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I May Hate Myself In the Morning, But I'm Going to Love You Tonight

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Ashlyn Harris sat in a Houston bar watching her Tar Heels play Gonzaga in the NCAA men's Final Four basketball tournament as she finished her fourth whiskey.  She was so proud of UNC on this night, this game was about the only thing that was going right in her life.  Orlando traded her to the Houston Dash for Jane Campbell at her own request.   Ashlyn was devastated because Orlando was home to her and it was a top notch organization and now she would miss the next season there in the new stadium.   Sometimes things just go terribly wrong, and it is too painful to stay in a place when everything you pass all day long reminds you of the love of your life.  For the first time in her life, Ashlyn was happy to be injured and to have missed  the USWNT camp in Dallas due to coming off of shoulder surgery.

 

Houston was also a top notch organization as far as the stadium and team went.  She was playing with Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, and Kealia Ohai this season.  They also had some of the best doctors in the world for sports medicine and her surgery was healing nicely.  What sucked about tonight was, the USWNT arrived in Houston for their friendly against Russia at BBVA Compass Stadium.  This meant one thing, Ali Krieger was in town.  Ali Krieger, the once epic love of her life was in a hotel a few blocks over from her downtown high rise apartment.  Ashlyn was doing her best to avoid all calls and texts from her USWNT teammates who were all trying to get her to come to the team hotel and hang out since tomorrow was their off day.  So many of them were Tar Heels and they wanted to celebrate with their buddy.

 

Ashlyn could think of 100 other places she'd rather be than the team hotel. Ashlyn really wanted to see her old buddy Allie Long and watch the game with Tobin, but it wasn't worth running into the other Ali who broke her heart in two.  If she didn't have a fan meet and greet commitment to meet with the Dash tomorrow, she would have left town all together.  Six months ago, Ashlyn and Ali had a horrible fight.  Ashlyn was done hiding.  She was done not being able to hold or kiss Ali whenever she wanted.  She was done hiding their relationship; she was done with the whole masquerade.

 

The last game they played together for Orlando, Ali scored a goal and Ashlyn couldn't contain herself with the pride she felt for the defender.  She lost all control of her emotions, ran down the field, scooped Ali up, and kissed her, completely living in the moment.  Ali immediately balked, stiffened and gave Ashlyn a look of disgust.  Ashlyn immediately released her and knew in that minute they were over.  The two had an agreement of no PDA because Ali didn't want to be scrutinized and labeled.  She was concerned what coming out would do to her career and her endorsements.  She wanted to keep their relationship between them.  Ali felt like it was no one’s business what she and Ashlyn had.  Ashlyn was not used to swallowing her emotions, as she wore them on her sleeve.  Ashlyn was a hugger and a kisser in public and Ali was not.  

 

That particular night was the final straw.  After ten years of following Ali all over the world, loving her enough for the both of them, her heart couldn't take it anymore.  Ashlyn felt like she deserved some respect.  If Ali couldn't give it to her, then she would just have to get some self-respect instead.  Ashlyn came home to the house she originally bought for herself, the one she had made theirs the minute Ali signed with Orlando and agreed to move in with her.   Ashlyn walked in and packed all of her clothes and important papers and bills.  She didn’t care about the rest of it.  In that moment she didn’t care about the house, the things in it, her car, you name it.   She filled up four suitcases with the essentials she would need for wherever she was going.  Ali could stay there as long as she wanted.  It didn’t matter anymore.  All Ashlyn knew was that she had to get out.

 

She called Alex Morgan to see if she could stay the night in her guest room.  Of course, Alex said yes despite begging Ashlyn not to do this.  Alex had witnessed on the field first hand what happened that night and she wanted to strangle Ali Krieger.

 

"Everyone knows you two are meant to be, please don't leave her.  You know this isn't easy for her.  She doesn't identify herself as gay but she's head over heels in love with you," Alex tried to reason.

