The final bell rang, ending the day, and with it comes the end of Kelley's junior year. Her backpack is light, no longer carrying textbooks around and she turned in her school-issued laptop. As she’s walking to her car, she hears someone calling her name. It’s Pinoe, standing on the hood of her own car, ripping her notes from the binder and throwing them in the air like confetti.
“KO!” Her teammate yells while continuing to decorate the parking lot. “Party at my house tonight! My parents are off to New York or Florida or somewhere, I can’t remember. They’re gone all weekend, time for a rager to start the summer, don’t you think?”
“You already know I’m there, Peens,” Kelley laughs, “I’ll help spread the word.”
“Always know I can count on you, KO,” Pinoe salutes her before jumping down. Her pink hair is sticking straight up now and Kelley can’t help but laugh again. “Now, I’m off to pick up snacks because Sue told me we can’t have another incident like last time so send in requests if you have any,” she says as she climbs her car. “We’re seniors now! Let’s fucking party!”
Kelley waves goodbye and fires off a quick text to the team group chat about the party before getting into her own car. She rolls all the windows down and turns the volume on her speakers up to full blast before peeling out of the school’s parking lot.
Alex offers up her house for the pregame and Kelley manages to swipe a few bottles from her parents’ liquor cabinet, hiding them in her overnight bag along with the outfit she’s going to change into once she gets out of the house. She tells her mom that Alex is having a start of summer slumber party and Kelley can hear her sister snort from the kitchen. Before Mrs. O’Hara can ask any questions, Kelley is already out the door and on her way.
When she arrives at the Morgans, Kelley slips through with just a quick hello and thank you to her friend’s parents and climbs the stairs to Alex’s room.
Inside, she finds Alex, Ash, Ali, Tobin, and Christen strewn across the room, each with a tumbler full of some concoction. Well, all of them except Christen, tonight’s designated driver, and Tobin, who looks like she might already be asleep, sprawled out on Alex’s bed.
Once she’s inside, Ash squeals and jumps up to greet her, clearly already more than tipsy. “Kel, can you believe it?”
“I know,” Kelley giggles while she mixes a drink for herself in Alex’s en suite bathroom that has been turned into a mini bar, “we’re seniors y’all!”
“No, not that! Didn’t you see the news?”
Kelley pokes her head back out to look at her friends. “What news?”
“They’re officially opening that new school down by my house,” Ali says.
“Why do I care about another school full of a bunch of randos?” Kelley says, taking a long sip from her cup, the one stamped with the Stanford logo that she got on her first visit. There’s a hush over the whole group and Kelley feels like she’s missing the joke.
Christen is the one to speak first. “Kelley, we’re the randos going to that school. Haven’t your parents told you?” She asks and Kelley doesn’t answer. “When they decided to build the new school, they redrew the lines and everyone in our neighborhood is going there now. And half the kids from across town are coming with us.”
Kelley doesn’t know how she’s supposed to process that information. It’s their senior year, it’s supposed to be the best year ever! One last hurrah with all her best friends before they all left for college. She likes her school, she likes her teachers, well, except for maybe Ms. Lloyd, who teaches economics, and she likes her team.
Her team. Oh no.
“But what about soccer?” She asks frantically, plopping down onto the plush carpet next to Ash. “We’re supposed to win states this year!”
“Oh, you better fucking believe we’re still doing that,” Ash slurs a little, leaning into Kelley’s side.
“If anything, we’re going to be better, Kel,” Alex pipes in, “this means a lot of the Thorns will be part of our new team.”
Kelley’s stomach flips oddly and she’s not totally sure why, so she covers it with a dramatic eye roll. “Like they have anyone on their team that is better than any of us.”
“I don’t know, I think having Lindsey Horan serve balls in would be pretty great.”
“And have you seen Rose Lavelle dribbling into space? Glad I’m not going to be embarrassed by her again in front of everyone.”
“And then there’s Sonnett–”
Alarm bells start going off in Kelley’s brain. “What about Sonnett?” Kelley asks sharply and all her friends turn to look at her.
“Kel, her street falls in the new district, she’s going to be coming to school with us,” Christen says, “I assume she’ll be on the team too.”
Emily fucking Sonnett, the bane of Kelley’s existence for years now. The star center back and would-be captain of their cross-town rivals, the Thorns. She’s the person who has stood in the way of Kelley breaking every single scoring record in the state of Georgia. She’s been able to score on any and every team in the league, but ever since Sonnett joined the Thorns’ varsity squad two years ago, they’re the only team Kelley can’t seem to score on.
And she’s only going to be a junior! Kelley has worked her ass off for three years to get the captaincy for the Royals. Now that ARod has graduated, the armband is supposed to go to Kelley. It’s basically unheard of for a junior to become captain, how did Sonnett manage to get that handed to her? Who does she think she is? Just because she has perfect blonde hair and the best long balls Kelley has ever seen doesn’t mean she’s worth talking about. Plus, they already have Abby and Ali, they don’t need any more center backs. It’ll be a while before Kelley realizes Abby’s house doesn’t fall within the new district.
Now Kelley is going to be expected to share the field with that annoying blonde? No, thank you.
