prologue — entwined
It starts with a bikini.
But that’s not fair, not really.
It starts with too much champagne and too many wine coolers and too much sun.
It starts because Tobin doesn’t know when it started, when she began craving the sensation of Christen’s skin under her fingertips, when depriving herself of it began to feel like going without oxygen or food or football.
It starts because they’re drunk and Christen is wearing a bikini that covers, like, six total square inches of skin, and Tobin is a fucking wreck over it.
“All right. How long has it been?”
Kelley is six beers in and curious about their sex lives and Tobin ignores her but Christen says “too long” like it’s a joke and Alex and Allie laugh, and Tobin does, too.
Somehow, she laughs.
Somehow, she doesn’t combust on the spot.)
Alex and Allie might answer, too.
Tobin honestly doesn’t care and she’s trying so hard not to care about Christen either, trying not to visualize it, trying to remember how to swallow her drink and look away look away look away.
(She doesn’t look away.)
(Her eyes find the sharp jut of hipbones above the thin strip of material and her eyes snag— )
(They’re both wearing sunglasses so Christen won’t know - can’t know - but somehow Tobin feels like she’s caught, and her cheeks flame and her stomach burns and her entire world is on fire.)
“We’ve gotta get you on Tinder, Pressi.”
Tobin thinks that maybe this is a nightmare, maybe she just needs to wake up.
She pinches her thigh.
They’re still here.
The rented bungalow is all air and space and succulents, white sheets and open windows and sea breezes.
“I’m fine with sharing.” A casual shrug. “Whaddya say, Tobs? Old times’ sake? This victory tour just wasn’t the same without my old roomie.”
Math class never prepared her for this.
(Tobin agrees, because of course she does.)
They order Thai food and eat and drink some more, and the bright blue of the sky becomes tangerine becomes fuchsia becomes indigo.
Tobin stretches, stands, claiming an early night, despite protests that it’s the first day of the trip and she’s being, in the words of a very inebriated Kelley O’Hara - a fuddy duddy.
A list of things Tobin is not:
• A fuddy duddy
A list of things Tobin is:
• Slightly drunk.
• Very overwhelmed.
• Utterly and completely in unreciprocated love with a woman so beautiful it hurts who also happens to be her very good friend and roommate and bedmate for the next five days.
An entire day should have dulled Christen’s ability to keep her in her thrall, but somehow the draw seems to have increased in power, and Tobin doesn’t have sunglasses anymore, and she’s going to give herself away any minute-
She says goodnight, escapes, breathes.
Teeth brushed and contacts out, she’s in bed with the television on when Christen comes in, still wearing her bikini under the tissue-thin wrap she’d donned once the sun went down.
Tobin tries not to watch the muscles of her calves, her thighs.
On the screen, a Friends re-run plays, and she pretends to pay attention.
Christen’s on the bed beside her, a laugh track rolling on-screen, and she glances over once, just once.
It’s a half second.
The app is, unmistakably, Tinder.
A close-up photo a woman.
Flawless eye makeup. Blonde curls, like honey. But her smile looks too hard, too cruel for Christen, who should only have the best things in the world.
“You could do better.”
The words slip out, and she doesn’t mean them to. Tobin bites the inside of her bottom lip, like she would draw the words back in if she could, chew and swallow them down down down.
Christen stares at her, eyes unreadable.
“What’s wrong with her? She’s pretty.”
“What about it?”
“I don’t believe it. She looks mean.”
Christen rolls her eyes, swipes left, then turns back again, eyebrow aloft. “There. You happy?”
Words are so close to the surface and Tobin shouldn’t have had that last drink, shouldn’t have been so careless.
“Depends. Who’s next?”
Why she says it is a mystery.
She’s never been one for masochism.
It becomes a game, somehow.
Christen swipes, and Tobin finds something wrong.
Bio line too clichéd.
Too many emojis.
Weird fashion choices.
