11 blocks from my door to your doorstep
Three years later and it feels too close
I thought I broke the last of that breakdown
The morning I sold your winter coat
But I'm two blocks away and you're just like a drug
My mind won't stop, it's just 11 blocks
I know that you're home
(Tobin - “11 Blocks” by Wrabel)
Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry
You don't know how lovely you are
I had to find you, tell you I need you
Tell you I set you apart
Tell me your secrets and ask me your questions
Oh, let's go back to the start
(Christen - “The Scientist” by Coldplay)
“Jeffrey, focus!” Tobin begged, holding up a black button-down in one hand and a white button-down in the other.
Jeff looked at his older sister, amused at her clear panic. She’d been stressed about Christen’s party since she’d been invited a week ago.
“I think the white is classic. Plus, your suit jacket is going to be black,” Jeff finally responded.
Tobin hung the black shirt back on the rack, still deliberating about her choice to wear a suit. She could easily borrow one of her sister’s dresses, but she knew she’d feel uncomfortable in them. “What if Christen doesn’t like suits?” Tobin worried, absentmindedly chewing on her bottom lip.
“Stop worrying, dude,” Jeff whispered, pulling his sister in for a hug. “It’s gonna be great. Christen will totally be impressed, imPRESSed, get it?”
“Navy or black?” Tobin asked, pointedly ignoring Jeff’s teasing and holding up the two suit jackets she was stuck between.
“I already said black. We’re going for a classic look here, Tobin,” Jeff said, focusing on the task at hand.
“Okay I’m gonna try these on,” Tobin sighed, carrying the matching black pants, the shirt, and jacket away and toward the dressing room.
Tobin changed quickly, not wanting to see herself in the mirror and start to judge herself for trying so hard for a girl that she wasn’t even sure had the same feelings she had. When she stepped out of her dressing room, she looked at her brother’s face to gauge his reaction.
Jeff let out a low whistle and jumped to his feet. “Dude, YES. This is the move. Christen won’t even know what to do when she sees you in this.”
“Do I need a belt?” Tobin worried, her cheeks completely red from Jeff’s comments.
Jeff nodded his head at the mirror behind Tobin, silently encouraging her to look at herself. “See for yourself,” Jeff replied.
Tobin turned around, finally facing herself in the mirror. Aside from her messy bun and sock feet, Tobin had to admit that she looked good. The shirt and pants were fitted, showing off her muscular legs and strong shoulders. The jacket fit perfectly, not making her look boxy or swallowing her completely. She rarely thought she looked great. She preferred workout gear and sweats to anything else because it made her feel most like herself, but standing in the suit, Tobin felt authentic and confident, two things she would definitely need when she saw Christen again.
“I think I’ll just use the black leather belt I have at home,” Tobin said, unable to vocalize how she felt upon seeing herself in the mirror.
Jeff sighed, his sister’s sudden lack of confidence a source of mystery for him. He wasn’t about to stand by and let her feel anything less than ready for this party.
“Say it with me, ‘I am totally rocking this outfit.’ Come on, Tobin, say it.”
Tobin rolled her eyes but grinned at her little brother. “I’m rocking this outfit,” she mumbled, the smile on her face growing even more.
“Sorry, couldn’t hear you, what was that?” he teased, leaning towards her with a hand around his ear.
“Jeff,” Tobin groaned, pushing him out of the way of the dressing room door. “I’m rocking this outfit, dude. Totally rocking it, but now I’m gonna take it off so that I can pay for it.”
Jeff stuck his hands into his pockets, a satisfied smile on his face.
“Meet ya at the register. We gotta get moving if we’re gonna find her a present before we have to get home,” he said, backing out of the dressing area.
Tobin quickly changed back into her jeans and t-shirt, hanging her new attire on the hangers and carrying them to the register.
“Do I actually need to wear a tie for a black-tie event?” she asked, her worry still bubbling up in her chest.
“I’m sixteen, I didn’t even know what black-tie was until today.”
“I’m gonna skip it. I don’t need to feel like I’m gonna choke all night,” Tobin said more to herself than Jeff.
Jeff reached out and grabbed a black bow tie off a display near the register. He tossed it onto the counter when they got to the front of the check-out line. Tobin was about to protest, but Jeff waved her off.
“Trust me, Tobin. That will seal the deal.”
Rolling her eyes, Tobin paid for her clothes, ignoring the large price that showed up on the cash register and reminding herself that she’d get a lot of wear out of the suit since it was the only one she owned.
“Let’s find a present,” she said, leading Jeff out of the store, across the parking lot, and toward another section of stores.
Tobin flipped through another book, having abandoned the sporting goods store for the book store, deciding that Christen didn’t need a soccer-themed gift. Just like Tobin, Christen probably had enough soccer gear to last a lifetime. She had no idea what Christen needed or wanted. Not only that, but Tobin wanted her gift to be special but also not too special. She wanted Christen to know that she cared, but she also didn’t want to freak Christen out by caring too much. She and Christen were finally in a sort of friendly place again, not texting daily but sending a text every few days to check-in or share news. They’d wished each other a Merry Christmas, and on Christen’s actual birthday the day before, Tobin had sent her a few texts, just wishing her a happy 20th birthday. Tobin didn’t want her feelings to get in the way of any kind of progress she and Christen were making toward repairing their friendship.
“What about this?” Jeff asked, letting out another yawn. He held up a children’s book on dinosaurs.
“Not funny,” Tobin sighed, glancing out at the darkening sky outside. The party was tomorrow, and Tobin was starting to really panic about not finding something for Christen. “I’m gonna look at the non-fiction section,” Tobin said.
“Oh, yeah. Nothing says happy birthday like non-fiction,” Jeff teased.
Tobin ignored him and continued to browse. She’d almost given up hope when she glanced at the bottom of one of the shelves and saw a book with a white spine, small flowers decorating the cover. She pulled it off the shelf and read the title, Flowerpaedia 1,000 Flowers and their Meanings. Tobin grinned at the title, remembering one of her late-night conversations with Christen in the early days of their friendship, back in freshman year.
“Fun fact, I love dahlias,” Christen whispered softly into the phone.
“Like the Black Dahlia?” Tobin yawned, completely confused about why Christen loved the mysterious murder of an aspiring L.A. actress.
“The flowers, Tobs. Dahlias are flowers,” Christen said, trying to stifle a laugh.
