I had a thought, dear
About that night
The bugs and the dirt
Why were you digging?
What did you bury
Before those hands pulled me
From the earth?
I will not ask you where you came from
I will not ask you, neither should you
Honey just put your sweet lips on my lips
We should just kiss like real people do
(Tobin - “Like Real People Do” by Hozier)
Baby, I'm yours (baby, I'm yours)
And I'll be yours (yours) until the stars fall from the sky
Yours (yours) until the rivers all run dry
In other words, until I die
Baby, I'm yours (baby, I'm yours)
And I'll be yours (yours) until the sun no longer shines
Yours (yours) until the poets run out of rhyme
In other words, until the end of time
I'm gonna stay right here by your side
And do my best to keep you satisfied
Nothin' in the world could drive me away
Every day, you'll hear me say
(Christen - “Baby I’m Yours” by Arctic Monkeys)
“Scottie, would you like to share now?” Ms. Hubbard asked.
Scottie nodded and lugged her USA duffel to the front of the class, clad in her PRESS 17 jersey from the Olympics.
“Sup everybody. So for show and tell I brought stuff from my summer vacation. I went to Sydney with the U.S. Women’s National Team and watched them win gold,” Scottie began.
“Yeah right, and my dad owns FedEx,” one of the kids in the back of the room snorted.
Scottie sighed and pulled out the Gold medal from the duffel and put it around her neck. “This isn’t made of chocolate, Simon. I went with my Mommy and I watched Christen score the game-winning penalty kick against Sweden.”
“Who’s Christen?” a brunette in the front row asked.
“She’s my...my Christen,” Scottie stuttered. “Christen Press,” she added, pulling out a framed picture of her and Christen at the Medal Ceremonies, the Gold medal around Scottie’s neck and Christen hugging her from behind. She held it up so the whole class could see. “She lets me wear the Gold medal whenever I want.”
“Isn’t it heavy?” another kid asked.
“Nah,” Scottie scoffed. “But if I wear it for too long, my neck starts to hurt.”
“Why do you call her your Christen? That’s kind of weird,” Naomi said, making a few kids laugh.
Scottie dimmed just a bit and furrowed her brows at Naomi. “Because that’s who she is to me, Na-o-mi,” Scottie said, sassily sounding out Naomi’s name and earning herself more laughs than Naomi did.
“My mom said your mom-”
“Okay, Naomi,” Ms. Hubbard warned. “Thank you, Scottie. Your show and tell is very cool.”
“But I didn’t even get to show them my signed ball or my pictures with Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka,” Scottie sighed.
“The assignment was to bring one thing in,” Simon laughed from the back of the room.
“Just because you only brought a rock doesn’t mean you have to pick on what I brought,” Scottie replied, crossing her arms over her chest. “A Gold medal is way cooler than a stupid rock.”
“Everyone, let’s try to be compassionate, okay? Let’s give Scottie a round of applause for her Gold medal,” Ms. Hubbard said, guiding Scottie back to her seat.
“Ms. Hubbard?” Scottie asked, getting seated.
“Yes, sweetheart?” Ms. Hubbard said, pushing her glasses up on her head.
“Um-” Scottie paused, the word ‘sweetheart’ sounding weird coming from someone other than Christen. “Was that okay? Did I bring okay things in?”
“You brought awesome things in,” Ms. Hubbard smiled. “Great job, Scottie.”
“Cool beans,” Scottie replied, holding up a shaka sign and readjusting the Gold medal around her neck.
Tobin stuck her tongue out slightly as she stared at the canvas in front of her.
“Well, that looks like shit,” she mumbled to herself, looking at how the colors hadn’t properly blended.
It was like no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get the right shade of gray for Scottie’s eyes. It didn’t help matters that she only got to work on the painting when Christen was out or traveling for games, not wanting her to know she was tweaking it, that she was possibly getting closer to finishing it than she’d ever gotten before.
She’d just picked out a different tube of black paint when her phone started ringing on a table behind her. She ignored the paint on her hands, grabbing her phone without wiping them. She already had paint on her forehead and all over her hands, so a little more wasn’t that big of a deal.
“Heath,” she mumbled, staring at the painting still.
“Hey Heath,” Jerri greeted into the phone, her slight Southern drawl even more prominent after she spent the spring and the summer in Louisiana.
“What’s up, Jerri?” Tobin asked, still absentmindedly staring at the painting.
“How’s Scottie and Christen? How are you?” Jerri asked, pointedly ignoring Tobin’s question.
“Both of them are great. We’re all doing really really well, and we’re finally all in one place at once,” Tobin added, her smile growing at the idea that the three of them were going to be eating dinner at Gio’s together for the first time since before the Olympics. “Are you back in the city? How’re you?”
“That’s great, Heath. I am back officially, which makes Gail very happy,” Jerri chuckled.
“I’m glad you two are still making it work,” Tobin laughed, remembering all the arguments they’d had over where they wanted to live.
“She loves New York, I love NOLA, but we love each other more,” Jerri replied, laughing again, but this time Tobin could hear how it was a little forced.
“Good, dude. That’s really good. Uh...no offense, but what’s going on?” Tobin asked.