(“Oh, you’re one to talk, Miss Sweatpants R Us.”)
Christen sneaks to the kitchen to get the half-finished bottle of moscato from the fridge, and they pass it back and forth, giggling.
Tobin’s not drunk, not fully, not anymore, not exactly.
Just enough that she can’t seem to remember that she’s trying forget about the way Christen looked in the bikini, but it’s branded on the back of her eyelids. She closes them and sees acres and acres of skin, and Christen is wearing pajamas now, a white tank top and tiny black shorts, but she still smells like cocoa butter and sunscreen and a little bit like sweat, and Tobin wants to lick her pulse points and bite her collar bone and-
She swallows, takes a swig of moscato, says, “Nose ring? Pass.”
“What if she has a tongue ring, though? That would totally make up for it.”
The wine goes down the wrong pipe, and she can’t breathe.
Christen slaps her on the back a few times, laughing so hard that she can barely manage it.
Tobin eventually stops coughing, reaches for the untouched glass of water on her nightstand and takes several gulps.
Finally, she can breathe, and Christen is still laughing.
Christen is still laughing, and her hand is on Tobin’s thigh.
And it’s not moving.
Finally, Christen wipes away the tears of mirth, calms herself, takes the last sip of moscato from the bottle.
“Hope you didn’t want any more,” she says cheekily, and Tobin doesn’t answer, can’t answer, not with fingers burning into her skin, and she doesn’t know if it’s intentional, doesn’t know if she wants Christen to keep it there or move it away.
(If Tobin never moves again, maybe Christen won’t either.)
“You know, I’m going to run out of women,” Christen says, swiping left with her thumb once again.
“But if I do, I won’t be able to get laid.”
Christen’s hand on her thigh Christen’s hand on her thigh Christen’s hand on her-
“You could. With me.”
Four seconds, one eternity.
“With you? You mean…”
“I mean that I’m good at sex,” Tobin shrugs, and it’s a fucking miracle that her voice stays steady. “and that skillset seems to match what you’re looking for.”
Christen’s breaths go thready.
Tobin could write entire essays on Christen Press’s eyes. She could write books. Volumes.
She’s never seen them as dark as they are now, nearly obsidian, pupils dilated.
Tobin’s lungs stop working.
She lifts a hand, runs a single finger along Christen’s collarbone, visible above the top of her thin, white spaghetti-strap top.
It’s light, so light, light as a feather, lighter than air.
Her skin is all Tobin wants to feel.
Christen’s breathing increases.
Or maybe that’s Tobins she doesn’t know anymore, doesn’t know anything except the way Christen’s eyes are on her lips, dark and intense, and there’s something yelling, screaming in the back of her head, something like stupid no don’t do this, the same thing that happens when she takes a wave that’s a little too big, goes for the shot when she can see the defender coming in too fast.
The voice never stands a chance.
Not against green eyes and soft curls and smooth, oiled skin and the most breathtaking smile Tobin has seen in her entire life.
She isn’t smiling now.
Lips, parted, pouty, full.
And she’s still staring.
Then, she blinks.
Shakes her head.
“You’re drunk. We’re drunk.”
Tobin pulls her hand back.
Maybe, sort of.
She tries, anyway.
“You’re right. Let’s not be stupid.”
“Yeah. Stupid,” Christen echoes, and it’s faint.
She lays back on the bed and rolls over, facing toward the bay window and away from Tobin.
She flicks out the lamp on her side, darkness enshrouding half the room.
Tobin tries to will her lungs to remember how to work, how to breathe through the guiltconfusionhumiliationrejection.
She watches the screen, and the words are white noise.
Silence would be so much worse.
The next day, Christen acts like nothing happened.
Maybe she doesn’t remember.
The thought causes equal parts disappointment and relief.
She doesn’t think they were that drunk, but Christen is a notoriously bad actor. Her heart is inked indelibly on her sleeve, bared for the world to see, the smallest shift visible if you watch closely enough.
