I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 4: Disclosures
by S X Meagher
See Part 1
As they raced up the hill, Ryan yelled ahead to Duffy, "Hey, no fair, you've got four legs. I should get a head start." As though he understood her entreaty, he crested the hill and waited patiently until his mistress caught up. "Thanks, pal," she said fondly as she bent over to ruffle his fur.
They had been trudging up and down the hills for nearly an hour. It was just past six now, and Ryan's stomach was growling fiercely. "We'd better head home, boy. With any luck, Conor's started breakfast."
To her severe disappointment, not only had Conor not started breakfast, he was nowhere to be found. He'd better show up on time. I need to warm up a little bit before we play, she groused. Her sour mood lightened appreciably when Jamie's sleepy head poked up from the lower stairwell.
"Hi, Honey," she mumbled, scratching her head absently. "Did you have a good run?"
Ryan walked over by the stairs and greeted her lover with her second kiss of the day, this time to a sentient being. Yeah, we did. My legs were really dead by the last few miles, though." She looked down at her uncooperative legs as if they would provide the reason for their reluctance to attack the hills with their normal gusto.
"I think it might be your workouts, Honey," she opined, laughing to herself at Ryan's inability to acknowledge that she'd had a killer of a week.
Ryan gave her a little smirk, acknowledging that she had been putting a different kind of stress on her body. "Maybe I'm too old to do this."
"Yeah, right. You did three major workouts this week, Baby, and two of them were on the same morning! That would knock most people out. I think you should be pleased that you're just a little slow today."
I didn't say I was slow. Ryan shot her a nearly petulant look, a bit offended by the mere suggestion. I said my legs felt dead. Just because they didn't feel right doesn't mean I demanded any less from them.
Jamie took her hand and tugged her into the kitchen, smiling to herself at her partner's stoic nature. She urged Ryan to sit at the counter while she poured her a large glass of juice. As she handed it to her, Jamie leaned over and kissed each of the cool, damp thighs. I'm sorry she's so rough on you, guys. I'll try to make it up to you later with a nice massage.
Don't spoil 'em, Ryan laughed, slapping at each muscled leg. They'll start expecting it. She laughed at her own inability to go easy on herself, but she had a genuine worry that she might not be able to perform as well as she used to, and she felt like she needed to give voice to that fear. "I know you're teasing, but I have to be realistic, Jamie. I don't have the same body that I had in high school, and I think I'm going to have to learn to demand a little less from myself."
Once again wishing that she had known her partner years earlier, Jamie said, "That works for me." She walked over to Ryan and slid her arms around her wet body. "I have a lot of demands to make on this gorgeous body, and I'm not willing to accept a poor performance. I need you to get as much rest as possible to meet my high standards."
"You have really turned into a stern taskmistress, haven't you?" Ryan smiled up at her grinning face as she returned the hug.
"You have a coach to keep you motivated in your other sports. I'm just taking over in the bedroom."
"Now those are the outfits that I really like," Ryan said with a big smile.
Conor came barreling into the kitchen, stopping short when he saw the embrace they were locked in. "Jeez, do you two ever give it a rest?"
"And you were out doing what all night?" Ryan asked innocently.
"Aahh, good point," he admitted. "Who's making breakfast? I'm starved."
"Let's get ready and have breakfast at the club," Jamie suggested. "They have a really good buffet."
The siblings exchanged quick glances as they each took off for their respective showers, leaving Jamie standing in the middle of the living room. "I guess that was a yes?" she called out to the empty room.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
At 7:50 Jamie tried to drag the siblings away from the breakfast buffet. "All you can eat isn't necessarily a challenge," she finally said in exasperation.
"Almost done." Ryan grinned up at her, cheeks still as full as a chipmunk's.
"Maybe we could just skip golf and stay here and eat," Conor suggested hopefully.
Do they have doggie bags? Brendan's eyes wandered up and down the lavish buffet, truly upset that he did not have the opportunity to sample each dish.
"Let's go, you gluttons. Jamie's chiding tone did not match the fond grin that covered her face, and the O'Flaherty siblings knew that she was merely teasing them. I thought you wanted to warm up this time, Ryan."
"I'm plenty warm from jumping up every two minutes to get more of these little muffins," she admitted with a grin.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Conor was finally allowed his long-held wish to witness Jamie's swing. But after the match, he admitted he should have been happy to merely hear about it. "If we'd been playing for money, you would have cleaned me out!" he moaned as they sat in the Grill waiting for their lunch to be delivered.
Jamie just smiled and soaked up the praise. She was extremely pleased with the way she had played, and she felt confident about her plans to try out for the team. She reached over and patted his hand as she said, "I just had a good day, Conor. I'm sure you'll take me next time."
"I don't think so, Jamie. I'm going to have to get used to my sister beating me in almost every sport and my sister-in-law beating me in golf. It's a darn good thing I'm secure in my masculinity."
Brendan chuckled at that. Does my kicking your butt threaten your masculinity? His bright blue eyes were filled with mirth, and it made Jamie smile to see how the gentle teasing never seemed to bother any of the O'Flaherty children.
Not a bit, Conor insisted. You're my older brotheryou should have some of the privileges of seniority.
As Jamie got up to go wash her hands, she leaned over and wrapped her arms around Conor from behind. She gave him a playful hug, rubbing her cheek against his 12 o'clock shadow. "You just ooze masculinity, Conor," she teased. Her hug had mussed his hair a bit, and she neatened it up, placing another kiss atop his head when she was satisfied. As she turned to walk away, she felt a hand upon her back. Spinning around, she stood face to face with her father. "Daddy!" she cried as she threw her arms around him.
"I had no idea you were playing today, Honey," he said as he squeezed her back. "We've missed you, Jamie," he added softly.
"I've missed you too, Daddy," she said sincerely. "Can you sit with us?"
"I have a few minutes," he said as he moved around to meet the boys. "I'm Jim Evans," he said, shaking Conor's hand. All three of the O'Flahertys had risen when Jim appeared, and Ryan extended her hand also.
"These are my brothers, Conor and Brendan, she indicated as he shook each man's hand in turn.
"I think I would have guessed that if I'd had a moment, Ryan," he said with a grin. Looking between Ryan and Conor he asked the inevitable. "Are you twins?"
"No, sir. Conor is significantly older than I am." She gave her brother a playful pat on the back as he rolled his eyes dramatically.
