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when i taste tequila (baby i still see ya)

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“No, no, no, no, no —”

“Tobin, shut up. I got this.”

“Yeah sure, dude.”

Aaaand there they go, Tobin thinks as four of her boxes go tumbling off her smaller, peppier half’s arms and to the floor, her belongings scattering across the dorm lobby.

Sigh.

Tobin looks up to meet the eyes of several new students and families who are looking over in the direction of this college move-in massacre, some clearly holding back laughs at the scene, and some, well, clearly not.

Double sigh.

Just how she wanted to start over at a new school. But I mean, is she really surprised. This WAS Kelley O’Hara after all — never one for a dull moment… and not usually by choice. They don’t call her ‘half-pint dynamite’ for nothing.

Coming into UNC as a junior transfer, Kelley was the only person Tobin knew. And lucky enough, Kelley also happened to be one of her best friends. When you spend the greater part of four years in a hotel room with the same person, it’s nearly impossible not to get that close.

Growing up, Tobin always considered herself some sort of a minimalist. Not in the sense that she did not need much material items to live—although an argument could be made for that as well—, but it just really took little for her to find contentment. Throwing herself into new activity after new activity, she found energy in the freedom and in the unfamiliar. Sure, she played basketball, competed in gymnastics tournaments, tried fencing, and even joined the diving team until an unfortunate meet when she misjudged her double back-tuck and collided stomach-first with the pool water (and she hasn’t gone near a diving board since). But really, it was clear in the way she lived her day-to-day life - floating from one friends house to the next, spending her off-days taking road trips to the middle of nowhere, existing in the moment instead of on her phone (her friends would complain about how hard it was to get a hold of her), even down to the way she walked. A “free spirit”, as some might call it.

Those who really knew her would know that there's more to Tobin than what meets the eye. While she may seem careless, she is indeed careful, calculated. She cautiously expends her energy, but when she does choose to spend it on something that something becomes her whole world. So it comes as no surprise that when Tobin first kicked a soccer ball at age 7, she never looked back. She was never one for the spotlight — she just wanted to play the game and get better everyday. However, rising level meant rising attention, and Tobin received her first call-up to the youth national level at age 13. It was there that she met the one and only, half-pint dynamite, that is Kelley O’Hara.

They were fast friends. For the entirety of the high school years, where there was Tobin, there was bound to be Kelley not too far behind. Kelley had seen Tobin through the highs and lows of soccer, school, friendships, and family—really everything. At one point or another, Kelley herself became family. Yet while soccer was once her and Kelley’s secluded serenity from life, it soon became nearly every part of their life and future, especially with them both committing to play D1 college soccer at age 14. While they had gone off to different universities — Kelley to UNC Chapel Hill and Tobin to Stanford — their friendship had never wavered, something that Tobin was extremely grateful for.

The only problem with making something your whole world, is that when it gets taken away, you feel completely empty. And when that something is a someone, you grow a void that you just can’t seem to fill.

So here Tobin was, picking up her move-in personal belongings that Kelley had dropped all over the residence hall floor, just months after Kelley had picked Tobin and six bottles of vodka off of the floor of her California apartment after finding Shirley (her someone) naked and guilty in her roommate’s bed the day after their two-year anniversary.

So here Tobin was, with baggage the size of Mount Kilamanjaro, towing behind her a string of pointless one night stands that never quite filled the Shirley-shaped indentation left behind.

So here Tobin was, moving into her dorm at a new school on the opposite side of the country for preseason.

So here Tobin was, trying to start over.

_________________________________________________

 

By the time her and Kelley had gathered everything from the floor and dragged it up six flights of stairs, nearly forty-five minutes had passed.

Tobin collapsed onto the bed closest to the window with a huff. Who the hell designs a nine story building with ONLY stairs.

Turning her head in a quick 180, she took in the room that would be her home for the next eight months.

Bright white walls starkly contrasted the deep gray cement floor. Two twin sized beds were lined up horizontally in succession along the right wall, before a patch of empty space leading up to two adjacent, light-wood desks at the back wall made up of one huge glass window. The previous owners left two dressers sitting within the two sliding-door closets on the left side of the room.

