I like where we are
When we drive, in your car
I like where we are, here
'Cause our lips can touch
And our cheeks can brush
Our lips can touch, here
Well, you are the one, the one that lies close to me
Whispers "Hello, I've missed you quite terribly"
I fell in love, in love with you suddenly
Now there's no place else I could be but here in your arms
(Tobin - “Here (In Your Arms)” by Hellogoodbye)
You're just another recovering heart
I wasn't even gonna try
You wouldn't even give it time
Could be so easy, you make it hard
Don't think about it all too much
My love is gonna be enough
Give me just a little of your love
Oh, with a little strength baby
Oh, I'll never let you down
With a little love, a little love, a little love, a little love
(Christen - “Little of Your Love” by HAIM)
Christen swung their clasped hands between them, her chest light and her heart happy. She looked over at Tobin, at the relaxed, easy smile on her face, and she felt her stomach flutter with nerves. Today was the big scavenger hunt day. Even if they’d already established that they were officially girlfriends, even if they hadn’t stopped using the word since Friday night, Christen still had a very romantic plan to follow. But first, they had to officially announce it to their teammates, no drunken, jealous outbursts this time.
“I could always just stand up on a chair and announce it to everyone...since I basically did that Friday but no one remembers because they were all too wasted?” Christen asked.
Tobin squeezed Christen’s hand, her smile growing a little more. “I don’t think the freshmen have forgotten. Mal texted me yesterday to congratulate me,” Tobin teased.
Christen giggled, pulling Tobin toward the locker room door. “A text? Kel, Pinoe, and Crystal baked me a cake.”
“And you didn’t invite me over?” Tobin gasped.
“You were busy with Harry time, and it wasn’t chocolate, so you wouldn’t have liked it. The best part was the decorations,” Christen replied with a smile.
“Did it have icing?” Tobin asked, turning her head to look at Christen.
“Lots of it. And written on top was, ‘Congrats you won’t die alone now’ and then they drew some stick figures that were supposed to be us, in a very...interesting position,” Christen laughed at the memory. The cake wasn’t that good, and neither was the decorating job, but she loved her friends for the sentiment behind the cake anyway.
“I love icing,” Tobin sighed, holding the door open for Christen when they got to the locker room. “Wait, what position?” Tobin whispered, trailing behind Christen.
Christen just shook her head, her cheeks filling with a slight blush. “I’ll show you later,” she winked, grabbing ahold of Tobin’s hand and leading her into the room where the rest of their teammates were.
“HEY EVERYBODY! It’s my favorite couple!” Mal yelled from her spot on one of the benches.
Christen blushed and rolled her eyes, sticking close by Tobin’s side now that everyone was staring at them.
Ashlyn let out a long wolf whistle, grinning at Tobin, having been invited to ‘Harry time’ the day before.
"YAS HARRY AND C.P.! ICONS!" Allie called out.
Tobin just shrugged, pulling her bag off her shoulder, feigning nonchalance despite the fact that her heart was so happy it could burst. "Yes, we're together. So everyone can stop being weird now, thanks," Tobin announced, kissing the back of Christen’s hand before letting it go to sit in front of her locker.
Christen smiled at the whoops and cheers from their teammates as she drifted over to her locker. She was thankful for the music that continued to play through the locker room speakers. Without it, she was sure she and Tobin would have been bombarded with questions. She looked down the line of lockers toward Tobin’s, already finding Tobin’s eyes on her. Christen winked and smiled, knowing her cheeks were red and that she had major heart eyes, but she didn’t care.
Tobin stuck out her tongue, making a funny face to soothe any awkwardness that Christen might be feeling in the locker room with all of their teammates who now knew about them.
Christen giggled and blew Tobin a quick kiss before turning to dig around in her locker for her cleats.
“Bleh, you guys are disgustingly sweet,” Megan groaned, dropping down next to Christen.
“We know,” Christen grinned.
“You’re like really happy, though,” Crystal hummed, smiling down at her friend.
Christen nodded. She was happier than she ever had been. Her stomach was full of butterflies and her heart full of love and it had everything to do with the fact that Tobin Heath was officially her girlfriend and everyone was finally in the loop.
“Don’t mess it up, Tobito!” Megan yelled, making Tobin turn her head quickly in their direction, her baby hairs floating out of her ponytail.
Tobin hadn’t actually heard the beginning of their conversation, too far down the line of lockers and too intent on double knotting her cleats.
“What am I messing up?” Tobin asked, searching Megan’s face for the answer.
“Hopefully nothing!” Crystal replied with a small smile.
Tobin shot them a thumbs up before bending back down to tie her left cleat.
“So you guys are going to make sure everyone clears out quickly after practice, right?” Christen lowered her voice, looking between Crystal and Megan.
“Yes, everyone is joining us for a team lunch, but if Coach catches any funny business in here, you’re both totally screwed, so whatever you’re planning...keep it like PG-13 max,” Megan said, her face twisting into a grossed-out expression.
“It’s completely G-rated, Pinoe,” Christen replied with a small laugh.
“Christen is being romantic,” Crystal said, squeezing Christen’s shoulders and shaking her slightly.
“Years of watching romcoms is finally going to pay off,” Christen grinned, wishing practice was already over so she could get their day started.
“As long as she’s being romantic too,” Megan said, glancing at Tobin and Allie laughing further down the bench.
