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November 2019

Tobin has always loved the beach.

 

Growing up, her summers were spent at her aunt and uncle’s beach house in Cape May or her grandparents’s place in Florida. In college, spring breaks were at Myrtle Beach and when she wasn’t in season she, Amy and Lauren would take weekend trips to Wrightsville Beach. Thanks to her time on the youth and senior national teams, she got to visit beaches all around the world in Spain, Brazil, Australia, Italy, and countless others. Once she signed for LAWFC, there was hardly a weekend she didn’t spend at least a few hours at the beach and in the off seasons, she and Kelley took surf trips every chance they had.

 

The beach has always been Tobin’s happy place, second only to a soccer field. She does some of her best thinking there and has always felt at ease when she hears the crashing waves and feels sand between her toes.

 

Tobin has seen beaches all over the world, but in the matter of a few seconds, she decides Puerto Rican beaches are her favorite. Granted, watching Nata splashing around in the surf while she sits in the sand with Christen by her side gives the place a bit of an unfair advantage, but the point still stands.

 

Christen made a promise to herself when she adopted Nata that she wanted to bring him back to Puerto Rico every few years. She wanted to ensure he was already aware of his heritage. And this time, Tobin got to go with them.

 

It’s been two years since Christen and Nata moved to New York and one since Tobin moved in with them. Tobin has never known happiness like this before. Loving Christen was one thing, but sharing her life completely with her is another thing entirely. She loves helping Nata get ready for school in the morning before she heads to practice. She loves spending lazy Saturday mornings in bed with Christen, enjoying a few minutes of warm, quiet peace before Nata storms in, ready to get the day started. She loves looking up in the stands at Red Bull Arena and seeing Christen and Nata sitting with an assortment of her family members at every single home game. She’s even learned to love cooking dinner for her little family on the evenings Christen has to work late.

 

This past year living with Christen and Nata has been the best one of her life. Plus, playing one of the best seasons of her career and winning the NWSL championship with Sky Blue certainly doesn’t hurt matters.

 

After the lengthy season, this trip is exactly what she needed.

 

“I don’t think we’re ever going to get him out of that water,” Tobin laughs, watching as Nata dunks himself for the hundredth time. “The restaurant is going to close before he tires himself out.”

 

“I don’t think he’s too concerned with dinner right now. He’s bummed we’re leaving tomorrow, we can give him a few more minutes,” Christen reasons. She has an adoring smile on her face, watching her son have the time of his life.

 

“I’ll give him a few more minutes,” Tobin says. She looks away from Nata for a minute so she can smile at Christen. “You go ahead and go back to the hotel so you can start getting ready for dinner. I know you can’t wait to wash all the salt and sunscreen off your skin. I’ll wrangle Nata up there in a bit and then we’ll all go to dinner.”

 

Christen doesn’t even hesitate before nodding animatedly. “That sounds perfect, thanks.” She leans over and kisses Tobin once, twice, three times before finally pulling herself away. “I’ll see you both in a few minutes,” she says, rising up from her spot in the sand. She reaches down and squeezes Tobin’s shoulder before grabbing her bag and heading back up the shore.

 

Tobin stays where she is for a minute, watching with an amused grin as Nata entertains himself splashing around in the water and kicking his legs like he’s practicing for karate. He’s the happiest kid Tobin thinks she’s ever met and his happiness is infectious. After a tough loss or a hard day at training, getting to come home to Nata always lifted her mood.

 

After another minute or so, she pushes herself up and heads down to the water. “Dude, let’s go! We need to get ready for dinner,” she calls.

 

“No, come on,” he whines. “Just a few more minutes, please.”

 

“We’ve given you a few more minutes five times already,” Tobin laughs.

 

He stops splashing for a moment and actually pouts. “Do I have to?”

 

“Remember that plan I wanted your help with? Well that’s tonight, so yeah you have to.”

 

“Wait, tonight?” He asks, looking almost confused. “You’re proposing to Mama tonight?”

 

Tobin glances over her shoulder even though she knows Christen isn’t actually there, but she has to make sure. She’s kept this secret for months now, she doesn’t want it ruined just a couple hours before she actually does it.

 

“Yeah, after dinner,” Tobin tells him. “But if you don’t get out of the water, then we won’t make it to dinner.”

 

He looks conflicted for a few seconds, but then he breaks out into a big smile. “Okay, let’s go!” He runs out of the water, intentionally kicking water towards Tobin as he goes.

 

“Yeah, let’s go,” Tobin says to herself before taking a steadying breath.

 

She’s known she wanted to propose to Christen for well over a year now. She’s known she wanted to marry her for longer than that, but she had to make sure things were right They’ve talked about getting engaged and she knows Christen was ready whenever she was. She just wanted to wait until Tobin was ready, settled. She understood it was a big deal for Tobin and she didn’t want to pressure her into proposing too soon.

 

But now, Tobin’s at the point she’s surprised she didn’t pull out the ring before they even boarded the plane to Puerto Rico. She can’t wait to finally ask that question.

 

Tonight is the night and she’s so excited she can hardly stand it. She just has to wait a couple more hours and then Christen will be her fiancée. She can do that.

xxx

Tobin is a nervous wreck all through dinner. She thinks she’s hiding it pretty well, though. She keeps her hands under the table unless she's actually eating so Christen can't see them shake occasionally. She keeps asking Nata questions because the kid loves to talk, so his answers stretch out and keep them both entertained enough that Christen's focus rarely drifts from him to Tobin.

 

There are only so many questions she can ask without being obvious, but luckily she runs out just about the time Nata gets restless sitting at the table so they finish up quickly and head down to the beach for a walk.

 

The sun is mostly set by now, but the moon is full and there are plenty of lights from various restaurants and storefronts along the beach that give them more than enough light.

 

They busy themselves for a few minutes by discussing their travel plans for the next day and confirm when they need to wake up and leave for the airport. Nata groans when he hears how early he needs to wake up (not that 8:00am is really even that early) and tries to convince them to stay another day or two, but Christen has meetings in New York that she can't move, so Nata has to accept their time here has come to an end.

 

There's a quiet lull in conversation and Tobin knows this is it. She taps Nata on his shoulder discretely to not draw Christen's attention and he looks up at her with a grin, knowing what's coming next. She had slipped him the ring when they were leaving dinner to hold until she needed it. She made sure to get his blessing before asking his mom to marry her, not because she thought she needed it but because she knew it would make him happy. His only condition was he wanted to help, so Tobin told him he could hold onto the ring.

 

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the ring Tobin had wrapped in a little white cloth…but this cloth is blue. That can't be right. Tobin made sure the ring was wrapped perfectly so it would be well insulated, but not so bulky it would draw attention in Nata's pocket. She wrapped that white cloth so many times. There's no way she's that mistaken on the color.

 

She takes it anyway so she can figure out what's going on. But when she unwraps the cloth, she doesn't see the square cut diamond ring she spent months deciding on. Instead she sees a thick gold band with a thin line of tiny inlaid diamonds stretching around the whole ring.

 

Tobin stops in her tracks. What the hell?

 

"Dude, this isn't my ring," she tells Nata quietly. She's moments away from what she assumes a panic attack feels like when she feels Christen's fingers wrap around her wrist.

 

"That's because it's mine," Christen lets out a nervous laugh. "What's happening?"

 

"Oh shoot!" Nata exclaims. He reaches into his other pocket and pulls out that familiar white cloth bundle. "Dang it, I messed up. This is so much pressure, I'm only 9!" He hands Tobin her ring and takes the other from her and hands it to Christen.