“Oh, I don’t know much about flowers, clearly,” Tobin grimaced, feeling her cheeks go red.
“That’s okay. Neither do I. I just think dahlias are beautiful,” Christen sighed.
“I’ll google them,” Tobin whispered, already typing the name into her computer.
“You don’t have to-” Christen insisted.
“Too late. I already am,” Tobin said, smiling when she saw the flower. It was so Christen, so unique and beautiful. “What color do you like?” Tobin asked.
“The pink and orange ones are my favorites,” Christen sighed, her voice soft and warm.
“I’ll remember that,” Tobin said, tucking the information into the back of her mind.
Tobin flipped through the book until she found the right page. She read it slowly, letting her eyes settle on the page. “Dahlia flowers are viewed as symbolizing basic themes like grace under pressure,” she whispered to herself. Tobin immediately thought about how graceful Christen was, how good she was in stressful situations, how put-together she could be, while Tobin felt like she was spinning out of control.
She continued reading, “They symbolize inner strength and the move toward major life changes. Dahlias can also represent a commitment to an idea or a person, or the balance between certain ideas, like relaxation and adventure.”
That settled it for Tobin. She closed the book, marching toward the register, pulling Jeff away from the Fantasy section as she went. She paid for the book, making a note to stop at a florist the next day before the party.
Christen peeked her head out of her closet. She saw Channing, Tyler, Megan, and Crystal sitting on her bed, chatting amongst themselves. They had all lived up to the black-tie theme. Crystal was in a gold, sparkly floor-length dress, Tyler was in a deep plum jumpsuit, Channing wore a simple maroon cocktail dress, and Megan dazzled in a fashion-forward dark gray suit and a plaid button-up. Christen gulped and looked down at her outfit, hoping it was up to par.
She hadn’t been nervous about her outfit until about a week ago. Inviting Tobin Heath to her birthday party was, of course, a step in the right direction for them and so very exciting. But it had added a layer of stress to the evening for Christen. She had to make sure she looked perfect. She wanted to blow Tobin away.
With another deep breath, Christen stepped out of the closet, eyes tightly shut, her arms held out at her sides.
“Well? Does it look okay?”
At the silence in the room, Christen cracked an eye open. Both her sisters and her friends look absolutely gobsmacked, hopefully in a good way.
Megan was the first to break. “Pressy, I just have one thing to say…”
At Christen’s arched brow, Megan winked and said, “Bow-chicka-wow-wooooow!”
Laughter broke out amongst the girls and Christen relaxed just a little.
“Girl, you look hot,” Crystal complimented. “Tobin’s going to pass away when she sees you.”
Christen’s cheeks flamed at Crystal’s comment. She ducked her head shyly and took in her outfit.
It was a dress she’d gotten for Christmas, a wonderful gift from her mom. It was an elegant, two-piece dress that hugged her in all the right ways. It had a navy blue halter top, the straps crossing over her collarbones and then looping around her neck. The skirt was also navy blue and flowy, with a thin sheer piece of fabric covering the skirt that shimmered. When she twirled, the skirt fanned out and twirled with her, the sheer fabric catching the light and sparkling.
“You think she’ll like it?” Christen asked quietly, running her hands over the skirt of her dress and looking between her sisters and friends.
Channing rolled her eyes. “Have you looked in a mirror yet? Of course, she will. Now can we go party or what?”
Tyler grabbed Channing’s hand and tugged her to her feet.
“We’ll meet you downstairs, Christen. You look beautiful,” Tyler murmured, smiling at Christen as she pulled Channing out of the room.
Christen moved to the bed and sat down between Crystal and Megan. The three of them laid back on the bed in tandem, their eyes on the ceiling.
“Are you ready for tonight?” Crystal asked, taking Christen’s hand in her own.
Christen let out a sigh, and shrugged, unsure how to answer that question. In some ways, she was completely prepared to see Tobin. She was ready to apologize and move forward. She was sure that they could continue to build off the start they’d had at Allie’s Christmas party, and slowly find their way back to the friendship they’d been developing before it had all gone wrong.
But in some ways, she was so not ready. First of all, she was nowhere near ready to see Tobin in black-tie attire. There were so many directions to go with that theme, and she knew that whatever Tobin chose, it was going to completely stun her. Second, she wasn’t sure if she was ready for their big talk. Tobin had seemed so hesitant the other night; it made Christen a bit nervous.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Christen replied, trying to sound strong.
“We got your back, however this goes down,” Megan assured, grabbing a hold of Christen’s other hand. “I’ve been wanting to sock Tobito in the face for over a year, so if it goes south tonight…”
Christen laughed, thankful for Megan’s attempt to lighten the conversation. But then she heard the doorbell ring downstairs and the butterflies in her stomach roared back to life.
Crystal and Megan squeezed her hands, comforting her and communicating their support.
“Let’s go party,” Christen said, giving her friends’ hands each a squeeze in return.
Christen, Megan, and Crystal made their way downstairs, winding their way through the small groups of adults Christen’s parents had invited over. They headed outside to the designated “birthday” section of the party.
The outdoor patio space was covered in market lights, with balloons and streamers hanging off of chairs, tables, and the gazebo. There were a few food tables, a make-shift dance floor under the gazebo, and a very well-stocked drinks table. Christen’s dad had decided to allow alcohol, so long as anyone who drank either crashed at the Press house that night or got rides home from their parents.
Despite the time of year, the night was unseasonably warm. The added heat from the patio heaters Christen’s dad had rented from a party company kept the temperature outside comfortable enough for the guests.
To Christen’s surprise, a lot of guests had already arrived. Some of her high school friends had shown up, a handful of their UCLA teammates who’d stuck around L.A. for the holidays or who lived in the area were there, and then some of Tyler and Channing’s friends had already shown up too. But a certain someone wasn’t there yet, at least as far as Christen could tell.
“You can relax, she’s not here yet,” Crystal whispered, handing Christen a glass of wine.
Christen took the offered drink and sipped it slowly, feeling herself follow Crystal’s instructions. She breathed deeply and slowly, trying to keep her heart rate nice and even, actually feeling like she could relax. And then Allie Long showed up.
“The party can start now, bitches!” Allie cried, walking out onto the patio.