Christen blushed, thinking about how Tobin had brought her pancakes in bed yesterday morning, how Tobin always met her after Psych class with a coffee or a smoothie in hand, how Tobin would sometimes carry her soccer bag or school backpack if they were walking together, how Tobin never failed to open doors or pull out chairs for her when they were together. Tobin Heath was very romantic, and she was just hoping she could keep up.
“Trust me, she is,” Christen replied with a small smile.
“Ew, don’t say it like that,” Megan said, reading Christen’s tone as something entirely different.
Tobin was lying down in the grass, her face soaking up as much sun as possible. Her teammate’s voices were fading away as they made their way into the locker room, but Tobin just needed a minute. She was still catching her breath after finishing practice with sprints. She had only slept a few hours the night before, and practice had felt brutal. She’d felt sluggish and weak, and Foudy had definitely noticed that she’d been slower than she typically was. Her water bottle was near her feet, but she felt too exhausted to even sit up to take a sip of water. Instead, she just pushed the sweat off her forehead and closed her eyes. She was able to get a few more deep breaths past her lips before a stream of water hit her forehead.
Tobin’s eyes flew open, water dripping down her face as she jerked up into a seated position.
“Hey!” Tobin sputtered, some of the water dripping over her mouth.
Christen laughed as she collapsed down next to Tobin, looking over at her gorgeously sweaty and taxed girlfriend, who was now also covered in water.
“You looked like you needed a little cooling off,” Christen hummed.
“You’re way too composed after sprints. That’s your worst quality, just so you know,” Tobin huffed, falling back onto her elbows.
With a laugh, Christen held out the water bottle to Tobin, seeing that she was still breathing a little hard.
“I’m sure you’ll find others. Here, drink up,” Christen replied. “I didn’t dump it all on you.”
“Thanks,” Tobin mumbled, taking the water bottle from Christen and sucking down some gulps of water. She took a few deep breaths before catching sight of Christen in her peripheral vision. Without turning her head to look at her girlfriend, Tobin turned the water bottle in her hand and gave it a small squeeze, sending a stream of water toward Christen’s face.
Christen squealed, wiping at the water running down the side of her face. “Really, Tobs?!”
“You started this. Sort of like the flour at my parents’ house,” Tobin teased. She put the water bottle beside her, as far away from Christen as possible. She’d lost the flour battle, and she wasn’t about to make the same mistake with the water bottle.
“Touché,” Christen replied with a breathy laugh.
Tobin rolled toward Christen, kissing her shoulder lightly and smiling softly against her skin.
Christen looked over at Tobin, smiling down at where Tobin was still pressing her lips against her shoulder.
“You recovered enough to walk back to the LR?” Christen asked, extremely ready to get this day with Tobin started.
“Recovered?” Tobin scoffed. “I was just enjoying the sunshine. I’m ready when you are.”
Christen hopped to her feet and held her hand out for Tobin to take.
“We are showering before this, right?” Tobin asked, pushing her sweaty baby hairs back again and cringing at just how wet her hair was.
Christen nodded and helped Tobin to her feet, then bent down to get their water bottles. “Of course, I’m so gross and sweaty after that super easy sprint workout we just did,” Christen quipped, falling into step with Tobin as they walked off the field.
“We could save water…shower together...” Tobin trailed off, leaning over to kiss Christen’s cheek before skipping toward the locker room with a huge smirk on her face.
Christen groaned, having to remind herself of Megan’s words. If Coach caught them...there would be hell to pay. She followed behind Tobin, enjoying the palpable pep in her step that she could see.
Tobin was already under the stream of water when Christen got to the locker room, her practice gear discarded on the floor and a new change of clothes sitting on the bench outside of the shower, something she’d slowly started doing again after Megan and Kelley swore to not steal her clothes again. She was humming softly, enjoying the warm water and the empty locker room.
Christen dropped her cleats and shinguards into her locker. She looked around the empty room and was surprised Megan and Crystal had managed to get everyone out already. And then she heard the humming coming from the showers. Stifling a smile, Christen grabbed a towel and her body wash, and headed for the showers.
“Don’t blame me, love made me crazy,” Tobin partially hummed, partially sang, running conditioner through her hair.
Christen leaned against the wall outside of the showers for a moment, shaking her head as she heard Tobin singing in the shower. She loved discovering new things about Tobin, things like this. Things like the fact that while not the best singer in the world, Tobin could definitely carry a tune.
She could see Tobin’s clothes outside of the furthest shower, so she took the one closest to her, making sure there was one empty shower between them. She trusted Tobin to follow the rules, but with the soft crooning coming from Tobin’s shower...she didn’t exactly trust herself. There was something incredibly sexy about the deep huskiness of Tobin’s quiet singing that had Christen using every bit of restraint she had in her body not to join Tobin in the shower.
“Lord, save me, my drug is my baby,” Tobin continued singing softly, not having heard Christen join her two showers down. “I’ll be usin’ for the rest of my li- Shoot,” Tobin said, interrupting the concert she was unknowingly putting on for Christen. She bent down to pick up her body wash that she’d accidentally knocked onto the floor.
“Don’t stop on my account, baby,” Christen called out with a teasing lilt in her voice, shedding her sweaty practice top and dropping it onto the floor.
Tobin pulled the curtain open just a tiny bit, poking her head out to see that Christen was in fact standing there, sexy and smirking in her Nike sports bra. “You could give a girl some warning” Tobin grumbled, her cheeks burning.
