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Timing, Timing, Timing (And a Little Bit of Luck)

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November 2014

“Don’t act like you have somewhere better to be,” is the first thing Kelley says when Tobin answers the phone.

“I’m gonna need a little more than that, Kell.”

“Friendsgiving, my place. This weekend. You have no excuse.”

“I have a million excuses.”

“You are in California, your flight out isn’t till Wednesday, and you don’t have any other friends.”

Tobin frowns, because all of that is true. “How the hell did you know that?” She looks around, half expecting to see Kelley sitting behind her in the cafe she’s in. “How did you even know I’m in California?”

Kelley laughs easily. “Oh, Tobin. Tobin, Tobin, Tobin. I have my sources.”

“Did I accidentally share my location with you again?” Tobin pulls her phone away from her face and looks down at it with a frown. “I swear I didn’t mean to do that.”

“No, dummy, you posted on Instagram some dumb artsy ,” she adds air quotes to the word, even though Tobin can’t see them, “photo of your longboard in front of a sign for a cafe that’s just a few blocks down from my apartment.”

“Oh,” Tobin sighs. “Well, I’m busy.”

“You are not.”

“I’m not,” Tobin admits. “But why should I come?”

“Good food? Good company?”

“Both of those are debatable, considering you’re both the cook and the company.”

“My roommate is hot.”

Tobin laughs and shakes her head. “How hot?”

“Like, wicked hot.”

“Have you hooked up with her?”

Kelley is silent for a beat too long and Tobin groans.

“I would never, in a million years, get with someone you have hooked up with.”

“We made out once , Tobin. Once. That’s all.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“She’s hot Tobin. Really hot. Just please come to Friendsgiving? I host every year and you never come.”

“Fine. But only because your roommate’s hot.”

“I’ll take it.”

 

---

 

“Tobin! So glad you made it, welcome to my humble abode.” Kelley swings the door wide and Tobin follows her in. There’s Stanford everything plastered across the walls and the decor is a mix of dumb jock and actual geek that nearly gives Tobin whiplash as she looks from one wall to the other.

“Is this your national team jersey? Signed by you ?” Tobin points to a framed O’Hara 5 jersey hanging in the living room.

“Well, duh. It’s from my first cap.”

“So you signed it? And framed it? And hung it on your own wall?”

Kelley shrugs then turns to look at the jersey fondly. “I am my own biggest fan.”

“You are ridiculous.”

Kelley rolls her eyes then takes Tobin’s hand and leads her to the kitchen.

“Where is everybody, by the way?”

“Oh nobody’s getting here till three, I just told you one so you could help with the prep.”

“Of course you did,” Tobin says with a light laugh. “Well, coach, where do you need me?”

“Christen will be back in about half an hour with the booze and we need to call in our order. Can you grab the list off of the fridge?”

“Who’s Christen?” Tobin asks as she turns to look for the list. She pulls a crumpled piece of paper with more than a few coffee stains out from underneath a NC Courage magnet that’s clearly meant for a car and not a fridge.

“My hot roommate.”

Tobin hums in agreement. “Why do you have this on your fridge?”

“It’s a magnet, where else would I put it?”

“It’s a car magnet.”

“Well the North Carolina Courage doesn’t make fridge magnets, Tobin.”

“Why do you even support the Courage?” Tobin pulls a face as she says the team’s name and Kelley just rolls her eyes dramatically.

“Because they’re good and I have a total crush on Abby Erceg, in like, a gay way and a she’s the most badass woman in the world way.”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “They kind of suck.”

“You’re just mad that they consistently beat you guys.”

“I’m getting you a Thorns magnet for Christmas.”

“It’s going in the trash.”

“Wow, you wouldn’t support your best friend in the whole world? It’s just a magnet, Kell.”

“Fine. I will put one Thorns magnet on my fridge--”

“Or your car, you know, where they’re supposed to go--”

“And that is all.” Kelley pulls her phone out of her pocket and starts absentmindedly scrolling through her contacts before adding “I think that Christen likes the Thorns.”

“Hot and good taste in soccer teams. I like her already.”

