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We're Walking The Tightope (Never Know How Far We Could Fall)

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11 years old

 

“Christen, slow down sweetheart.”

 

The girl turns her head to see her parents and older sister's amused faces a few feet away from her as she drags her little sister towards a big entrance.

 

“But we're going to be late,” she pouts, Channing nodding in agreement as their parents and sister reach them.

 

“We won't, I promise,” her father reassures her, grabbing her hand to prevent the girls to get a head start again.

 

Sighing with impatience Christen allows her excited bright eyes to fall on the big red circus tent facing her. She knows the traveling circus is only here for one day, and she wouldn't miss the show for the world.

 

“I'm so excited,” she offers a big smile to her father as they wait in line to buy their tickets.

 

“Me too,” her little sister squeals, making her family laugh.

 

Since a circus came in town last year and all of her friends went to see the show but her for she was out of town that day Christen has been dying to go to a circus show.

 

“It's my first circus show!” she tells the cashier as he hands her the precious ticket.

 

“Me too!” a little voice cheeps behind her.

 

"Well, we come here every year, so if you like it you can always come back next year," the cahier grins at them, handing them their tickets and wishing them a good show.

 

“The tightrope walker performance is the best,” Tyler says, smiling fondly at her two overexcited little sisters as they look at their surroundings with big eyes when the family finally enters the tent.

 

“Yeah?” Christen wonders, eyes  still roaming the place as they easily find their seats. “Kelley told me the jugglers are the best.”

 

“Well, time to make your own opinion,” the oldest sister whispers as the lights get dimmed just as they sit.

 

“Told you we wouldn't be late...” her father jokes in a whisper only to be shushed by the four members of his family.

 

During the whole show Christen watches fire breathers, horses and dogs dance and look more gracious than any animal she's ever seen, jugglers and other clowns and acrobats, with sparkles never leaving her eyes.

 

When a deep voice finally announces the next number as Perry, the tightrope walker, Tyler playfully elbows her.

 

“Get ready for the greatness little sis',” she murmurs.

 

“The dog performance is going to be hard to replace as my favorite though,” Christen whispers back as a young woman greets the crowd before settling on the rope and starting her number.

 

Christen does not want to admit it immediately, but her sister is right. The young woman is really impressive as she does one acrobatic after another, never losing her balance.

 

“Wow… That was sick...” she can't help but murmur as the woman does two backward somersaults as if it was the most easiest thing in the world.

 

“I can do it better.”

 

Christen jumps at the phrase whispered in her ear. Turning around with her heart beating a thousand miles an hour she comes face to face with a girl, around her age she guesses, who is still staring at the performance with focused hazel eyes, not embarrassed after scaring a stranger.

 

“No you can't,” Christen scoffs, turning around again to enjoy the show while shaking her head.

 

“Of course I can,” she hears the girl protest but Christen decides to ignore her.

 

Just as she begins to forget about the stranger she feels a presence besides her. When she looks sideways she notices that the girl is now sitting next to her in the staircase. Looking down she meets hazel brown eyes for the first time, the girl tilting her head in a silent question.

 

“You don't believe me?” the girl asks after a moment and Christen fights the urge to roll her eyes, her mother's voice telling her that “It's not polite young lady” in her head.

 

“I don't,” she simply says, avoiding the girl's curious eyes to try and catch the end of the performance.

 

The girl seems to focus on the performance too and Christen's shoulders relax.

 

“Why?” the lazy voice comes to her ears again after a minute.

 

“What?” she asks, her older sister shushing her, annoyed. “What?” she breathes this time.

 

“Why don't you believe me?” the girl wonders, her eyes traveling on Christen's face as though she was studying every detail without being embarrassed by her staring at all.

 

“How would you know how to do that?” Christen chuckles, pointing as the young woman does another somersault on the rope.

 

“Because I train with her,” the girl responds like it is the most obvious thing in the world, mirroring Christen's hand as she points to the acrobat too.

 

When the only response she gets is a deep confused frown the girl explains herself.

 

“That's my sister, she's teaching me how to do stuff so I can have my own number someday.”

 

Blinking a few times between the girl and her supposed sister Christen tries to decide if she is telling the truth or not.

 

“My whole family works here. It's my home,” the girl continues, gesturing to the tent not letting Christen the time to contradict her.

 

“For real?” the brunette eventually whispers, as she watches the tan girl look around with so much love swimming in her eyes that she knows she can't be lying.

 

As if on cue a circus employee kneels besides the brown-eyed girl and whispers in her ear just loud enough for Christen to hear.

 

“Your mother is looking for you everywhere,” he tells her urgently. “They need you backstage.”

 

“But I'm talking t-” the girl tries to protest.

 

“Right now,” the employee cuts her, standing up.

 

The girl's eyes travel between Christen and the young man, disappointment filling her dark orbs, when a wide grin suddenly splits her face.

 

“I'll come if you bring me popcorn,” she says nonchalantly, crossing her arms to show him that she's not going anywhere, making Christen try to hide a chuckle in a fake cough.

 

“Come on, we don't have time for that,” the young employee whines, apparently used to demands like this. “You can get some on the way.”

 

“Nope. The faster you bring me some, the faster I'll go see my mother.”

 

Loud applauses make Christen jump in surprise and when she takes her eyes off the exchange she sees the acrobat taking a bow. She quickly joins the crowd in the standing ovation, clapping her hands as loud as she can and chuckling as her father yells 'bravo' from the top of his lungs.

 

“Told you it was the best,” Tyler laughs when the acrobat leaves, the crowd still applauding.

 

Christen is about to reply when a gentle tap on her shoulder makes her turn around.

 

“So you liked my sister's performance?” the girl grins, a bag of popcorn in her hand.

 

“Yes, she's amazing,” Christen does not hesitate to reply and the young stranger's smile widen even more, giving Christen no choice but to grin back.

 

“Cool, I'll tell her.”

 

“Tobin we've gotta go now,” the employee says, clearly irritated as he tugs on Tobin's t-shirt.

 

“I have to help my other sister get ready,” Tobin smiles apologetically. “But maybe I'll see you later.”

 

“Okay,” Christen nods.

 

“Oh, this is for you by the way,” Tobin hands her the bag of popcorn.

 

Christen just has the time to mutter a quick thank you that Tobin is already making her way toward the exit. Green eyes follow the little girl until she reaches the entrance of the tent and Christen is rewarded by a big smile and a wave when Tobin turns around one last time.

 

The next artist enters the circus ring and the applauses make Christen turn her head. When she looks back again to catch one last glimpse of Tobin she is disappointed to find the young employee standing alone without the girl.

 

Sighing she settles in her seat again, not really paying attention to what is going on in front of her as she replays her weird encounter with the circus girl.

 

“I like the circus,” she whispers as her sister steals popcorn from her bag.

 

“Yup me too.”

 

*

 

“Our little girl already gets someone to give her free popcorn at 10, I don't want to imagine what it's going to be like when she can go to bars,” Cody giggles, looking into his rear-view mirror to see his three daughters fast asleep on the back seat, one of them clutching an empty popcorn bag against her chest.

 

“I don't want to think about it,” his wife laughs. “Please, just drive.”

