"What did you do with your passport?"
"Why do I need my passport?"
"Please tell me you didn't leave it in Portland."
"I didn't! It's in the zip pocket of my suitcase."
Christen reached into the front of the bag Tobin was pointing to. She found the small book and put it on the bed in one of her existing piles. She turned back to the clothes she was packing into another suitcase.
"Why do I need my passport?" Tobin repeated from where she lay across her side of the bed.
"They're doing the official eligibility checks this week, so they need everyone to show their passport to the FIFA people. Did you see that email?"
Tobin scrunched up her face. "I skimmed it? I figured it was gonna be the same shit it always is."
"We had to do this last time too."
She smirked. "Exactly, that's why I brought my passport."
She rolled her eyes. "Can you pull up the email and look at it? My mom offered to take Sam or Mattie this week if we need it and I'm not sure when we're busiest. We made a plan for them to pick the kids up Saturday morning so we don't have to worry about getting them to San Diego."
"Sweet, sounds good."
"What sounds good?"
Tobin gestured noncommittally. "The plan you just said. With your parents."
"I said I don't have a plan yet. We need to come up with one."
"What do you mean for what?" she asked animatedly. "For this week. Camp is going to be crazy with the promotional stuff, plus we've gotta get the kids to school every day—which reminds me I'm still trying to figure out when Mattie can leave for France. We also have to make sure to finish any of the paperwork for Mattie and Sam to come at all, because this is the last time we're both gonna be here during the week before we have to leave, not to mention staying on top of the rest of their adoption shit, which we won't be able to do anything about for like 2 months. And that's before we get to the you and me stuff, or worrying about football at all!"
Tobin froze. "Uhh...okay, that's a lot."
Christen gave her a look.
"Well," she started, trying to diffuse the situation, "if we're in practice or whatever, the babysitters can do dropoff and pickup, we just have to give them a car seat for Sam. And then like before for Mattie's school or whatever, I can just drop her off."
She could see Christen soften slightly, and she dropped the t-shirt she was folding onto the top of the pile. "I didn't...you don't have to bring Mattie every day; we can switch off or something. I just meant we have to figure it out."
Tobin grinned, rolling over and swinging her feet off the edge of the bed, so she was leaning against it next to Christen's packing station. She tugged on the side of her t-shirt. "We could go together and have a little date in the morning."
She smiled back and leaned over to give Tobin a kiss. "As nice as that sounds, one of us has to stay with Sam or we're gonna have to get him ready by seven too. And you know how fun that'll be."
"Okay, so we switch off," she shrugged. "What about the rest of the stuff?"
"We're gonna have to find time to do all of our errand stuff next week."
Tobin flopped back on the bed and looked up at the ceiling. "What errand stuff? I thought we just had the shrinky-dink meeting."
"Don't call it that."
"Sorry. 'Social Services' meeting. Besides that, what else?"
"Well, I'm not sure if we're gonna have to talk to Mattie's teachers about France, but if I do, Claire probably has to be there. Also, if we decide to set up a joint account, we should do that before we leave."
"'Okay cool,' like...you want to set up a joint account?"
Tobin tried not to look as confused as she felt. "Uhh...if you do?"
Christen looked like she was going to say something but thought better of it. "I do because I think we should get Mattie a card on the account. Even if we don't get a joint one we need to put her on one of ours."
Tobin scrunched up her nose. "She's 12. What does she need a credit card for?"
"Well, we're leaving her with my parents for at least a week, then once we're in France and my mom or your mom or whoever is watching them, I don't want them buying her everything, even though they'll try, and I don't want her feeling awkward if she has to ask for something. I mean, we'll give her cash, but I'd just feel more comfortable if she had that as a backup, you know?"
Tobin raised her eyebrows and nodded. "Yeah, I didn't really...think about that, but I guess."
"Well, then we're gonna have to look at the options and pick a bank and open the account. You know, in all the free time we'll have this week."
"I mean I can probably to that," Tobin offered.
"Really?" Christen asked, pleasantly surprised.
Tobin nodded and shrugged. "If you want."
Christen smiled and looked at her softly. "Did you see your new license? It came in the mail."
"Where is it?" Tobin said, standing up. "I feel like we should celebrate me becoming an official California resident."
"On the dresser," Christen gestured. "Make sure to pack it, we'll have to bring it for Claire to scan."
Tobin giggled when she picked up the envelope.
"It came to 'Tobin Press'. It just looks funny."
Tobin showed her the mail.
Christen laughed. "I didn't even notice that. Take it out, let's see it."
Tobin ripped open the top and pulled out the enclosed piece of paper with a card attached. Christen looked at her picture under a hologram of the seal of California and "PRESS" written in large letters with "TOBIN HEATH" written directly below in slightly smaller font. Tobin slowly peeled the paper off the back of the card with a dazed look on her face.
"Wow, we're really married, huh?"
Tobin loaded the car a half hour before they were supposed to leave, so Christen was able to wrangle Mattie and Sam out the door and into the car on schedule. When they arrived, most of the team wasn't at the hotel yet, so only one of the USSF staffers was sitting in the lobby with a clipboard. They checked in quickly and headed to their floor.
"Sam, walk, please. No running!"
"Auntie Kelley!" he called, taking off.
Kelley crouched down to meet Sam's approach. "Oof! How much did you grow since I saw you last? A foot?"
Sam shook his head and held up 4 fingers. "I'm four-two foots."
"Four foot two?" Kelley asked.
"Forty-two inches, bud," Tobin helped. "Three feet six inches."
Sam nodded and pointed to Tobin. "Four-two."
"Wow. You're gonna be as tall as me soon!" Kelley said, grinning.
"No, I'm not!" Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head, falling into her shoulder.
"Did you get in alright?" Christen asked as she handed Tobin the key to their room.
"Yeah, the flight was fine. Where's Mattie?"
Mattie dragged behind the group, pulling her suitcase with one hand and texting with the other.
"Wow," Kelley said dramatically. "My own godchild, ignoring me for a phone."
Tobin rolled her eyes.
"Hi, Kelley," Mattie said without looking up.
"Mattie," Christen warned.
"Hi," Mattie repeated, storing her phone in her pocket and smiling at Kelley.
"How much longer til summer vacation?" Kelley asked.
Mattie shrugged. "It depends when they let me leave for France."
"Gotcha. You guys see anyone else yet?" she asked, following Mattie into the room.
"Just Dan from logistics downstairs."
"What about Mal?"
"She was gonna meet up with Rose and Lindsey, so she's heading over later."
Kelley sighed and flopped onto one of the beds. "So there's no one to hang out with."
"What are we?" Christen asked, offended.
"Boring!" Kelley said dramatically.
Christen rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
"Ooh, guess what?" Kelley asked.
"I heard Justin Timberlake was coming to the LA friendly."
Tobin frowned. "I heard it was Justin Bieber."
"Really?" Kelley deflated. "Whatever, that's still pretty cool."
"Yeah, but he's Canadian," Mattie pointed out. "So I'm pretty sure he'll be rooting for them."
"Mal told me Ariana Grande was gonna be there," Christen chimed in.
"See, that's pretty cool!" Kelley said like she was trying to convince Mattie.
"I guess," Mattie said, shrugging.
Tobin smiled knowingly. "You'd be better off telling her what games Mbappe's gonna come to in France."
"Wait what?" Mattie said expectantly.
Tobin and Kelley laughed.
"I see what the deal is," Kelley said, smiling.
"Tobin, is he really gonna be at the games?" Mattie asked.
Tobin felt bad for teasing her. "I don't know, dude. He'll be around though. We'll see if we can't get you a selfie or something."
Mattie seemed to realize how obvious she was being. "Yeah, I mean it's whatever. I was just wondering."
"Okay, well I mean, I want to meet him if I can, so if you wanted to tag along, you can."
Mattie brightened again. "Yeah, sure!"
Camp started with an all team meeting. Christen had a little trouble convincing Sam to stay with the babysitter before school, so she came into the room after most of the team was already seated and grabbed a spot next to Lindsey and Mal in the back row.
"Hey, birthday girl. Happy 21st."
Mal grinned. "Thanks! Where'd Sam go?"
"He's with the sitter, which he was not happy about." Christen laughed. "What did you think, he was going to come to the meetings today?"
"Why not, they let Mal come," Lindsey said.
Mal rolled her eyes. "I don't know. I thought this was just going to be about the schedule so it wouldn't matter."
"Have you seen the schedule?" Christen asked. "This is supposed to last until 11:30."
Lindsey and Mal both groaned.
The chatter started to die down and Laura and Dawn walked through the doors near the front of the room.
"Good morning," Laura opened. "I hear we have a birthday today..."
Laura gave a short introduction of the schedule for camp, then Dawn got into an outline of the training plan, followed by a powerpoint by two of the ops guys about travel logistics for the trips and what they'd have to do to prepare. By the time the nutritionist and the communications person had given their presentations, even Christen was starting to get a little antsy.
"Alright," Laura said, standing up after they were done. "We're almost finished. I know this was a long morning, and your faces give me a pretty good idea of how bored you all are. So."
Christen saw Tobin dump the contents of her hood onto Allie in annoyance.
"...In light of that, I'll try to wrap this up quickly." She pressed a key on his laptop and the projector advanced to a slide that read 'Bubble' in a large font.
"Those of you who have been through this before know that things are about to get pretty crazy," she started. "Those of us that haven't, myself included, are in for an interesting few months. The roster is gonna be released at the end of this camp and the circus is going to start. We're going to have some extra media at these last friendlies. Some pretty famous people are gonna come shake your hands. I want you to enjoy this experience because you earned it and you deserve it." She paused.
"But we're here to do a job, and that job is going to consume pretty much all of your lives before the end of this. I know I don't have to tell you what this team means, or what you represent, or that you represent that whether you're wearing a shirt with the crest on it or not. But I want you to remember that when the lights come on, and remember the job you're doing, and let that put some distance between the people in this room and the people outside of it. From here on out, I want you to picture a bubble around this team that separates us from all of the expectations, and the commentary, and the attention. We're gonna have to interact with people outside of the bubble from time to time, but while we're together and we're focused on our jobs, we maintain the bubble. No one pops the bubble. Got it?"
Isabella dropped her tray onto their table across from Sophie and slid onto the bench.
"You had Stevens this morning right?" Mattie asked, looking up.
"We drop math today but she wants to know if he gave out the rubric for the final project," Sophie answered for her.
"No, sorry. He said we were going over it tomorrow."
Mattie sighed. "Christen says it's the only rubric left on her list before she'll tell me when I can leave for France."
Isabella's eyes widened. "Shit, really? That's the only thing you have to finish?"
"No, I'm not, like, done with everything else, but she has this whole schedule for me to follow so I'm done in time." She rolled her eyes. "Mrs. Donner gave her all the English stuff right away, so that's what we started with and I'm almost done with it. Then I have to read and write a paper for history and do some stuff about water for Ms. Horowitz and then whatever Stevens gives us."
"Jeez, that sounds like a lot of work."
Mattie shrugged. "It's mostly just reading a few chapters a night and then I had to write a paper the other day."
"What books do we have for the rest of the year?"
Isabella rolled her eyes. "Ugh, only you would care what books, Sophie. Do you know when you get to ditch?"
Mattie gave Isabella a look. "We're reading The Giver and then a free reading book so I'm gonna pick a Harry Potter. And I don't know when my last day will be. I think guidance said I could leave May 29th if I don't miss any school and I'll still pass, but I have to pass all my classes."
"I'm so jealous," Isabella said dramatically. "The world cup is gonna be sooo coollllll..."
"Are you gonna get to come on the science center trip?" Sophie asked.
Mattie frowned. "Did Horowitz announce when it was yet?"
"No, but my mom said my brother's was at the end of May."
"Huh. I'm not sure. I probably won't leave before then."
"Dude, you have to come," Isabella insisted. "Jeff Martinez's mom is one of the chaperones, and he said that she told him that we're gonna get to go to Crave."
"That place with the ice cream sandwiches?" Sophie asked.
"No, they have the giant milkshakes with the candy and toppings."
"Oh. Is that where all the instagram people have been going?"
Isabella nodded excitedly. "I heard they have a new shake with boba in the ice cream!"
Sophie looked skeptical. "How does that even work?"
"I don't know, but I'm gonna try it!"
Sophie shook her head. "Mat, guess what? My dad said he's gonna bring the extra jerseys to practice tomorrow so you can pick one."
"Yeah, well you need it before the game, so."
Isabella sighed like she remembered something incredibly inconvenient. "Ugh, I forgot we're playing the Ginellis this weekend."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"I hate playing the Ginellis."
"No, you don't. They're like your favorite team to play."
Isabella pouted. "Yeah, but I always end up with so many bruises after we play them."
"They can't be that bad, Izzie," Mattie insisted.
"They are! Sophie, tell her."
Sophie hedged. "I mean, they are pretty physical. And it doesn't help that they're like, a foot taller than everyone else. But Iz, you provoke them."
"I do not!" she insisted. "That play in U12 when I was playing defense?"
"Okay, yeah, that one was pretty bad," Sophie admitted. "Don't worry, though, Mattie. If you don't start fights with them like Izzie does, you should be fine."
Mattie looked between them skeptically.
Isabella grinned. "Mattie Garcia, are you nervous?" she teased.
"No! Why would I be nervous?"
"You are! You're nervous for your first game. Wow, even the stars get butterflies."
"Iz, leave her alone."
"I'm not nervous, Izzie."
The bell rang for the end of lunch and Isabella just looked smug.
That night at dinner, Christen sat in the function room with Mattie and Sam on either side of her, and Tobin on the other side of Mattie. After they ate, Kelley and Lindsey brought out a cake for Mal and they all sang Happy Birthday.
"Sammy, come help me blow out the candles!" Mal insisted.
Sam climbed down out of his chair and ran over. Mal lifted him up so he was high enough to reach. He inhaled comically and blew out the biggest breath of air he could, which was enough to get 2-3 of the candles. Mal blew at the same time and got the rest out.
"I didn't know we were gonna get Sam slobber with our cake," Tobin joked to Christen.
"Only the best for Mal."
Mal released Sam so he could sit back down to eat his cake, but didn't start cutting it before announcing, "Okay, everyone! We're playing Kingdom in Lindsey and Sonnett's room tonight. Anyone who wants to join should come by at 8."
"Can I play?" Sam asked excitedly.
"Sam, you can be on my team," Lindsey offered.
"Yes!" he celebrated.
Christen made eye contact with Tobin. "Well, this is gonna make bedtime fun."
The next morning, Christen smoothed the comforter on her bed and leaned over to pick up one of Sam's sneakers from the floor next to the wall. She looked at the nightstand where Tobin's phone sat, still charging, and sighed. She hustled out of the room, flipping the deadbolt to prop the door open and turning the corner to the elevator bank.
"Tob?" she called, hoping to have caught her wife before her midfielders' meeting. Tobin wasn't anywhere to be seen in the hallway, but Christen heard a familiar wail coming out of a half ajar door on the other side of the elevators.
She poked her head into the lounge where the nannies were set up to hang out with Sam while he wasn't at school. Julia, the nanny for the morning, was leaning against a desk, watching Sam scream bloody murder and cling to Tobin, who was trying to calm him down.
What's wrong? Christen mouthed to Tobin over Sam's head.
Tobin shrugged and shook her head. He didn't want me to leave.
"Sammy?" Christen tried. "Mama has to leave for a meeting..." she looked at Tobin's phone in her hand, "...two minutes ago."
Sam lifted his head from Tobin's collar and turned to look at her. His eyes were bloodshot and his face was covered in a mix of tears and snot.
"C'mere," Christen motioned, getting him to unlatch from Tobin's shirt. "You gotta go," she said to Tobin, trading her her phone for Sam. He was passed between his mothers willingly, immediately digging his fists into Christen's sweatshirt once in her arms.
"Thanks," Tobin said, still looking a little overwhelmed. "Are you sure you've got—"
"We'll be fine. Go ahead, you're gonna be late."
Tobin nodded and headed out the door to the left, toward the stairs instead of the elevators.
"Hi, you must be Julia," Christen said, taking a hand away from rubbing circles on Sam's back to greet her, "Kerrie told us you were going to be here this morning. Hopefully, she told you Sam's normally much friendlier."
Julia smiled sympathetically. "It seems like he's having a rough morning. Are goodbyes usually this hard for him?"
"Not unless he's really into a game he's playing or something. He did this yesterday for Kerrie but not with quite as many tears."
"Maybe he's just having a bad day."
"It was Mal's birthday yesterday, so he stayed up a little later than usual. He might just be tired." Christen leaned her head to look at her son. "Sam, can you tell me what's wrong?"
He had calmed down slightly, but tears were still running down his cheeks and he hiccuped as he spoke. "I want—hic—to stay with you and Mama. I don't want you to—hic—leave."
She brushed back his curls with her hand. "We're just going downstairs for some meetings, babe."
"Why can't I—hic—come?"
Christen smiled softly. "Well, for one thing, they'd be boring. You have to sit and be quiet the whole time. And also, you've got school, buddy."
"I don't wanna go to school!"
She frowned. "You love school."
"No! I hate it!"
"Really? You hate it?"
Sam threw his head onto her shoulder and nodded.
"So you never want to go back?"
He nodded again.
"You do want to go back?"
He shook his head.
"Should I tell Mrs. S and the Jacks and Ava you won't be seeing them again?"
Sam paused and turned his head so it was still resting on her shoulder, but he could frown at her.
Christen raised her eyebrows. "You just told me you didn't want to go back and you hated it there."
He buried his face back in her shirt and started crying again. "I just wanna stay with you and Mama," he wailed.
"Alright, it's okay," she said, rubbing his back and sending Julia an apologetic look. She picked up Sam's backpack which Tobin had left and moved to sit on the couch in the middle of the room. "Okay, listen, how about this." She moved him off her lap and onto the couch so he would look at her. "You and Julia are going to hang out here for," she looked at the clock under the TV, "one hour, and then you're gonna go to school."
Sam started to shake his head.
"Wait," Christen warned. "When you get home from school, me and Mama are going to be eating lunch, so you can come see us and have lunch with us. Then we have to go to practice, but if you stay here with Julia then, you guys can go get Mattie at school, and then you can hang out with Mattie. How does that sound?"
He crossed his arms and gave her a grumpy look.
"And you and Julia can play Switch or watch Clone Wars," she tried.