“I told you that you would.” Kelley brings the phone up to her ear and looks down at the crumpled list in her hand. “Hey, yeah, I’d like to place an order for pick-up at 3:30? Yeah--”

“Wait, you’re not making food? We’re having takeout?”

“Shut up, Tobin-- No! Not you, sorry ma’am, I was talking to my dumb friend.” Kelley glares at Tobin for a second before looking back down at the paper and rattling off her order. When she finally looks back up at Tobin she sighs. “Of course we’re having takeout. That oven isn’t even real.”

Tobin turns around to look where Kelley is pointing and starts to inspect the oven. “I think it is, Kell.”

“Is it?” Kelley shrugs. “I wouldn’t know, honestly, Christen and I never cook.”

“Clearly.”

“Honey, I’m home,” someone yells from the entryway as they let themselves into the apartment followed quickly by another voice saying “and we have the booze!”

“Who is calling you honey?” Tobin asks, following Kelley to the front of the apartment.

“That would be me,” says a girl wearing a pink beanie over long dark hair and the prettiest eyes Tobin has ever seen, probably. “I’m Christen.” She shifts the bags in her hands to reach out for a handshake. “And you must be Tobin, right?”

“I must be,” Tobin says, a little too lost in Christen’s eyes to realize just how stupid that sounds.

“And I am Stella,” says the girl standing behind Christen. They shuffle a little farther into the apartment to set the bags of alcohol ( “Kelley, there is no way we need that much alcohol,” Tobin said as they headed towards the kitchen. “Oh, Tobin,” Kelley shook her head and gave Tobin a sweet smile. “You have so much to learn.” )

“This is my roommate, as you know.” Kelley gestures to Christen with a slight nod of her head. “And this is my roommate’s girlfriend,” she continues, gesturing to Stella.

“Girlfriend,” Tobin says slowly, as if she’s testing out how the word feels on her tongue. “I didn’t know you were,” Tobin frowns. Not single .

“Gay?” Christen finishes for her.

“No, uhm, being gay is fine. I’m gay too.”

Christen laughs and tilts her head to the side. “Well then we should get along just fine.”

 

---

 

“You didn’t tell me she was dating someone,” Tobin says as she drags Kelley into a bedroom that essentially looks like shrine to Kelley O’Hara.

“Did I forget to mention that?” Kelley strokes her chin as if in deep thought. “My bad, dude. Slipped my mind.”

“How serious are they?”

“More serious than Aubrey and I,” Kelley says with a shrug.

“Who the fuck is Aubrey?”

“Exactly.” Kelley winks and points at Tobin, making an obnoxious clicking sound.

“That answered zero questions,” Tobin says with a groan. “Also, is this seriously your room?” Tobin looks around and points next to the mirror. “Nobody should have a poster of themselves in their room.”

“A signed poster,” Kelley corrects.

“I don’t think you understand how much that does not make it better.”

Kelley laughs easily and wraps an arm around Tobin’s shoulders, steering them back out of the room. “I like to let girls know that I used to be a professional soccer player. Helps me score a lot, if you know what I mean.” She winks and Tobin just rolls her eyes.

“You are the worst.”

“Don’t I know it.”

 

---

 

The chinese food is good, Tobin has to admit. They eat it off of cheap paper plates and use plastic utensils because alright losers, I don’t wanna do dishes so we are using disposable dishes, and yes, Kelley turned to Christen with a knowing look. I know it’s bad for the environment, but you are the one that put me on dish duty this year, and this was my solution.

Tobin doesn’t know anyone aside from Kelley, who is too busy either playing hostess or making out with some girl (that Tobin assumes is the aforementioned Aubrey, but she can’t be quite certain) to give her much attention. She makes nice conversation with a few people here and there, but mostly finds herself uncomfortably standing in the corner of the room, sipping on something that Kelley shoved into her hand as soon as she was finished eating.

“Hey,” Christen says as she walks up to Tobin. “Stella ditched me for a rousing game of beer pong that I refused to be her partner for, so,” she shrugs. “What are you up to?”

“Just drinking this,” Tobin raises her plastic cup for emphasis. “And awkwardly standing in this room full of people I don’t know.”

