I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 1: Awakenings

By: S X Meagher

Disclaimers: None needed, since this is an Uber story. The characters in this story come from my imagination and belong to the author. But if anyone in the legal department of MCA/Universal is looking for similarities between this story and a certain syndicated show, rest assured that no monetary gain will result from its publication. However, if anyone would like to offer me a hefty advance, please disclaim the disclaimer.

Sex/Love: I never have and I never will disclaim either love or sex. Iím overly fond of both but if you arenít, look elsewhere. I should mention that a few graphic depictions of sex between members of the opposite sex are included but my characters quickly come to their senses and abandon their attempts to be heterosexual.

Graphic Language: My characters occasionally curse like they have Touretteís syndrome. Iíve tried to make them sound like real humans and sometimes you just have to say Ďwhat the f--k?í, and they use the actual terms for all of the organs of the body, including the fun parts.

Continuing Story/Serial Warning: This is the first story of a looooong series. A new book will be published every other month until I run out of ideas or my girlfriend confiscates my laptop. Iím naming each of the books sequentially for the letters of the alphabet. If you can think of a hot story title that begins with Z, please let me know. (No rush, Iím nowhere near that point!)

Feedback: I enjoy hearing from people who have enjoyed the story. If you have a comment or a question please let me know. Specific feedback is greatly appreciated. If a particular character or scene worked or did not work for you, let me know. I might even kill someone off if you ask really nicely. You can email me at sx_meagher@mindspring.com

Acknowledgements: Primarily to my lover/proofreader/editor/publicist Carrie. Without her support, enthusiastic praise, and tireless patience this book would not exist Ė and I doubt that I would, either.

I was inspired to create this work by the plethora of talented writers in the Xenaverse. Iíve read hundreds of stories but the following writers have been particularly inspiring. If you havenít read their work drop my story and read them first. Iíll still be here when you get backÖpromise. NeNe Adams; Sharon Bowers; Vivian Darkbloom; DJWP; Melissa Good; L.N. James; Journs; Katrina; L J Maas; B.L. Miller; Tonya Muir; C. Paradee; Penumbra; Della Street and SwordnQuill.


Chapter 1

She grabbed the first shirt that caught her eye. In a casual move she slipped it on over the tank top she wore. The small blonde shop owner noticed that she did not look in a mirror to determine her satisfaction with the garment. It seemed as though she had an internal mirror to gauge her appearance. She stood for a moment or two until a look of pleasure overtook her handsome face. The shop owner met her glance as she made her way toward her beautiful customer.

"Is there something I can help you with?" she asked, hoping to engage this woman in at least a conversation.

"Yeah, I think Iíll take this shirt," she indicated, passing her strong hands down her torso. "Do you think it suits me?" she asked with a twinkle in her clear blue eyes.

"It definitely suits you, but then, so would just about anything I sell," the golden haired woman replied, openly admiring the statuesque woman.

"Thatís the nicest compliment Iíve had all day," she drawled as a smile twitched her lips.

"Itís only 11:00 oíclock," she playfully responded. "Iíll bet that youíll have more than you can handle by nightfall."

Wow, she really wants to play. Well, Iím always up for a gameóletís see how far sheíll go.

"Would you like to spend some of the day with me to help me fight off all of the compliments being hurled my way?" she asked with a wolfish grin.

"I would," the shop owner stated hesitantly, as she darted a glance around the store, "but I donít have any other help today, and Iím open till nine tonight."

"Hmm, that is late," the dark haired customer agreed with a regretful shake of her head. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows knit together for a moment and then her features broke into a sly grin. "How do you stop for lunch or a break?" she asked smoothly.

"When business is slow I can just lock up for a little while." She blushed a bit as the implications of this thought and the knowing grin of her pursuer hit her.

"I havenít seen another soul come in since Iíve been here," the dark woman said with a gaze that locked on green eyes.

"Iím not sure I would have noticed if someone had," she replied, feeling just a little weak in the knees. She was astonished at her open flirting with this woman. This was generally not something that she did, but something about this woman called to her and she was unable to control the responses coming from her mouth or her body.

"If you were to take a little break to nibble on something where would you go?" blue eyes darkening with open desire.

Her dry mouth squeaked out, "I have a little office with a couch in the back of the store," and she felt her hand point weakly at a door in the rear of the building.

"Iíll be right back," soothed the stranger, as she made her way with confident strides to the front of the store. She glanced at the door and spotted a sign that mimicked a clock that read ĎWill Return Iní with little blue plastic clock hands. She moved the hands to noon, turned the sign around and slapped the bolt on the door in place. She was back at the small womanís side before the shop owner could take a step in either direction. The dark woman gently clasped her small hand in her own powerful one and guided her to the office.

In less than the beat of a heart, she found herself sprawled against the worn dark leather of her couch, responding with ferocity to the caresses of her beautiful customer. The intensity of the touch and the powerful aura that radiated from this woman were truly overwhelming. She felt completely powerless to slow the pace or collect her scattered thoughts. She knew that this was very much unlike her, but she had no desire to stop the relentless assault to her senses. There was a fire within this woman and she needed to dive into the conflagration.

She felt her clothing being gently removedófirst her deep red French cut t-shirt, then her short black skirt. Both were tossed casually to the floor. She shivered a little at the coolness of the leather on her bare skin. The strong hands moved over her body rubbing her breasts through the lace of her bra. Then they slowly glided over her grinding hips to caress her curves through her silky panties. Those practiced hands then removed even these barriers to those fierce blue eyes and warm wet lips.

Those lips descended on the small woman with a burning fire that ratcheted her desire up several notches. She craved more contact. She wrapped her fingers in the onyx tresses and ground the womanís mouth to her breasts, arching into the sensation. Reluctantly, she released her grasp when she felt the head sliding down her abdomen. She raised her legs and slid them around the powerful shoulders that paused above her for just a moment. She looked beseechingly at those clear blue eyes and uttered the only word that would tumble from her lips, "Please." She was met with a wide smile and a look of quiet pleasure from those beautiful orbs. The dark head dipped and tasted her passion, which flowed from her like lava, burning in its intensity. She gasped and tried to vocalize her pleasure, but was unable to utter more than a low growl. That tortured sound was met by an even lower growl that sounded like the contented murmurings of a panther over its kill.

She thrust her hips at the mouth that covered her, watching with half-closed eyes as the dark head moved slowly between her legs. Long, blissful moments passed as she allowed herself to be completely consumed. But after too short a time she felt herself go rigid for a split second as she teetered on the edge of climax. One firm, wet kiss and she plummeted over, completely unable to hold back any longer. She grunted out her pleasure as she grabbed the dark head and pressed it against herself firmly. Finally she felt the mouth slowly still. She rested for a moment and then felt delicate kisses begin to tenderly remove the traces of her passion. Her legs relaxed and she was finally able to speak. "That was wonderful," she languidly enthused to the dark head still nestled between her legs. The head tilted up and rested on her abdomen, smiling at her with twinkling eyes.

"You did seem to enjoy it," the dancing beautiful blue eyes responded with a chuckle.

"Let me return the favor," the small woman huskily responded as she reached up to unbutton the new shirt.

"I wish we had time, but itís almost noon," the dark woman said with obvious regret. "The buying public is probably lined up outside your door. Remember, I did promise to only keep you for a little nibble."

"There are plenty of other clothing stores on Telegraph Avenue," the golden haired woman responded lazily from her still blissful languor.

"Yes, but none of the others have the great customer service that you offer," the dark woman teased. She was rising from the floor and straightening her clothing as she responded.

"Are you really leaving?" the small woman said with genuine surprise. "ButÖdonít youÖI want to please you too," she begged.

"You already did," said the smiling blue eyes. "I am glad I decided to buy this shirt, however," she indicated the rumpled garment with the wet marks gracing the placket. "The ah...design might not appeal to all of your customers," she stated with a quirky grin that lit up her face. "Although I think it will become one of my favorites," she added with a twinkle in those clear blue eyes. "Which reminds me, what do I owe you?"

"I should pay you for that little lunch break," she said sheepishly. "Please consider it a small thank you gift."

"Okay, but next time Iíll try not to damage the merchandise before Iíve paid for it," she said with another twinkle.

"Will there be a next time?" the honey haired woman asked tentatively.

She was met with a confident leer, "Count on it." Then the tall woman turned and started for the exit, giving her one last dazzling grin as she paused at the door, and was gone.

The small woman straightened her clothing and made herself as presentable as possible. She floated dreamily out of the office and walked behind the counter. Resting neatly on the glass surface were two twenty-dollar bills and a note that read, "Thanks for the nibble. You made my day."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I hope I didnít make a mistake in taking this class. Iím just afraid Iíll stick out like a sore thumb. And what I should wear? I really donít want to look too straight...hmm

"Ohh, that feels really good sweetheart," Jamie murmured into Jackís ear. But as soon as the words left her lips she regretted her statement. In his defense, Jack was nothing if not receptive to instructions. Regrettably, he took them a bit too seriously. He seemed to reason that if something felt good, he should continue to do it until he was bodily forced to stop.

"Thatís a little too much, Jack." Jamie did her best to keep the edge out of her voice. She sighed deeply and reflected that she was absolutely sure that she did not have instructions printed on her stomach but Jack acted as though he was following some kind of script. He was tender and sweet and very attentive. But he had no spontaneityóno intuitive sense of how to please her.

He went back to his usual routine and Jamie fell back into her reverie. I can always drop the damn class if I feel too uncomfortable. Itís really no big deal.

Jack was close now and she whispered words of love into his ear to hasten his climax. She loved his earsóthey were perfectly shaped and had just a light covering of downy blonde hair on them. When he was excited they glowed with an attractive blush that Jamie found irresistible.

He threw his head back as his eyes became glassy and unfocused. He spent his release into her as she rubbed his back and murmured into his pink ear. After a moment as his breathing slowed he looked at her with concern in his deep blue eyes, "You didnít finish, did you?"

"Thatís okay, Honey, you can get me twice tomorrow," she said with a sweet smile. "You look so tired, Love, put your head down here," she said as she patted her chest. He looked as though he wanted to argue, but she was gently tracing patterns on his back and he quickly lost his will to insist. He rested his sandy blonde head on her breast and was asleep in moments.

She regarded his attractive tanned face with loving eyes. I am so lucky to have him, she thought. He tries so hard to please me. Not many men would be so concerned with my pleasure. I just wish I knew how to explain how I like to be touched. She lightly ran her fingers through the damp hair covering his forehead. I just wish I could relax about the whole thing, she thought. Iím only 20 years old and they say most women donít hit their sexual peak until theyíre in their 40ís. Jack shifted a bit and nestled his head into her neck. Well, that thought really helped, she groused. Iíll just wait 20 years to feel hot.

Jack had turned 24 just the week before, the same day he had gone back to Stanford for his third year of law school. Their relationship had reached this stage of intimacy quite recently. Jamieís friends had teasingly called her the "last attractive virgin in California," for the past 4 years. But when Jamie made up her mind about something, it was tough to change it. She had decided when she was 15 that she would not have intercourse with a man she did not love.

She steadfastly stuck to that resolve even when her hormones were on full alert. It had surprised her and shocked her friends that a guy like Jack had continued to date her for 2 years. But Jack, like Jamie, knew what he wanted and would sacrifice to get it. He was very happy when she relented at the beginning of the summer and they had consummated their love. They had spent a lot of time together during the past 3 months but Jamie continued to stay with her parents to avoid any questions about their relationship. It had been hard on Jack to see her for just a few hours a day, but he coped with the inconvenience like he did so many things.

They were both looking forward to the start of Jamieís fall semester at Berkeley as a way to have more quality time together. They had made plans for her to come down to Palo Alto every Friday night to spend the weekend, and Jamie hoped these times together would give her some indication of what married life would be like.

As she cradled Jackís head on her chest she reflected over the last 2 years of their relationship. When they met Jamie had just graduated from The Oaks, a private academy on the Peninsula. Much to her parentsí displeasure, she was going to attend the University of California at Berkeley. Both of her parents were Stanford alumís and they were very much invested in having their only child attend their alma mater. But Jamie wanted to see a different side of the Bay Area. She knew that Stanford would be like continuing in high school. They same type of rich, smart kids. The same type of parties, although now in a fraternity house. She wanted to see the grittier, more vibrant side of the city that Hillsborough insulated her from.

Jamie was taken with Jack from the onset. He was working as a summer associate at her fatherís law firm just getting ready for his first year of law school. She still remembered the night her father had brought him home for dinner. She took one look at the tall, well built young man and knew that her sparkling eyes were sending a clear message. Over dinner he responded with a matching level of interest and by the next weekend they went on their first date. He was tall, and well built with broad sloping shoulders and a runnerís lean frame. He had a strong face with a perennial deep tan and his deep blue eyes were framed by pale blonde lashes. His hair was thick and straight, colored a nice shade of ash blonde that lightened a bit in the summer. He wore it parted on the side and relatively short in the back. There was usually a thick shock of it hanging just a little bit in his eyes. It gave him a cute, boyish look that Jamie loved from the start.

He was such a welcome change from the boys she had known in high school. He was mature, and confident and very interested in her. But unlike her high school dates he did not seem only interested in her for sex. He wanted to build a relationship.

As she watched Jack sleep in her arms she felt a fierce well of emotion build up inside of her. Iíll try to be what you need, Jack. But I need you to be patient with me while I figure some things out.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. Jamie was up early, as was her custom. When Jack made his way into the small kitchen she was sitting at the counter drinking a large latté and reading the New York Times.

"Hi, sleepyhead," she teased as their eyes met.

"Wow, I didnít realize how tired I was," he said sheepishly. "Itís past 8! I never sleep that late." As he shuffled over to her she opened her arms and enveloped him in a big hug. "Maybe Dr. Jamieís sleeping potion was too strong for you," she murmured.

He grinned down at her as he replied, "That reminds me, I need to give you a double dose of that potion today."

"Okay, Doc, but at the moment I would like to get you into clothes, not out of them. Remember you promised we could go to church today."

"Oh, right," he said as he remembered their plan. "Let me take a quick shower and we can get going. Did you want to hit the 9:00 or the 11:00 oíclock service?"

"I thought 9 oíclock and then maybe we can play a round with Daddy if heís available," she said.

"Sounds good, Sweetie," he said over his shoulder as he walked into the bathroom. "Why donít you give him a buzz?"

The day was shaping up well. Her father happily agreed to play golf, but since her mother had just returned from her month long vacation to visit her family in Newport she wanted to come along and have brunch beforehand. Gosh, I canít believe I completely forgot that she was back this week, Jamie thought. I really should have called her on the day she came back.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They settled into a pew near the front of the small, Episcopal Church on the outskirts of Nob Hill. As the choir began the opening hymn they turned slightly to watch the procession. As the acolytes, the verger and the choir filed past Jamie made eye contact with a gray haired elegant looking priest. She wrinkled up her nose a bit and winked at him. He gave her a fond smile and winked back.

Charles Sloan Evans had been an Episcopal priest for nearly 40 years. He and his wife had reared a son and a 2 daughters. The eldest being Jamieís father. Jamie had always known where her father got his sense of humor and his generally easy going nature. But as much as she loved her father, her grandfather was Jamieís ideal of what a man should be. He was kind, warm, empathetic and very funny. Jamie spent many an hour in his study just talking about life. He seemed to understand her in a way that she doubted anyone else ever would. Her grandmother had died before Jamie was born, but her grandfather never seemed lonely. He was very dedicated to his calling and genuinely loved helping people through the trying times of their lives. Jamie knew that her grandfather was a bit disappointed in his only son. Rev. Evans felt that his son had not found his true soul mate and he was dismayed at the lack of time that he spent with his family. He felt that Jim had been lured by the money and power that his wifeís family promised. But Jim had produced this most perfect of granddaughters and for that he was eternally grateful.

After the reading of the gospel, Rev. Evans climbed to the pulpit. His deep, clear voice warmed Jamieís heart. Few things made her happier than hearing her grandfather impart his wisdom on his congregation. His sermon spoke of love, one of his favorite themes. Jamie could not imagine attending a church where the message was sin and retribution. But even though his message was usually happy, her grandfather had a way of making even difficult topics seem uplifting and hopeful.

He spoke of love being Godís greatest gift to man and the most visible sign of His presence among us. Through love for another, humans acknowledged this gift of love from God and expressed it in concrete form. In no other way could we feel His love for us as completely. This manifestation was a gift to be cherished-not taken frivolously. Through the loving pairing of two people God dwells among them.

Jamie was thoughtful through the rest of the service. Is that how I feel?" she thought. Do my feelings for Jack reflect that peak experience? Is this the height of my expression of Godís love?

As they filed out of the church, hand in hand, Jack turned to Jamie and said, "Wasnít that a great sermon?"

"Yes," agreed Jamie, "it really gave me something to think about."

"Your grandfather just expressed exactly how I feel about you Jamie," he said with a beautiful smile on his face. Jamie felt her heart break at the look of love on Jackís face.

