I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 9: Intentions

by S X Meagher

Part 8

Ryan woke to a day that seemed wrapped in a gloomy gray fog. It was a little early in the year for rain, but as she looked out the window she saw the steady downpour pelting relentlessly against the house. I thought I heard rain, she thought, but it's so damned windy I couldn't be sure.

She was one of the many San Franciscans who actually enjoyed the worst that the climate could throw at her, and without regard to her comfort, she decided to go for a nice long run. It had been over six months since any measurable rain had fallen, and she found that she missed it greatly. As a child spending her summers in Ireland, she had not been exposed to the months of dry weather that most of California was subject to, and she found that she really did not care for it. So when the rain did come, she tried to enjoy it as much as possible.

Dressing as carefully as she could, she trotted down the stairs and slipped outside. Good Lord! She thought, her eyes widening in surprise. As my Granny would say, 'Tis desperate!' And it was indeed desperate out. It could not have been over 45 degrees, and the wind was blowing the rain almost horizontally, making the rain seem even colder. Oh, this is gonna be fun, she decided as she did a little stretching before taking off. Fun, however, it was most definitely not. The rain stung her face and hands like millions of tiny needles, and before she had gone 50 feet she could hardly see because of the tears welling up in her eyes. Oh Mama! She cried to herself. This is torture! But even though every sensible bone in her body urged her to return to her nice warm house, she kept on with a fiercely determined gait. It wasn't that she enjoyed torturing herself, it was that she couldn't bear to have the weather dictate her choice of activities. People all over the world carried on their normal days even when it was bitterly cold, snowing, and sleeting—she wasn't about to let a little rain stop her.

As she ran along, she realized that she was feeling quite unsettled at the thought of her father marrying her aunt without her or any of her brothers in attendance. She knew that
was small-minded, and that it wasn't for a lack of desire on her father and Maeve's part. Nonetheless, she hated to know that they were now married, and that only the European side of the family had been able to share in their joy.

She was so lost in her thoughts that it wasn't until after the first mile she realized that the stinging pain was lessening significantly, but then she realized that was only because her face and hands were now mostly numb. She compulsively shook her head to clear the icy water from her stinging eyes, but the motion did little good. She motored along more by instinct and feel than vision, but as she continued she felt herself slide deeper into an infrequently achieved trance. It wasn't actually a trance, but she didn't have a better name for it. Strangely, she found it easiest to enter when the distractions around her grew too strong. As her concentration deepened, she felt easy and light and completely disconnected from the mundane concerns of the world. She just let herself become her stride and her breathing and the mass of dark hair that slapped against her back with each step. She just was…As simple as it sounded, that was the reality—she just was.

The rain no longer stung…the cold no longer bit her skin…the wind did not whip her hair into her eyes…every bit of the experience became her, so there were no more distractions. As she glided along, her mood lightened until she became absolutely euphoric. The miles flew by as she traversed streets she had never consciously seen before. Everything looked new and fresh and unique. The earth actually seemed to shift under her feet, but she felt her body adjust seamlessly to the change. The muscles in her thighs seemed to grow as new demands were made on them, but her perfectly tuned body accepted the burden without complaint. Her lungs worked harder and harder to supply blood to her extremities, but again all systems cooperated to keep the machine functioning flawlessly. She turned a corner and gazed down at the cloud choked city and…DOWN?!

She jerked to an abrupt halt as the trance was shattered. My God! Where am I? Her mind tried to accept the fact that she was high above the city, probably high up in the Berkeley hills. But she had no idea exactly where she was, and even less of an idea how to get home. Glancing at her watch, she saw that it was nearly eight o'clock. Shit! I've been out for two hours! Jamie's going to be frantic!

Since it had taken two hours to get where she was, it was obviously going to take longer than that to get home, now that her broken trance allowed her body to recognize that it was thoroughly exhausted. Shoving her hands into the pockets of her thin nylon windbreaker, she extracted nothing but lint. Shit! How can I go out running without I.D. or change? That's ridiculously irresponsible of me!

She tried to stop her self-recriminations to logic out a solution to her problem. First thing is to find someone who can tell me how to get out of this neighborhood, she mused. She started to run again, wincing at the stiffness that was beginning to settle in her over-stressed thighs. Oh boy! she mused. I've really done it this time. Jamie's gonna have my hide!