Tobin followed shyly behind Allie, absolutely hating that Allie had called attention to their arrival. She could feel her cheeks warm up, just because there were so many eyes on her and Allie. Tobin tugged softly at her jacket, feeling uncomfortable in front of so many strangers. She stopped tugging on her jacket as soon as she caught sight of the birthday girl. Christen was still talking with Crystal, having only looked up briefly to wave at Allie, clearly not having seen Tobin behind Allie. Tobin’s mind immediately went blank. She was unable to think or move, her eyes completely stuck on Christen Press.
Christen Press was a vision. She had clearly straightened her hair, and then curled it, her shiny black curls falling loosely around her shoulders. She had on more make-up than Tobin had ever seen her wear, not that Christen needed it. Christen looked beautiful with no make-up on, but tonight, with the smokey eye shadow and the dark lipstick, it was a totally different kind of beautiful, and it had Tobin struggling to breathe. Her dress was spectacular, and she was gorgeous in it. The color, the style, the way it moved when Christen moved, it was all just so perfect. Everything about Christen tonight was perfect and Tobin felt lucky to have even gotten the chance to witness her looking so beautiful.
Tobin’s feet moved without her permission, carrying her through the throngs of people toward where Christen stood near the edge of the backyard. It was as if she had to be near Christen right now or she’d die. She barely had the presence of mind to put Christen’s gift down on the gift table before she hurried to the spot where Christen and Crystal stood.
“Happy birthday,” Tobin breathed out, hovering a few steps away from Christen and Crystal, her eyes locked on the gorgeous, green-eyed girl in front of her.
Christen couldn’t stop the smile that spread across her face at the sound of Tobin’s deep, soft voice. She turned, ready to greet Tobin...and then she caught sight of her.
“Fuck,” Christen whispered under her breath, desperately hoping no one could hear her, but knowing Crystal probably had. But she didn’t care. She didn’t care about anything else in the world when Tobin Heath was standing in front of her, looking absolutely drop-dead gorgeous in a suit. Christen bit her lip as her eyes trailed across Tobin and her choice of black-tie attire.
The crisp, white button-up was tight across Tobin’s chest and the suit jacket clung to her shoulders. The dress pants tapered at her ankle, leaving a small line of tan skin free above the black Nike shoes Tobin had chosen to wear. But what really had Christen’s heart hammering and heat pooling low in her stomach was the untied bow tie hanging around Tobin’s neck. On anyone else, it would appear careless or casual, but on Tobin, it was the epitome of sexy.
On top of everything, Tobin had chosen to wear her hair down in soft waves, the way Christen loved. Every time she saw Tobin with her hair done like that, so effortless and inviting, Christen had this desire to run her fingers through Tobin’s hair, to push it away from her face, to tuck it behind her ear.
Any and all other responses Christen could have had to Tobin were lost the moment she laid eyes on her. Tobin just looked so damn good and it made Christen so damn tongue-tied.
“I think I’m gonna go...get some water or something. Nice to see you, Tobin,” Crystal said, smirking at Christen and then at Tobin, walking away with a knowing shake of her head.
Christen and Tobin barely registered Crystal’s words or exit, their eyes locked, the rest of the world fading away.
“How’s 20 been treating you?” Tobin asked, not able to think of anything else to say.
Christen cleared her suddenly dry throat, wishing she hadn’t already finished her wine.
“Good- great- I mean, I can’t complain,” Christen stammered, hating the flustered feelings inside of her right now. “God, she looks so good. I barely survive Tobin in sweats, and now she’s here in a suit. I might not live to see 21,” Christen thought to herself.
Tobin pushed a few strands of hair behind her ear, unsure of what to say, sifting through all the things she wanted to say but knew weren’t appropriate at this stage of their friendship.
“You look beautiful,” Tobin mumbled, glancing at Christen again, her eyes traveling up and down her body.
Christen’s cheeks burned at the compliment. She fought off the urge to duck her head and break their eye contact, preferring to keep staring into those warm brown eyes as she replied.
“So do you. You clean up really nice, Tobs,” Christen said, her voice airy and light.
“It is black-tie,” Tobin grinned. “That’s why I put this on,” she said, reaching up to point to the untied bowtie around her neck.
Christen gulped, eyes falling to the undone bowtie. She shivered involuntarily as she looked back up at Tobin, pushing any and all non-PG rated thoughts from her brain.
“Do they- uh, teach you that etiquette at Penn State? Or do you come by it naturally?”
“Natural talent,” Tobin smirked. Tobin couldn’t deny that she’d noticed how Christen seemed to be affected by her appearance. She’d seen her roaming eyes and the way she bit her lip when she first saw Tobin. That of course had only served to drive Tobin crazy. Tobin had a sudden urge to pull Christen close, to hold onto her, to kiss her- “Stop. Relax,” she forced herself to take deep breaths.
“Talent or not, thanks for coming. It’s really great to see you again,” Christen hummed.
“It’s great to see you too, Chris,” Tobin agreed, keeping her eyes on Christen’s face instead of the rest of her body.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Christen asked, feeling the need to play hostess but hoping that Tobin would say no so she could stay here.
“That’s okay,” Tobin smiled, not really wanting a drink and more importantly, wanting to keep Christen by her side as long as possible. She knew that if Christen headed to the drinks table to get her a drink, she’d be stopped by multiple people before making it back to Tobin.
Christen nodded, a small smile playing on her lips. She looked around, noting that everyone else seemed to be distracted with the food, the drinks, or the dancefloor. Without letting herself second guess it, Christen reached out and grabbed Tobin’s hand in her own.
“Come on, I want to show you something.”
Tobin followed behind Christen, her heart beating faster than it ever had before and her hand tingling incessantly in Christen’s soft, thin hand. She watched as Christen’s hair moved back and forth along her back, wishing that she could just reach out and feel how smooth and soft it was.
Christen led Tobin down a hidden path at the rear of the backyard. The sounds of the party faded, the crashing waves taking over as the only thing to be heard in the night around them. Christen tried to keep her grip on Tobin’s warm hand loose and relaxed. The last thing she needed was to get an idea of what it felt like to really hold Tobin’s hand. She’d never be able to forget that if she did.
“Where are we going? Is this the part where I get murdered?” Tobin joked.
“Shh, you’ll spoil it,” Christen whispered, her voice betraying her amusement at Tobin’s question.
A few more seconds and they’d reached it: a secluded part of the beach, with a path directly from Christen’s backyard. The sand was soft and pale, falling apart under Tobin’s feet. She knew that if she’d been barefoot it would have felt smooth and cool on her feet. For a second, Tobin thought about taking her shoes off, just to feel the sand between her toes, but then she thought about having to put her shoes back on for the party and decided against it. Instead, she looked out at the ocean, admiring how the stars were bright enough to almost seem like they reflected off the water.