 

"I can't protect her heart anymore Alex, for once I have to protect my own.  She humiliated me tonight in front of thousands.  I was so happy for her, I lost my shit.  I won't be rejected by her anymore in public," Ashlyn sniffled into the phone.

 

Ali got home a bit later after celebrating with the team, clearly tipsy.  She was gut punched when she walked in the door to find the living room filled with 4 suitcases and some other things of Ashlyn’s.  She knew the blonde was mad but she figured Ashlyn just needed some time to blow off steam.   Ali certainly needed to blow off steam after she was almost outed in front of the entire world on the pitch.   She had no idea however that it had escalated to this.  Tears began to flood her eyes and she went to find Ashlyn in their bedroom.  

 

She immediately began crying and pleading with the blonde not to go.  Ashlyn wasn't having any of it and got on her phone, leaving a message with her agent that she wanted to be traded ASAP.  Ali was distraught, she had no fucking idea how things got to this point this quickly.   All she wanted to do was apologize and comfort Ashlyn.  Ali went to wrap her arms around the blonde and Ashlyn pushed back.

 

"Don't you fucking touch me now.  That look back there that you gave me said it all.  It said that after all these years, you are still ashamed of me, ashamed of us. For many years I swallowed it.  It didn't matter as long as we were together.  Well I'm not that scared little person anymore.  I'm not scared of you or what anyone thinks.  You want to run and hide every time someone suspects us?  Then go run and hide Ali.  I'm done hiding, I'm done running.  I'm in love with you and always will be.  That should be more important than what anyone else thinks.  Instead, you put all of them first before me.  I should be your number one, your partner in this life.  I have followed you all over this globe and this is what I get."

 

"Ashlyn please don't go.  Please don't leave me.  I love you so much.  I love us.  I am not ashamed of you.  I don't know why I can't deal with it publicly," Ali cried. 

 

"I do.  Either you’re homophobic or you're ashamed to be with me.  You are a coward.  The best defender in the world won't step up and defend our love over some stupid cyber bullies who mean nothing.  We all can’t be loved by everyone Ali.  What everyone thinks means more to you than I do.  I hope they can keep your bed warm at night, looks like you are in a relationship with all of them now and not me," Ashlyn choked out.  It felt good to get ten years worth of crap off her chest. Ali was beside herself.

 

“Ashlyn, please think about this.  Where will you go?  What are you going to do?   What about us and the house?”

 

“There is no more us.  Stay here as long as you want, I doubt I will be able to return here anytime soon.   I don’t care what you do and I really don’t care what I do other than getting out that front fucking door.”

 

Ali was crying hysterically bent over on the floor dry heaving trying to hang on to Ashlyn’s shirt bottom.  It broke Ashlyn’s heart to watch this whole scene unfold but she couldn’t keep sacrificing her own happiness for this game they were playing.   She thought now that Ali was 30 and they were living together in Orlando that Ali would grow up about how she handled their relationship.   That was never going to happen unless Ashlyn took a drastic measure.  It may not even happen then, this very well could be the end.

 

“Asshhh,” Ali sobbed with red angry eyes as the blonde grabbed a snap back, her jean jacket, and headed for the living room to grab her bags.   “What am I supposed to do without you?  You are my everything!”   As if this were up to Ashlyn to provide Ali the answers of what she was going to do now.  Ashlyn didn’t even know what she was going to do herself.

 

“You are going to go be happy.  You are either going to go find some guy to be with where you can be comfortable in a relationship when the world is watching because it is what you deem to be socially acceptable.  He will give you a few babies and you will have your perfect cookie cutter life.   Or you are going to go find some girl to be with who doesn’t mind you tucking her away in your closet.   Those are the kind of relationships you want so that is what you should go find,” Ashlyn said, tears beginning to well up in her own eyes.   The thought of Ali spending her life with anyone else but her shattered her heart even further.  

