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Game, Set, Match

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“Emma Claire Press, for the hundredth time, let’s go! We’re gonna be late!” Christen yelled for her daughter to come downstairs as she put aside the cauliflower rice and chicken they were going to have for dinner later. It had been a long day at work and she had hoped to leave a little earlier than usual to make sure she had time to get home and make dinner and get them to practice on time, but that didn’t happen. She cursed herself internally for not preparing dinner the night before like she had planned, but she ended up working late into the night and just didn’t have it in her to start cooking at 11pm.

The day had started out the same as it always did. Christen’s alarm went off at 5am after having gotten six hours of sleep and she went about her morning routine. Yoga. Meditation. First cup of coffee. Work emails. Breakfast. More emails. Second cup of coffee. Drop Emma off at summer camp.

“I’m coming!” Emma yelled down from her room.

Emma came bounding down the stairs in a hurry, ignoring the annoyed look her mother was throwing her way. She always knew she was in trouble when her mom called her by her full name.

“I’ve got your water. Grab your racket and get in the car please,” Christen said, rushing to grab her keys.

“Okay,” Emma said, running to the mud room to get her brand new tennis racket and hopping into the car.

Christen opened the garage door and started the car as Emma buckled herself in. She pulled up the address on her phone and entered it into her Waze app and set it down on her dashboard’s magnetic phone holder. Christen put the car in reverse and carefully backed out of their driveway.

“Em, I’m gonna need you to really start listening to me when I say we need to go,” Christen lectured her daughter on the way to the tennis courts. “I’m trying to make us dinner and get you to practice on time. The least you can do is answer me the first time I call you downstairs. How many times have we been over this?”

Christen gave her daughter a frustrated sigh. One of her pet peeves was tardiness, something her dad had instilled in her and her sisters when they were young. He always said that being late means you’re wasting other people’s time, so avoid it at all costs. She used to roll her eyes when he said it, but it made more and more sense to her the older she got. It was something she was currently working on with her own daughter with minimal success thus far.

“I will, I’m sorry mom,” Emma said in a contrite voice.

Christen glanced at the GPS to make sure she was going in the right direction and briefly looked over at her daughter to convey that she was serious. Emma looked back at her with a guilty look on her face, but Christen didn’t let her off the hook that easily.

“And that goes for anything, not just tennis. If you keep ignoring me, I’m going to have to take away your cell phone privileges,” Christen said.

“Noooo!” Emma whined.

“Trust me, I don’t wanna have to do that, but I will. I need to see improvement or I’m taking the phone away, understood?” Christen said sternly.

Christen had first gotten a cell phone for Emma a year ago for safety reasons. She wanted to be able to get in touch with her daughter and vice versa in case of an emergency. She didn’t have access to the internet, but she did have the ability to send text messages. And lately, she was noticing more and more that Emma was spending a lot of time on her phone texting with friends from back home in L.A. She knew she could trust Emma, but it still didn’t make her happy that she was spending so much time on the device and ignoring her. But Christen couldn’t really talk without being a little bit of a hypocrite. She spends even more time on her phone because of work, although she was trying her best to limit checking her emails so much, especially when she was home with Emma. Admittedly, this was taking a bit of work on her part, finding it difficult to lay off her phone outside of work hours.

“Understood,” Emma said, looking at her hands.

“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. We’ve had this conversation more than once and I’m tired of repeating myself,” Christen said, still frustrated with her daughter.

“I mean it, Mom. I mean it,” Emma said sincerely, hoping to convince her mom that she would start listening.

They drove in silence for a few more minutes until the GPS told them that they were close to their destination, though it didn’t seem like they were anywhere close. The park was big and they had never been to this side of it before and they saw no sign of tennis courts anywhere.

“Alright, I have no idea where court 17 is, so we’ll need to go quickly,” Christen said as she pulled into the parking lot. “Try to keep up,” she winked at her daughter, her annoyance from a few minutes ago already in the rear view mirror.

“Yeah, yeah,” Emma said, knowing that her mom had likely already forgiven her for making them late. “I think I’ll be able to beat you in a foot race soon.”

“Uh huh,” Christen said as she looked for a parking spot, willing the people at the mini crosswalk to go a little faster so she could proceed.

————

After parking the car and running around for what felt like an hour to find court 17, they finally made it and met Emma’s new tennis coach for the first time. Christen isn’t sure how many tennis courts were at this park, but there were a lot and most of them were occupied with kids of all ages. Christen had originally looked into group lessons for Emma so she could have interaction with other kids, but when she found out that her age group normally meets at 4pm, there was just no way she could swing that with her busy schedule. And that’s how they ended up signing up for private lessons so they could set their own time with the coach.