She struggled along for about a quarter mile before she spotted a man doing some light stretching on his covered front porch. Ahh, a fellow masochist, she thought happily. She dashed up to him and asked, “Pardon me, but I've gotten a bit lost. Can you steer me out of the neighborhood?”

“Uh, sure,” he said hesitantly. “Where'd you come from?”

“I live a few blocks from Claremont and Ashby,” she informed him.

He blinked at her for a second, not quite able to believe her, but seeing no reason for her to lie. “You ran up here?”

“Yeah,” she replied a little sheepishly as the water cascaded down her face. “I was in a zone.”

“That was some zone,” he laughed as he shook his head. “My wife gives me a hard time about running two miles in this weather. She should count her blessings!”

“Yeah, I'm gonna get my butt kicked if I ever get home,” she said with a chuckle.

“Come on in and use the phone,” he offered. “Somebody's got to be worried about you,” he said with an appreciative glance down her long, lean body.

She was about to say no, having caught the slight leer, but his curious wife came to the door and said, “Tim? Who are you talking to?” She leaned her head out and snagged a glance at Ryan, then another back at her husband.

“Oh, Honey,” he said. “This woman's a little lost. Can she come in and call her…husband?” this last remark was directed at Ryan, but she just smiled at him.

“Uhh, sure,” the man's wife said hesitantly as she gazed at the water dripping off every inch of the leggy brunette.

“Actually,” Ryan offered, “would you mind making a call for me? I don't want to drip all over your house.”

“Sure, I'd be happy to,” she smiled. She dashed back in the house and grabbed a pad and pencil. “What's the number?”

Ryan gave her the particulars and waited as the woman darted back in. She cooled her already icy heels for a few minutes chatting with the man, who introduced himself as Tim Meyers. By the time his wife returned he knew a substantial amount about Ryan, but she had learned nothing about him. Must be a lawyer, she mused. Rosemary, as Tim had identified her in her absence, returned with a smirk on her face and a much warmer attitude. “Jamie says to tell you not to move a muscle,” she laughed. “You're in deep trouble, Ryan.”

“I thought maybe she'd go easier on me if I had you call,” she laughed as Tim looked at her curiously, trying to figure out how he had missed the fact that she was a lesbian.

“Well, she told me that if you tried to leave, I should hurl something at the back of your head to stop you,” she explained with a smirk. “Does that sound like she's going to go easy on you?”

“At least I didn't ask you to call my father,” Ryan remarked. “He reacts much worse, since he long ago had his fill of bailing me out of trouble!”

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

“I won't, Jamie,” the thoroughly contrite woman said from her spot on the kitchen chair as her lover towered over her.

“And you promise to never leave the house without money or a calling card on you?”

“I won't, Jamie,” she promised.

“But you know that I still have to punish you, right?”

“Um…I guess I do…what are you going to do to me?” she asked warily.

“I'm going to take you shopping,” she said defiantly as she slid onto Ryan's nice, dry, sweat pants-covered lap.

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

An hour later they emerged from the Patagonia store with a foul-weather running outfit. At Jamie's insistence, Ryan had purchased a lightweight shell that was completely waterproof and windproof and had the added benefit of being very quiet, since she maintained that she could not tolerate the “swoosh swoosh” sound that most nylon garments made. It was a bright gold color that they labeled “butternut,” but Ryan failed to notice the similarity between the color and the squash. She also carried a pair of wind-shield tights that were a cross between snug-fitting nylon tights and rain pants. They only came in black, but Jamie preferred that anyway since the dark color made her lover's legs look even more long and lean. When Ryan's attention was diverted, Jamie slipped a pair of wind-shield gloves in with the purchases to keep her partner's hands warm on those chilly mornings they were sure to have more of. As they neared the checkout counter, Jamie spied the last necessity—a bright gold waterproof nylon baseball cap. She tried it on her partner, pronounced it “cute” and added it to the pile, shaking it at Ryan as she ordered, “Wear this one with the bill in front for a change, Buffy. I want to keep the water from your pretty blue eyes.”

“Did we really need this stuff?” Ryan complained. “I've been running in the rain for a very long time, and I've never suffered because of it.”

“How did you feel when you first hit the street this morning?” she asked patiently.