 

Ali stood in front of the front door.  Her usually sweet Ashlyn was overcome by an angry demon.  Ali knew she fucked up.  She wasn't perfect.  She just felt a lot of pressure professionally.  She didn't want to be labeled "gay" or "lesbian" and have to take on a whole new battle and become the face of LGBTQ athletes.  She just wanted to live in peace.  Ali grabbed Ashlyn's car keys to keep her from leaving.  Ashlyn just went and grabbed her spare keys and began to grab her bags. 

 

“Ashlyn, I don’t want to be with a guy or some other chick.  I want to be with you.  I want to have babies with you.   I was going to propose to you this offseason.  Please think about this.  If you walk out that door, you and I will never be the same and I mean it.  Don’t do this.   You will regret it.”

 

Now Ashlyn’s blood was really boiling.  "Don't you threaten me! Do you hear yourself?  Propose?  I'm not even allowed to hug you or hold your hand in public, yet you want me to wear your ring?   I wanted to propose to you years ago, hoping one day you'd grow up.  Tonight I was reminded that if by 30 years old you haven't grown up, you never will.  I could have handled you stiffening up.  Granted, I temporarily lost my mind and wanted to shower you with affection.  How awful of me to want to love you.  How awful of me to want to celebrate with my best friend and show the world how much I love you.   But that look, that look  you shot me was full of disgust and every one of our teammates saw it and God knows how many fans.  They say if you love something, set it free.  I'm setting you free Ali, go live in your closet where it's comfortable for you."

 

Ali just sobbed with her face in her hands.  She felt like Ashlyn was being so cruel.  Every time Ashlyn made a return trip for another suitcase, she was met with a continued sobbing Ali.  There was a time when Ashlyn wouldn't have been able to go through with this, but tonight she was hurt too deeply.  Let Ali see what it felt like to have a knife twisting in her gut for a change.

 

Ashlyn stayed with Alex and Serv for a week before her agent called with trade news.  She wouldn’t see Ali or return any of her calls.  Alex felt horrible to have to turn Ali away at her door because they were good friends.   They could have traded Ashlyn to Siberia and she would've accepted.   Ashlyn thanked Alex and Serv for their kindness and left a key to her house with them in case Ali decided to leave so that someone could lock it up properly and help her keep an eye on it.   The Carrascos were devastated for both of their friends.   Ashlyn loaded up her Jeep and made 22 hour drive to Houston just a day after signing her new contract.  No further words were spoken to Ali.  The only communications they had were through text if it was regarding something to do with the house.  Ashlyn really didn’t mind if Ali continued to stay there.  Ali began depositing rent into Ashlyn’s bank account because she felt like it was the only decent thing to do.  Ashlyn got an apartment and decided to spend the offseason in Houston, putting as much distance as she could between her and Ali while she recovered from her surgery.   She took a job with a local sports radio station and a local news station interviewing athletes  and doing color segments to sustain the cost of two places to live.

 

When the USWNT landed in Houston, Ali could only think about one thing and that was her Ashlyn.   She had been miserable for the past 6 months, only leaving the house to fulfill her national team duties, training and endorsement deals.  She scoffed every time she thought of the last fight they had where Ashlyn basically told her to go find someone else.   She couldn’t even look at anyone else.  Her heart was completely broken.  She was surrounded by everything Ashlyn all day long.  Ashlyn’s side of the bed, Ashlyn’s things in the bathroom, Ashlyn’s surf boards, long boards, awards of achievement, the clothes she left behind that she slept in at night.   Ali had to fix this and she had to find a way how.  That was the problem though, she didn’t know how.  She wasn’t ready to come out or to change her ways.  She felt awkward, stupid, and like she didn’t fit in anywhere.   When she was in Germany, she wasn’t German enough, now that she was back in the states, she had a weird German accent and now she wasn’t American enough, she wasn’t gay enough, she wasn’t straight enough.  Where the fuck did she fit in exactly?  She felt like a lost floundering soul.   Before she always had Ashlyn to draw on for strength and now that was gone.

