Well I've been on fire, dreaming of you
Tell me you don't
It feels like you do
Looking like that, you'll open some wounds
How does it start?
And when does it end?
Only been here for a moment, but I know I want you
But is it too soon?
(Tobin - “I’m with You” by Vance Joy)
This feeling is hard to ignore
Please say you’ll never get bored
Can you blame me for wanting a little bit more?
A little more of you
A little more, a little more of you
(Christen - “A Little More” by Alessia Cara)
“Aaaaaand action!” Allie yelled from behind her iPhone.
The rest of the team had quickly departed the locker room after practice, leaving Christen, Kelley, Megan, and Crystal at the whims of Allie 'I'm now a Director' Long. They had agreed to do a “Get to Know the Freshmen” video before the NCAA Tournament started this weekend, and Allie had elected herself the director. Allie was taking her role way too seriously and seemed far too comfortable in a position of power. But Kelley and Megan’s goofing off was causing her to stress more than Christen had ever seen. A huge vein throbbed on Allie’s forehead as she attempted to move Kelley onto one of the locker room benches.
“Kelley Asshole O’Hara put your booty on the bench NOW.”
Kelley took her sweet time skipping over to where Allie was, causing the vein on Allie’s forehead to pulse menacingly.
Kelley was first up for interviews because she had been the first to shower and her hair was already dry and camera ready. She’d also insisted on being the one to get it started in order to get to the dining hall before all the good cupcakes were gone.
“It’s Maureen, actually. Not asshole,” Kelley corrected, dropping onto the bench and grinning at Allie.
“Whatever. Are you ready?” Allie asked, holding her phone up and focusing in on Kelley.
Kelley saluted Allie with two fingers, nodding toward the camera and trying to look serious.
“Aye, aye, Cap’n.”
“I’m just going to ask you some questions about you and our teammates. Try to act normal,” Allie smiled tightly, already annoyed with Kelley’s antics but doing her best not to let it show.
“That’s impossible for O’Hara,” Megan called out, holding up her hand for a high five from Christen. Christen chuckled and tapped her hand against Megan’s. From their spot on the other end of the locker room, they could just make out the glare Kelley shot at them before Allie recalled her attention.
Allie snapped her fingers, “Focus up, Kel. I don’t have all day.”
Christen’s stomach rumbled softly as she ran her straightener through her hair again. She hadn’t really had a full lunch that day, having opted to fit in an extra tutoring session for a student in a beginner Spanish class. The student paid well, much better than a shift at Starbucks, and she had seemed very stressed about an upcoming exam, so Christen couldn’t say no. But now she was desperate to get to dinner, and it seemed like she wouldn’t be getting it for a while. She was going last for the interviews, behind Megan and Crystal, and right now, Kelley was taking her sweet time in front of Allie’s iPhone camera.
“State your name, please.”
“Kelley Asshole O’Hara,” Kelley replied. When Allie flipped her off and then motioned for her to answer again, Kelley added, “Ugh, fine. Kelley O’Hara.”
“Where are you from?” Allie asked.
Megan rolled her eyes from her seat next to Christen, having heard way too many stories about Kelley’s home in Georgia where everyone drove golf carts around her neighborhood. She turned to Christen and lowered her voice.
“Yo, you want to get dinner with me and Crystal after this?”
“Quiet on set!” Allie whisper-shouted, throwing a mean glower over her shoulder at Megan.
Megan stuck her tongue out at Allie then looked back to Christen in question. Christen quickly nodded, wishing she was already eating dinner instead of sitting in the locker room, surrounded by dirty workout clothes and cleats.
“I’d say my best quality is my sense of humor,” Kelley smirked. “Oh, and my work ethic.” Kelley beamed at the camera, her eyes crinkling.
Christen hadn’t even heard Allie’s second question, completely distracted by her hunger and Megan’s facial expressions next to her.
“Who do you think is the most competitive player on the team?” Allie asked.
“Hmmm…probably Abby, but Becky’s also really intense. Everyone wants to win,” Kelley replied seriously.
“Oooh, important question alert: What’s your ideal date?” Allie asked. Kelley’s immediate smirk earned her a hard eye roll from Allie.
“Well, she’d have to be tall and blonde. I’m really into lacrosse players right now, but I don’t discriminate when it comes to athletes,” Kelley shrugged.
“You’re such a fuck boy,” Megan quipped from across the room.
“You’re the one banging a basketball player! A junior might I add! She’s practically robbing the cradle by dating you!” Kelley shot back, lifting herself off of the bench.
“It was like one date, I’m not banging her!” Megan defended, crossing her arms over her chest.
“My mistake, you’re making looooove,” Kelley prodded with a grin.
Megan grabbed a water bottle from the ground and stomped over to Kelley. She took a sip of water from her water bottle before aiming it at Kelley and spraying a stream of water at her.
“MY HAIR!” Kelley yelled. “IT WAS PERFECT!” She leaped at Megan, trying to pry the water bottle out of Megan’s hand. Suddenly, Allie pinched Kelley’s ear and tugged her back to the bench.