 

******

12 years old

 

“I can't believe Channing managed to make us come back here...”

 

Christen chuckles at Tyler's whine, playfully elbowing her as Channing brushes the remark with a shrug.

 

"What? I thought you liked the circus?" she laughs and her sister rolls her eyes.

 

"I'm too old for that shi-"

 

"Tyler, language please," their mother warns, frowning disapprovingly at her daughter while Cody hands them their tickets.

 

"Come on Ty, we had fun last year," he tries to cheer her up. "I'll buy you some popcorn if it makes you feel better," Cody offers as the family walks through the big entrance.

 

"Don't bother, Christen's girlfriend is going to bring us some anyway," Tyler snickers, earning a pinch on her shoulder from Christen.

 

"She's not my girlfriend. I don't even know her..." she defends herself sheepishly feeling her cheeks reddening.

 

"Is that why you kept the popcorn b-" Tyler isn't able to finish her phrase as Christen slams her hand on her mouth.

 

"Stop annoying you sister Ty, and take a seat," Stacy sighs, used to their constant bickering.

 

They make Channing sit between the two older sisters to avoid any more shenanigans and once again Christen finds herself seated at the end of the row next to the staircase.

 

The show is pretty much the same except for a few numbers, but is nonetheless impressive and captivating.

 

Christen claps joyfully when dogs enters the circus ring and snickers when her older sisters appears to be as excited as she is for this number. Her mother's eyes stop her from making a sly comment and she refocuses her attention on the show with a slight pout on her lips. She laughs along the crowd as the dogs do all sort of acrobatics and tricks, but too soon for her liking the number is over and the pout is back on her lips.

 

"Do you want to see the dogs?"

 

Her hands fly to her mouth to stop her from screaming as her heart rate skyrockets at the whispered phrase in her ear. Turning around she meets two innocent brown irises looking at her questioningly.

 

"You really have to stop doing that..." Christen eventually murmurs, her heart settling down at the sight of the girl's bright grin.

 

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you," she apologizes, scratching the back of her neck.

 

"It's alright," Christen smiles, feeling her heart beat quickening again for no apparent reason.

 

"So, do you want to see them?" Tobin asks again, standing.

 

"See what?" Christen frowns in confusion and feels her cheeks heating up when Tobin softly laughs at her question.

 

"The dogs. I can take you backstage if you want to meet them," the brown-eyed girls explains, pointing to the exit with her thumbs.

 

"Oh! Yes, let me just ask my parents." Turning her head she finds her family engrossed in whatever number is going on in front of them, not paying attention to her at all. "Never mind, let's go."

 

With a huge grin Tobin takes her hand without hesitation and guides her toward the exit. When they are finally outside she lets go of Christen's hand and the green-eyed girl frowns as coldness replaces the warmth of Tobin's skin.

 

"I never got to ask for your name," Tobin says playfully as they walk around the red tent.

 

"I'm Christen," she replies simply, looking around her in disbelief as they walk pass the artists she has just seen moments before.

 

"Nice to meet you Christen, I'm Tobin," the girl grins, pushing the tent aside to let Christen enter.

 

"I know," Christen chuckles. "I remember the guy calling you when he came to get you last time."

 

"Oh that's right. Did you like the popcorn?" Tobin wonders playfully.

 

"Loved it. Thanks again by the way," Christen says, still looking around as people rush pass them to prepare the next numbers.

 

"Can you wait here? I've just got to talk to Danny real quick," the tan girl asks, already walking backward toward a young man that Christen recognizes at the dogs trainer.

 

"No problem," Christen replies, taking the opportunity to really look around as Tobin talks to the young trainer. "Channing and Tyler will never believe that I went backstage..." she mutters to herself.

 

Tobin comes back quickly and leads them outside, making her way between artists and trailers.

 

"Danny took them to his trailer, he told me it was okay to go in," she explains, stopping at a trailer and opening the door for Christen.

 

She just has the time to step in that three dogs are greeting her happily, making her giggle with delight as Tobin closes the door of the large trailer behind them.

 

"So, this is Gus, this is Bella and finally this is Akela," Tobin says, pointing to the dogs one after another.

 

"They are so cute! Hi guys, I'm Christen," the dark-haired girl coos adoringly as they seat on the floor to pet the dogs.

 

"You really seem to like dogs," Tobin chuckles as Gus sits on her legs for more caresses.

 

"Yes, I love them. They are my favorite," Christen replies, laughing when Akela tries to lick her face.

 

"I  saw you enter the tent with you family earlier but my mother wouldn't let me go. I looked for you after but I only spotted you during Danny's number. At first I just came to say hello but when I saw your reactions I knew that I had to take you to meet the dogs," Tobin explains, chuckling lightly as she remembers the big smile on Christen's face.

 

"Well, these guys are really talented, how am I supposed to stay impassible?" Christen chuckles along Tobin, not embarrassed by her passion for the animals.

 

Christen doesn't know for how long they stay in the trailer, petting the dogs and talking animatedly. Even though she has just learned basic things, like how they are the same age, or the names of Tobin's siblings, or how the brown-eyed girl is homeschooled and travels the country during most part of the year, she feels like she has known Tobin her all life for how comfortable she is around her.

 

They share funny stories and asks silly questions, going from their favorite color to their least favorite Disney characters. Many times, Christen has to stop Tobin as she tells a random story because her stomach hurts from how hard she is laughing.

 

She finds out quickly that Tobin's laugh is the purest sound she has ever heard and that her eyes crinkles on the corner when she thinks something is funny. And in return Tobin tells her out of nowhere and without a ounce of shame that she has never seen eyes as beautiful as Christen's and that her jokes are the lamest but probably the funniest she's heard.

 

Christen knows that Tobin will be gone tomorrow and that they've only known each other for a few hours but she already feels connected to the circus girl. She had heard her parents talk one time at a wedding about how you can meet someone and immediately bond with them, as weird as it can appear. She doesn't really remember what they said next for she had tuned out their boring grown-up conversation, but now she guesses that Tobin is this person for her.

 

They are so focused on each other that they don't hear the trailer door opening, and just as a voice interrupts them their bubbles is burst.

 

"Hum Tobin, your mother is looking for you. Theres are people at the gate asking if we've seen a Christen..." the young trainer that Tobin introduced as Danny softly tells them. "I guess they're looking for you?" Danny asks Christen.

 

"Crap!" Christen stands up quickly. "Have they been looking for a long time?" she asks, petting the dogs goodbye before following Danny outside.

 

"Well, the show's been over for more than half an hour so..." Danny trails. "But they've only asked me if I saw you a few minutes ago. I would have told them that you were with Tobin if someone had asked me earlier. You should have told your mother you were with a friend Tobs... I think she's going to be pissed," Danny chuckles as they walk along the red tent.

 

"Meh, I'm used to it," Tobin shrugs. "I'm sorry if you are in trouble though..." she genuinely apologizes to Christen, nervously scratching the back of her neck.

 

"It's okay," Christen chuckles, grabbing Tobin's hand to stop her movement. "I had a lot of fun with you."

