says, “You’ve already started here. Now, I’m not saying you have to carry on using her to write your piece, since that’s what you’re worried about. I think, rather, write the piece as a journal of some sort. Don’t rush things with her because of the deadline. Don’t overthink anything with her because of the deadline or a story. Just let go. If you want her -if this is the opportunity you want to take- let go. The words will come as they should if you let go.”
“How to Know When It’s Time to Let Go,” Christen makes a half-joke of one of her listed pitches.
“If that’s what you want to title it,” Kate agrees with a chuckle.
“No, no. I was just joking. I mean, maybe-”
“Don’t overthink it, Christen.”
“Just let go,” Christen repeats the words for herself.
“Just let go,” Kate nods proudly.
Tobin : I know you’re probably busy but just wanted to say I can’t stop thinking about you
She must smile by instinct because-
“There she goes,” Julie teases as she watches Christen sneak a glance at her phone.
“Theeere sheee goeesss,” Ali begins to sing.
“Theeere she gooees againnn,” Alex plays along, all of them, including Christen, laughing.
“Shut up,” she whines, the smile on her face contradicting her complaint. “Alex has been the same way!”
“Chris, you can’t stop smiling,” Alex says gleefully.
“Neither can you!”
“Yeah, but, c’mon,” Alex tilts her head.
“What does that mean? C’mon what?”
“You’ve been smiling all day and you haven’t smiled this much in a long time,” Julie responds.
“I still don’t see how that’s any different than Alex,” Christen chuckles at her friends.
“Oh, forget about me. I smile too blah blah blah,” Alex dismisses, “Chris, you know what we mean.”
Christen looks past her computer to her friends through her lashes. A small smirk tilts her mouth. “Yeah. So?”
All three of her friends let out something between a groan and a laugh.
“You’re horrible!” Ali complains, her own smile growing wider as she sees just how comfortable Christen is with that lovetruck grin spread thin on her lips. Christen shrugs a bit sassily, even tilting her head to her shoulder as she does.
“So you’re keeping the article then?” Julie asks.
“Not exactly,” Christen replies. “I mean, yes, I’m somewhat keeping the assignment, but it’s not exactly the same anymore. Kate doesn’t want me to look at it as an assignment from now on. She basically just said to focus on Tobin and let the words come as they will.”
“Smart woman we’ve got for a boss,” Ali muses, all three of the girls agreeing in small sounds.
“So can we go on a double date yet?” Alex grins devilishly, “I mean, best friends date another pair of best friends. C’mon, Chris. It doesnt get better than this.”
Christen rolls her eyes lighthearteedly at the woman. “Maybe not yet, Lex.”
“That’s not a ‘no,’” her friend drawls in triumph.
“Hey? What the heck are we? Chopped liver?” Ali asks in regards to herself and Julie.
“Yeah!” Julie agrees, “Now all of us are taken! Quadruple date, girls.”
“I’m not taken,” Christen says, laughing to herself when she sees the unamused look on her friends’ faces. “I’m not! She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Servando isn’t my boyfriend yet either but I’m not interested in anyone else right now. As far as I’m concerned, I’m taken in my mind.”
“Careful there, Lex,” Christen chuckles and jokes, “Don’t want to scare him off.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that! I never said I’m his girlfriend. I just said I’m taken. If another guy comes up to me right now asking me on a date, I’m saying ‘no thanks, sorry.’”
“And you are valid, Lex,” Julie agrees with her, giving her a high five.
“Anyway,” Ali regroups them, “Group dates…” she directs at Christen, “in the future so you aren’t complaining about being taken or not being taken.”
“I’m not trying to get too ahead of myself,” Christen says softly with careful eyes.
Ali scoffs a bit. “I spoke to her for a whole of five seconds and I knew she was a goner.”
“Al,” Christen whines, cheeks reddening at the thought of Tobin really being that transparent about liking her.
“Yeah, and we’ve known you for years. I think it’s safe to say you’re a goner too,” Julie supplies.
“Oh god,” Christen shoves her face into her hands, her words coming out in a muffled groan.
“Chris, you deserve it,” Alex says genuinely, giving her a bright smile. “Seriously. I hope you know that.”