 

"Wait, why do you have a ring?" Tobin asks, still trying to catch up. She feels better having her ring safely in her hand, but she's still trying to slow her breathing down

 

"Why do you have a ring?" Christen counters. "I thought we agreed I was proposing because you wanted me to decide when was a good time because of Nata."

 

"I thought we agreed I was proposing because you wanted me to be ready."

 

They stare at each other wide eyed for a moment before they both burst out laughing. Tobin ran through every possible scenario of what could go wrong, but this is one that never could have crossed her mind. And she knows Christen is a meticulous planner, so there's no way she accounted for this either.

 

Tobin tries to run back through the last conversation they had about marriage in her head, see if she can pick up on how they possibly got so confused. But she's unsuccessful at recalling the memory, not with Christen standing in front of her holding a ring that's seconds away from being on her left hand. All she can do is laugh and grin and hold back tears from how much she loves this woman standing in front of her.

 

"You're both crazy," Nata shakes his head. "I'm never getting married, this is too stressful."

 

That just makes them laugh harder, but Nata finally joins in.

 

"I can't believe we both planned this for the exact same time," Tobin says once she regains composure.

 

"At least that bodes well for us in the long run that we're both ready at the same time," Christen jokes.

 

"Does this mean I don't have to give you my speech if I already know the answer?" She's gotten better talking about her feelings over the years with Christen, but she was still nervous about proposing. She wants to say exactly the right thing.

 

"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours," Christen laughs, eyebrows jumping up and down as she tries to goad Tobin into it.

 

"This is crazy," Tobin whispers to herself before shaking her head.

 

She needs to focus, remember what it was she was planning to say. She didn't have a long speech planned out, never being one for too many words and also knowing she wouldn't be able to keep herself from asking that all too important question for too long. She just wants Christen to be her fiancée already.

 

"Speech, speech, speech!" Nata chants, a giddy smile on his face.

 

"Way to elevate the pressure, dude," Tobin laughs and ruffles his hair for a second until he pulls away. He thinks he's too old for that now, but Tobin still does it to tease him. She takes a breath to steady herself and then takes Christen’s left hand in hers. “I never thought I was capable of loving another person,” she wraps her free arm around Nata’s shoulders and pulls him in, “of loving two people, the way I love you both. I’ll never know what I did to get so lucky to have you both, but I count my blessings every single day. You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me and I want to spend every day of the rest of my life with you.” She leans down to kiss the top of Nata’s head. “And you too.”

 

Nata reaches up and takes the ring from Tobin’s hand where it rests on his shoulder. He gently unwraps the fabric and holds the ring up for Tobin to take back.

 

“Thanks dude,” Tobin says, squeezing his shoulder before taking the ring. “So Christen Annemarie Press, will you marry me?”

 

Christen sniffles and tries to swallow back her tears before she answers. “Yes, of course I will,” she says, nodding her head vehemently and leaning in to kiss Tobin before she’s even gotten the ring on her finger. She only pulls away for a couple seconds, just long enough for Tobin to actually slip the ring onto her left hand and then pulls her in for another kiss.

 

It really only lasts three or four seconds, but Nata groans, “gross,” and they break apart laughing. “Come on, Mama. It’s your turn!”

 

“Yeah, let’s hear your speech. We had a deal,” Tobin reminds her, though she’s so happy right now she could forego getting her own ring a little while longer if it means she gets to keep kissing her fiancée.

 

Her fiancée. She doesn’t think she’ll ever get tired of saying that. At least not before she gets to start calling Christen her wife.

 

The thought of getting to call her that just makes her head spin though, so she tries not to think about it right now.

 

“Okay, okay,” Christen lets out a watery laugh and clears her throat before she continues. “Tobin, you love me better than anyone I’ve ever known. You love Nata exactly the way he needs and you’ve never shied away from taking care of us both, even when I’ve been reluctant to accept it,” she teases. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to us. I adore you and I never want to do life without you. I love you more today than I did yesterday, and even though I can hardly believe it, I know I’ll love you even more tomorrow. You’re my best friend, my partner, my co-parent, my girlfriend, now my fiancée, and I can’t wait for you to be my wife. Even though I think I already know the answer, Tobin Powell Heath, will you marry me?”

 

“Hell yeah, I will.”

 

“Language!” Nata exclaims, knowing this means he gets a quarter added to the swear jar, but Tobin doesn’t even care.

 

Christen laughs as she slides Tobin’s ring onto her finger. Tobin stares at it for a second. She’s never been one to wear rings, never feeling comfortable with the weight on her hand. But this one feels normal, like it’s always been there. It’s only been a moment, but she hardly even remembers what it felt like not having it on her finger. She never wants to take it off. Christen had it sized perfectly and it’s exactly the style of ring Tobin would have wanted for herself. Though honestly, as long as Christen gave it to her she thinks she’d be happy with it.

 

She holds onto both of Christen’s hands, runs her thumb over the ring Christen now has on her finger, and leans in to kiss her fiancée. She’s kissed Christen a million times, but for some reason this one feels different. It feels deeper, tastes sweeter. Tobin knows this is the start of the rest of her life and she’s never looked forward to anything more.

 

Again, the kiss doesn’t last nearly long enough before Nata is clearing his throat. “Does being engaged mean you guys have to kiss all the time?”

 

Tobin laughs and pulls him into a hug. “Why, are you jealous?” She leans down and kisses his head over and over. Christen joins in and kisses his head too until he’s laughing and squirming around until he can finally pull himself out of their grasp.

 

“Gross,” he whines, reaching up to smooth down his hair.

 

“Dude, your Mama and I are getting married! You can tolerate some kisses, okay?” Tobin teases. She wraps an arm around Christen’s waist, holds her close and kisses her temple. Christen brings her hand to rest against Tobin’s stomach. Tobin doesn’t think she’s ever felt more at ease.

 

Nata tries to keep pouting, but he can’t keep it up. He breaks out into a cheek splitting grin and rushes towards both of them. He wraps his arms around them and buries his face against Tobin’s stomach.

 

She was wrong. Now she feels more at ease than she ever has. She’s holding her whole life in her arms. She knows it doesn’t get any better than this.

 

 

December 2020

 

Tobin expected to hate wedding planning. She thought it would be such a hassle. She doesn't care how she marries Christen, she just cares that she does. None of the other details would matter.

 

Or so she thought.

 

Turns out even the font size on the placecards for the reception is something she cares about. A lot.

 

Once they start planning, she realizes this is a big deal. This is their day and it needs to be perfect in all aspects. She wants things to be exactly the way she wants them. It's her wedding so obviously she's already invested, but the planning becomes personal to her.

 

Christen is amused by how obsessive she gets about it. She looks at each picture of every flower arrangement Tobin shows her and offers her genuine feedback. She agrees to a second cake tasting even though she was happy with the first. She listens to Tobin go on and on about whether they should serve salmon or chicken or both, or maybe it should be beef. She watches so many wedding videos and looks through countless pictures so they can pick the right wedding photographer. Christen cares about all those details too, of course, and she offers her honest input on everything, but she tells Tobin she’s happy letting her take things over. Tobin thinks she likes not having to stress about it all herself, but she’s also so impressed by how into this Tobin is getting, she’s happy to take a step back.

 

Tobin has lists and schedules and she even gives their families an itinerary for the big day so everything will go off without a hitch. So when Christen tells her the night before there’s something she wants to change about the ceremony, Tobin looks like her head might actually explode.

