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She went out to the haze in the morning grace

She went out and got lost in a tall hedge maze

Where'd you go? Where'd you go? Why'd you leave this place?

On my heart, on my face

And my love is yours but your love's not mine

So I'll go but we know I'll see you down the line

And we'll hate what we've lost but we'll love what we find

And I'm feeling fine, we've made it to the coastline

Past all the signs of the slow decline

Live like your love wasn't meant for mine

Now you've gone, now you've gone to a different life

To a lonely side

Wake up to the sound of your fleeting heart

Wake up to the sound of your fleeting heart

When you go, what you leave is a work of art

(Tobin - “Featherstone” by The Paper Kites)

 

Good God, I'm broken

I'm out chasing my mind

It's given time to help me see

What I've lost, I'll never find

It's too far to follow

I've got nothing left but night

And it all falls down

Every word and sound

Coming away from you

Coming away from you

And on broken ground

It's not lost nor found

Coming away from you

So why won't you take my hand and rescue me?

And lie to me

With your lips upon my heart

Tell me over and over

How we'll never be apart

Say it soft

Let your lashes grow

Save me from the truth

I deserve to be alone

(Christen - “Rescue Me” by James Gillespie)

 

SEPTEMBER 2nd

“Yeah, Mom, but I gotta go. Duncan wanted to talk to me before practice- yeah, I love you too!” Christen grinned, hanging up the phone and sliding it into her pocket as she walked into SeatGeek Stadium. 

She hustled to Duncan’s office, a palpable pep back in her step. Tobin’s visit had given her the recharge she needed. She was still tired and aching and struggling, but she didn’t feel so alone or close to breaking anymore. She had a plan, a clear plan. She knew what every week was going to bring. She knew when her family and Tobin were coming to visit. She knew that her time in Chicago wasn’t going to be forever. And she was going to pass the time by playing well on the field and scoring as many goals as she could.

“Hey, Coach,” Christen greeted, poking her head into Duncan’s office.

“Sit down,” Duncan said, keeping his eyes on his computer and pointing at the chair across from his desk. 

Christen swallowed the bile that rose into her throat anytime Duncan so much as spoke to her, especially with that tone. She dropped into the chair and tapped her fingers across her thigh, waiting for her coach to speak up.

“I’m sure you know why I called you in,” Duncan sighed. 

Christen wracked her brain for any possible reason why Duncan would want to see her. She hadn’t broken any team rules as far as she was aware of. She’d been training hard. She’d assisted two of their three goals a few days ago against Houston. She had even rejected KMew’s various attempts at getting her to drink when they’d grabbed dinner after the game. She had no clue why Duncan looked so disappointed and angry, but it had her stomach dropping.

“A reliable source told me that you’ve been going out after games,” Duncan grunted, leaning back in his chair. 

“I don’t go out and drink or anything,” Christen assured.

“That’s not what my source said. You shouldn’t be going out with the competition anyway.”

“They’re my friends, my old teammates. When the game’s over, they’re no longer the competition,” Christen replied, completely thrown at the disdain in Duncan’s words.

“And it’s that kind of attitude that makes me feel like you aren’t ready to be a real threat to other teams,” Duncan retorted. “You’re benched for the Courage game.” 

Christen felt her heart drop at Duncan’s words. Benched. She was benched. Suddenly, the plan she’d been clinging to had slipped right through her fingers. Time wasn’t going to fly if she wasn’t playing. It wouldn’t be October before she knew it if she wasn’t playing. If she wasn’t playing, she had no idea how she was going to survive the rest of her time here. 

“Um- I- I mean, am I not working hard enough?” Christen stammered, her mind reeling and her fingers tapping at a quicker pace against her thigh.  

Duncan narrowed his eyes at Christen. “Listen, you’re a rookie. You were playing and then going out, as if there weren’t consequences. This setback will be good for you in the long run.”

“But I wasn’t!” Christen wanted to scream. She wasn’t going out and partying, she wasn’t doing any of that.

“I’ll see you on the field with the rest of your team in thirty minutes,” Duncan grunted, inviting Christen to leave. 

Christen slowly got to her feet, struggling to take deep breaths as the world seemed to shift under her feet.

“I’m gonna work hard enough to get back on the field. Just thought you should know,” Christen said, her voice even and full of stubborn conviction.

“I’m sure,” Duncan hummed, already focused on his computer again. 

Christen bit her tongue and stomped out of Duncan’s office, heading back out of the stadium. She found a quiet corner, under some trees, and pulled her phone out of her pocket, dialing Tobin as the first few tears of frustration threatened to fall.

The phone rang a few times as Christen’s breathing picked up, as she truly started to process everything that had just happened. 

“I’m being benched. He’s benching me. He’s benching more for no good fucking reason,” Christen thought, pressing her hand to her sternum, trying to regulate her almost hysterical breathing.

“Hello? Chris?” Tobin mumbled, her voice groggy and hoarse. 

Christen was momentarily confused at the sleepiness in Tobin’s voice, and then she remembered it was 6:30AM on the west coast. Just because her early riser of a Mom had been awake to answer her call this morning, didn’t mean Tobin would be. She’d completely forgotten about the time change until now, her need to call Tobin and talk to her overriding everything else.

“Shit, baby, I’m sorry,” Christen huffed, pressing her hand more firmly against her sternum. “I forgot how early it was there. Go back to sleep.”

“No, I’m up. What’s going on?” Tobin asked with a small yawn, sitting up in bed. She cleared her throat and reached out to turn on her bedside lamp, grabbing her water bottle and hoping some water would help wake her up. 

“It’s fine, I can just call you after practice-”

“I’m awake, and I want to talk to you,” Tobin assured her, picking up the slight tension in Christen's words and feeling desperate to know why it was there. She could sleep later. 

Christen let out a long, shaky breath, her eyes falling shut. “He’s benching me,” Christen whispered, those frustrated tears still looming.

“Excuse me?” Tobin asked, her grip on the water bottle tightening at what Christen had said and how Christen’s voice sounded. 

“He’s benching me for the game this weekend…”

“Does he want to lose? Why would he bench you?” 

Christen choked out a quick laugh, a single tear slipping down her cheek. “He- he said it was because someone on the team reported that I was going out drinking. That I was schmoozing it up with players from the other team after games which means I’m not ready to be a threat on the field,” Christen said in a rush, the pressure behind her eyes building and the fire in her belly growing stronger.

“Okay, that’s fucking ridiculous!” Tobin seethed, fully awake now. “First of all, you haven’t had a drop of alcohol since joining the team, and second of all, you aren’t schmoozing. Hanging out with friends from other teams off the field is normal.”

