Wednesday was an exciting day. Ashlyn’s photos turned out amazing and they were all ready to go hyping up her return to Orlando. Ali had plans to roll out all sorts of things over the next few weeks to hype up the fans. Today would just be about Ashlyn and Dom though and Dom was having his photo shoot done that day and being outfitted with new OCSC gear, uniforms, and everything he needed. After training and practice was done, Ali, Ashlyn, Coach Sermanni and Coach Kreiss headed over to the offices to hold the press conferences with Alex L, Ashlyn, Dom, and the coaches. They hyped up the affair on social media that day and the PR department was busy scheduling appearances with Ash and Dom to join the local radio and morning TV shows. They also met briefly with the two players to discuss how they should address the questions of Alex and Serv if they should come up. The fans were thrilled that Ashlyn was back. Everywhere the duo went that day, fans decked out in purple gear were there to cheer for them, welcoming them both back to Orlando. Ali and Jane had told Ashlyn how much she was missed, but to feel this outpouring of love meant the world to Ashlyn. It gave her a new resolve to continue the work she started there. To show to others it was ok to be different, that acceptance came in all shapes, forms, and sizes. Ali couldn’t have been more proud to watch her fiancé back in her element. Ashlyn had her doubts about her abilities in the front office, but in Ali’s mind there was no doubt. Ashlyn was a natural at dealing with people and that was half the battle in any job. Ali couldn’t wait to present Ashlyn with the team Captain arm band. She had already consulted the players and everyone agreed, they wanted Ashlyn back as Captain if Ali no longer wanted it.
Ashlyn and Ali then met with Alex L and began to start their crash course in going over the accounting journals, schedules and financial statements. That day, Alex decided to just focus on expenses so that the pair could get an idea of how much it cost to run this operation. He went over their contracts and how often they bid on certain things. That took just one day alone before they could move on to anything else.
The other great bit of news was that Carli arrived with Pele. Ashlyn and Ali went over to the team hotel to pick them up. Since Wednesday was a travel day and Sunday was now going to be the day of the services, they decided that it would be a good day to give Carli the tour since it was the Dash travel day. Pele was so happy to see them and immediately jumped in the front seat of the Rover with Ali, bombarding her face with kisses.
“My little liebling, I have missed you so much! I have some chopped up chicken at home waiting on you my boo boo.”
“You know, chicken gives him the farts,” Carli said, putting her sunglasses on and buckling in.
“So does quinoa, or whatever you try to feed him. Since he will be staying with us, you won’t have to smell his chicken farts,” Ali said taking note that he was in an Orange Dash jersey, taking it off and stating that it was too hot in Orlando right now for him to be wearing that.
“So how are Morgan and Heath, fill me in on everything,” Carli said as they drove to the practice facilities.
Ali and Ashlyn proceeded to tell Carli the whole story and how Alex was not at her best these days, was sleeping too much, crying a lot, and seemed to be falling into a depression. Tobin was trying to help as best as she could, but she was battling her own recovery and her feelings for Alex.
Carli just sighed. “You know, Alex Morgan is the happiest person I know. This is all bullshit. Ever since the accident her life has been turned upside down and she doesn’t even sound like herself. We have to do something to get her back. I know how tragic this is for her but we can’t let her slip away.”
Ali turned her head around to face Carli, “I have suggested she see a therapist, do you have any ideas of what we can do for her?”
“The best thing that ever happened to me in my darkest hour was when Hope Solo kicked my ass every day and wouldn’t let me wallow.”
“And how did she do that?” Ashlyn asked.
“She made me get up every morning and run with her. And every time I would complain, she would tell me onward and upward, do not look back. And if I did, she would make me run another lap. Eventually my body and mind fell in synch with one another and I trained my mind to stop dwelling and to focus on the positive. Take me to see her tonight, maybe I can do the same for her.”
When they arrived at the practice facility, Carli was impressed. The grass fields were like meadows, healthy meals were provided, even Carli’s favorite, the ice baths were nicer than what she was used to. The training and weight facilities were top notch. Carli already knew how beautiful the new stadium was and she truly liked the atmosphere that surrounded the Pride. She loved her National teammates and she began to contemplate what life in Orlando would be like. Ali kicked a ball Carli’s way and she immediately pivoted and bicycle kicked it into the back of the net. Ali just looked at Ashlyn and Ashlyn just looked at Ali in shock. They were used to Carli doing amazing things but every now and then, you couldn’t help but being in awe of her. They wanted her in Orlando and would do anything to make it happen. Ali walked over to Carli, after fetching the ball out of the net.
“That right there is what this team needs. I am not going to pressure you, but I want you here Carli. Whatever it takes, name it. I think we can get Sydney and Tobin here next year too and then the sky is the limit of what we can do.”