"Ryan insults me, and Jamie humiliates me on the course. I'm beginning to get a complex."
Sitting down, Jim smiled at his daughter and asked, "I take it your game is doing well?"
"Yeah, it's coming along pretty well," she said modestly.
"Don't let her get away with being modest, Mr. Evans," Ryan began, but was quickly interrupted.
"You agreed to call me Jim, Ryan, remember?
"Right. I'll do that, Jim." She returned his friendly smile and relaxed a bit, the tension starting to fade from her body.
Conor joined in, "I play pretty well, Jim, and Jamie thrashed me today. We played from the white tees and she out-drove me on every hole. I've never played with a woman who can hit it like she did today."
Jamie blushed furiously under the weight of this praise. "Since I've gotten stronger, I have a lot more power," she said frankly, but humbly.
"Well, I can't wait to play tomorrow," Jim said. "Nothing would make me happier than to have my little girl beat me at my own game."
"Unless you're ready for the Tour, you should be downright giddy by tomorrow afternoon," Conor warned.
Jim got up to leave when he saw his playing partners enter the room. He gave them a wave and held up a finger, indicating that he would be right with them. "Did everything go well down at the beach, girls?"
Both women nodded enthusiastically. "I had a marvelous time, Jim. I can't thank you enough for your hospitality."
"Did you give my cars a little workout?" he asked with a smile.
"I sure did. I spaced them out over two days to prolong the pleasure," she admitted. Conor came down to give me a ride home on Saturday, and he got to share a little of the enjoyment.
"Excellent! I love being able to share them with people who appreciate them."
"I've never met anyone who appreciates cars more than Ryan," Jamie said.
"But I taught her everything she knows about them," Conor said as he patted his sister's hand.
"You'll have to come down and hang out in my garage someday, Conor. I'm always looking for another aficionado."
"That would be a thrill," he said sincerely, his eyes dancing at the thought of being able to hang out with someone who could afford the toys he had always dreamed of.
Well, I've got to get moving, but it was a pleasure to meet you both and to see you again, Ryan." He shook each sibling's hand, and gave Jamie a kiss on the cheek. I'll see you tomorrow morning, Cupcake. Is 11 o'clock okay?
Sure. I'll see you then, Daddy.
As he walked away in search of his playing partners, Conor stared after him with the lovesick look of an adolescent girl. Gosh, he's dreamy, he said wistfully, just managing to duck the quick backhand his older brother sent his way.
I hate to disappoint you, Conor, Jamie teased, but if he was going to be a sugar daddy I think he'd choose a woman.
Keep you face neutral, Ryan. Don't you dare let on how much truth there is in that statement!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
By three o'clock they had showered and were resting in their room. Ryan had on her board shorts and one of her undershirts, this one in white. Jamie was wearing a tiny little cotton batik dress in shades of tangerine and white that showed off her tanned, toned legs. They had taken a power nap as soon as they got home, so they were rested as well as clean. "What do you want to do for the rest of the day?" Jamie asked over the whine of the blow dryer as she finished her hair.
Ryan was lounging on the small chintz love seat that sat opposite her bed. She had both feet up on the cushion, with her arms wrapped around her shins, the pose vaguely reminiscent of Caitlin. "I don't know. I guess we should get to work on our graduate school applications. I have all the stuff here." Her tone conveyed her lack of excitement at the prospect, but Jamie knew that Ryan rarely let her feelings about a task be a factor in whether she tackled it or not.
"That doesn't sound like much fun. Is that really the best that you can come up with for a Saturday afternoon?" She went over to sit next to Ryan on the love seat and rested her hand on Ryan's knee.
"No, I can think of lots more. We could go get the baby and take her for a long walk--I'm sure she misses both of us. We could take Duffy to the park and throw his tennis ball for a while--he's got to have a lot of excess energy stored up. We could wash Da's truckI usually do that if I'm free on a Saturday. We could take our bikes out of the shipping cartons. We co " but she was cut off by a pair of lips plastered against hers.
"Can't you think of anything we could do inside?" The invitation was plain in Jamie's voice, as well as in the way that her hands began to slide slowly up and down Ryan's bare arms.
"We could start dinner," she said, being intentionally obtuse, just because she felt like playing.
"Think harder," Jamie purred as she pulled her head over for another deep kiss.
Ryan blinked as she sat up, and smacked her lips together to get her mouth working again. "We could do some laundry."
"Uh-uh," Jamie purred in her deepest voice. "Let's do something down here."
"I haven't dusted down here in weeks." Ryan's innocent look encouraged Jamie to continue the gamenow determined to wipe that look off her partner's face.
"Nope. Doesn't appeal to me," she whispered, her breath tickling Ryan's neck as she leaned over and sucked on a tender little earlobe.
Ryan drew in a sharp breath, and she felt her nipples tighten, but she kept her focus. "I have the fall schedule on my desk. We could make sure our course work fits together well."
"Not even warm," Jamie breathed as she started at her exposed collarbones and licked a wet path up to her chin.
The trail beneath Jamie's foraging tongue not being the only place that was getting wet, Ryan gulped audibly, but she managed to squeak out, "Clean the bathroom?"
Jamie pushed Ryan's feet to the ground as she slid onto her lap, straddling her. She was not wearing a stitch under her dress, and Ryan gasped as she felt silky, damp curls slide over her thigh. Jamie grasped her head with both hands and held it steady as she devoured her mouth with deep, probing kisses, not lightening the intensity until Ryan began to whimper under the assault. Jamie pulled away with an audible smack as she broke the suction between their mouths. "I want to do something where we get hot, and wet and messy," she whispered seductively, her warm tones causing chills to run up and down Ryan's spine.
"We could give Duffy a bath," she replied weakly, her voice quavering from the strain of her arousal.
"No dogs. Just you and me," Jamie murmured as she bent to lick her way across Ryan's collarbones and down her shoulders, stopping to suck in a bit of skin as she blazed her trail.
"Hot and wet and messy, huh?" she rasped out. "I'm stumped." Ryan was nearly ready to hurl her lover to the bed and ravish her, but she enjoyed being seduced in such a playful way. She was doing her best to hold on as long as possible, but she knew it wouldn't be too much longer.
Jamie gave her a final kiss and slid off her lap. She sat down on her side of the love seat and raised her legs, imitating Ryan's earlier position. "Do I have to spell it out for you?"
