I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 6: Fidelity

by S X Meagher

Part 3

The long drive from Boston to Newport was a tedious necessity since Catherine did not care for the small planes that Newport airport could accommodate. Luckily, the family limousine made the trip bearable, allowing both women to stretch out in comfort. Jamie made the most of the space, falling asleep almost immediately.

"We’re nearly there, Dear." Catherine’s gentle voice woke Jamie, and as she slowly blinked her eyes open, she saw that they were already in Newport.

"I feel like I’ve been drugged," she mumbled, pushing her hair from her eyes and sitting up in her seat.

"If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had been," Catherine agreed, a smile curling the edge of her mouth. "Luckily I brought a good book, because all of the conversation I’ve gotten from you has been you muttering Ryan’s name a few times in your sleep."

She was clearly teasing, but Jamie was embarrassed nonetheless. "Umm…is that all I said…just her name?"

Smiling fondly at her daughter, Catherine reassured her. "Yes, Dear, it was very innocent. Rather sweet, I might add."

Her blush grew brighter as Jamie informed her mother, "I was dreaming about her." She sighed deeply and stretched a little, feeling like she’d been in a straitjacket for the last few hours. "I really miss her."

"Of course you do," Catherine allowed. "You’re supposed to miss your beloved, Jamie."

Cocking her head slightly, Jamie asked, "Did you ever have to be away from Daddy when you were newlyweds?"

The older woman thought for a few minutes, trying to recall her early years with Jim. "Not when we were married, but he did go on a trip when we were dating." Laughing softly she recalled, "We nearly broke up over it, to tell you the truth."

"What happened?" It was unusual for Catherine to share stories of the early years of her courtship and marriage, and Jamie was fascinated by this glimpse into her mother’s past.

"It seems so silly now," Catherine admitted, laughing softly at her youthful insecurities. "Your father was in law school while I was still in college, as you know. His spring break was several weeks after mine, and he made plans to go to Reno with some of his buddies from college."

"Without you?" Jamie asked.

"Quite," Catherine confirmed. "That was made quite clear. This was a little get-away for Jim and some of his friends from the football team. I wouldn’t have minded so much if it was his law school friends, but this crowd was really quite wild, and I did not want him to go."

"My guess is that he didn’t like to be told what to do," Jamie posited, recognizing the same trait in herself.

"He didn’t then, and he doesn’t now," Catherine agreed. "Little did I know that one day I’d have two of you with the same pet peeves!"

Jamie accepted the comparison with a smile. "So how did it turn out?"

"You know, he wasn’t even very excited about the trip until I forbade him to go," she recalled. "Then, of course, it became vital that he attend!"

"Ouch!" Jamie empathized. "You must have been furious."

"Oh, I was angry," Catherine admitted. A pensive look came over her and she paused for a moment. "But it obviously blew over, because we decided to get married later that spring."

"Wow," Jamie mused, "he must have realized how much he missed you while he was gone."

"Perhaps." Catherine smiled at her daughter, and pointed out the window. "There’s the first view of the point, Dear."

Jamie looked out and saw the spit of land that the Dunlop estate occupied. The view only lasted for a moment, before the road curved and obliterated it. "We’re almost there," she agreed.

"Indeed. Are you ready to live in the lap of luxury for an entire week?" Catherine’s twinkling brown eyes were full of fond regard for her daughter. She knew that Jamie did not feel comfortable in the big house with the servants and the lavish displays of wealth that this branch of the family reveled in , which made her all the more grateful that her daughter had agreed to make the trip.

"Bring it on," Jamie encouraged. "If Ryan has her way, we’ll be shopping at the Army/Navy surplus for our clothes and Goodwill for house-wares. I might as well soak it up while I can."

* * * * * * * * * * *

The limo pulled into the long drive off the main road, the tires crunching loudly over the oyster-shell surface. Jamie lowered her window and smiled as she heard the crackles and pops. The sea air was thick and heavy with moisture, and she turned to her mother with an excited grin. "I’d forgotten how familiar this all is to me. I can still remember riding bikes down this drive and hearing those shells crack under the weight of my tires."

Sharing her smile and her recollections, Catherine said, "I don’t know why, but the ocean even smells different here. You’d think the Atlantic and the Pacific would have the same feeling, but they really don’t."

"No, they don’t," Jamie agreed. Cocking her head, she asked, "I don’t know why but I have a memory of your father being here with us. Was he?"

Catherine reached over and squeezed her hand, smiling softly as she said, "The year before he died, he finally agreed to come with us. I think that was the longest period of time you and he ever spent together. You had a fabulous time." Her voice cracked a little, and Jamie gave her a return squeeze.

"I’m glad I came with you, Mother. It’s nice to be able to share these things with you."

"Indeed it is," Catherine agreed, taking in a deep breath, letting the familiar smells of the ocean waft over her like a cloud. Without conscious thought, her mind wandered to a picture of a very young Jamie sitting on her grandfather’s lap while he captained them around Narragansett Bay. Even though Bill Smith had lived just up El Camino Real in Atherton—mere minutes from Hillsborough, Jim and Catherine had not seen him frequently. The older man had little patience with infants, and only slightly more with toddlers, so they kept most of their visits to an occasional Sunday brunch at the club, or holiday dinners. But on this one trip, something about Jamie had captivated him. Perhaps it was because Jamie was an extraordinarily mature child, able to converse with adults at a very young age. Or maybe it was because Bill had the time to really relax and enjoy the young child, with few interruptions, or other obligations. Whatever it was, Catherine mused that she had rarely been as happy as she was during that month. Her father bonding with her child was a wish she had never seriously held out hope for, and to have it given to her was enormously rewarding.

Sadly, only a few months after that trip his health began to fail, and shortly after Christmas he passed away, leaving Catherine completely bereft. Jamie had obviously retained some faint memories of that trip, but they had rarely spoken of that time together, indeed had rarely spoken of her father at all. Instead, Catherine often pulled those lovely times from her memory bank and savored them gratefully, but alone. Speaking of it now, she realized how much more fulfilling it would have been to let her daughter share in her grief and longing at the time of her father’s death. She honestly thought that she was doing the right thing at the time, that Jamie was too young to understand death and the impact it had. But looking back, she realized that she had squandered an opportunity to grow closer to her daughter. How many of those chances have you ignored or found that you were too afraid to capitalize on, Catherine? Well, no more! Jamie’s doing her very best to give you another try—and you’re not going to ruin this opportunity!

