Of course, Lindsey managed to show up in Orlando on the one day in the past two weeks that it wasn’t sunny. She looked out the glass doors of the airport, staring at the downpour happening outside. She might have seen something about a hurricane on her twitter feed, but she couldn’t be sure. No umbrella and her jacket was stuffed down at the bottom of her bag. Honestly, she deserved this. It was the first time she’d been to Orlando since January. Since camp. Since that camp. She hadn’t been to Orlando since she found out Emily wasn’t coming back to Portland and she would never forget that day for as long as she lived.
Lindsey was woken up by harsh knocking on the hotel room door. She sat up, looking around to see if Abby was still in the room. Then, whoever was on the other side knocked even louder.
“Jesus Christ, I’m coming!” She shuffled to the door, opening it to find Mal, hand poised to knock again. “What do you want?” Lindsey was not a morning person, this was a known fact, so she was playing with fire, waking her up this earlier.
“How are you sleeping right now?” Mal pushed her way into the room.
“Because it’s…” Lindsey looked at her watch. “6:30?? I’m going to kill you!” She reached out, ready to strangle her friend.
Mal stepped out of Lindsey’s reach, but she didn’t giggle or shriek about it like she normally would. Instead, there was concern written across her face. “Wait… Linds, you don’t know?”
“Know what? That you are hell bent on making sure I don’t get my eight hours of sleep?”
“Sonny got traded.” Mal clapped her hand over her mouth, like she said something she wasn’t supposed to.
Lindsey just stared at her for a moment and then burst out laughing, which only made Mal’s eyebrows knit together tighter with worry.
“Good joke. You really got me. Now can I please go back to bed?” Lindsey had already turned her back on her friend, stepping back to her bed.
“Lindsey.” Mal’s voice was measured, like she was tiptoeing around a stick of dynamite. “It’s not a joke.”
“What?” Lindsey whipped her head around violently, causing her to trip over her bag that she had haphazardly thrown on the floor the previous night. She nearly clipped her head on the corner of the dresser when she fell.
“Shit! Are you okay?” Mal rushed to her side, but Lindsey pushed her away.
“Don’t touch me, I’m fine!” She scrambled to her feet, backing away from her friend. “You’re lying, they wouldn’t… they can’t trade her…” Lindsey felt tears pricking behind her eyes when Mal showed her the notification.
For the number one draft pick. The irony was not lost on Lindsey that the only reason they wound up together was the trade with Orlando for that year’s first round pick, for Emily. Orlando. Fucking Orlando. The universe decided that not only were they going to be separated, but they were going to be as far away from each other as humanly possible. Lindsey couldn’t even remember what it was like not having Emily on her team, and she thought (naively) that she would never have to. They were a package deal, everyone knew that. The memories rushed through her brain like someone was holding down the fast forward button.
Winning the NWSL championship.
Losing the NWSL championship.
The World Cup.
Lindsey wished she could blame it on the alcohol that night. Lord knows she was drunk, but not drunk enough to forget how hot Emily looked in that tank top. Not drunk enough to forget the feel of those long fingers slipping under Lindsey’s shirt on the dance floor. And certainly not drunk enough to forget pulling Emily into the bathroom and crashing their lips together. If she closed her eyes, Lindsey could still feel Emily’s mouth on her, kissing her way down her neck and across her collarbone. She could still feel the way Emily’s ran her fingers through Lindsey’s hair, nails scraping against her scalp.
“Lindsey? Are you okay?”
She’s pulled out of her thoughts when Mal shook her gently.
Lindsey stood up, already charging toward the door. “She’s with Rose, I think!” She heard Mal call after her, but her mind was already focused on finding her best friend.
The trip down one floor to Rose’s room felt like years. It felt like she was walking through a funhouse tunnel, like the closer she got to her destination, the more the walls seemed to close in on her. This could not be happening; Sonny couldn’t possibly be leaving Portland. This had to be some elaborate prank. Lindsey would get to Rose’s door and be met with uproarious laughter at how gullible she was. Maybe they’d even try a jump scare, not that one of those had worked on Lindsey in a long time.
When she got to Room 439, Lindsey was suddenly at a loss. It was like her brain couldn’t make her hand reach up to knock. It didn’t matter though, because not ten seconds later, the door swung open and she was met with a stony-faced Rose Lavelle. She didn’t speak at first, just looking back into the room and then at Lindsey again before opening the door all the way.
