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Paradise

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Tobin Heath has always had life laid out for her. She knew from a young age what she wanted to do with her life. She found comfort in that. Aside from soccer, she had God leading the way. She found comfort in that as well. Without soccer and God, Tobin’s life would be meaningless, or so she thought. Never once did it occur to her that someone could bring new meaning into her life. It never occurred to her because she didn't want it to be true. All she ever knew was the joy of kicking a ball around and religion and she was fine with that. She enjoyed being that carefree nomad who jumped from couch to couch, it was such a simple life. Tobin believed the best things in life were simple. Little did she know that one of the best things to come into her life was so complicated, so intricate, so complex. When this uncertainty first came into her life, she was intrigued. Never before had she met someone like this, someone who can take your breath away without even saying a word, someone who can ease away all your pain with a smile, someone whose laughter can heal your soul. From the moment she saw her, she knew she was going to be an important part of her life, but couldn't have imagined in what way. It started with small glances, looking to see if the other was looking at them, smiling and putting their head down once they realized they were caught. Then it was small touches, fingers slightly brushing up against each other, causing the two to jerk back but quickly putting their fingers back once they realized the other enjoyed the contact as much as they did. Next, it would be holding hands under the table during team meetings and small, delicate kisses on the hand and cheek out of sight from anyone else. It moved to cuddling together in bed, holding each other close as the rain hit the outside of the window on a stormy night. They evolved to slow and rhythmic straddling, kissing each other with a newfound passion, but not going too far. When they were both ready, they took their time making love to each other with such delicacy. They took in each other’s bodies, satisfied with the feeling of being close to one another rather than worrying about rushing to a climax. This progression over time was comfortable enough for both of them, not too fast and not too slow.

 

At one point, Tobin realized when she truly fell in love. It wasn’t magnificent, it wasn’t spectacular, it wasn’t what she dreamed it would be. She didn’t exactly know how she thought it would happen. She was watching a friendly between Brazil and Argentina on the tv in their living room, fully engrossed in the clever and smooth movements of Neymar and Messi. It was late in the afternoon, the two decided to stay in today as it was raining. Christen was next to her, reading a book snuggled under the covers to escape the cold. At one point, Tobin looked over at Christen, she didn’t know why she looked over at her, she was so invested in the game to be distracted, but something pulled her away. As she watched her, she felt her heart sink, she suddenly became overcome with emotion and she didn’t know why. Tobin imagined this moment would happen when Christen was all dressed up, straight hair, makeup, looking like a goddess. But here she was, her hair disheveled, wearing shorts and a tank top, with her glasses on. Even in this state, she looked so beautiful to Tobin. Her heart began to swell even more.

 

“What, babe?”

 

Tobin was shocked that Christen had noticed her staring at her. She thought Christen was fully immersed in her book, but obviously not.

 

“Nothing.”

 

Tobin put her hand on her cheek and it was warm to the touch. She wasn’t embarrassed that Christen had caught her, but what she was feeling inside was starting to come out. She didn’t say anything in the moment, keeping her feelings down in favor of finishing the game. When they went to bed, Tobin crawled in next to Christen, who was lying facing away from Tobin. She leaned into Christen, putting her arm around her waist and pulling her in close. She was still uneasy from not telling her girlfriend how she felt earlier. When Tobin thought Christen was surely asleep, she whispered I love you into her ear. She didn’t need Christen to respond to her words, she was fine with just getting it off her chest. She closed her eyes and started falling asleep. Christen moved a little in Tobin’s arm, but it didn’t stir her too much, Tobin just moved more closely into Christen’s neck. I love you too, Tobin.

 


 

 Just like she didn’t know when she was going to fall in love with Christen, Tobin didn’t have a clue when she knew she would be the one. It happened after the national team won their World Cup Qualifying match against Mexico, winning 3-1, which was what they needed to qualify for France 2019. The team was excited to have finally qualified for the World Cup after having a dismal showing at the Olympics. The locker room was vibrant, the pressure of qualifying was lifted off of their shoulders. A year out from the World Cup, they didn’t have to worry too much about results, but could focus on building team chemistry. Tobin and Christen were the last ones to leave the locker room, enjoying the peace and quiet away from their teammates.