“I just couldn’t pass up this spontaneous Taylor concert,” Christen replied with a wink. She forced her eyes to stay on Tobin’s, not letting them drift any lower, especially not to where Tobin was holding the shower curtain up to cover herself.
“It’s one of my favorite songs that Tay Tay’s done,” Tobin smirked.
Christen let her eyes fall to the water dripping down Tobin’s neck, over her collarbones, down toward her- Christen snapped her eyes back up to Tobin’s, a flush creeping up her neck.
“Me too,” Christen managed to say.
“Makes me want a lime in my mouth,” Tobin whispered, pulling the curtain closed and stepping back under the stream of water to wash the rest of her body.
Christen groaned, deciding then and there that her shower would be a cold one. A very, very cold one.
She somehow managed to beat Tobin, probably because she hadn’t sweated as much and didn’t need to wash her hair. Tobin continued to sing random bits of Taylor songs as they showered in tandem, making it impossible for Christen’s smile to fall.
After quickly getting dressed and fixing her hair, Christen threw on a small bit of make-up. She could still hear Tobin singing some part of “Betty,” so she took her time setting everything up she needed to.
She grabbed a stack of five orange envelopes from her backpack, grabbing the one with the #1 on the front of it. She put the rest back into her backpack and then grabbed a small Tupperware and a thermos, filled with a scone and coffee, from her bag as well. The scone wasn’t really for Tobin, she didn’t particularly care for them, but it was all part of the romantic gesture. The coffee Tobin could have though.
Christen put all three things on the bench in front of Tobin’s locker and then paced around the room, waiting for Tobin to finish up.
“Taylor distracted me,” Tobin grinned, walking into the room and dumping her dirty workout clothes into the laundry bin.
Christen spun around, her smile growing as she took in the sight of her girlfriend. Tobin was in a pair of yellow shorts and a black v-neck, her feet still bare, needing the socks and white Jordans that were in her locker. She looked absolutely beautiful and it made Christen feel all warm and tingly on the inside. This girl was hers and she would never get over that fact.
“Just let me throw on my shoes, and I’m ready to go,” Tobin said, squeezing her hair with her towel to get it to stop dripping on her shirt.
Christen side-stepped in front of Tobin before she could get to her locker. “Before you do…”
Tobin braced herself for Christen to try and remind her to brush her hair or put on shoes. Her friends and family almost always thought she was too dressed down to go out, but she liked feeling comfortable, even if that meant having wild, messy hair or going without shoes. “Oh, no don’t worry. I don’t really brush my hair,” Tobin said meekly. “I’m ready.”
Christen’s brow furrowed. “You look great, that’s not what I meant,” she replied. “I just didn’t want you to see what I put in your locker before I got the chance to explain,” Christen added, her stomach fluttering with butterflies.
“Ooooh,” Tobin grinned, tossing her towel at the laundry bin and focusing her attention on Christen.
Christen let out a deep breath, fighting off the urge to fidget. She didn’t need to be nervous, this was Tobin. This was her girlfriend. This was just a romantic gesture. But even if she knew those things, she still wanted everything to go right today. She just hoped Tobin would like everything she had planned.
“So about 50 days ago, you walked into this locker room and surprised the hell out of me. You’ve been surprising me ever since, so I thought today, I’d try to return the favor.” Christen stepped to the side, revealing the Tupperware with the scone, the thermos of coffee, and the orange envelope to Tobin. “Your surprise started with a scone and coffee, so I thought mine should too.”
“Did you make that?” Tobin asked, looking at Christen with wide eyes. She couldn’t stop herself from feeling wonder and love rise in her chest. No one had gone out of their way to surprise her and care about her the way Christen always did, and even though she wasn’t a huge scone fan, not like Christen, she loved the symbolism and the effort.
“The oven was already pre-heated from my roommates' making me that celebratory girlfriend cake, so it was no biggie,” Christen shrugged.
“Baby, that’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” Tobin said, pushing her damp hair over her shoulder so that it wouldn’t get on Christen’s shirt before wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist and holding her close. “Except your birthday celebration in Portland...that might always win,” Tobin teased, her voice muffled by Christen’s hair.
Christen melted into the embrace, her arms wrapping around Tobin’s shoulders. She pressed a quick kiss to Tobin’s hair and then pulled back. “You deserve it. So why don’t you get the day started for us by checking out what’s in that envelope,” Christen replied, gesturing behind her with a small tilt of her head.
Tobin was practically bouncing with excitement. She carefully opened the envelope, knowing that she’d want to save everything from Christen’s surprise today. She pulled out a folded piece of paper, reading it aloud to Christen.
“All stories start at the beginning, even ours. And maybe this locker room isn’t the soccer field at Penn State, but it’s where the most recent chapter in our story started. Where better to start our scavenger hunt than here?” Tobin read, reaching out to hold Christen’s hand as she continued. “You watched The Princess Bride , but what did I do to pass our time apart this summer?”
Tobin looked up from the paper, her eyebrows raised slightly. “I have to guess to go to the next stop?”
“Yup,” Christen beamed. “Making you work for that girlfriend title a bit.”
“It’s a good thing I always listen to you,” Tobin said. “I know this answer because we talked about it in San Diego.”
Christen nodded, a smile playing at her lips as she tightened her hold on Tobin’s hand.