“That’s what I tried to tell him, but he is hellbent on not playing me. He said I was getting too comfortable. That this will be good for me in the long run, but it’s such bullshit!” Christen fumed, pushing a hand through her hair as her anger and frustration continued to build.

“What a fucking asshole!” Tobin growled, getting out of bed and pacing across the floor of her bedroom. “He’s literally grasping at straws trying to bench you! Also, he’s shooting himse- Wait, he said someone told him that you’re drinking?” 

“Yeah...I don’t know who because I don’t have any friends here. Nobody is friends on this team. It’s not like any of us know each other well enough to know what we do after games,” Christen shrugged, shaking her head at the unfairness of it all.

“I mean...you have one friend,” Tobin mumbled, scratching at the back of her neck. 

“Nik wouldn’t do this,” Christen replied, recoiling a bit at the slight accusation in Tobin’s words.

“Are you sure?” Tobin asked, hating the way her stomach knotted at the idea of Nikki. 

“I-” Christen paused, and truly considered. But as she ran through everything, the extra training Nikki always offered to do with her, the pre-practice smoothies, the late night talks after games, the lazy Sundays watching Friends reruns, she couldn’t fathom Nikki doing something like this to her. Nikki was her friend, her only friend here, and Nikki cared about her. “I’m sure. Nik didn’t do this, and neither did Julie. It must be someone else, or Coach is just blowing smoke. He might be lying just to play mind games or something,” she added with a bite to her words.

“What a dick,” Tobin muttered. “If Chris trusts Nikki, so can you. Trust her judgement,” Tobin thought, shoving down every bad feeling she had about Christen’s roommate. 

Christen took a few deep breaths, forcing her mind to quiet and her angry heart to settle. “I told him I was going to work hard enough to make it back on the field,”  she said quietly, wishing Tobin was here to hold her while she tried to calm down.

“Baby, you already work harder than anybody else on that team. You don’t need to be pushing yourself any more,” Tobin sighed, her heart aching to reach through the phone and hold Christen. 

“I can always work harder. I can get extra trainings in and more lifts if need be. I can work so hard that there’s no way Duncan will be able to keep me benched,” Christen replied, feeling her conviction building within her again. She could do this, she could get back on the field. This was unfair, it was unfair in the worst way possible. But she wasn’t going to roll over and just let the unfairness of it all break her. She was going to fight like hell so this wouldn’t break her.

“You promised me that you’d take care of yourself,” Tobin whispered. “Don’t break that promise, please.”

“I won’t,” Christen replied forcefully. “This is me not breaking it. Getting back on the field is the only way I’m going to survive this place. Without the game...I don’t know, baby. I don’t want to find out what happens if I lose that too.”

Tobin breathed out, her heart cracking at the way Christen’s voice sounded. She leaned back against the wall, tilting her head to look at the picture of Christen on her dresser. “You always work hard. You’re physically so fast and so talented and so healthy. I just...I love your heart and your mind and your soul, and those can’t take a backseat. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to tell you what to do,” Tobin sighed. “I just love you, and I’m so so so sorry you’re there.”

Christen felt a long sigh leave her lips as her eyes fluttered open again. “I hear you, baby. I really do, and I’m going to do my best not to let anything take a backseat. I’m going to train harder and longer, I’m going to love the hell out of you, and I’m going to come out of this better for it.”

“Will you tell me if you need anything or just want to talk through things? I can listen without trying to fix things if you want,” Tobin asked. 

“Of course, you’re my person. I always want to talk to you, even when you try to fix things. You fix because you care,” Christen replied with a small smile.

“I care about you more than anything or anyone else,” Tobin said, nodding, even though Christen couldn’t see. 

“Same goes, Tobs,” Christen breathed out.

“Chrissy! You’re super early,” Nikki called, waving from where she’d just climbed out of her car. 

Christen looked up, catching sight of Nikki and then waving back at her. “I gotta go, baby. Call me later?” Christen said into the phone, her heart feeling just a bit better after talking about this with Tobin. She was still angry and frustrated, but she had a new plan and she was going to stick to it.

“I’ll call you as soon as practice is over,” Tobin promised. “I love you.”

“I’m counting down the minutes. I love you more,” Christen whispered, blowing a few kisses into the phone and then hanging up as Nikki walked up.

“Bit early in the morning for Toni, isn’t it?” Nikki asked, cocking her head to the side.

“I woke Tobin up on accident, but it’s fine. Do you want to get some shooting in before practice? Duncan’s being a grade-A jerk and I want to prove to him that I don’t deserve to be on the bench this weekend,” Christen said, slinging her backpack back over her shoulder and sliding her phone into her pocket.

“He’s benching you?” Nikki gasped, adjusting her bag on her shoulder. 

Christen lifted and dropped her shoulders, her face hardening. “Yeah and I’d really like to not stay benched. So what do you say?”

“Of course, I’ll get some shooting in with you. I’m always here to help, babe,” Nikki cooed, grabbing onto Christen’s arm and walking her toward the locker room. “You can totally tell me about what Duncan said. I’m here to listen.”

Christen smiled tightly at Nikki. “I’d just rather kick the shit out of some balls right now. Maybe later?”

“Of course. We can train as long as you want,” Nikki promised. 

Christen nodded and let Nikki lead her to the locker room. She had a new plan, a solid plan. She was going to train so hard that Duncan wasn’t going to be able to justify keeping her benched. After this weekend, she was going to earn her way back onto the field. And then she was going to play so well for the rest of the season that she was going to leave Duncan wishing he could keep her at the end of her contract. 


“He shouldn’t be coaching,” Tobin fumed, kicking another ball toward the goal and watching it bend into the upper right corner, swishing into the back of the net. 

“I don’t think she’s breathed in two minutes,” Sonnett whispered, her eyes alight with concern as she watched Tobin continue to send absolute bangers into the net. “She just keeps spewing angry words.”

“Couldn’t pay me money to be in that goal right now,” A.D. hummed, sipping on her protein shake.

“I don’t think we’re gonna make our lunch reservations,” Allie mumbled, dropping onto the field between A.D. and Sonnett, completely showered and changed into jeans and a nice shirt. 

“Tobin doesn’t seem to be in the mood for lunch,” Lindsey observed from her spot next to Sonnett. She readjusted the baseball cap on her head and sighed as Tobin launched another rocket into the back of the net.

“Like, do they not vet coaches anymore?” Tobin growled. “Who interviews these people, and why don’t they notice that they’re assholes?” She drove another ball with her right foot into the left corner of the goal. 