“Oh, sorry, were you on your way out?” Lindsey asked.
“Then how did you—”
“Sonny said she could tell you were there. I don’t know, you two are weird like that sometimes so I thought I’d check.”
But Lindsey didn’t really hear the rest of what Rose was saying because her eyes landed on her best friend across the room. Emily was curled into a tight ball, hugging her knees to her chest, facing the wall. Lindsey could see how her body heaved, racked from her heavy sobs. Lindsey could count on one hand the number of times she had seen Emily cry in the years they had known each other and every time the image broke her heart. In the background, she could hear the door closing for a second time, signaling that Rose had made herself scarce.
She raced across the room, climbing into the bed beside Emily. Lindsey wrapped an arm around her best friend, tucking her fingers between Emily’s waist and the sheets. She tightened her grip, pulling until they were flush against one another, Emily's back to Lindsey’s front. For a while, they stay that way. Lindsey with her nose pressed into that tiny tattoo at the base of Emily’s neck, breathing in the faint scent of her shampoo from the night before. Emily cried until there were no more tears left, but her body continues to shake in Lindsey’s arms. She turned ever so slightly, dislodging Lindsey’s had and twisting their fingers together.
“It’s going to be okay, Em.” Lindsey whispered in her ear.
Lindsey would never forget the first time she used that nickname. It was after their first game together as Thorns, where they had both earned starts and Lindsey even scored a goal. That night, the team had taken the rookies out for celebratory drinks. Lindsey had reached out a hand, inviting Emily to join her on the dance floor.
“Come on, Em, come dance with me!”
Emily stopped mid-conversation with another teammate and turned to Lindsey. “There’s only a few people in the world that call me Em. What makes you think you get the join that club?”
And really, who did Lindsey think she was? She had only known Emily for a few months at that point, and they had only been national team acquaintances before that. But there was just something about Emily Sonnett that made her want to know more. Wanted to know what could make her do that full belly laugh, the one made her eyes crinkle around the edges and got her to throw her head back.
But then Emily curled her lips into her signature smirk before standing up and taking Lindsey’s hand, and suddenly, Lindsey was the one being led onto the dance floor.
Back in that hotel bed, Lindsey pressed her lips to that cross tattoo before Emily rolled over, eyes bloodshot and sniffling.
“Hi.” Lindsey said softly.
Emily could barely make out a squeak and all Lindsey could think about was how she could make this better. In hindsight, it might have the stupidest thing she had ever done in her life. Before she could let herself think about it too much, she did the only thing that felt right in the moment. She leaned in and pressed her lips to Emily’s trembling ones. They stay that way for a moment, then suddenly, Emily is shoving them apart, scrambling to put as much distance between them as she could, nearly falling off the bed in the process.
“What the hell was that?” Emily shrieked, her fingers reaching up to touch her lips.
“I just...” Lindsey didn’t really have an answer.
“You just...??” Emily repeated angrily.
“I just wanted to help make you feel better.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she wanted to take them back.
Emily stared at her incredulously. “You... you thought that would make me feel better? You thought that this was the moment to do that? God, you know what... fuck you, Lindsey!”
“No, you don’t get to ‘Em’ me this time. Six months. Six fucking months I’ve been waiting for you to do that, Linds. You kissed me after the World Cup and have spent every day since pretending it didn’t happen. Do you know how that felt? Do you?”
“I didn’t think...”
“Oh, that much has been very clear.” Lindsey had never seen Emily like this before, this angry. And she was the cause of it. “You didn’t do that to make me feel better, you kissed me to make yourself feel better. But guess what, Lindsey? This isn’t happening to you. For once in my life, it’s about me!”
“Emily... I lo—” But she’s cut off.
“Get out! Now! Get out!” Emily pushed Lindsey, hard, toward the door. She was shoved into the hallway and Emily gave her one last disgusted look. “When I get back to Portland... don’t talk to me.” And then the heavy hotel room door slammed in Lindsey’s face.
Later that day, the team was being shuttled to the airport and headed back to their markets. Lindsey sat in her normal seat on the bus, not sure if her buddy would be joining her. Moments later, the last person she wanted to see climbed the stairs. If looks could kill, Kelley would have ended her right then and there. No words were exchanged, but it was very obvious that Kelley knew.