Christen laughs and nods understandingly. “Most of these people are Kelley’s friends, not mine. Also, can I ask you something?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Are you the Tobin Heath? I know Kelley used to play soccer, and I know there’s a Tobin on the Portland Thorns, and I know you’ve been friends with Kelley forever, so,” she’s rambling in an impossibly cute way that just makes Tobin grin.

“Yeah, I guess you could say I’m the Tobin Heath. On the Thorns.”

“Wow,” Christen says with a slow nod. “That’s really cool, actually. How do you know Kelley?”

“National team youth camps, mostly. And then a little bit of the full national team, before she decided to be totally lame and become a literal rocket scientist.”

Christen laughs at that and bumps Tobin’s shoulder with her own. “How dare she, honestly.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying.” Tobin laughs and shakes her head. “How did you guys meet?”

“We both went to Stanford, hence all the Stanford decor.” She gestures around the living room before continuing. “Then when we were graduating, she asked if I wanted to be her roommate since she knew we were both heading to the LA area, and I agreed, and two years later here we are.”

“Do you know anything about an Aubrey?”

Christen tilts her head to the side. “Should I?”

“I think that’s who Kelley has been making out with all night.” Tobin points to where Kelley is leading a girl into her bedroom and they both laugh softly.

“I have no idea who that is.”

“That sounds like my best friend,” Tobin says with an approving nod.

Christen laughs and shifts her weight from one foot to the other. “Hey,” she shakes her cup to let the ice clink. “I could use a refill. Come with me to the kitchen?”

Tobin nods and starts to follow Christen through the apartment. “I could definitely use something less sweet than this, anyway. Kelley made it for me.”

“Kelley is the worst at making drinks. Here, let me make you something.” Christen grabs a clean cup and writes Tobin across the top in black sharpie, dotting the i with a heart. (Tobin starts to freak out before realizing that the i on Christen’s cup is dotted with a heart too, and maybe that’s just what she does.) She explains what she’s making as she makes it and gives a few other recommendations before handing the cup over. “How’s that?”

Tobin takes a sip and smiles. “ Much better. I’m twenty-three, I shouldn’t be drinking alcohol that tastes like cough syrup.”

“Agreed.” Christen reaches out and clinks glasses with Tobin. “So why haven’t you visited before? I mean, your Kelley’s best friend and I’ve never even met you.”

“I kind of bounce around, for the most part.” Tobin shrugs. “During the season I stay in Portland, but as for the rest of the year, I go wherever discount flights and my longboard takes me.”

Christen looks at Tobin with a sense of awe, like she can’t quite believe a real person just said that. “You seem like a special kind of person, Tobin.”

“You think so?”

Christen laughs and nods. “Definitely.”

 

---

 

It takes until after midnight for the party to really start winding down and soon enough the lights come on and the music turns down and Christen and Stella start working their way through the sea of plastic cups in the living room.

“And remember, this is Aubrey,” Kelley says with a bright smile and her arm around the shoulders of the girl she’s been with all night. “You’ll be seeing a lot more of Aubrey.” She opens the door and shares a quick kiss before letting Aubrey leave on her own and shutting the door behind her. She turns back to Tobin, Christen, and Stella with a stupidly proud smile and dramatically says “and they never saw her again .”

“That doesn’t make you funny, it just makes you kind of a douche,” Tobin says, sipping on her drink that’s something Christen suggested but with too much vodka, because Christen and Stella looking so cute together is a sight that she can’t stand, even if it only has been the one night.

“Only kind of?” Kelley turns to Christen and Stella and they nod in approval. She shrugs and breaks into an easy smile. “I can live with that.”

 

-----

 

November 2015

“Can you get that, babe?” Tobin asks, glancing over as her phone starts ringing.

Emma nods and answers, putting the phone on speaker on the dashboard. “It’s Kelley, by the way.”

“It sure is,” Kelley says as her voice rings through.

“Hey, Emma’s here too, so don’t say anything weird.”

“Perfect! You both are coming to Friendsgiving this year.”

“Are we?” Tobin asks, tilting her head to the side.