 

"I had a lot of fun with you too..." Tobin grins back to Christen, the green-eyed girl spotting the pink coloring her cheeks when she squeezes her hand before letting go.

 

"Here they are," Danny announces, stopping to point at Christen's parents behind the gate. "I think you should stay here if you don't want to face your mother's wrath just yet," Danny smirks down at Tobin.

 

"Yeah..." the brown-eyed girl sighs. "Well... I guess I'll see you next year?" she asks hopefully, her eyes travelling on Christen's face.

 

"You definitely will, " Christen sighs back. "Bye Tobs," she smiles sadly.

 

"Bye Chris," Tobin returns the sad expression, waving until Christen turns around.

 

The dark-haired girl walks toward her parents and sighs in anticipation when she sees the scowls on their faces as she approaches.

 

"You're in trouble young lady," she hears her father says and she gulps audibly.

 

They are only a few feet between them when she feels two arms wrap themselves around her and squeeze her tightly. She just has the time to place her hands on Tobin's that the girl is already letting her go.

 

Christen turns around to see the girl running backward with a goofy smile on her face.

 

Once again a sigh escapes her lips but this time it's a sigh of contentment. When she turns back to face her parents' unhappy faces she can only think of one thing.

 

It was worth it.

 

******

13 years old

 

"I don't want to go..." Channing whines, buckling her seatbelt.

 

"Me neither..." two whines follow her phrase.

 

Cody looks into his rear-view mirror only to see three similar pouts and three pairs of eyes pleading him.

 

"Come on girls, it's just for dinner," Stacy says as her husband starts the car.

 

"But we don't like dinning with the Smiths..." Christen breathes dejectedly, leaning to rest her head against the car window.

 

"Yeah, their sons are always mean to us," Tyler grumbles, earning sighs from both their parents.

 

"But you like Jane and Henry, you've always liked them," Cody tries to cheer them up, stopping at a red light.

 

"Yeah, but their sons are always mean to us," Tyler repeats stubbornly, making Christen chuckles as she lets her eyes get lost in the passing streets.

 

"Well, don't talk to them unless you really have to and you'll be fine," Stacy finally concedes, smiling gently at her daughters in the mirror.

 

The three young Press sighs in unison at the perspective of a long night and Christen refocuses her attention on the moving world behind her window.

 

In the distance a red tent catches her attention and her stomach drops.

 

"The Heath Circus is in town tonight?" she asks, surprise and deception laced in her tone as she turns to her parents.

 

"Yeah, didn't you see the boards?" Cody wonders, not catching the sadness filling his daughter's eyes.

 

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asks again, turning  back to catch one last glimpse of the big tent.

 

"Well, you and Tyler didn't seem too excited about going last year, so we guessed you wouldn't care about it. And you didn't talk about it at all so I just assumed you didn't want to go," Stacy says, frowning in confusion as she watches her daughter slump back in her seat dejectedly.

 

"But I promised Tobin I would go..." she whispers sadly, fidgeting with her seatbelt to focus on something else than the tears threatening to fill her eyes.

 

"Who's To- Oh is that your friend from last year?" Stacy wonders, finally catching up. She exchanges a guilty look with her husband when Christen slightly nods, avoiding their eyes. "I'm so sorry sweetheart, I completely forgot about it."

 

Silence fills the car and Tyler discreetly reaches out to squeeze Christen's hand. When the dark-haired girl doesn't respond to her Stacy turns into her seat to meet her daughter's sad green eyes.

 

"You'll go next year. I'm sure Tobin will understand, don't worry."

 

******

 

14 years old

 

"So, what do you want to do tonight guys?" Kelley asks as they walk along the sunny streets with their group of friends.

 

"I don't know..." Dom shrugs, looking at his girlfriend to see if she has an idea.

 

"Don't look at me!" Sydney laughs when she lifts her eyes from Alex's phone after the blue-eyed teenage girl showed her something.

 

"We could go to the movies, I heard there is a pretty good horror movie on," Alex offers, putting her arms around Christen and Kelley's shoulders as they enter the city square where a big tent takes most of the place.

 

"Maybe we could check the circus?" Christen wonders quietly, catching Kelley's gaze.

 

Quickly understanding her best friend without exchanging a word Kelley agrees.

 

"Yeah, that could be fun," she smiles, looking at their friends to gauge their reactions.

 

"I don't really like circus shows..." Sydney admits with a grimace.

 

"Yeah, clowns scare the crap out of me," Alex laughs, proceeding in imitating a clown's laugh and running after Dom like a psychopath.

 

"Circus shows are kind of for children," Dom says as Alex jumps on his back, pretending to strangle him.

 

"Is it okay if we do something else?" Sydney asks them, pulling Alex back down to take her place on Dom's back.

 

Kelley guiltily bites her lips, searching Christen's eyes to see if she wanted her to say something.

 

"Yeah it's okay," Christen says with a shrug and a fake smile on her lips. "But let's grab something to eat before we go to the movies, I'm starving."

 

Sydney excitedly claps her hand as they start to walk again toward their favorite place.

 

"I'm sorry Chris..." Kelley murmurs once their friends are focused on trying to make Sydney fall of Dom, squeezing her arms in a comforting gesture.

 

"It's alright..." Christen smiles down at her freckled friend. "I'm not even sure if she remembers me anyway."

 

The both look back at the red tent and when Kelley hears her best friend almost inaudible sigh she elbows her playfully.

 

"Come on, let's catch up with those goofballs before they hurt themselves," she jokes, finally earning a real smile from Christen as they watch Sydney fall on top of Alex and Dom.

 

"I think it's too late..."

 

*

 

In the distance, brown eyes darken as they watch the group of friends turns around from the tent and walk in the opposite direction.

 

A small sigh escapes pink full lips before a smile splits them again as a ticket gets ripped.

 

"Thank you sir, enjoy the show."

 

******

 

15 years old

 

"And then Ms Bennett asked him to leave the class and I almost died laughing with Peter because his face was just priceless. He tried to tell her that- Are you listening to me?"

 

Christen snaps out of her trance turning back in her seat to face the driver.

 

"I'm sorry Matt, I was in my thoughts. What were you saying?" she asks, trying to concentrate on her interlocutor rather than her window.

 

"It's okay babe, it wasn't important anyway. What were you thinking about?" the teenage boy wonders, letting his hand slide on her knee.

 

"Just... The circus is in town tonight. I went to the show when I was younger and I was just remembering it," she explains, taking his hand in hers like she's done a hundred times.

 

"Do you want to go?" he asks, taking his eyes of the road for her second to meet Christen's.

 

"No no, this your night! We're celebrating your seventeenth birthday and your brand new yellow car," Christen chuckles, ruffling her boyfriend's blond hair.

 

"Laugh all you want, at least I can drive and I have a car," Matt sticks it's tongue childishly, scrunching his nose.

 

"Well, if you wanted to date someone who could drive you should have asked someone older out, not me," Christen smirks.

 

"Nah, it doesn't bother me to drive you around," Matt shrugs, taking advantage of the red light to peck Christen's lips. "I'm glad your parents allowed you to go out tonight."

 

"Yeah me too," the dark-haired girl smiles genuinely.