“Thanks, Lex.” Christen hums. “I think I’m starting to believe it,” she whispers to herself before pulling her phone back out.
Christen : Back at you, charmer. Is it weird to say I miss you?
She goes to shove her phone back off to the side in attempts to continue working, but a quiet ding comes from the device before she can.
Tobin: Not at all. I probably miss you more.
Christen rolls her eyes to herself at the message, smiling as she types her reply.
Christen : It’s not a competition. Go back to work ;)
“Hey, Al, I think I’m gonna head over to Tobin’s straight from here today so you don’t have to wait up for me.”
Ali looks up from her desk. “Okay, that’s cool. I didn’t know you guys had plans today.”
Christen hums for a moment, finishing what she’s typing before replying, “We don’t,” quietly.
“Miss Press,” Ali laughs in disbelief, “are you that smitten that you’re going to surprise her because you can’t go a day without seeing her?”
Christen has to be thankful that Julie and Alex had left for home a few moments earlier so that they couldn’t egg Ali on.
“What’s wrong with wanting to see her?” Christen shrugs sheepishly.
Ali gets up from her seat after shutting her computer off and walks over to Christen’s desk to say goodbye. “Absolutely nothing, babes,” she gives Christen a friendly kiss on the cheek in farewell. “Have a good night with your girl.”
“She’s not my girl,” Christen calls after her as she walks away.
“Oh, she’s so your girl,” Ali calls back over her shoulder, waving her off as she walks out of the office space.
Tobin : Why do you have to work later than I do? :( I want to talk to youuu
Christen ignores the message on purpose, a small grin on her face as she resumes her work until her phone chimes again.
Tobin : I’m trying really hard not to be annoying and a bother… but you’re usually out by now :(
Christen chuckles into the air of the nearly empty office, knowing she’s working a bit late and Tobiin has no idea because she won’t reply.
Christen : Shhh I’m working.
Tobin : Why are you working late? :(
Christen : What’s with all the sad faces?
Tobin : I miss you :(
Tobin : How much longer?
Christen : 15 minutes and I'm out of here. 20 tops.
Christen waits a few moments, expecting Tobin to send another message, but it doesn’t come. At least not until she’s walking out of her building some 30 minutes later and she can’t help but laugh at Tobin’s attempt to be understanding.
Tobin : Babe it’s been like a half hour. Go homeee!
Christen’s heart flutters at the term of affection, noting that it seemed Tobin was set on using the name for her now.
Christen : Tobs. You are SO impatient, you know that?
Christen puts her phone away, not bothering to wait for a response before she’s on her way to catch the train to Tobin’s place. She smiles at random people she passes, feeling like her Californian is showing a bit and her New Yorker is fading. Or maybe it’s just that stupid smile her friends made to sure to make her so very aware of.
By the time that she’s exiting the subway station, she pulls her phone out to check for Tobin’s address, wanting to make sure that she’s heading in the correct direction to Tobin’s place, but she’s met with one more message from Tobin.
Tobin : Sorry :(
She laughs to herself, knowing that Tobin is probably a little guilty and embarrassed for having messaged so many times.
Christen : So many sad faces!! Think I can help you not be so sad?
Tobin : Well now that you’re home and talking to me, I’d say you’ve already helped ;)
Christen : I think I can do better.
Tobin : Phone call?!? FaceTime?!?
Christen : Better. Wanna let me up? ;)
Christen presses Tobin’s apartment number just after she sends the message, anxiously awaiting the ‘go ahead’ up to Tobin’s apartment. Her phone lights up with the picture of herself kissing Tobin’s cheek in front of the Richard Rogers Theater sign, signaling Tobin’s call.
“Hello?” She chuckles as she answers the phone.
“Don’t break my heart and tell me that buzz wasn’t from you.”
“What? What are you talking about? Not me, Tobs. Sorry.”
“Chris,” Tobin whines through the phone.
“You gonna let me in or are you gonna make me stand down here all day?” Christen teases, biting her lip in attempts of controlling her smile.
Tobin lets out a little sigh on the other end, her breath sounding a little static-y in Christen’s ear. “Obsessed with you,” she mumbles into the phone as she lets Christen up, “Hurry on up so I can kiss you crazy.”
