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I Thought it Could Be Us (I Knew Better)

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Alex is elated . Overjoyed, ecstatic, amazed, whatever word you want to use. That’s Alex. This moment is so special. There’s been so many great moments in her career, but this one...the only word she can think of is special

The celebrations are incredible. She wraps up in a flag with Kelley and she runs towards the fans with Kelley and she kisses the trophy with Kelley. 

She does other stuff, with other people, too. But her favorite parts are the ones with Kelley. 

And she wants another picture of the moment, another shot of her and Kelley. Maybe they’ll kiss the trophy, just the two of them, or Kelley will leap into her arms again, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. As long as it’s with Kelley. 

She turns to the rest of the group, and calls for her. “Kelley!” She looks around and she can feel her smile fall and a cold settling in her chest. She doesn’t even know why. (Yet.) “Kelley!” She yells again, scanning for her. 

Alex wants to tell her the truth, finally. In all the excitement, she almost forgot, but now she remembers and she wants to tell Kelley.

She still hasn’t found Kelley but the words are already on the tip of her tongue. 

Serv and I are getting divorced. 

She waited until after the World Cup to tell her, to tell anyone. She didn’t want anyone distracting themselves with comforting her or supporting her. She’s fine. It’s been over for awhile anyway. 

But now she wants to tell Kelley. 

She needs to tell Kelley.  

So she’s looking, scanning the crowd and scanning through her teammates and yelling KELLEY

And then she sees her. 

Kelley is smiling and she’s bouncing and she has love in her eyes. And it isn’t directed at Alex. 

Kelley is jogging over to the stands, and Alex starts to follow. She’s jogging after Kelley and speeding up and catching up to her and she’s about to yell her name again when she stops. Because Kelley is scrambling up the wall, jumping and then doing a pull up to get to the family section. She’s looking around and then she spots her girlfriend, and her girlfriend gets up and starts to walk over. And then Kelley is kissing her girlfriend. 

Her girlfriend.

Right. Alex knew about that. This isn’t news. 

It shouldn’t feel like this. This shock, this pain, this coldness in her chest. She shouldn’t be surprised, she isn’t surprised. She knew about this. 

But she was so caught up, so in the moment , that she forgot. She let herself believe, for just a moment, that it was her and Kelley . That it ever could be.

But it isn’t her and Kelley . And it never will be.

Alex can’t think. She doesn’t have the time to think or react or anything . She glances to see Serv and she sighs. Because he’s here. 

After all the shit they’ve gone through, he is here. 

They’ve already decided to get divorced. At this point they’re just settling finances, waiting for the paperwork to go through and the numbers to get crunched. 

But he’s here. 

-

“You don’t have to go.” 

“I know.” 

“We’re getting divorced.”

Servando scoffed and rolled his eyes. “I know, Alex.”

“So why are you going?”

“I still care about you.” 

“Oh.”

“And it’ll look bad if I don’t.”

“Okay.”

“But I still care about you, Alex.”

-

He was a good guy. Not the best husband, but a good guy. They’re just different people. 

They met young and they fell in love fast and then she got famous, and Serv was one of the few people in her life that new her before she was The Alex Morgan . And he was safe. And it was easy. 

He wasn’t great, but he was okay. And it was okay. 

-

She thought it would be better once they were married, so she married him, but it wasn’t. 

So she thought it would better if they lived together, so she moved to Orlando, but it wasn’t. 

So she left for France. And she played in Lyon, and it was easy to blame their problems on time zone differences and distance and missed calls and overlapping schedules. 

-

“You don’t get to blame this—this mess that our relationship has become, on the distance and the time zones and all that shit. You left, Alex. Things were hard between us, and you ran.”

Alex was shocked, staring at the dark, grainy image of Servando through her phone screen. “I didn’t—it was for soccer, for my career, I—”

“God, Al,” he shook his head. “Don’t even try. You think I believe that? Really?”

“I—”

“Come home, Alex. I miss you.”