Tobin let out a sigh at the thought of having to move the dressers out of the closet herself. She squinted as the striped light hit her eyes from where it shined through the shades covering the top half of the window wall, before a thud quickly drew her back to reality.

“So where’s your stuff?” asked Tobin, curiously turning her head to the side to look at the empty half of the room near the door, as she lies flat on her back on the twin-sized bed closest to the window.

“I moved in yesterday, so all my stuff is already at the house,” Kelley grunts out as she lugs a particularly heavy box toward the desk. “Dude, what is in here, a stack of bricks? Oh god it’s books isn’t it - tell me you didn’t bring your library to school..”

Her friends call it the portable library. To Tobin, it was just an escape from her busy reality.

“It’s just the essentials, Kel.”

Pfft essentials sure” mumbled Kelley under her breath, just loud enough for her best friend to hear.

“Shut up.” Tobin says back as she reaches to her left to grab a pillow and throw it across the room at her best friend. “Reading’s my happy place.”

“I thought your happy place was three fingers deep into the nameless bimbo from the bar that night,” Kelley rolled her eyes as she opened a bottle of water and took a few glugs.

Tobin smirked. “Can’t a girl have more than one happy place?”

Kelley choked on her last gulp of water. “Touchê.”

It was no secret that Tobin and Kelley were into women, and some might even call them the ultimate wingwoman duo. On more than one occasion on the road, they had beguiled their way into clubs together. And on more than one occasion, they both left the clubs separately (and neither one of them alone).

It was never over the top. They just liked to have fun.

And it was in a club in Southern California after the last night of a National Team Camp during their first year of university that things began to change. Kelley knew it from the first time she saw Tobin look at Shirley. It was in the way her eyes lingered on Shirley’s profile just a second longer than usual. It was in the way Tobin’s hands sat a few inches lower on Shirley’s waist than they did with other girls. And it was no surprise to Kelley when Tobin, for the first time, started coming and leaving the club with the same person — and it wasn’t Kelley.

As quickly as Shirley sauntered into their lives, she was gone in what seemed ten times faster.

The last four months had been different. It felt like Tobin was searching for something that was now lost, leaving behind an easily-traced crumb trail of one night stands. The reputation she had gathered in just a few months somehow made girls flaunt themselves at Tobin even harder than they had before. And with her “natural swagger”, as some called it, the baseline was pretty high to begin with. There was just something about her.

Kelley kept an eye on her, but let Tobin do her thing until that one night. That one night of broken bottles, of crying so hard she spent hours hunched over the toilet. They didn’t speak about it again, but Tobin knew when she was bringing it up, without bringing it up.

“Kell, it’s fine. I’m fine.”

“All I’m saying is you have garnered quite the reputation, my friend. Even all the way over here, the soccer world is a small one,” Kelley replied gently, knowing this was a touchy subject for her best friend, even if she wouldn’t outright admit it. Tobin doesn’t outright admit anything.

Tobin sighed -- she knew this conversation was coming.

“Well they all know what they’re getting into, I’m not hurting anyone,” Tobin replied semi-defensively. Doesn’t everyone say college is the time to experiment and sleep around or whatever. Tobin rolled over to face the window and paused to take a deep breath. Plus she spent the first two years of college in a serious relationship. Didn’t she deserve a break?

“You.”

“Me what?”

“You are hurting yourself dingbat.”

Tobin’s sigh this time was nearly a grunt. “Wait woah woah can we backtrack. You aren’t my roommate??”

Kelley rolled her eyes at the abrupt subject change. “Um, no dude. I live in the soccer house with a few of the other juniors on the team.”

“Kel are you kidding me?” Tobin nearly shouts. “You convinced me to transfer this school specifically and live in the dorms, and now instead of you I’m going to have to room with some random slimy creepy bitch—,” she cuts off her speech and rapidly turns around at the sound of a knock on the door they had propped open with a hanger.

In the door stood a moderately tall, lean girl, arms crossed snug against her abdomen. She wore a tight-fitting, black short-sleeve shirt, and light-wash jean shorts that revealed her toned legs and caramel skin. One of her arms came up to brush some of her dark curls out of her eyes, before moving her large-framed black sunglasses up to her forehead. Tobin's eyes followed her every movement compulsively, as if she moved in slow motion.