The line is dead before Christen can even get a reply out, not that she’d have had anything to say at all other than an ‘okay’.
She checks her hair and makeup in the reflection of the elevator walls on her way up, still trying to keep the dumb smile on her face somewhat contained, even if no one is around to see it. As soon as the elevator doors are opening, she’s out of them, making the turns down the halls towards Tobin’s apartment in a hurry. On her last turn of a corner, she’s met with Tobin’s body half out of her door, half of it in to keep the door propped open. She has a smile just as big as Christen’s adorning her face, gasping out little breathy laughs, her eyes crinkle at the corners as Christen nears quickly.
“What the heck are you doing here?”
“Hello to you, too,” Christen deadpans with an affectionate eye roll on her last few steps.
Tobin pulls her into a kiss before even getting her own ‘hello’ out, hugging her waist tightly, pulling their bodies so close that Christen has to arch back a little to be able to kiss back. She kisses Christen silly just like she’d promised, pressing more than a few small, soft kisses to her lips in between the deep ones before pulling back with a dazed smile and finally saying, “Hi.”
Christen giggles, her eyes bright before she leans in for another short kiss. “Hi.”
“What the heck are you doing here?” Tobin repeats her earlier question, both of them laughing at her bewildered tone.
“Just wanted to see you,” Christen smiles before grimacing slightly, “I hope that’s okay? Sorry I didn’t give you a heads up or check if you had plans. I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Tobin laughs quietly, kissing her soundly once more before pulling her by the hand into her apartment. “Yeah, actually I had a hot date tonight, but it’s fine. I can cancel.” She turns to catch Christen’s reaction, smirking when she sees the unamused look and threatening pout on the woman’s face.
“Not funny,” Christen mumbles, letting Tobin drag her over to the couch after taking her coat off at the door and hanging it on Tobin’s rack along with her purse.
“Oh, sorry? Are you jealous?” Tobin raises her eyebrows expectantly, her lips tugging upward.
“I come to surprise you and you just wanna be mean,” Christen groans as Tobin pulls her sideways into her lap on the couch. Holding her close with strong arms around her waist.
Tobin laughs against her cheek, giving the skin under her lips a long, soft kiss before saying. “Let me go tell my bed and movie queue that I’ll have to reschedule. Hopefully they take it well.”
Christen chuckles, shoving Tobin’s shoulder lightly. “You’re such an ass.” She leans down to kiss Tobin tenderly after their laughs subdue, keeping one arm hooked around the back of her neck and the other hand up and cupping her jaw.
“Missed you,” Tobin whispers onto her lips between kisses.
“You saw me last night,” Christen grings smugly, her eyes closing contentedly and mouth smiling tighter when Tobin pecks over her closed, curled lips.
“Yet you’re the one who’s here right now,” Tobin retorts, moving her mouth to place gentle kisses to Christen’s jaw. The latter sighs quietly, letting the hand that had been on Tobin’s jaw travel around her head to weave fingers gently into hair.
“I don’t hear you compaining.”
“Back at you, baby.”
Chills run along Christen’s neck and arms, her heart pounding at the even newer term of affection that Tobin has chosen. She pulls back from Tobin’s mouth on her jaw, scratching her fingers gently along her scalp as she smiles lazily down at the woman.
Tobin visibly pouts at Christen’s suggestion. “M’not hungry.” She surges forward for Christen’s lips again, ironically hungrily, being granted a short kiss before the woman is pulling back laughing.
“You sure about that?”
Tobin chuckles in kind. “Just for kisses, maybe.”
Christen’s eyes may very well twinkle at how endearing Tobin’s shyness is. She allows her another few moments of kissing, not letting anything get too carried away before she pulls back, running a hand through Tobin’s hair and flipping it over to the opposite side of its part. She twists the ends of the strands of hair, allowing them both a moment to take each other in with their eyes.
“Gorgeous girl,” Tobin whispers into the air between them, giving Christen a lopsided smile when their eyes meet. “I love your dress,” she says as she fiddles with the hem of the fabric.
“Ever the charmer,” Christen grins, leaning forward to lean her forehead on Tobin’s. “Thank you.”
Tobin kisses her top lip ever so lightly, barely able to reach her without leaning forward.
