Second, third, and hundredth chances
Balancin' on breaking branches
Those eyes add insult to injury
I think I've seen this film before
And I didn't like the ending
I'm not your problem anymore
So who am I offending now?
(Tobin - “exile” by Taylor Swift feat. Bon Iver)
All this time
We always walked a very thin line
You didn't even hear me out
You never gave a warning sign
All this time
I never learned to read your mind
I couldn't turn things around
‘Cause you never gave a warning sign
(Christen - “exile” by Taylor Swift feat. Bon Iver)
Christen felt her breath catch in her throat when she heard the lock turn in the door.
“Here goes nothing. You got this,” Christen told herself, straightening her shoulders and fixing a hesitant smile on her face.
But then the door swung open to reveal a very tired-looking Cindy Heath. Christen’s brow furrowed in confusion for a second before she fixed the smile back on her face.
“Hi, Mrs. Heath!” Christen said, hoping her disappointment at not seeing Tobin wasn’t too obvious.
Cindy merely attempted a smile, the exhaustion behind her eyes immediately alarming Christen.
“Is Tobin here?” Christen asked, nervously fidgeting with her hands. “We’ve got the Arsenal game tonight and I was kind of hoping she’d want to-”
The rest of Christen’s question died on her lips when she heard yelling from inside the house.
“Tobin, stop!” Tobin’s dad, Jeff, hollered.
Christen’s eyes widened in surprise as she tried to look past Cindy, not really able to see much. She’d never heard Tobin’s dad speak in that tone before. Every time she had come over to hang out or for movie night, he was always such a gentle, kind guy.
And then she heard Tobin’s voice, her entire body freezing at the strained, distant sound of her words.
“It’s fine, Dad,” Tobin mumbled softly, trying to sound calm.
“I can do it, Tobin!” Jeff yelled.
“Stop! You’re going to hurt yourself,” Tobin said, her voice growing louder.
“THEN I HURT MYSELF!” Jeff screamed.
“DAMN IT, DAD!” Tobin shouted, her voice reaching a higher pitch than normal.
Christen turned her alarmed and confused gaze to Cindy, her question clear in her eyes. But Cindy simply shut her eyes and let out a long, tired breath. Now, Christen was really lost. She had clearly stumbled upon something big, something serious. She didn’t know the details, but something beyond just a parent-child conflict was going on inside the Heath house.
Suddenly, a loud crash came from inside, followed by Tobin’s distinguishable footsteps. Christen took a half-step forward, her desire to help immediate and instinctual. But Cindy pivoted and blocked Christen from entering the house, causing Christen’s heart to clench, her stomach to drop.
“I’m sorry. I’m fine,” Jeff grumbled, “I can do it myself.”
“Fine! Let me know when you want my help. I’ll just fucking sit here,” Tobin huffed.
There was so much hurt, so much resignation in Tobin’s voice, it reminded Christen of the heartbreak she’d heard in Tobin’s voice in Portland. The heartbreak and pain and distance she’d caused. But this pain was different, more haggard and pinched. It was raw and endless and full of shame. It made Christen’s own heart break just a little hearing it in Tobin’s words, in her voice. She’d never wanted to take Tobin into her arms more than she did right now. She just wanted to hold her, and hold her, and hold her, until the pain and the shame went away and Tobin’s goofy, happy self came back.
Christen looked back to Cindy and tried to catch her eye, completely unsure as to what was going on inside that house but not wanting to leave, not when Tobin sounded so distressed and at her wit’s end. She didn’t want to leave knowing Tobin didn’t sound okay.
“Mrs. Heath, I-”
“I don’t think now is the best time for a soccer game, honey,” Cindy replied, her voice soft and sad, her eyes apologizing for everything Christen had just heard and for everything she was about to say. “I can reimburse you for the tickets, or you can still go and take someone else. I’m sorry, honey.”
Christen wasn’t going down without a fight, her curiosity and desire to help getting the better of her. She didn’t want to turn around and leave, because she knew once she did, she might not get a chance like this again.
“I understand that something’s going on, but Tob-”
“Tobin is fine,” Cindy hummed, knowing that she was lying as soon as the words left her mouth.
Only then did Christen talk a half-step back from the door. Tobin wasn’t fine, that was clear as day in just the few words Christen had heard. Tobin wasn’t fine and Cindy was lying about it for some reason. Tobin wasn’t fine and there was nothing Christen could do about it, Cindy was making that clear.
“Is she really?” Christen asked quietly.
“Why don’t you try to call her some other time? Set up a movie night or something? I’m sure she’d like that,” Cindy said, ignoring Christen’s question and pulling the door closer to her body to block whatever was going on inside the house.
“It’s fine. Mom hated that vase anyway,” Tobin sighed. Christen could hear glass moving across the floor, clearly, someone was cleaning up whatever broke.
“Can you tell her to call me? I’ve tried getting a hold of her and-” Christen paused, not needing to unload all of that on a clearly distressed Cindy. “Can you just tell her? Please?” she added, her eyes pleading with Cindy.
Christen was no clearer on what was going on, she still had no clue as to what the Heath household was going through, but she wanted to. She wanted to be there for Tobin, she wanted to help. She just wanted Tobin to want her there too.
“Of course, sweetheart,” Cindy nodded. “It would be good for her to get some space from here, anyway, and spend some time with her friends.”
Christen nodded and then took another step back. “Thank you. My family and I are here if you need anything. Anything at all. I hope you know that.”
“That’s very sweet, Christen. You’re very sweet to stop by,” Cindy said, her voice somewhat wobbly.
“Of course. Please tell her I’m here. To call me. Good night, Mrs. Heath,” Christen murmured, turning on her heel and walking away from the front door that was already closing behind her.
Let me go, I don't need you to wipe my tears
Don't you know I'm only tryin' to disappear?
Don't wanna be young and sad another day longer
Don't wanna feel numb or mad until I go under
And I know that you only want me to be happy
But I still feel lonely tonight
Don't wanna be young and sad another day longer
(Tobin - “Young & Sad” by Noah Cyrus)
Tobin rolled over in her bed, sleeping in for the first time since her dad’s accident. She couldn’t really call it sleeping, though. She didn’t sleep much anymore. She would typically jerk up in bed, scared of her dreams, and pad down the stairs to glance at her dad’s sleeping form, just to make sure he was there.
Mainly, she spent her nights thinking about how much better she’d sleep in Christen’s arms. Then, of course, she’d feel guilty about thinking about that in the first place. She’d been in Christen’s arms when her dad had gotten hurt. She hadn’t been with him, and there was no reprieve from the guilt that gnawed on her chest.
