I got a hand full of hope in my pocket
Got a heart full of love in my chest
Got a body full of rhythm
I got music in my head, and it's
All, all, all, all for you, and it's
(Tobin - “All for You” by Kid Quill)
I've got your photograph
But baby, I need more than that
I need to know your lips
Nothing ever mattered to me more than this (Yeah, you!)
Look at me now, I'm falling
I can't even talk, still stuttering
This ground I'm on, it keeps shaking
Oh, oh, oh, now!
(Christen - “Somebody to you” by The Vamps)
Christen jerked up in her bed, disoriented for a moment as she looked around. Sun was streaming in through the parted curtains, and Becky’s bed was empty. She must have already woken up and left their shared hotel room in search of breakfast.
Knocking continued on the door as Christen stretched, rolling her shoulders and letting out a small hiss of pain at the residual ache in her ribs. But then she remembered why her ribs hurt and she forgot all about the pain. A smile tugged at her lips as she ran a hand through her hair, last night’s events running through her mind.
She and Tobin had actually spoken. They’d gotten past their issues on the field, the whole slide tackle and verbal argument thing, and then they’d talked. It had been so easy to talk to Tobin. Too easy. There was just something about Tobin that made Christen feel like she could open up, like she could say anything and Tobin would listen to her. They’d shared things with each other, they’d flirted a little, and they’d parted as friends. Or, something resembling friends. Christen wasn’t exactly sure what they were, but-
“PRESS!” Allie’s voice called again, breaking Christen out of her thoughts.
“Coming!” Christen called, pushing the sheets from her legs and hopping out of bed. As she opened the door, she schooled her features, not needing Allie to know that she’d already been thinking about Tobin today.
Allie simply glowered at her, looking like she desperately needed caffeine. Christen bit back a smile. “Not a morning person, Al?”
Allie grumbled, eyeing Christen’s sports bra and shorts combo. “I’d suggest putting more clothes on. No shirt, no service at le Starbucks.”
Christen gestured for Allie to come in. She hurriedly got dressed, brushed her teeth, and washed her face. She paused in front of the mirror, adjusting her curly hair and fixing her clothes. She wore a pair of gray joggers, her slides, and a simple blue tank top. She wanted to make sure they hung just right on her, wanting to look good but not like she was trying too hard.
“She’s not gonna be there, C.P., so you can stop.”
Christen’s heart plummeted in her chest, but she continued to adjust her shirt in the mirror. She didn’t want Allie to know that Tobin’s presence at Starbucks was something she’d been seriously looking forward to. She definitely didn’t want Allie to know that she was trying to look good for Tobin.
“Who?” Christen feigned ignorance, finally grabbing her wallet, phone, and room key and slipping a pair of sunglasses onto her head.
“Haaaarry,” Allie cooed, smirking up from her phone.
“She didn’t want coffee?” Christen asked, trying to play it cool and not seem interested but failing based on the fact that Allie was grinning even harder.
The two girls walked to the door and exited the hotel room, Allie practically dragging Christen by the arm to the elevators.
“Penn State changed their flight to super early this morning. She was up and leaving her hotel by like 6:00 AM, poor thing,” Allie hummed.
Christen stepped out of the elevators and into the hotel lobby, trying to keep a neutral expression. She didn’t want Allie to know that she would miss Tobin, that she’d wanted one more moment with her before an indefinite amount of time apart. They’d left on such great terms last night, with shy smiles and hope in their eyes. But they’d also left so many questions unanswered, including the most important one: What were they?
“I’m sure that wasn’t fun,” Christen commented, trying but failing not to let her disappointment tinge her words.
“Well, I’m sure Harry was extremely grumpy. She’s a night owl, so early mornings aren’t her thing,” Allie said, directing Christen across the hotel parking lot and to the shopping mall across the street. “I bet she also missed seeing you too,” Allie added, nudging Christen in the shoulder as they approached the shopping mall. Christen scoffed, but the blush creeping up her neck gave away her true feelings on the matter.
The Starbucks they moseyed into sat between an Ulta and an American Eagle, the foot traffic between both stores full of teenagers on awkward first dates and parents with their preteens.
“I’ll take a grande oat milk latte,” Christen told the cashier, pulling out her wallet to pay. She waited for Allie to finish ordering, pulling her phone out to check it for the first time all morning.
She hadn't woken up to an alarm, since Allie had done the job for her, and she’d been too busy getting dressed to look at any of her notifications. There were a few from Channing and her parents, just checking on her after their awkward dinner. Tyler had sent a text demanding information about the Penn State player that Channing knew about and was keeping secret. Christen’s eyes skipped over their notifications completely, landing, instead, on an Instagram message from Tobin Heath.
Fun fact, I am not a morning person. Penn State rescheduled our flight, so I’m at the airport, and I haven’t had any coffee 😫 I’ll miss getting coffee with you and Harry this morning, but I hope you’re sleeping well. Gotta get good sleep to beat Stanford.
Christen couldn’t control the blush that burned her cheeks. She smiled down at her phone, rereading the message over and over again. She wished that Tobin had been able to join her and Allie for coffee, more than anything. She just wanted to see her again, to have more time with her. For a moment, she was struck with a deep feeling of yearning, like she was missing Tobin Heath with her entire heart.
“You can’t miss her after one conversation. You hardly know her,” Christen chastised herself, but she couldn’t help the soft voice in the back of her head from speaking hopefully. She did miss Tobin, and she was getting to know her too. She knew that Tobin was a homebody, that she was close to her parents. She knew that Tobin loved sugary sweet ice creams and the color orange. She also knew that Tobin could apologize seriously when she knew she was in the wrong. Tobin was sensitive enough to put others’ feelings ahead of her pride. She was sweet enough to let Christen know why she wasn’t going to be at Starbucks, just in case Christen might have wondered.
“You want to find a place to sit?” Allie asked, distracting Christen from her thoughts.
“Sure,” Christen nodded, her smile still plastered on her face, despite Allie’s knowing and cocky grin.
“Where were you last night?” ARod demanded once the plane reached cruising altitude, giving Tobin no way to escape.
Tobin was sandwiched between Lauren and ARod, just like she had been on the trip to Orlando. Only this time, she swore that she wouldn’t fall asleep and have any dreams about Christen. This time, she was too busy thinking about her time with Christen to even entertain the thought of falling asleep.
“I was in my room. I just needed a quiet night to myself to cool down,” Tobin lied, shrugging her shoulders and looking back at her book, trying to prepare for a final exam in her Psychology class.
“Liar!” ARod hissed, aware that the rest of their teammates were sleeping around them on the plane. “I went to your room last night to check on you, and Sonny said you weren’t there.” ARod looked smug, her eyes squinting at Tobin.
Tobin looked toward Lauren, hoping that her more reasonable friend would help her escape ARod’s question, but Lauren just shook her head softly, laughing to herself.
“Fine. I was with Allie last night,” Tobin sighed.
“Liar times two,” Lauren whispered, poking Tobin in the shoulder. “I saw Allie’s Instagram story. She and another UCLA teammate watched Dance Moms last night, and you weren’t in any of their videos.”
“Shit,” Tobin thought to herself. “Leave it to Allie to document every minute of her life.”
Tobin looked between Lauren and ARod, wondering if there was any way out of this. Seeing none, Tobin decided to bite the bullet and confess.
“Okay, okay fine. I was in Allie’s hotel room. She kind of parent trapped me...and Christen Press,” Tobin let out quickly, making sure to keep her voice down, conscious of the sleeping teammates seated around them.
Lauren’s brow furrowed as if she were thinking hard, trying to figure out who Christen Press was and why that name sounded so familiar. ARod was in a similar boat.
“Christen Press…” ARod mumbled to herself, clearly racking her brain for the right face to put with Christen’s name. “Wait! I know her! That’s the UCLA forward who screamed at me on the field!”