(And Tobin is always, always watching.)
Then, she thinks: maybe she just didn’t care enough for it to matter.
It’s a knife, straight to her insides.
But Tobin can act, too.
There’s nothing wrong here.
Tobin doesn’t look at her best friend and imagine sucking her bottom lip between her teeth, doesn’t wonder what it might be like to feel hardened nipples beneath her palms.
She’s never woken up wet, wanting, green eyes on her mind, one very specific name hovering just behind her lips.
They spend another day at the ocean, beach towels and sunglasses and floppy hats and skin.
So much skin.
But Tobin is pretending.
Tobin is good at pretending.
So she talks and she laughs and she drinks lots of water and only one mimosa, and she doesn’t long or pine or burn.
There are even a few minutes when she forgets.
When she can just enjoy spending time with her friends, enjoying the warmth and the sea breeze and the freedom from responsibilities.
In those moments, her muscles relax, her joints losing the tension she holds between them at all times, holding herself back, holding everything back.
She juggles a ball around for a bit after lunch. When no one takes her up on her suggestion of beach football, Tobin announces her intention to go back to the room for a nap instead.
She tosses her towel over her shoulder, tucks the ball underneath her elbow, and then-
“Mind if I tag along? I forgot my book.”
Tobin shrugs a shoulder.
If she acts okay, it will be okay.
They don’t talk.
They don’t talk, so Tobin whistles, because her mouth has to do something, and speaking might lead to saying something she’ll regret.
So, she whistles.
She whistles the entire time, until they’re nearly back at the house.
“Did you mean it?”
The whistling cuts off.
Tobin wrinkles her brow, glances over. “Mean what?”
Christen stares straight ahead, keeps walking.
“Last night. Your offer.”
“If you didn’t, it’s fine, reall-“
Christen says nothing else, just keeps walking, and Tobin wonders for a moment if the whole thing is some delusion induced by too much sun, if she’s finally crossed over into wanting Christen so much that she’s confusing fantasy with reality.
Then Christen is unlocking the bungalow and Tobin follows her inside, and the house is so still and bright and open.
A shaft of light from the skylight hits Christen, and Tobin is admiring the curve of her jaw when Christen stops in place, spins, pushes her back against the door.
Tobin’s heart stops.
“Yes?” One word. Green eyes, searching.
And Christen kisses her.
Tobin is gone.
She surges forward, kisses Christen with the desperation of an eighty-third minute sub determined to make it to starter. It’s messy and too-eager and she’s shaking, shaking.
She flips them around, presses Christen against the door, and her head thunks hollowly against the wood and Tobin tries to apologize, but Christen’s lips are attached to hers again and she doesn’t remember how to think.
She is a being made entirely of want. She’s a black hole of hunger and greed and desire to inhale Christen whole.
Christen is tugging on the laces of her swimsuit top, and then it’s gone, on the floor, and she stops kissing Tobin long enough to see what she’s unveiled.
And Tobin blinks at the vision in front of her, leaning against the door of their rented bungalow.
Lips, parted and kiss-swollen.
Eyes, dark and wanting.
Christen reaches up, runs a thumb slowly across Tobin’s nipple, and she shudders, breaks, bends, taking Christen’s wrists and pushing them back against the door. She inserts her thigh between Christen’s own, and the groan she gets in response, the way Christen grinds into her hungrily-
It’s nearly enough to make her come on the spot.
She lets go of one of Christen’s wrists, using her left hand to tug on the strings of Christen’s bikini top, and she’s never been more grateful in her life for simple knots when the garment falls right off.
Tobin pulls back to look down.
Bronze skin, dark nipples, the slight swells of her breasts.
The shadows of her abdomen, the curve of her shoulder.
Christen’s body is a poem she wants to read forever.
She kisses a line down her chest, pressing her lips all around where Christen needs her, where she’s stiff and aching already, and Tobin longs to take her into the warmth of her mouth, but she waits until Christen whines, until her hands are pulling, pleading.
