I've never fallen from quite this high
Fallin' into your ocean eyes
Those ocean eyes
(Tobin - “Ocean Eyes” by Billie Eilish)
I fill my calendar with stuff I can do
Maybe if I'm busy it could keep me from you
And I'm pretendin' you ain't been on my mind
But I took an interest in the things that you like, ah-ah
(Christen - “Crush” by Tessa Violet)
There wasn’t enough coffee in the world to combat the bone-deep exhaustion Christen felt this morning. When her alarm clock had gone off at 6:30 AM, she’d wanted to snooze it and never wake up again. She yearned for more sleep and for the bliss that came from staying cuddled up beneath her warm comforter. But her shift at the campus Starbucks started at 7 and Christen was never late to anything, ever.
As a Division 1 student-athlete, Christen had very little extra time in the day, especially now that it was September and classes had begun. Between practices, lifting and fitness, recovery sessions, film analysis, and mandatory team meals, she felt like she slept, ate, and breathed soccer, 24/7. On top of that, Christen was taking 18 credits this semester, wanting to push herself academically. It wasn’t enough to excel on the soccer field, she had to impress in the classroom as well. This left her with barely enough downtime to hang out with her roommates, watch the occasional Netflix rom-com, and get her requisite eight hours of sleep a night.
For Christen, these quieter moments were deadly. With her mind free to roam, Christen would find herself thinking of a certain Penn State left-winger despite her best efforts not to. Tobin Heath just had this annoying persistence about her, leaving Christen unable to not think about her when she had a free moment.
That wouldn’t do, of course. Christen couldn’t afford distractions, especially not gorgeous, talented, and too-cool-for-school ones. So, Christen found ways to limit her free time. Picking up a few morning shifts at Starbucks during the week seemed to do the trick, even if they left Christen exhausted and relying on extra cups of coffee to survive.
“Welcome to Starbucks, what can I get started for you?” Christen asked, her customer service smile feeling a little stiff this morning.
The girl standing at the counter pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, mulling over her options and taking her time to answer Christen’s question. She looked completely lost, her eyes running across the multiple menu boards hanging above Christen’s head.
Usually, this sort of thing would irritate Christen. She hated indecision, especially about something as trivial as coffee flavors. She always preferred just to make a choice and live with the consequences. It was better than never choosing anything and forever living in the gray area. But with no one else in line behind the girl and the rest of the store pretty empty, Christen forced herself to take a deep breath, then another. Feeling a little less irritable and a bit more relaxed, she let herself study the girl.
Her red hair was cut short to frame her face. She wore circle-framed glasses and had a small nose ring, which made Christen wonder for a fleeting moment if she should get a nose ring herself. That thought didn’t last long though, and she continued to observe the customer. She was pretty in that untroubled sort of way and her blue eyes seemed to sparkle. Christen could just make out tiny swirls of ink on the girl’s collarbone, the rest of the tattoo covered by the flannel she wore.
The girl smiled apologetically at Christen and cleared her throat, breaking Christen out of her reverie.
“Full disclosure, I’ve never been to a Starbucks before...which is something I tell all the pretty girls to make me seem cool,” the girl joked, winking at Christen. “But seriously I’m totally lost here and have no clue what to order.”
Christen felt her customer-service smile morph into something a little more genuine as a light blush heated her cheeks.
“No, you’re totally fine. How about you tell me what you like in a coffee and I’ll whip up something for you?”
“Something strong and not very sweet, please,” the girl replied.
Christen wasn’t sure what to do with this sort of freedom, so she just decided to make her favorite coffee. After ringing the girl up and then crafting the coffee, Christen handed a simple cappuccino over to the redhead.
“Here you go. I attempted my favorite, an extra-strong cappuccino with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Try not to hold it against the entire Starbucks corporation if it sucks, okay?”
The girl laughed and took the cup from Christen.
“I bet it’s perfect. Thanks,” the girl looked down to Christen’s name tag on her chest, “Christen.” With another wink and a small nod, the girl left Christen alone in the store and alone with her thoughts once more.
Her name had sounded nice when the girl said it, but Christen couldn’t help but wonder about how her name would sound coming out of the mouth of Tobin Heath. Christen knew she shouldn’t be thinking about her. In fact, she specifically was trying to ignore her. But even here, in the safety of a Starbucks in Los Angeles, Tobin found a way into Christen’s head.