Not only that, but Christen didn’t love her back. She wouldn’t want to hold her through all this. At least, that’s what Tobin would try to tell herself. Then, her brain would replay the words that she’d heard at the front door, “Please tell her I’m here, to call me.” She’d looked at Christen’s number in her phone every day since she’d come to her front door. She’d nearly pressed call a countless number of times, but Tobin couldn’t bring herself to call. She’d missed so much already. She’d ignored Christen. She’d missed the Arsenal game. Christen was probably angry and hurt, rightfully so, since Tobin had let her hurt feelings get in the way of being a good friend.
In all honesty, though, Tobin couldn’t even think about being a good friend when she felt like she couldn’t leave the house without someone or something combusting. Aside from the few texts she’d sent Allie, she hadn’t spoken to anyone. ARod and Lauren were likely pissed off with her too for going radio silent, and she probably wouldn’t have texted Allie, but Allie had been the most persistent, even calling Jeff, Perry, and the house phone. If she hadn’t been spending most of her summer out of town, Tobin was certain that she would have climbed through her bedroom window to interrogate her.
“Hey, bud?” Tobin’s dad huffed out, breathing heavily from outside her bedroom door.
“Dad!” Tobin jerked up in surprise. “What are you doing upstairs?”
“I decided to challenge the stairs today. It’s part of my physical therapy homework.”
“I thought you said physical therapy was bullshit?” Tobin asked, still wary of her dad’s mood swings and temper as of late.
“That was pretty negative of me, wasn’t it?” Jeff whispered, her face sheepish.
“Yeah,” Tobin nodded. “PT does suck, though.”
“Can I come in?” Jeff asked, pointing to Tobin’s bed.
“Of course,” Tobin nodded. She hated the tension between the two of them. She and her dad had been so close her entire life. She didn’t like the new way they acted around each other, walking on eggshells, acting like the other person was fragile, a stranger.
“I’m sorry…” Tobin’s dad whispered once he was seated on Tobin’s bed.
“You don’t need to be-”
“Yes, I do. I know that I can’t always control the mood swings. It’s a part of my brain being broken right now-”
“Your brain isn’t broken,” Tobin said, “It’s healing.”
“I’m sorry that you’ve gotten so much of the bad side effects of all of this. You don’t deserve all the frustration and anger that I’ve shown,” Jeff replied, looking up at Tobin and offering a soft smile, one of the first Tobin had seen since the accident.
That smile made it feel like she was getting her dad back. It didn’t fix things, it didn’t change them either, but it was a start. “I love you,” Tobin whispered.
“I love you too, bud,” Jeff said, pulling Tobin into a hug and kissing the top of her head.
“How are you feeling?” Tobin asked.
“I feel better after PT, and a couple of nights ago I went to my first therapy appointment, which was even better than PT, honestly. I got to voice a lot of frustrations, things I don’t want to say to you or your brother or your mom.”
“I’m glad,” Tobin said, completely unaware that her dad was seeing a therapist for the mood swings.
“So...your mom and I’ve been talking,” Tobin’s dad began, scratching the back of his neck like he always did when mentioning something he wasn’t sure about broaching.
“Uh oh,” Tobin teased, knowing that her parents rationalized being terrible gossips by saying that you can’t keep secrets from your spouse.
“She told me that Christen visited the house and asked you to call, over a week ago.”
Tobin’s heart jumped in her throat at the mention of Christen. Her entire body ached for her, and it was becoming harder and harder to rationalize why aching for her was so bad.
“Yeah, Mom told me that,” Tobin whispered, picking at a loose thread on her bedspread.
“What’s going on with you two? Before camp, you were blushing and nervous to go over to her house. I remember that huge pile of clothes on your bed before the barbecue,” Jeff teased.
Tobin looked up at her dad, unable to keep her emotions as in check as she could with her brother and mom. Her throat constricted, the threat of tears looming.
“She- she didn’t want me back,” Tobin whispered. “Not the way I wanted her.”
“How do you know that?” Tobin’s dad asked, reaching out to hold onto Tobin’s hand.
“I told her. At camp, I told her that I’m falling in love with her, and I totally freaked her out,” Tobin choked out, one tear finally slipping down her cheek.
“Did she say she doesn’t love you back?” Jeff asked, wiping the tear off of Tobin’s face.
“She hardly said anything at all. She only said she wasn’t expecting love.”
“Well that doesn’t mean she doesn’t care for you,” Jeff said, squeezing Tobin’s knee softly, something he’d done since she was a kid when it had felt ticklish and made her laugh.
Tobin shook her head. “You didn’t see her face. She looked absolutely terrified. She looked like she regretted-” Tobin cut herself off, not knowing if she wanted to talk to her dad about kissing Christen.
“Regretted what?” Jeff asked, bracing himself for whatever Tobin was about to say.
“We kissed, and it looked like she regretted everything after I told her how I felt,” Tobin muttered.
“Did you ask her if she did?” Tobin’s dad asked. Off the small shake of Tobin’s head, Jeff pressed on. “Have you tried to ask her recently?”
“I’ve been so busy and caught up in everything here, and I’m just feeling so hurt, that I’ve been ignoring her,” Tobin admitted, her guilt making her limbs feel heavy, making her heart ache and her head pound.
Jeff hummed, processing the information.
“I don’t know if I can face her,” Tobin continued. “Being around her would hurt so much right now. I need to get over her, and I don’t know if that’ll ever happen.” A few more tears slid from Tobin’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, bud. Love sucks,” Jeff replied, squeezing Tobin’s knee again.
Love did more than suck. Love hurt, love burned, love bruised. It struck a match, its beautiful flame one of hope, only to extinguish the flame seconds later. It tossed you out to sea without a life raft. It sent you off to war without a weapon. It sent you into the deepest, darkest maze with no map, no way out. Love had left Tobin empty and beaten down and broken. It left her choking on her guilt, filled to the brim with regret.
“It’s the worst,” Tobin whispered, wiping at her eyes and nose with the sleeve of her sweatshirt.
Jeff cleared his throat, shooting a quick look at Tobin out of the corner of his eye. “I- I mean, we- your mom and I, we think you need to get some space from here for a little bit. Maybe you can spend a weekend with Allie. You need to get out of this house some. Mom and I will be fine without you.”
“But you weren’t,” Tobin replied forcefully.
“I will be fine here,” Jeff said, turning toward Tobin and gripping her chin gently, trying to get her to look at him. “I promise.”
“You can’t promise that.”
“And you can’t worry about this. In August, you’ll be back in Pennsylvania and you won’t have time to worry about me when you’re back with your friends and teammates,” Jeff said, trying to get Tobin to smile, at least about school and soccer.