She opens her mouth and sucks, once, hard, and Christen’s torso jerks forward, a ragged sound tearing from her lips.
For a moment, Tobin stops, unsure if she got too carried away, if it was too much, and then Christen is tugging her back.
“Touch me. Please.”
Her hand, sliding down Christen’s stomach, hovering. “Here?”
A groan. “Everywhere.”
Tobin happily follows her instructions, getting lost in the miracle of Christen, her tones and textures and tastes.
She tastes like the ocean and salt and warmth, and Tobin’s mouth waters when she wonders what other flavors she has in store.
Tobin slides a single finger inside the side of the swimsuit bottoms, draws back.
Christen nods, and Tobin tugs on the loose string.
Then she drops to her knees.
Her flavor here is similar but different, saltier and earthier and Tobin is addicted immediately.
She finds Christen’s clit and laves, slowly, then pulls back and blows a gentle, cool stream of air right on the exposed nerve, and Christen keens.
Tobin dives back in with abandon, finding a rhythm that has Christen gasping, sets to work, feeling fingers tangling in her hair, pressing her closer, and she can’t breathe very well from this angle, but she’d rather die than hear Christen stop making those noises.
Then Tobin sucks, and Christen’s voice: “I can’t-“ she breaks. “Tobin-“
Tobin draws back and Christen takes a step to the side, so she can bring one hand against the wall behind the door for balance.
Tobin follows, readjusting, bringing one thigh over her shoulder as she maneuvers into a better angle, and she feels something that she realizes is a shoe digging into her back, because Christen is entirely naked except for her bright pink flip-flops, and the thought is hilarious, and Tobin wants to laugh but she also wants to never, ever stop.
One finger, sliding lightly along her entrance, and when she feels how thoroughly soaked Christen is, it shoots a bolt of supernova-hot heat straight to her center.
She slips in one finger, then two, and Christen’s breathing roughens, her hands in Tobin’s hair urging her on.
She sets a slow rhythm, in and out.
Until Christen pants, “If you don’t go faster-“
Tobin’s fingers curl, and she gasps, continues, “I will kill you with my own bare hands.”
When Christen comes, she clenches hard around Tobin’s fingers, one hand pressing heavily into her shoulder as she shakes.
After a minute, Christen removes her leg from around Tobin, then slides slowly to the floor. Tobin watches, then, making eye contact, intentionally brings her fingers to her mouth, sucking and drawing them out until they’re released with a quiet pop.
Christen’s voice is sunshine and gravel.
She wraps her arm around Tobin’s torso and yanks her forward, pulling her in for another kiss.
A moment of quiet, after.
Every nerve ending is thrumming, alive, the heat gathered in her core so intense it’s nearly painful.
She ignores it.
“The deal.” Tobin swallows. She can still taste Christen on her tongue. “The deal was to get you off. Don’t feel like you have to, y’know, return the favor, or whatever.”
Teeth, against her earlobe. “I want to fuck you.”
Tobin nearly whines, loses all feelings below her knees.
“Do you want me to?”
Christen fucks her with her fingers, hungrily, on the couch in the living room where they’d all played cards the night before, because the idea of wasting the time it would take to get up to the bedroom is unthinkable.
Tobin comes so hard she thinks the world might stop turning.
“Oh my god.”
“Tobs, it’s okay.”
“No-“ Tobin swallows, face hot. “Your- I-“
She gestures to Christen’s collarbone, a very visible red mark beginning to fade to a dusky purple.
Christen chuckles. “Guess I’ll have to go shopping for a new suit tomorrow.”
“Oh, no, trust me.” She leans in, presses a slow kiss against Tobin’s lips. “It was very, very good.”
“Who needs Tinder when I have you?”
Her stomach curdles.
It’s not enough.
But, it’s something.