“Mmm, miserable?”

“Um-hmm,” Jamie replied. “And what part of you thinks that is necessary?”

“Um…the Spartan part?” she offered.

“That's right, Precious,” she said fondly. “But running in this muck is plenty Spartan. You don't have to compound that by being drenched to the skin, goofball.”

“Hmm, not many people could use 'Precious' and 'goofball' in the same breath,” Ryan mused. “You're very talented.”

“Thank you,” she said graciously. “I get lots of practice with you since I so often feel like kissing you and kicking you in the butt simultaneously!”

* * * * * * * * * * *

They stopped by the house to drop off their purchases before they left for their usual Sunday at the O'Flahertys. “Hey, Honey?” Jamie asked as she bent down to write a note to Mia. “Are these Jordan's keys?”

“Yep,” Ryan said, taking a look at the set. She looked at Jamie as a smile broke out across her face. “Think our little friend took the plunge last night?”

“Mia said she was going to try to push her a little. Maybe she finally fell.”

Ryan shot a worried glance upstairs and said, “I hope it went well for them. I don't want Jordan to get hurt.”

“Mia really likes her. This isn't just a conquest for her. I'm certain of that.”

“I hope so,” Ryan mused. “I really hope so.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

“The plane won't land any sooner, Ryan, no matter how many times you pace in front of that window.”

Ryan looked at her partner with a sheepish grin, slightly embarrassed to be caught. “Okay, so I'm a little anxious,” she admitted as she turned her attention back to the dim, gray skies over San Francisco. “Oh, that might be them,” she said excitedly as she pointed to a plane making a wide turn toward the gate.

Just as she spoke the flight was announced, and Jamie watched with amusement as her lover's anxiety turned to elation. She ran over to the gate and began to fidget as she craned her neck around, trying to observe every bit of activity occurring beyond the heavy double doors that opened and closed repeatedly with airport personnel. Finally the doors were fully opened and the first passengers began to file through. Jamie was a few feet behind her lover, but it was patently obvious when Ryan spied her father coming down the passageway. Her face broke into a smile so luminous that tears immediately came to Jamie's eyes. Luckily, Ryan's arms were quite long, and they allowed her to snake one arm around both Martin and Maeve. She wasn't very verbal tonight, but neither of the newlyweds could have any doubt that they had been missed. She kissed both of them again and again, and Jamie finally decided that she needed to butt in or she would never get to greet them.

“Welcome home,” she said as she lifted Ryan's arm from Maeve's back and slid into the group hug.

“It's good to be home,” Martin responded heartily as he stood at his full height and stretched a bit. “It's no wonder Ireland seems so different,” he added with a chuckle. “It's damned far! I thought we'd never get off that plane.”

“Well, you're home now,” Ryan assured him “I'll go pull the car up to the arrival area. I'll be waiting when you've collected your bags.”

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

Fifteen minutes later they were headed home. “I'll bet you're starved,” Ryan observed. “Conor's in charge of Sunday dinner. Would you rather stop at McDonald's?”

“Well, our bodies believe it's two a.m.,” Martin reminded them. “The boy could make a bowl of porridge and a piece of toast and I'd be happy.”

“That sounds good to me too,” Maeve agreed.

“So…um…where will you…should I drop your bags at our house, or …” Ryan knew she was fumbling, but she had no idea of where the happy couple was going to live until their house was ready.

“It doesn't matter, Dear,” Maeve said. “Kevin can come get me after we have a bite.”

Jamie cut to the heart of the issue when she asked bluntly, “Aren't you going to sleep together? You're newlyweds, for goodness sake!”

Martin laughed at her impudence and revealed, “There's a little more to it than that, girls. We didn't talk about this on the phone, but we aren't actually, technically married.”

“What?” Ryan barked out as she her head swiveled around so quickly that the car nearly swerved out of the lane.

“The problem was,” Maeve explained, “that we didn't have the required three weeks to post the banns of marriage. Father tried his best, but the bishop would not allow an exemption from the rule, especially since we had both been married before.”

“What's a ban of marriage?” Jamie asked, now thoroughly confused.

“It's one of the church's requirements to guard against bigamy and the like,” Maeve explained. “They post the upcoming marriage for three weeks to allow anyone who has knowledge about a prior marriage to come forward. It's one area where the church encourages gossip!”