“Yeah, but she’s really-” Tobin began, intending to defend Christen’s behavior on the field, knowing that whatever ARod was about to say about Christen was probably not accurate. She didn’t know how sweet and cute Christen was. She’d only seen an angry, hurt Christen. A Christen that Tobin had hurt.
“Hot? Yeah, I know. Like what’s in the water over there in L.A.?” ARod interrupted, clearly having forgotten that she and Christen had scuffled on the field, and instead was focused on the fact that Christen had looked good during their scuffle.
Tobin blushed, not wanting to answer ARod verbally. But her face gave enough away for Lauren to put two and two together.
“Oooooh!” Lauren squealed. “Someone has a crush on Christen Press!”
“Nice job, Toby!” ARod cheered, forcing Tobin’s hand to high five her own. Tobin took her hand back and hid her face behind her hands, knowing that ARod and Lauren were just getting started.
“Wait, is this why you didn’t want to go on any of the blind dates ARod and I set up?” Lauren asked, making Tobin’s cheeks burn again. “Come on, Tobs! You could’ve just told us your heart belonged to a competitor. It would’ve saved us a lot of trouble trying to get you out in the dating pool.”
“Toby’s got a girlfriend! Toby’s got a girlfriend!” ARod practically sang.
Tobin dropped her hands and shot a sharp look at ARod. “Keep your voice down,” Tobin hissed, looking between her two friends. “First of all, I hate when you call me Toby. You know that! And second of all, I’m not even sure if Christen and I are friends. We literally have had one conversation,” she sighed, wishing she’d had more time with Christen so she could figure out exactly what they were.
“Well, how did the conversation go?” Lauren asked, squeezing Tobin’s hand in a show of support. Their teasing was done, now it was time for help and advice, ARod and Lauren style.
“I mean, at first it was really awkward,” Tobin confessed with a small laugh. “We didn’t speak for a full five minutes. She’s just so....intimidating, but also amazing and like really pretty,” Tobin whispered softly, her voice tapering with those final few words. She hadn't meant to tell her friends that much about what she was feeling. She blamed the minimal sleep she’d had the night before.
ARod beamed. “I’m obsessed with this,” she said, scooting closer to Tobin.
“Me too,” Lauren said, squeezing Tobin’s hand again, a nonverbal request to continue.
Tobin took a deep breath, wishing her hand was free to scratch at the back of her neck. “But then I started word vomiting and apologized for being a jerk on the field, and-”
“You were kind of a jerk yesterday,” Lauren interrupted with a grimace.
“She was just playing hard,” ARod defended.
“Can I continue?” Tobin asked, waiting until they both nodded to do so. “Once I apologized and explained myself a little, she apologized for yelling at us.”
“Ain’t no thing,” ARod shrugged, winking at Tobin.
“And then we kind of just got to know one another, which was surprisingly super easy. She’s just so easy to talk to, and really funny. Like really funny. We definitely flirted some...I think? I mean, I definitely did. I think she did too, though. I really don’t know. You know I’m bad at gauging that kind of thing.”
Her friends laughed, remembering the countless times Tobin had thought a nice girl on campus was just being friendly, completely caught off guard when they slid her their number or asked her out.
“So, you like her?” ARod asked, not wasting any time.
“I...I mean…” Tobin hesitated. Of course she liked Christen. She’d been dreaming about her since August, and actually talking to her last night had been better than anything she’d imagined. But she had no idea where Christen stood or how Christen felt, so she wasn’t really sure what was acceptable for her to feel toward Christen. Despite her reservations, Tobin couldn’t deny the feelings in her heart, not to her friends.
“I do. I like her. She’s...cool,” Tobin shrugged, trying to seem calm about the entire situation. Her friends were the exact opposite. ARod smacked her shoulder excitedly, and Lauren pulled her in for a tight one-armed hug.
“This is the best day ever!” ARod whispered, her excitement palpable.
Tobin wrestled Lauren off of her, readjusting the snapback on her head that Lauren had knocked askew.
“Are you going to make a move?” Lauren asked softly.
Tobin ran a hand over her face in frustration. This was the question that was tripping her up the most. She knew where she stood. She liked Christen. She wanted to talk to her and get to know her and see what came of it all. But she also knew they were thousands of miles away from one another, with no crossing of their paths in sight.
“I mean what can I even do? Who knows when I’ll see her next, and who knows how she even feels about me. We’re not even really friends. I’d say we’re friendly,” Tobin said, hating the uncertainty she felt with each word.
“Friendly friends,” ARod teased, leaning back in her seat, moving out of Tobin’s space.
“Friendly friends,” Tobin thought, settling back into her chair. Maybe that’s what she and Christen were, or maybe not. All she knew was that she wanted to keep messaging Christen and talking to her. She now had gotten a glimpse at what it looked like to have Christen Press in her life and she wasn’t about to give that up, despite all of the uncertainty and the unknowns.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU!” Megan bellowed, her swollen ankle propped up on two pillows.
“Megan, stop!” Crystal said, her eyes never leaving Christen’s blushing face.
“She fraternized with the enemy!” Megan argued, pointing at where Christen was sitting with her legs propped up against the headboard of the bed.
“Oh, come on! We beat them, so she isn’t an enemy anymore,” Crystal defended, her legs stretched out above her against the wall, right next to Christen’s. “Plus, she didn’t really have a choice. Allie and I kind of forced them to talk,” she admitted, turning her head to look at Megan sheepishly.
“Et Tu, Crystal?” Megan scoffed, laying back on the bed in a huff.
“Don’t be so dramatic, Pinoe,” Christen said, a laugh escaping her lips despite her friend’s complaints.
“You realize that her teammate is the reason I can’t play in the final,” Megan said, her eyes glaring off into space as if she were imagining ARod there with them in the hotel room.
“Yes, and Tobin apologized for her behavior and ARod’s too,” Christen said, ready to defend Tobin Heath no matter what Megan said. She was surprised at how quickly she rose to Tobin’s defense. She had only really started to get to know the real Tobin last night, she’d been bonding and getting close with Megan and Crystal since late July. Numbers-wise, there was no competition. But when it came to matters of the heart, logic and numbers and reasoning went out the window.
“I can’t believe you met with her. First, you secretly crush on her for months, and then you completely forgive her after she takes you out! What a wuss,” Megan grumbled.
Christen’s brow furrowed and she readied herself to respond, but Crystal placed a hand on her arm.
“Don’t be rude, Pinoe,” Crystal said. “Christen can talk to whoever she wants to talk to, and Tobin apologized, so I see no problem.”
Crystal squeezed Christen’s arm in a show of solidarity, and Christen found herself extremely grateful for Crystal right now.
“What did she even say to you? Did she grovel for an acceptable amount of time?” Megan asked, looking toward Christen again.
“She said that she’d had a terrible stress dream the night before the game and an even worse morning. Her behavior was inexcusable, and she knew it was wrong, but she was having an off day,” Christen said, remembering Tobin’s apology the night before.
“Oh, an off day?! Wow! How original!” Megan scoffed. “Did she say why she went after you specifically?” she asked, her eyebrows lifted like she knew she’d trapped Christen in a corner.
Christen paused, realizing she didn’t have an answer for Megan. She wanted to have one, but she didn’t. She wished she’d pressed Tobin more the night before, but she hadn’t wanted to upset Tobin right when they’d just started being friendly with one another.
“Maybe I should have asked that, but honestly, she was so polite and so apologetic, and I didn’t have the heart to make her feel even worse about how she acted,” Christen sighed. “I just want to put it behind me. Tobin and I can be friends. We can get along.”
“But you want to be more than friends, don’t you?” Crystal asked teasingly.
“Bleeech,” Megan fake gagged.
“Stop it! They’re cute together,” Crystal defended. “Like, couple goals!”
“What part of that is goals? The part when Christen hit the ground or the part when Tobin called her a stalker?” Megan grunted.
