I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 7: Getaway

by S X Meagher


A half hour later they were all showered and dressed, heading back to the park. Their passports enabled them to enter the park early, so the crush of people was not nearly as bad as it had been the day before. They made their way to Toon Town and found the correct spot for Caitlin's breakfast with Goofy and Pluto. They had their choice of characters, but since her new toys represented the dogs, they thought it made sense to carry out the theme.

"Are we going to tell people that Caitlin isn't ours?" Jamie asked during their walk.

"No need," Ryan decided. "Young, blonde, green-eyed woman-blonde, green-eyed baby. Everyone will assume she's yours. They won't know what to make of me, but that's okay. I think we should just act normally and let people figure it out."

"It is a little harder when you're a same sex couple, isn't it?" Jamie asked reflectively, thinking that the issue would never come up if Ryan was a man.

"Not if we don't let it be," Ryan said firmly, her confident demeanor carrying Jamie along with her.

They hadn't yet been to Toon Town, and Jamie was afraid that she'd never get Ryan into the building where the breakfast was to be held. The taller woman was filled with delight, running around the area excitedly as she pointed out all of the sights and whipping Caitlin into a frenzy. Oh goody, Jamie thought drolly, Caitlin will be at her wildest just when we have to sit down to eat.

They found their assigned space, and Jamie was pleased to see that they had kept the gathering very small. There were only about ten other kids and fifteen adults in attendance, but the cacophony of sound in the small, whimsically decorated room belied that fact. Ryan had been to air shows that seemed quieter, but she did her best to ignore her aversion to noise as she watched Caitlin begin to get into the fun. The room had been set up with small tables and they looked around for one to share, picking one with another baby and her parents. Little Kelsey was two months older than Caitlin, and over the course of the next few minutes Jamie and Ryan were forced to listen to every stellar achievement that the baby had accomplished during her 13 months on the planet. In fact, the child had very well developed verbal skills, and the parents looked at Jamie with some degree of sympathy when she admitted that Caitlin did not speak yet.

Kelsey's mother, Becky, actually patted Jamie's hand and assured her, "You really shouldn't worry too much that your baby seems a little slow. There's still a chance that she'll catch up."

When Ryan saw the look that flashed in those green eyes, she grabbed a croissant and popped it into Jamie's open mouth. She leaned over and made eye contact with Becky as she said sweetly, "Somebody has to be at the bottom of the class. We've just resigned ourselves to the fact that Caitlin will probably have to make a living with her looks." Ryan bit back a howl when Jamie kicked her sharply in the shin, but she wasn't about to get into a contest with these strangers over who had the smartest baby.

Ryan had decided early on that she was never going to bore people to death with tales of Caitlin's development. It wasn't that she didn't think the child was extraordinary-she did. She just firmly believed that perceptive people would pick up on that on their own. She didn't have much interest in engaging people who were not perceptive, so she thought the situation would generally resolve itself.

Her comments drew a very startled look from both Becky and her husband Sam, but it didn't stop them from continuing to sing a litany of Kelsey's praises. Ryan was looking around for a sharp knife to impale herself on by the time Goofy and Pluto finally made their appearance and all hell broke loose in the crowded room.

The older kids shrieked and screamed when the big dogs entered the room, and the characters didn't help matters any by running around the room at full speed. Both Caitlin and Kelsey were startled by the noise, as well as the immense size of the animals, and after looking at each other for a moment, both started to scream. Ryan scooped Caitlin up from her high chair and held her on her lap, hugging her tightly until she calmed down. Sam did the same for Kelsey, but it didn't do much good. When Goofy came by the table, Kelsey let out a scream that could easily have broken the sound barrier, and Ryan kicked herself for not bringing earplugs. Third rule of parenting-always have a pair of earplugs in the diaper bag! Caitlin snuggled up tightly to Ryan, but when Goofy got down on her level she shyly stuck out her hand and tentatively patted his big black nose, making her cousin beam with pride at her boldness.

Jamie was prepared, and she snapped a completely adorable photo of the interaction. Caitlin got more and more into the game, and within seconds she held her arms up as Goofy scooped her up from Ryan's lap. A few priceless photos of a delighted baby examining every facet of the huge dog's face commemorated the event. Kelsey was still screaming at an ear splitting decibel level when Goofy handed Caitlin back, and the noise only got worse when Pluto came sauntering over. Kelsey did everything but crawl into Sam's shirt as she struggled to protect herself from the huge dog, the man finally getting up to take her outside to calm her down.

