I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 7: Getaway
by S X Meagher
Traffic was utterly abysmal on this Monday afternoon, giving them plenty of time to chat as they inched along on 101. "You know, Honey, Caitlin's not the only one who likes being with your mom. I can't tell you how much fun I've had with her. It's funny, but in a way she doesn't seem like your mother. I think Maeve seems more like my mother than Catherine does to you."
"I think I know what you mean," Jamie replied thoughtfully. "I mean, I feel like she's my mother, but our relationship has been more like that of friends for a long time. When I was in high school, things started to change between us. I stopped trying to get mothering from her, and found that we got along much better when we acted like friends."
"Boy, that must have been hard for you. I think that's when I needed my mother the most. There were so many things that I needed guidance on, and I just couldn't get some of it from Da or the boys. Luckily I had Aunt Maeve. That's really when we got a lot closer, you know. I relied on her to help me through some of the rough spots. What did you do when you needed advice?"
"Well, I still had Elizabeth."
Ryan turned and gaped at her, stunned to learn this fact. "You did? I assumed she was only with you when you were young!"
"Oh no," Jamie laughed. "She was still here when I met Jack!"
"That's amazing," Ryan said. "What does a nanny do when her little charge is in high school?"
"Not a lot, obviously," Jamie agreed. "But she was part of our family by then." She caught herself and amended her statement a little. "Actually, that's not accurate either. We didn't eat together or do anything together socially. Mother and I went out to dinner most nights, so neither Elizabeth nor Marta had much to do. But Elizabeth didn't really have anywhere else to go. She had family in England but she didn't want to return until her sister was ready to retire. Her sister Gwendolyn was a nanny also, and they wanted to purchase a house together, but her charges were younger than I. So we just kept her on until she was ready to go. She left right before I came to Berkeley."
"Do you miss her?" Ryan asked, not really having a good feeling for how Jamie thought of the woman who raised her.
"In a way," Jamie admitted. "I mean, she was waiting for me when they brought me home from the hospital. I was with her three times more than I was with my parents. She was a sweet, gentle woman who cared for me very well. But she wasn't my mother, she was an employee, so I never really developed the kind of attachment for her that I might have if we were related. Having a nanny is kind of strange for a child. It takes a while to figure out that they aren't part of your family, but once you do, it's hard to ignore that fact."
"I truly can't imagine that," Ryan admitted. She cast a tentative glance at Jamie as she asked, "Do you want to hire people to help raise our kids?"
"I certainly would not want someone to take over the responsibility for our children. No way! But if we have more than one child, it might be nice to have an au pair to help out during the day."
"You mean like a college student from another country?"
"Yeah, someone who wanted to study in the U.S. in exchange for room, board and a salary."
"Ooh, like some naïve, sexy little French mademoiselle from the country? That's a great idea," Ryan agreed enthusiastically.
"Or maybe a nice, elderly factory worker from Ukraine," Jamie suggested, batting her eyes innocently.
"You really know how to take the fun out of a good idea," Ryan groused.
"That's what I'm best at, Honey," she agreed as she leaned in and gave Ryan a wet kiss on her grinning cheek.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Conor returned Ryan's call as soon as he arrived home from work. "Where are you guys?" he asked, sounding a little grumpy.
"We're down in Hillsborough," she replied. "Catherine is going to go to Disneyland with us tomorrow, and it made sense to leave from here. Is that a problem?"
"No," he grumbled. "I just thought you'd be here when I got home. I miss you."
God, I'm lucky to have been born into this family, Ryan thought, misting up a little to hear her brother express his feelings. Acting a little impulsively, Ryan asked, "Why don't you come down and have dinner with us? I'm sure Jamie and Caitlin would love to see you."
He paused just a second before he answered in the affirmative. "You sure? Jamie's mom won't mind?"
"I'm sure she won't, but hang on a sec and I'll ask." She placed the phone onto her chest and caught Catherine's attention. "Would you mind if my brother came down for dinner? We've been gone so much, he's feeling a little abandoned."
"Of course not, Dear. Does he need me to have someone pick him up?"
Ryan gave her a puzzled look and said, "No, he has a car."
"By all means, Ryan, I'd love to meet him." As Ryan got back on the phone, Catherine wracked her brain, trying to remember who lived at Ryan's house. She knew that she had only brothers, but for the life of her, she couldn't remember how old they were. He must be younger than Ryan, if he's that needy, she mused. Goodness, it must be hard for those children with no parent in the house most of the time. The poor little fellow.
"Okay, Con," Ryan said. "Catherine is happy to have you. Bring your swimsuit and we can go for a swim after dinner, okay?"
"Cool," he agreed. "Should I bring something? A bottle of wine maybe?"
"Nah, don't bother." She lowered her voice a bit, and said, "What they have lying around here is a lot nicer stuff than we'd ever buy." Thinking of something they had forgotten, she amended, "We could use some ice cream, though. Can you bring some?"
"Sure. No prob."
"One pint should be enough. Jim's not home, so it's just the four of us."