“It’s a tradition now, Tobin. You have to come this year.”

“Do I?” Tobin asks, stretching out the words and glancing to Emma for help as she pulls up to a red light.

“It is a tradition .”

“Is it really, though?”

“We’ll be there,” Emma cuts in. “We don’t have anything going on, we’re in the area anyway, and we would love to be there.”

Would we love to be there? Would we really?”

“Listen to your girlfriend, Tobin. See you guys this weekend!”

 

---

 

Tobin knocks on the door with Emma next to her, holding a plate of homemade cookies, because I don’t care if we’re just going to have takeout again, Tobin, we can’t show up empty handed to your best friend’s Friendsgiving .

Christen answers the door with a “hey! So good to see you again,” and it takes Tobin a second to say anything , because damn if those eyes aren’t just as striking as they were a year ago.

“Yeah, Chris!” She finally manages, following her into the apartment. “Good to see you again, too. This is Emma, my girlfriend.”

Tobin can’t tell if the way Christen’s face falls a little bit at those last two words is imagined or not, but she puts on a bright smile either way. “Nice to meet you, Emma. Welcome to Friendsgiving. Kelley will be back with the food soon and then guests should start arriving not long after that. Just make yourselves at home.”

“Thanks, Christen.” Tobin sets the cookies down on the counter. “Where’s Stella?”

“Oh, we broke up a few months ago.”

Tobin frowns. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“No big deal.” Christen laughs and waves her off. “Just wasn’t a good fit anymore.”

Tobin smiles and glances over to Emma, as if to remind herself this is your girlfriend, your girlfriend is right here, do you see your girlfriend? because something about Christen is so absolutely captivating that it makes her feel like they’re the only two people in the room. “Hey, is Kelley’s room still basically a shrine to herself?”

“Of course it is.”

Tobin laughs and tugs on Emma’s hand to lead her down the hallway. “Babe, you have got to see this.”

 

---

 

“Tobs, Emma!” Kelley pulls Tobin into a half hug before continuing through the apartment. “Perfect, you guys can help me get the pizzas from my car.”

“Pizza? Takeout again, Kell?”

“Of course,” Kelley says as she starts down the stairs. “You know my oven is fake.”

“It’s a real oven, Kell. I checked.”

“Oh yeah.” She tilts her head to the side as she unlocks the car. “I forgot about that. Huh.” She shrugs and starts handing pizzas to Tobin and Emma then slams the truck. “Anyway. Are you guys ready to party tonight?”

“We are not,” Tobin answers quickly. “I don’t even know why we’re here.”

“We’re here because this is your best friend and we have two more days before we fly into Florida to spend the holidays with your family.”

“Listen to your girlfriend, Tobin.”

 

---

 

“I know you’re the reason that the Thorns magnet is still up on the fridge, and I appreciate that,” Tobin says through a mouthful of pizza.

“I have saved it from the trash numerous times,” Christen says with an easy laugh. She’s wants to say something more, but she’s not quite sure what, and before she gets the chance Emma has walked up.

“Wanna be my beer pong partner? Are you any good?”

Tobin laughs and nods. “I’m better at beer pong than I’d like to admit, so I’ll just show you instead.”

 

---

 

“So, Emma,” Christen says as she ends up getting a refill of her drink at the same time as Tobin. (Which was totally not purposefully orchestrated so that Christen could talk to Tobin. At all.)

“Yeah,” Tobin smiles. “She’s great.”

“How’d you guys meet?”

“I went to play in France for a few months and we were on the same team. Just a lucky coincidence.”

Christen nods along as she makes her drink, and if a little extra rum slips into her drink to help her not think about how happy Tobin looks with Emma on her arm, well, that’s just a lucky coincidence too.

 

---

 

The pizza is good, because it’s pizza, of course it’s good. As the party winds down Tobin stays dutifully by Emma’s side, because babe, I brought you to this party, I’m not just gonna ditch you , even if Christen does look a bit bummed out, sitting alone when she’s not being roped into a drinking game that she’s more-than-willing to play.