“Well...you didn’t hear this from me,” Jerri sighed. “But Gail had a visitor the other week at the law office.”
“Oh?” Tobin asked, leaning against the table and trying not to worry despite the tone of Jerri’s voice.
“It was Roni, Heath.”
Tobin felt her throat start to tense at that name. She hadn’t heard from Roni since she’d told her to back off in Central Park a full year ago. She’d been in a state of bliss, maybe a little naive, a little blinded by the love she was feeling with Christen and Scottie.
But now, she felt like she’d been knocked down, like the rug was being pulled out from under her or the other shoe was dropping.
“Oh,” she repeated, her voice hollow. “Do you know why she was looking for a lawyer?”
“I don’t. Gail didn’t even let her in her office or give her the time of day,” Jerri replied, her tone of voice apologetic.
“But she wanted a lawyer,” Tobin breathed out, images of Scottie being forced to sit in a courtroom flashing through her head all of a sudden.
“Or she got off on the wrong floor,” Jerri offered. “There could be hundreds of other reasons, Heath. Don’t borrow trouble...but don’t ignore trouble either. Just to be safe.”
“Right,” Tobin nodded, trying to force the lump in her throat down. “So, what are you suggesting?”
“Be your squeaky clean self and have your Olympian girlfriend be her squeaky clean self too.”
“Yeah, we are that,” Tobin mumbled, dropping her paintbrush and running her hand over her forehead.
“You are gonna be fine,” Jerri assured. “Call me and we can do dinner. You, me, Gail, Christen, and Scottie.”
Tobin forced a smile onto her face as she agreed. “That sounds great. I’ll look at schedules. Thanks for the warning. I’ll talk to you later.”
She hung up the phone, immediately feeling like she needed to go back to sleep. She climbed up the stairs, needing to get paint off her hands and her face before she did anything else. Christen would kill her if she got paint on their new sheets, and she didn’t want to show up to pick Scottie up from school covered in paint.
The day started out with a sweet morning with Scottie and Christen, all of them making breakfast together and getting ready for the day. Tobin had brushed Scottie’s hair, and Christen had helped her get her show and tell bag packed. She and Scottie had then kissed Christen goodbye as she’d left to do interviews with Crystal and Becky.
Even the walk to school had felt more calm than normal. She and Scottie had talked about their plans for the rest of the week and what they should get from the grocery store. It had been the perfectly normal, domestic bliss that Tobin had become accustomed to for the past year.
And now she felt like that bliss was being threatened all over again.
She weighed her options as she scrubbed her hands under the sink. She thought about possibly calling Roni, about confronting her now and figuring out why she was hiring a lawyer. But Tobin also didn’t want to call and possibly give Roni ammunition for a court case. Not only that, but she didn’t want to hear her voice. She didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of calling her.
She thought about calling Christen or her parents, but she couldn’t really see the benefit of getting other people involved. It would only stress them out, and there was still a chance that Roni wasn’t lawyering up for a custody case. She didn’t want people to freak out over nothing, especially not the people she loved most.
So, instead of calling anyone or researching custody cases, she did what she felt like doing. She pulled off the clothes she’d been painting in, changed into a clean t-shirt, and crawled into bed, lying down on the pillow that still smelled like Christen’s shampoo and letting her eyes fall shut.
The lights of the studio were hot, uncomfortably so. Christen readjusted, finding that the padded armchair she had been directed to was also uncomfortable. Add in the insane amount of make-up and the absurd levels of hairspray in her hair, and she was uncomfortable all around.
The only good thing was that she’d gotten to pick her own outfit. Which allowed her to get Scottie’s advice, resulting in the green-colored suit she currently wore, the one Scottie deemed ‘ perfect green .’
“My hair is flammable,” Becky murmured, pointing at her similarly hair-sprayed hair.
“Yeah, but at least we look good,” Crystal grinned, standing up to spin around and show off her dress. “Especially you with your Scottie original.”
“What can I say, my girl has taste,” Christen chuckled, fighting against the urge to scratch at the corner of her jaw, opting to roll the sleeves of her blazer up instead.
“All right, ladies. We’re just gonna ask you some questions, and you can answer freely. They’ll be about the games in Australia, nothing you haven’t answered before, I’m sure. We’re gonna save the last ten minutes for some questions from outside journalists, so be prepared for that as well,” a male interviewer with an obviously fake spray tan said, reaching out his hand to shake each of theirs.
“We’re really excited to have you here. My daughter’s a huge fan,” the female interviewer added, offering her hand to shake as well.
“Thank you for having us,” Crystal grinned, getting comfortable in her armchair.
Christen took a deep breath and tried to go to her place of peace. She didn’t love interviews. She also didn’t love the media. But after scoring the winning penalty kick in the Olympic Gold Medal Match, she didn’t have much of a say in the matter. She was expected to do post-Games interviews, alongside her captain and the MVP of the tournament.
As she heard the production assistant count them down to when they would go live, Christen thought about Tobin and Scottie. She thought about her two girls and how she would get to see them tonight after a day full of interviews and meetings. She tried to think of them and nothing else.