 

Ali knew it would be futile to try to call Ashlyn when they landed in town.  Alex even offered to see if she could get Ashlyn to come see her and then surprise her with Ali but Ali would not let her teammates take the fall and risk Ashlyn being angry with them.  Ashlyn had blocked her on all of her social media accounts so she couldn’t even follow up on her life.  She wanted so badly to pick Carli and Moe’s brains to find out where Ashlyn lived but she knew she couldn’t betray her friendships.    Carli tried her best to stay out of the personal lives of her teammates.  Carli was all about the work and the training.  She didn’t go out with the team, she didn’t monkey around on social media unless it was to support the sport.   This particular trip she was rooming with Krieger and she found that her heart was breaking for her.   She would watch Ali play and train her ass off and then go through the rest of the day like a robot.   On all of their other trips, Ashlyn and Ali normally roomed together, rode on the bus together, left practice together.  You could not separate the two.  Now Carli felt like she was in some kind Romeo and Juliet play.  She saw how miserable Ashlyn was in the Dash locker rooms after their practices.    She could swear she could hear Ali cry herself to sleep every night.  

 

When they arrived in Houston, they had about an hour in the room before dinner.   Ali was sitting on the edge of her bed watching TV and Carli put her ipad down because she couldn’t take this anymore.

 

“Ok Krieger.   As team captain I feel it is my duty to help you.  In all of the years I have known you, played with you, and against you, I have never seen the light leave your eyes.  That light lives here in Houston and you need to do something about it.  I can’t stand to watch the two of you suffer anymore.  What happened?”

 

Ali just looked over at Carli like she had two heads.   Was Carli Lloyed talking to her about personal stuff like a girlfriend would?

 

“Excuse me, who are you and what have you done with Carli?” Ali said with a small smile on her face.

 

Carli chuckled, “Cut the bullshit Krieger, now tell me.”

 

“It’s ok Carli, I will be ok, you don’t have to worry about me, my head will always be in the game, we will beat Russia,” Ali said convincingly to her #10.

 

“I don’t give a damn about Russia or your head.  I am asking you about your heart.   You are turning into me.  There is not enough room on this team for two boring people.  Besides, it totally isn’t you.   You need to start going out with the girls again and having fun.  What happened to your heart?”

 

Ali sighed.   She couldn’t lie to her captain.  “Ashlyn just doesn’t love me anymore like she once did because I can’t give her what she wants.   I can’t come out because I don’t know if I am gay.   I know that sounds weird, but I don’t label myself as that.  I have been with both men and women.   I just love who I love and that is Ashlyn.   I can’t give her the PDA she wants, kiss and hug her in public, and shout from the rooftops that I am in love with her.   We both know, the minute I do, I will be taking away the attention from this team and making it all about me.  Then I will become a gay athlete who is expected to represent the LGBTQ community.  Look at what happened to Jason Collins and Michael Sam.   I don’t want to live in that media circus.   Let people think what they want about us, but I am not going to make some giant splash about it.  So she left me.   She called me a coward and a homophobe and told me to go live in the closet where I am comfortable.  She won’t speak to me, she has blocked me from all of her social media accounts, and for all I know, she could have a new girlfriend.” Ali began to sob.

 

Carli took off her glasses and went to stand up and held out her arms to hold #11.  “Jesus Ali, that is a lot to take in.  This is unchartered territory with me about the gay part but to me love is love.  We don’t get to choose who we love, it just happens.  Be thrilled you found it with someone because some people never find it.   I can say for certain, she does not have a new girlfriend.  She is just as miserable if not more so here in Houston without you as you are without her.  You should ask yourself how you would feel if you did see her with another girl.  Ali, you have to fix this before that happens and it is too late.  Other female players and fans flock to her and it could happen sooner than later.  I heard about what happened at your game.  So what if she kissed you?  You still don’t have to make any public declaration.  There is no reason why you can’t live normally and tell the fans and media that you are only here to discuss the sport you play and love and no personal questions.  Celebrities dodge that shit all of the time.  Maybe you should talk to Pinoe about this.”