 

"What are they doing tonight?" Matt asks, entering the parking lot of a restaurant.

 

"Taking my little cousin to the circus."

 

*

 

"Dude check out that yellow car! I would never drive that, people would think I'm a taxi or something."

 

Tobin turns around just in time to catch a glimpse of the car, laughing along her friend.

 

"Well at least they have a car. You can't say the same," she chuckles with a playful wink.

 

"Neither can you smartass," her friend sticks her tongue out.

 

"Real mature Ash..." Tobin breathes, rolling her eyes.

 

"Shut up and smile," Ashlyn murmurs back before offering a big smile to a man, a woman and a young boy approaching them. "Good evening. Enjoy the show."

 

"I think I've seen them somewhere..." Tobin ponders out loud once they are out of earshot, following the three with her eyes until Ashlyn's chuckle makes her turn around.

 

"We see hundreds of people every day Tobs, they're probably looking like someone you saw last night."

 

"Yeah, you're probably right."

 

 

******

 

16 years old

 

 

"You can't be serious right now Tyler?" Christen groans in her phone.

 

"I'm sorry okay? It's not like I planned on bailing on you, this is just taking more time than I thought..." Tyler grumbles on the other end.

 

"But Channing is with Mom and Dad, I don't know if I can do this on my own..." Christen breathes, bringing her fingers to her forehead where she feels a migraine coming.

 

"Don't stress so much, our baby cousin is an actual angel," her sister reassures her.

 

"I've never babysat on my own-"

 

"You're going to have a great time. Don't worry too much sis," Tyler cuts her off before she can over think. "Listen, I really have to go. Just call or text me if you have any question, I'll have my phone with me."

 

"Okay... I'm not forgiving you for bailing on us though," Christen smirks, hearing her sister's laugh on the other end.

 

"Love you too Chris."

 

With that Tyler hangs up, leaving Christen alone with a six year-old sitting on her lap.

 

"So Tyler's coming?" he asks, putting down his dinosaur toy when he sees Christen pocketing her phone.

 

"She's not buddy, I'm sorry. She hasn't finished what she needed to do today. It's just you and me this time," Christen explains, ruffling his brown hair.

 

"S'okay, I like when we play together," her cousin shrugs. "Do you want to play with my dinosaurs?"  he wonders, hope and excitement filling his eyes.

 

"I'd love too !" Christen grins, tickling the boy before grabbing a plastic dinosaur.

 

Maybe she got this after all.

 

*

 

"Do you want to go outside for a bit Lee?" Christen asks when she notices the boy getting bored of their game.

 

"Yes," he nods excitedly, dropping his toys on the floor.

 

"Do you have something in mind? Like, do you want to go to the park? Or to the beach maybe?" the brunette offers, studying the serious face of her little cousin. She tries not to chuckle or take a picture when he taps his chin, a small frown above his bright eyes.

 

"I know!" he suddenly squeals. "Can we go to the circus please?"

 

"The what now?" It is Christen's turn to frown, but this time in confusion.

 

"Aunt Cycy and Uncle Cody took me last year, and we had loooots of fun," he explains, toying with Christen's sleeve.

 

"I know buddy, but the circus is only here for a day every year. They aren't here every day," Christen smiles sadly at the boy.

 

"Oh I know, it's today. I saw it this morning with my Mom," he answers with a toothy grin.

 

"Okay, let me just check for a second," Christen tells him, grabbing her phone and typing swiftly for a few seconds. "You're right, it is today. Do you really want to go?"

 

"Yes please!"

 

Not resisting her little cousin's puppy eyes Christen looks back at her phone for a few seconds.

 

"There is a show in an hour. We can make it if we go now, grab your shoes bud'."

 

The squeal of excitement which fills the room can only make her laugh out loud.

 

*

 

"That's our seats Char'," Christen tells the boy.

 

She chuckles to herself at the boy's obvious excitement and takes her phone out to take a picture.

 

"Look at me buddy, I'm sending a picture to your Mom and Dad," she says, laughing when her cousin grins as wide as he can for the picture. She smiles down adoringly at the shot as she sends it to her aunt and uncle, recognizing the sparkles that once filled her eyes in her little cousin's.

 

"It's starting Chris!" the boy whispers, finding Christen's hand when the lights get dimmed.

 

Christen watches the show distractedly, more occupied by starring at her little cousin and his hilarious reactions. She recognizes a few numbers, including the rope walker, and the memory of soft brown eyes comes back to her mind. The thought is quickly pushed away as her cousin lets out the smallest squeal when he sees dogs entering the circus ring.

 

Going to the circus is ten times more fun with this one

 

She texts her sisters with a picture of their cousin. She is busy replying to Channing and misses the end of the dogs number as well as the beginning of the next number.

 

When she finally lifts up her eyes she almost lets her phone slips out of her hands.

 

A familiar grin and brown eyes face her from the middle of the circus ring, leaving Christen speechless as the teenage girl takes place on a rope.

 

"It's the same number as earlier but this girl has a soccer ball," Christen's cousin whispers, admiration clear in his voice.

 

Christen does not reply, too mesmerized as the familiar figure walks along the rope, juggling the ball with different parts of her body and doing impressive tricks as well as acrobatics, never once losing her balance or her ball.

 

The brunette does not know for how long she stays with her mouth slightly open, but when two feet finally touch the grown it takes the loud applause from the crowd to pull her out of her trance.

 

She quickly joins the crowd, standing up and clapping as loud as she can while her cousin tries to hit the ground with his feet to make more noise.

 

The acrobat bows a few times, the grin never leaving her face. When she eventually straightens again Christen's breath gets caught in her throat as two brown orbs find hers . She can't tell if she is dreaming or if Tobin is really looking straight at her.

 

She thinks she sees surprise invading the older girl's pupils for a second before her stage face is back. With what Christen thinks is a wink in her direction Tobin turns around and disappears behind the drape to let the following artist enter the circus ring, allowing Christen to breathe again.

 

Christen does not really register the end of the show, old memories playing in her mind as well as Tobin's number. It is her cousin's voice that shakes her out of her thoughts when the light comes back on.

 

"Did you like the circus?" he gently asks, putting his coat to go out.

 

"Yes, what about you?" she asks distractedly in return taking the boy's hand to lead him out of the tent.

 

"I loved it!"

 

Still troubled by what happened, Christen tunes out his voice as he proceeds to tell her everything he liked in every number. When they manage to go outside he tugs on her sleeve, making her look down at his pleading eyes.

 

"Can I get popcorn?"

 

"No I'm sorry buddy, it's almost time for dinner and I'm not sure your parents will be happy if you eat something this late," she smiles apologetically at him. When she feels another tug on her other sleeve she rolls her eyes, mentally preparing for her best mom voice. "I said no Cha- oh!"

Expecting her cousin she is greeted by two bright brown eyes and a goofy smile instead.

 

"Hi," a lazy voice she didn't know she had missed makes her way to her ears and she can't help but smile back.

 

"Hey," she breathes, taking in how much the girl in front of her has changed.

