Tobin doesn't want to be at this party.
She only agreed to come to get her (well-meaning but sometimes seriously annoying) roommate to finally stop asking literally every Friday and Saturday and sometimes Thursday night to come out with her just once.
Said roommate ditched her promptly 5 minutes after they walked through the door into the party, but it still feels like a waste to leave now and walk all the way back to campus.
So instead Tobin wanders through the packed house alone awkwardly, hoping to run into someone she knows or even just vaguely recognizes from class.
She comes across a pile of sharpies left out in the kitchen, probably so people could write their names on their cups.
No one seems to be using them for that purpose however, hundreds of unidentified used red solo cups litter nearly every surface of the house, so Tobin swipes a marker and heads towards the sliding door that leads out back.
It’s unsurprisingly much quieter out here, the chilly fall air keeping most of the partygoers inside.
Most of the people outside are spread around huddled in small groups, the unmistakable smells of both cigarette and weed smoke floating all around in a haze.
Tobin thinks of the joint she stashed in her jacket pocket for tonight just in case, and she knows if she lights it up someone will likely approach and ask to partake.
It’s a great easy way to meet people at parties, Tobin knows from experience.
But this party isn’t really her typical crowd, and being alone in the quiet solitude for a moment is nice.
So instead she grabs one of the discarded solo cups off the ground and sits on the edge of the back deck with her legs hanging over the edge, off to the side with her back facing the house.
She’s lost in a doodle of flowers and vines and leaves swirling up from the base of the cup, the lines made bold by the Sharpie yet still delicate by Tobin’s talent.
She’s focused on her work, but she still notices when a pair of feet appear next to her in her periphery.
“Hi,” she hears softly from above her.
She stops drawing to look up, and the absolutely last person she expects to see standing and smiling over her is soccer superstar and the overall darling of the school, Christen Press.
Tobin can’t help but glance around to see if something has happened or someone else she didn’t notice before is now in the vicinity.
But no one else is anywhere near them. And the party continues on inside just as it had before.
When she looks back up Christen is still smiling but it's faltered a bit, a little more unsure now.
Tobin realizes how rude her initial reaction must have come across as and cringes internally.
Externally she shakes her head, remembers her manners, and manages to throw on her best smile.
“Hi! I’m sorry I guess I was totally zoned out and kinda forgot where I was.”
It’s more of a white lie really than an excuse, the doodling was a distraction from the party but she definitely hadn’t lost her senses.
She just can’t really believe that Christen Press is here standing over her.
Lucky for her though Christen seems to buy it.
“That’s really cool, you did that just now with only a Sharpie?”, she asks as she pushes her chin out towards the cup in Tobin’s hand.
Tobin blushes a little but nods her head kindly in response, Sharpie being a pretty simple medium compared to what she normally works with.
She holds the cup out slightly to her side, and Christen understands and accepts the unspoken invitation.
She sits down at the edge of the deck beside Tobin and takes the cup to examine the designs more closely.
“Wow--” is all she says after spinning the cup around fully at least three times.
Tobin doesn’t say anything at first, still too nervous in Christen’s presence.
She’s so much prettier up close.
“You should draw like, professionally!” Christen blurts and is so freaking innocent and adorable that at first Tobin can only laugh.
Her laugh fades into a more confident smile then, because her art is one area of her life Tobin feels confident in, and that’s the smile Christen sees when she finally looks back up from the cup in her hand.
Tobin can’t help but notice the way Christen’s cheeks pink and eyes dart down quickly to her mouth.
“I’m actually an art student. Normally I prefer to paint but I like to draw sometimes too” Tobin tells her, carefully watching Christen’s face.
People often turn their noses up when Tobin tells them she’s an aspiring artist, or she just as often gets feigned interest and the standard cliche questions.
But other times, sometimes, their eyes completely light up in genuine intrigue. Even in fascination.
And that’s exactly what happens in Christen’s eyes now.
Her eyes are so green.