 

They talked about spending the night before their wedding apart, as is tradition, but ultimately decided against it. This is their last night not being married and they wanted to spend it together. So they’re in Christen’s childhood bedroom at her parents house, because they wanted to get married in California, when Christen drops this bomb.

 

“Don’t freak out, I will explain everything, but there’s something I want to add after the ceremony tomorrow,” Christen says. She’s sitting with her legs crossed on the bed, rubbing moisturizer onto her hands, watching carefully as Tobin steps back into the room and closes the door gently.

 

Tobin actually stops in her tracks. Her hand freezes on the doorknob and her breath catches in her throat. “What do you mean?” She turns around and looks at Christen with wide eyes. “We have everything planned, why didn’t you say something earlier when we were working out the schedule?”

 

Christen visibly bites back a smile, charmed by how involved Tobin is in the whole process. “Because I wasn’t sure if I was going to say anything, but I didn’t want to catch you off guard in front of a church full of people. I thought this would be better coming just from me.”

 

“Okay,” Tobin says, dragging out the word. “So what’s going on? Will we have to change the whole schedule?”

 

Christen can’t help but laugh lightly at that. “Honey, I can’t believe I’m the one who’s saying this, but it will be okay if things don’t run exactly on schedule tomorrow. It’s our wedding. It shouldn’t be this stressful.”

 

Tobin lets out a breath, smiling to herself that it’s Christen of all people that has to try and get her to relax. She knows she’s let herself get overly worked up about this all. “I just want things to be perfect.”

 

“I’m marrying you, that in itself means it will be perfect. Tomorrow I get to be your wife, that’s all I care about,” Christen tells her earnestly. “And besides, what I have to say will make things even better tomorrow. I promise.”

 

Tobin lets the tension drop from her shoulders and she walks towards the bed. Christen is right. Tomorrow they become wives. That’s the most important thing. Veering slightly off schedule won’t ruin things. It will all be okay.

 

“All right, so what do you need to tell me?” She asks as she sits on the edge of the bed and rests her arm on Christen’s thigh.

 

“I know this is something we’ve talked about before, but I wanted to make sure we talked about this again before tomorrow,” Christen starts. “After we say ‘I do’ tomorrow, but before we leave the altar, there’s something Nata wants to do. He wants it to be a surprise, but I want to clear things with you first. He doesn’t know I’m talking to you about this.”

 

“Talking to me about what?” Tobin asks, still not sure what’s going on.

 

“Nata wants to ask you tomorrow if you will adopt him.”

 

Tobin’s breath catches in her throat again, but this time it’s for a very different reason. She knew this was going to happen one day. Christen’s right, they’ve talked about this before and they agreed once they were married they would start the adoption process. Tobin already feels like a parent to Nata, but of course they wanted to make things official. She loves Nata as if he were her own, so there’s never been any hesitation when it comes to wanting to adopt him.

 

But knowing this is something he wants too, and something he wants to formally ask her to do, Tobin feels tears rising in her eyes.

 

“He what?” She asks, unable to form more than a couple words right now.

 

Christen grins, wrapping her hands around Tobin’s and bringing it up to cradle against her chest. “He loves you more than anything and he wants you to be his mom. I told him it will be a process and we’ll have to go through a lawyer and sign a bunch of paperwork and everything so it won’t be official tomorrow, but he said since we’re becoming a family for real tomorrow, he wants to do this too. I didn’t know if I would tell you because he’s expecting it to be a surprise, but adoption is a big deal so I didn’t want you feeling on the spot.”

 

Tobin leans in and kisses Christen, keeps leaning forward until she has Christen’s back pressed into the mattress and her knees are bracketing her hips. “Chris, of course I want to adopt him. He’s my world and I love him so much. I’ve wanted to adopt him just as long as I’ve wanted to marry you. Maybe longer because let’s be honest, that kid is amazing. Who wouldn’t want to adopt him?” She laughs and rests her forehead against Christen’s. “I thought marrying you was the only thing that could make tomorrow perfect, but completing our family makes it even better. Of course I want to adopt him, there’s nothing I could want more.”

 

“That’s what I thought you would say, but it’s still really nice to hear.” Christen leans up and kisses her again before pulling back suddenly. “But you have to do your best to pretend to be surprised tomorrow. I didn’t tell him I was saying anything to you, so he still thinks you don’t know anything.”

 

“Of course, he won’t know a thing. I can fake being surprised so well.” She lets out a shocked gasp, schooling her features as best she can to make it seem genuine. “How was that? Totally believable, right?”

 

Christen giggles, tilting her head back and letting her shoulders shake with laughter. “You’re ridiculous.”

 

“Oh come on, that was so great. He’ll never know a thing.” Tobin tries to hold off her laughter, but she can’t help it. She’s never been great at faking emotions, so she knows she’ll have to work hard to convince Nata she doesn’t know about this tomorrow. “Okay, maybe it can still use a little work.” She smiles to herself, imagining Nata asking her to adopt him tomorrow. It actually makes her cheeks hurt, she’s smiling so hard at the thought. “I can’t believe I’m actually going to get to adopt him.”

 

Christen smiles too, bringing her hands up to hold Tobin’s face so she can run her thumbs across Tobin’s cheeks. “Is it wrong that it really turns me on seeing how excited you are that you get to adopt my kid?”

 

Tobin laughs and leans down to say her next words against Christen’s lips. “I don’t know. How about you show me just how much it turns you on and then we’ll decide?”

 

Christen barely takes a breath before she’s leaning up to kiss Tobin and doing just what she asked.

xxxx

The day goes off without a hitch. Tobin’s schedule is followed to a T and not a single thing is out of place. Tobin uses this as proof she wasn’t being as crazy as Christen was teasing her for because clearly it worked out, but Christen just rolls her eyes.

 

They stand up in front of all their friends and family, Nata and Nima as Christen’s best men and Kelley as Tobin’s maid of honor with both of their sisters rounding out their bridesmaid groups. They hold hands and they say their vows. They say ‘I do’ and they seal it with a kiss. Everyone in the church applauds and they grin at each other, ready to start the rest of their lives together.

 

Everyone expects them to walk back down the aisle now and head towards the reception, but instead Nata steps forward and Nima clears his throat.

 

“If everyone would take their seats for a few more minutes, there’s actually one more thing we need to do today,” Nima says, speaking loudly so he gets everyone’s attention. Everyone looks around in confusion, but they sit back down. “Thanks everyone. Nata, take it away.” Nima steps back and leaves Nata front and center.

 

Tobin does her best to pretend to be confused like everyone else as Nata pulls a piece of paper out of his suit jacket pocket. Christen told her Nima helped him write his speech and he insisted it had to be perfect.

 

“Today, my Mama married Tobin,” he starts. “For a long time it was only me and Mama and I was happy. She found me and we became a family. Then Tobin found us and she became part of our family too. She practices soccer with me and she helps me with my homework and she makes Mama really happy. She makes our family even better. Today Tobin became my Mama’s wife, but there’s something else I want her to be too.” He turns to Tobin then and reaches back into his jacket pocket and pulls out a skinny black jewelry box.

 

Tobin looks up at Christen and shoots her a curious expression. Christen shrugs minutely, letting Tobin she didn’t know about this part either. She looks back at Nata, at least as best she can through tear clouded eyes.

 

“Tobin, will you adopt me?” Nata asks. He opens up the jewelry box and reveals a thin, delicate necklace just like the one Christen wears with a little golden ‘N’ charm dangling from it.