“Hi there! Is this Emma? I’m Coach Diana!” the coach said, introducing herself from the other end of the court.

“Hi! Yes! So sorry we’re a little late,” Christen said sheepishly.

“No worries! Emma, come on over whenever you’re ready,” Diana said as she finished up with her current student.

Christen led Emma to the empty bench on the sideline and put their things down.

“Okay, sweetheart, have a good lesson, okay? The most important thing is to have fun. I’ll just be right here,” Christen said.

“Okay, thanks mom,” Emma replied as she ran over to her new coach.

Christen chuckled lightly to herself as she thought about those words and how her mom used to always say it to her to rein in her competitiveness. It didn’t really work on her, though. Whenever she stepped out on the field, she transformed into a maniac who demanded too much of herself and her teammates. She was finding it funny how much she was turning into her parents.

Christen sat down and let out a deep breath while wiping the light beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead from running around looking for the tennis courts. She chastised herself for being five minutes late to a 30-minute long tennis lesson, especially since the private lesson was not cheap.

“First time here?” a woman holding a couple of ball pickup tubes asked Christen.

Christen jumped slightly and looked up, startled by the voice, and met sympathetic honey brown eyes.

“Oh,” Christen said blushing. “Yeah, how’d you know?”

The woman looked at Christen, seemingly wanting to say something, yet spoke nothing.

Tobin stood there, gobsmacked by the woman’s green eyes that were suddenly staring back at her. She had approached her thinking she would make friendly conversation, but she hadn’t expected the woman to be so devastatingly beautiful that she literally took away her ability to speak.

“I…uh…uh,” Tobin started to say, but unable to come up with anything else.

She could feel the heat that had immediately risen to her face. What had happened to all her words? She needed words and she needed them fast. She had started a conversation with this woman and now she was completely tongue-tied. She could not have imagined a more embarrassing scenario.

“Are you alright?” Christen asked out of concern.

“Uh…yeah…um, sorry,” Tobin said in a bit of a panic, unable to get rid of the blush that was still surely spread all over her face in the last few seconds of this conversation, if you could even call it that.

Tobin took a deep breath and tried again as the woman looked at her now with a combination of mild concern and great amusement. She was almost tempted to just walk away and cut her losses out of sheer embarrassment, but words finally came tumbling out of her mouth.

“Our, uh, first time out here, we were, uh, ten minutes late because we couldn’t find this court, so don’t worry about being late,” she said smiling, proud of herself that she was finally able to form a somewhat coherent sentence.

“Thanks,” Christen said with a smile right back at the woman. “We would have left the house earlier, but my daughter lacks any sense of urgency these days.”

Tobin laughed knowingly, her nerves easing a little bit. It was always easy to talk to another parent about their kids, even one as beautiful as the woman in front of her. “My daughter is the same way,” she said nodding toward the girl who was picking up tennis balls from her session.

Christen laughed. “The selective hearing drives me a little crazy sometimes.”

“I hear ya. I’m Tobin, by the way,” she said more confidently, offering her hand to Christen.

“Hi Tobin, I’m Christen,” she said, shaking her hand and holding on and staring for maybe a few seconds too long.

The first things Christen noticed about Tobin, after finally tearing her gaze away from her beautiful brown eyes and pouty lips, were her incredibly large hands that seemed to swallow her own when they shook hands, and her muscular legs. She tried not to stare, but Tobin’s hands and legs were so nice that her eyes couldn’t help themselves. If she didn’t consider herself a leg woman before, she certainly was now that she’d seen the most perfect pair ever made. She was wearing a plain white t-shirt and neon green shorts along with a pair of flip flops and a burgundy hat that said ‘bodega’ on it. Christen decided right away that she liked everything about Tobin’s casual style.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Christen,” Tobin croaked out, still struck by the woman’s striking, deep green eyes and kind smile.

Tobin had never seen eyes so green or cheekbones that seem to have been chiseled by Michelangelo himself. She was sure that Christen was the most physically beautiful person she had ever seen. Her face was simply perfect and her smile disarmed Tobin immediately, which never happens.

“Nice to meet you, too. That’s my daughter, Emma,” Christen said warmly.

Tobin looked at the girl who was now on the court and smiled at the resemblance between the two.