“PRESSY!!”, screamed Kelley as she ran full-force into the girl.

Tobin stared blankly at the two in the doorway as they had their reunion. She raised her eyebrow as she saw Kelley’s hand placement on the girl’s lower waist - very lower waist. When she let her eyes travel back up to the girl’s face, she was surprised to find a pair of piercing green eyes already staring back at her. Almost staring into her.

“Oh my god Kell, I’m so excited to see you. Why are you here?” said the green-eyed girl, finally breaking eye contact and loosening her grip and instead intertwining one of her hands with Kelley’s hand.

Tobin let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding in, before coughing to gain their attention. “Uh she’s helping me into my room. Hence why she’s in this room, my room. And we were kinda in the middle of something, if you don’t mind.”

Shit, that sounded rude.

In all honesty, she was just still not in the greatest mood, and the green-eyed girl’s entrance put an unsettling and all-too familiar feeling deep in her core.

To her surprise, the girl just chuckles to herself and makes eye contact with Kelley. “Uh, I do mind actually.”

“Well— wait sorry who are you?” asked Tobin as she furrows her eyebrows. Amidst the distracting moment, she had kinda forgotten to process that this girl and Kelley clearly know each other. Maybe even know each other.

The green-eyed girl drops her bags to the floor near the bed and strolls across the room toward the window bed and holds out her hand toward Tobin. “Christen, your roommate,” she says. “But you can call me ‘slimy creepy bitch.’” she finishes while chucking sarcastically. Facepalm. Making great first impressions today, aren’t we.

Tobin loses herself for a moment as the girl steps forward and the sun coming through the window reflects off of her green eyes.

Tobin pinches herself back to the present. She takes the girls’ hand in hers and flashes her characteristic smile. “I’m so sorry, I’m having one of those days. I’m Tobin, and you’ll have to let me make it up to you,” she says back smoothly, placing her other hand on top of their connected hands in sincerity. Aaand she’s back. Nice one.

They continue to make eye contact as their handshake extends far beyond the acceptable time limit. They eventually break apart as Kelley coughs from the far side of the room. Tobin looked down at her feet dangling off the bed as she felt a rare blush rising up her neck. She raised her right hand to rub the back of her neck — a nervous habit.

The green-eyed girl’s reaction wasn’t too dissimilar. She raised her head from where it pointed toward the ground and allowed her gaze to settle on Tobin again, revealing an identical blush that had made its way up to her bronze cheeks. Her eyes momentarily followed Tobin’s hand as it traced back and forth across her neck, before bringing her eyes back up to Tobin’s and beginning to speak again as they locked gazes.

“No need to introduce yourself, I know who you are Tobin.”

Christen turned around and coughed a few times into her elbow before Tobin could process her words. “Excuse me, haven’t played in months, I’m soooo out of shape,” she says as she flashes a sarcastic smile. “I can’t believe we got stuck in the no-elevator building.”

“You don’t look out of shape to me,” Tobin quips.

Christen turns around at that, smiles, and shakes her head visibly. She sees Kelley shift uncomfortably on the other side of the room.

“I’m sorry again, I really am not usually that rude,” Tobin confesses into the comfortable lull.

“Is that so?”, challenges the green-eyed girl in return.

Tobin raises an eyebrow. She knows an invitation to banter. “Yeah. What, you don’t believe me?”

“Does it matter what I think?”

Tobin playfully scoffs, feigning offense. “I’ll have you know, I’ve never met a parent who didn’t love me.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it, Tobin.”

“Heath.”

“What?”

Tobin leans back, resting her weight on her hands behind her. “My last name. It’s Heath.”

“Like the candy bar?”

“What can I say, I’m sweet,” replies Tobin, flashing an innocent smile.

Christen fully rolls her eyes at that. “Yeah well I’ve yet to see evidence of that, Tobin Heath.”

“Well you could,” hummed Tobin, before making eye contact with the girl again. “If you let me buy you coffee sometime.”

Christen’s mouth hangs open just for a moment, as if she’s surprised by Tobin’s confidence, before erupting into a small grin. “Yeah no need to make it up to me, think I’ll pass,” she states with a smirk, watching as Tobin’s own smirk slightly falters. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Kelley trying to hold in a laugh from the other side of the room.