 

“So how about that game, babe? You were on fire,” Tobin laughed. She swung her girlfriend around in her arms and eventually put her back down. Christen smiled.

 

“Speak for yourself. You were in your own little world. I love when you get like this.” The younger girl leaned in and placed a quick kiss on Tobin’s lips.

 

“Like what?” Tobin smiled as well. She knew what Christen was hinting at, but she really wanted to hear her girlfriend say it.

 

“Like the game consumes you. You put your all into every game and it shows when you play. You aren’t too worried about performing. You always go out there and just play how Tobin plays, smart and simple soccer. And with some tricks thrown in. My point is that every time you touch the ball, I know you’re gonna do something brilliant with it. I love that about you.”

 

The way Christen was staring into Tobin’s eyes made her feel weak. These words that poured out of her mouth were so genuine and comforting. When her teammates and fans would relay these sentiments, it didn’t really strike her as significant, she was just doing her job. But when Christen spoke those words, they meant the world to her. She never seeked approval and praise from her girlfriend, but this was different. It was because Christen knew how hard Tobin has been working. Training with the team wasn’t good enough for her. She would go out at 2 in the morning and practice her technique until she knew exactly how the ball was going to react. Every touch she took had a purpose, every body movement was done with so much skill and grace, every step was calculated. Christen would just watch from the side, not wanting to interrupt her flow. No one knew she did this but Christen. That’s why those words were so special. Tobin began to cry, not from sadness, but from happiness. She had everything she needed in life, her faith, soccer, and her girlfriend. When she looked into Christen’s eyes again, she began to cry even more. She was once again so overcome with her emotions, she didn’t know how to exactly to formulate her words. She just burrowed herself deeper into Christen’s chest. Christen thought Tobin was crying because of their win, unaware of what she was truly feeling on the inside. For a long time, Tobin knew she wanted more with Christen, but whenever the thought crossed her mind, she would quickly shut it out. However, she didn’t feel that way tonight. She wasn’t afraid to think that she could marry Christen and make her her wife. She didn’t want to ask her in this state, but she would do it soon.

 


 

 The entire plane ride from LA to Cancun, Tobin was jittery. She kept bouncing her leg or fidgeting with her phone in her hand. Christen would ignore it and just look out the window. After a while, she couldn’t handle her girlfriend’s uneasiness and put her hand on her knee to keep her from bouncing it anymore. Christen turned to face Tobin.

 

“Are you ok, Tobs? You’ve been jittery since we got to the airport.”

 

“Yeah, I’m fine babe. I’m just excited to go back to Mexico. It’s been a while.” Christen nodded her head, satisfied with her answer and turned back to the window.

 

Tobin hated lying to her girlfriend. She wanted to keep everything a secret as much as possible. She wasn’t exactly nervous that she was finally gonna propose to Christen on their little getaway, but more so that she didn’t want to embarrass herself. A couple weeks ago, she went to visit her parents back home in New Jersey. She couldn’t leave without mentioning her intentions to marry her girlfriend. Her mother broke down in tears, happy that her last daughter was finally getting married, or at least engaged. When her mother asked how she planned on doing it, Tobin just shrugged her shoulders. Her father suggested that she do it while the couple was on vacation. Her mother liked the idea enough, but also suggested that the families be there as well. Before Tobin could protest, her mom was already on FaceTime with the Press family, telling them about Tobin’s plan. The Press’s were more than happy to join along on the trip. At this point, Tobin couldn’t turn her family and her soon to be family down, so she relented. Now they were all on a plane heading to Cancun. Tobin’s mom, dad, sisters, and brother were here as were Christen’s mom, dad, and sisters. Tobin reasoned with Christen that they all needed to get away together as a big family. In all honesty, Christen didn’t need a reason, she enjoyed hanging out with Tobin’s family and vice versa. Tobin took a nap to calm her nerves and not think anymore about the proposal. A couple hours later, she was woken up by Christen lightly shaking her shoulders.

 

“Babe, we're here.”

 

Tobin looked around to get her bearings and saw everyone grabbing their luggage from the overhead bins. She got up from her seat and took Christen's purse and carry on and put on her backpack.

 

“Tobin, don’t carry all of that. You’re gonna hurt yourself.” Christen tried to take her things from Tobin, but she moved out of reach.