* * * * * * * * * * *

As the servants carried their things into the house, Jamie whispered, "It’s nearly ten o’clock. Shouldn’t someone be up by now?"

"You know that your Uncle David was never a morning person," Catherine reminded her. "And since he’s just getting over the flu, I’d expect that he’d be taking it easier than normal."

That would be comatose, Jamie mused to herself, thinking of her uncle’s normal lethargic routine. David Dunlop was the brother of Catherine’s mother, Phoebe. He had inherited the estate, or "cottage" as the family insisted upon calling it, upon his mother’s death in the early 1960s. Jamie had not seen him for an extended period in twelve years, but even then he was almost completely inactive. His health was actually fine, perhaps because he uses his body so infrequently, she thought with a mental smirk.

"May I show you to your rooms?" asked the white-jacketed, bow-tied young man who had carried their bags in.

"Certainly," Catherine said, and she and Jamie followed the man up the central staircase. The suite they were shown to was, in Jamie's recollection, the same one that they had occupied during their previous visits. Near the back of the house, the two generous bedrooms were connected by a very large bath. Both rooms had a view of the ocean, and Jamie immediately opened her windows to let in the fresh breeze. Like most grand houses of the period, the house was not air conditioned, but there was nearly always a good breeze, and each room had a large transom over the door to allow for a cross breeze from one room to the next.

"Mr. Dunlop has asked me to tell you that the family will gather at eleven for brunch. Will you be able to attend?"

"Of course," Catherine replied, and Jamie saw her nap fly out the window. "You’ll join us, won’t you, Jamie?"

"Wouldn’t miss it," she smiled, reminding herself that she was here to spend the time visiting with her mother, not catching up on her sleep. "What was your name?" she asked the young man who was exiting the room.

"Duncan," he replied evenly.

"Good to meet you, Duncan," Jamie said.

"It’s a pleasure." His face remained expressionless, and Jamie mused that Duncan looked less than happy with his job. He probably hates to have a house full of people here for a month. I bet Uncle David keeps him hopping—and doesn’t give him a dime more in salary…for hazard pay!

* * * * * * * * * * *

As Jamie was getting ready for brunch she heard a knock on the door. "Come in, Mother," she called.

Catherine opened the door just a few inches and asked, "Do you have a moment? I need to talk to you."

"Sure, come on in."

Jamie had just started to change for brunch and she paused in mid-action, not quite knowing whether she should continue to undress, or put her travel clothes back on. She had been slightly uncomfortable to have her mother see her undressed for years now, and the fight they had over Christmas break didn’t help the issue. Catherine had seen her daughter nearly naked when she was getting ready for a bike ride, and the older woman was dismayed over the muscles that Jamie had developed through her workouts. It had actually been quite upsetting for both of them, and Jamie was a little afraid of having a repeat of the argument.

As Catherine entered the room, she averted her eyes and said quickly, "Let me come back when you’ve changed."

Steeling herself, Jamie decided to accept this small test. She needed to force herself to act more naturally around her mother, and changing clothes was one such act. "No, it’s fine. I don’t mind," she reassured her.

"All right," Catherine said with some hesitation, then walked over and sat on the upholstered window seat and began watching the boats plying the waters.

Jamie had taken her clothes out of the suitcase and was in the process of placing them in her dresser when her mother had entered. She was clad only in her bra and panties, but she forced herself to continue her tasks as if she was alone. She had only one outfit to hang in the closet, and as she did so, her mother laughed softly. "Are you staying the whole week?" she asked.

"Yes, I just assumed that we’d go shopping. No sense in bringing clothes that I won’t wear," she said logically. "Did I guess correctly?"

"Yes, I’d love to go shopping tomorrow." There was a long pause and Catherine asked tentatively, "Do you still like to shop, Dear?"

"Lesbians don’t all wear jeans and T-shirts, Mother," she said in a slightly pointed tone.

"That’s not what I meant, Jamie," she began to say, but she stopped herself short. "I suppose that is what I meant to say after all," she admitted. "You’re just going through so many changes, I’m not sure what you like to do any longer."

"I think I’ll always like clothes," she assured her with a smile. "I think that’s the Dunlop genes coming through."

"It must be, because the Smiths are some of the most poorly attired people I’ve ever met!" Catherine laughed at her joke, continuing to stare intently at the boats that were visible from the window seat.

"So, what did you want to speak to me about?" Jamie asked as she stepped into a pair of celadon-colored linen slacks.

"I’m uncomfortable asking you for this favor, but it means a lot to me, so I’m going to ask anyway," she said as she nodded her head once in a decisive gesture.

"What is it, Mother?" Jamie was just about to put on a cream-colored cotton sleeveless v-neck sweater, but she walked over to her mother with the garment still in her hand.

Catherine took a deep breath and seemed to steel herself, finally looking Jamie directly in the eyes. "I wish you would not bring up your relationship with Ryan, at least in front of your great-aunts and uncles," she said firmly.

Sitting next to her mother on the window seat, Jamie blew out a breath and slipped her sweater over her head. After a few minutes she asked, "Do you mind telling me why?"

Catherine replied to that question with a question of her own. "Do you recall why you told me that you would not admit to your relationship when I first asked you about it?"

"Yes. I said I wasn’t comfortable with the idea yet. I didn’t want to have to explain or defend myself before I felt completely comfortable." She placed her hand on her mother’s knee and gently asked, "Is that how you feel?"

Catherine gave her a nod so slight that it was almost imperceptible.

"Okay. I promise I won’t bring it up. But I hope you don’t expect me to lie about Ryan. I’m proud of my love for her, and I can’t betray that love by denying it. But I will agree to do my best to avoid the topic in conversation. Is that good enough?"