-

So she gets back to Orlando, and in September, she declines the option to go back to Lyon for 2018. 

-

“I’m trying, Serv.” 

“Me too.”

“Why is it so hard?”

“I don’t know.”

-

And in December, Servando is dropped by Orlando. 

-

“Maybe it’s time to retire.”

“You don’t get to tell me that.”

“I’m just saying, I—”

“Maybe you should retire.”

“I’m playing the best soccer of my career.”

“And what, I suck? You think I suck? You think I’m— what, what is it, a bench warmer? Dead weight on the team?”

“I didn’t say that. Don’t put words in my mouth.”

“You don’t have to say it, Alex, everyone else already is. I thought you’d be on my side. You’re my wife. Of all people, you should be on my side.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about soccer anymore.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about anything, anymore.”

-

He leaves. Stays with a friend. Alex tries to text him, call him, go see him, he doesn’t answer. 

She can’t blame him. 

When he gets signed by LAFC, she finds out through a tweet. 

She calls. 

He finally answers. 

-

“You’ll do great in LA. I love you.”

“Maybe you can come out here, one day. Maybe we can get them to add a new team for you, again.”

She laughed. 

He laughed with her. 

-

So they do long distance. And she tries really hard. And so does he. 

And her club play is not so great. 

-

“When you’re long distance like this, either your job or your marriage suffers. And my marriage is great.”

Servando sent her a link to that interview later that night, along with a text saying, Great, huh?

She responded, I'm trying, Serv. 

I know. It’s working. I love you. 

I love you. 

And it was working. Great , was maybe pushing it, but it was working. 

-

And things are okay. Just okay. 

They’re apart, and she’s trying, and he’s trying, but it’s so much work , so much hard work

And it doesn’t feel worth it anymore. 

And all of this just okay isn’t enough, anymore. And Alex ends it. 

-

“You’re making a mistake. You’re— what the hell do you think you’re doing, Alex?”

“I know, Serv. It’s hard, but we—we clash. We were young when we fell in love and we didn’t know who we were yet. And you—you were easy. Easy to like, easy to love. And then things weren’t easy anymore.”

“Relationships take work.”

“Of course they do, but love shouldn’t.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“I shouldn’t wake up in the morning and struggle to convince myself that I still love you.”

“I—”

“I can’t do it anymore, Serv. I’m sorry.”

“I still love you, Alex.”

“I’m sorry.”

-

But ultimately, he understood. 

He posts about her for Valentine’s Day, and she posts about him. 

Their relationship is public, they’re public figures. It’s just to keep up appearances. 

(She hopes that’s all it is, for his sake. She feels bad.)

(He loves her. He’ll always love her.)

(Sometimes love isn’t enough.)

-

But he’s here . In France. He took a ridiculously long flight right after a game to come here. For her. 

And Kelley is over there, kissing that girl that Alex knows isn’t as pretty as her. 

And so she goes to Serv. He has a half smile, and he’s in a 13 jersey, and he sees her getting up on a chair and he reaches out for her. 

And they kiss. 

And it feels like 2015. And like everything might be okay. 

But they’re all but officially divorced and it’s not okay. None of this is okay. 

And he pulls away, too fast, and she balls her hand in the collar of the jersey and pulls him close. She hides her face in his neck for a moment, and he is strong, and sweet, and warm. 

And she can feel the tears coming. 

They’d be easy to pass off as happy tears. She just won a World Cup. 

But she’s going through a divorce, and she loves Kelley, and Kelley loves her girlfriend. And Servando, a good man , is here. For her. (Pulling away from her.)

“Sorry, for the kiss,” she says as quietly as she can.

He laughs easily. 

“Thank you for coming. For being here. I’m sorry for everything.”

He laughs again and pulls away, then grins. “You deserve the world, Alex.” He kisses her forehead, then stands up. “Get outta here.” 

He’s smiling and it’s warm and radiant and all Alex can think of is how much Kelley is probably smiling right now. 