He softened slightly, but still looked skeptical.
"And," she said, looking at him seriously, "And—today is Tuesday, right? If you're good for Julia today, and you're good tomorrow, which is Wednesday, and the day after, which is...?"
"Thursday," he grumbled automatically.
"Right. So if you're good today and tomorrow and Thursday, you can skip school on Friday and you can hang out with me and Mama, like, almost the whole day."
He considered the offer. "Can we get ice cream?"
She laughed. "We can get you ice cream."
Sam uncrossed his arms so they flopped to his sides. "So I don't get to see you for three days?"
Christen bit her lip. "No, honey, we just have to work during the day. Like yesterday, right? We have meetings and practice until dinnertime and then we get to see you."
He rubbed his eyes. "I don't like meetings."
She sighed. "I know, bud."
Fifteen minutes later, Christen had Sam cleaned up and parked in front of his show and had gotten ready for her meeting in ten minutes, which meant she had planned on arriving five minutes ago. She walked back toward the elevators, crossing the open space to peak into the lounge before heading down. Sam was where she left him, watching TV, though he had apparently warmed up enough to Julia in the time Christen was gone to begin filling her in on everything that was happening on screen and how that related to everything else in Star Wars. She smiled and listened to him babble for a few seconds before backing away from the door silently, not wanting to chance him noticing her and the peace being re-disrupted. She returned to the elevators, pressing the button and getting surprised when it dinged and the doors opened almost instantly. She stepped in and pressed the button for the floors with the meeting rooms, resting her head against the back wall and chewing her bottom lip.
I don't like meetings.
At practice that afternoon, Tobin was dragging. She shuffled her way through the seven v seven, pausing occasionally to try to crack her ankle. The temperature was in the 90s and even though everyone was feeling it, she somehow felt like she was the only one running in slow motion.
The scrimmage was a mess, and no one was connecting. After Tobin missed a wide-open run from Christen and sent the ball out for a goal kick, Laura looked like she'd had enough.
"Alright. Blue team, get some water! Red team, sub on."
Tobin was both frustrated and relieved. She jogged over to the coolers to grab a water, getting in line behind Christen. When Christen turned around with a bottle for each of them, Tobin knew her bad mood was showing on her face, because Christen was looking at her with a very soft expression.
"It's okay," she said, handing Tobin the water and tapping her on the side. "We'll get the next one."
By the end of the day, Christen was exhausted. She could feel her body adjusting to the pace of camp, the dull soreness settling into her muscles over the burn of the day's torn fibers and the leftover chill of the recovery ice bath. She had volunteered to pick Mattie up from practice, in part because Tobin and Sam seemed absorbed in the game they were playing, but mostly because the hotel was beginning to feel much too small and much too loud.
She pulled into the first open spot in the parking lot at the field, looking over to see a familiar face a few spaces down. Isabella's dad, Dan, smiled and waved to her before going back to the crossword he had on the steering wheel. Christen turned to look at the field, where Mattie and Isabella were surrounded by teammates and trying to muscle each other off the ball.
Mattie managed to free the ball and pass to another girl, whose name Christen thought might be Grace, but maybe-Grace got the ball stripped away by Sophie who passed to a girl Christen couldn't see, who scored. Sophie and the other girl ran to the sidelines and the keeper retrieved the ball from the goal and punted it 20 yards upfield. Mattie and Isabella ran back to fight for it.
Mattie and maybe-Grace scored next, then Isabella's team, then two teams more until one duo remained and was eliminated. They all started back on the field again, this time with Mattie's team scoring first until another team of girls Christen didn't know was taken out of the competition as well. In the next round, both Isabella and Mattie's teams fell to the last two, with Mattie's team narrowly escaping defeat. One more team was eliminated until only Mattie and Sophie's teams were left.
Mattie beat Sophie's partner, who Christen thought was Jenna, to the ball. She beat maybe-Jenna with a crossover and made it just inside the 18 before she shot, but Sophie came over and got her foot on the ball, deflecting it up and over toward the corner. Mattie and Sophie both chased after it, but maybe-Grace got to it first, sending it back into the box over their heads. The switched directions, scrambling back to the front of the goal as the keeper tried to decide what to do. Mattie tried to head the ball but missed, and it hit the ground right at the 6, where Sophie was able to get a foot on it and send it into the bottom corner of the net. Maybe-Jenna threw up her hands and ran to celebrate with Sophie, while Mattie and maybe-Grace shared a commiserating low five.
Everyone but Sophie and maybe-Jenna went to pick up the cones and pinnies, dropping them into an equipment bag on the sidelines. The girls all got water and stretched while Coach Phillips talked to them for a few minutes. Christen was scrolling through Instagram when they finally finished and got up, so she locked her phone, but the coach called Mattie over and talked to her for another minute, finally pulling something out of the bag of gear and handing it to her. She thanked him and said goodbye to Sophie who was waiting for him to pack up before turning and spotting Christen's car and running toward it.
Mattie climbed in the front seat, sweaty and smiling. "Hey."
"Hey, you looked great out there. Soph got lucky on that bounce."
"I know. I almost had it. I thought Izzie was gonna beat me on the round two before that, though. That shot was ridiculous but I thought it was going in."
"Yeah, I didn't have a good angle so I couldn't tell how it came off her foot."
She laughed. "It was just a one-touch prayer, but she gets those to fall sometimes."
Christen turned the car on and put it in reverse, looking in the mirror and waiting for a gap in the line of parents filing out of the parking lot. "What country were you and...Grace?" Christen asked, guessing her teammate's name.
"Trying to be like Maro? I'll have to tell her that."
"No," Mattie shot back. Christen could see the grin she was hiding out of the corner of her eye. "I wanted to be Australia so I could be like the Sam Kerr out there, but Sophie picked them first."
"Sam Kerr, huh?"
"Yeah, she's, like, really good. Maybe the best forward in the world." She could barely contain her giggles at this point.
Christen gasped, feigning betrayal. "I knew this day would come, but I didn't think it would be so soon..."
Mattie laughed. "I'm kidding. No one is allowed to be the US."
"What! Why not?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I guess there was an 'incident' last season involving Izzie almost fighting some girl who's still in U12s? Even though Izzie wasn't trying to be the US? I'm not really sure. But Coach banned it as a team and now we all have to pick different countries."
Christen laughed. "Okay. Why did he call you over after practice?"
"Oh! To give me my jersey. For Sunday."
Christen grinned. "C'mon, let's see it."
Mattie rolled her eyes but smiled, leaning down to reach into her bag and pull out the shirt. As they pulled up to a red light, she held it up so Christen could see the front. It was dark blue with white stripes on the shoulders. The right breast was emblazoned with the league logo and the left breast had 17 in big white letters.
"Oh my god, Mattie—"
"You can't tell her."
"What do you mean I can't tell her?"
"You can't tell Tobin I got her number."
"But it's so cute..."
Mattie huffed. "He only had, like, 2, 14, and this one left. It's not like I had a lot of options."
Christen smirked. "Couldn't pick your favorite player's number then?"
"Yeah, they didn't have 20, so I couldn't be like Sam—"
"Oh! Ouch!" Christen said, clutching her chest as they both laughed.
"But they really didn't have 23. I don't think our numbers even go up that high."
"Well, whoever gets to wear the same number as you is pretty lucky, so I won't tell Mom if you don't want me to, but I think she's gonna be pretty psyched."
Tobin wasn't totally sure if she was really hearing Sam's voice or it was a dream.
"Mama?" he repeated.
She cracked open her eyes and looked between a pouting Sam and the clock on the nightstand, which read 2:27. "What's up bud?" she croaked out, her voice filled with sleep.
"I had a bad dream."
Tobin knew he wanted to sleep in their bed, but also knew she wasn't supposed to let him make this a habit. "About what?"
"I couldn't find you," he whined.
Tobin smiled reassuringly. "I'm right here, Sammy."
She sat up. "Want me to come tuck you back in?"
Sam looked slightly crestfallen but nodded.
Tobin stood up and followed him through the doorway connecting their rooms. He climbed back into his bed and she pulled the covers up to his chin.
"We're just in there, okay? No need to worry."
He nodded and she leaned over to kiss his forehead. "Goodnight."
"I love you."
"I love you too, Mama."
She felt like she had just fallen back asleep when she heard the voice again.
"Yeah, bud," she answered without opening her eyes.
"I can't sleep."
She opened her eyes and looked at the clock again. It read 3:15. She sighed. "Do you wanna sleep in here?"
"Yeah," he said in a small voice.
"Okay, hop up. Try not to wake Mommy up." She helped him up and over her so he could lay in the middle of the bed. "Better?"
He nodded and rested his head against her shoulder.
"Goodnight, Sammy," she whispered.
"Goodnight," he said sleepily.
She laughed when his breathing evened out almost instantly before she felt her own exhaustion overtake her.
When she woke up, Tobin could feel two tiny feet jammed into her lower back.
"Honey, why didn't you sleep in your bed?" she heard Christen ask.
"Mama tried to tuck me back in but it didn't work."
Tobin flipped over to look at Christen. She frowned but looked at him softly. "We were doing so good, babe. You slept in there the whole night this week. Why do you think it didn't work?"
"I had a bad dream."
"What happened in it?"
"I was lost and I couldn't find you or Mama."
Christen met Tobin's eyes and they shared a concerned look. "Okay, well that sounds scary so I understand." She kissed his forehead and got up to take Mattie to school.
Tobin was tired for the rest of Thursday. She wasn't visibly yawning or anything, but she felt a step slower than usual and it was just a little harder to concentrate on everything. Sam had thrown another tantrum when it was time to leave, so she was late to her first meeting again. Allie kept having to elbow her to pay attention to the scouting report on Brazil the assistant coach was showing.
At lunch, she sat at the end of one of the tables, hoping to get 20 minutes of peace and quiet. Christen came and sat next to her, and for a second she thought those hopes were dashed, but besides a small smile when she came over, Christen barely acknowledged her. They ate in silence until Tobin's plate was almost clear and something occurred to her.
"Hey, babe? Where's Sam?"
"Kerrie said he was really tired, so she's letting him take a quick nap. She's gonna bring him down at the end of lunch."
They were silent again for a moment.
"Oh, have you decided on a bank?" Christen asked.
Tobin stopped the bite of chicken that was halfway to her mouth. "Uhh...I haven't, but I we have tomorrow morning off, so I'll just look at everything then."
"I can help if you—"
"Nope!" Tobin said quickly. "I said I would do it, I'm gonna do it."
Christen looked amused. "Okay, whatever you say babe."
After an hour of reading the features of a dozen different possible bank accounts, Tobin wasn't sure why she had insisted on trying to pick one. She was sitting in the lounge where they kept the equipment with Christen's laptop and a notepad in front of her when Kelley wandered in.
"Are you taking notes?" she asked.
"Are you taking—"
Kelley laughed. "Why?"
"I'm picking a bank account."
"Do you not, like, already have one?" she joked.
Tobin rolled her eyes. "One for me and Chris."
"Oooh," Kelley said, her tone still teasing, "That's a pretty big step, huh?"
She rolled her eyes harder this time. "You were there for the big step. You've babysat our big steps. This is just..." she sighed. "A step above my pay grade."
Kelley looked at her more closely. "Why? What's up?"
"There's just like a million options! I started off just comparing the banks side by side, but then I realized I can't just compare the banks because I need to compare the accounts, but I don't know how to do that fairly, because obviously all the banks say there's is the best, so then I found this website where people can review the accounts, but I clicked a link and now I'm in this forum and this lady is explaining how giving your kid a credit card will make them a drug addict."
"Is it really...uh..." Kelley looked like she was trying not to laugh. "Is it really that big of a deal? There can't be that much of a difference."
Tobin let her head fall back against the couch and sighed loudly. "I don't know. Christen was really stressed about this, so I offered to do it because I thought it was gonna be easy, but now there's so much information and I don't know what to do with any of it." Now Kelley actually laughed, and Tobin started to tell her to fuck off. "Okay, relax," she said, sitting down on the other side of the couch. "I'll help."
"How are you gonna help? Do you know stuff about banks?"
"No, but that's not your problem. Just explain all the pros and cons to me and you'll be able to tell which one you want."
Tobin frowned. "Okay, fine. I guess that's not like the worst idea."
A half an hour later, they were still in the lounge, but Tobin had started to juggle one of the balls from the equipment pile in way of pacing.
"I still don't get why you can't pick the super checking."
"They have those international fees."
"Shit, right. What about the first one. It had everything you wanted right?"
"Yeah, but it has monthly fees."
"How much are they?"
Kelley rolled her eyes. "Just get that one then. That would be less than any of the ones with international fees."
"Yeah but it feels like a ripoff! There are so many free ones."
"You're not being logical about this, Tobs."
"Mama, can we get ice cream yet?" Sam interrupted as he ran into the room and into Tobin.
"Sam, we're getting ice cream later," Christen said as she followed him into the room. "Don't try to trick Mama."
"I meant later," he lied.
"Sure," Christen said. She looked up at Kelley, Tobin, and her now abandoned laptop with Tobin's notes next to it. "How goes the bank research?"
"Good!" Tobin answered quickly. Kelley laughed into her hand. "I'm close to deciding I'm just making sure I'm not missing one."
She frowned at Tobin's awkwardness. "Okay...good. I have to go do my junket thing for the league stuff, so I'm gonna leave Sam with you."
"You're leaving?" Sam asked.
Christen and Tobin's eyes both widened and they both started talking at once.
"I'll be just downstairs, baby."
"Do you want to do something fun, bud?"
"It's not gonna be for that long."
Sam still looked confused and Tobin wasn't sure they had completely avoided a tantrum.
"Sammy, will you play a game with me?" Kelley asked.
He looked up and looked between Christen and Tobin before shrugging. "Okay, sure."
Tobin and Christen both sighed in relief.
I'm gonna go, Christen mouthed and pointed to the door. Tobin gave her a thumbs up as she slowly backed away.
Tobin looked back at Sam, glad to find that he was now fully distracted by something Kelley was showing him on her phone.
They kept him entertained for another twenty minutes before he seemingly remembered he wanted to be upset about Christen leaving.
"How much longer til Mommy comes back?" he asked.
"Not that long, buddy," Tobin answered.
"I want to see her," he whined.
"I thought today we got to hang out all day," he protested. "It's Friday."
Tobin looked at Kelley, who seemed somewhere between amused and sympathetic. "I didn't want to teach him days of the week, you know. But Christen insisted."
"Mom!" Sam said, slapping her knee and trying to regain her attention.
"Hey!" Tobin said sternly, turning back to him. "We don't hit. What do you say?"
He looked down. "Sorry."
"I will text Mom and ask her if we can come visit, but she might be busy, okay?"
He smiled innocently and nodded, as Tobin didn't know he had almost just thrown a fit. Tobin opened her phone.
hey how much longer do you have? can we come visit
Christen: yeah! mia is here and she wants to see him
Tobin was actually a little annoyed that Sam got his way, but that faded when she saw how excited he was that the answer was yes.
"There's someone else who wants to see you, too."
"Who?!" Sam asked, confused after Tobin gathered the computer and her notes and the three of them made their way downstairs.
"It's a surprise."
"Who is it!"
He sighed dramatically. "I don't know."
They walked around the corner and into the conference room that was set up to do hair and makeup.
"Hey, look who it is," Alex said, announcing their entrance. The group turned around to look and Sam scanned their faces.
"Coach Mia!" he said excitedly when he recognized her. He ran to give her a hug. "I haven't see'd you in, like, forever."
"You saw her last week," Christen teased from the chair she was getting her hair curled in.
"I know, but it feeled like forever," he said dramatically.
"He's right," Mia said. "We had afternoon practice the other day and there was no one to help me pick the teams for the scrimmage."
Sam looked concerned. "What did you do?"
"Dzen and Gibby were black and gold captains and they picked people for their teams."
"Gibby was on gold?" he asked incredulously.
"Yeah, is that wrong?"
"Coach!" he said, slapping his palm to his forehead and causing all the adults around him to laugh. He turned to give Mia a curious look. "How come you're here? This is national team camp. Coach Laura is the coach here."
There was more laughter. "I know," Mia answered, "But I was here talking to my friend Julie for a TV interview for tomorrow." She indicated to Julie behind her.
"Hi, Sam," Foudy greeted, waving to him, "I've heard a lot about you."
Sam put his hand up to wave but moved to where Christen was sitting and shyly hugged her leg.
"Can you say hi, bud?" Christen prodded.
"Hi," he said, picking up the collar of his shirt to chew on it.
"How old are you now? Six?" she asked, smiling, as Christen pulled his shirt and hand away from his mouth.
He shook his head and held up four fingers.
"Use your words, bud," Christen encouraged.
"I'm only four and three-quarters," he answered.
"Woah! You're pretty sharp for four and three-quarters."
Sam blushed and buried his face back in his mother's leg. "Sorry, he's a little shy," she explained.
"Don't be, he's very cute."
"Sammy! Are you gonna interview me?" Alex teased.
Sam made a face and shook his head. "Nuh uh."
"No? Why not?"
He rolled his eyes and his head back dramatically. "Cause I don't know how!"
"Here, I'll show you." She walked over to where he stood and held out her arms so he let her pick him up. She carried him to one of the empty makeup chairs and sat him in one chair and herself in the other. "Okay, now look serious and ask me something about the World Cup."
Sam frowned. "Like what?"
"Like if I'm excited."
He made a face. "Why would I ask that? Of course, you're excited."
The adults laughed again at the incredulous look on Sam's face.
"Good point. You better watch out Julie, he's already better than most of the people we get. He might be coming for your job next."
She laughed. "He's welcome to it."
"I'm supposed to do a video later, Sammy. You can interview me," Kelley joked.
"Okay," Sam agreed.
Christen smiled but Tobin thought it looked forced. "That may interfere with your ice cream plans, bud."
"Oh." He frowned. "Sorry, Auntie Kelley. I can't, I'm busy."
Kelley laughed. "That's alright Sammy."
Tobin looked at Christen and smiled at Sam. "C'mon buddy. Let's get out of here."
That night, they had a team meeting where Laura goes over the game plan. By 7, Tobin was tired and therefore cranky.
She walked in through the back of the room, spotted Christen on the side of the third row, and made a beeline toward her. They made eye contact, and Tobin silently asked to sit next to her. Christen searched her face and shifted over one chair.