 

Tobin’s heart is thundering in her ears. She’s actually more emotional right now than she was five minutes ago when she was saying her vows to Christen. She’s been preparing for the wedding for the last year, but she’s had less than 24 hours to prepare for this. And she feels wildly under prepared. She managed to keep her tears in check during the ceremony, but now they’re flowing freely and she knows she doesn’t stand a chance at stopping them.

 

She doesn’t know if she’ll actually be able to say any words, but she kneels down and nods. She clears her throat and then forces herself to choke out a single, “yes.” She sees Nata break out into a blinding grin before she wraps her arms around him and holds him tightly. “I can’t wait to be your mom,” she manages to whisper, just for him to hear.

 

Everyone starts clapping again and she hears Christen sniffling behind her before she reaches out an arm and beckons her closer. She kneels down next to them too and hugs them both, holding them close.

 

“Can I put your necklace on?” Nata asks, pulling away with a hopeful smile.

 

“Yeah, buddy. Of course you can.” She sweeps her hair off her shoulders and turns around.

 

Nata takes the necklace out of the box and reaches out to put it around Tobin’s neck. Christen has to help him a little bit with the clasp, but otherwise he handles it on his own, grinning proudly as Tobin turns back around.

 

Tobin looks back and forth between Nata and Christen, unsure how she managed to find the two best people she’s ever known and even more unsure how she’s lucky enough that they both love her the way they do.

 

The rest of her life starts today and she couldn’t be more ready for it.

January 2022

Tobin knows something is up as soon as she steps into the kitchen.

 

They’re visiting Heather in North Carolina and they’d all been in the dining room having dinner when Christen’s phone started ringing She usually ignores calls during meals, but she looked confused when she looked at who was calling and excused herself from the table. No one else thought anything of it, too distracted by Nata making silly faces at Heather’s daughter and making her giggle.

 

But Tobin had noticed. She gives Christen a few minutes to have her call in privacy, but when she hears her say ‘goodbye’, Tobin slips away from the table and follows her into the kitchen. She sees her standing by the island, shoulders hunched as she scrolls through something on her phone. She’s chewing on her thumbnail and is so focused on her phone, she doesn’t even realize Tobin coming into the room.

 

“Is everything okay?” Tobin asks gently, not wanting to startle her.

 

“Yeah, I just uhm…hang on a second.” She keeps scrolling through her phone, reading what looks to be an email. She doesn’t even look up from her phone as Tobin steps closer. After another moment she sighs and sets her phone down on the island. “So I just got a call from the adoption agency I adopted Nata through and they heard from the orphanage in Puerto Rico today.”

 

“Okay,” Tobin says softly. “I don’t understand. What did they want?”

 

Christen shakes her head, sorting through something in her head, but she manages to look up at Tobin with a small smile. “They said they have a two year old baby boy there who is…apparently he’s Nata’s little brother.”

 

What?” Tobin asks, at a loss for anything else.

 

“Yeah, I was reading the email they sent and I guess he was dropped off with a note that said he was Nata's brother and they asked if the orphanage would reach out to the family that adopted Nata to let us know," Christen explains.

 

"Holy shit," Tobin breathes out. Her mind threatens to run wild with possibilities, but she tries to focus. "How do they know it's actually his brother? I mean I get there's a note, but…"

 

"Well they suggested doing a DNA test to confirm, but honestly I don't think it's necessary." She reaches for her phone and holds it up for Tobin. "I mean look at this baby. You can't tell me that isn't a mini-Nata."

 

Tobin looks at the picture and sucks in a breath at what she sees. Sure enough, there's no doubting this kid is Nata's brother. Aside from the lighter, curlier hair, he's identical to Nata. He has the same bright, wide brown eyes, the same upturned nose, even the same dimple in his chin. He looks exactly like Nata did at a similar age in the picture with Christen from the day they met. Tobin feels it in her gut that this is Nata's brother, she has absolutely no doubt.

 

"Holy shit," she says again. She manages to pull her eyes away from the picture and looks to Christen. She sighs when she sees her glassy eyes and wraps her arms around her shoulders to pull her into a hug. "Oh honey," she murmurs against the side of her head. "What do you want to do?"

 

"What do you want to do?" Christen mumbles into her shoulder.

 

Tobin rolls her eyes playfully at her turning the question around, but she knows Christen is probably still gathering her thoughts. She needs to sit with the big things for awhile before she can figure out how she really feels, her anxiety and intrusive thoughts throwing every improbable scenario at her before she's able to sift through them to get to the front of her feelings.

 

"I think if he really is Nata's brother, then we have to at least go meet him," Tobin says. She chews her lip for a moment before following that up with, "but I already feel it in my heart, Chris. He is his brother and…I want him."

 

Christen leans back so she can look at Tobin, but keeps her arms wrapped around her waist. "I want him too," she says in a rush. "I know this isn't how we planned on having a second kid. We've talked about adopting again, but we both expected it to be a lengthier process. But I knew the moment they told me about him, I wanted him. I haven't even met him, but I have that same feeling I did when I met Nata. I know he's supposed to be our son. I can't explain it, but I know it."

 

"I feel that too," Tobin admits. "It's the same feeling I had when I met you, but I didn't know how to decipher it then. I do now."

 

Christen grins and leans in to give Tobin a quick kiss. "Such a sweet talker," she muses before settling back into the serious conversation. "So we go meet him," she says, zero hesitation in her voice. "We'll need to go soon before your preseason starts back up. I can move some things around at work and we can leave at the end of next week? I know that's so fast but--"

 

"I'm in," Tobin interrupts. "End of next week is perfect."

 

"Yeah?" Christen lets out a nervous laugh. "This is crazy."

 

"Maybe a little, but it also feels perfect. We've talked about adopting, but haven't done anything to start the process yet. I feel like there's a reason we didn't because we were supposed to wait for this baby."

 

"His name is Nicolas," Christen says, smiling shyly.

 

"Nata and Nico. Sounds pretty perfect to me."

 

"Nata and Nico," Christen says for herself. She grins at the way the names roll off the tip of her tongue. "I know we should probably try to temper our excitement so we don't end up getting our hopes dashed, but I feel so sure about this."

 

"I know, I feel it too," Tobin laughs. "This is crazy, but I know it's what's right. It has to work out."

 

Christen leans in to kiss Tobin again and it feels like they're sealing the chapter on their family of three and starting the one on their family of four.

xxx

Nata is on board from the moment they tell him about Nicolas. He wants them to leave for Puerto Rico right then and there and isn't very happy when they tell him he'll have to wait until next week. He asks to see the picture of Nicolas every chance he gets and grins just as big every time he sees it.

 

Tobin and Christen decide not to tell anyone in their family, not yet. The closer they get to leaving for Puerto Rico, the more anxious they get this might not work out. They don't want to get the whole family worked up just to bring back bad news. So they agree to wait until they've met him and have confirmed he's Nata's brother. Which honestly, even if the DNA match comes back negative, they think they'll still adopt him. It just feels right.

 

So they tell everyone they're just taking a spontaneous trip to Puerto Rico to enjoy one of the last weekends they have before Tobin’s preseason starts back up and no one questions it.

 

They catch a cab from the airport to the orphanage as soon as the plane lands. They talked about swinging by the hotel first to drop off their bags, but they're all too anxious and they only have carry ons anyway, so they head straight to meet Nicolas instead.

 

They're greeted by the director, Marcela. She was working there when Christen came all those years ago when she found Nata, so she wraps Christen up in a warm hug and then hugs Nata fondly, lamenting about how big he's getting and how she misses the little boy he used to be. At twelve years old, he's already up to his moms' shoulders, so he's come a long way from the stumbling 18 month old he was when he first came here. She hugs Tobin next and tells her she's heard great things and then she leads them to a room where they're to wait for one of the other workers to bring Nicolas.