Much to Ryan's pleasure, Caitlin had no reticence whatever with Pluto. She immediately went to him and giggled wildly when he carried her around the restaurant for a few moments. She kept an eye on Ryan, but managed to have a great time being introduced to the other kids, even slapping hands with the older ones like Ryan had recently taught her. When Pluto handed her back she let out a frustrated cry, her need for stimulation as unquenchable as her older cousin's. Luckily, her attention was quickly diverted when breakfast was served. She happily sat on Jamie's lap and ate almost all of a Mickey shaped waffle, giggling the entire time.

When Kelsey returned she clung to her mother desperately, unable to eat a bite because of the earlier trauma. Becky opined, "I think the size of the animals confused and frightened her. She's very aware of proportion you know."

"I don't think Caitlin has any idea how big things should be," Ryan replied thoughtfully.

"If you don't want your child to be left behind, you'd better start to play games with her to show her progressive sizes and weights of objects," Becky chided, her disapproval obvious.

Ryan had clearly had enough of this nonsense and she dove into one of her favorite pastimes-yanking the chain of pompous people. She slowly scratched her dark head and looked at Becky in confusion. "Play with her?" she asked dully. "You play with her?" she asked again with a suspicious look on her face.

"Of course we play with her and we read stories..."

"Yours can read?!" Ryan nearly shouted. She turned to Jamie and demanded, "Can ours read?"

"No, I don't think so," Jamie replied, matching the dim-witted tone of her partner. "She's never read to me." She suddenly slapped Ryan on the arm as she recalled, "Ours can't even talk, how could she read!?" They both laughed at this for a long while as their tablemates stared at them in astonishment.

Thankfully, breakfast was winding down, and Jamie stood with the baby and bade a pleasant goodbye to their breakfast companions. The best the other couple could do was look from her to Ryan and back again as they mutely nodded.

As soon as they left the building, Jamie pulled Ryan into Minnie's playhouse and laughed until her sides ached. "Yours can read!!" she shrieked. "Where do you come up with this stuff?!"

"I just couldn't stand another minute of listening to them prepare her biography for the Nobel Prize in literature. I figured I could shut them up without being rude. Worked, didn't it?" she asked smugly.

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

Catherine had eaten and was dressed and ready when they showed up at 10:30. Jamie spent quite a while regaling her with their morning exploits while Ryan changed the baby, removing her syrup spattered clothing. "I had no idea you'd be such a tease, Ryan," the older woman admitted.

"Oh please!" Jamie said. "She's the biggest tease in the world! And she does it with such a straight face that no one ever knows she's kidding."

"I don't think I'm such a tease," Ryan said innocently. "I've always considered myself a torturer!" She grabbed Jamie by the hips and lifted her straight up over her head, with the smaller woman kicking and screaming the whole time. Caitlin was fully used to the rough play of her baby-sitters, and she shrieked for the game to continue. Ryan turned and caught Catherine's open-mouthed look of shock as she winked at her and threatened, "Don't make me mad or you're next!"

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

At one o'clock Catherine and Caitlin were waiting patiently in the big outdoor eating area in Tomorrowland. Caitlin was wearing a brand new outfit that had either been purchased that morning or smuggled in the day before. "Nice clothes, Cait," Ryan said conversationally. "I don't see any mice, dogs, ducks or other animals on them, though. Where'd you get 'em?"

"I had to bring a little something for her, Ryan," Catherine explained.

"Oh, I understand, Catherine," Ryan said, giving her mother-in-law a very composed look of agreement. "A first class airline ticket, a suite in the hotel, and a limo ride are not nearly enough for a one-year-old. I'm afraid you're just going to have to do better."

Giving the amused woman a serious look, Catherine said solemnly, "I'll stop if it bothers you, Ryan. I promise."

"Nope. If you enjoy doing it-go right ahead. I just want you to know that it certainly isn't expected."

"That's it? No argument?" Catherine asked.

"Nope. I can't ever win with Jamie, and I figure she got her talents from you, so I may as well admit defeat."

"I love a good loser," Catherine said with a smile, sliding her arm around Ryan's waist for a small hug.

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

As they settled down to eat their fast food, Ryan looked at Jamie with a puzzled frown. "Something's been bothering me all day," she said thoughtfully.

"What is it, Honey?"

"Well, Goofy is a dog, right?"

