She knows she should be having the time of her life. She’s scoring goal after goal, slowly making a name for herself in the Swedish football league (and the world).
She knows she should be happy and she is most of the time. She is a top scorer playing the game she loves, she has a great boyfriend, and a family who loves her. But, it's nights like these that have her imagining what it would be like if she didn’t decide to move to a whole different country.
The fact is Pernille Harder knows what it is like to feel lonely. She knows what it’s like to come home from a long training or game to an empty apartment. She knows what it’s like to long for love on a day to day basis from those she cares about most. Her family lives in a completely different country and so does her boyfriend so it’s no surprise that she feels this way, she just didn’t expect it would hit her so hard.
Sure she has a few friends on the team, but none that have really become relationships she could see lasting forever, whether it be after moving on from the team or from sport in general.
But then there’s football. Pernille loves football. When she’s not playing it she longs to be playing it. And she has given up so much for it. All the long days training haven’t been for nothing. She made her senior National Team debut for Denmark at the age of 16, scoring three goals, and she hasn’t stopped since. It’s what she was born to do, she knows it. And there’s nothing like the feeling of hearing her name on the loudspeaker, whether it’s during the starting lineup or after she scores a goal. There’s nothing like the feeling of the ball at her feet, putting on a move to pass a defender. There’s nothing like the feeling of the perfect strike on the ball, soaring past the keeper into the back of the net. There’s nothing like football.
Pernille Harder, best women’s footballer in the world. She’s modest, but not modest enough to not admit that the best is what she’s working towards and she’s also not shy to admit that she does believe she can get there someday. And that is why she makes these sacrifices, that includes being a little lonely sometimes.
It’s the beginning of a new season and that means new signings for Linköping. She heard that they have a few new players coming in that should be great additions to the team, hopefully helping them rise in the Damallsvenskan. There are a few girls from various positions joining the team, however Pernille is informed that there is a new young defender that is being brought in and is told that she is very promising.
Today is the first preseason practice and Pernille is buzzing with excitement. Usually she loves going to practice because, duh football, but today is the first day everyone gets to meet the new signings and Pernille is over the moon.
On the drive over to the field, Pernille feels grateful for another season she gets to play football. It’s easy to forget how just one second could end her dream and how fortunate it is that she has these great opportunities, especially as a woman. During the preseason, especially when your whole body aches and you can barely make it up the stairs after training, it’s easy to take for granted the little things. And yes maybe she is a little lonely at times but this is her dream and she’s damn well going to chase it.
Emotions aside, she’s ready for the new season and can’t wait to meet the new players. She has a feeling in the back of her mind that these new players are going to be the people she has been waiting for. Maybe she’ll finally find “her people.”
She walks into an empty locker room and it’s no surprise she’s one of the first ones in the locker room before practice, in fact the only one. She was getting antsy in her apartment so she decided to just go ahead and get to practice a few minutes earlier than they were expected to.
She walks in the locker room and quickly changes into her training gear and then heads over to the mirror. She swiftly puts up her bright blonde hair into a pony and looks into the mirror, her sharp blue eyes staring back at her.
“You got this Pernille.” She says seriously, alluding to the upcoming season, hoping to hype herself up. Quickly the seriousness fades and her somewhat dorky personality shines through as she winks at herself and holds up finger guns to the mirror.
“Yeah, I’m sure you got this. I wouldn’t mess with you, finger guns and all.” Pernille suddenly hears from behind her, followed by a laugh that she finds herself wanting to hear again for some reason. She spins around and is faced with a pretty girl whose blonde hair is pulled up into a messy bun and she’s wearing a Linköpings training jacket. She seems familiar but Pernille doesn’t quite recognize her.
“Sorry I didn’t realize anyone else was in here yet.” Pernille replies, one who doesn’t often get embarrassed, finds her face reddening.
“Ha, I don’t mind. I like a good pep talk myself, keeps me going.” The girl offers back. “I’m Magdalena Eriksson by the way.” Ah right the prominent new young defender. That’s why she seemed so familiar. Obviously she is one of the newbies, Pernille should have known some of them would show up early. But, whatever embarrassment she felt moments before fades away as Magdalena’s friendly banter fits right in with Pernilles personality and she begins to think this might be just the beginning of their friendship.
“Right of course. Welcome to the team!” Pernille shoots back. “I’m Pernille Harder.”