“Please, please, please just let me finish this stupid video before you two kill each other,” Allie sighed, letting go of Kelley in favor of picking up her phone again. Megan settled back down next to Christen while Kelley re-adjusted her hair and rubbed at her smarting ear.
“Kelley, if you had to choose one of your teammates to be the President of the U.S.A. who would you choose?”
“Not Megan,” Kelley grumbled.
“What was that?” Allie clarified, her eyes holding a warning.
Kelley fixed a smile on her face. “Uh…probably me,” she said, her smile morphing from strained to teasingly cocky in an instant.
“You?” Allie asked, clearly not impressed with Kelley’s second attempt at an answer.
“Fine. Probably Christen, I guess,” Kelley shrugged, finally taking the question seriously. “Yeah, Pressy is really organized and smart. Plus, she’s all into peace and love and whatever.”
Looking mildly impressed, Allie wrapped Kelley’s interview up with a final question. “What are you majoring in and what do you want to do after you graduate?”
“That’s two questions,” Kelley pointed out, making Allie’s shoulders sag with exhaustion. Allie simply stared at Kelley, not gratifying her with a response.
“I’m majoring in Marketing and Public Relations, and I want to play professional soccer, duh,” Kelley answered, springing up from her spot on the bench and giving Allie a thumbs up. “We’re finished?” she asked.
“Yes, please go before I hit you,” Allie answered, wanting to get Kelley out of the way as quickly as possible. “Pinoe, you’re up.”
Megan stood up and walked over to where Kelley had just sat, situating herself on the bench and checking her hair one last time in her own phone camera.
“Hey Allie,” Kelley interrupted, pulling on a sweatshirt and grabbing her backpack, “make sure you ask Megan about Sue Bird.”
Megan pulled a shinguard out of the nearest locker and threw it at Kelley’s retreating form, hitting the edge of the doorframe. Kelley’s laughing could be heard bouncing down the hall.
“All right here we go.” Allie started, her voice much less enthusiastic than it had been during Kelley’s interview.
“Hi everyone, my name’s Megan Rapinoe and my least favorite person in the world currently is Kelley O’Hara.”
Allie hid her face behind her hand and groaned. “You freshmen are going to be the death of me.”
Megan held up her hands in surrender. “Sorry, sorry. I’ll be professional now.”
Allie’s eyes held her suspicions about that claim as she held her phone back up. “So where are you from, Pinoe?
“Redding, California,” Megan responded, not feeling the need to tell a long story like Kelley and further irritate Allie. She kept her answers short and sweet.
Christen listened as her roommate answered Allie’s questions, avoiding any talk about Sue Bird, the basketball player that she was kind of, maybe, possibly, sometimes dating. Megan brightened at the mention of her twin sister who was playing at a college in Oregon, gushing about how talented she was. Christen was somewhat envious of how comfortable Megan seemed in front of the camera. She never felt that way. She preferred to stay firmly out of the spotlight.
Crystal slipped back into the locker room from the bathroom, walking softly to avoid making any noise. She dropped onto the chair next to Christen and gave her a small smile, which Christen returned.
“Megan said something about grabbing dinner after this?” Christen whispered, hoping she was quiet enough not to incur Allie’s wrath. She was mistaken.
“QUIET ON SET MEANS QUIET ON SET!” Allie howled.
Crystal nodded in response to Christen’s question while the two of them did their best to hold in their laughter at Allie and her current power-trip.
“Who’s the grumpiest person on the team?” Allie asked.
“Besides you right now? Hmm...I think it depends on the time of day,” Megan replied, winking at Allie. “Ashlyn’s super grumpy in the mornings, especially if you catch her pre-coffee. Kriegs has told me horror stories. I also wouldn’t recommend talking to Becky or Abby after a loss, or even a tie,” Megan laughed softly, remembering the one time she’d tried to give Becky a pep talk after losing an intrasquad scrimmage and received the most terrifying stare down in response.
“If you had a superpower what would it be?”
“Reading people’s minds,” Megan smiled deviously.
Crystal couldn’t help but interject, loving to push Megan’s buttons just a little. “What if they thought something rude about you?” Crystal asked.
“Like anyone would! I’m me,” Megan scoffed, brushing her fingers through her hair. She had a point there, everybody loved Megan Rapinoe.
“Anyone ever told you that you need to work on your confidence?” Christen called out, smirking at her roommate.
Megan made a face and then looked back to Allie. “Hit me with another, Long. I’ve fielded enough questions from the peanut gallery over there.”
Allie consulted her typed list of questions then grinned up at Megan. “Who on the team would make the best President of the U.S.A.?”
Megan pretended to think on that for a minute, tapping her finger against her chin. “I’d say, Becky or Christen. Both of them are crazy organized and well-spoken. Plus, they’re super focused. I’d be too afraid to ever get in the way of them and their goals,” Megan responded, blowing a kiss at Christen.
Christen blushed a little. Both of her teammates had listed her as someone they thought could run the country, and she wouldn’t lie and say she wasn’t flattered by that. She did consider herself organized, but it was nice to feel like other people also saw her as dependable and focused.
“What’s your ideal date?” Allie asked.
“That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th because it’s not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket,” Megan responded, trying and failing to keep a straight face.