Which lasted about twenty minutes.
All three of them answered the soft ball questions from the interviewers, questions about the games and their bracket, the challenging schedule, and their opponents. They got to talk about their fight for equal pay and their advocacy off the field. They got to cover a lot of ground and Christen was extremely happy with how things were going.
And then they went to the questions from the other journalists.
“Andrew Shields, City Scoop. My question is for Christen Press.”
Christen shielded her eyes from the studio lights and found Andrew in the audience. She offered him as genuine of a smile as she could muster and nodded, awaiting his question as her hand fell back to her lap.
“You were pictured celebrating Olympic Gold on the field in Sydney with a-” Andrew paused to check his notes, “-Tobin Heat and her daughter. Would you care to comment on the nature of that relationship?”
Christen went completely still, her hands clenched into fists in her lap. She tried to breathe regularly and evenly.
She knew this was coming. It wasn’t like she was trying to hide anything or be subtle. She’d met Tobin and Scottie on the field after every game. She’d hugged them both and left lingering kisses on Tobin’s cheek. She was the opposite of hiding it. But that didn’t mean she was going to confirm it. The moment she gave it to the journalists, that was the moment this beautiful love ceased to be just theirs.
“It’s Heath. Like the bar,” Crystal corrected, staring into the audience at Andrew.
“Apologies. Tobin Heath. Care to comment on your relationship with her and her daughter?”
Christen put that fake smile back on her face and schooled her features. “Thank you for that question. It’s always a joy to talk about the people we surround ourselves with, the ones who help us be the best version of ourselves. It truly is a team effort, and I know I’m very lucky to have a lot of supporters in my life. I have nothing but gratitude for those people in my corner who support me every single day, not just at the Olympics. I will not comment any further than that.”
“But what would you say to those who might wonder if this romance you seem to have fostered with a single mother is just a publicity stunt to clean up your party girl image?” Andrew pushed back, a smarmy grin on his face.
Christen swallowed thickly, her eyes narrowing slightly. “I would say, again, that I won’t comment on the nature of that relationship. But I’m sure you know, as well as I do, that I’m not that girl anymore. After this summer, I’m more of a Golden girl now,” Christen said, her joke smoothly finishing out her schooled response, earning her chuckles from around the room and proud looks from her teammates.
“So your comment is no comment?” Andrew scoffed once the chuckling had died down.
“Now you’re getting it,” Christen replied with that fake smile again, feeling her stomach roll and anger prickle beneath her skin.
Yeah, this was going to be a long day.
“It’s so good to see single moms making it work, especially in this city,” Ms. Hubbard said with a smile.
“Uh...thanks,” Tobin mumbled, scratching the back of her head.
It had been ten minutes, and Scottie’s teacher was still talking to her as if they knew each other, as if they hadn’t just met this morning when she’d dropped Scottie off for school.
“Mommy, let’s go,” Scottie sighed, tugging at Tobin’s shirt.
And Tobin couldn’t agree more. She was dying to go home, to take her shoes off and lie down on the couch and cuddle with Scottie until Christen got home.
“You know, meet the teacher night is next week,” Ms. Hubbard said, smiling down at Scottie, then looking back up at Tobin. “Are you planning on attending?”
“Yes, Mommy always does. And maybe this year she will bring-” Scottie tried to answer, only to be interrupted by her teacher.
“I’m sure the coffee won’t be good, but maybe you and I could find a moment to talk?” Ms. Hubbard said.
“Is everything okay?” Tobin asked, looking down at Scottie to see if she was acting sheepish at all.
“Is this because I called Simon’s rock stupid?” Scottie winced, looking between Ms. Hubbard and Tobin.
“Oh, no. No, sweetheart. I just was hoping to get to know you a little better,” Ms. Hubbard mumbled.
“But you’ll see me every day in school,” Scottie said, her brow furrowing as she tried to understand why her teacher wanted to get to know her better.
“Your...uh- your mom,” Ms. Hubbard said, offering Scottie a tight smile.
“Um...I’ll be at meet the teacher night, Ms. Hubbard,” Tobin said, feeling more uncomfortable the longer this conversation went on.
“Call me Maddie,” Ms. Hubbard replied.
“Mommy, can we go now ?” Scottie asked again, tugging on Tobin’s hand.
“Yeah, we should go,” Tobin agreed, taking Scottie’s show and tell bag and sliding it onto her shoulder. She offered a wave to Scottie’s teacher but nothing else.
The two of them hustled down the sidewalk away from school as quickly as possible.
“Mommy...that was so weird,” Scottie said, scrunching up her face in disgust.
“Yeah, that was kind of weird, little bit,” Tobin sighed, stopping at the crosswalk.
“How was your day?” Scottie asked, swinging their clasped hands between them.
“Hey, that’s my line,” Tobin laughed. “It was okay, kinda quiet without you and Christen around. How was school?”
“Um, fine,” Scottie shrugged.
“Just fine?” Tobin asked, looking down at Scottie.
“Yup. Walkman,” Scottie said, pointing at the crosswalk and waiting for Tobin to step off the curb to follow.