"That’s very generous of you, Jamie." She reached up and brushed the hair off her daughter’s forehead with a gesture very similar to one that Ryan often made. "You’ve been so mature about this whole thing, it makes me very proud of you."

Jamie took her mother’s hand and kissed it gently before releasing it. "You’ve been very supportive so far, Mother. I want to thank you for that support by giving you the time you need to become comfortable with my sexual orientation."

"Thank you, Dear. I know this is just temporary for me. And it won’t bother me if you wish to speak to your cousins or even my cousins about this. It’s mainly your great-aunt’s and uncles that I’d rather have not know just yet."

"All right. I don’t know any of my cousins well enough to assume the subject will come up, but if it does I might tell them."

"Thank you, Dear. Are you ready?" she asked as she stood.

Jamie stood and hooked her mother’s arm in hers. "Let’s go greet the Dunlops," she said with a smile.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Just a few minutes before ten, Jordan came up the driveway on her bike, an enormous backpack nearly causing her to tumble off when she stopped. "Hey, what are you doing sitting outside?" she asked, when she spotted Ryan sitting on the top step, head in her hands.

The dark head lifted, and it was obvious that she hadn’t even noticed that Jordan had arrived. She blinked her eyes slowly, trying to snap out of the fog she was in. "I’m sorry, what did you say?"

Walking her bike up the sidewalk, Jordan approached cautiously, a little surprised by Ryan’s odd demeanor. "Hey, are you okay?"

Ryan looked anything but okay, but Jordan couldn’t actually figure out what was wrong with her. She looked more depressed than anything, so Jordan hazarded another question when Ryan didn’t immediately respond. "Are you really this upset to be leaving Jamie?"

Standing up and stretching to unkink her back, Ryan shook her head briskly. "No, she’s out of town with her mother. She was going to go later in the summer, but when I found out about this, we decided to move it up. It’s actually worked out well, schedule-wise."

"Then what is it?" Jordan was not usually the type to pry into the personal lives of others, but Ryan looked so completely bereft that she couldn’t help herself.

"Long story, pal," she said. "I’ll fill you in on the way down to Santa Cruz." As they walked into the house to fetch Ryan’s gear, she added, "Next time, let me come pick you up, okay? I didn’t realize that you didn’t have a car."

"It’s a deal," the lanky blonde agreed, sliding her arm around Ryan’s waist as she gave her a grateful smile.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Now, let me get this straight," Jordan said, nearly an hour after they had departed. "Jamie’s in Rhode Island with her mother…her father came here this morning and basically threatened you…now tell me again why you’re not on the phone with her?"

"I told you," Ryan explained patiently. "She just got there, and I don’t want her to get hit with this the second she walks in the door. Besides, she said she was going to go to bed as soon as she could. She took the red-eye, so I know she’s really tired."

"Ryan," Jordan said with less patience, "You are insane if you don’t tell her immediately. Her father sounds like a total loon! You said yourself that he was going to make her stay in Rhode Island for the rest of the summer, and that he threw you out of the house! I don’t know Jamie that well, but if it was me, I’d be on the first plane back here!"

Ryan shook her head in irritation, knowing that Jordan had a good point, and not really wanting to be reminded of it. "You don’t know Jamie well, Jordan, but your guess is completely accurate. She’d probably hire a charter jet to get back here this afternoon! She’s usually calm and deliberate about her decisions, but this will drive her absolutely crazy!"

"And that’s a reason NOT to tell her?" Jordan was completely puzzled by her friend’s hard-headedness on this topic, and she could tell that Ryan was struggling with it.

"I’m torn, Jordan," she admitted. "She’s a little hot-tempered where her father is concerned right now, and I’m afraid she’ll come back here and do something crazy."

Jordan took that statement in, letting it roll around in her mind for a few moments. She finally looked at Ryan and asked, "Isn’t what her father did crazy?"

"Yes, yes, of course it was," Ryan said, irritated that Jordan was bringing up yet another good point. "But with him angry, and her angry, God knows what would happen. I don’t want her to have an irrevocable split with him."

"Isn’t that her decision?" Jordan’s soft soprano voice was unyielding, and once again Ryan wished she had given one of the nice, malleable freshmen a ride, rather than her opinionated friend.

"Yes, Jordan, it is her decision. And I won’t stand in her way if she chooses to do that. But I want to calm down before I tell her. There’s no sense in me getting her more upset than she will be on her own. She’s supposed to call me tonight…I’ll tell her then."

Reaching across the car, Jordan squeezed Ryan’s knee. "You’ll feel better when you do, Ryan. I’m sure of it."

"That makes one of us," Ryan muttered, knowing that having Jamie upset never made her feel better.

* * * * * * * * * * *

On the way down the stairs, Jamie could hear the murmur of voices as well as the tinkling of ice in glasses coming from the solarium. The lovely glass-enclosed room was located right next to the dining room, and was the usual gathering place for the family for before-dinner drinks.

Entering the sun-drenched space, Jamie mentally corrected herself to include before-brunch drinks, also. All three generations of Dunlops were gathered, and the alcohol was flowing liberally.

When their arrival was noted, Patsy Dunlop, David’s wife, approached and greeted Catherine with a tentative hug and a kiss that landed well short of her cheek. Turning to Jamie, she made a move to offer the same to her, pulling away immediately when Jamie attempted to actually touch her body. After several more rounds of uncomfortable encounters she wondered, Lord, does everyone have osteoporosis, or do they just hate touching!? I was hugged with more enthusiasm by Ryan’s neighbors at the 4th of July party than I am by relatives here!

Much was made of Jamie’s attendance at the gathering, most of the family having not seen her in 12 years. Her uncle David was mixing Bloody Marys for everyone, and he pointedly told Jamie that he was glad she and her cousin David were finally "legal."

She accepted the drink, but almost choked when she tasted the tremendous amount of alcohol in it. He seems to have forgotten the ‘Bloody’ part, she thought while she tried to find an inconspicuous place to leave the drink. If I drink this, I’ll be on my ass, and it’s only eleven a.m.!

