The following Friday, Christen and Emma made it to practice with three minutes to spare. Christen had done a lot of her prep work in the morning for the dinner she planned to cook that night, which saved her a bit of time, and Emma was cooperative when Christen called her down to leave for her lessons.
Tobin saw the mother and daughter duo approaching and a smile crept across her face as she continued to pick up the tennis balls from Jordan’s session.
Tobin would never admit it to Jordan, or anyone else for that matter, that she had spent the better part of the past week thinking about Christen, which both surprised and terrified her. She normally didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about women that she might be remotely interested in, but she found herself thinking about cute mom Christen. A lot. She couldn’t get her green eyes and her smile out of her head. And so when she saw her walking on to the court again, she couldn’t stop the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach. It was a feeling she hadn’t had in a long time and it scared her.
Christen and Emma put their things down on the bench and watched the last bit of Jordan’s practice. Christen was impressed right away with Jordan’s footwork and hand-eye coordination. For someone who’s only been playing for six months, she seemed to be very advanced. After the last rally, the coach wrapped up their session and Jordan started picking up balls, while Diana went to grab some water.
Christen was so engrossed in watching Jordan play that she didn’t notice Tobin approach her.
“Hi there,” Tobin said nervously with a smile as she stood next to Christen.
“Oh, hi, sorry I didn’t see you there,” Christen said blushing, caught off guard by Tobin’s bright smile. “Jordan’s really fun to watch.”
Tobin chuckled, once again struck by Christen’s gorgeous face which was framed by wild curls that Tobin found incredibly sexy and it took her a second to recover. “Thanks, um, she’s worked really hard.”
“I can tell,” Christen said, smiling back at Tobin.
‘There’s that smile again,’ Tobin thought to herself. If she hadn’t been holding on to the pair of ball tubes, she might have been literally knocked off her feet.
They held each other’s gaze for a moment. Emma watched the interaction between the two with an amused smirk on her face. She wondered if they were aware that they were just staring at each other and debated whether she should say something to snap them out of it. They stood in silence for another brief moment until Christen finally spoke.
“Oh, Tobin, I don’t think I introduced my daughter to you last week. This is Emma. Emma, this is Ms. Tobin, Jordan’s mom,” Christen said.
“Hi Emma, it’s very nice to meet you,” Tobin said, giving Emma a small wave.
“Hi Ms. Tobin. It’s very nice to meet you, too,” Emma said politely, having managed to hide her smirk.
“Alright, sweetheart. Have a good practice,” Christen said.
“Thanks mom,” Emma said as she ran on to the court to greet her coach.
Christen watched Emma run, trying not to be affected by Tobin’s presence.
“On time today, I see,” Tobin teased, proud of herself for finding her words a little easier today.
Christen laughed and blushed at Tobin’s teasing. She seemed to be doing that a lot around Tobin. She had spent all week looking forward to going to tennis practice just to see her again for the few minutes that they shared the court. There was something about her voice and her lips that made every part of Christen’s body tingle.
“Yeah, I may have threatened her last week with confiscating her phone if she didn’t start acting with a sense of urgency, so here we are,” Christen said dryly.
Tobin laughed knowing how devastating that would be for a preteen to have her phone taken away. “Ouch. Seems to have worked, though.”
“Yep,” Christen said as she and Tobin watched Emma warm up and hit back and forth with Diana.
They stayed there for a few moments without saying a word until Tobin broke the silence.
“You said Emma has never played tennis before?” Tobin asked.
“Never,” Christen confirmed.
“Wow, her groundstrokes are really good. Her swing looks like she’s been playing all her life. She’s a natural. And she’s super fast,” Tobin said, thoroughly impressed.
“Thanks. Not to brag, but she gets her speed from me,” Christen said matter-of-factly, which Tobin thought was very cute.
“Oh?” Tobin asked.
“I also ran track in high school and she and I have a running joke that I’ll be 50 before she manages to beat me in a sprint,” Christen chuckled.
“Ah, that explains it. Remind me never to challenge you to a foot race,” Tobin said laughing. “I might seriously hurt myself.”
‘What a cute laugh she has,’ Christen thought to herself.
“I would go easy on you,” Christen said laughing. “Us old folks have to stick together. Can’t let these kids have the bragging rights,” she said with a hint of playfulness in her eyes.
