This house, she's holding secrets
I got my change behind the bed
In a coffee can I throw my nickels in
Just in case I have to leave
And I will go if you ask me to
I will stay if you dare
And if I go, I'm goin' shameless
Let my hunger take me there
(Tobin - “If I Go, I’m Goin” by Gregory Alan Isakov)
I'm going under and this time I fear there's no one to save me
This all or nothing really got a way of driving me crazy
I need somebody to heal
Somebody to know
Somebody to have
Somebody to hold
It's easy to say
But it's never the same
I guess I kinda liked the way you numbed all the pain
Now the day bleeds
And you're not here
To get me through it all
I let my guard down
And then you pulled the rug
I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved
(Christen - “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi)
Marissa laughed on the other end of the line. “I was thinking a bit sooner than that. How’s next week?”
Tobin could feel her throat getting thick. She could feel her stomach tightening. She could taste a bitterness rising in her mouth. She couldn’t be in England next week. Next week, she was supposed to be in California, training with her team, meeting new freshmen, and driving a team van to an escape room.
“Tobin, you there?” Marissa asked.
“Yeah. Yes. Sorry. I’m here, just...surprised,” Tobin stuttered.
“Don’t be. You’re one of the best talents to come out of the States in years. Which is why we’d love to get you over here to play for us. What do you think?”
“Do you mind if I take a couple of days to get back to you? I have to talk to my parents and coach,” Tobin asked, just barely getting the words out of her throat, her heart aching in her chest, her body longing to run, to race back into their bedroom and crawl under the covers with Christen, to ignore this entire morning.
“Of course. How about I give you a call in a few days?”
“That sounds great. I appreciate your consideration,” Tobin murmured, waiting until Marissa hung up before she lowered her phone from her ear.
Tobin could feel that ache behind her eyes, the kind of throbbing pain that she hadn’t felt in almost a year. All she could think about was the girl in the bedroom down the hall, the girl who was asleep still, pleasantly dreaming, her eyelids probably fluttering, her hair wild and curly, soft mumbles and words slipping from her lips.
There was no way she could go to England. There was no way she could pick up her life right after moving, right after taking so many big steps with Christen. She couldn’t leave her, not when the voice inside her head that was typically so small was starting to scream, not when that voice was telling her that if she left, Christen wouldn’t stay with her. Logically, she knew that they would figure something out, but the gnawing feeling in her stomach reminded her that there was still a possibility that Christen might say that England was too far away, that it was too much to keep their relationship up with that many miles between them.
Tobin slipped out of the office and tiptoed down the hall. She opened their bedroom door, her heart crumbling when she saw Christen in their bed, hugging Tobin’s pillow close to her chest, her face pressed into the pillowcase. God, the universe had the worst timing.
Tobin shut the door quietly, putting her phone on airplane mode and setting it on her dresser. She pulled the sheets back slightly and slid into bed, lifting Christen’s head a little, so that she could sleep on Tobin’s chest again.
Tobin ran her fingers up and down Christen’s back, listening to her soft, deep breaths. “I won’t wake up to this if I’m across the ocean,” Tobin thought, squeezing her eyes shut as tightly as possible and forcing the impending tears to sink back.
She wouldn’t cry. There was no reason to cry because she wasn’t going to leave. There was absolutely no reason to leave all that she had for a team that was only just getting on its feet. Tobin took a long breath in through her nose, releasing it through her mouth slowly. She sunk her face into Christen’s hair, placing a soft kiss onto Christen’s head. This wasn’t something she was going to let go of, not before graduation and getting drafted, not before she had to.
Tobin closed her eyes and forced herself to calm down. She needed to call her parents before making any decisions. She needed to talk to Foudy and get advice. She needed to go back to sleep, or else she’d feel even worse for the rest of the day.
Something was different, but Christen couldn’t put her finger on it. She’d noticed it the moment she’d woken up this morning. It was like the air had shifted a bit, leaving a prickling sensation of worry on her skin. But it was probably just the jitters of the impending preseason, so Christen had decided not to dwell on it.
“You sure you don’t want to shower with me?” Christen smirked, leaning against the foot of the bed, tilting her head to the side so she could look at where Tobin was still in bed.
“I’m really tired, baby,” Tobin said from her cocoon of covers. “I didn’t sleep super well last night, so I’ll probably just sleep in a little longer.”
Christen’s brow furrowed. Maybe this was the shift she’d felt, maybe Tobin was starting not to sleep well again.
“You’re getting your worry wrinkle,” Tobin teased, sending Christen a reassuring smile.
“You’re the one with the wrinkle,” Christen replied. “I’ve got the crinkle. Was it just a bad night’s sleep or was it more than that?” she asked, hoping it was the former.
“There were no nightmares, I promise. Just a bad night’s sleep,” Tobin said.
Christen let out a sigh of relief. She smiled at the sleepy look on Tobin’s face, at the adorable way her eyes were half-open.
“Sweet dreams, baby,” Christen murmured, squeezing Tobin’s ankle through the comforter.
“Sweeter dreams, cutie,” Tobin mumbled, rolling over in bed and burying herself in the covers even more.
Tobin waited for Christen to slip into their bathroom. She waited for the shower to turn on and for Christen to pull the shower curtain closed before she crawled out of bed and hurried downstairs to the back porch. She had a very short window of time to call her dad without alerting Christen, without worrying her for no reason, and she was determined not to miss it. She let the phone ring twice before she worried that her dad might not answer since it was a workday, but by the fifth ring, she heard his voice come on the other line.
“Hey, Dad,” Tobin sighed into the phone before sinking down onto one of the back porch steps. She hadn’t realized just how tense she’d felt all morning, just how stressed she’d been since the call, just how much she needed someone to tell her that staying in California was a good idea.
“Hey, bud, what’s up? You sound a little tired,” Jeff replied.
“I was up really early this morning,” Tobin said, not mincing words when she only had the length of time it took Christen to shower.
“I thought preseason started tomorrow?”
“It does. I got a phone call at 6:00 this morning from the head coach of Arsenal’s women’s team,” Tobin blurted out, her breath catching in her throat, almost like it had all been a dream, a really stressful dream.
“Holy shit, bud,” Jeff choked out, definitely not having expected that answer. “What did she want?!”
“She wants me to join the team. She wants me in England next week,” Tobin said, lowering her voice as if she’d be heard by anyone on UCLA’s practically empty campus.
“That’s- wait, next week? Isn’t that a bit soon?”
“I think I’m going to turn her down,” Tobin admitted, preparing herself for every reaction her dad could have.
“Ah, I see,” Jeff hummed. “What do you need from me, Tobs? A sounding board? A cheerleader? Someone to talk you out of it?” he wondered, keeping his voice gentle.