Luckily, a white-jacketed butler called them to brunch. As everyone filed out, she dashed over to the wet bar and poured half the drink down the sink. Filling the glass up with tomato juice, she trotted after the others into the dining room to take her seat.

She observed her great-uncle David as he took his place at the head of the table. He was a small man, as were most of the Dunlops. He actually looked a good deal like the faded photos and oil paintings of the patriarch of the family, Wilbur Dunlop. Jamie’s mind strayed for a moment to her great-great-grandfather, the font of the family wealth. Wilbur’s eventual social standing belied his humble beginnings as an accounting clerk in the office of one of the leading coal mines in Pittsburgh. His tremendous business acumen and a series of very favorable circumstances slowly gave way to his rise, first in the Pittsburgh Mining Company, and eventually to the ownership of Dunlop Mines. This ultimately led to his becoming known as the "Crown Prince of Coal"—a sobriquet which befitted his position as the owner of over 30% of the operating coalmines during the last part of the 19th century. He and his wife Maxine, had two children, Orville, Jamie’s great-grandfather, and a daughter, Julia, who died at the age of 88 the year Jamie was born, never having married.

Orville had assumed control of the mining company upon his father’s death, but the business never held his interest. In this instance, however, his indifference served the family in good stead. Fortuitously, he began to sell off individual mines to smaller companies, just before the price of coal began to plummet thanks to the more ready supply of natural gas and diesel fuel as a source of home heating. He wisely diversified his massive wealth, investing in a wide variety of concerns. Even after the market crash of 1929, he was still flush enough to be able to acquire a great deal of stock in many companies at rock bottom prices, and when the market began to turn around in the 40s, the financial security of the Dunlop family was assured for many, many generations of spendthrifts. Jamie was pulled from her reverie by the scion of the family making a semi-formal address.

"I’d like to welcome the last of our group to our little gathering," David began. "It’s been quite some time since Jamie has joined us, and I hope this is the first of many trips she and Catherine will make together." His small face broke into a playful grin as he teased, "Of course, I assume one of these years she’ll bring a handsome young man to join us also."

She blushed at this prediction, shaking her head a little, while not commenting on the accuracy of it. I promised Mother. "Thank you, Uncle David. It’s wonderful to see you all again, and I certainly hope to be able to attend in future years."

"Hear, hear," David agreed, lifting his Bloody Mary in a toast. Glasses clinked and everyone joined in, tilting their glasses in celebration. Please, don’t let us do this for everyone. They’ll have to carry me out of here!

Luckily, no more celebratory toasts were offered, and the meal continued to the accompaniment of polite conversation. Jamie was seated near a coterie of David Dunlops--her great-uncle, his son David Junior, known as Skip, and Skip’s son, David III, called Trey.

Her great-uncle David’s only other child, John Orville Dunlop, and his son J.C. were also seated near them, and Jamie spent a moment considering her two male cousins.

Trey was just two months, and J.C. three years, older than Jamie. At 24, J.C. was still trying to finish college. He had been thrown out of the best prep schools in the country, and finding a college to admit him had been a chore. But enough donated money can make even the poorest student shine in the eyes of the administration of an under-endowed university, and the Dunlop money had gained him admittance to a small private college in New Hampshire. As it turned out, one too many calls to the local police station had made even the Dunlop money an inadequate inducement, and several small- and medium-sized colleges later, he was crawling towards a degree in American Studies at a degree-mill in New York. With any luck, and an inattentive police force, he would graduate when Jamie did.

Trey had already successfully graduated--from the Betty Ford Clinic. He had been struggling with substance abuse since he was in high school, but he had ostensibly been clean for over a year now. Jamie wasn’t sure what type of treatment program he was participating in, but she had never heard of one that allowed Bloody Marys for breakfast.

Even with their checkered backgrounds, Jamie had always been fond of her wild cousins. She had enjoyed the summers spent in Newport when she was small, since it was the only time of the year that she really got to act like a kid. Trey and J.C. were raised by nannies also, but they went through them quickly. When the families were in Newport, the nannies were left behind, and since the adults had neither the time nor the interest to supervise the children much, they were allowed to run a little wild. Even though Jamie had loved her nanny, Elizabeth, she enjoyed being allowed to play with the boys in unaccustomed freedom.

She had never thought about it in this way before, but she wondered if the burgeoning delinquency of the two boys played a role in her mother’s quick agreement to allow her to stop coming to Newport twelve years earlier. By the time Jamie was ten, J.C. had already been expelled from two schools, and there were more to follow. He would regale her and Trey with tales of his pranks and his nearly chronic class cutting. She always found his stories funny, but even then she thought that he seemed to be crying out for attention from his parents.

"Going sailing later, Jamie. Would you like to go with us?" Trey asked.

"If mother hasn’t planned anything else, I’d love to," she agreed. "I haven’t been out all summer." She fondly remembered the last time she and Ryan had been on the boat, just before the AIDS Ride. The thought of lying in the hammock on the gently swaying boat brought a wistful smile to her face, and she had to blink repeatedly to dispel the images of her love and bring herself back to the present.

"Do you still play golf?" J.C. asked, remembering her beginning attempts during her last visit.

"Yeah, I do. I’ve been playing a lot recently. Would you like to go out?"

"Yeah, Grandfather belongs to two clubs in the area. I’m sure we could play either one of them. How about Wednesday morning? Maybe eight or nine?"

Hmmm…eight a.m.? Maybe he is reforming a little bit. That’s pretty early to go out if you’ve got a hangover. "Fine with me. I’m used to getting up early, so any time is fine."

"Okay, I’ll be in charge of getting us a time," J.C. offered.