Christen turned around in the next moment before Tobin could reply, strutting out the door with a satisfied swing in her step.

“KELLEY, let’s go!” Tobin hears from the hallway.

Kelley coughed once again to draw Tobin’s attention from the doorframe, where she had clearly just followed Christen’s ass with her eyes out of the door. “Off limits.”

“What is?” Tobin asks knowingly.

“Chris. She’s off limits from your little happy place parade.”

Tobin studies Kelley’s face curiously, noting the hesitance and nerves that definitely weren’t there before.

It’s then that Tobin puts it together. Christen is Chris, Kelley’s best friend at UNC, fellow forward, and the girl Kelley never shuts up about. The one she brings up in every conversation. The one she settles for casual with, albeit she wants more. The one Tobin would believe was a made-up fantasy, if it weren’t for social media.

And Oh.

“Suuure, we’ll see about that,” Tobin chortles in her typical fashion. But her eyes, which were now intently looking at Kelley’s, say differently.

Kelley visibly deflates and gives her a quick look that says thanks, before her face hardens into a pointed smirk. “Didn’t seem like you were gonna have any luck with that anyway,” she sing-songs as she skips out the door after Christen before Tobin has a chance to reply.

Tobin falls back onto the bed again, and lets herself sink into the first silence she’s had since arriving in North Carolina. She love’s Kelley, but being around her is like being caught outside in a rainstorm — incredibly thrilling, oddly comforting, but also exhausting.

She closes her eyes and, for just a moment, allows her mind to wander back toward the green-eyed girl. To the way her dark curls framed her angled jaw. To the way she challenged Tobin. To the way her toned back muscles tensed and relaxed and Kelley moved her hands down — No.

Her eyes shoot back open as she launches into a standing position. She paces over to the window of her sixth floor dorm room, carefully sidestepping the box of books Kelley had been carrying earlier, and looks out over the large green quad surrounded by two other dormitories and two academic buildings made of bright red brick. Not a person in sight, Tobin thinks to herself. The grass is so green, just a few shades darker than her eyes.

“Nope. You don’t even know her”, she cuts her thoughts off. “You’re a great friend. You’re Tobin.”

“Well hi great friend Tobin, I’m Ashlyn.” Tobin whips around faster than a car racing down the breakdown lane to avoid rush hour traffic, only catching a quick glanceover of the blonde girl standing in the open doorway before falling over the box of books and landing on cement floor with a thud.

Major ouch.

Looking up, she sees a long, tattooed arm held out in front of her face. Tobin quickly takes it and is lifted from the floor back to her feet.

“Thanks man. I’m Tobin,” she breathes out heavily as she stretches her arms out. Bruised up right before preseason, nice going.

“Yeah, I heard Tumble T” Ashlyn chuckles. “Sorry about that I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to introduce myself when I saw you in here. I live in 602!”

“Wow, day one and I already have a new nickname,” laughs out Tobin.

“As long as you stay on your two feet on the soccer field I think you’ll be okay. And from what I’ve seen from you, I don’t think that’ll be much of a challenge.”

Tobin looks up and smiles a toothy grin. “Awesome, so you’re on the team too? Sorry, I haven’t met too many people yet.”

“Yup, I’ll be the one yelling at you from the 18! I’m so glad that someone else from the team is in the dorms. I thought I was going to be the only one from our year not in the soccer house.”

“Guess we’ll just have to have our own hangouts without them. Me, you, Christen, and….”

“Ali.”

“Ah, Ali. Is she on the team too?” inquires Tobin.

“Nah, she's a .. friend.. from the lacrosse team.”

“Oh cool that’s awesome. I can’t wait to meet her,” smiles Tobin.

“Yeah, her and Chris are pretty close, too. Have you met Chris yet? She’s awesome.”

Tobin suddenly chokes on air at the mention of Christen. “Ye-yeah, we met.”

“She has that effect on most people,” Ashlyn laughs out heartily, patting Tobin on the back. “C’mon, let’s go grab some food, I’m starving.”

_________________________________________________

Tobin doesn’t get back to the dorm until late that night. She’d gone out to a local mexican restaurant for tacos and margaritas with Ashlyn, and they’d instantly clicked. It almost reminded her of how fast Kelley and her clicked years ago.