“A sounding board, I guess,” Tobin murmured, clenching her jaw softly. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled. This is super exciting, but I wasn’t expecting to be called to play professionally until after graduating. I want to get a degree and graduate with my friends. I also feel like I committed to play at UCLA and owe it to the team to stay. I’m a captain...that means something right? And Foudy let me join when I was most lost when I was figuring out what to do after your accident, and I want to finish my college career with her,” Tobin said, all of the thoughts she’d been having since the phone call spilling out into the phone receiver.
“I think graduating and sticking to your commitment is a very mature decision. Those all sound like great reasons to stay...but is there another one?” Jeff wondered, no judgment in his voice despite already knowing the answer.
“Obviously,” Tobin whispered, her voice cracking. “She’s upstairs.”
Jeff could hear the withdrawn tone, the worry in Tobin’s words. “It’s not a bad thing if you stay for her too, bud.”
“She isn’t the only reason…” Tobin said, her words honest and genuine.
“But she definitely is on the laundry list of reasons you’re going to turn down a chance to play for Arsenal.”
Tobin brushed some hair off of her face before she continued.“She’s high on the list. I just moved in with her, and I don’t want to lose the last year we have at the same place. I know once we graduate, we’re going to have to figure things out, since there’s no way we get drafted to the same place, but I was counting on this last year, and I don’t want to miss it.”
“You’re not a bad person for wanting that, Tobs. You shouldn’t have to miss it. She’s allowed to be a factor in your decisions, but I can’t help but wonder why you’re talking to me about it when you could be talking to her too?” Jeff asked as gently as possible. He was happy his daughter had come to him in her time of need, but he could only offer so much as a sounding board.
Tobin scratched the back of her neck. She should talk to Christen about it, but she felt so protective of the happy bubble they were in, of the safe space they’d created with each other. She didn’t want anything breaking the bubble, especially something that Tobin was going to say no to.
“I think it would stress her out, Dad. I think it would completely worry her. I think she’d convince herself that she’s holding me back,” Tobin whispered.
“She’s not, right?”
“Holding me back? No. This is a young team. It’s a cool opportunity, but it isn’t the opportunity I always imagined. I- I always thought I’d finish college and go play somewhere in the States for a bit, get my feet wet on a big team,” Tobin mused.
“Then it sounds like you’ve got your mind made up, bud. I’m really proud of you, this is just the start of big things coming your way.”
“You promise you aren’t disappointed, that you don’t actually want me to take this opportunity?” Tobin asked.
“I could never be disappointed, not when you’re following your heart,” Jeff replied with warmth in his voice.
Tobin let out a soft breath. “I don’t think I’m ready to be that far from you either,” Tobin whispered.
“Now that I love to hear. England’s a bit far, Tobs,” Jeff teased.
“I love you,” Tobin laughed.
“I love you, too, bud. And I know I’m just your dad, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but don’t avoid talking about something just because it could end badly. Don’t do it now, don’t do it tomorrow. Do it when you’re ready. But talk to her soon, Tobs. She deserves that,” Jeff said, thinking back to the way Christen Press had looked him in the eye over breakfast and vowed to always be there for his daughter, had promised to love her forever. He had a feeling she wouldn’t go running when she heard this news, he just hoped he wouldn’t be proven wrong.
“I know. I just...I need to find the right words to say and the right moment to say it so that she doesn’t freak out about me turning it down,” Tobin said, the pit in her stomach still churning a little at the idea of telling Christen.
“Go easy on yourself, Tobs. In the grand scheme of life, this is just a blip on the radar. Everything will be fine.”
“I know. I will. I’ll talk to you and mom later, maybe tomorrow,” Tobin said, leaning her head forward to rest on her knees.
“We’ll clear our whole schedule, just for you,” Jeff chuckled.
“Bye, Dad,” Tobin said, a small smile creeping across her lips.
“Bye, bud!” Jeff replied, hanging up the phone and ending the call.
Tobin put her phone down and stretched her arms over her head. This was not the situation she wanted to be in. It wasn’t the way she wanted to start her senior year. As flattered as she was to be asked to play for Arsenal, it added a huge amount of stress to a year that she’d hoped would be simpler and easier than the last.
Christen exchanged the comb for a steaming cup of coffee, a smile of gratitude on her lips.
“Thanks, baby, did you get enough sleep?” she asked, taking a sip and holding back a moan at the perfect combination of coffee and oat milk, a combination only Tobin could achieve.
“Yeah,” Tobin nodded, bracing herself to follow her dad’s advice and tell Christen who had called her that morning. “The coffee will definitely help too.”
“I can totally comb my own hair if you wanna chug caffeine,” Christen offered, setting her cup on the nightstand and holding her hand back out for the comb.
“You know I love doing your hair for you,” Tobin hummed, placing her coffee down on the nightstand next to Christen’s and climbing onto the bed, patting the space in front of her for Christen to sit. She did love doing Christen’s hair. She loved taking care of her, but she also didn’t feel like she could look at Christen when she told her about the Arsenal call and her plan to turn it down.
Christen settled between Tobin’s legs, her eyes falling shut as Tobin began combing through her damp curls. She let out a long breath, finding peace in the quiet, early morning moment.
“I could just sit here all day and let you do this,” Christen murmured.
Tobin cringed a little. “This is the wrong moment. You don’t want to ruin brushing her hair,” she thought, running her fingers through a small knot.
“But we can’t, we've got big plans. Gotta move those freshmen into their dorms and then get lunch with Crys, plus team dinner tonight. Our dance card’s full, baby,” Christen chuckled, dropping her hands to Tobin’s knees, grounding herself with the touch.
“That’s true. You seem very chipper about helping the freshmen move,” Tobin hummed, surprised that Christen was as talkative and excited in the morning as she was today. Typically, Christen needed to finish a full cup of coffee before she’d talk.
“Maybe it’s just nerves or something. This is a big year with a lot riding on our shoulders, and it all starts with getting the freshmen feeling comfortable as part of our team,” Christen shrugged, her eyes still shut, her grip tightening on Tobin’s knees.
“You’ll definitely be their favorite captain,” Tobin whispered, kissing the top of Christen’s head.
“I don’t know about that. Someone will have to enforce things like team rules and since I wrote most of them…”
“I can be the bad cop,” Tobin offered. “Don’t worry about it. You can be the pushover, and I’ll drop the hammer.”
“Me? A pushover? Please,” Christen grinned. “Only for you, baby.”
“And that’s why you’re my favorite captain,” Tobin hummed.