She pasted a similar smile on her own face and said, "Iím very happy that you told me that Jack." She stretched on her tiptoes as she reached up with tears in her eyes and gave him a chaste kiss. He beamed down at her and remarked, "We are two lucky people, Jamie."

"We are that, Jack," she agreed with a tear in her eyes.

Jack enthusiastically shook Rev. Evans hand as they exited the church. Jamie gave her grandfather a big hug that was returned with gusto. "You hit another home run, Poppa," she teased.

"Well, when I have such an attentive audience it inspires me to swing for the fences," he agreed. After a few minutes of banter, the couple excused themselves and made their way to the Club for brunch.

The Olympic Club was the scene of the majority of Jamieís Sundays since she was a small child. Her parents dutifully took her to church and Sunday school but when she was old enough to drive herself, they began to find excuses for the religious part of the day. But both of her parents loved to while away the afternoon at the Club. Her father played golf while her mother chatted with her friends or sometimes played tennis. They nearly always enjoyed brunch together as a family, though. As they sat at their table overlooking the 18th green Jamie regarded them all with an appraising eye. This is exactly where I will be in 20 years, she thought. Jack and I will be with our children at a table just like this one. We will be eating the same food from the same china. Some of the waiters will still be here. We will be having the same topical conversation with the other members about our golf games and our families and our busy lives. He and I will love each other but we will not share much other than the children. His real love will be his career. Is this what I want? But if not, what do I want?

She was jolted from her musings by the crisply uniformed waiter saying, "Miss Jamie, what would you like to drink?"

"Oh, Iím sorry Harold, lemonade would be great, thank you."

"Jamie, you seem a thousand miles away this morning," said Jack. "Is anything wrong?"

"No, of course not," she replied lightly. "Iím just thinking about school starting tomorrow. I guess Iím just preoccupied."

"Do you have your pencils sharpened and a new Star Wars lunchbox?" he teased.

"I was partial to Malibu Barbie myself," she retorted.

"Iím sure this will be a great year for you," he reassured her as he squeezed her hand. "And for us," he added with a confident grin.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie made her way back to the home she shared with her roommates. She plodded along the 101 in her yellow Porsche Boxster fighting the heavy traffic. Why does every living soul have to leave the City for the weekend?" she mused. She hoped that her good friend Mia would be home. She really enjoyed spending time with her old high school buddy. Maybe she will be able to help me out of this funk, Jamie thought. But I guess I need to be sure what it is about, before anyone can help me get out of it. She just felt so---restless. Yes, she was restlessóbut for what? She truly did not know. She just felt unsettled. She really thought that her engagement to Jack would settle her feelings. She had thought that once this part of her life was secured, she would feel more at peace. In reality, it had made things more uncomfortable. But no matter how much thought she devoted to the problem she did not know how to rectify it. There was nothing wrong with Jack, of that she was sure. Nine tenths of the women in America would give their right arm to be with a man like him, she thought. The problem seemed to be with her. There was just something missing. There was a feeling of peace that she craved but just could not conjure up when they were together. But if she was honest with herself the peaceful feeling was not something that she experienced very often, with Jack or alone. Oh, well, Iím only 20 years old. Maybe Iím supposed to feel unsettled, she thought as she drove on through the night.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie announced her decision to attend Berkeley her parents had very reluctantly agreed, with the proviso that she not live on campus. They wanted her in an atmosphere closer to that of a real home and they were helped in this quest by some of Jamieís classmates. Mia Christopher was the daughter of Adam and Anna Lisa Christopher. Adam was a partner at another prestigious law firm in San Francisco and a Stanford classmate of Jamieís father, Jim. The families were cordial to one another but the girls mothers were not particularly close. Anna Lisa was a fiery first generation American whose family hailed from Italy, but Jamieís mother Catherine was from a very old very wealthy W.A.S.P. lineage. The women liked one another well enough but they were far too different to feel really comfortable with one another.

Another prep school classmate, Cassie Martin also enrolled at Cal. The situation with Cassie was just the opposite from Mia. Jamieís mother and Cassieís mother, Laura were very good friends, but their husbands had never hit it off. Likewise, Jamie liked Cassie well enough but she had never felt particularly close to Cassie, nor had she ever truly trusted her. But their motherís close relationship forced the girls together frequently and Jamie did not feel strongly enough to fight the situation so she went along and made the best of it.

All 3 sets of parents agreed that if the girls were to attend Cal it would be best if they lived together in a suitable home. So the three mothers got together and swept through Berkeley like a tsunami. They interviewed real estate agents and found an acceptable house within walking distance of campus. It was a large craftsman style bungalow, built in the early 1920ís. It had originally contained 3 bedrooms and one bath but through the years additions had enhanced the original layout to create more generous bedrooms and add 1 1/2 baths. All of the bedrooms and two baths were on the 2nd floor. The first floor contained a very large, airy kitchen with a powder room and a door to a small, shaded back yard, a formal dining room, a spacious parlor and a small oak paneled library. The house was truly beautiful with its generous deep front porch, original leaded glass windows and beautifully restored redwood moldings throughout. Jamie loved the house from the moment she saw it, which was lucky since neither she nor her friends were consulted on the decision. Catherine Evans had made the actual purchase of the house since she could make a purchase of that size without even noticing the dent in her bank balance. The others paid a reasonable amount of rent, and all shared utilities.

The girlsí mothers had furnished the home in a very attractive, if not luxurious style. Jamieís mother had purchased all of the kitchen utensils since the other girls had no interest in cooking. Jamie put her hours of observing their family cook, Marta, to good use in cooking for herself and anyone else who was willing to help clean up afterward.

They got along well all through freshman year. But during that summer both Cassie and Mia obtained steady boyfriends. Miaís new love Jason went to UCLA, but Cassieís boyfriend Chris went to Cal. This changed the dynamic between the women and upset the balance they had created. While they did not really argue, Jamie and Mia began to grow more distant from Cassie and spend less and less time together. Even though Jack was just down the freeway at Stanford the fact that she did not often see him during the week allowed Jamie and Mia to still spend quite a bit of time together. Jamie had always liked Mia, but during this past year they had grown particularly close. Neither of them had a sister and they had begun to share the intimate secrets of their lives, creating a deep bond. Mia liked Jack and constantly teased Jamie about him. Jamie also liked Miaís boyfriend Jason, but she saw very little of him because he was in L.A. and did not often come to the Bay Area for visits.

As Jamie pulled up to the drive she saw that Miaís car was at home. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that Cassieís car was absent. In a way it was silly for them to have 3 cars in Berkeley. They did not drive to school or use the cars much, but they came in handy for driving to the Peninsula for the occasional weekend at home.

"Hey Mia, are you here?" Jamie asked hopefully.

"Yeah, Iím upstairs," came the reply.

"You want anything from the kitchen?" Jamie shouted back up the stairs.

"Yeah, bring me a diet anything," Mia shouted back.

After making her brief stop in the kitchen Jamie lugged her overnight bag and two diet Sprites up the wide oak staircase. Mia was lying on her bed, her room a total mess as usual. She was inattentively watching television with a CD playing in the background. She stood in the doorway and watched her friend for a moment, looking at her usually sunny, slightly cherubic face that was now resting in a bored grimace. "Couldnít decide?" Jamie asked, pointing at the TV and the CD player in sequence.

"Iím bored," Mia moaned, shaking her curly mid-length medium brown hair. "Iím so glad youíre home early James," she said as her dark brown eyes twinkled up at her friend. Jamie smiled at the nickname that Mia had bestowed on her during high school. Mia stretched languidly, pulling her 5í4" frame to its full length. Her friendís body resembled her own in both size and weight. Both women were quite thin, almost painfully so at times, but there was a sturdy athleticism lurking within both that had never really been tapped.

"Iím glad Iím back too, I missed you, buddy."

"You did? Why?" Mia asked suspiciously. "Did the perfect couple have a fight?"

"No, of course not. You know we donít fight. I just wanted to spend some time with you and get some girl talk in," Jamie admitted a little shyly.

"Whatís up James? You do look a little down," Mia agreed.

"I donít know, Mia. Thatís my problem. I just feel restless, like I want something to happen, but I donít know what."

"Are things any better between the sheets with old Jack?" Mia asked with a devilish grin.

"Mia, donít tease me," Jamie said with a hint of irritation in her voice. She knew she should not be irritable with Mia, but she was a little unhappy about her sex life and she really didnít like discussing it. She would never have broached the topic with Mia at all, but her friend had been sexually active since 16 and was very open and cavalier about the topic. This generally relaxed Jamie enough so that she could talk about it, something they had been doing more and more of lately.

"Hey, James, I didnít mean to offend you. Are you okay?" she asked with real concern in her voice.

"Yeah, Iím sorry Mia. Things arenít any better and Iím getting kind of frustrated," she finally admitted.

"You know, Jamie, I didnít start really enjoying sex for 3 years after I started. And itís only been since Jason that I really love it."

"Really?" Jamie asked, rather astounded.

"Well," she admitted as she tossed her head. "There were parts that I always liked but I didnít really like intercourse until Jason."

"But thatís what is so frustrating, Mia. Before we actually had sex it was great with Jack. We would kiss and touch each other for hours. I felt so close to him. I would go home some nights and just feel like I was on fire. But since we started to, well, you know," she blushed, "it feels so mechanical."

"James I hate to break this to you but you are experiencing what every woman goes through when you go from teasing a guy to really doing it," she laughed.

"I donít know what you mean."

"When a guy canít go all the way he has to spend all of his time doing what he thinks you want. For most women that means kissing and holding each other and touching each other. He keeps doing that until you figure, ĎThis guy will really know how to make love to me.í You finally give in and then he has all the cards. He finally gets to do what he wants and itís payback time, baby! As little foreplay as possible, check for moisture content and then itís time for the main event!"

Jamie looked at her with a completely shocked expression on her face.

"That look on your face says Iíve hit the penis on the head," Mia teased.

"But Mia, why would women ever want to make love if thatís all it was?" Jamie practically cried in frustration.

"Well, girlfriend, thatís not all it ever is. If you find a guy who really loves to make love, itís all that and then some," she said encouragingly.

"But Mia, Jack tries soooo hard. It really bothers him if I donít come. He attacks me like a legal brief. He believes if he works harder and smarter itíll be great. Iíve tried to get him to relax. I have even considered faking an orgasm, but he watches me so closely I know he would know I was faking and that would really hurt him."

"Have you tried to, ah, lend him a hand, so to speak?" Mia asked with a playful tone.

"Yes," Jamie said as she blushed again. "But he seems to regard that as a failure on his part. Iíve tried to tell him that Iím just helping a little, but itís hardly worth it when I see the hurt look on his face."

"I feel for you, hon," Mia said. "I have engaged in more bad sex acts than I can count, but it must be hard when itís with a man you love."

"Thatís what really scares me, Mia. Iím going to spend the rest of my life with Jack. If we donít enjoy sex now, I have no reason to believe it will be better in the future. Honestly Mia, at times I just hope he comes to bed and doesnít want to do it," she said sadly. "I mean, shouldnít we just be tearing each others clothes off this early in our relationship?"

"Well, I would think so, judging from my limited experience in doing it with guys I love," she agreed. "But donít worry so much, James. You have a great relationship and Jack is a fantastic guy. Maybe heís right and more hard work will help everything to work out," she said hopefully.

"Yeah, youíre probably right," agreed Jamie. "I mean we have only been doing it for 3 months. Maybe we just have to get used to each other a little bit more. Thanks for talking this over with me, Mia. Youíre the only one I trust enough to talk about this with."

"Youíre welcome, sweetie. I hope you know you can tell me anything."

As Jamie got ready for bed she thought over what Mia had said. Well, Iíve got the rest of my life to work on this; I guess I donít have to be in that much of a hurry. Miaís right. There is no reason to think this will not all work out in the end. I mean, I do have the rest of my life to make some progress on this.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As the class settled noisily into their seats, Professor Linda Levy scanned their faces. Not bad, she thought. At least there are 3 men.

"May I have your attention, please?" 20 mildly expectant faces gazed at her. "Welcome to Psychology 197-The Psychology of the Lesbian Experience. My name is Linda Levy. Iíd like to get some housekeeping matters out of the way and then Iíll give you an overview of the class. If we have time I would like each of you to introduce yourselves. I should warn you though, that this class is very interactive. If youíre looking for a quiet place where you can sleep in the back row for 3 hours a week, youíve come to the wrong place!"

Jamie closely regarded the professor. She was a small woman, about Jamieís height-5í4" or so. She was fit and trim and wore chinos with an attractive print silk blouse in shades of tan and brown. She had a warm smile and lively twinkling eyes. Her wavy chin length hair was parted on the side, and there was a sprinkling of gray in it. Jamie guessed her to be somewhere in her 40ís although she had to admit that she was not terribly good at guessing ages.

Linda walked from row to row and handed out 3x5 cards. "I would like you to give me a little personal information on these cards," she stated. A number of giggles hit some of the women. "Itís not necessary to give me that information unless you think it is relevant," she replied with a laugh of her own. "I suppose we should tackle that little issue right away," she said as she perched on the end of the large wooden desk situated at the front of the room.

"I am now, and I have always been a practicing lesbian," she said with another twinkle in her eyes. "However, lesbianism is not a pre-req for this course. Iím sure that will relieve you guys," she said as she pointed at the 3 men sitting near one another. "This class deals with the psychological issues that may be encountered by a group of people who have in many ways been marginalized by society. We will be undertaking this survey with the eyes of scholars-ónot participants. This is not a ĎHow to be a lesbianí course. You do not need to declare your sexual orientation to the rest of the class. The class usually turns out to be predominantly lesbian, but I not only welcome heterosexuals, I really encourage straight people to take the class. It is the people who are not part of the peer group who can have the biggest impact on changing societal perceptions," she stated with conviction.

Jamie was relieved by this little explanation. I think Iím going to like this, she thought rather happily.

Linda continued, "On the cards I would like you to give me your names, phone numbers and a general idea of when you are available to do outside projects. I want to pair up class members based on their time availability to make it easier for everyone."

The class worked on their cards for a few minutes as Linda watched. Well, they look a little less nervous now. This looks like it might be a good group.

Jamie worked on her card-neatly writing her relevant information on the white rectangle. She indicated her home number and just to be thorough she included Jackís number with the words Ďfiancés home numberí. Well, it doesnít hurt to get that out of the way right from the start, she thought

Linda looked quickly at the cards as they were turned in. Oh, thatís cute, she said to herself as she saw Jamieís card. It always amazes me how people get those little tidbits of information in, she thought wryly as she noted that Jamie had somehow mentioned that she possessed a fiancé. She tried to match peopleís availability and was pleased that she was able to do so fairly easily. "Okay people, Iím going to write down partner names on the board. After we do our introductions youíll be able to find each other."

She strode to the board and began to write the 10 pairs. Jamie saw her name go up on the board next to that of Ryan OíFlaherty. Oh, great, she moaned to herself, I take a class in lesbianism and I get paired up with a guy. Well, at least he wonít assume he can hit on me, she thought hopefully. Unless heís the type who thinks lesbians are hot, she thought suspiciously. God, Jamie, get a grip! Yesterday you were afraid of the women and today youíre disappointed that youíre with a man!

Linda returned to her perch on the front corner of the desk. "Okay, letís get to work." She launched into a rather lengthy speech on how the course was developed, how long she had been teaching it, and how it fit into the curriculum for psych majors.

Jamie was pleased with the way the course was organized. This could really be interesting, she thought. I know so little about lesbians-and thatís a liability in San Francisco. Thatís like living in L.A. and not knowing anything about the beach!

Linda looked at her watch and noted with surprise that the 70 minutes was just about up. "I apologize for going on so long," she said. "If you donít mind you can try to find each other after class to meet your partner. Iíll see you all on Wednesday morning and we can discuss some of the class projects."

Well, at least I have it easy, thought Jamieóthere are only 3 guys. She approached the first and tentatively asked, "Are you Ryan?"

"Nope," he replied, "Iím Todd." The other two men were Demitrius and Mike. Jamie was at a loss. The rest of the class seemed to be more successful and were all busily exchanging info. As people began to drift away Jamie noticed one lone figure sitting quietly. She was idly twirling a ring on the surface of her desk and did not seem to be in any hurry to find her partner.

Jamie approached her from the back and asked, "Are you Ryan?" with a hint of exasperation in her voice.

The dark head turned and she was nonplussed to see the most dazzling white smile she thought she had ever encountered. "Well, if I wasnít before, I am now," the beautiful woman answered with a little tease in her voice as a terribly sexy grin lit up her face.

Jamie blushed all the way to the roots of her blonde hair. The woman unfolded herself from the desk that was obviously too small for her long frame. She extended her hand and Jamie mindlessly parroted her. "Iím Ryan OíFlaherty," she said, flashing that smile again. Jamie knew that it was her turn to speak, but for some strange reason she felt unable to. "And you areÖ" Ryan cast a quick look over at the chalkboard, "Jamie Evans?"

"Oh, right, I mean yes, Iím Jamie Evans," she heard her voice automatically respond.

"Itís good to meet you, Jamie Evans," Ryan stated rather gravely.