Christen pulls away still smiling, pushing back a stray strand of hair that had fallen in front of Tobin’s eyes. “You wanna go get some food and eat at Central Park?”
Tobin’s eyebrows raise slightly in shock. “Central Park?”
Christen shrugs. “Figured there’s a Shake Shack practically across the street and a million benches, so why not?”
Tobin chuckles, “Going full New Yorker, are we?”
Christen scrunches her nose. “I may also feel like a fake for not knowing even a fraction of the park by now, so maybe we can go to a new part this time?”
“You think I’m gonna take you back to the same places? Heck no.”
“Okay, good,” Christen laughs, “I trust you.”
Tobin smiles bright at her words, picking one of her hands up and kissing her knuckles before nudging her leg to let them both up from the couch. “You wanna change so you aren’t in a dress the whole time? I still have your clothes but I haven’t washed them yet… I mean, you can take whatever you want from my closet. It doesn’t have to be what you lent me. Actually, don’t wear something I’ve already worn, just take whatever you want. If you want,” she rambles.
Christen shuts her lips between her teeth to contain her giggles. She spins Tobin back around to her by the hand, cupping her cheek and giving her another long kiss. “One more, because you’re cute.”
“Am I not always?” Tobin jokes with a smirk, rubbing her thumb on the small of Christen’s back.
“No,” Christen responds sassily as she scrunches her nose, shoving Tobin back a few steps until they’re on their way to Tobin’s room for clothes, “not when you’re like that.”
She ended up choosing a soft crew neck and used her own pair of jeans, swearing to Tobin that she didn’t care because she would wash them at home anyway. They underestimated how much of Tobin’s closet she would actually have to raid, realizing that she would need socks and shoes too if she didn’t want to walk around in the heels she had worn to work. For the heck of it, Christen had swiped one of Tobin’s hats off of her shelf, putting it on her head loosely with a wide grin and a wink, kissing Tobin’s cheek in thanks before having walked past her.
Tobin couldn’t care less. Not now- not when Christen is sitting there, wearing her clothes and one of her favorite hats, digging into her fries like they’re the best thing she’s ever eaten as they sit on the rocks of Hernshead in Central Park just moments before the sun begins its descent below the skyline. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. She loves it all on Christen. The crewneck, the sneakers, the hat, the orange glow that makes her eyes sparkle and accentuates her freckles beneath her makeup-
“I love fries,” Christen moans through a half-stuffed mouth, eliciting a laugh from Tobin who’s been watching her intently as she eats.
“Yeah? I couldn’t tell,” she replies sarcastically.
Christen gives her a side eye, biting into yet another fry as she does.
“These aren’t even good fries, Chris. These are like… freezer fries.”
“Oh, trust me. As a California girl who lived with In-N-Outs all around her, I know. But fries are fries and I’ll eat them if you give them to me.”
Tobin chuckles at the passion in her voice. “Best kind of fry?”
“Ugh,” Christen groans, “That’s so evil… McDonalds.”
“McDonalds?” Tobin asks incredulously. “Really?”
“Guilty pleasure,” Christen nods, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “They’re just like… always so crispy and perfectly salted.”
“Touche,” Tobin nods in agreement. “What about curly fries?”
“Any kind of fry, I’m there. I’d eat them for every meal of the day if I could.”
“Sweet potato fries?”
“Love them,” Christen confirms.
Christen moans, throwing her head back a little. “The best.”
“Anything,” Christen laughs, slightly embarrassed by how much she’s giving away.
“Good to know what I can bribe you with if I ever need to,” Tobin jokes with a wink.
Christen thinks she wouldn’t have to bribe her for anything because with a smile like her’s, she’d do practically anything Tobin asked.
“We all have our vices. I’ll find yours eventually,” she plays back jokingly.
“If that’s your worst then you must be an angel,” Tobin laughs as she shakes her head, collecting their trash and setting it off to the side.
Christen feels her cheeks blush and looks to the skyline for a distraction. “I love this,” she muses. Tobin hums in question, following her line of sight.
“Yeah. I mean, all of it, I guess. This feels like the closest to home I’ve ever experienced here.”