 

"He's just waking up from a nap, so they'll bring him in shortly," Marcela tells them. "Please take a seat and I'll be right back."

 

Tobin and Christen sit on the bright red couch in front of the window. They leave room for Nata, but he's too excited and takes to pacing instead.

 

"How are you feeling?" Tobin asks Christen, setting a hand over her knee and squeezing softly.

 

"I don't know if I can answer that," she laughs. "I'm feeling too many things."

 

"I'm feeling excited," Nata says. "Like really excited. This is so cool! I'm going to have a little brother." He hasn't been feeling any of their anxiousness and is instead just a ball of pure excitement.

 

"Remember Nata, it's still possible this might not work out," Christen tells him gently.

 

Nata shakes his head, refusing to believe that. "This is going to work out," he insists. "I just know it. Everything will be fine."

 

Tobin is about to take Christen's side, try to bring Nata down at least a little bit, when the door opens and they all catch their breath.

 

Marcela walks in with Nicolas in her arms. He's clearly wishing he were still napping, his head tucked under Marcela's chin, but he perks up when he sees new faces.

 

Tobin is taken aback yet again by just how much he resembles Nata. A picture is one thing, but seeing him for herself she swears she's seeing double.

 

"Nico, these friends are here to meet you," Marcela tells him before repeating the sentence in Spanish. She told them they've been teaching him both Spanish and English.

 

"Amigos?" He asks, looking at them curiously?

 

"Si, amigos," Marcela says. "Friends."

 

He smiles at them and Tobin thinks her heart stops. She turns and looks at Christen, waits until she catches her eyes and then smiles. She leans over and kisses her ear before whispering, "he's our son."

 

There's no hesitation or even a hint of doubt. Nicolas is their son and she knows this will work out. She knows

xxx

The adoption process takes three months. It goes much faster than when Christen adopted Nata since she's gone through the approval process before. When Tobin gets frustrated, Christen reminds the process is being fast tracked and it's running smoothly so everything will be okay, but to Tobin it feels like a lifetime. Now that she's met Nico, her heart aches tremendously being away from him.

 

Tobin channels all her frustrations and anxiety over the situation into her soccer. She's 34, so she's really only good for about 60 minutes a game, but she makes the most of every second she's on the field. Even if she has to ice her ankles immediately after she's subbed out, she gives it all her effort.

 

When Christen gets the call everything has been approved and they're cleared to bring Nico home, they celebrate with sparkling apple juice so Nata can join in and later champagne once Nata is asleep. They laugh and smile and kiss and cry as they book their plane tickets for that weekend. Tobin has a game, but she's at the point in her life where some things are more important than soccer, so she isn't too bothered by missing it. Her teammates and coaches support her decision and during the game winning goal celebration, they pull out a poster the rookies made that says 'welcome to the family, Nico'.

 

Nico smiles when Christen holds him for the first time as his official mother. He wraps his little arms around her neck and plants a smacking kiss on her cheek just like Christen did to him. They've facetimed with him a couple times a week the past three months with Marcela's help, so he recognizes them and is as happy to see them as they are.

 

Tobin has tears in her eyes the entire time, watching Christen hold him and Nata dote on him. She can't remember ever being so happy in her entire life, didn't know her heart could expand to contain all the love she's feeling right now.

 

When Christen hands him over to Tobin, she actually lets out a choked sob and Nico's brown eyes fill with worry.

 

"Triste?" Nico asks, reaching up to touch her cheek.

 

Tobin shakes her head and smiles. "No, no estoy triste. Estoy muy feliz," Tobin tells him. "I'm very happy."

 

"Feliz! Happy!" He exclaims, throwing his arms up in the air in celebration before wrapping them around Tobin's neck and falling against her.

 

Tobin sighs and holds him tighter, so grateful to have him back in her arms again. Nata comes over and hugs them both from one side and then Christen joins them on the other side.

 

Tobin closes her eyes and lets herself feel every part of this moment, Nico's arms around her neck, Nata's hands gripping her shirt, Christen's cheek pressed against her neck.

 

She knows she'll remember this moment for the rest of her life.

 

 

 

February 2023

 

"That kid of yours is pretty great."

 

Tobin turns to see who's talking to her and recognizes her as one of the coaches she's seen during the youth tournament in Miami, for FC Dallas according to the badge on her jacket.

 

"Thanks," Tobin tells her. "He had a great tournament."

 

"Kristy Park, FC Dallas," she introduces herself and shakes Tobin's hand. "You don't think he'd have any interest in coming to Dallas, do you?"

 

Tobin knows based off her laugh she's mostly joking, but she'd be crazy for not at least asking.

 

Nata killed it this tournament. He's only 13, but he's playing on the U-17 team and can dribble circles around most of them. He would've won MVP of the tournament if the Red Bulls hadn't gotten knocked out in the quarter finals. He played winger just like Tobin up until last season when he was moved to attacking mid and suddenly he was explosive. He was always a great player, garnering attention from several youth MLS programs, but he's an excellent attacking midfielder. He's still lanky of course considering he hasn't finished growing, but he's already tall and strong, allowing him to fight off opponents and win tackles all over the field. He has a vision for the game Tobin wishes she had at his age, finding passes where there's seemingly no angle and setting up goal after goal.

 

Tobin knows she's biased because he's her son, but she knows he's going to have such an impressive career. She's been acting as his agent for now, insisting he isn't old enough for a real one yet, so all the interest in him goes through her. Half the MLS youth programs have reached out to her at one point or another and a team in Germany even reached out last month. She talks over all the offers with Christen and Nata together. Nata gets excited by the interest, but he's happy with New York. He loves playing for the same team as Tobin. Maybe once Tobin retires he'll want to consider going elsewhere, but he's with a good program, Tobin plays here, Christen works here, Tobin's family is here. They're in the best place they could be.

 

But he always gets a big grin on his face whenever Tobin tells him about another team expressing interest and she knows one of these days an offer too good to refuse is going to arise.

 

Until then though, Tobin just enjoys watching her son tear it up.

 

Tobin offers a wry grin and says, "he's pretty happy with New York right now, but if he ever wants to look into Dallas, I'll be sure to let you know."

 

"That's all I can ask," she laughs. "Have a safe trip home," she says.

 

"Thanks, you too," Tobin says.

 

They bid each other farewell and then Tobin sets off to find Nata. He'd been watching the final with his friends, mostly other Red Bulls players and a few other boys he knows from time with the youth national team so Tobin had hung back, not wanting to embarrass him in front of his friends by making him hang out with his mom too.

 

She looks around the stands and sees him talking to a taller guy in a suit with a bad comb over Tobin would recognize anywhere. Jared from LAFC.

 

She hasn't spoken to him in six years, hasn't had any reason to and would've gone out of her way to avoid him if he ever tried. She saw him at some games in LA before he moved to work with the men's team, but he's never made eye contact. She still feels anger bubble up in her chest when she sees him and right now, seeing her talking to her son, she's pissed. It's not even just because it's him. There's an unspoken rule that no coaches or staff members from any recruiting teams can talk to players without parental representation or at least their current coach present. Of course Jared would break that rule.

 

She sets off across the bleachers towards them, but stops when Nata looks at her over Jared's shoulder and gives her a subtle shake of his head. Tobin walks a little closer, being obvious about wanting to eavesdrop, but keeping enough of a distance that Jared doesn't know she's there.