"'Fraid so," she said regretfully, as she grabbed her shorts to pull them away from her throbbing vulva, her fingers lingering just a moment longer than was absolutely necessary. "I don't have a clue."
Jamie gave her a sultry look as she slowly spread her legs apart. Ryan practically spasmed from the completely erotic vision of her lover in that tiny little dress with her legs splayed apart lewdly. Jamie's gaze commanded Ryan's attention and she watched, transfixed, as her normally more conventional partner slid one hand between her legs to hold herself open, while the other slowly trailed up and down her deep pink folds. Her half-closed eyes stayed locked on her lover's but she was obviously having trouble maintaining the gaze. Does this give you any ideas? Her voice was rough and deep with need, and it took every ounce of Ryan's self-control to slowly shake her head, finding it devastatingly erotic to watch Jamie excite herself this way.
No ideas at all? she whispered, her eyelids fluttering closed as she sucked in a ragged breath. Her index finger was drawing teasing patterns all over her shiny pink skin, and Ryan leaned over a little to be able to watch more closely, fascinated by the way her partner was touching herself. Her long, dark hair brushed against Jamie's thighs and green eyes shot open at the contact. Seeing Ryan's fascinated stare brought a smile to her lips and she asked again, Still not coming up with anything, Baby?
Ryan cleared her throat and murmured, I must be hungry again, 'cause all of a sudden my mouth is watering.
You go get something to eat, Jamie gasped, as her index finger was joined by two more of the lucky digits, and her pace picked up noticeably. I'll be right here when you get back. Her hips tilted just a bit, and she bit her lip and let out a ragged gasp as her finger slipped lower and played lightly at her opening.
All resolve left Ryan's body and she jumped to her feet and yanked her shirt off, then unlaced her shorts in a blur and kicked them off roughly. As she sat back down next to Jamie she started to place her hand next to her lover's to join in the exploration. But Jamie pushed her away, gasping out, "I've got it, Honey. You can go wash the dog."
Ryan sat up in surprise at this development, but she was more than willing to alter the rules of their little game at any time. She immediately snatched the bait. "Let me touch you," she begged. "I promise you'll like it."
"I'm sure I would," she got out with some difficulty. "But...unh, I'm doing fine," she said as her fingers began to stroke a little more quickly.
"C'mon, Baby," Ryan whispered in her ear, stealing a quick taste of the sweet earlobe. "Let me...you know you love my touch."
"Sure I do," she gasped, "but I'm almost there..."
"C'mon, Jamie," she said as her arms slid around her waist and nuzzled her neck. "Let me touch you. Give it up for me, Baby."
"UUUNNNNNHHH!" she huffed as her hips began to thrust firmly against her blurring hand. Ryan dove for the floor and grabbed her legs, pulling them towards herself until the pulsating flesh was pressed against her mouth. She dipped her head and began to firmly lick and suck on the now throbbing clit. Within moments she felt the second climax build in her lover's body. She held her tight and kept up the pressure until she exploded again, much more vocally this time. But Ryan was still not satisfied. She waited until the spasms had stilled, and then she bent to taste her again. She started off much more slowly, gently laving every sensitive inch of flesh. Jamie urged her on enthusiastically, grasping her head and grinding it against herself as her hips jerked and thrust. Ryan focused her attentions on the center of her pleasure, loving the little nub with her determined tongue. After she sucked her entire clitoris into her mouth Jamie's body became rigid for mere seconds. Her voice started low in her chest and increased in volume and pitch as she screamed, "Oh baby, oh baby! Yes! Yes! YES! OHHHHH GOD!!"
Her body shook and quivered as she continued to move her hips against Ryan's face. The crinkly hairs tickled the larger woman's nose, but she doggedly fought the urge to sneeze. She held completely still and let Jamie control the pressure, smiling inwardly as her lover continued the gentle movement, just barely rubbing herself against Ryan's happy mouth.
After a long while, she relaxed completely, and Ryan tried to imagine how they must look. Jamie was slumped down so completely that her hips were no longer on the seat. Her legs were hanging over Ryan's shoulders and her dress was pooled up under her breasts. Ryan was completely naked, kneeling on the floor with her face still trapped between Jamie's thighs. She was almost certain that her lover was spent, but just for good measure she ran her tongue up her swollen inner lips. The soft tongue was nearing the locus of Jamie's pleasure when firm hands grabbed Ryan's hair and held her head in a vise grip. "Don't even think about it," came the stern command. Ryan chuckled and delicately dried her mouth on Jamie's wide-open thighs.
She got to her feet with a groan, her muscles complaining about the uncomfortable position she had forced them to maintain. As she rose, she grasped Jamie's limp hands and pulled her to her unsteady feet. A small moan of protest escaped from her lips but she went along quietly when Ryan stooped to pick her up. Ryan carried her precious bundle to the bed, settling her softly onto the worn quilt that covered the surface. Holding Jamie upright with one hand, she efficiently tugged her dress over her head before she allowed her to collapse limply. Ryan smiled fondly at her partner, not surprised that she was nearly sound asleep already. She snuggled up next to her and pulled her close to her body, holding her in her arms until she sank into a deep sleep.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A half-hour later, Jamie blinked her eyes open to find Ryan's smiling face looking down at her. "Hi," she said, a yawn escaping her mouth along with the greeting. "Whatcha thinking?"
"I was thinking about how incredibly happy I am," she said with a gentle smile, trailing her index finger across Jamie's features, following each dip and curve.
"How happy are you?" Jamie asked, letting out a little grunt as she turned over and rested her chin on her palms.
"I'm happier than I think I've ever been," Ryan said honestly, lying down flat on the bed and gazing at the ceiling contemplatively. "I was lying here with you in my arms, all cuddled up tight. There was a gentle, warm breeze blowing over us and the sun was making pretty little patterns on your skin. I'd just made love with you, and I could smell your delightful scent every time the breeze blew by my face. A feeling of complete and utter contentment came over me. It was kind of a God moment, she said softly, smiling down at her lover. "Do you know what I mean?"
Jamie gave her a warm smile and said simply, "Yes, I think I do." She turned towards Ryan and placed several delicate kisses on her lips. I've had moments where I feel like I'm experiencing some kind of peak sensation. Like a form of perfection.