"I know," Conor said. "See you soon."
Huh? How does he know that Jim's not here?
* * * * * * * * * * *
When the doorbell rang an hour later, both Jamie and Ryan were heavily involved in the dinner preparations. "I'll get it," Catherine said, making for the living room.
She opened the door and stepped back, blinking up in shock at the massive hunk of beautifully arranged, testosterone enhanced O'Flaherty. My God! He's like an Irish version of Michelangelo's David! Her eyes started at the neatly cut black hair, moving down to the piercing blue eyes, the prominent cheekbones, and the full, sensual lips. The godlike man spoke, his deep voice smooth as honey. "Conor O'Flaherty," he announced, a set of dazzling white teeth revealing themselves.
Struggling with her composure, Catherine extended her hand, feeling the large, warm, callused hand envelop hers. "Catherine Evans," she finally managed, gesturing her guest inside. "Did you have any trouble finding us?"
"No. None at all," Conor assured her. "I've been here before."
"You have?" she blinked, not understanding how that was possible.
"Yes. I drove your husband's Acura up here from Pebble Beach."
So that's how that car got up here, she mused, never having bothered to ask Jim how it had miraculously appeared one day. "Ahh," she said, not wanting it to appear that she didn't know her husband's business. "I must have forgotten. That was very generous of you, Conor."
"Believe me," his smooth voice rumbled, "the pleasure was all mine." His white teeth flashed, his eyes narrowing a bit as he said the word "pleasure."
My God, I feel like a schoolgirl! she cried to herself, knowing that she was blushing. Get a hold of yourself, Catherine! The boy couldn't be more than 25! Even though Catherine had been married at an early age and had not experienced much before that, she was quite used to male attention. She usually shrugged it off, taking it as a small compliment, but rarely more than that. But this man-this gorgeous younger man-was obviously cognizant of her discomfort, and he was clearly playing with it! She found it both compelling and a little frightening, realizing with a start that he gave off the same kind of energy that Ryan showed around Jamie. Maybe they're just very friendly people, she hoped.
She escorted him into the kitchen, smiling broadly when Caitlin caught sight of him. The baby screamed in delight, crawling across the floor so quickly that she slipped on the smooth stone. Conor stooped, his long body folding gracefully as he swooped the delighted infant into his arms, giving her several dozen kisses as she babbled away, deliriously happy to be in this large, gentle man's arms. "What a cute haircut!" he exclaimed. "She looks like a little doll!"
Jamie came over and added a kiss and a hug, ruffling her hand through his newly cropped hair, seemingly very comfortable in Conor's presence. Ryan was stirring something on the stove, and he went to her, still carrying the baby. He wrapped his free arm around his sister, giving her a kiss on the lips as well as a generous hug. Well, maybe he is just friendly, Catherine mused. He certainly does seem well-loved by these three.
Turning to Catherine, Conor asked, "When is Jim back from Zurich?"
She blinked slowly, trying to recall if she knew that her husband was in Switzerland. "I think he'll be home tomorrow," she said, vaguely recalling the last conversation they had while she was in Newport.
"How do you know where Jim is?" Ryan asked her brother, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"Oh, I went to a ball game with him on Friday," he said. "He mentioned that he was leaving the next day. By the way, Jamie, I met your former fiancé that night. He seems like a nice guy."
Jamie blanched, blinking slowly as she took in that bit of information. "You went to a ball game with my father and my ex-fiancé?"
"Uh-huh." He paused a bit, looking from one shocked face to the next. "Problem?"
"Uh...no, I guess not," Jamie decided, knowing that she had been instrumental in introducing Conor to her father and encouraging the older man to spend some time with him.
Conor was too perceptive to let that weak endorsement satisfy him. He looked to Ryan for further information, cocking his head at his sister. "What's up, Ryan?"
She pursed her lips, not very happy to reveal the problems they were experiencing with Jim, but feeling that her brother needed to know what was going on, since he was becoming friends with the older man. "We're having some problems with Jim right now, Con," she informed him. "He's not very happy with me, and he wants me to move out of Jamie's house."
"What?" he blinked slowly, unable to reconcile those actions with the pleasant, friendly man he was getting to know. "But how..."
"He thinks my motivation for being with Jamie is mostly mercenary," she said softly, not having a better way to characterize Jim's accusations.
"Oh for Christ's sake!" He got up, and began pacing around the kitchen, Caitlin still cuddled up to his chest. "If either of us wanted his money, it would be me!" he said in a rare bit of self-analysis. "I mean, I like him, but I wouldn't have driven his Hyundai all the way up here from Pebble Beach!"
"I still say that this will blow over," Catherine said. "I think he's just going to take some time to get used to the idea, girls. Once he realizes how serious you are about each other, he will revert to his normal self."
"I certainly hope so, Mom," Jamie said, not having nearly as much confidence as her mother did.