“I’m not going back there,” Tobin sighed, pulling away from her dad and pushing her hair away from her face.
“Like hell, you aren’t,” Jeff nearly snorted.
“No, I’m not going that far away. I’m staying home. I already talked to Coach Parlow about taking a semester or the year off and coming back after everything here is back to normal,” Tobin said, her voice steady, her mind made up.
“Tobin, you didn’t even talk to us about this.”
“I’ve made up my mind,” Tobin replied, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Why?” Jeff asked, looking at his daughter with worried eyes.
“I wasn’t there,” Tobin mumbled.
“I wasn’t there, and I should have been. So I’m gonna be here now. You can’t change my mind.” Tobin pushed the covers off her legs and walked across the hall and toward the bathroom, not waiting for her dad to argue with her about anything.
She wasn’t about to let her family out of her sight and fly all the way to Pennsylvania. If anything happened to them while she was off at school, she would never forgive herself.
I get up early and talk to the sun
I ask her for guidance but she ain't got none
How am I supposed to know you're not the one?
I'm begging to the mirror 'cause I can't find an answer
Too busy falling apart and I wonder if you're moving on
If you are, what's your secret?
'Cause I can't work out where to start
Is your bedroom ceiling bored like mine
Of you staring at it all the time
'Cause it's seen so many nights while I cry and I yell at the sky
For not telling you how I feel
(Christen - “Bedroom Ceiling” by Sody)
Christen drove shot after shot into the back of the net, but instead of the pride or excitement she usually felt, she just felt empty.
Being on the soccer field just didn’t feel right anymore. This was another place Tobin had invaded, another place Tobin had become intimately entangled with. It didn’t feel the same, to run around the field and kick the ball around without Tobin by her side. Without Tobin, playing the sport she had loved all her life didn’t feel the same anymore.
Christen had been coming to the field every day for the past two weeks, ever since showing up at Tobin’s house. There was a part of her that wondered if maybe Tobin would show up here at some point since this was their training spot. Another part of her wondered if she was starting to lose it.
She’d frequented all of their spots around town these past few weeks, the soccer field, the beach, the smoothie place. Every time she went anywhere, her eyes would immediately look for Tobin, for those soft brunette waves or that messy bun. But every time, she was disappointed. She was getting pretty used to the feeling.
Tobin hadn’t called. She didn’t know why she expected anything to have changed. She still sent nightly texts, hoping one of these days Tobin would reply. She reiterated her offers to be there for her, her desire to apologize and make things right. But still nothing from Tobin, no texts or calls.
Christen sent a hard shot into the upper ninety of the goal and then sank to her knees, frustrated tears blurring her vision.
If Tobin loved her, if she was falling in love with her, why didn’t she trust Christen to be there for her? Why didn’t she reach out? Why didn’t she let Christen be her lighthouse in the storm? If Tobin loved her, why was it so easy for Tobin to ignore her? To leave her? To disappear?
Christen had tormented herself with questions like that since Portland. Nothing she did, no amount of mani-pedis with Channing and Tyler, no amount of Facetimes with Crystal and Megan who knew something was wrong but didn’t push, no amount of family outings to the movies or the beach or even to Disneyland, banished those questions from her mind.
“Maybe she won’t talk to you because the last thing you did was pull away from her,” a small voice echoed through Christen’s mind, sending guilt shooting through her. She rolled onto her back and looked up at the sky, the early morning hues of purple and pink looking far too happy for how she was feeling right now.
For all Tobin knew, Christen didn’t return her feelings. Because of her knee-jerk reaction, because she’d been momentarily ruled by fear, Tobin might think she didn’t have feelings for her at all. But that wasn’t the case, Christen only needed a chance to tell Tobin that. But she didn’t want to text her or leave it in a voicemail, Tobin deserved better than that. Tobin deserved an epic romance, and that all started with Christen being brave enough to come clean about her feelings.
Christen just needed a chance to be brave. She just needed Tobin to return her calls. She just needed Tobin to give her a moment to explain.
“Is that how one of the most talented strikers in the U.S. recovers from training? By looking up at the clouds?”
Christen sat up, her eyes widening in surprise at the sound of Crystal’s voice. She looked over and saw her best friend standing there, two smoothies and a paper bag in her hand, and a soft expression on her face.
Tears sprang to Christen’s eyes again. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed Crystal, how much she’d needed her best friend, until right now.
“Oh my God, you’re here,” Christen choked out, getting to her feet and hurrying over to Crystal. She pulled Crystal in for a sweaty hug, feeling Crystal hug her back as well as she could with her hands full.
“Mama Press called me and told me my BFF was in a crisis. I meant to make it here weeks ago, but-”
“You’re here now,” Christen said softly, pulling back to smile at Crystal. “That’s what counts.”
Crystal returned Christen’s smile and then fixed Christen with an appraising look. She took in the sadness in Christen’s smile, the missing light from her eyes, and the general look of exhaustion on her face.
“Oh, Press, this really did a number on you didn’t it?” Crystal asked gently, rubbing her hand over Christen’s arm.
Christen dropped her gaze to the ground, pulling her lower lip between her teeth. She knew Crystal had been dying for answers, for over a month now. But just like with her mom, with everyone, Christen had trouble talking about what happened. There were so many unanswered questions, so many open wounds, it was almost too painful. But as the sun slowly rose in the distance and brought with it the dawn of a new day, Christen decided to once again share her pain.
She told Crystal everything, over a post-training snack of green smoothies and scones. She told Crystal all about camp, about the kiss, about Tobin telling her that she was falling in love. She told Crystal about Tobin’s sudden departure and her radio silence. She ended with the night she’d gone over to Tobin’s house, feeling exhausted once she’d reached the end of it all.
“So, yeah. That’s what I’ve been up to, how are you, Crys?” Christen said, her voice cracking as she tried to infuse pep into her words but failed miserably.
Crystal chuckled a bit and wrapped her arm around Christen’s shoulder, giving Christen a squeeze.
“That’s a lot, Christen. I’m so sorry you’ve been going through that without really knowing why.”
Christen shrugged, “I just don’t know what else to do.”
“Well, lucky for us, we happen to know someone who is super nosy and usually has the answers when it comes to the enigma that is Tobin Heath. Someone who is already back at Casa Press waiting for us,” Crystal replied.
Christen brightened and looked at her best friend, feeling a little ridiculous for not having thought of this sooner.
Crystal grinned and stood up from the grass. “Allie freaking Long. Who was also uber pissed to be woken up at the crack of dawn this morning.”