Tobin lifted her face to the cloudless, bright blue sky above her. She was sitting in the grass outside of the soccer stadium with her eyes closed, basking in the warmth and soaking up as many of the sun’s rays as she could.
Penn State was in the dying days of September, which meant that winter was quickly approaching. Despite Tobin’s excitement to experience late fall and then winter in Pennsylvania, she would miss the sun and these warm days.
Tobin cracked an eye open. On the sidewalk in front of her, Tobin saw a tall, lanky girl with stick-straight blonde hair.
“You must be April?” Tobin asked, mustering up as much excitement as she could.
The blonde nodded enthusiastically, fixing Tobin with a large, beaming smile. Tobin tried to smile in return, she really did. She attempted a genuine smile, but with this being her third blind date, genuine smiles were a little unattainable.
Lauren and ARod were both trying to help her settle into school, having noticed that she spent most of her nights Facetiming her brother or sisters and playing video games. Her two teammates, although well-intentioned, were convinced that Tobin needed a girlfriend to distract herself with, and Tobin wasn’t about to refuse and tell her two friends that she was too busy thinking about a certain green-eyed forward on UCLA’s team to date around.
It was silly to be so hung up on Christen. One moment she was dead set on forgetting the green-eyed striker, and the next she was opening Instagram to stare at the other girl’s profile picture for far too long. Tobin was confusing herself with her hot then cold attitude towards Christen, but she’d be lying if she said Christen Press didn’t matter to her. She did, she mattered, simple as that. Tobin just hadn’t figured out what to do with that bit of information just yet.
“Should we get going?” April asked, startling Tobin out of her own foggy thoughts.
“Of course, yeah,” Tobin sighed, standing up and scratching the back of her neck.
April was pretty. She was wearing a short, white dress and sandals, her tanned legs attracting Tobin’s attention immediately. They were almost as long as Christen’s, and Tobin wanted to kick herself for even thinking of that comparison.
Tobin walked next to April, feeling no sparks or butterflies when April looped her arm through Tobin’s. If she had been completely honest with herself and with April, Tobin probably would have told April not to waste her time by entertaining Lauren’s blind date idea. Tobin felt hot all of a sudden, stifled by the blonde’s arm in hers. Her skin prickled uncomfortably, and her stomach turned.
“Where are we going?” April asked when Tobin opened the car door for her.
“I was thinking burgers.”
“I’m kind of more of a salad person right now. Coach has us on really strict diets… if that’s okay?” April asked, her cheeks flushing slightly.
“Sure. Salads are good,” Tobin relented, knowing full well that she’d still be starving after a salad.
Tobin sat in the driver’s seat of her Chevy truck, April fidgeting next to her.
“The AC’s kind of broken,” Tobin mumbled, rolling the window down manually.
Her truck was a hand-me-down from her grandfather, and although it lacked the bells and whistles of newer, more expensive trucks, Tobin liked the charm of it. April didn’t seem so impressed. Tobin whipped out of the parking lot, one hand on the steering wheel and the other dangling out the window.
“So you’re on the diving team?” Tobin shouted over the wind.
April nodded, her body tense in her seat.
“How do you know Lauren?” Tobin called again, wishing that she could be in her bed, playing Super Mario Bros with Lindsey and not making small talk with April.
“We’re in the same Astronomy class!” April yelled, repeatedly brushing her hair out of her face.
Tobin couldn’t think of anything else to ask. She rolled her window up, deciding that sweltering heat was better than annoying her date before they even arrived at the restaurant. The two sat in silence until Tobin clicked the radio on, hoping for a better station than the static-filled Top 40s that played.
April had blue eyes. She’d been glancing at Tobin throughout dinner, the two of them silently chewing on salads and sipping waters. They were friendly eyes, bright and round, but they didn’t make Tobin’s heart stop in her chest. They didn’t make Tobin’s breath catch in her throat. She didn’t want to be rude, but she also couldn’t help but think about what she’d rather be seeing - Christen Press’s green eyes across from her.
Christen Press was swimming through her mind, clouding any sort of attention that Tobin could have been paying to April. April seemed nice enough. Lauren wasn’t completely insane to have thought that her two friends might have had fun on a blind date. April was an athlete too, competitive and focused. She was from New Jersey and had a little brother. She’d even played soccer some in high school, so she knew enough about the sport to carry a conversation with Tobin. In fact, the only flaw that Tobin could actually fault April for was that she wasn’t Christen Press. Tobin pinched the bridge of her nose, hoping to focus her attention on the date and not the green-eyed forward.