Laura went deep into the gameplan, going back through the scouting report, matchups, and position by position goals. By the time they started going over situational analysis in film, Tobin was having trouble keeping her eyes open.
"Sammy, c'mon, give me your feet," Tobin pleaded.
"No!" He shoved his feet, which were underneath the pillows on his bed, further into the crack between the mattress and the headboard.
"Tobs, they're here," Christen called from the other room.
"Sam, let's go," she said, more firmly this time. He shook his head, which was still buried facedown in the comforter, so she picked him up around the middle and hugged him to her chest, carrying his shoes in her other hand.
He resumed his wailing, which she had gotten him to stop for 5 minutes in favor of silent pouting, but he did it into her shirt with his arms thrown around her neck, so Tobin was at least grateful he made it easier for her to carry him.
She grabbed his backpack off Mattie's bed and walked into the other room where Christen and Mattie were waiting. Christen took the backpack and shoes out of her hand and they left the room and headed to the elevators. Once inside, Christen grabbed each of Sam's feet and shoved them into his shoes while he continued to cry on Tobin's shoulder, albeit more quietly than before.
"Sammy, we're going to have fun today," Mattie tried, resting a hand on his shoulder.
"I want to have fun with Mommy and Mama," he cried.
"You don't want to have fun with me?" she asked.
"With you and Mommy and Mama," he said, wiggling his face deeper into Tobin's shirt.
The elevator doors opened and they unloaded into the lobby.
"Mattie!" a booming voice called out.
"Hi, Cody," she said, hurrying over to give him a hug.
"Uh-uh, what did I say about that?"
"Hi, Grandpa," she corrected, but not without rolling her eyes.
"Well, now you just sound like you're saying it to call me old."
Mattie moved to hug Stacy and Christen hugged both of her parents. "You are old, Dad," Christen teased.
"The two of you!" he cried, clutching his chest like he was hurt. "Where's my little man? He won't make fun of me like this."
Sam turned his head to peek at Cody, then whipped his face back around to hide it in Tobin's neck again, but she could see him grinning.
Cody grinned at Tobin then looked around the room, pretending he couldn't see Sam anywhere. "Where is Sam the man? Is he not coming? Did he get lost?"
Sam started to giggle.
"Honey," he continued, turning to his wife, "It looks like we'll have to eat all that ice cream without Sam, he's not coming!"
"Grandpa, I'm right here!" Sam said, finally lifting his head and throwing up his hands.
"Oh, Sammy, I didn't see you there!"
Sam giggled harder. "I was here the whole time, silly."
"You were? Are you gonna come hang out with me and Grandma today?"
Sam smiled and nodded enthusiastically, reaching out for his grandfather from Tobin's arms.
"We should've called you an hour ago," Tobin said in relief as she handed him over, shaking out the wet spot Sam's tears had left in her shirt. "Could've saved like a gallon of salt water."
"And my ears," Mattie grumbled under her breath.
"Aww, Sammy, you didn't wanna come hang out with us?" Cody asked.
"No, I do," Sam said matter-of-factly. "Mommy and Mama have to get ready for their game at Sandego and then we're gonna go watch."
Christen and Tobin shared looks that were equal parts relieved and exasperated.
"Yeah, and we wanted to show you some cool stuff in San Diego before the game, and maybe get some ice cream," Stacy offered. "How does that sound?"
"Ice cream?" Sam asked grinning. He nodded enthusiastically in approval.
Mattie followed Sam and Christen's parents into the row where their seats were. She felt weirdly nervous in the time leading up to kickoff, but she couldn't place why. Tobin and Christen were both starting, which she thought would make her feel better but it didn't.
Once the game started, the US take control and for a few minutes, she thinks her feelings were misguided. They get a few good chances, and at one point Tobin sets Christen up and it looks like she's about to score she passes it right to Monica. Brazil was able to counter and Camila scored.
"Oh no," Sam said while the three of them were quiet. "We're losing."
Play resumed and to an extent, it looked like the Americans didn't lose much momentum. They maintained possession for most of the rest of the half, but the ball kept getting stuck in the midfield. Mattie could see Christen was starting to get frustrated because she kept checking further and further back into the midfield for the ball.
On one of those plays, she received the ball from Lindsey and turned, looking like she had some room to run. Mattie thought they were finally going to catch a break when Camila came charging in from further up the pitch and slid in to tackle the ball out. She got part of the ball, but her top leg was high and caught the back of Christen's right calf.
Mattie and Christen's parents stood up as she went down, and they weren't the only ones. The whole stadium gasped at the tackle and held its breath while Christen lay on the grass.
"C'mon! What was that!" her dad yelled.
After a few seconds, Christen rolled into a sitting position, visibly wincing and holding her sock where she had been hit. Tobin and Kelley had run over to check on her, and Camila was standing a few feet away looking guilty. When they arrived, she pulled her hand away to show them her leg, and Mattie could see a tear in the sock and a red spot forming on the white around it. Tobin motioned for the medical staff, but Christen pushed herself up and started to limp off the field. Tobin and Kelley clearly tried to convince her to wait, but eventually, they just helped her to the touchline.
The ref walked over to Camila and took out her book, holding up a yellow card.
"A yellow? What the hell!" Mattie yelled, before looking to the adults next to her to see if she was in trouble.
"No, you're right," Cody agreed. "This is ridiculous."
Mattie could see Alex up at midfield, and after a few more moments of confusion she checked in at the scorer's table. Mattie strained to see where Christen was, but she seemed to have gone back to the locker room.
Laura had walked out onto the pitch and was screaming at the fourth official who had been next to the play. She was trying to calm her down but was clearly not succeeding. The head referee came over and said something to Laura which Mattie assumed was something along the lines of 'do you want to be thrown out' because it got her to retreat to their bench.
"Oh, god," Stacy said, "I saw blood."
"Mattie," Sam whispered. "Is Mommy hurt?"
Mattie tried to smile reassuringly. "She'll be okay, bud."
When play resumed, the game became chaotic.
At halftime, Mattie got a text from Tobin.
"She says, 'She's okay. One stitch,'" she read aloud.
"A stitch?" Stacy said, alarmed.
"At least it's only one?" Cody tried. "It sounds like it's just a flesh wound."
Christen's mother did not seem assuaged by that, but she didn't comment further other than to shake her head.
The second half was even more of a mess than the first if that were possible. Kelley, Alex, Tobin, and Marta all earned yellows.
Mattie kept thinking the chaos would open the game up, but the teams spent too much time fighting to do much scoring. By the time the ref blew the whistle, even with the score still 1-0 to Brazil, everyone was pretty much just glad no one else got hurt.
Christen picked up her phone after the trainer finished redressing her leg.
Mom: The parking lot is a zoo. Want to just meet back in MB? At the hotel?
Christen sighed and looked around for Tobin but she was still in the shower.
Yeah, that sounds good but do you want to just meet at the restaurant? The place by the pier, right?
Mom: Sure, hon! Sounds good!
How's Sam doing?
Mom: He's alright. We had an almost meltdown at halftime but he'll be fine for a few more hours.
She bit her lip in hesitation. Okay. We'll meet you there then
The bus ride was quiet, everyone frustrated after the loss. By the time they got to the restaurant, half the team had decided to follow them and called ahead to get tables. Tobin was ahead of Christen as they walked through the dining room, and she was the first out the door to the back deck. Sam spotted her immediately and jumped up from the table where he sat with Mattie and most of Christen's family, sprinting and nearly tripping on the uneven boards before he wrapped his arms around her legs.
"Can you say hi to Mommy first?" Tobin challenged.
Sam shifted to see behind her, where Christen stood.
"Hey, bud." She smiled softly at him.
He darted over to hug her. "Hi, Mommy." He held his hands above his head. "Up, please."
"Okay, but only because you said please."
"Sammy, be gentle. Mommy got hurt at the game."
"I'm okay, Tobs." She picked him up, groaning slightly at the regular postgame soreness in her limbs and only slightly more for the pain in her calf. "Did you have fun with Grandma and Grandpa?"
He lay his head on her shoulder. "Yeah, but I missed you and Mama."
"What did you guys do today?" Tobin asked.
"We seed the lions."
Christen and Tobin shared a puzzled look. "Oh, you mean the sea lions?"
He nodded against her neck. "They sound funny."
"Were they really loud?" Tobin asked.
He nodded again. "At first, it was scary but Grandpa said they were just barking like dogs."
They approached the table in the corner and Christen's dad stood up to greet them. "I thought you said they didn't sound like dogs, Sammy?" he asked.
"Yeah, because dogs are like 'Woof, woof' and seal lions are like 'Arf, Arf.'" The group, including their teammates who trailed behind them, laughed at his impression.
They squeezed onto the picnic table with the Press family and Kelley directed their teammates to drag over a couple of nearby tables so they sat in one long line.
"God, it's so nice out," Allie said after they had ordered their food. "We should go to the beach tomorrow."
"Yeah I'm down," Kelley agreed.
"Same," Alex said.
"Nah, superstar over here's got a big day tomorrow," Tobin said, winking at Mattie. "It's her first game with her new team."
Everyone at the table seemed to start talking at once.
"Nevermind the beach—I didn't know there was a football game to watch!"
"Christen, why didn't you tell us? I want her schedule for the fridge."
"What's the over/under on how many goals she scores? Can we start a pool?"
Christen looked at Mattie next to her on the bench. She seemed incredibly overwhelmed and looked up at Christen quickly.
"Uhh...I have to go to the bathroom," she announced.
The table quieted slightly, watching her retreat with puzzled expressions. Christen and Tobin made eye contact over the table and Christen mouthed, I'll go.
She followed Mattie into the restaurant and past the big wooden sign for 'The Head', toward the front door.
"Mattie!" she called, trying to stop her before she got to the exit.
Mattie turned and saw her, still making her way to the door but slowing down enough so Christen could fight through the tide of patrons waiting for tables and holding styrofoam boxes to catch her. "I'm not going anywhere," she explained. "I just needed some air."
"You know we were just sitting outside, right?" Christen teased.
Mattie rolled her eyes but smiled. "Okay, Tobin."
Christen grinned and slid an arm over Mattie's shoulders. "What's up? Was that too much excitement?"
She looked down and kicked at the thin layer of sand that covered the sidewalk. "Do you think they're all really gonna come tomorrow?"
"Do you want them to?"
She shrugged. "I just—I don't know. I don't really..."
Christen dug into her sweatshirt pocket and pulled out her phone. "I'll text Mama right now and tell her to call them off."
Mattie finally made eye contact with her, just for a second. She nodded once.
Hey, only me and you are gonna go watch her game tomorrow okay?
Three dots appeared quickly.
Tobin: k u sure?
Yeah. Make sure they don't give her a hard time when we come back.
She received a shaka sign emoji in response and closed her phone. "All set."
"Really?" Mattie asked cautiously.
"Me and Mom are coming, but no one else."
Mattie leaned into the side hug. "Thanks."
Since Mattie's game was at two, they started recovery an hour early so they could all get there in time for warmups. Sophie and Isabella's moms recognized them and waved them over to where they were setting up their chairs under the shade of a large tree on the sideline. Christen lay out the beach blanket they brought onto the grass.
"Mama, ball," Sam said, reaching for the mini ball they brought for him to play with.
"What do you say?"
Tobin went to hand him the ball but held it back to get his attention. "Sam. See that tree? Not past there."
Sam complied, kicking the ball and chasing it until he was at the edge of the boundary she set. Tobin took a spot on the blanket so she could listen to the conversation Christen was having and watch him at the same time.
"So they all have to play pretty much the same amount of time," Isabella's mom was explaining. "I don't know the exact ratio but normally Josh does subs every 15 or 20 minutes or so."
"How long is each half?" Christen asked.
"Is it still 30, Beth?"
"I think this year is 35," Sophie's mom answered.
Melissa gave a non-committal gesture. "The whole thing still takes like an hour and a half start to finish."
The girls were matched up doing one-on-one drills to warm up. Mattie was in a pinnie, defending Sophie, who was trying to dribble around her between two rows of cones. Tobin looked over at the team warming up on the opposite half.
"How come they seem so much bigger?"
"The girls' team is pretty young," Melissa explained. "Most of them just moved up from U12 this year. We're playing the Ginelli team—do you know them? The twins? They live off of Hermosa?" Tobin and Christen gave her blank looks. "Right. Well, they're the grade above the girls, and their mom coaches the team."
"I'm surprised they even played this season," Beth added. "I heard one of them—I think it was Becca?—made ODP this winter, and the other one switched clubs to get more exposure."
Melissa gave her a look. "You know it's only because Ronda is on the board for the region. If Rachel makes it next year, she'll probably resign."
"Do you guys have, like, connections to get Mattie a midyear tryout? Josh has been raving about her. From what he's said, they might just be calling you."
Tobin saw Christen hesitate, so she answered. "Mattie needs to get settled in at school and everything before she worries about any of that."
Beth nodded. "We told Sophie no clubs bigger than Flyers until high school." She looked worried. "We're hoping that won't hurt her chances for college, but I just don't want her traveling all over yet. What do you guys think? You've been through the whole system."
"It's changing a lot," Christen said, shrugging. "There are more strong programs than when we went through, which is hopefully good."
"It's still crazy," Tobin added. "I mean I did all of it, but the amount of money and travel involved is nuts."
They all nodded in agreement, and the conversation stilled as the referee called for the teams to line up to start the game. Mattie stayed on the sideline with Isabella and the rest of the players in pinnies, so only Sophie started.
The other team asserted their size advantage early, and the game quickly got physical. The Ginelli twins were easy to pick out because they were identical, and a head taller than every player on Mattie's team, and most of those on their own. One of them (Melissa thought it was Rachel) earned a corner a few minutes into the game and her twin scored off a header to capitalize on it. After winning back a clearance on what Tobin thought was a rather rough challenge, they scored again and the girls' team was down 2-0.
"He should have started Izzie," Beth said, shaking her head. "He knows how this team is."
"Does she score a lot of goals?" Christen asked. "I thought Sophie was the forward and she was the midfielder."
"Izzie has a tendency to be a bit of...an enforcer," Melissa explained, slightly bashful. "The Ginelli's team is always this physical, but she would at least...keep them honest in midfield."
Tobin laughed. "Alright. Go Iz."
"Looks like he heard you," Christen said, nodding to the bench area, where Mattie and Isabella were jogging up and down the sideline.
"Mom, when's Mattie gonna play?" Sam asked from where he sat a few yards away, picking blades of grass.
"She might be going in now, bud. Come watch." He picked up his ball and ran over, jumping on Tobin's lap and causing her to groan.
Sure enough, not a minute later, the girls checked in at the midline, and when one of the twins forced the ball out over the touchline, they entered the game for two of their team's midfielders. Their small cheering squad yelled out as they ran into position. Mattie turned her back to them to face the throw in, and Tobin froze.
"Babe, did you hear that? Look," Christen said, nudging to get her attention. "Tobin."
"Did you hear me?"
"She's number 17," Tobin said dumbly.
Christen smiled. "She told me not to tell you. I think she wanted it to be a surprise."
Tobin felt what must have been a goofy looking grin spread over her face.
"Did you hear me, though?"
"My mom and dad are here. Over on the other team's half."
Tobin craned her neck. "I can't see them."
"They're next to the guy standing in the green polo."
Tobin looked and saw Cody and Stacy in camp chairs. "Dang. How did you even see them?"
Christen rolled her eyes. "I could hear my dad's voice when she subbed in." She pulled out her phone.
"What are you doing?"
"If we've already spotted them, they might as well come sit with us," she explained. "Mattie's gonna be pissed, though."
Tobin squirmed. "I told everyone not to come."
Christen turned to look at her suspiciously. "How did they know when and where it was, then?"
"Well, they asked before you sent me that text! I didn't know I was gonna have to un-invite them."
"Yeah, she's gonna be pissed."
They turned back to the game, which had resumed its previous physicality and increased its pace with the new substitutions. The Ginelli twin Isabella was marked up against was already visibly annoyed by her presence, and Mattie was swarming the ball at every chance, though she hadn't gotten a touch yet.
"Go Mattie!" Sam yelled.
Even with the shift in momentum, the opposing team got the ball back into their end and settled it. They were on their second corner in a row when Cody and Stacy walked behind them, carrying their chairs.
"Good morning, team. Fancy seeing you here," Cody opened.
Christen sent him a look that Tobin interpreted as, Don't push it. We're talking about this later.
"Melissa, Beth, these are my parents, Cody and Stacy," Christen introduced. "Mom, Dad, this is Melissa, Isabella's mom, and Beth, Sophie's mom."
They waved and exchanged pleasantries as the Presses set up their chairs. Sam climbed off of Tobin's lap and went to stand in front of his grandfather after he sat down and stood shyly in front of him.
"Would you like to sit with me?" he asked, smiling.
Sam nodded and Cody picked him up, turning Sam almost upside down in doing so and getting him to giggle.
"Dad, please be careful."
"He's fine. Right, big man?" He tickled Sam until he was laughing too hard to answer. Christen just shook her head. Tobin grabbed her hand and squeezed it. She felt Christen squeeze back.
Isabella had muscled one of the Ginelli twins (Becca, maybe? Tobin kept forgetting their numbers) out on the end line and earned them a goal kick. Their goalie passed it to one of their defenders, who turned and booted it to midfield, where Isabella won a header despite the fact that she and the twin marking her both had their elbows in each other's shoulders. The ball skipped over toward the touchline, where Mattie and the other twin raced after it. Mattie got there first, but the older girl had her trapped, looming over her as she closed out. Tobin thought she could see Mattie smirk, though she might have been imagining it. She faked toward midfield before pulling a little elastico and taking off down the sideline. Tobin saw her frown at the way the ball came off her foot, but the Ginelli guarding her bit so hard that the little skip the ball took over her foot didn't matter. The only players between Mattie and goal were Sophie, who made a run as she moved the ball down, and her defender, who was so confused about who to mark that she just sort of stood halfway in between Mattie and Sophie. Mattie crossed the ball into the box and Sophie tapped it past the keeper, who hadn't seen a shot all game.
The parents from Mattie's team were hooting and hollering, and even the other team's parents had gasped at Mattie's trick. Their small section was making plenty of noise, but not so much that Tobin couldn't hear another loud group of supporters standing outside the short fence behind the other goal line. She nudged Christen and nodded toward Mal, Sonnett, and a hooded figure that looked suspiciously like Lindsey.