“Nice to meet you Pernille.” Magdalena replies. “I honestly didn’t think anyone else would be here this early or else I wouldn’t have snuck up on you.” She says laughing.
“Nah it’s okay, I was just too excited to start the season and wasn’t in the mood to sit around my apartment so I came here.” Pernille explains. “How are you liking Linköping so far?”
“Same here! But my reasons may have been a bit different. I’m a little nervous to start, but really excited as well!” Magdalena responds. “But anyways to answer your question, I love it here! It’s a great city and I’m super pumped to explore it more! Maybe you could show me around.”
Pernille is about to respond when a rush of girls come into the locker room, bringing a loud onset of conversations and eventual blaring music. Typical locker room behavior, oh how happy Pernille is to be back.
“Well we better get ready.” Magdalena eventually says after a few moments of observing their teammates. “It was really nice to meet you and you gave me hope that making new friends won’t be that hard.” Pernille can’t help the smile that spreads across her face. She was right, maybe she will find her people this season. Magdalena begins to walk away, but turns around for a moment.
“Oh and let me know if you ever need a pep talk from someone else. I’ll be glad to fill in for the mirror.”
Pernille just laughs and shakes her head. This is going to be a great season, she thinks.
“Well looks like you're not the only one who just got dumped.” Magda huffs out as she walks through Pernilles apartment door unannounced and plops onto the couch beside her.
They are now several months into the season and this has become a regular occurrence. Magda will show up and walk straight into Pernilles apartment and vice versa, like best friends. And Pernille supposes they are.
This no knock habit they have seemed to develop and their increasing comfort around each other has led to some… let’s say, interesting scenarios. For example last week both of them have accidentally walked in on each other half naked in their respective apartments. This is usually somewhat normal for two footballers as in locker rooms they often find themselves in similar situations, but these instances have been different, and Pernilles not sure she’s ready to address these new found feelings just yet, so yes let’s stick with best friends.
After that first run-in in the locker room, Magdalena informed her that her friends call her “Magda” and ever since then they started hanging out pretty often outside of football. And soon enough they began finding reasons to be together more hours than not and have now basically been spending all of their free time together. So yeah I guess that makes them best friends.
Pernille and her boyfriend had just broken and naturally Pernille has talked about it with Magda and this must be what she’s alluding to.
“I didn’t get dumped,” Pernille responds matter of factly, rolling her eyes a bit. “You know we both decided it was the right thing to do and it wasn’t messy, we’re still friends.”
“Yeah but it would help me if we were both dumped and we could go through this together.” Magda explains, a pout forming on her lips.
Pernille and Magda were both in their respective long distance relationships for quite awhile and she knows they both have been having problems. They talk about everything and their relationships aren’t excluded.
Pernille and her boyfriend both agreed a few weeks ago that it would be better for them both to have a clean break and remain friends. It was hard but they haven’t really been on the same page for awhile and better to do it sooner rather than later before things started to escalate. They’re now on friendly terms and she thinks he still talks to her family which is good, it’s what she wanted a nice breakup, even if that is a bit of an oxymoron.
On the other hand, Pernille was under the impression that Magda and her girlfriend were doing great. Last time they talked about it things were taking a turn for the better, but something must have changed.
“Ah Magda what happened?” Pernille asks concerned. “I thought things were going better.”
“I thought they were, she didn’t.” She announces. “But I mean we haven’t been like we used to be for a long time so it’s for the best, it just sucks.” Magda pauses for a second before she continues, like she’s trying to take it all in.
“But, I don’t want to talk about it anymore because clearly I’m over it.” She continues sarcastically. Pernille knows Magda well enough by now and knows she is hurting more than she is leading on, but for lack of better words in this moment Pernille opts to lean over and wrap her arms around Magda, giving her an embrace. Magda eventually leans in and they stay in this position for a few moments until Pernille pulls away and breaks the silence.
“I know just what two losers like us need.” Pernille hints with a smirk. “Ice cream and a little Mario Kart always does the trick.” Because yes two grown women can still play Wii and have a damn good fun time too.
Pernille stands up and immediately heads towards the kitchen for a tub of chocolate ice cream and two spoons. She brings the offering back to the couch and holds it out for Magda.
It’s never a good feeling after a breakup. All miserable and lonely, even if it’s for the best. But, there’s no other person Pernille would want to be going through this with this because if this year has taught her anything she has come to find that Magda is one of her people and she’s starting to think she doesn’t ever want that to change.