Jamie knew that she should stop staring but she was unable to control herself. Ryan was probably the most beautiful woman she had even seen. She stood over 6 feet tall, with a sturdy but lean, muscular build. There was something very feminine about her body that the muscle paradoxically seemed to accentuate. Jamie guessed her jet-black hair was quite long even though it was pulled back in a ponytail and partially hidden under a backwards-black knit-driving cap. She wore a tight blinding white thick cotton T-shirt that hugged each of her ample curves and over that a black and maroon paisley vest. This topped a pair of well-faded 501ís that looked like they were created specifically for her long legs. A pair of shiny cordovan penny loafers worn without socks completed her ensemble.

Jamie realized that she was still gripping Ryanís hand and immediately dropped it as though it was burning her. Ryan just continued to smile at her and Jamie found that it was very difficult to meet her penetrating gaze. When she finally forced herself to do so she was again shocked to discover the most dazzling pair of ice blue eyes that one could imagine. Jesus, she thought as she tore herself away from that intense gaze, how does one woman get this many perfect parts?

"Uh, Jamie did you want to exchange phone numbers, or arrange to meet, or something?" Ryan asked gently, stooping down at bit and moving her head around as she tried to make eye contact with her new partner.

"Oh, sure, yeah, thatís good, um phone numbers...good," Jamie began to curse herself for her inarticulate ramblings. Iím an English major! she shouted at herself in exasperation.

With Ryan providing most of the leadership they finally exchanged their personal info. Ryan took down Jamieís number in a neat black organizer that Jamie noticed had a very busy schedule meticulously filled out. "When is the best time for you to get together?" Ryan asked.

"Well, I donít have a job and my bo.." Jamie caught herself and decided that she did not want this woman to know about Jack. "My time is pretty open," she finally stated without elaboration.

"Great. Iím pretty swamped, but weekday afternoons and weekend mornings are my best times," Ryan said. "My schedule is really kind of unpredictable, but Iím sure weíll be able to get together," she smiled that impossibly dazzling smile again and Jamie felt her brain once again begin to freeze.

"Where do you live?" Ryan asked with a small chuckle, as she unsuccessfully tried to hide a knowing grin.

Oh God, oh god! Jamie screamed to herself, she knows! She began to blush again and finally began to stutter, "UmmÖIÖahhÖ."

But Ryan graciously took pity on her and removed her piercing gaze. She looked down at her organizer and tried again. "Do you live in Berkeley?" she asked casually.

"Yeah," Jamie breathed out in relief. "Really close to campus."

"Oh, thatís good," Ryan said. "I live over in the Noe Valley, but Iím sure we could meet here. You donít have a car do you?"

"Car?" Jamie said as though this were the first time she had ever heard the word,

"Yeah, you know, a big metal object with wheels, letís you go places that your feet canít take you," Ryan said, as she mimicked holding a steering wheel.

"Oh, yes I do! I do have a car!" Jamie was outrageously pleased with herself for being able to get a complete sentence out without stuttering. She decided against all reason that she liked being teased by Ryan and began to loosen up a little bit.

"Thatís great," Ryan said. "Iíve got a bike but some people donít like riding on them," she added. Jamie dully wondered where on Ryanís bicycle she would ride, but banished that thought as Ryan once again extended her hand.

"I guess Iíll see you on Wednesday then, okay?" those crystal clear blue eyes locked on hers again. Jamie felt her hand being engulfed by the much larger one and then gently shaken and felt her head bob a bit in response. Ryan dipped her head to make eye contact and winked playfully as she broke into another grin and turned gracefully to stride from the room.

Jamie felt herself slide limply into a desk. She dropped her head to the cool wooden surface and sat in puzzled confusion for a moment. Finally she lifted her head and asked herself in a befuddled haze, What in the hell was that all about?!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

That night after a quickly prepared dinner of salads and soup Jamie and Mia sat cross-legged on Jamieís king sized bed. The room was spotless, as always. Mia did not understand Jamieís fixation on order, but she had to admit that it was really nice to be able to easily find things that she wanted to borrow. The room was generously sized and had a view of the small back yard. It was the biggest bedroom and it made sense that Jamie should have it since her mother had purchased the house. There was a deep eave over the back of the house and it kept the room cool in the summer, even without air conditioning. Because the room was at the right rear corner of the home there were windows on two sides that allowed for a great breeze most of the time. The room was decorated in bright shades of yellow with lots of white painted trim and a splash or two of marine blue. It gave the room a clean, almost nautical feel and the near constant breeze enhanced that feeling. There were two doors, one, to the wide hallway and another that opened to the tiled bath that Jamie shared with Cassie.

The only common wall was the one that bordered the bath. Jamie liked the sense of privacy that the layout provided her. Even though Jack had only stayed overnight once so far, it reassured her that her roommates could not hear any activity that might occur. Since Cassie spent most of her time with her boyfriend at his North Berkeley apartment Jamie had gotten used to the privacy and secretly regretted the nights that Cassie did sleep in the house.

"Just back up a minute there, Honeybunch," Mia commanded.

"What do you mean?"

"You, of all people, are taking a class called the ĎPsychology of the Lesbian Experience?í Uh, Jamie, is there something you want to tell me?" Mia asked with a somber look on her face.

"Mia, you donít have to be a lesbian to take the stupid class," Jamie said with a bit of exasperation.

"No, Jamie, I mean, are you switching to psychology as a major?" Mia asked with a face full of sweet innocence. "Why would you jump to the conclusion that I think youíre a lesbian?" again the innocent look. "Thatís a very odd reaction, Jamie," she said soberly.

"Very funny, Mia. You really should consider a career in comedy."

"No, really, James. Why would you take that class? Iíve never known you to be overly interested in our more androgynous sisters," she said with a glint in her eye.

"Iím not interested, per se, Mia. I needed an easy 3 hour class. Iíve not taken any other soft science so far and this one meets early in the morning, which is my favorite time of day. There is no final, just a bunch of special projects that I have to do with a partner. I only have to write two short papers, and I can use all the easy classes I can get this fall."

"Just how special are these projects?" Mia asked with a leer.

"Well, one is to participate in a bondage scene at a lesbian S and M club, and the other is to make a multi-media collage about cunnilingus."

Jamie was interrupted by Mia spitting a mouthful of Diet Coke all over her sleep shirt.

"Mia!" she shouted as she jumped from the bed, trying to hold the Coke onto her shirt to keep it from dripping onto the spotless carpet.

She scampered into the bathroom and emerged moments later to retrieve another oversized t-shirt from her dresser.

"Serves you right, Jamie. Donít make me laugh when Iíve got a mouthful of Coke. You know I have very little control over my reflexes," Mia told her righteously.

"Well, it was worth it to get you like that," Jamie admitted. "Normally Iím the brunt of jokes around here."

"Hey, did you say you have to do these projects with a partner?" Mia asked as Jamie resettled herself on the bed.

"Yeah, we got assigned partners today," Jamie replied casually.

"Whatís she like, James? Did she bring her big rig to campus or leave it idling out at one of the truck stops?" It was obvious that this was going to turn into a semester long joke.

"Why do you assume itís a woman, Mia, there are men in the class," she said smugly.

"Well, maybe you should order up some chromosome tests before you state that so convincingly, Jamie."

Jamie glared at her friend as she shook her head. "You know, Mia, as the professor said today, itís people like you and I who can make the biggest impact on getting rid of stereotypes about gay people."

"Aw Jamie, you know Iím just kidding. Youíve gotta admit it is kind of funny though, donít you?"

"I guess so," she finally admitted. "And for your information my partner is a woman named Ryan. We talked for a few minutes after class."

"Do you think sheís gay?" asked Mia in a more respectful tone.

"Yeah, Iím sure she is," answered Jamie wryly as she blushed just a bit.

"Ohh, scoop, scoop, why are you so sure?" Mia smelled some dirt and Jamie knew she would never let go now.

"Well, to be honest I think she flirted with me," Jamie finally admitted.

"Jeez, Jamie, what do you expect? Youíre probably the hottest woman in that class and they can all smell fresh meat. They were probably drawing straws to see who got you!"

"Mia, you are being ridiculous! If anyone would be lusted after it would be Ryan," she said with conviction.

"Ooo, is she good looking?" Mia inquired

"Calling Ryan good looking would be an insult," Jamie stated with finality.

"Gee Jamie," she drawled, "maybe it was you who was flirting with her."

"Thatís not funny Mia. It really kind of made me uncomfortable," she stated, although she clearly would not tell Mia just how uncomfortable she had been.

"Maybe she wasnít really flirting, maybe sheís just friendly," Mia supplied helpfully

"No," Jamie snorted. "Iíve been flirted with enough to know the difference, Mia. It was just like talking to a really good looking guy. You know the type. The guy who is just oozing with self confidence and has a really easy time dropping a line on you."

"Well, you know Jamie, you have 3 class meetings to drop it if you really donít like the vibes youíre getting."

"I know, Mia. I donít think she meant anything by it. She just seems like the kind of woman who feels really comfortable in her own skin. And when I tell her Iím straight Iím sure sheíll stop."

"What! You didnít tell her that youíre straight?" Mia exclaimed.

"No, it didnít come up, but Iím sure it will when we meet on Wednesday. Donít worry, Iíll make it clear that I have a really big boyfriend right down the freeway who I think could beat her up."

"Well, Iím sure that will be very reassuring to Jack," Mia said with a grin. "By the way, what does he think about you taking this class? I know Jason would want me to bring a cute one home for him to play with."

"Uh, we havenít really discussed my class schedule, you know how busy he is this year Mia, what with law review and everything."

"Uh huh, I see," said Mia suspiciously.

"Knock it off, will you? Iím sure we will discuss my schedule and then Iíll tell him," she stated flatly. "Itís really no big deal." Is it?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Splash!! "Not yetÖwaitÖ. waitÖ. okay, fetch!" Ryan watched the curly haired black dog gambol through the surf, boldly ducking his strong head under the water as a small wave hit the shore. She closely observed him as he paddled his way out to the large stick that she had thrown and grabbed it with his soft mouth.

He made his way back through the waves and galloped up next to her. Waiting until he was right next to her, of course, before he violently shook his coat. "Lucky for you I could use a little cooling off, Duffy boy," she laughed. They had been running on the beach since just after dawn. This was Ryanís favorite time of the day. She loved the smell of the ocean, loved to hear the gulls crying overhead, and especially loved spending time with Duffy in his true element. There was nothing her dog loved more than swimming and frolicking on the beach. "You know Duff, I sometimes think Iím more like you than I am human," she said aloud. Duffy looked at her with a silently understanding gaze. Her father often told her when she was young that Ryan was part puppy. She loved the freedom of running, and she was not above dropping her shoes and jumping into the surf after Duffy. But today she had to be in Berkeley for an early class and she did not have time to get the sand out of her hair before she had to leave.

"Speaking of which, Duff, Iím gonna have to give you a bath before Da will let you back in the house. Iíll make you a deal, buddy, if you stay outside this morning Iíll come home before work and give you a nice bath, howís that?" Duffy again gave her his agreeable look. He was a fairly big dog, about 25 inches at the shoulder. He weighed in at around 75 pounds and most of that was muscle. His mother was an elegant black standard poodle who had an unplanned liaison with a randy black Labrador. The poodle ownersí loss however, was definitely Ryanís gain. The owner of the pups was one of Ryanís clients. She tricked Ryan into a ride home one day and it took all of two minutes before she was in love with the curly black male.

Martin OíFlaherty was not very happy about the addition to the family, but within a week he was the pride and joy of the whole clan. Duffy was really the perfect dog. He did not shed, he loved to run and exercise, but he could tolerate being ignored for a full day if required. He almost never barked in the house, but outdoors he signaled the arrival of every person, dog or truck. He loved to be with Ryan but would gladly spend the day with anyone who had the time. Ryan secretly thought that her father was really the one most in love with Duffy. Not that that was a surprise. Martin was a very big softie-although he liked to play the tough dad role.

Ryan considered her dayó8 oíclock psych class; 10 oíclock bio lab; lunch; 1 oíclock anatomy; work from 4 until 9. "Well, itís the start of another fun year, Duff."

Psych class sounds like itís going to be fun at least. Itís nice to take a class where you get to interact with humans. Living humans, she added as an afterthought as she considered her anatomy class. She thought about her psych partner, Jamie. She really was cute with that little blush she got when I teased her. But God! she thought with a laugh. She sure did seem nervous around me. I wonder what that was all about. Itís hard to tell if she was really interested or really nervous. I guess it could be that Iím gay but if that bothered her why would she take a class about lesbians? Iím pretty sure sheís straight, but you never know...Now Ryan, you know you shouldnít feed or taunt the straight girls, she reminded herself with a little laugh. Actually she had nothing against trying to change the minds of straight women. It just seemed like an awful lot of trouble when you lived in San Francisco. Ryan was nothing if not pragmatic, and it seemed a waste of her valuable time given all of the eligible, willing women she encountered. And now it was so common for straight women to approach her for a brief tryst that she could maintain a steady diet of them if she so chose. Things really have changed in the last few years, she thought. Itís kind of nice to be the current fad. She assumed that lesbianism would die out as a hip thing to do in a few years, but she was more than willing to ride the wave while it lasted.

"Letís go DuffóIíll race you to the car!" She hoped they were home by the time her father noticed that his truck was missing or else it would be both a car wash and a dog wash this afternoon.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie arrived at her psych class about 5 minutes early. She secretly hoped that Ryan would be there early too, and they could chat for a few minutes. Relax Jamie, itís a long semester. Initially she was pleased, but her pleasure turned quickly to pique when she saw Ryan. Her long lithe body was casually slumped in a small desk looking up at another student, female of course, leaning over her. The look on her face was one of passive bemusement. The woman flirting with her was pretty cute, too, Jamie thought. About 5í6", dark skin, with coal black hair pulled back into a braid. Ryan watched the woman with polite interest. After a few more moments, Professor Levy made her way into the room. Jamie saw Ryan take her felt tipped pen and write a phone number right on the palm of the womanís hand. The recipient of this little gift looked extremely pleased and a bit smug as she made her way back to her desk. Ryan slowly turned her gaze to the left and made eye contact with Jamie. Her face broke in to that damned grin again and Jamie could not help but smile back with the same intensity, completely forgetting her pique.

As Ryan turned back to look at the professor, Jamie studied her critically. Today her outfit was quite a bit more casual than Mondayís ensemble had been. Faded denim overalls covered a form fitting red tank top. Red high top basketball shoes, and a red Nike cap, backwards again, completed her look. Ryanís black hair was pulled into another ponytail and peeked out of the bottom of the bill of her cap. Jamie looked at her own clothes with a smirk. A mint green sleeveless sweater covered by a matching long sleeved cardigan topped tight stretch Capri chinos. A new pair of delicate black leather sandals graced her feet. We certainly donít look like weíre going to the same event, Jamie thought wryly.

She was angry with Ryan for spending her time flirting with another woman even though she knew she was being completely irrational. I wanted to use that time to arrange to get together for these projects, Jamie thought righteously. Right Jamie, she chided herself. Itís the second class meeting and you donít even know what the projects are. This is really urgent.

The professor called them to attention during her musings. She shook her head a bit and tried to focus.

"Good morning everyone. I trust you were all able to meet up with your partners on Monday. Sorry that I went a bit long and was not able to arrange those meetings in a more organized fashion. Letís make up for that by starting out with introductions."

She continued, "I would like each of you to spend a few minutes describing yourself. You can talk about anything that you think is important. Remember, this does not have to be a coming out party, but if you want to discuss your sexual orientation I would like you to feel comfortable to. Why donít we start with you?" she pointed at a young man sitting near the door.

He blushed a bit, but did as he was asked. "Iím Scott Williams. Iím a senior psych major. I plan on going to graduate school next year and hopefully I will one day become a psychologist. I was interested in this class because I want to be comfortable working with disparate groups of people. I am straight but not narrow," he said with a grin.

Heís really cute, thought Jamie. I wonder if I should say Iím a psych major, too. Thatís at least a reasonable explanation for taking this course.

The students continued in order. The woman Ryan had been flirting with introduced herself as Chitra Chuisapor . She was a psych major also and she also dropped the "L" bomb. Jamie paid very close attention as she noticed that every person disclosed his or her sexual preference. Oh, I donít want to do this, she thought nervously as her turn loomed near.

Ryan took her turn next. "Hi, Iím Ryan OíFlaherty," she announced with that smile again. "Iím a junior biology major and this is my first semester at Cal. Iím interested in this class because I have not done much reading on the lesbian experience and I think there is a lot to learn. I have done a lot of fieldwork, however," she added with one waggling eyebrow.

That comment brought a laugh from the professor and the rest of the class.

Jamie had listened raptly while Ryan spoke. Does she have an accent? It doesnít sound strong and I only notice it on certain words, she thought. Iíll have to ask her, she thought as she happily considered conversing with Ryan again.