Tobin laughed. “Well I appreciate that. It might impress my kid if you did that for me,” she said.
“Did what for you?” Jordan asked as she walked up to them, catching the tail end of what Tobin was saying and interrupting them again just as she did last Friday.
“Oh nothing, Ms. Christen offered to help me pick up balls whenever they get here early,” Tobin said winking at Christen to keep the joke between them, to which Christen gave her a slight nod and smile back in understanding.
Christen smiled. “Jordan, I don’t think we officially met last week. I’m Christen,” she said.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize I didn’t introduce the two of you,” Tobin said blushing, having been too busy last week fumbling over her words to even properly introduce her daughter.
“It’s okay, mom. Hi Ms. Christen,” Jordan said with a big smile.
“You’re really great out there. I was just telling your mom that you’re really fun to watch,” Christen said.
Now it was Jordan’s turn to blush. “Thank you,” she said sheepishly.
Tobin watched the exchange between her daughter and Christen and was busy smiling before she realized that Jordan was now talking to her.
“What?” Tobin asked as if she’d just been woken from a trance.
“I asked if you were ready to go,” Jordan repeated with a smirk.
Tobin blushed. She might have been caught staring at Christen. She’s not sure, but she was sure that Jordan would give her shit for it later if that was the case.
“Oh, yeah, I’m ready to go,” Tobin said even though she really wanted to stay and chat with Christen.
Christen tried not to laugh, enjoying the dynamic between Tobin and Jordan.
“I’ll…I mean…we’ll see you next week,” Christen corrected herself. “We’ll try to get here early enough so I can help you with the balls,” she said smiling.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that. That’s really nice of you, but I was just kidding,” Tobin said smiling right back.
They stared at each other smiling again. Jordan wasn’t sure if she should say something again or just wait it out this time. She looked at her mother’s face and saw a look from her that she’d never seen before. She was making googly eyes at Ms. Christen. She was sure of it.
After a few more moments, Jordan cleared her throat and Tobin finally broke the eye contact.
“Anyway, uh, have a good weekend,” Tobin said, hating that they had to go.
“You, too,” Christen said. “Maybe next time on the ACL scars,” she said laughing, referencing their prior conversation.
Tobin laughed. “Next time,” she confirmed. “See you later.”
“Bye,” Christen said to Tobin and Jordan.
Christen watched the pair walk away. Specifically, she watched Tobin and her calves walk away. She was still looking when Tobin glanced back and caught her looking.
‘Shit,’ Christen thought to herself as she quickly looked away and grabbed her water and took a drink to busy herself.
‘Way to go, Christen. Way to go,’ she berated herself.
Even though she was busy chastising herself, Christen did realize one thing. ‘Tobin looked back,’ she thought. ‘Tobin looked back.’
“I’m proud of you for being on time and listening this past week,” Christen commended her daughter as they sat down for dinner.
No matter how busy Christen was with work, she always tried to make sure she had dinner with Emma to catch up on each other’s day. There were times, however, when she would have work events that she couldn’t get out of, but she usually did her best to make sure she didn’t miss out on dinners with her daughter.
“Thanks, mom. I’m really trying,” Emma said, desperate to not have her mom take her phone away. The thought of not being able to communicate with her friends back in L.A. wasn’t something she even wanted to entertain.
“I can tell,” Christen said. “Keep it up.”
“I will, mom,” Emma said. “So what were you and Ms. Tobin talking about today?” Emma asked, unexpectedly changing the subject.
Christen’s head whipped up as she stopped chewing her food and looked at Emma.
“Why? What do you mean?” Christen asked defensively.
Emma pretended to furrow her brows in confusion at her mom’s odd response, but it confirmed what she had picked up on earlier. ‘Mom is totally crushing on Ms. Tobin,’ she thought to herself.
“I mean you guys were talking and laughing. I just wanted to know what fun I was missing out on,” Emma said casually, trying to get more information out of her mother.
‘Calm down, Christen. Relax. What the hell are you so on edge about?’ she told herself.
“Nothing, really. We were just joking around about being on time today and we were talking about Jordan’s game,” Christen said casually.
“Uh huh,” Emma said, unable to keep the suspicion out of her voice.
“What’s that ‘uh huh’ for?” Christen asked.
“Nothing. I just…I like Ms. Tobin. She seems really cool,” Emma said.