Ryan nodded slightly, pleased that her partner understood what she was speaking of. It was a perfectly peaceful moment, Jamie. I felt completely loved completely happy. There wasn't one thing that I could add to make the experience more perfect. It felt like I imagine God intended us to experience love.
Jamie was too touched to speak, so she rolled over onto her back and lifted her arm, urging Ryan to rest her head against her chest. She slid her fingers into the long, black hair and massaged Ryan's head for a few moments, humming softly as she did so. I have those moments too, she whispered after a long while, finally trusting her voice. I've never thought about them as God moments, but that describes them perfectly. It's a wonderful gift you've given me, Ryan letting me see God in you.
Ryan graced her with a beatific smile, tucking her head back down after their eyes had shared the moment. Jamie continued to stroke her head, the tune coming to her again as she once again hummed softly into her lover's ear. It didn't take long for the soothing head rub and the gentle song to lull Ryan to sleep, her left hand rising unbidden to gently cover Jamie's breast.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan didn't sleep long, but she still needed to complete her entire stretching routine, to the delight of Jamie's appreciative gaze. She was almost finished when her frisky lover pushed her onto her back and fixed her with a devilish gleam in her eyes. "Now where were we," she asked as she started to attack her lover's lips.
Ryan returned her kisses and softly grasped Jamie's hands when they started to stray. "I'm gonna need a little longer to reload," Ryan said with a slight blush coloring her cheeks.
"I did," she admitted with a guilty little smirk as she shrugged her shoulders. "I couldn't help myself."
"Oh, you poor baby," she said as she rubbed her hand down Ryan's arm. I fell asleep on you when you were all turned on. I'm so sorry, Honey.
"I didn't mind," she said happily. "It's been weeks since I flew solo. It was kinda nice."
Jamie tweaked her nose and gave her a mock scowl. "Are you implying that you can live without my talented hands?
"Nope. I need your hands like I need air. But touching myself reminded me of when I was young and used to race home from school to do it."
This was when? Jamie asked, an impish grin covering her face. Kindergarten?
Ryan rolled her eyes at her partner's exaggeration. No, wise guy, she laughed. I'd say sixth grade.
Jamie laughed at that little fact. I'm quite sure I didn't know that I even had a clitoris in sixth grade. You've got me beat by at least three years.
Ryan gave her a satisfied smirk and declared, I'm an overachiever.
"Of that I'm certain, Jamie agreed, getting a good tickle in on her partner's ribs. Why do you think touching yourself made you think of that?"
"I used to daydream about having someone I loved in bed with me. Today I had just what I'd dreamed of."
Tell me about your dreams, Jamie begged, fascinated by this revelation.
Ryan stared at the ceiling for a moment, trying to summon her inner twelve-year-old. I didn't have real specific dreams, she recalled. I just dreamed about being held and kissed. I wasn't real sure what people did in bed, but I knew there had to be a lot of touching involved, and I was all in favor of that.
They both laughed at this scenario, silently acknowledging that Ryan's tastes hadn't strayed far from that fantasy. Were your fantasies always like that? Jamie was absently playing with the soft skin on Ryan's forearm, tracing the faint blue veins that barely showed under the skin.
Hardly. Ryan laughed, assuming that her partner was joking. When she saw that she wasn't, she explained. My fantasies changed as I grew up, Honey. I'd have to say that I generally fantasize about something I'd like to do, but haven't been able to accomplish.
Like? The look on Jamie's face was one of pure fascination, and Ryan smiled at the interest her lover was showing in the smallest details of her life.
Like Ryan drawled, I'd think about touching a woman's breasts when I was in high school. I didn't make the connection that I was gaythey just seemed very erotic to me.
Me too, Jamie happily agreed.
Ryan smiled at her, acknowledging the truth of that statement. My fantasies just kinda kept pace with what I did. The last few years I'd usually fantasize about having unprotected sex. God I missed that! She barked out a laugh that slowly turned to a confused look, then into shock. Shit! she cried, sitting up completely, her eyes wide with alarm.
Honey, what's wrong? Jamie sat up also and placed her hand on Ryan's arm, trying to figure out what had her partner so spooked.
Shit! Ryan cried again, hopping out of bed to pace in a tight circle. I can't believe I did that!
Ryan RYAN! That got her attention, and the agitated woman stopped and stared at her partner with a resigned look of self-contempt.
I lied to you, Jamie. I told you I had not had unprotected sex in yearsI lied to you.
She looked so bereft that Jamie went to her and wrapped her in a hug. Tell me, Baby. Tell me what happened.
Ryan was obviously very angry with herself, and she shrugged out of Jamie's embrace and nearly flung herself onto the loveseat. You know about the incident, she muttered. It was that woman in the vintage clothing store on Telegraph. Remember?
Jamie nodded, clearly recalling Ryan's description of the extremely casual sexual encounter with the shop owner. Go on, she urged.
I had unprotected sex with her, Ryan muttered, providing no useful information at all.
I understand that, Jamie said, sitting down on the bed to give her partner some space. I just don't understand why you're so upset about it.
Ryan looked at her like she was daft. Because I lied to you!
Ryan, Jamie soothed. Did you intentionally lie to me?
Of course not, she muttered, acknowledging that she would never do such a thing about an important issue. It I I'm just mad at myself for doing something stupid like that. I just wasn't in my right mind at the time.
Now Jamie was puzzled. She distinctly remembered that Ryan told her this encounter took place in the store, right before school started last year. She also remembered that the woman didn't touch Ryan sexually, so she could not understand the comment about not being in her right mind. Were you drunk?
Drunk? Once again, Ryan gave her a puzzled stare. It was the middle of the afternoon, Jamie, and I haven't been drunk in years.
Were you doing drugs? They had never discussed drug use, but Jamie was nearly certain that Ryan would not abuse her body or her mind with untested substances.
Now Ryan's puzzlement grew. Drugs? I've never done drugs in my life!
For God's sake, Ryan, then will you tell me what in the hell you're talking about? I'm out of guesses!
Ryan rubbed at her face with her hands, realizing that she was being unresponsive, but not really wanting to talk about this issue right now. I'm sorry, Honey, she said softly, as she patted the seat next to her. Come sit by me and I'll explain.
Jamie did as she was asked, placing her hand on the top of Ryan's spine when the taller woman leaned over to brace her forearms atop her knees. It was right before school started, she said softly, providing facts that Jamie already knew. I hadn't been with anybody since the accident.