Looking around the table, Jamie felt a twinge of sadness to be in this home, filled with so many family memories, so few of which she shared. Over the mantle above the massive log-burning fireplace was a huge oil painting of three generations of Dunlops. It showed Orville's three children--David, Jamie’s grandmother Phoebe, and Louise Dunlop--seated on chairs from this very dining room; younger versions of Catherine, Skip and John stood behind their parents. None of the children of her own generation had been born yet, and she was struck by the obvious affection that Catherine exhibited for her own mother as she gazed down at the seated woman. I really wish that I had been able to know my grandmother, she thought with a tinge of regret. Phoebe Dunlop Smith had died when Catherine was pregnant with Jamie, and even though her mother did not speak of her own mother often, Jamie knew that she still carried grief over her loss. I hope that our kids can spend time with Mother and really forge a relationship with her. She certainly wasn’t able to be very connected to me when I was little, but there’s a part of me that thinks being a grandmother might be easier for her.

Looking across the table, Jamie shared a smile with her Aunt Louise. Louise, born in 1927, was two years younger than Phoebe. She and her husband, Oliver Whitmore, lived in Sarasota, Florida much of the year, but they usually stayed in Rhode Island most of the summer to avoid the heat and humidity of their southern home. Their son Adam and his wife Carolyn were flanked by their daughters, Julia, 14, and Stephanie, 16.

The younger girls were too far away for Jamie to converse with, and she decided to go out of her way to spend some time with them, knowing that it would not be easy for teenagers to be stuck in Rhode Island away from their friends for an entire month.

Catherine’s generation was involved in a passionate discussion about the proposed abolition of the federal estate tax, a subject near and dear to the hearts of those family members who still had living parents. Catherine looked a little disinterested, but she was well trained to be able to appear fascinated by the most boring discussion.

Hearing these ridiculously wealthy people talk about the estate tax like it was going to reduce them to pauper status made Jamie laugh to herself. To the best of Jamie’s knowledge, none of the members of her grandmother’s generation had ever had a paying job. For that matter, no one in her mother’s generation had ever had what anyone would consider a "real job." Adam had previously raced, and now sponsored, Formula One race cars, a pursuit that had never made him any money but allowed him to travel all over the world in pursuit of his hobby. Skip was part of the syndicate that had bankrolled the last America’s Cup yacht--regrettably, a failing effort. John played at being a stockbroker, but his own portfolio made up most of his client list, and his opulent office on Wall Street was usually occupied only by a secretary.

Jamie had often marveled at how much money was still in the family when she considered how little anyone had produced. The saving grace was that Wilbur had only one child who had procreated, and Orville had produced only three, so the fortune had been split only three ways in Jamie’s grandmother’s generation. Since both Catherine and Jamie were only children, Jamie was the eventual heir to a full one-third of the original fortune. Her four cousins would eventually split the other two-thirds. If there’s any left, she thought with a shudder.

Her father had often said that her Uncle David could take an unlimited budget and overspend it. When she observed how he lived, she thought that her father had been too kind in his assessment. David lived in a style that could only be described as baronial. Besides the two young men who had managed their luggage and called them to brunch, two middle-aged women served the meal, and there was obviously a cook or two in the kitchen. A full-time chauffeur drove David and Patsy in the smallish limo that David preferred and spent the rest of his time washing the fleet of cars that were seldom used or watching television in the small apartment over the garage. Three gardeners made up the full-time staff, and additional workers appeared on a regular basis to do large jobs. The house had both indoor and outdoor pools and a championship-caliber tennis court, but Jamie wasn’t sure who was in charge of maintaining those toys. While you visited the cottage, if your glass was empty, someone unobtrusively filled it; if the sun was in your eyes, an umbrella appeared; if more than three hours had passed, someone was at your elbow offering food. None of the staff looked very old, and Jamie assumed that David either did not pay them well enough to keep them for long or he worked them to death at a young age. He also didn’t seem to know any of their names. He would start to point and his wife, Patsy, would gently ask, "What would you like, David?" After he stated his immediate need, she would call the proper staff member and quickly resolve the emergency.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me a partner who helps keep me grounded, she thought to herself. There is zero chance of me ever living like this with my baby around. As Jamie toyed with the remnants of her breakfast with the tines of her fork, her mind inevitably strayed to her beloved partner. I wonder what she’s doing right now, she thought longingly. It’s just nine o’clock there. I bet she’s already packed up and waiting for Jordan to arrive. I bet she looks cute…probably has on her favorite sweatpants and one of her roomy T-shirts…Jeez, Jamie, don’t sit here speculating what she’s wearing! That’s just pathetic! A gentle smile came over her face as she spared one last thought. I bet she smells good, whatever she’s wearing. I love the way she smells in the morning right after her shower. Of course, I love how she smells when she hasn’t showered, too…stop it! You’ll never get through this week!

Rather glumly, she forced herself to pay attention to the conversation around her, finally smiling at her mother when the older woman made eye contact and said, "Thank you for coming with me, Jamie. It means a lot to me."

* * * * * * * * * * *

After brunch, Uncle David and Aunt Patsy took Catherine and Jamie on an extended tour of the house. Although she had been at the cottage at least nine times, Jamie’s memory of it was very vague. She had much clearer memories of the boat they used to sail on, and the extensive gardens where she played with Trey and J.C.

The house was a bit different from most of the mansions in Newport. For one thing, it was shingle style, rather than finished with the normal stone or stucco exteriors. And while it was terribly large, it didn’t appear opulent from the outside. Wilbur and Maxine had wanted the home to look like it belonged in New England, unlike the English or French manor houses that most of the industrialists were building. Because of their desire to blend in, the house could have fit in very well on the coast of Maine or Massachusetts.

It was designed by a prominent architect of the late 19th century, but it had never garnered much acclaim due to its understated style. The home was only two stories, but it was designed with a long U shaped footprint. From the front it looked almost like a regular shingle style colonial, but when viewed from the side, it was clear just how massive the place was. There were 15 bedrooms, 22 baths, and two dining rooms--one formal, one informal. There were parlors for daytime and evening entertaining, and a very large unstructured room that could be used for dancing or set up for very large dinner parties. There was a great walnut paneled library on the first floor and a smaller, but much warmer and brighter one on the second. A good-sized balcony opened off of the library and afforded a view of the ocean, one of Jamie’s favorite places to hide out with a book when she was small. The indoor pool was located next to a massive game room, the only place inside the cottage that Jamie had a clear memory of.