She sighed. "When I said 'Tell everyone not to come' did you maybe get that confused and do the opposite?"
Tobin frowned. "They were at the other table! I don't even think they heard us talking about it."
"Well, if she's gonna be mad, she might as well be mad at everyone."
"Yeah right. Like Mal is gonna get any of the blowback from this. Mattie probably invited her."
When the game reset, both teams seemed to play even rougher than before. They played out the last few minutes of the first half, and Tobin wasn't sure if the zero minutes of stoppage time were just the rules of the league, or if the high schooler reffing the game was just tired of calling fouls every thirty seconds.
"God, I want Josh to tell them to stop playing like this but I don't want them getting pushed around."
Christen shook her head. "I'm not even sure I want them to score again because it'll just get worse."
"Maybe if they tie it up, it'll force them all to start playing soccer and stop playing...this," Tobin suggested.
"Yeah, is that how you normally react to losing a lead?" Christen teased.
Much to Tobin's chagrin (but not to her surprise), Christen was right.
Not ten minutes had passed when Mattie won the ball on a bad clearance from the opposing team's goalie and went straight at the backline. One of the centerbacks slid over to cut off her path to goal and the other, who was marking Sophie and clearly remembered what happened the last time Mattie had the ball, stayed home. Mattie leaned slightly to her right, got the girl to lean back, and crossed over. She was just at the 18 when she let the ball fly across the goal off of her left foot. The goalie dove, but not far enough, and she punched the ground when she saw the ball in the back of the net. One of the twins ran back into the goal to retrieve it and hustled back to restart. Just for a second, Tobin thought her prediction of a clean game might come true; then play resumed.
One of the Ginelli twins (not the one Mattie had dusted, Tobin thought) had started the second half on the bench was subbing in for her sister, who had played the whole game so far. The opposing team's fan section clapped as she went off, apparently thinking she was done for the day. The substitute twin took her place in the center circle, waited for the whistle, and kicked the ball to her teammate. Josh was yelling for them to push up, knowing he only had a few more minutes to play the core group that had been scoring before many of them had to be subbed out.
Mattie was marking the new Ginelli tightly, bumping into her and tugging on her jersey, and it was clearly starting to annoy her. They were near the center of the pitch, but the ball hadn't made it out of the defensive third yet. Though the Ginelli team defenders looked overwhelmed by the pressure, they managed to keep possession well enough to move the ball around. One of their outside backs got enough room to tee the ball up and punted it to midfield.
Mattie and the Ginelli jockeyed for position, Mattie trying to get around the taller girl before they went up. As the ball neared them, the twin went up with her elbows out just as Mattie started to jump. She turned her shoulders as she went up—whether to ward of Mattie or to get closer to the ball, Tobin couldn't be sure—and her elbow smashed into the side of Mattie's face. Mattie's hands flew up to grab where she was hit, but she was so tangled up with the other girl, they both went down in a pile.
Tobin and Christen, and most of their section of the sideline stood up and silently held their breath. The ref was close to the collision and immediately went over to check on the girls on the ground, but in her concern, forgot to stop play. One of the Ginelli team midfielders noticed and played on, which led a furious Isabella to all but deck her and take the ball back, starting a scrum 10 yards away from the injury.
"C'mon, ref, blow the damn whistle!" a familiar hoarse voice yelled.
Tobin barely had the capacity to register Alex announcing her presence to the whole field, or the fight that was happening, as the ref blew her whistle a dozen times to try and restore order. The coaches ran onto the field to break up the fight, and the Ginelli twin that went down rolled over and gingerly got to her feet, but everyone else kept their focus on Mattie.
She felt herself exhale, and Christen squeezed her hand, as Mattie sat up, still holding one side of her face. The ref was asking her questions, and she was shaking her head and answering her. The ref stood and held out a hand to help her up, and the sideline clapped politely as she stood. Christen dropped Tobin's hand to rub her face in relief, and Mattie rubbed her eye one more time before dropping her hand and running toward where the fight was, where the ball still sat.
"What the fuck is she doing?" Tobin heard herself ask. Mattie picked up the ball and started jogging back toward the spot of the foul. The referee waved the coaches and bench players back off the field and they hesitantly complied. She then held up her yellow card and booked the twin. Mattie settled the ball where she had gone down and set up for a free kick as the rest of the players, still a little confused, shuffled back into position. The referee looked around and picked up her whistle to resume play.
"Woah! Hey!" Christen yelled. "Absolutely not! Mattie!"
Mattie turned and gave her a petulant look.
"Josh!" Beth yelled. "Take her off!"
Mattie held her hands out and looked at Tobin in an appeal.
"You got beaned, Mattie!" she called, shaking her head and pointing to the bench. "Off!"
Josh had one of her teammates up at midfield as a sub, and the ref looked confused but gestured for Mattie to come off.
"God, don't they have a concussion protocol?" Christen asked.
"Melissa will look at her. She's an NP," she explained to their confused expressions. "Josh will send her around."
Play had restarted on the field and Beth had to wait for the ball, and surrounding mess of players, to move into the opposing team's attacking third before she could wave to get his attention. "Josh!" She motioned for him to send Mattie over.
Her husband nodded and walked over to Mattie, who was sitting on the bench with her elbows on her knees. He said something and gestured over to them. Mattie waved him off and her reply seemed to stymie him. He looked back at where Tobin and Christen stood, and Mattie's eyes followed in what Tobin thought was supposed to be a subtle motion.
Josh looked unsure and seemed to wait for direction. Mattie held her body in the postural equivalent of an eye roll. Tobin had enough.
She whistled—not very well—but loud enough that Mattie made eye contact with her.
She raised her eyebrows. Either you come over here, or I go over there. she mimed.
Mattie actually rolled her eyes at that point, but stood and started making her way over.
"I think if she drags her feet a little more she might leave a path," Christen said under her breath.
Mattie got to the end of the pitch and spotted Mal and company at the opposite corner. Mal waved and Mattie nodded morosely in return. As she turned the corner to their sideline, the three of them hopped over the short fence and jogged to catch her. Mal put a hand on her shoulder.
"Let me see," Christen said, walking over and touching Mattie's temple, where a bruise was already forming. Tobin moved closer to get a better look.
"Well, Mrs. Sanchez is gonna check to see if you have a concussion. Sit down." She guided Mattie to the camp chair her mom had just vacated.
"I don't have a concussion," Mattie insisted as she sat.
"Are you a trained medical professional now?" Christen got an eye roll. "Well, then, you're gonna get your head checked by one."
Melissa walked over with a small pouch Tobin had seen her take out of her purse.
"This won't take that long," she said, offering her a smile.
As she took out a pen flashlight and started testing her, Tobin looked around. Everyone who had come to see her play—which Tobin now realized included Alex, Allie, Kelley, Mal, Sonnett, Lindsey, and her grandparents—was mingling around their seating area.
"Is it bad to hope she's so pissed about being subbed off that she doesn't care that everyone came to watch?" Tobin whispered to Christen, who shook her head.
"Alright," Melissa said, standing up straight. "Her pupil responses and speech are both normal. I would get a doctor to test her again in a few hours just to be sure, but I don't think she has a concussion."
"Does that mean I can go back in?"
"No," Tobin and Christen said in unison.
"Concussions don't always show symptoms right away, and you took a pretty hard hit. This isn't something we mess around with," Christen explained.
"Whatever." Mattie rolled her eyes.
"We'll have you do the test they give us on the computer back at the hotel," Tobin suggested. "As long as you pass that one, you'll be fine." As she said it, one of the forwards on the Ginelli team chipped a shot past Mattie's team's keeper.
Mattie threw herself back in the chair and folded her arms angrily.
"How many more of these stupid things do I have to do?" Mattie complained.
Christen looked up from her laptop. Mattie was still in her uniform, unshowered, sitting on the treatment table in the hotel utility room that served as the ad hoc trainers' office. Christen had gotten her stitch checked on, then stationed herself at the folding table a few feet away as the trainer had put Mattie through a series of concussion checks all afternoon. They had come back after dinner for one more round of testing. "She said this is the last one if you pass."
She groaned. "No, she said I was fine but she could have me retake these few if it made you feel better."
"Mattie. Finish the test."
Mattie continued to grumble but resumed her swiping on the tablet.
After a few minutes, she put it down again and looked up. "Okay. I'm done. For real this time."
"Let me see."
Mattie hopped off the table and handed over the tablet, which displayed a results screen with a column of green checkmarks. Christen swiped through the complete results, but they all pointed to the same thing: no concussion.
"Alright," she conceded. "We can go upstairs. You need to ice your egg anyway."
"It's fine. It's barely a bump," Mattie replied, grabbing her cleats off the floor.
"You got elbowed in the face, Mat. And you went down hard. It was scary."
Mattie rolled her eyes. "It wasn't, like, a big deal. You and Tobin were the only ones freaking out."
"That's not true. Everyone was really worried."
"Well then maybe they shouldn't have come."
"Mattie. I explained to you—"
"Don't whatever me. I know we talked about it and I said—"
"It's fine. I don't care. They're the ones that had to come watch us lose anyway."
"Is that why you're mad? Because you lost?"
"I'm not mad."
"Well then, what's this attitude?"
"It's not attitude. I just wanted to play."
"Head injuries are seri—"
"Yeah, I know. You've told me like a million times."
"Hey, shh," Tobin said, putting her finger to her lips. "He's asleep in there." She motioned toward the other hotel room.
"Mattie!" Christen said more quietly.
"I'm not mad! she said and walked straight through the half-ajar door that connected the rooms, and Christen followed her. Tobin stood up to stand in the doorway and see what was going on. The lights were off and Sam was asleep in one of the beds. She walked into the bathroom and flipped the light on.
"Okay, fine, but that doesn't mean—" Christen argued.
Mattie looked up with the door of her hand. "Mom, I'm fine! Just freaking leave me alone!" she whisper-yelled and closed the door. It wasn't quite a slam, but it was loud enough that Christen and Tobin both looked at Sam, who remained asleep despite the noise.
Christen stared at the closed bathroom door, dumbfounded. The sound of the shower turning on came from behind it. Tobin grabbed her hand and pulled her back into the other room and closed the door.
She ran a hand through her hair and blew out a deep breath. "I don't even know when she got that mad. She was a little grumpy in the training room but..."
Tobin pulled her down onto the bed and ran a hand across her back. "She's had a long day. Just let her sleep it off...Mom."
"Huh? What's that grin for?"
"Did you hear what she called you?"
Christen replayed the argument in her mind and laughed when she realized, letting her head fall into her hands.
"She'll be fine in the morning," Tobin reassured.
Tobin was eating her words the next morning.
"She's ignoring me."
Tobin groaned into her pillow. "She's not ignoring you. It's just 6:30 in the morning."
"She's definitely ignoring me. She turns away every time I try to talk to her."
"Want me to try?"
Christen sat back against the headboard and motioned to the other room as if to say, Go ahead.
Tobin pushed herself up out of bed and shuffled into the adjoining room.
"Mat. Let's go," she said, poking the pile of blankets where Mattie's legs were covered with her foot.
A loud groan was the only response she got.
"C'mon, it's six-thir—" She looked at the clock. "It's six-forty! You're gonna be late."
"I don't want to go," the pile mumbled.
"Does your head still hurt?"
"Then get up. If you're ready to go before 6:55, we can get smoothies on the way."
Mattie sat part of the way up at that and looked at her suspiciously. "You're gonna drive me? You drove me on Friday."
"You want Mom to drive you or me?"
She let her head fall back to her pillow.
"Come on. You want a smoothie or not?"
Mattie slid out of bed and trudged to the bathroom. Tobin returned to the other room.
"You got her up?"
"I bribed her."
Christen looked at her questioningly.
"And...she might be ignoring you just a little."
Christen was organizing her suitcase on their now-made bed when Tobin got back.
"Did you see Laura's email?" she asked without looking up.
"No, what was it?" Tobin asked, moving around the first bed.
She stayed focused on the t-shirt she was folding. "We're not doing film today. Just regular practice."
"Yikes. You think the film is that rough? Maybe she's trying to save morale."
She thought she could see a smile twitch at Christen's lips, even with though she was facing away from her. "Maybe. Or maybe she's gonna make us run."
Tobin laughed. "Or that. Here, I got the Acai one you like," she said, grabbing the smoothie in question from the travel tray she was carrying. Christen finally turned to face her, seemingly a little surprised and looked between the drink and Tobin. Tobin could see the rims of her eyes were slightly red. She frowned and felt a lump form in her throat. Before she could say anything, Christen gave her a soft smile and took the smoothie.
"Thank you, Tobs," she said, but her face said, Please don't ask if I'm okay.
Tobin frowned deeper and wanted to protest but took the hint. "No problem," she said. She leaned into Christen, putting a hand on her hip and kissing the corner of her mouth. "I'll go see if I can get Sam up."
Laura ran them all day, but Tobin was glad for it. By the time they had done recovery and showered and she was waiting for Christen to finish getting her leg checked out, she felt like Saturday's loss and the stress of the past week had melted away.
"Ready?" she asked as Christen emerged from the trainer's room.
"What did they say?"
"It's healing well. They should be able to take the stitch out in a day or two."
They made their way to the vans without talking again. When they got there, a nearly full van was getting ready to go.
"Tobs, you want to drive?" Rose asked.
Tobin shrugged and nodded, taking the keys from her. She put a hand on Christen's shoulder and squeezed before walking around to the driver's side. Christen climbed into the back row.
Everyone in the van was physically wiped, so the ride back was quiet. When Tobin parked at the hotel and exited the van, Christen was the last to get out. They walked in silence to the elevators, then to the lounge, where Kerrie was going to meet them with the kids.
"Hey, guys," she greeted.
"Mommy! Mama!" Sam said excitedly. He abandoned his coloring supplies to give them a hug. Tobin saw Christen scan the room quickly.
"Where's Mat?" Tobin asked.
"We left her in the room reading," Kerrie explained. "I think she has a lot of homework tonight, so I let her have the peace and quiet."
When they got back to the room and Tobin poked her head through the connecting door, she found Mattie right where Kerrie left her, headphones on and a book in her lap. Tobin waved at her, hoping she was in a better mood than she had been that morning, thinking maybe if Christen and Mattie made up, they could enjoy a pleasant evening as a family. The look Tobin received told her Mattie was not open to that idea, so she sighed and returned to the other room.
"How is she?" Christen asked.
"Did she say anything?"
"She didn't have to."
Christen started toward the dividing door. "Maybe I should try."
"I think we're better off waiting her out, babe."
Christen frowned and looked at her, visibly frustrated. "Fine, but she can't keep doing this."
"I know," Tobin said sympathetically. "Let's just try giving her space first."
"What's wrong with Mattie?" Sam asked.
Tobin and Christen shared a tired look. "Nothing, bud," Tobin reassured him. "Don't worry about it. She's fine."
Christen had set her alarm early so she could meet Alex and a few of the other girls to do yoga before the day started. She woke up right before it was supposed to go off and found Sam had snuck into their bed again in the middle of the night. She slipped out of the covers and quietly started to get ready as he and Tobin slept. She was almost totally ready and had just come out of the bathroom when Sam woke up.
"Where're you going?" he asked.
"I'm going to do yoga."
"Why?" he asked, tired and confused.
She sighed. "It's good for my muscles. And it helps me relax."
"Is it work?" he asked.
"Not really. It just helps with work."
"Do you have to go, then?"
Christen could see they were in dangerous territory from the way Sam's bottom lip it was balanced on the verge of pouting. "It'll only take like an hour, bud," she tried. "If you go back to sleep now, it'll be like I never left."
The lip started to go. "I just want you to never leave," he whined.
"Hey, c'mon," she said, walking over to pick him up. Once he was in her arms, the tears properly started. "Sammy, it's okay. I'll come right back, I promise."
"No!" he wailed.
Christen looked at Tobin, who seemed to be burrowing her head further into her pillow at the sound of Sam crying.
It took another 15 minutes before he was pacified. Tobin only started to stir once Christen had gotten his tears under control.
"Sammy, come cuddle with me," she tried, her voice thick with sleep.
"No," he whined.
"Please?" Tobin pouted. "Why not? Do you not love me?"
Sam looked exasperated but crawled away from where he sat with Christen to snuggle into Tobin.
"What?" Tobin said when she saw how Christen was looking at her.
She laughed in frustration. "I don't know, you couldn't have done that 10 minutes ago?"
"I was asleep."
Christen rolled her eyes disbelievingly.
"I wasn't fully awake yet."
She sighed. "I've got to run. I'm late."
"Chris.." Tobin protested.
"It's fine," she said, giving her a tight smile. "I just said I would be there already."
She heard Tobin sigh as she grabbed her mat and closed the door quietly behind her, before turning left instead of right to head toward the stairs. She really was late.
After Christen left, Tobin felt bad for not helping with Sam. As an attempt to smooth things over, she got both kids up and ready to go, and was waiting to take Mattie to school when Christen got back.
"I'm gonna take her," she offered as Christen entered the room and put her things down.
Christen gives her an unreadable look. "Okay. Thank you."
"Mattie, let's go!" Tobin called. Mattie emerged from the other room with her headphones on and her attention engrossed in her phone. She didn't acknowledge either of them. Tobin gave Christen a tight smile and two thumbs up and received an exasperated but sympathetic laugh in return.
In the car, Tobin let Mattie ignore her for half the drive to school. "You know," she finally spoke up. "You're gonna have to make up with her eventually." Mattie pulled one earbud out but didn't acknowledge her.
"She's your mom. You can't stay mad at her forever."
Mattie frowned and turned so her body was completely facing the window.
"Okay, fine. Will you at least tell me what's wrong?"
She didn't respond.
Tobin sighed. "How's school then? Can I at least get a one-word response?"
"It's fine," Mattie replied, voice full of attitude.
"Anything exciting happen?"
Mattie turned back to sit normally in the seat and Tobin could spot her slightly glassy eyes in her peripheral vision. "We're gonna have a field trip in a few weeks. I think I'm still gonna be at school for it."
"Oh, that sounds fun. Where're you going?"
"The science museum."
Tobin furrowed her brow. "The one near where Mom plays?"
Mattie grunted affirmatively in response.
"Wow, that should be cool."
"Yeah, they're gonna give out the permission slips by the end of the week, so I'll know when it is. Also..." her voice got quieter, "...it costs $20, and Ms. Horowitz said we need a check. Is that okay?"