“So…you’d be up for doing this again sometime, then?”
“Yeah, if you are.”
Tobin wants kite strings and yo-yo strings and harp strings and heartstrings.
She snips each and every one.
They have sex twice more before the end of the trip.
Once in the shower, fast and frantic, mouths pressed to slippery skin to stay silent, friends gathered in the next room.
Once on the kitchen table, where Christen’s orgasm is so loud, Tobin is briefly concerned about neighbors appearing and seeing them on full display through the sliding glass door.
Then, the trip ends.
“See you soon.”
A quick hug at the airport, over before it’s begun, the same as she gives everyone else.
“Yeah.” If she keeps her voice even, she won’t cry. “See you.”
A month later, Portland is playing Utah, and they’re on the field at Providence Park for warm-ups. Tobin is juggling alone in midfield when Christen approaches.
“You’re going down tonight.”
“On the field? Didn’t take you for an exhibitionist.”
Tobin expects a blush, looks up to find a smirk instead.
“You never asked.”
Tobin trips over her own ball.
Tobin assists on a goal thirteen minutes in, and the score sits at 1-0 Portland for the rest of the game.
Until Christen hits a beauty of a curler into the upper right corner in the 88th minute.
Hours later, they’re in her eighth floor apartment, in her bedroom, in her bed, Tobin’s mouth against Christen’s jaw, Christen grinding against her thigh.
“Were you serious, today?”
“The living room has windows.”
Christen’s body tenses beneath her lips. “You…you wouldn’t mind?”
“That other people might see me fucking you?” Christen shudders. “No. Then they’ll know you’re mine.”
Too many words too many words why did she say-
Christen’s hips jerk, once, hard.
They move to the living room, leave only the soft couchside lamp lit as Tobin slowly divests Christen of every bit of clothing, until she’s stripped naked and warm and pliable, a shrine Tobin is ready to worship with her mouth lips hands body.
She presses Christen back against the glass, swallows her gasp when her heated skin touches the chilled windowpane.
She leans in, kisses her slowly, deeply.
Then she spins Christen around, until Tobin’s chest is pressed to her back, one hand circling around to grasp her hip, the other slipping higher, up across her stomach, coming to rest on top of her breast. The window is cold against her forearm as she takes a nipple between her fingers and squeezes gently, twisting to the side, and Christen releases a guttural moan.
“You like this?”
Christen nods, her forehead pressed against the glass, and Tobin moves her left hand lower, slipping into her folds.
She’s already damp, Tobin’s fingers sliding through the moisture as she moves up and down, settling her mouth against the pulse point on the side of Christen’s nape. She tongues the area gently, then runs her teeth across it, so light, the edge of an ivory butterfly.
“You know that goal you scored tonight?”
“You were so fucking good. It made me want to do this. Right there, in the middle of the field. With everyone looking at you.”
Christen comes like an earthquake, shaking, convulsing, like her soul is trying to escape the confines of its mortal body.
They turn out the light, Christen ties back her hair, and Tobin bites her wrist to keep from shouting.
It’s months before they’ll see each other at camp.
Christen comes to see her in November, and they barely leave the bed the entire weekend.
The next time they see each other is at camp in January, and Tobin-
Tobin is accustomed to lying, has developed the talent over the past few years.
She’s used to pretending her heart isn’t traveling around outside her chest, tucked secretly inside the ribcage of another.
She isn’t used to convincing an audience of their closest friends that she doesn’t remember bending Christen over the table in a warm kitchen that smelled like herbs and sunshine and fucking her until she screamed.
Sometimes Tobin really isn’t thinking about that.
Sometimes she’s just looking at Christen and watching her smile, the way it shines like something holy. Sometimes she’s thinking about just how blessed she is, that Christen is in her life, is one of her best friends, someone she could call no matter what time and know she’ll answer. Sometimes they’re on the pitch together, and Christen passes her the perfect ball, and Tobin is overwhelmed with admiration and something akin to a secondhand sense of pride. Sometimes Tobin is reminded of how good she is, how kind, how caring, how she inspires them all to be a little better. Sometimes Christen does something so stunningly, ridiculously dorky that she’s laughing so hard her ribs ache with it.