When Emily did get on the bus, Lindsey sat up quickly, trying to make eye contact. I’m sorry. I know you don’t want to hear it, but I’m in love with you. I’ve been in love with you for as long as I can remember and that scares the hell out of me. But Emily didn’t even look at her. She slid into the seat next to Kelley, resting her head on the brunette’s shoulder. Lindsey sunk back into her seat, staring out the window to keep herself from crying.
As she’s got off the bus at the airport, someone grabbed by the hood of her jacket, yanking her to side.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Kelley snarled, the fact that she was nearly six inches shorter momentarily forgotten.
“I don’t need this from you.” Lindsey tried to shift out of Kelley’s grip.
“I don’t give a shit what you need. This is about what she needs, can you get that through your head?”
Lindsey wrenched her jacket free and kept walking.
“Stay away from her Lindsey, I mean it.”
And so, Lindsey stayed away. She stayed away when Sophia Smith was drafted first overall and all the commentators could talk about was how different the Thorns would be without Sonnett. She stayed away when Gabby told her Emily was in Portland packing up her apartment. She stayed away when a box showed up at her door full of things she had left at Emily’s over the years. She stayed away when she realized the oversized Denver Broncos sweatshirt that once belonged to Lindsey’s dad wasn’t in the box.
It became easier to stay away when the pandemic hit, she literally couldn’t go anywhere if she tried. But being stuck inside just meant more chances for Lindsey to think about how royally she had fucked up. It was still easy to stay away when the team was allowed to start training again. It was weird at first, but Hubly was nice enough. She wasn’t Emily but she was a good defender, so Lindsey tried to overlook that.
Then the Challenge Cup was announced, and Lindsey knew it would be hard to stay away. They would be staying in the hotel for a month, there was no way they wouldn’t run into each other. God, they would have to play against each other. They’d never played against each other, ever.
Lindsey spent the next month working herself up into a panic. She had Emily hadn’t spoken in nearly five months. Emily had all but disappeared from social media following the trade, making it hard for Lindsey to not speculate about what she was doing. She thought about texted Ali about her, but as far as Lindsey knew, no one else besides Kelley knew about their blow up.
Her fretting was all for not, however. The morning before the Thorns were scheduled to depart for Utah, the hundreds of messages in the national team group chat woke Lindsey from her sleep.
All Lindsey wanted was to make sure Emily wasn’t sick. That was it. At least that’s what she told herself when she fired off the text.
I hope you’re okay. Let me know if you need anything. Miss you.
She didn’t get a reply from Emily, but she did get a phone call about thirty minutes later.
“Do you have a hearing problem?” Kelley barked on the other end.
“How is what I did bad?” Lindsey was exasperated. “Everyone was saying it in the group chat!”
“So why did you feel the need to single her out? Just a blanket message to all of them would have sufficed."
“God, I don’t have to explain myself to you! This isn’t any of your business!”
“When she calls me crying over you, again, it becomes my business.”
That was the last thing Lindsey wanted. She just wanted to make this right, more than anything. Lindsey hated crying, she hated feeling weak and vulnerable. On the field was one thing, but off the field, she avoided getting emotional every chance she could. But today, she couldn’t stop the rush of tears.
“Tell me how to fix this, Kelley. I just want to make this better, I’ll do anything.” She could barely get the words out through her tears.
Kelley’s voice was softer when she spoke again. “You’re on her time, Linds. When she’s ready, she’ll come to you.”
“That’s the best I can do. Maybe the change of scenery will help her figure it out.”
Lindsey cocked her head to the side in confusion, missing a beat before realizing Kelley couldn’t see her.
“What do you mean? She's not coming to Utah.”
“Then what do you mean ‘change of scenery’? Is she going back to her parents?”
She could hear Kelley take a deep breath on the other end of the line. “She’s going to Sweden, Linds. That team Christen played for? They told Vlatko they needed defenders.”
Lindsey proceeded to drop her phone on the hardwood, making Ferguson yelp in the background.
She watched every second of Emily’s games in Sweden. Well, she watched #12 for every second, maybe not the actual games. Emily played with a freedom Lindsey hadn’t seen from her in a long time. Like, for once, she wasn’t worried about what someone might say about her performance. Lindsey couldn’t help but smile watching her scurry around the field.