Christen leaned backed, forgetting all about the fact that Tobin was brushing her hair. She craned her neck and pressed her lips to the underside of Tobin’s jaw.
“I love you. Have I told you that yet today?” Christen grinned up at Tobin.
“I don’t think so...I love you too,” Tobin sighed, leaning down to kiss Christen’s lips gently.
Christen pulled back, taking in the slight circles under Tobin’s eyes and the exhaustion in her features.
“You promise you’re okay? I can’t have my favorite captain tired before preseason even begins,” Christen smiled tightly, worry fluttering in her chest briefly.
“I’m okay. Maybe we can save a place on the dance card for just us tonight?” Tobin asked, knowing that she needed to talk to Christen soon if she was going to do it at all.
“Always,” Christen grinned.
Preseason was always a clusterfuck of hecticness, but this year was something special. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.
Equipment was incorrectly ordered, so the sizes were all wrong. Sam Mewis was given extra, extra smalls in everything , and Little Mal was given extra larges. The practice field was accidentally flooded by a broken sprinkler system. Everyone got locked out of the locker room for a whole day because the electronic keys got disabled.
By August seventh, Christen was dead on her feet, and it had barely even been a week. Everyone was exhausted, especially her fellow seniors who were doing everything they could to keep spirits high. The energy in their house was at an all-time low when they trekked back there at the end of the day, and she and Tobin had barely done more than fall asleep next to each other at night.
But then, the sun shined on the 8th. The practice field was officially able to be used again, the electronic key cards were back in working order, and everyone got the proper sizes for their equipment.
“I feel like I can breathe again,” Christen hummed, peeling a banana at the kitchen table. She cut it up into slices and dropped it into her oatmeal.
“I think I still have a week of sleep debt to cash in,” Tobin laughed, shoving a bite of her avocado toast in her mouth.
Christen chuckled and grabbed the honey, drizzling some on top of her breakfast creation.
“We have tomorrow off, so we can sleep for as long as we want to and maybe get to that dance card chat I promised,” Christen replied, grinning at her girlfriend, missing her even if she was sitting right across the table from her.
“Good, because I plan on spending the whole day with you,” Tobin nodded. She really wanted to talk to Christen, to tell her about the call she’d had with Marissa when she’d turned down the offer. She wanted to tell Christen so that she could fully move past the entire situation. Tomorrow sounded like the perfect day for that, even if the thought of talking about this made her stomach churn.
“I miss you, which is so weird because we’ve spent every minute of every day together. But not like together together, you know?” Christen sighed, sitting back in the chair, moving her spoon through her oatmeal.
“Yeah, like when was the last time we kissed?” Tobin teased. “I think I said maybe ten words to you over this past week that weren’t soccer-related.”
“Nine, I counted,” Christen winked. She got up from her chair and bent down, pressing a kiss to Tobin’s lips, tasting avocado and the sweetness that always accompanied a kiss from her girlfriend. “There, now we’ve kissed today.”
“Ah, all is right with the world,” Tobin sighed, opening and closing her eyes slowly, trying to blink the sleep away.
“Are you two always like an ad for domestic bliss in the mornings?” Megan called out, shuffling over to the fridge to get some orange juice.
“Ooooh, someone misses her girlfriend,” Tobin chuckled, shoving the last bit of toast in her mouth.
Megan flipped Tobin off from the fridge. Christen giggled and looked to the stairs at the sound of someone descending. Two someones.
“Who’s driving to the LR today?” Kelley asked, sliding across the floor in her socks then hopping onto the countertop.
“I can do it,” Christen offered. “Crys did it yesterday.”
“That I did, and Kel if you ever leave empty Gatorade bottles in my car again, I’ll have Foudy run you 'til your legs fall off,” Crystal said with the utmost cheer in her voice as she grabbed cereal from the cupboard.
“Rude,” Kelley scoffed, shoving two Poptarts in her mouth at the same time and taking a huge bite out of both.
“When is this team bonding shit we have to do?” Megan asked, sliding into one of the empty chairs at the table.
“In a few days. It’s an escape room, so it’ll be fun,” Tobin said, way too pumped to solve some sort of generated mystery with the team.
“Your word, not mine,” Megan replied, sipping her orange juice and dropping her eyes to her phone.
“Sue hitting you up this early?” Crystal asked from the kitchen, noticing Megan’s attention on her phone.
“She’s at practice like the goddess she is,” Megan said, not looking up from her phone. “I’m checking out these international transfer windows. PSG is rumored to be sending Horan to Lyon and some FAWSL teams are trying to acquire new players.”
Tobin couldn’t help the way she flinched slightly. She needed to talk to Christen, and she needed to do it when they had time to be alone and really discuss Tobin’s decision. Maybe tomorrow was too far away, maybe she needed to find some time today. The last thing she wanted was for Christen to feel like Tobin had stayed solely for her, that Tobin was short-changing herself to stay at UCLA. Christen didn’t need that kind of pressure on her shoulders.
“I thought you wanted to go to Reign and be with Sue in Seattle?” Christen asked, curious as to why Megan was so concerned with international teams.
“Oh, I do, Pressy. But you gotta keep your ear to the ground at all times, see what shakes out,” Megan replied, sighing when her phone didn’t give her any new updates. “Whatever, I think they’re taking the day off. Nothing new has come in yet.”
“Lindsey hasn’t enjoyed PSG,” Tobin mumbled.
“I remember you telling me that,” Christen nodded, her forehead furrowing. She’d only met Lindsey a handful of times, and she just hoped that if possible, she could find a new team to call home.
“Shit Foudy just texted, we gotta get to the LR,” Crystal said, shoving the last bite of cereal into her mouth and dropping her bowl into the sink.
“I have a meeting with her before we start, so don’t stress,” Tobin sighed, standing up to put her plate in the sink.
“You might, but we’ve gotta figure out how to get two tubs of water balloons ready for after fitness today,” Crystal replied with a grin. “Lucky us.”
“I love water balloons!” Kelley cheered, jumping off the counter, cinnamon sugar smeared around her mouth from her pop tarts.
“Of course, you do,” Megan laughed, dropping her glass next to Crystal’s bowl.
Christen was the last one out of the kitchen. She grabbed her phone and her car keys, stopping by where Tobin was resting her hip against the counter.
“What’s your meeting about with Foudy?” Christen wondered, lingering in the kitchen with Tobin in their last private moment for the next few hours.
“Managing my minutes with this little guy,” Tobin said, pointing down to her ankle.
“You mean managing defender’s expectations because you’re going to leave them all in the dust?” Christen grinned, dropping her hand to Tobin’s hips, bringing their bodies closer together.