“I am not going to lie Ali, the ball is definitely in your court. This place is everything you and Ashlyn have said it is. Brian is all for it due to the golfing alone. I definitely want to coach after I play. So if you can promise that I will have a role in coaching somewhere in this organization, I am in. Let’s make a deal in the offseason. Get your realtor to get in touch with me so we can start looking at places online,” Carli smiled and Ali just pulled her in for a tight hug.
“Done and done. We would love to have you coaching. You get here and you experience everything on both of the men’s and women’s side and then you tell us where you want to be. I want us ‘15ers to stick together.”
Alex was not having one of her best days. Tobin had walked over to Alex’s house after her physical therapy. She scheduled her surgery for the following week and wanted to give Alex the news. However, when she entered Alex’s home, her parents were not there and Alex was still in bed asleep. Tobin could see the evidence that she had cried herself to sleep once more and her heart ached for the girl.
“Alex, honey, you need to get up.” Tobin stood there and nothing. She was beginning to get concerned that Alex was slipping away mentally. She was afraid that if Alex fell too deeply into the abyss, they would not be able to get her back.
Tobin nudged Alex’s arm, “Alex, its Tobin, please get up.”
Alex stirred in her sleep, opening one eye and looking up. “No. Let me sleep,” Alex said, turning her head into the pillow.
Tobin got up, left, and dialed Ali who promptly answered, putting Tobin on speaker.
“Hey Ali, I am worried about Alex. She has been sleeping all day, crying herself to sleep again. We need to do something.”
“Ok Tobin, Ashlyn, Carli and I are on our way. Carli has a plan and it might involve some tough love. Let’s see if she can get through to her.”
Across the canal, Juan Carlos was rifling through a local paper with a wad of his newly attained cash burning a hole in his pocket. He was perusing the back of the paper for the ads for an escort for the evening when he saw an ad that caught his eye. He turned on his laptop and went to the website to look over the selections. His eyes rested on a long haired brunette with a pretty smile and he quickly dialed the number to check on her availability. It was Juan Carlos’ lucky day because Lacey was indeed available to escort Juan Carlos to dinner that night.
When Lacey arrived, she was not surprised to find Juan Carlos was not dressed to go to dinner. Lacey smiled to herself, because she knew he was open to being propositioned. As Juan Carlos greeted her and opened the door open wide, Lacey walked in, admiring the view that the ceiling to floor windows allowed of the canal. The place was meticulous and clean and as she turned on her heel to face Juan Carlos, he was already coming up behind her putting his hands on her waist.
“So, I take it we are not going to dinner,” Lacey smiled, her eyes dancing as they met Juan’s.
“I had another kind of dinner in mind,” Juan said, a sly smile creeping across his face.
“Here’s the menu,” Lacey said, pulling a folded up piece of paper out of her purse and handing to Juan that had her services and prices printed out.
Juan Carlos quickly looked it over. “I will take the number 5 please.”
“Number 5 it is. That will be $600.00,” Lacey said.
Juan Carlos dug around in his pocket, pulling out his money clip, counting out six crisp, one hundred dollar bills and handing them over. Lacey took the money and went to place it in her purse while reaching for her handcuffs at the same time, quickly whipping them out and putting Juan Carlos in a hold faster than his head could swim.
“I am officer Lacey Ryan and you are under arrest.” As soon as she had him cuffed, she reached into her purse and called for her partner to come in and join her. Two more officers then joined Juan’s little party and read him his Miranda rights and charged him with propositioning a police officer for sex and prostitution. They frisked him and officer McCarthy found the wad of cash.
“Did you find anything on him?” Lacey asked.
“Just this,” McCarthy said showing her the money clip. “But I didn’t see anything, did you Ryan?”
“Not a thing,” Lacey responded as McCarthy put the cash in his own pocket which they all would split up against themselves later on.
“Hey, that’s my money,” Juan Carlos protested.
“Shut the fuck up,” McCarthy said, punching Juan Carlos across the mouth. “That is for resisting arrest.”
Juan Carlos knew he was in a losing battle with three cops, his word against theirs as they roughly pushed him in the back of the cruiser.
When they arrived at Alex’s house, Carli greeted Tobin when the three walked in.
“You are a sight for sore eyes, I am so glad you are looking much better, how are you feeling?”
Tobin threw her head back and laughed. Carli had a way of cutting through the shit. “Hey Carli, I am ok, I need shoulder surgery and I am having memory issues, like two years worth, but other than that I am fine.”
“Memory issues as in how?” Carli asked.
“As in I can’t even remember winning the World Cup or losing in Rio,” Tobin said, looking down.