“Dude, where have you been for the past hour?” Tobin asks as Kelley turns on the lights and starts to kill the music.

“I am a dutiful hostess that is more than willing to please my guests. Well, one guest in particular, if you know what I mean.”

Tobin pretends to gag. “I really wish I didn’t.”

“This is Elise, you guys know Elise,” Kelley says as she steers the girl she’s been with all night to the door. (They don’t know Elise.) “Remember her. You’ll be seeing a lot more of Elise.” She opens the door and smiles with a wave, shutting the door once Elise starts down the stairs. She turns back to Tobin, Emma, and Christen with the same dumb smile she had a year ago and once again, dramatically says “and they never saw her again .”

“Still kind of a douche,” Tobin says, looking to Christen for her input.

“Agreed. Just as, if not more douchey than last year.”

Tobin and Christen share a laugh as Kelley just shrugs.

“I can still live with that.”

 

-----

 

November 2016

“I’m already coming,” Tobin says as she answers the phone. “No convincing required.”

Kelley frowns. “I was actually gonna say that it’s a bummer you can’t come this year, because I know you’re in Boston. Change of plans? Did Emma convince you to come?”

Tobin glances around baggage claim for her flight at LAX. She takes a slow, deep breath and nods, even though Kelley can’t see. “Something like that.”

“Alright, well cool dude. I’ll see you soon.”

“Yeah, Kell. I’ll be there.”

 

---

 

“No Emma?” Kelley asks, tilting her head to the side as she opens the door.

“We broke up, actually.”

“But I thought she was coming tonight?

“She was.”

“I thought things were going well?”

“They were.” Tobin shifts from one foot to the other as she follows Kelley into the kitchen.

“So why the sudden break up?”

“In the end,” Tobin shrugs and sighs. “We just wanted different things.” Tobin doesn’t say that the different thing she wanted was Christen. She doesn’t mention that as it got closer and closer to Friendsgiving, closer and closer to a chance to see Christen, the more wrong it felt to be with anyone who wasn’t Christen.

She doesn’t mention how she wasn’t planning to come at all, she was supposed the holiday with Emma’s family, but it all felt so wrong because it wasn’t Christen that she broke up with Emma and got on the first flight to LA.

“Well I’m glad you were able to make it anyway,” Kelley says with a shrug. “But break ups can be hard dude, so if you need someone, know that I’m here.”

“Thanks,” Tobin says with a nod and a half-smile. “Anything new on the relationship front for Christen?” Tobin asks, and if she sounds a little bit hopeful, then that’s just an accident.

“Yeah, actually. She’s been dating this girl, Sophia, for awhile now.”

“Oh.”

Kelley looks up from the bag of chips she’s opening just in time to see Tobin’s face fall. “Oh?”

“Uh, yeah. Just that I didn’t know.”

“Tobin,” Kelley says slowly. “I’m your best friend.”

“Totally.”

“Why did you and Emma, after a year and a half of a happy relationship, break up?”

Tobin’s eyes fall to the counter in front of her and she can see Kelley frown from her peripheral vision.

“Why did you visibly deflate when I said Christen is dating someone?”

“No reason,” Tobin says, still not looking up.

“You like her,” Kelley says slowly, and it’s more of an accusation than anything.

“So what if I do?”

“So what?” Kelley’s hands drop to her sides. “Tobin, you’ve seen her twice , for a day at a time, a year apart.”

Tobin nods.

“So why the hell would you end a happy, healthy, long-term relationship for a glimpse of a chance?”

“Because,” Tobin falters. “I can’t stop thinking about her. I think about her all the time, I see her posts on Instagram and I find myself mesmerized, I just--” she cuts herself off, shaking her head. “I have spent the last year looking forward to seeing her again and I was supposed to spend this whole week with Emma and her family, but it felt,” she pauses, searching for the words. “It felt so wrong to not see Christen, to not have that glimpse of a chance again.”

Kelley frowns as she looks at her friend, her best friend. “There’s no way you’re in love with Christen. You can’t be.”

“I never said I’m in love with her. I just,” Tobin sighs and rests her head in her hands. “I don’t know. The idea that maybe, just maybe, I would have a chance, was enough to throw everything away. I don’t know what to call that.”