“Should we say something? Or answer her?” Sonnett hissed, looking between her friends.

“I think these are rhetorical questions, Sonny,” Lindsey rolled her eyes, picking some blades of grass and dropping them onto Sonnett’s head. 

“And then, I try to call her after practice, and she’s doing an extra lift, which isn’t gonna change his mind because he’s a prick-” Tobin grunted, shooting another ball toward goal and narrowly missing the crossbar. “-who doesn’t want her to play.”

“She’s going to hurt something. Maybe the goal post, but still something,” A.D. whispered to Allie, nudging Allie’s shoulder with her own.

“Why would you pull one of your best goal scorers?” Tobin hissed, juggling a ball for a second before she sent a volley into the back of the net. 

“HARRY!” Allie yelled from her spot on the grass, worry clear in her voice.

“WHAT?!” Tobin snapped, turning away from the goal after another ball hit the back of the net. 

Four sets of eyebrows shot up at the anger in Tobin’s words, at the clouds of irritation on her face.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, shoving baby hairs off of her forehead. 

“Let’s go get milkshakes and talk about it,” A.D. offered, getting to her feet with a tight smile for Tobin.

“Chris doesn’t even think she can drink a milkshake right now because they’ve got her thinking you have to be eating perfectly all the time and training nonstop,” Tobin said, her shoulders sagging and her heart aching. 

“Unfortunately, C.P. isn’t here. So let’s go have a milkshake in her honor and talk about whatever it is that’s got you wound up tight enough to turn coal to diamonds, okay?” Allie said, walking over to Tobin.

“I haven’t showered,” Tobin murmured, looking at the dozens of balls that were sitting in the goal. 

“We’ll wait!” Sonnett yelled, jumping to her feet as well and then helping Lindsey up. 

“And we’ll shag the balls,” Lindsey offered, dragging Sonnett toward the goal with the empty ball bag.

“Okay,” Tobin nodded. “Thanks, you guys.”

“We got your back, dude,” A.D. nodded. “But you should definitely shower, you’re kinda rank.”

Tobin let out a small laugh, her chest still feeling too tight to let out her typical, full, cheek-hurting laugh. “I’ll be out in fifteen minutes,” she said, jogging toward the locker room. 

It took her twenty minutes to shower, change, and attempt to call Christen again. She didn’t answer, probably in the middle of her lift with Nikki. She hung up the phone and gathered her stuff together, still feeling like she could punch a hole into the wall. 

 

[Tobs 💜 2:03PM

You must still be lifting or something. I’m finished with practice and getting some food with Harry. Let me know when you’re free. I love you. Maybe we can watch a movie or something tonight to unwind?

 

Tobin shoved her phone into the pocket of her jeans and trudged back to where she’d left her friends. 

“Less rank?” she asked, adjusting her bag on her shoulder. 

Allie leaned forward and sniffed. “Don’t know...guys?” Allie grinned, beckoning Lindsey, Sonnett, and A.D. over. With large smiles, everyone enveloped Tobin in a big hug. 

“Much better!” A.D. laughed.

“Damn, Tobin, smelling fresh!” Sonnett joked with a wink.

“Is that a hint of pine? Eucalyptus?” Lindsey asked, ruffling Tobin’s wet hair just a bit.

“Okay, that’s enough,” Tobin rolled her eyes. “Where are these milkshakes?” 

A.D. led the group to a small, hole-in-the-wall ice cream place downtown. Once everyone had ordered and Tobin had recounted what Christen had told her on the phone, the group sat around a booth in the back in stunned silence.

“Holy shit, Harry,” Allie said with a small shake of her head.

“And I have no idea if her coach is just a complete dick...well actually I do know that he’s a dick. I just don’t know if there really is someone else on the team who’s trying to get her benched, someone who talked to Duncan and lied about Chris,” Tobin said, making a face when she said Duncan’s name. “What kind of messed-up person does that?” 

“This game caters to everyone, even messed up little shits,” Lindsey shrugged. “Especially when you’ve got a coach like that at the helm of the team. If he acts that way, he gives his team permission to be that way too.”

Sonnett patted Lindsey on the back comfortingly and Allie leaned her head on Lindsey’s shoulder, both of them hearing the pain in her voice. 

“Do you really think someone did that to Pressy?” A.D. asked, leaning her arms on the table and fixing Tobin with a curious look. 

“I mean, I hope not,” Tobin shrugged, staring at her milkshake. She was trying to give Nikki the benefit of the doubt. More than that, she was trying to trust Christen’s judgement, and Christen seemed to have full confidence in Nikki. 

“You’ve got a guess, though?” Sonnett said with an arched brow.

“Her roommate gives me a vibe,” Tobin mumbled. “Not Julie, obviously.” She glanced up at her teammates. “But Chris trusts her. She says she’s her only friend on the team, and I’m trying really hard to believe her when she says Nikki is a good person.”

“Trust your gut, but also trust your girl, Tobs,” Lindsey observed.

“Sometimes it’s hard to balance,” Tobin admitted. “She calls her Chrissy, which turned me off immediately.”

Allie fake gagged. “Absolutely not. That’s heinous!”

“I don’t know, maybe she’s just a really big health freak, but she tells Chris to train more and to eat cleaner all the time, and I know Chris thinks that all professional players are like that, but we aren’t...obviously,” she said, motioning to the milkshakes on the table and the smear of chocolate sauce on Sonnett’s mouth. 

“Well, we can always suss her out when we play them in October. See if she’s bad news or just gives bad first impressions,” A.D. offered.

“That’s true. I really need October to come sooner,” Tobin sighed. “She hates it in Chicago, and it’s getting harder and harder to be far away when she’s hurting.”

“It’ll be here before you know it,” Allie said with a smile, reaching across the table to grab Tobin’s hand. “And she won’t be hurting forever. Plus, she’s got you to help her through this.”

“With you by her side, it’ll be fine,” Lindsey agreed.


SEPTEMBER 5th

“You’re gonna have to run a little faster than that if you plan on getting off the bench,” Nikki panted, putting her hands on her knees and looking over at Christen. 

Christen wiped the sweat from her forehead with the bottom of her shirt. “I feel like I’m killing it though. What’s my time?” Christen huffed, squinting over at Nikki.

Nikki looked down at her watch. “Shit forgot to start it. Let’s go again.”

Christen nodded and readied herself on the endline for another full-field sprint. Nikki started her watch, and they were off, sprinting as fast as they could. Christen felt like she was flying. She’d always loved running and sprinting and fitness. This was the one part of the game you could always control. You could control your fitness and your physicality and your speed. And today, Christen was in total control.