“This salad sucks,” Tobin thought to herself, already planning on stopping for french fries after dropping April off at campus.
“Do you like your salad?” April asked.
“It’s so good,” Tobin enthused, smiling through a mouthful of lettuce.
“This date’s a total bust right?” April asked, placing her fork down and leaning against the back of her chair.
“I’m sorry?” Tobin asked, hoping she hadn’t totally offended April but wholeheartedly agreeing that the date was definitely not one she ever wanted to relive.
“You aren’t into this,” April responded matter of factly.
“I wish I were,” Tobin sighed, smiling apologetically at April.
April stared at Tobin, her eyes inquisitive and searching. After a moment, April smiled like she’d just figured everything out.
“Who is she? The girl you’re pining after?” April asked.
Tobin froze, her eyes bugging out of her head. “What is that obvious? Wait, am I even pining? Is this what pining is?” Tobin’s thoughts ran wild in her mind. She had no idea how April had figured it out. She thought she’d been so good at hiding her internal struggle. Nobody else had picked up on it, not ARod, Lindsey, or Lauren, not Alex or even Allie when they Facetimed each other. But this girl, who she’d met less than an hour ago, had been able to see right through her.
Tobin cleared her suddenly dry throat, wondering what to say. She could change the subject and ignore the question altogether. She could deny it. Or...she could just finally admit the truth out loud. Sometimes it was easier to admit something to a stranger than it was to someone you knew well. Throwing caution to the wind, Tobin nodded and felt her shoulders drop.
“She doesn’t go to our school. She’s another soccer player,” Tobin mumbled, feeling a weight lift off of her chest at acknowledging her feelings for Christen to another person. She still didn’t know what those feelings entailed, but she knew they were there. It was freeing to say them out loud.
“Why haven’t you told her?” April asked, her eyes squinting in curiosity. There was no judgement from her, nor even disappointment. It put Tobin further at ease and had her opening up in the middle of this crappy restaurant with crappy salads.
“I haven’t even spoken to her. I barely even know her. I just know her name,” Tobin admitted.
“Oh, you’ve got it bad,” the blonde laughed.
Tobin cracked a smile. “Yeah, you could say that.”
“Does Lauren know you like her?” April asked.
With a shake of her head, Tobin replied, “No one does. Well, I guess you do now. But that’s it. It’s kind of embarrassing, crushing on someone after only seeing them once.”
“Hey, I was in love with one of my teammates in high school, and I pined after her for months before realizing that she had a boyfriend and would never give me the time of day. It isn’t embarrassing,” April said, reaching across the table to squeeze Tobin’s hand gently.
Tobin smiled at the gesture. “I’m sorry for wasting your time,” she said sheepishly.
“I got a free salad, so my time was well spent,” April laughed, the corners of her eyes crinkling. “Just let me know if things don’t work out with the other girl, and maybe we can give this another try?”
“Sure,” Tobin said, trying to smile but feeling a pit in her stomach settle at the idea of never getting to spend time with Christen the way she wanted to.
She drove April back to campus, her mind occupied with Christen Press in her number 23 jersey, Christen Press and her wild hair at the beach, Christen Press and her barefooted walk across the field after the game, Christen Press and the way she played soccer in so many of Tobin’s dreams.
Tobin had barely taken two steps into her room when her phone started ringing. She looked down and saw it was Lauren. With a shake of her head and a small grin, Tobin answered the phone.
“I could literally be naked with April right now. You could be interrupting us in the throes of pleasure,” Tobin teased, letting out a soft yawn.
“Wait really? It went that well? Did I finally find your soulmate?” Lauren asked excitedly.
Tobin yawned again, only much more loudly this time. She walked over to her bed and hopped onto it, kicking her shoes off as she did.
“No, no, and definitely no. I don’t think we’ll go out again, but she seemed nice,” Tobin admitted. She smiled at the frustrated groan she heard from Lauren on the other end of the phone.
“Tobs, that was rude. And you’ve said that about every girl we’ve set you up with. What could possibly be wrong with all three of them?”