A realization occurs to Tobin then, as she watches the questions form and dance in Christen’s ( gorgeous) eyes.
There is no else around them, Tobin had been sitting alone and minding her business
Christen approached her.Christen initiated the conversation. She sought Tobin out.
And that makes something that feels a little bit like hope and possibility and a lot like wonder start to fill up Tobin’s chest.
She extends her hand out and officially introduces herself, “I’m Tobin by the way,” and notices the way Christen will only look at her in quick glances.
“Christen,” she replies with a smile so shy and beautiful Tobin has to look away too.
She spends the next few minutes describing her senior project answering all of Christen’s questions, which are surprisingly thought provoking and insightful.
She talks about the programs abroad she wants to apply to, but after a gap year so she can work and save up a little more.
After a while Tobin gets tired of talking about herself and turns the tables on Christen.
Naturally she starts by asking about soccer, and she expects the semi rehearsed answers about falling in love with the sport young and putting in the work to get where she is now.
Instead she ends up belly laughing at Christen’s animated impersonations of her dad in their backyard or on the sidelines of her games from her earliest playing days.
“Coast to coast!! Speed kills!! Take it all the way!!!”
When their laughter eventually dies down and there’s a lull in between stories, Christen's voice gets a little tighter.
A little sadder, if Tobin had to find a word.
“You know sometimes I think the pressure of soccer might actually break me. It can be really hard, and everyone has so many expectations.”
The soft confession certainly takes Tobin by surprise.
Not so much what Christen is saying, Tobin understands expectations and pressure.
She’s more surprised that Christen is telling this to her .
“But at the end of every day, after every rough practice or hard loss I just ask myself: are you still in love with soccer? And the answer is always, always yes”.
She’s admitting so much so to someone who is quite literally a stranger, but oddly enough the conversation still feels comfortable.
It should be too much, or a conversation two party goers would have drunk.
But Tobin is pretty sure they are both stone cold sober, and she wonders if Christen feels the same tingling in her finger tips.
They steer away from any more of the heavier topics for a while, getting to know each other a bit by covering some of the surface level basics.
Where are you from? What’s your major? How many siblings do you have? What else do you do besides art/soccer?
Tobin struggles to fight off her nerves at several different points, and when someone interrupts them to ask if they have a lighter, Tobin is reminded of the joint tucked in her pocket.
She considers asking Christen if she minds if she takes a few puffs, just to try and ease her nerves.
She decides she’d rather stay sober however, rather have her mind clear and level as she tries her best not to fuck up this night.
Tobin tells the intruder to keep the lighter, hoping it will get him to leave them alone faster.
When he scampers off already sparking at his cigarette, she looks back over at Christen to see her observing her curiously.
Her eyes seem to be tracking over all of Tobin’s features and it makes her squirm internally, even though she does her absolute best to play it cool on the outside.
“Are you at this party alone?” Christen finally asks after another drawn out moment of just staring at her.
The question makes Tobin roll her eyes in annoyance, but it fades quickly because she realizes that Christen might not have even approached her had she not been left alone.
So she covers up the eye roll by turning it into a good natured laugh, maybe with a little bit of gratitude hidden behind it too.
“I actually came with my roommate just to get her to finally stop nagging me to get out more, but she saw some friends and ditched me as soon as we got here. I didn’t really feel like walking back yet and the air is nice so…” she trails off with a vague wave of her hand, not really having much more of a reason for sticking around despite not knowing anyone here.
“I saw you walking through the house a few times earlier,” Christen says.
“You noticed me?” Tobin blurts.
Because as if Christen approaching her outside isn’t enough, the fact that Christen has been aware of her presence AND taken note of her since before Tobin even knew she was there sends her pulse racing to new speeds.
The small laugh Christen returns is almost too much for Tobin to handle.
“My friend pointed out your hat, #23 is my number”.
Tobin remembers the black Jordan 23 hat she’d thrown on her barely brushed hair before following her roommate out the door.