Jamie nearly asked what accident Ryan was referring to, but she quickly realized she was talking about being gay-bashed. Remembering that the attack occurred just after the AIDS Ride, Jamie murmured, That was a long time, Baby.
I know, Ryan conceded. It happened around the third week of June, and I didn't feel like having anyone touch me for at least six weeks. I couldn't work, of course, and I kinda lost my normal support network since I didn't see my friends at work or at the clubs. It's hard to explain, Jamie, but I didn't feel like myself for a very long time. It wasn't just the pain or the discomfortI felt like those guys took something very important from me.
Thinking of what an attack like that would do to her, Jamie posited, Did they take your sense of safety and security?
Ryan shook her head. No, they took my confidence. I didn't feel confident about myself, or my abilities. I started to doubt that I'd ever feel sexual again. She closed her eyes and shook her head harder, her long dark hair cascading down her shoulders as she did so. I had absolutely no interest in seeing any of my buddies, and meeting someone new was actually terrifying for me. I just spent a lot of time reading and sitting at the parkI had totally turned inward.
What snapped you out of it? Jamie asked, recalling the supremely confident woman she'd met in late August.
Ryan laughed ruefully, as she admitted, Being with that woman in the shop, to be honest. I didn't have time to think, or worry, or be afraid that she'd want to talk about it.
It became clear to Jamie why her partner did not take solace with any of her regular buddies. They were obviously worried about her, and would have naturally wanted to see how she was doingsomething that Ryan apparently hadn't been able to handle. Then you should be glad that you had that encounter with her, Jamie soothed, running her hand up and down Ryan's back.
I guess I am, she admitted. I'm just mad at myself for having unsafe sex. I didn't even stop to think about it, to tell you the truth. I'd spent years counseling kids to avoid the situations where they feel out of control, and the first time I'm in the same situation, I gave in immediately.
Honey, don't be so hard on yourself, Jamie soothed. Do you remember what you were thinking?
Ryan nodded. I needed the intimacy, she said softly. I needed to touch someone in the most intimate way I could. I needed to taste another living being to remind myself that I was alive. I didn't just want to give her a sexual release, I needed to fill myself up with her tasteeven though I didn't know her. The mere fact that she was alive made me feel more alive. She flopped back against the cushion and gazed at Jamie with a pathetically fragile look on her face. Does that make any sense?
Perfect, Jamie whispered, pulling Ryan against her chest and running her fingers through her hair again, inadvertently feeling the small knot of scar tissue that would always mark her head. Please don't be angry with yourself, Ryan. You did the best you could at the time.
But I put myself, and you, at risk, Honey, she started to protest, but Jamie silenced her by placing two fingers upon her lips.
You didn't put me at risk, Ryan. You had yourself thoroughly checked out before we made love. And while I understand that it's risky to have oral sex without a barrier, you weren't harmed, so give up the guilt, Baby.
Ryan nodded, much relieved that Jamie did not think less of her for being so cavalier with her health. Thanks for understanding, Jamie. I just want you to know that being with that woman like that was really rare for me. I might not have known some of the women I was with very well, but they were usually friends of friends or people that I knew at least a little. I had very little anonymous sex.
It doesn't matter, Ryan, Jamie assured her. The past is past and you can't change it now. All that matters is that we're together now and that we will be for the rest of our lives.
Ryan offered a small smile, once again feeling her equilibrium return. That's an undeniable truth, she whispered, placing a tender kiss upon her partner's lips.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Are you sure that you want to do this? Ryan cast yet another puzzled glance at her partner, searching her eyes for any sign of hesitancy.
Why is it so surprising that I'd want to go to church with you and help watch Caitlin? Jamie asked, finally tiring of Ryan's persistent questioning.
The taller woman gave one of her adorably incongruous adolescent shrugs and looked slightly embarrassed at being caught in an insecure moment. I guess I assume that you'd want to go to your grandfather's church, Honey. You've been going there your whole life, and I know you really enjoy it.
Jamie approached her partner and fluffed her dark bangs, smiling at their current propensity to land in her blue eyes. You've been going to St. Philip's since you were born, Ryan. Switching to my church would be a big change for you, too, so don't act like you wouldn't have to sacrifice to go with me.
But it's your grandfather's parish, Ryan whined, unwilling to let go of her concern.
I know that, Love, Jamie agreed. But your whole extended family goes to St. Philip's, and I think that's really nice. I love my grandfather dearly, but I'm not really a part of the parishI've been going alone since I could drive, and I've always missed the sense of family that makes communal worship so appealing. Besides, she insisted, wrapping Ryan in a hug, Your aunt really wants Caitlin to start attending church, and since Tommy and Annie won't go, I'd like to help her out.
Have I ever told you that you're too generous for your own good? Ryan murmured, holding Jamie close and taking in her calming scent.
I don't believe you have, she replied, nuzzling her head into Ryan's neck. Why don't you prepare a list of all of my wonderful attributes, and you can recite them to me when I get back from playing golf. She lifted her head to reveal her impish grin, and Ryan planted soft kisses on every inch that was revealed as Jamie turned her head from side to side to insure full coverage. We'd better scoot, Babe. Your Aunt Maeve doesn't seem like the kind of woman who would appreciate our being late.
Not when she's got the Hibernians waiting on her, Ryan agreed, referring to the Catholic social club for women of Irish descent. Maeve was the current chairwoman of one of the committees, and her group was sponsoring the bake sale after Mass, leaving Caitlin without a minder until Jamie and Ryan stepped up to offer to watch her.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After a joint shower which, remarkably, did not devolve into sex--and a quick breakfast, they stood in front of the closet and tried to decide what to wear. Brendan had dropped in during breakfast and decided to accompany the pair, and he agreed to go fetch the baby from Maeve while they got dressed. Jamie decided to wear a moderately casual yellow linen dress, but Ryan was in a quandary. Brendan had on a long-sleeved light blue oxford cloth shirt and a pair of chinos, and she didn't want to look underdressed in comparison with her companions, but she refused to wear a skirt. She finally decided to wear a pair of slim-fitting slacks in a white cotton duck, with a sleeveless v-neck cardigan in a black cotton knit to top the slacks. Stylish black loafers finished off the surprisingly casual outfit.