“They just aren’t my type, I guess,” Tobin sighed, closing her eyes and imagining Christen’s smirk in her mind again. “ They’re not Christen."
“ARod’s gonna find someone for your next date. She said she has a cute friend in her history class, and I think-”
“I don’t want to do blind dates anymore,” Tobin interrupted. “I appreciate what you’re both doing, but I’m just gonna focus on soccer. I don’t want to do this stuff anymore. I’m gonna find someone organically. No more set-ups.”
“It’s 2020, Tobs, no one finds love organically anymore,” Lauren replied. “Look, I gotta go, ARod wants to start a new true-crime documentary like right now. See you at practice tomorrow, love ya!”
Tobin barely managed a “Love ya too,” before Lauren was hanging up abruptly. Sighing, Tobin dropped the phone to her bed. She stared down at it, fighting every urge inside of her not to open up Instagram and look at those familiar green eyes once again.
Sweat dripped off the tip of Christen’s nose as she panted, hands on her knees. Her jersey clung to her uncomfortably and her legs were heavy. She glanced up at the scoreboard and saw that they had less than a minute left in overtime.
UCLA was playing their second-to-last conference game against Stanford. Up to this point, they’d gone undefeated. They’d obliterated Oregon State 6-0 a few weeks ago, and most recently had won a hard-fought battle 3-2 against a scrappy Cal Berkeley. And right now, they were tied 1-1 with Stanford, who was outplaying them.
It looked like their streak would hold if they kept this tie, but Christen and her teammates would not be happy with it. They weren’t playing well and they knew it. Where UCLA struggled to string more than a few passes together, Stanford had run circles around them, dominating possession for most of the game. But Ashlyn was having the game of her career tonight, posting eight saves so far and keeping them in the game. Their lone goal had come off a penalty kick in the third minute that Allie had converted like a pro. Since then, they’d been on their heels struggling to hold onto the tie.
Christen loathed ties. They always carried a small sense of disappointment with them, and she knew that tonight’s game would linger in the back of her mind for a long time if the scoreboard read 1-1 at the end of this double overtime period.
“Get it out!” Coach Foudy commanded, bringing Christen’s attention back to the field. It was a corner kick for Stanford and they had thrown almost everyone into the box, going for the win. With 45 seconds on the clock, it wasn’t that much of a gamble. Christen flinched as she watched the Stanford player strike the cross, knowing this had the potential to be the game-winner. Except, instead of a game-winning cross that led to a game-winning goal, the Stanford player whiffed the kick, making it an easy catch for Ashlyn. Christen cheered along with the rest of her teammates, feeling a small sense of relief.
Ashlyn looked up and saw Christen at the halfway line, marked by only one Stanford defender. The gamble Stanford had gone for was now going to cost them. Ashlyn threw the ball out to Megan who was sprinting up the field towards Christen and the Stanford defender. Megan streaked down the center of the field, the sole Stanford defender doing her best to keep Megan in front of her.
Christen sprinted in time with Megan, keeping track of the defender so she didn’t run offsides. Her lungs were protesting and her legs were like lead, but Christen kept running. This was it, this was their moment. They had a chance to win, not tie, and Christen was going to take it.
“Pinoe, I’m here! I’m with you!” Christen yelled. Together, they ran at the Stanford defender, the three of them now just 25 yards away from the goal. Megan pulled a quick step-over move, faking the defender out to the left and then slotting the ball to Christen to the right.
Christen trapped the pass, only about twenty yards separating her from the goal and the goalkeeper. With a smile on her face, Christen sprinted towards goal, keeping the ball close to her feet. The Stanford goalkeeper looked panicked, face ashen and eyes wide as Christen got closer and closer. The goalkeeper stepped out of the goal and charged her, hoping to catch her off-guard. But Christen was better than that.
As the goalkeeper approached, Christen poked the toe of her cleat under the ball and chipped the ball in the air. It sailed over the goalkeeper’s head and rolled into the back of the net as the clock reached zero. Christen threw her hands in the air, a relieved grin on her face. An elated giggled escaped her as Christen lifted her face to the sky, her eyes closing.
“FUCK YES PRESSY!” Megan screamed, jumping into Christen’s arms. Christen opened her eyes and held tightly onto Megan, laughing breathlessly. Megan reflected her own joy right back at her, both of them thinking the same thing - They did it. SHE did it!