“Go party like you’re a world champion. Because you are.” 

She laughs and holds his gaze, standing there, doing her best to not look to her left. 

“Just don’t get kicked out of Disneyland again, okay?” 

She laughs, and it’s loud, and genuine, and it feels good. “I don’t know the Paris SWAT Team, so—”

“Exactly.” He smiles and he reaches out to brush some hair from Alex’s face. “Go party.”

“Are you coming to the after party?”

“Do you want me there?”

She can't help it. She looks to the left. Kelley is so wrapped up in her girlfriend that it makes her heart physically ache. 

“Yes.”

“Then I’m there.”

-

And he’s there. He makes his appearance and he shakes hands and he hugs Alex in front of people. 

He makes it look like they’re happy together. 

He’s a good man. 

He leaves a little early, kissing Alex on the forehead, and Alex doesn’t know if he’s going to his hotel room or just a different bar. One where he doesn’t have to pretend anymore. 

Where he doesn’t have to hold and kiss the woman who doesn’t love him anymore. 

(Alex feels bad. Because he’s a good guy.)

-

Alex was already drunk when they got to the after party. 

She drank glass after glass of champagne and bottle after bottle of beer and the stuff that she didn’t actually make it into her mouth probably was absorbed through her skin anyway. 

-

At one point in the locker room, she starts recording for her instagram story. She’s dancing and pointing at people and then she sees Kelley. 

She starts dancing until she’s backing into Kelley and Kelley is laughing, loudly, in her ear. 

Alex loves that laugh. 

Kelley is here. And Kelley’s girlfriend isn’t. 

And Alex is gonna party hard

-

So she’s already pretty drunk. And she’s been dancing a lot and drinking a lot and having a lot of fun. Because she’s a World Cup champion. 

But now she’s at the after party and Serv isn’t here to pull her away and people are still shoving drinks in her hand. 

And she’s drinking them. Because it’s making her loose and happy and fun and it helps keep her thoughts away from Kelley. 

But then she finds the night winding down and she’s starting to feel a little tired. And when she drinks and then she starts getting tired, she gets cuddly. 

Servando isn’t here, and it wouldn’t be fair to him anyway, and she doesn’t really want to cuddle with him anyway. 

She thinks about Kelley. 

Kelley, who’s warm and soft and who holds her when she drinks and tucks hair behind her ear. Kelley, whose arms are solid and supportive and loving. Kelley, who’s busy kissing her girlfriend. 

Alex stops abruptly when her mind finally registers the sight in front of her. 

She knows they’ve been dating for awhile now, she saw them kissing at the game, it only makes sense they’re kissing here. They’re holding each other here. 

It’s dark and the night is winding down and people are starting to leave. It would be fine if she left. 

But she can’t tear her eyes away. 

Kelley’s girlfriend is wrapped up in Kelley’s arms, with Kelley’s lips on her neck — Where I should be. That’s where I should be. 

Alex feels her face start to burn and she stumbles in her attempt to get away. (As far away as possible.)

Alyssa steadies her and laughs because Alex looks like she’s about to throw up. “Easy there, Alex,” she says, laughing again, and Alex does her best to smile, but she knows it’s a sorry attempt. 

Everyone assumes it’s from the countless drinks the entire team is being served, but Alex felt fine two minutes ago. 

Alex is nauseous, and she’s pretty sure she’s about to throw up, and she’s pretty sure it’s not because of the alcohol. 

She’s pretty sure that it’s because she just watched the woman she’s in love with kissing, embracing, loving someone else.

-

Alex decides to leave. 

She stumbles her way outside and the cold air hits her hard. Too hard. Suddenly she’s doubled over as she empties her stomach into the dark alley. She doesn’t know when she starts crying and she isn’t sure where the tears from the burning in her throat ends and the ache in her heart begins. 

A pair of hands start rubbing soothing circles into her back, but she knows they aren’t the hands she wants pressed against her. (The hands she needs .) 