Lindsey was not a morning person, not by any stretch of the imagination. But waking up early on the weekend wasn’t an issue anymore. She would take Ferguson out and then settle back into her bed just in time for kick off. She would bring a cup of coffee and slide back under the blankets, her dog snuggling close. Lindsey followed the game intently. If Emily's team won, they would be league champions with a game in hand. According to her internet searching, the team they were playing against wasn’t half bad, so it was probably going to be a good one.
What she hadn’t expected was 7-0 with just stoppage time left. Her eyes followed the ball, a low, swinging cross in front of the goal, as someone got their toe on it, poking the ball into the back of the net. Lindsey almost dropped her coffee in her lap when she saw who scored the final goal. At first, all she could see was a messy blonde bun sticking out while teammates dog piled her. But then she saw Emily, a wide smile across her face, and Lindsey fell in love all over again.
And that was how Lindsey ended up in Orlando, standing outside a nondescript apartment complex in the pouring rain. She had bribed Rose to get Emily’s address and when she was coming home, but now that she was there, she couldn’t bring herself to go knock on her door.
Suddenly, she thought she caught a glimpse of messy hair in a third-floor window, but she couldn’t be sure. Lindsey wasn’t sure how long she sat there, freezing on the curb, but soon enough, her clothes were soaked through and her backpack was probably retaining water.
“Linds?” A quiet voice came from behind her. Lindsey whipped her head around saw Emily standing there under a golf umbrella, concern on her face. “Lindsey, how long have you been out here?”
Lindsey opened her mouth to talk, but no words came out. Even in the dark, even in the rain, she could make out just how blue Emily’s eyes were. They matched the old Denver Broncos sweatshirt she had wrapped herself in.
“Are you insane? There’s a hurricane on its way, get inside!”
But then, Lindsey found her voice. “I’m sorry.” She shouted over the rain. “I’m sorry, Em.”
A particularly strong gust of wind rips through, nearly taking Emily's umbrella with it as she pleaded. “Lindsey, please, just come inside.”
“I saw your goal.”
Emily’s eyes got a little wider. “You watched?”
“Of course, I watched! I watched all your games. You played so well, Em.” Lindsey stood up slowly until they were face to face.
“Linds, why are you here?” Emily’s tone wasn’t accusatory, but almost curious. Their faces were so close under the umbrella, Lindsey could count all the freckles on her nose if she wanted.
“Because I needed to tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry for kissing you after the World Cup and then pretending it never happened. I’m sorry for making your trade about me. I’m sorry for not being there the way you needed me to be. I love you so much, Emily Sonnett, and it might be selfish but I will do whatever it takes to have you in my life again. And I thought, maybe you felt the same way. Em, I—”
But then Emily's lips were on hers, soft and wet from the rain. In that moment, the chill that had overtaken Lindsey’s body was replaced with a glowing warmth. She couldn’t say how long they were connected, just that it would never be long enough.
“Will you come inside now?” Emily whispered; her forehead pressed against Lindsey’s.
The Florida apartment was exactly how Lindsey pictured it. Clean lines and funky colors filled the room, but Lindsey’s eye landed on the refrigerator, at a photo held there with a magnet. She had seen the picture before. Hell, it had been her screensaver for a while. It was from the World Cup, after the Sweden game. During the post-game interviews, Emily had wrapped herself around Lindsey, pressing a sloppy kiss to her cheek before continuing on to the locker room.
“I love that picture.” Emily handed her a steaming cup of tea, though Lindsey no longer felt cold, despite her shaking hands.
“Me too, it’s one of my favorites.” Lindsey gave a small smile. “Em—”
But she was interrupted again as Emily closed the distance between them, cupping Lindsey’s face as she pressed their lips together again.
“Who would have thought that between the two of us, you to be the hopeless romantic?” Emily chuckled softly.
“I am not!” Lindsey said somewhat defensively.
“Making confessions of your undying love in the middle of a rainstorm? Extremely cliché, babe.”
Lindsey blushed profusely. “Well, did it work? Did I finally get the girl?”
Emily just grinned and kissed her again. “You always had me, Linds. All you had to was ask.”