(And always, always she’s in love.)
>> so rose went with linds and sonny to go see a movie
>> Fun! What are they seeing?
>> no idea, but it’s two hours long, and they’re going on a candy run first
>> Why do I get the feeling there’s a hidden message here…
>> just saying room 317 currently only has one occupant
>> it’s supposed to have two, so it’s probably feeling pretty lonely
>> Oh, so you want me to come see you to make the room feel better?
>> i know it would mean a lot to the room
>> Well, tell the room I’ll see it in a few. ;)
Twelve minutes later, a rap on the door.
The stark lighting of the hallway should be unflattering on anyone, but Christen is, of course, an exception.
She’s nothing short of living, breathing art, makes Tobin want to reach for a paintbrush, to capture tawny skin and warm eyes and maroon yoga pants.
Tobin moves, ushers Christen inside.
With the door shut behind them, Tobin immediately leans in to kiss her.
Christen pulls back.
A flash of mortification.
Please don’t end it
Then, Christen is smirking. “Wow, not even gonna introduce me to the room first?”
Relief, so intense Tobin could float.
She laughs. “You’re right, where are my manners? Christen, meet room. Room, meet Christen, my extremely hot friend who I plan on having naked here very shortly, so if you could close your eyes, that’d be great.”
Christen is laughing so hard she squeaks. Tobin grins, and Christen tugs her closer.
It never changes, the way that first touch of Christen’s lips feels like magic, feels like something she can’t quite believe she gets to have.
Christen’s skin is warm under her hands as she cups her bare shoulders, rubs her thumbs in tiny circles. She hums against Tobin’s lips in response, pressing closer. Then Tobin takes her bottom lip between her teeth, and she gasps, pulls back an inch.
“How long did you say we have?”
“At least two hours.”
Eyes, so dark.
Then, she takes off her shirt.
, , ,
Fragile, translucent, barely covering-
“You…you weren’t just wearing this.”
Christen shakes her head.
“You packed this for me?”
A shake, again. “Saw it while I was shopping yesterday. Thought it seemed like something we might enjoy.”
Tobin’s eyes drop, unbidden. Doesn’t ask what she wants to ask.
But Christen knows anyway.
Tobin’s eyes meet hers, again.
Then she shimmies off her yoga pants, and Tobin’s mind ceases to function.
She sinks to the bed, tugs Christen close, and draws a lace-clad nipple into her mouth with no hesitation.
Her reward is Christen’s hard exhale, fingernails curling into her skin.
Tobin makes her come without removing a scrap of lace, fingers slipping beneath the delicate garment, her ministrations slow and careful and driving Christen to a level of filthy words Tobin has never heard from her before.
If she lives for a thousand years, she will never forget the sight of Christen arching off the bed, lips pink and stretched wide in a silent cry, hair wild about her shoulders, clad in nothing but sheer lace and sweat.
Christen takes off every article of Tobin’s clothes, but removes only her own panties before she rolls on top, straddling Tobin at an angle until they’re pressed together.
She grinds down, once, twice.
Tobin clenches her teeth, lets her head fall back.
She can’t watch, or she’ll be over the edge in seconds. She’s so close as it is, hot and damp and aching, and her hips roll in time with Christen’s as she shifts, propping her right leg up a few inches.
Christen’s rhythm increases, her breathing uneven as she begins to feel the effects of her own movement.
It becomes a competition in Tobin’s head.
She’ll hold out until Christen’s next orgasm, then she can let go.
Christen grinds down harder, and Tobin whines, tries to hold out, tries to hold on, reaches for something in her brain to cling to, a way to build a dam against the wave she can feel roaring closer.