"Me too," Conor joined in, seeing his dreams of driving nice cars and going to baseball games disintegrate before his very eyes, family always taking precedence over friendships, no matter how lucrative.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After dinner, Conor volunteered to take the baby for her evening swim, as Ryan and Jamie both wanted to avoid washing their hair again. Catherine tried to avert her eyes as much as possible when Conor was on the pool deck in his long, brightly colored print swim trunks. Even though all of his critical parts were well covered, his stunningly muscular body was much too well displayed for her comfort. The few glances that she allowed herself showed a beautifully built man, his heavy musculature clear evidence of a life spent in manual labor. His skin was a nicely burnished copper, a shade or two darker than his sister's, with his arms, face and neck darker still.
"How old is Conor?" Catherine asked Jamie when Ryan went to fetch ice cream for the group.
"He's 28," Jamie revealed.
At least I won't be guilty of statutory rape if I throw myself at him, Catherine mused. "You know, Jamie," she said thoughtfully, "if I ever had any doubts about your being gay, they have been completely erased now that I've met Conor."
Jamie laughed heartily, knowing exactly what her mother was getting at. "That would be the litmus test, wouldn't it?"
"I'm afraid your father and I might just have to fight over that young man," the older woman laughed, assuming that her daughter knew that she was mostly teasing.
"Wait 'til you meet the rest of the bunch," Jamie told her. "As cute as Conor is, he's not my type. But Ryan has this cousin, Colm, that I would go for in a minute if I had to chose a man."
"Maybe I'd better not meet the rest," Catherine laughed. "I'm already lusting in my heart over just one of them!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
After thoroughly tiring the baby out, Conor left at around nine, giving all of the assembled women hugs, reserving kisses for his sister, Caitlin, and Jamie.
The baby was asleep in Ryan's arms, and they all said goodnight as soon as Conor drove away. "I don't remember getting that nap today, Ms. Evans," Ryan said as they all ascended the stairs.
"Let me put her to bed," Catherine offered, accepting the sleeping bundle as they reached the top of the stairs.
"Are you sure?" Ryan asked.
"I'd love to," the older woman declared. "Now you two get some rest. We're going to have a very busy day tomorrow."
Jamie lingered in the bath for a while after Ryan was finished. Coming out just a few minutes after her partner had departed, she was slightly disappointed to hear the soft snores that characterized Ryan's deepest sleep. Well, there goes our last chance for a little love until Thursday, she decided. No way we'll have any time alone in Disneyland. She slid into bed, smiling to herself when Ryan immediately curled her body around hers, instinctively seeking her in sleep. Ah well, having her close to me like this is worth more than all of the sex in the world, she thought fondly, grasping Ryan's limp hand and placing it on her hip, just like her partner would have done if she was awake.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Caitlin began to fuss just before five. She was merely wet, not hungry, and after Ryan changed her and sang her a song, she drifted back into a contented sleep, seemingly happy to remain in her crib. Ryan trudged into the bath to relieve herself, and while there, she brushed her teeth mechanically. After she washed her face a smile broke out across her handsome features, and she immediately went back into their room and crawled into bed. She snuggled up against Jamie's warm back and slowly began to stroke her thighs. After a few minutes she felt her begin to stir, and soon thereafter Jamie began to move against her. "Need some love, Tiger?" she asked in a sleepy voice.
Ryan just snuggled even closer and nodded her head against her lover's neck. Jamie rolled over and caught sight of the hopeful, desire filled, clear blue eyes. She could not resist the little grin that curled the edges of Ryan's sexy mouth, so she opened her arms and happily said, "Works for me!"
Ryan's hair-trigger lust was easily satisfied, and they were sound asleep again by 5:30. They snuggled into each other's arms and did not stir until 7:30 when Jamie finally had to answer nature's call. When she came back Ryan was still in bed, stretching sensually. "I wish I had time to nibble on you again, but I think we need to get going, Honey."
Jamie couldn't resist jumping onto the bed for one last cuddle. "You've never woken me up in the middle of the night before, Tiger. Is this a trend?"
"You didn't mind did you?" Ryan asked tentatively, realizing she hadn't checked to see if the early hour bothered Jamie.
"Uh uhhh," she reassured her. "What time was that, anyway?"
"I think it was around five," she said.
"It was totally hot to feel your warms hands running all over my body while I was sound asleep. I think I was in kind of an erotic fog. It really felt great, Baby."
"I don't think this is a trend," Ryan mused, answering Jamie's earlier question. "I'm still a little needy from being away from you, and I guess I have to build up some love reserves."
"I enjoyed it, Love, but I think once a night is my limit. If you need more than that you're gonna have to go with Lefty," she said decisively as she grasped the hand in question and bestowed a kiss on each of the fingers.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
During their joint shower, Ryan continued to rub against her partner in such a sensual manner that Jamie finally brought the hand held shower down and satisfied her one last time. The sight of Ryan's sexy body backed up against the tile with her arms spread wide for support, and her hips gyrating, caused Jamie to heat up as well, so Ryan returned the favor moments later. Nuzzling close to her partner as her heart slowed, Ryan murmured, "Will that hold you for two days of abstinence?"