Jamie watched her get dressed, eyeing her appreciatively. She thought her partner's attire was far too casual for church, but she was not going to say a word. Ryan looked absolutely luscious, and if she was comfortable in her outfit, it was perfectly all right with Jamie. She went over to a small jewelry box that she had brought from Berkeley and pulled out a string of pearls and placed them around Ryan's neck. As she hooked the clasp, she stood on her tiptoes and placed a kiss on her neck. "Perfect," she said appreciatively as she turned her partner around and looked her up and down. She would have chosen gold accessories for this outfit, but Ryan still wore the sapphire diamonds, and the pearls seemed to work better with the platinum setting. That's a good idea for her birthday, Jamie thought. A platinum necklace in the same design as the settings for the earrings.
"I truly love the way you look in that dress," Ryan said as she held her lover at arm's length to study her. "The color brings out all of the different highlights in your hair. I don't know how I'm going to be able to think of anything but you today."
"You think you have problems? I get to think of just how little there is between me and your breasts all day. And I didn't get to munch on them yesterday, you little devil."
Hey! I didn't force you to fall asleep on me Ryan began, but stopped at Jamie's expression of challenge, and smiled when she realized that she had indeed forced her partner into a near-stupor. Well, okay, maybe I did. I have definitely gotta plan better, she muttered, putting on a mock glower.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
They had to borrow Conor's truck in order to take Caitlin and her car seat with them, and the whole endeavor took much longer than either woman would have guessed. Even though they spent a lot of time with Caitlin, they didn't often take her to a place where she would have to keep relatively quiet. This constraint forced them to tote books, toys, stuffed animals and a baggie full of Cheerios along with the usual diapers, change of clothes, and bottles of breast milk and water.
Caitlin looked quite adorable today, as was her norm. She was wearing a bright yellow dress with an embroidered duck stitched on a little white pique inset on the front that matched the little ducks marching around the cuffs of her white socks. She also had a white pique hat, but Ryan knew it would never rest on her head, given that it was currently being shaken violently by her little pink hand. Tiny black slippers covered her feet, and Ryan also assumed these would not remain in place for long. She recalled how Conor had described her antics as a child in church and thought wryly, It's payback time.
The O'Flahertys had been members of St. Phillip Parish since Brendan was born. Martin and Fionnuala had actually met at Old St. Patrick's near downtown, but when they bought their little house in Noe Valley, they quickly became visible members of the community. All four children had attended the grammar school, and each one had been a standout in some pursuit. They had all participated in the various athletic teams that the school sponsored, and Rory had been a member of the band. Fionnuala had been very involved in the parish, and Martin had kept up his involvement as much as possible after her death. He and Brendan still attended Mass every Sunday, but Conor and Rory had become Christmas and Easter Catholics. Ryan was somewhere in the middle; she had been quite devout as a child, and had been a member of the children's choir and an acolyte until she was in high school. But after she came out as a lesbian and began to study the church's position on homosexuality and the ordination of women, she did not like what she found. Her cousin Michael's illness had also been an influence in her disenchantment, as she considered it unconscionable to prohibit the use of condoms, even by married couples. Still, even though she was feeling quite alienated, she had been sincere in her wish to spend more time in communal worship, and she was grateful that Jamie was so willing to try to acclimate to the Catholic Mass.
The 9:30 Mass was designed with families in mind. A large number of children were present for the service and no one seemed to mind all of the screaming babies. Ryan had not been in the church since Christmas, and she had probably not been to the family Mass since she sang in the choir. She was pleased to see that they had made some rather significant changes since she was last there. The piano began to play the opening hymn, and she was delighted to see that the lectors were relatively young children. They were probably in seventh or eighth grade, and they looked adorable processing into the church in front of the priest, with the first young woman holding the Bible over her head for all to see.
A nice breeze was coming in through the door they had been careful to sit by, and everything went well until Mass began. But as soon as people settled in their seats, Caitlin tired of the inactivity. They had only been sitting for 15 minutes, but she was ready to go, and Brendan's gentle coaxing did nothing to ameliorate her unhappiness. When he was out of ideas, Brendan made eye contact with his sister and gladly passed his little charge off to her.
Ryan held her up high on her chest so she could see over the standing congregation. She knew the opening hymn by heart, and Caitlin was entertained so long as the song went on. She watched Ryan sing with an enthralled look on her sweet face, and when her cousin would pause between verses, Caitlin patted her cheek, possibly trying to get the sound to come back out. But when the song was finished, she had no use for sitting in a pew listening to people read aloud. When it became clear that she was not going to quiet down, Ryan slipped out the exit and took her for a walk around the outside of the church. This went quite well, and she was most entertained during this little interlude. They kept passing back and forth in front of the open doors so that Ryan could have a small semblance of the church experience; she managed to catch about 25 percent of the sermon. As the collection plate was passed down the aisles she decided to try sitting again, and they made their way back inside.
When they entered the pew, Jamie lifted the wiggling baby from Ryan's arms and took over for a while. The change of control kept her occupied for a few minutes, but she quickly grew restless again. Jamie was about to take her out again, but when the priest began to recite the Eucharistic Prayer, he invited all of the children to come up into the sanctuary to be a part of the ceremony. Jamie looked at Ryan with a raised eyebrow and Ryan shrugged her shoulders in agreement, hoping that she would not regret her decision. They both stood and joined about 50 others as they gathered around the altar. Many adults had small children in their arms, some much smaller than Caitlin, and a good number of the grade-school-aged children came up alone. The prayer lasted about twelve minutes and the baby was passed back and forth at least once per minute through the entire prayer. Wherever she was, she wanted the other. As soon as Ryan had her, she would lean towards Jamie with a pathetic look on her face and hold her little arms out until she became irresistible. Jamie would reach out and take her, but within 30 seconds she would go through the same dramatic act with Ryan as the intended audience. They took her behavior with good humor, realizing that she was just acting her age, and both being thankful that she wasn't wailing.
At the end of the prayer, everyone who could spare one joined hands to sing the Lord's Prayer. Caitlin liked this quite a bit, since she got to watch Ryan sing again. She sat in her arms, facing her, with her little face mere inches from Ryan's. She would occasionally pat her hand over Ryan's mouth, trying to find out how much control she had over the sound. Jamie found the scene truly precious as she watched Caitlin giggle and play with her big cousin.