 

Tobin is taller than her now, her brown eyes slightly looking down at hers instead of facing them.  Her face has lost the distinguishing features of childhood, her cheeks thinner and her eyes wiser. The makeup she wore for her number is still on, aging her a bit more too and making her lips glimmer under the sunlight.

 

To Christen's relief she still has the biggest smile on earth and kindness and playfulness still swim behind her light brown irises.

 

"I missed you for the past three years..." Tobin breaks the silence in a murmur, studying Christen as closely as Christen is looking at her.

 

"I'm sorry..." Christen fidgets, biting her lip in guilt. "I actually had reasons for not coming but it doesn't change the fact that I told you I would be there and I wasn't."

 

"It's okay," Tobin smiles, not failing to make Christen's heart rate pick up slightly. "You're here today, it's all that really matters to me."

 

Christen gets lost in the brown pools of adoration looking right back at her and it takes a little squeeze of her hand to make her come back on earth.

 

"Oh, this is my little cousin Charlie," she introduces the boy who seems star struck. "Lee, this is Tobin."

 

"Hey buddy," Tobin kneels to face the boy, offering her hand for him to shake.

 

Christen's cousin silently shakes her hand, his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide, making Tobin and Christen chuckle.

 

"I think he's a little impressed by you, that's why he's shy," Christen explains as she ruffles the boy's hair. "I don't blame him, your number was pretty impressive."

 

A small satisfied smile makes its way on Christen's lips when she sees a light blush appearing on Tobin's cheeks as she scratches the back of her neck nervously.

 

"Thanks," she mumbles shyly.

 

"It showed that you worked hard to get here. It's really great Tobin. I bet your family is really proud of you."

 

"Perry taught me everything I know," Tobin shrugs, avoiding eye contact.

 

"Come on, don't be modest. Just take the compliment, I mean it," Christen smiles gently when Tobin finally looks at her again.

 

"Thank you Christen," the brown-eyed teenager grins back.

 

Christen opens her mouth to continue their conversation when her phone buzzes in her pocket. With an apologetic look to Tobin she checks her notifications, disappointment flashing in her eyes as she reads her texts.

 

"It's Lee's parents, they're on their way back," she explains. "I have to take this little guy  back to his house."

 

"I understand," Tobin nods, a small hint of sadness in her voice. "Well,  I'm happy I could catch you even for a few minutes."

 

"I'm really happy you did too," Christen replies, not thinking twice before opening her arms for Tobin to hug her.

 

Their embrace is short but Christen already wishes she could hug Tobin every day.

 

"Here," she says when they separate, taking her phone out again. "Put your number in. I'll text you, that way you can warn me when you're back in town."

 

Tobin takes her phone with a grin and quickly types her name and number in before giving it back to Christen who smiles as widely as she does.

 

"Say bye buddy," Christen says, picking up her little cousin who simply waves before burying his face in Christen's neck .

 

"I hope I'll see you next year little man," Tobin says, but Christen picks up the real question implied as two brown orbs look directly at her.

 

"I'm sure we'll come back," Christen winks before starting to walk away slowly. "So... I'll talk to you later?" she asks, walking backward.

 

"You better," Tobin chuckles.

 

They smile at each other one last time before Christen turns around to take her cousin home.

 

She grins like an idiot for the whole ride.

 

*

 

Tobin collapses on her bed with a sight of contentment later that night. She hears Ashlyn enters their shared trailer a few minutes later.

 

"We're hitting the road at 7 tomorrow morning," she tells Tobin as she sits on her friend's bed, only getting a groan as a response. "You did great today buddy, I loved the new tricks you added."

 

"Thanks Ash," Tobin says as she checks her phone which has just buzzed.

 

A smile immediately splits her lips as she reads her text. Noticing her friend's grin Ashlyn's curiosity kicks in.

 

"Who is it?"

 

"Someone who also liked the number," Tobin simply answers, rereading the text and smiling even bigger.

 

So... Where did you learn how to juggle a ball like this? Spill you secrets I'm listening.

 

*********

17 years old

 

They text everyday for the entire year.

 

At first it's just a couple of texts during the day. Tobin talking about something funny that happened during a number or Christen complaining about a assignment that she has to finish for the next day or asking how the dogs are going.

 

So it starts gradually, step after step. And, without really realizing how it happened, the first thing Christen does when she wakes up is sending a 'good morning' text to Tobin and the last thing she sees before falling asleep is a 'good night' text from the brown-eyed girl.

 

A few months after their text conversation began Tobin calls her. She doesn't have anything important to say, "I just wanted to hear your voice I guess" she says and Christen's stomach does something weird that makes her wonder  if she's suddenly getting sick.

 

After that they call each other every week, and then every couple of days. Until it's not enough and Tobin asks if they can Skype because "I really want to see you". Christen is getting really concerned about the weird things her stomach is doing.

 

They call each other on Skype every Sunday. No matter how much homework Christen has, or how long practice is taking for Tobin, they find a moment. It can be early in the morning or in the middle of lunch with their families (Christen really got in trouble that time she got caught. Apparently the bathroom wasn't the best place to hide). They always find a moment, even just a couple of minutes is enough.

 

However Christen's favorite is when they call each other late at night. When she has to stifle her laugh in her pillow to be sure her parents won't hear her, when Tobin is whispering softly in the microphone of her headphones because Ashlyn is sleeping and she doesn't want to wake her, when they get really tired but don't want to hang up and eventually fall asleep with their laptops open (Christen loves when Tobin is the first one asleep because it means that she gets to fall asleep to Tobin's soft breathing and cute mumbling). It also means that Christen gets to wake up to Tobin's soft raspy morning voice calling for her or to Tobin's peaceful face, still sleeping soundly.

 

Somewhere  and somehow during all those text conversations, phone calls and Skype calls Tobin becomes her best friend. When she voices it during one of their late night calls Tobin's pixelated tired grin appears on her screen and she knows that something weird is going to happen in her stomach before it actually happens.

 

"You're my best friend too Chris," Tobin responds in a soft breath and the weird feeling in her stomach spreads into every part of her body making her cheeks blush.

 

Christen is really concerned about her health.

 

*

 

"I don't know, Stanford has always been my first choice but now I'm just lost."

 

"It's alright Christen, you've still got time to decide. You have plenty of options! I know it's a lot to take in, but plenty of options is way better than no options at all, don't you think? So take a deep breath and don't stress about it. You'll make the right choice when the time comes."

 

Somehow Tobin's soothing voice makes her panicking brain settle down and the weight on her shoulders feels like it has been lifted.

 

"You're right..." She breathes, chuckling when Tobin winks at the camera.

 

"Aren't I always?" She grins.

 

"Sometimes I wonder why you're my friend," Christen pretends to be annoyed, rolling her eyes at Tobin's comment.

 

"You love me babe, stop trying to deny it," Tobin does a kissy face to the camera, chuckling when Christen's soft laugh rings in her headphones.

 

They have already used the pet name jokingly, but this time hearing it makes the weird feeling come back in Christen's stomach and she quickly changes the subject.

 

"And what about you? Have you thought about it more?" Christen asks, watching as Tobin becomes serious again.

 

"Yeah... I talked with my parents. They are being really understanding, they'll support me whether I choose to go to college or stay with the circus."