“Did you just quote Miss Congeniality?” Christen chuckled. She loved that movie, and Megan’s response had completely caught her off guard, making her practically snort with laughter. “Wait! Can we watch that tonight, you guys?” Christen asked her two roommates, her eyes pleading.
“Yes!” Megan and Crystal responded simultaneously.
“I should have saved myself the time and interviewed the three of you together,” Allie commented, readjusting the iPhone. “Last one Pinoe, what are you majoring in and what do you want to do after college?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I’m either majoring in Political Science so that I can be the first female president, or I’ll just get my Mrs. degree so I can fulfill my life’s dream of being the trophy wife of a hot athlete,” Megan smirked.
“Yeah, I’m cutting that last part,” Allie sighed, stopping the video and motioning for Crystal to take Megan’s place. Megan took a dramatic bow and then moved away from the bench, high-fiving Crystal as she walked by.
“Enjoy the hot seat.”
Crystal shook her head and settled in front of the iPhone, also looking extremely comfortable up there. Christen’s stomach fluttered with nerves when she realized she was up next. She wished she had just an ounce of Megan’s charisma and Crystal’s confidence. It would make this entire experience much easier.
“Crystal, would you please tell the lovely people watching this video who you are and where you’re from?”
“I’m Crystal Dunn and I’m from New York,” Crystal responded, taking a sip from her water bottle between questions.
Needing to keep busy, Christen shoved her now-cooled hair straightener into her backpack and pulled on her sneakers, lacing them loosely onto her feet. “It’s just an interview. You’ll be fine,” Christen thought to herself, even as her fingers shook while lacing up her shoes. Megan seemed to sense her dilemma and ran a hand over Christen’s back soothingly.
“Who’s the sweetest person on the team?” Allie asked.
“I think Ali Krieger is really sweet,” Crystal smiled, thinking about her teammates. “Christen Press is also very sweet, and Alyssa’s really nice too.”
Megan scoffed from her spot off camera, making Crystal hurry to defend her response.
“Everyone else is nice too, obviously. We have a great team! Kriegs, Christen, and Alyssa are just extra sweet and supportive.”
“What are you majoring in, and what do you want to do when you’re finished with school?” Allie asked.
“I’m majoring in Sociology, and I want to be a professional soccer player. Super original answer, I know. But if that doesn’t pan out, I’m interested in social work too.”
After a few more questions, Allie stopped the video and bent down to pick up her Gatorade.
“You’re up C.P.,” she said between sips.
Christen gulped and made her way to the bench. Crystal shot her an excited thumbs up as she passed, which helped to somewhat calm the fluttering in her stomach. She ran her fingers through her hair one last time, glad she’d had the forethought to bring a hairbrush and straightener with her for after practice. She had no idea what UCLA was going to use this video for, and she wasn’t about to let Allie film her post-practice, completely frizzy-haired and sweaty.
“Your hair looks great, C.P. Stop fussing. You ready?” Allie asked.
Christen nodded, lifting her head toward the camera.
“State your name please,” Allie said.
With a final deep breath to prepare herself, Christen fixed a large smile on her face. “Hi there, I’m Christen. Christen Press.”
“And, where are you from?” Allie asked.
“Palos Verdes, California,” Christen answered, her smile widening slightly at the thought of her parent's home where her little sister and dogs still lived.
“You’ve been called one of the sweetest people on the team. How does that make you feel?” Allie asked, causing Christen to immediately blush.
“Uh...it’s nice I guess. Totally unexpected, honestly. I’m a pretty competitive person, but if I can be sweet and a badass, that sounds like a good combination to me,” Christen replied. She could hear Megan and Crystal laugh quietly from the other end of the locker room.
“Are you an only child or do you have siblings?”
Christen brightened at the question. Her family was one of the most important things in her life, and she was so lucky to have them. Part of the reason she’d chosen to play at UCLA, and not somewhere like UNC or Stanford, was to stay close to everyone. She was a homebody at heart and sticking close by gave her the chance to see her parents, her sisters, and her dogs whenever she wanted. It also gave her parents the ability to watch her play regularly, which was something they were extremely happy about. They had only missed a handful of her games over the course of her career, and even now at UCLA, they found a way to travel to almost every away game. The only one they’d missed so far this season had been the Penn State game back in August. “Whoa don’t think about that game right now. Stay. Focused,” Christen chided herself, readjusting her position on the bench.
“I have two sisters, one older and one younger. Plus, my parents have two dogs, who have definitely become their favorite children,” Christen grinned.
“Which teammate do you think would make the best president of the U.S.A.?”
“I think Becky’s the only teammate I would trust to run a country,” Christen nodded matter-of-factly, causing Megan to sigh dramatically from her spot in the locker room.
“What’s your ideal date, C.P.?”
“Oh, umm, well I’m a simple girl,” Christen replied, her cheeks heating up. She knew this question was coming, but it didn’t make it any easier to answer. She was having trouble not imagining a certain date scenario with a certain someone on that date with her. Thoughts of Tobin drifted through her mind and Christen fought off the fierce blush that crept up her neck. “I’d love any date on the beach with some food and good company.”