Tobin watches the side of her face closely, smiling a little unintentionally at the wonder in Christen’s gaze. “What do you mean?”
“The colors. When the sun sets in LA, everything turns gold. They don’t call it the golden state for nothing,” she jokes as she finally turns back to face Tobin, knowing that isn’t the real reason for the state nickname. “And this-” she gestures to the view before her with her hands, “the water, the buildings. It’s the closest to the gold I know. It’s like my sunset at home but instead of the ocean I have Central Park’s Lake.”
Tobin chuckles softly, taking one of Christen’s hands in her own and rubbing her thumb gently along her knuckles. “I love that,” she says earnestly. “Tell me more about home?”
Christen looks towards the lake once more, turning back to Tobin sheepishly, “Will you hold me while we watch the sunset and I’ll think of something to share?”
Tobin grins at her like a kid before scooting over for Christen to settle with her back against her own front. Her arms immediately go around Christen’s waist and her lips find the side of her head, kissing it sweetly three times before resting her cheek there.
“Thank you,” Christen says quietly, letting herself melt into the warmth that swaddles her from behind.
Tobin makes a small content noise, squeezing her waist lightly before quietly responding, “I like you in my arms as much as you like being in them.”
Christen’s body tingles at the sincerity in Tobin’s voice. She appreciates that the woman kept a hold on her words from the night before, not teasing her for them or making light of them, but instead responding to them with her own candor.
“Don’t like letting you go,” Tobin says a moment later, pulling Christen a little bit closer, nuzzling her face into Christen’s neck. Christen turns her head slightly to be able to find Tobin’s face with her own, letting her lips kiss the side of Tobin’s nose where they land first. They both giggle a bit at Christen’s lack of aim, but Tobin turns her face up enough to kiss her properly for a second.
Don’t let me go. “Me either.”
The depth of their emotions goes unspoken, but they both know. They both feel it and they both see it in each others’ eyes.
Tobin kisses her forehead once before they both face the water again, silent for a few minutes as the sun sets behind them and the buildings before them glow, reflecting on the water of the Lake.
“I lived by the beach… at home, I mean,” Christen starts. “I used to take my dogs out all the time. Morena and Khaleesi- those are their names.”
“Khaleesi, like Game of Thrones?” Tobin snorts a little.
“What else?” Christen replies in a light ‘duh’ tone, pinching the skin on Tobin’s wrist gently for laughing and teasing. “Anyway,” she draws out dramatically, “I would take them down to the cliffs practically every day. Sometimes my sisters or my mom or dad would come with, but I went alone with them most of the time. I think that was my favorite part of my days back home. I love the ocean so much. It’s just so big and it makes me feel so small, but not in a bad way. It’s loud and huge and intimidating, but only if you let it be. I would sit there as the sun would set and just let myself be nothing. It was like I was practically nothing compared to whatever else was out there in the ocean, and I didn’t care because I used to feel like I had to be everything when I wasn’t there. But you let yourself feel the energy that the ocean sends you and you know you’re still something. You aren’t nothing.” Tobin draws circles into her hips with her thumbs, kissing her shoulder every now and then as she speaks. “The dogs were always so calm too. It was like they understood. We would just sit and watch the waves crash below us until the sun was gone and then go home and do it again the next day. I don’t think I realized how much I missed that until now. This city is my ocean from back home. It’s loud and huge and intimidating-”
“Only if you let it be,” Tobin finishes for her.
“Yeah,” Christen chuckles, “only if I let it be.”
Tobin smiles against her shoulder, pressing yet another kiss over the crew neck she lent Christen.
“But it feels a lot more quiet here. Kinda like I can be nothing here if I need to be.”
“But you’re still something,” Tobin says as if she needs to make sure Christen is aware of the fact.
And she is. At least there, in that moment, she is aware of it. In Tobin’s arms and warmth and strength, she’s something.
Christen finally nods in affirmation, turning her head to smile at Tobin and lean up for a kiss. Tobin accepts it graciously, kissing her back soundly in the soft, final glow from the sun of that day.
“Wanna know something kinda funny?” Tobin asks, receiving a hum back from Christen as she shifts her body in Tobin’s arms to face her just a little bit more. “I felt the same way growing up, but about the stars and space.”