“It’s okay, Al, I’ve got you,” Tobin says softly. She pulls Alex’s hair out of her face and does her best to console Alex as she breaks down in front of her. “Come on, let’s walk.”

They walk in silence for a couple of minutes. Alex starts to shake more from the cold than from being sick and Tobin shrugs off her jacket to drape over Alex’s shoulders. 

“Are you ready to talk?” Tobin asks after Alex finally chooses a bench to sit at. 

Alex sighs and looks down at her lap. Her hands are still shaking and she feels like she can’t breathe. “Today was supposed to be amazing.”

Tobin tilts her head. “Supposed to be?”

“Serv and I are done,” Alex whispers. 

Tobin tenses next to her. “What did he do to you? I can’t believe he’d pull this shit, on today of all days—” she says angrily, rising from the bench. 

“Wait,” Alex stops her, grabbing her arm. “It’s not that. We’ve been over for a long time,” she admits. 

Tobin slowly sits back down and Alex can see the confusion on the face of one of her best friends. 

“It’s Kelley,” she finally says, her voice breaking.

“What about Kelley?”

“I—” Alex shakes her head. “It’s not, it isn’t fair to— no, I can’t.”

“Lex, I’m gonna need you to complete some sentences if you want me to understand.”

Lex . No one else calls Alex that. 

Alex leans into Tobin, resting her head on Tobin’s shoulder and Tobin wraps her arm around Alex’s waist. 

“I miss you, Tobin. I miss how close we were.”

“We’re still close.”

“Not like we were.”

Tobin doesn’t know how to respond, so she doesn’t. 

“I left Portland to fix a marriage beyond repair. I left you.”

Alex can feel Tobin start to squirm, unsure of what to say, how to address the situation. 

Because Alex did leave Portland for Servando. Left her best friend for Servando. 

And, well, look at how well things went with Servando.

“I’m sorry, this isn’t about us. I just—” Alex stops, looking down at the sidewalk. “I love Kelley.”

“We all do.” 

“No, I—” she looks up at Tobin, and Tobin can see the pain on her face and the tears welling in her eyes. “I’m in love with her.” 

“You—”

“Yeah.” She looks away again as Tobin tries to process it. 

“Why—uh, I mean,” Tobin shakes her head. “When? Did something happen?”

“Never explicitly. I mean, nothing — nothing ever happened.”

“Lex—”

“Not—” Alex shakes her head and looks around as she hears a camera shutter sound. “Not here.”

Tobin nods, tugging on Alex’s hand and starting the walk back to the hotel. 

She gets Alex into her hotel room and helps her change into something that doesn’t have alcohol spilled all over it. 

“Tobin, you—” she cuts herself off, silently kicking herself for not saying anything earlier. “You have a girlfriend you should be celebrating with.”

Tobin just grins. “You need me, it’ll be okay. Chris gets it.”

Of course she does , Alex thinks, before she can help herself. Christen is perfect .

“We won a World Cup,” Alex says after a few moments of silence.

Tobin walks back over to the bed with a glass of water and sets it on the side table. “We did.”

“Again.”

Tobin laughs, getting up on the bed next to Alex. “Again.”

“I’m drunk.”

Tobin laughs again. “Me too.” She adjusts on the bed, helping Alex under the blanket. “Now, do you wanna tell me what’s up with Kelley?”

So Alex tells her.

-

Kelley was always something special to Alex. 

Kelley was something special in general. Special to everyone.

But especially to Alex.

-

From losses to wins to three months together in California to years with hardly seeing each other to being best friends to falling in love.

Well, Alex falling in love.

She isn’t sure when it happened.

You could ask, and she would scour her mind and search her thoughts and agonize over it forever. 

Maybe it was when they lost the 2011 World Cup together.

Or won the 2012 Olympics.

Maybe it was when they dressed like idiots in their best, typical, England get-up and paraded around the city after the tournament, with gold medals around their necks.