“Aw, Pressy! That’s adorable,” Allie teased, causing the dark-haired forward to blush even harder. If only Allie knew who Christen had been picturing on that ideal date with her. She wondered if Allie would still find her answer adorable. “If you could have one superpower, which would you choose?”
“Teleportation,” Christen answered without hesitation, thankful for a return to normal questions. “I miss my family a lot, even though they’re close. But I’d love to be able to just pop back home any time I want instead of having to fight L.A. traffic to get there.”
“Last question. What’s your major, and what do you want to do after college?”
“I’m majoring in Communications and Psychology and minoring in Spanish. Like my teammates, I hope to play professionally. And maybe someday I’ll play for the national team too.” Christen felt her face flush and the tips of her ears turn pink. She always felt slightly embarrassed when she spoke her real goals aloud.
Becoming a professional athlete was rare. The percentage of successful female athletes was so low, and Christen knew that anything could happen in four years to disrupt those plans. Nothing was guaranteed. But she’d always dreamt of playing professionally and for her country, on the world stage. She only hoped she could one day make that dream a reality.
“Aaaaand that’s a wrap! Okay guys thanks for sitting down and doing this!” Allie said as she put her phone away and swung her backpack over her shoulder.
“No problem, Al,” Megan responded, throwing Christen’s jacket to the green-eyed forward and leading Crystal to the door.
“Want to come eat with us?” Crystal, ever the polite one, asked Allie, ignoring Megan’s hand on her wrist.
“I’m actually getting some food delivered to my dorm. I’m gonna edit all of these interview questions together, and then my boyfriend’s coming over later. Next time, though?” Allie replied, an easy smile on her face.
Christened ducked her head while pulling on her jacket. She couldn’t help the smile that crept onto her face. “If Allie hadn’t already been acting like the straightest person in the world, now I definitely know that she and Tobin aren’t dating,” she thought to herself, shaking her head softly. “You shouldn’t be thinking about that. Tobin can date whoever she wants. It’s none of your business.”
“Let’s move out. I’m starving!” Megan called, practically out of the locker room already.
Crystal and Christen laughed, waving bye to Allie before trailing after their friend.
“I swear to God. If Coach comes back in here to tell me I’m not squatting low enough, I’m going home,” ARod grumbled, her legs shaking with strain.
“I mean, she’s not wrong,” Lauren laughed. “You aren’t even really squatting today. It’s more like a little dip of the knees.”
Tobin burst into laughter, causing ARod to shoot a glare at her too.
“Tobs, don’t get involved. I’m like your only friend,” she warned.
“That isn’t true. Everyone loves me,” Tobin grinned back. “Even Coach does. Maybe it’s because I can squat.”
ARod reached out an arm and shoved Tobin over, almost knocking her into Alex and Moe behind her.
“Watch it,” Tobin scolded, sending an apologetic smile to her roommate.
The whole team was in the weight room, taking turns at different stations. ARod, Lauren, and Tobin were taking turns squatting with a weighted bar, Alex and Moe were passing a medicine ball back and forth, Lindsey and Sonnet were working on pull-ups and chin-ups, and Julie and Lynn were running through an ab workout that their assistant coach had created. The rest of their teammates were working on cardio and cross-training, taking turns jogging on the treadmills against the walls and riding the exercise bikes on the opposite side of the room.
“How many more rounds of this do we have?” ARod whined.
“Once you’re finished, we’re moving on to the next station and going through everything one more time,” Lauren said, a yawn escaping her lips.
“I’m starving,” Tobin sighed, stretching one of her legs behind her body.
“You just ate two sandwiches,” ARod teased.
“It was a sandwich and a half, and that was an hour ago,” Tobin groaned, holding onto her stomach for emphasis.
“Switch!” their assistant coach yelled, checking the time on her watch.
“FINALLY!” ARod cheered, moving toward the medicine ball and throwing it to Tobin.
The three of them passed the ball back and forth, Tobin’s arms starting to ache a little after a few minutes. Then they moved to the next station, Lauren dominating her teammates in both pull-ups and chin-ups and Tobin complaining the entire time.
“See, you guys make fun of my squats, but Tobin’s got toothpick arms. That isn’t a pull-up, Tobs!” ARod joked, lifting Tobin by the waist and helping her reach the bar with her chin.
“I hate you,” Tobin grunted, dangling from the bar, her arms shaking.
“You’re a little weak there, Tobs,” Lauren teased, pulling herself up next to Tobin with ease.”
“My legs are my tools,” Tobin wheezed, kicking her legs in the air.
“Thank you, God!” Tobin coughed, dropping to the ground and trudging to the next station. She could hear her friends laughing behind her but didn’t care. She was ready to show off during the ab workout, a workout she knew Lauren would have trouble doing without complaint.
Once they finished their last station, Tobin, Lauren, and ARod raced to the locker room, hoping to get to the showers before their other teammates.
“I’m not going to be able to walk tomorrow,” ARod grumbled, digging through her backpack to find her body wash.
“We have a morning practice tomorrow, so you better figure out how to,” Lauren laughed, throwing her towel over her shoulder and walking back toward the showers.