"Yeah, he certainly looks like a dog."

"And Goofy speaks just like Mickey and Minnie do."

"Correct, again. Goofy is verbal."

"But Pluto is Goofy's dog and he doesn't talk. So, are there higher levels of dog? And if not, doesn't that make Pluto a slave of some kind? I mean, subjugating your own species seems like a strange message to give kids."

Smiling fondly at the thoughtful consideration that Ryan had given the problem, Jamie smiled and corrected her theory. "Pluto isn't Goofy's dog, Honey. He's Mickey's dog."

"Oh, well, now it makes sense," she said as she crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out at her lover.

Their discussion was interrupted when Caitlin decided that she was not being fed enough attention or food. Her long wail compelled Jamie to pull her onto her lap, while Ryan cut up tiny bits of a grilled chicken sandwich and popped them into her mouth. Jamie's hands were full of bouncing baby so Ryan cut up bigger bites with bun and condiments for her. She alternated big and little bites gently placed into both smiling mouths while Catherine watched with delight. Ryan occasionally sneaked a little kiss from both blondes as the meal went on, the vast majority of the kisses falling on the smaller blonde's face. It was obvious to even a casual observer that this was a very happy family unit, and no less obvious that the adults were lovers, even though their little kisses were brief, infrequent, and chaste.

As Ryan popped another bite into Jamie's mouth she noticed a shadow fall across the table, and she lifted her head to gaze right into the eyes of an extremely angry woman. She sat upright and returned the stare as the woman began to splutter, "Can't you people keep your sickness out of a place like this? It's a crime when a God-fearing country like this can't keep your kind from having children. My little boy shouldn't have to be exposed to perverts like you running around Disneyland!"

Ryan shot a warning glance and a quick headshake at Jamie, who was about to get to her feet. Taking a deep breath, Ryan looked up at the shaking woman and calmly asked, "How old is your son?"

That question threw her for such a loop that she had to respond civilly. She shot a glance at the table she had come from, briefly glancing at her son and husband, both of whom looked like they wanted to dig a hole and hide. "H...he's six," she stuttered.

"And you honestly think the sight of two people expressing their love in a discreet fashion will scar him?" Ryan asked slowly. "I guarantee he didn't notice anything until you pointed it out."

"That's not the point!" she yelled loud enough to cause all of the other diners to turn towards them.

"Sure it is," Ryan said very calmly. "He's probably in much more peril from your anger and your hatred of difference than he is from watching people be loving towards one another."

"What you do is sick!" she spat from a few inches in front of Ryan's face.

"Are you a Christian?" Ryan asked, again out of left field.

"Yes, I fear the Lord," she replied haughtily, wielding her faith like a truncheon.

Ryan nodded, drew in a breath and spoke calmly. "I'm no biblical scholar, but I'm sure of one thing. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love one another as he loves us." She looked up at the woman and waited for her to disagree. When she received nothing more than a beady-eyed stare she continued. "I'm sure he didn't mean that you have to like what everyone does, but I am sure he meant you need to love and accept other people, even when you disagree with them." Ryan's eyes narrowed and she allowed some of her anger to show. "If you were really a Christian, you would have approached my family in a much more loving way. I don't for a minute wish to influence your family with my morals, but I would appreciate it if you don't infect mine with your hatred."

Her anger locked back in place, she gazed up at the woman with a look of total peace and self-assurance, her posture relaxed and open.

Jamie wasn't sure if the woman's blood pressure could withstand the assault. Her face grew even redder as she searched her mind for some comeback--finally throwing her trump card. "Lesbians!" She turned and stalked back to her young son slumping down in his chair and her blank looking husband. Grabbing the boy by the shirt she yanked him to his feet and strode from the eating area, her meek husband following along behind.

Ryan shook her head once as she cut another piece of chicken and offered it up to Caitlin with a smile. The baby had been watching the entire interchange with a concerned look, but she began to smile again as Ryan did. Casting a quick glance at Catherine's horrorstricken face, Ryan gently asked, "Let's talk about this when Caitlin's down for her nap, okay? I know that was upsetting for you, but I don't want her to pick up on that."

Catherine bit her lip as she quickly gave Ryan a small nod and an even smaller smile. Ryan patted her back and flashed her a grin as she stood, grasping Caitlin in a warm hug and kissing her thoroughly, then she bent and gave her partner a gentle kiss, not willing to let a stranger make her uncomfortable being herself.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

45 minutes later they were sitting in their living room with the diaper clad baby. Ryan had spread out a blanket on the floor, and she commenced to place the child in a variety of poses, urging her small muscles to support the growing body in some new ways.