 

“No way, Chris. I’m treating you like a princess this whole trip.”

 

“Ooo, do you have something planned for me?” Tobin got nervous all of a sudden. Did she figure out why I’m bringing her here? Damn it. “I’m just kidding, babe. Thank you.” The older girl let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding and continued walking down the aisle and out of the plane.

 

After the families retrieved their baggage from the carousel, they exited the airport into the fresh air. Tobin took in the clean air and the Mexican sun that hit her skin. All of her nerves seemed to have melted away. This wouldn’t be as bad as she thought.

 


 

 So apparently this was going to be worse than Tobin thought. They had spent a few nights in Cancun already and the families had been enjoying themselves. Whether it was going to the beach, trying out new water sports, or eating authentic Mexican food, it was an enjoyable experience. Tobin didn’t want to propose on the first or last night, wanting to just enjoy being together, but also enjoy being engaged in Mexico. They were staying in Cancun for two weeks. Tobin thought the 6th night would be the best time. On the morning of the sixth day on their vacation, the two families went to breakfast and afterwards went out on the boat Cody had rented for the day. Cody docked the boat close to Isla Mujeres and let the group do some swimming before they reached Playa Norte. Cody, Stacy, Cindy, and Jeff were chatting in the front of the boat. Perry, Jeffrey, Channing, and Christen had jumped into the water already, leaving Tyler, Katie, and Tobin alone.

 

“So, you’re doing it tonight Tobs, right,” her sister asked.

 

“Yeah, I am.”

 

“Can I see the ring again,” the older Press sister questioned.

 

Tobin walked over to her clothes and pulled a small box out of the pocket of her joggers. She sat back down and looked over her shoulder to see if Christen was looking. She waved at Tobin, who waved back at her. Tobin focused her attention back to the box in her lap. She slowly opened it, revealing a ring with a silver band and small diamonds arranged in a square pattern. It was simple and Tobin knew it was perfect for Christen. A couple days before they were leaving for Mexico, Tobin went ring shopping with Allie, Alex, Channing, and Perry. She promised she would take Katie and Tyler with her to find a wedding ring.

 

“It’s so beautiful, Tobin.” Tyler clasped her hands on mouth and let a few tears  trickle down.

 

“Chris will love it, I know she will,” Katie added.

 

“I know.” Tobin wiped the tears from Tyler’s cheeks. “Keep it together, Ty. I should be the one crying. I know I will be later.”

 

For the rest of the day, the families enjoyed the beach at Playa Norte. They walked around the island, taking in the scenery. Once night fell, they went to one of the local restaurants on the island. Throughout dinner, Tobin was getting more and more anxious. She kept playing with the ring box in her pocket. She didn’t want to dress too formal to tip off Christen. She opted for a pair of ripped white jeans, a loose fitting white shirt, and a pair of white high top sneakers. Christen grabbed and held Tobin's hand under the table, easing her a little. Once dinner had finished, Tobin was thankful, she somehow made it through without passing out. They got back on the boat and headed back to Cancun on the mainland. Once they had arrived back at the hotel, the families started to head up to their rooms, congregating in the lobby first and saying goodnights.

 

“Hey, babe. Can you just wait for me? I’m coming.”

 

Christen was a little confused as to why her family was heading up without her and Tobin. Usually before the couple would head to their room, the two families would all spend time together before calling it a night.

 

“Yeah sure.” She turned her back and started heading towards the chairs near the beach.

 

Before Tobin left to join Christen, everyone wished Tobin quiet good lucks.

 

“I see you’re going for the wedding look. We’re not even there yet,” Tyler chuckled. “I’m kidding, sweetie, you look great and she’ll say yes.”

 

Cindy grabbed her daughter’s face and placed a kiss on her forehead “Honey, don’t stress out. Christen is the love of your life. She won’t turn you down. We’ll be in the room waiting for you two.”

 

Tobin simply nodded, collected herself, and headed towards her girlfriend. Christen looked up and smiled when she  saw Tobin approaching. For a second, the brunette lost her breath when she saw Christen. She wasn’t wearing anything special, a pair of dark skinny jeans, accompanied by a white crop top, a pair of brown wedges and her hair down with a small bun on the top of her head. Tobin grabbed Christen’s hand, intertwined their fingers, and lead her girlfriend to the beach.