“So, what kind of married are you?” Ryan asked, thoroughly confused.

“Father married us in the church building, but he could only certify a civil marriage, so we're still not married in the eyes of the Church. But only Moira knew that. I wanted Mam and Daddy to think they'd finally witnessed the real thing.”

“And knowing you two, you don't consider yourselves married at all,” Ryan guessed.

“You're right on that one, Ryan,” Maeve answered. “So the good news is that our January service is not just for show. It's the real deal!”

“But the bad news is…” Ryan smirked, turning and shooting a glance at her father.

“Your mind is focused on the desires of the flesh as usual,” he chided her as he gave her a playful tap on the back of her head.

“Gee, Da, I didn't expect you to emulate the way Jamie and I structured our relationship,” Ryan teased. “We waited for almost three months before we had sex. You want to go for the record?”

“That's enough out of you, Siobhán,” he warned.

“My mother always said that nothing created good character like a little self-control,” Maeve joked.

“Yeah, she's all about self-control,” Ryan said as a grim look passed over her face.

Jamie turned slightly and caught an astonishingly similar look on Martin's face, but Maeve didn't seem to notice.

“When I was in high school, Mam gave me the lecture about self-control,” the older woman related with a chuckle. “I was so terribly naïve that I truly did not know what she was talking about! All she managed to do was frighten me terribly and make me fear the boys at school. Poor Charlie really had his work cut out with the likes of me,” she laughed, referring to her first husband.

“Yes, it was quite the shock when we boys got to San Francisco in the 60's,” Martin related. “Ireland was still very backwater then, very provincial and proper. To be thrown over here during the beginnings of the hippie movement was quite the experience!”

“So did you avail yourself of all of the free love, Da?” Ryan asked with an impish look.

“I most certainly did not!” he insisted, a bit miffed that his daughter would even entertain such a notion. “Unlike some people I know, I was brought up with a good, healthy fear of any such behavior! The fires of hell seemed like a terrible price to pay for a fleeting pleasure!” He playfully reached into the front seat and slapped his grinning daughter on the shoulder.

Ryan's face grew serious as she turned slightly and said, “Thank you for not putting that fear in us, Da. You never made us afraid of suffering eternal damnation for expressing our sexuality.”

“Well,” he said thoughtfully, with a smile struggling to get out, “I certainly hope I wasn't wrong on that point. Because if I was, you'll be stuck down in the lowest rungs of hell, Siobhán.”

“Yeah, but at least I'll have Conor to keep me company,” she admitted with a big smile. “And the girls down there will be hot…in every way!”

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

Jamie called the house from her cell and asked Conor to cook up some oatmeal for the jet-lagged travelers. By the time they reached the house, Brendan and Kevin had joined the group to welcome the new couple home. Both Martin and Maeve were very appreciative of the welcome, their happiness supplanting their exhaustion.

Despite their fatigue, the pair managed to relate most of the details of their trip. The boys were also shocked to hear that they were not married according to church law, but after enduring some good-natured teasing, the nearly-newlyweds continued with their stories. “And which one of you little sprites was responsible for bringing a photographer all the way up from Galway?” Martin asked as he cast a stern gaze on the two women.

“Not me,” Ryan said honestly. “I have no knowledge.”

“I couldn't let you get married without pictures,” Jamie explained quickly. “Did he do a good job?”

“He seemed a little confused,” Martin admitted with a chuckle. “I don't think he'd ever been that far out of the city. But once he got used to the scale of things, he did a fine job.”

“How did you arrange for that?” Ryan asked, slightly amazed.

“You can find anything on the Internet if you look hard enough,” Jamie admitted.

“We truly appreciated it,” Maeve said sincerely. “Everyone was so generous,” she enthused. “Moira acted like she'd won the Sweepstakes this year. She even bought my dress!”

“So, how many people attended?” Ryan asked quickly, trying to steer the conversation away from money.

“Oh my, the church was nigh onto bursting,” she laughed. “I'm not sure how many came, but we have the guest books here. We can count them up later.”

“Did any of your family come up, Da?” Brendan asked.

“I was quite surprised, but several carloads came up from Kerry,” he said proudly.

“Do you have many relatives still in Ireland, Martin?” Jamie asked.