Jamie was interested to hear 4 women declare that they could not claim a sexual orientation. Each of them had a variation on the statement that they were open to a wide variety of experiences and did not like to feel limited by a label. Hmmm, thatís interesting. It must feel strange not to feel one way or the other. I wonder if theyíre really gay, but donít want to be thought of that way. I canít blame them, she thought. That must really be a difficult life.

Finally it was Jamieís turn. "Hi, Iím Jamie Evans," she began nervously.

Iím a junior English major. Iím engaged to a guy who is a 3rd year at Stanford law school." She shot a glance at Ryan hoping to see surprise, but was greeting with a calm, encouraging gaze. "I donít have a particular reason for taking the class other than the fact that I have not taken any other psych classes and it fit my schedule really well," she admitted sheepishly.

Well, that went okay, she thought as the next woman began to speak. I hope I wasnít too obvious, talking about Jack like that, but I donít want anyone to get the wrong impression.

After all 20 of them had introduced themselves, Linda spoke again. "Iím really glad to meet all of you. I think weíll have a great semester. Now letís discuss our projects. I would like each pair to choose 3 of the following activities. You will need to write a short paper on each of these projects. I need each of you to do your own paper because you will have different reactions to the activity. The activities are as follows:

"Now, Iíll allow you to use the last 15 minutes of class to discuss the activities with your partner. See you all on Friday."

Jamie watched Ryan pull her long form from the small desk. She stood at her full height and gracefully began to stretch her back out. Jamie approached her from the side and gave her a small smile.

"Were these desks made for a grade school, or what?" Ryan asked as she bent over from the waist and let her fingers tickle the linoleum.

"I donít know, they seem just right to me."

Ryan looked her over from top to bottom appraising her as if for the first time. "Well, youíre about the size I was in grade school, so Iíve made my point," she said with a laugh.

"Hey, donít make fun of the height impaired, "Jamie said with a scowl as she crossed her arms across her chest and tried to look intimidating.

"I would not dream of making fun of you, Jamie," those serious blue eyes answered.

"Right," Jamie said, with her mouth suddenly a little dry. "So which of these project do you think we should tackle?"

"Well," Ryan drawled, "do any of them particularly interest you?"

"Um, I guess I could do any of them," Jamie replied. "But since you said you have a busy schedule, maybe you should decide."

"Well, we live on different sides of the bay so it might be easier to do the things that would keep us in the east bay most of the time. We could go to a womenís bookstore in Oakland, and I know of a good lesbian community organization right here in Berkeley. Youíre not 21 yet are you?" she asked a little hesitantly.

"Is it that obvious?" Jamie whined.

"Well, it is a little, but I figured if you were a junior, there was a pretty good chance that you were about 20," she reasoned.

Jamie was pleased that Ryan had listened to her so attentively. "Youíre a junior also," she observed, "but I take it you are past the age of majority."

"Quite," Ryan admitted. She was not forthcoming with any more information, but Jamie let it pass as she decided she could grill her later.

"So that eliminates going to a bar. What about the film festival?" Jamie asked.

"I might be able to squeeze some films in," Ryan said hesitantly. "But as I recall, most of them are at night. I usually work at night, so that might be kind of tough."

"Thatís okay," said Jamie. "There are still 4 other activities that we can do. And lucky for you I am obviously straight, so we can do the Ďplay gay for a dayí thing, " she teased.

"Do you think itísÖobvious?" asked Ryan as she cocked her head a little and looked at Jamie very dubiously.

"Um, err, ah, well, yeah," stammered Jamie in alarm. "Donít you?"

"Yeah, it is," Ryan said as she leaned her head back and laughed heartily.

"Youíre teasing me again, Ryan," she said while tapping her foot and narrowing her eyes.

"Well, it is kind of fun, Jamie, but Iíll stop if it bothers you," she replied sincerely.

"No, Iím used to being the butt of jokes. I think it comes with the height thing," she admitted sheepishly.

"How about I make it up to you by buying you some coffee later," Ryan offered. "Actually, if youíre free we could go to ĎMama Bearísí later and get one of our activities out of the way today."

"Alright, that would be fun," Jamie agreed. Actually she had planned on going shopping with Cassie later, but she was sure she could put that off until next week.

"Iíve got a lab until 2:00. Could you meet then?" she asked.

"Yeah, I can go get my car and pick you up. Where do you want to meet?"

"How about right in front of ĎIntermezzoí? I could dash in and get a salad since I wonít have time for lunch."

"Okay," Jamie agreed. "See you at 2:00."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The morning passed slowly for Jamie. First, a long rather rambling lecture on Wordsworth followed by a slow walk home for lunch. She was pensive during her walk, thinking a jumble of thoughts about her psych class in general and her new partner in particular.

She really seems sweet and funny. I hope we can become friends, she mused. She is so different from anyone else that I know. She just seems so self-assured. I wonder what Jack would think of her? For that matter I wonder what Jack will think of this class? I know I should have told him, but he did not directly ask me what I was taking this term. I donít have to tell him everything about my life, do I?

Jamie knew that she was trying to convince herself of something. She was really uncertain of what Jackís reaction would be to the class. For that matter she had no idea what he thought of gay people in general since it was not a topic they had ever discussed.

Well itís not like there has been a reason to discuss gay people. We donít know any as a couple. And all of the gay people I know are hairdressers or decorators, so thatís kind of expected. Of course I would never have guessed that some of those women in the class were gay. For that matter I would never guess that Ryan was either...if she wasnít such a flirt that is! I canít believe she was already hitting on someone from class. Of course, it looked like that woman was doing most of the hitting. Maybe Ryan was just being polite. She actually might be one of those Ďall talk, no action typesí.

After a quick lunch, Jamie settled down in one of the overstuffed chairs in the sunny living room and did some reading for her í20th Century American Women Writersí class. At 1:45 pm she hopped into the Porsche and took off for ĎIntermezzoí. She had removed the convertible top and her short blonde hair blew in the light breeze. She gazed at herself in the rear view mirror appraisingly. Her hair was cut in a relatively short style, about 3 inches long on top, tapering to about an inch at the base of her neck. She had cut her long hair when she was a freshman. Jack was none too happy about that event, but she had grown tired of spending so much time keeping it looking good. Now she could wash it and not even bother to blow it dry if she so chose.

Jamie was thin and in relatively good shape. A generous layer of flesh that gave her a youthful appearance covered her muscles. Jack teased her about her baby fat but he really enjoyed being held by that soft yet firm body. Luckily she had never had to work out to maintain her figure. Her activity level and relatively low caloric intake saw to that. She had a good golferís body, flexible, strong and lean but not overly muscular.

As she maneuvered through the crowded streets of Berkeley she hoped to herself that Ryan would be on time. Nothing worse than having to circle around the block in this mess, she thought. Traffic was really snarled in front of her. She could see the sign for ĎIntermezzoí about 1Ĺ blocks ahead, but her progress was glacial. As she inched closer she thought she could make out Ryanís cap bedecked head. Yeah, thatís her. Wait a minute----Ryan was sitting on a short concrete post that protected the sidewalk diners from errant cars. Her overall clad legs were spread wide and between them stood Chitra from class. Her arms were around the taller womanís neck and Ryanís hands loosely encircled her waist. Chitra was bent over slightly with her mouth firmly attached to Ryanís. Her head moved slowly as she thoroughly kissed the tanned face. My God! Jamie thought. They look like they just got out of bed! I hope sheís not planning on going with us, she thought angrily. I only have room for two people!

As she got close she saw one blue eye open and catch sight of her. Ryan gently tried to remove her date from her death grip on her mouth, but she was obviously having a difficult time of it. Jamie could see the muscles of her arms tense as she firmly pushed Chitra away, giving her another little kiss as a reward. The beaming smile that she gave her was an added bonus. Chitra gave Jamie a little wave, which she returned after forcing a smile onto her face. Ryan opened the passenger side door and settled herself comfortably. She turned and met Jamieís somewhat shocked gaze and gave her a little shoulder shrug along with a delightfully crooked grin.

"Ahh, we were just having lunch," she explained helpfully.

"You looked like you were lunch," Jamie replied in a mock scolding tone.

Ryan actually blushed at that comment. Jamie instantly felt a stab of regret at the sharp tone she had used. But Ryan didnít seem to mind. She lobbed back the banter, "I like to make friends in class, you never know when you need to copy someoneís notes."

"Were her notes written on her tongue?" Jamie drawled as she cast a wry glance at her project partner.

"Um, Jamie, that didnít bother you did it?" Ryan asked a trifle tentatively.

"Why would that bother me? Youíre my partner, not my girlfriend," she replied logically, secretly hoping to draw another blush from those sculpted cheeks.

"I know, but I donít know how comfortable you are with the whole lesbian thing. Iím certain that would have bothered some women," Ryan explained.

"This is Berkeley, Ryan, you canít walk two feet without tripping over a lesbian!" she said good naturedly.

"Good, Iím glad you seem comfortable with it. Now, have you ever been to a lesbian coffeehouse?"

"No, canít say that I have. But there is a first time for everything," Jamie opined.

They drove the short distance to the small store in Oakland just chatting about things. Ryan was very impressed with the little yellow Boxster that Jamie drove. She seemed to know a lot about cars and asked scads of questions about its engine and handling capabilities. Jamie didnít have answers for most of the questions but that didnít deter Ryan from asking more. She finally gave Ryan a little shake of her head and pulled over. As she got out Ryan looked at her with a puzzled expression.

"Come on, Ms. NASCAR, you drive it and answer your own questions," she said as she walked around to the passenger door and opened it. Ryan gave her a dazzling grin, protesting weakly while simultaneously grabbing the windshield and the back of the driverís seat and hoisting herself gracefully over the stick and into the seat.

Jamie began to latch the seat belt over her shoulder as Ryan carefully adjusted the rear view mirror. She dropped the belt and leaned over her to point out the somewhat hidden switch by Ryanís left thigh which adjusted the side view mirrors. As she did so she felt her arm brush against Ryanís breasts as she completed her move. A little jolt of electricity shot up her arm as the contact occurred. Yipes! she shouted to herself. Where did that come from? Next time, you better just tell her where things are, Jamie.

Ryan settled herself comfortably and smoothly pulled away from the curve. "Oh, wow!" she nearly moaned in delight. "I have never in my life been behind the wheel of anything this delicious." She closed her eyes slightly in pleasure. Finally she turned her head a bit to lock eyes with Jamie. "I canít tell you how pleasurable this is for me," she sighed.

Jamie was struck dumb for a moment, but finally got out, "I have never seen anyone enjoy anything quite so thoroughly, Ryan."

"I really love cars, as you can tell," she admitted. "But I think I love this car more than any other," she said dreamily. "Do you know what it reminds me of?" she asked with a wiggling eyebrow.

"Umm, no, I canít guess what a car would remind you of," Jamie admitted.

Ryan closed her eyes slightly as she gave Jamie a very satisfied looking smile. "A woman," she said simply.

"My Porsche looks like a woman?" she asked in amazement.

"Yep. This car not only has beautiful breasts," Ryan purred. "It has absolutely luscious hips."

Well, she is most definitely a lesbian, Jamie thought as she tried to get some moisture back into her mouth. Iíve never met a straight woman who looked so sexy when she talked about breasts and hips! "Iím not sure I see that," she replied as casually as she could manage.

"Really?" Ryan asked with a look of amazement. "Just look at the front fenders! Donít you see that graceful curve? It looks just like a firm young breast. See it?"

She had to admit that the fender did have a nice curve, and yes, it could look like a perky young breast. "Okay, I think I see what you mean. Now show me the hips."

Ryan had to quickly pull over for that part of the demonstration. "Okay, turn around," she instructed. "See the rear fenders? They remind me of the nice, cushy hips of women in the paintings of the Renaissance. See how they curve so smoothly around to the tail lights?"

Once again, Jamie had to admit that Ryan had a point. "Gee, I had no idea I was driving such a woman centered car," she said with a laugh. "My father bought it for me, do you think thatís what attracted him? "

"Subconsciously, Iím sure of it," Ryan smirked.

When they started up again Jamie looked over at Ryan and saw how much she was enjoying the experience of driving the car. "I donít have the heart to deprive you of this much happiness," Jamie teased. "Why donít we just go for a drive up in the hills? What time do you have to be at work, anyway?"

"Um, 4 oíclock, but I work over in the City. To get there on BART I need to leave here by 3," she said, while sadly looking at the clock on the dash.

"Tell ya what," Jamie offered, "I owe my grandfather a visit (not mentioning that she had seen him 3 days ago). Heís right off Nob Hill. Where do you have to go?"

"I work near the Castro and thatís not very close to Nob Hill," she said.

"Itís close enough for me. This car eats real estate faster than you can imagine," she teased.

"I really donít want to inconvenience you," Ryan said. But Jamie could see the hopeful look in those blue eyes and knew that she would not mind walking to the Castro in order to satisfy it.

"Itís really no bother, Ryan. I would love to have dinner with my grandfather. I donít see him nearly enough." While she spoke she pulled her tiny Star Tac phone from the glove box and dialed the number she knew by heart.

He answered on the 2nd ring. "Hi Poppa, itís Jamie," she told him needlessly. "How would you like me to treat you to dinner at the Tadich Grill tonight?" After he enthusiastically agreed, the two women settled down for their drive.

They meandered through the hills of Oakland, looking at the plethora of monstrous new homes that dotted the hillside since the devastating fire that consumed the whole area 6 years earlier.

"Wow, I havenít been up here since people started rebuilding," said Jamie.

"Itís really kind of a mess esthetically," Ryan said, "but thatís what happens when people get a big insurance settlement. They build to the lot lines."

"You seem to know a lot about this area."

"Yeah, I guess I do," she said thoughtfully. "My father is a firefighter in the City. We used to come up here and look around after the fire. Kind of a busmanís holiday," she admitted.

"Oh, did your father fight this fire?" Jamie inquired

"No, he doesnít fight fires any longer. He is the cook for Battalion 13 in the Mission District," Ryan stated with a tinge of pride in her voice.

"Wow, I canít imagine cooking for all of those hungry firemen," Jamie said with a laugh.

"Firefighters," Ryan corrected.

"Oops, sorry," Jamie said.

"Thatís okay. Actually they are all men in his battalion. But the City has quite a number of women in the ranks now."

They continued to chat about nothing in particular until Ryan began guiding them down to the highway that would take them to the City. She was a good, careful driver, but she drove as fast as she could, given the conditions. Jamie noticed how she was able to move the car effortlessly through the growing traffic. She found herself sliding sideways in her seat so that she could watch Ryan as she drove. Ryan still had a look of total pleasure on her face. It is really cute how she accepted this little bit of happiness, Jamie mused. She doesnít seem afraid to really let herself go-even with a stranger, she thought. Well, clearly, she doesnít mind letting herself go with strangers after that little demonstration on the street today, she reflected with a slight tinge of disapproval. I wish I could be that free and unconcerned about things though. But I canít believe she was kissing a woman like that right in the middle of a busy street. I wouldnít kiss Jack like that on the street. Actually, I donít kiss Jack like that at home, anymore, she thought with a touch of envy.

As they crossed the Bay Bridge leading to San Francisco Jamie let herself relax in her seat and just take in the beautiful view of the City. I feel so peaceful and happy, she thought. She turned to look at Ryan again and was met with another charming smile from that beautiful face. Again she felt a chill roll down her whole body. Jeez, Jamie will you please get a grip! she chastised herself.

Since it was only 3:40 Ryan took Market all the way to The Castro. Jamie could tell that she chose the slow route to prolong her test drive. I think she has gotten more pleasure from this car in an hour than I have in 2 years. Itís kind of nice to see things through such appreciative eyes.

Ryan again offered to go directly to Jamieís grandfatherís place and take Muni to her job, but Jamie insisted that she go directly to work. Ryan did not offer any details on her job and Jamie was in too relaxed a mood to do her usual cross-examination so she just relaxed an enjoyed the next few minutes.

"So, are you still up for a visit to the coffeehouse this week? Ryan asked as they neared the Castro.

"Absolutely," Jamie replied decisively.

As they pulled up to a rare empty meter Ryan tugged her organizer out of her black nylon book bag.

Jamie noticed that they were parked in front of a Blockbuster Video store. "Is this where you work?" she asked tentatively.

"Huh? Oh, no," Ryan replied absently. She pointed vaguely down the street as she continued to peruse her schedule. "I work a little down the street. Okay," she finally said. "Iím free from 10:00 to noon and from 6:00 to 9:00 tomorrow. On Friday my schedule is about the same as today. Are any of those times good for you?"

Jamie thought for just a moment before she chose the Thursday from 6-9 pm slot. "Do you want to get dinner before we go, or do they serve food there?" she inquired.

"Yeah, dinner would be great. I have to work afterward so that will be the only time I have to eat. I donít think they serve anything substantial enough for me at the coffeehouse, so we should probably go somewhere else for dinner. Do you have any suggestions?"

"You start work after 9 p.m.?" she asked in surprise.

"Yep. Open all night," she said with a smile.

"How much time do you think we need to spend at the coffeehouse?" Jamie inquired, momentarily too fragmented to inquire about Ryanís job.