"Yes," Jamie purred, shifting her hips a few last times, "I'm good. I'm very good. Nice and clean, too," she chuckled, guessing that even her cervix had gotten a good rinse.
"Having sex in the shower is kinda nice," Ryan agreed. "Sex and cleanup all in one swoop."
"Yeah, that part is nice, but it's hard to keep standing when I come. That really takes some discipline."
"Piker," Ryan scoffed, not taking the time to regale Jamie with some of her most challenging orgasm scenarios.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Since the crib was empty, the women went in search of their charge, finding her enjoying breakfast, nestled happily in Catherine's arms. She was wearing a new outfit that Catherine had obviously just purchased for her. Tiny madras shorts in blue, yellow, green, and fuchsia topped off with a canary yellow T-shirt made her look summery and bright. Her babysitters were also wearing shorts, Ryan in navy blue and Jamie in khaki. Ryan also wore her favorite navy blue and white vintage Hawaiian shirt, while Jamie favored a spaghetti strapped tank top in dark khaki green covered by a yellow cotton blouse that she had left half unbuttoned.
Catherine was wearing a pair of off-white cotton duck slacks that fit close to her slim body. A summery print blouse in yellow, pale blue, and off-white hung out over the slacks, with a pale yellow sweater tied over her shoulders in much the same style that Jamie often adopted.
When breakfast was finished they got the car packed, nearly filling the trunk of the Lexus. Ryan checked the car seat one last time before she brought the baby down, since they had moved it to Catherine's car the day before. Her attention was caught by a golden glimmer under the car seat. Reaching under the seatbelt, she extracted the chain and medallion that Catherine had been wearing on Sunday.
Pensively examining the primitive design, she handed it back to Catherine when she got inside. "I found this in the car," she said.
"I wondered where that had gone to," Catherine smiled. "Thank you, Ryan."
"What type of medallion is that?" the dark woman asked.
"Oh, it's an Etruscan coin," Catherine said, going back into the kitchen to get her things.
She lets the baby chew on a coin minted by people who inhabited Italy 2,600 years ago, Ryan mused wryly. My Lord, this is gonna take some getting used to!
* * * * * * * * * * *
As they pulled away from the house, Ryan instructed Caitlin to wave goodbye, and the baby dutifully complied.
"Boy, she's really got that bye-bye thing down, doesn't she?" Jamie asked in wonder.
"Yeah, it just got locked in last week. Annie said that she woke up one morning and just seemed to understand that the wave went together with people leaving, and she's been doing it ever since. Now she just needs the words to go with it."
"She does seem a little reluctant to speak real words," she opined as Caitlin babbled away in the back seat.
"Umm, I wasn't gonna tell you this, but she said her first clear words on Sunday at Mass."
"You weren't gonna tell me! Why not?"
"I don't want the rest of the family to know," she explained. "It would kill Annie if she knew she had missed it, and given the scenario, I was afraid of being the butt of another family joke."
"What?" she asked in confusion.
"We were up at the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. Sara was holding her when we started making the sign of peace. I was obviously a little too far away for Caitlin's pleasure so she decided to call me back."
"She said your name?" Jamie asked, slightly stunned.
"No," she said slowly. "She called me Da-Da," she revealed with a smirk.
Jamie threw her head back and laughed so hard tears came to her eyes, Catherine joined her, laughing along. The older woman asked, "Oh Ryan, that is too precious! Did she say it very loud?"
"I think the people in the last pew heard her," she admitted.
"Oh God, that must have been hilarious," Jamie said as she shook her head. "But I guess you could plead that she was just vocalizing, since she used the wrong name for you."
"She'd better not do it again. Tommy will have my hide if I get his name!"
"It will be interesting to see what she calls you. Your name is going to be tough for her."
"Yeah, I guess it is. She can do m's and b's and d's, but that's about it right now. I think it will be a while before she can handle an 'r'."
"Well, I promise not to tell anyone she did it, but I'm going to put it in my journal and tell her about it when she's older. She'll get a kick out of it."
* * * * * * * *
As they approached the airport, they tuned the radio to the information station and were pleased to learn that the long-term parking lot was still open. To avoid too much hassle Ryan dropped her passengers off at the United terminal so all of Caitlin's gear could be checked. They had decided to bring her jogger even though they knew they would be able to rent a stroller at the park. Ryan's stated reason was that they wouldn't have strollers as nice as hers, but secretly she thought she might get up early and take the baby for a run around Anaheim. They also carried the car seat, which added a significant amount of bulk, but was necessary for the trip from the airport to the park. A small thermal chest carried nine frozen containers of breast milk, and Caitlin's backpack contained stuffed animals, toys, and soft books. A small suitcase housed twenty diapers, twelve jars of baby food, and six complete outfits.
For her part, Ryan carried her favorite backpack, one that she had suffered a good bit of teasing over when she was in Santa Cruz. "I happen to like Bad Batz Muru," she had told Jordan. "He's the only 'Hello Kitty' character I liked as a child, and I still have the backpack." The small pack held another pair of shorts, two cotton shirts, two pairs of undershorts, her swimsuit, her toothbrush, and a bottle of sun block. She chose to travel very light since she had decided that Catherine and Jamie would surely bring everything else she could possibly need.