Christen flinched slightly at Megan’s words, still feeling that ache in her ribs. She honestly needed more time with Tobin to really understand why Tobin had been so moody, but she wasn’t going to get that. She sucked in a deep breath, having already made up her mind to forgive and move on with Tobin.
“I appreciate that you’re being protective, Pinoe. I know you love me, but you have to let me decide things on my own. I’m deciding to trust Tobin,” Christen asserted, her comment leaving no room for further discussion. She was trusting Tobin and that was that.
“So now that Pinoe’s done pouting, can we finally know how it went last night?” Crystal pushed, wanting all the details.
Christen bent her knees and rolled to the side, getting her legs off the wall. She sat on the bed and looked between her friends, her smile growing as she recalled everything that happened last night.
“It was so nice,” Christen admitted. “It made me like her even more, honestly.”
Despite Megan’s reservations, she found herself grinning at how happy Christen looked. Crystal moved her legs off the wall as well and flopped down right next to Christen.
“Did you two kiss?” Crystal begged, bouncing up and down on the bed next to Christen.
“Of course not!” Christen answered, her head shaking an emphatic no. “I told you, we just talked.”
“Lame!” Megan called out, the wink she added softening the blow and causing Christen to roll her eyes.
“But you flirted?” Crystal pried even more.
“I think so? I mean I was definitely flirting with her, even if I’m terrible at it, and I think she was flirting back,” Christen paused to think about all Tobin had said. Tobin had agreed with Channing’s statement that Christen was a catch. Tobin had complimented her and teased her. It had all the hallmarks of flirting.
“Yeah, she definitely flirted back. Plus, then she followed me on Instagram, and we messaged until I fell asleep last night,” Christen admitted.
“Hold up, you waited this long to tell us that you two have been messaging?!” Crystal complained, pulling Christen’s phone off the bedside table and opening the Instagram app.
“Crystal,” Christen started to protest.
“Whoaaaaa, this is soooo flirty!” Crystal cooed, making Megan curious enough to abandon her bed to join her friends.
Megan looked over Crystal’s shoulder, and the three of them reread Tobin’s messages.
“She promised to stay in touch! That’s so cute,” Crystal said, squeezing Christen’s hand.
“She’s a dork,” Megan scoffed, her words holding no real bite as she pointed to the emojis that Tobin had sent.
“She is really dorky, but I like that about her,” Christen blushed. “Plus, her dorkiness complements my nerdiness.”
“Awww she calls you Chris?” Crystal asked, her voice reaching a higher pitch than Christen had ever heard. “Look, Pinoe! Chris and Tobs, their little nicknames for each other!”
Christen ducked her head, wishing she could hear Tobin say that nickname in person again. It had been magical the first time, and Christen never wanted to stop hearing it.
“You’ve got it bad, don’t you?” Megan asked, her voice finally sincere, missing any teasing or protectiveness. Her smile reached her eyes as she grinned over at Christen.
Christen couldn’t answer. She didn’t trust her voice to respond. She didn’t want to like Tobin Heath, because that was terrifying. Tobin was far away and possibly unavailable. Christen couldn’t put herself through something like that. But there was another part of her that wanted to like Tobin more than anything. She wanted Tobin to feel the same way, to hold onto her and make promises to her that she’d keep. She wanted Tobin to-
“Christen, you aren’t even friends with her yet. You’ve talked once,” she grounded herself.
Crystal and Megan shared a look, taking Christen’s silence as an answer to Megan’s question. Megan took the phone from Crystal’s hand and squinted down at the screen.
“You haven’t responded to her message,” Megan commented, pointing to Tobin’s message from early that morning. The three friends crowded around the phone again.
Fun fact, I am not a morning person. Penn State rescheduled our flight departure, so I’m at the airport, and I haven’t had any coffee 😫 I’ll miss getting coffee with you and Harry this morning, but I hope you’re sleeping well. Gotta get good sleep to beat Stanford.
Christen read through the message for the tenth time that day, her heart still fluttering when she read that Tobin missed getting coffee with her and Allie.
“Yeah, I haven’t really figured out what I want to say,” Christen admitted.
“How about that you like her and want to kiss her and take her on dates and have her babies,” Crystal began, laughing as Christen’s face got redder and redder.
“How about that you want to know why she came after you during the game?” Megan added, obviously still curious about Tobin’s behavior. “I mean, you can tell her you like her too, I guess, but only if she has a legitimate answer to the question,” Megan added with a shrug.
“Can we just go get something to eat? I’ll think of something,” Christen sighed, taking her phone back from Crystal and putting it in her pocket.
Tobin couldn’t turn her phone on fast enough when the plane landed in Pennsylvania. She’d tried to focus on her Psychology book, but after her conversation with ARod and Lauren, she had even more trouble keeping Christen out of her head. She’d practically been bouncing out of her seat, just waiting to turn her phone back on and see if Christen had messaged her back. It was just before 10:30 AM when the plane landed, and Tobin was glued to her phone before she’d even stood up from her seat.
She tried to control her facial expressions, knowing that ARod and Lauren would notice any change on her face. She didn’t want them to notice that she was bummed, but her heart felt like it had deflated somewhat. She stared at her Instagram message, the small word “seen” underneath her message. Christen had opened her message and presumably read it, but she hadn’t responded. Tobin tried to remind herself that Christen was busy with her teammates, preparing for tomorrow’s NCAA Final. Logically, she knew that Christen was likely just distracted by something else, but another part of Tobin worried that she’d misread how things had gone with Christen.
“You okay, Tobs?” Lauren asked.
“Yeah, just tired. I’m ready for a nap,” Tobin mumbled.
“Me too,” ARod yawned, laying her arm over Tobin’s shoulder.
The three of them stumbled down the aisle and off the plane, following the rest of their teammates to a bus that would take them back to school. Before Tobin had even stepped foot onto the bus’s stairs, she felt her phone buzz in her pocket, sending her heart into a frenzy. “Settle down, Tobin. It might just be your mom,” she thought to herself.
Tobin sat down in her seat, taking the whole row to herself since Lauren and ARod were sitting together in the row across the aisle. She slipped her phone out of her pocket, her breath slipping out of her lungs at the sight of Christen’s Instagram handle in her list of notifications.
Thank you! I would have slept better if Allie hadn’t woken me up and forced me out of my room to get coffee with her this morning. Allie is very grumpy when she hasn’t had caffeine, but I’m sure you already know that.
She read the message over and over, trying to imagine what Christen would be like in the morning, how Christen had looked when she pulled the door open for Allie.
She just couldn’t picture Christen grumpy. She seemed like the kind of person who woke up happy to start a new day. The kind who did sun salutations and never slept past 8 AM. She also probably looked just as beautiful, if not more so, in the mornings. Tobin was in the middle of her thoughts when her phone buzzed again, this message sending her into a daze.
Fun fact, I wish you’d been there too. Allie made me buy two coffees for her.
“Christen Press missed you. Christen freaking Press missed you!” Tobin thought to herself, her legs bouncing up and down on the floor of the bus. Tobin had to take a few deep breaths before she could type a message back.
How rude! I’ll Venmo her and tell her to buy you a coffee tomorrow on me...or better yet a drink after you win 😉
Tobin didn’t have to wait long at all to receive another message, her heart stopping in her chest, despite having expected it.
You’re very confident about this final against Stanford, aren’t you?
Absolutely! You gave me a run for my money. If it weren’t against collegiate athletics rules, I’d bet on you.
I’m glad it’s against the rules. That’d put way too much pressure on me!
How was your flight?
It was long considering it was only two hours, so I’m definitely ready for a nap. The company wasn’t quite as good as it was last night either.
Tobin could feel her cheeks blush. Christen had flirted with her the night before, but today was a new day, and Tobin was slightly hesitant to flirt, or even simply admit that she liked her company. Last night could have been an anomaly. In the light of day, maybe Christen would feel differently...