They liked all the same things — full days at the beach, surfing til their fingers pruned, soccer (of course), summer rides in jeep wranglers with the top off, weaving through crowds on campus sidewalks on a skateboard, girls.

For the first time since she set foot outside the Charlotte airport, Tobin forgot about California for a little while.

She doesn’t see Kelley or Christen again until a few days later. Christen’s half of the room remained empty, besides the two bags she had dropped off when they met, and Tobin just assumed that she slept over at the soccer house with the rest of the juniors on the team.

After waking up with a mild hangover from the margaritas, Tobin spent the entirety of the second day unboxing, unpacking, and organzing the dorm room. She didn’t bring much. In fact, all of her clothes fit in the three drawer dresser she lugged out from the closet. On the bright side, that left the closet space open for her larger than average shoe collection.

Tobin sighed as she removed the stack of pictures from the bottom of her book box. She laid them all out on the desk in front of her one-by-one, but not before taking a moment to reminisce on the captured moments. Pictures of her family — whom she loved more than anything —, of her best friend Alex back in California, of her Stanford team winning the quarter-finals the year prior, of her and Kelley playing pranks in the National team hotels, of the last surfing trip she had taken in Manhattan beach.

She stopped and sucked in a sharp breath as a picture of Shirley surfaced. Carefully, she traced her index finger along Shirley’s smiling jaw, losing herself for a moment. She held the picture over the trash can, shaking her head to herself. But she didn’t drop it. She couldn’t drop it. Withdrawing her arm, she folded the picture carefully in quarters, placing it under the blue paperweight in the corner of the desk.

“Someday you’ll let go,” she whispers to herself.

Finally, Tobin scatters all of her training snacks and soccer items across the floor closest to the window. Tobin wasn’t a particularly organized person. She practiced what she called “organized chaos” -- while it looks like a mess to anyone else, she knew exactly where everything was placed. Hope Christen doesn’t mind.

Then again, Christen still wasn’t back.

Tobin took a few steps to Christen’s desk, upon which she had tossed her phone some four or five hours earlier, deciding to shoot a quick text to Kelley to make sure her roommate was at least okay. Flipping over her phone to unlock it, there are a few messages from her parents, one from Alex, and one from Kelley. She decides she’ll answer everyone else later, quickly clicking on Kelley’s thread, expecting the typical inappropriate comment or joke.

She wasn’t too far off. There on her phone screen is a smiling selfie of Kelley in front of her bed, where Christen is lying in a bikini that leaves very little to the imagination. Tobin’s breath catches in her throat as she scans the green-eyed girl’s bronze skin and curves. Taking one more deep breath, she looks down to the text below it.

 

[Image.]

6:16 p.m. Kel: Looking for a third ;) You in?

6:17 p.m. Kel: Lol come over, all the juniors are hanging out

8:57 p.m. Tobs: What would you do if I said yes ;)

8:59 p.m. Kel: gross Toby

9:00 p.m. Tobs: don’t call me that

9:01 p.m. Kel: Whatever, are you coming or what

9:03 p.m. Tobs: haha I think I’m good here. Thanks though

9:03 p.m. Kel: Oh come on, I’m here !!

9:04 p.m. Tobs: are you trying to make me stay away? you’re doing well, bravo

9:06 p.m. Kel: You suck. I bought your favorite beeeeer

9:07 p.m. Tobs: I’m tired, I’m just gonna stay here

9:10 p.m. Kel: Don’t make me launch the cavalry on you

9:16 p.m. Tobs: ….. what does even mean

 

There’s a loud knock on her door before she gets an answer. Followed by another. Then another.

“Alright I’m coming, jeez,” Tobin calls out, reaching for the door handle.

She opens the door to Ashlyn, dressed in black Nike slides, bright red board shorts, and a black muscle tee that shows off her tattoo sleeves. Her dirty blonde hair is down and messy.

“Get in loser, we’re going to the soccer house,” cheers Ashlyn.

“Bro, you did not just make a mean girls joke.”

“You know I did, let’s go.” Ashlyn pauses, seeing a confused look on Tobin’s face. “Kelley sent me.”