When Ryan arrived at the gate, Catherine was sitting in a chair playing cheerily with an equally happy baby. She was holding an adorable pair of stuffed terrycloth toys, one representing Pluto and the other Goofy. She would put the toys behind her bag on the next seat and slowly raise them up so they peeked over the top. Every time they showed their heads she would cry, "Peek-a-boo," and Caitlin would squeal with delight.
Ryan came up from behind and bent over to kiss her cheek. "She's on the verge of really understanding this," she informed Catherine. "It's so cute to watch her think this through." After studying the props she added, "Those are very cute little toys. Did you buy them for her yesterday?"
"Yes, and I double checked with the clerk to make sure they were age appropriate. There are no buttons or anything else that can get loose, so she can put them in her mouth safely," she said rather proudly.
"You did a very good job," Ryan congratulated her. "New toys are always a good idea before a little trip. Where did Jamie go?"
"She wanted to buy a couple of biscotti for the baby. After seeing how she reacted to the one on Sunday, I'd say it was a good choice."
"Indeed. Cait's loved them for months now. I just hope Jamie brings one for me too," Ryan added hopefully.
She spotted Jamie's blonde head coming down the hallway, craning her neck to make eye contact. Jamie's face broke into an adorable grin when she saw her, and Catherine had to smile also. As Jamie approached she held out a big biscotti and dangled it over the head of her lover, who eventually jumped up and snagged it with her teeth. "Being around you two is so refreshing," Catherine said sincerely. "I feel ten years younger when we're together."
"Really?" Ryan inquired as she extracted her prize from her mouth. "Why is that?"
"Oh, most of my friends are relatively unhappy about some aspect of their lives. I love them all dearly but sometimes I just like to be around happy people!"
Jamie smiled at her mother as she confided, "If I was any happier I'd burst!"
Caitlin looked up at the three of them and giggled wildly, showing them all the face of true joy.
"Ryan," Catherine said as she looked at the floor near her feet, "I didn't notice your suitcase when we checked our things. Where is it?"
"Right here," she said, holding up the half empty backpack. "I didn't think I'd need much."
Catherine gave her an indulgent grin, mentioning to her daughter, "I don't think I've ever said those words."
As they waited for the announcement to board, Ryan spent the time observing Catherine with the baby. She really did seem relaxed and youthful as she laughed and played with her happy young friend. Everyone will assume that Catherine is Caitlin's mom, Ryan thought. With that new haircut she looks exactly the right age to have a child. Gazing from Jamie to Catherine to Caitlin, she decided, Actually, I'm the only one who doesn't look like I'm related to Caitlin.
They were called to board right on time. Ryan looked askance when Catherine went to the front of the line, but when she signaled to her companions they followed right behind. Catherine presented their tickets to the attendant and when they were immediately whisked aboard, Ryan fought to hold her tongue at the realization that Catherine had booked them into first class seats, including one for the baby
Okay, you told Catherine to make the arrangements. She made them. So shut up already! It's her money, she's got more than she knows what to do with, and she's having a ball. Worse things could happen to you, Ryan. The spacious first class cabin featured only four seats across-two on each side of the aisle. Catherine insisted that she wanted to sit with the baby, so they finally agreed that she would sit by the window with Caitlin on the aisle. Ryan would sit on the adjacent aisle seat with Jamie by her side.
Ryan felt good about having the car seat for the baby, but she knew that Caitlin didn't share her opinion. The baby wasn't wild about sitting in the seat even in the car, so she assumed that she would be even more antagonistic towards it on the plane. To avoid strife for as long as possible, they decided to wait until the last minute to strap her in.
A few minutes before their scheduled departure, the flight attendant came by to introduce himself. "Hi," he said to Catherine. "I'm Scott. If you need anything for your baby just let me know." He got down on his haunches and spoke to Caitlin for a few moments, much to her delight. "She's just precious," he said with pleasure. "How old is she?"
Catherine just winged it as she confidently replied, "Eleven months. Her name is Caitlin."
"Well, Caitlin," he said, "I hope you have fun today."
"It's her first flight," Catherine informed him. "Do you have any tips?"
"It usually helps if you give her a bottle," he said knowledgeably. "Swallowing keeps their ears open. Most babies really hate takeoffs. So don't be surprised if she screams."
"Can you warm a bottle for me?" Catherine asked, having made sure there was one in the backpack that they carried on.
"Sure. Let me pop it in the microwave right now."
"Oh, no," Catherine said immediately, having learned her lesson from Ryan. "It's breast milk, Scott. Could you heat it by running warm water over it?"
"Sure. No problem," he agreed. "We should be taxiing to the runway in a few minutes, but we will probably have a wait for clearance. Even though the seat belt light will go on, don't bother putting her in her car seat right then. I'll come tell you when we've been cleared for takeoff."
"Thank you, Scott," she said, giving him a winning smile.