I’m sure ARod would be offended to know that I’m better company than
she is 😏
Not overly flirty, but she did use a smirking emoji. So maybe in the light of day, Christen still felt the same way. The thought sent warmth radiating through Tobin’s chest.
Trust me, ARod thinks you’re better company than ARod.
So she’s forgiven me for being horrible? My coach hasn’t quite gotten there yet, I’ve got to meet with her before the game tomorrow and I’m pretty sure she’s going to read me the Riot act.
Oh, please. ARod now refers to you as the hot UCLA forward. She’s definitely over it.
I’m really sorry 😟 I wish I could meet with your coach and explain that it’s my fault. You’ll just have to play and show her just how valuable you are.
Tobin started to feel guilty all over again. As far as Christen was concerned, they buried the hatchet with their talk, but Tobin couldn’t help but feel like she’d ruined Christen’s tournament by pushing her to lose control. She wanted to apologize over and over again, and she almost typed out another apology when Christen’s new message came through.
It’s okay, Tobs. She didn’t seem as mad today. I can’t wait to play and prove that to her.
Tobs. There was that nickname again. It was one Tobin had heard for years, from her parents and friends, and teammates. But from Christen, the nickname just sounded different. If she tried hard enough, Tobin could imagine the breathy way Christen had called her “Tobs” yesterday. She could hear it echo around her as she smiled.
More importantly, I’m the “hot UCLA forward”? Pinoe will be crushed.
Tobin practically snorted out loud, holding a laugh in. She could imagine Christen’s teasing tone, and she suddenly ached to be with Christen in person, hearing her make jokes and laugh.
Yeah, it seems like ARod has a little crush. I’m sure Megan would rather kill ARod than date her haha! Could you imagine? Those two?!
Truly a pairing beyond comprehension.
Is that just what ARod calls me? Or has it caught on with others?
Tobin nearly choked on the sip of water she’d just started to swallow. ARod stared at her from across the aisle, an eyebrow quirked in question, but Tobin just shook her hand in her direction. She looked back at her phone, wondering how she could get out of this.
Anyone you’re wondering about in particular?
Tobin felt somewhat satisfied, knowing she’d thrown the ball back in Christen’s court. Yet she found herself wishing that Christen would admit that she hoped Tobin also used the nickname.
You can’t answer a question with a question. That’s like, Instagram DM’ing 101
“Well shit,” Tobin thought, falling back into her seat. Not the answer she wanted from Christen, or the one she hoped for. But maybe she could have a little fun still.
I don’t think Penn State offers that course.
Anyone ever tell you you’re funny?
No, but there’s this hot UCLA forward who’s convinced that she’s the funny one.
I think you know her...pink hair, goes by Megan?
🙄 I’m going to brunch now with your favorite UCLA player, I’ll make sure to tell her you say hi…
You eat brunch with a mirror? That’s weird, Press.
Tobin patted herself on the back for that response. It perfectly threaded the needle of funny and flirty, a combination she found might be her default when it came to messaging Christen Press.
Why do you have to be so irritating and cute? It’s hard to stay annoyed at you.
“Did she just call me cute?” Tobin thought to herself, her hands suddenly feeling clammy and her pulse speeding up. “Play it cool. Just be cool.”
And no, I’m not eating with a mirror. That would be weird.
Did you hear that folks? She thinks I’m cute. This is gonna go to my head.
I...what’s that? I think I hear Pinoe calling me...gotta go!
Have a great time at brunch, Chris. I’ll just be over here trying to fit my head through my dorm room doorway.
My condolences to your door frame.
Fun fact, I think you’re cute too.
Fun fact, you’re a dork, and I’m hungry. Bye, Tobs.
Tobin smiled even wider, her fingers moving over her screen for a final text.
I’m off to take a nap. Bye, Hungry.
“What can I expect out of you today?”
Christen set her shoulders and looked at Coach Foudy. She had expected this question from the moment Coach asked her to stop by her hotel room after the pre-game meal. She knew she had royally messed up the other day, and nothing she could say right now would make up for that. She only hoped she’d get the chance to make up for it on the field today.
“Nothing like Friday’s game, Coach. I promise.”
Coach Foudy narrowed her eyes, uncertainty flashing across her face.
“It was a one-time thing. The other player and I already worked everything out, so it’ll never happen again. I really am sorry, Coach. Today’s game will be different, you’ll see,” Christen assured.
With a nod, Couch Foudy relaxed just a bit. She shot a quick smile at Christen.
“You don’t mess around, Press. I like that about you. I also hope that Friday’s game was an outlier like you say and that today you’ll go out there and prove to me why you deserve to be here.”
Christen smiled at Coach Foudy, letting go of any guilt around Friday’s game in favor of nerves and excitement over the final today.
“How do a few goals sound? Will that make up for it?” Christen asked.
Coach Foudy laughed and clapped Christen on the shoulder. “That oughta do it, Press. Now, get out of here. See you on the bus in a few.”
Christen left Coach Foudy’s room ready to leave the negatives of Friday’s game behind. While she was able to put her mistakes behind her, she wasn’t able to fully quell the nerves inside her stomach. They stuck with her through her last-minute meditation session before they left, the whole bus ride to the game, and now into the locker room.
On Friday, she’d felt no nerves. She’d felt ready and excited. But today, she was shaking, her legs bouncing as she sat in her locker and put her cleats on. Her brain was running a hundred miles a minute, her heart rapidly beating in her chest. She couldn’t calm down no matter what she did. Her breathing exercises weren’t working, her visualization was failing.
Her teammates seemed just fine, though, dancing and laughing around their locker room. The music and the laughter grated on Christen’s nerves. She was almost ready to abandon the locker room altogether when her phone buzzed in her locker. She looked at it, feeling irritation swirl within her. But it all melted away when she saw the notification was from Tobin.
[@tobito17 9:45 AM]
Good luck today, Chris. Not that you’ll need it. You’re an incredibly talented player, and I know you’re going to kill it. Fun fact, I’m rooting for you and am even eating oat milk ice cream in your honor.
Attached to Tobin’s message was an image of a carton of oat milk ice cream held in front of a laptop. On the screen was coverage of the NCAA finals.
Christen felt every nerve, every anxiety, every worry, seep out of her body. With one message, Tobin had calmed the tumultuous storm within her.
Tobin pulled her comforter up to her waist and leaned back against her pillows, opting to hang around her dorm today.
She’d already talked to ARod and Lauren twice on the phone. She hadn’t wanted to go to their apartment and drink the day away with the rest of her teammates. They had planned to spend the day of the NCAA Final getting as drunk as possible, but Tobin didn’t want to join in. Unlike them, she wanted to watch. She had someone to watch.
Tobin had her computer open on her lap, and a sandwich, a huge bottle of lemonade, a half-eaten pint of oat milk ice cream, and a bag of chips on her bedside table. She was early, the game not starting until 11:00 AM. Warmups were now over, and the teams would be coming out of the locker rooms soon for the national anthem. Even though the field was currently empty and she still had a few minutes, Tobin’s eyes were glued to the screen. She didn’t want to miss the moment when Christen Press would run onto the field.
They’d been messaging since she’d landed back in Pennsylvania yesterday. Some moments were flirty, others casual. But no matter the tone, the conversation flowed effortlessly.
Her phone buzzed softly against her leg. She knew it wouldn’t be Christen. Logically, she knew that Christen was too busy preparing herself for the game, too preoccupied with listening to her coach or putting on her jersey to send a message, but that didn’t stop Tobin’s heart from leaping in her chest.
Tobyyyy, you’re missing out!
Tobin deflated at the sight of ARod’s message. No matter how illogical, anytime her phone buzzed, Tobin wished it was Christen. But this time it was ARod, and clearly, by the number of y’s she’d put in Tobin’s nickname, she was not anywhere near sober.
Are you drunk already?
Tipsy, and you could be too
I’m good resting over here. Plus my punishment is tonight. Gotta stay sharp for my workout.