Tobin’s face softens as she chuckles at her best friend’s antics. “Oh, of course she did.” She sighs in defeat. “Guess she wins. Let me just change real quick I’ll be out in a minute.”

Letting the door swing shut behind her, she takes a deep breath. Here we go.

Jogging over to her dresser, she takes out a pair of black skinny jeans and a white t-shirt and quickly changes into them. After quickly throwing on a pair of red and black Jordans and grabbing her favorite black snapback, she pauses for a moment.

“It’s going to be okay. Having fun is good. Just smile and —”

“Hey T squared, stop talking to yourself and get your fine ass out here, let’s go!” she hears a muffled voice yell through the door.

“T-squared?” asks Tobin as she opens the door.

“Yeah, for Tumble Tobin, you clutz. Don’t think I forgot about that,” she says as she reaches around Tobin to grab her longboard. “Ready to hit the road?”

With a simple nod and a smile, they’re on their way.

_________________________________________________

Fifteen minutes later, she’s pulling up to the soccer house on her midnight black longboard, Ashlyn right behind her. Tobin quickly kicks it up to her left hand, taking in the scene in front of her.

Red solo cups are scattered across the lawn, interspaced with groups of laughing faces sitting out on the grass in front of a porch even more full of people. She can feel the thumping of the bass from the music in her feet from where they stand on the pavement.

Feeling a hand on her left shoulder, she turns to see Ashlyn now standing next to her. “We can go throw our boards in Morgan’s room, and then I’ll introduce you to some people,” she says as she takes off toward the porch. “Try to keep up T-squared!” she calls, prompting Tobin to jog up behind her.

Entering the house, Tobin smiles to herself as she surveys the room. She doesn’t know what she was expecting when Kelley said the juniors were “hanging out”, but this was not it. But she’s not salty about it.

She follows Ashlyn down a hallway to the right and to a room at the end of the hall.

“Here, I’ll throw it over here next to mine,” Ashlyn says as she takes the longboard from Tobin’s hands and places it in the corner.

Just a moment later, they all are tumbling onto the bed in the corner of the room under the weight of a small human.

“Guys, guys, guys,” they hear from above them. Kelley.

Ashlyn and Tobin shove the girl off of them and move to sit on the bed, while Kelley quickly drags the chair away from the desk and plops down on it backward, such that her chest is up against the back of the chair, her arms resting on top.

Tobin chuckles at the ball of energy that just entered the room. “What’s up Kel?”
“I’m so glad you came Toby. Ash, did you know Toby is the best.”

“Somone’s already drunk,” Ashlyn shoots toward Tobin in a quiet voice. “And to think I thought we were early.”

“Are you really surprised?” Tobin shoots back, and Ashlyn lets out a laugh.

“You know who is also the best,” Kelly continues to ramble. “Chris. She’s also so pretty. And nice. And her tongue — mmm mmh mhmmm,” she finishes in an incomprehensible mumble after Tobin shot off of the bed to cover her mouth with her hand.

Although the look that Ashlyn is giving her - one of both amusement and pity - tells her that this is not surprise news.

She keeps her hand there until her best friend’s mumbling dies out, replaced by a warm, wet sensation. “EW, Kelley.” Tobin releases her hand.

Kelley looks up with a devilish grin. “You like it. Anyway, I just came to tell you, Toby, that I’m taking my shot with Chris soon. Life’s too short.”

“Inspiring,” murmured Ashlyn from the bed.

Kelley shouted goodbye as she took off running out of the room. “I’m back bitches!” they hear shouted from down the hall, prompting both Ashlyn and Tobin to laugh for a moment.

“I mean good for her, I guess,” Tobin shrugs.

Ashlyn lets out a sigh. “It’s a little more complicated than that.”

Before Tobin can ask her what she means, Ashlyn is up and off walking toward the door, prompting Tobin to quickly follow.

“So what’s the scene tonight?” questions Tobin as they make their way back down the hallway.

“Well all the sports teams are here. It was our turn to host the preseason party. It’s kinda an annual thing,” states Ashlyn distractedly as she receives a head gesture from a dark haired girl on the other side of the room. “Wanna get drinks first?”

“Lead the way,” returns Tobin casually.