Not only was Allie pissed, but she wasn’t alone. Christen’s mom had pulled out all the stops, managing to get Megan to come down for the weekend as well. She’d invited everyone over under the guise of a “girls BBQ weekend”, but it was really for Christen, to get her surrounded by her friends and her support system. Stacy might also have known that Allie Long was close with Tobin and her parents and hoped that she could kick start something.
After catching up all morning and helping Christen’s family prepare for the barbecue later in the day, the four teammates migrated upstairs to Christen’s room.
“So let me get this not-so-straight,” Megan said from her spot on the beanbag in the corner of the room. She was sitting crisscross applesauce, her face oddly serious as she looked over at Christen, who sat in the middle of her bed.
“Tobito kisses you, says she loves you, then proceeds to disappear off the face of the Earth, except she is actually just a few blocks away but refuses to talk to you?” Megan clarified, her eyebrow arched.
Christen grimaced. “You’re forgetting about the part where I freaked out and told her I wasn’t expecting love.”
“That is a bit brutal, C.P.,” Allie commented, rifling around Christen’s closet, pulling out random shirts or jackets she liked, and holding them up to herself in front of the mirror.
“I was scared!” Christen defended. “I’ve never had somebody tell me they love me before.”
Crystal got up from her spot at Christen’s desk and crossed the room, joining Christen on the bed.
“Nobody’s blaming you, Christen. Right, Al?” Crystal asked, narrowing her eyes in the direction of Christen’s closet.
“Chill, Dunn. I’m not blaming her, I just think it’s a weird reaction when it’s obvious that Christen loves Harry back,” Allie replied, pulling on one of Christen’s jackets.
Christen’s face flushed and she dropped her eyes to the pillow she had in her lap. Her fingers played with the sheet on top of the pillow, unwilling to look at anyone in the room. She still hadn’t untangled that mess of feelings in her heart, the ones that felt like they could be love. She’d been so busy missing Tobin and worrying about Tobin, so busy feeling guilty and sad and hurt. But she’d untangle them soon, she’d have to.
“Love makes you do crazy things,” Megan commented with a shrug. “Even run away.”
Crystal seemed to sense Christen’s distress at all this talk of love and placed a comforting hand on her knee.
“Focus up, ladies? The problem here is Tobin, not the feelings Christen might or might not have for her,” Crystal said, looking between Megan and Allie, squeezing Christen’s knee again.
Megan and Allie got the hint and both joined Crystal and Christen on the bed. Allie lounged across the foot of the bed, and Megan propped her legs on Crystal’s lap.
“When was the last time you heard from Tobito?” Megan asked, shooting a half-smile at Christen, trying to communicate her support.
“Portland, but I know she’s home because I heard her and her dad yelling at each other when I tried to stop by a few weeks ago,” Christen replied, holding the pillow tightly to her chest.
“That is so weird, Papa Jeff never yells,” Allie commented.
“I thought so too,” Christen nodded. “But Cindy didn’t seem to want me to come in.”
“Has anyone else heard from her?” Crystal asked, looking around their group and focusing on one in particular.
Allie could feel the eyes on her, not just Crystal’s but Megan’s too, and she huffed. “Stop looking at me like I’m the enemy, freshies.”
“We’re juniors now,” Megan grumbled.
“You’ll always be freshies to me,” Allie quipped. She looked back to Christen and softened. “I promise I haven’t talked to her on the phone or anything, I’ve just gotten a few texts. But now that I know what’s been going on while I was summer-ing in Europe, you best believe I’m going to get some answers.”
Christen sighed in relief, smiling a little at Allie. “Thanks, Al. If anyone can get through to her...it’s you.” Christen felt her heart clench painfully in her chest as the words left her mouth. It used to be her that could get through to Tobin. She used to be Tobin’s person, and Tobin was hers. She wondered if they’d ever go back to a time when that was the case again.
I bet you think I either moved on or hate you
‘Cause each time you reach out, there’s no reply
I bet it never, ever occurred to you
That I can’t say hello to you
And risk another goodbye
And I just want to tell you
It takes everything in me not to call you
And I wish I could run to you
And I hope you know that
Every time I don’t
I almost do, I almost do
Oh, we made quite a mess, babe
It’s probably better off this way
And I confess, babe
In my dreams, you’re touching my face
And asking me if I want to try again with you
And I almost do
(Tobin - “I Almost Do” by Taylor Swift)
Tobin’s parents were already asleep, her dad finally able to reliably climb the stairs and sleep in his room with Cindy. Jeff was playing Xbox in the basement, his yelling too loud to play upstairs after people went to bed. Tobin had played Fifa with him for most of the night, but she’d bailed after losing for the second time and yawning for the seventh. She wanted to sleep.
She’d changed into a ratty t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts. She’d turned all of her bedroom lights off and tried to comfortably lie down in her bed. After a failed hour of trying to sleep, Tobin had even done a facemask that Perry had left behind.
But like every night since camp, though, sleep was evasive. Like every night since camp, Tobin thought about Christen. She wanted to text her, even going so far as writing out exactly what she wanted to say on a note in her phone, but she always chickened out.
I know that I don’t deserve your time, and if you don’t want to read this, I understand. I haven’t been a good friend. I disappeared without telling you, and I’m sure I hurt your feelings. If the roles were reversed, I’d be hurt that you left. I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean to scare you. Maybe honesty wasn’t the best policy in that situation. Maybe I should have been more in tune with how you were feeling. I should have known that you didn’t want more than friendship. I should have reminded myself that you weren’t interested in a long-distance relationship, that you liked being best friends and didn’t want more.
Knowing how I made you feel, knowing that I scared you and that I’m hurting you keeps me up at night. I wish I could fix it. I want to tell you everything. I want to tell you what’s going on here, why I’ve been missing, but I honestly think it would hurt you more to be here, to know what’s going on. You’re such a sensitive person. That’s one of the things I like most about you. You’d try to do too much, and you deserve to be worry-free and carefree. I was so selfish before, with you and with my family. I have to be here for them, and I have to let you go. I don’t want to put you in a situation you don’t want to be in, and I know that if I asked you to be here, I’d only fall more in love with you. I just need some time. I promise that I can be your friend again, but right now, I have to stop loving you, and it’s not something I can just turn off, even if I wish I could. I’m sorry. I-
She hadn’t finished her thoughts. They were too rambly, too serious, too emotional. It would freak Christen out. She couldn’t send the note. Instead, she spent her sleepless nights editing it and trashing it and rewriting it, knowing she’d only delete it the next day.
“Christen said she didn’t expect love. She didn’t feel the same way. You’ll torture yourself if you pull her back in before you’re completely over her. It’s selfish of you to bring her into this situation.” Tobin rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and rolled over in her bed to face the wall. She tried to sleep, tried to push Christen from her mind, but it was impossible.