“Are you excited for Christen to come home and tell us about her interview?” Tobin asked, squeezing Scottie’s hand.
“Yes, and I am very excited to see her on TV. I hope it recorded and that we can all watch it together tomorrow!”
“Me too. She told me she doesn’t like interviews, though,” Tobin hummed.
“That’s why I gave her two forehead kisses this morning,” Scottie replied.
“I bet it was a great interview then,” Tobin said, sending Scottie a wink.
Scottie tried to send a wink back and ended up doing more of a double blink. “I bet she had the best day out of all of us.”
“We can ask her at Gio’s. Do you have homework?” Tobin asked, guiding Scottie to the left and down their street.
“Nope,” Scottie said, popping the ‘p’ in her response. “I just need to come up with three fun facts about myself and start thinking about my family tree project.”
“Oh, cool,” Tobin said, her smile feeling more genuine than it had all afternoon. “You have tons of fun facts!”
“I have too many. How will I ever pick three?” Scottie lamented, scuffing her feet dramatically.
“What kind of facts are you thinking of?” Tobin asked, pulling the house keys out of her pocket.
“Every fact I think of has to do with the Olympics,” Scottie sighed.
“Well it was a pretty cool summer,” Tobin grinned, unlocking the door and pushing it open for Scottie.
“Not to my classmates,” Scottie grumbled, stalking up the steps and hurrying upstairs.
“Excuse me?” Tobin asked, her eyebrows scrunching up at how down Scottie sounded.
“I’m gonna read in my room!” Scottie called over her shoulder.
“Do you want a snack? We could read on the couch!” Tobin called after her.
“No thank you!” came Scottie’s voice before the sound of a door slamming shut.
“Great, cool cool cool,” Tobin sighed, tossing her keys and wallet onto the kitchen counter and stalking toward the couch, falling onto it with no plans to get up before they would head to Gio’s.
“Scottie!” Dominic called as soon as Scottie and Tobin walked into Gio’s.
“Hey, Dommie,” Scottie greeted with a head nod, her hands stuffed into her pockets.
“Who do I need to beat up?” Dommie asked, putting his hands on his hips.
“My whole fourth-grade class,” Scottie grumbled, leaning into Tobin’s side.
“How about I let everyone in the kitchen know that tonight’s tiramisu needs to be flawless?” Dominic asked.
Scottie managed a smile at that and walked over to Dominic, giving him a tight hug.
“Hey, little bit, look who’s already at our table,” Tobin said, hoping that Scottie would get a little excited for Christen, even if nothing else had done the trick.
That had Scottie brightening. She jumped up, trying to get a good look.
“Oh my gosh,” Scottie gasped, rushing by Dominic and hurrying through the restaurant, headed for their usual table that was currently occupied.
“My Scottie,” Christen all but sighed in greeting, the tension leaving her frame as she saw Scottie rushing up to the table.
“You have no idea how lame today was,” Scottie sighed, sinking into Christen’s open arms.
“Trust me, sweetheart, I have an idea,” Christen replied, pulling Scottie close.
Her green suit was wrinkled, her hair was falling out of its perfectly styled curls, and her make-up had faded. But she was finally back with her girls and she couldn’t be happier.
“Hi, Chris,” Tobin sighed, leaning down to press a kiss to Christen’s forehead.
“Hi, baby,” Christen hummed, offering Tobin a tight smile as she continued to hold Scottie in her arms. “You on team ‘today was lame’ too?”
“The lamest, actually,” Tobin grumbled, dropping into the seat beside Christen.
“Can we get garlic bread and mozzarella sticks?” Scottie asked, her words muffled by the way she was keeping her face buried in Christen’s chest.
“Sure, dude, and then you can tell me why fourth graders are mean,” Tobin agreed.
“Was someone mean to you?” Christen asked, her forehead furrowing. She ran her hands up and down Scottie’s back, her eyes locked on Tobin’s. She saw the same concern she felt reflected back at her.
“I mean...they’re not nice, that’s for suresies,” Scottie sighed, finally slipping from Christen’s arms and taking her seat across from Tobin. “Naomi’s in my class, and I think the summer made her worse.”
“Naomi…” Christen trailed off, sharing a questioning look with Tobin.
“Yates and Naomi were friendly last year, and she really doesn’t like me,” Scottie replied with a sigh.
“He shared his fruit by the foot,” Tobin said, reminding Christen about Scottie’s ‘divorce’ the year prior.
“Right, right,” Christen nodded, finally remembering.
“Also, Simon’s kind of a jerk, and he didn’t think your Gold medal was real. How lame is that?” Scottie mumbled, dropping her forehead onto the table.
Christen reached out and ran her hand up and down Scottie’s back again, her heart hurting for the girl in front of her.
“Super-duper lame,” Christen hummed. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
“Why was your day lame?” Scottie asked, turning her head to look at Christen. “Did you get nervous? Mommy said it’s okay to be nervous. We’ll still think it’s cool when we watch your interview.”
“I wasn’t nervous, but I did have to deal with some pretty lame people. Kind of like Naomi and Simon,” Christen replied, hoping Scottie wouldn’t ask too many more questions since the reason her day was lame wasn’t exactly nine-year-old appropriate.