With a laugh, Christen crossed the endline moments before Nikki.

“Jeez, Chrissy! You’re killing me,” she laughed. “I stopped it when you crossed the line. 12.3 seconds.”

Christen grabbed Nikki’s wrist and looked down at the watch, her eyes moving from the numbers on the stopwatch to the small time at the top of the watch face. Her face fell when she saw that it was past 7:00PM.

“Shit! Is that the time?” Christen asked, eyes wide.

“Yeah, what’s wrong?” Nikki asked. 

Christen backed away from Nikki and from the field, aiming for the locker room. “Date night starts in fifteen minutes, and I’m never going to make it in time. I gotta go.”

“I’ll give you a ride,” Nikki offered. 

“Can we hurry?” Christen asked, starting to run over to the locker room.

“Of course!” she chirped, jogging after Christen.

In just five minutes, Christen was sliding into the passenger seat of Nikki’s car, still in her sweaty practice gear. She watched as Nikki hopped into the driver’s seat and started it up.

“I guess after two years, you don’t have to dress up for dates,” Nikki laughed. “That’s the plus side of long-distance and FaceTime dates, right?” 

“I’m sure she won’t mind if I change for her on FaceTime,” Christen said with a tight laugh, tapping her foot on the floor of the car as Nikki drove them out of the parking lot.

“You’re super antsy, Chrissy. It isn’t like she’ll be mad. You were training,” Nikki said, turning on her blinker and waiting for three cars to pass before she turned left out of the parking lot. 

“I was already late yesterday too, though. I just don’t want it to become a habit,” Christen sighed.

“Yesterday wasn’t even a date night. She shouldn’t expect you to prioritize her every night,” Nikki warned. 

“She doesn’t, but I expect it from myself. She’s a priority for me, Nik,” Christen replied, rolling her eyes at the fact that Nikki was going 35 in a 45 zone. “And you know how to use the gas pedal right?” she joked.

“Sorry, of course,” Nikki nodded. “My shin splints are just kind of acting up today.”

“Why didn’t you say something? I’m sorry, Nik. I should be driving,” Christen replied, her brows creased in concern.

“It’s fine. I didn’t realize how achy they were feeling until I sat down in the car,” Nikki hummed. “There’s a restorative yoga class tomorrow morning. You want to join me? It’ll probably help with your performance.”

Despite Christen’s hesitation around doing yoga with literally anyone else besides Tobin or her family, she found herself nodding. “If it’ll get me back on the field, I’m all for it.”

“Great! Maybe we can get some smoothies or something afterward. I’ve been wanting to get smoothies and walk by the lake,” Nikki sighed, waving another car ahead of her, even though it was her turn to go at the four-way stop. 

“I’ll have to go straight to the airport to get my Mom from there, but I think that would be fun,” Christen replied, her feet tapping a faster beat against the floor.

“Oh, right. I’m so excited to meet Stacy!” Nikki grinned, reaching out and squeezing Christen’s hand for a brief second. 

“She’s the best,” Christen smiled, catching sight of their apartment building. She quickly pulled out her phone, seeing that it was 7:20 already, five minutes after their scheduled date night was supposed to start. She quickly sent off a text to Tobin.

 

[Chris💗 7:20PM]

Sorry, baby, extra training ran late. I’m almost back to the apartment! I’ll FaceTime you when I get inside! Can’t wait to see you.

 

[Tobs 💜 7:20PM ]

No worries. I’m just chilling. Can’t wait to see you!

 

Christen barely had time to throw a ‘Thank you!’ over her shoulder to Nikki before she was racing inside and into the apartment. Tobin answered on the first ring, looking absolutely beautiful in the flannel shirt that Stacy and Cody had gotten her for Christmas. Her hair was down, loose around her shoulders, in those effortless beach waves she always managed to get without trying. And despite the fact that Christen was late, Tobin still had that lopsided grin on her face.

“Hey, cutie,” Tobin smiled. “I didn’t know you had an extra practice today. I thought Wednesdays and Fridays were your double days.”

“It was an extra fitness session with Nikki,” Christen replied, walking over to her dresser immediately and propping Tobin up on top of it. “But it’s over now, I’m late and I’m so sorry about it, and...you look hot.”

Tobin let out a soft laugh, shaking her head at Christen’s rambling apology. “You don’t need to be sorry. Ten minutes late is hardly late,” she hummed, swinging her legs, which were dangling off the side of her bed. 

“I was over here ready to strip and put on a nice outfit, all in an effort to apologize, but if I don’t have to…” Christen trailed off with a teasing smile.

“I lied,” Tobin blurted out with a huge grin on her face. “I’m sooooo mad.”

“I can tell,” Christen hummed. She reached into her top drawer and pulled out two different bras, one comfy, the other on the sexier side. “Dealer’s choice.”

“I mean, obviously the sexy black one, but if you want to be comfy, put the blue one on,” Tobin said, her eyes growing a little darker at Christen’s impending striptease. 

“Yeah but I like the way you start to trip over your words when I wear the black one,” Christen replied with a wink, dropping the comfy one back in the drawer and pulling out the matching underwear to the black bra. 

“Did you have a good day?” Tobin asked, watching Christen move around onscreen. 

“It was a day that is infinitely better now that I get to talk to you,” Christen replied with a smile, tugging off her practice shirt and sports bra and throwing them into the dirty clothes hamper.

“I can’t wait until I get to do that again,” Tobin sighed. 

Christen grinned as she put the black bra on, going maybe a little slower than normal just because she couldn’t get enough of the way Tobin was looking at her. 

“How was your day, my love?” Christen asked, pulling her shorts and underwear off teasingly slow, taking her sweet time.

“It was okay,” Tobin shrugged, focused entirely on Christen and not on how her day had been. 

“Only okay?” Christen wondered, stepping into the matching bottoms and pulling them impossibly slower, her bottom lip pulled between her teeth.

“It’s way better now,” Tobin added with a cracking voice and a gaping mouth. 

Christen giggled and walked back over to the phone. “Thoughts on the rest of my date night outfit? I set out a sweater and jeans but…”

“You don’t have to wear it,” Tobin husked out. 

“I was hoping you were gonna say that,” Christen grinned, grabbing the phone and walking over to her bed. She propped Tobin up against a pillow and then settled down among her mountain of other pillows. If she positioned herself so Tobin got a nice view of her lacy black bra, then that was purely coincidental. 

Christen wet her lower lip and sighed audibly. “I wish you were here,” she admitted, taking her hair out of the bun and running her fingers through the mess of curls.