“And I wanted to ask you to take me to try the best bagel in Los Angeles County, but then I chickened out because I didn’t know if we were at that place yet,” Tobin sighed, rubbing her thumb along Christen’s hand.
“We are now,” Christen replied, kissing the worry wrinkle that had popped up between Tobin’s brows. “So why don’t I show it to you?”
Tobin’s stomach grumbled as soon as Christen mentioned bagels.
Christen laughed. “I knew starting with food was the right call,” she teased. “Put your shoes on, baby. We’ve got a few stops to make before my parent’s house.”
Tobin had never pulled her socks and sneakers on as fast as she did in that locker room. She grabbed her bag, the coffee and scone, and Christen’s hand, practically dragging her out of the room and toward the parking lot.
After stopping at the bagel place, and grabbing bagels for the road, Tobin read another clue aloud, needing a little bit of a hint before settling on their next destination.
Christen took them to the side of the highway where they’d had to stop on their road trip after Christen had popped the truck tire.
“We probably shouldn’t stay here long,” Tobin laughed as a few cars raced past them, shaking Christen’s Subaru as they passed.
“I’ll be quick,” Christen replied, turning to face Tobin. “I wanted to bring you here because that road trip didn't just mean a lot to you, it meant a lot to me too. Especially that final stretch from here back to my house.”
“You were asleep for most of it,” Tobin teased.
“I know, but curled up against you, while you played with my hair, I’d never felt so safe,” Christen hummed with a smile. "You make me feel safe, and that all started here."
Tobin couldn’t stop herself from leaning across the console and kissing Christen gently. “I love you,” floated through her mind, making her kiss Christen with even more care than usual.
Christen sighed into the kiss, cupping Tobin’s chin to keep their lips connected. They really really needed to get moving again, but she couldn’t stop herself from kissing Tobin here, just like she’d wanted to all those months ago. When she leaned back, she felt Tobin try to chase her lips and she couldn’t help but giggle softly. She pressed one final kiss to Tobin’s lips and then sat back.
“Only a few more, then you can kiss me all you want,” Christen said, reaching into the back to grab the next envelope.
“No I can’t. We’re having dinner with your parents,” Tobin laughed. “I just got back into Stacy’s good graces. My hands are staying in my lap all night.”
“My bedroom door locks,” Christen winked, handing Tobin the envelope with a smirk.
Tobin’s jaw dropped, her fingers fumbling with the sealed envelope. She didn’t need any hint for this next one, confidently telling Christen that they were going to the field they’d trained on before Portland camp. “Seriously, you just wrote about your bicycle kick?” Tobin laughed.
Christen shrugged and turned her blinker on. “I wasn’t about to immortalize you nutmegging me a hundred times on that piece of paper,” Christen replied teasingly.
“It was really impressive when you did that,” Tobin sighed, remembering how Christen had scored during their first training session.
Christen pulled back onto the highway, thankful there weren’t many cars headed this way on a Sunday afternoon. She reached over and threaded her fingers with Tobin’s. “I was trying to impress you.”
“It completely worked. I mean, I already thought you were hot, but…woooow,” Tobin sighed, closing her eyes to visualize the memory.
Christen chuckled, squeezing Tobin’s hand as she blushed.
“Are we going to play again because I don’t know how great I’ll be after Foudy murdered me this morning,” Tobin warned.
“Nope, you just have to do one thing to earn the envelope,” Christen quipped.
“Does it involve kisses? Because I can do that,” Tobin asked, smirking at Christen, happy to be the passenger and get to watch Christen during the entire drive.
“Maaaaaybe,” Christen replied. She didn’t give Tobin any more hints, instead opting to just show her once they arrived at the field. She led Tobin out to the soccer field, a soccer ball under one arm. She led them to the top of the eighteen-yard box and put the ball down there. She turned to face Tobin, putting her foot on top of the ball and keeping their hands clasped together.
“I love this game, I love being a footballer. But I’ve always carried around this pressure and this anxiety to be perfect. I know I’ve told you all about it, but there was something about being on this field with you that made it all go away. When you had me score like twenty shots, and you celebrated each one like it was the greatest goal in the world…” Christen trailed off, looking toward the goal, a small smile growing on her face at the memory. She looked back at Tobin and tilted her head to the side. “It made me realize how much I was falling for you. You made the game fun again, Tobs, and I’m so happy we get to play it together.”
Tobin felt like she was at a loss for words. She didn’t know what to say to Christen’s sweet confession. All she’d wanted to do when training with Christen in May was instill confidence in the incredibly talented, green-eyed forward. She hadn’t realized how much more than that she’d done for Christen.
“I didn’t think it was possible, but you make soccer more fun for me too,” Tobin replied, pulling Christen against her side, her arm draped over her shoulders. “Thanks for letting me be an over-excited goof and still liking me,” she whispered, remembering how silly she’d been after each of Christen’s goals with her celebrations.
Christen kissed Tobin’s cheek. “It was adorable. Now, shoot to score, baby. Then I’m going to kiss you like I wanted to after you scored against Stanford on Friday,” Christen grinned, backing up to give Tobin space to work her magic.
“All I have to do is score?” Tobin asked, raising an eyebrow. “No 1v1 or you pretending to be a keeper?”