“Fun fact, this is one of my favorite places in the whole world. When I was little, my mom told me that this small stretch of beach was all mine, that it was made just for me. I don't know why I believed her, but I did. Even if I know better now, I still love this place. For as long as I can remember, this is where I would come to think, to escape, just to be. And I always make a trip down here for my birthday. I didn’t get a chance the other day, so I figured tonight was as good a time as any. I’ve just never brought anyone else with me before,” Christen admitted softly, her eyes fixed on the waves, her hand still loosely clinging to Tobin’s.
Tobin was practically speechless. If the scenery hadn’t taken Tobin’s breath away, Christen’s words definitely had. The waves lapped softly against the sand, immediately calming all of Tobin’s nerves that she’d felt about the night. The stars were bright in the sky, and Christen’s hand was still holding onto hers.
“I’m honored,” Tobin whispered, completely in awe.
“It was you or Pinoe, so,” Christen joked, squeezing Tobin’s hand before releasing it.
“I don’t know. Megan’s pretty cool,” Tobin said, missing Christen’s hand immediately.
Christen shook her head. “She’s not you,” she replied, her words holding a reverence that almost brought Tobin to her knees.
Tobin’s ears pounded with her increased heart rate. She could feel a soft sting behind her eyes, hinting at the possibility of good tears. Tobin looked up at the sky again for the sole purpose of keeping herself from crying on a secluded beach in front of Christen at her birthday party. She didn’t want to scare her away. She couldn’t be too serious or too emotional, not when she was only just starting to rebuild her relationship with Christen.
“I’m really, really sorry, Tobs,” Christen said quietly.
“For what?” Tobin asked, her eyebrows furrowing in genuine confusion. Christen hadn’t said anything rude that night. It was her birthday party. She shouldn’t be apologizing.
“For not being honest with you. For making it hard to be my friend. For hurting you. For a lot of things, really.”
Tobin gulped softly, feeling the stinging behind her eyes again.“I’m sorry I said all those things. It was unfair. You deserve to be happy with whoever you want, and I shouldn’t have gotten so upset just because you didn’t tell me.”
Christen turned away from the ocean, her brow furrowed. She crossed her arms in front of her chest in an effort to keep herself warm, the sea breeze causing her to shiver.
“Unfair doesn’t make something untrue,” Christen replied, her tone serious. She shivered once more, rubbing at her upper arms.
Without speaking, Tobin slipped off her jacket and wrapped it around Christen’s shoulders. The action brought them within inches of each other, something Tobin hadn’t thought through, but couldn’t find it in herself to regret.
“Thanks,” Christen whispered, her tongue poking out to wet her lips.
“Even if it was somewhat true, it was still ill-timed,” Tobin mumbled, her eyes moving down to Christen’s lips.
A flicker of white-hot desire shot through Christen at the sight of Tobin’s eyes on her lips. It would be so easy to close the space between them, to kiss Tobin like she’d wanted to for so long. But she couldn’t, not yet.
“Remember how I said I always think things through? Even to the point of detriment?”
“You said that in Orlando,” Tobin affirmed.
Christen nodded, eyes falling from Tobin’s. She reached out and brushed at the sleeve of Tobin’s shirt, wiping away a piece of fuzz.
“Yeah. I...I started to overthink things, even more this year. I made a lot of mistakes and did things that I’m not proud of. With Kate, with you. At the time I thought I was doing what was right, but now I know I wasn’t. I’m just really sorry you got caught in the crossfire of it all,” Christen hummed into the space between them, her fingers falling away from Tobin’s sleeve.
Tobin turned her head away from Christen, not wanting the green-eyed girl in front of her to see that a tear was slipping down her left cheek. She looked at the waves crashing against the shore. Tobin would have forgiven Christen without a heartfelt apology. She’d already been ready to take her back into her life, as a friend, as more than a friend, as anything that Christen wanted. Tobin knew that it was hard to set her feelings aside, but now she knew from experience that it was harder to set Christen aside, to push her out of her life. All she wanted was to pull Christen into her, to hold onto her, to make sure that she was really there on the beach with her, that she was real. Instead, Tobin took a deep breath and reached her hand up to wipe her cheek.
Christen wasn’t entirely sure what to make of Tobin’s silence. She stared at what little she could see of Tobin’s face, hoping the words she continued to say were enough to earn Tobin’s forgiveness.
“I don’t need you to say anything. I just wanted you to know how sorry I am for everything. And if it’s not too much to ask, I wanted to see if we could hit reset on this whole thing and try again?”
Tobin finally turned to face Christen, resigning herself to the fact that Christen was in fact going to see a tear or two. She couldn’t stop them. They were uncontrollably slipping from her eyes, and Tobin was helpless to regain control of them. She couldn’t even determine if they were happy tears because Christen wanted to rewind time and try again or sad tears that grieved for the two months she’d spent without Christen.
“Oh, Tobs,” Christen murmured, catching sight of the tears falling down Tobin’s cheeks. She immediately wrapped her arms around Tobin’s neck, bringing their bodies flush in a tight embrace.
“I’m sorry,” Tobin choked out, her face buried in Christen’s perfectly done hair, probably messing it up, not that Christen seemed to care much.
“No, shush, don’t you dare. This beach has seen a lot of tears. Don’t apologize for yours,” Christen cooed softly, rubbing a hand down Tobin’s back in a soothing motion.
“I want to try again,” Tobin whispered when she’d finally controlled her breathing, her cheeks still damp but now tearless.
Christen’s breath caught in her throat at the watery, choked-out words she heard from Tobin. “She wants to try again. She forgives you,” Christen thought, an overwhelming sense of relief washing over her. Her eyes burned a little at that realization, but she kept her tears at bay, knowing they both shouldn’t be sobbing messes right now. She needed to stay strong.
“I missed you, Tobs,” Christen said, tugging Tobin a little bit tighter with the admission.
“I missed you so much, Chris” Tobin sighed, breathing Christen in, just letting herself have this moment.
Christen wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that, embracing on the beach, with her hands rubbing soothing circles across Tobin’s back, with Tobin’s face buried in her neck, and Tobin’s hands gripping her waist. But the ache in her arms told her it had been a while, far too long to have stayed down here, away from her own birthday party. She slowly unfurled her arms from around Tobin and took a step back, unable to quell the sigh of disappointment as she did so.