"Well, since we have to write a paper we should probably hang out for a bit, you know look at the books, observe the subjects in their native environment," she teased.

"Why donít you come to my house and Iíll cook dinner for us. Thatíll save time," she said helpfully.

"Are you always this nice Jamie, or do you just take pity on starving lesbians?"

"Well, Iím generally pretty nice. And you certainly donít look like youíre starving," she added as she passed a gaze at Ryanís solid form.

"Youíve got me there," she agreed. "I donít miss many meals," she patted her flat stomach. "Let me get your address so I can get to work. My clients hate to be kept waiting."

ClientsÖworking late at nightÖ what in the hell does she do?

Chapter 2

On Thursday at 5 p.m. Jamie pulled into her driveway, fresh from a visit to her favorite market. She was stunned and a bit dismayed to see Jackís Honda Accord parked in front of the house. "Oh shit, not tonight!" she moaned aloud. "Ryan will be here soon!"

She grabbed her grocery bags and made her way into the house. Jack was sitting in the kitchen with Cassie, drinking a Coke and looking very relaxed. Jamie pasted on a smile and greeted him as she put her bags down on the marble counter.

"To what do I owe the honor?" she asked as she crossed the kitchen and kissed him.

He rose and enveloped her in a hug. "I had to drop off some research at the office and I figured this would be a good place to ride out rush hour. I thought we could have dinner before I have to head back," he said as he began to investigate the contents of her bags. "Ooo, this looks good," he said as he pulled out the fresh pasta and the marinara sauce. "What are you making?"

"Oh honey I would love to, but I have a classmate coming for dinner. Weíre working on a special project together and we need the time to discuss it," she said with more regret than she really felt.

"What kind of projects do you have for English classes?" he asked absently, as he continued to poke through the bags.

Jamie was unreasonably annoyed at his interest in her purchases. She began to take the items out of his hands as he removed them from the bags. She put the salad ingredients on the counter by the double stainless steel sinks, and placed the pasta and sauce in the refrigerator. She snagged the chocolate gelato and placed it in the freezer. As he looked longingly at a fresh loaf of Italian bread, she took pity on him and relented. "I can try to make you a little something before she gets here," she said tentatively.

He gave her his little puppy dog look as he said, "I donít want to put you out, Jamie."

Cassie made her presence known by saying, "Jack, why donít you let me take you out to dinner. You and I donít get to spend much time together, what with Jamie monopolizing all of your time".

Jamie was completely grateful to her roommate for this unexpectedly thoughtful offer. Jack looked like he wanted to refuse, but when Jamie just looked at him with a blank expression he shrugged his broad shoulders and said, "Okay Cassie. That would be great. Can we wait until Jamieís guest gets here so I can have at least a few minutes with my girlfriend?"

"Sure Jack, Iíll be up in my room. Call me when youíre ready."

Jack sat back down as Jamie began to prepare dinner. He chatted about his day and updated her on the progress of his law review article. Jamie tried to stay interested, but the intricacies of the R.I.C.O. laws as applied to the violation of restraining orders against protest groups did not really hold her attention. She was also very nervous about Jack meeting Ryan. Why didnít I think this through more thoroughly? Now this will be a whole big thing. God, I hope she doesnít look too gay tonight.

Jamie handed Jack plates and silverware, followed by napkins and place mats. "You may as well make yourself useful, honey".

"I guess this is good preparation for married life," he admitted. "I suppose this will be my job until I train one of our little tow headed offspring to do it."

Jamie was surprised and touched at his train of thought. Jack did not often speak of his vision of their future. He usually spoke of his future career or things they would do together. But it was rare for him to speak of having children.

"Are kids important to you Jack?" she asked after a while.

"Well, yeah, I guess they are. Iíve just assumed we would have a few. Arenít they important to you?" he asked with a note of shock as he turned to look at her.

"Oh, yeah," Jamie agreed as a genuine smile lit up her face. "I would love to have a raft of little blonde copies of you," she said as she drew near and placed her arms around his neck.

He bent down willingly and began to place several tender kisses on her lips. The softness of his kisses contrasted with the slightly rough feel of the stubble on his face. She hugged him tightly and smiled as he returned the hug enthusiastically and increased the intensity of his kisses. Uh uh, Jack, she thought wryly. Iím not going to change my mind no matter how turned on you try to make me. She began to release him when the door to the living room opened and Mia and Ryan strolled in. Jamie jumped in surprise nearly hitting Jackís chin with the top of her head as she did so.

"Knock it off, lovebirds, your company is here," Mia commented, stating the obvious.

Jamie stared open-mouthed at Ryan, completely nonplussed. Slightly tousled black hair hanging loosely around her shoulders. Black leather baseball style jacket covering a tight black t-shirt. Black jeans topping sleek black low heeled leather boots. In her right hand was a shiny black motorcycle helmet. Oh, my god. She looks like the centerfold for ĎBig Dyke Magazine!í

"Hi, Jamie," the black clad vision uttered.

"Hi," Jamie eventually choked out. Jack cleared his throat as he stepped back out of Jamieís loose embrace.

"Hi, Iím Jack Townsend," he said as he extended his hand when it became clear that Jamie was not going to introduce him.

Jamie regained her composure and her manners and eventually gave proper introductions. Cassie came downstairs moments later and was included in the scene. Jamie noticed both of her roommates eyeing Ryan critically, passing raised eyebrow looks between them. Oh shit! Mia must have told Cassie about my class. Theyíre really giving her the once over. Not that it would be too tough to guess that sheís gay, she thought wryly.

"So, what is this project you two are working on?" Jack asked Ryan innocently.

Ryan gave Jamie a little glance and allowed her to answer. "Itís just a little project for our psych class. Iíll tell you all about it later Sweetheart. Weíve got to hurry up and eat and you two need to get going," she said to Cassie and Jack. "Iím sure youíve got a ton of work to do tonight," she told Jack.

"Okay, I know when to leave," he said with a small smile. Jamie gave him another hug and a kiss as he and Cassie made their way out. Mia, however, apparently found this all too interesting and made no move to depart.

"Whatís for dinner?" she asked as she peeked at the pans on the stove.

Jamie came up behind her and physically removed her from her position. "Ryan and I are having pasta. You are having whatever you make for yourself after we leave," she stated with authority.

"Okay, okay," Mia laughed as she retreated. "Can I at least get a soda? And maybe a little of that bread?" she asked hopefully.

"Yes, Mia, you may have some bread," Jamie responded generously. "Then scram."

"You run a pretty tight ship around here, Jamie," Ryan said after Mia scampered out with her purloined bread.

"Those three would have eaten every bite," she replied knowledgeably with a shake of her blonde head.

"Well, I donít blame them. It smells great," Ryan said. "And I really am starving. I didnít get a proper lunch today."

"I forgot to ask you if there were any things you donít eat. I figured pasta was on almost everyoneís list."

"I donít eat anything thatís currently breathing," Ryan stated. "Other than that, Iíll eat it."

Ryan proved herself true to her word. Jamie had made the entire two pounds of fresh pasta in order to have leftovers for lunch the next day. But Ryan acted as though her two massive helpings of pasta were the bare minimum required to keep her going. Jamie mused that she had never seen a woman eat quite so much, but her thoughts were interrupted by Ryan beginning to eye the salad bowl. Jamie pushed it over to her and Ryan bent her dark head down and ate every bite, finishing off the loaf of bread along with it.

"Do you have room for some gelato?" Jamie asked warily, knowing that her guest had to be full to bursting.

"What flavor?" Ryan asked thoughtfully.

"Chocolate," came the response.

"Iíve always got room for chocolate," Ryan said without hesitation.

"What flavor would you have refused?" Jamie queried her teasingly.

"I canít think of one, but you canít be too sure," Ryan replied prudently.

Jamie had only bought one pint of the freshly made gelato and as Ryan finished her second bowl she regretted that she had not bought two. "UmÖhave you had enough?" she asked hesitantly as Ryan leaned back in her chair with a satisfied smile on her lovely face.

"Why, is there more?" she asked as she looked around the kitchen hopefully.

"Are you teasing me again, Ryan?" Jamie asked with a tolerant smile.

"Just a little," her new friend replied. "I think that delicious dinner has managed to actually fill me up for a change," she admitted. "Not an easy task, I concede."

"You do have a healthy appetite," Jamie observed tactfully. Healthy for a defensive end!

"Hey, Iím a growing girl," she replied happily.

"Donít grow too much or Iíll need a stepladder to talk to you," Jamie said with a smile.

"Thatís not the direction I would grow if all of my meals were that delicious," Ryan replied with one of her dazzling smiles as Jamie blushed at the compliment.

After they quickly cleaned the kitchen they made their way to the front door. "Would you like me to drive?" Ryan asked with a twinkle in her eyes.

"Sure," Jamie replied as she handed her the keys to the Porsche.

"No, I mean would you like to ride on my bike? Itís the perfect ride for a visit to a lesbian bookstore," she stated smugly.

"Iíve never been on a motorcycle before," Jamie admitted with a little nervous laugh. "But Iíve always thought they were coolÖ"

"My motto is ĎAlways give in to temptationí," Ryan said with a sexy leer than made Jamieís knees slightly weak.

"ButÖI donítÖumÖhave a helmet, wouldnít I need one?"

"Thatís why I brought this one in," Ryan reassured her. "I thought we could adjust it where the light was better."

"Isnít this yours?" Jamie asked as she narrowed her eyes in concern.

"No, mine is on the bike. This is my extra one."

"Okay, Iím game," Jamie replied with significantly less hesitation than she felt.

Ryan leaned over and placed the helmet on Jamieís head. She fidgeted with the strap until she was satisfied with the fit. Gripping the helmet with both hands she gave it a little tug. "How does that feel?" she asked, looking closely at Jamieís face for her reaction.

"Feels greatóletís go," she stated with false confidence. She grabbed a tailored butterscotch leather jacket from the coat closet and slid it on as they walked out the front door.

"Wow, that is a good looking bike!" Jamie enthused. She regarded the aqua and cream-colored Harley with a critical eye. She knew absolutely nothing about motorcycles, but it was clear that this one was well loved. The leather was supple and immaculate, the chrome gleamed and the paint was perfect.

"Yeah, I really love this one. Iíve had a Yamaha, a Honda and an Indian. But this one really sounds like a bike. You feel it all the way through your spine," she said proudly as she trailed her hand lovingly over the saddle.

Jamie was unsure of what that really meant, but she figured she would find out soon enough. Ryan threw her long leg over the saddle and pushed the bike off the kickstand. "Come on," she said as she held out a hand.

Jamie took her left hand and placed her right hand on Ryanís shoulder as she swung her leg over the seat. It was a stretch but she accomplished the feat with a little hop on the planted foot. She settled down comfortably, feeling a little exposed as she nestled her thighs behind Ryanís.

"Hang on tight," Ryan instructed. "Feel free to put your arms around my waist. All you have to do is hold on and lean into the turns like I do. And donít worry, youíll have fun," she said as she patted Jamie lightly on the thigh.

Jamie privately admitted that she was already having fun. She loved sitting on the big bike, so close to Ryan. She realized that she inexplicably felt safe and protected by this near stranger. As the bike roared to life, she understood what Ryan meant about the sound. She definitely heard it, but she realized that she felt it with her body more than her ears. Wow, this is pretty intense. The intensity grew as the bike began to cruise down the street. Involuntarily, she threw her arms around Ryan as the bike moved through its gears. There was a small jerk with each shift and she unconsciously held on tighter.

As she become accustomed to the sensation Jamie realized that this was truly a glorious feeling. She had never realized how insulated she was while in a car, even a small convertible like her own. This, however, was a feeling of complete freedom. She almost felt as if she was flying. She could smell the flowers and the scent of damp grass as they passed the well tended lawns. Wow, why would you ever ride in a car if you had one of these?

The trip was over much too soon, and as they pulled up in front of the bookstore Jamie regretted having to get off the bike. Ryan let her get off first, then she propped the bike on its stand and killed the engine. As Ryan turned to face her she reflexively returned the huge grin on Jamieís face.

"I take it you enjoyed your first time?" she teased.

"That was awesome, Ryan!" she gushed, her enthusiasm bubbling up. "I had no idea it would be so cool! Why would you ever ride in a car?" she asked with a puzzled look on her flushed face.

"Well, when itís under 50 degrees and raining, cars start to look pretty good," Ryan said with a wide smile as she slid her arm around Jamieís shoulders.

She held the door open and waited for the smaller woman to enter. Placing her hand on the small of her friendís back, she followed her into the cozy store.

Jamie was very aware of how Ryan seemingly unconsciously touched her. She treats me kind of like a guy would if we were on a first date, she mused. But it doesnít feel like sheís coming on to me today. It feels like thatís just part of her personality. Sheís obviously used to being in charge. I wonder if lesbians really have roles when theyíre together? If so, Ryanís definitely the guy. But a guy with an absolutely drop dead gorgeous body!" she thought with a smirk as her friend guided her further into the store.

The place was larger than it looked from the street. It was roughly divided into two separate spaces, the one in which they were standing which was the coffeehouse/entertainment side and the other which housed books and other items. As they stepped more fully into the space Jamie saw that the front of the room held a small elevated platform that was obviously a stage. Near the right side of the room was a coffee bar. Behind the bar was a small window that must have led to an unseen kitchen. A woman was busily making coffee drinks for the customers who were seated at the scattered small tables. Towards the rear and left side of the space were comfortable well-used sofas and a few overstuffed chairs. They did not match nor seem to be terribly clean, but they lent a comfortable familiarity to the room that appealed to Jamie.

Ryan caught her wandering gaze and quietly asked, "Would you like to sit and have a coffee, or would you rather look in the bookstore for a bit?"

"Since itís not too crowded letís look around first, then maybe we can sit down for a while. Will there be entertainment later?"

Ryan looked up at a good sized chalkboard near the stage. Multicolored chalk letters heralded the name of a performer and the notation Ď8:00 p.m. Tonight.í "Yeah, in about an hour," she replied as she checked her enormous watch. Jamie grasped her hand and took a look at the timepiece.

"God, Ryan, what does that monster do?"

"Well, I have to time my clients so they donít overstay their hour," she replied reasonably. "And sometimes Iím doing two people at once, so I need two timers." She indicated the two timers with her index finger. "And I use it for running and swimming. See, it has two lap counters," she indicated them both. "I also use it as my alarm in the morning, and every once in a while I can get a little nap in at work", she said with a conspiratorial wink.

What in the hell does she do for a living!!

Just as Jamie was forming the question a short, pleasant looking middle aged woman appeared from behind the bar. She was heading right for them and Jamie noticed Ryanís face light up in a smile.

"Ryan OíFlaherty, as I live and breathe!" the woman gushed in a broad, theatrical Irish accent.

"Hi, Babs. Itís good to see you again," Ryan said as she gave the small woman a big friendly hug. "This is my friend Jamie. Jamie, this is Babs Jablonski, she owns this den of ill repute," Ryan teased.

Babs elbowed Ryan sharply in the ribs as she grasped Jamieís hand in a firm shake. "Any friend of Ryanís is still welcome here," she joked in her normal voice.

After a few more minutes of banter, Ryan showed Jamie to the bookstore. She was surprised to find the store sectioned off in categories, just like at a regular bookstore. But these categories were a bit different than the ones found at Barnes & Noble. ĎComing Outí, ĎLesbian Sexualityí, and ĎLesbian Parentingí caught Jamieís eye as she glanced around the small space. She also noticed that there was a section where CDís and tapes were sold. She strolled over to that area and realized that none of the artists were familiar to her.

"Are these umÖĎlesbian specificí singers?" she asked tentatively while holding up a CD for Ryanís inspection.

"Thatís a cute way to put it," Ryan said. "I would say for the most part these artists are lesbians, but there is a good bit of generic womenís music also, along with some self help and spirituality tapes," she said knowledgeably.

"How do you know so much about this place, and how do you know Babs?" Jamie found the courage to ask, hoping that she wasnít prying too much.

"When I was a kid, I couldnít get into the bars, even though I thought I looked quite mature," she said smugly. "I read about this place in one of the lesbian newspapers I found in the Castro. I came over one day on BART and I became such a pest that Babs took pity on me and let me hang out on the weekends and earn a few bucks helping out."

"So youíve known you were gay for a long time?" Jamie asked with interest.

"Iíll tell you the whole sordid story," Ryan agreed, "but letís finish up in here first."

Jamie spent quite a few more minutes looking carefully at the titles that lined the lilac painted wooden shelves. "I must admit, this is all a bit surprising to me," Jamie said with a touch of embarrassment. "I guess I just never thought that there would be a whole cottage industry catering to lesbians like this. Do you think itís necessary, Ryan?" she asked thoughtfully.

Ryan seemed to consider her question for a moment. She gazed at her carefully as she replied, "Yes, Jamie, I really do. When you think about it, gay people are the only minority group that doesnít share their minority status with their parents. When people come out, many of them are overwhelmed by the experience. Even if their parents are supportive, they donít know how to help. Places like this can be a lifesaver for people who are really struggling. I know it was for me," she said somberly.