Christen shook her head. “I just want you to score, Tobs. No pressure, no expectations. Just score like you were born to do. But if you can, try to make it a pretty one for me,” she added with a smirk.
“Okie dokie,” Tobin nodded, taking a few steps away from the ball before striking it with her right foot, her Air Jordans not hitting the ball at the best angle. Still, the ball soared into the goal, just shy of the upper 90.
“GOOOOAAAAAAAAL!” Christen cheered, throwing her arms up in the air in celebration, doing for Tobin what Tobin had done for her all those months ago. “TOBIN HEATH WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”
Tobin’s smile made her cheeks ache. She understood the symbolism of all of Christen’s envelopes, of all the places they’d stopped at. She raised her arms in an exaggerated celebration, pumping her fists quickly before wrapping her arms around Christen. She lifted Christen up, spinning her in a full circle before setting her back down on her feet.
Christen wrapped her arms around Tobin’s shoulders and pulled her in close, placing her lips on Tobin’s and kissing her with barely restrained excitement.
“I should score more goals,” Tobin mumbled against Christen’s lips.
Christen pulled back, poking the tip of her nose against Tobin’s. “I wish I could do that after every single one, but I’ll take those hugs any day.”
“You can totally kiss me after every one,” Tobin argued, stealing another quick kiss.
Christen wrinkled her nose. “Not on Foudy’s field I can’t, unfortunately.”
“You can save them for later. I’m very understanding. I won’t even charge interest,” Tobin hummed, completely content in Christen’s arms.
Christen let out a laugh, stepping back so she could grab the last envelope from her back pocket.
“Ready for our final destination?”
“Yes!” Tobin said, gently opening the last envelope. She read aloud, already having an idea about where their last destination might be. “Let’s replace those tears with smiles, those sad hugs with happy ones. Let’s go to the beach and make a new memory. Because I’ve got a really important question to ask you...”
Tobin smiled bigger and bigger, when she realized that she was right about the beach. “You have an important question for me?” Tobin teased.
“You already know it,” Christen replied, interlocking her fingers with Tobin’s so she could pull them toward the goal to retrieve the soccer ball.
“Suddenly, I’m feeling really forgetful,” Tobin hummed, furrowing her eyebrows and faking deep thought.
“Guess you’ll have to wait for the beach then,” Christen teased, leading Tobin back to the car, kicking the soccer ball across the grass ahead of them.
“Wait...are you going to ask me to get matching tattoos with you?” Tobin joked, kicking the soccer ball once they reached its spot in the grass.
“Ha ha ha, very funny,” Christen replied.
“Oooh, are you going to ask me to go on a Hawaiian vacation with you?” Tobin guessed again, trying to make Christen smile.
Christen pretended to gasp dramatically. “My thunder! You’ve stolen it!”
“Yeeesss! You gonna surf with me or do we have to bring Kelley with us on our couple trip?” Tobin asked, wanting to see Christen’s reaction to that idea.
Christen shuddered, kicking the ball up into her free hand. “Surfing means going into the ocean so…”
“You love the ocean,” Tobin argued, walking around the car to open Christen’s door for her.
“Oh, I do. I love the ocean. Looking at it, sitting by it, going up to my knees in it,” Christen replied, grinning at the sweet gesture and sliding into the driver’s seat.
“You don’t want to lay on a surfboard while I kiss you?” Tobin asked, leaning forward for a soft kiss, knowing she’d get fewer chances once they were in the presence of Christen’s family.
“I might be able to be persuaded…”
“I can be very convincing,” Tobin whispered, giving Christen one final kiss before closing the door and jogging around to the passenger’s side door.
“Tobin! My barbecue buddy!” Cody called out, walking over from the barbecue.
Christen rolled her eyes affectionately at her dad as she pulled Tobin into the backyard. They’d taken their sweet time making their way up the secret path from the beach, making a few more nice memories on the stairs as well, before they finally joined Christen’s family.
“Hey!” Tobin smiled, letting go of Christen’s hand to give Cody a hug. “It’s good to see you.”
“Are they here?” Stacy called through the door, poking her head into the backyard.
“Yeah, they decided to say hello to Mo’s beach before us!” Cody answered, pulling Christen into a tight hug.
“I told you we’d be here by six!” Christen replied, hugging her dad quickly before walking toward her mom. “We got here twenty minutes early.”
“He’s just giving you a hard time because he’s been missing you,” Stacy laughed, wrapping her arms around Christen and kissing her forehead.
“Hey, Mom,” Christen whispered, sinking into her Mom’s hug. She’d missed her these past few weeks. Seeing her for just a few minutes after games wasn’t enough. She’d needed this, and she was just happy she got to bring Tobin along with her for it.
“You look good...glowing, actually,” Stacy grinned. “Anything new to report?”
Christen blushed and stepped out of her mom’s arms. She looked over to where Tobin and her dad were joking at the barbecue, feeling a smile tug at her lips. “She said yes.”
“Well, that’s no surprise,” Stacy laughed, squeezing Christen’s hands and pulling her toward the kitchen. “How’s Tobin doing? Is she liking UCLA?”
“I think so, she seems happy and she’s making lots of friends. She’s playing really well too, which always helps. So she’s doing good,” Christen replied, despite the small nagging voice at the back of her mind. The voice that was reminding her that Tobin still wasn’t sleeping all that well, that Tobin was still struggling and healing from the summer.