“Assuming she makes the team, you mean,” Kelley scoffs. “Wait, does this mean we get a new coach?” She can’t imagine getting to where she is now without Coach O’Reilly, she doesn’t want to have to work with someone new. HAO got her a scholarship offer from Stanford, Kelley’s dream school.
“Kel,” Tobin pipes up from Alex’s bed, apparently not asleep like the rest of the room thought, “she’s like the best defender in the state, she’ll make the team.” Ash tries to say something about how they’re all forgetting how amazing Ali is, which makes Ali lean in and kiss her, earning groans from everyone else in the room and pillows pelted at them both.
“Look, I don’t want to think about all these other girls coming in and trying to steal people’s spots. Can we please go to Pinoe’s now? I want to get drunk tonight,” Kelley whines.
“Fuck yeah, I’m ready to get shitfaced!” Ash yells and this time Ali slugs her in the arm before Alex’s parents hear her.
“Okay, but have you looked at the pictures of the art wing?”
Emily is pretty sure she couldn’t care less about the art wing at the brand new Washington High School. She doesn’t care about the new school at all. What Emily cares about is her soccer team getting split up, about having to work with a whole new group of players, rather than maybe just one or two freshmen. She cares that now she has to share the field with Kelley O’Hara rather than work against her.
Kelley O’Hara, the player from the Royals who has been breathing down Emily’s neck for every minute of every game they’ve played against each other. The just-named captain and star forward with an attitude to boot. By the end of this past season, both Kelley and Emily were serving as vice captains, both called upon to make decisions for their teams. When they meet in the middle for the coin toss, Kelley never smiles. Amy Rodriguez is nicer before the games than during, she and Cheney are always laughing and jabbing at one another good-naturedly, but Kelley just grips Emily’s hand like she’s trying to break it and chews the inside of her cheek while she waits to call heads, she always calls heads.
So, while Emma daydreams about all the brand new art supplies, Emily worries about what her soccer season is going to look like.
She knows that Christen Press’s right footed rockets show up in her nightmares and that Tobin Heath has made her look silly on more than one occasion, so she’s glad to have them on her side this year, but she also knows that Mal is just as good, if not better than both of them.
Emily also worries about what this means for her, specifically. The Royals already have a starting center back pair in Ali and Abby, but Emily thinks she and Sam Staab are better. Will their new coach think that? Will she split them up? Emily has college coaches interested in her, she can’t afford to ride the bench just because Ali is older.
Maybe it’s selfish of her to think that way, but Emily earned her spot as captain at the end of last season after working harder than she ever has in her entire life. Will their new coach care about that? What about Kelley? She was the captain of the Royals, she’s older and she’s louder, so will she get the armband over Emily?
That’s probably her biggest fear about this upcoming season. She has no problem admitting that Kelley is an incredible player, phenomenal even, but Emily doesn’t think she’s a good leader. She also doesn’t think Kelley is a very nice person either, which is unfortunate. Emily can work with someone who’s strong-willed, she can’t work with someone who’s mean.
Emily has known Kelley O’Hara for pretty much her entire life. There’s even a picture of the two of them on one of the shelves in the Sonnetts’ living room. It’s from their first soccer team, when they were like four or five years old, both dressed in their green jerseys, matching french braid pigtails, and covered in freckles with their arms around each other. Sometimes Emily wonders why her mom keeps this one on display and never switches it with the one of her and Emma in the exact same pose that’s on the wall upstairs, especially since she and Kelley aren’t friends anymore, never really were once Kelley moved onto middle school, leaving younger Emily behind.
Kelley is the popular, party girl. The one everyone wants to be friends with, has like a bazillion instagram followers liking her bikini pictures, and pretty much every boy in town falling at her feet. She’s pretty, Emily can see that, she noticed that a long time ago, and she’s charming when she wants to be. Emily remembers how, when they were little, Kelley had always been able to talk her way into whatever she wanted. She’s smart too though, she’s probably going to end up valedictorian this year and, if that happens, Emily will be proud of her. They may not get along anymore, but she knows how hard of a worker Kelley is. She knows Kelley has an offer from Stanford, her dream school, but Emily doesn’t know why she hasn’t committed yet, there’s no other place she wants to go. Emily worries that Kelley’s parents are pressuring her to stay close to home, that California is too far away. That’s what her sister did, she’s at UGA now, but Emily knows Kelley is meant for bigger things than their hometown can give her. And just because they’re not friends anymore doesn’t mean Emily doesn’t want Kelley to get what she deserves, what she’s earned.
Emily has no real idea what she’s doing, especially when you put her next to Kelley. She knows she’s good at soccer, that she’s a loyal friend, and that she likes to draw, but that’s about it. Emily is much less interested in making things about her, especially on the soccer field, she just wants to put her head down and get the job done.
She’s not an outsider or anything, she just isn’t one for the limelight, no matter how many times Lindsey tells her she’s earned it. She drinks and she goes to parties, she just doesn’t want to be the center of attention at them. And she is more than okay without any boys falling at her feet.