Jamie had to admit that David and Patsy had done a wonderful job in decorating the house. They had discarded most of the original furnishings and had spent most of their lives searching out authentic pieces from the Arts and Crafts movement to grace their home. They spent a substantial amount of time every year visiting small towns and hamlets in Britain to find hidden treasures and have them shipped back to Rhode Island, and their efforts had clearly been worth it from a stylistic perspective. Jamie presumed that the home could be donated to the historical society as a perfect example of the movement, but she assumed that they would leave the home to their sons. It was anyone’s guess what Skip and John would do with the home, as neither seemed to have much interest in it, other than as a place to vacation.

After the tour they went to the outdoor pool area to while away the afternoon. Stephanie and Julia were lying poolside with their parents, and even from a distance, Jamie could see that the little family didn’t look very happy.

Because they were at opposite ends of the table during brunch, Jamie had not spoken much with any of the Whitmores. They made their home in the Hamptons on Long Island for most of the year, but Adam spent large amounts of time following his investments on the Formula One circuit. He spent a great deal of time in Europe and Carolyn joined him often, but the girls usually stayed at home due to school commitments. Stephanie had been at boarding school for two years now, and Julia was scheduled to join her the following month when the new school year commenced. The school was in rural New Hampshire and was considered to be top notch academically. Jamie assumed that with Julia out of the house, Carolyn would spend even more time abroad with her husband.

Catherine was particularly close to Carolyn and Adam, much closer than to any of the other members of her extended family. Since much of the Formula One season was in Western Europe, they had purchased a spacious apartment in Rome as their base of operations. Catherine had a small but elegant apartment in Milan, and spent a month or two there every year, so they visited back and forth when they were all in Europe, and had actually grown closer in recent years than they had been when they were younger.

Julia, the younger child, was face down on a chaise lounge, the top of her bikini untied in order for her to tan evenly. Stephanie was dressed in baggy khaki shorts and a man’s style blue oxford shirt. Her chaise was also fully reclined, and when Jamie heard nothing from either of them for several minutes she realized they were both asleep. "So, Jamie, we were just trying to remember the last time we saw you," Adam commented as she sat down on one of the lounges.

"I’ve not been here in twelve years," she replied. "But I believe we spent Christmas together in Rome about eight or nine years ago."

"That’s right," Carolyn said proudly. "I told you that Jamie was there that year!"

"Well, it’s been far too long," Adam said. "What’s been keeping you in California all of these years?"

"August is the slow time for my father at work," she explained. "We would go sailing and play golf and just be able to spend time together. It was really the only time of the year that we got to do that." With a flash of pain, Jamie spent a moment wondering if she would ever be able to spend time bonding with her father again. Even though her mother assured her that her father was just in a funk, part of her believed that there was a distance between them now that would never be breached. Her eyes fluttered closed momentarily as she offered up a prayer that they would somehow find a way to reconnect.

"Hear that, girls?" Adam commented to his daughters. "Jamie likes to spend time with her father." He didn’t seem to notice that the girls were asleep, and Jamie wondered if perhaps they were feigning sleep to avoid being part of the conversation. "I can’t get these two to have a civil conversation with me, much less join me to spend a day together," he admitted with a smirk. "But I guess that’s just part of adolescence. I bet you were the same way, weren’t you Jamie?"

"I’m sure I was," she said agreeably, knowing there was not a shred of truth to the statement.

"Your mother told us you called off your engagement, Jamie. Are you doing all right?" Carolyn asked tentatively, not wanting to appear impolite.

"I’m fine," she said rather airily. "It was for the best. I see now that I was too young to be tied down." She paused just a moment before adding, "with Jack." Shooting a glance at her mother she saw that she looked to be holding her breath.

"Are you seeing anyone special now?" Carolyn continued.

Jamie gave her a bemused grin and said, "I wouldn’t see anyone who wasn’t special, Carolyn. But I’m certain that I won’t settle down with a man any time in the near future." Another quick glance showed that Catherine was breathing normally again and looked much more relaxed.

"You never know, Jamie. Love can sneak up on you."

"I know that’s true," she agreed with a smile. "Sometimes when you least expect it."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jordan and Ryan were enjoying lunch at a fish taco stand in Half Moon Bay when the tinny strains of "Ode to Joy" chimed once again. A delighted smile settled onto Ryan’s features as she hurriedly wiped her hands and grabbed for the phone, getting it off her waistband and open before the third measure. "Hi, Love," she said rather dreamily.

"Hi yourself," Jamie said. "Where are you little jocks?"

Glancing at Jordan, Ryan chuckled a bit and said, "Not many people would look at the two of us and use the term little, Hon. You’re talking twelve and a half feet of volleyball power here."

"Point taken," Jamie agreed. "And half of that twelve feet is just about the cutest assemblage of DNA on this earth." At Ryan’s hearty chuckle, Jamie added, "I like to mix in some biology terms just to keep you interested."

"Oh, I’m interested," Ryan agreed. "I’ll always be interested." She cleared her throat, consciously setting aside the images being conjured before her "interest" became overwhelming. "Now to answer your initial question, we’re in Half Moon Bay eating fish tacos. They’re really good," she added, winking playfully at Jordan.

"Sounds better than the brunch I just sat through with my relatives," Jamie muttered, feeling a little out of sorts. "I now remember why I stopped coming here in the first place."

"Is it really that bad?" Ryan asked solicitously.

"No, it’s not," Jamie said, realizing that she was whining for no good reason. "But you’re not here, and nothing is quite right if you’re not with me. Luckily for me, you’re the most thoughtful woman in the world, and you provided me with a very lifelike substitute for your sweet self."

Getting up and walking over to the parking lot for some privacy, Ryan asked, "Do you really like him?"

"Him?" Jamie’s tone was playfully shocked. "She’s a her, I’ll have you know." She regarded the orange and white striped tiger that Ryan had secreted in her carry-on, and gave the animal a hug. The little beast wore a tiny white T-shirt, upon which Ryan had used fabric paint to write "I love Jamie" in bright green sparkly letters. "I don’t think I’ve had a stuffed animal since I was tiny," she revealed. "I absolutely love her. And I love you for going out of your way to remind me of how much you love me."