Tobin smirked and glanced at her. "You're asking for a check for twenty bucks?"
"Yeah. I mean I have cash, I just don't have, like, a checkbook—"
"Mattie. I will write you a check for twenty dollars. Even if it didn't need to be check, you don't have to pay for your own field trips."
"Okay," she said, still quiet, but looking less bashful.
"You have to remind me or ask Mom if you need it this week, though, because mine's at the house. I didn't bring it over."
She shook her head. "We won't need it until next week anyway."
"And that would involve you talking to Mom, huh?"
Other than a mumbled goodbye before she closed the door, Mattie ignored her for the rest of the ride.
After breakfast, they had the beep test. Christen stress-sprinted the whole thing and ended up setting a personal record. Laura looked impressed when she finished. She was in a much better mood when they went back to the hotel after to shower and eat, meeting Sam in the lobby on the way to lunch.
She and Tobin sat on either side of him in the makeshift dining room. They made small talk with him about school and he animatedly told them about his morning.
"How was Mattie on the way to school?" she eventually asked Tobin, not sure if she wanted the answer.
"Good," Tobin answered, swallowing her food. "They're going on a field trip "
"We can give her one from the new bank account. You know, when you pick one," she joked, hoping to earn a smile.
Guilt flashed across Tobin's face.
"I was just kidd—" Christen started.
"I'm gonna—" she answered at the same time.
They sat awkwardly for a moment, Sam between them, luckily distracted by his lunch.
"I am picking one," Tobin insisted.
"I know," Christen said, smiling. "If I had known it was gonna take this long, I would've helped."
Tobin didn't smile back. "I can do it."
"I'm not—I know. I believe you."
"Though if at any point, you just want to close your eyes and point—"
"Christen. I said I've got it. You're the one who wanted this done right."
"Alright." Christen turned back to her food, sighing and wondering why her good moods never seemed to last very long.
They finally watched the game film after lunch. Laura started positively, pointing out some of the good things they did during the first few minutes of the game. She didn't say anything about Christen's errant cross to Monica, but Tobin saw her give Christen a look with raised eyebrows. Tobin (along with everyone else in the room) winced at Camila's tackle on Christen. Tobin had barely seen it on the field because she was on the opposite side of the pitch, and she hadn't watched any replays. She glanced at Christen, who was sitting on the other side of the room from her next to Becky. She wore an indifferent expression at the image of herself in pain that was projected on the wall.
Laura fast-forwarded through Alex subbing in and her screaming at the refs, resuming the tape at the time the game did. From there, she proceeded to pause the game every 30 seconds (or at least that's how it felt to Tobin) to nitpick their performance. It seemed like everyone who had played got a turn.
"Heath, what's this bush league shite?" she asked when they got to the tackle on Camila that earned Tobin a yellow.
Tobin was resting her mouth on her fist, both embarrassed at being called out and trying not to laugh.
"You want to go play American football? Go ahead. You want to play ref? I'm sure PRO is hiring. But what you're not gonna do is run around tackling people like that, risking hurting someone, or hurting yourself, or getting chucked from my games just because your girlfriend took a knock."
Tobin's ears turned red and she could see Christen was blushing too. She wanted to point out that half of the team had done the exact same thing, and Laura herself had almost been ejected for screaming at the official, but she bit her tongue. It didn't help that the tackle was admittedly pretty reckless, and Laura had paused the tape on a frame of Tobin standing over Camila looking furious.
"They're engaged," someone said from the back of the room.
"What?" Laura said, turning to face them. Tobin turned too.
"They're engaged now, Coach. Remember?" Sonnett said with her face trained to an innocent expression. "So technically it's her fiancee who took a knock."
Laura looked at her like she had three heads. "Thank you for that, Emily."
"No problem. Just helping out."
The room hung in tense silence for six seconds; Tobin counted as she breathed through her nose. Finally, someone cracked. Tobin turned and saw it was Becky, laughing into her hand and repeating "I'm sorry," over and over, but by then it was too late. The laughter spread throughout the room until half of them had tears in their eyes. Tobin had held out until Laura had broken, holding the bridge of her nose and shaking her head.
Eventually, they settled down until Rose's hiccups and a few last chuckles were the only sounds in the room. Laura flipped the lights on and hit the off button on the projector. "Well, I don't think I can top that one." The room laughed again. "There's not much more of that film that would be productive to watch. I could keep going through and pointing out everything you all did wrong, but honestly: you know what you did wrong. Every single one of you is a better footballer than how you played on that tape. I know I know that, and I think each of you knows that, but we need to figure out how to remember that as a team before France. Unless you guys think it would be helpful to keep going through this."
A chorus of voices answered her. "No!" "Nope!" "No way."
She laughed. "Okay, then. Take care of yourselves tonight. Try to get two more forms of recovery in before you go to bed. Otherwise, I'll see you in the morning."
"Thanks, Coach," the room answered.
"Tobin," Laura called as they filtered out of the room. Tobin turned and walked to where Laura was packing up her things. "Sorry about laying into you a bit there."
She shrugged. "It's cool, that was a pretty bad tackle."
Laura nodded. "And sorry for bringing Christen into it, and mislabeling her as your girlfriend or whatever."
Tobin laughed. "I should be glad actually. If Sonnett hadn't thrown off your rhythm, we would've had to watch that terrible pass I made a few minutes after that and that other bad tackle trying to get it back."
"Yeah, I remember that one now that you say it," Laura said, shaking her head. "We weren't gonna make it that far anyway," she whispered conspiratorially. "I only had a minute or two of material left before I was gonna let you go. I think a few of you that played probably got off scot-free because of when the most egregious plays were, but it wasn't worth it."
"Careful, Coach," Tobin wised. "Someone might think you've gone soft."
She raised her eyebrows. "You want to add that 70th minute play to the agenda at tomorrows meeting?"
"Nope, I'm good."
"Alright then. See you tomorrow, Tobin."
"See you tomorrow, Coach."
Despite it being pretty much the last thing any of them wanted, Tobin and Christen had agreed to guest coach Mattie's practice that night. Becky and JJ had offered to watch Sam while they went, which of course started a meltdown until Sam learned that Becky had figured out how to hook up her Switch to her TV.
Tobin, Mattie, and Christen were quiet on the ride to the field. Christen drove and kept peeking in the rearview mirror to try to gauge Mattie's mood. The fifth time she did it, Mattie caught her and looked away quickly, but not before a miserable expression flashed across her face.
When they got to the field, Christen parked in the same spot she had when she picked Mattie up last week, which felt like months ago. "Ready?" she asked in a tone that all but begged for them all to be pleasant to each other for an hour.
Sophie's dad, Josh, had them warm up and then split the team into groups to do more specific drills. Christen and Tobin each took one of the small groups, offering instruction as they saw fit.
Christen started at the shooting drill station, which Mattie's group ended up coming to first. They lined up at the 18 and tried to hit the corners while the team's keepers took turns in goal. She tried to give each of them a piece of advice as they cycled through.
On Mattie's turn, she tried to hit the upper left corner, but the ball hung in the air and didn't curve back the way she seemingly wanted it to, and ultimately hit the fence behind the goal.
"Good job on your follow through," Christen offered. "You just need to turn your foot a little more so you hit it a little further off your laces."
"I know," Mattie grumbled without looking up at her.
Christen felt the tips of her ears warm and bit back a retort. She didn't give Mattie any more advice on her turns, though she buried the rest of her shots in the bottom two corners without much pizazz, so there wasn't much to say.
Soon after, the groups rotated anyway and Christen got the group that had been with Josh.
At one point, she looked over to where Tobin was instructing Mattie's group. Tobin watched Mattie's pass come off her foot slightly wrong and said something instructive to her about it. Mattie laughed and rolled her eyes but repeated the motion the way Tobin had shown her. She bit her lip and turned back to give Isabella shooting pointers.
After each group had cycled through each station, Josh blew the whistle and called them all to the middle of the field. "Alright, we're gonna play 7v7. Tobin, Christen, do you want to pick the teams?"
Christen looked at Tobin and then at Mattie. "How about we pick captains and they pick the teams?" she suggested.
"Izzie and Sophie," Tobin said, pointing. "Isabella, you're with me, Soph, you're with Chris. We can flip for who picks first."
"Wow," Josh said, as he fished around in his pocket for a coin and Isabella and Sophie went to stand next to their respective coaches. "Splitting up the dynamic duo and not getting a single complaint. Maybe you guys should guest coach more often." He took out a quarter and flipped it. Isabella called tails in the air and won.
"This is, like, reverse nepotism," Sophie complained. Isabella picked Mattie first. Sophie picked Jenna Irons, and from there they divvied up the rest of the girls.
Tobin's team won, mostly because Mattie scored six goals despite ignoring every instruction Tobin gave her.
Josh let everyone get water after. "Okay, we have time for one more drill," he announced. "I figure I'd let our guest coaches pick."
"Let's do crossing," Tobin suggested, squirting water into her mouth.
"Alright," Josh said, clapping his hands. "Crossing it is."
Tobin and Christen spent the next 15 minutes alternating between sending crosses into the box and instructing the wingers on how to better their form. Mattie was in Christen's winger line and Christen was relieved that none of her crosses were off target, so she didn't have to give much more instruction than, "Nice ball, Mat."
After they finished, the team did a cheer and Josh went over the schedule, which included their game Saturday morning and the USWNT game Saturday night, which Christen's parents had invited them to sit in their regular Banc of California box for.
The three of them said goodbye to the team and walked back to the car. Christen grabbed the keys out of her bag and walked toward the driver's side.
"I can drive if you want," Tobin offered.
"That's okay. I'm good."
Tobin frowned. "Are you sure? You seem tired."
"I'm not," Christen said, giving her a tight smile and getting in the car.
Tobin got in on the passenger side. "Is something else wrong?"
"Nope." She checked that Mattie and Tobin were buckled and turned the car on.
"Would you tell me if something was?"
"Yes," Christen said, trying not to clench her teeth.
"Okay, well. Let me know if there's anything I can do to fix it."
"Alright. Have you picked a bank yet?" she asked with faux sweetness.
"Wait—this is still about the bank?"
"It's not—" Christen laughed humorlessly. "Nothing would be 'still' about the bank if you had picked one. If I had known it would take so long—"
"If I had known you were gonna be such a bitch about it—"
"Oh my god," Mattie interjected from the backseat. "Shut up, Tobin."
"Hey!" Christen said sharply, glancing into the rearview mirror. "You don't talk to her like that."
Mattie rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, turning to look out the window.
"Don't yell at her because you're mad at me," Tobin scoffed.
"I'm not yelling at her!" Christen insisted. "And I'm not mad at you either."
"Yes, you are! You're pissed about this stupid bank thing!"
"Amy I annoyed you can't ever just make a decision? Yes. But I'm not mad!"
"What do you mean I can't just make a decision? That's bullshit."
"You know what? You're right," Christen said, pursing her lips. "You picked that crossing drill really quickly."
Tobin was incredulous. "You're mad about that?"
"I told you! I'm not mad!"
Tobin rolled her eyes and made a noise in protest.
"I just don't understand why, whenever it comes to something serious, you can't just make a choice!"
"I'm just trying to make the right decision for the right reasons. I don't need you second guessing whatever I pick."
"When have I done that?"
"You don't say it. You just think it."
"Tobin. That's fucking ridiculous."
"See? I say something and it's ridiculous."
"I don't understand why we even need to pick a bank so quickly. What's the rush? Why can't I just look at all the options and pick the right one? It's only been a week since you decided we need to do this!"
"Because we have too much to do, and we have the fucking world cup in a month. How can you look at our life right now and not understand why you need to make decisions quickly?"
"I decided to marry you and get kids pretty fucking quickly," she spat.
"Well, I'm not sure you were ready for that, so maybe you're right to doubt yourself." Christen heard herself saying the words like she wasn't in control of her mouth, and instantly wished she could take them back. Tobin's face. which looked like she had been slapped, only made it worse.
No one said anything at the last red light before the hotel driveway, and only the faint sounds of the pop radio station, which Christen hadn't even noticed was on, played in the car.
Christen pulled into the hotel lot, parked the car and kept both hands on the wheel. "Tob—"
"Just don't. Not right now."
The three of them walked into the hotel and made their way up to the team floor in silence. When the doors opened, Mattie went left toward their room while Tobin and Christen went right to get Sam from Julie and Becky's. Tobin kept her hood up and her hands in her sweatshirt pocket. Christen stepped forward to knock on the door.
"Hey," Julie answered. "How was it?"
Christen tried to smile without showing any fatigue. "Good! Her team is a great group of girls so..."
"That's awesome," she smiled. "They're coming to the game right?"
"Yep!" Christen answered. Tobin smiled at Julie and waved to Becky but yawned in lieu of saying anything. Becky paused the race she and Sam were playing.
"Aww, man," Sam said. "I was gonna beat you."
Becky raised her eyebrows at him. "You think so?"
She smiled. "You're probably right. But you already beat me so many times, I didn't want to lose again."
"Wow, you let him win?" Christen asked.
"I didn't let him! He's good."
"He actually like, legitimately beat me a bunch of times," Julie admitted.
"Wow, Sammy. I'm impressed." Sam basked in the praise. "C'mon bud. We've got to get you ready for bed."
He started to protest, but cut himself off with a yawn.
"C'mon, Sam," Tobin spoke up. He finally relented and slid off the bed, walking over to Tobin and holding his arms out to be picked up. Tobin groaned but lifted him and he rested his head on her shoulder.
"Goodnight, guys," Christen said, waving. "Thank you again. This was a huge help."
"It was fun."
They walked back down the hallway to their room without saying anything. Mattie was in the shower when they got back. Tobin started getting Sam ready for bed, and Christen jumped in the shower and put her pajamas on before taking over getting Sam ready so Tobin could shower. She had him tucked in before Mattie emerged from the bathroom, though she suspected she was hiding until Christen was back on the other side of the door.
When she returned to their room, Tobin was turning down the covers.
Christen took a deep breath. "Do you want to talk?" she asked quietly.
Tobin looked up at her with an exhausted expression. "Honestly, I kind of just want to go to bed. Can we talk tomorrow?"
She tried to quell the mix of hurt and guilt she felt at that answer but nodded. "Sure. Sleep will probably help anyway."
They had barely both climbed into bed and turned off the lights when the connecting door opened a crack and a tiny body moved through it.
"Can I sleep here tonight?" Sam asked.
Christen sighed and turned to look at Tobin in the faint light coming through the opening in the door. She shrugged.
Tobin woke up with a stiffness in her back that didn't feel like they came from yesterday's training sessions. She craned her neck to look at the other side of her bed, but Christen had already gotten up and only Sam was sprawled out on the other side. Tobin turned back over to look at the clock and sighed, realizing she should probably still be the one to drop off Mattie after last night.
She stuck her head into Mattie and Sam's room to wake her, but found Mattie already up, dressed, and brushing her hair. She gave Tobin a look of exhausted disdain, which Tobin took as her cue to wait in the other room. Christen returned to the room, yoga mat in hand, just as Mattie walked through the inner door, armed with her backpack on one shoulder. They all stood silently for a moment, each wondering what to do next or how to break the tension. Finally, Tobin walked to the dresser and grabbed the car keys, giving Christen what she hoped was an apologetic look. "C'mon, Mattie, let's get going."
They had separate meetings early in the morning, so it wasn't until the lifting session that Tobin saw her again. They were in opposite groups, but Tobin thought she could feel Christen watching her as they moved through the workout. Whenever she couldn't feel her gaze, she would glance over to try and gauge Christen's mood. She looked tense; maybe the night's sleep hadn't gone as far as they'd hoped in restoring the balance.
Even in her brooding state, she could see Kelley and Becky, who she was lifting with, exchange confused glances. At one point they seemed to be arguing with each other until finally, Becky whispered furiously.
"Okay. What is going on with you two?"
Tobin frowned at being caught. "Me?" she asked, trying to play dumb.
"You keep looking over at her," Becky explained.
"And not like. The way you normally do," Kelley added. "More like a kicked puppy."
Tobin shrugged noncommittally. "It's nothing."
Kelley laughed. "Did you fuck up?"
"It's nothing, Kelley."
"Jeez. What did you do?" Kelley asked.
"Nothing!" she protested.
Becky looked at her skeptically.
"I didn't! We just got in a dumb argument is all."
Kelley smirked as she finished her last squat in the set and placed the barbell back on the rig. "How is that not your fault?"
Tobin ignored her and ducked under the bar to set up for her lift. She took more time than she really needed to set her feet, and Becky took the opportunity to prod a little further.
"It's not necessarily anyone's fault," she offered. "But you guys are really off right now. It's kinda weirding everyone out."
Tobin glanced around the room. "It's not weirding everyone out." She started her set and tried to ignore them.
Kelley nodded across the room. "See? Lindsey and Mal keep whispering to each other and looking at the two of you."
She rolled her eyes without looking. "They could be talking about anything."
"Look," Becky interrupted. "It doesn't actually matter if people can tell something's off. We just wanted to know if you wanted to talk about it."
Tobin huffed. "I didn't pick a bank."
"Yeah, I was supposed to pick a bank and an account and they all looked the same and it didn't matter so I couldn't pick one. And now apparently that makes me unfit to parent," she spat bitterly.
"Woah," Becky said, raising her eyebrows.
Tobin shook her head. "I know. I should've just picked the one you said, Kel. Or just picked a random fucking one. There were 2 or 3 that looked good but I didn't know enough to tell the difference." She moved out from under the bar so Kelley could move in.
"I don't think she's really that mad about the bank, Tobs," Becky said gently.
"Maybe, but I've got no idea what it is about, then."
"Well, what else did she say?"
"I don't know. She was just mad that I picked the passing drill for Mattie's team but couldn't pick a bank."
Kelley set the bar back on the hooks. "See, Tobin, the thing you don't understand about women is..." Tobin and Becky exchanged amused glances. "...sometimes they need you to take charge."
"Here we go."
Kelley put on a faux thoughtful expression and rested her elbow on Tobin's shoulder. "I know that's not always your natural instinct, and I'm sure that..." she gestured to the air with her hand, "...works for you guys, but she shouldn't have to make all of the decisions." She clapped Tobin's chest. "Sometimes, you gotta pick the restaurant."