“Four weeks,” Tobin sighed, taking in every piece of Christen that she could see on her phone screen. 

“I’m going to be horny for four whole weeks,” Christen sighed, tousling her hair just a bit more.

“I’m sorry, have you not been using what I left in my drawer?” Tobin asked. 

Christen shook her head, a coy smile on her face. “I was promised phone sex along with it, so I’ve been holding out,” she replied.

“Lock your door,” Tobin grinned, slipping off her bed to lock her own door. 

“Baby, it’s already locked,” Christen smirked.


SEPTEMBER 6th

“MY SWEET GIRL!” Stacy called as soon as she saw Christen at baggage claim. 

Christen felt a huge smile break out across her face at the sight of her mom waving at her in the Chicago Midway baggage claim terminal. She quickly dodged around other passengers and sprinted the remaining feet between her and her mom. 

“Mom!” she grinned, throwing her arms around Stacy and hugging her tight.

“You have no idea how good it is to hold you,” Stacy breathed out, feeling the worry she’d been holding in her body start to seep away. 

“I was thinking the same thing,” Christen hummed, burying her face in her Mom’s hair and breathing in the smell of home that her mom always carried with her. It had tears springing to her eyes and it made her arms tighten around her mom.

Stacy ran her hand through Christen’s curls, kissing her forehead gently. “I’ve missed you so much!”

“I missed you more,” Christen said quietly.

“Not possible. A mother always misses her baby more,” Stacy corrected. 

Christen smiled and leaned back, keeping her arms around her mom. “I can’t believe you’re finally here. I felt like this weekend would never come.”

“Me too,” Stacy grinned. “I really thought I’d have the honor of being your first visitor, but Tobin had to go and beat me.”

Christen blushed. “Yeah...she’s always surprising me.”

“Who do you think helped her get the best flight price?” Stacy teased. “Good old Dad.”

Christen laughed and pulled her mom toward the baggage claim when the buzzer sounded. “He’s going to run out of miles if he keeps helping people. Not that I’m complaining!”

“We’ve got the whole rest of the day, right?” Stacy said. “We could go to an art museum or do some early Christmas shopping for your sisters.”

Christen cringed. “Um...I have training tonight before the game tomorrow, and I think I’m going to get some extra touches in before training too. So, I have about two hours before I have to get to the fields.”

“Well, we could get lunch instead,” Stacy suggested. 

“I could eat,” Christen grinned.

“That’s my girl,” Stacy smiled, gripping Christen’s hand tightly. 

“But it needs to be healthy. A place I can get some quinoa and chicken, or a salad and a side of salmon or something,” Christen replied, her eyes moving to the conveyor belt, keeping an eye out for her mom’s distinctive red suitcase.

“Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?” Stacy laughed.  “I used to worry that you’d turn into a french fry. Is this an everyday thing or a before-game thing?

“I don’t really eat those anymore. So it’s kind of an everyday thing,” Christen hummed distractedly, catching sight of her mom’s suitcase. She moved from her mom’s side to grab the suitcase off the belt.

“Are you eating enough, though?” Stacy asked, narrowing her eyes at Christen. “You’re training a lot.”

“I’m fine,” Christen assured with a nod, returning with the red suitcase in tow.

“Okay,” Stacy nodded. “Let’s get a healthy lunch, then!” 

~

Christen waited until they’d ordered their salads and she’d made it through her second glass of water with lemon before she broke the news. 

“Mom?”

“Christen?” Stacy replied, putting her glass of water down. 

“I know you came out all this way to see me play, well me and Crystal, but...I won’t be,” Christen said quietly, pushing her straw around her glass of water.

“Why not? Are you injured?” Stacy asked. 

“No, no, I’m fine. My Coach is just- well, he’s benching me and I don’t want you to worry-”

“Is he trying to tank your team?” Stacy asked, sounding just like Tobin. 

Christen softened a little at the fire in her mom’s words, cracking a smile. “I don’t know about that, we still have a good group to put out there against the Courage.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I can’t wait for you to be on a different team,” Stacy admitted. 

Christen sighed. “Yeah...I’m sorry you came out all this way not to see me play,” she mumbled, looking away from her mom and down to the table in front of her.

“Christen Press,” Stacy sighed, folding her hands together on top of the table. “Look at me.”

Christen’s eyes flicked up at the soft command.

“I did not fly all the way to Chicago to watch you kick a ball around a muddy field-”

“It won’t be muddy, but that’s clearly not your point so,” Christen interrupted with a bashful grimace.

“I flew here because you are my daughter, I love you, and I have been dying to see you. I’ve been worried about you all the way over here on your own, and I wanted to finally wrap my arms around you and spend time with you. Soccer is important, but it means nothing to me compared to you,” Stacy assured, reaching across the table for Christen’s hand. 

Christen felt tears prick the corners of her eyes and gripped tightly onto her mom’s hand. “I really missed you, Mom,” she said, her voice shaking just a bit as her vision grew blurry thanks to the tears. 

“I really missed you, my sweet girl. Chicago’s really too far,” Stacy said, squeezing Christen’s hand in her own. 

“Thanks for coming out here,” Christen replied, wiping at her eyes with the sleeve of her long-sleeve t-shirt.

“You couldn’t have stopped me, even if you’d wanted to,” Stacy promised. 


SEPTEMBER 7th

Tobin heard the familiar ringing from her phone that signified a FaceTime call. She lunged across the room and pulled it up to eye level, unable to stop the flutter in her stomach and knee-jerk reaction to answer quickly. It was Rory’s name she saw, though, just as she’d been expecting. Christen was at practice still, and Tobin had scheduled an appointment a couple of weeks ago, knowing that it wouldn’t interfere with a chance to talk to Christen. 

“Hello,” Tobin said, as soon as she’d slid into her desk chair and swiped across her phone to answer the call. 

“Hey there!” Rory greeted, adjusting her round-frame glasses and waving enthusiastically. “How’s it going?”

“It’s...going,” Tobin sighed. 

“My favorite answer from my clients,” Rory teased. 

“I know, I’m very original,” Tobin joked back. 

“Original enough to tell me about how it’s really going for you in Portland?”

Tobin let out another sigh. “Soccer’s going well. I mean...I’m not playing quite as much as I’d like, but I’m a rookie. Training is extreme, to say the least, but I have my friends here, so I feel really really lucky,” Tobin said. 

“It’s allowed to be hard, even if your friends are there,” Rory replied thoughtfully.

Tobin nodded, not really feeling like she had room to complain when Christen was struggling all alone in Chicago. 