Kelley doesn’t have a chance to respond because Christen and Sophia are letting themselves into the apartment.

“Tobin,” is the first thing Christen says, and her eyes light up and she smiles and she feels a flutter in her chest like she hasn’t in a long time. (In almost one year exactly.)

Tobin palms her neck and smiles, not sure what to say or what to do or how, exactly, to approach the girl that she might be in love with, or whatever.

“This is Sophia,” Kelley says, as if Tobin doesn’t know. “Sophia, this is Tobin, my best friend.”

“Nice to meet you.” They shake hands and Tobin kind of hates how pretty her smile is and how sweet her voice is and how good she smells.

“Tobin,” Christen says again. “It’s good to see you. Kelley said she wasn’t sure you’d make it this year.”

“Yeah, well,” Tobin shrugs. “How could I miss out on Friendsgiving? It’s kind of a tradition.

That it is,” Kelley says proudly.

 

---

 

“This is Alex.” Kelley walks over, stopping in front of Tobin, who’s kind of moping in the corner of the living room. “Alex, this is my best friend, Tobin.”

“It’s really nice to meet you, Alex.” Tobin plasters on a bright smile that she doesn’t really mean, because if she knows her best friend, then she knows the name isn’t worth remembering.

“You too!” Alex smiles brightly and Tobin almost kind of feels bad for her.

“I’ll catch ya later, Tobs. Stop moping.”

“I will not,” Tobin says with a half-laugh. She downs the rest of her drink once Kelley and Alex walk away then make a new drink, a little too strong to be very good but not quite strong enough to convince her to stop looking at Christen and Sophia.

 

---

 

As the party dies down, Tobin is more than a little tipsy (more than a little drunk, too) and she stumbles her way into the kitchen where Christen and Sophia are talking.

“I bet she won’t last till Christmas,” Tobin says with a laugh, using her cup to gesture to Kelley and Alex by the door.

Christen nods in agreement. “I’ll be surprised if she lasts till tomorrow .”

Tobin laughs too hard and leans against Christen just a bit for support. “You are so funny, Chris.”

“You are so drunk, Tobin.”

Tobin laughs again, forced and hard and without a hint of humor. “You are so pretty, Chris.” Tobin smiles as Christen puts an arm underneath her shoulder and starts supporting her weight.

“Hey, Kell?” Christen calls.

“One sec!” Kelley finishes saying goodbye to Alex then goes to the kitchen to help lift Tobin up. “Hey buddy, did we maybe drink a little too much?”

“I don’t think so,” Tobin says slowly with an uncanny amount of certainty that makes Kelley laugh.

“If you say so, Tobs. Let’s get you to bed.”

“I don’t have a bed. I roam the world couchsurfing wherever--”

“Yeah, yeah. Wherever discount flights and your longboard will take you. A homebody without a home. We know, Tobin.” Kelley laughs as they walk into her bedroom. “I helped you write that spiel.”

“Oh yeahhh ,” Tobin draws out the world and nods enthusiastically. “You are my best friend for ever since ever.”

“That’s right buddy,” Kelley says with an affirmative nod. “Now why don’t we say goodnight and thank you to Christen for helping us get to bed safely.”

“Goodnight Christen,” Tobin says, a large smile spreading over her face as she says the name. “I love your name. Pretty name. Pretty name for a pretty girl.”

Christen giggles a little too much and leans down to press a kiss to Tobin’s forehead. “Goodnight, Tobin.”

Christen leaves Kelley and Tobin, shutting the door behind her.

“So I see we’re playing the whole in love with Christen thing pretty cool, huh?”

“The cooliest.”

Kelley laughs and shakes her head. “Come on, let’s get you into some more comfortable clothes so you can sleep.”

“What do I do if I always love her, Kelley?”

Kelley frowns. “I wish I could tell you.”

Tobin nods slowly. “Well if you find out, can you let me know?”

Kelley laughs softly, because Tobin is so serious but too drunk to realize the gravity of the situation, of the question. “Of course I will, Tobs. Count on it.”