"I'm quite sure I've never seen anyone make a baby exercise before, Ryan," Catherine joked. "Does she belong to a health club?"

"Yep. Cousin Ryan's Private Fitness Training," she smirked. "She's the only member."

"Is that really necessary?" Catherine asked. "I'm sure we didn't do any such thing for Jamie."

"Well, that explains it," Ryan teased, getting a gentle kick to the ribs from her partner. Answering seriously she said, "I don't think it's a big deal, to be honest, but I want Caitlin to trust her body and know her capabilities. Getting her used to her muscles and putting some gentle stress on her tendons and bones seems like a good first step."

When the exercise session was finished, Ryan placed the baby on a towel that she had spread out on the sofa and warmed some massage lotion in her hands. Catherine watched in awe as Ryan gave her little cousin a thoroughly relaxing massage, working on her tiny back and all four of her little limbs for a long while. Finally she asked, "Do you massage her often, Ryan?"

"Yeah, I do, every chance I get. It makes me feel really connected to touch people so intimately."

Catherine just shook her head and smiled at the young woman who was so effortlessly working her way into her heart.

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

After placing Caitlin in her crib, Ryan came back into the sitting room and grabbed a seat on the sofa. They sat, sipping bottled water from the mini-bar until Jamie got up from her chair and went over to sit on Ryan's lap.

"I need a hug," she admitted as Ryan welcomed her. "That incident really upset me."

"Even though you handled it beautifully, Ryan, I've got to admit that it frightened me terribly," Catherine agreed.

The older woman's face showed her concern, and Ryan decided that they needed to broach the upsetting topic. "Tell me what frightened you, Catherine."

She sat in silence for a moment, trying to put words to her feelings. "I suppose it just made we wish that you didn't have to go through things like that," she said.

"Of course you do," Ryan agreed. "No one would want their child to be harassed like that." Pausing quietly, Ryan asked the follow-up question. "Does it make you wish that Jamie was straight?"

Catherine looked up in shock, feeling that Ryan was reading her mind. She was mightily embarrassed, wishing fervently that she didn't feel that way-but she did, and it was obvious that Ryan sensed it. Nodding her head slowly, a flush traveling up her cheeks, she admitted that was exactly what she felt.

Ryan gazed at her for a moment, then asked quietly, "Do you ever wish that Jamie was poor, or homely or slow-witted?"

Catherine looked baffled as she admitted, "No, of course not. But I don't see the analogy."

"I guarantee that if you told a group of people how much money you had, a significant number of them would automatically dislike you because of it. I guarantee that a decent number of people dislike Jamie because of her beauty and her intelligence. But I'm certain that you don't want her to give up those things to please other people. Why not?" she asked calmly.

"Because..." she started, but quickly realizing where her mouth was leading her, she firmly clamped her jaw shut.

"Catherine," Ryan began, "please believe that I say this with love. If you want Jamie to change an elemental part of herself to please others, you must believe that it is a part that should be changed. You must believe that it is a part that you want to change. Otherwise the wishes of others would seem like what they are-jealousy or ignorance or intolerance."

She gazed at Ryan for a long minute, finally closing her eyes with a sigh. "I don't believe that's true. I just don't want her to be hurt. It hurt so badly to see the look on Jamie's face when that woman started to berate you, Ryan. Why is it wrong to want to spare her from that?" she asked rather helplessly.

"It's not wrong," Ryan reassured her with a gentle smile. "It's every mother's wish to spare her child pain. The difference is that you have a small desire to want to change Jamie to spare her the pain of other people's reactions. What you don't take into account is that that would cause her so much more pain, Catherine. She is who she is, and trying to be something else is a waste of her gifts. I think you'd have much more peace if you focused on the people who cause her pain, rather than wishing she were different."

"How do I do that?" she asked tentatively.

"Take that woman today," Ryan advised. "There are really only three options when you have a situation like that. You can be angry and lash out at her in retaliation, you can see that Jamie stands out in a crowd and be a little angry with Jamie because of it, or you can put the blame where I think it belongs-on people who spout self-righteous nonsense!"

Catherine nodded, recognizing the logic of Ryan's words even though she wasn't able to fully let them into her heart.