“Like you were nothing… but something?” Christen laughs at the contradiction of the sentence.
“Yeah,” Tobin nods, chuckling along a bit. “Kinda. I mean, we would do this thing with my dad when we were younger where we would camp out in the backyard during the summer… tents and s’mores and all. My siblings and I would all practically pick one of his limbs to lay our heads on and watch the stars while he taught us some of the constellations that he knew. I think he probably made some of it up for the sake of not talking about the same four constellations over and over again, but we believed him,” she grins to herself. “He would put us to bed in the tent and would leave the star roof thing open. I would pretend to sleep until I could hear his snores and then I would lay awake and watch the stars on my own from my sleeping bag-“
“Little rascal,” Christen whispers, scrunching her nose teasingly at Tobin before letting her continue.
“A little bit,” Tobin agrees with a nod and a small smile, “I just wanted to watch the stars and let my little mind just, like, run. I used to question whether aliens were real or not,” they both laugh quietly, “I would tell myself they weren’t because God didn’t create any aliens, but the thought of other life in space was always there. I think as I grew up I moved on from aliens and just wondered about anything that might be out there, you know? I kinda struggled with my faith for a short time questioning what God created and what He didn’t, and if He wasn’t the Creator of everything in space, who or what was?”
“What do you think now?” Christen asks softly, her breath barely tickling Tobin’s neck.
“What? Whether or not aliens are real?” Tobin jokes, “Oh, for sure.”
Christen giggles, “No, you dork. You know what I meant.”
Tobin smiles down at the woman in her arms, scanning her face quickly before continuing. “If I’m honest, I’m still not too sure, but I moved on from letting myself stress over it and just accepting that I could feel my God’s love and presence and that’s all that mattered.” Christen hums in understanding, not wanting to interrupt Tobin too much anymore, but wanting to let her know she’s still listening. “Anyway, once I had reached that point in school where I started learning about just how infinitely huge outer space is, I would just sit outside some nights and watch the stars and I kinda went through the same thing you did. It’s just so big up there, but the difference from the ocean is that it’s quiet. You can’t hear anything that’s happening up there, but you know it’s beyond you. And yet at the same time, even if you can’t hear anything in space, you hear everything down here and you realize that you’re just as important as you are not.”
They sit in silence for a long moment, mutually understanding that, as they sit there, everything around them is so vastly greater than the two of them combined, but whatever they share and whatever they’re creating in their relationship feels so immensly powerful.
Their eyes meet after their moment of pondering, causing them both to grin almost bashfully at how important the moment seems.
“Thank you for surpising me today,” Tobin says quietly, leaning down enough to brush the tip of her nose on Christen’s.
“I just can’t stay away,” Christen replies in such a soft, tooth-achingly sweet tone, it doesn’t even sound as cheesy as it should. Tobin doesn’t even think before she leans down to take Christen’s lips in her own, moving one of her hands to cradle and hold the woman’s head steady below her.
The sunlight is mostly gone now and the lights of the concrete jungle begin to trickle in around them, giving them some indication that they should head out soon.
“I don’t wanna go home,” Christen whines when Tobin pulls away, pouting enough to earn one more peck.
“I hate how early the sun sets this late in the year,” Tobin adds, “It makes me feel like my day is over but it’s actually not late at all.”
“Ugh, tell me about it.”
“Come over for a little bit before you go home? Or we can head out toward your place and get dessert or something and then I’ll drop you home.”
“Mmm,” Christen hums through her close-lipped grin. “How about… we get ice cream at the store on the way back to your place and I’ll stay for a while before I go home? I do need my purse and things,” she reasons with a smirk.
“Oh shoot,” Tobin laughs, having forgotten that Christen only brought her wallet and keys with her, “Thank the aliens for your smart brain. I don’t know where we’d be without it.” She kisses Christen’s forehead quickly for emphasis before standing and holding her hands out to pull Christen up too. They both collect their trash before Tobin is taking Christen’s free hand to hold. “To find ice cream we go!” She exclaims gleefully as if about to start an adventure.
“Ugh,” Christen fawns dramatically. “French fries and ice cream all in one day? Stop spoiling me!”