Christen looked suspiciously at her daughter.
“How could you even make that determination? You barely talked to her,” Christen said.
“She makes you smile and laugh, that’s why,” Emma said with a shrug of her shoulders.
Christen nodded and tried not to smile. She hadn’t realized she was being so obvious around Tobin that even her daughter noticed how smiley she was in the presence of the brown-haired woman. She took a bite of her salad and they ate in comfortable silence as Christen pondered some more about the truth in Emma’s statement.
“Tobs, want another one?” Ashlyn asked, holding up a beer bottle.
“Sure, thanks,” Tobin said. “Al, you need any help?” she asked.
“Nope, I’m good. You guys can have a seat. Dinner’s almost ready,” Ali said as she took the lasagna out of the oven.
“That looks so good,” Tobin said, practically drooling at the gooey lasagna goodness that awaited them.
Ali chuckled as she brought it over to the dining table and set it down.
Tobin and Jordan pulled up a seat at the dinner table while Ali and Ashlyn brought the rest of the food and drinks over.
“Thanks,” Tobin said when Ashlyn put her beer down in front of her.
“So how’ve you been?” Ashlyn asked as she also sat down.
Ashlyn and Ali are Tobin’s oldest and closest friends from college. They’ve seen all of Tobin’s highs and lows and have been there for her through all the years since. It’s been their tradition for years to meet up for a meal once every few weeks, taking turns hosting and cooking dinner.
“Good,” Tobin answered as she took a sip of her beer. “How about you guys?”
“We’re good. Busy,” Ashlyn said. “How did your date go with that woman who works in your building? What was her name? Sharon? Shannon?”
Tobin rolled her eyes. Ashlyn was many things, but subtle wasn’t one of them.
“Shannon. And it wasn’t a date,” Tobin corrected her.
Ashlyn chuckled and took a sip of her beer. “I’m pretty sure she thought it was a date, Tobs,” she said, based on the information that Tobin had given her before they had gone out.
Before Tobin could respond, Jordan was speaking. “Yep, she totally thought it was a date, Auntie Ash. You should have seen the outfit she was wearing. I didn’t know heels could go that high.”
Ashlyn laughed at her goddaughter’s assessment. “Oh? Do tell.”
“Yep, she was totally into Mom,” Jordan added.
Tobin sighed. She hated when they ganged up on her like this. “Guys, it wasn’t a date,” she insisted unconvincingly.
Shannon was a woman who worked in the office down the hall from Tobin’s studio and had been occasionally hanging around during her breaks, making conversation with Tobin. It eventually led to Shannon and her coworkers asking Tobin if she wanted to go to happy hour with them every Thursday, to which Tobin agreed a couple of times. A couple of weeks ago, though, Shannon came over by herself after work and asked Tobin if she wanted to get dinner sometime. Tobin, caught completely off guard, agreed to dinner that Saturday, unable to say no to the woman and let her down easily.
“Her Instagram posts would say otherwise, Mom,” Jordan teased.
Tobin rolled her eyes some more and sighed. ‘I should have never shown her those stupid Instagram posts,’ Tobin thought to herself.
“What Instagram posts?” Ali asked as she joined them at the table.
This was not what Tobin wanted to be the topic of discussion at dinner tonight. It made her kick herself for mentioning the dinner to Ashlyn in the first place. When she got home from dinner with Shannon that night, Jordan was still up and Tobin sat down next to her to unwind after the babysitter left. Instead of complaining some more about how she didn’t need to be babysat any more at her age, Jordan asked her a million questions about how the night had gone and begged Tobin to show her a picture of the woman since she didn’t have her own phone yet. Tobin finally relented and reluctantly went to Shannon’s Instagram page since the woman had friended her after the first happy hour a couple of months before. To her surprise, when she pulled up her profile, a picture of her and Shannon was staring back at her.
Tobin was not a big fan of social media, or phones in general, so she was taken aback by her face right there on Shannon’s feed.
“Oh my god, she posted a pic of you guys!” Jordan exclaimed as she tried to grab the phone from Tobin, but her mother was too fast and kept her from taking it.
Tobin groaned and tapped the photo to look at it. She was tagged, of course, and it was a selfie that Shannon had quickly taken while they were waiting for their separate Lyft rides to arrive after dinner. The caption read:
Fun night with @tobinheath!