 

She catches Jared mid-sentence saying, "and we've been really impressed with how you played these past couple weeks. I'd love to talk to you about joining us out in LA."

 

Tobin's blood boils at that. Of course LA is interested, everyone is interested, but she can't believe he's talking to Nata about this. It's inappropriate to be talking to him at all without her there, but she's pretty sure Jared doesn't even realize Nata is her son. He's too oblivious to make the connection, completely detached from the personal side of the game and only focused on the business side of things. He only cares about what makes him the most money.

 

"You don't know who I am, do you?" Nata asks him.

 

Tobin can't see his face, but she knows Jared is caught off guard by how he stumbles over a response.

 

"O-of course I do. You're Nata Press."

 

Nata actually laughs and shakes his head. "My name is Nata Press Heath. My mom is Tobin Heath. And you're Jared Grove, the jerk that traded my mom like she was nothing to you when she was the heart of the team. At least that move wrecked your team for three straight seasons, so I guess that's payback."

 

Jared clears his throat and starches uncomfortably at the back of his neck. "Look, son, I'm not sure what she's told you, but--"

 

"She's told me everything I need to know," Nata interrupts. "Enough to know I want nothing to do with you or your organization. So thanks for the interest, but no thanks."

 

Nata moves past him and heads right for Tobin. He throws an arm around her shoulder (because her little boy is unfortunately tall enough to do that now) and steers her towards the exit. Tobin is only able to throw a glare at Jared and she wants to give him a piece of her mind as well, but she lets Nata lead her away.

 

"You didn't have to do that," Tobin tells him.

 

"I know, but I wanted to," he replies. He looks over at Tobin and grins. "It felt pretty good. Do you think I pissed him off?"

 

"Don't say 'pissed', but yes you definitely did," Tobin laughs. She wraps an arm around his waist and leans her head to rest against his for a moment. "Thank you."

 

"You're welcome," he grins. "It was my pleasure."

 

Tobin laughs at the delight on his face, but she has to admit she feels the same way. She leans over and kisses his cheek, knowing she's pushing her luck with embarrassing him, but taking the chance.

 

She's sure his friends would tease him if they saw them walking like this, but he doesn't seem to mind. Her son may be growing up, but he'll never be too old to hug his mom when she needs it.

 

 

 

August 2024

 

Tobin is in the locker room after her game when Christen comes rushing into the room looking frazzled and out of breath. She's never been in the locker room before on game days, family generally isn't allowed, but Tobin immediately knows something serious is going on if she's here.

 

"Tobin, we have to go right now," she huffs out.

 

"What's wrong? What's happening? Are Nata and Nico okay?" Tobin asks, mind running rampant with what could have Christen so worked up.

 

All the post-game chatter and celebrations from their win hush in an instant. Everything seems to pause for a moment as they all wait for Christen's response.

 

"No, no, they're okay. Nothing is wrong," she assures her, the room letting out a collective breath of relief. "Casey just called, she's going into labor."

 

"Holy shit," Tobin gasps. "Are you serious? Like right now?"

 

"Yes, right now!" Christen nods, a huge smile gracing her face. "We have to go to the hospital. Your mom is taking the boys home and will stay with them tonight."

 

"Oh my god," Tobin says, still processing the information, and then once it starts to make sense, "oh my god!"

 

"Yeah!" Christen explains, reaching out to hold Tobin's hands.

 

"Wait, Casey is the girl who's baby you're adopting, right?" One of Tobin's teammates asks, Tobin can't take her eyes off Christen to look and see who it is.

 

"Yeah it is," Tobin confirms with an anxious laugh.

 

The locker room breaks out in cheers and excited exclamations before quickly jumping into action.

"New team baby!"

 

"We won and we get a new baby, this is the best day ever!"

 

"Dude, you have to get out of here! Go!"

 

Tobin and Christen are practically shoved out of the locker room. Tobin's bag is packed up for her and pushed into her hands on the way out, she hadn't even been coherent enough to remember to grab her things herself.

 

It isn't until she's in the passenger seat of her car as Christen tries to navigate her way through the post-game traffic that it truly clicks what they're about to do.

 

"We're going to get a baby," she says slowly. "We're about to see our baby be born. A baby."

 

"Yeah we are, honey." Christen shoots her a grin and lays a hand on her knee.

 

"No but, Chris, it's a baby. A newborn baby. We've never had a baby. Nico was over two. Nata was nearly three when you adopted him. Neither of us knows how to raise a baby. What are we going to do?"

 

Tobin's brain is in overdrive, thinking of all the things she doesn't know about a newborn, all the things that could possibly go wrong. How is she supposed to do this?

 

"Honey, just breathe," Christen reminds her. As she comes to a stop at a light. She squeezes her knee and turns towards her. "We will be just fine. We've both spent so much time with our nieces and nephews. We've read the books. You grilled Katie and Perry for tips at every single family dinner. Babe, you literally went to the fire station to have them install the car seat. Who even does that anymore? Everything is going to be okay. No one feels like they know what they're doing when they have a new baby, but they figure it. We will figure it out."

 

Tobin breathes as Christen suggested and lets her words wash over her. "We'll figure it out?"

 

"Yes, babe. We'll figure it out."

 

"We'll figure it out," Tobin agrees, nodding her head. "Okay, yeah. We can do this."

 

"Hell yeah, we can," Christen takes Tobin's hand and brings it up to press a kiss to it just before the light turns green and then she continues towards the hospital.

 

"We can do this," Tobin repeats quietly, finally letting herself start to believe it.

xxx

Tobin and Christen met Casey through the adoption agency. They'd wanted to adopt another baby, preferably younger this time, but they would've been happy with any age really. They lucked out by getting to adopt a newborn.

 

Casey was in the middle of her second year of medical school when she found out she was pregnant. She wasn't at a place in her life where she was ready for a kid and didn't think she would ever want one, so she decided to give the baby up for adoption.

 

From their first meeting with Casey, Tobin and Christen had a good feeling about it. They knew Casey was meeting with other prospective parents, but they were tentatively hopeful.

 

They liked Casey. She was a little arrogant and not entirely interested in getting to know them beyond what she wanted to know to make her decision on which parents to give her baby to, but she was kind and was made sure to take care of herself during the pregnancy. She wanted the baby to be happy and healthy, she just had no interest in being a part of their life. They respected that.

 

When they got the call they'd been chosen to be the parents, they were ecstatic…for all of five minutes before they started panicking about what it would mean to adopt a newborn. But they spent the last six months preparing themselves and as stressed as Tobin might be tonight, she knows deep down they're ready and everything will be okay.

 

They spend six hours in the waiting room.

 

Tobin nervously paces or takes trip after trip to the vending machine, eating too many M&M's to try and calm her nerves. Christen meditates for a while, they're the only ones in the waiting room at this time of night, so it's pretty quiet, or she checks her work emails. They facetime the boys for a few minutes before they go to bed. They're both so excited about the new baby, their moms doubt they'll ever actually get to sleep, but they promise to try.

 

When Casey's friend, Elena, finally comes to the waiting room to tell them the baby is here, a 7lb 2oz baby girl, they both burst into tears. They've been waiting half a year for this moment, have worried themselves sick over it, but now that she's here and healthy, a sense of relief crashes into them. They hold each other and cry while Elena shows them pictures of the baby on her phone.

 

Elena tells them a nurse will be coming out to take them to the nursery to meet their new baby soon. They ask if Casey needs anything or wants to see them, but she said she's sleeping and would talk to them in the morning.