“Why were they lame?” Scottie asked. “Did they think the medal was fake too?”
Christen kicked Tobin under the table, silently asking for some help out of this line of questioning.
“Uh...sometimes people just aren’t nice when they ask questions,” Tobin said, not knowing exactly what Christen needed from her.
“Tell me about it,” Scottie grumbled.
“I think we should get bruschetta too,” Christen declared, sliding her hand into Tobin’s, immediately twisting the ring around Tobin’s middle finger.
"Yes, I love the 'schetta!" Scottie said, brightening just a bit.
“I’m sorry you two had such lame days,” Tobin sighed, pressing a kiss to the back of Christen’s hand and shooting Scottie a tight smile.
“I’m sorry you did too, Mommy. We should get calamari too. You like that,” Scottie said, propping her elbows on the table and dropping her chin into her hands.
“We can,” Tobin laughed, loving that her girls were adding more food to the order as their way of coping with a bad day. It was kind of adorable, especially since she knew how many leftovers she’d be carrying home.
“And guess what I bought yesterday and put in the freezer?” Christen asked, smiling over at Scottie.
“Peanut Butter Marshmallow Crunch?” Scottie asked, a big smile spreading across her face.
“Only the best for my favorite fourth grader,” Christen replied with a wink.
“Oh my gosh! I almost forgot! I thought I liked Ms. Hubbard, but then she called me sweetheart, and I don’t think I like that at all,” Scottie added, reaching out for Christen’s free hand.
Christen wrinkled her nose, a seed of distaste for this teacher planted firmly in her heart immediately.
“And then she asked Mommy to drink coffee with her,” Scottie added with an eye roll. “But all I wanted to do was go home and leave school.”
“Excuse me?” Christen clarified, turning to look over at Tobin with her eyebrows raised.
Tobin shook her head softly and kissed the back of Christen’s hand again.
“She asked Mommy to come to meet the teacher night and drink bad coffee to get to know her,” Scottie continued, sighing at the memory of her teacher acting weird.
If possible, Christen’s brows climbed higher on her forehead, a small scoff of disbelief leaving her lips.
“Would you like to go to meet the teacher night with me next Thursday?” Tobin asked, running her thumb along the side of Christen’s hand.
“You bet your ass I would,” Christen huffed, her grip on Tobin’s hand tightening. “Sorry, bad word, I know.”
“It’s okay. I want you both to go. Then she can meet my Christen,” Scottie grinned.
“My favorite trio!” Gio greeted, coming up to the table with a plate of garlic bread.
“Sup Gio,” Scottie greeted, hopping from her chair and giving Gio a big hug, careful not to knock over the plate of bread. “We’re gonna need calamari, bruschetta, and mozzarella sticks too, please,” she added, skipping back over to her chair and climbing into it.
“Oh?” Gio asked, raising his eyebrows as he put the garlic bread down. “Are you two gonna need Sangria?”
Tobin pursed her lips, thinking about what all she had to do, and other than waking up and walking Scottie to school, she couldn’t think of anything.
“Want to share a glass?” she asked, squeezing Christen’s hand.
“Speak for yourself, babe. I need one for myself. A big one. The biggest of Sangrias,” Christen sighed, smiling tightly.
Tobin silently held up two fingers, her smile getting bigger as Christen spoke.
“Can you make me a Shirley Temple please?” Scottie asked, turning and sending Tobin the sweetest smile she could, since she knew Tobin didn’t often let her have sodas, especially not on school nights.
“A small Shirley Temple,” Tobin nodded, deciding to just take the loss today.
Once all their drinks came, Scottie’s small Shirley Temple dwarfed by the size of Tobin and Christen’s Sangrias, Christen cleared her throat and held up her glass.
“To tomorrow being far less lame, for all of us,” Christen said, offering her girls looks full of love.
“I hope so,” Scottie said, clinking her glass with Christen’s and Tobin’s.
“Me too,” Tobin nodded.
“Do you think you can both walk me to school tomorrow? Or do you have practice?” Scottie asked, pulling her straw up to her lips.
“Does Ms. Hubbard wait outside for you guys?” Christen replied, taking a large sip of her drink and then setting it down.
“She did today, so probably,” Scottie shrugged.
“I will definitely be walking you to school tomorrow,” Christen affirmed, her tone leaving no room for argument, her smile taking the bite out of her words.
Tobin couldn’t help the way she rolled her eyes at Christen’s words. She couldn’t wrap her head around Christen ever thinking that anyone else could ever be a threat, but there was something kind of adorable about the protective edge in Christen’s voice.
“Thanks for making me feel better,” Scottie replied, grinning at Christen and Tobin and grabbing a piece of garlic bread off the plate. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. I’d be a sad fourth-grader, probably.”
“I’d be super sad without you,” Tobin said softly, running her finger along Scottie’s nose and making her wrinkle it. She was suddenly feeling her day start to suck less now that Scottie felt better.
Still, Scottie’s words only made the phone call that she’d managed to shove to the back of her mind, move toward the forefront again. She didn’t know what she’d do without Scottie, and she had no idea how she’d share her with Roni if that’s what ended up having to happen.