Because of Tobin’s behavior on the field, coach Parlow had given her a workout to do the evening of the NCAA Final. She’d told Tobin to meet with the assistant coach in the weight room at 8:15 PM for an extra workout. After that workout was done, Tobin was supposed to clean all of the equipment and each of the machines to fulfill her punishment.
Honestly, Tobin didn’t mind. She often found herself having trouble falling asleep on off days when the team didn’t have a workout. When they didn’t work out or play a game, Tobin was left with way too much energy to fall asleep, so an extra workout didn’t really seem like a punishment. Cleaning the equipment...that was a little more of a punishment, but Tobin was prepared to own up to her behavior and mistakes and clean without complaint.
Boo! Parlow sucks!
Tobin grabbed the unopened bag of chips from her desk then and moved her eyes back to her computer, waiting for the announcers to begin talking, waiting to catch her first glimpse of the green-eyed UCLA forward.
The teams started their walk out onto the field and Tobin sat up a little straighter, her chips could wait. She scoured the screen for Number 23 on UCLA’s side, wishing these dang camera people would do her a favor and show Christen. Finally, the two teams were lined up for the national anthem and they showed her. They showed Christen.
Her hair was pulled up into a tight ponytail, her curls loose and wavy. Despite the excitement in the air, Tobin could tell Christen was nervous. She chewed mercilessly on her lower lip, and there was a small crease between her brows. Then, Crystal leaned over and whispered something in Christen’s ear. Christen instantly relaxed, a slight smile tugging at her lips. Tobin was dying to know what Crystal had said and made a mental note to ask Christen later. Or better yet, maybe she could ask her now.
All aboard the live-text train, buckle up! I’m going to message you every thought I have during this game. You’re welcome!
First things first, what did Crystal just say to you? I have a few guesses...and they all involve me 😉
The playing of the national anthem drew Tobin’s attention back to the screen. She watched as Christen and the rest of her teammates all took a knee, just like they’d done on Friday’s game. The sight made Tobin’s heart soar. Then the camera panned to the Stanford starting line-up and only about half of them were kneeling.
“There goes any respect I could have had for them,” she mumbled to herself, shaking her head.
After the anthem was over, the two teams huddled on their respective sides. Tobin couldn’t catch sight of Christen before the broadcast went back to the two announcers in the booth. Tobin was happy to see that one of them was Heather O’Reilly. She had been an incredible player at UNC back in her day and still tore it up in the NWSL. But when she wasn’t playing the game, she was talking about it for ESPN. The other announcer, though, some guy, had Tobin wondering where they’d found him and why he was invited to announce the finals of the NCAA College Cup.
“So, Alexi, what do you think we can expect out of this UCLA team today?” Heather asked her co-host. Tobin turned up the volume on her computer, curious as to what this guy would have to say.
“Well, Heather, a week ago I would have told you to expect victory. But after that showing on Friday, I have to say, I’m a bit skeptical these girls can set aside their emotions and perform. Especially the freshman forward, Catarina Press,” Alexi replied, his disdain for the women’s game evident in every word he spoke.
Tobin squeezed the bag of chips in her hand so hard, she popped it open and crushed basically every chip inside. First, that wasn’t even her name. Like, do your job. Second, he didn’t get to talk about Christen like that, with such contempt in his voice.
“These women are some of the best in the country, so I’m confident they can perform,” Heather replied, her icy tone making Tobin smirk. “But in regards to Friday’s game, I’m left wondering what UCLA will do after that as well. They lost one of their star forwards, Megan Rapinoe, to an ankle injury late in the game -”
Alexi interrupted Heather, totally unaware of his rudeness, “Off a pretty dirty tackle from Penn State, I’ll add. In football, the Penn State girl would have been ejected and fined for targeting.”
Tobin rolled her eyes, hard. She shoved a handful of chip crumbs into her mouth angrily, hoping Heather would take control of the comments and Alexi would shut his stupid mouth.
“Maybe so, Alexi. But that other player you mentioned, Christen, not Catarina, Press? She is a true talent. She’s the team’s leading scorer and I reckon, has a very, very bright future in the game, not just at UCLA but for our country as well.”
Alexi scoffed and adjusted in his seat. “So long as she keeps her head and plays her game. If Friday is anything to go by, she’s too immature to have a future in the sport. But that’s just one guy’s opinion.”
Heather fixed a smile on her face and looked into the camera. “One guy whose opinion I don’t share. I have a feeling Press will surprise us all today.”
Tobin pumped her fist in the air, finding herself extremely thankful for Heather O’Reilly.
“Hell yeah she will!” Tobin cheered, opening up her phone again and clicking back to Instagram.
HAO is Team Christen Press, the other announcer is a doorknob. Guess it’s time to make Team Press T-shirts and send one to HAO.
Tobin’s eyes returned to the screen right as UCLA was lining up on their half of the field. Tobin immediately found Christen, not because of her place on the field or her number, but instead, by the way her arms were stretched out at her sides and her face was raised to the sky. She half expected Christen to sprout roots and turn into a flower on the field.
Just like when she’d seen it the first time, Tobin was captivated by this moment of utter peace Christen was able to get in the middle of the pandemonium.
Then the referee blew the whistle and the game began. Right away, Tobin realized this was going to be a bloodbath. She knew that earlier in the year, UCLA had beaten Stanford in double overtime to secure their unbeaten regular-season record. Apparently, Stanford held a grudge and planned on enacting their revenge today.
Tobin cringed as a Stanford forward went up for a header against the UCLA captain and made a point to elbow the captain in the face. The center back shook off the contact though and kept playing. If this was how the game started, Tobin was worried to see how the game would progress. She especially worried about Christen.
She shouldn’t have though, because, in the twelfth minute, Christen was dribbling the ball at the Stanford backline, about thirty-five yards from goal. Tobin wasn’t sure if Christen looked to the goal and saw the goalkeeper out of position, or if she’d just had this sixth sense, but suddenly Christen wound up and struck the ball. Her shot was a screamer that soared into the top corner, the Stanford keeper having absolutely no chance at saving it.
“Holy shii-” Tobin thought to herself, grabbing her phone, having trouble typing in her passcode, since she didn’t want to pull her eyes off of the screen and miss Christen’s celebration.
The celebration itself was quick since Stanford didn't want to give UCLA any time to relax. Christen lifted her arms to the sky, a grin plastered to her face. She was absolutely beautiful, shining with sweat, her hair windblown, eyes crinkling in delight. Tobin had to remind herself to breathe. The celebration felt private, almost like Tobin was seeing an intimate moment between Christen and the universe. It was private until she was swept into the air by the UCLA striker and Allie Long.
THAT WAS AN AMAZING GOAL! LITERALLY THE BEST GOAL I’VE EVER SEEN!
The game didn’t slow down from there. It seemed to be end-to-end opportunities for both teams.
Oh my gosh I think I just closed my eyes. Your keeper’s really good! I seriously thought that Stanford’s number 4 was about to score. I’m gonna need to take some deep breaths now 😰
THAT WAS SOOOO CLOSE! Your cross was great, Chris!
Someone ate their Wheaties this morning...you might even be almost as fast as me! 😉
They were nearing the last ten minutes of the first half, and Alexi was on his bullshit again. He had remained mostly silent throughout the first half, letting Heather control the commentary. He hadn't even celebrated Christen’s goal, which was ridiculous. But now he chose to come back and get on Tobin’s nerves.
Christen had gone back for a defensive corner kick and had ducked out of a header. Not intentionally, she’d been pushed a little in the back by a Stanford player. But it had led to an opportunity on goal by Stanford, and luckily the UCLA goalkeeper made the save.
Alexi didn’t even comment on the opportunity, instead preferring to tear into Christen.
“I like my forwards to actually have some defensive abilities. If you don’t, what is your purpose? Heather, you might be ready to fan-cast Press onto the National Team, but if she ducks out of headers, she’s a no for me,” Alexi commented.