“SUCK IT STANFORD!” Kelley yelled, running up and tackling them all to the ground. Christen, Megan, and Kelley landed in a heap, giggling and enjoying the moment. The rest of their teammates joined them, some jumping on top of the pile, others sliding up next to them.
Crystal rolled onto the grass right by Christen’s head and held her face between her hands. “What have you done, Christen Press?” she celebrated. “You absolute LEGEND!”
Christen felt happy, hot tears gather in the corner of her eyes. This was one of those moments that you remembered for the rest of your life, that you reminisced about and annoyed your kids with by telling them the same story for the fifth time, where everything was perfect, if just for a second. She looked around at her cheering, grinning teammates and let a few of her tears fall, knowing they were ones of joy and relief. She wanted to remember this moment for the rest of her life.
That night, as they were on a charter plane back to Los Angeles, with Lizzo’s Good as Hell echoing through the small plane, Christen relaxed back into her seat. Her smile hadn’t dropped since she’d walked off the field, since she’d hugged her family tight, since she’d danced around the visitor’s locker room with her teammates. She had a feeling she’d be hard-pressed to stop smiling anytime soon.
Christen felt someone drop into the open seat next to her. She looked up and was surprised to see Allie.
“You’re my new idol, C.P.,” Allie said, her megawatt smile aimed right at Christen. “After losing to Stanford 5-1 last year, this felt fan-fucking-tastic.”
Christen blushed. “I’m just glad we won and that I could contribute something.”
“You’re so humble. It’s adorable. You delivered that W for us, so maybe Coach will go easy on us at practice tomorrow,” Allie said, waggling her brows at Christen.
“Unlikely,” Coach Foudy replied, having walked right by Allie and Christen at that exact moment. Christen and Allie dissolved into laughter.
“At least she’s letting us dress up. Usually, she says no to parties AND costumes, but I think your goal tonight convinced her to lighten up a little,” Allie said.
Christen’s brow knitted in confusion. “Costumes? Parties? What?” she thought, wondering why she and her teammates would be dressing up for practice. Allie must have picked up on her complete and utter bewilderment because she was smiling knowingly at Christen.
“It’s Halloween tomorrow, C.P., and costumes are mandatory. The seniors will be sending out a message to the team tonight about it,” Allie explained. “The positional group with the best costumes wins a free pass on fitness for a week!”
Allie got to her feet and waved goodbye to Christen, “See ya later, C.P. Great work tonight.”
Christen waved half-heartedly back, her mind already focused on what costume she could come up with on such short notice.
The next day, Megan and Christen tagged along with the rest of the forwards as they went off campus to a Spirit store to find some costumes. It was slim pickings this late in the game, but it would be better than nothing.
“All right ladies, we’ve got to pick a theme and stick to the theme,” a junior, Jessica McDonald, said. That earned her an eye roll from Abby Wambach, a senior who was currently sidelined with a broken foot. Their trainer Alicia was hopeful Abby could be back by the NCAA tournament, but for now, Abby was in a walking boot.
Abby looked to Christen and smirked, “Is the theme bargain bin? Because there’s like nothing left here.”
Christen stifled a chuckle as Jessica glared at the two of them and then punched Abby in the shoulder. “Just spread out and try to find something we can use,” Jessica instructed.
Megan dragged Christen towards the back of the store. They passed by empty racks and picked-over accessories, causing them to realize just how dire the situation was. With no luck there, Megan pulled them towards the hats and wigs section. At least there were quite a few things left in this section for them to look through. Christen drifted to the bags of wigs, cringing at the amount of multi-colored clown wigs that she saw. Clowns were a hard pass for her, it didn’t matter how desperate they were for costumes.
Megan stood a few feet away, digging through a bin of hats. She brightened when she found two hats, one green and one red. She approached Christen and then knelt down, holding the green hat out to Christen, a mock-serious expression on her face.
“Christen Press, would you be the Luigi to my Mario?”
Christen laughed loudly and took the hat. She placed it askew on her head and winked at Megan.
“It would be my honor.”
Megan grinned and accepted Christen’s offered hand, Christen helping her back up. Megan put the red hat backward on her head, and returned to the hat bin, rifling through it.
“You ever done a group costume, Pressy? Or a couple’s costume?”
Christen shook her head, joining Megan at the hat bin. She found a pointy, pink princess hat and felt the makings of an idea form in her mind.