 

"That's great news Tobs, I told you they wouldn't be mad if you told them you might have to stop your number for a few years. It's for college Tobin, it's not like you're telling them you want to quit forever."

 

"I know, I just feel like I'm letting them down if I go away," Tobin whispers, looking down at her fidgeting fingers.

 

"I'm sure they don't think like that. They're probably really proud of you for wanting to keep studying even though you have a secure job at the circus."

 

"I told my dad that I'll probably study something related to business and management to help him with the circus and all the paperwork and law stuff. He was really excited," Tobin chuckles at the memory.

 

"I'm so happy for you. I know you haven't decided yet if you really want to do it or not, but I'm really glad you're considering it," Christen breathes, a genuine feeling of pride blossoming in her stomach and throat.

 

"Thanks for saying that Chris," Tobin smiles softy, and even through the pixels Christen drowns for a second in the two pools of love in her eyes. "Actually there's something else as well..."

 

With that the moment is gone and Christen frowns in confusion.

 

"What?"

 

"Someone approached me. A coach. He saw my number and came backstage at the end of the show. Apparently they are looking for a creative player in his team. He saw my footwork and he thinks that I can be this player. And he's willing to take a big risk and offer me a scholarship, even though I haven't played in a team since I was 6," Tobin explains, fidgeting even more furiously than before, her eyes never leaving Christen's face.

 

It takes a hot second for the information to process.

 

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Christen bursts loudly, covering her mouth the very next second waiting to hear if her parents heard her. "Are you fucking kidding me?" she repeats more softly this time.

 

"I don't think I've ever heard you say 'fuck' and honestly it's kinda hurting me," Tobin squints her eyes, trying to figure if she's heard Christen curse before.

 

"Tobin! That's so exciting! Why didn't you tell me before?"

 

"It happened a few days ago," Tobin shrugs. "I wanted to surprise you I guess, and see your reaction."

 

"Wow, I'm so happy for you Tobs. A scholarship? That's crazy!" Christen still can't believe it. "If someone deserves it it's you. You have worked so hard on your studies, even with all of you practices, the shows and always being on the road. You deserve it more than anyone." Christen hears her voice tremble and she realizes that she's getting emotional. So she stops talking, pretending that her keyboard is more interesting than Tobin's face.

 

"Chris..." Tobin breathes.

 

"Anyway, what college team would it be?" Christen cuts her, not wanting the weird feeling to come back in her stomach.

 

"Oh!" Tobin shakes her head, surprise by the change of tone in the conversation. Her grin is back soon enough and Christen is grateful that she's not questioning what just happened. "Well nothing is official yet. The coach still has to talk with his staff and everything. So let's not get too excited just yet..."

 

"Come on Tobin, just tell me already," Christen rolls her eyes once more, knowing that Tobin is just trying to make her lose her patience.

 

"Alright, you should sit down for that."

 

"I'm literally laying down on my bed Tobs..."

 

"I know, come on sit down!" Tobin urges, a devil smile on her lips.

 

"You are so annoying..." Christen sighs but sits down nonetheless  knowing that Tobin will not say anything until she does so. Tobin laughs at Christen's annoyed face and claps at her victory making Christen smile against her own will. "Alright alright, so tell me. Where is this guy coaching?"

 

"You won't believe it," Tobin grins bigger than Christen has ever seen her do (and that's saying something).

 

"Just tell me already," Christen whines.

 

"Stanford."

 

"Fuck."

 

*

 

"I can't believe I'm seeing you in a week."

 

"You're seeing me right now," Tobin jokes, but her eyes tell a different story.

 

"You know what I mean idiot," Christen sighs, her eyelids becoming heavier with the seconds as she starts to slip into slumber.

 

"Yeah," comes a whisper as Christen's eyes close. "I do."

 

*

 

Christen's crying.

 

Her soft sobs drown into her own happy laughter and Tobin's soft neck.

 

"I can't believe you're really here," she whispers into the skin.

 

A small kiss is pressed on the top of her head just before Tobin steps away a little. Just enough to be able to gaze into Christen's eyes without separating their bodies.

 

She brings one hand to Christen's cheek, brushing the few happy tears away with her thumbs while her own watery eyes look at every detail of Christen's face.

 

The brunette weirdly doesn't feel uncomfortable at all by the staring. Firstly because it reminds her of the first time she met Tobin all of those years ago. When back then a strange little girl was staring at her without an ounce of shame showing on her face. Secondly because she's doing the same. Looking at Tobin like it's the first time she's really seeing her. Taking in every detail from the shape of her eyes to the smallest mole near her lips.

 

Christen doesn't know for how long they stay like this, looking at each other while their hands grasp at each other's shirts and skin.

 

It's Tobin's voice that breaks the silence after what could be a year or a second, saying exactly what Christen has been thinking all along.

 

"You're so much more beautiful than on my computer screen."

 

*

 

"Ashlyn has been staying at Ali's trailer lately. You know, the juggler? You've met her this morning?"

 

"Yeah, she's really nice. Are they together?" Christen asks, watching as Tobin put their plates down in the sink leaning on the counter nonchalantly  afterward to face Christen.

 

"I think so... I don't really want to ask though. I think it's a bit complicated. So I'm giving Ash some space, she'll talk to me she's ready," Tobin explains with a shrug and Christen nods drinking the last of her water. "Anyway, she won't be her tonight so if you want to take her bed feel free."

 

"Oh," Christen murmurs, surprising herself when disappointment clearly colors her voice.

 

Today has been perfect for Christen.

 

 She met with Tobin at the crack of dawn, just when the circus was starting to settle down in the city. And they didn't left each other sides for the all day.

 

Tobin showed her around, introducing Christen to her friends and family, showing her everything backstage. During Tobin's daily practice Christen sat and watched in awe as the brown-eyed girl did trick after trick, never losing her balance or losing the ball. Tobin convinced the brunette to try and walk on the rope at the end of her practice (it didn't take much for Christen to cave at Tobin's pleading puppy eyes). After a few tries Christen managed to walk halfway without any help before falling ungracefully into the safety net. She should have felt embarrassed when Tobin burst out laughing, but she knew that the girl would never make fun of her with malice, and so she bowed down at her audience who started clapping furiously, seeing nothing but pride in Tobin's brown eyes.

 

Christen stayed backstage during the whole show, mesmerized by how quickly everything had to be done before a number and the amount of work every employee was doing behind the curtain.

 

She loved watching Tobin in her world. How she was helping everyone get ready, how ten minutes before her number she stepped away and closed her eyes to try and focus, how determined her eyes were right before she stepped on the stage, how tired but satisfied she looked when she stepped out, and how she managed to check on Christen every few minutes in the middle of all this madness.

 

It's when  she realizes that Tobin is looking for her as soon as she steps out of the stage, brown eyes eventually finding green, and when she sees the shift in brown irises when their eyes meet that Christen stops fighting the feeling in her stomach and starts embracing it.

 

When the show is done and Tobin's friends quickly dismissed her, saying that they can take care of cleaning everything up and that she deserves a night off with her friend (Christen catches Ashlyn's wink toward Tobin and the light redness it causes at the base of Tobin's neck), Tobin brings Christen to her trailer. The tour is quick enough, but Christen loves it. She loves being surrounded by Tobin and her world.