 

Ali pulled back out of their hug.  “Thank you, that is a relief about her not being with another girl.  I don’t think I could survive it if she was, I love her so much.   I was going to propose to her this offseason but she said I won’t even hug her in public yet I want her to wear my ring.  She is right, she is right about everything.  I suck as a human and I don’t know how to be any different than I am.  Why did she even fall for me in the first place?  And Pinoe, is out and proud like Ashlyn, she wouldn’t understand.”

 

“She fell in love with you because you were her best friend and you two did everything together.  Christ she even painted your nails for you every week, I have never seen a love or friendship like that before.  I can’t stand to watch you two apart.  I am even willing to sit down with the two of you if you need a neutral party to help you work it out.  I think Allie would do it too.  She loves you both so much.  This is breaking her heart,” Carli said, handing Ali some Kleenex.

 

“Trust me it breaks my heart more than it does yours, thank you,” Ali said, blowing her nose.

 

“Ok let me get on my twitter and Instagram and see where blondie is tonight and maybe you can go to her.  I am supposed to room with her after camp since Ella and Erin left to go play overseas.  I’d rather not give you her address and betray her trust but I will if I have to because the two of you are worth fighting for,” Carli said scrolling through her phone.

 

Ali’s eyes just lit up and Carli smiled.  “It looks like she is going to go watch the Final Four Championships tonight.  She doesn’t say where but I know she goes to this Irish pub on main street which is two blocks over.  I don’t know the name but it is like the only one there where the light rail passes by.  Since we are off tomorrow I will vouch for you if they do curfew in case you don’t come back.  Ali, don’t come back.  Go get your woman.  Take a Tar Heel with you if necessary to pretend you are going to watch the game.  Tobin, Allie, Kling, Ohai, Crystal, any of them will go.  We all have your back.”

 

“Thank you so much Carli, I will never forget this.  Will you ask Allie if she will go with me?   You know Ashlyn could never be mad at her Pookie.”

 

Carli rolled her eyes, “Yes I will call Pookie.  You guys and these names, Pookie, Harry, Baby Horse, you all scare me.”

 

Ali laughed as Carlie got Allie on the phone.  Ali could hear Allie’s excitement screaming through the phone.   Pookie was in and came over to their room so they could plot.  The three walked down to the team dinner where Ali had a smile on her face for the first time in months.  It was noticeable to the whole team and they were happy to see some life breathed into their warrior princess.

 

After dinner, Allie brought up a UNC t-shirt for Allie to wear.   She normally wouldn’t be caught dead in one but tonight was a special occasion.  They both paired them with jeans, boots and jackets before finishing their hair and makeup.  They even convinced Carli to come with them so Allie wouldn’t have to walk back alone.   Carli would not wear a UNC t-shirt though.  She had to draw the line somewhere.  The three headed off for the bar with Carli leading the way to where she had seen the place before.  When they walked in, they grabbed a booth over to the side.   Carli and Allie just looked at each other, surprised that Ali hadn’t said anything about who was sitting at the bar.

 

“What?” Ali asked as she browsed the menu.

 

“Um, aren’t you going to go say hi?” Carli asked.

 

“Say hi to who?”

 

“Your girl,” Carli said.   “Sitting at the bar.”

 

Ali looked around and saw the blonde nowhere.   “Where?”

 

Carli and Allie looked at each other again.   Then a lightbulb went off with Allie who put a hand over her mouth.  “Omg, you haven’t seen Ashlyn since she cut her hair have you?  She went back to her natural color too.”

 

Carli pointed to the bar at a woman in jeans and a long sleeved UNC t-shirt that covered up her tell tale tattoos.   All Ali could see was the back of her head but upon closer inspection she recognized her Ashlyn.  “Oh wow, no, I didn’t know she cut her hair.”