There wasn’t a minute of her day that she didn’t think of Christen, that she didn’t see Christen’s horrified face from that night in Portland. There wasn’t a moment that Tobin could forget about how perfect Christen’s lips had felt on her own, how lost she’d felt as soon as Christen had stepped out of the room. She wasn’t over Christen, and she was starting to worry that she’d ever be over her. But either way, she couldn’t bring Christen back into her life. She couldn’t beg Christen to be there for her, not without completely torturing herself.
“What kind of a friend are you? Christen needs you to be a friend, and you’re too selfish to be there for her. Your feelings aren’t more important than hers,” Tobin’s thoughts rolled through her brain, sometimes self-pitying, sometimes self-hating, always about the green-eyed girl and the night of her dad’s accident. All she wanted to do was turn her thoughts off. All she wanted to do was sleep, but she couldn’t, and the throbbing in her head and the burning behind her eyes every day were reminders of all that she’d done wrong.
A loud noise made Tobin turn around, tangling her legs in her bedsheets.
“The party can officially start,” Allie, groaned, her waist folded over the window ledge.
“Jesus, Harry!” Tobin hissed. “You scared the shit out of me!”
“Good to see you too, Harry! Sure, I’d love a hand getting into your room, thanks,” Allie sassed, reaching a hand out to Tobin.
Tobin got out of bed and pulled Allie into her room.
“This was a lot easier when I was fifteen,” Allie sighed, turning around to look out the window at the tree she’d always used to scale Tobin’s house.
“What are you doing here?” Tobin asked, crossing her arms, a defensive reaction, knowing that Allie was about to give her shit for cutting everyone off.
“I was on vacation this summer, so I was out of the loop when it came to you. I thought you were too busy loving Christen or in one of your weird ‘I lost my phone’ phases. I didn’t realize that you were being a dick to everyone and shutting people out,” Allie snapped, putting her hands on her hips.
Tobin flinched at Christen’s name and Allie’s accusations. She wasn’t wrong. Tobin had cut everyone out. ARod and Lauren were furious with her, and Christen probably hated her. Christen probably wanted nothing to do with her. Tobin’s eyes burned, the pressure that had been building in her head since the accident feeling monumental, like it would explode any minute.
“Harry?” Allie said, her voice softening at the look in Tobin’s eyes.
Tobin blinked softly, a couple of tears slipping down her cheeks. She reached up and wiped them away, sucking in whatever emotions were threatening to spill out. She didn’t want to sob in front of Allie.
“I fucked up,” Tobin whispered, her voice breaking.
“Yeah, no shit. Why?”
“I told her how I felt,” Tobin said, sitting down on the edge of her bed.
“Yeah, you said you were falling in love with her,” Allie said.
“How do you know that?”
“I was at Christen’s today,” Allie admitted, shrugging and climbing into Tobin’s bed, her shoes still on.
“How is she?” Tobin asked, hating that she still wanted to know, hating that just hearing her name made Tobin’s stomach flip with nerves and excitement still.
“That’s the funny thing about cell phones, if you used yours, you would know how C.P.’s doing,” Allie retorted. “But since you refuse to...she’s not doing well, Harry. Still fucking gorgeous as always, but a total gorgeous mess. And she misses you.”
“I can’t drag her into all of this,” Tobin sighed, running a hand through her hair.
“Can’t or won’t?”
“She said she wasn’t expecting love,” Tobin muttered, keeping her voice from wobbling too much. “If I brought her into all of this, not only would it stress her out completely because she’s amazing and empathetic, but I’d fall more in love with her, and she doesn’t feel the same way.” Tobin felt the burning behind her eyes again and blinked away the warning signs of tears.
“Yeah, well you’re both idiots. Are you seriously hiding out because Christen was scared and ran away?” Allie asked, reaching out to poke Tobin softly in the shoulder.
“I had some family stuff,” Tobin sighed, knowing that Allie wouldn’t let her avoid explaining everything.
“What family stuff?”
Tobin told Allie everything, starting with how well camp went with Christen and how close they’d gotten. She told her about the amazing birthday celebration Christen had given her, about the soccer game birthday present that she’d skipped going to. She told her about how her dad had offered to drive her home early with Jeff and how she’d said no, wanting to spend more time with Christen. She stuttered through a few sentences about the accident and the hospital, about her dad’s symptoms after the coma and his mood swings that were getting better but still causing arguments in the house. She finished by telling Allie that she couldn’t be selfish and think about anyone outside of her family, that she was taking time off of school to help out at home.
“Harry, why didn’t you call me?”
“I needed to be here. I didn’t have time for friends,” Tobin sighed.
“I could have helped,” Allie argued, hating that Tobin hadn’t let her in. “You let me text you and talk about Bati and my family vacation and never mentioned anything. What the hell!”
“It was so chaotic here. What was I supposed to say?” Tobin asked, knowing her argument was futile. She should have called. “I didn’t want to burden anyone else.”
“Do you not get that we love you?” Allie huffed. “We want to be here for you, whether you need it or not.”
“I’m sorry,” Tobin sighed, looking down at her hands.
“Also...You’re telling me Cindy and Jeff are totally cool with you bumming around here and not going to school?” Allie asked, her eyebrow quirked.
“They aren’t thrilled,” Tobin mumbled. “You haven’t seen my dad, though. He’s so angry. He’s so frustrated. He still has trouble eating with silverware and buttoning his shirts, and when he can’t do something, he totally lashes out. I just...I can’t leave him. The last time I wasn’t with him, he-”
“That wasn’t your fault,” Allie said, grabbing onto one of Tobin’s hands.
“It was my game he came to see,” Tobin argued.
Allie watched Tobin’s fingers fidget with the comforter. Her eyes raked over Tobin’s face, taking in the dark circles under her eyes and her cheeks that looked thinner than usual.
“We’re getting ice cream,” Allie said, standing up and dragging Tobin by the arm.
“It’s late,” Tobin grunted.
“Dairy Queen is open late,” Allie asserted. “Go leave Cindy and Jeff a note or something. You can sleepover at mine if you want, but we need Harry time, and I’m not taking no for an answer.”
“Fine,” Tobin sighed, grabbing a pair of jeans, some sneakers, and her favorite orange beanie and walking into the bathroom to change.
Give me 'til twenty-three, I need another year for this
Trying to teach my common sense to not waiver with my confidence
Traded my soul to free my mind, car mix to help me pass the time
Can I go back to being blind?