“Yeah, I’d probably have a hard time telling you two apart,” Tobin joked.

Christen laughed and shyly tucked her hair behind her ear.

“That’s my daughter, Jordan. How old is Emma? They look to be about the same age,” Tobin said, observing them side by side as the coach appeared to be introducing them to each other.

“She turned twelve a couple of weeks ago,” Christen said. “How old is Jordan?” she asked.

“She’ll be turning twelve in a couple of months, actually,” Tobin said.

“Oh, awesome,” Christen said. “What middle school does Jordan go to, if you don’t mind my asking? We just moved here in June, so we don’t really know anyone.”

“She goes to The Parker School,” Tobin said.

“That’s where Emma’s going to go!” Christen said a little too excitedly, her eyes lighting up.

Tobin chuckled. “Awesome, really looking forward to these preteen years,” she said sarcastically.

Tobin could remember being twelve years old and being incredibly awkward, especially around girls. Her behavior over the last couple of minutes certainly had her wondering why she was suddenly acting like she was twelve again as if she’s never been around a pretty girl before. Those preteen years were an important time in her life. It was the time when she started to realize that she really wasn’t like all her other friends who would constantly talk about boys and how cute they were. The only interest she had in boys was playing soccer with them. Unfortunately for her, it still took her a while to really understand why she felt differently about boys than her friends did.

“Tell me about it. I’m dreading it,” Christen said. ”How long has Jordan been taking tennis lessons?”

“About six months now,” Tobin said.

“Nice. Does she like it?” Christen asked.

“Yeah, she does. She’s tried pretty much every sport, but she definitely enjoys tennis more than anything. It’s something to keep her active, so I’m waiting for her to tell me if she wants to start taking more lessons. Right now we’re only doing Fridays,” Tobin said. “I really tried to get her into soccer and she stuck with it for a few years until she finally told me she didn’t wanna play anymore and basically broke my heart,” she said laughing.

Tobin could remember the day last year when Jordan declared that soccer wasn’t the sport for her. Tobin was taken aback by it, but she didn’t show it. She just wanted to know why and Jordan had told her that she just wasn’t into it anymore now that all her other friends had also quit playing. Tobin didn’t want to force Jordan into playing the sport that she herself loved so much, but she did want to keep her daughter active. She suggested maybe taking some tennis lessons to mix it up a little bit and they would only be 30 minutes long, so it wasn’t as big of a commitment. Tobin has been pleasantly surprised that Jordan seems to really like playing now.

“Oh my god, that’s pretty much exactly why we’re here. I was hoping Emma would enjoy soccer, but she didn’t, so now we’re trying tennis. I guess at this point, I don’t really care what sport she plays as long as she keeps her body moving,” Christen said shaking her head.

“Did you play soccer?” Tobin asked, finding it so easy now to keep talking to this gorgeous woman.

“I played in high school, but I blew out my knee my senior year and was never quite the same after that,” Christen said. “How about you?”

“Well, you probably won’t believe me, but same here, except it happened my junior year of high school. Tore my ACL,” Tobin said blushing, unable to control her body’s response to Christen.

Christen laughed. “Wow, ACL here, too.”

They laughed and looked at each other for a moment, having enjoyed the uncanny similarities in their situations. Tobin decided that she really liked Christen’s laugh. It’s a hearty laugh that pulls you in and makes you want to hear it over and over again.

“Mom, I’m ready,” Jordan interrupted.

Truth be told, Tobin had completely forgotten for a moment that they were supposed to be leaving. Part of her just wanted to stay and chat with Christen, who seemed so easy to talk to, despite how intimidatingly pretty she was. Tobin was almost kind of disappointed that they had to leave.

“Oh, yeah, let’s get going, bud,” Tobin said. ”It was nice to meet you, Christen. Will this be your set day and time with Diana?” she asked, hoping to see the green-eyed woman again.

“It was nice to meet you, too, Tobin. And yes, this is our set day and time. How about you?” Christen asked.

“Yep, this is our normal time,” Tobin said, happy that she would be seeing Christen again. “So I guess we’ll see you next week? We can compare ACL scars or something,” she said awkwardly to the beautiful woman, immediately thinking what an idiot she was for saying something so stupid.

Christen chuckled. “That would be fun. Have a good weekend,” she said smiling, thinking this Tobin was pretty damn cute.

“You too!” Tobin said, deciding not to say any more words than necessary so that she wouldn’t embarrass herself further.

————

“So what did you think of your first practice? Did you like Coach Diana?” Christen asked Emma as she took a bite of chicken.