“We’re all stuck together, though,” Christen hummed, squeezing Tobin’s hand gently. “So no more sad talk. I want to hear about the best part of your day,” Christen added, looking at Scottie.
“I think I maybe have a new friend. She’s the only one who believed it was a real Gold medal, so I let her touch it, and we had lunch together,” Scottie said, double fisting some food and taking bites out of a mozzarella stick and then a piece of garlic bread.
As Scottie continued to recount the happy parts of her day, Christen held tightly to Tobin’s hand, beyond curious about the apprehension she could see in those usually warm brown eyes.
“You remember how when I had all that worry about Channing coming to the game last November, and you waited a week to call me out on it?” Christen asked, leaning further back into Tobin’s chest, making the warm bath water slosh around in the tub with her movement.
“Mhm,” Tobin hummed, letting out a laugh at the memory. She didn’t even open her eyes, too comfortable and completely calm in the bathtub with Christen. It had become an almost nightly ritual for them to sit and talk, whether in bed, on the roof, or in the bathtub, after Scottie went to bed.
“You are a very patient woman,” Christen murmured, dragging her fingertips up and down Tobin’s arm beneath the water.
“I really love you, and I didn’t want to scare you away,” Tobin whispered, pressing a kiss to Christen’s neck.
“Would it scare you if I was the opposite of patient and asked you why you have worry eyes right now?” Christen asked softly.
“Am I allowed to watch your interview after we drop Scottie off at school and see why your day was so lame?” Tobin asked, her lips brushing against Christen’s skin.
Christen nodded and let her eyes flutter shut. “Of course. I doubt you’ll enjoy it, but you can.”
“You’ll still look really sexy on my TV,” Tobin said with a smirk before pressing one last kiss to Christen’s neck and leaning her head back against the tile wall.
Christen’s lips lifted into an amused smile. “Maybe we can just mute it then, if all you’ll be paying attention to is looks.”
“I’m in love with your voice too, though,” Tobin sighed, “so I’ll have to listen to it.”
“I’m in love with yours too...and you can start using it at any time to talk about your day,” Christen murmured softly, tangling her fingers with Tobin’s and laying their joined hands against her chest, above her heart.
“Jerri’s back in New York,” Tobin said, her voice so quiet that she wondered if Christen could even hear her.
“Just in time for fall in the city,” Christen replied, the volume of her voice matching Tobin’s.
“She called me today because…” Tobin let out a long sigh, running her free hand over her hair, slicking down the baby hairs that were loose from her bun. “Well, it’s probably nothing. Even she said that it’s probably nothing, and I don’t know why it would be more than nothing,” Tobin blurted out, trying to convince herself more than anything else.
“Even if it’s nothing, tell me anyway,” Christen breathed out, lifting their clasped hands and pressing a kiss to Tobin’s palm, returning them to her chest right after.
“Roni approached Gail. She’s looking for a lawyer,” Tobin whispered, forcing the words past the lump in her throat that hadn’t fully gone away since the phone call with Jerri.
Christen sucked in a surprised breath and released it harshly, her hand tightening around Tobin’s.
“She can’t seriously be trying, Tobin. There’s no way,” Christen replied, half-turning in the tub so that she could see Tobin’s face.
“Yeah, I’ve been trying to repeat that enough times today to actually believe it,” Tobin admitted, swallowing the lump in her throat down as much as she could.
Christen lifted her hands to cradle Tobin’s face, tilting her head down to catch Tobin’s eyes that had fallen away from hers.
“There isn’t a court in the world that would take Scottie from you and put her with Roni. You have given your daughter a home and a life full of love and there is no way the world is cruel enough to overlook that,” Christen said softly but firmly.
“I think you’re right. I don’t think a judge would take her from me,” Tobin nodded. “But I don’t even want to share her.”
Christen briefly wondered if Tobin meant she didn’t want to share Scottie with anyone. But she pushed those thoughts away and ran her thumbs soothingly across Tobin’s cheekbones, focusing on the issue at hand and not the deeper, potential meaning behind Tobin’s words.
“For all you know, she could be looking for tax help or something. There might be nothing there. You don’t have to share her, Tobin.”
“I know,” Tobin whispered, turning her head to kiss the palm of Christen’s hand. “I’m not sure I’ll stop being worried about that until Scottie’s eighteen, though.”
Christen sighed, understanding the worry and knowing that there was almost nothing she could say to take it away.
“Just...don’t let her steal every moment until Scottie’s eighteen from you. Don’t let her be here with you two, when she doesn’t deserve to be,” Christen hummed.
Tobin shook her head gently, reaching out to put a hand on the back of Christen’s neck and pull her closer.
“I won’t,” she whispered, placing a soft kiss on Christen’s lips. “But you’re not one hundred percent right.”
Christen’s brow furrowed, pulling back a bit. “What do you mean?”
“Do you know how many times you just used the word you? It isn’t just me, Chris. You’re here too. You’re filling Scottie’s life with love. You’re making her feel safe and happy and cared for. It isn’t just me,” Tobin breathed out.
