Cindy Rogers, right, and Muggsie Mackintosh line-dance at the Suncoast Resort Hotel in St. Petersburg.
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Cindy Rogers, left, and Muggsie Mackintosh were on the soccer team together in 1982 at John F. Kennedy High in Iselin, N.J.
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They met three times. On the bench. In the cafeteria. Through the mail.
It took them almost two decades to figure it out.
Now they say they should've known all along.
On the sidelines
Muggsie Mackintosh was a terrible soccer player. Cindy Rogers was worse. They met a week before ninth grade, during practice for the junior varsity squad at John F. Kennedy High in Iselin, N.J. They were sitting the bench.
That year, they both sat the bench.
While the other girls shot and scored and cheered and high-fived, Muggsie and Cindy stayed on the sidelines, feeling left out. By the end of the season, they had become friends. Not the sleep-over-at-each-other's-house, share-your-deepest-secrets, write-about-in-your-diary kind of friends.
Just someone to warm the bench with.
The next spring, while Muggsie was eating chocolate chip cookies during lunch, Cindy walked up and whacked her over the head with her biology book. Hard.
"That should've been a clue," Cindy says. "After all, it was biology."
The grease spot
Their first date was to the Junior Cotillion. Sort of.
"I went with Anthony," Cindy says.
"I went with Paul."
"And I wore this dress made out of doilies, or something hideous. It was white."
"Pink," Muggsie says.
"Well, yours was terrible, too: taffeta, with those big, poofy sleeves."
"And a pastel rainbow across the front."
Back when a rainbow was just a rainbow.
When dinner was served in the school cafeteria, the girls sat across from each other, their dates by their sides.
Cindy didn't want her chicken.
Muggsie said she'd have it.
So Cindy flung the breaded breast across the table - splat - into Muggsie's shiny lap.
"You never could catch," Cindy says.
After high school, Cindy got a degree in marketing. Then an apartment outside Edison, N.J.
Muggsie became a software analyst and moved to Florida.
They lost touch.
They were both busy searching.
Each had felt, from adolescence, that she was different. Out of place. Not sure how to fit in with giggling, gossiping girls. Through high school and college, those feelings grew stronger. While their friends were dating, getting married, having babies, they were . . . not.
Finally, in 1995, Muggsie's dad asked her. He was dying of emphysema. He needed to know.
She had never said it out loud. But now that he knew, she told him: yes.
Muggsie's dad accepted it. Her mom blew up. But then, Muggsie's mom had never even accepted her nickname. She still calls her 36-year-old daughter Margaret, three decades after Muggsie's brother gave her the more popular moniker.
While Muggsie was still coming out, an invitation arrived in the mail. Kennedy High wasn't planning a reunion, so a classmate was trying to get together 40 long-lost friends. "Join us at the Landmark Inn," said the card.
The signature was from Cindy. They hadn't seen each other in 10 years.
They talked and hugged and line-danced across the hotel ballroom. They reminisced about being bench warmers. They laughed about the biology book and the greasy chicken.
But Muggsie didn't tell Cindy, or any of her high school classmates, that she was a lesbian.
She didn't think they'd understand.
For the next couple of years, Muggsie and Cindy wrote back and forth. But Muggsie was still in Florida. Cindy was still in New Jersey. Like most old friends, they didn't keep up that often.
Then Cindy wrote Muggsie saying she'd been doing some soul-searching. "I'm going through a lot right now," Cindy wrote, without explaining. "There's something different going on."
Muggsie knew right away. She wrote right back. "I've been out for a couple of years myself and I'm in a happy relationship with another woman," Muggsie wrote.
"You're welcome to come visit us here in Florida."
On bended knee
Two months later, Muggsie sent Cindy roses. Cindy told her never to do that again.
Two months after that, they were living together.
They've been together six years now.
Three years ago, on Valentine's Day, Muggsie ordered Chinese food and got down on one knee. She gave Cindy a beaded ring she'd made. She asked her to be hers forever.
Last Valentine's Day, Cindy agreed.
Side by side
They wear matching silver wedding rings, share clothes and a red Chevy Cavalier. They go line-dancing on Friday nights and flea-market hopping on Saturday mornings. They just moved into a house they had built in Pinellas Park.
They're talking about having children.
They don't care if they have a boy or a girl.
They won't push the kid to play soccer.
But if he or she does, they'll be there on the sidelines, side by side.