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The Ring Dilemma

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Christen was smart. She was a good girlfriend. She knew Tobin like the back of her own hand. Christen knew that Tobin’s scar above her right knee was from falling out of a tree house when she was twelve. Christen knew that Tobin hated peanut butter, but was always a sucker for ice cream. She knew that Tobin, despite being the tough one, hated scary movies. She knew Tobin.

So, the second Tobin started coming home with a different smelling perfume lingering on her clothes, Christen knew something was up.

 

They had dated all through college, despite Tobin being at UNC and her being at Stanford. The first year post-graduation was hard because Tobin started playing soccer in Paris, while Christen stayed in the United States. Despite this, they made it work because they loved each other.

 

Their second year out of college, the stars aligned and they finally were able to live together. Tobin started playing soccer for the Portland Thorns, and Christen decided to take the season off to get a much needed surgery on her ankle.

They found a three-bedroom industrial loft in Portland that was perfect for them. It had hardwood floors throughout and an open-layout concept. Tobin loved it because that meant it was easier to kick a soccer ball around inside, while Christen just rolled her eyes. Before her surgery, Christen spent most of her time decorating and organizing the apartment. Even though they had never been able to spend this much time together before, living together was a breeze. They had their own little routine down. They were finally able to be together in the way they both had desperately wanted.

It was October when Christen began to notice some changes with Tobin. It started with Tobin sneaking out of bed earlier than usual. Christen knew when Tobin’s morning training was, so she was surprised when Tobin started getting up an hour and a half earlier than when she needed to.

What became even more surprising was when Tobin started sneaking out early on days Christen knew there was no morning practice.

 

“Kelley, I think Tobin is cheating on me,” Christen said.

Kelley looked like a bomb had been dropped, “Excuse me?”

“She keeps waking up earlier than she needs to be and sneaks out of bed!”

“Okay, that’s hardly conclusive evidence,” Kelley sighed, “besides, Tobin would be out of her mind to cheat on you. You’re a solid 12 out of 10. Actually, even higher than a 12. Anyways, she’s probably just going early to training or going on a run.”

“No, I asked Alex and she always says Tobin gets to practice right on time, never early. Also, today when she came back, she smelled like someone else’s perfume!” Christen replied, trying to give Kelley more evidence.

“Maybe she ran into an old friend?”

“I don’t know, but I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” Christen huffed.

It was a couple weeks later when Christen’s heart sunk to the bottom of her chest.

Christen always did the laundry for Tobin and herself. It was a habit. So, when Christen picked up a women’s shirt that she didn’t recognize and was clearly not hers or Tobin’s, she knew Tobin had been with someone else.

 

“Kelley, I found someone else’s shirt in our laundry hamper,” Christen said, in tears, on the phone with Kelley.

“Chris, maybe she borrowed that shirt from someone else on the team.” Kelley offered, trying to soothe Christen’s breaking heart.

“I sent a picture to Alex, and she said she also didn’t recognize it. How could Tobin be cheating on me? We’ve been together 6 years— we made it though college, we made it through Paris, I thought we were going to be okay, I thought—” Christen rambled, as the tears continued to stream out her eyes.

“It’s okay, Chris. There has to be an explanation. Tobin wouldn’t do this, she wouldn’t. She’s head over heels for you. I swear that girl falls in love with you more everyday. Has she done anything else? Like acted distant in anyway?” Kelley asked.

Christen tried to think about it, despite her tears clouding her mind, “I don’t think so… maybe I’m just acting crazy.”

“You’re not crazy. I’m sure there’s an explanation.”

The next night Tobin came home. She smelled like smoke and chemicals. It smelled like she had been at a scuzzy bar or somewhere gross.

“Tobin, where have you been? You smell funny.” Christen said, wrinkling her nose.

“Ah, just out. Sorry babe, I’ll go shower.” Tobin replied, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek before walking into their bedroom.

When Christen heard the shower running, she walked into their room. She saw Tobin had kicked off her jeans in the corner by their bed. As she picked them up a piece of paper fell out, it read: Lainey 503-965-1207

Christen’s heart shattered.

She saw Tobin’s phone siting on the nightstand, and before she knew was she was doing, she began typing in the number. When she had finished, an “L” with a ring emoji popped up under the number— meaning Tobin had it saved and this was the contact name.

Christen was fuming. She hit the call button, and after 2 rings a woman’s voice picked up.

“Hey Tobin! What’s up? Are we still on for tomorrow morning?”