After they both devour the ice cream, Magda and Pernille begin what is bound to be a few rounds of intense rivalry. Something that Pernille has come to find out about Magda is that she is fiercely competitive. Whether it’s a game of cards, a board game, or of course football, she is extremely competitive. Pernille has been on the wrong side of her competitiveness more times than she can count and she won’t lie about the numerous “fights” they have had from even the silliest of games.
Tonight is no different. They settle in for a few races of Mario Kart and right off the bat some intense language is being used, however all in good fun. They both spend the remaining hours of the night grins on their faces, enjoying each other’s company, ex-partners forgotten.
And when it’s getting late and they shut off the TV, they spend hours just talking about anything and everything. They talk about their lives growing up, they talk about their favorite foods, hobbies, holiday spots, and of course they talk about football. Conversation has always come naturally between them and tonight is no different.
When her eyes begin to feel heavy and she can feel the sleepiness begin to take over, she leans her head onto Magda’s shoulder. And she won’t lie that even on the verge of sleep she feels butterflies in her stomach as Magda pulls her in closer and brushes her hair away from her face. It’s just a friendly gesture that all friends surely do, Pernille convinces herself as she drifts off, nothing more.
It never bothered her that Magda was gay. In fact, she never thought twice about it. She’s just like any other friend but in this case she happens to like girls. But, ever since they have both separated from their respective significant others, Pernille and Magda have gotten even closer. And now Pernille finds herself questioning everything.
Is Magda doing this because she has a crush on her? Does she want her to have a crush on her? Does she even like girls like that?
Everything has become so confusing and Pernille’s mind is a jumble of thoughts that she doesn’t even know where to begin to untangle. And it doesn’t help that their boundaries have become even worse, to the point where they almost don’t have any.
But it’s easy. So easy to just be with Magda. Conversation is easy, they both make each other laugh, they talk football… lots of football and they genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
It first started after that one day on the couch (in reality it was much sooner than that, but this is when Pernille first started to seriously question it). Sure they were close before, but now they share everything and do everything together. When they’re not together it’s because they absolutely can’t be.
What started as a joke quickly became what made Pernille actually question their relationship and her feelings for Magda.
They haven’t really been subtle about the fact that they’ve been spending so much time together and Pernille guesses their teammates had taken notice. One day at practice one of the girls was looking for Magda and one of their teammates replied, “I don’t know, ask her girlfriend, Pernille.”
Obviously she was joking because they didn’t know what Pernille had been questioning herself, but it is what made Pernille pay attention to all the little things. Like when Pernille hands something to Magda while cooking in the kitchen, Magda will make sure that their hands make contact ever slightly, often lingering a bit. She notices that Magda will often place her hand on the small of Pernilles back when guiding her somewhere. She starts to notice everything and there’s flashing lights going off in her head that she can’t quite ignore and shove down anymore.
And of course there’s the occasionally bed sharing. It’s completely natural for two friends to share a bed a couple nights a week right?!
Since they’re spending all their time together anyways they have gotten into the habit of just staying over at each other’s apartments a couple nights a week instead of going back to their own. It wasn’t something that they ever discussed it just kind of happened. There is one particular night in the last few weeks that had been different than the others.
They were on the couch at Magda’s apartment after they cooked dinner (more truthfully after Magda cooked dinner) and were relaxing with some beer while watching a football game. Although they both can get a little intense during games (mostly Magda), Magda has religiously kept her arm on the couch behind Pernille.
“Fucking ref that was not a penalty are you blind!” Magda screams at the TV.
“You know maybe if you shout a little louder he’ll hear you.” Pernille shoots back, a smirk on her face.
“Ah thank you Pernille. Next time I hear you shouting at a game I’ll give you the same advice.” Magda replies back, a smile growing on her face as well. They both start laughing at the fact that they both get maybe a little too into football.
When the final whistle blew signaling that the game is done, Pernille rose from the couch to clear the bottles and glasses from the table.
“Hey Pernille I can get those, it’s my apartment anyways.” Magda offers. But as Pernille turns around to respond, she trips on the rug, the glasses and bottles falling to the floor with a loud crash. Pernille braces herself for a hard fall to the floor, but instead she feels Magda’s steady hands on her waste, catching her before she falls. Magda’s hands linger on Pernilles hips for a moment before she drops them to her sides. She immediately feels the absence of Magda’s hands on her and has to fight the urge to tell her to put them back.