Tobin looked at Becky to share an eye roll but got nothing.
"That's actually not terrible advice." She sipped her water. "Although I'm assuming she actually means pick the restaurant. If that's a euphemism for something—"
"In this case, it's not," Kelley assured.
Becky shrugged and moved to start her squats. "Then I agree. Not about the taking charge part so much as the not making her make all the decisions."
Tobin put her hands on her hips and looked around the weight room. "So I should pick a bank and tell her which one?"
Kelley shook her head. "You gotta pick the bank, then tell her you're taking her out to dinner, pick the restaurant, and once you're there, tell her you already opened the account and it's all set."
"What if she doesn't like the one I pick?"
Kelley gave her an exasperated look. "She already told you she wanted you to pick. You're just showing initiative."
Tobin waited for Becky to finish her set. "What do you think?"
"It's a very...Kelley plan, but it's not a bad idea. The dinner part especially."
She laughed. "Okay, I'll play. When am I supposed to take her to dinner?"
Kelley shrugged. "Tonight?"
"I don't want to ask Kerrie or Julia to stay late. Plus Sam is having these tantrums..."
"I'll watch them," Kelley said nonchalantly.
"You want to babysit an angry Mattie and a clingy Sam?"
"Mattie's not angry with me. And Sam will hang out."
"She'll have help Tobs," Becky reassured her.
"Ugh, fine," Tobin conceded, moving to start her next set.
"Don't be mad, it'll be fun!" Kelley insisted.
Tobin looked at her in the mirror. "Yeah, but now thanks to you, I have to pick a bank account, and a restaurant."
"Tobin is staring at you," Alex said as Christen swung the kettlebell. "And not in the usual way."
Christen sighed and finished her set. "Yeah," was the only explanation she offered.
She handed Alex the kettlebell and could tell she was trying to be polite and trying not to pry, but losing the battle.
"You can ask."
Alex finished all 12 swings before looking at her. "Is everything okay?" she asked gently.
Christen grabbed the weight from her, holding it at her side before she started her next set. "Yeah, I just...I fucked up."
She talked as she swang. "It's just been a long week. Sam is throwing tantrums any time either of us leaves the room and I don't know why. Mattie is furious with me either because I told her none of you guys were coming to her game, or because we pulled her out and she didn't have a concussion, I'm not sure. But she's apparently fine with Tobin! And then Tobin and I got in a fight last night and I was...kind of a bitch to her."
Alex gave her a sympathetic smile. "I'm sure she deserved it?" she offered hopefully.
Christen shook her head and put the kettlebell down. "She didn't."
"I don't know. You seem biased and Kelley seems to be lecturing her," she said, nodding to the squat racks.
"She didn't deserve it," Christen insisted.
Alex shrugged. "Okay, then. Tell her that."
They finished lifting and were released for a lunch break. Tobin headed straight to the side lobby, where she knew Sam was going to come in on his way back from school. She needed a few minutes with him before returning to adulthood. She turned the corner and was surprised to see her wife sitting on the bench near the door. Tobin walked over to where Christen sat. She looked distracted, so Tobin cleared her throat. Christen looked up.
"I was just gonna wait out here for Sam where it's quieter," Tobin explained.
Christen smiled tiredly. "Great minds." She shifted over on the settee to make room for Tobin, who gladly accepted the peace offering.
"I really just needed a Sam hug before lunch," Tobin admitted, leaning back into the seat. "His hugs make days like this go faster."
Christen smiled and shifted in the chair, leaning over to rest her head against Tobin like she forgot the slight distance they had been maintaining. She stiffened when she realized, but Tobin quickly slid an arm into the space between her back and the chair so she would relax back into her. "He really does give the best hugs," she agreed.
They sat in silence for a moment before Tobin decided to take Kelley and Becky's advice. "Hey."
"Go on a date with me tonight. I've already got a sitter lined up."
Christen sat up so she could make eye contact with Tobin and gave her a puzzled look. "A date? Tonight?"
"Yeah. We'll go to that sushi place in WeHo you like."
She paused, looked her up and down as if surprised, and rested back against Tobin. "Okay. If we have time that sounds good."
"We have time," Tobin insisted. As Christen seemed to relax more into her body, Tobin smiled and held in a fist pump.
They sat silently again, Tobin feeling more relaxed than she had in a week until the door opened and Julia and Sam entered from the sunny outdoors. Sam spotted his mothers right away and ran toward them with his arms out.
"Oof. Hey, bud," Christen greeted as he crashed into her knees. "How was school?"
Sam climbed onto both of their laps. "Good, but I missed you."
"Hey, Julia," Christen greeted. "How was he?"
She smiled. "Good, but very excited to see you."
Tobin turned to accept her Sam hug, which was exactly what she needed and hoped that he wouldn't be upset about their leaving him with Kelley tonight.
They were both much more relaxed after the conversation and lunch. Tobin felt like she played better in practice than she had since before the Brazil game, but still got caught daydreaming more than once. By the time they finished their recovery work, she was full on giddy about the prospect of their date.
She waited outside the door to the ice baths for Christen to finish. When she emerged, she seemed almost surprised to see Tobin, but her face quickly relaxed into a soft smile.
"Is Sam in the lounge?"
Tobin shrugged one shoulder. "I think so but I haven't checked yet. I was waiting for you."
Christen smiled and took her hand as they walked to the elevator. "I'm excited for our date tonight."
"You said you already got a sitter."
"Kelley actually offered her services."
Christen raised her eyebrows. "She did?"
"She's gonna have plenty of help. It'll be fine."
Tobin gave her a questioning look.
"I have complete faith in her! I'm just glad because I'm hoping 'Sam, hang out with Auntie Kelley for a few hours,' is an easier sell than 'hang out with a babysitter you don't really know.'"
"I think it will."
There was a moment while they were getting ready to leave that Tobin thought they may have been overly optimistic. They talked to Sam (and Mattie) about having a playdate with Kelley earlier in the afternoon, and he was excited about it, but he soon started to realize that meant Tobin and Christen wouldn't be there. They were on the verge of another meltdown when Kelley, Alex, and Allie knocked on the door.
"Auntie Kelley!" Sam called, near tears forgotten.
"Hey buddy, you ready to have fun without the lame moms?"
Tobin and Christen shared an eye roll.
"Harry, that's what you're wearing for your big date?"
"Yeah Tobs, I think you can do better than sweatpants."
"Okay," Tobin said defensively. "This isn't what I'm wearing—we're just—"
"I thought you guys were leaving soon?" Kelley added.
Tobin looked to Christen for assistance, and for a second it seemed like she was going to join in the teasing. "We've still got to change," she relented. "We just had a slight speed bump."
"Alright, well clean yourself up, Har," Allie jibed.
"Okay, will do," Tobin said, rolling her eyes.
"Sammy, you ready?"
"Have fun," Sam replied, tugging on Alex's hand.
"Bye Mat!" she said as Mattie skulked from the dividing door to the hallway door.
"Bye!" Christen added.
They received a barely audible grunt in response.
"Thanks for this guys," Christen said.
"Yeah, for real." Tobin nodded at Kelley.
"No problem." "Anytime."
Pick the restaurant. Kelley mouthed as she turned and walked out the door.
Tobin laughed at the others' puzzled expressions and shot Kelley a thumbs up as they filed out.
The door closed and Christen sent her a bemused look.
"Ready for sushi?"
Mattie told Kelley she had homework to do, so Kelley set her up in her and Allie's room, across the hall from Alex's where they were entertaining Sam. She flipped the bar guard to prop the door open and let Mattie read in peace.
"So what do you want to do?" Mattie heard Kelley ask Sam through the doorway. She took another look at her book, let out a heavy sigh, and flopped back into her pillow to stare at the ceiling.
"Knock, knock," Alex's voice announced her at the door.
Mattie sat up. "Hi."
"Just a book for school so I can leave early."
Alex looked at the cover of the book Mattie had cast aside. "I had to read that in school. That's a good one."
Mattie shrugged. "It's okay, I guess."
Alex looked down at her hands. "Hey, I'm sorry we crashed your game."
She swallowed. "It's okay."
"We didn't tell either of your moms we were coming, so I wouldn't want you to be mad at them for it."
"That's not—I'm not. Mad about it."
Alex looked at her skeptically.
"Alright. I just. I know everyone is a little stressed out this week and I didn't want to add to it. We just didn't know when the next time we'd get to see you play is, so we didn't want to miss it."
Mattie felt guilt creep up her throat. "I'm not mad. I'm sorry I made such a big—"
"Don't be sorry!" Alex said, shaking her head. "Tobin said you didn't want an audience, so we shouldn't have come. I get not wanting the circus at your first game with your team."
"Thanks," Mattie said sheepishly.
Alex smirked. "Your first national team game, though—don't expect us to skip that one."
Mattie rolled her eyes. "Ha ha."
"I'm serious. There's gonna be face paint, signs, the whole deal."
Mattie flopped back on the bed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
Alex laughed. "Do you have a lot more homework?"
"Just to finish this chapter."
"Alright, well, what do you want to do after that?"
Mattie shrugged. "It's...it's mother's day this weekend, and I was thinking about maybe getting them something..."
"Oooh, Mother's day gifts?"
She blushed. "Yeah, I don't really know if we could go to the store, or I could make something..."
Alex grinned. "Sure! And we can all help! We can get Sammy set up making a card or something."
Mattie smiled, relaxing slightly. "Okay."
"What were you going to get? Do you need help shopping? I'm good at that."
"Maybe, but I kind of had an idea."
Christen surveyed the contents of her suitcase. She had switched out of her sports bra but hadn't made any further decisions on an outfit.
"What are you gonna wear?" Tobin asked. She was sprawled out on the other bed without her shirt on, bra unchanged, scrolling through her phone and apparently having given up on the getting ready process for the moment.
"Uhh...I don't know. I was thinking black jeans but I don't know what top. Why?"
"I was gonna let you pick first. Not that I can't decide myself," she joked tentatively.
Christen tried to laugh but sounded half-hearted to her ears and she could see Tobin heard it too.
"Too soon?" she cringed.
"I believe you can pick out your clothes."
"Really? You sure?"
She pouted and looked away. "You just don't believe I'm ready for this."
"I know you're ready for this. That's not what I meant—"
"It's what you said."
Christen took a deep breath and walked over to sit on the edge of their bed, so they were a nightstand apart. "I know, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."
Tobin sat up to face her and Christen could see her eyes were glassy. "I know I've been slow on the bank thing, I just don't know what I did that made you question that I was in this all the way."
"Hey." Christen felt her stomach drop and she stood to cup Tobin's cheek. "I swear you haven't done anything. I was just frustrated—I was stressed out about everything else and I took it out on you. I shouldn't have and I'm sorry."
Tobin pouted. "I don't ever want you to feel like I've questioned this. I've felt really bad about it—"
"Tob, I've felt really bad—"
"I'm not half-assing this I swear—"
"I know you're not."
Tobin looked her dead in the eyes. "I can pick the restaurant, I promise."
Christen frowned and quirked her head, but before she could ask what the hell she was talking about, Tobin's lips were on hers and the amount of hot skin touching between their exposed bodies was making it hard to focus. Tobin pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and ran her hands up Christen's bare arms.
"What time is it?" she breathed out with an inch of space between their faces.
Tobin's eyes flicked to the clock on the nightstand. "7:10."
She leaned in and kissed Tobin's neck. "The reservation's at 8?"
Tobin swallowed and didn't answer immediately. "Yeah," she let out in a strangled voice.
Christen grinned into her skin. "So we have like 20 minutes. More if there's not traffic."
Tobin hummed distractedly in agreement.
"Think that's long enough?" Christen mumbled into her neck.
Tobin nodded and let out a small whine.
"Okay but you gotta be quick."
"Kelley, go with Mattie," Alex instructed.
"Where?" Kelley asked, rising from where they sat around the coffee table in the suite.
"I can go by myself," Mattie insisted.
"Kel. Go with her please."
Mattie relented and held the door open for Kelley.
"Where're we headed champ?"
"The equipment room."
Mattie shook her head. "Alex says they have extra shinguards."
"Shinguards? Why do you need—oh are you gonna decorate them like Tobin does?"
"Yeah, I mean. Tobin gave me some for Easter. And I know it's like a thing she does, but I thought if I made some..."
Kelley smiled reassuringly. "They're gonna love it."
Mal and Rose were in the equipment room grabbing food when they arrived.
"Hey," Mattie greeted, walking over to the plastic container she thought contained extra shinguards.
"Whatcha doin?" Mal asked.
"Yeah, I know we didn't play well," Rose added, "but I didn't think they were gonna call you up so soon."
"We need some arts and crafts supplies," Kelley explained for her.
"In the sock bin?" Rose asked.
"Actually...shinguards," Mattie said, emerging with two pairs.
"Ahh, shinguards," Mal said knowingly. "The traditional Heath Press family art form."
"Wait are you gonna decorate shinguards?" Rose asked, catching up.
"For mother's day," Kelley confirmed with a smile.
"That's so cute!"
Mattie frowned at Kelley spilling the beans on her.
"What!" Kelley protested. "It is!"
"Whatever," Mattie said, rolling her eyes. "Bye guys."
"You know, you don't have to be mad about that stuff all the time," Kelley offered as they reemerged in the hallway.
"I'm not mad."
"About what stuff?"
"Like the family stuff. It being cute. It's nice that you wanna do this for them."
Mattie shrugged. "I guess, I just don't like when people make a big deal about it."
"I don't know. It's just weird."
"Okay." Kelley looked like she wanted to push the issue, but she relented. "So, how are we gonna decorate these?"
"I was gonna try to find some sharpies."
"Sharpies?" Kelley made a face. "We can do better than that. Let's get some of those paint markers."
"I dunno. Target?"
"We don't have to—" Mattie started.
"C'mon! It'll be an adventure!"
Tobin stirred and wrinkled her nose as a familiar curly black hair tickled it.
"Shit," Christen said, the sound of her voice reverberating through Tobin's body where she lay with her face buried in her wife's neck.
"We fell asleep."
"We're already 20 minutes late for our reservation."
Tobin grinned and rubbed her eye. "Perfect. If we leave now, we'll only be an hour late."
Christen laughed sleepily and Tobin let the vibrations pull her back into a comfortable drowse.
"We should just cancel and go get burgers," Christen whispered conspiratorially.
Tobin sat up hopefully. "Yeah?"
"Why not? Besides that Dawn would probably kill us if she knew."
Tobin waved a hand dismissively. "We just did all that extra cardio. It cancels out."
"I don't think that's how it works."
"Well then, we don't have to tell her."
"Is your car is still here?" Kelley asked as they pulled into the parking lot.
Mattie looked and saw Christen's SUV parked in the same place it had been since they got back from practice the night before. "Yeah..."
"Maybe they Ubered," Kelley suggested.
"Do you have everything?"
"Yeah, I think so."
They discussed Mattie's possible designs for the shinguards as they made their way up to the team floor. They emerged from the elevator and had barely turned the corner when Allie turned and pointed at them.
"Aha! There you are!"
Mattie and Kelley walked in to Sam still coloring at the coffee table in front of the couch, but Allie and Alex both stood with crossed arms and overly pleasant smiles.
"Hey, Sammy," Alex asked sweetly, "Can you tell us what's happening in your drawing again?"
Sam didn't look up from his coloring. "Auntie Kelley is making my moms engaged."
Mattie glanced at Kelley, who was visibly trying to keep her face neutral.
"And what are you doing in the picture?" Alex continued.
"I'm holding the rings. I'm the best man."
"The best man?"
"Yep. I hadta hold the rings and then bring them up when Auntie Kelley called me and then Mommy and Mama kissed."
Allie and Alex looked back at Kelley and Mattie. "Care to explain?"
Tobin and Christen sat in the parking lot with their backs to the main road. Cars rushed by out the back window and honked at the intersection a few hundred yards down. The sun had all but set and the neon light that stuck up from the cracked asphalt was starting to cast a glow. The freeway stretched out in front of them and the rush hour traffic had mostly subsided, so cars could zip easily up the on-ramp. Tobin had taken her shoes off and had her bare feet on the dashboard. Christen sat cross-legged in the driver's seat.
"Okay, I'm sorry," Tobin said as she took a bite of her burger. "I like sushi, but this is so much better."
Christen laughed and reached for a fry. "I thought you picked the restaurant. Why didn't you just pick this?"
"I just picked one I knew you would like." Tobin rolled her eyes. "Kelley's the one who told me to 'pick the restaurant,' but it's not like an actual restaurant."
Christen smirked and tilted her head in confusion, waiting for an explanation.
"Like, you were mad that I couldn't decide on a bank, so Kelley said I should take charge. Pick the restaurant or whatever."
"Okay, first of all, I wasn't mad."
Tobin looked at her with raised eyebrows.
"I wasn't that mad."
Tobin smiled. "You were pretty pissed, babe. But it's okay. I know you have a lot on your plate, and I said I would do it and I didn't."
"It's not that," Christen sighed, looking down at the burger she held in her lap.
Tobin winced. "I thought you said you didn't mean the thing about me not being ready."
Christen looked up. "I don't!" she answered quickly. "Obviously I know you're ready, I just...I hate feeling like I'm always the one who has to make the final decision on big things."
"Like I could've just picked a bank but I wanted you to be able to have an opinion on it."
"But what if I just...didn't have one? I mean now that I had to pick, I do, but that's only because of the international policies on the underage authorized users for the cards you said."
Christen raised her eyebrows. "You picked a bank? Based on the international policies for what?"
"Like if we're in a different country than Mattie it—I don't know it's on some website I found."
"You picked a bank."
"Yeah. It was part of Kelley's whole. Y'know. 'Pick the restaurant' thing, which she was weirdly pretty right about. Also, I was close to deciding before yesterday anyway."
"I mean...wow. That's just a very specific reason to pick a bank account."
Tobin lifted her shoulders defensively. "Well, I had it down to like three and from the reviews and the features and whatever they were all basically the same, so!"
"No, I'm impressed. I probably would've just done eenie-meenie-minie-moe between the last few."
Tobin scoffed. "Then why did you think this was a big decision that I needed to have an opinion on?"
"Did you think I was gonna have super strong opinions on this?"
"Tobin. I don't care about the difference of like one fee or the other or whatever. I just don't want you to wake up in 20 years and be like 'I hate this bank. Why do I have this bank?'"