She reaches her hand up and touches the brim, just to have something to do for a second other than stare dumbly at Christen.
Christen for her part is apparently out to give Tobin a heart attack, because that’s exactly what the next words out of her mouth almost do.
“And I thought you were really cute, so yeah I noticed when you walked by a couple times.”
Tobin is saved from having to respond by Christen turning her attention to the phone that’s apparently vibrating in her pocket.
The one sided conversation is pretty quick, but Tobin is easily able to follow along.
“Hey! yeah sorry I’m outside… No, I'm fine, I just lost track of time… yeah I’ll come find you guys.”
She hangs up and Tobin feels the disappointment set in quickly.
“Sorry that was one of my teammates wondering what happened to me, I guess now I’m the one guilty of ditching my friends.”
Tobin just nods and forces a smile because she knows her time with Christen is likely nearing its end, and she can’t quickly enough come up with an excuse to draw things out.
She’s saved once again by Christen however, when the girl turns to her and asks “do you want to come hang out with my friends?”
“With the soccer team??” Tobin blurts in her surprise.
It makes Christen giggles which in turn makes Tobin’s stomach swoop, and she’s already mentally agreeing before actually even fully processing the question.
“Yeah, just a few of my friends from the team. They’re cool I promise”.
So like an enamored puppy, Tobin follows Christen back into the house, into the party, and into the turning heads and stares that always seem to follow Christen on campus and apparently everywhere she goes.
Christen smiles at people and moves through the house with grace, but for a moment Tobin wonders how she really feels about all the attention.
They find Christen’s teammates tucked away in a corner of the party watching the increasingly competitive beer pong tournament currently taking place.
She’s introduced and asked questions and it only takes five minutes for her to feel like she belongs.
She half expects them to only talk about soccer and sports and be totally lost and awkward. But
Christen’s friends are some of the funniest, most down to earth, open minded people Tobin has met in college outside of her art friends.
Christen’s friends are cool, and Tobin is certainly enjoying hanging out and getting to know them.
But what she’s enjoying most is no doubt the heat of Christen’s hip and thigh pressed right up against her while they’re squished together in the oversized armchair Christen commandeered as soon as the previous occupant stumbled off to get another drink.
Tobin originally settled for perching on the arm as she listened to one of the other girls tell hilarious stories from away game shenanigans.
But after just a few minutes of Tobin fidgeting and adjusting to try and get comfortable, Christen scooted over without a word and pulled Tobin down into the chair next to her.
It’s a tight enough fit as it is, but when Tobin starts telling one of her own travel stories from two summers ago, Christen leans into her body each time she laughs.
It makes nerves and excitement and butterflies swirl in her stomach every time.
Tobin has no idea what’s happening or what this feeling even is, but she knows she doesn’t want it to stop.
After a while she comes out of her Christen induced spell long enough to realize the party has started to wind down. More people seem to be filing out of the house by the minute and she pulls her phone out to see a few missed texts from her roommate.
One from not too long ago asking where she was, and another from about two minutes later informing Tobin she found a ride to another party with some friends and was leaving.
From the typos and awkward spacing Tobin can tell the girl is probably wasted, so she just rolls her eyes and shoots a text back:
I’m good, I’ll find a ride back to campus or just walk. Be safe!
When she looks back up, it's to Christen watching her curiously and chewing at her bottom lip.
Her teammates have disappeared, and a question appears to be on the tip of Christen tongue.
Tobin is lost in her eyes for a moment though, and then distracted again by her mouth and her lip still pulled between her teeth so she misses when Christen asks “Do you want a ride?”
“Huh?” Tobin shakes her head dumbly, just knowing her cheeks are blushing at being busted.
Christen repeats the question with a more smug smile and twinkle in those eyes now.
Of course Tobin agrees, because why would she choose to walk alone back to campus or pay for an Uber when she's being offered a ride.
And also because she’d probably say yes to anything Christen asks or suggests tonight.