“You’re very sweet,” Tobin said, pressing a kiss to Christen’s lips. “And yes, that’s what I plan to do.”
“Let’s goooooo lovebirds!” Kelley called out, breaking Christen and Tobin out of their moment.
Christen chuckled and leaned in for one more kiss, lingering in the moment and letting the perfection of Tobin’s lips on her own, of the love between them, wash over her.
Christen dropped the last water balloon into the bin and let out a long breath. They had to have filled at least a hundred or so of these bad boys in the last thirty minutes, all before anyone got there for their morning fitness session.
“My fingers hurt,” Kelley groaned, collapsing onto the floor of the locker room.
“You and me both,” Christen agreed, dropping onto the bench in front of her locker.
Megan and Crystal walked in, both looking a little tired from hauling the bins out onto the golf cart for their trainer, Alicia, to take to the field for them.
“Tobin lucked out,” Crystal groaned, flopping down on the bench next to Christen.
Christen nodded, a smile making its way onto her face at the mention of Tobin.
“I’m gonna check and see who else lucked out today,” Megan announced, grabbing her phone from her locker and refreshing her news feeds.
“Check on Lindsey,” Christen said, knowing that Tobin would want good news for her old Penn State teammate.
“Horan is officially going to Lyon, with a potential transfer to Portland or Seattle in the next year,” Megan grinned, winking up at Christen and then looking back down at her phone.
“CHRISTEN!” Mal yelled, running into the locker room and throwing her arms around Christen in a big hug.
“Hey, dude,” Christen chuckled, patting Mal’s back. She smiled at Rose, Sam, and Barney as they strolled into the locker room, all of them looking a bit more comfortable and confident than they had last preseason.
The rest of the team continued to file in, chatter bouncing off the walls as they all got ready for practice.
“What do you think? Too much for the one-year anniversary?” Christen whispered, pulling on her cleat, looking over at Crystal.
“Absolutely not! Tobin’s a huge romantic, so nothing’s too much,” Crystal smiled, squeezing Christen’s knee.
“OH. MY. FUCKING. GAWD.”
Christen whipped her head up and looked over at Megan who was sitting on the other side of the locker room. Megan’s face was drawn into confusion.
The entire locker room had gone silent at Megan’s outburst, everyone staring at Megan and waiting for her to break the awkward air.
A pit settled in Christen’s stomach, that odd feeling she’d had a week ago returning for some reason.
“What is it, Pinoe?” Crystal asked, voicing the question on everyone’s minds.
“Why didn’t you tell us Tobin turned down Arsenal?” Megan questioned, her eyes wide and staring straight at Christen.
Christen felt like Megan was speaking an entirely different language. She wasn’t comprehending the words that left her mouth.
Tobin hadn’t turned down an offer because there was no offer from Arsenal. If there had been, Christen would have known about it. Tobin would have told her. Something that big, something that life-changing and career-altering would definitely have been shared.
Christen shook her head and forced a weak chuckle from her lips. “Yeah right, Pinoe. She didn’t turn them down because she wasn’t offered anything.”
“No, it says right here,” Megan started, completely missing Crystal’s wide eyes and warning to stop talking. “Heath-
Christen snatched Megan’s phone and looked down at the article title: Heath, U.S. Collegiate Star, Sends Gunners Packing, Chooses to Play her Senior Season
Each word was like a punch to the gut, a slap to the face. But more so than the initial shock and surprise, Christen was utterly devastated by the pain, the confusion, and the hurt that grew within her.
If this was real, which it was becoming increasingly clear that it was , Tobin hadn’t told her about this. Tobin hadn’t come to her and told her that a professional team wanted her to play for them. Tobin hadn’t confided in her, bounced ideas off of her, sought her advice. Instead, she’d remained silent. She’d chosen not to say anything.
Christen handed the phone back to Megan absentmindedly, her eyes fixed on a spot on the locker room floor.
“Let’s, um, hurry and get dressed, so that we can do some dynamic warm-ups before Coach gets here,” Crystal said, standing up from her place and trying to move the other players out of the locker room. It wasn’t too difficult, since no one wanted to stay in the locker room that now held more awkward tension than it ever had.
Christen felt Megan and Crystal squeeze her on the shoulder, felt Kelley give her a quick hug. But she barely registered them, her eyes still fixed on the floor, unseeing.
“Why hadn’t Tobin said anything?” Christen wondered, her hands balled into fists at her sides, her feet bouncing on the locker room floor.
Christen dropped her head into her hands and forced deep lungfuls of air in and out, trying to calm her heart, trying to quell the raging storm of emotions inside of her.
This was big, it was huge. It was the chance to play professional football in England. It was a dream come true, and Tobin had turned it down. But maybe what confused her most of all, what was the bitterest pill to swallow, what stung the most, was the fact that Tobin had chosen not to say a single, fucking word.
“I just wanted you to know about my decision,” Tobin said, after explaining to Foudy why she’d chosen not to go to Arsenal. “I really appreciate everything that you’ve done for me, and I want to finish what I started here.”
“Selfishly, as your coach, I’m thrilled you’re choosing to stay,” Foudy replied with a smile, leaning forward onto her arms on the desk. “Even if Arsenal is a solid club, Marissa’s got a young squad over there and it would be a tough environment for even the most experienced footballer. I get why she wants you, but she isn’t the only one who does. Arsenal might be calling now, but I know teams will be calling come spring.”
“Aren’t you the one who said when opportunity comes knocking you’re supposed to answer it?” Tobin asked, still feeling insecure about the decision she’d made, even if she knew, in the long run, it was the right one.
Foudy chuckled. “I do say that. But sometimes it’s that second opportunity, the one waiting to knock, that we have to hold out for. Sometimes we gotta check that peephole and evaluate the opportunity first, then send it on its way. Don’t feel bad for waiting for the next opportunity to knock, because it’ll come for you, Heath.”
Tobin couldn’t stop the smile that spread across her face. “Well, I only get four years of college. I have the rest of my life to play professionally.”
“I agree,” Foudy nodded. “You’ll have a long, illustrious career. No need to rush into it before you’re ready.”
“Thanks,” Tobin mumbled, a slight blush rising to her cheeks. “I should probably get changed before you make me do laps, right?”
“Probably,” Foudy winked. “See you in fifteen.”
Tobin hurried out of her office and jogged down to the locker room, her heart feeling lighter after her meeting. Not only did Foudy quell some of her worries about the Arsenal decision, but she also told Tobin that she’d probably get to play at least sixty minutes in the first game. Tobin pushed the door open, surprised to find the room empty, aside from Christen.
“Hey, baby,” Tobin sing-songed, dropping her bag onto the nearest bench.