“You okay, Tobs?” ARod asked, noticing that Tobin hadn’t said a word since entering the locker room.
Tobin lifted her head from her phone and smiled at ARod.
“Oh, yeah. I’m fine,” Tobin said. She’d been looking for her shampoo when she’d seen her phone. Normally, it wouldn’t have stopped her in her tracks, but she’d seen four texts from Harry and three from her brother, so she’d decided to read them before showering. Her brother had only wanted to know if she had any Christmas gift ideas for their two older sisters, something that Tobin almost always saved until the last possible minute. Harry, on the other hand, had sent her a few texts, the first one absolutely startling her.
[Harry 😜 3:37PM]
[Harry 😜 3:40PM]
Jk lol. I just need your opinion on this edit I did for the video I told you about when we Facetimed on Tuesday.
[Harry 😜 3:42PM]
[Harry 😜 3:50PM]
Let me know what you think! I think I did a great job. Catch me on ESPN after we’ve won a ton of World Cups and Olympic medals 💁
Tobin sent off a quick text, prepared to ignore Allie’s request, pretend like she watched the video, and take a leisurely shower in the locker room before getting dinner with her friends.
Just finished lifting. Don’t use the emergency text without a reason, dude. Great video! You’re totally ESPN material!
[Harry 😜 4:16PM]
You didn’t even watch it. Come on! PLEEEAAASE, Harry! You’re my best friend.
Tobin could imagine Allie’s pouting face when she read the message. She immediately felt guilty for lying about watching it in the hopes of just ignoring her friend’s request.
[Harry 😜 4:16PM]
I need your opinion before I send it to Coach Foudy. It’s the “Meet the Freshmen” video!
That gave Tobin pause. Even though she was sweaty and tired and hungry, she had a newfound interest in the video. “Wait UCLA Freshmen...will Christen be in this?”
Tobin ignored ARod’s and Lauren’s banter as they walked to the showers and quickly clicked on the video, butterflies bursting in her stomach as soon as she saw the face on the screen. Christen Press’s green eyes stared at her through her phone. Her smile was so radiant it was almost blinding. Tobin couldn’t tear her eyes away as she pressed play.
“Hi there, I’m Christen. Christen Press,” Christen said in the video. Tobin immediately hit pause, the video frozen on the image of Christen giggling slightly, her eyes crinkled, and her beaming smile on full display.
“That voice,” Tobin thought, “it was like magic.” Christen’s voice hit Tobin square in the chest and knocked the breath from her lungs. It was sweet and honeyed, modulated, and full of purpose. Tobin realized that she’d never actually heard Christen speak before, not really. Sure, she’d heard Christen call for the ball and yell out commands during the game they played against each other. But her voice had been gravelly and matter-of-fact, raised and full of a deep, resounding power on the field. In this video though, she spoke so softly, so full of sunshine and light, that Tobin felt like she was hearing her for the first time.
“Who’s that Tobs?” ARod asked.
Tobin shoved her phone into her pocket and turned to face ARod, who was peeking her head back into the locker room. Tobin could feel the heat in her cheeks and she knew that ARod could tell she was blushing.
“Uh, no one,” Tobin lied, scrambling to pack her bag. “I gotta run. I’ve gotta go...shave…” Her flimsy excuse was just that, flimsy, and she was the world’s worst liar, so ARod definitely saw right through her. But Tobin wasn’t going to stick around and see if ARod bought it. She threw her bag over her shoulder, not taking the time to even put on her coat. She ran out of the locker room and into the freezing air outside.
It wasn’t snowing yet in Pennsylvania, but it was cold enough to. Tobin shivered as she hustled through campus back toward her dorm. They were expecting a few flurries in the next few days and even had a snow warning for the game scheduled for Friday. They were playing Bowling Green at home in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But that was the furthest thing from Tobin’s mind right now.
When she made it to her dorm room, she dropped her bag and threw herself onto her bed, her finger hovering over the video once more. She hesitated for just a second, wondering if she was ready to watch Christen Press talk and smile and laugh. She’d made it through just eight seconds of the video earlier and had to pause, overcome by her reaction to hearing Christen’s voice and seeing her for the first time since their game.
“She’s just a girl. Get over yourself. You’re watching this for Harry, not to satisfy some stupid crush,” Tobin reminded herself. But the words felt hollow and untrue as they ran through her mind. She hadn’t been able to get the green-eyed striker out of her head and watching this video was definitely not going to help matters.
If Tobin were honest with herself, she hadn’t paid much attention to the other freshmen in the video. Sure, she remembered the pink-haired forward from their game, who she now knew was Megan, but that girl and the two others weren’t why Tobin was watching. Christen was.
Tobin found herself zeroing in on the screen every time Christen appeared. Every smile, every small giggle, every time she adjusted her hair or wet her lips. Tobin was transfixed. She also learned so much about Christen in such a short amount of time.
She was from California and was super close to her family. She was the sweetest person on UCLA’s team, something Tobin had zero doubts about. She had two dogs who she loved more than anything. And she had great ideas about first dates.