 

Allie quietly snuck up to the woman on the other side of Ashlyn and tapped her on the shoulder.  She put a finger over her lip when the woman recognized who she was.  She offered her $40 for her bar stool which she said would be returned to her or offered that she could come sit with her and Carli.  The woman gladly obliged and Allie waved Kriegs over and pointed to the stool.  All of this went unnoticed by Ashlyn who was laser focused on the game.  Allie brought the woman to come over to sit with her and Carli and Ali took a seat on the stool.   Ali would be forever grateful to her wing women.   She sat down on the stool and a jolt of electricity shot through her body just being this close to Ashlyn.  She waved the bartended over and ordered a glass of wine. 

 

Ashlyn heard a mumble that she would know anywhere.  Her eyes darted over to her left and she saw blue painted fingernails belonging to a hand that she would know anywhere.  A hand that had been on her body 1000 times, the hand that gripped the steering wheel of a white BMW she often rode in,  a hand she longed to hold in public for over a decade.  Ashlyn darted her eyes back up to the TV, she was both excited and pissed at the same time.  She had said all she needed to say to Ali Krieger.  Let her do all of the talking for once.  Instead, she just chose to ignore the whole situation.   Ali was served her wine and while she took a drink, Ashlyn called the bartender over and ordered a basket of wings.

 

Ali never felt so shy or scared.  She thought for sure by now Ashlyn would have looked over her way or recognized her but that was not the case.   She was going to have to make the first move and this was out of her comfort zone.  She cleared her throat hoping that would get a look and it did not.  She continued to eye Ashlyn out of the side of her eye.  The haircut and color were growing on her.   She was happy to see Ashlyn comfortable with her true self.  She could tell Ashlyn was transforming, going after what she wanted in life and not what others wanted her to be.  Why couldn’t things be as easy for Ali?

 

Back at the booth, Allie and Carli thought they were going to die of anticipation if one of those two didn’t make a move soon.   If Allie had to, she was full on prepared to go stand next to Ali and go full on “Pookie” with Ashlyn forcing her to look at Ali.  She just hoped she didn’t have to.  She texted Ali.

 

Pooks:  Go for it Kriegs, don’t make me come over there.

Kriegs:  I’m working up my nerve.  Give me just a sec.

Pooks:  We are growing older by the minute.  Carli is going to die from entertaining this fan girl.  Get on with it.

Kriegs:  Its almost worth drawing it out to see Carli putting up with the fan girl :)

Pooks:  Do it, or the fan girl is going to be in your lap because she loves her some “Ali Freaking Krieger”

 

Ali took another sip of wine.  It was now or never. 

 

“So, are you a big UNC fan?” Ali asked, putting a hand on Ashlyn’s arm. 

 

Ashlyn just kept watching the game. “You already know the answer to that,” Ashlyn replied never looking Ali’s way.  “So she does know I am here.”

 

“Ashlyn”  Ali said and still nothing.

 

“Ashlyn, please don’t ignore me, we need to talk, I came to see you, to talk to you,” Ali said.

 

“I’ve said everything I needed to say to you that one October night.  Nothing has changed,” Ashlyn replied.

 

“Ashlyn, look at me.  Eventually we have to talk, we are going to play together, against each other, please hear me out,” Ali pleaded. 

 

Ashlyn reached for her wallet and pulled out enough bills to pay for her drinks and tip.  She couldn’t even enjoy her game in peace.  She turned to her right to get up when Ali put a hand on her shoulder.

 

“Hand off the shoulder Krieger, I recently had surgery,” Ashlyn said and headed towards the front door, not even seeing Allie or Carli on her way out.  Allie popped up to run towards Ali after seeing how pissed Ashlyn looked.   “Go after her, I will pay your bill, Carli and I will catch up.”