“Mom, go click on her stories,” Jordan said excitedly.
Tobin hesitated. She wasn’t sure what she was going to see, but she clicked anyway out of curiosity. Thankfully, there weren’t any other pictures of her, but there were plenty of pictures of Shannon documenting getting ready and the last photo was one of her showing her entire outfit on a mirror, stilettos and all. Shannon was pretty. She was blonde, had a nice body, and talked Tobin’s ear off. But there wasn’t any chemistry between them and they hardly had anything in common. There just wasn’t a spark. Plus, Tobin wasn’t looking for anything serious anyway and she wasn’t the type of person to just date casually, so in Tobin’s mind, it was going nowhere.
“She posted a picture of her and Mom on her feed and there were a bunch of her getting ready in her stories,” Jordan eagerly replied.
“Guys, can we seriously not talk about this anymore? It wasn’t a big deal and I’m not interested in her,” Tobin said definitively, though she really did need to make it clear to Shannon that she wasn’t looking for a relationship if that was her expectation from Tobin. She just needed to find the words and the nerve to do it since it was bound to make things awkward given their close proximity to each other at work.
“Aren’t you guys going on your trip soon?” Tobin asked her friends, desperate to change the subject.
Ali and Ashlyn smirked at each other, deciding to let Tobin off the hook and drop the subject. For now. There would be time for more teasing and questions later.
“Counting down the days, so trying to wrap up a bunch of stuff at work,” Ashlyn said.
“Don’t have too much fun,” Tobin winked, relieved that they were now talking about something else.
“We can’t wait. It just looks so pretty out there,” Ali said dreamily of their upcoming vacation to Turks and Caicos.
Before Tobin could respond, Jordan was already talking.
“Speaking of pretty…Mom, did you notice how pretty Ms. Christen looked today?” Jordan interrupted, asking casually about Christen, knowing this would draw the interest of her two aunties.
Tobin sighed. Jordan was seemingly on a mission and she was not going to let the topic of Tobin’s love life go any time soon. Tobin gave her daughter an annoyed look, certainly not wanting to get into a conversation about Christen with Ali and Ash right now either.
“Oooh, who’s this Christen?” Ali asked as she and Ashlyn looked expectantly at Tobin.
“No one. Just one of the tennis moms. They’re new in town,” Tobin said, unable to keep her face from blushing and trying not to sound anxious with three pairs of eyes looking at her.
“Oh?” Ashlyn said, noticing Tobin’s face turning beet red, but withholding teasing her about it. She did, however, want to learn more. “Tell us about her. We wanna know everything.”
It pleasantly surprised Ali and Ash that there seemed to be someone new that could make Tobin blush the way she did at the mere mention of her. They could count on one hand the number of times Tobin might have been remotely interested in someone in the last ten years, but even then, nothing ever came of it. The thing with Shannon seemed dead on arrival, but this…the look in Tobin’s eyes told them that this was somehow different.
Tobin groaned and glared at Jordan.
“What? I was just asking if you noticed how pretty she looked today,” Jordan said innocently, though she was far from innocent.
“So what?” Tobin asked, playing with her food but not really eating, refusing to make eye contact with anyone.
“So you do think she’s pretty?” Jordan asked with a hint of hope in her voice at her mother’s non-denial.
“I didn’t say that,” Tobin said.
“So you don’t think she’s pretty?” Jordan asked again.
“Of course she’s really pretty!” Tobin exasperatedly blurted without thinking as she looked up from her plate. “But what does that have to do with anything?”
Jordan grinned. Hook, line, and sinker. Sometimes it was just too easy to get her mother to say what she wanted to hear.
“Nothing,” Jordan said as she took a bite of her food, satisfied with what she’d been able to coax out of her mom tonight.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re really annoying sometimes?” Tobin said to her as she playfully threw a carrot at her.
Tobin got the feeling that her daughter had somehow ‘won’ that conversation. She felt stupid for letting herself get riled up enough to actually admit out loud that she thought Christen was pretty.
Ali and Ashlyn tried not to laugh at the exchange between the two, deciding not to push Tobin on the subject since Jordan was already doing a great job of it, but they would eventually need to pry more information out of her.
“I try,” Jordan said as she ate the carrot Tobin had thrown at her, satisfied that she at least got her mother to admit that Emma’s mom was pretty. Really pretty.