“Don’t hey baby me,” Christen replied coolly, her head still in her hands, her mind still thinking about that damn article title, about how everyone and their mother knew about Tobin and Arsenal before her.
“What’s wrong?” Tobin asked, making her way across the room with the intention of kneeling down and looking at Christen’s face. She could hear the strain in Christen’s voice, and her chest tightened with worry.
“When did you know?” Christen asked, her words somewhat muffled by the hands over her face.
“Know what?” Tobin asked, completely confused about what Christen was asking, especially since she couldn’t see Christen’s face.
“Arsenal, Tobs,” Christen shot back, dropping her hands from her face and looking up at Tobin. She felt every ounce of confusion, of hurt, of frustration bubble up within her. Her eyes burned and her cheeks felt hot but she didn’t care. All she cared about was understanding how this had happened and why she’d been kept in the dark about it. “I’m asking you about Arsenal,” she repeated.
Tobin’s stomach dropped, making her feel sick immediately. Her decision wasn’t supposed to be publicized. She hadn’t expected that Arsenal would release her name, assuming they’d only share the news about the Brazilian player who had accepted the spot on the team after Tobin turned them down.
Christen’s eyes were swirling with anger and hurt and sadness, and Tobin felt an urge to wrap her arms around Christen and apologize.
“I was going to tell you about that,” Tobin said, her throat constricting around her voice.
“It always seems that way. That you’re going to tell me, but then you never do. Not until other people know, until you’re forced to tell me,” Christen replied, the words tasting bitter on her tongue. It felt like deja vu, like a path they’d already walked. Tobin kept something to herself, other people knew before Christen, and Christen was the last to find out.
“No,” Tobin insisted, shaking her head. “That isn’t what happened. I was going to tell you. I just was waiting for a free day. I was waiting for tomorrow.”
Tobin felt her skin prickle. She was annoyed, not with Christen, necessarily. She was annoyed that someone else had told Christen, that Christen had heard from someone else. Tobin was frustrated that Christen didn’t trust that she was going to tell her eventually. She could see that Christen was shutting down, that her eyes were dark and still, that her lips were tightly pressed together, and Tobin felt sick, knowing that it would be difficult to convince Christen that she’d had good intentions in keeping this information from her.
“Why did you wait? Why did you keep this to yourself?” Christen wondered, shaking her head slightly.
“Because I knew I wasn’t going to take the opportunity. Why would I tell you about something that really doesn’t matter in the middle of the first week of preseason?” Tobin sighed, wishing she could step forward and sit beside her girlfriend, but her feet were glued to the floor.
Christen shot up from her chair, crossing the few feet between them. She looked between Tobin’s eyes, looking for an answer behind Tobin’s words. There was more to it, there had to be. You don’t turn down a chance to go pro, not unless you’ve got a very good reason. You also don’t keep something like that to yourself unless you’ve got a very, very good reason.
“This is your dream, Tobs. Jesus, this is Arsenal ! Why the hell would you say no to them?” Christen asked, her arms wrapping around her middle.
“This is not my dream,” Tobin insisted. “I never wanted to go pro before finishing college. I always wanted to get my degree first. I didn’t plan on playing internationally before playing in the U.S. I never wanted to start on a young team.” Tobin clenched her teeth, preparing for all the other questions and words Christen would throw at her.
Tobin’s words might have sounded sure, but Christen could hear the tightness in her voice. So, Christen knew there was more to it than that. There was more to it than not wanting to skip out on college, than not wanting to go international yet.
“What’s the real reason you said no?” Christen asked, her voice quiet, her heart clenched with worry that her name would fall from Tobin’s lips.
“That is the real reason,” Tobin huffed, putting her hands on her hips. She wanted Christen to believe her. She wanted Christen to let her explanation stand.
“Bullshit. You can’t lie to me, you’ve never been able to. So don’t try and start now,” Christen retorted.
Tobin squeezed her eyes shut. “Those are valid reasons,” she gritted.
“I’m not judging their fucking validity.” Christen wanted to wince at the harshness of her words but she held her ground, knowing that Tobin was moments from cracking, moments from telling her the truth, moments from confirming her worst fears.
Tobin could feel her throat tighten even more. She hated when Christen’s voice sounded like that, so angry and biting, especially when it was directed at her.
“Then what are you doing? I talked to Foudy and my dad, and neither of them judged the validity,” Tobin hissed, trying to hold her voice back from shouting or yelling at Christen. “You’re the only person so far who’s made me feel unhappy about the choice, who’s made me question whether I did the right thing or not.”
Christen’s eyes narrowed. “I’m asking you to look me in the eye and tell me that you didn’t turn down the chance to go pro to stay here with me ,” Christen whispered, her eyes dancing between Tobin’s, her arms wrapped so tightly around herself it was starting to hurt.
Tobin let out a long sigh, her hands slipping from her hips. “What do you want me to say? That I didn’t think about you and our life here?”
Christen felt her frustration, her anger, her disbelief, and her hurt rush through her. So Tobin had turned this down for her. Tobin Heath had turned down the chance to go to Arsenal for her . It made her stomach roll, it made her want to scream. She was a ball and chain, she was an anchor. She was keeping Tobin tethered to Los Angeles, she was keeping her from her dreams. And worst of all, Tobin hadn’t let her into that conversation.
“Then why didn’t you talk to me about it? How could you think of me and our life here and then shut me out?” Christen asked, her voice breaking slightly.
“Maybe because I didn’t want you to react like this! I didn’t want you to push me away or push me to go. You’re angry, and you’re getting anxious,” Tobin said, pointing to the way Christen was standing with her arms over her chest. “I made my choice. You were a factor. We’ve talked about a future together. Why wouldn’t you be a factor?”
“Let me be a factor then! Talk to me, Tobin! Let me in for godsakes! That’s all I ever ask of you and you never give it to me,” Christen snapped, her arms loosening and rising to gesture around her and between them. She felt her voice rising in tandem with her anger, but she couldn’t help it. It felt like the same battle she’d been fighting for years. She felt like she was constantly banging at the closed door, begging for Tobin to let her in, and never getting an answer.
“And what would you have said? Because I’m pretty sure you would’ve told me to go, considering you seem pretty pissed that I decided to stay!” Tobin spat back, her frustration reaching a new level.
“I have no idea what I would have said! Guess we’ll never know now,” Christen replied coolly.
“I didn’t realize I needed your permission to stay,” Tobin grumbled, tossing a shoe off of her foot and hitting one of the lockers. She could feel Christen pushing her, pushing her away, maybe as far away as England. She could feel Christen pushing her into an argument, pushing her into some sort of conflict, making them more distant than Tobin wanted them to be.