“Yeah, it was fun and I liked coach a lot. She’s funny,” Emma said.

Christen smiled. “Well I’m glad you liked her. Did you get a chance to meet the other girl who was playing before you?” she asked casually, knowing they had already been introduced.

On the drive home from the park, she hadn’t been able to think about much except for one lanky, brown-haired woman who oozed effortless sex appeal.

“Yep. Her name is Jordan. She’s almost twelve, too, and we’re going to the same school,” Emma said.

“Oh, that’s great. Maybe you two can be friends,” Christen said, hoping her daughter could make a friend before school starts so she can ease into the first day knowing she had a friend at the school.

It had been difficult for them to meet new people given that they moved in the middle of summer and there weren’t classmates that Emma could just naturally become friends with. Christen wasn’t complaining, though. She and Emma had been able to spend a lot of quality time together getting to know Portland the last couple of months and all that it had to offer. But she knew Emma needed to be around kids her age, so she was actually happy that summer was coming to a close so they could get into their school and work routine and feel more settled in their new home.

“Yeah, she seems nice,” Emma said.

‘Her mom seems nice, too,’ Christen thought to herself.

Christen looked at Emma eating her food and smiled at her mini me. Her best friend. Her life. Emma could have given her a really hard time about moving to Portland away from everything she knew and all her friends, but she didn’t. She’d always given her so much grace when it came to big family decisions that Christen had to make and she was thankful for that.

From the moment Emma was conceived, it had just been the two of them. Sure, she’d dated a few people over the years since she was born, but nothing serious ever came out of those relationships. Sometimes she got the feeling from Emma that she needed someone more than just Christen in her life. Maybe another sibling or parental figure, especially when she and Christen would have a disagreement and Emma didn’t have anyone else to turn to. But they’ve made it work and at the end of the day, their bond was incredibly strong.

Emma looked up and caught Christen staring at her. “What?” Emma asked.

“Nothing, I was just thinking of how big you’re getting,” Christen said.

Emma was hitting a bit of a growth spurt and was now almost as tall as Christen’s five-foot-seven frame.

“Oh mom, you’re not gonna cry and make me watch old videos of me as a baby again, are you?” Emma whined in a teasing way.

“No,” Christen said, trying to play it off, but she had thought about it. “I just want you to know that you’ll always be the reason I get up in the morning. You’ll always be my number one girl,” she said trying not to get emotional all of a sudden.

“I know, mom. I know,” Emma said. “I love you, too.”

————

“So the new girl’s mom was pretty cute,” Jordan said casually at dinner as she played with her food.

“What new girl?” Tobin asked, knowing full well which cute mom Jordan was talking about.

Truth be told, she hadn’t been able to focus on anything but Christen since she laid eyes on her beautiful face.

“The new girl at tennis. Emma. Her mom. Pretty cute, right?” Jordan said with a hint of hope in her voice.

“I hadn’t noticed,” Tobin lied as she took a bite, hoping she wouldn’t get hit by lightning.

She definitely noticed the cute mom. She noticed a lot of things about her. She noticed her piercing green eyes, she noticed her perfect cheekbones, she noticed how soft her hand was when she shook it, she noticed the mole on her neck, she noticed the crows feet around her eyes when she laughed. And she noticed she didn’t have a wedding ring on. Oh, she noticed alright.

“How could you not notice? She was soooo pretty, mom,” Jordan said, not believing that her mother could be so blind.

“I don’t know. I just didn’t notice, okay? What does it matter if I noticed or not anyway?” Tobin asked.

“I don’t know, I’m just saying she’s really pretty,” Jordan said.

“Okay…?” Tobin said, pretending to be oblivious.

“Never mind,” Jordan said with a frustrated sigh.

Tobin knew exactly what Jordan was trying to do. She always did this when she thought someone might be a good match for Tobin. And she couldn’t really blame her. If you spent your whole life interacting with just one person at home, a part of you wants to have other people around. Unfortunately for Jordan, Tobin was never interested in dating anyone, let alone making someone a permanent fixture in their lives.

But Christen? Christen had her captivated from the start. Tobin reacted differently to her. She was nervous and awkward around her instead of her usual cool self, but she had enjoyed the few minutes they’d spent talking to each other. Tobin stubbornly put the thought out of her head, though. There was no room in their lives for anyone else. It had always been just her and Jordan and it was going to stay that way until Jordan leaves the nest. That’s all there is to it. Right? Right.

————