Ryan continued, "When I refuse to let people influence how I feel about myself, I'm able to view them with a certain degree of compassion. Can you imagine how horrible it must be to be so filled with rage that you lash out at perfect strangers because they are doing something that bothers you?"

Catherine let her frustration show, looking over at Ryan with wide eyes. "But how do you not let it affect you? She was right in your face saying the most horrible things to you!"

"It doesn't affect me because I'm comfortable with who I am," she explained patiently. "I truly believe that my lesbianism is a gift from God. I honestly thank God for making me who I am, Catherine. That doesn't mean I'm perfect--far from it. But I'm the person that God made, and I will not second-guess my maker!"

Jamie had been remarkably silent through this whole interchange. She knew that Ryan was on a roll and that her partner was very adept at expressing their mutual feelings on the issue. She also thought that her mother might fare better discussing this with Ryan than with her, perhaps feeling less emotion when discussing it with a third party. Nonetheless, she couldn't help but tighten her hold on her partner, giving her unspoken encouragement for the fine job she was doing.

Catherine was quiet for a few minutes, obviously trying to absorb everything the dark woman had said. Finally, she was ready to discuss how to proceed, and she asked, "So what do I do if you're right? How do I learn to look at this as a gift rather than something I want to change?"

Ryan gave her a wide smile, thinking once again how lucky she was to have this woman for a mother-in-law. "The mere fact that you ask the question provides the answer. If you're open to accepting Jamie for who she is, you will do so over time. You just need to spend time with her and slowly you'll become more comfortable." She brightened her smile, locking eyes with Catherine as she said, "I don't think you have a long way to go, Catherine. I've got very good radar when it comes to gay bias, and I don't detect any from you. I think you just need a little time to be able to embrace all of Jamie."

Catherine looked up at her daughter, who rested comfortably in Ryan's lap. "You've been awfully quiet, Honey. How does all of this affect you?"

"Well," she said, "I'm not at the same place Ryan is on this. My first instinct was to hop up and knock that woman's block off!" she admitted with a chagrined smirk. "But I'm getting a lot better at not letting things like this get past my defenses. It helps to live with Gandhi here," she teased, giving her partner a little tickle.

Catherine cocked her head at her daughter, asking the question that had been niggling at the back of her brain, "Does it bother you to think I might have some wish that you were different?"

"No, Mom, it really doesn't. You treat both of us very well and you act very comfortable around us. I would just like you to get more comfortable for yourself."

"So we're doing okay?" she asked hopefully.

"We're doing great!" she assured her as she slid off Ryan's lap and sat down on the arm of her mother's chair.

"I just don't want you to be disappointed in me, Jamie," she said softly.

"Mom, I had quite a long period where I fought with my own instincts over this. I knew that I was gay, but I tried everything possible, including a reconciliation with Jack, just so I didn't have to face it. This is hard to get used to, for both of us, but you're doing a fantastic job! I'm happier with our relationship than I have ever been," she said as she enveloped her in a robust hug.

"I am too," Catherine replied softly as a tear escaped from her dark brown eyes.

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

The insistent beep of her pager caught Ryan's attention and she tracked the device down in their bedroom. "Hmm," she muttered, looking at the number in the display. "That's one of the numbers at school." She fished her wallet out of her back pocket, looking for her calling card.

"Just use the phone, Honey," Jamie insisted. "It's okay."

Ryan shrugged and sat down to dial the number. "Hi, this is Ryan O'Flaherty," she announced when the phone was answered with, "Rich Placer's office."

"Oh, hello, Ryan, Coach Placer asked me to call you to let you know that he's had to cancel practice for the rest of the week. He said the next practices will be Monday at ten and four."

"Ohh...okay," she said, puzzled by this development. Remembering her manners, she asked, "Coach is okay, isn't he?"

"Oh yes. There have been some delays in getting the court ready, so there isn't any place to meet this week. That's why he's going to institute double practices next week."

"Oh goody," Ryan said unenthusiastically, remembering how drained the two-a-days in Santa Cruz had left her.

"I'll give him the message," the woman said, chuckling a little as she hung up.

"Trouble?" Jamie asked, making eye contact with her partner.

"Not really," Ryan informed her. She paused for a moment and said, "Actually, I guess it was good news. I have the rest of the week off. We don't start practice until Monday."

"Cool! Can we stay later tomorrow, Mom?"

"Sure. I don't have any need to hurry home. We can stay another night if you wish."