Christen recoiled at the words and the sound of Tobin’s shoe hitting the locker. She saw the detached look in Tobin’s eyes, the reproach on her face, and Christen realized that even if they’d had this argument before, there was no way to avoid it. They were in it again, they were rehashing old wounds and recently-healed scars. They were going down the same path and moving apart just like before.
Christen felt her lower lip quiver, so she pulled it between her teeth. She wouldn’t cry in front of Tobin, not now. So, she swallowed her tears and sighed.
“I need some air,” Christen said, her voice tight. She walked out of the locker room, her eyes burning and her hands shaking at her sides.
A part of Tobin wanted to walk after Christen, to spill out apologies and make up and do better next time, just like she’d done every time she’d made a mistake. But the more dominant part of her brain was still angry and frustrated. She was still reeling about how quickly Christen’s anger appeared. She couldn’t understand why Christen wanted to focus on something that Tobin had taken care of, that Tobin had already figured out. She hated seeing Christen upset, seeing her walk out, looking smaller than usual. Still, she couldn’t help but feel like Christen was pushing her away, that Christen was upset about Tobin’s decision and using it to get space. So, instead of following, Tobin gave her that space. She dug through her bag to find her cleats and socks and sat on the bench to get ready for fitness.
Christen had always excelled at fitness and fitness tests. She just loved running, it was so freeing. But today, she was on a whole other level and it had everything to do with the tangled, twisted ball of hurt and frustration lodged in her chest thanks to Tobin Heath.
She wasn’t the same player she was last year. She wasn’t petty and rude and bickering. She was a captain now, she was a leader. She had players looking up to her, so it wasn’t like she could take out her frustrations on Tobin verbally. Instead, she decided to completely detach herself from her emotions. She decided to ignore the frustration and the hurt and just focus on soccer, on fitness. She looked at Tobin like just another teammate. She oozed professionalism and aloofness. She knew it was alarming her friends and pissing off her girlfriend to no end, but she wasn’t going to stop. Not with the beep test ongoing and Tobin proving to be her stiffest competition for the best score.
Christen Press was driving Tobin insane. She was hardly looking at her, instead, focusing on the tasks at hand, running faster than usual and breathing harder than ever. Christen was becoming the teammate to beat during fitness. The freshmen were looking at Christen in awe like she was superhuman. Tobin didn’t need Christen to speak to her. She knew Christen was angry. Tobin was angry too. She was mad that Christen was so quick to push her away, to assume the worst in her. Tobin was angry that Christen didn’t seem to think that factoring Christen into her decisions was a logical decision. She was letting her insecurities get the best of her and starting to wonder if her definition of a future with Christen was different than Christen’s.
After Tobin’s third attempt at catching Christen’s eye, she decided that she needed to take drastic measures. She’d rather see Christen’s anger than her ambivalence. So, Tobin pushed herself. She pushed herself harder than she had since her injury and surgery. She pushed herself to run faster and stretch her legs into longer strides. She pushed herself until she was panting and gasping for air, just so she could keep up with Christen and, every so often, beat her.
“All right that’s level 12. With Crystal and Sam out now, we’re down to Heath and Press. You two want to keep going?” Coach Foudy asked, looking between her two captains, reading the tension between them. She just hoped they would decide to opt out, to not push themselves and do something stupid.
“I could do this all day,” Christen replied, wiping her forehead with the hem of her t-shirt, feeling a surge of competitiveness rush through her. She wasn’t about to let Tobin beat her, not at the beep test. Not when it felt like if Tobin beat her here, it would be like Tobin winning the argument they’d just had.
“I’m just getting started,” Tobin nodded.
“Your ankle’s fine?” Foudy replied, eyeing Tobin warily.
“Feels perfect,” Tobin lied, nodding her head at her coach. There was no way she was going to let Christen beat her when she’d been able to keep up all day, especially not over her stupid ankle that had been holding her back all summer.
Christen looked over at Tobin, feeling concern bloom in her chest. She might be upset and angry and a whole slew of other emotions, but she didn’t want Tobin to get hurt or reinjure herself. But right as she was about to pull out, to stop herself, Foudy was telling them to get back on the line.
“Level 12.1 starts in five seconds,” Foudy announced, focus falling to her watch.
Christen put her toe behind the white line, her eyes trained on the grass in front of her cleat. She could hear Tobin breathing a little heavily beside her and let it chase away whatever concern she had been feeling.
“You should quit,” Christen whispered, waiting for the whistle to start them, not chancing a look over at Tobin.
“I’m fine,” Tobin huffed between her teeth. She didn’t want Christen to act concerned when she’d clearly disapproved of her decision to stay in California when she’d clearly wanted her to leave and play somewhere else.
“Whatever you say. Not like I’d know if you weren’t,” Christen shot back, a little stubborn bite to her words.
“Not like you care,” Tobin breathed out, digging her toe into the ground and preparing to sprint forward.
Christen felt the words land like blows against her chest, causing her to miss when Foudy started them. She was half a step behind, not having been ready for the whistle, still reeling from Tobin’s reply.
She pushed herself hard, making up the lost ground quickly, pulling even with Tobin as she sprinted the first 20 yards. As she hit the cones to turn and sprint back, she pulled ahead. Her turn was far quicker than Tobin’s, and Christen knew she had her beat. She strided easily back, making it across the line with seconds to spare. She had let Tobin’s words, here and in the locker room, fuel her legs and her strides, carrying her forward simply out of spite.
Tobin’s breath raced out from between her lips as soon as she stepped over the line and stopped running. Her ankle was starting to throb, her lungs were burning, and her heart was aching. Of course, she knew Christen cared. She’d let her anger get the best of her. That didn’t mean that she didn’t feel like Christen wanted to create space with their argument. She felt like Christen wanted to put space between them and was using Tobin’s mistake as a tool to create a rift. So, instead of tapping out and telling Foudy that she needed to go stretch and ice her leg, Tobin lined up again, ignoring Crystal’s concerned look and Foudy’s raised eyebrows.
“Just stop, Tobs,” Christen hissed, clenching her fists at her sides as Foudy readied them for level 12.2.
“Why?” Tobin huffed.
“You’re going to hurt yourself,” Christen shot back.
“Who cares,” Tobin nearly growled, her voice low and her eyes burning into the grass.
“GO!” Foudy yelled, blowing her whistle in a short, sharp blast.
This time, Tobin pushed herself even harder. Her right ankle was starting to feel numb, and she was relying on her quad, calf, and shin to propel that leg forward. She knew that this would likely be the last time she’d be able to sprint. She could already feel how limited her range of motion was, how sore her shin and ankle were becoming.