“I...I wasn’t worried about me just now,” Christen replied softly, offering a small shrug.
“I like it best when it’s us and ours,” Tobin murmured, running her thumb along Christen’s jaw.
Christen’s heart fluttered in her chest, and she felt her stomach tighten in the best possible way. She leaned forward and kissed Tobin, hard, causing some water to slosh out of the tub with how quickly she moved.
“I do too,” Christen mumbled softly against Tobin’s lips. “I love us and ours.”
“I almost didn’t tell you,” Tobin admitted shyly.
Christen stopped mid-kiss and leaned back, her brow arching, her hands falling away from Tobin’s face.
“What- Why not?” she asked with a laugh.
“I didn’t want to make you worry on top of me worrying, especially when there’s probably nothing to worry about,” Tobin said, tangling her fingers with Christen’s.
Christen shook her head softly, more than a little enamored by the way Tobin cared for her, but also more than a little affectionately irritated that Tobin wasn’t going to say anything.
“So it can be us and ours when it comes to good things, but not sharing worries? Baby, please tell me you hear the slight hypocrisy there,” Christen chuckled.
“Clearly, it’s us and ours all the time because I decided to tell you,” Tobin hummed, pecking Christen’s lips quickly. “I knew you’d want to know, and apparently I have a terrible poker face.”
“The worst,” Christen agreed, chasing Tobin’s lips and moving her free hand up to wrap around the back of Tobin’s neck. “Thank you for telling me,” she added, whispering the words into the space between their lips.
“Thank you for being a part of ‘us,’ even for the not-so-good things,” Tobin replied between kisses. “Can I take you to bed now?”
“Can I have my way with you in here first?” Christen murmured with a small smile.
“Like I could ever say no to you,” Tobin groaned, pulling Christen even closer.
“See, that’s my teacher,” Scottie said, holding both Christen’s and Tobin’s hands as they walked down the sidewalk.
Christen stifled an eye roll at the overdone make-up and the tight blouse Ms. Hubbard had donned today.
“I’m walking her to school every day with you,” Christen whispered to Tobin.
“You’re welcome to, but all it takes is one convincing day, baby,” Tobin hummed.
“Oh, I can be convincing,” Christen replied softly.
“Meet the teacher night,” Tobin sing-songed, sending a wink in Christen’s direction.
“She’ll be meeting a whole lot more than-” Christen started to grumble under her breath, only to be interrupted by the current bane of her existence.
“Good morning, Scottie,” Ms. Hubbard said, waving as the three of them walked to the front steps of the school.
“Good morning,” Scottie replied with a big smile.
Tobin didn’t even glance up at Scottie’s teacher. She was busy unzipping Scottie’s backpack and putting Scottie’s lunch in her bag, along with a note that she and Christen had written that morning, in the hopes of making her second day at school better, even if for just a moment.
Christen offered Ms. Hubbard a fakely sweet smile and then moved around to face Scottie, effectively cutting Ms. Hubbard off.
“All set, sweetheart?” Christen asked as she bent down to Scottie’s eye level, smoothing out a flyaway and tucking it behind her ear, smiling a bit at the space buns Scottie had asked her to do this morning.
“All set,” Scottie nodded, seeing her maybe new friend walk up with her dad.
“I hope you have a great day, my Scottie,” Christen murmured, poking her pointer finger against the dimple in Scottie’s cheek.
“I hope you have a wonderful day, my Christen,” Scottie beamed, wrapping her arms around Christen’s shoulders and giving her a big hug.
Christen lingered in the hug, feeling Ms. Hubbard’s eyes on her. She ignored Tobin’s soft chuckling from nearby, knowing she’d be getting an earful about her protective, jealous behavior on the walk back, but not finding it in her to care.
“I really love you,” Scottie murmured, pressing a kiss to Christen’s cheek.
“I really love you more,” Christen replied softly.
“No way!” Scottie laughed, stepping out of the hug and reaching up for Tobin’s hand.
“Yes way, and don’t you forget it,” Christen replied with a wink, straightening back up.
“I really love you too, Mommy,” Scottie said, turning into Tobin and wrapping her arms around Tobin’s waist.
“I really love you, little bit. Have an awesome day,” Tobin said, squeezing Scottie close.
“You too, Mommy. I love you guys,” Scottie repeated, backing away toward the steps and Ms. Hubbard.
“We love you. Bye, buddy,” Tobin said, waving until Scottie turned around.
“Bye, sweetheart!” Christen called out.
As soon as Scottie stepped into the building, Tobin turned around, not wanting to linger any longer than she needed to.
“That was a long hug goodbye considering you’ll see her at 2:30,” Tobin laughed, taking Christen’s hand in her own and heading back to the house.
“Maybe I wanted two days to be convincing,” Christen replied with a smirk, leaning into Tobin’s side.
“What if she’s just a really friendly teacher,” Tobin teased.
“She was undressing you with her eyes,” Christen huffed. “That goes way beyond friendly.”
“Hey, baby,” Tobin hummed, wrapping an arm around Christen’s waist.
Christen turned to face Tobin once they reached an intersection, winding her arms around Tobin’s shoulders.