 

Elena is just heading back to be with Casey when a nurse, Laura, comes out to take them to the nursery. The walk down the hall barely takes 60 seconds, but to Tobin it feels like an eternity. She swears at least 10 minutes have passed by the time Laura holds the door open for them and then leads them to one of the little clear, plastic nursery cribs.

 

Tobin stops in her tracks as they approach. The baby is so tiny. She knows two of her nephews were even smaller, but for some reason she seems like the smallest baby Tobin has ever seen. And this is her baby. This tiny baby is hers. She can hardly believe it.

 

"You okay?" Christen asks, tugging on her hand to get her attention.

 

Tobin shakes her head to clear it and smiles. "Yeah, I'm good. She's just so small."

 

"Do you want to hold her?" Laura asks.

 

"Absolutely," Tobin blurts out.

 

Laura smiles at her eagerness and reaches down to pick up the baby. She steps over and places her in Tobin's arms and Tobin suddenly forgets how to breathe right.

 

She's beautiful. She has a little button nose and chubby cheeks and wispy, white blonde hair. Tobin is in love in an instant.

 

"Oh wow," Tobin gasps, letting out a shaky breath.

 

"She's perfect," Christen says, standing close and reaching over to trace a finger across one chubby cheek. "Completely perfect."

 

"Did you decide on a name yet? I'll fill out the name card," Laura tells them.

 

Christen looks up at Tobin and smiles. "What do you think?"

 

They didn't know the sex of the baby, so they'd come up with a whole list of names. They couldn't officially decide on one, so they figured they would wait until they saw the baby and see what fit best.

 

Tobin looks down at her daughter just as she opens her deep blue eyes and Tobin knows exactly what her name is.

 

"Eleanor Powell," Tobin says. "We'll call her Nora."

 

"I love it, that's perfect." Christen tilts her head and kisses Tobin soundly. "Our daughter, Nora. Nata, Nico and Nora. It's perfect."

 

Tobin gives Christen another kiss and then looks back down at Nora. Her cheeks ache from smiling so hard and she thinks she's just going to have to get used to it.

 

"Hi, sweet girl," Tobin coos. "Your moms love you, Nora."

 

She leans down to kiss her forehead, breathes in that newborn baby smell, and she doesn't think her life could be any more perfect than it is right now. She has the most incredible, stunning wife and three beautiful children.

 

There isn't a single thing she would change.

 

 

 

October 2025

 

Tobin was never very good at imagining the end of her playing career. It always seemed like such a far off day, it was hard to really wrap her mind around. She thought she would play forever.

 

But then four months ago she saw Nora take her first steps on the field at Red Bull Arena while she was icing her ankles after a game. In that moment, she realized she wanted to be able to chase after her daughter like Christen and their sons were right now. Not laid up and hobbled like she was.

 

So she told Christen that night she was retiring at the end of the season and she told her coaches the next morning. No one was really that surprised, she was 37 years old after all and she hadn't started a game all season. Instead, she was coming off the bench and playing the last 30 minutes or so. She has an ankle surgery scheduled in the off season that she thought would get her another couple seasons of playing, but she figures now without playing competitively, it'll get her the rest of her life running around with her kids.

 

Sky Blue doesn't make the playoffs this year for the first time since Tobin joined the team.. They hit a bit of a slump this year, but Tobin knows they have a few trades in the works that will turn things around next season. So it might not feel like the optimal time to retire, but the final game of the season is at home so it will provide a great environment for a send-off.

 

The game is against LA, which couldn't be more serendipitous even if it were planned. There has been a lot of shuffling of players in LA so it doesn't look anything like the team Tobin left 8 years ago, but it's still bittersweet ending her career against the team she started with.

 

Amy and Lauren make the trip out to Jersey with their families, as well as Christen's family. There's a block in the stands filled with all of Tobin's loved ones and when she looks up at them all before stepping out on the field for her retirement ceremony, it brings tears to her eyes.

 

"Are you doing okay?" Christen asks, nudging her with her hip. She's holding Nora on her other hip wearing her little Sky Blue jersey with 'Mommy 17' on the back.

 

"Yeah, I'm all right," Tobin says, swallowing down the lump in her throat. "It's time for this, I'm okay."

 

"You once told me I was going to have to drag you off the field when you were 60, but here you are only 37 and walking away willingly. I was fully prepared to have to fight you on this for the next 25 years," Christen teases, following Tobin's eyes to see Nata and Nico playing keep away with some of the rookies.

 

"I thought about it, believe me," Tobin laughs. "But that was before I realized there are things way more important than soccer." She looks over at Christen and smiles, "our family is worth more to me than a game." She brings up a hand and tickles Nora's stomach until she's giggling and trying to squirm away, "keeping up with this one is more important than kicking a ball."

 

"You still know how to say things that take my breath away," Christen sighs, leaning in to kiss her cheek.

 

"Get used to it, babe. I'm going to be around a lot more from now on."

 

"I can't wait," Christen winks. "You deserve some time off."

 

"I'm taking time off forever. Since you're an instagram influencer now, I think I'm just going to kick back and let you be my sugar mama from now on," Tobin teases, knowing Christen hates when she calls her that.

 

Christen groans and rolls her eyes. "Babe, stop. I'm not an influencer."

 

"You have nearly 2 million followers, are contractually obligated to make bi-monthly posts for three different sponsorships and you vlog on your insta TV like every other week. What else do you call that?"

 

Christen rolls her eyes again, but she laughs this time. "Fine, whatever. Maybe you're right. I don't even know how this happened, though."

 

"You're hot, our family is cute as hell and you're literally the most mesmerizing speaker on the planet, people hang onto every word you say. A better question is how did this not happen sooner?"

 

"Oh whatever," Christen laughs again, shoving at Tobin's shoulder. "I'll be your sugar mama for as long as you want, but we both know you'll be bored in a week and need something else to do."

 

"Yeah, you're probably right," Tobin concedes.

 

Just a few minutes later, Tobin is leading the team onto the field to line up for the first time in over a year. The captain's armband is tight on her arm and she actually has nerves getting to start tonight. She's used to already knowing the tone of the game when she gets subbed in. Tonight, she doesn't know how this game will go, but she can't wait to find out.

 

After the anthem, Christen leads the kids onto the field, along with Tobin's parents. They flank her on either side as Heather comes out to give a quick speech about Tobin's impact on the game and to present her with a Sky Blue jersey signed by the whole team.

 

Tobin isn't much for showing emotions in public, but she's crying now. She does her best to contain it, but luckily Christen tucked away a few tissues in her pocket and wipes Tobin's cheeks dry.

 

She hugs her parents and kisses her kids on their cheeks. She gives Christen a quick kiss on the mouth and whispers, "this one is for you."

 

Tobin scores once and assists another and when she walks off the field in the 74th minute feeling more physically exhausted than she has in 3 years, she's also the happiest she's ever been on the pitch.

 

She's given everything she has to this game, even when it hasn't been kind to her. There was a point when she loved it more than anything, but she's blessed enough to now have four people she loves more. She doesn't think she'll ever be able to step away from the game completely, but for tonight, she leaves it all on the field when she steps across the white line for the final time.

 

She doesn't have any reservations about retiring because when she looks up in the stands and sees her wife and her kids, she knows the best chapter of her life is starting right now.

 

She can't wait for what's to come.

 

 

 

September 2026

 

"What if I fall on my face?"

 

"You aren't going to fall on your face."

 

"But what if I trip over a ball?"

 

"Your footwork is too good to trip over a ball."

 

"Okay, but what if I whiff a kick and send it skyward?"