“Best birthday beach trip ever,” Christen said with a smile. “And I hate to end it, but we should get back.”
“Yeah you’re kind of the worst hostess,” Tobin teased, finally back to her old, goofy self.
“Ouch, five minutes back as best friends and you’re already being rude to me,” Christen teased.
Tobin had to swallow down the slight disappointment when she heard the word friends. Of course, she knew that she and Christen were still just friends. One emotional apology on the beach wouldn’t change that. They still spent most of the year miles apart, Christen was not a fan of long-distance, and neither of them was ready for a relationship greater than friendship. They were still hurting and healing, still figuring out what this was. Even so, this felt like a shift from where they were before. Behind Christen’s words of friendship, there seemed to be the promise of more.
“Fun fact, this is the best birthday party I’ve ever experienced, even better than the ones my mom used to throw me as a little kid, and she once threw a pretty epic NASA party when I turned nine,” Tobin laughed, feeling an urge to grab onto Christen’s hand. She shoved her hands into her pockets instead.
“Why wasn’t that one as good? I mean, space is pretty cool.”
“You weren’t at the NASA party,” Tobin shrugged, turning to head back up the path to Christen’s backyard.
With such few words and an effortless way of saying them, Tobin had caused her heart to flutter. Tobin was the only one who ever did that to her, the only one who could make her heart race and her skin tingle and her palms ache to hold onto her. Christen felt a small sigh of relief leave her lips that they were back to a place where Tobin could say those things, and she could embrace her reaction to them, instead of ignoring it.
Christen fought off a small smile as she hurried to catch up to Tobin, looping her arm through Tobin’s as they reached the base of the secret path leading back up to the party.
“Where did you run off to?” Allie asked, accepting the glass of champagne that Tobin had picked up from the drink table.
“Christen wanted to talk,” Tobin mumbled, sipping on her own glass of champagne, her eyes flitting around the party, taking in the decorations and other people that she’d ignored upon entering the patio space and seeing Christen for the first time.
“Oh, how did that go?” Allie teased, smirking at the grin that Tobin hadn’t been able to wipe off her face since her talk with Christen.
“It was great,” Tobin said genuinely, her stomach still full of butterflies.
“What’s great?” Megan interrupted, slinging an arm across Allie’s shoulders, clearly somewhat tipsy and unbalanced on her own two feet.
“Harry and Christen’s talk,” Allie smirked.
“OOOOOHHHHH, Toby and Pressy got it on?”
“No, we didn’t. We had a conversation,” Tobin corrected, unable to stop the blush from rising in her cheeks.
Tobin heard Christen’s laugh from across the backyard and spun on her heels to look at her. Christen had walked with Tobin to get drinks before she apologized and explained that she needed to play hostess for a few minutes and talk to everyone else. Tobin had agreed, but as soon as Christen wasn’t right next to her, she felt a huge sense of loss. She’d gone to find Allie, not wanting to awkwardly stand alone, but her eyes hadn’t left Christen for more than a few minutes, traveling around the patio as Christen talked to her friends from high school or club soccer or UCLA.
“You’re so into her still,” Megan cooed, poking Tobin in the ribs.
“No shit,” Allie snorted. “Look at Harry’s heart eyes.”
“Can you guys stop it?” Tobin hissed, not wanting their voices to carry far. She and Christen had just sorted things out, and she didn’t want to ruin it.
“Hey, is Christen wearing your jacket?” Crystal asked, coming up to the group with a glass of wine in her hand.
Tobin’s face flushed again, and she suddenly wished she’d stayed alone near the drinks instead of finding her friends.
“She got cold,” Tobin mumbled.
“Whipped,” Megan coughed out, earning an elbow in her side from Crystal.
“I think it’s sweet,” Crystal sighed, reaching out to squeeze Tobin’s hand. “I’m glad you two are okay now.”
“Yeah, mopey Pressy is the worst,” Megan huffed.
“Thank god I got involved,” Allie said, flipping a strand of her hair over her shoulder.
“Seriously, dude,” Megan laughed, holding out her glass to Allie’s for a quick cheers. “Next, we have to get them to confess their actual feelings.”
“No,” Tobin said, her eyes now focusing on the three girls in front of her instead of on Christen, who was now talking to her sisters. “I appreciate everything you guys have done. I really do, but Chris and I need to figure things out on our own. No more parent trapping, no more telling us to text the other person, no more tricking us into going to the same parties. We need to figure this out without your interference.” Tobin crossed her arms over her chest, hoping they would take her seriously.
“Fine,” Crystal muttered first.
“Yeah, whatever,” Megan sighed.
“The sun has set on my time as the love guru. I will forever miss it,” Allie said, her tone dramatic as she held a hand to her chest.
“I need another drink,” Tobin groaned at Allie’s dramatics, turning around and making her way to the table. She refilled her champagne glass, enjoying the slightly floaty feeling she was already getting from her first two glasses.
“Make some room, it’s time for cake!” Tyler called out, causing Tobin to turn.
Christen’s dad carried out a large sheet cake and placed it on one of the food tables. The guests gathered around as he lit the array of candles. Tobin watched as Christen made her way to the table, a shy smile on her face.
“Happy birthday to you,” Christen’s dad began to sing, the rest of the guests jumping in and joining the birthday song.
Tobin found herself singing along, quite loudly, enjoying the way Christen’s cheeks turned pink now that she was the center of attention. Christen was scanning the crowd, almost like she wanted to make sure she looked at everyone while they sang to her, and then, she finally met Tobin’s gaze.
The singing, the people, the party itself melted away as Christen’s green eyes stayed locked with her own. They were in a world all by themselves, with Tobin singing happy birthday just to Christen. Tobin tilted her glass of champagne in Christen’s direction and smiled as she continued to sing. Christen’s blush deepened and then she looked away, her gaze traveling around the rest of the group.
“Happy birthday to youuuuu!” everyone sang, finishing off the song with a fun flourish, causing Christen to giggle. She clapped her hands together, her eyes shining, as she bent over to blow the candles out.
As she did, Christen felt her heart wish for something it shouldn’t, but she wished for it anyway. She wished for Tobin to be hers, for them to actually get a shot at being together. Maybe it was foolish or misguided or downright idiotic, but after their time on the beach tonight, Christen felt like she could wish for something like this. Like maybe it wasn’t the craziest thing in the world to ask to be with Tobin.