"No problem. Babies are my favorite passengers," he enthused, patting the baby lightly on the head. Catherine took out a bottle of formula from the backpack under her seat and handed it to Scott. As he walked away, the seat belt light came on and the pilot announced that they were ready to depart.
Scott scampered back with the warmed formula and announced that they had been cleared immediately. "We're next!" he said. "Buckle her up!"
Ryan leapt across the aisle to secure Caitlin into her seat. She worked very quickly and managed to get the baby settled and hop back into her own seat just as they started to taxi. Catherine placed the bottle into Caitlin's mouth and she willingly started to suck away. She had been up since six and it was getting close to naptime, but they all expected that the excitement of the day would disrupt her schedule. To everyone's amazement, she settled down into her seat and leaned her head back as her eyes started to blink much more slowly. The cabin was rattling and shaking as the sound of the engines filled the plane, but the noisier it got, the more relaxed Caitlin became. She gave a small start when the wheels tucked into their housings, but other than that she was completely oblivious to the entire procedure.
Ryan looked up from Caitlin's sleeping form to notice both Catherine and Jamie staring at the baby in open-mouthed astonishment. She caught Catherine's eye and gave her a little shrug along with a bemused grin. Catherine shook her head as a gentle smile covered her face. She placed her hand on the baby's head and tenderly stroked her sleeping face as she gazed at her. She finally tore her eyes away and said, "That's just how Jamie was. The first flight we took was to Europe when she was about five months old. She slept through the takeoff like she was born to fly," she fondly recollected.
"I didn't know that," Jamie said as she leaned over Ryan to make eye contact with her mother.
"I was totally surprised at how you behaved," she admitted. "I thought you'd hate it because I'd heard all of these horror stories about babies screaming for twelve hours straight. But you never seemed to mind flying. You know, part of the reason I'm so enthralled with this little one is that she reminds me so much of you, Honey. You were sweet and happy and calm, just like she is."
"Oh, she's far from calm when Ryan gets her riled up," Jamie assured her mother. "But she is awfully happy." She looked down at the baby for a few moments, then asked, "Was I really happy like that?"
"Oh yes," she assured her daughter. "I always got two compliments about you. One was how beautiful you were, and the other was how happy you were. You weren't very loud, and you didn't like to go to strangers like Caitlin will, but you were definitely happy." She gave Jamie a concerned look and asked, "Does that surprise you?"
"No, I suppose not. It's just that you've rarely talked about how I was as a baby. I guess I assumed that you didn't have anything positive to say."
"Well, we're going to remedy that, Jamie. I have nothing but positive things to say about your youth, and you're going to hear little tidbits every time I think of one," she promised.
Jamie graced her with a beaming smile as she admitted, "I'd really like that, Mom."
She settled back into her chair and Ryan brought her lips close to her ear to ask, "When did you start calling her Mom? I noticed it yesterday, but I forgot to ask."
"In Rhode Island," she informed her. "She just started to seem like a mom."
"I'm glad," Ryan said, threading her fingers through Jamie's. "Mother always sounded more like an obligatory title than a term of affection."
"I think it was," Jamie admitted as she leaned her chair back to take her own little morning nap. Within minutes her head had dropped to the side, and Ryan lifted the armrest and scooted closer so her partner could avail herself of her shoulder. Jamie slept peacefully for nearly an hour, finally waking to find Ryan's head resting on her own. Even in the awkward position she was fairly comfortable nestled into the warm body, so she closed her eyes again and rested until the pilot announced that they were approaching L.A.
Ryan's head popped up as soon as the pilot made the announcement. Jamie once again marveled at her ability to wake so quickly, noting that her eyes were bright and focused and a happy smile graced her face. "Sleep well, Honey?"
"Yeah," Ryan purred, launching into a shortened version of her stretching routine, as befitted her quick nap. Jamie rubbed her back briskly as the taller woman leaned over to unkink while Catherine watched their routine with an amused grin. Jamie looked over at her mother with a little shrug as she explained; "She gets stiff when she sleeps. Even in a first class seat, that's a lot of body to fold into a small space."
"You should see me flying coach to Ireland," Ryan smirked. "I pop in and out of my seat so many times that I look like a jumping jack!"
"Your coach days are over," Jamie declared, giving Ryan one of her best "don't argue with me" looks.
"That's where you're wrong, Punkin," Ryan averred, tweaking Jamie's nose playfully. "My teams fly coach. I've got a full year of tiny seats on tiny planes to look forward to."
"Tiny planes?" Catherine asked.
"Yeah. We have to go to Corvallis, Oregon and Pullman, Washington, and large commercial jets don't fly there."
"You could always charter a private jet..." Catherine began, but Ryan dropped her chin and narrowed her eyes, giving her mother-in-law a stern look of warning.
"Oh my," the older woman said. "Is that the look of someone who's putting her foot down?"