“It’s also allowed to be hard, even if you might think others have it, quote-unquote harder,” Rory added with a knowing look.

“Stop reading my mind,” Tobin groaned, leaning back into her chair. “Portland’s a really cool city,” she added. “That restaurant you recommended was awesome.”

“I’m glad. Best guacamole right? I still dream about it occasionally,” Rory grinned, circling them back to the topic at hand. “But I’d like to unpack that baggage you seem to be carrying. Unless you’d like me to keep reading your mind?”

Tobin took a few moments to gather her thoughts. “Distance sucks,” she finally admitted. “Chris is playing for the worst coach and having a terrible time, and I’m over here, 2,122.6 miles away, not able to do anything to help her. Visiting her was nice. It was more than nice. It was amazing, and maybe it made her feel better, but I want to do more.”

“Long-distance is hard, and anyone who says otherwise is bullshitting you. It’s not meant to be easy, but it is worth it with the right person. I would keep in mind though, this isn’t a normal ‘distance’ relationship you two are in. You’re both under a lot of pressure, with expectations of world-class performances every single day. That’s a strain on any relationship, regardless of how strong it is,” Rory said gently. 

“I know,” Tobin nodded. “She’s the right person though, and I know she’s worth it. I just wish I could fix the situation she’s in.”

“You want to be able to...what? Get her out of Chicago? Take the yelling from her Coach? Run every punishment workout for her?” Rory wondered.

“Sure,” Tobin said, nodding again. “I’d move her to another team if I could. I’d fire the coach she’s playing for right now. I’d run the stupid punishment sprints.”

“You want to take the pain and the struggle and the hurt away,” Rory supplied, nodding her head.

“More than anything,” Tobin sighed. 

“Then how does denying how hard your own experience is, for different reasons but no less valid reasons, help you achieve that?” Rory asked, making sure to keep her voice nonjudgmental, her expression open.

Tobin closed her eyes, hating that Rory had backed her into a corner. She was worse than any defender she’d ever played against.

“You can’t take her pain away by ignoring your own,” Rory said, filling the small bit of silence that had descended upon them.

“I wouldn’t say I’m ignoring my own,” Tobin scoffed. 

“So that fun game of reading your mind was just...a new greeting for us?” Rory joked, lightening the mood just a little bit.

“I miss her and missing her hurts, but I also know that she misses me, and on top of that, she’s got it so much worse,” Tobin sighed. “So, why should I wallow about missing her when she can’t do anything about it? It would add more stress onto her already stressful situation.”

“From everything you’ve told me, she has been dealt a horrible hand. But how would you feel if she went back to not telling you how bad it was? To saving you from it because you also can’t do anything about it? Wouldn’t feel good, right?”

“No,” Tobin grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“So don't do the same thing, Tobin. Don’t push down your feelings to spare hers. Process your feelings together. Be her shoulder to lean on when her Coach is challenging, and let her be your shoulder to lean on when missing her gets damn near impossible to ignore,” Rory said, taking off her glasses and cleaning the frames slowly. “You’re not living in the same house anymore, or down the street from her. You can’t wait for her to show up with ice cream and make you talk. You’ve got to keep the line of communication open, especially when you’re long-distance.”

“Do you have to be logical all the time?” Tobin laughed. “I know you’re right.”

“Good, because I want you to remember one more thing before we jump to a new topic.”

“Lay it on me,” Tobin said, smiling softly at her phone screen and Rory’s familiar, cheery face. 

“Your feelings are valid and deserve to be recognized and respected. Obviously, Christen’s do as well, but I would urge you not to brush yours aside in favor of only focusing on hers. Your feelings matter, Tobin. As do your struggles and your challenges. Give them space in your relationship and in yourself,” Rory imparted, returning Tobin’s smile. 

Tobin let Rory’s words sink in, knowing that Christen would wholeheartedly agree with what Rory was saying. She was the one person in Tobin’s life who always, no matter what, wanted to know how she was feeling. Tobin was determined to make everything work. She couldn’t fix a bad coach or shorten the miles between them, but she could be open and accepting, and she could keep their relationship at the top of her list of priorities.


Christen pulled open the apartment door, holding out her arm and sweeping it out to the side in a ‘come in’ gesture. “Mom, hey!” she greeted with a sunny smile.

“Hey, sweet girl. Your apartment building is nice,” Stacy said, glancing around the hallway before focusing on Christen’s apartment. 

Christen shut the door behind her mom. “Thanks! So this is the hallway, obviously,” Christen said, giving her mom a tour of the place. “And this is the kitchen that gets used rather rarely, sorry.”

Christen walked her mom toward her bedroom, intent on showing her mom that room too, but they were interrupted.

“Stacy!” Nikki called from down the hall. “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”

Christen turned to find Nikki closing the door of her bedroom and walking over. She caught her mom’s look of confusion and bit back a smile. 

“Mom, this is roommate Nikki. Nik, this is my mom, Stacy,” Christen said, introducing the two.

“Hi, Nikki. Nice to meet you,” Stacy offered her hand, gripping Nikki’s and shaking it. 

“I was just gonna show my mom my room and then we’re going to grab some lunch,” Christen said, her hand falling to her door handle.

“Awesome!” Nikki chirped. “I’ll get out of your hair, then, Chrissy. It’s really nice to meet you in person after hearing Chrissy talk about you so much.”

“Same here,” Stacy replied with a tight smile. “Did you and Tobin get all the paintings hung up in your room?” Stacy asked, looking toward Christen’s bedroom door. 

Nikki’s smile noticeably dimmed and she walked off with another wave. “See you later!”

Christen waved at Nikki and then led her mom into her bedroom. “We did,” Christen said in answer to her mom’s question. She smiled at the art littering her walls, all paintings done by Tobin.

“Well, the room is small. You weren’t exaggerating, but the art definitely makes it feel more personal,” Stacy hummed, smiling at the painted driftwood that sat on Christen’s dresser. 

“It’s a glorified shoebox, but it’s my gorgeously decorated glorified shoebox,” Christen grinned. 

“I need to get her to paint me something,” Stacy mused. 

“No need to do that. Just try to act surprised at Christmas, yeah?” Christen said with a smile, feeling her love for Tobin fill her to the brim.

Stacy let out a soft laugh, admiring the twinkly lights that Tobin had helped Christen put up along one wall. “What’s with the Chrissy thing?” she whispered, keeping her voice down, just in case Nikki could hear. 

Christen shrugged and leaned back against her door. “Remember in kindergarten when I was having trouble making friends? Then one day Corey Hendricks decided we were going to be friends, on the one condition that he got to call me Curly? It’s kinda like that, all over again.” 