Asked myself why one too many times
I know it wasn't your plan, to just be the one to hurt me
My thoughts versus my feelings, my thoughts on you hit the ceiling
But my feelings aren't a real thing
If I feel things I don't really discern
(Christen - “My Thoughts on You” by The Band CAMINO)
Christen kept checking her phone, unable to pay attention to anything else. She’d sent a good night text to Tobin right as Allie left to go ambush her, which was over forty minutes ago. Surely, Allie had gotten there by now and convinced Tobin to talk to her.
“You look like you need this more than I do,” Megan grunted, handing Christen a cider and dropping into the lawn chair by Christen’s side.
Until now, Christen had been sitting alone in front of the fire pit, bundled in their- Tobin’s sweatshirt, lost in her own head. But now Megan had joined her, and she knew her family and Crystal wouldn’t be far behind.
“Who’s ready to roast and toast?” Channing cheered, carrying sticks and a bag of marshmallows over, followed closely by Crystal who held a box of graham crackers, Stacy who carried far too many chocolate bars, and Cody who had his arms full of cans of cider.
Christen mustered a small smile, trying not to bring the general mood down. She took a long sip of cider and hoped the alcohol would dull the nerves running through her at full speed.
After toasting a few marshmallows, singing a few campfire songs, and drinking a few more ciders, Stacy and Cody retired for the night, encouraging the girls to stay by the fire as late as they wanted to.
Christen could feel a slight buzz running through her as she leaned back and looked at the starry sky overhead. Channing and Crystal were deep in a conversation about the latest Bachelor candidate and Megan had slipped out to call Sue before bed. So, Christen found herself alone, like she usually did nowadays.
It was weird how used to a person you could get. Like their presence suddenly became normal, became routine, became something you expected and relied upon. Christen had foolishly and recklessly gotten used to having Tobin Heath in her life, and with her now gone, it was like a part of Christen was missing. A part of her had been missing since she left Portland.
Christen’s phone buzzing on the arm of the lawn chair drew her attention. Her heart leaped into her throat at the sound. This could be Tobin, this could be Tobin finally texting her back.
Christen quickly abandoned her almost empty can of cider and grabbed her phone. She deflated when she saw that it was only Allie. Once again, she’d foolishly gotten her hopes up. She’d foolishly believed that Tobin would be ready to talk to her, to let her in.
[Allie Long 10:23PM]
ATTACHMENT: 1 IMAGE
Christen squinted at the blurry picture, not entirely sure what Allie had meant to send her. But then she recognized the orange beanie and felt her whole body freeze. It was Tobin. This was a picture of Tobin, walking to Allie’s car, her shoulders slumped and her face withdrawn.
“She’s still so beautiful,” Christen thought, which immediately made the cracks in her heart worsen and the tears that always seemed right below the surface to bubble up. It had been over five weeks since she’d laid eyes on Tobin Heath, but here she was, looking radiant and gorgeous and sexy in a blurry, poorly-lit picture sent to her by Allie Long.
[Allie Long 10:24PM]
Christen smirked a little at the message and then looked harder at the picture. That was when she noticed Tobin’s phone was in her hand, illuminated.
Seeing Tobin’s phone, functioning and in her possession was like a sucker punch to the gut. Sure, Christen knew Tobin had to be ignoring her. Sure, Christen knew Tobin had probably read every text and listened to every voicemail. But it was one thing to think about it, and hold out hope in her heart that maybe Tobin had just lost her cell phone or something. It was another thing entirely to see the evidence that Tobin had been blatantly ignoring her for over a month. The silence between them was no longer just painful, it was now dripping with intention too.
Christen felt bile rise up in her throat as she continued to look down at the picture of Tobin, wondering if she even wanted to hear from someone who so clearly wanted nothing to do with her.
'Cause I can change my mind each day
I didn't mean to try you on
But I still know your birthday
And your mother's favorite song
I run away when things are good
And never really understood
The way you laid your eyes on me
In ways that no one ever could
And so it seems I broke your heart
(Tobin - “Sorry” by Halsey)
“This isn’t a Dairy Queen,” Tobin sighed when Allie stopped her car in the nearly empty parking lot.
“It’s better than a Dairy Queen!” Allie cheered, taking the keys out of the ignition and stepping out of the car.
“I don’t want to be here,” Tobin groaned, stepping out of the car and looking at the neon sign reading ‘Daryl’s Queen.’
“You need a little liquid courage and a little loosening up, Harry. You’re all tense, and honestly getting drunk and letting out some emotions will probably do you some good,” Allie chirped, locking the car and pulling Tobin into the dive bar behind her.
“I hate this!” Tobin shouted when they entered the bar, a one-man Def Leppard cover band set up and shouting into a mic in the corner of the room.
“You’ll be too drunk to know that soon,” Allie said, wrapping her arm over Tobin’s shoulder. “We want shots!” Allie called to the bartender.
Tobin gulped, remembering the last time she’d done shots and the way Christen’s tongue had felt against her neck. It had been even better in Portland.
“Take it,” Allie demanded, handing Tobin a shot glass filled with tequila.
“I don’t want tequila,” Tobin argued, not wanting to taste it again, not without Christen.
“Fine, I’ll get you some gin.”
Tobin blanched at the mention of gin but took the shot without complaint. Allie was all smiles and jokes, and honestly, Tobin had missed it. She’d missed being around someone who was just happy.
“We’re gonna do a few of these, and then I want to get one of their fishbowls,” Allie announced, pushing Tobin toward an empty table and walking back to the bar to get more shots.
“So, how are you gonna make C.P. happy again?” Allie asked, another shot down and two more in front of each of them.
“I have to learn to be her friend again, I guess,” Tobin sighed, hating the way the word friend sounded coming out of her mouth.
“Dude, she doesn’t want to be your friend. She wants to be under you,” Allie snorted.
“I can’t just have meaningless sex with her. You know how I feel about her.”
“Who said anything about meaningless?” Allie asked, cocking her head to the side.
“She doesn’t feel the same way. I don’t want sex to be one-sided. I don’t want it to be making love for me and just...fucking for her,” Tobin sighed, tipping a third shot into her mouth, already feeling looser and more relaxed.
“You’re so dumb. She totally loves you. She’s just a scaredy-cat and freaked out for a second.”
“She hasn’t said that!” Tobin shouted over the chorus of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
“You haven’t talked to her to even know what she has to say!” Allie argued.
Tobin didn’t really have a response to her. She hadn’t talked to her. Guilt rushed through her body, chewing on her insides and making her chest tight. She couldn’t talk to Christen when she had no idea where to start or what to say. She was embarrassed and scared and hurt by everything that had happened with Christen, and she didn’t know how to even start a conversation. She didn’t know how she could possibly be Christen’s friend, not when she wanted her so much.