At the end of the song the priest offered them all the sign of peace and asked them to offer it to the others in the community. The tradition was to either shake hands or hug or kiss your fellow parishioners. Obviously, most people chose to shake hands, but most couples and their children kissed one another. Ryan slid an arm around her partner and gave her a chaste, but heartfelt kiss. She dipped Caitlin down so that she could kiss Jamie, which she did with much more enthusiasm than her older cousin had shown. Caitlin's new trick was to place her chubby little hands on their cheeks and pull them in for a big, wet one. Jamie grasped her and turned her around so Ryan could receive the same bath. They both chuckled as they wiped their faces and shook the hands of the people around them. When they returned to their seats they all kissed Brendan, with varying degrees of moisture attached, then turned to greet the people sitting around them. Thankfully, Jamie was holding the baby when Ryan turned to her left and extended her hand to the woman behind her, for she would have surely dropped the child, such was her shock as she came face to face with Mary Elizabeth Andrews, Sara's mother.
Ryan had not seen her first love's mother since the day Mrs. Andrews had gently told Ryan that Sara no longer wanted to see her. Their final meeting flashed into her mind, and she recalled with startling clarity just how empathetic the older woman had been. Ryan had been a fixture at their house since she was in second grade, and it had been obvious that telling the bereft young woman that she was no longer welcome there was hard for Mrs. Andrews. But Ryan subsequently acknowledged that the woman's first duty was to her daughter, and if Sara demanded that Ryan be turned away, that was obviously what she had to do.
The look of startled surprise on Mrs. Andrews' face slowly changed into a gentle smile, and she pulled Ryan into a hug, whispering, It's good to see you, Ryan.
You too, Mrs. Andrews, Ryan said softly as she pulled away. Brendan turned and saw the interchange, and to Ryan's annoyance he turned back towards the altar, refusing to extend his hand to the woman. Ryan gave her an embarrassed shrug and turned around when the priest resumed the service.
Luckily, the rest of the Mass passed quickly and without incident. Caitlin was greatly entertained during Communion, since everyone had to pass by her. Ryan pointed out all of the other babies, and she eyed all of them critically with her little green eyes. Jamie carried her up to Communion, and Caitlin liked it when the priest touched her head and offered her a blessing. For the next few minutes, she somberly placed her hand on Jamie's head just like the priest had done to her.
There was only about ten minutes to go, and Ryan was feeling pretty good. Jamie handed Caitlin off again, and she seemed quite calm. She began to settle in as though she wanted a short nap, but just before she dozed off she tried to pull Ryan's sweater away from her breast. Ryan sat up in shock as she realized how easy it was to push her v-neck sweater down. She tried to remove Caitlin's determined little hands, but without success. Jamie was practically in stitches from trying not to laugh, and Brendan seemed to be having a tough time controlling himself as well. Ryan frantically dug through her bag and found a bottle, but Caitlin would have none of it. Jamie finally took pity and rescued her partner by taking the baby and the bottle and firmly introducing it into her mouth until she quieted down.
Ryan sat back and relaxed as she watched her lover calm the baby so effortlessly. She just has an instinct for mothering. I don't know where she got it, but it's definitely there. Her thoughts drifted to Mrs. Andrews, and she wondered if she would linger to speak with them after Mass. I think she caught the cold shoulder that Brendan so obviously gave her, Ryan thought with a little annoyance. She loved that her brother cared for her, but she really didn't need for him to fight this battle for her, and she wished he'd just let bygones be bygones. Caitlin was nested down in Jamie's arms, holding the bottle in her own small hands as she sucked lustily. Her eyes were half closed, in that twilight state that nursing babies entered, and Jamie looked very serene as she gently rocked her. She looked up and caught Ryan's adoring gaze, and she reached over and grasped her hand, silently sharing the moment.
As the closing song finished, they all breathed a sigh of relief as the congregation began to file out. Caitlin was only half finished with her bottle, so Brendan offered to go get the truck ready and bring it up alongside the side door when the crowd had thinned. Ryan sat peacefully, watching her partner with a look of pure love on her face. Jamie looked up at her as they once again locked gazes, the emotion that passed between them nearly palpable. She reached out and tenderly touched Ryan's cheek, patting it softly as her thumb brushed across the smooth surface. She looked back down to adjust the bottle and heard a soft voice over her shoulder say, "Hello, Ryan." Mrs. Andrews pointed at the baby and asked, "Is this your niece?"
"No, no it's not," Ryan said, obviously having trouble getting her bearings.
"Oh, I just assumed that this was your brother's wife and child," she said pleasantly.
For some reason that comment knocked Ryan right back into her normal self. "No, Mrs. Andrews," she said as her color came back and her normal self-confidence returned. "I'd like to introduce you to my partner. This is Jamie Evans. Jamie, this is Mrs. Andrews, Sara's mother," she said pointedly.
There was a long moment when Ryan feared that Jamie would repeat her brother's rudeness, but her normal grace returned and she pasted a forced smile onto her face and said, "I'm pleased to meet you."
Now it was Mrs. Andrews' turn to look uncomfortable. "Is this your child, Jamie?" she asked tentatively.
"No," she laughed. "Ryan and I aren't quite ready to start our family yet. This is Ryan's cousin, Caitlin," she said proudly.
"Oh...I....see," she said as she fumbled for words. "Do you live in the city, Ryan? I haven't seen you in the neighborhood or at church in so many years I thought "
"I lived at home until just a week ago, Ryan said. "We must just not patronize the same stores. She remembered that the Andrews had always been a step or two higher on the economic ladder than most of the parishioners of St. Philip's, and she reasoned that they might not shop at the same discount stores that the O'Flahertys frequented. Jamie and I live in Berkeley and spend our weekends here with my family."
"Really?" she asked. "Are you in graduate school there?"
"No," she replied with an easy grin. "It's taken me a bit longer than I had planned to graduate from college. I went to USF for my first two years, then I transferred to Berkeley last year."
"Oh I thought you were going to Berkeley originally, she said with an unreadable expression on her face.
"I had planned on it, but I wasn't able to keep my grades up senior year. I was forced off the athletic teams by the other students once they learned I was gay, so my scholarship offers were rescinded," she said with an even tone, neither her voice nor her eyes revealing the depths of the pain this wrong had caused her.