"I can see that it would really help someone who was sure of their preferences," Jamie stated after a moment. "But what about girls who are just confused? Donít you think this could push them into a place that they donít really belong?" she asked with a look of concern on her face.

"I know you donít know all of the lingo but gay people really prefer to have their sexuality be considered an orientation rather than a preference, Jamie," she said clearly.

"Iím sorry," she said quickly. "What did I say?"

"You referred to someone being sure of their preferences," Ryan explained. "Itís not a real big deal but itís not a preference for me."

"Okaaay," she said slowly, drawing the word out while she considered this. "I donít really see the differenceÖ"

"Okay," Ryan said quickly. "I assume you consider yourself heterosexual, right?"

"Well, yeah," she laughed. "So does Jack," she added with a grin.

"But if you broke up would you accept a date from a woman?"

"UhhÖ"Jamie found herself absolutely dumbstruck at this question. She seemed to have lost her ability to speak but Ryan replied for her.

"I take it thatís a Ďnoí," she said helpfully. "I think sexuality is like that for many if not most people. You focus on one gender for your sexual attraction. You donít look at the whole human race and decide which one you slightly prefer, Jamie. Your orientation leads you to only look at men as sexual partners, right?" she asked quietly.

"UhhÖright!" she finally said, as a deep blush covered her face and neck. "Right!" she said again for emphasis.

"Please donít be embarrassed, Jamie," she said gently. "Youíre not offending me at all." She smiled sweetly and maintained eye contact as she continued. "Thatís how it is for me too," Ryan advised. "I donít Ďpreferí women. The thought of being with a man sexually has as much pull for me as being with my dog. And thatís not a put down of dogs or men," she added with a laugh. "Itís just something so outside of my orientation that both of those options seem equally far-fetched to me."

"Okay," Jamie said slowly. "I think I get your point. And I can see why having it called a preference could be offensive."

"Sorry if that seemed like a lecture," Ryan said. "But I figure that you want to understand this stuff or you wouldnít have taken the class."

"Absolutely!" she agreed. "Now do you remember the rest of my question?"

"Verbatim," she said with a waggling eyebrow. "I donít think a place like this can push someone into a life that wasnít right for them, Jamie. The purpose of this type of place is not to recruit. Itís to help people figure out their true orientation and learn to be comfortable with it."

"But," Jamie interrupted, "what about all the girls and women who are just dabbling in lesbianism? It sure is popular now to have Ďdone ití with a woman."

"I doubt that those women will eventually consider themselves lesbians," Ryan replied. I think for many of them it is a rite of passage, kind of like getting a tattoo or a piercing. In the long run though, that might be a good thingóit might remove some of the stigma from being gay if more people had some experience with the act."

"I guess you could be right, but how do you think it will affect those women who are just playing around in the long run? Jamie persisted.

"Youíre kind of making it sound like the Scarlet Letter, Jamie," she said with a tiny frown. "For many women having sex is just thatósex. Itís no big psychological incident for most women if theyíre just playing around. They know theyíre just experimenting. I think the women who have a harder time are the true lesbians. For many of them having sex with a woman finally confirms their feelings. Then they have to deal with all of the fallout from that realization. And thatís where this place comes in."

"I guess I see your point, but this is a lot to absorb. Itís kind of like visiting another culture. It takes time to get acclimated," she reasoned.

"Maybe some coffee would help," Ryan suggested with a smile. "Let me buy you one."

As she settled down into a burgundy velour sofa Jamie accepted two large mugs of latté from Ryan. She waited until her friend was seated at a polite distance and handed one mug back to her.

"Ohh, this is good. I like the little sprinkle of chocolate on the top," she said as she licked a white foam mustache from her top lip. "Do you have time to tell me the story of your sordid lesbian past?" she teased, reminding Ryan of her earlier promise.

"Iíve only got an hour," she replied as she looked at her watch, "that should get us through a year or two if I gloss over the scary parts," she drawled.

"Was it really hard for you Ryan?" she asked as her face grew serious. "I mean, you seem very happy being gay now."

"Yeah, I am perfectly content with who I am now, sexually at least," she said with a smile. "But it was really hard for me. I mean, I knew from a very early age that I was somehow different from the other girls. But I didnít understand how I was differentóI just knew there was something."

"Did you have boyfriends when you were younger?" Jamie inquired gently.

"Nopeónever had one. No dates, no crushes, nothing! And I donít think I ever will at this point," she replied with a small smile.

Jamie gave her a tentative smile as she shot a look up and down her rather voluptuous but still sleek form. "I donít mean to embarrass you, but how did you avoid having boys hound you? Youíre pretty gorgeous, you know."

"Thanks," Ryan grinned. "I was lucky because I went to an all girls high school, so that took some of the pressure off. There werenít any guys around to make it obvious that I wasnít interested. I was really into sports and the girls I hung out with werenít very boy crazy either. Plus I was almost 5í 10" by the end of 8th grade. I was a head taller than the boys my age until I was 16 or so."

"So you really had no interest in going out with guys?"

"Zip," she said decisively. "I liked boys, but I thought of them as friends. I just couldnít imagine kissing one of them. I really didnít understand what was going on with me. I mean, most of my friends talked about guys they liked and by high school guys were the main topic of conversation for most of my classmates. But it was not until the end of my junior year that it all fell into place for me."

Jamie waited expectantly for Ryan to continue. But her face had clouded and she stared into her mug with a very sad look on her face.

"We donít have to talk about this, Ryan," she said softly as she placed her hand gently on Ryanís forearm.

She looked up at her with such pain in her eyes that Jamie had to resist the urge to reach out and wrap her in a hug. "Itís okay, Jamie," she replied with a little catch in her voice. "I knew I was gay because I finally realized that I was madly in love with my best friend." She pursed her lips as she needlessly added, "Letís just say that she did not share my feelings."

Jamie slid her hand down and grasped Ryanís hand. She gave it a little squeeze as she caught and held her gaze. "Iím sorry," she said simply.

Ryanís lips slowly curled up into a shy smile. "I donít know why, but Iím kind of embarrassed by this," she admitted, as a look of shame passed across her face. "I know it was a long time ago, but it still hurts me to think about it. Those early wounds donít ever seem to go away. When I think of that time, I feel just as devastated today as I did then," she admitted with a forlorn look.

"Well, I think itís her loss to refuse a prize like you," Jamie said before she could censor the words falling out of her mouth.

Ryan looked at her with a large measure of surprise on her face, but she recovered to give Jamie a huge crooked grin. "Easy for you to say now, but I was kind of a mess back then."

"I rather doubt you were ever a mess, Ryan," she replied confidently.

They passed the next few minutes in idle chatter. Ryan stood after a bit and shrugged out of her leather jacket, folding it neatly and placing it over the arm of the sofa. Jamie had a hard time controlling her desire to stare at Ryanís sculpted body, starkly outlined by the skin tight French cut t-shirt that covered her. To her relief Babs approached again. "Hey, Irish, are you gonna ride again this year?" she asked as she nodded her head toward a large poster proclaiming the 5th Annual California AIDS Ride.

"Yep, Iím doing it again," Ryan replied. "Donít worry Babs, Iíll be hitting you up for a sponsorship sooner than you wish."

"Oh Ryan, that is so cool! Every year I watch the news coverage of the ride. But Iíve never known anyone who has done it," Jamie enthused.

"Well, now you do," Ryan said, sounding pleased. "And donít think I wonít try to wheedle money out of you too," she added as she pinched Jamieís cheek.

"No problem. I would be honored to support you," Jamie quickly responded

"Donít make it easy on her, honey," Babs replied. "She can already sweet talk the silk off the corn. Make her work for it."

As Babs wandered away, Jamie continued her inquiry. "How many times have you done the ride, Ryan?"

"Every year," she replied with a note of pride in her voice. "This will be my 6th."

"I really admire your dedication," Jamie marveled. "It must be quite an ordeal."

"Itís not too bad if you stay in training throughout the year. I just do the same amount of riding all year, so it doesnít seem like that big a deal. There is one day of the ride that is a real bear though. Itís an inland day, so there isnít much of a breeze, and itís mostly uphill all day. Thatís the time you just wish you could get in the sag van and ride the whole way."

"Sag van?"

"Yeah, the ride is fully supported. There are vans to help you if you canít make a hill. Some people use the vans to get up the worst of the hills. And of course, some get injured and have no choice," she replied.

"I would love to come and watch you all take off this year," Jamie stated, surprising herself at her forwardness.

"You could get a really good view, if you rode instead of watched," she teased.

"I could never do anything like that," Jamie complained. "I am way too much of a wimp."

"Thatís what most people think. But itís not a race, itís a ride. The point is to challenge yourself. People with AIDS are challenged every day just to survive. This is a really great way of showing your support," Ryan explained.

"You know, I donít know anyone who has had AIDS," Jamie said as she wracked her brain.

"Youíre lucky," Ryan said as a flash of pain clouded her face, "Youíre really lucky."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

At 8:30 sharp Ryan stood and stretched and gracefully slid her jacket back on. She held a smooth hand out to Jamie and said, "I canít be late for work, so Iíve got to run."

They rode the short distance in silence which was fine with Jamie since she needed all of her concentration to focus on the sensations of the ride. She had to admit that she enjoyed the experience even more on the return trip, now that she felt more comfortable being with Ryan. God, she is so easy to talk to, she thought. It feels like weíve known each other forever.

As the bike pulled up in front of her house, Jamie struggled to get off with a little assist from her new friend. The engine was still running as Ryan retrieved Jamieís helmet and secured it. "I had a nice time, Jamie, thanks for going with me."

"I really enjoyed it, Ryan. Thanks for being such a good tour guide and for giving me my maiden motorcycle ride," she added with a grin.

Ryan reached out and gave her shoulder a little squeeze. "Always happy to initiate a new convert," she grinned with that devastatingly sexy smile. "See you tomorrow," she called out as she roared away.

Jamie was so occupied in watching her ride away that she did not see Jack glaring at her from the front door.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As Jamie made her way to the door, she noted with alarm that Jackís Accord was still parked in the driveway. Oh, oh, this is probably not good. She hit the first step of the wraparound porch as the front door opened.

"Hi," Jack said quietly with an unreadable expression on his face.

"Hi, yourself," Jamie replied as casually as possible. She made sure that she was smiling and did her best to adopt a neutral expression. "This is a nice surprise," she said, as she stood on her tip-toes to wrap her arms around his neck and give him a kiss. She noted with alarm that he did not respond to the kiss and in fact seemed to move back away from her touch. She stepped back slightly and placed her hands upon his broad chest as she looked up into his eyes with concern. "Whatís wrong, honey?"

"Where were you tonight, Jamie?" he asked while looking directly into her eyes.

"I had to work on a class project with Ryan, like I told you," she answered with more than a touch of defensiveness in her voice. "Why?"

He backed away from the door and turned to cross the parlor. He began to climb the staircase, apparently to go to the bedroom. She noticed that he looked very tired, and his posture did not carry its usual confident attitude.

Jamie began to follow him up the stairs. She grabbed his hand as she caught up with him and pulled him to a stop. "Jack, what is wrong?" she demanded with growing alarm.

"In private," he responded wearily

Jamie was beginning to panic as her mind grasped wildly for an explanation for his obvious anger. In their two years together they had never had what most people would call a fight. Of course they had disagreements, differences of opinion and the like. But they agreed on most of the important issues in life and both of them felt more comfortable keeping their relationship on an even keel. Usually, when one or the other was angry they would think of a reason to take a short time out, until the storm had passed. Jamie also realized that she usually gave in when there was a potential trouble spot. But tonight, there was no way out.

Jack entered her room and she followed close behind. He closed the door and made his way to her stereo system. He considered her CDís for a moment before he made his selection and loaded the disk. Turning the volume louder than Jamie would have chosen he walked over to the love seat in front of the far window. He sank into the comfortable cushions and dropped his head into his hands. He looked weary and frustrated and Jamie knew this was going to be very bad.

"I feel like youíve lied to me, Jamie," he finally said behind sad and confused blue eyes.

"Lied to you? Iíve never lied to you Jack," she said as she walked over to the loveseat and dropped to her knees right in front of him. She tried to grasp his hands but he shook her off rather roughly.

"Why didnít you tell me about this class, or about thisÖwoman?" he demanded as his eyes bore into her.

"What?! WHAT?!" she demanded in a louder voice. "What on earth are you talking about? What is the big deal?" She was becoming angry now both at his attitude and his obvious disapproval. "Iím taking a stupid psych class. Since when are you so interested in my schedule? May I point out that you never once asked me what I was taking this term? You acted completely uninterested," she said defensively.

"Jamie this is not a class that a normal girl should take," he explained as if talking to a slow child. "Why would someone like you want to spend their time learning about the ĎLesbian Experience?í "

Like a jolt, a light came on in Jamieís head. She took a deep breath and asked slowly, "How did you know the name of the class, Jack?"

Now it was his turn to look defensive. "Jesus, Jamie, youíre out late, on a motorcycle no less, with some big dyke and youíve told no one where youíre going. Cassie didnít know, Mia didnít know. I was worried about you!" he shouted.

"Oh, I see. You were worried about me because I was out until almost 9:00 p.m., right?" she questioned him carefully. "So you did whatÖlook through my book bag and my organizer?"

"Yes, Jamie, I was worried about you and I did look through your stuff. But only to find out where you were. Cassie told me that woman was hitting on you. What if you had needed my help?"

Jamie was flabbergasted both by his behavior and by his assumptions.

"You have got to be kidding! Do you think I would spend the evening with someone who frightened me? Do you think I need your protection to get through the day? Who in the holy hell do you think I am Jack? I am not some little girl that you have to supervise. And what did you think would happen? Did you think she would throw me across her bike and kidnap me? Or do you think lesbians have to rape straight women to get any action?" She was really heating up now. "I am furious that you looked through my things. I never want you to do that again. Do you hear me?" This last was said at full volume as she stood and towered over him.

"Yes Jamie, all of Berkeley heard you," he said bitterly. "Itís obvious that you are in no place to discuss this rationally. Iíll call you tomorrow." He turned and started to make his way to the door. But Jamie was on him like a panther, grabbing his arm and abruptly turning him around.

"How dare you start this and then leave!!" she shouted in frustration.

He reached over to her small hand which was wrapped around his bicep and gently began to remove her fingers, one by one. "I said Iíll call you tomorrow," he said firmly as he again turned and walked out.

She stood in the center of her room, panting from the flood of emotions that raced through her brain. She felt a stomach churning mixture of anger, sadness, hurt, betrayal and fear. Hurling herself to the bed she began to cry somewhat hysterically. She stayed just like that for a long while until exhaustion overtook her. Finally, she kicked off her shoes, removed her leather jacket and fell back onto the bed where she quickly fell into an exhausted sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning Jamie waited outside of the classroom until the professor entered. She didnít want to have to make small talk with Ryan today. For that matter she didnít want to speak to anyone but Jack. She was still terribly upset about their fight but she really didnít want to talk about it with anyone else, particularly Ryan. Even though she didnít know Ryan very well, she had a feeling that her new friend was perceptive enough to know if something was bothering her, so avoiding her seemed like the best idea.

That was so unlike Jack. I have to get to the bottom of this, but I have a very strong feeling that Cassie was involved in making this into a bigger deal than it had to be. Cassie must have said something that pushed him over the edge. He just doesnít do things like that. She wished that she could have marched into Cassieís room and confronted her last night. But Jamie tended to resolve her anger first, and then have a rational discussion later, and today was no exception.

As she took her seat, Ryan turned and smiled at her, mouthing a greeting. Jamie returned both with a look that was close to her normal demeanor in spite of her sour mood. Ryan was wearing a navy blue and cream vintage Hawaiian shirt and a pair of well-worn khakis. Jamie looked at the Teva sandals on her feet and hoped that she had not ridden her motorcycle. Maybe her mother should worry about those things for her, Jamie, she chided herself.

Linda took her usual place on the corner of the large wooden desk. "Hello people," she greeted them in her usual cheerful manner. "Today weíre going to discuss social attitudes toward lesbian identity." She launched them into a fascinating discussion of the subject. Jamie paid rapt attention, running her mind on two tracks. Although she was very focused on Lindaís words, she was concurrently applying those words to Jackís behavior of the previous evening. The discussion was lively and most of the class participated. The hour passed much too quickly and she was still so filled with unanswered questions that she just could not turn off her brain at the end of class. As she sat at her desk, deep in thought, she sensed and then saw Ryan squat down next to her so they were at eye level.

"Hey, you look a little down today," Ryan said carefully, her deep blue eyes filled with concern. "Are you alright?"

She took a deep breath and tried to answer but she just couldnít find the words to express how she was feeling. Her head was still tilted down, causing her hair to fall into her eyes. With a terribly tender gesture Ryan reached up and gently brushed her bangs hack to reveal her troubled green eyes. "Yeah, sure," Jamie lied weakly, "Iím fine." Then, almost as an afterthought, she asked, "Do you have a few minutes to talk?"