“My group of friends in high school would always do joint costumes and stuff. But a couple’s costume requires a couple, so no, I haven’t.”
Megan looked up at Christen, surprise written across her face.
“Are you a relationship virgin?”
With a shake of her head, Christen set the princess hat aside and started digging through the bin again.
“Pinoe, you’re so weird. No, I’m not, I just never had a girlfriend during Halloween. I’ve always wanted to do a couple’s costume though,” Christen said, allowing her mind to wander for a moment and imagine what that could be like. She had so many ideas. Baseball players from A League of their Own, Velma and Daphne from Scooby-Doo, Buddy the Elf and Jovie from Elf.
Suddenly, she started picturing a certain someone doing a couple’s costume with her. Tobin as the Danny Zuko to her Sandy, dressed in a tight-fitting white t-shirt, ripped jeans, and a leather jacket. Tobin as the Devil to her Angel, clad in a red sports bra, some red spandex, and the quintessential devil horns on her head. Tobin as the -
“Earth to Pressy! Helloooooo?”
Christen blinked and looked over at Megan, who was smirking at her. “Got anything to share with the class?” Megan asked.
Christen shook her head and gulped, suddenly feeling a little parched. She pushed any and all thoughts of Tobin from her mind and forced a smile at Megan.
“Sorry, I was just thinking about the theme. Maybe we could all do…” Christen trailed off, snatching a purple baseball cap from the pile of hats and holding it up to Megan. “Mario Bros. characters?”
Megan’s eyes lit up. “You’re a genius!”
Christen and Megan gathered the remaining hats they could find, hoping they covered all the bases for their fellow forwards. They had two pink and orange princess hats, baseball caps in almost every color, and a white bucket hat that they could draw red polka dots on. The forwards marveled at their find, even Jessica managed a smile, and everyone was feeling excited about practice that night.
Christen expected fierce competition, but her teammates managed to surprise her. Even the coaches all showed up in costume, with Coach Foudy dressed as Gru from Despicable Me and the assistant coaches dressed as her Minions.
The goalkeepers got the award for the most creative costumes. Ashlyn, Alyssa, and the other keeper dressed as the Three Blind Mice, wearing sunglasses over their eyes and carrying around pool sticks. The midfielders, led by Allie, got the award for the most original costumes. They dressed as characters from Orange Is the New Black. Everyone sported an orange jumpsuit and varying degrees of hand-drawn tattoos and fake facial piercings.
For the best costumes, it came down to the forwards and the defenders. Christen had felt good about their chances. She and Megan had gone so far as to wear fake mustaches and overalls to complete their looks as Mario and Luigi. The rest of the forwards proved to be equally as committed, even Abby had donned a flowing pink dress to become their Princess Peach. But they were no match for the hilarity that the defenders would bring to the table. Their team captain, a phenomenal central defender named Becky, had convinced the entire group of defenders to think completely out of the box. Naturally, with Kelley in their group, out-of-the-box thinking wasn’t too much of a challenge.
The defenders had rolled up to practice all wearing inflatable dinosaur costumes. It had taken a solid ten minutes for everyone to stop laughing, and at that point, Christen knew the defenders would be their stiffest competition. Sadly, the dinosaur defenders proved to be too good for the forwards and they took home the prize for best costume.
Christen’s disappointment at not winning was short-lived as she sat on the field at the end of practice, stretching next to Ashlyn and Becky. Becky was having a hard time sitting down in her costume, and any time she got close to accomplishing it, Ashlyn would poke Becky with her pool stick, causing Becky to jump back up. Christen could barely hold her laughter at bay watching the shenanigans unfold. But as she laughed, her fake mustache began to tickle her upper lip. With practice at an end, Christen saw no harm in taking it off.
“Don’t you dare, C.P., you and your cute mustache are making it into my selfie,” Allie declared, settling on the ground near Christen and Ashlyn. She threw her arm around Christen and held up her phone, getting everyone in the frame, even a still-standing Becky.
“Say Cheez-its!” Allie cried, taking the photo. Christen smiled way too big, feeling rather ridiculous in her get-up. Allie looked through her camera roll and then showed Christen the best photo she’d taken. While it was a cute picture and definitely one for the memory books, Christen couldn’t help but cringe. A fake mustache, way-too-large overalls, and a sweaty green baseball cap were not a good look for her.