Christen disconnected the call and ran out of the room sobbing. She picked up her car keys and headed straight to Kelley’s.

Christen explained what had happened, and Kelley did the best she could interpreting the words through Christen’s tears.

“Do you believe me now?” Christen sobbed.

Kelley still appeared to be apprehensive because it didn’t sound like Tobin at all.

“Why would she do this to me? I thought we were okay. Maybe she doesn’t like me now that I’m not playing soccer. Maybe she only liked me because I played soccer.” Christen mumbled.

Kelley didn’t know what to say, so she just stayed their holding Christen and rubbing her back until Christen cried herself to sleep.

Christen woke up, disoriented about where she was until she realized she was in Kelley’s bedroom. The ache in her chest was still there. She picked up her phone to 10 unread texts and 10 missed calls from Tobin. They all were asking about what had happened, where she was, and why she wasn’t responding. However, the last message was different.

Tobin: Kelley said you were at her place, and to not bother you… I don’t know what I did but whatever it is, I’m sorry baby. Please come home.

It took everything Christen had to not go straight home and fall into Tobin’s arms.

She made her way downstairs, when she heard two familiar voices— Kelley and Alex.

“Do you think Tobin would really cheat on her? I mean, we’ve known Tobin for years. That girl was so in love with Christen even before they started dating,” Kelley said.

“I know! I don’t know what’s gotten into her. She’s been coming late to practice, and every time I ask she just shrugs it off. I hate that she’s so secretive like this.” Alex replied.

“Maybe we should just ask Tobin?” Kelley offered.

“You know she wouldn’t tell us though, even if we did ask. I guess we just have to wait it out.” Alex sighed.

When the conversation finally hit a lull, Christen decided it was time to come out of her eavesdropping position.

“Hey guys,” she said, quietly.

Both Kelley and Alex immediately came over and hugged her.

“It’s gonna be okay, Chris,” they mumbled.

They were right. When Christen got home, Tobin was there and immediately apologetic. Over the next few weeks it was like everything had gone back to normal. They fell back into their routine. No mysterious shirts in the laundry, no more unidentifiable smells, and no sneaking out early. Maybe Tobin hadn’t been cheating on her.

However, that image of the “L” with a ring emoji appearing on Tobin’s phone screen was burned into Christen’s mind.

Every time Christen worked up the nerve to ask Tobin about it, Tobin would do something incredibly romantic to make Christen forget all about what’s-her-name.

For Christmas, Tobin surprised her in LA.

For her birthday a few days later, Tobin surprised her with tickets to Hamilton in New York.

For New Years, Tobin surprised her with tickets to Greece for a week vacation once the off-season began.

Maybe everything really was going to be okay.

It was a week before they left for Greece, and things took a turn for the worse.

Tobin had been continuously coming home late, her clothes laced with that perfume smell that Christen knew was someone else’s.

 

“We’re leaving in a week for a romantic vacation, and she’s back to her old ways,” Christen signed, leaning on Kelley once again.

“Chris, that makes no sense. You said things were better? You were convinced she was in the midst of planning a proposal that one night.”

 ~

A couple weeks ago, when everything was good, Tobin and Christen were alone on their couch. They were watching the ending scene from Crazy Rich Asians when Nick proposes to Rachel on the airplane with his mother’s ring.

“This scene gets me every time. The fact that it’s his mother’s ring, and Rachel knew it was her ring so it was like she was finally giving them her blessings,” Christen mumbled into Tobin’s neck.

Christen could feel Tobin’s arm wrap a little tighter around her, “what would be your ideal proposal?”

Christen’s breath hitched, her heart began to race, was Tobin really asking her this?

“Umm I don’t know, something sweet and personal. Nothing too extravagant I guess.”

Tobin didn’t reply, she just made a low humming noise, kissed Christen’s hair, and went back to watching the end of the movie.

 ~

“I mean, if she proposed would you say yes?” Kelley asked, snapping Christen back to reality.

“You know I would. I love her, and I always will. She’s the person I imagine spending the rest of my life with. I just need to know what happened or is happening with this Lainey person.”

“You need to ask her about it,” Kelley urged.

Christen nodded. She would ask on the vacation, that way at least she could cry in a Grecian paradise.

The place Tobin had chosen for their vacation was breathtaking. It was a small island off a mainland. On the island was a private beach that led up into this open and airy house. The majority of the house was just made up of those all glass doors that could be opened up to let the island breeze in. It was truly paradise.