Emily realized she was gay a long time ago. If she had to pick a moment, she’d guess it was during the summer before ninth grade. She went to sleepaway camp near Lake Allatoona and one of the last nights, she kissed one of her cabin mates on a dare, and it opened her eyes to a whole new world. She’s not exactly out though, this is still Georgia after all. Her parents know and after they got over the initial shock, they’ve been nothing but supportive, but besides them and her sister, the only people who know are Rose and Lindsey. Rose, because she’s Rose and knows everything somehow, and Lindsey because she’s kind of become Emily’s make out buddy over the last year or so. Lindsey says she isn’t gay, though Emily thinks she’s probably at least bi, and their make out sessions really depend on whether or not Lindsey and her boyfriend are broken up, which seems to be a day-by-day type of thing right now.
She’s pulled out of her thoughts when Emma tugs harshly on her shirt. “So, do you want to come with us to that party Megan Rapinoe is throwing? It was an open invite, she and Brooks were in the same chem class. Apparently she’s known for wild parties.”
“Aren’t all those girls going to be there?” The last thing Emily wants to deal with when she’s trying to have a good time is all the Royals girls ganging up on her for showing up to a party she was (technically) invited to.
“Probably. Bring Lindsey, I’m sure you guys will find a way to have some fun,” Emma says, wiggling her eyebrows ridiculously, reminding Emily that she knows about her not-always-platonic relationship with Lindsey.
Emma ditches them the moment they walk through the doors of the obscenely large Rapinoe house, supposedly her parents are basically like business royalty in Atlanta or something like that, and races off to find Brooks, leaving Emily and Lindsey alone in the foyer.
“Let’s go find the drinks,” Lindsey says, taking Emily’s hands and leads her through the crowd to the kitchen where there’s a cooler filled with an unidentified red liquid and others filled with hard seltzers and light beer while the hard liquor lines the counter.
“I don’t know how you drink that shit,” Emily says, touching her beer can to Lindsey’s mango seltzer before taking a long swig.
“Back at you, babe,” Lindsey grins.
They make their way out to the large backyard and Emily feels like she’s stepped into a frat house or something. There’s a huge crowd around the beer pong table where she sees Zach and Julie facing off against JJ and Kealia. There’s a row of foldable tables set up for flip cup, where she sees some of the Royals girls facing off against each other, the ones in her grade mostly, like Andi Sullivan and Sam Mewis, both of whom Emily really likes and is actually excited to be on a team with, and Tierna Davidson, who is going to be a great defender for the Royals now that she’s going to have the chance. And at the foot of the stairs from the deck is a beautiful fire pit that people have gathered around.
“Would you look at what the cat dragged in,” a voice cuts through and Emily rolls her eyes even before even spotting her. Kelley stares at her from her seat near the fire, perched on some dude’s lap, surrounded by her friends as she holds court, all of them laughing at her dig at Emily. She’s wearing some very short denim shorts and a green top that could maybe be better classified as a bralette, with her long, brown hair cascading down her back. “Didn't know we were letting in children.”
“You know you’re only like three months older than me, right? It's not my fault where the cutoff date is. I thought math was like, your thing,” Emily isn’t intimidated by Kelley, at least when she’s like this. On the field? Sure, she can be a bit scary, but here, at a stupid, high school party that Emily isn’t particularly enthused to be at? Here it’s just annoying. Kelley is clearly drunk and Emily has no interest in getting into an argument, especially in front of people that will be her teammates this year. “Come on, Linds, let’s go dance or something,” she says and begins to turn away.
“Hope you’re ready to ride the bench this season, junior!” Kelley calls while Emily’s walking away.
Lindsey immediately spins around, ready to breathe fire at this girl for insulting her friend, but Emily grabs her hand, stopping her.
“Might want to revise the workout regimen over the summer, Kel, maybe then you might have a chance of getting past me at practice,” Emily says, turning around and smiling to herself when she hears half the crowd around the fire pit laughing because of what she said.
Maybe an hour later, could’ve been two, who knows, Kelley stumbles inside for a drink refill. Adam offered to get her one but Kelley doesn’t need a man to do things for her. She figures a bathroom break is a good idea, even though she doesn’t really want to break the seal. But when she turns the corner to the hallway, she’s stopped in her tracks by something that makes her forget about her bladder or another drink.
At the end of the hallway, she sees Emily and her friend, Lindsey, leaning against one of the guest bedroom doors. She sees Emily’s arms around Lindsey’s neck and Kelley’s eyes are immediately drawn to the fact that Emily’s black tank top has ridden up because of it. Even in the dark, Kelley can see her abs. There’s a shoelace around her waist instead of a belt, which Kelley has never seen someone do before. She can see the way Lindsey’s fingers are toying with it.
She’s about to say something but then her mouth snaps shut because, when she looks again, Emily and Lindsey are kissing. They’re kissing as Emily reaches back, opening the door behind them and disappearing inside.
Suddenly, Kelley is sober as a judge, trying to take in what she just witnessed. Not wanting to get caught if they came out, she wanders back outside to the party, trying to understand why her gut twisted when she saw the two other girls together, because right now, it feels a lot like jealousy.