"It is," Jamie decided, leaning over Ryan to double check. "The eyes get very narrow, see," she indicated, drawing her index finger down the ridge of furrowed skin between Ryan's eyes. "And the mouth becomes a grim line." She tried to insert a finger between Ryan's lips, but they were pressed together so forcefully that she couldn't make any headway. Unable to maintain her scowl while she was being played with, Ryan burst into a fit of giggles, her eyes dancing merrily as Jamie gave her a good tickle.
Catherine gazed at the playful pair. "I find it amusing how comfortable you seem with each other," she observed. "You act like you've been together for years, rather than weeks."
"I've got to admit that it feels that way to me," Jamie admitted, slipping an arm around her partner. "But even though we've only been intimate for a little while, we spent a ton of time together before that. We just know each other really well," she added as she continued to rub her partner's back, to Ryan's obvious pleasure.
The seat belt light came on and Scott, the flight attendant, came by to check on everyone. Caitlin looked like she was about to wake up since her little hands had begun to twitch, but she stayed asleep until the plane actually hit the runway. When the cabin bounced heavily, her head jerked up and her eyes flew open. While the plane continued to bounce, the engines roared mightily as they struggled to slow the craft. Her little face began to scrunch up into a frown and Ryan prepared herself for a scream, but the baby turned her head and caught sight of Ryan and Jamie and after a few blinks, a sweet little smile settled onto her face. The adults all smiled back, and within seconds she was gurgling and wriggling around in her seat. Even though they were still rolling towards the gate Ryan thought it safe to remove her, so Catherine began the extraction.
Once free, Caitlin settled happily onto Catherine's lap, accepting her après-nap snuggles from this relative stranger. Her T-shirt was damp with sweat but Ryan decided to leave it on her, given the 80-degree temperature that the pilot had just announced.
"Toss her over and I'll go change her before we get off," Ryan suggested.
"I'll do it," Catherine replied confidently as she pulled a fresh diaper and a packet of baby wipes from the backpack. She settled her little charge onto her hip and made her way back to the restroom, leaving both Ryan and Jamie to stare after her in shock.
"She wants to change her diaper?" Jamie asked slowly. "I don't know that she's ever done that before."
"Are you sure they didn't switch mothers on you when you were in Rhode Island? She sure seems like a different person."
"I don't know what happened, but I'm not complaining," Jamie decided.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
20 minutes later they were cruising out of LAX in a full-sized limousine. Ryan was busy playing with all of the buttons and gadgets, much to the amusement of Catherine and Jamie. "Hey look!" she shouted, "there's a refrigerator!" She continued to scoot around on the big seat facing her companions, trying to take in all of the amenities.
"Haven't you ever been in a limo before?" Catherine asked, charmed by the young woman's boundless enthusiasm.
"Umm, just for my mother's funeral," she replied rather absently as she found the remote control for the TV. "Check it out! We can watch a movie!"
Catherine didn't know if she should apologize for her question, but since Ryan seemed so happy she assumed that she hadn't put a damper on her mood. "Not even for your prom?" the older woman asked, to steer the conversation onto a brighter note.
"Nope," Ryan said in a matter-of-fact tone. "Never had a date with a boy, and none of the girls would go with me." She waggled her right eyebrow, fixing Catherine with a devilish grin. "Believe me, I asked."
Catherine was flabbergasted at this revelation. "You've never been with a man?"
Ryan gave her a big smile as she confirmed, "Neither man nor boy."
"She's untouched by the Y chromosome," Jamie said with a chuckle. "Although not many double X's have escaped her."
Catherine tried to hide her amazement, but she had a tough time of it. "I just assumed that most women would experiment with men and then decide it wasn't right for them. I mean...I don't want to be indelicate, but how can you be sure you're gay if you've never even been kissed by a man?"
Ryan gave her a deceptively innocent smile as she asked, "How many women have you kissed, Catherine?"
Jamie was afraid she was going to have to catch her mother's eyeballs as they popped out of her head, but Catherine quickly regained her composure as she answered, "Well, none."
"Then how do you know you're not a lesbian?" Ryan followed up with the logical corollary.
Catherine just shook her head as she turned to Jamie and said, "She's a quick one, isn't she?"
"Extremely," Jamie agreed as she blew Ryan a kiss, thinking of the vast numbers of times she had been caught by that quick mind.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The rest of the ride was spent retrieving Caitlin's little plastic blocks as she threw them from her car seat. Her desire to play the game was unquenchable, and by the time they reached Anaheim, Catherine was marveling at Ryan's patience. "Ryan, you've been picking up those same toys for over an hour! She's certainly got you well trained," she chuckled.
Ryan gave her a puzzled look as she replied, "Trained? She's not training me, Catherine. She's thinking."
"That doesn't look like thinking to me, Ryan. That looks like she's trying to get you to satisfy her needs."
"Well, that's true, after a fashion. But I think her needs are to test a theory in an extremely thorough fashion."
"Whatever do you mean?" Catherine asked, completely confounded.
"The only way she learns anything is by doing little experiments. Like any good scientist, she has to do them often enough, and under varied conditions, to make sure the results aren't just a fluke."
"What is she testing now?" Catherine asked, her dark eyes holding a hint of challenge.