“A day at the beach with food sounds perfect,” Tobin thought, finding herself imagining just what that would be like for them. Maybe they would go surfing and grab a meal from a local food truck. Or maybe they would play beach volleyball and lounge in the sun. Or maybe -
“Dude, chill. You legit don’t even know the girl. And why would she want to go on a date with you, anyway?”
Snapping out of it, Tobin clicked out of the video and went back to her messages with Allie.
Looks great. I’ll hit up ESPN and make sure they hire you.
Great work, Harry 👍
Tobin sent off the message, not bothering to check for a response. She laid back against her pillows, arms crossed behind her head, and let her mind wander.
She’d learned three very important things from that video. Number one, Christen Press was far more beautiful than Tobin remembered. Her piercing green eyes seemed to shine in the video. Her cheekbones and jaw were more chiseled than Tobin had been able to see on the field. Still, there was a softness about her and the way she held herself. Her lips were full and soft-looking, breaking into sweet smiles throughout the video. Tobin couldn’t help but wish that she could put a smile like that on Christen’s face, that she could make those soft lips quirk up into a grin. Tobin also hadn’t noticed just how beautiful her hair was during the game. Christen’s hair had been pulled into a tight ponytail that day, but in the video, it hung below her collarbones. It was beautiful both naturally curly, like on her Instagram profile that Tobin had stared at far too often, and straightened and silky, not a hair out of place, like in the video. Christen Press was, in a word, stunning.
Number two, Christen had the same career goals and dreams as her. Tobin was surprised that those things mattered to her, but they did. It meant that their hearts and minds were in the same place, that their priorities were aligned. It meant that the two of them could take the NWSL by storm, then go on to represent the United States together at the World Cup and the Olympics. With her on the left and Christen on the right, they’d be an unstoppable force on the field. The thought sent a shiver down Tobin’s spine.
Lastly, coming in at number three, Tobin learned that Christen Press was way, way out of her league. Not only was Christen a phenomenal soccer player, but she was funny and smart and kind. She was breathtakingly gorgeous and carried herself with a shy sort of confidence that Tobin found incredibly endearing. Her teammates all thought she was the sweetest person on the team and had whatever it took to be President. Which meant that Christen Press was leaps and bounds above Tobin in every single way. Tobin could live a hundred lives and never deserve Christen.
That wouldn’t stop Tobin from thinking about Christen though, nor stop her from hoping that they both made it far along enough in the NCAA Tournament to face each other again. Tobin not only wanted a rematch, but she also wanted to actually introduce herself to Christen Press.
“I got popcorn!” Channing grinned when she slipped into Christen’s childhood bedroom.
“Thank goodness! I’m starving,” Christen sighed, reaching out for the bowl in her little sister’s hands.
She and her entire UCLA team had been granted two days off to rest and relax for the weekend after their Friday night win against Florida State. Their win had guaranteed them a spot in the semi-finals next weekend, and Coach Foudy thought they all deserved some time off. Christen hadn’t even hesitated after the news. Her parents had come to watch the game, and after hearing that she had time off, she’d packed a weekend bag and ridden back home to Palos Verdes with her parents. Megan and Crystal were sad to see her go, but they understood. They promised to see her Monday morning, bright and early, for practice.
Christen had been exhausted Friday night. Their game had been a grueling one, both mentally and physically. Florida State was a good team, but UCLA had proved better in the end. Abby had been subbed in for Megan in the 79th minute. Abby was now fully healed and had been cleared to play, but Coach Foudy still wanted to limit her minutes. It had been a stroke of genius to sub her in though, because a minute later, Christen crossed the ball into the box and found Abby, who towered over the Seminoles defenders. Her goal had been a beauty and it had been enough to give them the win.
Christen had hardly made it up the stairs to her bedroom on Friday night and slept most of the day away on Saturday, waking up just in time for a late brunch and an afternoon hike with her mom and the dogs. Her legs felt a bit better after the short hike, but her shoulder was a bit sore where she’d been hit by an overly-zealous Florida State midfielder.
Much to her parent's disappointment, they had to attend a work dinner for her dad, so it was just Channing and Christen at home with the dogs for Saturday night. Christen couldn’t complain, though. She’d been so busy during her first semester at UCLA that she’d hardly had time to keep up with her little sister.
“Scootch over,” Channing whispered, wiggling under the covers next to her older sister.
Christen smiled, nostalgia warming her chest. She’d missed nights like this, cuddled up with one of her sisters, the two dogs at the foot of her bed. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed them until she was here, cuddled up with Channing.
“I really thought you’d be tired of soccer after all the playing you’ve been doing,” Channing muttered, shoving a handful of popcorn into her mouth.
Christen looked down at her computer where the Penn State game against UNC was about to begin. They were playing their quarterfinal game in Chapel Hill, with UNC being the higher seed and the favorite to make it to the semifinals. The other quarterfinal games were already over, with Stanford and UVA making it to the semifinals along with UCLA. The College Cup of 2020 was scheduled to be held in Orlando, Florida and Christen knew the excitement in her stomach was two-fold. She was dying to make it to the finals and hoist the NCAA Championship trophy over her head with her teammates, but she was also giddy at the thought of seeing Tobin again, in person.
“Not sick of it yet. I just want to prepare myself for the semifinals, and I’m gonna be playing one of these two teams,” Christen replied.