Carli put her hand over her mouth, “I am so sorry, that is like the saddest thing I have ever heard. Have you watched any of the games?”
“Not yet, things have been kind of crazy around here.”
“Well, I am going to see if I can get through to Alex. I may not be her favorite person to see for the next few days but I will be damned if I am going to let her wallow and wilt away. I know what happened is a tragedy but we can’t let her get depressed. Someone is going to have to whip her into shape, it might as well be me.”
“I say go for it, a lot of us have too much to lose with her, you could be the perfect person to do it. How are you coping with the news of Jill?”
Carli’s eyes misted over, “I am ok. Jill was a good friend to me, she believed in me and gave me encouragement when I didn’t believe in myself at times. I miss her and I can’t believe she is gone. She was a great coach.”
Tobin just pulled Carli in for a hug and Ali and Ashlyn just looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. They knew this would be hard for Carli as Carli was Jill’s biggest cheer leader.
Tobin walked Carli back to Alex’s room and Carli walked into Alex’s closet grabbing a pair of running shoes, and opened the drawers until she found a sports bra, tank top and a pair of running shorts. She then walked over to the bed where Alex lay sleeping and sat on it next to her. She put her hand on Alex’s shoulder and gently nudged her.
“Hey Alex, it’s me, Carli.”
Carli tried again, this time she shook harder and was louder, “Hey star, it is time to get up, no more sleeping.”
“Tobin, I said to leave me alone.”
“It is not Tobin. This is your captain speaking.”
Alex shot up, she knew that voice. She turned her head and looked over, seeing Carli sitting on the edge of her bed, Tobin, Ali and Ashlyn standing behind her with their arms folded.
“Yes,” Carli said. “You are going to get up, whether you want to or not. Now we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way, but regardless, you and I are going for a run.”
Alex just looked at her and threw her face in her hands. She knew she couldn’t get out of bounds with Carli. Carli had ways of making your life hell on the National Team until you straightened up.
“Come on now,” Carli said, reaching for Pepe out of Ashlyn’s arms and putting him on the bed to lick Alex’s face.
“Ew! What is that?” Alex squirmed as she turned to look over, seeing a red Chihuahua wagging its tail heading straight for her face again.
“That, is Pele, and he too says it is time for you to get your ass up. Now you can either get up or he will lick you to death. He especially likes licking mouths and eyeballs,” Carli laughed.
A smile came across Alex’s face as she went to pet Pele. “You’ve become soft Lloyd. I expected more than this as a threat from you.”
“I am giving you a benefit of the doubt. Now are you going to get up and put this on, or am I going to have to dress you?”
“Uh, I am totally getting up if that is my alternative. I will be out in a minute,” Alex grimaced.
The four exited quietly and waited in the living room. “Good job Carli, you excel at this stuff,” Ashlyn said, sitting Pele in Ali’s lap on the couch.
“That is only because I roomed with Hope for a decade. You guys have no idea, I never had a winning chance. The minute I ever tried to throw a pity party, she was kicking my ass.”
Ashlyn laughed, “I certainly do not miss those days.”
Ali glanced out the window across the canal. She didn’t like to weigh in on Hope Solo conversations because she was team Ashlyn all the way. She always tried to let Ashlyn be the one to put her two cents in on those conversations since Ashlyn had to spend so much time with her. Then something caught her eye. The house where Juan Carlos was staying was swarming with officers in the back and she could make out the patio door being wide open. There were more officers inside.
“Well, well, well, maybe every dog does have its day,” Ali said nudging Ashlyn in the side. “Look over there.”
Ashlyn looked and was thrilled at the scene. “Good, I hope they lock that bastard up.”
“Who are you talking about?” Carli asked.
“Juan Carlos. He somehow rented the house across the way and was taking pictures of Alex and Tobin and selling them to the tabloids. We have not had a chance to deal with him yet, considering everything that is going on. Looks like we may not have to, he may have gotten himself into a big pile of trouble all on his own.”
“You mean he was staying over there?” Tobin asked.
“Yes, we just saw him the other day. Ashlyn was ready to go kick his ass but I wanted to wait and find another way to make him pay. I am going to text Alex L and Sunil and tell them they are hauling him off to the slammer. We should press your charges against him now while he is in there so he has so many against him, he can’t get out.”
Alex came out and Ali, Ashlyn, and Tobin decided to go back home and start on the Juan Carlos situation and leave Carli to speak with Alex.
“Can’t we just talk?” Alex asked Carli.
“Nope, it’s going to be you, me, and the wind in our hair with the air in our lungs. Let’s go. You will feel better after you get your body moving. When is the last time you worked out?”
“I can’t remember.”
“Alex, you can’t let your fitness go to hell. I know things have been awful lately but you can’t let all of your hard work slip away. Now come on, let’s go.”