She smiled as all the flames went out and then stood back up. She quickly hugged her parents and her sisters and then went about passing out slices of cake to her guests.
“Go, we got this,” Stacy murmured to Christen quietly. She smiled warmly at Christen and then nodded at something over Christen’s shoulder. “Bring her a slice of cake and tell her I’d like to meet her sometime soon, okay?”
Christen blushed, not needing to turn around to know who her mom was talking about. She grabbed two pieces of cake and then spun on her heel, heading toward Tobin and the drink table. She felt her smile grow as Tobin realized she was coming and left the conversation she’d been in with two of Christen’s high school friends. She met Christen halfway between the two tables, the two of them now in the middle of the make-shift dance floor.
“One of those for me?” Tobin asked.
Christen nodded and handed Tobin the cake. “Hope you like chocolate cake,” she replied.
“Fun fact, it’s my favorite,” Tobin grinned, already scooping up a bite with her fork and popping it into her mouth.
Christen beamed and then dropped her focus to her own slice of cake. The two of them ate in comfortable silence, finishing off their slices quickly. Tobin was quick to grab Christen’s plate from her, dropping the used paper plates into the trash nearby before returning to Christen’s side.
They looked at each other for a moment, both wanting to say something, and choosing the same moment in which to do so.
“Do you want to-?” Tobin asked.
“How’s the-?” Christen started, stopping her question when she realized Tobin had asked something as well. They both chuckled.
“You go ahead,” Tobin offered, nodding toward Christen. It was her birthday after all, and chivalry wasn’t dead.
“No, please, what were you going to say?” Christen replied, shaking her head and taking a small step closer to Tobin.
“Do you want to- umm,” Tobin hesitated. She felt silly asking Christen if she wanted to open her present. For all Tobin knew Christen was the type of person to wait until after everyone had left to open gifts. She seemed like that kind of person, the kind of person who sent thank you notes to every single person after a party. She’d started to ask already though, and with Christen’s eyes on her, she didn’t feel like her brain could work quickly enough to make up a new question. “Do you want to open your present?” Tobin mumbled, feeling her cheeks blush immediately.
Christen’s stomach filled with butterflies as a smile spread across her face. Of course, Tobin had gotten her a present.
“You didn’t have to get me anything,” Christen said quietly.
“I wanted to,” Tobin said, finally able to meet Christen’s eyes again.
Christen was so caught up in Tobin’s eyes, in the emotion she could see nestled inside of them. It was a peculiar emotion, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. But whatever it was, it was one that caused her heart to beat a little faster and foolishly dream that one day there could be more between them. She was so lost in those warm brown eyes that she didn’t even register that it was almost midnight until a bunch of party guests started to verbalize the countdown.
Christen felt her heart leap into her throat. It was almost midnight, almost the moment where people celebrated the coming year with a kiss. Surely there had to be a reason why she found herself seconds away from a new year, standing inches away from Tobin Heath, with the promise of more hanging in the air between them.
Tobin couldn’t pull her eyes away from Christen’s, despite the countdown that signaled the coming of a New Year. She was completely caught in her eyes, completely overwhelmed by the way they shined in a way that only Christen's eyes could. Her eyes had been the first thing that Tobin had noticed about Christen, and no matter how much more she learned about Christen, they were still the most captivating.
Later, she’d blame it on those eyes, but deep down she knew it was all her. Tobin took a step closer, practically breathing the same air as Christen.
“Five...Four...Three,” the guests continued to yell.
Tobin couldn’t stop herself from reaching her hand out and brushing her fingers against the back of Christen’s hand. Christen was intoxicating. She was addicting, and no matter how many times Tobin reminded herself that they were only friends, she couldn’t help but listen to the small hopeful voice in her head that whispered that there was more.
“Two...One,” everyone cheered.
“It’s her birthday. Friends can celebrate on a birthday,” Tobin rationalized, linking her hand with Christen’s and relishing in the warmth there. Christen was looking at Tobin with wide eyes, her smile soft and warm and a little curious.
It was all too much. It was too much for Tobin to ignore or push down. So, instead, Tobin leaned forward, completely helpless to Christen. She felt Christen’s breath against her cheek as she moved closer, cocking her head to the side and pressing her lips against Christen’s cheek. She kissed her cheek for longer than she probably should have, completely overcome by Christen’s soft skin, by the way Christen’s breath hitched in her throat, by the way Tobin could feel Christen grin softly.
When she finally moved her lips away from Christen’s cheek, Tobin missed the warmth. She wanted to kiss her again and again and again. She wanted to rewind time just to feel her cheek against her lips one more time.
“Happy New Year, Chris,” Tobin whispered, her breath hot against Christen’s cheek and ear.
Christen sucked in a gulp of air, trying to collect herself before she could respond.
“Happy New Year.”
Christen always loved Valentine’s Day. It didn’t matter if she was single or crushing on someone or in a relationship, she still loved February 14th. Maybe it was the fact that chocolate was just everywhere, and Christen did love her some chocolate. But it probably had more to do with the fact that Christen Press was a hopeless romantic, and this was the day of the hopeless romantic. Love was in the air and there was nothing that could suck the wind from Christen’s sails today...
“We can’t make it tonight,” Megan admitted, hovering near the kitchen island.
Wind in the sails, meet Megan Rapinoe. Christen pulled the heart-shaped sugar cookies she’d spent that last hour making and baking out of the oven and glared over at Megan.
“I’m sorry, what?” she asked, putting the hot tray down on the counter and fisting her hands on her hips.
“Sue asked me to come over and attempt homemade sushi with her. You know I’m weak for sushi,” Megan explained, her tone apologetic.
“And Sue,” Kelley snorted from the couch, a heart-shaped box of chocolates now empty and resting on her stomach.
“I’m really sorry, Pressy. I was looking forward to it,” Megan groveled.
Christen had spent all week planning this evening’s festivities. She had coordinated with ARod, Lauren, Tobin, Allie, and all of her roommates. They were meant to all bake something sweet to eat and then Facetime while they watched a rom-com together.
Her perfect plans were quickly souring and Christen had to remind herself to stay calm. It was her favorite day besides Christmas, and it wasn’t going to be ruined by Megan Rapinoe ditching their plans.