“Please don’t show that to anyone, I look awful,” Christen complained, finally freeing her upper lip from the mustache by ripping it off.
Allie grinned mischievously and wiggled her brows.
“Oh, of course, C.P., I wouldn’t dream of it!” Allie got to her feet and skipped away, her laughter reaching Christen’s ears. Christen looked over at Ashlyn, her expression one of horror.
“She’s going to show literally everyone, isn’t she?” Christen asked.
Ashlyn nodded. “Yup, that’s Allie for ya.”
Christen bit back a groan and found herself praying that the picture didn’t end up in the possession of a certain someone. Someone that Allie knew very well. Someone who was probably having a super fun Halloween night, hundreds of miles away, and definitely not giving Christen a second thought.
“Don’t be a sloppy drunk, Sonnet!” Alex yelled, watching as Emily ran, practically tripping over her left foot.
Tobin felt the bubbles from her beer shooting up into her nose, forcing herself to swallow and not spit it out in front of her entire team.
“You’ve got it, Tobs,” ARod coached from her left.
“Shut up, Amy!” Alex yelled from across the grass.
The entire team was at ARod and Lauren’s apartment for Halloween festivities. They’d played exceptionally well against Michigan, beating them 4-0. Tobin had scored two of the goals and assisted another, and she felt like letting loose was deserved. A few of the team members were standing in ARod and Lauren’s backyard playing a drinking game that Tobin hadn’t fully understood when Alex had explained it.
“Remember whose beer you’re drinking, Baby Horse,” ARod shot back, joining in on Alex’s trash talk.
Alex’s game consisted of two teams, standing on either side of the backyard and facing each other. On the right side of the yard, Tobin stood with Moe Brian, ARod, Lindsey, and AD. Alex, Lauren, Sonnet, Julie Ertz, and Lynn Williams stood on the left side. In the middle of the two teams, on the ground was a water bottle that was only ¼ full of water. The teams took turns throwing a soccer ball at the water bottle.
At first, Tobin thought it was too easy. She hit the water bottle on her first try. She didn’t account for how drunk she would get after a few throws though, since all of the participants in the game had decent aim. After Tobin’s first throw hit the water bottle, she and her teammates had to chug their beers as quickly as possible, hoping to finish as much of their bottles before Alex’s team could run across the yard and stand the water bottle back up. Once the water bottle was standing again, the teams would take turns trying to knock it over again. By her third bottle of beer, Tobin felt a soft buzz and threw with sloppy arms, albeit still decent aim. She’d been the last to knock the water bottle over and was regretting her athletic ability when beer started to burn her nose. She swallowed hard, choking slightly. Her teammates were all finished and waiting for her, and Emily Sonnet was still having trouble picking up the water bottle, clearly, lighter weight than she’d let on.
“She’s done!” ARod yelled, grabbing Tobin’s bottle from her and holding it upside down in the air.
“You guys suck!” Alex yelled back.
Lindsey, Moe, AD, and ARod squeezed Tobin’s shoulders and patted her back, making the left-winger wonder if she might vomit with the force.
“Clearly you’re a lightweight too, dude,” Tobin thought to herself, swallowing hard and stumbling toward the back door and into the kitchen. Alex and ARod were still arguing in the backyard, and Tobin took their distraction as an easy way out. She really needed a glass of water before another teammate came up with a new game.
The kitchen was even louder than the backyard. ARod and Lauren’s other roommate, Erin was on the track team and had invited a ton of runners and other sports teams. Almost all of the other athletes were scattered in small groups in the living room and basement, and the speakers thrummed against the floor, vibrating into the kitchen and up the walls. The kitchen was full of solo cups and bottles, but Tobin was the only person in the room, so she didn’t feel bad about digging through Lauren’s kitchen cabinet to find a glass for some water. She tossed a couple of ice cubes into the glass and turned on the faucet.
“Cute costume,” a soft voice whispered, tickling the back of Tobin’s neck.
Tobin stumbled back and sloshed some of her water onto her wrist, slightly startled by someone else so close to her.