“Don’t want our star forward slipping and breaking something now do we.” Magda remarks, trying to fight off a laugh.
“Ha.” Pernille laughs. “I’m clumsy, happens more times than you think.” They both are still laughing as they continue to joke about Pernilles clumsiness while they clean up the glass and head to the bedroom.
They both crawl into bed, Magda on the right and Pernille on the left, another one of their unspoken agreements.
It’s like any other night they sleep in the same bed. They talk for a little bit and then both let the sleep over take them. If Pernilles honest, ever since they started sleeping in the same bed she’s slept better than she ever thinks she has. Another unanswered question and confusion added to the piles upon piles of things related to their relationship.
Except this night would be like any other night until right as she’s on the verge of falling asleep she feels an arm snake around her and pull her in. Even in her sleepy state Pernille manages to snuggle into Magda’s embrace.
They wake like this and Pernille won’t lie, she definitely pretended to be asleep longer than she was and she’s pretty sure Magda did too. God she really needs to figure this out. Except she can’t do that when too many things keep happening. Like the Thailand trip for starters.
Everything came to a turning point or maybe even a tipping point on their trip to Thailand. Almost like everything up to this point was leading to this moment, like it was written in the stars, meant to happen.
It was December and that meant that all the Swedes were going to head out on holiday for winter break. This year Pernille decided to go to Thailand with her teammates Jenni, Lina and of course Magdalena.
The trip itself was amazing. The days were spent exploring amazing cities and even more amazing natural beauties. The shops and restaurants in the city were pretty neat. The scenery was gorgeous as well. from the beautiful sandy beaches to the amazing caves and forests. And of course Magda was there as well, so of course time was well spent.
The nights however, were a different story. Their lack of sleep was 100 percent attributed to their nightly adventures spent parting.
After the third night of partying, Magda and Pernille were in their shared hotel room (their other two teammates sharing the adjoining room). As a result of the nightly partying, Magda’s voice was completely shot and she could barely get a word out.
Pernille was making fun of Magda for the whole night and was still annoying her back in their hotel room. Magda, playing along with it for most of the night was getting a little tired of it. Magda tried to yell a comeback to Pernille, but nothing came out.
“What did you say Magdaaa,” Pernille jokes, drawing out her name. “I didn’t quite catch what you said.”
Before she knew it Magda had lept in front of her and had tackled her onto one of the beds so she was now on top of Pernille. Magda still couldn’t get a word out, but Pernille knew from the smirk on Magda’s face that she was not being too serious and knows Pernille wasn’t as well.
Pernille thought Magda was going to tickle her or something to get her back, but before she did, her eyes seemed to soften and Pernille thinks she moved her face closer to hers ever so slightly. She wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol still in their systems (they were pretty drunk) or the lack of sleep, but all Pernille could do was stare back, hoping Magda didn’t notice the chills that surged through her body and how flushed her face had become. She really doesn’t want Magda to know the effect she has on her because she’s not sure about the extent of it herself.
After a moment, Pernille thought she saw Magda’s eyes dart to her lips, but she’s not positive because it was only for a split second. For a moment Pernille becomes anxious from all the what if’s, but it fades as quickly as it started. Her worries didn’t matter though because in this moment it’s like nothing else existed, it was just her and Magda. She doesn’t know how long they stayed like this, idiots staring into each other’s eyes. And she doesn't remember who moved first but just as suddenly as it happened it was over and they were both back in their respective beds.
They didn’t bother getting ready for bed, rather they both settled under the covers, facing away from each other.
Now back in Sweden they still haven’t talked about that moment and it’s driving Pernille crazy. Things have just been like they have been before. Never crossing that line, but rather walking so close to it that one move could cause a spiral. Nevertheless it’s still driving her crazy (or rather Magda is driving her crazy). They haven’t talked about any of it actually and again, it’s. Driving. Pernille. Crazy.
Maybe it didn’t even happen and it’s all just a figment of her imagination?
No it can’t be. What she felt was so raw, so real, nothing like she’s ever experienced before. There’s a lot of things Pernille needs to figure out, but she’s realizing that maybe this is the real her and she just needed a moment like this to figure that out.