 

-----

 

November 2017

“Well I still fucking love her,” Tobin says as soon as Kelley answers the phone.

“Well I didn’t think that had miraculously changed since yesterday, but thanks for the update.”

Tobin rolls her eyes and groans. “And I assume her relationship status has not miraculously changed, either?”

“It has not.”

Tobin sighs. “My flight is tomorrow morning so I’ll just head straight to your place from the airport.”

“You don’t have to come this year, Tobin.”

“I have to.”

“Just to torture yourself?”

“Yep.” Tobin laughs in spite of herself. “Maybe if I see her and Sophia together, it’ll be easier. If I remind myself that she’s happy, maybe I can get over her.”

“Because that worked so well last year.”

“Shut up, Kelley. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

---

 

When Kelley lets her into the apartment, Tobin finds herself pleasantly surprised. “Do I smell turkey? And cranberry sauce? And real Thanksgiving food?”

Kelley laughs and nods. “You do.”

“And I thought we peaked last year with the fried chicken.”

“Very funny, Tobin.” Kelley rolls her eyes and leads Tobin to the kitchen, where Alex is preoccupied with a pot on the stove. “Hey babe, you remember Tobin, right?”

“Of course!” Alex pulls Tobin into a quick hug.

“Wow, I did not believe it. This is the same Alex from a year ago.”

Kelley rolls her eyes. “I told you it was.”

“And I told you I had to see it to believe it.”

Alex laughs and leans into Kelley’s side. “Yeah, I managed to tie her down.”

“But why?” Tobin asks, leaning back against the counter.

“Why what?”

“Why Kelley? I mean, I love her, but she’s my best friend, I have to.” Tobin gives Alex a serious look. “Why, out of all the people in the world, why Kelley? She’s kind of a self-obsessed douche.”

Alex laughs and glances over to Kelley, who’s glaring at Tobin. “Maybe, but she’s my self-obsessed douche.”

“You’ll like Alex.” Kelley wraps an arm around Alex’s shoulders proudly.

“She convinced you to make real food instead of just ordering takeout. I already like her.”

And we’re having a sit-down dinner instead of just a party,” Alex cuts in.

“Oh, Kell,” Tobin gives Kelley a serious look. “I love her.”

Kelley laughs loudly with her thrown back in the air. She looks happy, here, with Alex. Happier than Tobin’s ever seen her. “Hands off, buddy. She’s all mine.”

 

---

 

“She showed me how to turn on the oven,” Kelley says proudly as she and Tobin set the table.

“It’s literally just a button that says on .”

“I know, right? That’s crazy.” Kelley looks over at Alex, who’s pulling the rolls out. “That’s Alex,” she says softly, so only Tobin can hear. “You’ll be seeing a lot more of Alex.”

 

---

Kelley sits at the end of the table with Alex to her left, Tobin to her right, and Christen and Sophia at the opposite end. Tobin and Christen haven’t spoken aside from a hey! From Christen that’s a bit too excited and a nice to see you from Tobin that she doesn’t really mean.

Dinner is good. So, so good. The food is great and Tobin really likes Alex, and it’s obvious that Kelley really likes Alex, and things are good.

Tobin has maybe one too many glasses of wine, just enough to the point where everything feels light and fun and easy. But it’s okay.

Sophia leaves soon after dinner, because she has an early flight the next morning, and when she kisses Christen on her way out the door, Tobin pretends it doesn’t bother her. The wine helps with that.

After everything is finally cleaned up, Kelley and Alex decide to watch a Christmas movie (Alex loves Christmas, which Tobin quickly learns, and it’s kind of nice to see Kelley branch away from her old no Christmas anything until at least December 1st rule) and Tobin and Christen sit on the balcony. There’s a nice breeze, just enough to trick them into thinking that this California weather could ever be anything resembling cold , and it’s nice.

They talk about a bunch of things that don’t really matter before falling into a comfortable silence. Somewhere between the wine and the weather and the silence, Tobin finds just a little bit of courage and a lot of honesty.

“Wanna hear something funny?”

“Of course?”