“Uh… Thanks,” Tobin responded, looking down at the costume she’d put absolutely zero effort into. She’d slipped on her pajamas, just a pair of white Supreme boxer briefs and a white t-shirt, and picked out some of her favorite sneakers. To complete the costume, she’d taken a long strip of duct tape and written “Sleeping Beauty” on it before taping it across her chest. Simple but effective. She hadn’t had time to go to Party City and buy an actual costume. She hadn’t even really planned on coming to the party, preferring to celebrate their win by kicking her brother’s ass in Fifa, but ARod and Lauren had begged, and the whole team was going to go, so Tobin felt obligated. She was having fun too, so she really wasn’t regretting the decision.
“I’m Candace,” the girl in front of Tobin smiled, offering out her hand.
“I’m Tobin,” Tobin replied, shaking her hand and looking the girl up and down.
Candace was shorter than Tobin with freckles and bobbed light brown hair. She was a tennis player. Tobin recognized her from a mandatory student-athlete meeting she’d attended the month prior.
“I’ve been wanting to run into you all year,” Candace admitted, her cheeks flushing.
Tobin couldn’t help but look down at her sneakers, her own cheeks blushing slightly at the admission.
“Why?” she asked.
“You’re Tobin Heath. I’ve seen you play, and I guess I just wanted to meet you personally,” Candace smirked, running her hand up Tobin’s forearm.
Candace’s smirk wasn’t like Christen’s. Instead, it made Tobin feel uneasy. She wished she’d stayed outside and chugged another beer instead.
“Thanks?” Tobin mumbled, feeling Candace step closer.
“How do you tell someone they’re being weird without being rude after drinking three beers?” Tobin thought to herself. “Or was it four beers?”
“Want to go somewhere quieter?” Candace asked.
Tobin felt her palms start to sweat. She scratched the back of her neck, a nervous tell she’d never figured out how to school. She opened her mouth, ready to just say no, and turn around to head outside when her phone buzzed in her pocket. She reached down to grab the phone, stepping away from the tennis player.
[Harry 😜 11:45pm ]
Happy Halloween, Harry! 👻🎃🕷️ Look at these dorks I play with. UCLA’s costume contest was rigged. Coach said the defenders won, but clearly my Orange Is the New Black outfit was the most impressive. I make the best Piper! I love you! Hope you’re wasted and having a blast!
Tobin’s eyes moved from the text to the picture that came through a few seconds after. Her lips fell apart immediately, a quick breath leaving her mouth. Allie was sitting on the right side, closest to the phone in an orange jumpsuit, her smile spread across her entire face. Next to her, posed three people, one dressed as a dinosaur and another as a mouse or something. Tobin hardly paused to look at them, though. Her attention was completely taken by the girl in the middle of the picture.
Allie’s arm was wrapped around Christen Press, dressed in arguably the most unflattering outfit Christen had probably ever worn. She was dressed as Luigi, mustache and all, her green hat cocked on her head and her face red with exertion from practice. “How is she still that beautiful?” Tobin thought to herself. Christen’s eyes were even greener with the Luigi shirt and hat, and Tobin’s heart beat harder in her chest at the sight. For the first time in her life, she was jealous of her best friend because Allie had her arm around the girl that Tobin wanted to be near.
“You okay?’ the tennis player in front of Tobin asked, clearing her throat.
“Yeah, I’ve gotta go,” Tobin said, matter-of-factly. She spun on her heel, not worrying about being polite. Candace wasn’t Christen, and until Tobin could get Christen out of her head, she didn’t need to be trying to find quiet places to talk with other girls. She walked outside, stumbling slightly on her way to her teammates, immediately feeling lighter once she joined them.
“You’re just in time!” Sonnet yelled, “On your stomach, Heath!”
Despite her confusion, Tobin grinned. She gave one last look at the picture Allie had sent her, her eyes lingering on Christen, before putting her phone away. Tobin’s heart felt so full, maybe the fullest it had felt since the beginning of the school year. Her team had beat Michigan and were another game closer to possibly playing UCLA again. She’d seen a picture of Christen, one that she’d probably obsess over for the next month. On top of all of that, Tobin was with her teammates, the people who’d made Pennsylvania feel more like home.
Tobin looked to Sonnet. “On my stomach?” she clarified, hardly objecting when Lauren and Sonnet pulled her down onto the grass next to them.
“Here,” Lauren handed Tobin a straw.
“For what?” Tobin asked, still completely confused about the game they were about to play.
“Jungle Juice relay!” Sonnet cheered, dropping her straw into the kiddy pool in front of them and sucking down some of the red liquid.