"Mmm...I think Caitlin might be ready to head home tomorrow," Ryan decided. "Besides, we'll be out of milk by then, and she will not like switching to formula."

"But is it okay if we leave late in the day?" Jamie persisted.

"Yep. We've got five bottles left. That will get us through dinner tomorrow."

"Cool," Jamie cried, obviously not in the mood to leave their playground. "I'll get on the phone and see if we can change our flight."

After Caitlin woke from her nap Ryan changed her and brought her in to sit with the grownups while she acclimated. She cuddled up in a little ball as she sank against Ryan's chest with a contented sigh, still halfway between wakefulness and slumber. Catherine shared an affectionate smile with her daughter as they watched Ryan comfort and coo to the small child.

"She does have a certain presence," mother observed to daughter, shaking her head in wonder.

"More like a gravitational pull," Jamie corrected her as she walked over to the chair and struggled to find room to share. Ryan gladly shifted a little to allow her partner to climb aboard, and the three of them shared a warm group hug for a few minutes. "Sing her favorite song, Honey," Jamie urged, always loving to hear her partner's voice.

Ryan grinned at her, knowing she was being set up, but not caring a bit. She cuddled the baby close to her chest so she could feel the vibrations of the music through her body. She usually sang the song with a great deal of vigor, but she wanted Caitlin to wake slowly, so she softened her voice and sang it with a slow, gentle beat.

Oh! My boat can safely float in the teeth of wind and weather
And outrace the fastest hooker between Galway and Kinsale;
When the black floor of the ocean and the white foam rush together,
High she rides, in her pride, like a sea gull through the gale.

Oh she's neat! Oh she's sweet! She's a beauty in ev'ry line!
The Queen of Connemara is that bounding barque of mine.

When she's loaded down with fish till the water lips the gunwale,
Not a drop she'll take on board her that would wash a fly away;
From the fleet she'll slip out swiftly like a greyhound from her kennel,
And she'll land her silver store the first at ould Kinvara quay.

Oh she's neat! Oh she's sweet! She's a beauty in ev'ry line!
The Queen of Connemara is that bounding barque of mine.

There's a light shines out afar, and it keeps me from dismaying
When the skies are ink above us and the sea runs white with foam,
In a cot in Connemara there's a wife and wee one praying
To the One who walked the waters once, to send us safely home.

Oh she's neat! Oh she's sweet! She's a beauty in ev'ry line!
The Queen of Connemara is that bounding barque of mine.

The baby's small body rocked in time to the music, her little foot rapping against Ryan's leg. She had a dreamy expression on her small face and her eyes were largely unfocused, seemingly transported to some distant place by the deep melodic voice and the warm hug she was wrapped in.

Catherine watched transfixed as the family-of-choice snuggled together, their bodies molded together as if they shared the same skin. Once again, deep pangs of regret washed over her for missing out on moments like this, but she did her best to keep her promise and focus on the present and the future. "You have a beautiful voice," she said softly, not wanting to disturb the trance that Caitlin seemed to have fallen into.

"Thanks," Ryan said, a faint flush creeping up her cheeks. "My grandfather used to sing that song to me when we went out on his boat." She laughed softly and said, "I have dozens of songs that I remember singing with him when I was small, but nearly every one ends with the sailor being lost at sea, and his wife standing at the shore cursing the waves."

Blinking slowly, Catherine asked, "Why were the songs so sad?"

"That's just the way people experienced life," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "The ocean is a dangerous place."

"My father was a sailor too," Catherine said, a look of infinite sadness stealing over her features.

Ryan gazed at her quietly for a moment and said, "I guess you could technically call my grandfather a sailor, but I think of him as a fisherman."

"Ahh," Catherine said, recognizing the difference. "He made his living that way?"

"Yes. I'm not sure how many generations of Ryans have made their living on the sea, but it's more than a few." She gave Catherine a small smile and said, "I suppose the tradition will die with my grandfather."

"That's rather sad," Catherine said.

"Yes, in a way it is, but it's a hard, dangerous way to make a living. The romance of the lure of the sea is mostly fantasy. Not many people fish for their livelihood if they have other options."

Catherine just nodded, spending a moment trying to imagine how vast the differences were between her family and Ryan's, and how ill-equipped her family members would be to live a life of manual labor. For just a moment she let her imagination wander and realized that Ryan's working-class family would be just as ill-equipped to live a life of leisure. I wonder who would acclimate quicker? she mused.