 

"...Well, you probably will do that, but it's fine. Everyone does it sometimes."

 

"Mom! You're not helping!"

 

Tobin can't help but laugh. She's been having the same conversation with Nata all weekend, ever since he was told he was going to get his first cap for the US Men's National Team in their friendly against Canada. He's been so confident in camp. She's friends with one of the assistant coaches and she's been keeping her update with his progress. Getting his first cap was always a possibility, but now that it's here he's freaking out.

 

She keeps reminding him he was called to train with the senior team for the first time when he was just 14 and fans of the national team have been literally counting down the days until he turned 16 and became eligible for the national team. She knows that puts a lot of pressure on her shoulders, but she tells him to just try and enjoy it. He just needs to play his game and she knows he'll impress. This is a friendly and he's still young, he has plenty of time to worry about being the best later, right now he just needs to be present and have fun.

 

"Hon, I know you're worried. That's normal," she says. "Just do your best to block it out. In the locker room before the game, put your headphones in and do those breathing exercises your Mama taught you. Just focus on trying to play your game, your way. Nothing else matters. First caps aren't for impressing everyone, they're for getting your feet wet and getting the experience. Afterwards, you can stress about playing well. But for this game, just try to have fun."

 

He's heard some variation of those words countless times the past few days, but something must finally click for him. He blows out a quick breath and says, "okay, yeah. You're right. I can do this."

 

"You can. I know you can." Tobin smiles at the confidence in his voice.

 

"All right, I have to get going. The bus is leaving for the field soon. You guys will be there, right?"

 

Tobin is glad Nata can't see her rolling her eyes. "Nata, we're in the car outside the stadium. Your Mama is freaking out more than you and didn't want to be late."

 

"I'm not freaking out!" Christen complains from the passenger seat. She leans in so she can talk into Tobin's phone. "Sunshine, I'm not freaking out. I just thought traffic would be worse."

 

Nata laughs and it's the lightest Tobin has heard him sound in days. "Yeah, yeah, I'm sure," he teases. "I'll see you all soon, love you."

 

"We love you so much, good luck!" Christen exclaims.

 

"Good luck, Nata! Love you!" Nico says from the back seat.

 

"Love you, Nana," Nora chimes in, still working on saying his name right.

 

"I love you too, dude," Tobin adds. "We're so proud of you and can't wait to see you on that field."

 

"Thank you," Nata says, clearly getting shy from the attention. "I'll talk to you soon."

 

Tobin looks over at Christen after she hangs up the phone and sighs. "I have a really good feeling about this game."

 

Christen gives her a shy smile and says, "I don't want to jinx anything, but I do too."

xxx

Nata gets subbed on in the 78th minute. Tobin was hoping he would get more time, but a cap is a cap. She knows before too long they'll have no choice but to put him in the starting lineup every single game.

 

She can see the slight shake of his hands on the megatron as he stands on the sidelines, waiting for Gio Reyna to cross the field to sub out. But she also sees the giant grin on his face and hears the way the crowd roars the moment he steps across the touch line.

 

She's never been so proud.

 

Tobin is screaming practically every second of the last few minutes of the game, either words of encouragement for Nata or complaints to the ref. She's more amped than she's ever been at a soccer game before, even her own. She can see Christen grinning at her out of the corner of her eye and feels the gentle press of her hand on her arm as she tries to calm her down, but Tobin can't help it. Her son is playing for his national team and he's wearing her name and number on his back. She'll remember this moment for the rest of her life.

 

He isn't able to score or assist, but he creates a couple of really good chances and pulls off some nice skill moves. Just like Tobin encouraged him to do, he plays his game. He doesn't fall on his face or trip over a ball or send a shot into the upper deck of the stadium. He just has fun.

 

When the final whistle blows, Christen tugs on Tobin's arm until she turns towards her, then she reaches up and wipes tears off her cheeks. Tobin didn't even know she was crying.

 

When she wraps her arms around Nata at the end of the game, she lets him lift her off the ground in celebration. When he puts her back on the ground, she looks up at him with the biggest grin her cheeks can handle and tells him just how proud she is.

 

"I have something for you," he says. He slings his game bag off his shoulder and unzips the main compartment. He reaches in and pulls out his celebratory first cap ball, signed by the whole team. "This is yours," he says, handing it to Tobin.

 

She shakes her head and moves a step out of his reach. "No way, dude. That's yours, you earned it."

 

"I never would've made it here without you. I owe this game and every other one to you."

 

Tobin starts crying again and there's no chance of stopping it this time. She hugs him again and presses her head against his chest so she can listen to the sound of his heartbeat. She can't believe that little boy she saw kicking a soccer ball with Ryan in the backyard all those years ago is the same young man hugging her right now. She's watched in awe as he's grown and developed his game over the years. He's going to be a star. She's hesitant to take any credit for it, knowing he had the potential in him all along.

 

"I love you," she tells him, laughing lightly at her own tears.

 

"I love you too, Mom."

 

 

 

March 2027

 

"For our next trip, can we please go somewhere warmer?"

 

Tobin laughs and pulls Christen further against her side. "This whole trip was your idea, honey. We could be on a beach in Spain right now."

 

"This seemed like such a good idea at the time," Christen grumbles.

 

For their 10 year anniversary, Christen suggested they go to Finland so Tobin could see the constellations and northern lights. Christen brought her to the same little town she stayed in all those years ago when she was still traveling for World Now. The stars have always been so important to Tobin and the picture Christen took on this trip is hanging in their bedroom. This seemed like the perfect place to celebrate their decade of love.

 

So now they're decked out in multiple layers and thick puffy snow jackets as they make their way through the small, sleepy town in Finland in search of the ridge Christen took her picture from.

 

Aside from being cold, they've had a wonderful trip. The people are lovely and it's been nice to get away from big cities and enjoy their quiet time, just the two of them.

 

Christen leads them down a street and then breaks into a wide grin. "This is it, I knew I remembered."

 

Sure enough, the sidewalk ends and turns into a small path that's covered in packed snow. They only walk for a minute or two when the trees open up and then the entire view in front of them is a snowy landscape stretching out until it turns into an inky black sky dotted with silver stars, and swirls of green and blue and pink dancing across the sky.

 

"Oh my god," Tobin breathes out. "I have every single detail of your picture memorized, but this is even more incredible in person."

 

"Isn't it stunning?" Christen hums. "At the time it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life."

 

"Then you met me, huh?"

 

The joke earns her an elbow to the ribs, but they're in so many layers she hardly feels it.

 

"I meant our kids, but you're up there too I guess."

 

"I knew it," Tobin teases, leaning over to kiss her cheek. "This is seriously breathtaking. I can't even put into words how much I love this. Totally better than a beach in Spain."

 

"Happy anniversary, my love," Christen tells her, resting her head against her shoulder.

 

"10 years. It's kind of crazy, isn’t it?"

 

"It feels like I just met you yesterday and also like I've known you all my life."

 

Tobin lets a quiet moment pass before asking, "when we first met, could you ever have imagined we'd end up here?"

 

"No," Christen admits. "I had several fantasies involving you and they were pretty spectacular," she teases, "but not a single one of them compares to how our lives actually played out. I wouldn't change a single thing."

 

"It's been pretty perfect, right? Through all the highs and the lows and everything in between, we've created something really special."

 

"It's been more perfect than I ever could have dreamed," Christen says. She nudges her cheek with her nose until Tobin turns to kiss her. It's slow, but deep and Christen is breathless when she pulls away. "What do you want to do for the next 10 years?"

 

"As long as I'm by your side, I'm up for anything."