It feels like using popsicle sticks to prepare for a tsunami.
Still, she clenches her jaw, and Christen groans and her movements start becoming a little less smooth, a little jerkier, and Tobin knows she’s close.
Just another minute.
She reaches around, grasps Christen’s ass, her fingers curling into the muscles as she pulls her in for the perfect angle.
Christen sputters, gasps, and Tobin’s eyes snap open, refusing to miss the sight. She’s beautiful, arched neck and bared teeth. Tobin can feel the wetness as she comes, slippery and warm.
Still Christen moves, frantic, shaky, and Tobin is so close-
She meets Christen’s eyes, mossy green and pleasure-drunk.
And the tsunami hits, shattering every barrier in its path.
“Chris-“ Her voice isn’t her own, high and tight, and she bows, bent in half under the pressure as her body surrenders.
The thing about sex is, once it’s over, the world keeps spinning.
It’s after that’s the hardest part.
Her arms ache to hold Christen close, her lips to press sweet, soft kisses into her skin and whisper words like beautiful, words like amazing, words like I will love you for the rest of my life.
But she doesn’t.
Instead, she jokes, and Christen laughs, and everything is fine.
It’s not a big deal.
It never has been.
Which is why, when Christen turns her down with a flimsy excuse the next week, Tobin doesn’t see it coming.
She sets her phone beside her on the bed and stares at the wall, then grabs a ball, toeing it into the air.
The rhythm calms her.
If she just keeps counting, she won’t have to think.
Won’t have to think about the possibility of Christen not needing her anymore, having found someone else-
The ball falls to the floor, and she scowls, rolls it back on top of her foot again.
She doesn’t stop until Rose returns to the room.
Three days later, Christen is the one to call her, when Julie is away for long enough that they can make the time worth it.
On the way to her room, it takes every ounce of self-control Tobin possesses not to run.
Camp ends, and Tobin has a lump in her throat, a heaviness that will take her days to rid herself of, because missing Christen is a constant in her life, but it’s always worst when the pain is fresh. When Tobin is used to having her close by, practice and bus rides and meals and team meetings. Never farther than a few floors, and usually much closer.
But Tobin is used to it. In a few days, the sensation fades to the normal, manageable level she has operated with since she woke up one morning to find she was in love with her best friend.
Nothing changes, and everything stays the same.
The next camp isn’t until March.
She’s in the airport waiting for her flight to Florida when she gets the email with her itinerary, room number, and roommate assignment.
Christen Press, it says, right there on the screen in black and white. She screenshots it, shoots it off to Christen accompanied by a thinking face emoji.
Christen responds moments later.
>> But whatever will we do to pass the time…
Despite Christen’s joking words, she seems off when she gets to the room that night, an hour after Tobin, and Tobin isn’t quite sure where they stand.
They won’t have a team meeting until the morning, with teammates pouring in from all over the country, so they’re left with hours to themselves, uninterrupted.
They could be interrupted, if they wanted, could text any number of the girls who are already here.
Instead, they bicker about which show to turn on before finally agreeing, then wind up talking over it anyway.
Christen doesn’t make a move to join her on her bed, so Tobin keeps to her own.
Tobin doesn’t mind. She is jet-lagged and smells like the inside of a plane and just letting her tired eyes drink in the sight of Christen there, in front of her, is enough.
Still, Christen emerges from her late shower in only panties and a t-shirt that barely falls to the top of her thighs. Left uncovered are her lithe, powerful legs, legs that can propel her so rapidly she leaves Tobin in the dust.
Legs that have done yoga for years, can spread so far apart while she-
Tobin’s mouth goes dry, and she drops her eyes back down to her book, doesn’t take in a word, marvels instead at this wild hunger that never seems satiated.
“Are you just going to look, or should I have forgotten to put on my shirt, too?”
Tobin takes off her shirt for her. Then the panties. Then her own clothes.
Together, they learn each other’s bodies after months apart.