It wasn’t a complete lie. Christen did want to watch the game and gauge her competition. Perhaps there was extra motivation since Tobin Heath played for Penn State, but Christen had convinced herself that she was watching solely for research purposes.
“You look tired, Christen. I don’t want you to burn yourself out. Maybe we could just sleep?” Channing hummed next to her.
Christen looked at her little sister, matching green eyes meeting her own. Channing was sensitive, perhaps even more sensitive than Christen, and Christen loved that about her little sister. That sensitivity made Channing incredibly kind, great at listening, and easy to open up to. That same sensitivity made Channing way too observant for her own good. Christen had been feeling tired and maybe a bit overworked, but she wasn’t about to slow down right before the NCAA Championship. She had already lightened her load, taking time away from Starbucks and tutoring. So, even if she was exhausted, she couldn’t take her foot off the gas now when it came to soccer. They were in the home stretch.
“I’m fine, really. I’m just getting into the swing of college,” Christen sighed. She squeezed her little sister’s hand, not sure which of them she was trying to comfort. “Are you okay watching soccer?” Christen asked.
“Of course,” Channing nodded.
Christen glanced at her sister, making sure that she was being serious. Her little sister had only recently expressed that she wanted to quit playing soccer and not follow in her sister’s footsteps and play collegiately. The last thing Christen wanted to do was make Channing feel uncomfortable by pressuring her to watch soccer.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Channing assured. “I just like spending time with you.”
Christen leaned her head against Channing’s shoulder, sinking into that peaceful, at-home feeling again. The two sisters stared at the computer screen as the whistle blew, signaling the start of the Penn State and UNC game.
Christen’s stomach was in knots the entire first half. She was sure that she was squeezing Channing’s hand way too hard, but she couldn’t stop. She hated that she was nervous about a game that she wasn’t even playing in, but she couldn’t help herself. She had trouble believing that Penn State, despite having Tobin Heath and a multitude of great players, could beat UNC. And if UNC won...Christen knew that she wouldn’t have another chance during the semester to see Tobin in person and possibly talk to her.
Christen’s eyes were glued to the forward. Tobin was easy to spot, her hair sloppy and her jersey much too large for her thin frame. She ran purposefully, slipping the ball between defenders’ feet and passing with precision. She was beautiful to watch.
In the 43rd minute, Christen’s heart sank. Penn State’s defense had been slightly shaky from the beginning and UNC’s striker found a perfect moment to take a shot, a shot that Penn State’s goalkeeper couldn’t have stopped even if she’d wanted to. Tobin’s shoulders slumped on Christen’s computer screen. A deep line appeared on her forehead and her hands clenched into fists. Christen felt her eyes widen at the sight. She’d never seen that sort of expression on Tobin’s face. One of pure rage. Tobin tore down the field with the ball, passing UNC players as she went, only stopping when a defender took her down with a tackle. Tobin leaped back to her feet, knowing a foul wouldn’t be called and wanting to continue playing.
“Damn, she’s fired up,” Channing said, startling Christen from her extreme focus.
“Huh? Oh, Yeah,” Christen mumbled, watching as halftime was called and the girls jogged off the field. Her eyes searched for Tobin among the crowd leaving the field.
“She’s good too, though,” Channing added.
“Yeah, she is,” Christen agreed, still looking at the screen, wishing she could catch sight of Number 17 again.
“So,” Channing cleared her throat, “Any cute people at UCLA?” She grinned at Christen, wanting her older sister to gossip with her about her love life or crazy college parties.
Christen paused, momentary uncertainty taking root within her. But one look at Channing’s easy smile and open expression, and Christen caved.
“Um...not at UCLA,” Christen admitted, feeling butterflies beat in her stomach again. She’d been keeping her feelings for Tobin to herself for so long, not even really telling Megan or Crystal about her. Sure, her roommates knew that she’d stalked Tobin’s Instagram. They’d teased her about it for a few days, but she hadn’t told either of them that she actually really liked Tobin. Well, what she knew about Tobin. She hadn’t told them that she thought Tobin was cute and talented. She hadn’t told them that she thought she might be crushing harder than she’d anticipated on a perfect stranger.
“So someone at another school?” Channing pried.
Christen nodded softly, tilting her head ever so slightly toward the computer screen.
“Oh! Someone playing right now?” Channing asked, her eyebrows lifting and her smile growing.
“Yeah,” Christen choked out.
“Is she a Pennsylvania girl or a North Carolina girl?” Channing asked again, knowing that her sister preferred answering subtler questions, not being questioned outright.
“She’s on Penn State’s team. Number 17,” Christen blurted out, finally feeling comfortable to spill everything about Tobin. Even if Christen still felt slightly weird for crushing on someone she hardly knew, admitting it to herself and her sister was oddly freeing.
“Number 17, you mean the really good one?” Channing asked, her smile brightening even more.
“Yeah, the left-winger. She’s really really good, like ridiculously good. She’s played on the youth national teams,” Christen responded.
“Holy crap dude! You’re crushing on a star! When did you two meet?” Channing asked, practically jumping off of the bed with excitement.