"I think she's trying to prove that the block gets to the floor because of her actions. She's just at the very beginning of understanding cause and effect. It looks to me like she's just discovered that she is the cause of the block hitting the floor. I honestly don't think the effect is all that important to her yet."
"Don't try to argue with her about scientific theories, Mom. She'll make your head throb," Jamie advised.
"I'm sure of that," she agreed gamely as Ryan bent to pick up the block one more time. She was obviously unable to concede the point, however, because she pointed out, "Why does she look at you after she throws it, if she's not trying to make you retrieve it?"
"She does watch me, but watch how she watches me," Ryan instructed. All three women kept a close watch on exactly where Caitlin focused during the next round.
"It looks like she's watching your face," Jamie observed.
"Precisely!" Ryan agreed. "I think she's watching to see if I share her joy about this new discovery. If she was just trying to make me do something, I think she would watch the toy-but she seems to lose interest in the toy as soon as she releases it. See," she said, handing the block back again, "as soon as she tosses it, she looks at me. When I smile back at her to encourage her, she gets excited. I really think we're sharing a moment."
Catherine shook her head for a moment before she turned to Jamie. "Does she put this much thought into everything?"
"Yep," she conceded as she shot her lover an affectionate glance. "I don't think she does anything that she hasn't considered thoroughly."
"I think Da might disagree with you, Honey," Ryan gently reminded her. "I think his most common question when I was growing up was, 'Siobhán, do you ever think before you act?' "
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan hadn't even bothered to ask where they were staying, and she was a bit surprised to find that they headed into the Disneyland Hotel. She had secretly thought they'd be staying in some elegant little hotel and taking a cab to the park, and she was pleased to find that they were going to be right in the midst of things.
As a bellman unloaded their bags, Ryan removed the car seat with Caitlin still in it. It wasn't the easiest thing to carry the baby in the seat, but she thought it made more sense than carrying both separately, especially given how crowded the lobby was. When they got inside, Catherine assessed the situation quickly spotting a sign that said "Concierge Check-In". "Be right back," she instructed, setting off confidently.
Cait wanted out of her restraints to join the dozens of kids lounging on the floor in front of a very large screen television watching "The Mighty Ducks," but Ryan knew that was a loser bet, so she tried to distract her while they waited. Thankfully, Catherine handled things quickly, and she was back in a few moments, bearing plastic key cards for each of them.
Their rooms were on the top floor of the Sierra building, and Ryan was impressed to find that Catherine had reserved a suite. The two bedrooms flanking the common living room were both generously sized, and one held a roll-away crib. "You've done well here, Catherine," Ryan complimented her as she went to the room with the crib.
"Ryan, why don't you let me sleep with the baby?" the older woman asked.
After she argued with herself for just a moment, Ryan's good sense won out and she shook her head. "That's beyond generous of you to offer, but she's often a little frightened when she wakes in the middle of the night. I think it would freak her out if I wasn't there when she wakes."
"I just thought you girls could use some alone time," she persisted, knowing that she was getting into some personal issues, but wanting to make sure that her guests enjoyed themselves.
"We're fine, Catherine," she insisted. "Really." Jamie was quiet during this interchange, knowing that Ryan understood Caitlin's needs better than she. She really didn't mind having the baby in their room-had, in fact, expected it--but she was touched that her mother was so generously offering to watch her through the night.
"All right, Dear, I'm sure you know best. I just hope that you'll take some time to be alone if you need it."
"We will," Jamie piped up. "Thanks, Mom."
After a quick reassurance call to Annie and Tommy, Ryan spent a good deal of time carrying Caitlin around to investigate every nook and cranny of their rooms. When she came back into the large communal living area she nearly shrieked with delight when she spied the large basket filled with fruit, wine, cheese, and chocolate. "Jamie, look! They left us food!"
Jamie gave her a high wattage grin as she came over to offer a hug. "Good food, too, from the looks of it," she agreed. Turning to her mother, she asked suspiciously, "How did you manage to get this great room in the middle of the summer with one day's notice?"
"Oh, I have some contacts in the Disney organization," she said lightly as she carried her bag into the smaller of the two bedrooms.
"Mother...," Jamie said in a threatening tone, "spill it!"
"Okay," she agreed as she came back into the main room. "I worked to help secure funding for the new symphony hall being built in L.A. I made some friends through my work who were able to help me pull a few strings."
"Is that your complete statement?" she asked, imitating her father.
"Yes, dear, that's my story and I'm sticking to it," Catherine declared. "Now let's get some lunch."
"Isn't this lunch?" Ryan asked as she busily sorted all of the foodstuffs located in the big basket. "We've got enough wine to get us well oiled, plus soakage!"
Seeing Catherine's puzzled look, Jamie knowledgably informed her, "She throws in an Irish expression every once in a while just to keep you on your toes. I think that one means we've got food and drink."
"Mighty!" Ryan agreed enthusiastically.
"It's hard enough to keep up with her when she's speaking English!" Catherine moaned.
Continued in Part 3
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