“This whole place is just for us, Chris! We can do whatever we want. No one will bother us. Just me and you baby,” Tobin said, running around the house, enamored with everything.

It was all very exciting and she was so happy to finally get alone time with Tobin, but that gnawing feeling in her gut was still there.

The jet lag hit Christen harder than Tobin so decided on taking a nap.

When she woke up, she smelled something amazing coming from the kitchen.

Tobin rarely ever cooked and when she did, something big was about to happen.

When Tobin asked Christen to be her girlfriend she had flown out to Palo Alto, and almost burned down the community kitchen in Christen’s dorm.

When Tobin asked Christen to move in with her in Portland, she had also cooked dinner.

So, when Christen saw Tobin laboring over the stove, she knew something was going to happen. Whether that something was good or bad, she didn’t know.

Luckily, since the almost fire at Stanford, Tobin had actually become a decent cook.

For dinner, she tried to make some traditional Greek food.

She had made gyros, tzatziki, and Greek salad.

“Here, I hope you’re hungry!” Tobin said, beaming from ear to ear as she put a plate down in front of Christen.

The meal was wonderful, and for a moment— just a moment, Christen forgot all about the sadness in the pit of her stomach.

It wasn’t until they were washing dishes when that feeling returned.

Tobin’s phone was on the edge of the sink when it rang. Christen looked down to see the contact name she hated scroll across the top of the screen.

“Ah, shit, I gotta take this real fast,” Tobin said as she walked out of the kitchen.

Christen couldn’t believe it. Tobin was actually taking a call from this woman during their romantic vacation.

Christen walked toward the doorway of the room Tobin had ducked into.

Christen heard a voice on the other end of the line, “Have you told her yet?”

“No, not yet. I’ll tell you when I get back. I have to go,” Tobin whispered into the receiver before hanging up the call.

Christen sprinted back into the kitchen before getting caught.

“Who was that?” She asked, trying to act cool and definitely not cry.

“Oh, no one important.” Tobin answered, going back to washing dishes.

Christen just nodded, the tears welling up in her eyes.

She couldn’t take it anymore.

Tobin handed her the plate to dry, but instead she dropped it (or maybe she threw it, at this point she didn’t know).

“Chris, what the—,” Tobin started.

“Are you cheating on me?” Christen blurted out, honestly relieved she was no longer bottling it up.

“Am I what? What are you—?” Tobin asked, her face scrunching up.

“Are. You. Cheating. On. Me? With Lainey?” Christen repeated herself, wanting to see Tobin’s reaction when she said the name.

“With Lainey? How do you know about her?” Tobin asked, genuinely looking confused.

“i’m not stupid Tobin! I know you’re cheating on me with her. It all started in October when you began sneaking out of bed. You didn’t think I noticed but I did. Obviously, I know when you get out of bed. Your body head is like a thousand degrees. You kept leaving me, even on days when you had morning practice. You just would be gone. I asked Alex, and she said you were never early, so what the fuck were you doing? Or maybe, who were you doing? Was it just Lainey?” Christen screamed.

“Chris, oh my god, this is not what you think!” Tobin replied, trying to pull Christen in closer to her.

“Don’t touch me! You would always come home smelling like another woman’s perfume, and then there was some girl’s shirt in our laundry hamper. Another time you came home smelling like literal ass, like you’d been out drinking and smoking at a bar but you wouldn’t tell me. Then, I found a piece of paper with Lainey’s number on it and I called her and she asked if you were coming over. I’m, I’m just tired of this Tobin.” Christen says, half-yelling and half-crying.

Tobin says nothing, she’s just running her hands through her hair.

She’s really not going to fucking admit this, what the fuck.

“I thought you were better than this Tobin. We survived going to different colleges, we did a trans-Atlantic relationship, and when we finally get to be together then you go and cheat?” Christen scoffed.

“Chris, I’m not cheating on you. I, fuck, this is not how this was supposed to go.” Tobin finally answered.

“Well then who the hell is Lainey, and why is she in your phone with a ring emoji?”

Again, Tobin doesn’t say anything. She just walks into the bedroom. All Christen can hear is her rummaging around in her suitcase.

Is she packing? Is she really going to leave? What is going on?

Then, everything hits Christen like a soccer ball to the head and a punch to the gut.

Tobin walks out, with a ring box in her hand.