“Is she not a fan of the dining hall or something?” Stacy asked, lowering her voice and looking out the kitchen window at Tobin and Cody.
“Nobody likes it, Mom. Why?” Christen asked curiously.
“She’s looking really small,” Stacy said, her eyes still glued out the window. “She’s eating normally, right?”
Christen felt her brow furrow. Surely she would have noticed that about Tobin, about her girlfriend. She saw her every single day.
“She’s like a vacuum, always eating or snacking on something,” Christen replied, looking out the window as well. She tilted her head to the side as she watched her girlfriend goof around, joking with her dad. Maybe her shirt did look a little looser than it had last month, maybe her legs were thinner. Maybe? It was so hard to tell.
“Well, that’s good. It could just be stress. Transferring is stressful.”
“You think she looks thinner?” Christen asked, still stuck on the problem and not listening to her mom’s list of potential causes.
“I think she looks worn out,” Stacy said. “She looks smaller than when we had lunch, and I already thought she was skinnier than normal then.”
Christen pulled her lip between her teeth, worry sitting low in her stomach. How had she not noticed it? How had she let that get by her?
“She’s been more tired than usual lately, and I am worried about her. I'm always worried about her. But if you’re noticing too...should I say something?” Christen asked, looking over at her mom, seeking any sort of guidance Stacy would offer.
“Well, you don’t want to just jump in and ask her. You don’t want to make her feel cornered,” Stacy hummed. “I really think that she could just be stressed in the new environment. When I went to college for my first year, I lost ten pounds from stress alone.”
Christen nodded in agreement. “Maybe, yeah. Stress,” Christen hummed in reply, knowing there was more to this story.
“Don’t worry about this before you know that there’s reason to worry. Just be your sensitive self, and if she needs help, she’ll let you know.”
“Right, thanks, Mom,” Christen said, trying to smile, trying to reign in her worry.
“How was the date Tobin took you on?” Stacy asked, wanting to move topics and take the heaviness out of the room.
Christen shook her head, a small smile on her lips. Her mom always knew how to change topics and make those pesky feelings you’d been worried about disappear.
“It was so magical, Mom,” Christen sighed, leaning against the kitchen counter. “She recreated the day we should have had at the Arsenal game and then we camped in her backyard.”
“Aw that's lovely. You were so nervous about it, and then I never heard anything from you except that it was nice," Stacy replied.
Christen’s smile turned into a grimace, having the decency to be a little bashful for her lack of communication with her family recently. She’d been so wrapped up in Tobin and in school and in soccer, she hadn’t been able to give her mom the full story until now.
“I’m sorry I’ve been so busy, I meant to make it back home sooner but-”
“You’ve been in love, I know,” Stacy whispered, adding tongs to the bowl of pasta salad.
Christen ducked her head at her mom’s words, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Yeah, we haven’t said that yet, Mom. We’re taking things slow, making sure we do it right.”
“That’s okay. Your dad and I love that,” she laughed. “You want to cut the rest of that watermelon?”
Christen was about to say yes, but then she looked around the kitchen and noticed they were missing someone.
“She’s upstairs somewhere. She’s been hiding out all day, but she said she’d come down in a few minutes. Feel free to go bother her. She probably needs some sister time,” Stacy sighed. “I’ll get Tobin to make the fruit salad.”
Christen nodded, her concern for her sister growing. “Is she okay?”
“I think she wished she’d heard about Tobin from you, not your dad’s loose lips,” Stacy said. “You know how he gets when he’s excited.”
Christen cringed. “Yeah…”
“But she’s your baby sister. She loves you, and nothing will change that,” Stacy assured Christen.
Christen nodded at her mom. She stepped back to the door to the backyard and stuck her head out.
“Babe?” she called out, drawing Tobin’s attention.
Tobin left Cody at the grill, making her way to the back door. “What’s up?”
“I’m going to go talk to Chan. She’s a little...upset, and I think she just needs some sister time.”
Tobin’s face scrunched up in concern, but she didn’t pry. She just nodded. “Okay. Do you need help in here?” she asked, leaning around Christen to look at Stacy.
“Get your booty over here and chop some fruit,” Stacy replied with a smile.
“Are you going to promise not to interrogate me this time?” Tobin asked, making Stacy laugh a loud and long laugh.
Christen looked between her mom and Tobin, shaking her head. “When I get back, you two are finally explaining yourselves,” Christen warned playfully, kissing Tobin’s temple before walking through the kitchen and to the stairs.
“She bought me guacamole this week,” Tobin said.
“How long did it take for you to finally get that?” Stacy teased, tossing carrots into the salad.
Christen smiled at the sounds of Tobin and her Mom getting along so well in the kitchen. She then hurried up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
Music pulsed out of Channing’s room. The door vibrated softly with each bass note. Christen hesitated, wondering if she should knock. But then she thought better of it and opened the door.
“Chan?” she called out loudly, trying to be heard over the music.
“Hey,” Channing said, nodding her head at the door without really looking up from the book she was reading.
“Got a sec?” Christen asked, shutting the door behind her.
“Sure,” Channing shrugged, her finger holding her place in the book but her eyes staying on the page.
“I can keep shouting over this music if you want, or you could shut it off,” Christen teased, walking over to sit on the edge of Channing’s bed. She was looking at Channing’s back, thanks to the fact that Channing hadn’t turned around from her desk just yet.