It should be hesitant, with half-remembered sweet spots and just-off rhythms.
Instead, Christen’s fingers remember the perfect angle that drives her wild, and Tobin knows Christen’s body like it was the only thing she was ever meant to learn.
After, Tobin expects more of the same.
A teasing remark, a pat on the ass, a shoo off to her own bed.
Instead, Christen is crying.
A baseball bat, straight to her solar plexus.
“What- are you okay? Did I hurt you?”
Christen nods, Tobin’s heart drops to the ground, splatters like a rotten tomato.
Somehow, Christen must see her expression through her tears, because she shakes her head. “I’m okay. You didn’t do anything. It’s all my own fault.”
“What’s your fault? What’s wrong?”
“Chris, you’re crying.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.”
Tobin makes a frustrated sound, every instinct screaming at her to fix whatever has made Christen this upset, but she can’t do anything if she doesn’t know.
She tries to think of anything that could be the cause, tries to think of another way to ask Christen what’s wrong, a way she might answer.
She reaches out a hand to Christen’s shoulder, to sooth, comfort.
She jerks away.
And it’s this, this small motion that steals Tobin’s breath from her lungs, makes her certain that Christen isn’t just tired or overwhelmed or emotional.
“I’m sorry. I just- I can’t keep doing this.”
“This.” She gestures back and forth between them, and Tobin’s heart is ground further into the floor.
She has no words.
She might, eventually.
But she can’t get them to work.
“It’s nothing you did, I promise. We had an agreement, and I screwed it up.”
The words come back in a flood. “What do you mean?”
“We said ‘no strings.’ And I get it, I do.” Christen nods enthusiastically, but she’s crying again, a tear streaking down her cheek in the light from the hotel lamp. “A relationship would make no sense. We don’t even live in the same state, and there’s the team and everything. It’s fine. We’ll be fine. I just…” She takes a deep breath. “Tobin, I can’t keep having sex with you and pretending it’s just sex.”
She’s a being made of stone.
If she moves, the moment might break.
She might break.
Christen wipes away the tear, and another falls to take its place. “I can’t pretend it’s all I want when what I really want is you. All of you. Breakfasts and lunches and dinners and weekends and sleeping in and-“ she breaks off, shrugging a single shoulder, offers a sad smile. “Everything.”
These are variations of words she’s imagined a thousand times, at nights when she’s weak and it’s dark and there’s no one to witness the sound of her longing.
And she’s hearing them, now, in reality.
Tobin starts laughing.
She starts laughing, and she can’t stop. She doesn’t mean to, the sudden flood of emotions getting confused and emerging as deep guffaws that shake her body and pull tears from her eyes.
Then she sees Christen’s face, the deep hurt etched into every line, and her mirth falls away immediately.
“Chris, I’m sorry, I don’t mean-“
She draws further away, pulls the sheet up to cover her chest.
“What the fuck?”
Her voice, so brittle. “I know you’re not always the most, like, emotionally mature or whatever, but when someone’s crying in front of you, maybe don’t laugh at them.”
Tobin reaches out, touches her knee gently through the sheets.
“Chris. Christen. My sweet, sweet, beautiful idiot.”
“I’ve been in love with you since…since I don’t even know when. Since so long ago that it’s just a part of me. A part I’ve been trying really, really hard to ignore.”
A blink, the hint of a smile.
Tobin reaches out with both hands, smooths away the tear remnants staining her cheeks.
“I want those things, too. Everything you just said. I want to wake up next to you and make you waffles and kiss you good morning and-”
Christen kisses her.
She tastes of salt and pure joy and the possibility of forever.
It starts with a first kiss.
It’s not the first, not really.
But it’s the first without pretenses, the first laced with the strength of mutual vulnerability.
It’s a kiss to remember, a kiss of sunsets and sky-high dreams.
A kiss to mark the beginning of a new chapter, to be written side by side.
chapter one — together