“Corey sucked,” Stacy mumbled, rolling her eyes at that reminder. 

“Yeah,” Christen laughed. “But Nik’s my only friend here, besides Julie. So she can call me Chrissy or Curly or whatever she wants to.”

“Have you asked Julie or any of your other teammates to go out or anything?” Stacy asked. 

“No, but it’s not really the vibe here. The team doesn’t really seem to hang out. So it’s fine. I have Nik and Netflix and a girlfriend reachable by phone at all hours of the day,” Christen replied with a smile.

“Gotta love Netflix and Tobin,” Stacy grinned, wrapping her arms around Christen and squeezing. 


SEPTEMBER 12th

Christen dribbled through the cones, doing a quick stepover move, and then drilled the ball into the back of the net. If only she’d been given the chance to do that against the Courage a few days ago, things might have turned out differently.

They’d lost. It wasn’t a game they should have lost, but they lost anyway. They were no match for the Courage and for Crystal Dunn who was being played up top instead of at outside back, showing off her versatility and her insane goal-scoring skills. 

Christen had tried to keep her spirits up, but watching four unanswered goals end up in the back of their own net was depressing. The fact that Duncan had run them ragged after hadn’t helped make it any less depressing. 

But she’d waved off both her mom’s and Crystal’s concern after the game. Her legs were dead and her team had been dealt their first loss of the season, but she had a plan. She was working harder this week so she could get the chance to play against Gotham FC in two days. 

Which was how Christen found herself on their free night off, back at the soccer fields. She ran through drill after drill, sent off shot after shot, completely losing track of time and losing herself in the mindless repetition. She was on the field as the sun set in the sky and night fell, as her bare arms grew cold from the slight chill in the air. 

“Lookin’ good!” Nikki called from the sidelines, having just finished up her appointment with the team trainer. 

Christen sent one final shot into the back of the net, her classic curling shot into the lower corner of the goal, and felt a smile tug at her lips. She grabbed her water bottle and slowly ambled over to the sidelines. She felt good, she felt really good. She’d gotten to hug on her mom and send her off to the airport two days ago, and then she’d had a great week of training. Everything was going to plan.

“You want to play 1v1 for a few minutes?” Nikki asked, grinning at Christen’s precision. “First one to five goals wins.”

Christen was about to say no, to make some quippy comment about already having a 1v1 partner for life, and then she froze. It felt like déjà vu all over again, with the sun having set below the horizon, the stadium lights hissing to life, and a date night forgotten. Except for this time she wasn’t just five minutes late.

“What did I say?” Nikki asked, seeing Christen’s hesitation. 

“Mother fucking shitballs,” Christen groaned, sprinting into the locker room, not having the heart to ask what time it was. She knew it was late, she knew it was way past 7:15PM. It had to already be around 8:30PM, and she was still at the fields.


“You’re seriously gonna wait for C.P. instead of going out to dinner with us?” Allie asked, checking her makeup in the mirror on Tobin’s dresser one more time before looking at her best friend. 

“Yeah,” Tobin nodded. “She probably just lost track of time at the field or something.”

Tobin looked down at her phone, scrolling past the few texts she’d sent Christen after 7:15 had come and passed. 

Allie sighed and laid a hand on Tobin’s shoulder. “One time is a mistake, two times is forgivable. But this is the third one.”

“She’s just training like crazy,” Tobin defended, chewing on the inside of her lip. 

“I know she is. Harry, you’re a great girlfriend and so sweet, and I just don’t want her to make a habit of taking advantage of that sweetness. C.P. might be the nicest person in the world, but right now, she’s not really herself.”

“I don’t think she’s taking advantage,” Tobin mumbled, knowing that the knot in her stomach disagreed with her words. She couldn’t help but think about what Rory had said about valuing her own feelings and her own experiences. “Have fun tonight.”

“Whatever you say, Harry. I love C.P., but you’re my Harry. Don’t let her keep treating you like this,” Allie sighed as she walked out.

Tobin watched Allie leave her room, feeling slightly woozy with the uncomfortable weight Allie’s words had left in her stomach. She looked down at the black skinny jeans she had put on for date night, the ones that Christen had always loved. She knew Christen probably wouldn’t have been able to see them on FaceTime, but she’d tried to dress up somewhat, to make it a little more special than any regular FaceTime call would be. Suddenly, the jeans felt silly, and Allie’s words sounded louder in her head. 

“Chris has a lot going on. It isn’t you or her. It’s just the situation,” she reminded herself, closing her eyes and leaning back against her headboard. She didn’t want to feel that stupid sting behind her eyes or the frustrated lump in her throat, but she did. “Validate your feelings and work through them with her,” she reminded herself, letting Rory’s voice ground her a little bit. 

She pulled herself together when she felt her phone vibrate on the bed beside her. She let it ring a couple of times, immediately hating that she was being petty and making Christen wait for her to answer. 

“Hey,” she said as soon as she swiped across the phone screen to answer the FaceTime call. 

“I am so so so sorry, Tobs. I lost track of time again and didn’t realize how late it had gotten until Nik said something,” Christen rushed out, sinking to the floor next to her bed and leaning back against her bed frame.

“It’s okay,” Tobin mumbled, looking down at her bare feet and the red nail polish that Allie had insisted on painting her toenails with for good luck in their last game. “So much for valuing your emotions and sharing them with Chris,” she chastised herself. 

Christen’s heart ached at the dejected sound of Tobin’s voice. “It’s not and I’m really sorry, baby.” 

“How was training?” Tobin asked, not knowing how to respond to the apology.

“It was- I mean, it was fine but I don't want to talk about that right now,” Christen replied, chewing on her lower lip as she watched Tobin avoid looking at her. 

“You hungry?” Tobin asked. 

“Baby, will you look at me?” Christen whispered, her throat growing thick with emotion as guilt continued to roll through her.

Tobin looked at the phone screen, forcing the painful lump in her throat to disappear. “Hi,” she said, smiling softly at Christen.

“Hi, Tobs,” Christen replied with a small smile of her own. “I’m really sorry for being late. I love date nights with you, and I’d love to have one still, if you’re up for it?”

“I’m up for it,” Tobin nodded. 

“In that case can you go check your front door?” Christen replied, her smile growing.

Tobin cocked her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. “Sure,” Tobin nodded, walking toward the apartment’s front door. 

“I got a delivery notification, so it should be there.” 

“I thought I was buying dinner this time,” Tobin said, leaning down to pick up the large paper bag from where it was sitting in the hallway. 