“I just need to get over it,” Tobin said, looking at her fourth shot and not at Allie.
“You need to text her and put her out of her misery,” Allie said, clinking glasses with Tobin and tossing the shot back. “And yours.”
“I’m not going to text her,” Tobin argued. “I’ll apologize when this is all over, but I have to get over her first and move on. I’m not dragging her into all the Heath family drama.”
“I’ll ask you again after the fishbowl!” Allie said, jerking up from the table, knocking over a few of the empty shot glasses as she went, and skipping to the bar.
Tobin looked down at her phone, opening the text messages she’d received from Christen. Her latest was only from an hour ago.
[Christen Press 10:03PM]
Good night #35. I hope you’re doing okay. Allie’s back in town. Maybe you’ll get to see her soon. I miss you.
“Fishbowl, time!” Allie cheered, carrying a large bowl of some sort of alcohol dyed blue and filled with ice and fruit.
“I hate it here,” Tobin thought, taking a straw from Allie’s hand and sipping from the bowl.
Baby, why'd you go away?
I'm still your girl
Holding on too tight
Head up in the clouds
Heaven only knows
Where you are now
How do I love
How do I love again?
How do I trust
How do I trust again?
I stay up all night
Tell myself I'm alright
Baby, you're just harder to see than most
I put the record on
Wait 'til I hear our song
Every night I'm dancing with your ghost
(Tobin & Christen - “Dancing With Your Ghost” by Sasha Sloan)
Tobin tripped over Allie’s front porch step, using Allie’s key to unlock the door.
“Thank you!” Allie shouted to their Uber driver, Nigel.
“Harry, be quiet,” Tobin slurred, pushing the door open but struggling to get the key out of the lock.
“He was cuuuute,” Allie sighed, pulling the key out of the lock and throwing her shoes off at the door.
“So is Bati,” Tobin said, looking at Allie’s glazed-over eyes.
“That’s why I didn’t give him my number, Harry,” Allie whispered, winking over her shoulder and climbing up the stairs to her room.
“Can I raid your fridge?” Tobin asked.
“Sure, come up when you’re tired or crash on the couch. Whatever.”
Tobin filled a glass of water and grabbed Oreos from Allie’s pantry, opting to sit on the couch to eat. She felt floaty, the room spinning slightly. All she could think about was Christen and their night at the bar in L.A. All she could see were Christen’s eyes, staring into hers in Portland. She’d been strong since camp, not messaging Christen or pulling her into all the drama. She hadn’t been inebriated since before camp, though, and she was finding it harder and harder to resist sending a message or calling her on the phone. The fishbowl had ruined any logical or rational thoughts she had. She stared at the message from that night.
[Christen Press 10:03PM]
Good night #35. I hope you’re doing okay. Allie’s back in town. Maybe you’ll get to see her soon. I miss you.
Suddenly, all her reservations, all her willpower, just completely flew out the window, and her fingers moved without hesitation or thought.
[Tobin Heath 12:32AM]
I miss you.
Christen felt her phone vibrate on the couch next to her, but she didn’t bother to look at it right away. She was casually scrolling through the channels, the TV volume turned down low so it wouldn’t wake up Crystal or Megan who were both passed out on the couch on either side of her.
Her phone vibrated again two minutes later, reminding her of the notification, just as she landed on Imagine Me & You. The movie was about halfway done. She hadn’t watched it since Valentine’s Day, not since she’d shown it to Tobin. The reminder sent icicles of pain shooting through her chest. She couldn’t bear to look at the screen for another moment. She picked up her phone and nearly gasped aloud.
It was a text message. Her first one in five weeks. From none other than Tobin Heath. The notification sat there on her home screen, begging her to open it. She’d been waiting so long for this, so long to hear back from Tobin, that now that the moment was here, she almost didn’t know how to feel. She wasn’t exactly excited and she wasn’t scared either. She just didn’t know.
“I miss you.”
Three words, eight letters, each one sending a dagger into Christen’s heart. Tobin missed her. It had taken over a month to get here, but Tobin missed her too. For a moment, all Christen felt was relief. Relief at no longer shouting into the void, relief at knowing that Tobin missed her. But then came the confusion, the frustration, the hurt. After all this time and that was all she was going to say? No explanation? Nothing to justify her radio silence and her treatment of Christen?
Christen blew out a long breath, wishing her hands weren’t shaking so much so she could actually type out a response.
[Christen Press 12:38AM]
It’s been a while. Are you okay?
[Tobin Heath 12:39AM]
I’m okay...I know I’ve been a dick. Harry told me that, not that I needed her to.
[Christen Press 12:39AM]
Why were you? I’ve called and texted you every day since camp.
[Tobin Heath 12:39AM]
There was a lot going on at home. I didn’t want to drag you into it.
Christen scoffed and looked up from her phone. A lot going on at home? She already knew that. She’d tried to come over and see Tobin. She’d been trying all summer and Tobin had been distant and quiet and, in her words, a dick. And now that they were in communication again, Tobin was just going to give her some vague explanation and think that was enough?
[Christen Press 12:40AM]
I’m sure there’s more to it than that. I tried stopping by, remember? I know there’s stuff going on.
[Tobin Heath 12:40AM]
I couldn’t come to the door. My dad wasn’t doing well. I’m sorry.
[Christen Press 12:40AM]
Are you sorry for disappearing or are you sorry Allie finally made you feel bad about it?
Tobin shoved an Oreo in her mouth, blocking whatever groan or sigh of frustration that was going to come out of her mouth. Allie didn’t have to make her feel bad for anything. Tobin was doing that just fine on her own. She hated that Christen felt so far away, and she hated that it was all her own fault. She felt herself sobering, despite the fuzziness of the room and the pounding in her head. There were things she needed to say, and she wanted Christen to know them.
[Tobin Heath 12:41AM]
Allie didn’t have to make me feel bad about it. I already felt horrible. I’ve been feeling guilty since my last night at camp with you.
[Christen Press 12:41AM]
Is that why you ignored me all summer? Guilt?
[Tobin Heath 12:42AM]
I didn’t want to drag you into what was happening at home, and I needed to be home. I still need to be at home. I can’t be selfish. My family has to come first.
Christen felt her brows furrow. There Tobin went again, sending her cryptic and vague messages. Her proclivity for half-truths hadn’t gone away, it seemed.
What gave Christen pause was the word selfish. How could Tobin talking to her be considered selfish? How would that take Tobin away from her family? And why did Tobin's use of the word only further drive the wedge of guilt deeper into her own stomach? Why did Tobin being selfish make her feel terrible for pushing, for asking, for bothering?