Or during the gold medal ceremony, when Kelley buried her face in Alex’s neck, and kissed her neck, and it was soft and tender and Alex couldn’t stop feeling the ghost of Kelley’s lips against her neck for weeks.

Maybe it was when they lived together for three months in California back in 2012.

Or they went years where they could only see each other in national team camps. 

Maybe it was when Kelley showed up to her wedding on December 31st, 2014, and said “Alex, I’m so happy for you. I’m so happy that you’re happy. You deserve to be happy. All I want is for you to be happy.” She showed up with her girlfriend but she met Alex privately before the ceremony. No girlfriend in sight. She said those things and her voice cracked and her eyes looked bloodshot, almost like she’d been crying, and she shook her head and wiped a tear and left before Alex could ask any questions.

Or after Kelley left, and Alex knew that if she had said “run away with me, just you and I, forever,” she would have said yes.

Maybe it was when part of the team went out on a speedboat before their send off for the World Cup, and they took photos together, and Kelley was touchy and flirty and confusing for Alex. And they took pictures where Kelley slid her hand underneath Alex’s jacket to wrap her arm around her waist, to hold her a little closer. 

Or when Alex looked back at those pictures, and knew they were the happiest she’d felt in a long time.

Maybe it was when they won the World Cup in 2015. And Kelley reached over, tugging on Alex’s medal until Alex was looking at her, and she kissed it. And then she looked up at Alex, and she smiled.

Or when during that same celebration, Kelley buried her face in Alex’s neck, and kissed her, and it felt like 2012 again.

Maybe it was when Alex moved to Orlando, to try and save her marriage, and Kelley didn’t text her back for a whole month.

Or when they played against each other that season, and Alex took a nasty hit, and Kelley ran over and checked on her, even before her own teammates did. Kelley said “don’t scare me like that, Al,” and Alex smiled because Kelley looked so serious, so genuine. And she liked Kelley worrying about her.

Maybe it was at Rio in 2016, and the whole team sang happy birthday to Alex, and Kelley gave her a little shove and they laughed and laughed and the spot where Kelley had touched her felt like electricity was coursing between them.

Or when they recreated that picture where they jumped in the air from London 2012, and it was Kelley’s idea, because “I want us to remember how incredible that tournament was for us.” And Alex does remember how incredible. And sometimes, when things are hard with Serv, she still feels the ghost of Kelley’s lips against her neck.

Maybe it was when they were playing a game during the Olympics, and Alex scored, and she was celebrating as she ran back to the center of the field, and Kelley tugged on the back of her jersey, then wrapped her arm around her shoulders, and said “God, I’m so proud of you, Alex.”

Or when they went on what was, essentially, double dates with Allie and Bati, and they shared meals and ice cream and coffees, and they almost felt like a couple.

Maybe it was when they lost to Sweden, abysmally early in the tournament, and they cried together all night. 

Or the next morning, when Alex woke up to coffees for the both of them from Kelley, and not the shitty coffee from the lobby, the one from the place down the street that they claimed as their place at the beginning of the tournament. And Kelley said “last night was,” and she paused, and she shook her head. “Unfathomable. I’m just glad you’re here with me for it.”

Maybe it was when she left for Lyon, and Kelley texted her, saying Should I go to France for the season? I don’t know that I can spend that many months away from you. And Alex texted back, You can do it. I’ll miss you, though. And Kelley said, I’ll miss you more.

Or when she won the Champions League final, and she came back to the locker room with a dozen missed calls from Kelley and five times as many texts about how amazing she is. And there was one text from Serv that said, Congrats.

Maybe it was when she got back, and they went to the beach with Allie and Bati, and Kelley gave her a piggyback ride, and a random stranger took a bunch of pictures for them.

Or when she looked at those pictures, late at night, and she felt the ghost of Kelley’s lips or Kelley’s hands or just Kelley in general. 