Ashlyn drags Tobin by the arm into the kitchen in the back of the first floor, telling her to grab whatever she wants, while she grabs some Whiskey. Tobin strides over to the fridge and searches the shelves with her eyes until they land on a case of Old Milwaukee in the rear of the second shelf. Thank youuuuu Kelley.

After grabbing a beer, she turns around to see Ashlyn staning in front of a brunette girl who is leaning against the counter. Ashlyns left hand rests on the cabinet next to the girl’s head, her right hand holding a solo cup. She’s talking animatedly, the girl in front of her laughing and hanging onto Ashlyn’s every word. Cute.

They jump apart as Tobin greets them.

“Hey T-squared, this is Ali, my roommate and um, friend, on the lacrosse team I was telling you about,” Ashlyn states with a glowing smile and a hand on the small of Ali’s back.

Tobin gives her an amused look. “Hey, Ali, friend of Ashlyn. I’m Tobin, your neighbor I guess,” she says, emphasizing the word friend knowingly.

Ashlyn and Ali look at each other quickly and smile. Double Cute. Tobin sets a mental reminder to ask her about this later.

“Nice to meet you Tobin, I’m Ali, as she said,” laughs Ali, before leaning over and whispering something in Ashlyns ear. She gives Tobin a quick wave before skipping out the opposite side of the kitchen.

Tobin clears her throat, drawing Ashlyn’s attention back from Ali’s disappearing figure, and stares at her in amusement.

“Shut up, I’m working on it. Speaking of, I have to go for a minute and, uh, work on it. I’ll be back okay?” she calls out to Tobin, running out of the kitchen in the same direction as Ali before Tobin even had a chance to respond.

Tobin sighs, taking in the empty kitchen around her. She tips her head back and takes a long swig of her beer as she leans against the back counter, relishing the tingling sensation as the beer runs down the back of her throat.

“Enjoying yourself?” she hears from a familiar voice, snapping her back to reality, putting an automatic smile on her face.

“I am now,” she quickly replies.

Christen laughs, and Tobin thinks that she wants to make her laugh again.

“Smooth.”

Tobin takes a moment to take in the girl in front of her, letting her eyes travel up and down her toned figure, down the legs exposed beneath her short jean skirt, up to the collarbones protruding out from her black tube top, and finally settling on the sliver of skin left exposed beneath the bottom of her top.

She eventually moves her gaze back up to Christen’s eyes, looking away for a moment when she realizes she’s been caught.

“Would you dare even say it was, sweet?” She slides a few feet down the counter, closer to where the green-eyed girl stands.

Rolling her eyes, Christen also takes a few steps toward Tobin, until she's standing just in front of her, just a few inches away from leaning her body up against Tobins.

Surprised, Tobin sucks in an audible breath, and the green-eyed girl smirks, leaning further into Tobin’s space, almost in slow motion.

Shit.

Frozen in place, her eyes travel down her tanned face up close now. She’s so close that she can feel the puffs of Christen’s warm breath against her neck, and it makes her erupt in goosebumps.

They stand there for a minute. Neither moving anything, minus their wandering eyes.

For a moment, she thinks she sees Christen’s eyes look down at her lips. But just as quickly, Christen’s body pulls away from hers, dragging with her the bottle of tequila that was sitting behind Tobin on the counter. Tobin lets out a small gasp.

Who the hell is this girl?

She looks up to see Christen sending her a knowing glance, pouring the tequila into two adjacent shotglasses. “What? I wanted the tequila. Here, take one with me.” She hands Tobin a shot glass.

Tobin doesn’t usually go for hard liquor. It reminds her of the long nights she spent crying over what could’ve been. The nights that forced Kelley to drag her off the floor. Kelley. Christen. Oh no. Okay, this is just being friendly, getting to know my roommate.

She’s barely spoken to this girl. She doesn’t know this girl. But one thing she does know, is that she already can’t resist a single thing she says. “Give it,” she returns.

They hold their gaze as they slowly lift the shots of tequila to their mouths, breaking it only to toss the drink back.

Christen makes an adorable pout at the aftertaste that brings a small smile to Tobin’s face.

They stand next to each other against the counter for a few minutes, neither one of them speaking, letting the liquor set in, and listening to the music radiating from the next room over. Just as the silence is starting to get uncomfortable, Christen interrupts. “Wanna go play pong? I made a bet with Kelley” She glances over at Tobin.