“Oh, yes. One of the blessings of coming from a large family, Jamie. My father was one of seven, and my mother was the eldest of nine,” he related. “Naturally, I've still got a few uncles and aunts there, and my first and second cousins are legion!”

“Now, what's the name of your town?” Jamie asked Maeve.

“If people know Ireland, we say we're from near Ballina—that's the big town. Our little village is Killala, and you have to be familiar with County Mayo to have even heard of it.”

“How many people live there?”

“Oh, not more than 700,” she advised. “It's just big enough for one pub, one shop for necessities, and of course a church.”

“A town that small can support a church?” Jamie gaped.

“Oh, certainly,” she said. “There are smaller villages nearby and little forks in the road with a few more people to add to the roster. Since nearly everyone is some degree of Catholic, it's actually necessary to have a church. It's a very small affair, though,” she admitted. “The big church is in Ballina, and that's where the parish priest, Father McConnell, is. Father Kearney is the curate for our little church. He's the sweetest young man, didn't you think, Martin?”

“He was very nice,” Martin agreed. “Even though he looked like he hadn't started to shave yet!”

“Mam says he was just ordained last June. He said we were just his fifth wedding!”

“I'm really happy it went so well,” Ryan said. “But you'd better get to bed soon. Da, you have to work tomorrow, don't you?”

“Ahh, don't remind me,” he scowled. “I want to stay home and just moon over my beloved half-bride.”

“That's a rather odd term, but I suppose it fits,” Maeve agreed happily. “I'll make you a deal, Martin. Be a good man and go to work, and I'll bring you a nice lunch. We can walk over to Mission Dolores and have a little picnic.”

“You're really not going to stay overnight?” Conor asked.

“Of course not,” Martin said indignantly. “Weren't you paying attention, boy? We said we're not married yet.”

“It's close enough, Da,” he reasoned.

“Not all of us take the laws of the faith so lightly, Conor,” he said pointedly.

“Boy, I'm glad I don't have any morals,” Conor mused. “That is brutal!”

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

They returned home at nine o'clock, and Ryan was puzzled to see that nothing in the house had been disturbed: the keys were right where they had been that morning, the note hadn't been moved, there were eight messages on the machine, and Mia's pager was dancing across the table. Jamie hit the message button on the answering machine and heard six messages from Mia's mom, as well as two from her brother, each one a little more perturbed. Jamie checked the pager and saw Mia's parents' number keyed in. “Honey, do you think they're even up there?” she asked, casting a glance at the stairs.

“How could they not be?” Ryan asked. “Jordan can't get into her apartment without her keys, and Mia never leaves without her pager. They've got to be here.”

Jamie poked her head into the kitchen and saw that there was not a single thing out of place—no glasses in the sink, no dirty plates piled up on the counter. She took a look in the refrigerator and saw that all of the leftovers from the night before were still in their containers. “Honey,” Jamie said, now a little worried, “they didn't eat or drink anything all day. We have to check on them.”

“Okay,” Ryan said, giving her partner a raised-eyebrow smile. “Check on them.”

“Um…I thought maybe you could check on them,” the smaller woman hinted.

“Nope. I've stayed in bed for 24 hours plenty of times. It's no big deal.”

Jamie scowled at her and said, “I don't know what her mom wanted, but she sounded pissed, didn't she?”

“Yeah, a little, I guess,” Ryan admitted.

The phone rang again, and Jamie answered, “Oh, hi, Mrs. Christopher. Yeah, it's Jamie. I'm good.” She was rolling her eyes at Ryan the entire time, finally saying, “I just got home, and I'm not sure if she's here. I'll go check and have her call you, okay?” Her face dropped as she said, “No, it's okay, you can hold on. Be right back.”

She scowled at Ryan again and ran up the stairs, pressing her ear against the door to determine if there was any sound coming from the space. When she failed to detect any movement she knocked lightly, but didn't hear any response. A louder knock still produced nothing, so she shrugged her shoulders and ran back down. “No, she's not here, Mrs. Christopher. She forgot her pager. It's lying here on the table, so that's why she hasn't called you back. Yes, she could drive a saint to drink sometimes,” she chuckled. “Okay, I'll tell her, bye.”

“Weird,” Jamie said as she gazed at her partner. “Where in the hell do you think they are?”