God, I’m so screwed.
She follows closely behind as Christen leads the way to a small car parked just down the street, her teammates already inside and waiting.
Christen slides into the middle seat in the back, and Tobin wipes her sweaty palms on her jeans before climbing in after her.
The two in the front seat are having a whispered conversation over the soft music coming through the car speakers, and the teammate in the back with them had her head rested against the window and eyes closed before they even got in the car.
The short ride is surprisingly quiet for a group of friends leaving a party. Granted, they’re all pretty sober and it's late, but still.
She feels the heat of Christen’s body pressed against hers in the seat next to her in every single cell and nerve that makes contact.
She’s almost certain she’s going to either combust or melt when Christen yawns and then lays her head on Tobin’s shoulder.
She leaves it there for the last few minutes until they arrive outside Tobin’s dorm and she really shouldn’t be surprised when she climbs out of the car and Christen is right behind her.
“Let me walk you to the door,” she says before Tobin can question anything.
They both ignore the laughing and teasing coming from the front seat and Christen slams the door shut with a pointed glare into the window.
She follows Tobin all the way into the lobby of the building before she finally stops, causing Tobin to stop and turn back to her.
Christen’s teammates back in the car would have to be incredibly nosey and strain to see them through the lobby windows, and obviously they can’t hear any of their conversation.
But still Christen is visibly nervous for whatever she’s working herself up to say.
Tobin herself is way too nervous to jump in and reassure her, so she waits.
“So I just uh… wanted to say thank you. For making tonight so fun, usually these parties get pretty boring pretty quick. Ya know with the whole not being able to drink during the season— anyway. But I’m glad I met you tonight Tobin, I had a really good time.”
“Yeah me too.” It’s such a lame response, Tobin knows it.
She knows it from the slightly disappointed way Christen looks at the ground and smiles.
Christen who’s been so brave tonight. Made every move. And still lingers around, perhaps hoping Tobin will, giving time for Tobin to—
“Do you maybe want to—” she cuts off when Christen snaps her head up, but her smile is sparkling and her eyes are dazzling and the unbridled hope on her face helps Tobin push forward.
She swallows and takes a deep breath before starting over with more confidence this time. It’s her turn to be brave tonight.
“Do you want to hang out some time? With me?”. She cringes internally at ‘ hang out’, but the question makes a shy smile stretch across Christen’s face as she just nods her head, so Tobin is proud of herself for asking anyway.
“Cool umm, how do you feel about coffee?”
Christen scrunches her face up in disgust and Tobin is sure it's one of the cutest things she’s ever seen.
“I’ve seen what a zombie my dad is without coffee in the mornings, and I swear my older sister turns into a totally different person without it. I don't want to end up like that!”
Tobin can’t help the laugh that bubbles up, and before they know it they’re both in a fit of giggles that’s only interrupted by two quick honks from the car still waiting out in front of the dorm.
They’d all but completely forgotten Christen’s teammates are still waiting on her, and now the moment feels rushed.
“Give me your phone” Christen requests softly, and Tobin doesn’t question her at all as she rips it from her pocket.
She’s done nothing but follow Christen all night, in one way or another.
Christen taps at the screen for a moment before she hands it back.
“There, now you have my number”.
They both know the clock is ticking on their night, and Tobin feels her bravery quickly running out as she puts her phone back in her pocket and tries to come up with an alternate ‘ hang out’ plan.
Thankfully Christen is much braver than she.
“Alright then mysterious artist Tobin, show me what all the fuss about coffee is.”
She presses a quick kiss to Tobin’s cheek and then turns around to the door.
She turns back and says something with a cheeky smile and what Tobin thinks is supposed to be a wink before she finally pushes through the door and back out to her friend's car.
Something it takes Tobin a while to fully process, still standing there beaming like an idiot with her cheek on fire from where Christen had pressed her lips.
“Just know that if I end up hooked, I’m absolutely going to blame you forever.”