The pair went out and began their run towards a nearby park. As they jogged, Carli began to ask Alex the tough questions about what happened, what she was feeling and what she was going to do.
“What are you going to do about Tobin?”
“I have no idea. It is hard to move forward with her in light of what has happened with Serv. His mother is being awful to me, calling me every name under the sun. She believes that I intentionally left Jill and Serv for dead with the sharks so that I could be with Tobin. The overseas tabloids printed that, thanks to Juan Carlos’ story, and now she believes it. Tobin doesn’t remember our breakup. This is so fucked up Carli, I don’t know what to do anymore.”
“So you hide instead. That is why you are sleeping so much, you are avoiding everything. Anyone that knows you would not believe that you left Serv and Jill to be eaten by sharks.”
“Sleep is the only place where I can escape my mind and my guilt. I hurt so many people, I feel awful.”
“Alex, you can’t beat yourself up forever. Ok, so things happened, you can’t change them. However, you do have control over the future. So what do you want?”
“I want Tobin back in my life again. Like as a partner, not just my friend. I want her here with me, I want to help her recover, and I want us to make another run for the World Cup together. I want us to play together, I want to live together, I want it all with her.”
“Have you told her that?”
“Not in so many words. I have told her that I still love her, that I never stopped loving her in Sweden. Then that stupid accident happened and she doesn’t remember our fight over there. She doesn’t remember our breakup. I am afraid that she is going to remember and then she is going to feel trapped.”
“Alex, you have to tell her. I know the timing may be poor but when you see your chance, you have to take it before someone else does. You have to grab what you want. Ok, so she doesn’t remember what happened. You tell her what happened. Then you tell her what you want and the future you want with her and then you tell her what you did wrong, that you see that now, and that you won’t let it happen again. You should also explain your fears to her.”
“But don’t you think the timing is bad? I haven’t even had Serv’s funeral yet.”
“Alex, the world doesn’t need to know about you two. Keep it behind closed doors for now, but in the meantime, you need to come clean with Tobin. Because the fact of the matter is, she is here now, she is the present, and she is your future. You two are just like Ali and Ashlyn, we have all watched the two of you crush on each other, get together and then break up. That break up should have never happened. The way Tobin has always looked at you Alex, she never looks at anyone like that. You never play with anyone the way you do with her. You want her, don’t let her go back to Portland not knowing that. The sooner you begin to go after what you want, the sooner you will have it. Trust me on this.”
“I sent my parents away for two days to St. Augustine for a spa/golfing resort stay. I insisted that I needed a couple of days alone so I could sort through all of this. Maybe tonight would be the time to work things out further with Tobin.”
“See, I knew a run would clear your head,” Carli smiled, fist bumping Alex as they turned around and headed back to the house.
“Thank you Carli. You were sweet to come by on your off day.”
When they returned, Ashlyn, Ali and Pele took Carli back to her hotel after the lawyers for Alex and Tobin agreed to press charges on Juan Carlos for stalking and proceeded to sue his ass for printing false allegations. Tobin stayed behind at the house and got a text from Alex to come over for dinner and to pack an overnight bag, that they would be having a talk and had the house to themselves. Tobin looked at the text and wasn’t going to lie, the thought of Alex telling her to pack a bag sent a jolt of excitement through her body. Maybe Alex was coming back to them and wasn’t going to slip away after all into depression. Tobin wished she had her full memory back and that things were not so weird between them. She felt like an outsider, one that didn’t have the right to tell Alex what to do. Tobin wanted to change that. She wanted to be all in and she wanted to have the right to tell Alex what she thought. She didn’t want to feel like a guest in her house, an outsider in a relationship that was once hers. She hoped that they could talk about that tonight.
When Tobin came over, she was greeted by the smell of something wonderful cooking in the kitchen. She walked in and found Alex in all of her beautiful glory. Her hair was down and wet, she obviously just got out of the shower, and she had that after shower sheen to her skin. She was wearing a tank top and a pair of shorts and Tobin thought she had never seen her looking more beautiful. Alex was another one of those women who increasingly became more beautiful with age.
“Hey,” Tobin said as she walked in with a bright smile on her face which was all for Alex. “It is good to see you up again.”
“Hey yourself. Yeah, about that, I guess with Carli in town, she is not going to let me wallow.”
“Good. I don’t want to let you wallow either, but I am afraid to push things with you and I don’t want to be,” Tobin said, turning her snapback around backwards, something she often did when she was nervous.
Alex smiled, even in a sling; Tobin couldn’t have looked sexier than she did standing in her kitchen.
“Well, that’s one of the things I was hoping we could talk about tonight, our fears. And not just those, but what we want, our hopes, our dreams, all of it.”