Tobin growled and hit the mute button.
That was a total shove in the back. Stanford’s number 30 is on my list 😡
The half ended pretty soon after that, with a few more quality chances for both teams. Tobin stretched her arms over her head, stretching out her legs and back. She stood up to throw away her trash from lunch and kill some time during halftime. When she sat back down, she’d only managed to waste about five minutes of halftime, so she pulled out her phone, considering texting Christen again, but she didn’t want to accidentally bother her when she was in the locker room with her teammates and coach.
Instead, Tobin clicked on Christen’s Instagram handle and scrolled through her Instagram pictures. She couldn’t help but grin at a picture that Christen had recently posted. It was a throwback picture of a tiny Christen, maybe three or four years old, dancing with her mother. Tobin scrolled again, stopping at a picture of Christen and her two sisters. Tobin had been extremely focused on Christen when they’d been eating with their families at Olive Garden, but she had managed to notice who Christen was eating with. There was no doubting that the three girls were related, their hair and eyes matching almost perfectly.
Tobin’s favorite picture on Christen’s account was of just Christen. Christen was holding what looked like an empty box of cupcakes, her fingers still covered in icing. Her hair was natural, curly, and windblown, and she wore a huge smile, her eyes squinting with joy. It was the first picture that Tobin had seen when she and Christen had followed one another on Instagram, and it was the picture that Tobin went back to most often. There was an infectious happiness to Christen that Tobin had never seen in anyone before. It made Tobin’s chest ache, missing the girl she’d only spoken to in person once. It was so easy to miss Christen Press, but looking at that picture made the ache a little less strong.
Tobin happened to look up at the screen and realized the teams were lined up for the second half. She clicked back to her messages with Christen.
Okay, let’s test out my psychic soccer skills…(try saying that ten times fast) I think this half, you’re gonna score in the 86th minute to beat Stanford 2-0.
I also think Megan is going to find a way to run onto the field and kick the ball in her boot. She’s looking really fired up on the bench 😂
With a smile, she set aside her phone and watched as the second half unfolded. It didn’t take long for Christen to prove that her psychic soccer skills were sorely lacking.
In the 52nd minute, Christen received a cross from UCLA’s number five, who Tobin recalled from the Meet The Freshman video as Kelley. Instead of ducking, like she had in the first half, Christen rose above her defender and sent a header sailing towards the far post. Tobin knew it was going in the moment the ball connected with Christen’s head. She had looked so focused, so sure of herself, that Tobin knew Christen was going to score.
“YES!” she cheered as the ball sailed into the net, jumping up onto her bed and pointing down at the screen in celebration. She could see Crystal and Kelley pull Christen into tight hugs, and Tobin wished she could do the same. What she wouldn’t give to be the first person Christen hugged after scoring.
It only took two minutes for Tobin’s emotions to swing in the complete, opposite direction.
Tobin saw the tackle before it even happened. It was as if the Stanford midfielder had somehow found a way to replicate Tobin’s tackle from Friday, only worse. Way worse. Because this time, all Tobin could do was watch in horror as the Stanford midfielder slide tackled Christen, as Christen basically flipped over in the air and landed hard on her side, as Christen didn’t get up.
“Please get up, please get up,” Tobin willed, staring at the screen. Two of Christen’s teammates leaned over to talk to Christen, clearly getting a response from the green-eyed forward who was still sprawled on the field. “She’s talking. That’s a good sign,” Tobin rationalized, her heart still thrumming erratically in her chest. Tobin decided right then and there that there was nothing she disliked more than watching Christen Press get hurt. She’d known that after she had tackled Christen herself, but watching from far away was even worse. Not only that, but the Stanford midfielder had hit her harder than Tobin had.
For the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, Tobin felt like she had absolutely no control. She couldn’t control the Stanford team. She couldn’t make Christen feel better or help her stand up to continue playing. She couldn’t yell at anyone. All she could do was watch and wait.
You’re scaring me, Chris. Stand up, please?
Tobin didn’t know how long she held her breath. But finally, Christen got to her feet shakily, and Tobin relaxed. There was a ferocity in Christen’s eyes, a hunger that Tobin hadn’t even seen when she’d knocked Christen down. Tobin immediately knew that Stanford was screwed.
You scared me, Chris. You’re officially not allowed to do that ever again. This girl is also on my shitlist. I have half a mind to fly back to Orlando and see how she likes being slide tackled. Also, make them pay with this free-kick!
Christen heeded her words, even if Christen had no idea Tobin had said them. With a perfect curling shot around the wall, Christen Press completed her hat trick in the NCAA College Cup finals and Tobin felt herself fall a little bit harder for Christen.
A HAT TRICK?! CHRISTEN PRESS! You just scored a hat trick in your first NCAA College Cup final as a FRESHMAN?! You’re an ICON! Don’t forget I was your first fangirl when you’re sponsored by Nike, sent to Disneyland, and called up to the USWNT!
The rest of the game passed in a total blur. UCLA completely dominated a defeated Stanford side, which Tobin couldn’t have been more pleased about. In the dying seconds of the game, she saw UCLA’s bench get to their feet, even Megan in her boot was ready to storm the field.
And then the game was over and every UCLA player ran towards Christen. The green-eyed striker was quickly buried underneath a large, sweaty dogpile of soccer players and all Tobin could do was laugh. She typed out one final Instagram message for Christen.
CONGRATULATIONS, CHRIS! You played so great today. Not that I’m surprised at all. I’m so proud of you! Make sure to ice your ribs and get home safe 😊
Christen was sore. Her adrenaline had carried her through her third goal and into the dogpile with her teammates, but as soon as she’d made it into the locker room, she’d started to feel an ache on the left side of her back and ribs. It had only gotten worse at the airport, spreading through her lower back and along either side of her ribcage. She’d already been checked out by a trainer, and even though she knew she was just badly bruised, she couldn’t help but feel like she’d broken something.
Tobin’s messages had helped. They’d made her smile and taken her focus away from her aching muscles, instead, placing it on the butterflies in her stomach. She hadn’t had time to message back, having to rush to the airport to catch the flight back to Los Angeles, but just knowing that Tobin had watched her play made her feel better.
She and Megan had sat together near the trainer, both of them icing on the flight back, knowing that once they started partying, drinks in hand, they would feel better.
“Drink up, bitches!” Ashlyn yelled, finally pulling the cork out of the biggest champagne bottle Christen had ever seen.
Ashlyn and Ali hadn’t scrimped on the alcohol. They’d bought champagne and beers and ciders before leaving for Orlando, saying that it was good juju to buy the alcohol in advance. Ashlyn had convinced Ali that win or lose they’d need the alcohol, and thankfully they’d won and invited everyone on the team to their apartment for a celebratory party and possible sleepover if enough people passed out in the living room.
“To Christen Press, who got her first collegiate hat trick today and helped us dominate Stanford!” Allie yelled, holding up her glass of champagne, which wasn’t actually a glass, but a plastic solo cup.
“To Abby, who played on her basically still broken foot!” Ashlyn added, holding up her cup.
“To Pinoe, who took her beating from Penn State like a champ,” Crystal joined in.
“To Ashlyn who didn’t let Stanford score on us, once! Fuck yes!” Kelley screamed, holding up her cup, the champagne sloshing a bit.
Christen laughed at her teammates' dramatics, swallowing a sip of the bubbly liquid once they’d all clinked their glasses together.
She slipped out of the living room and into Ali and Ashlyn’s bathroom, just wanting a quiet moment to respond to Tobin before the celebration really got started. She placed her solo cup on the counter and opened Instagram, smiling again at Tobin’s sweet messages.
She’d gotten them hours ago and finally had a free moment to respond. She scrolled through the running commentary of the game, trying to decide just what to say. Rereading the messages containing Tobin’s excitement about her goals made her cheeks flush, heat traveling from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. Then she got to the messages full of protectiveness, the ones where Tobin was so upset with the Stanford player who’d tackled her, and a different kind of heat burned through her. It was clear that Tobin cared, to what extent Christen wasn’t sure. But that didn’t matter, because on some level Tobin cared about her.