“It’s fine,” Christen replied, fixing a smile on her face. “At least I’ve still got Kel and Crys.”
Kelley hopped off the couch, a sheepish and distressed look on her face. “About that…”
Christen sighed, knowing that tone. Kelley wasn’t staying in tonight either. At least she still had -
Crystal hurried down the steps, hopping into heels and grabbing her keys off the counter.
“Cute boy from French class?” Megan asked, a grin on her face.
“Finally!” Crystal cheered. She looked to Christen with an apologetic grimace. “I’m so sorry, sweetie, he just asked if I wanted to go out and -”
Christen held up her hands in defeat. Crystal was leaving her too, and now she’d be home all alone with two dozen sugar cookies.
“You still have Allie, Lauren, ARod, and Tobin,” Megan shrugged, snatching one of Christen’s cookies off of the baking sheet.
Crystal flinched, having to be the bearer of more bad news.
“Actually Allie’s out too. Bati’s good friends with the cute boy from French class, so we’re doubling,” Crystal admitted quietly.
Christen groaned and hopped onto the counter. “What is this, ditch Christen day?”
“No, it’s Valentine’s Day,” Kelley mumbled sarcastically, her mouth stuffed with one of Christen’s cookies.
“One of your favorite days, so don’t let this get you down! At least Tobin will definitely show up,” Crystal added with a wink, sliding on her jacket as the doorbell rang. “Gotta go, love you guys!”
Megan and Kelley left quickly after that, and then Christen was all alone. She got into her comfiest pajamas, skulking back downstairs with her computer under her arm. She left her computer open on the coffee table in the living room and went to go grab a few sugar cookies to help her feel better.
The tell-tale Facetime ringtone sounded and Christen felt her heart skip a beat.
INCOMING FACETIME CALL: Tobin Heath
Christen flopped onto the couch, the plate of cookies in her hand, and answered the call.
“You’re early,” Christen said, taking a large bite of the cookie, her eyes immediately taking in the image of Tobin Heath on her computer screen.
“Hello to you too,” Tobin laughed. “Coach let us leave practice early. Where are your roommates?”
Christen grumbled and aggressively bit off another piece of cookie.
“Dead to me,” Christen replied. “Also, hi,” she added, a sheepish smile on her face. She didn’t need to be taking out her frustrations on Tobin, especially when the Penn State forward looked so cute, with her glasses on her nose and a snapback on her head, almost drowning in the oversized sweatshirt that she wore.
“You killed them?” Tobin teased, aware that Christen was frustrated and wanting to make her laugh.
“I am taking a ‘How to bury a body’ class this semester, so I was well prepared for today,” Christen quipped, her tone teasing.
“I’ve never met this side of you. Who knew that Scary Chris would make an appearance on V-Day of all days,” Tobin grinned, finding Christen’s frustration with her roommates actually adorable.
Christen forced herself to take a deep breath. She closed her eyes and tilted her face to the ceiling. She took another deep breath, then one more, feeling her irritations melt away. She opened her eyes and shot Tobin an apologetic smile.
“I was just really excited to all be together, watching cheesy movies and eating way too many cookies,” Christen admitted.
“I brought cookies,” Tobin said, making sure that Christen knew she’d followed the plan.
“Slice and bake. They have hearts on them,” Tobin mumbled. “I kind of burned the second batch, but the first one is good.”
Christen shook her head, laughing at Tobin’s reply. That was another thing she’d learned about Tobin Heath: the girl always managed to burn the second batch of anything. It was insanely endearing.
“That is your M.O. in the kitchen,” Christen replied with a smile.
“Remember when I tried to make cinnamon rolls for ARod’s birthday and set the timer for 20 hours instead of 20 minutes?” Tobin asked, still laughing even though it had been months since ARod’s birthday.
Christen laughed, easier and more freely now. Her prior disappointments were gone, and it was all thanks to Tobin.
“I do, you’ve never trusted an oven timer since. Speaking of ARod, where is she? And Lauren too?” Christen wondered, checking her watch and seeing that it was almost 5:30 PM.
“They left practice the same time I did. Lauren said she’d text me when they got back to their apartment, but apparently, they wanted to stop and get carry-out first,” Tobin said, still completely believing that her friends would show up, even if they were a little late.
Christen shrugged, grabbing the TV remote. “While we wait we can pick a movie. I’m thinking -”
“You’re thinking... The Mighty Ducks?” Tobin suggested, a hopeful smile on her face
“Since when has that been a romcom? Isn’t it just about some kids who play hockey?” Christen asked, wrinkling her nose at Tobin’s suggestion.
“Ummm Coach Bombay and Charlie’s mom kiss,” Tobin defended.
“Who’s Coach Bombay?”
“CHRISTEN PRESS!” Tobin gasped. “Have you never seen The Mighty Ducks?”
Christen’s cheeks flamed and she stuck a cookie in her mouth instead of responding. She knew that movie was one of Tobin’s favorites, but she just couldn’t convince herself to sit down and watch it.
“I know what we’re doing when I come back home in March,” Tobin sighed, shoving a cookie into her own mouth and grinning at Christen.
Christen shook her head, pointing at the computer screen with her half-eaten cookie. “I am not spending my spring break anywhere that’s not the beach.”
“Even if I ask you reeaaaally nicely?” Tobin teased, her voice already somewhat flirty.
Christen pretended to think about it, eating her cookie slowly. “I don’t know...that’s a big ask…”
“Chris, I’ll do anything you want if you just come over and watch that movie with me on one night of your spring break. We don’t even have to watch the second or third movies,” Tobin promised, knowing that the first movie was by far the best.
“Anything I want?” Christen wondered, feeling her cheeks flush. That was a dangerous thing to throw out there, and Christen was having trouble keeping her thoughts out of the gutter. She cleared her throat, wishing she had some water.
“Even…” Christen trailed off, trying to match Tobin’s flirtiness, not wanting to be left behind but not wanting to surpass it either. Thinking of something, Christen smirked. “Try a super kale, green smoothie?”
“For you?” Tobin gagged. “I’ll try it.” She put on a brave face, smirking at Christen’s happy reaction.
Christen pumped her fists in the air in celebration. “You’ve got yourself a deal. Now, the Ducks might not be on the table tonight, but how about Imagine Me & You or She’s the Man?”
“I literally just watched She’s the Man with Lindsey the other day,” Tobin laughed.