“Um, sure. You trust me on a Kelley bet? I’ve been on the receiving end of her losing dares before.”

Christen giggles at her comment. “I’ll keep an eye on you. Besides, I’ve heard you’re pretty decent with your hands.”

Tobin catches the crafty smile Christen shoots her before turning for the door. She takes off after her, holding back a grin of her own.
_________________________________________________

For the rest of the night, Christen and Tobin pretty much stick together. They were a hit at the beer pong table, winning six games, and sending Kelley into a competitive rage. After they watched Kelley carry out her losing dare — she had to give a lap dance to a guy on the rowing team —, they decided to head outside for some fresh air. The party had started to die down around 1 a.m., people slowly making their way past where Christen and Tobin sat on the front porch swing, and out into the street.

There’s something oddly calming about Christen’s presence. Something that finally freed her mind from the Shirley-themed jail cell it had been living in for months. It had been two hours, and the conversation was still flowing easily. It was almost like they skipped the need for small-talk entirely. There was so much more to Christen than what meets the eye. Yet somehow, the more she learned, the more the green-eyed girl became a mystery.

She’s a middle child of three sisters. Her favorite color is the pink-purple color at the top of an early sunset. She grew up in the Los Angeles area, spending time at the same beaches that Tobin traverses in the off-season. Tobin finds herself wondering if they’ve ever unknowingly crossed paths before, wondering what would’ve happened if they’d met years before. Her leg bounces when she’s nervous. She has two dogs—Morena and Khaleesi—that put an extra sparkle in her green eyes. She learned that sometimes Christen feels tremendous pressure to perform on the field, and how Kelley is the only one who has pulled through for her.

Tobin was starting to understand Kelley’s fascination with this woman.

Tobin was already becoming too familiar with that feeling herself.

Tobin really needed to get over this.

When she noticed the trickling people started to become less frequent, Tobin looked down at her watch.

1:43 a.m.

Hmm getting late.

Christen interjected her thoughts. “Press.”

“What?” Tobin said, looking up inquisitively.

“My last name. I never told you what it was.”

“Christen Press,” Tobin whispered to herself, before turning to the girl and speaking louder. “Well Christen Press, you’re very fun to be around, you know that?”

The green-eyed girl smiles and mumbles back at her. “Mhm, and…” she prompts Tobin to continue.

“And are you gonna finally let me buy you a coffee now?” she questions, sending a wry smile in Christen’s direction. Just a friendly coffee. Like friend’s have. With friends. Friends.

Christen stands up slowly from the porch swing. “Nope, I think I learned enough about you tonight, Tobin Heath. You’re alright entertainment though,” she shrugs.

Tobin stands up next to her, a little surprised at the immediate rejection. “Well, that just shows you how little you know me.” She takes a step toward Christen. “You see, I can be far more than ‘alright’ entertainment. Not giving up that easily.”

“That’s a shame.”

Tobin takes another step forward. “I thought most women admire persistence.”

Christen opens her mouth to respond after a moment, but she’s interrupted by the opening of the house door. Tobin’s eyes are still locked on Christen’s, but out of the corner of her eye, she sees a few soccer girls whom she had met earlier exit the house, including Ashlyn and her friend Ali, alongside some tall, athletic-looking guys. She breaks eye contact to follow one of the guy’s arms as they encircle Christen’s abdomen, followed by a “hey babe”, a kiss on her cheek, and a “let’s go back to my place” whispered just loud enough for Tobin to hear.

Christen begins taking slow steps backwards toward the lawn, in the direction of the guy and his friends. She pauses for a moment, looking back up to where Tobin is standing with a very phased look on her face, and begins to speak.

“Well that shows you how little you know me. I’m not most women.”

Tobin can only stare, her eyes following Christen as she runs down the steps and leaps on the back of the guy from the porch. She walks up to the railing of the porch, laughing to herself. Christen Press.

She’s interrupted from her staring by Kelley jumping on her own back.

“So I see you and Pressy get along. I don’t know what to do T. She’s really something,” whines Kelley.

“Yeah, she’s really something,” Tobin replies, eyes still watching the mysterious green-eyed girl’s figure disappear into the darkness down the street.