Channing reached out, aiming her remote at the clock radio that was blasting top 40s. “What’s up, Christen?” Channing asked, turning her head to glance at Christen for a brief moment before returning her eyes to the book on her desk.
“I should have told you about Tobin and me...you shouldn’t have heard it from Dad,” Christen said gently, taking in the slight frustration she could read in her sister’s tone and the tension in her shoulders.
“Last I heard, you were mad because you had to share a seat on the bus with her, and then dad told me you guys went on a date and are basically official,” Channing huffed.
“We are. I asked her to be my girlfriend and she said yes,” Christen replied, trying to tame the beaming smile that threatened to break out across her face. It wouldn’t help her apologize to her sister if Channing turned around and saw her goofy little grin at being Tobin’s girlfriend.
Channing was having trouble holding a grudge. On the one hand, she hated that she hadn’t heard from her sister. Other than a few texts and some shared videos, Christen hadn’t told Channing much about her life. On the other hand, how could she stay mad at her sister when she sounded this happy, when even the brief glance that Channing had stolen at her sister revealed a beaming Christen.
“But...you should have heard that from me. I should have kept you in the loop and I’m really sorry I didn’t,” Christen sighed with a grimace. “I’m super sorry, Chan.”
Channing closed her book and spun her chair around to fully face Christen. “So, she isn’t a dick anymore?”
Christen choked out a laugh. “It was kind of me who was being the dick.”
“I don’t know about that. I saw mopey you over the summer, and I saw how mom had to pull you out of bed,” Channing reminded Christen, not ready to forgive Tobin for hurting one of her favorite people.
Christen nodded, realizing that Channing had only ever seen her side of things. She didn’t get to see all of the groveling and apologizing that Tobin had done. She hadn’t seen the growth and the honesty and the truth. Channing had only seen Christen drag her heels around all summer when Tobin wasn’t talking to her.
“She and I have talked about all that and moved forward. There were some things going on for her that I didn’t know about at the time, but now I do.”
“Her dad,” Channing said without hesitation.
Christen nodded. “Yeah, her dad.”
“He came over with Tobin’s mom,” Channing said. “I didn’t hang around, but I heard them talking about it.”
“Yeah, it was a tough summer for everyone, Chan. But I’d really like it if you could come down and hang out with all of us. If you could give Tobs a chance?” Christen asked gently.
“So, you totally love her,” Channing said, standing up from her seat and walking toward her sister.
Christen blushed a deep shade of red. “I- well, I-” she stuttered, suddenly flustered at having been put on the spot by her younger sister.
“I’ll take that as a yes, but you haven’t told her?” Channing asked, wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders.
Christen hugged Channing back. “You’re way too smart, Chan.”
“I missed you,” Channing sighed.
“Missed you too,” Christen replied.
“I’m glad she makes you happy. Otherwise, I’d have to sit her down and we’d have some words,” Channing warned, squeezing her older sister before letting her arms fall from Christen.
Christen smiled and leaned out of the hug. “Really happy, so save the harsh words for someone else, okay?”
“I don’t know…” Channing threatened. “I do think Tobin and I might have some things to talk about. I feel like it’s my job as your little sister to really warn her about making mistakes.”
“Mom already beat you to it, Chan, like months ago. She took her to Olive Garden,” Christen replied with a laugh. “But maybe you can help me get them to tell us what they talked about?”
Channing pulled Christen down the stairs, bending down to scratch Morena’s head and making their way into the kitchen.
It took a few hours, but finally Christen and Channing got it out of them.
“Which talk are you wanting to know about?” Stacy sighed, patting Tobin’s back.
Channing looked, wide-eyed, between Stacy and Tobin. “There’s more than one ?!”
“One was about my intentions, and the other was about my mistakes,” Tobin mumbled before shoving her last bite of pasta into her mouth. “The burgers are really good. New seasoning?” Tobin asked, glancing at Cody.
Christen chuckled at the obvious attempt at avoiding the conversation. She laid her hand on Tobin’s arm and gave it a squeeze.
“Nice try, but I’m going to need a bit more than that, babe,” Christen replied. “From either of you,” Christen added, looking over at her mom expectantly. “I’ve been dying to know for months !”
“I wanted to make sure that your heart was in the right hands,” Stacy said, holding her hands up in surrender. “Just a nice talk while we washed dishes last May, right Tobin?”
“Mhm,” Tobin nodded, her mouth still full, as if eating would save her from this conversation.
“And Tobin, being the nice girl she is, told me that she didn’t think anyone was good enough to hold Christen’s heart,” Stacy added, wanting to embarrass Tobin a little bit.
Christen melted and looked over at Tobin. “You said that?” she asked gently.
Tobin put a hand on her forehead, wanting to hide the blush that was spreading across her cheeks. She nodded slowly and reached for her water.
“Which, then led Tobin to explain to me that she wanted you in her life in any capacity, even if that meant being your friend,” Stacy quickly finished, unable to hide the smile on her face and the small amount of laughter that bubbled up at the embarrassment on Tobin’s face.
Channing fake gagged and got up from the table. “I regret helping you out, Christen. This is too gross.”
Christen ignored everyone else at the table. She simply shook her head, completely in awe at everything her mom had just told her, at everything Tobin had said back in May. Even then, Tobin was hers. It made her heart skip a beat in her chest.
“Oh, and then she cried,” Cody added.