With a smile, Christen composed a reply.
I’m sorry it took me so long to reply, it was a pretty hectic past few hours. But I wanted to thank you for your good luck message, and all your very detailed live-texts. Knowing you were watching makes everything that happened today, that much better.
And my ribs are VERY sore, but I’m not icing them. I’m trying a new method of treatment: champagne. Lots of champagne 🍾
Maybe it was the high of winning. Maybe it was the bit of adrenaline that still hummed through her after scoring a hat trick. Maybe it was the slight buzz she had from just half a glass of champagne. She wasn’t entirely sure what to blame. But whatever it was, Christen suddenly felt a little brazen.
Fun fact: I scored one of those goals for you. I know it’s not a bouquet of flowers or a Starbucks coffee, but it’s the best I could do given you were already back in Pennsylvania. Thanks for being amazing today, Tobs 😊
Christen locked her phone and put it back in her pocket. She took another sip of champagne and then looked up at her reflection in the mirror. Her hair was still a little wild, having only had time for a quick shower after the game, but she didn’t mind. She hadn’t been able to wipe the grin off of her face since the end of the game, since she’d held the trophy in her own hands with her teammates around her. For the first time in her entire life, Christen felt genuinely proud of herself after a soccer game. Of course, scoring a hat trick made her proud, but a part of her mind wondered if Tobin’s compliments had sweetened the deal. If it was Tobin who had permanently put the face-splitting grin on her face.
“PRESSY!!!” Kelley called through the door, banging on it with what sounded like her foot.
Christen pulled the door open, her solo cup back in her hand and her phone securely in her pocket.
“Don’t be a fuddy dud! Party’s out here!” Kelley cheered, wrapping her arm around Christen’s shoulders and leading her toward the backyard, where half of her teammates were relaxing in lawn chairs and the other half were playing prosecco pong.
“I call Pressy for my team!” Allie called, pulling Christen to her side at the prosecco pong table.
It was just a ping pong table covered in glasses of prosecco, but Christen underestimated just how difficult it would be to toss a ping pong ball into the glasses that Ashlyn had picked up at the store. The glasses were basically plastic martini glasses with short sides that the ping pong ball easily bounced off of and out of.
“Shoot,” Christen mumbled when she missed for the dozenth time.
Megan’s ping pong ball landed with a slosh in one of Allie and Christen’s glasses, and Christen was responsible for drinking it. Another thing she’d underestimated was just how difficult it would be to chug prosecco. The bubbles tickled her throat and nose, and she quickly realized how buzzed she felt.
“Come on, Press!” Allie grumbled, trying to bolster the both of them and catch up to Megan and Kelley’s score. “I’m gonna tell Tobin that you suck at prosecco pong,” Allie threatened.
“Noooo,” Christen slurred softly. Another addition to the list of things she’s underestimated? Just how quickly she’d get drunk off of prosecco. They’d only been playing for about 10 minutes, and already Christen’s lips were tingling and her head was fuzzy. “Don’t tell her. Tobin’s so cute and pretty, but it’s a secret,” Christen added with a blush.
“Who are we talking about?!” Kelley asked from across the table, her pupils blown and glassy.
“No one. Focus, O’Hara,” Megan growled, tossing her ping pong ball and missing the glass by a centimeter.
“Oh, you think Harry’s cute?” Allie teased.
“She’s soooo cute,” Christen sighed, her filter completely gone. “There’s just something about her. She’s special. I wish she were here.”
“I think Christen needs some food,” Crystal laughed from beside Christen, pulling her gently away from the group.
“I think Christen needs to get laid!” Allie called, making a few of their other UCLA teammates whoop in agreement.
“She’s just soooo cute. Am I supposed to be immune to her looks?” Christen sputtered, reaching for a handful of pretzels in Ali and Ashlyn’s kitchen.
“No, you don’t need to be immune. Sober you just might regret saying that she’s cute in front of all of our teammates,” Crystal hummed.
“Drunk me has no regrets, not a single one,” Christen replied, feeling all floaty all of a sudden. The prosecco had officially gone to her head.
Crystal shook her head, insanely amused by drunk Christen Press. The usually so buttoned-up, logical girl was now a stumbling, giggling mess. A mess who couldn’t stop talking about Tobin Heath.
“Have I told you she has abs? Like a full-on six-pack. She’s so hot,” Christen murmured, leaning back against the counter with a dopey grin on her face. She continued to stuff pretzels into her mouth until she stood up, a light of inspiration in her eyes.
“I’m gonna send her a selfie!” Christen declared like it was the best idea in the whole world. She looked at Crystal, batting her lashes in a hopefully convincing manner. “Will you be in it with me? Pleeeease?”
“No way, I will take no part in drunk selfies for your girl. That’s all you,” Crystal replied, backing out of the kitchen. “Tell her I say hi, Pressy. Love you.”
“I love you!!” Christen yelled back, her voice far too loud for the enclosed space. Once Crystal was gone, Christen surveyed the kitchen, looking for something to spice up her selfie. Then she saw it: the oversized, now-empty champagne bottle.
Christen grabbed it off the counter and cuddled with it, taking a quick picture of herself. Feeling like she was looking good, she clicked over to Instagram to send it to Tobin and found messages waiting for her. She’d somehow missed the notifications while she was busy playing prosecco pong.
I bet it was super hectic getting back to L.A. I’m glad you got home safely, though.
Ah...the old champagne method. How bougie! I hope you all have a ton of fun! (Maybe you should ice the ribs tomorrow though…) 😉
I’ll take a championship-winning goal over flowers or coffee any day! Which goal was supposedly scored for me??
Christen felt the corners of her mouth lift into a large smile. Tobin was just so cute.
Safe anddd sound, back in the city of angels! And it mighht be bougie, but I make cchampagne look goooood 😎
Christen attached the image of her and the champagne bottle and sent it off to Tobin without giving it a second thought. Sure, her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were a bit glassy, but she looked good. She looked good and she wanted Tobin to see her looking good.
Christen paused, unsure how to answer Tobin’s final question. But she was momentarily spared from a response by Tobin sending her a message.
Christen felt her mouth flop open at the selfie Tobin had sent back to her. Tobin was in a sports bra, a sheen of sweat on her forehead. She looked to be in a weight room of some kind and she held a squirt bottle full of cleaner in her arms, mimicking Christen and the champagne bottle pose.
I don’t look as good with my bottle as you do with yours, but in my defense, I had a punishment workout and now I have to clean this entire weight room.
Christen wet her lips, feeling suddenly a little thirsty as her eyes ogled the selfie Tobin sent her. Tobin was this infuriating combination of gorgeous and adorable and cute and hot all at the same time. It wasn’t a combination that should work, but here Tobin was, proving Christen wrong. But Christen shouldn’t be focusing on that. She reread Tobin’s caption and finally processed her words.
agree to disagree, Tobin Heath. waait doo you haave a middle name? Of course youu do, that’s sillyyy. Everyone does!!! well…..not everyone?? That’s not importaant, sorryyy. focus up Press!! sooooo you have to clean the whole place by yourself?? is this cause of Friday????
The text bubble with those three little dots appeared, meaning Tobin was responding right now. Christen hopped up onto the counter, careful not to jostle her ribs too much. Not that she could feel much of anything if she were to jostle them. She had passed tipsy awhile ago, and she was fully drunk now.
Are you drunk texting me, Christen Press? That was too many typos and punctuation marks for normal you to use.
Christen was caught. She pouted as she typed out her reply.
champagne just sneakks up on you, ya know?? it’s not my fault, i plead the sixth. wait, the fifth. i don’t know, i’m drunk
Hahaha. You deserve it, you kicked major ass today, Chris! Just be careful okay? Drink water, eat snacks. Popcorn always helps ARod and Lauren when they get drunk. I could text Harry and make sure she gives you some?