After a few moments, Caitlin began to stir, indicating her readiness to begin her usual enthusiastic activities. After a brief discussion, they decided to all go down to the pool together rather than heading back to the park, the adults reasoning that they would have much shorter lines after the majority of the families had left for the day.

Caitlin, of course, wore her new Mickey suit, and when they were ready they slogged all of their gear down to the pool. Catherine wore a very becoming straw hat and a plain but very attractive white sundress, appearing to all to be a young mother carrying her adorable baby.

The new Neverland pool had opened earlier in the summer, and it was obviously the place to be on this warm afternoon. The hotel complex held two other pools, but they were both shunned by the patrons who wanted to sample the more elaborate play area.

The irregularly shaped pool area was quite large. A lengthy water slide was tucked into a tall group of boulders, and Jamie rolled her eyes when she realized that her partner would likely be on the slide all afternoon.

They managed to find three lounge chairs in the shade of a grouping of small palm trees planted in giant containers. They had all applied sun block to each other before they left the room, but just to make sure she was protected, Ryan tugged a long sleeved T-shirt onto the baby after allowing the official photographer to snap a few shots of her posing in her new suit. The tot also had on her new yellow hat, giving extra warmth to her already sunny face.

After Caitlin was settled, Ryan handed the baby to her mother-in-law so she could remove her own clothing. The sun was behind Ryan's back, and as she grinned down at Caitlin she pulled off her T-shirt, completely exposing her body to Catherine's gaze for the first time. She wore her usual suit, which consisted of a tight white sports bra and navy blue high-cut bottoms. But there was nothing usual about the way the suit clung to every curve, highlighting the generous swell of her breasts as well as the graceful curve of her hips.

Catherine tried to avoid staring, but she was not having an easy time of it. After Ryan kicked off her shorts, she stood up tall and began to stretch her arms in a windmill motion, loosening them up before she stressed them. As Catherine stole another glance she was stunned to see that even though the bulk of the sun was obscured by Ryan's body, the rays radiated around her like a golden aura. Her powerful and remarkably feminine body was displayed beautifully by the gleaming sunlight, and the thought crossed Catherine's mind that the scene reminded her of the birth of Venus.

The older woman was still staring when Ryan extended her hands and said, "Want me to take her?"

"Huh?" Catherine gaped, not sure of the question.

"Want me to take the baby?" Ryan answered patiently, recognizing the look for exactly what it was.

Catherine extended her arms, blinking slowly as Ryan grinned and took the baby into the pool. Turning to look at her daughter with a totally blank face, Catherine shook her head to clear it. Jamie smiled over and remarked, "Don't you wonder why I ever let her out of the house?"

Catherine mutely nodded as she looked toward the pool to order her thoughts. But that didn't help a bit, since Ryan was cavorting in the pool with the baby, displaying her flawless body as she moved about gracefully in the water. Catherine finally managed to get out, "I...I...don't think I've ever seen a woman who looks like that."

Jamie spent a moment looking at Ryan from her mother's frame of reference. She decided that most of her mother's friends looked exactly alike. Most of them were small, under 5'6" or so, and all of them were thin. But when Jamie really thought about it, she realized that they were not just thin, they were emaciated. She knew that her mother weighed less than 100 pounds, and she guessed that her friends were the same. Many of them belonged to a gym or had one at home, but even though their bodies were toned, none of them had an ounce of noticeable muscle on them.

"Those muscles," Catherine mumbled. As she said that, it dawned on Jamie that her mother's gaping had less to do with Ryan's looks than with her sturdy body.

"Well, part of it is just great genes, but she also has had to look great to have credibility as a personal trainer. I can only assume she'll get in even better shape by playing volleyball. At least I hope she will," she admitted with a chuckle. "I hate to be so shallow, but that is too valuable a natural resource to waste!"

"I should say so," Catherine agreed weakly, never taking her eyes off the remarkably well-built young woman playing in the pool.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

Jamie hopped into the water to join her companion, sidling up to her with a chuckle. "Mother's mouth is still hanging open, Honey. Maybe you should have worn a T-shirt."

Ryan smiled as she acknowledged, "I saw the look. I'd forgotten that she'd never really seen me before. I guess I'm not the normal Hillsborough matron, huh?"

"No, I think you could safely say that most of her friends don't resemble you in any way."

"Maybe we should move down there and I'll set up my personal training business. Your mom could send all of her friends-I'd have a built-in client base."