 

Ali went after Ashlyn jogging to catch up with her on the downtown street.  “Ashlyn!”  Ashlyn was being stubborn as could be so Ali just ran ahead of her and then turned around.  Ashlyn decided she would then go to cross the street and that is when she met Carli Lloyd on her right side, ushering her back to the sidewalk.  Ashlyn rolled her eyes and went to turn around and was met with Allie Long on her back side.

 

“Fuck!  What the fuck guys?” Ashlyn screamed leaning her back against the brick wall of a building.

 

“You two are going to talk and air this shit out if Allie and I have to stand here all night.  We have time, tomorrow is an off day.   So you two can either do this in a mature way and start talking or you can do it Allie’s and my way where we kidnap you and force you in a room together.   Either way, this is so happening tonight,” Carli said with a look of steely determination in her eyes.

 

Ashlyn held her face in her hands.  “Fine.  Just give us a minute then.  Can we at least go into this hotel lobby before we all get accosted out here in the middle of the night?”

 

The four walked into the lobby of the JW Marriott where Ali and Ashlyn sat at a table and Carli and Allie went and took a seat at the lobby bar close enough to eye the pair but to give them their privacy so they couldn’t hear.

 

“Ok Krieger, get whatever it was you came to say off your chest so I can go home,” Ashlyn said annoyed.

 

“That makes me sad that you call you call a place here home now,” Ali said looking down at her hands.

 

Ashlyn just raised an eyebrow.   She had no intentions of making this easy for Ali nor striking up conversation.  Ali picked up on the fact that she was going to have to start talking and talking fast.

 

“Ashlyn I love you.  I am miserable without you.  You are my entire life.  I am so sorry what happened between us, if I could go back and change that night I would.  I would go back and change a lot of things.  I know you deserve so much better.  I want to be everything you want, need and deserve.   Life isn’t worth living if you aren’t in it.  Please give me another chance to show you how much.  I want to change for you.”

 

Ashlyn just smirked.  “I don’t want you to change for me Ali, that is what you have never understood.  If it doesn’t come naturally to you, then I don’t want whatever it is you are offering.  I don’t want you to be anything for me.  I don’t want you to have to engage in some chore or exercise that you think you have to do to make me happy.  I never thought I could live without you.  If this last six months has taught me anything, it has taught me that I am strong and that I can live to fight another day even if that is without you.”

 

Ali was taken aback.  This was not how she meant for this to go.   “Babe, that is not what I meant.  I want to do these things.  I have had a lot of time to think about what I want.”

 

“Look, let’s be honest.  If you wanted it, you would have done it a long time ago.  I shouldn’t have had to wait a decade for you to have some kind of epiphany,” Ashlyn said as she grabbed the arms of the chair to stand up.

Ali stood up too.  “Ashlyn you aren’t walking away from me.  I will fight for you for the next 100 years if I have to because you are worth it.”

 

Ashlyn just looked at Ali.  She was even more beautiful then she remembered.   She never wanted anything so badly as she did Ali Krieger, even after all of these years.  However, she would be damned if she was going to fall back into this trap. 

 

“I can’t do this Ali, I’ve just put my life together and I like it.”

 

Ali stared into Ashlyn’s eyes, a tortured look on her face.  “Is there someone else?”

 

Ashlyn’s jaw dropped.  “As if.  God I wish Ali.  I wish somewhere out there someone else would appear that would make me forget about you.  Someone else that would come along, hold my hand anywhere, kiss me anywhere, hug me without feelings of shame and having to look around to see who was watching.   Hopefully one day there will be.”  Ashlyn turned on her foot and headed out towards the lobby doors leaving tears to stream down Ali’s face.

 

“Fuck this,” Ali said and went to follow Ashlyn.   Carli and Allie got up to follow them out, being sure to hang back to see how this unfolded.

 

“Ashlyn Michelle Harris!!!”  Ali yelled when she got to the sidewalk.  “You know I can outrun you, don’t make me have to!”  Ashlyn stopped in her tracks.  She was so over this bullshit tonight.