Christen’s feet were frozen on the line. She’d heard Foudy’s whistle, heard her start them off, but she couldn’t move. She couldn’t move when Tobin was about to literally hurt herself to prove a point, to be stubborn. She couldn’t continue this when Tobin was convinced that she didn’t care. So, Christen stayed at the line, watching Tobin sprint the twenty yards there and back. With tears blurring her vision, Christen stepped back from the line and pushed by her teammates. She trudged over to the stands, over to where she’d left her water bottle.
When Tobin finished her sprint, she hobbled toward the locker room, ignoring the looks she got from Foudy, Crystal, and Kelley. She needed to roll her entire leg out and sit in an ice bath and ignore the angry heat that was coursing through her veins. She needed to ignore the prickling feeling at the back of her eyes from the ache in her heart and the pain in her ankle. She needed to ignore it all.
“Speak,” Crystal whispered, slinging an arm across Christen’s shoulders as they walked back to the locker room.
“Not here,” Christen replied, her words tired. She was beyond exhausted, not just from fitness, but from everything. Fighting with Tobin, ignoring Tobin, feeling like this , was just exhausting and Christen wanted to be over it. But she kept getting stuck on the fact that this was the same thing all over again. This was Tobin’s Dad’s accident, this was Tobin going on anti-anxiety medication, this was every little thing that Tobin deemed worthy to keep to herself and not share. It was a vicious cycle that Christen had thought they were working through, but apparently not.
She felt hurt and betrayed. She felt like everything they’d overcome and worked on these past few years was erased. She felt like they were back at the beginning again, with Tobin keeping things from her.
“Let’s go home,” Crystal said, her brows knitted in concern at the hurt clinging to Christen’s words, at the sadness etched across her features.
Christen felt Crystal walk her into the locker room. She went through the motions of stripping off her sweaty practice gear and throwing it into the laundry, of getting dressed and putting her shoes back on, not bothering with a shower.
“Kel, Pinoe, let’s go,” Crystal instructed.
“What about Tobito?” Kelley asked, her voice slightly unsure, her eyes shifting between her three friends.
“She’ll find another way home,” Christen huffed, grabbing her backpack from her locker and walking outside to the car.
“Someone’s in the doghouse,” Megan whispered, pulling Kelley toward the door.
“She’s so far past the doghouse,” Crystal replied with a shake of her head.
By the time Tobin managed to pull herself out of the ice bath, she knew the locker room was empty. She knew Christen and her other roommates had already left her. She hadn’t necessarily expected Christen to leave her, but she wasn’t fully surprised either. Despite preparing herself for any number of petty things Christen might do in anger, Tobin couldn’t help that she felt disappointed and hurt at being left behind. She couldn’t help that her eyes stung, and her stomach ached, and her head throbbed.
She pulled on a pair of sweats and grabbed her backpack, slowly making her way out of the locker room and toward the street. It took her forty minutes to get back to her house on foot. Normally it would take twenty, but her ankle still felt slow and sore, and after so many sprints, Tobin thought walking slowly was necessary. When she stalked into the house, Tobin ignored her roommates, all of whom, besides Christen, were seated in the living room. She climbed the stairs slowly and softly, intent on crawling into bed and pretending that this entire day had never happened.
However, when she made it into the bedroom she shared with Christen, she immediately noticed that things were out of place. Christen’s books were no longer sitting on the bedside table. The closet door was open, and a noticeable amount of Christen’s clothing was missing. A few pairs of her shoes had disappeared from the shoe rack, and the jewelry from the top of Christen’s dresser was gone. Tobin threw her soccer bag into the corner, unable to hold back the tears that had been begging to leak from her eyes.
Christen had done what Tobin was most afraid of, she’d gathered her things from their room and run, even if just down the hall. She’d left instead of facing Tobin and having a conversation. The chasm that Christen’s absence left in the room made Tobin’s heart ache. Her hurt and anger pulsed through her body, heating her skin and making the tears fall quicker. Tobin ripped her shoes off and dropped onto her bed, pulling the covers over her shoulders and trying to ignore the smell of Christen’s shampoo that enveloped her.
Christen heard the three knocks on her door and froze. She was trying to slip the fitted sheet onto the bed by herself and epically failing, so the last thing she needed was a witness. Especially a witness that could be Tobin.
“Who is it?” she called out, her voice a little hoarse from the tears she’d been shedding from the moment she returned home.
“It’s me,” Crystal called through the door. “I brought cookies.”
Christen let out a shaky breath and abandoned the sheets. She wiped at her eyes and walked to the door, opening it hesitantly to peek out.
“I don’t really feel like company right now, Crys,” Christen mumbled.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Crystal huffed, pushing through the door anyway and settling on the foot of Christen’s unmade bed.
Christen sighed and shut the door, leaning back against the door and crossing her arms defensively.
“Why are you making this bed?” Crystal asked, raising an eyebrow at Christen.
“I’m not sleeping in there,” Christen replied like it was obvious.
“Care to share why not?” Crystal pressed.
“You were in the locker room. You should probably be able to put two and two together,” Christen retorted, cringing immediately at the harshness of her words. She pushed off the door and joined Crystal on the bed, an apologetic look on her face. “I’m sorry, I didn't mean that. I’m just- I’m hurting.”
“I get that,” Crystal nodded. “You’re upset because Tobin didn’t come to you and say, ‘Hey, someone’s trying to send me across the ocean, what do you think?’”
Christen nodded, knowing that was a large part of it. “I just feel like she never talks to me when things get real or serious. It’s easy to be open about things like a favorite color, but when life gets tough, she shuts me out.”
“That’s bullshit,” Crystal scoffed, shoving a cookie into her mouth and offering the plate to Christen.
Christen recoiled, looking sharply over at Crystal. She couldn’t understand the bite in her best friend’s words, and she wouldn’t be able to stomach a cookie right now.
“I still don’t know what the fuck happened to Tobin’s dad and family. She didn’t tell anyone but you. Sure, it took time, but you’re the person she chose to tell,” Crystal said, trying to keep her voice even but stern. It was time for tough love.
Christen sighed and dropped her chin to her chest. “But what does it say if I’m not the first person she goes to? If I can’t be the one she turns to when she needs someone?”
“Sweetie,” Crystal hummed. “What would you have said if Tobin had asked for your advice about Arsenal?”
“I would have put my big girl pants on and told her to go to England because it’s a great opportunity,” Christen shrugged. “I would have bit my tongue and not asked her to stay, because that would be unfair. Even if I wanted her to stay...I’m not going to be the thing that holds her back.”
“Maybe that’s exactly why she didn’t want you to tell you that. Maybe she decided not to ask you, knowing that you’d tell her to go,” Crystal countered.