“Next time you can’t enable my weaknesses,” Christen points her spoon accusingly at Tobin as she speaks through a moutfull of cold ice cream.
Tobin laughs with her own spoon in her mouth as she takes her own bite. “Whatever. I’m not ready to face whatever happens if I tell you no, so excuse me for trying to please you.”
Christen wiggles her eyebrows playfully as she digs into the carton for another scoop, laughing at the way Tobin rolls her eyes before the first part of Tobin’s statement catches up to her. “Hey! What do you mean ‘don’t want to face whatever happens if you tell me no’?”
Tobin’s eyes widen comically as she ignored eye-contact. “Nothing, babe.”
“Nuh uh,” Christen laughs, “don’t ‘babe’ me right now!”
“Nothing, honey !”
The smirk threatening to perch itself on Tobin’s lips is enough for Christen to move the ice cream carton to the coffee table in front of them and wrestle Tobin down onto the couch cushions.
“You think I’m gonna be a diva or something?” She laughs through her gasps for air as Tobin tries to wrestle her back.
“No! I was just joking!” Tobin tries to defend, laughing uncontrollably as Christen digs a few slim fingers into her ribs. “I give! I give!” She exclaims as Christen’s knees settle on either side of her hips and her hands are pinned above her head. They both pant through their laughs, trying to catch their breath. That is until Christen surges down to kiss her hard, both of their lips still cold and sweet from the ice cream. Tobin is taken aback for a second, shocked by the sudden change in mood from Christen, but not for long before she softens and hums against Christen’s insistent mouth.
“I should say things like that more often if this is what it gets me,” she quips, laughing when Christen clenches her wrist slightly.
“Don’t even think about it,” Christen mutters, dipping down to kiss her again.
“You taste like an oreo,” Tobin says between kisses.
“You talk too much,” Christen groans playfully as she lets her head fall into the side of Tobin’s neck, her breath tickling Tobin’s skin from how it blows her baby hairs around.
Tobin stilfes her laugh, bringing her fingers up to her mouth and miming zipping them shut. “I’ll be quiet now.”
Christen grins, shaking her head before pressing a kiss to her jaw and saying, “Moment’s gone. Sorry, babe.”
Tobin wants to protest, but instead she beams at the pet name Christen used so nonchalantly.
Christen settles herself into the space between Tobin’s body and the back of the couch, resting her head on Tobin’s shoulder and a hand on her chest, drawing obscure shapes onto the fabric of Tobin’s sweater below her with her index and middle fingers. Tobin turns to kiss Christen’s forehead as she scoots further down the couch, letting her lips linger for a few sconds before pulling Christen closer into her side.
“The ice cream is gonna melt,” Tobin whispers like it's a secret.
“Good,” Christen whispers back, “Then I won’t eat it.”
They share a laugh, dismissing the small carton of cookies and cream ice cream that sits on Tobin’s coffee table, the little that’s left of it melting away in the warmth of the apartment..
“Tell me more about home?” Christen asks quietly after a moment, her fingers having moved to dance along Tobin’s collarbone now.
Tobin hums, running her hand along Christen’s arm. “What do you wanna know?”
Christen shrugs slightly, her voice small when she says, “Whatever you wanna tell me. I liked your story earlier.”
There’s a short moment of quietness as Tobin thinks of something to share, their hands continuing their innocent movements on each others’ bodies.
“I have three nephews and a niece,” Tobin starts, the smile that Christen can’t see on her face instead heard in her voice. “I’m actually gonna go see them on Saturday. My parents are going out of town for the weekend and don’t wanna leave the house alone. Or so they say. I think they just want us kids to hang out together,” she chuckles. “I’m only going on up Saturday but my brother is gonna stay the weekend there to take care of the house since he lives closest. Anyway, two of the boys are my sister Katie’s and then then the last boy and the girl are my sister Perry’s. And then there’s my younger brother Jeff, but he and I are chilling for now on the whole starting a family thing,” she jokes, hearing a small giggle from Christen. “They call me Aunt To-To.” Christen lets out a quiet ‘awww’ at the name and the content in Tobin’s voice as she speaks. “I love kids. They’re like my weakness. I’m kind of known and made fun of for stopping to play with random kids because I can’t help myself. But my niece and nephews are just a whole different kind of love, you know? It’s like, I know they’re not my own but the amount of love I have for them makes me excited to have my own someday because I can’t even imagine what I would be like then.”