"Mother is doing great at accepting us, Honey, but let's not get loony!"

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

After they had played in the water for a while, Ryan grew too hungry to continue. Catherine called over a waiter and insisted that Ryan order something. She finally relented and got a chocolate malt to tide her over. When it was delivered, Catherine looked at Ryan with envy as she confessed, "I don't think I've had a chocolate malt since I was a child."

Ryan gave her a puzzled glance as she casually inquired, "Why not?"

"Goodness, Ryan, there must be 1000 calories in that!" she laughed, as though that explained everything.

Ryan held up the Styrofoam cup and regarded it carefully. She pursed her lips and shook her head as she said, "No...this one is more like 1500 calories. There was a lot of whipped cream on top that I stirred in."

"That's more than I consume in a day!" Catherine scoffed. "Much more, as a matter of fact!"

Ryan's eyes grew wide as she managed to reply, "No wonder you're just skin and bones! You can't enjoy life on a starvation diet!"

"But it's what I'm used to," she insisted, a little defensively.

"That's probably because your metabolism has slowed down so much. It thinks you're being starved, and it slows down to conserve resources." She regarded Catherine for a few minutes as she made her offer, "Would you be interested in working out with me? I could help kick your metabolism into gear so you could eat like normal people and help you put some muscle on."

"Is it really necessary to have visible muscles?" she asked tentatively, not wanting to insult either of her companions.

"You don't need as much as I do since you wouldn't want to compete in sports, but having muscle really helps as you age. It keeps you much younger looking and helps prevent osteoporosis."

"Okay, Ryan," she said decisively, "you're on. Where do we start?"

"We start by you helping me drink this malt," she said with a smile as she held the cup out.

Catherine looked reticent but she gamely accepted and took a long swallow. "Oh my God," she moaned as she closed her eyes in pleasure, "I had forgotten how good ice cream could taste."

"Stick with me, Catherine. I'll reintroduce you to every guilty pleasure you've denied yourself," she said confidently as she gave her a one-armed hug.

Boy, will Jim ever throw a fit when he hears this, both women thought silently.

Thus refreshed, they resumed their games until the sun was fully behind the hotel and the air began to chill slightly. Even though she was cold, Caitlin had no desire to leave her little paradise. When she began to wail, Ryan wrapped her in a big towel and carried her around the pool to spread the sound out over the entire population. Jamie got up and offered a bottle, but Ryan declined, saying, "I don't think she's hungry, and I hate to comfort her only through food. She needs to know that she can get over her heartaches on her own."

After ten solid minutes of screaming Ryan finally realized that she was torturing the child by walking around the pool area-keeping the object of Caitlin's desire right in front of her. Signaling to Jamie, she left the pool and wandered around, finally happening upon a two-story water feature.

A long, winding set of stairs led to a walkway that was below grade, with a large waterfall breaking all around. The noise was intense, just intense enough that Caitlin's cries couldn't be heard by the other guests. Now the baby wanted to be released so that she could get into the waterfall, and Ryan had no doubt that she would do so if she let her. Dear Lord, please don't make our kids as wild as Caitlin. She just has no fear! Pausing for a minute she had to acknowledge, How do you think Da felt trying to keep control of you, huh?

It took another fifteen minutes of constant wailing for Caitlin to finally cry herself out, and by this time Ryan's head was throbbing. Her companions had abandoned the pool, and as they passed it, Caitlin let out another few pathetic moans, kicking frantically to be released, but Ryan held firm, knowing that the baby had to learn that sometimes she couldn't have what she wanted.

Caitlin threw herself at Jamie as the blonde opened the door. The little face was still red and streaked with tears, her breathing still choked from emotion. Jamie gave Ryan a concerned look as the baby turned her face from Ryan, refusing to even look at the traitor. "Boy, she's really pissed off," she marveled.

"Oh yeah," Ryan agreed. "She's not on my top ten list at the moment either," she admitted. "Mind if I take a nap? My head's about to explode."

"Go right ahead, Honey. We'll watch her." As Ryan trudged into their room, Jamie asked, "Do you have anything you'd like to do for dinner, Honey? We probably need to make reservations."

"No noise, no kids," Ryan decreed, closing the door firmly behind her.

"Well, that should be easy to find at Disneyland," Jamie smiled at her mother. "Any ideas?"

"Of course, Honey. I'm full of ideas."

Continued in Part 5

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