"I searched and searched for the squishiest tiger in town," Ryan said, her voice gentling. "I wanted you to have something to hug at night."

"I want you to hug at night," Jamie murmured, rubbing her face gently against the soft orange fur of her tiger. "I miss you so much, Ryan, and it’s only the first day."

"I know, Honey, I miss you too. I guess though, for me, it’s nice to know that you’re with your mom, getting in some bonding time while I’m stuck down in Santa Cruz. It would be much harder to think of you alone in our bed."

"You know, I guess that’s true for me too," Jamie allowed. "Thanks for reminding me of that, Love. I should have known that you would be able to see the bright side of this."

"That’s me," she agreed brightly. "I’m your built-in optimist. So, what are you doing the rest of the day?"

"We’re going sailing in a few minutes. I just came up to change."

"That sounds like fun," Ryan said, thinking of Jamie in her brightly colored sailing gear. "But you don’t have your stuff. Won’t you get wet?"

Jamie laughed gently. "No, I don’t think so. Uncle David’s boat is closer to the QEII than to Daddy’s racing boat. It’s huge, and slow and never heels much. Besides, the Atlantic is quite warm this time of year. I’m just going to wear my swimsuit and shorts."

"Mmmm…." Ryan let out a strangled groan as images of Jamie in her form-flattering suit flooded her mind. "You look so incredibly hot in that suit…" she began, her voice low and sexy. Her musings were cut off when she heard Jamie say, "No, come on in, Mother. I’ll be off the phone in a minute."

"Say hi for me," Ryan asked. "Tell her to take care of my precious one for me."

"I’ll tell her when I hang up, Babe. Call me on my cell when you get there, and tell me if there’s a phone in your room, okay? I’m not sure your phone will work down there."

"Really? Why’s that?"

"There are a number of pockets down there where there isn’t cellular service," Jamie informed her. "If your cell doesn’t work I’ll have to call you on a land line."

"Will do. Now you stay safe out on the ocean, Jamie. Don’t go falling in like I did."

With a gentle laugh, Jamie agreed. "I’ll take very good care of myself, Love. You too."

"Talk to you later, Hon."

"Bye, Sweetheart. I love you."

"Me too," she agreed wholeheartedly, feeling a stab of longing as she turned off the phone and went to finish her lunch.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Let me guess," Catherine mused playfully. "That was either AT&T trying to get you to switch to their long distance service, or…Ryan."

"You’re good," Jamie laughed. "You’re very, very good."

Raising one perfectly formed eyebrow, Catherine looked pointedly at the stuffed animal that Jamie still clutched against her chest. "Care to introduce me to your friend?"

Blushing fiercely, Jamie held the tiger out, and her mother grasped it gently. "She’s a very thoughtful woman, isn’t she?" she commented absently, stroking the bright orange fur into place. "She seems very gentle."

Jamie’s mind roamed to images of her partner and let the thoughts of her gentle nature flood her mind. But something about the tone of Ryan’s voice when she talked about her swimsuit snuck in with those thoughts, and Jamie spent a moment thinking of how absolutely fierce and powerful her lover could also be. She had to force herself to banish these tempting thoughts and focus on her mother once again. Giving her a big smile, she agreed completely, "Yes, she’s very gentle. You should see her with her little cousin. There’s a part of her that’s very wild with the baby. They roughhouse and run up and down the hills like banshees, but she can comfort her and rock her to sleep in seconds. Caitlin actually responds as well to Ryan as she does to her parents. She just has a gift for making people feel safe."

"Do you spend much time with this child?" They hadn’t really spoken much about their interactions with the O’Flaherty/Driscoll clan, Jamie realized, and her mother didn’t know how important Caitlin was to both of them.

"Oh yes, we see her every weekend. It’s hard for Ryan to be apart from her during the week, but living in Berkeley has been good for both of us."

"But your weekends with Ryan’s family are important to you too, aren’t they, Dear?"

"Absolutely. It’s so nice to just fit in with the family, and Martin treats me just like another daughter. I’ll miss them almost as much as Ryan this week," she laughed, knowing that she wasn’t exaggerating in the least.

Looking out at the ocean, Catherine’s brow furrowed as she said, "I hope one day that Ryan feels as comfortable with our family as you do with hers."

"She feels very comfortable with you already," Jamie informed her. "But I would truly love it if one day you and Daddy would welcome her into our home in the same way that you did for Jack."

Catherine did not reply to this last comment for a long while. Jamie finished getting ready, bending over to lace up her deck shoes when her mother asked, "Does it bother you to talk about Jack?"

"No, not any longer," she said, realizing the truth of the statement as she made it. "I went to his graduation, you know."

"No, I didn’t know that." Catherine was a bit surprised to hear this, but she was pleased that Jamie and Jack were not antagonistic towards each other. And, as the topic did not upset her daughter, she decided to indulge her curiosity. "How was that for you, Dear?"

"It was pretty dreadful," she admitted, shaking her head at how awful the entire experience was. "I wasn’t prepared for how I felt when I saw him with his new girlfriend."

"Oh, my!" Catherine was truly shocked at this development. Jack seemed like the type to spend a good long while licking his wounds after a breakup, and she wondered if her assessment of him was that inaccurate. " I take it that this was a surprise?"

"A complete surprise. I’d only spoken to him once since our failed attempt at reconciliation, and he hadn’t mentioned it then. I certainly didn’t expect him to be alone for long, but it seemed awfully quick."

"Is he serious about her?"

"What isn’t he serious about?" she replied with a small laugh. After a moment she looked at her mother thoughtfully and asked, "Were you happy that he and I were to be married?"

Catherine looked a little uncomfortable with the question, but she wanted to be more open and frank with Jamie, and this was an opportunity to be just that. Breathing out a small sigh, she said, "No, Dear. I did not think it wise for you to commit to marriage so early in your life."