“You’re the only person I want to share myself with,” Tobin whispered, a soft smile spreading across her face.
That smile cut through the lingering jealous haze that had settled over Christen. She felt a smile, a genuine one, make its way onto her face.
“Feeling’s mutual, baby,” Christen hummed.
“Anything you need to warn me about before we break out the snacks and watch your interview on the couch?” Tobin asked, squeezing Christen’s hips with her hands.
Christen wrinkled her nose at the reminder. “No, let’s just get this over with.”
Tobin spent the first half of the interview complimenting Christen. She gushed about how great Christen looked in the green suit she’d worn yesterday. And even though she agreed with Christen that they’d put a lot of makeup on her, she insisted that Christen looked absolutely stunning, just like she always did.
With each compliment, Christen blushed and laughed, burying her face in Tobin’s neck and pressing kisses to Tobin’s skin. They held onto each other on the couch, watching the interview, which had aired yesterday morning and Tobin had recorded. It was soft and domestic and blissful.
Up until the last ten minutes.
“I’m sorry, can I rewind?” Tobin huffed, trying to reach for the remote on the coffee table.
“Once wasn’t too many times?” Christen grumbled, leaning back into the couch cushions.
“I’m hoping I misheard him,” Tobin grumbled.
“Nope, he called you Tobin Heat,” Christen grimaced, watching Tobin rewind through the entire question and answer part with Andrew Shields.
“I don’t freaking care about my name. He could have called me Tokin Heat for all I care. Why is he asking about me, and more importantly about Scottie, in the first place?” Tobin scoffed.
“I’m sorry,” Christen sighed. “It wasn’t like we were hiding during the Olympics, and you know journalists these days-”
“Do not ever apologize for a dumb journalist asking questions like that,” Tobin said, turning away from the TV and focusing on Christen. “Even if I’d made out with you in front of a packed stadium, it still wouldn’t give him the right to ask that. Also, you’re a professional athlete. You’re a soccer player who scored the winning goal at the freaking Olympics! Why ask about who you’re dating? I’m sorry, did he just ask if I’m a publicity stunt?” she asked, whipping her head back to the TV.
Christen sat forward and put her hands on Tobin’s shoulders, rubbing them gently, recognizing the shock and anger and irritation. She had felt all those things yesterday as well. She was a little envious that Tobin got to actually show them, while she had to keep a lid on her emotions and keep her cool.
“Breathe, Tobin. In and out,” Christen hummed.
“I’m way cooler than a publicity stunt,” Tobin scoffed.
Christen nodded, weathering this storm of frustration and offense with understanding and shoulder rubs. “You are. You’re the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
“And who stays with someone and their kid for a year just for publicity?” Tobin added with an eye roll.
“Someone really dedicated?” Christen wondered.
“Oh, are you really dedicated to your public image?” Tobin teased, turning the TV off and crawling toward Christen on the couch.
Christen chuckled and moved to lean against the arm of the couch, Tobin settling on top of her.
“He was just trying to get a rise out of me, hoping I would take the bait. And I didn’t. I wouldn’t,” Christen assured quietly, her arms wrapped loosely around Tobin’s waist.
“My girlfriend is so professional,” Tobin whispered, leaning down and pressing a kiss to Christen’s forehead. “And so calm,” she added with a kiss to Christen’s cheek. “And cool,” she murmured, kissing Christen’s other cheek. “And collected,” she breathed out, kissing Christen’s lips softly.
Christen blushed under the attention, kissing Tobin back gently. “I have to be to protect this. To protect us and ours.”
“What do you mean?” Tobin asked, cocking her head to the side. “Are you wanting to be more private?”
“No,” Christen replied quickly. “We can keep living the way we are now. But the moment I say anything to journalists or the press or on social media...we lose this a bit. It’s not just ours any longer. And I don’t want to give that up. I already give so much of myself to the public, which I do so happily. But I won’t give them everything. Especially this. What I have with you and Scottie is too important to me.”
And maybe it was the added stress of the day they’d both had yesterday, but that lump rose in Tobin’s throat again as she nodded along to what Christen was saying.
“I don’t want to lose this at all,” she mumbled, running her nose against Christen’s.
“And we won’t. Especially to the likes of Andrew Shields or your ex-wife,” Christen promised.
“You’re really sexy protecting us and ours on live TV,” Tobin whispered, trying to lighten the mood a little bit.
Christen smiled softly, picking up exactly what Tobin was doing and knowing there was no need to joke their way out of this. They could love each other out of this.
“Thank you, baby. I always will. Now, what do you say I give you some head scratches while we watch Married at First Sight?”
“Are you serious?” Tobin asked, her eyes growing wide just like Scottie’s did when she got excited.
Christen readjusted herself against the arm of the couch, fluffing the pillow behind her shoulders, and then opened her arms, waiting for Tobin to get comfortable too.
“Yesterday sucked for both of us, and now that we’ve processed it all, I’d really love to just hold you,” Christen replied gently.
“How are you real?” Tobin sighed, sinking down on top of Christen, her ear pressing against Christen’s chest and immediately picking up the heartbeat she loved so much.