 

Ali caught up to her.  “Goddammit Ashlyn!   Listen to me.   I fucking love you with all of my heart!” Ali screamed loud enough for Carli and Allie to hear.   Allie snickered and Ashlyn looked to her right to see that the two of them were about 100 yards away and could hear Ali.

 

“Be careful there Krieger.  Wouldn’t want team captain and your teammates to hear that or god forbid some fucking meaningless fan.”

 

“I don’t give a shit who hears me!  I love you, I want you, You are my life!” Ali yelled.  She grabbed both sides of Ashlyn’s face and leaned in to kiss Ashlyn as tears rolled down her own face.    Ashlyn did not kiss her back.  She kept her lips closed despite Ali begging for entrance with her tongue.   She kept her hands in her jeans pockets even though it was the hardest thing she ever had to do.

 

“Ashlyn?  Do you not love me anymore?  Look me in the eyes and tell me you no longer love me,” Ali challenged her.  “Tell me that I mean nothing to you and that you feel nothing for me when I touch you.  Tell me you don’t want to take me back to your place right now and have your way with me like I want to with you.”

 

“I can’t tell you that.  But I can tell you this.  I have to shelf my feelings for you.  I refuse to let you hurt me again.  You have to remember that I have heard all of this before.  We went through this same scenario in Europe.   Nothing has changed Ali.  Some public declaration out on a sidewalk in the middle of the night downtown doesn’t change anything.  And those two over there, like they and the rest of the team didn’t already know what was going on between us.  In fact, everyone does.  You seem to be the only one who thinks you are keeping some kind of gigantic secret.   I am not your secret anymore Ali.”  Ashlyn was determined to stay resolute on the matter.

 

“Ashlyn, stop this.  I know you feel the same way I do.  I can feel the electricity between us.  Now take me home and make me yours,” Ali said, still holding Ashlyn’s face.

 

“I’ll take you back to my place but on one condition.  My terms,” Ashlyn said.

 

Ali let a giant smile overtake her face, finally Ashlyn was beginning to melt.  “Anything, just tell me what it is baby.”

 

Ashlyn wasn’t smiling.   “We go back to my place and we fuck.  We both need it.  But there will be no I love yous, no babe, no baby, no terms of endearment.   We fuck and then you go back to your hotel.  That’s all I have ever been to you anyway is a good fuck so let’s just call this what it is and be honest about it this time,” Ashlyn said stone faced.

 

“Oh my God.  Ashlyn.  You know you were, are, so much more to me than that.  For Christ sakes you are my best friend, the love of my life, the first woman I ever gave myself to.  If I have to tell you 1000 times, you are my world, my heartbeat.  I have your name tattooed on my ass and that is because I am yours forever,” Ali said as she choked back more tears.

 

“I hear all of that but actions speak louder than words.  I was never your partner.  I was your secret.  Anyway, it doesn’t matter now.  Take it or leave it, those are my terms and I mean it Ali, I am not fucking around.   You come back to my bed and then you leave.   We will do this the way you always wanted.  No PDA, no extra anything, nothing public, no sleeping over, no meals together, no movie nights, cuddling, etc.    I will never be able to deny my attraction to you.  I can’t even look at anyone else but you will never have my heart again to stomp on.  So take it or leave it, I really don’t care,” Ashlyn said as she started to head towards her car.

 

Ali wanted to die right there.  How could she take it.  How could she not.  She would take any crumb Ashlyn threw her as hurtful as it might be.  She was now on the receiving end of being treated like shit which is what she figured Ashlyn’s goal was.  This was going to be toxic as hell but if it was the only chance she had to even spend one more night on this earth with Ashlyn Harris, she would take it.

 

“I’ll take it.” 

 

I am going to so hate myself in the morning for this, but I sure am going to love her the best I can tonight,” Ali thought to herself.