Ryan gave her a frown and marched upstairs. Not bothering to knock, she opened the door to find Jordan, stark naked, her body nestled between Mia's legs, head resting upon her thigh. Her long legs were hanging off the end of the bed, the top sheet and comforter thrown to the floor, along with all of the pillows. An empty quart of Gatorade lay on top of the discarded bedding, obviously the only nourishment the pair had enjoyed. She walked over to them and lightly touched Jordan's back, shaking her head when she felt how chilled her skin was.

Ryan grasped the blonde's shoulder and gave it a shake, repeating the movement with a little more force when she didn't respond immediately. Jordan finally let out an unhappy whimper, but Ryan persisted and finally got one blue eye to open. “Time to move upstairs,” Ryan whispered.

The full lips quirked into a lazy grin, and she started to shimmy up the bed. She dropped her head onto the pillow that Ryan had put into place, but now Mia's head was several inches below hers. Ryan started to move over to the other side of the bed to put a pillow under her head, but Jordan handled the situation by snaking her long arms around her and tugging her into place—curled up against her side, with Jordan's shoulder as a perfectly acceptable pillow substitute.

Ryan unfurled the sheet over their bodies and quickly tucked it in, then added the light blanket, smiling to herself when Jordan made a vague kissing sound in her direction. “I love you too,” she whispered before tiptoeing out of the room.

As she closed the door, she nearly ran into Jamie, who was lurking just outside.

“Are they okay?” the smaller woman asked.

“They appear to be just fine…exhausted, but fine.”

“Are they awake?” Jamie asked, having heard no speech.

“Nope. Well, Jordan was semi-conscious, but Mia's dead to the world. Even without verbal confirmation, though, I do believe that our little Jordan lost her virtue last night…and this morning…and this afternoon…and this evening…”

* * * * * * * * * * *

The excitement of the weekend caught up to both of the women, and Ryan overslept for the first time in ages. She didn't even have time for a bit of breakfast before class, running down the stairs at full tilt…then screeching to a halt at the passionate good-bye being said in the entryway.

Mia was wearing a blue silk robe, and Jordan had on her warm-ups, the only clothes she had brought with her on Saturday. Their arms were locked tightly around each other, their mouths so firmly glued to each other that they were practically fused. Ryan tiptoed around them, grabbing her book bag from the spot she had dropped it on Friday, nary a book having left the cozy nylon confines the entire weekend.

She secured the bag onto her back and tried to pass by the new lovers, stopping abruptly when Jordan's hand reached out and grabbed her jacket as she passed. “Wait for me,” the tall blonde murmured, her lips just far enough away from Mia's to be able to speak.

Ryan rolled her eyes and walked across the porch slowly, waiting for Jordan with as much patience as she could muster. The blonde started to pull away, Mia still hanging on tenaciously as Jordan backed up. By the time they reached the stone steps, Mia was bending over, trying to hold on for yet another tender buss. Jordan reached out to gently break the suction. “Gotta go,” she whispered. “See you…tonight?”

“Oh yeah,” Mia drawled sensuously, crossing her arms across her chest to hold her robe closed. “I've got plans for you.”

Blowing the curly-haired brunette a kiss, Jordan practically skipped down the sidewalk, catching up with Ryan as they reached the street. “Have a nice weekend?” the smirking brunette asked.

Jordan shot her a goofy-looking grin, then launched into a set of three cartwheels, finishing up with a neatly tucked somersault, landing gently on her feet, a laugh bubbling up from her chest. “Why wasn't I informed of how absolutely fabulous it feels to make love?” she asked, sticking her arms out and turning in a tight circle, intentionally trying to make herself dizzy.

“I don't remember you asking my opinion,” Ryan smiled, slinging an arm around the happy blonde's shoulders. “I would have given you my enthusiastic endorsement.”

“It's not just the physical sensations, Ryan,” Jordan said earnestly. “It's…God, I don't even know what it is! It's looking into her eyes when you're touching her, and knowing that you're the one who put that adorable smile on her face.”