Tobin frowned. "We don't have to stay with this bank for 20 years. From what I read it's actually better—"
Christen cut her off with a look. "Tobs. The bank is not the point. That's not even what I'm—I just don't want to make all these big decisions for us without you. I want you to have opinions on them."
"What if your opinions are better?"
"Okay, but what if they are? What if we pick something I say and I totally screw something up?"
"Hello?! That's exactly what I'm saying! You can't leave me with all the decisions so it's all my fault when they're screwed up! Or so that when we make a decision about something for Mattie, she only blames it on me and then won't talk to me."
"Ahhh," Tobin said as it finally clicked.
"That's what this whole thing is about."
Christen nodded once. "Yes, I want us to decide things together."
Tobin gave her a look. "No, it's because Mattie's mad at you but not me, so you're mad at me."
"—mad. I know. But you've been upset about something and I haven't been able to figure it out. But it's the Mattie stuff."
Christen looked out the window in front of them.
"Why haven't you talked to me about it? Maybe I could help."
"I tried, but you just kept saying you wanted to wait her out."
"I'm sorry, I was just trying to give her space. If I had known how much this was bothering you...and honestly if I had known she was gonna hold out this long..."
"What would you have done?"
Tobin shrugged. "I don't know. I guess just annoyed her into talking to you."
"We can talk to her tonight," Tobin offered. "Or tomorrow if she's pretending to be asleep when we get back."
She laughed again and Tobin felt better about lightening her spirits.
"This is nice. We should do it more often."
"Oh, so I'm gonna get a second date, then?"
Christen smirked as she shrugged and ate a fry. "Depends if I'm around. I've got a pretty busy schedule right now."
"You can't pencil me in?"
"I don't know, when were you thinking?"
Christen rolled her eyes and laughed. "That was bad."
"Even for you, babe. That's just..." She trailed off and met Tobin's eye contact, still smiling wide. "...awful..."
"That's not an answer."
Christen's smile softened and she leaned in for a kiss. "Of course."
Tobin tried to deepen the kiss but Christen laughed again.
"Does that mean you fuck before the first date? I thought you were a little more modest than that."
Tobin took the bait. "First of all, you fucked me before our real first date—"
"You started it! And that's a technicality anyway."
"That was a pretty good technicality."
Christen smiled in agreement. "Do you think you could've ever imagined that would lead to this?"
"Sex and In N Out? I mean I hoped..."
She rolled her eyes.
"Yeah," Tobin answered seriously. "100%."
"A hundred percent? I feel like this is a pretty weird—"
"Okay. A hundred percent with you and me and kids. Ninety-nine with the sex and In N Out."
Christen smiled at her softly. "You should've known that was guaranteed."
A half an hour later they exited the elevator into the hotel hallway. "What do you wanna bet that they're still awake?" Christen asked.
Tobin didn't answer for a second, so Christen turned to look at her. "Huh?" she asked with a dazed smile.
"Nothing. You're just pretty."
Christen rolled her eyes but felt herself smile.
"And I'm happy we're not fighting anymore."
Christen laughed and leaned in to kiss her. "Me too."
They reached the door to Alex's hotel room. "What did you ask?" Tobin questioned as she knocked.
"If you think they're still gonna be awake."
Tobin made a face like the answer was obvious. "Oh for sure. Sam's probably in here jumping on the bed."
She knocked on the door and got no answer. "Hello?" She knocked again.
"I'll text them," Christen offered. where are you guys? she texted Alex.
Your room. Sam's in bed. Alex sent back.
"Wow, you lost the bet," she told Tobin.
They walked down the hall to their room and Tobin slid her keycard into the handle. She swung the door open and revealed an expectant looking Allie and Alex and a guilty looking Kelley, who all sat up from where they lay on the beds upon their entrance.
"Oh, hello," Alex greeted them.
"Hi..." Tobin said cautiously. "What's up?"
"How was your date?" Allie asked. "Did you not change?"
"I think it's nice that you take your wife out for nice dinners," she continued. "It keeps thing fresh."
"I appreciate the encouragement, Al."
"Wife, huh? So you guys are married now?" Alex poked.
Tobin narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "I—Allie calls Chris my wife...all the time. Almost exclusively. What's going on?"
Christen just looked at Kelley, who seemed to be trying to blend into the wall.
"So you guys aren't married then?" Allie pressed.
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm just asking!"
"We got engaged like a month ago!"
"Officially engaged, you mean," Alex cut in, putting the phrase in air quotes.
"Kelley..." Christen said warningly. "What's going on?"
"Look, I left them alone with Sam for like half an hour..."
"What's Sam got to do with this?" Tobin asked, still catching up.
"He drew you a picture," Alex said, handing over the piece of printer paper.
Christen looked over Tobin's shoulder at the drawing, which wasn't very detailed but clearly depicted their courthouse wedding. She looked up at Tobin's face, which registered understanding. Tobin looked up at her and gave an almost imperceptible shrug.
"Okay, yes. We did get marri—"
"Woo!" Christen was cut off by yells and claps from Alex and Allie, as well as Allie throwing handfuls of cut-up printer paper from her sweatshirt pocket.
"Congratulations!" They got up to hug Tobin and Christen and started asking questions at once. "Why didn't you tell us?" "Do your parents know?" "I thought you said you were still gonna have a real wedding?"
"Woah, chill," Tobin protested.
"I want pictures!" Allie whined.
"We're still gonna have a whole other wedding, don't worry," Christen assured her. "But almost no one knows, so don't go blabbing."
"Wait, so why did you actually do it?" Alex asked. "Kelley wouldn't give us the whole story."
Tobin and Christen shared a look and sighed, but started to recount the story of their whirlwind engagement.
"How come you didn't tell me that story about the ring before?" Alex asked.
Allie's eyes widened. "You didn't know that? She's had that thing forever."
"I didn't even know that and I was there!" Kelley added.
"Not that I'm not happy for you," Alex started. "But wouldn't it have been...less drastic to just make Tobin a California resident some other way? Like you could have just opened a bank account or something."
Kelley and Christen started to laugh.
"Hey!" Tobin protested. "I picked one okay! It really didn't take me that long."
"I mean," Christen countered. "The bank account did take you like several orders of magnitude longer than the marriage decision."
Everyone but Tobin laughed when she got stuck on her reply.
"Yeah, well...I wasn't sure about Super Checking Plus, but I was sure about you."
Christen smiled while Kelley booed and Allie threw the pillow from behind her head at Tobin.
"I think that's our cue," Alex said, standing from the bed.
Kelley and Allie followed. "Okay, goodnight." "Night."
"Al," Christen said, nodding to the door that divided their room from the kids. "Is Mattie still up?"
Alex tilted her head to look underneath it. "I don't think so. You could see the light on earlier."
"Alright," she said, trying not to look crestfallen. "Thanks. And thanks again guys," she said to everyone.
"Seriously," Tobin added.
Christen hovered near the dividing door until Tobin put a hand on her shoulder. "C'mon, we'll talk to her in the morning."
"Mattie, wake up." The girl groaned but turned toward the noise with a sleepy gaze. Christen smiled down at her. "Hey. Can we talk?"
"Scooch over, I need room," Tobin said, nudging Mattie over on the bed as she balanced two cups of Starbucks. Mattie sat up in the middle of the bed so Tobin could sit on one side of her and Christen on the other. Tobin carefully reached over Mattie to hand Christen her coffee. She placed it on the nightstand on her side and turned so she was facing Mattie completely. Mattie looked at her lap and picked at the comforter.
Christen took a deep breath. "Do you think we could talk about this wee—" She was cut off by Mattie's loud sob. "Mat." She put an arm around the girl's back to comfort her and was almost knocked backward when Mattie buried her face in the collar of her sweatshirt.
She rubbed Mattie's back and shot Tobin a confused look. Tobin looked as lost as she was. "Mat? It's okay, honey. We just want to talk about it."
Mattie shook her head into the crook of Christen's neck. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to," she choked out.
"Didn't mean to what?" Christen asked. The question just set off another round of sobs. Christen resigned herself to waiting out the waterworks. She hugged Mattie closer to her chest. "It's okay."
It took a few false stops, but after five minutes or so Mattie seemed to have calmed down. Christen and Tobin looked at each other, afraid to upset the balance that had settled over the situation, but Mattie beat them to it. "I'm sorry I called you Mom in a fight," she mumbled into Christen's chest. "I didn't mean to. It just slipped out."
Christen froze. "That's the reason you haven't talked to me all week?"
"I felt so bad, and I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have—why are you laughing?"
"I'm sorry," Christen tried to stop. "It's just that I spent the whole week thinking you were pissed me for pulling you from the game and making you take all those concussion tests and I didn't know how to fix it. I'm pretty happy that you don't hate me."
Mattie started to cry again, less intensely than before. "I don't hate you. I love you."
She looked up at Tobin who was giving her a soft smile with wet eyes.
"Hey. Look at me." Christen pulled her back from her chest. Mattie's cheeks were wet and her eyes were red. Christen reached up to wipe away some of the tears. "I don't stop being your mom because we're in a fight, okay? We're gonna be your moms for the rest of your life, and this won't be the last fight we get in. I'm giving you permission now: you can call me Mom during all of them."
Mattie smiled. "I know but I didn't want the first time to be like that. I was gonna do it on Sunday."
"How come?" Christen asked.
"Well, y'know, it's Mother's Day and everything, so I thought—"
"You were waiting for Mother's Day?" Tobin asked in an amused tone.
She turned around so she could push Tobin. "Yeah, so what? Don't tease me!"
Tobin laughed as she grabbed both of Mattie's hands with one hand and bearhugged her with the other. "I'm not teasing you. It's very cute."
Mattie pouted and Christen smiled at the sight of them. "It is very sweet, Mattie. I'm glad it was so important to you, but I'm sorry you were so stressed out about it."
"I just feel like now that's always gonna be the first time I called you Mom, and that's not, like, a good memory."
Tobin grinned. "I think it's even better that you did it by accident. It means you meant it."
Christen looked her in the eye until she looked back. "I'm always gonna remember that as a good memory. Or, if you really want, we can pretend it never happened."
Mattie rolled her eyes in concession. "I guess it was kinda funny."
"When do we ever do anything according to plan anyway?"
"Exactly." Christen's smile shrunk slightly. "Speaking about things going awry...Tobin and I wanted to apologize for fighting in front of you."
"It's okay," Mattie said shyly.
"Is there anything you want to say to Tobin about what you said?" Christen nudged.
"I'm sorry I told you to shut up."
"But you really shouldn't be calling your wife a bitch anyway."
Christen covered her mouth with her hand to muffle her laughter.
"I'm just saying..." Mattie shrugged, still leaning up against Tobin.
"You know what, you're right," Tobin conceded, laughing too. "Good job with telling me to shut up."
"I—Tobin," Christen protested, causing Mattie and Tobin to laugh at her exasperation. "How did this start with you defending me and end with you on her side?" she asked Mattie.
"I'm not on anyone's side," Mattie said, sitting up in the middle of the bed to prove her neutrality. "I just don't want to get in trouble."
"You're not in trouble."
"Well...she's a little in trouble," Tobin corrected.
Mattie frowned. "For telling you to shut up?"
"No, for the whole saga this weekend."
Mattie looked contrite. "I'm sorry I was a brat about coming off."
"That's not really what we want to talk about," Christen said gently. "And you're not in trouble. But why did you not want everyone to come to your game?"
"Oh," Mattie said, looking down and shrugging. "I just didn't want it to be a big deal, I guess."
"It was a big deal though," Christen urged. "It was your first game with your new team. And how often do you think Kelley and those guys are gonna get to watch you play?"
"Yeah, but, like...do all of them have to come like that?"
Christen studied her face, which was bashful. "Do you not like that they bring you extra attention? Is that it?"
"No, I just—I don't want them to feel like they have to come watch a dumb U14 game."
"What," Mattie said flatly.
Christen gave her a look and Mattie picked her head up in surprise.
"What? You don't want them to come because you don't want them to waste their time?"
Mattie shrugged in affirmation.
"Yeah...that's too bad. Your grandparents, Allie, Kelley, Alex, everybody—they don't think it's a waste of time. They wanted to come watch you. They're your family, and they want to support you. Mom asked if it's too much attention because we want you to be able to enjoy football like a kid. But if your reason is that you don't want people to come because you want them to be less interested? You're gonna have to suck it up."
Mattie's face looked like she was trying to find a smart retort but getting nothing.
Christen almost laughed at the expression. "I think the response you're looking for is 'Yes, Mom.'"
"Yes, Mom," she parroted.
Tobin smiled leaned in like she was sharing a secret. "Also, just so you know, I don't think anyone who likes the game is gonna consider watching you a waste of time. You're a pretty fun footballer to watch."
Mattie blushed at the compliment, rolling her eyes and looking down at her lap. She mumbled something.
"What was that?" Christen asked.
"I said, 'I learned from the best,'" Mattie said, acting like it caused her physical pain to say it.
"Aww," Tobin in a slightly teasing tone, "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."
"I was talking about Mom," Mattie said, hooking her thumb at Christen without missing a beat. Christen laughed.
"Oh, yeah? Is that why you picked 17 for your number?"
"Alright, hot stuff," Christen challenged, smirking at her wife. "They didn't have 23, so she couldn't pick it."
"Actually..." Mattie started.
Christen gasped in faux offense. "You told me they didn't have it!"
"They didn't. But I more wanted 17 cause like—" She played with her hands in her lap. "I figured since you changed your last name to Press..." She gestured to Tobin. "I just figured that would be me and Sammy's last name when we got adopted."
When she didn't continue, Christen prodded her. "Yeah, it will...unless you don't want it to be?"
"No I do!" she said quickly. "I just figured, you know, when I'm older, it would be cool if I could wear one of your names and one of your numbers on my jersey." She shrugged at the end of her explanation.
Christen and Tobin looked at each other over her head and smiled. "That would be way cool," Tobin offered.
Mattie lifted her head to smile at both of them when all three of them turned toward a very distressed voice in the other room.
"Mommy? Mama? Where are you?" Sam shouted.
"I've got him," Tobin said, groaning as she stood up. She turned back to Mattie before she left. "Hey. I want to be the first person with an autographed 'Mattie Press, 17' jersey, okay?" Instead of waiting for an answer, she kissed the top of Mattie's head and walked to the connecting door.
Christen looked at the clock under the TV, which read 6:38. "Okay, we gotta get moving so you're not late." She looked Mattie in the eye. "Hey, next time we fight," Mattie smiled at her, "can we maybe try to talk it out sooner? I didn't like not talking to you all week."
Mattie nodded and Christen pulled her in for a hug. "I love you."
"I love you too, Mom."
When they arrived at the Social Services office that afternoon, they met Claire in the parking lot.
"Look what I've got!" she greeted, pulling a small manila envelope out of her bag and handing it to Christen.
Tobin peered over as Christen slid two blue booklets out of the sleeve.
"Sweet, lemme see!" Christen handed Tobin the one on top, which she opened and immediately burst out laughing.
"Sammy, you look like you're either gonna start laughing or crying in this."
"Lemme see!" he said, reaching for the passport. He frowned at the picture of himself. "I don't like it."
"Why not? You look cute."
"No, I look like I'm seeing a monster. I want to delete it and take a new one."
The adults laughed. "We can't, honey," Christen explained. "They take a long time to process and we need these to go to France."
"It's fine. We'll probably have to get you a new one when you get adopted and you can take a new picture then."
"Yeah, that one'll be all you guys," Claire said laughing. "Not that I'm not happy to help, but I'll be glad to let you handle the next round."
"Why? Was it hard to get them?" Christen asked.
Claire began to recount a conversation with a particularly unhelpful State Department customer service representative to Mattie and Christen when Sam pulled on Tobin's hand.
"What do you say?"
Tobin bent down so Sam could jump on her back.
"How come I have to get a new passport when you adopt me?"
"Well, your name is gonna change. At least I think."
"My name's not gonna be Sam?" he asked in a concerned voice.
Tobin laughed. "No. Your last name. What's your last name now?" she quizzed.
"García. G-A-R-C-I-A," Sam answered proudly.
"And what's Mommy's last name?"
"Wow, you're pretty good," she said, holding up her hand at shoulder level so he could high-five it. "So, if you and Mattie want, once we finish all the paperwork, all of us will have the last name Press. How does that sound?"
"And match mommy?"
"Yeah. So then," she said, opening up the passport and showing him the front page, "instead of saying 'Samuel Anselmo García', this will say 'Samuel Anselmo Press.' Or maybe 'Samuel García Press'. Or 'Samuel Anselmo García Press.' I don't really know. We'll have to ask Mom."
Sam's eyes went wide. "I don't know if I can spell that," he said, shaking his head.
"But what about you? You should match, too."
"I already match, bud," she said, before backtracking slightly. "Err. Well. I'm gonna match. Same as you."
Sam left her explanation unexamined and started to tell her everything that had happened at school that day.
Once they got inside, they checked in and all sat in maroon chairs with the scratchy material in the waiting room. Besides Sam's continued narration of the three hours he had been away from his mothers and Claire's occasional comment to Christen about what to expect from the meeting, the room was quiet.
After around fifteen minutes, a middle-aged woman with a bob emerged from one of the doors off the waiting room. "Press...Heath...Garcia family?" she questioned as she scanned the top page in the file she was holding.
Five heads looked up at her.
"Come with me."
They followed her into a short hallway and through a door to a small conference room. She took her place on the opposite side of the table and motioned for them to sit.
"My name is Rebecca Holcomb. I'm going to be the handling your case for the foreseeable future. I have a list of things here for us to cover today, so I'll just get started."
The woman's tone was clipped but not cold, like she was more than willing to help but being happy to do so just wouldn't be in her nature. She began by handing them a large stack of forms to fill out, including a number that Mattie would have to get signed in order to leave school early for the year, and walked them through Mattie's minimum grade and attendance requirements to go to France early.
They were almost done with the school requirements when there was a knock at the door.
"Ah, Dr. Kenner, come in," Rebecca said, motioning to a tall woman in tall heels in the doorway. She entered and smiled at the group of them.
"Hi, I'm Dr. Kenner. I'm one of the psychologists here. I'm here to talk to..." she double checked the stack of paper in her hands, "Mattie and Sam? We're just going to do a little check in with each of you to make sure you're ready to move forward. Mattie, if you'll come with me first?"