“Oh my gosh,” Tobin groaned, covering her eyes with both of her hands.
“These women like sensitive people, Tobin. It’s a good thing,” Cody laughed.
Christen reached out and pulled Tobin’s hands away from her face. She smiled at the blush on Tobin’s cheeks, keeping Tobin’s hands in her own.
“My dad’s right,” Christen said softly, rubbing her thumbs along the backs of Tobin’s hands. “I had no idea you guys talked about that.”
Tobin smiled softly at Christen, resisting the urge to kiss her and enjoying the way Christen’s hands felt holding her own.
“Wait what happened at Olive Garden?” Channing asked from where she was kneeling on the patio and petting the dogs, wanting to know about the less sappy and more dramatic conversation between Stacy and Tobin.
“I cried again,” Tobin laughed, her shoulders shaking with each intake of breath.
Christen chuckled, looking over at Stacy. “You made my girlfriend cry twice, Mom?”
Tobin’s stomach somersaulted softly, and butterflies filled her chest. She’d take any amount of teasing from Christen’s family if it meant that she got to hear Christen call her her girlfriend. She’d sit through any amount of embarrassment if Christen called her hers. Tobin squeezed Christen’s hands in her own just to make sure this was real.
“...yeah,” Stacy grimaced. “We should have gone to a Mexican restaurant.”
“You cried because you don’t like Olive Garden?” Channing asked, completely confused about her mom’s comment.
“Because your mom used the d word,” Tobin sighed, leaning back in her chair.
Christen’s brow crinkled. “Umm...ditalini?
“What the heck is that?” Channing asked.
“It’s a type of pasta,” Cody supplied. “But even I’m a little lost. A ‘D’ word…”
“Disappointed,” Tobin supplied, shoving another piece of fruit in her mouth.
Stacy grimaced. “I did say that didn’t I?”
“A few times,” Tobin nodded, remembering exactly what Stacy had told her. She’d been disappointed that Tobin had broken her promise and broken Christen’s heart. She’d been disappointed because she’d expected more from Tobin.
Christen lifted Tobin’s hands to her lips, kissing her knuckles gently. “I’m sorry, Tobs,” Christen whispered. She dropped their clasped hands to her lap, her eyes never leaving Tobin’s face.
Tobin shook her head quickly. Christen had nothing to be sorry for. Honestly, the talk with Stacy had given her way more hope than she’d had before that awkward lunch.
“I was in Mama Bear Mode,” Stacy said, squeezing Tobin’s shoulder.
“Trust is not easily won, but it’s easily broken,” Tobin hummed softly. “Words are a good start, but it's actions that matter most.”
“What do you mean?” Christen asked, looking between Tobin and her mom.
“She’s quoting me,” Stacy laughed.
“Oh my god, such a suck up!” Christen laughed, loosening her grip on Tobin’s hands so she could swat playfully at Tobin’s arm.
“Get this, she thought I’d be a stickler for cursing and be upset by her using the word ass instead of butt,” Stacy teased.
“This has been fun,” Tobin said, standing up slightly from the table.
Christen laughed and tugged Tobin back down. “Okay, okay, we’re done, right?” she asked the rest of her family, effectively ending the torture and the teasing. “I’d really like to not scare her off now.”
“Sweetie, I don’t think that could happen after what she’s put up with from your mother,” Cody laughed.
“Yeah, damn Mom,” Channing giggled. “I’m never bringing anyone home ever !”
“Thank you for today,” Tobin whispered, suddenly feeling shy. She and Christen had talked for the hour long car ride back to campus, neither feeling awkward when they fell silent. Their silence felt just as comfortable as their rambling. Only now, when Tobin was staring at her house and preparing to say good night, she felt hopelessly shy. She hadn’t really thanked Christen properly, not that she really thought there was a way for her to thank her enough. All she could do was try. “No one’s ever made me feel as special as you did today,” Tobin finished, wishing there were more words that she could use to explain how Christen made her feel.
Christen turned to look at Tobin, leaning her head against her headrest as she smiled softly.
“That’s kinda like my job,” Christen replied.
“You’re really good at it. Employee of the month...not that you’re an employee,” Tobin rushed to say, her eyebrows furrowing slightly before she rolled her eyes at her own comment.
Christen chuckled and reached out to smooth the worry lines on Tobin’s forehead. “I’m glad you had a good time, even if my mom went a little too heavy on the teasing at times.”
“I love your family,” Tobin whispered. “They’re really funny, and they’re always so nice.”
Christen’s heart jumped into her throat. It sounded so much like an ‘I love you,’ so much like those three little words they kept dancing around. Christen wanted to say them more than anything, she wanted Tobin to know how much she loved her, how long she’d loved her for. But it still felt too soon. She wanted the moment to be right, to be special. So, she could be patient.
“You okay?” Tobin asked, noticing Christen’s wide eyes.
“More than,” Christen hummed in reply, refocusing on Tobin. “I’m just really happy.”
“Me too,” Tobin said, smiling a lopsided, sleepy grin.
“I think I’m always going to be this happy whenever I’m with you,” Christen whispered, her heart swelling with the thought.
Tobin leaned forward to kiss Christen, wishing she could freeze the moment for just a little longer. “I know you said every other night, but do you want to ignore that rule for a second and sleep at mine?” Tobin asked.
“There’s no other way I’d rather end this day,” Christen replied with a smile.