Piercing green eyes locked onto hers, and Jamie asked the follow-up question that naturally segued from her mother’s answer. "Does that mean that you think it’s a mistake for me to be committed to Ryan?"

I should have married a musician or an artist, Catherine mused. Having two people in the family who think in such a linear fashion will be the death of me yet! Knowing that her answer would not be popular, she nevertheless truthfully admitted, "If it was my choice, I wish you would take a few years to experiment with different people. I think that you truly might be a lesbian, Jamie, so Ryan’s gender has nothing to do with my feelings. I’m just afraid that one relationship with a man and one with a woman are not enough to base a permanent choice on."

Jamie pursed her lips as she considered her mother’s opinion. She nodded her head slightly as she said, "I can see how you would feel that way, Mother. It does seem like I’ve had almost no experience with love. But I’ve had a wish list in my head since I was young. Ryan has every attribute that I could ever want in a partner, and I’m just not sure you can schedule when you meet the person that really clicks with you."

"Tell me about your list," Catherine asked with a gentle smile on her delicate features.

A beaming smile lit up Jamie’s face as she began to speak in an animated fashion. She had obviously spent a lot of time coming up with her list, and she launched right into it. "I wanted someone who was bright and funny, and Ryan is incredibly bright. I feel downright slow around her sometimes. And she’s bright in the areas that I’m not. She’s a genius at math, and she’s a whiz at all of the sciences. She’s also very interested in the areas that she isn’t that knowledgeable about. I guess I would say she’s just a student of life. She looks at me with such concentration when I’m talking about a topic that I know would not appeal to her on her own. Then a few days later she’ll ask me an incredibly perceptive question about what I told her. It’s like she has a computer running in the background all of the time, just processing the little things that go through her mind."

"I can’t imagine anyone making you seem slow-witted, Jamie," Catherine said fondly, "but I’ll defer to your view."

Jamie smiled broadly and admitted, "Well, I guess I don’t feel slow-witted, but she’s really extraordinarily bright, Mother."

"She seems it, Dear, I’m just teasing you."

As these words sank in, Jamie realized that they had rarely teased each other in the past, and she wondered what was causing the change. She knew that her mother had a very droll sense of humor, but it wasn’t often directed at her. She found this lighter, more playful side of her mother very appealing, and she hoped that it continued.

Continuing her list she said, "Ryan has the most delightful sense of humor of anyone I’ve ever met. She can be very cerebral with her humor, but she can also be so silly. She’s like a four-year-old sometimes, and that’s really appealing to me. She has an irrepressible joy that is truly infectious."

"What else was on your list?" Catherine asked with great interest, eager to know more about the young woman who had so enthralled her daughter.

"I was certain that I wanted someone who was very kind, and who cared about others. Someone like Poppa," she said fondly. But she immediately regretted her comparison when she saw a brief flash of pain pass across her mother’s face. She reached over and grasped her mother’s hand as she gave it a little squeeze. "You know how I meant that, don’t you?"

"Yes, Dear, I do know how you meant that," she said sadly. "While I believe that generally your father and I have been kind people, I agree that we’ve never set a very good example in caring for others."

Jamie squeezed her hand again as she said, "I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just meant that Poppa has spent his life trying to help other people. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that you are self-centered."

"But we have been, Dear," she said simply. "There’s no need to apologize. Now tell me more."

Looking at the sadness that had settled in the dark brown eyes that regarded her, Jamie was quite uncomfortable continuing with the comparison, but she did so since her mother was clearly waiting for an answer. "Ryan is very much like Poppa in that she thinks about other people first. She has been so busy with work and school and athletics, but she still managed to devote tons of hours to helping teenagers in trouble. And, of course, she participates in the AIDS ride every year. That requires year-round training."

"She’s helping you to be that way, too, isn’t she, Dear?"

Jamie sat on the edge of the bed, thinking about her answer for a few moments. She had always thought that she was committed to helping others, but she had to admit that she had been satisfied with doing so through monetary donations rather than taking an active role. She knew that she would never be satisfied with that remote style again, and she acknowledged that Ryan was the force behind the change. "Yes, Mother, she is. I’m very grateful to her for that." Noticing that the brown eyes had not regained their sparkle, Jamie turned the tables on her mother, and threw the question back to her. "You know, I’m going on and on about Ryan, but I have no idea why you chose Daddy. Will you tell me?"

Catherine uttered a gentle laugh and protested, "I’m not sure my memory goes back that far, Jamie."

"Come on, Mother," she insisted, sitting next to her on the window seat. "Skip said we’re leaving at one, so you’ve got fifteen minutes to jog your memory."

"All right, Dear," she agreed, cocking her head to gaze at the ceiling for a moment. "I’m a little embarrassed to admit just how shallow I was at nineteen, but I may as well be honest. I’m quite sure that I didn’t have a list like you do, Jamie. I was more concerned with how a man looked and how he made me feel." A faraway look settled on her face as she grew thoughtful and said, "Your father made me feel special, I suppose. He was older than the boys I generally dated, and he seemed much more mature and settled. It’s hard to explain, but we just clicked. In retrospect, I think he reminded me of my father."

Jamie rolled her eyes at this revelation and said, "Gee, I have no idea what that’s like, Mother. Jack was soooo different from Daddy."

"Well, you were just my age when you started getting serious about Jack," she agreed with a laugh. "Do you think I would have wound up with a Ryan if I had waited another couple of years?" When Jamie’s round eyes stared back at her, Catherine laughed heartily and insisted, "I’m kidding, Dear. I’ve yet to be attracted to a woman…even though some times I wish I had been."

Now Jamie’s stunned expression turned to concern. "Why would you wish that, Mother?"

Getting to her feet, Catherine laughed again and said, "I can’t imagine that every woman in a 22-year marriage doesn’t at one time or another wish that her husband had some of the qualities that her women friends had. And for that matter, I’m sure every man wishes his wife thought and acted more like his male friends at times. It’s part of the tension that keeps things interesting, Honey."

"Hmm…interesting," Jamie murmured, thinking that Ryan could resemble a man quite easily, so long as her little bag of tricks was in the vicinity.

Continues in Part Four


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