[Christen Press 12:43AM]
I would never ask to come before your family.
[Tobin Heath 12:44AM]
That’s not what I meant. I know you wouldn’t. I didn’t want to burden you with anything. You’re so good and kind and wonderful, and I knew you’d want to help, but you didn’t need to waste your time doing that. I already messed up our friendship by opening my stupid mouth and saying stupid things. I didn’t need to ruin the rest of your summer too.
Tobin hurried to send the message, not wanting Christen to feel bad or at fault for anything. This whole situation was Tobin’s fault. She took a deep breath, hoping that Christen could understand what she was saying, hoping that she wasn’t talking in circles.
[Christen Press 12:46AM]
You never say what I expect you to.
Tobin cringed, remembering how Christen had used that word before, how she’d told Tobin she hadn’t expected love.
[Tobin Heath 12:46AM]
What were you expecting?
Christen ran a hand through her curls, her fingers snagging on a few knots. She frustratedly tugged at them as her eyes tracked over the words of Tobin’s replies. Tobin had called her good, had called her wonderful and kind. She was so casually complimenting her like nothing at all had happened between them. Like she hadn’t just given Christen the cold shoulder for the whole summer.
And on top of all that, Tobin had the audacity to imply regret. That she felt guilty for saying what she said in Portland. “Does that mean she didn’t mean it? Is she taking it back?” Christen wondered, not really knowing if she wanted the answers to those questions. She didn’t think her heart could take it.
So instead of dwelling on those painful worries, Christen let her frustration dictate her response. That emotion was safer than whatever was building inside of her chest.
[Christen Press 12:46AM]
I expected...I don’t know what I expected. Not you saying I’m a good person, that’s for sure. You just spent five weeks convincing me I wasn’t. That I wasn’t good enough to respond to. That I wasn’t good enough to have around.
Tobin’s chest tightened. Her eyes watered at Christen’s message. Of course, she’d hurt her. It seemed that no matter what Tobin had chosen to do in this situation, she would have hurt herself or Christen. Clearly, she’d gone the selfish route again and hurt Christen. She just wanted to take it away. She wanted to take away Christen’s pain in any way she could, so she tried to be selfless. She set aside her own feelings for Christen and typed out a lie. She wrote what she thought Christen wanted to hear.
[Tobin Heath 12:48AM]
I’m so sorry, Chris.
[Tobin Heath 12:48AM]
You’re the best person I know. I’m sorry I made you feel like you aren’t. I didn’t mean to ruin things. If I could take back the last 5 weeks I would. If I could take back what I said in Portland I would. I wish Portland had never happened.
Each word was like a slap to the face. The worry that had been building inside her chest was now exploding. Christen slapped a hand over her mouth to silence the sob she knew was moments from coming out of it.
“Tobin regrets it. She takes it back. She doesn’t love you.”
Christen stood up from the couch quickly, catching her shin on the coffee table, but not even feeling the pain. She hurried up the stairs, her tears burning her eyes as she ran into her bedroom and slammed the door shut.
“Tobin regrets it. She takes it back. She doesn’t love you.”
Only once the door was shut did she let the first choked sob escape from her. Christen collapsed onto her bed, burying her face into a pillow as tears leaked from her eyes.
If she had thought silence from Tobin was bad, this was so much worse. At least with the silence, she could have hope. She could hope that with enough time and patience and persistence, she would get through to Tobin and be able to explain why she’d done what she’d done and said what she’d said in Portland. With enough time, she could have hope for them and their future. But now Tobin had broken the silence and shattered her heart in the process.
Christen felt her phone vibrate on the bed and she didn’t want to look. She didn’t want any more barbed words full of regrets and takebacks. She just wanted to cry. But she couldn’t curb her curiosity, she had to know what else Tobin was saying, what other things she regretted.
[Tobin Heath 12:52AM]
Chris? I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have shut you out. I understand if you’re really mad. You can be mad. You have every right to be.
Through her tears, with shaky breaths and trembling hands, Christen typed out a response.
[Christen Press 12:53AM]
You don’t get to tell me how I get to feel. First you disappear and now you regret everything. Well good for you, Tobin. I’m not just mad anymore, I’m done.
“Fuck,” Tobin muttered, scrolling through her messages to see where things had gone so terribly terribly wrong. She couldn’t process what had set off Christen’s response. Her brain was moving so slow and so fast all at once, and the room was spinning.
[Tobin Heath 12:53AM]
I don’t understand what just happened...I didn’t mean to try and tell you how to feel. Don’t you want me to regret it?
Despite the tears that continued to flow down her cheeks, Christen barked out a broken laugh. Now Tobin worried about what she wanted? Not five weeks ago, not five days ago, now. She’d spent all summer wanting to hear from Tobin, wanting to be there for her, wanting her. But now? Now Christen felt hollowed out and empty and like she’d never want anything ever again. When you wanted something, you risked disappointment and rejection. When you wanted something, something with your entire being and soul and self, you put your heart on the line and risked it all. And when you did something like that, your heart could end up broken.
[Christen Press 12:54AM]
I wanted you to be there when I woke up in the morning in Portland. I wanted to talk to you and explain my side of things. But you were gone and then you were really gone. And I get that something happened with your family, but I didn’t hear from you for five weeks. Five weeks, Tobin. I don’t even know what the fuck we are anymore, but people who care? They don’t do that to each other.
Tobin wiped her face with her hand. She didn’t want to tell Christen the whole story. It had been hard enough to tell Allie, and Christen meant more to her. She didn’t want Christen pitying her or coming over to help and seeing how messed up everything was, how eating dinner every night turned into an argument between her parents. She didn’t want Christen to know that her dad yelled at her when she tried to help him put a shirt and tie on in the morning. She didn’t want Christen to see that her mom’s normally immaculate house was a complete mess. She didn’t want Christen to come around and be her perfect self and make Tobin fall harder and hurt more.
She started typing on her phone, trying to find the perfect thing to say, something to make Christen feel better but not reveal too much.
[Christen Press 12:54AM]
You know what? You’ve said and done enough. You can’t take something like this back.
Tobin’s heart stopped in her chest. Her throat tightened, and her hands went cold. Without knowing it, Christen had said the exact same words from her nightmare in Portland. Only this time, the words were real, and Christen wouldn’t wake her up and wrap her in her arms so they could fall asleep together.
Tobin had completely screwed everything up, and Christen was leaving. Tobin couldn’t find anything to say. Even if she did, she had a feeling Christen had turned her phone off or tossed it across the room. There was nothing left to say. She couldn’t take anything back.