Christen’s heart swells at the thought of Tobin with children, much less her own children. She has to stop from getting too far ahead of herself in her imagination.
“Sorry, I know that’s probably too serious of a conversation for us right now,” Tobin laughs nervously.
“Don’t apologize,” Christen says softly, tilting her head up to look Tobin in the eye as best she can. She places a soft, quick kiss to the underside of the woman’s jaw. “I mean, yeah, too soon,” she chuckles, “but you don’t have to apologize for telling me that.”
“Okay,” Tobin whispers through her small smile, not knowing what else there is to say. “What are your plans this weekend?”
“Probably just hanging out. I think Ali will probably be spending the majority of her weekend with Ash so it’ll just be me and my bed,” she feigns a dramatic sigh.
Tobin chuckles at the grin that Christen sports after ditching her act, rolling her eyes slightly before turning sheepish again. “You can, uh, totally feel free to say no but you’re welcome to come with me to Jersey on Saturday?” She phrases it like a question, more unsure of what she’s asking than what Christen’s response will be. “I know that’s like ‘meeting the family’ or whatever but my parents won’t be there and my siblings wouldn’t be, like, weird or anything.”
“Oh, Tobs. That’s okay. Your parents want you guys to spend time together, I wouldn’t want to intrud-”
“You wouldn’t be!” Tobin says a little too fast, her cheeks blushing as she realizes it. “I mean, if you really wanted me to, I could ask to make sure they’d be okay with it, but I’m sure they’d bug me more about making sure you came if I did that,” she chuckles. “You really don’t have to if you don’t want to, I just figured if you don’t have plans, it’d be nice to hang out with you,” she shrugs, avoiding Christen’s eyes.
Christen leans up, resting her weight onto her elbow and forearm beneath her. The movement effectively catches Tobin’s attention, allowing Christen to search her eyes for a moment. “You’re sure? You don’t have to invite me because I’m gonna be alone this weekend.”
“No, that’s not-” Tobin shakes her head adamantly, “Chris, if you really don’t want to, you don’t have to. I promise I won’t be upset. I just figured it’d be nice to spend more time with you. It wasn’t a pity invite or something.”
Christen lets out a quiet sigh through her nose, considering the proposal as Tobin watches her nervously and carefully, ready to take back the offer in fear that it was too forward.
“You’ll ask them to make sure they won’t mind?” She asks after a few moments, looking to Tobin with wary eyes.
The woman below her grins uncontrollably, gently squeezing her hip where her hand lays. “They won’t, but I’ll ask anyway.”
“And you promise you didn’t just bring it up because I said I was spending the weekend alone?”
“Promise.” She sticks her pinky up into the air between them.
Christen glances to it and then back to her quickly, a smile taking its rightful place on her face. “You know how to make a proper pinky promise, right?”
“You hook your fingers and say ‘I promise’?” Tobin laughs, her eyebrows knitting in confusion because the answer seemed obvious.
“No,” Christen shakes her head, bringing her own hand up to hook her prinky around Tobin’s. “You hook your pinkies… then you kiss your thumb,” she moves her lips to her finger, Tobin following her instructions, “and then you attach your thumbs together,” the pads of their thumbs meet at the top point of their conjoined hands, both of them grinning like fools as they move to lace their fingers together. Tobin uses her free hand to push some hair out of Christen’s face before pulling her in for a kiss by her chin. They let go of each other’s hands in favor of holding each other’s necks and cheeks, smiling through the kisses they share as Christen’s weight slowly falls heavier onto Tobin’s body.
“The kids aren’t gonna wanna share you,” Tobin jokes, “Maybe I shouldn’t take you.”
“Don’t get too ahead of yourself, now,” Christen replies with a raised eyebrow. “You still haven’t asked your siblings.”
Tobin can only smile wider. “They’re gonna love you.”
Christen has to tell herself she’s not crazy, but she’s well aware of the fact that she’s in deep already and she’s finding herself less and less bothered by the fact every time Tobin kisses her silly.