Maybe it was when they did the facebook live interview together, and they looked back on their time together, and Kelley called those three months sharing an apartment in California, the best three months of my life

Or when they got matching necklaces, and never took them off.

Maybe it was when Kelley was riddled with injuries, and started to doubt her ability to come back and her ability to make the World Cup roster the next year and her ability to do, well, most things. And she leaned on Alex. And Alex gave her the support she needed.

Or when Alex went on an unreal run of scoring goals for the national team, and after each game that Kelley couldn’t come to, she texted her That was for you.

Maybe it was when the roster, finally, came out for the World Cup this year. And they both called each other first thing. And they both gushed about how proud they were of the other.

Or when they went to New York for their send off, and they squeezed into the same chair for the bus ride and sang at the top of their lungs.

Maybe it was when Kelley was all over her at every event.

Or when everytime Kelley touched her, Alex tried to commit how it felt to memory.

Maybe it was when they started a clothing line together.

Or when halfway through their long flight to France, Kelley went over to check on Alex, because “I missed you. Can I sit here? Just for a little while.”

Maybe it was when they scored the first goal of the World Cup together.

Or when they celebrated that goal together. 

Or when they cheered each other on every step of the way.

Or when they recreated old photos together.

Or when they took new ones they’ll recreate in four years.

Or when they roamed the streets of France, planning what they’d do if they came back for a vacation, together.

Or when Kelley jumped into her arms after they beat France. 

Or when they beat England.

Or when they beat the Netherlands.

Or when they won the whole damn thing, together, and broke a bunch of records along the way. 

Or, or, or...Alex could go on forever.

-

“So,” Alex continues, out of breath, draining the cup of water and drying a tear as she explains to Tobin. She laughs in spite of herself and shakes her head. “As you can see, I don’t really know when I fell in love with her. All I know is that somewhere along the way, I fell in love. And now it’s too late.”

Tobin sits there for a moment, not sure what to say. She hugs Alex a little tighter and Alex leans into it. “What are you doing about the divorce, then?”

“The divorce is for me, not for Kelley. I didn’t,” she pauses. “I didn’t end things for Kelley. I did it for me.” She shakes her head before leaning back against the headboard, looking up at the ceiling of the hotel room. “But still.”

Tobin nods and stands from the bed. She helps Alex get tucked in and situated, ensuring the medal around her neck is in the least likely position to choke her. “You should sleep.” Tobin brushes some hair from her face and then smiles a half-smile. “Hopefully you’ll feel better in the morning.”

“What if I don’t?” Alex asks softly, like she’s afraid of the words she’s saying. “What if I love her forever?”

“You might,” Tobin admits with a shrug. “But you’re strong, you can get through this.”

“I’m gonna love her forever,” Alex says, staring at the ceiling again. “I’ll be in love with her forever and it’s too late. I was too late.”

Tobin reaches out to take Alex’s hand and squeezes softly. “You’ll be okay, Al. Even if you do love her forever, you’ll be okay. Say it.”

“I’ll be okay.”

“No matter what?”

“No matter what.”

“And you’re a world champion.”

“I’m a world champion.”

Tobin smiles. “Goodnight, Lex.”

“Goodnight.”

Alex waits until she hears the door latch to turn on her side and pull the medal up to her face. She kisses it. She pretends the gold is Kelley’s lips.

She feels a tear run down her cheek, then two, then three, then too many to count and she’s sobbing. 

If she squeezes her eyes shut, she can feel Kelley’s hand on her side, her grip on her thigh, her lips across her neck. 

She cries harder.

She kisses the medal.

“I’m a world champion,” she whispers into the smooth gold back. 

She kisses it again. 

“And I love Kelley.”

And she kisses it again. 

“And Kelley will never love me.”

She kisses it one last time as she can feel the fatigue from the game and the dancing and the heartache settling in.

“And I am not okay,” she whispers, her lips still pressed to the medal. “I am a world champion, for the second time, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay again.”