“Is that a good enough reason to shut me out?” Christen wondered, hearing the truth in Crystal’s words, but knowing they weren’t lessening the hurt in her heart.
“Do you wish she were in England?” Crystal wondered aloud, cocking her head to the side.
“No,” Christen replied forcefully, looking up at Crystal. “Of course not. I don’t want her to be far away.”
“Are you happy she’s still here?” Crystal asked.
“I-” Christen stopped and shook her head. “How can you even ask me that? Everything's better when she’s here.”
“Because right now, I can hear her listening to super depressing music and poorly muffling her crying, and you’re sitting in another room pissed off because she wanted to stay with you,” Crystal bluntly pointed out.
Christen felt tears burn her eyes again, knowing that Tobin was as upset as she was.
“I’m not mad she stayed,” Christen argued. “I’m mad because she didn’t bother to talk to me about it. How can she tell me that she thought about me and our life together, and then not include me in the conversation?”
“If you were in her shoes, what would you have told her?” Crystal asked, hoping to help Christen see some of what Tobin was probably feeling.
“Why are you taking her side on this?” Christen replied, her eyes narrowing a bit.
“I’m not taking anyone’s side. I just think you’re really pushing her away, considering all she did was decide to stay here,” Crystal argued.
“You aren’t even trying to see my side of this, Crys,” Christen retorted, getting to her feet. She felt all of that frustration from earlier burn through her again, but this time at her best friend.
“I know that you’re pissed. I know that you wish she’d talk more. I know that you hate that she doesn’t share, but that girl would do anything for you, and you’re acting like you wish she were in England,” Crystal huffed, standing up to meet Christen’s eyes.
“I think I’d like to be alone,” Christen replied, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Fine, I’ll leave the cookies,” Crystal mumbled.
“Nope,” Crystal smirked, leaving the plate on the bed.
Christen grumbled, watching Crystal leave the same way she came, watching as Crystal shut her door gently.
A few moments later, a new slightly louder knock came on Christen’s door.
“Oh my god, what do you want Crys?!” Christen growled, throwing open the door.
“Hey, I just wanted to gossip,” Megan said, a smile sliding across her face.
“Are you on Team Tobin too?” Christen asked.
“Oh, I’m team you all the way,” Megan assured, crossing the threshold and plopping down on Christen’s bed.
Christen tried to smile, but the gesture fell flat. She had quickly soured her relationship with her girlfriend and her best friend in the span of just a few hours. If she’d been exhausted before, now she was basically dead on her feet.
“Tobin’s a complete ass, giving up an opportunity like that. What an idiot, right?” Megan grumbled, shoving a cookie in her mouth.
“Sure, Pinoe,” Christen sighed, dropping onto the bed, her arms wrapped around herself.
“Also, can we just say, she was kind of a dick to not tell us. I mean, I’d jump at that opportunity, and if I’d known she was giving it up, I might have been able to put my name in the mix,” Megan sighed.
Christen felt herself nodding along, feeling more and more validated by the words leaving Megan’s lips.
“She’s got a total issue with keeping secrets,” Megan moaned, relishing in the taste of the cookies.
“Do you keep secrets from Sue?” Christen asked quietly, grabbing a cookie and taking a small bite out of it.
“I mean, duh, she’s my girlfriend. I don’t tell her everything, not when I know it’ll hurt her, but I tell her what she needs to know,” Megan shrugged.
Christen dropped the cookie back to the plate, unable to stomach any more. “Do you think this is something I needed to know? Or was she rightfully hiding it to keep me from getting hurt?”
“You totally should have known about this,” Megan assured. “Although, she might have been trying to save your feelings...Nah, she should have told you,” Megan nodded.
“Would you have told Sue?”
“Uhh...I mean that’s different, right? We aren’t living together. I don’t know. I’d probably be too excited to keep it a secret from her. But I also wouldn’t have said no to Arsenal,” Megan admitted.
Christen nodded, feeling a little bit better now. Crystal had made her feel insane for being upset about this, for caring. Sure, she was beyond happy that Tobin had chosen to stay. She was happy that Tobin would be here to finish their careers off at UCLA. But she wasn’t happy about everything that had led up to that decision, and Crystal hadn’t even tried to understand that. The only one who did was Megan.
“That wasn’t really a fair question, sorry. I just- I’m not mad she turned them down really. I’m just upset that she factored me in but never talked to me about it. I’m fucking pissed because I feel like I’m holding her back from doing everything she deserves the chance to,” Christen whispered, her fingers toying with the bottom of her shorts.
“You aren’t holding her back,” Megan sighed, realizing that Christen needed a listening ear, not an opinionated friend.
“What else am I supposed to think?” Christen replied dejectedly.
“Maybe Tobin really hates England?” Megan offered.
Christen huffed out a weak chuckle. “I doubt it, she loves Arsenal.”
“I’m mad that she turned it down,” Megan whispered. “I would’ve loved that opportunity.”
“I know you are, but you’ll get so many opportunities, Pinoe, I know it,” Christen assured, patting Megan’s knee comfortingly.
“She will too, you know. Rumor has it, she’s probably going to be the top draft pick this year,” Megan offered.
Christen shrugged, bringing her hands back to her lap. “It’s what she deserves, she’s...she’s the best. I just want her to have the chance to be the best, without her keeping her eyes on the rearview mirror, where I’ll be.”
“Woah, woah, woah! Who says you’ll be in the rearview?” Megan asked, sitting up a little at the insecurity in Christen’s voice.
“Okay, maybe not rearview...maybe like, a few lanes over?”
“Have you told Tobin about this?” Megan asked, her voice gentle and non-confrontational. “Have you talked to her about the future, about what kind of jobs you two might have, and about where you both might end up living?”
“I was planning on doing it during our anniversary,” Christen mumbled, the thought making her heart clench in her chest.
“Seems like the opportunity has arrived,” Megan muttered, letting out an awkward laugh.
“I want to talk to her, but I also...don’t, you know? I still feel so betrayed and I just need some time,” Christen whispered.
“You’re welcome to join Kel and me for a movie night instead,” Megan offered.
Christen shook her head sadly. “I just think I need to be alone for a while.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll get out of your hair. I’m taking these,” Megan sighed, rolling off the bed and grabbing the plate of cookies.
“Thank you, Pinoe. Love you,” Christen said, doing her best to smile.
“Love you too, and you aren’t less talented than any one of us, even Tobin,” Megan whispered, her hand already resting on the doorknob.
Christen watched her door shut for the second time that night, tears blurring her vision once more as she realized that the perfect bubble she and Tobin had been in was now shattered.