 

“Is there a reason we’re out here, Tobs?”

 

“Actually, yeah babe.” Tobin let go of Christen’s hand.

 

Christen could sense the change in Tobin’s demeanor. Tobin had her back facing to her girlfriend. She was trying to calm herself down. You can do this Tobin. She loves you. She’s the love of your life. Tobin can’t remember the last time she was this nervous about anything, not even in the 2015 World Cup final. She believes that the last time she was this nervous was when she took her penalty against Japan in the 2011 final. But even that didn’t even come close to how she was feeling now. She sent a quick prayer up to God and turned around after mustering up enough courage. She took both of Christen’s hands in hers.

 

“Christen, you know I love you, right?” Christen gave Tobin a questioning look.

 

“Of course, Tobin.” She also found it weird that Tobin called her by her full name. It was usually just Chris, babe, or any other form of endearment.

 

“I just love you. I just…” Tobin let out a heavy sigh in frustration as she couldn't properly verbalize her feelings. Christen just squeezed her hands to let her know it was ok to take her time. “You're the love of my life, Christen. I've never felt this way with anyone before. You're so special to me.” Christen simply nodded, encouraging her girlfriend to go on. “When I first met you, you took my breath away. You had something about you that I've never seen in anyone else. I knew from that point that I wanted to have you in my life, I couldn't have ever imagined this would be the way it would turn out, but I'm glad it did, I wouldn't have it any other way.” A few tears started to run down Tobin’s face, but she still continued. “I prayed every night that God would keep you in my life. I didn't want you to go. You brought me so much happiness at a time when I was feeling down.” It was Christen’s turn to let out a few tears. “You're the main reason why I believe in Him so much, cause he answered my prayer, you're still here after all this time. I thank Him every night for blessing me with you.” Tobin's voice faltered a little, but she took a deep breath. She finally let go of Christen's hands and dug in her pocket as she got down on one knee in the sand and looked up at Christen.

 

“Tobin?”

 

Christen could barely get her name out without choking on the words. She froze to the spot and covered her mouth as she figured out what Tobin was doing. She couldn't believe this was happening. A stream of tears started running down her face.

 

“Christen, I don't want to ever lose you. I couldn't live with myself if I did. I've loved you since the day we first met. I just knew we were meant to be together from that moment. I always wondered when He would send me someone, someone who could understand and accept me the way I am. I had to wait a while, but it was worth it. I love you, Christen. I am so lucky to have you in my life, I don't deserve you, you show me so much compassion and love, I feel sometimes like I'm undeserving. I've wanted to do this for a long time, but it would always scare me. There came a point where I wasn’t scared anymore,  I wasn't afraid of realizing I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” She took another deep breath. “Christen Annemarie Press, will you marry me?” Tobin was relieved that she was able to say everything she wanted to say, but was getting anxious waiting for Christen’s answer. She didn't have too wait long, as Christen nodded her head vigorously.

 

“Yes, yes of course I'll marry you Tobin,” she said through sniffles.

 

Tobin got up and kissed Christen. Once they separated from each other, Tobin slipped the ring onto Christen’s finger. They embraced for a while, separating again as Christen looked more closely at the ring.

 

“Tobin, it's so beautiful. Thank you.”

 

“Anything for my one and only.”


The couple made their way back up to their room, when they were surprised by their families, or at least Christen was. Tobin had told the two families to wait in their room while the couple was downstairs. They had ordered a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate the engagement and patiently waited for the couple's return. Once they came into the room, shouts of congratulations were given and warm hugs were exchanged following a few tears of joy. Later that night once everyone had left, Tobin and Christen’s soft moans filled the air, celebrating a new chapter in their lives. The next day, Tobin took a photo of the ring on Christen’s hand and sent it to her teammates and friends. Everyone was excited for the couple, knowing it was a long time coming. The rest of the vacation went without a hitch, the pair content with where they were. The families had already  started talking about wedding plans, much to the amusement of the couple. They didn't mind it, more than happy to not have to come up with their own plan. Tobin never imagined this would be how she would propose to Christen, but some of the best things in life are unexpected.