Ryan glanced at her watch. "I have nearly an hour at your disposal," she said with a warm grin as she held out a hand and pulled the troubled woman to her feet.

"Something happened last night that is really bothering me," Jamie said pensively as she shot a glance up at Ryan.

"Was it something I did?" Ryan asked with concern clouding her face.

"Oh no, not at all. I had a great time with you," Jamie admitted with a shy grin. "It was after you dropped me off that the shit hit the fan."

Ryan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Letís go over to Bancroft and get something to drink. I always think better if I have a little juice."

"Okay," she replied immediately. "Milano?" she ventured, naming a little café in the building.

"Perfect," Ryan agreed.

They walked in relative silence. Ryan glanced at Jamie occasionally, noticing that her friend seemed very deep in the problem that was bothering her. I hope she doesnít want boyfriend advice, Ryan hoped. Iím pretty much out of my league there. For that matter Iím pretty much out of my league giving advice on almost any kind of relationship, she thought wryly.

When they reached the restaurant Ryan spent just a moment surveying the other patrons. Hmm, so this is where the lesbians hang out. I should thank Jamie for the tip. But as she glanced at the obviously upset woman she amended that thought. Maybe someday, but today she doesnít need to know Iím checking out the chicks. Ryan reached into her pocket and fished out a handful of change. "Iíll buyówhatíll you have?"

"Um, some kind of soda, doesnít really matter," Jamie replied absently.

Ryan nodded and started to trot off but she spent another moment looking at Jamieís face. She really doesnít seem like herself today. I think Iíll get her some juice. She could use some energy instead of empty calories, she thought wisely.

She took the two bottles of cranberry juice and the two smaller bottles of apple juice over to the table. Jamie looked up at her in surprise with a question in her eyes.

"You just look like you could use a little energy," Ryan shrugged.

Jamie was charmed by this thoughtful gesture and without stopping to censor herself she reached out and patted Ryanís hand while giving her a sincere smile. "Thanks for caring," she stated simply.

Ryan looked a little embarrassed at this gesture, but she gamely returned the smile. "So, whatís up?" she finally asked, as she began opening bottles.

"I was just thinking about our discussion of this morning," Jamie said thoughtfully. "You know, about homophobia and heterosexism?" At Ryanís nod, she continued. "I think I got a first hand example of both last night."

"What happened?" Ryan asked, genuinely interested, but also a little worried that it concerned her.

"It seems that my roommates are overly interested in the fact that I am taking this class," she finally answered. Jamie was not going to tell Ryan the whole context of her evening. She did not want to hurt her new friendís feelings so obviously she would not tell her that Jack called her a big dyke. And she also did not want to reveal issues that she felt belonged to her and Jack alone, so she tip toed around the issue as carefully as she could, while still telling enough to be able to get some advice.

She continued, "One of my roommates apparently told my boyfriend about the class and he flipped out that I had not told him about it. What really has me confused is why he had such an emotional reaction to the mere fact that I was taking a silly class."

"Was he also upset that you were with me?" Ryan asked softly, lowering her eyes to the table.

Jamie did not really want to go there, but she did not feel comfortable lying to Ryan either. "Um, I guess that was part of it, she finally admitted. "But I think the bigger problem is that my roommate stirred up some suspicion in his mind. I guess it just surprised me that they would all be so weird about it. You know; the class and the topic and, well, you." Jamie was also staring at the table by this time. She felt Ryanís reassuring hand gently grip her folded ones.

"That is exactly what Linda was talking about today," she told her gravely, blue eyes locked on green. "Many people have an almost physical reaction to gay people and gay issues. I canít say I totally understand it, but I see it often in my life," she admitted sadly. "Those reactions have caused me a lot of pain through the years, Jamie. Iím very sorry that you had to experience it too. I just hope that it will not affect our friendship. I really like you," she said shyly as her eyes once again fell to the floor.

"Oh no, Ryan. I like you too," she agreed forcefully. "This is an issue that they are going to have to get used to. I just want to understand it better so I can help them get through it."

Ryan looked at her carefully as she pursed her lips in thought. "Can I ask you a personal question?" she finally inquired.

Jamie fidgeted in her seat as she tried to guess what her new friend wanted to know, but she replied, "Sure, what is it?"

"Why didnít you tell your boyfriend you were taking the class?"

4 excuses readily popped into Jamieís head: they hadnít discussed her schedule at all; Jack was too busy to be bothered with the details of her life; she didnít think it was important; she was going to tell him when she got a minute. But as she gazed into Ryanís eyes she felt drawn to be completely honest with her. As she opened her heart she realized that she had not been honest with herself, either. She was surprised to hear her own answer, "I didnít think heíd like it, and I was afraid that he would either talk me out of it or somehow make me feel bad about it."

Ryan didnít say a word in response. She just slowly nodded her head as if she had expected that answer. Jamie wondered what was going on behind those ice blue eyes but Ryan wasnít giving up her secrets today. She patted Jamieís shoulder and said, "Iíve read some really good books on homophobia and heterosexism. Call me at home this afternoon and Iíll give you the titles. Iíll be home by 3 and I donít leave for work until almost 5. But speaking of time, Iíve got a bio lab in 5 minutes," she said as she stood and chugged her remaining cranberry juice. She eyed Jamieís untouched apple juice as she hefted her enormous book bag onto her shoulder.

"Go ahead," she said generously. "You are a bit of a bottomless pit, arenít you?" she teased.

"My father always says I have two hollow legs," she happily agreed.

"You get goingóIíll call you later." Jamie gave her a much more relaxed smile as Ryan took off at a surprisingly fast clip.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The phone rang shrilly in the neat white home in the Noe Valley. It was picked up on the 2nd ring and answered by a deep, melodic male voice. "Hello," the voice rumbled.

"Hello, this is Jamie Evans, is Ryan at home?"

"Hold on a minute and Iíll check," he politely offered.

"RYAN! PHONE!" he bellowed.

Ryan trotted up the stairs from her basement room to glare at her brother. "Thanks a lot Conor. Very cultured. All those years of charm school really paid off. Do you know who it is?" she inquired.

"I assume it is the girlfriend du jour," he replied with a French accent.

"Thatís helpful," Ryan said as she elbowed him out of the way. They tussled briefly before she wrenched the receiver from his hands.

"Hello," she finally said into the phone.

"Jeez, whatís going on over there?" Jamie inquired. "It sounded like the phone was being ripped from the wall."

"Well that has happened, actually more than once," Ryan remembered. "That was just my charming older brother trying to gain some much needed attention," she said as she glared at the brother in question.

"I didnít know you lived with your brother," Jamie said.

"Actually I still live at home," Ryan replied. "Much to my regret, at times," she said as she stuck her tongue out at her grinning brother.

"I donít know why, but you donít seem like the type to live at home," Jamie mused. "I guess you just seem too independent."

"No, thatís not really what Iím like," Ryan said easily. "Iím really close to most of the members of my family," she giggled as her brother snuck up behind her and tickled her around the waist. "Stop it!" she shrieked as Jamie laughed at her surprisingly adolescent girlish giggle.

"It sounds kinda wild over there," she finally commented as Ryan continued to giggle.

"Itís always wild over here," she agreed as she tried to control her breath. "Oh, Iíve got those titles for you," she said as she reached into her pants pocket for a folded piece of paper.

"Great," Jamie said. "Iím ready"

After they conversed for a few minutes Ryan excused herself to get ready for work. As she began to walk back down the stairs to her room, her brother spoke from his place on the sofa.

"Was that todayís entree, Ryan?"

"No, Conor," she explained patiently. "Actually that one is in your camp. She is a woman from my psych class and she is straight!" she said with mock alarm.

"Not for long, Sis, not for long," he predicted with a chuckle.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After her conversation with Ryan Jamie hopped in her car and drove to the bookstore they had visited the night before. She knew that the store would definitely have the titles that Ryan had told her about and she guessed that Barnes & Noble might not. After purchasing the books she got back in her Porsche and began the long drive down to Palo Alto. Jack was due to be home by 7 or so and since she imagined the trip could take up to 2 hours she felt she needed to brave the usually heavy traffic to be there when he got home.

Much to Jamieís surprise the trip took merely an hour. So she was in Palo Alto by a little after 6 p.m. She had a key to the apartment, but after the fight she was reticent to show up without his permission. Instead she went to her favorite coffee shop, just down the street from Jackís. She settled herself down at a table with a steaming cup of latté and began to peruse her purchases. She was immediately engrossed by ĎLoving Someone Gayí. The time flew as she concentrated on the book. It seemed like only a few minutes had passed but she glanced at her watch and saw that it was already 7 p.m. She retrieved her cell phone and dialed his familiar number. Jack answered on the 3rd ring.

"Hi," she said as neutrally as possible.

"Jamie," he said, a clear tone of relief in his voice. "I just called your house, but no one knew where you were."

"Iím right down the street, Honey," she relied warmly. "If you want to see me I can be there in 5 minutes."

"Of course I want to see you," he said fervently. "I couldnít stop thinking about you all day."

"Okay, Iíll be right there," she agreed, with relief flooding her voice.

By the time she had put her purchased books in her bag and began to exit the shop she could see Jackís long form jogging down the street. Thatís better than an apology, she thought as she smiled widely at his approaching form.

She walked just a step or two before he was upon her. He lifted her effortlessly off her feet as his arms fully encircled her small waist. He squeezed nearly all of the air out of her lungs as he nestled his head between her shoulder and neck. She leaned back a bit to regard him as he uttered with his eyes closed, "I am so sorry, Jamie. I acted like a total asshole and I hope you can forgive me."

She responded with a tender kiss to his soft lips. That kiss was followed by another, slightly less tender but with a bit more emotion. As he lowered her softly to her feet

he grasped her cheeks with his large hands. He pulled her close for a dizzying series of kisses that left her panting. "Letís go," she rasped out as she grabbed his hand and began to lead him down the street.

The pent up emotion of the past 24 hours began to pulse in her veins as they covered the short distance. As they entered the apartment she grabbed him by the shirt and roughly pushed him against the wall. He gasped a bit in surprise at this totally unexpected display of aggression from his normally demure lover. She pounced upon his mouth and kissed him thoroughly, until she felt his knees begin to buckle. They began to slide down the wall in tandem as she fought frantically to undo his belt. He wrenched his t-shirt over his head as she bent to focus intently on her task. Finally she had loosened his belt and unzipped him. She grabbed his jeans and shorts with her small hands and yanked them as far down his legs as their position would allow her.

He was sitting with his back against the wall, pants around his shins as Jamie straddled his thighs. He grabbed her golf shirt by the hem and pulled it over her compliant outstretched arms. As she threw her arms around his neck for another bout of heated kisses he expertly removed her bra. The only barrier now was her jeans and Jack could not tolerate this encumbrance to her skin for another second. He grasped her around her waist and tumbled them both onto their sides. His nimble hands slid her zipper down with agonizing slowness, hearing the click, click, click as the metal gave way. They both gasped at the sound and at the promise of what lay ahead. Then Jamie pushed her jeans and panties down and out of the way.

She took the opportunity the momentary distraction provided and rolled him onto his back on the hardwood floor. She straddled him again as she grabbed his hands and placed them firmly on her breasts. Using her own hands to guide him she pushed his hands against herself roughly. She began to grind his large hands against her aroused breasts with a brazenness that Jack had never before seen her display.

She dropped her head to his and again began the assault on his lips. Her tongue entered his mouth as she let out a fierce, animalistic groan. His hands never stopped grasping and squeezing her now tender breasts. She slid back a bit onto his lap as he raised his knees. She impaled herself on his aching member and she rode him for a few short moments before she screamed out her release. He followed her seconds later as she collapsed onto his chest.

Their sweat-drenched bodies lay tangled together, arms, legs, jeans all entwined.

"Does that mean Iím forgiven?í he finally asked with a wan smile from his languid stupor.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They passed the rest of the weekend in a familiar pattern. Jamie caught up on most of her reading for the week and completed her short paper on the visit to the bookstore. They sat together in the sunny, small living room focused on their studies. Jamie had gotten current on all of her classes while Jack had just started to make a dent on his by Saturday night. Late in the afternoon she began to make dinner after taking a quick trip to the grocery store. She had decided to make Jackís favorite meal, chicken enchiladas, as a little peace offering. After their bout of passion yesterday evening their relationship seemed back to normal. They did not discuss the fight at all and that was fine with her. Both of them thought that the blow up was a one time only occurrence and neither saw the need to rehash it. That was one thing that both of them appreciated about their relationship. Neither of them needed or wanted a lot of drama to keep them entertained. But even though she was not a drama queen Jamie had to admit that she had never felt as much lust for Jack as she had yesterday. Maybe a blow up is a good idea every once in a while, she thought.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After dinner Jamie watched a movie that she had rented while on her earlier errand. She watched wearing headphones, as Jack was still diligently working away. They sat on the couch together, he sitting up, she lying on her side with her head on a pillow at the other end of the couch, and her legs resting on his lap. His textbook was resting on his thighs, but propped up by her legs.

Around midnight Jack gently stroked her arm to wake her. "Címon sleeping beauty, time for bed." He helped her to sit up but she only lasted in that position for a moment before she collapsed onto his chest.

"Too tired," she grumbled sleepily.

He turned a bit and reached under her knees with one arm while the other cradled her back. He rose with her in his arms as she nestled down into his embrace.

"My hero," she crooned softly.

They reached the bedroom and Jack placed her on the edge of the bed. He bent to remove her shoes as she fell to the bed in an exhausted heap. He eventually removed the rest of her clothing with not a bit of help from Jamie. He smiled at her as she lay naked, legs hanging off the side of the bed, arms stretched out over her head, just as he had left them after removing her shirt. He took off his clothes as well, taking his just removed t-shirt and placing it over her head. He wrestled her arms into the garment and moved her into a more comfortable position. Then he slipped into a pair of cotton pajama bottoms and joined her. He had never met anyone who fell asleep so soundly or completely. It was a trait that he found undeniably cute, even when it prevented him from making love to her. He pulled her into an embrace, kissing her face and head, and then settling her against his side as they both fell into a deep sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie began to wake just as the dawn was beginning to break. Her first sensation was of a tender, languid touch roaming up and down her bare legs. Hands slowly moved to the front and began a slow, teasing dance on her twitching thighs. Slowly she began to gain some semblance of consciousness. She began to respond to the touch by gently sliding into it. It was clear that she was not fully awake, but also clear that she was not asleep.

The touch moved up her body to tenderly rub her stomach, sides, breasts and arms. Her t-shirt disappeared and the touch now encompassed her whole bare body. Jack was still lying on his side behind her. She began to move her hips in time with his touch. As she arched her back into him sensually he turned her so they lay face to face. He began to slowly, teasingly kiss every part of her that he could reach. After a seeming eternity she was softly moaning and grinding her hips, needing his immediate attention. He responded quickly at this point, slipping into her as she let out a small gasp. They moved together smoothly and she was happily surprised to find herself once more groaning out her release, minutes later.

Jack cuddled her and spoke nonsense words of love into her ear for a few tender moments. The feeling of warmth and contentment overtook her again and she fell back into a sated sleep.

At 10 a.m. Jamie pried her eyes open and forced herself to look at the bedside clock. Wow, I had the strangest dream, she thought. After a quick physical inspection however, she realized that she had not been dreaming. God, two times in two days! Whatís gotten into him? For that matter, whatís gotten into me? Whatever it is I hope it stays around, she laughed to herself.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie felt much better about her relationship with Jack when she returned to Berkeley. By Monday morning she was still in high spirits during her psychology class and she received a good bit of teasing from Ryan after the class was over. "May I assume that things got resolved between you and your boyfriend?" she asked with a twinkle in her clear blue eyes.

Jamie gave her a smirk and replied, "We definitely made up. Iím not sure that we resolved anything, though. That behavior was so out of character for Jack that Iím just going to assume that he was momentarily possessed."

"Hey, Iíve got my usual hour free, can I interest you in another bottle of juice or three?"

"Yeah," Jamie replied, "that would be nice." As they walked through the campus Ryan was pleased to notice that Jamie chattered away non-stop in her usual style. Jamie was first to reach into her book bag and offered to pay for the drinks so Ryan agreed and picked out a table, watching Jamie struggle to carry the four bottles back.

"Iím not even going to pretend that two of these are for me," she teased.

"Actually, I could drink all four, so youíd better be careful," Ryan replied with a little eyebrow wiggle.

"How do you consume all of the calories you do and stay so thin?" Jamie inquired as she shook her head.

"Well," Ryan said thoughtfully, "I am really active, and then with all of the sweating I do at my job, I find I can eat whatever I want."

"What in the hell do you DO for a living?" Jamie finally blurted out.

Ryan looked slightly confused as she answered, "Iím a personal trainer. I told you that." Jamie began to laugh so hard that tears began to roll down her face. She clutched at her sides as she began to rock back and forth in her chair.

"Gee Jamie, Iíve had a lot of reactions but never that," Ryan said confusedly.