Ryan just smiled at her friend, knowing exactly what she was talking about, but not feeling the need to give her any feedback. Jordan had grown so animated that she was running backwards while she spoke, trying to make sure that Ryan understood the importance of her point. “Jesus, Ryan, I had no idea it would feel like this! I thought it would be about what you did and how you did it…but it's not! It's about how you feel, and how you make the other person feel,” she decided, sure that she had an insight into this mystery that few others understood.

“It is, Jordan,” Ryan agreed, unable to keep the wide grin from her face. “It's all about feeling if you do it with the right person.” She cocked her head a bit and asked, “So, did you do okay um…technically? You said you were worried about having to learn on the job.”

Jordan looked at her with an amazed expression, obviously trying to come to terms with her feelings. “I was horrible!” she laughed. “I didn't have any idea of what to do, or how to do it, but Mia was so wonderful! She was right there for me, helping me to get over my nervousness …just making me feel wonderful. I got better as the weekend went along,” Jordan smiled, “but I finally realized that it doesn't matter. You just have to show her how you feel, and everything works out okay. Isn't that weird?” she asked, still a little dumbfounded.

“Weird, but true,” Ryan nodded. “All true.”

“I kinda thought that I'd have to act like a guy—you know?” she commented, cocking her head quizzically. Ryan's eyes widened, and the surprise on her face made Jordan blush fiercely. “I know I'm a total dunce, Ryan, but you always hear guys talking about how big they are and how long they can last…I guess I thought that was the important thing—like there was some technique to pleasing a woman that I wouldn't be able to master.”

“Not true,” Ryan agreed. “Guys would do a hell of a lot better if they could understand that. Penis size doesn't matter…heck, I don't have a penis at all, and I've never had any complaints,” she laughed. “It's not about equipment—it's about connecting emotionally.”

“Yes! Yes! That's it!” Jordan cried, launching into another cartwheel. “It's about connecting emotionally! Too true!”

Ryan smiled at her friend's antics, having never seen Jordan act so free or jubilant. A thought flittered through her mind, and she spent a moment examining it. It took me until I fell in love with Jamie to understand what Jordan's talking about. Is she just gifted, or is this little fling a lot more than a little fling?

* * * * * * * * * * *

“Hey, James? Is that you?” Mia called out when she heard someone walking down the hall.

“Yeah,” Jamie replied. She entered Mia's room and immediately walked to the window, throwing it open to get a little air circulating. “I don't even want to tell you what this place smells like,” she laughed.

“I bet it smells like twenty-four hours of some of the best sex I've ever had,” Mia mused lazily. She was stretched out in bed, obviously naked under the sheet, her arms tossed casually over her head.

“Really?” Jamie asked, dying to learn some details. “I thought it would be kinda rough, what with her not having any experience.”

“Well, technically, on a scale of one to ten, I'd honestly have to give her a negative six,” Mia laughed. “She was so nervous on Saturday night that she must have lost five pounds just from shivering! She acted like she was lying on a bed of snow, Jamie! Seriously!”

“Okay…so where did the great sex come in?”

Mia looked up at her friend with a slightly puzzled gaze. “It's hard to say, to be honest. It felt so wonderful to be with her that way, Jamie. She was so nervous, and so hesitant, but the trust in her eyes just took my breath away.” She shook her head as she said, “She was so tender and gentle with me, like nothing I've ever experienced before. She didn't just focus on making me come either…although she took instruction well,” she added with a smirk. “I feel like I saw what's in her heart, James. I don't know how else to say it…I felt like I saw her heart.”

Smiling at her friend, Jamie admitted, “I know how that feels, Honey. It's really something, isn't it?”

“It's the best, James. She holds me like I'm some fragile object that she treasures…I've never felt like that before.”

Jamie approached the bed and gave her friend a hug, adding a kiss as she pulled away. “Everyone should feel like that, Mia. That's why they call it making love.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

“I don't like this, Ryan,” Jamie murmured into the navy blue nylon jacket that covered her partner's chest.

“I don't like it either, but it's really okay. As a matter of fact, I would prefer that you didn't come to the game tonight.”

“But I've never missed one of your games if I could get to it,” she protested.

“I know, but you said yourself that you can't afford the time. Even though San Jose isn't far, it would take at least five hours out of your evening, and with your accounting mid-term tomorrow, you really can't spend that much time.”

“Will your family be there?” she asked as her resolve began to weaken.