“I’m the one who messed up, baby. So while I was rushing back here to FaceTime you, I called in a delivery order from that burger place we went to for your birthday during National Camp. I tried to replicate the meal, but if I got it wrong I’m extra sorry,” Christen said, a slight blush heating her cheeks. “I know it doesn’t make up for me being late, but I thought it could be a start.”

“Thank you. You’re very sweet,” Tobin sighed, putting the bag down on the counter. “I haven’t been there since my birthday, actually. Where’s your dinner?” Tobin asked. 

“I’ve got leftovers in the fridge,” Christen replied.

“That doesn’t sound as fun,” Tobin hummed, grabbing a plate from the kitchen cabinet. 

Christen shrugged and got to her feet. She walked into the kitchen in her apartment and took out a Tupperware with some lentils, broccoli, and a steamed chicken breast in it.

“You kidding? This looks way better than your burger,” Christen teased, holding up the Tupperware in front of the camera so Tobin could see it.

“We’re gonna need to reevaluate your taste in food in October,” Tobin smirked, carrying her food into her bedroom and sitting down at her desk. 

Christen did the same, taking her Tupperware to her bed and settling down against the pillows.

“I really am sorry, Tobs,” Christen murmured, poking her food with her fork as she looked at the phone screen.

“And I appreciate the apology and the burger. You don’t need to say sorry anymore,” Tobin said, looking directly at Christen. “I know that you’re really stressed out right now, and date night is probably not the number one priority. It shouldn’t be.”

Christen shook her head. “You are my top priority,” she replied. 

“Baby, it’s okay if sometimes work comes first,” Tobin hummed, situating her hands around the burger. 

“I don’t want it to, and I’m sorry I let it,” Christen sighed, taking an unappetizing bite of her meal. “How’s the burger?”

“Perfect. You got all the toppings right,” Tobin smirked after swallowing her first bite. “You want to tell me about your day?” 

Christen took another bite of her lentils and broccoli and tried not to be insanely envious of the burger Tobin was enjoying.

“Same old, same old. How was yours?”

“It was good. We had a super early practice and a team hike,” Tobin said, trying to relax and force herself to do what Rory had suggested in the first place. “I miss you a lot, and it sucks.”

Christen softened, nodding her head in agreement. “I miss you a lot. Distance definitely sucks. What else are you feeling, baby? Let’s talk about it.”

“I miss you, and I worry about you, and I wish I were there to make things even a fraction of a tiny bit easier,” Tobin breathed out. 

“What do you think you’re doing right now? Making it worse?” Christen asked gently. “You make it infinitely better just by being you and being here...and telling me how you’re feeling,” she added with an adorable, sleepy attempt at a wink.

“How are you feeling, besides sleepy?” Tobin asked. 

“Sleepy, and more sleepy, and sore. It helped to see my mom, though. And I’m really hoping to start against Gotham this weekend. So things feel a bit better on that front. I have this permanent ache in my chest because I miss you like crazy, but that ache hurts a little less now because I’m looking at you,” Christen replied, rubbing at her sternum, at the phantom pain in her chest that never went away. It was only slightly dulled when she got to talk to Tobin.

“You feel that too? I get why people came up with the phrase broken heart now. Not that I’m heartbroken,” Tobin blurted out. “But who knew that organ would hurt so much because I’m far away from you.” 

Christen smiled a bit sadly and nodded. “I know exactly what you mean, baby. Just a little over three weeks now, though!” Three weeks, twenty-one days. They could do this. And Christen knew the time was going to fly because she was going to get back on the field against Gotham and everything would be right with the world again.

“Three weeks is nothing,” Tobin smiled, trying to match Christen’s enthusiasm. They could handle three weeks, especially with their movie nights and dinner dates already planned. 


SEPTEMBER 17th

“I’m not doing it,” Sonnett hissed, shoving Linsdey in front of her in the 1v1 line. “I hate defending her when she’s like this.” Lindsey and Sonnett looked over at Tobin, both of them feeling pangs of sympathy in their hearts and both knowing that neither of them wanted to defend her right now.

Tobin’s hands were clenched into fists by her side. Her hair was even messier in its typically messy bun, and dark circles sat under her eyes, hinting at the lack of sleep she’d been able to get the night before. It was always the same. When Christen forgot they had a FaceTime call or stood her up, even on accident, Tobin couldn’t help the frustration that overwhelmed her. She hated that she got frustrated. She didn't like that she felt like a second thought, and she really hated that she felt bad when Christen was in a situation that was much more stressful than Portland. 

Rory had told Tobin to share her feelings with Christen, but between the five-second phone calls before bed and the long, rambling ‘I’m sorrys’ from Christen about being late or a no-show, Tobin could hardly get a word in. She couldn’t talk about her feelings because she hardly had time to talk. Christen was up earlier and asleep earlier, and in between, she was training harder every single day. 

“Sonny get in there!” Allie called, causing Lindsey to shove Sonnett into the drill.

“You get in there!” Sonnett argued, pushing her cleats into the ground and leaning back into Lindsey. 

Allie grumbled and stepped into the drill, dropping into a defensive stance, ready to defend against the shell of her best friend.

“Come on Harry, show me what you got!” Allie goaded, trying to get Tobin to have fun and get tricky.

Tobin gritted her teeth together and ignored Allie. She hardly even challenged Allie, choosing instead to step around her and send a hard shot into the goal. No sauce, no tricks, no fancy footwork. She was all business and it didn’t look right, not to her friends or her teammates.

“Uh...All right, good job, Heath,” Stefanie said, feeling the same tension that everyone else did. 

Tobin didn’t even wave at Stefanie, she just slumped her shoulders and trudged back to the end of the line. She wanted to think about soccer. She wanted to play, to tease Allie, to nutmeg Sonnett. She didn’t want to think about Christen, but her brain wasn’t letting her forget. Last night, she’d waited for Christen to join her for their scheduled movie night, but after thirty minutes and no returned texts, she’d figured Christen had forgotten and had settled into the couch with Allie and a bowl of popcorn instead. 

Tobin didn’t feel angry, despite how terrified her friends seemed to be. All she felt was hurt. She missed Christen, and that obnoxious ache in her heart seemed to be worse than usual. Rory had told her not to hold Christen’s feelings higher than her own, but that was getting harder to do when Christen kept appearing on FaceTime, looking exhausted and haggard and, frankly, sad. She didn’t want to complain about missed dates when Christen just barely seemed to be holding it together. She didn’t know how she could tell Christen that the missed dates or forgotten calls were starting to feel a little bit less accidental. She didn't know what to do and that scared her more than anything.