 

While Tobin is cooking a quick pasta meal, Christen realizes that their time together is almost over, and she gets choked up. She knows that they are supposed to be together in Stanford in a few months, but it seems to be a life time away. However, like she's reading her thought, Tobin offers her to stay the night so they can spend as much time together before she has to leave once mores. And with the suggestion Christen breathes normally again, knowing that they still have a few hours.

 

Her breath gets caught in her throat again when Tobin says she can take Ashlyn's bed.

 

Christen hadn't realized it, but she'd assumed that they were going to share a bed.

 

"Oh."

 

It's crazy how Tobin seems to read her like an open book.

 

"I mean we can share mine! I just didn't know if you'd be comfortable with that," she says quietly, playing with the aim of her shirt.

 

"I am," Christen answers way to eagerly, and she sees Tobin bite her lip to stop herself from laughing. "Stop it dumbass, I just don't want to be away from you today. That's all we'll get before a long time," she shrugs, her cheeks still a bit red after her outburst.

 

"Yeah, I feel the same," Tobin admits in a whisper, sitting next to Christen and wrapping her arm around her. Christen presses her forehead into Tobin's neck, feeling it vibrate with the next sentence. "Shall we then?"

 

*

 

"Shit, it's almost four already..." Tobin rasps.

 

"Shhh..." Christen whispers in the crook of her neck.

 

They've been talking about everything and anything for several hours. Their limbs and bodies intertwining at some point without them really realizing it or commenting on it.

 

"Maybe we should get some sleep... You're supposed to go to school tomorrow," Tobin breathes in Christen's hair.

 

"And you're supposed to do your number tomorrow," Christen retorts, biting Tobin's shoulder jokingly.

 

"Ouch!" Tobin pretends to be offended, pushing Christen away from her body. "I'm used to get little sleep you're not. I'm concerned about your well being  and all I get for that is a mark of your teeth?" Tobin says, faking indignation as she keeps Christen from snuggling her again.

 

"Tobs..." Christen whines, trying to get Tobin to stop.  "I'm sorry..." she tries again as Tobin brushes her hands away.

 

Tobin suddenly turns around, her back facing Christen.

 

The brunette rolls her eyes at her friend childish behavior, yet a smile makes its way on her lips as she knows her friend playing with her and her patience once again.

 

"Come on Tobs..." She says, sliding closer.

 

She tries to sneak one arm around the girl's firm torso only to be pushed away one more time. However, when she tries again, this time she intertwines her fingers with Tobin as the girl tries to push her away. She feels Tobin stiffens for a short second probably taken aback by that move, but the brown-eyed girl quickly relaxes against Christen's palm and the brunette knows that she's won.

 

So she slides even closer, digging her chin into the crook of Tobin's neck, her lips brushing against the taller girl's ear.

 

"Will you forgive me?"

 

Christen feels the shiver travelling down Tobin's body, the other girl's back arching almost imperceptibly against Christen's front. It takes a moment for Christen to realize what happened. And when she does she almost moans in Tobin's ear, her fingers squeezing Tobin's hand a little harder.

 

Tobin gulps audibly and Christen can feel the atmosphere getting heavier with each second that goes by.

 

After a while Christen can't take it anymore, so she brushes the beginning of Tobin's jaw line with her lips as she whispers:

 

"Am I?"

 

Tobin's physical respond is immediate. Her hips buckle and her ass is pushed against Christen's front.

 

Once again, nobody moves for a few seconds. Their heavy breathings  the only things breaking the now tense silence.

 

However, very slowly, so slow that Christen almost misses it at first, Tobin start to grind back into Christen.

 

When she feels it Christen swallows back a loud moan, afraid that she might break the moment. Instead she slips her fingers out of Tobin's hand and gently lifts the other girl's shirt up. With a shaky breath, she spreads her fingers at the bottom of Tobin's stomach, the tip of her middle finger dipping under the elastic of Tobin's sleeping shirt. When Tobin doesn't push her hand away, Christen starts to follow her grinding, slightly pushing Tobin's stomach to encourage her to rock harder.

 

It feels amazing, having Tobin pressed against her, rocking against her, feeling the slightest sweat on Tobin's skin, hearing Tobin's breath getting shorter and heavier with each movement.

 

Christen loses herself in the moment, eyes fluttering close as her lips press against the back of Tobin's neck. She feels Tobin shiver again, and this time she prolongs it as her nails gently scratch Tobin's stomach.

 

Tobin's hand is back on hers, making Christen open her eyes to check if Tobin wants them to stop. However her eyes flutter close again when she realizes that Tobin is guiding her hand under her sleeping shorts.

 

Christen words are stuck in her throats, a strangled moan the only sound getting out as Tobin guides her closer to what she is craving to touch. When her fingers finally reach out to feel how wet Tobin is, her words are set free.

 

"Fuck, you're so wet."

 

Her words must trigger something  because in a flash Tobin is on top of her in between her parted legs, faces so close that Christen can feel their breaths collide.

 

"I really really want to kiss you," Tobin murmurs, eyes staring at Christen's lips. "I've wanted to for a long time now."

 

In lieu of and answer Christen gently wraps her hand around Tobin's neck and leans in to brush their lips together.

 

It's soft and short and almost prudish compared to what they were doing seconds ago. But it's theirs and Christen loves that. She loves how Tobin grins down at her, her eyes glowing with the glint of love she's seen so many times when seconds before they were drowning in lust. Christen chuckles as well, her hand sliding up from Tobin's neck to brush some of the light brown baby hair off of Tobin's forehead.

 

Tobin leans down again and this time their lips meet for a few seconds, softly moving in synch and Christen wonders why they haven't been doing that all day.

 

When Tobin's tongue gently traces her lips Christen's hips buckle up to meet Tobin's and both girls moan into each other's mouths.

 

"Do you want to slow down?" Tobin rasps in Christen's ear, making her hips buckle again. "I'll take that as a no," Tobin chuckles, checking Christen's eyes nonetheless  to be sure she's not reading the situation wrong. When she sees nothing but lust and need in green eyes she leans in again, nibbling at Christen's neck like she was born to do it.

 

"Do you want to slow down?" Christen manages to ask as Tobin's fingers slide down her stomach, making every hair on her body stand up.

 

Tobin stops her movement once she's cupping the brunette under her panties and has Christen grinding against her hand desperately.

 

"I only have you for tonight love," she whispers, admiring as Christen squirms beneath her. "So no, I don't want to either."

 

With that she enters Christen with her middle finger deliciously slow, her hips grinding down to push even deeper, her breath collapsing against Christen's collarbone before pressing a gentle kiss on burning hot skin.

 

It is then, with her middle finger deep inside Christen, with the brunette's legs wrapped around her hips, with long fingers grasping at her back, that Tobin decides to whisper:

 

"I think I'm in love with you".

 

*

 

The sun has been up for a couple of minutes now. Tobin is expecting Ashlyn to come banging at the door anytime. But there is nothing in the world that could make her move right now.