"No, Ryan, Iím not laughing at your job," she explained. ĎYou had not told me what you do, and I let my fertile imagination run wild. I imagined you as some high paid lesbian prostitute." At this Ryan threw back her head and roared.

After a few moments she wiped the tears from her eyes and gave Jamie a little half scowl. "Hey, it just dawned on me that might have been an insult," she said slowly. "Are you saying I look like a prostitute?"

"No! Of course not!" Jamie cried. "But I couldnít figure out why else you would have to time your clients for an hour, potentially have two at a time, and be able to take naps in between. And, letís be honest Ryan, you are great looking and I could see women paying for the pleasure of your company."

"Hmm," she said as if contemplating switching jobs. "I wonder how many women share that view. Nah, Iíd hate to mix business with pleasure," she finally decided with a good natured grin.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They fell into a routine of spending an hour after class chatting before Ryanís Biology Lab. Within a few weeks the habit was so ingrained that they didnít even ask each other before they automatically began the short walk to Bancroft Hall.

Jamie had inquired once or twice about Ryanís participation in the AIDS Ride, asking how her training was going. On a crisp, clear, September morning after another such question Ryan looked at her seriously and said, "You know Jamie, if you are at all interested I could get you ready to do the ride." Jamie was nonplussed at the mere suggestion that she could accomplish such a monumental undertaking and quickly demurred.

"Ryan, I donít even own a bike. I havenít ridden at all since high school and I wasnít very serious about it even then. The most energetic thing I do is play golf, and as I always say, if you can smoke while doing it, it isnít a sport."

"Everybody who rides has doubts about their ability Jamie. There were people on the first ride who had every type of physical and emotional disability you can think of. The group has gotten more diverse every year since then. There are 300 pounders. There are people with missing limbs. There are people with AIDS. There were two people last year that had never been on a bike before they started training. From the looks of you," she eyed her carefully up and down, "you have none of the above mentioned excuses."

"Well, I guess you are right. I donít have a really good excuse. Do you really think you could get me ready to do it? It just seems like such a gargantuan task. Iím really out of shape, Ryan. I donít know if itís possible."

"Gee, could you come up with any more excuses?" Ryan teased as her eyes twinkled playfully. "Iím quite confident I could get you ready if you want to try. Iíve trained people for ultramarathons and Iíve trained people for triathlons and the principles are the same. Start out slowly and build. Iím not saying itís easy, because itís not. But for me it is one of the most rewarding things I do," Ryan stated firmly. "I lost my dear cousin Michael 10 years ago to AIDS. He was one of the sweetest men I ever knew and he was only 27 when he died. Any small thing that I can do to stop another family from going through that pain is worth any amount of sacrifice to me," she said soberly.

Jamie sat in pensive silence for a few moments. "Well, if you are willing to take on a hopeless case like me, Iím willing to give it a try. Where do we start?"

Ryan beamed a smile that Jamie was forced to return. "I suppose the first order of business is to get you a bike, assuming you donít have one. Can you afford to spend some money on a bike now?"

"Yeah, I can manage," she said easily.

"When are you free to go shopping?"

"How about tomorrow?" Jamie suggested. "Weíd better do it before I lose my nerve."

"Itís a deal. Iím free from 10-1 p.m. tomorrow. I normally study during that break but I am amazingly caught up for a change. Is that good for you?"

"Perfect" Jamie agreed.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As agreed Jamie picked Ryan up at 10 a.m. and they drove to her favorite bike shop in Oakland.

"Iíve been coming here for a long time," Ryan told her. "These guys really know their stuff and they donít try to sell you things you donít need."

They entered the shop to a boisterous welcome from the gray haired man behind the counter. "Hi ya Ryan, long time no see," he said with good humor.

"Thatís only because you do such a good job on my bikes that I never have to come back. Itís your own fault, Bill," she teased.

As he made his way around the counter Ryan made introductions. "Bill, this is my friend Jamie. Iíve convinced her to ride with me this year in the AIDS ride. But she doesnít have a bike, so you need to fix her up."

"Excellent, Jamie," he said enthusiastically. "With Ryan as your guide youíll do well. She has gotten some pretty hopeless characters through that experience successfully. So what do you have in mind?"

"I know nothing about bikes. You two are the experts. What do you suggest?" she said as she looked at Ryan.

"A road bike would be the best for the ride," Ryan said thoughtfully. "The only downside is that you canít take it off road at all. But it will let you climb hills easier and it goes a lot faster than a mountain bike."

"Price is a big factor, Jamie," Bill explained. "I can get you a road bike for $1000 but you will feel every pound on that long ride. At the other end of the spectrum, I can make you a bike that will feel like youíre riding on airóbut that will cost some serious money."

"I think Iím gonna need all the help I can get. Iíd rather spend a little more to insure that I can do this," she reasoned. "What would you suggest if money wasnít a factor?"

Ryanís eyes nearly flew from her head but Bill replied enthusiastically, "Not a factor at all?"

Ryan gathered her wits and interrupted, "Jamie are you sure that you mean that? Bikes can really get up there in a hurry. I mean, Bill wonít take advantage of you, but he can work with whatever budget you have."

"Well," Jamie reasoned, "what is the difference between a moderately priced bike and the top of the line?"

"There are a lot of factors that are influenced by price," he admitted. "The higher quality components are a lot smoother and more responsive. But the biggest factor is weight. You could easily save about 7 pounds of weight by going with top quality," Bill responded. "The higher priced bike would have much lighter components. You would save 3 pounds just on wheels alone if I made you top quality rims. Now, 7 pounds doesnít sound like a lot, but believe me, you would notice it-- especially on a 500 mile ride."

"500 MILES!" Jamie shouted. "Iíve driven to L.A. and itís only 380 miles. What gives, Ryan?"

"Oh, didnít I mention that the route is not real direct?" Ryan replied casually as her attention was seemingly focused on a new bike seat.

Jamie had her hands on her hips and was glaring at Ryan with narrowed eyes.

Slowly she raised her head and looked at her friend with a slightly chagrined expression. "Come on, Jamie. Do you really think 380 miles would be easy? The difference between the two is pretty minor over 7 days."

"Well, I guess thatís true," she agreed, somewhat placated. "What do you think I should do, Ryan?"

"If I could afford to drop 7 pounds off my bike, I would be first in line to do so," Ryan stated without hesitation. "But itís not something you need to do if you canít comfortably afford it."

"I can afford it, and I really do want to make this as enjoyable an experience as possible," Jamie replied.

"Looks like this is your lucky day Bill; show us some frames."

"Cute ones," Jamie demanded with a twinkle in her eyes as she grinned up at Ryan.

"Cute ones," Ryan somberly agreed.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They left the bike shop a little before noon. "Iím famished," groaned Ryan, theatrically clutching at her stomach. "Iíve never seen anyone take longer to make a decision on anything."

"I wanted to make sure I got what I wanted," Jamie defended herself. "Youíre the one who convinced me to have Bill make the bike rather than buy a stock model."

"I would have taken you to Target if I knew it was going to take so long," she said with a teasing grin.

"Okay, you big baby, Iíll buy you lunch. And I know just the place," she said with a wink as they climbed into the Porsche and drove a short distance to ĎLuca Delií in Oakland.

"Oh wow," Ryan enthused. "I did not know there was one of these in the East Bay. I go to the main store in the Marina all the time. I absolutely love this place." Her clear blue eyes lit up as she licked her lips in anticipation of her meal.

"You really are easy to please," Jamie marveled. While they waited in line at the counter she reflected that one of Ryanís most appealing qualities was the joy she experienced at the little things life offered. She had an unguarded, childlike exuberance that was truly infectious, and Jamie marveled that she never felt more alive than when she was with her new friend. As she watched Ryan carefully peruse the menu she laughed to herself. Ryan read every word and changed her mind at least 6 times while they waited to order. "Itís almost our turn, Ryan. Are you able to stick with your decision?"

"You are referring to the highlight of my day, Jamie," she explained patiently. "Lunch is my favorite meal. And since eating is my favorite activity, lunch is no laughing matter."

As Ryan spoke Jamie began looking though her wallet. "Iíve only got $47 on me. Do you think that will cover it?" she asked innocently.

"Iíll go easy on you since youíre new at this," Ryan drawled. "But next time donít be so unprepared. A trip to the ATM is always a good idea before you offer to buy me lunch."

After ordering their food they found a little table outside. The weather was starting to turn, but the table was in the bright noonday sun so they were quite comfortable even without jackets.

"So," Ryan said after they got comfortable. "That was some exhibition of buying power. I donít think Iíve ever seen Bill look so happy. He hasnít made that much off me in 7 years."

Jamie blushed a little at having the spotlight on her financial status. "It just made sense to buy the better bike for a ride like this," she explained.

Ryan gazed at her for a moment as if deciding whether to ask a question. Finally she curled the corners of her mouth up in a small grin and asked, "I donít mean to ask an indelicate question, but are you loaded?"

"Gee, Iím glad that wasnít indelicate," Jamie retorted as she playfully slapped her arm.

Ryan quickly backpedaled when it looked as if her friend was offended. "Iím sorry if Iím prying," she quickly added. "You really donít have to answer that question."

"Itís not that, Ryan, I donít mind talking about private things with you. But I get kind of embarrassed by it. I mean, oh, itís hard to explain," she fumbled.

"So loaded is not a strong enough word?" Ryan offered helpfully with a crooked little grin.

"Not really," Jamie said with a tinge of shame. "More like filthy rich."

"How filthy?" Ryan asked with a leer.

"Obscenely," Jamie flatly stated.

"Wow! Iíve never been friends with anyone obscenely rich. Thatís really kind of cool," she admitted with a pleased smile. "Will you pay me to like you? For the right price I could even be your best friend," she teased.

"Very, very funny."

"I feel like I can tease you because you so do not seem like a rich kid. If it wasnít for the Porsche and the bike you seem just like me," Ryan observed. "But if youíre really sensitive about it I promise Iíll never tease you about it again."

Jamie considered the question for a moment. Ryan was looking at her with that open, guileless expression that just made Jamie feel like she could trust her with any of her secrets. "Itís okay when you tease me, Ryan. I donít know why but your teasing never seems mean spirited. I hate to be so sensitive about this but it has been a problem for me throughout my life."

"Do you feel like talking about it?" Ryan asked with such a friendly, accepting expression that Jamie found herself telling her the whole family story.

"My mother comes from very old money," she explained. "Her maternal grandfather owned most of the coal mines in the country at the turn of the century. And her fatherís family was pretty well off, too. Theyíre 6th generation Californians and theyíre into the whole social scene. My dad was pretty middle class, though. His father is an Episcopal priest and his mother was a homemaker. We live mostly off his money nowóand he works his tail off. My mother uses her money for trips and she bought most of our houses and the like. But my father has always stressed the value of money and I was given a very modest allowance when I was growing up. I try not to flaunt my wealth, because it really puts people off, but it is a part of my life, and I want my close friends to know about it."

"Iím glad you told me, Jamie," she said sincerely as she fixed her with a mesmerizing stare. "It means a lot to me that you trust me to know about your financial status."

"I do trust you, Ryan. I canít imagine that youíll let this get in the way of our friendship."

"No way," she said emphatically. "After all, you havenít let my lesbianism get in the way of our relationship," she reminded her with a dazzling grin. "Tell me more about your father. It sounds like this would be a hard thing for most men to deal with. He must be really secure to have his wife be a lot wealthier than he is."

"Yeah, I respect him for it. Although now he makes a load as a partner in a big law firm. So weíre rich even without motherís money now. But it must have been hard for him when they were first together," she agreed.

"Do you spend much time with your extended family?"

"No, we really donít. My mother goes to her motherís family home in Rhode Island for at least a month in the summer. When I was little I would go with her. The whole extended family would be there, but I never felt like I fit in. They lived like the truly wealthy: servants everywhere, elegant dinners, spending the day sailing on huge yachts. But I just felt like I didnít belong there. Itís hard to explain but I donít like to classify myself by my money," she said earnestly.

"I can see that would be kind of hard," Ryan agreed. "What about your motherís paternal side of the family. Arenít they local?"

"Yeah, thereís tons of them around but itís not a warm and fuzzy kind of group. Theyíre not into spending holidays together or anything like that; so Iíd say my mother sees them at occasional social functions and the odd wedding and funeral. Thereís no animosity or anything but thereís some definite emotional distance."

"The difficult part is that my money has nothing to do with me. I got it as an accident of birth. I didnít earn it or deserve it in any way. Sometimes it really is a burden," Jamie said with a touch of sadness in her eyes.

"I can understand that," Ryan said softly. "And I bet it doesnít make it any easier since so many people erroneously believe they would be happy if only they had more money," she sympathized.

"Exactly!" Jamie said with relief. "You really do understand, Ryan!"

"I really do, Jamie. The hard parts of my life would not change one bit because of money. I mean, I could work less if I earned more, but I would probably just buy more junk!" she laughed. "People are always talking about how much better their lives would be if they had more money. Iíve never understood that. If youíre happy youíll be happy no matter how much or how little you have. And if youíre miserable all the money in the world wonít make you happy."

"I think Iím going to consider your offer to be your best friend," Jamie said thoughtfully after a moment. "How much will it cost me?"

Ryanís eyes grew wide as a server delivered their heaping plates. "Consider yourself paid in full!" she said with a happy grin.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After plowing through her sizeable lunch and picking over the remnants of Jamieís, Ryan said, "Now we need to work out how we will train you for this ride."

"What are our options?"

"Saddle time is critical. There is not much you can do to duplicate the feeling of actually riding. So weíre going to have to log a lot of miles. But to get the most out of your riding you have to be in pretty good shape. I donít mean to be rude, but I donít see a lot of muscle lurking under your skin," she said as she reached for an absent bicep.

"Just cause Iím not rock hard like you doesnít mean I donít have any muscle," Jamie replied defensively as she snatched her arm away before Ryan could get a good grip.

"I am just teasing, you know," she said with twinkling eyes. "But the more muscle you have the more you can demand of your body. So we need to increase your cardiovascular capacity, tone your muscles and ride like crazy. The easiest way to work on your lungs and your muscles is at a gym. Do you belong to a club?"

"No, I was going to join one, but I never got around to it," Jamie sighed.

"Well, nowís a good time to join. I assume you would like to work out in the East Bay. Obviously we could use my club, but that is too much traveling for you. My place has a branch in Oakland. Iíve never been there but Iím willing to check it out for you. Is there any place you have heard about that you would like to try?" Ryan inquired.

"Some of my friends go to a club they really like. Why donít we both do some research and compare notes?"

"Sounds good. Iíll check mine out on the way home tonight. Let me know when youíve checked out a few and then you can decide," Ryan said.

"Great," she happily agreed. "Now comes the hard part," Jamie said gravely. "Obviously, Iím going to pay you for your time, Ryan. How can we work that out?"

Ryanís eyes grew wide as she shook her head firmly. "I canít charge you, Jamie. I want to do this because youíre my friend. It will be fun for me."

"Ryan, I appreciate that and I would agree except for one thing. I know how busy you are. Iíve seen that little black book of yours, you know," she said fondly. "This is how you make your living. If you were not working with me you would be working with a regular client, would you not?"

"Well yeah, sometimes, I guess so." she said hesitantly. "But I can work you in without too much trouble. Iíve got 3 or 4 hours a week that are unscheduled, and I can work out with you sometimes, and I never do that with a client."

"What are your arrangements with your club, if you donít mind me asking?"

"I pay them a flat monthly fee, and I can work out whenever I want and train anyone who is a member. They hook me up with clients and I can bring people in myself. The member pays me directly, usually $40 per hour."

"Do you train people who arenít members?"

"Yeah, I have some private clients. There are some workout facilities that let trainers come in and pay an hourly fee. That allows me to train people who donít belong to my gym. And I have one woman who has a gym at her house, but I didnít see any iron laying around your place when I was there for dinner," she teased.

"How much do you charge private clients?" Jamie inquired.

"$125 per hour if I like you," she said with a waggling eyebrow. "The price goes up as your likeability goes down," she said with a big grin.

"Is that really true?" Jamie asked.

"Yeah, the woman with the gym in her home pays me $175 per hour. And if she complains about the price one more time itís going up to $200," she laughed. "She started out at $125 like everyone else, but she kept bitching about how expensive it was. That made me mad so I raised her. She kept bitching, so I kept raising. Pretty soon I wonít have to take any other clients. She can support me," she said smugly.

"How about this. If I join your gym Iíll pay you the standard $40. But if I choose to join somewhere else where you are not affiliated, Iíll pay you $125. Unless, I make you mad, of course," she chuckled. "I know you donít want to take my money but if I donít pay you I wonít feel comfortable using you as often as I want. I want you to think of me as a client for this and give me your undivided attention, okay?"

"I donít really like charging friends, Jamie. But I do want you to feel comfortable using me when you need to. So Iíll agree with one proviso. If I work out at the same time, you donít pay at all, unless there is a daily gym fee. In that case you can pay to get us in, but thatís all. Okay?"

"That is an excellent deal, Ryan. Youíre hired," she agreed as they clasped hands and share a smile.

Continue to Part 2

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