“Okay, well, this is not at all how I planned this, but,” Tobin begins, “Lainey is a custom jewelry maker. I started sneaking out early so I could meet with her to plan on how to make a ring. We scoured your Pinterest board of rings so we could make one I knew you’d love. I always smelled like her perfume because I swear to God she showers in that stuff. You could be ten feen away from her and still end up smelling like that perfume. That one time I smelled bad was because I went to her workshop where she was actually smelting the metal for the ring band. I accidentally stained my entire shirt one time when I was in there, and it was completely ruined so she gave me a shirt to change into. Her contact has that emoji next to it because well, we were making your engagement ring.”

Christen had no words. All she could do was focus on the black box in Tobin’s hand.

“I see from your point of view how pretty much all signs did point to me cheating, and I’m so sorry. But, I love you Christen, so much. I actually think I fall in love with you more and more each day. Ah, fuck, this isn’t how I was going to do this, but I’m on a roll and there’s no way we can postpone this conversation so— Christen Press, I love you. You’re the best part of my life, and I never want that to change. You’re the person who brings out the best in me, and you’re the person I want standing next to me no matter what happens. I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” Tobin says before getting down on one knee, “Will you marry me?”

Tobin flipped open the box, revealing the most beautiful ring Christen had ever seen.

It was better than any ring she had pinned on Pinterest.

It was perfect.

“Yes,” was all Christen was able to squeak out, still reeling from everything Tobin had said.

The smile on Tobin’s face was wider than Christen had ever seen. She slid the cool metal band onto Christen’s finger, and it fit perfectly, like it was always meant to be there.

Christen looked down at her ring, she still couldn’t believe how amazing it was. She pulled Tobin in for a kiss.

Every worry that she had was gone, and it finally was about them again.

“Baby, I am so sorry for ever thinking you were cheating on me. I don’t know what I was thinking—,” Christen mumbled against Tobin’s lips.

“Mmm, it’s fine. I’m partly to blame. But, now we’re okay now.”

Later that night, after every confusion had been cleared up, Christen was sitting in bed admiring her ring.

“Baby, this ring. It’s perfect,” she said, snuggling into Tobin’s shoulder.

“I’m glad you liked it, I spent a whole month designing it and tweaking it so it’d be perfect. Well, actually, there’s something a little off.” Tobin said.

Tobin lifted Christen’s hand to slide the ring off, and pointed at a small inscription on the inside of the band. It had tomorrow’s date on it.

“So, I was going to ask you tomorrow, but well, ya know,” Tobin said, rubbing the back of her neck.

“You can still ask me again tomorrow, but if you think I’m taking this ring off, you’re dead wrong.” Christen laughed, putting the ring back on her finger.

Tobin had planned a magical day.

In the morning they went and hiked around the island, until they came across this beautiful waterfall. To Christen’s surprise, Tobin had packed them a picnic. She watched as Tobin spread the blanket on the ground, making sure everything was just right.

They were enjoying their lunch, when a thought popped into Christen’s head.

“Hey, if you weren’t going to propose last night, why were you making dinner?”

Tobin looked at her, confused.

“Any time you cook dinner you’re always about to do something big,” Christen explained, recounting the other times that Tobin had cooked.

“Oh, wow, I never really noticed that. I just cooked yesterday because you were asleep and I wanted to make sure we had a good dinner,” Tobin shrugged, “however, I guess something big did happen even if I didn’t mean for it to.”

Christen just laughed, thinking back to everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours.

After dinner, Tobin opened up all the doors to their house, and set two chairs out to watch the sunset.

“I was gonna ask you as the sun was setting. I even brought tape so I could tape the ring box under the chair so that after I had asked, I could grab it,” Tobin explained, laughing as they sat watching the sunset.

“Why at sunset?” Christen asked.

“Because on our first date we watched the sun set. Remember? We were at some soccer camp, and we snuck to the hotel rooftop.”

Christen did remember. It was one of the best nights of her life, just being with Tobin up on that rooftop. “It was the first time we kissed.”

“Yeah, I swear my heart rate was going a million times a second. I was so nervous,” Tobin chuckled.

Christen got out of her chair, and sat down on top of Tobin’s lap, wrapping her arms around Tobin’s neck.

“You know, we’ve never been a traditional couple, so I think the way you proposed fits us,” Christen said, laughing a little.

Tobin’s arms tightened around Christen to pull her in closer.

“I do too.”

After a couple of minutes of peaceful silence, Tobin whispered, “hey Chris?”

“Hmm?”

“Will you marry me?”

Christen smiled, “Of course.”