 

Christen is still lazily kissing her neck and face, humming every few seconds when she feels Tobin rock against her hand as two of her fingers are still buried deep inside the brown-eyed girl.

 

"I think making you come is my new favorite thing to do," Christen mumbles against one of Tobin's breast before taking the nipple in a mouth.

 

"Well no complains here," Tobin chuckles before whining when the vibrations of her laugh make Christen's fingers hit what must be a good spot inside her. "I'm not sure I can go again though... I might need to rest for a bit first," she wrinkles her nose and chuckles again when Christen kisses the tip of it.

 

"I know, I don't think I can either," Christen breathes. "But I can't wait to be in Stanford together in a few months. We'll be able to do that every day."

 

Tobin's eyes fly open, and she's relieved that Christen's face is buried in her neck so she could not catch the panic on her face.

 

"Are you okay? Your heart is beating really fast all of the sudden."

 

Damn it.

 

"Chris I have something to tell you..." Tobin begins carefully.

 

Sitting down she grabs a shirt and puts on her shorts, trying not to cringe when Christen whimpers as their bodies detach.

 

"Shall I be worried?" Christen frowns, obviously confused by the change in Tobin's voice and behavior. "By the way that's my shirt. Looks good on you though" she winks and Tobin has to take a second to remember what she was doing in the first place. "What's up babe? You look like you're about to throw up."

 

"I might not go to Stanford."

 

The silence that follows her sentence is so loud her ears start to buzz.

 

"Pardon?"

 

She hates how broken Christen sounds, hates it so much that she can't bear to look at her.

 

"I might not go to Stanford," she repeats in a whispers, and when Christen doesn't say anything she continues. "I know that I told you I was, but I'm not sure anymore. Pinoe severely broke her leg so we're down a number. And like I told you my sister is pregnant, so soon we'll be down two numbers for at least a few months. They are rumors that Danny might go with another circus and leave us. If I go as well the circus will be down three or maybe four numbers and I don't know if it will be able to survive that. My parents told me that it's fine and that I shouldn't worry about that. But I've heard them talk when they think they're alone. We're having money problems, and they don't know for how long we can keep going. If we keep losing numbers we might not attract as many people. That means even less money and... and well it's over for everyone. I can't let them down. I just can't."

 

Tobin doesn't know when she started crying, but after a while Christen is on her feet and brushing the tears away.

 

"And now I'm letting you down as well," Tobin sobs softly in Christen's embrace.

 

"You're not," Christen whispers in her ear before stepping back to look at her. "It's your life Tobs, you're making the important decisions."

 

"You're not mad?" Tobin whispers lamely, feeling like a scared five years old. She's just afraid she might lose Christen, that frightens her more than anything.

 

"I'm not going to lie, I'm a little disappointed that you didn't tell me anything before. You know you can trust me with everything. So I'm a little hurt that you didn't trust me with these doubts..."

 

"I was just so afraid that you'd get mad and never talk to me again. That you'd think I was lying when I told you I was going to Stanford."

 

"I know you would never lie to me Tobs," Christen squeezes her hips gently, pressing a small kiss on her lips, and Tobin feels like she can breathe again.

 

"I'm sorry," Tobin says against Christen lips, and with another kiss Christen makes her understand that she's forgiven.

 

*

Tobin watches as Christen gathers her things, her friend Kelley already waiting for her at the gate to go to school. Christen throws Tobin's shirt over her head with a wink and Tobin doesn't think her shirt has never looked as good.

 

"I have to tell you something," Christen says once she's done getting ready, sitting down next to Tobin.

 

"I thought we were done with the heavy stuff..." Tobin jokes in a whisper, chuckling when Christen gently punches her shoulder.

 

"It's just that I've been thinking. And obviously we really like each other," she begins.

 

"Well, I love you yeah," Tobin says without hesitation, smiling softly when Christen's cheeks redden.

 

"Yeah yeah yeah... Semantics," Christen rolls her eyes, not used to hear those words. "Anyway, today was great an I wish it could stay like that forever. I wish I could stay with you forever. But I don't think I can do the long distance thing," Christen admits, looking down at her hands. "And I'm not saying that to make you come to Stanford or whatever. Like I said it's your decision and I would never force you to do something you don't want to. It's actually selfish, because I don't think I'll be able to do it. It was already so hard when we were just friends, so I can't imagined what it would be if we were in a relationship..."

 

Tobin takes a second to try and process everything, taking Christen's hand in hers as she starts playing nervously with her fingers.

 

"I'm not sure I understand..."

 

"What I'm saying is... I think we should just stay friends while we're away from each other. Because it would hurt too much to be far away from you knowing what it feels like to have you. But I'll wait for you, for as long as it takes. I'll wait. Because I know that sooner or later we'll be together. I don't care how long it takes, or what it takes. So yeah, I'm willing to wait, and I think it's the best thing to do."

 

"Okay," is all Tobin says. "We'll wait."

 

With that Christen stands up, leaning for a soft kiss before heading to the door.

 

"Oh by the way Tobs," Christens grins, making Tobin forgets about everything else but this moment. "I think I'm in love with you too."

 

Her trailer door is closed and she's left wondering when they will see each other again.

 

****

 

18 years old

 

Christen is wandering freely on the campus. She's been here for a few days and she already feels at home.

 

Her roommate, Julie, is one of the sweetest people she's met and they are becoming fast friends. Most of the neighbors she's seen in the corridors seem nice and polite, and she guesses that with Becky as a supervisor they won't have a lot of troubles on their floor.

 

Classes start tomorrow and she's enjoying her last day of freedom.

 

She spots people gathering around on the grass and decides to check what the fuzz is about.

 

A guy is walking on rope tied between two trees, while everyone is clapping and cheering for the acrobat Christen's first reflex is to take out her phone.

 

This guy could take your job... You better up your game Heath

 

The past few months have been hard for them. Christen never asked about Stanford again, letting Tobin make her choice. And when Tobin didn't bring the subject on the table either she understood that Tobin was choosing her family and postponing her college days. So it's been hard, but they've managed to keep their friendship intact and even though it is not what it once was, Christen wouldn't change it for the world.

 

So maybe she catches Tobin looking longingly at her, maybe they always end their calls with an "I love you", maybe she drunk texted Tobin suggesting that they could try phone sex (she's so grateful that Tobin only laughed about it the next day and didn't embarrass her any further), maybe she gets a little jealous when Tobin starts talking about the new girl joining the crew, maybe she notices how Tobin almost rolls her eyes every time she mentions her ex, maybe she wishes more than anything that Tobin was here with her. But for now it's all that they have, and Christen is determined to make it work.

 

Christen pockets her phone and focuses back on the acrobat. His tricks are good but not as good as some she's seen Tobin do. However after a few tricks Christen is surprised by one that looks particularly hard to executes.

 

"That was sick..." she whispers to herself.

 

A gentle tap on her shoulder and a light cough make her jump slightly and turn around. Suddenly she drowns herself in the familiar hazel pools looking right back at her and even after all these months her stomach does that weird thing again.

 

A whisper and a grin take her back to all those years ago and the hair on her arms rise as a warm hand grabs her.

 

"I can do it better."