“So good, though,” Christen replied, smiling as she attempted her best Amanda Bynes impression. “'And when my eyes are closed I see you for what you truly are...'”
“‘Which is uuuugly,’” Tobin quoted, her smile mirroring Christen’s. “It is really good. What’s the other movie?”
“Imagine Me & You? It is a classic, Tobs! A florist falls in love with the bride of the wedding she’s hired to work. It’s corny and cliche, but it’s such a feel-good!”
“You mean two women-loving-women are in a movie and they both get to live happily ever after?” Tobin teased.
Christen laughed, queuing up the movie and then looking back down at Tobin on the computer screen. She could see the playful glint in Tobin’s eyes and it made the butterflies in her stomach flutter.
“Happily ever after and then some,” Christen replied. “It makes my hopeless romantic heart happy.”
“That’s what The Mighty Ducks does for me,” Tobin quipped, knowing that Christen would shove against her shoulder or poke her in the arm if they were in person.
Christen rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t help the smile that seemed to be permanently fixed on her face.
“It’s on Netflix if you want to get it set up,” Christen replied. She checked her watch again, seeing that it was past the agreed-upon start time for the night. Her brow furrowed as she looked up at Tobin. “Do you think they got caught up with something? Should we wait for them?”
“I have no idea,” Tobin mumbled, checking her phone for any missed text messages. “Why don’t we just go ahead without them. They can catch up,” Tobin said, having received no text messages.
Tobin grabbed her TV remote and turned on the TV, scrolling to Netflix and selecting Imagine Me & You.
Christen’s finger hovered over the play button, her eyes drifting back to the computer screen.
“Ready? One,” Christen said, starting their count.
“Two,” Tobin chirped, a small smile tugging at her lips.
“Three,” Christen murmured, pressing play at the same time as Tobin.
This movie was definitely one of Christen’s favorites, and she knew almost every line by heart. So instead of watching it with the same level of focus that she normally did, Christen allowed herself to watch Tobin watching it.
Christen loved the way that Tobin’s eyes lit up when the two women flirted over the punch bowl during the wedding reception. She adored the way Tobin’s breathy chuckle filled the air around her after a particularly funny line from the Mother character. It wasn’t until about halfway through the movie that Tobin finally spoke, ignoring her slice and bake cookies to look over at Christen.
“Pause?” she asked, her brows knit together like she was thinking super hard.
Christen agreed, the two of them pausing their movies at the same time.
“What’s up, Tobs?”
“I can see why you love this movie. It’s pretty good. But, I’m calling B.S. on that line. “ The lily means, ‘I dare you to love me.’” No way does the lily actually mean that. It’s just some cheesy thing the writer came up with and assumed nobody would fact-check her on,” Tobin said, arms crossed over her chest.
This expression of skepticism was probably one of the most adorable things Christen had ever witnessed. She was about to reply, to defend the movie and its writer, but then she had a better idea. She brightened and jumped to her feet, leaving a confused Tobin in her wake. She scrambled upstairs, headed for her bookshelf. She grabbed the small book off the shelf, the one with the white spine and the flowers on the cover, and sprinted back downstairs. She held the book up to the screen with a smile.
“I know one way we could know for sure,” Christen said, already flipping through the pages to find the lily. “Someone’s birthday gift is the gift that keeps on giving.”
Tobin couldn’t help the blush that spread across her cheeks. Christen had already thanked her for the book and the bouquet of dahlias multiple times over the phone, not actually having gotten the time to open the gift in person after their New Year’s Eve countdown kiss. Tobin had been somewhat nervous about the present, wanting Christen to love it. So, each time that Christen brought it up or read a page aloud for Tobin, it made swarms of butterflies take flight in her stomach and chest and throat.
Christen found the page describing the hidden meaning behind the lily and grinned. “Hate to break it to you, Tobs, but that’s what the lily means.”
“Did you ever look and see what the dahlia means?”
Christen blushed, running a hand through her hair as she set the book aside.
“I didn’t have much of a choice, the page was clearly bookmarked for me,” Christen replied, remembering the birthday card that Tobin had stuck between the pages, drawing her attention to the meaning of the dahlia before anything else.
“You know it’s a pretty appropriate favorite flower for you then, right?” Tobin grinned, remembering the dahlia’s meaning that she’d read about in the bookstore.
“I didn’t choose it for its meaning. I just thought it was pretty,” Christen said in reply.
“But the meaning is so perfect for you,” Tobin sighed. “Elegance, inner strength…” Tobin trailed off, suddenly feeling shy about complimenting Christen.
Christen chuckled, trying to keep her nerves at bay. “I’ll take your word for it, Tobs,” she said. Realizing something, she added, “What’s your favorite flower? I don’t think I know it.”
“I have no idea,” Tobin shrugged.
“Come on, everyone has a favorite,” Christen teased. She grabbed ahold of the book and added, “I can tell you what it means?”
“Whole-wheat flour is pretty good,” Tobin joked.
With a shake of her head, all Christen could do was laugh. Tobin was such a dork but never failed to make her smile or laugh or forget about all her other worries.
“I got some flowers once from my dad when I signed my letter of intent to play at Penn State,” Tobin said, searching her brain for the name of the type of flowers and coming up empty. “I don’t know what kind of flower they were.”
“What did they look like?” Christen queried, flipping through the pages of the book, intent on helping Tobin find her favorite flower.
“Like miniature sunflowers,” Tobin laughed, knowing the description was awful. “I think it started with a G…” Tobin trailed off. “Gerber- Gerb- Garb- Maybe?”
“Oh!” Christen exclaimed, turning to the “G” section. “I know those, Gerbera daisies. They symbolize beauty, happiness, and purity,” Christen said, reading from the book with a smile. All three of those sounded like Tobin Heath to her.
“Yeah, those are cool,” Tobin sighed, leaning back against her bed and grabbing another cookie.
“Now I know what to get you for your birthday,” Christen replied with a smile, setting the book aside and grabbing the remote again. “Wanna go back to the movie?
“Sure,” Tobin agreed, picking up her remote. She couldn’t help the way her heart sped up at the thought of spending her next birthday with Christen. She’d make sure it was better than her last one had been.
They watched the rest of the movie in comfortable silence, Christen still paying more attention to Tobin than she should. As that movie finished and they decided to watch another, Christen couldn’t find it in herself to be upset that everyone else had ditched them. This had turned out to be a pretty perfect Valentine’s Day.