“We had a preseason game against them. Remember? I flew to Pennsylvania in August,” Christen said, blushing slightly as she continued. “I haven’t actually spoken to her, though, so I guess we haven’t actually met,” she mumbled.
Channing’s mouth dropped slightly before she schooled her face and smiled softly at her sister. “Well that’s okay, you’ll just have to introduce yourself when you play her at the semifinals.”
“They’re losing 1-0,” Christen reminded her sister.
“I’m sorry,” Channing laughed, “Did you not see how mad your girl looked at the end of that first half? She’s about to score as soon as they start again,” Channing pointed at the screen.
“She’s not my girl, Chan,” Christen said, her eyes drifting back toward the screen when the two teams ran back out onto the field. “Even if I kinda sorta want her to be.”
Christen found Tobin on the field immediately. She looked slightly calmer, still determined but definitely less angry. The entire team looked more determined actually, most likely having had a fierce pep talk from their coach before returning to the field. The game began pretty quickly after that, with Penn State kicking off and sending a long ball down the field.
“What’s her name?”
Christen spared her sister a quick look before moving her eyes back to the screen.
“Tobin...Tobin Heath,” Christen murmured. She could feel the heat crawl up her neck and color the tips of her ears. Her sister’s delighted giggle made her blush deepen.
“You got it bad, Mo, look at those heart eyes! Okay but important Q, does Tobin Heath know you exist?” Channing asked, more interested in her sister’s life than the game.
“Uggghhh…” Christen groaned, placing her hands over her eyes, a mistake she immediately regretted when Channing gripped her arm tightly and gasped. Christen lowered her hands just in time to see the tail end of a beautiful Penn State goal from Tobin. Tobin ran to her closest teammate, jumping into the air and pumping her fist. Christen’s smile just grew and grew as the camera lingered on Tobin, hugging her teammates with the biggest grin plastered on her sweaty face.
“You might play her in the semis after all,” Channing teased. “So, what’s this about her knowing you exist?” she immediately added, not letting her sister get away without a response.
Despite her embarrassment and the constant cringing, Christen explained in all of its horrific detail how she’d stalked Tobin’s Instagram. She’d included how she’d Googled first and even ventured onto YouTube for information about the left-winger. To her credit, Channing kept her face neutral the entire time. She watched her older sister explain and blush, not saying a word or teasing her about her crush.
“And then Megan accidentally liked a picture,” Christen finished, her hands running through her hair, feeling self-conscious after admitting all of that.
“So, she saw the notification,” Channing stated, barely pulling her eyes away from Christen’s phone, which she was now using to peruse Tobin Heath’s Instagram.
“Of course. Apparently, you can’t get rid of notifications, even if you unlike a picture,” Christen sighed.
“And what did she do? Follow you?”
“Nope, nothing,” Christen groaned again. “She probably thinks I’m a freak.”
“She most certainly doesn’t,” Channing replied, dropping Christen’s phone and urging her sister to look her in the eyes. “You are beautiful, and smart, and funny, and like the best person ever. She’s probably dying to talk to you and get to know you. You’re a catch,” Channing insisted.
Christen shrugged, feeling unworthy of the praise like she always did. “She might not even be into girls, and now some weird soccer player from across the country who has a dumb crush liked her photo and freaked her out,” Christen replied, letting her deepest fears spill out to her sister.
“I’m sorry have you seen her Instagram?” Channing asked, laughing softly. “Look at how she dresses. That is not a straight woman.” Channing held up the phone and pointed to a picture Tobin had taken a few months prior, in June. She was wearing a snapback, Nike joggers, and a Be True Nike t-shirt. She held up a shaka sign and posed in front of a brick wall that had a painted message on it in rainbow letters: Love is Love.
Christen laughed then too, her sister calming her fears, even if for only a moment. “I love you, Chan,” she sighed, holding tightly onto her sister’s hand.
They watched the rest of the second half, both holding their breath at the 88th minute as Tobin sprinted down the field with the ball at her feet. She passed to another Penn State player, giving her the perfect opportunity to score. Which she did, causing both sisters to throw their hands up in the air and cheer loudly. They almost woke the dogs up with their screams, but they didn’t care.
“Looks like you’re gonna have to introduce yourself to her,” Channing said, wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders as the Penn State players on the computer celebrated their 2-1 win and ticket to the semifinals.
Christen’s heart somersaulted in her chest. She held onto Channing, needing to ground herself at that moment.
“Looks like it,” Christen whispered.
If she were honest with herself, she was terrified. She had no idea how she was going to behave around Tobin, how she was supposed to remain focused while playing against Tobin. The only reason she had been able to focus in August was because she hadn’t known who Tobin was. She hadn’t known her name then, she hadn’t yet become intimately familiar with her Instagram feed, and she hadn’t had repeated, intrusive thoughts about her goofy smile and tanned abs. But now...now she had. How was she supposed to play soccer with Tobin on her mind? She had a week to figure that out.
Yet, despite her fear, Christen was beyond excited. She was trembling with anticipation and wishing for time to speed up, for the game to begin, just so she could line up face to face with Tobin Heath one more time. And hopefully beat her at her own game, again.