Mattie got up and followed her out of the room. Rebecca Holcomb continued to hand them paperwork that asked for every single detail about their trip and who Mattie and Sam would be with at every minute. It all started to blur for Tobin, but Christen and Claire were doing most of the talking and she was just trying to read along and sign the papers put in front of her.
After around 15 minutes, Dr. Kenner returned with Mattie and called for Sam.
"Is he okay by himself?" Tobin asked when she saw the uncomfortable look on his face.
"If you want, Claire can come with us," Dr. Kenner offered. "We're just going to the next room."
"Is that okay, Sammy?" Christen asked. He looked between his moms and then Claire's outstretched hand before nervously sliding off the chair.
Rebecca only had a few more forms for them, and after they finished she excused herself to go make them copies of the important documents and Christen continued to sign things. Mattie had been quiet since she had come back from talking to the psychologist.
"Did everything go alright with Dr. Kenner?" Tobin asked tentatively.
Mattie shrugged. "I've met with the state shrinks before. It was the usual deal. She asked if we ever fought and I was gonna lie but she didn't believe me and I ended up telling her about me and Christen's fight."
"Why were you gonna lie?"
"I mean—I don't want to mess this up by making them think you can't get me to behave or something. And everything's fine now, right? So what's the point?"
Tobin looked her in the eye. "You don't have to lie to anyone to get us to pass their test, okay? And you don't need to worry about messing this up. That's impossible."
"That's not true," she grumbled
"I'll make sure it is."
Mattie shook her head. "You can't. That's not how this works." Tobin could see genuine fear in her expression, something she had rarely, if ever, seen before.
"Maybe you're right." Mattie glanced at her. "But I'm gonna do everything I possibly can to make sure I'm legally your mom, no matter what happens. I promise."
She could see her shoulders relax slightly.
Tobin grinned. "And when they don't listen to me, Mom can come and boss them around and we'll definitely get what we want."
Mattie let out a small laugh.
"No lying, though, okay?"
Mattie sighed sarcastically. "Okay, fine."
They waited another few minutes before Sam and Claire came back with Dr. Kenner.
"Alright. Tobin, Christen, if you'll come with me?"
As they stood and started to follow her out of the room, Sam started to look confused and stressed.
"Sam, we're gonna be right back, okay?" Christen assured him.
"Sammy, why don't you come sit with me?" Mattie offered. He still looked slightly unsure but moved around the table to sit in the chair Tobin had just vacated.
Dr. Kenner led them out of the conference room and down to the end of the hall, opening the door and ushering them into her office. She sat in an armchair situated on one side of a large window, and Tobin and Christen took a seat on the couch against the opposite wall.
"Okay," she started. "Let's talk about Mattie and Sam. How do you feel things are going?"
Tobin and Christen looked at each other. "Good," Tobin answered, nodding.
"Why'd you hesitate?" Kenner asked.
She sighed. "It's been a bit of a week," Christen answered for her.
"Tobin, would you agree?"
"Yeah. We've had camp for the past two weeks, and it's been hectic just from a work standpoint. Plus, there was this whole thing with Mattie and her soccer game, and Sam has been waking us up every night and throwing tantrums every time we leave the room."
"Not in, like, a bad way," Christen added quickly. "We have it under control."
"You have what under control?" she said, writing something down.
"Well, we talked to Mattie and she's not mad anymore—she was actually never mad, but that's not really—and then the Sam stuff, we're managing I think."
"He's waking you up every night?"
"He's been sleeping in our bed," Christen explained. "But he'll wake us up to ask or say he has a bad dream."
"And the tantrums?" Kenner asked. "What happens with those? Tobin?"
"Uhhh..." she answered. "Like. When we just left him to come in here. That was almost a tantrum but Mattie distracted him. Pretty much if you tell him one of us is going somewhere, and you don't give him something else to pay attention to, he'll melt down."
She made another note. "You said they happen every time. Do they happen more when leaving him with certain people?"
Tobin and Christen looked at each other and Christen motioned for her to answer it.
"He used to get, like, kinda sad when I would go back to Portland, but it wasn't like a full blown thing. Now it's when either of us leaves to like, go to the bathroom even. Even if one of us is staying with him, he seems kinda stressed out."
"I would say it's worse with like the babysitters or something," Christen posited. "Although it really depends if he's tired, or if you can distract him."
"Yeah," Tobin agreed. "When we had to leave him with like your parents, he was fine once he saw them."
The therapist hummed and wrote a few more things down.
"Okay. That's it!" she said. "Do you have any questions for me?"
"That's it?" Christen asked, confused.
"Unless you'd like to tell me about your—what I heard was a shotgun wedding?"
"Nope, we're cool," Tobin answered.
"Alright. In that case, I think everything's going fine."
"Even with my fight with Mattie and whatever's going on with Sam?" Christen continued.
She shrugged. "With Mattie, she's just a 12-year-old girl. She's going to yell that she hates you sometimes. I would take it as a positive sign that she's already comfortable enough to do that. And as unpleasant as it may be for you, all the behaviors you've described Sam exhibiting are actually a good sign."
Tobin looked at her doubtfully and she sighed.
"Adopted children, especially those who were separated from their parents, or in Sam's case, his grandmother, at an early age, can have trouble forming attachments to new parental figures. His wanting to co-sleep is a sign that he relies on you and feels safer with you. The separation anxiety is normal, too. If he wasn't new to your family, I would maybe say he's a little old to be experiencing this level of it, but with this timeline, I'm not concerned at all. We can keep an eye on it as he's with you longer. Honestly, though, based on earlier notes in their files, it seems like there were concerns that Sam was overly reliant on Mattie, so him shifting this dependence to you is a good sign for his and for Mattie's development."
They both gave her blank stares.
"Relax!" she assured. "You're doing fine."
Christen sighed. "I just don't know how Sam getting this upset all the time can be good for him."
Kenner smiled. "I know. But it's a normal part of development. If you want to try to help lessen the tantrums, you can try to introduce more stability, whether that's a daily routine, or giving him enough heads up before you have to go somewhere. I don't know what a normal day looks like for you guys, though, so I don't know what's feasible."
Tobin smiled. "Yeah, I'm not sure we really have a normal day..."
Open practice the next day was even more of a zoo than usual. Everyone wanted a photo op before the team left for France, and the big names drew even more media. Christen and Alex got starry-eyed at Kamala Harris, who had stopped off her primary campaign to do a fundraiser in town and tried to get them to buy a plate, and a few of the Lakers, including Lebron, who Tobin pretended not to geek out over, and a former Xavier Musketeer, Trevon Bluiett, to whom Rose started reciting his own stats from college.
Laura pulled them together into the locker room after.
"Alright. Welcome to the circus everyone. I think that was a good introduction. I'm not sure if Alex is running for president now but—"
The team laughed and Alex rolled her eyes.
"We're not gonna do a meeting tonight, we're just gonna do dinner at the hotel. Everyone got their assignments and their scouting in the position meetings, so you should be all set. Beating the gameplan to death won't help anyone, it's all down to execution at this point, alright?"
Only Tobin, Christen, Sam, and Christen's parents went to Mattie's game the next morning. Partially because everyone felt bad about what happened the weekend before, but partially just because the rest of the team was getting ready for the game that night. They set up their camp chairs next to Isabella's parents, Melissa and Dan. Tobin was relieved to be introduced to the latter because she couldn't remember if they had met before and she had just forgotten.
"I hope this game isn't as rough as the last one," Christen commented as the teams finished warming up.
"It won't be," Melissa assured. "These girls are mostly in their first year of U14 too, and they aren't as...intense. This probably won't be as exciting of a game, though."
Christen laughed. "I think we're good on excitement."
Isabella started the game, with Mattie and Sophie on the bench. Tobin could immediately see what Melissa meant about the other team, who were clearly outmatched by their side. By the time Mattie subbed in at the 10-minute mark, they were already up 1-0.
Mattie's team was on defense when she came on, but Isabella stole the ball back quickly. She pushed the ball up the left flank and looked up to see Mattie flying up the right toward the opposing team's backline. Izzie booted the ball, well, and it looked like Mattie was going to get there before the defender, but when the ball came down, the defender went up for the header and Mattie moved to give her a wide berth. The second ball fell to another girl on the other team and they started to mount an attack again.
"She just needs to get a touch in," Tobin heard herself say.
Christen hummed in agreement.
In the next few minutes, Tobin thought she was wrong. Mattie got a few touches, but almost immediately gave the ball away, and shied away from making any runs on their end.
Just when Tobin heard Christen start to audibly worry, Mattie got the ball on the wing. She almost immediately dumped it off to Sophie, who had come in a minute before her, but this time she followed her pass through the middle of the pitch and Sophie layed the ball back off to her. There was one defender and a lot of open real estate between her and the goal, and Tobin could see her realize it, putting a touch on the ball like she forgot to be worried when the back of the net was available. She crossed over on the girl in front of her, leaving the poor girl looking as scared as Mattie had been a few minutes ago, and ripped a shot from the 18, spinning it off her foot so it curved into the top left corner of the goal.
Their whole little section yelled. Tobin and Christen both jumped from their seats. Mattie turned around with a huge smile on her face and found them on the sideline. Tobin sent her two thumbs up.
"Thank God," Tobin said when play resumed.
"C'mon," Christen said. "We just told her she doesn't have to score to make us happy."
"I don't care about the goal!" Tobin insisted. "I just—can you imagine the brooding that would've happened if she played the whole game that ball-shy? There aren't enough doors in the world to slam."
Christen laughed. "You're not funny."
"I'm just saying. I'm glad we avoided the angst."
Christen shook her head but smiled in agreement. Mattie's team won 4-1, and she scored another goal before it was over.
"Mattie, how much longer?" Sam asked.
Mattie looked at her phone and back out to where the stadium staff was getting the field ready. "Not too much longer. They should be coming out of there soon." She pointed to the tunnel from the locker rooms that the teams would emerge from. The warmup countdown clock had since stopped, so Mattie's only gauge to answer Sam's question was the official kickoff time.
Sam sighed and leaned into her, and she rested a hand on his hair. He had claimed his seat early next to hers, so Isabella and Sophie and the rest of her team sat in the rest of their row and the one behind them. Christen's parents sat directly in front of her, and Tyler and her family sat further down the row. Their box, like the rest of Banc of California, was nearly full. Mattie's teammates were pointing out celebrities in the other boxes around the stadium, though they had yet to spot either Justins Bieber or Timberlake.
"There they are!" He sat up and pointed to the US and Canadian starters filing out of the tunnel. Mattie had known Tobin and Christen were both starting since the morning, but she still got excited when they lined up and were announced. She was still somewhat nervous about the team's prospects after their performance against Brazil, but she was trying to remain positive.
Her worry only grew in the first 30 minutes of the game. Canada was dominating possession, mostly by beating the US on physicality. Isabella was enjoying yelling about all of the ref's calls (or more accurately, non-calls) that she took issue with, and Sam was mostly bored. Sophie's demeanor mostly mirrored what Mattie was feeling—that the game was starting to get away from them.
She almost turned away when Beckie played a direct ball into Sinc at the top of the box, which Sinc brought down and cut inside with, looking dangerous. Just when Mattie thought she was going to shoot, Sonnett closed her out and got the ball to squirt out onto the flank. Becky got there first, clearing the ball to the midfield line where Lindsey and Quinn went up for the header. Lindsey got higher but shanked the ball so it went nearly out of bounds before Tobin got to it. Tobin fed it up past Crystal, who took it behind the backline on the wing. Crystal crossed the ball to Christen, a little too far toward the end line to shoot, so Christen lofted a ball into Alex who one-timed it off her foot.
The stadium lit up with cheers and music started to play. Mattie stood and clapped and laughed as Sam jumped beside her in celebration. Christen's dad turned around to give everyone within reach high fives. Mattie still didn't think the US was playing their best football, but the momentum had shifted.
Her confidence grew when with a minute left in stoppage, Lindsey played a long ball from behind the midfield line to Christen just above the 18. Christen took the ball down, fluidly put it between Zadorsky's legs, and fired it into the back of the net.
"Mattie, did you see that?" Sam asked dramatically. "Mommy just went—" He imitated Christen's goal and made a bunch of noises to indicate intense action.
Mattie laughed. "Yeah, it was pretty cool, huh?"
Sam continued his admiration as the half wound down and the teams retreated to the locker room. Mattie was much more relaxed throughout the second half, especially once Tobin found Crystal for the third goal of the night. After that, Laura started to sub people off, starting with Christen.
"Honestly, I'm glad," her mom said, sighing. "She said her stitch was healed but if she took another hit..."
The score held at 3-0, despite the US continuing to knock on the door. Mattie was happy to accept another half hour of scoreless soccer for that result.
The mood in the locker room was light after the game. Rose and Lindsey had taken to badgering everyone who would listen that they needed to come out with them to celebrate Mal's 21st properly, despite many of them having early flights the next day.
"Why are you guys all so old!" Mal said when Alex conceded that she would maybe make an appearance for one drink. "Tobin, Christen. You guys are coming, right?"
"Nah, we brought our shit back to the house before the game", so we're going back tonight," Tobin explained. "Also, I think you've recruited all of our potential babysitters anyway."
"Ugh, boring." Mal rolled her eyes and sighed melodramatically. "I can't wait until Mattie has a fake ID so she can come party with us."
Tobin pointed sternly at her. "I know you're just trying to push my buttons, but...it's working. So stop."
Mal made eye contact with Christen behind Tobin and they started to laugh.
"Babe!" Tobin protested. "Don't encourage her!"
Tobin rolled her eyes and accepted her defeat. "Have fun tonight, Mal. Be safe."
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," Christen added.
Mal started to walk away to pester more of their teammates. "That leaves a lot of stuff!"
"I didn't say you shouldn't have fun!"
Tobin walked over and surveyed her locker. "Ready? I'm exhausted."
"Ugh. I can't wait to finally have a morning where we can sleep in."
Beeep beep beep. 'Fire. Fire.'
Beeep beep beep. 'Fire. Fire.'
Christen thought the alarm was part of her dream and bolted awake in bed when she realized it wasn't.
Tobin turned over and sat up next to her, "Wha..."
"Is it coming from downstairs?"
Christen jumped out of bed and ran to Mattie's room and opened the door. She found the bed empty and unmade and turned around to find Tobin giving her a blank stare from the doorway of Sam's room. They both rushed down the stairs and followed the loud beeping all the way back into the kitchen. Christen burst into the room first and took in the scene before her. Sam was sitting on the counter with his hands over his ear and his face covered in chocolate. There was a frying pan on the stove with a half cooked pancake in it, and a pile of what she surmised was charred pancake batter on the stove. Mattie was waving a dishtowel at the smoke detector when they walked in but stopped to turn and look at them guiltily.
Tobin walked around her to open the windows, and Christen grabbed the sponge from the sink and wiped the charred batter into a paper towel to dump down the disposal. Tobin grabbed a chair from the island and climbed up on it to silence the alarm.
"Mattie..." Tobin said slowly, climbing down from the chair. "Is there a reason you needed to make pancakes this early?"
"You could've woken one of us up if you were hungry," Christen added as she began to wipe Sam's hands and face and really entire head with a wet paper towel. "I don't like you using the stove without one of us down here."
"No, you can't," Sam explained through Christen's efforts. "It's mommies' day so we have to make it and bring it to you while you're still asleep."
Christen and Tobin both turned to look at Mattie, who looked very upset that her surprise had been ruined.
"For mother's day?" Christen asked. "Mattie, you didn't have to—"
"I mean I just wanted—"
"It's really sweet. Thank you."
Tobin pulled her into a bear hug. "Thanks, Mattie!"
"Well now it's ruined," she said glumly.
Christen tried not to laugh at how sweet she found Mattie's sense of defeat.
"Go back upstairs!" Mattie demanded.
"And have to run back down when the fire alarm goes off again?" Tobin teased. "How about "
"Hold on," Christen said, picking Sam up off the counter and handing him to Tobin. "I'll be right back."
She hustled to the stairs and started to take them two at a time until she realized how sore she was from the game. She climbed to the top more slowly, walked into her and Tobin's room, and gathered all the pillows and the comforter off their bed. She carried them downstairs and dumped them onto on side of the couch, pulled the cushions onto the floor and arranged the pillows and bedding so they could all fit. She walked back into the kitchen.
Tobin had the stove back on and was spraying the frying pan with Pam while Mattie watched.
"Okay, babe. We're not gonna help."
Tobin looked up at her questioningly and Christen motioned for her to follow into the living room. Tobin laughed when she saw the pillows and blankets. Mattie and Sam entered the room behind her.
"Are we making a fort?" Sam asked.
"Not quite a fort," Christen replied. "Just a breakfast-in-bed bed where we can still hear—and smell—everything that's going on in the kitchen."
Mattie looked over the arrangement and smiled. "This works," she said, turning back to the kitchen to return to her mission. Sam followed behind her as fast as he could manage.
Tobin smiled at her softly and moved to rest her hands on Christen's hips.
"Did you hear that?" Christen whispered. "'This works'? I feel so validated."
"Mom of the year award, for sure." Tobin grinned. She leaned in to kiss her. "C'mon." She pulled Christen over to the setup and down onto one of the cushions. They were barely settled in when Sam appeared in the doorway holding a mug with both hands.
"Sammy, what is that?"
"Do you need help?" Tobin asked, starting to stand up.
"No! You have to stay in bed!" he said, looking horrified.
"Okay, okay. I'm staying," she conceded.
Sam continued to shuffle towards them and Tobin edged to the absolute border of what could still be considered their 'bed.' Christen winced when a little of the contents of the mug spilled over the side. Finally, he was close enough for Tobin to reach out and take the coffee from him. She sipped a little off the top, then turned and gave it to Christen. Sam turned and skipped back toward the kitchen.
"Mattie," Tobin yelled. "Don't fill the next one up as much, I don't want him to spill."
"Okay!" she called back.
Sam continued to shuttle back and forth between the kitchen, bringing out the necessities for their breakfast. Eventually, Mattie emerged too, carrying a plate stacked with pancakes, and they all grabbed a plate and some food.
"Thank you, Mattie. And Sam." Christen said in between bites.
"Yeah, this is really good, guys. Thanks."
Mattie blushed. "I mean it's mother's day," she explained, clearing her throat slightly. "And, y'know, you're our moms so..."
Christen smiled at Tobin. "That we are."