Mrs. Andrew's face dropped and actually became a little flushed as Ryan recounted her story. "Oh, Ryan," she said as she shook her head, "I'm so sorry that had to happen. You didn't deserve that type of treatment."
A small smile lit up Ryan's face as she said, "I'll concede that it was the most difficult thing I've ever had to go through, except for my mother's death, of course. But if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't change a thing. If I hadn't been so delayed in finishing school, I never would have met Jamie." She turned and looked her directly in the eye, holding her gaze. "She is, by far, the best thing that has ever happened to me. So anything I had to endure to win her heart was well worth it."
Jamie beamed up at her and took her hand as she squeezed it tenderly. "So, what's Sara up to?" Ryan asked as the bottle fell from Caitlin's limp grasp.
"Oh," Mrs. Andrews said, somewhat surprised, "I assumed that you knew she had gone to law school. Her father and I attended her graduation from Stanford just last weekend," she said proudly.
"Small world, isn't it?" Ryan said with a grin to Jamie.
"Pardon?" asked Mrs. Andrews.
"I had no idea that Sara was in law school, much less that she was graduating. I haven't kept up with anyone from high school," she said with another neutral smile.
Things are going just beautifully for her, she said with more than a hint of pride. She's accepted an offer from a very prestigious firm, and it looks like she might be getting engaged soon.
Really? Ryan asked, a little surprised by this development.
Yes. Regrettably, she's living with her boyfriend, and her father and I are not very happy about it. But Sara isn't one to be dissuaded once she makes up her mind about something. She laughed gently and smiled at Ryan, patting her hand as she added, I don't have to tell you what Sara's like, Ryan. You were closer to her than anyone.
Yes, Ryan said, swallowing the lump in her throat. I was. The past tense sounded so harsh, even after all of these years, and Ryan struggled to stay focused on Mrs. Andrew's part of the conversation.
The older woman saw the hurt in the deep blue eyes and realized that her last remark had been very insensitive. I'm sorry, Ryan, she said softly. I'm really and truly sorry that you had to go through that pain. I wish I just wish I could have done something to make it better.
It was a tough time, Mrs. Andrews, but as I said, I'm happy with how things turned out.
Well, I'll be sure to mention that I saw you," she said as she stood to go. "Good luck at Berkeley, Ryan. I'm really happy that things have turned out well for you."
"Thank you," Ryan said politely. "I can't imagine being happier," she said as she gently lifted Caitlin onto her shoulder and extended her free hand to help Jamie up. "Give Sara my regards," she added as they walked towards the side door.
When they had safely buckled Caitlin's limp body into her car seat they both got into the back seat, squeezing in next to the baby for the short ride. They looked at each other and jointly shook their heads, both a little nonplussed by the interaction. "Did you talk to her? Brendan asked, unable to even speak the name of the woman he felt had betrayed his sister.
Yes, Bren, Ryan replied, patting his broad shoulder. We spoke for a few minutes.
"Oh," Brendan replied coldly. "I see her all the time at church, but I always go out of my way to leave by a different door. I'm afraid I couldn't be civil to her, and I don't want to chance it."
Ryan leaned over the bucket seat and kissed him on the cheek. "I really appreciate it that you stick up for me, Brendan, but I can handle this."
He nodded briefly, but added, You couldn't handle it very well at the time, Sis. His blue eyes were clouded with anger, and Ryan realized that it was a losing effort to try to get him to forgive the woman.
"I truly appreciate that I can count on all of my big brothers," she said sincerely, deciding to let it go.
"You know, Jamie," he said. "The O'Flaherty brothers will take care of you, too. Just tell us who you want to get rid of, and they're gone!"
"I could have used you last year to get rid of my roommate," she teased. "But I don't currently have a hit list."
"So, did you give her an earful?" Brendan asked hopefully.
No, of course not. I owe Sara and her mother an eternal debt of gratitude."
"Well, I don't think you owe them a darn thing," Jamie said. "I find it unconscionable to turn your back on a hurt and confused 17-year-old. I don't care what the circumstances were. You figure out a way to stay connected with the child, even if it's difficult. I blame Mrs. Andrews much more than I do Sara. She was old enough to know better."
"Hear, hear!" Brendan said enthusiastically. "My sentiments, exactly."
Ryan smiled at the thought that she hadn't just gained a lover: she now had another member of her protection squad. "The funny part is that Sara went to Stanford for law school. She's in the same class as Jamie's former fiancé."
"Great. More lawyers," he said with a decided lack of enthusiasm.
Jamie had to rush to get over to Olympic for her golf game with her father, but that didn't stop her from peppering Ryan with questions while she changed clothes. "How do you feel about seeing Sara's mom? Was that the first time you've seen her since?"
"Yep," Ryan said. "I stopped going to 9:30 Mass immediately, since that's when the Andrews went. I spent the summer in Ireland, so I didn't see her then, either. By the time I got back I had pretty much stopped going to church, so this was the first time I've spoken to her in six years. Gosh, that seems like a long time," she said as she shook her head, remembering the innocent, impressionable young woman she had been at the time.
"Are you at all interested in what Sara's like?" Jamie asked tentatively, wriggling into a pair of close-fitting golf slacks.
Ryan thought about that for a few minutes. "I guess I am," she finally said. "I don't want to see her or anything, but she was an incredibly big part of my life. I would like to see what kind of person she became."
"I understand how you feel," Jamie said softly. Just because you don't love someone any longer, you still care about them.
Ryan looked at her with compassion. "I know you do, Honey. You, more than anyone, knows how it feels."
"Do you think Mrs. Andrews watched us after she knew it was you?" Jamie asked.
"I assume she did, why?"
"I was just marveling at how people make reality fit their expectations. You and I were clearly the primary caregivers for Caitlin. I was touching your face in a very loving manner when she came up. She might have even seen Caitlin trying to nurse on you! Yet she assumed that she was my daughter and that Brendan was my husband. That just amazes me!"
"It makes it even weirder since she knows I'm gay," Ryan agreed. "Maybe it makes a little more sense that Sara was so freaked out. Mrs. Andrews might not be the woman I thought she was."
"Maybe," Jamie agreed. "And I still would like to give both of them a pop," she said with green eyes flashing as she slapped her open palm with her closed fist.
"I've got nothing but champions," Ryan teased as she draped her arm around her defender for a gentle good-bye kiss
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 9
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