Tobin laughs softly and takes another sip of wine. “I feel like if just one small thing along the way had been different; a few seconds overlapped, one year where we were in the same place at the same time, just one chance, for the timing to work out, for things to fall into place.” Tobin sighs softly, because it doesn’t really matter at this point, anyway. “Just one little difference, and I think it could’ve been us instead.”

Christen hums softly, processing the words. She’s happy with Sophia, she really is, but she can’t deny the truth of Tobin’s statement. “Maybe it could’ve been.” She takes a sip of wine and glances over to Tobin. “You know, if the stars had lined up just right. Maybe it could’ve been us.”

 

-----

 

November 2018

“Five years.” Kelley answers the door with a large smile. “Friendsgiving is most definitely  a tradition now.”

“Is it really, though?” Tobin asks with a teasing tone as Kelley pulls her into a hug.

“Uhm, boards dot wedding bee dot com says after three to four years, something is a tradition, and this is officially five years, so it is officially a tradition.”

“Please tell me you did not google how many years until something becomes a tradition .”

“Oh, she did,” Alex says with a laugh as she joins them in the living room. “And then she searched through the results until she found one that said what she wanted to hear.

“For the record,” Kelley cuts in. “It was only the fifth result, so,” she shrugs. “Anyway, this is now officially a tradition, we are doing it every year, and no take-backs.”

“Fine, fine,” Tobin relents, raising her hand in innocence. “It’s totally a tradition from here on out.”

“Also,” Kelley points to the ceiling. “Watch out for the mistletoe.”

“Kell, you know that it’s too early in the year for mistletoe, right?”

“Uhm, yeah, if you’re a coward .”

Tobin rolls her eyes. “Take these down. I don’t know like half of the people you usually invite to this thing, and I am not kissing any of them.”

“Nah, no big thing this year. Just the four of us.”

“Four?”

“You, me, Al, and Christen. Duh.”

“What about Sophia?”

“Oh,” Kelley smiles and winks at Tobin. “They may have broken up a few months ago.”

“May have?”

“Okay, they totally did.” Kelley starts towards the kitchen, where ALex has disappeared to check on one of the dishes, and Tobin follows close behind.

“What? Kell, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Don’t be weird about it,” Kelley says, crinkling her nose. She stops abruptly and turns around to face Tobin with a mischievous grin. “Now pucker up, buttercup.”

Tobin looks up and sure enough, there’s mistletoe right above them. “She’s kidding, right?” Tobin turns to Alex with a pleading look.

“She’s not. And she will not move until you give her a kiss.”

“I literally hate you so much, I hope you know that.”

“I know.” Kelley gives Tobin a large smile before leaning for a long, smacking kiss on the cheek. “I love you, buddy!”

“Love you too, Kell.”

 

---

 

Dinner is good, again, of course. Kelley is actually quite the cook, once someone finally taught her how to turn the damn oven on, and Alex knows enough about cooking to turn Kelley’s raw talent into an actual meal.

It’s just the four of them, with wine and turkey and pie and if Tobin is being honest, it might be the best holiday she’s ever had. (In fact, it might be the best holiday any of them have ever had.)

“I’m thankful for this. Good friends and good food and the chance to spend time with the people that are important to me,” Tobin says, glancing to everyone at the table with her, and if her eyes linger on Christen for just a moment longer than anyone else, well, that’s an accident.

 

---

 

When Tobin excuses herself to the balcony after they finish dessert, it doesn’t take long for Christen to follow.

“So,” Tobin says slowly. “No Sophia?”

“No Sophia,” Christen affirms.

“What happened?”

Christen smiles as she looks at Tobin in the moonlight. There’s a light breeze, enough to the point where they both feel just a little bit cold, but when they look at each other with soft smiles, they feel warm. “The stars aligned, Tobin.”

Tobin’s gaze flits from Christen’s eyes to her lips and back again. Her smile grows just a bit wider, and she briefly wonders if this was worth waiting for the last five Friendsgivings.

When Christen presses a kiss against her lips, and she tastes like cinnamon and apples and vanilla ice cream and just a little bit of everything good in the world, well, Tobin knows it was worth it.