“She is so cute. Like, how is she so cute. And thoughtful. Why does she have to be so far away?” Christen grumbled to the empty kitchen.
water, check. snicky snacks, double check. No neeeed to drag allie into this mess, i’m good. i’m talking to youuuu! i’m greeat!!!!!
Suddenly, Christen realized she hadn’t responded to one of Tobin’s earlier questions. As she typed an answer, she tried to explain that her first goal was for Tobin. But her answer quickly turned into something else entirely. Something she couldn’t control. It was as if the champagne and the highs of the day and everything she’d been feeling for Tobin combined together and had her admitting to something she shouldn’t be admitting to.
I lied...I didn’t score one goal for you.
I scored them all for you. because you are so coooool, Tobs. and even tho Pinoe’s the one who ‘liked’ that picturee of yours in August, i’m the one who liked it. get it, liked ittt??? i liked it! i like all your pictures, Tobs, because you’re cute and cooooool and i’m champagne druunk so i’m going to stop right now before i embarrass myself further.
With a squeak, Christen dropped her phone to the counter, staring at the Instagram message thread on her screen. She reread her messages and cringed, feeling her already flushed cheeks heat up further with embarrassment. She reached out, a moment of sober thinking allowing her enough clarity to turn her phone off completely and stick it back into her pocket. “Oh my god,” Christen thought, holding her hand against her forehead. “You did not just do that…” She wanted to kick herself for being so overly confident with Tobin. “She’s going to think you’re a lovesick weirdo,” Christen thought again, her mind, despite its drunken state, spiraling into deeper worry.
“PRESSSSSSY!” Kelley called, interrupting Christen’s thoughts about Tobin for the second time that night. “We’re doing shots, and you’re joining!” Kelley cheered, her arms wrapping around Christen’s shoulders in a hug.
Christen instinctively wrapped an arm around Kelley’s back.
“I love you, Pressy. You really are the sweetest on the team,” Kelley murmured, pulling back to grin at Christen before leading her out the back door and toward their teammates.
~8 Hours Later~
Christen’s first thought was that her head hurt. Her second was that her tongue felt heavy and her mouth felt dry, so she’d kill for some water. And her third thought? Pure panic at the feeling of an arm around her bare waist and soft breaths hitting the back of her neck. Her heart started beating rapidly, fear constricting her throat.
“What did you do?” she thought to herself, trying to assess her surroundings through the banging headache she had. She’d watched enough teenage “ABC” dramas to know that waking up in a strange place after heavy drinking never led to good things. She was bracing herself to face some stranger or worse some teammate that she’d made some huge mistake with.
It took her a moment to remember that she had stayed over at Ashlyn and Ali’s house, but as soon as she heard Ashlyn laughing down the hall, she felt a sense of calm rush through her body. She pulled the blanket off of her, looking down at her own body. She was in the same pair of jeans and sweater from the night before, her sweater pushed up on her left hip and her shoes and socks abandoned in the house somewhere. She pulled away from the arm around her waist, twisting on the couch to turn around and face the arm’s owner. Megan’s pink hair was the only thing Christen could see, the other forward covered by a second blanket. She’d never been that happy to see the bubblegum-colored hair and had to hold back the laugh of relief that wanted to bubble up out of her throat.
“You’re up,” Ali whispered, waving softly at Christen from across the living room. “Ash ordered some bagels from UberEats.”
“Thank God,” Christen sighed, running a hand through her hair.
“Pressy’s up?” Allie asked, walking into the living room from the kitchen, a bagel in hand.
Christen could only grunt back at Allie, her head hurting more with each second.
“Sounds like you need coffee before I remind you about what you texted Harry last night,” Allie laughed.
Christen’s jaw completely fell open, her mind moving sluggishly.
“I what?” Christen asked.
“Harry texted me this morning to check on you. Apparently, you texted her some drunk messages last night before going MIA,” Allie smirked.
“Oh. My. God,” Christen groaned, falling back onto the couch and waking a very disoriented Megan.
“I SAID NO RACHEL!” Megan yelled, sitting up with a start.
“You arguing with your sister in your sleep, Pinoe?” Ali asked, watching as Megan fell back onto the couch with a soft thud.
Christen slipped off of the couch, clutching at her head as she stumbled into the kitchen and toward the coffee maker. She carried her cup of coffee into the backyard and sat on the grass, pulling her phone out of the back pocket of her jeans. She squinted in the early morning sun, the light causing her headache to worsen.
She braced herself, took a deep breath, and then turned her phone on. It buzzed softly in her hands, only making her grimace more. She scrolled past the text messages from her family members, congratulating her on the NCAA Championship, stopping only when she saw Tobin’s Instagram messages.
I’m glad you liked the pictures, Chris. I like yours too. I really am tempted to text Harry and ask her to make sure you get home okay…
Fun fact...I think you’re cute and cool too, and I’m not even champagne drunk
Not to be a total stick in the mud, but I hope you’re partying responsibly
Good night, Chris. Congratulations on your game today! You deserve all the champagne. I’ll talk to you later.
Christen reread her messages from the night before, wishing she could sink into the ground and let the earth swallow her whole. “You were totally weird. You probably freaked her out by being so drunk and flirty and pushy,” Christen thought to herself, shrugging off Tobin’s responses as her just being polite. She took a sip of coffee and forced herself to type a reply.
Well, I’ve never been that drunk before…
Tobin responded immediately, causing her heart to jump in her chest.
Really? You took it like a champ. Quite a few typos, but overall, a very cute and classy drunk 😂
Tobin, I am so so so sorry! I didn’t mean to be weird last night or drunk text you. I am so embarrassed.
Relax, Chris. It’s no big deal. Honestly, I thought it was cute and funny! Very entertaining at the least.
So...I didn’t totally make you wish that you’d never met me?
She knew Tobin would say no. She knew Tobin would be sweet and understanding and chill, but Christen still needed to hear it. Her insecurities were sneaking up on her, whispering that Tobin didn’t want to talk to Christen anymore. She needed Tobin to push those fears aside for her.
Of course not! I wake up every single day and am like, damn, I’m so glad I know Christen Press.
I mean it.
Before Christen could even process the butterflies that sprang into her stomach at the words or think about responding, Tobin changed the subject.
So, tell me. Did Harry sing the opening number to Annie the musical last night? That’s her go-to when she’s drunk.
With one text, Tobin completely set Christen at ease again. She laughed out loud, not just because Allie singing Annie had been funny the night before, but also because the relief she felt at Tobin’s acceptance was too strong to keep inside. She smiled at her phone, her heart thrumming again, feeling secure with Tobin’s easy-going attitude.
Oh my gosh! She did, and it was terrible!
If she couldn’t kick a ball, she’d be trying to make it on Broadway. She’s too stubborn to realize she can’t carry a tune.
So...not to fully take advantage of you in your hungover state, but...you never answered my question yesterday about the game, and I’m dying to know.
Christen’s brow furrowed as she took a small sip of her coffee.
Which question is that?
What did Crystal whisper to you right before the game? It made you smile and relax and I’ve been dying to know.
Christen huffed out a laugh. She’d completely forgotten that Crystal had done that.
Even though Tobin had dispelled a lot of her nerves before the finals with that good luck message, Christen was human. And she was a nervous human by nature. So as she stood next to her teammates, moments from the NCAA finals, she’d felt her nerves return with full force. She’d been so antsy, practically jumping right next to Crystal during the pre-game announcements.
Then Crystal had casually leaned over and whispered something to Christen that she would never be able to forget. A short sentence that had Christen holding back a smile and her nerves running for cover.
But what Crystal had said to her? Christen vowed to never admit it to Tobin Heath. Ever.
Hmmm... I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you, and I wouldn’t want that 😉
Good thing I’m patient. I’ll get it out of you one day.