“No. Da has to work, Rory's got a gig, and I told Conor not to come. He gets up so early that it's not fair to expect him to come down for every game. Besides, the whole clan is going to make an effort to come on Friday to watch Stanford kick our asses, so I'll see everyone then.”

“Hey, you beat them last time,” Jamie pointed out.

“Uh-huh, I know that, Punkin, but they haven't lost at home in over four years. No good reason to think we'll stop that string. I think we just caught them on an off night in Berkeley. We are their only loss, you know.”

“Well I know you can do it. I have nothing but confidence in you.”

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

San Jose State gave them no trouble at all and the mood was very upbeat when they straggled out of the locker room. Ryan took the time to take a shower since she didn't want to stiffen up on the long ride home, so she was the last to leave. As she poked her head out of the locker room she was amazed to find Catherine waiting patiently for her. “Catherine!” she exclaimed with delight. “I had no idea you would come tonight. I didn't even look up in the stands because I didn't expect anyone!”

Catherine gave her a firm hug. “Do you really think I would miss a game that was only an hour from my house? What kind of mother-in-law do you think I am?”

Ryan slid her arm around her shoulders as she replied, “The best kind I could ever hope for.”

The equipment manager was just coming out of the locker room and she advised, “Let's go, Ryan, you're the last one.”

“Oh, I've got to go, Catherine. I wish I could stay for a while, but they'll leave without me!”

“Will you stop for a snack on the way home?”

“No, not tonight. It's mid-term week so everyone wants to get home. I'll just get something there.”

“Nonsense. Go tell them you've got a ride. We'll stop and get a snack, and then I'll take you home.”

“But…” Ryan started to protest.

Catherine narrowed her eyes and said, “We're family, remember?”

Ryan pursed her lips and gave her a quick nod as she ran to tell the Coach that she would get home on her own.

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

“Hi,” Ryan said from Catherine's cell phone when Jamie answered. She and Catherine were driving to an all-night deli for a snack, and she knew her partner would be worried about her if she wasn't home on time.

“Hi, Baby! How did it go?”

“I had a great night,” Ryan supplied. “We won three-zip, and I got picked up by the most gorgeous blonde. We're in her car now, and I wanted to let you know so you didn't worry when I was late.”

“Let me talk to that blonde right now,” Jamie demanded, suppressing a giggle.

Ryan handed her the phone and Catherine said, “Hello, Dear. I'm taking the star of the game for a little snack. I'll return her as soon as I top off her tank.”

“Thanks for going, Mom. I couldn't bear the thought of her not having anyone watch her play.”

“I was planning on it anyway, Dear, but thank you for reminding me.”

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

After studying the extensive menu, Ryan settled on a club sandwich and a chocolate malt. As usual, Catherine stuck with a cup of coffee.

They chatted about the game for a few minutes, but when the food was delivered Catherine said, “I wanted to make a proposal to you, Ryan, but I want to make sure that you understand that you do not have to agree.”

“Okay,” Ryan said as she put her sandwich down and looked Catherine in the eye.

“I want to call Jim and invite him to come home for the weekend. I know it would mean a lot to him to see Jamie play Stanford, and it might give you a chance to be around him so that he could get to know you a little better. I know that Jamie wants to facilitate a relationship between you and her father, and this seems like a perfect time to start.” She blew out a breath after she got the thought out, and Ryan patted her hand to reassure her.

“Does it make you nervous to ask me that?”

“Yes, it really does,” she conceded. “If I were in your place, I would have no interest in being in the same room with him. I feel a little uncomfortable even asking you this, but I think it's something that would make Jamie happy.”

“Catherine, I would move to Washington and share an apartment with him if it would make Jamie happy. I'd think it's an excellent idea, and I'm sure Jamie will appreciate it.”

“I haven't mentioned this to Jim or Jamie. I just wanted to see if you were willing before I did so.”

“I won't say a word,” Ryan said with a smile. “Why don't you see if Jim is interested, and then you can tell Jamie.”

She shook her head slightly and stirred her coffee absently, saying, “Your capacity for forgiveness just amazes me, Ryan. I don't know how you do it.”

“It's not really that hard, Catherine. To tell you the truth, I forgive mostly for selfish reasons. There's an old Irish expression that sums up my philosophy on the subject. 'Animosity is like drinking poison and hoping that your enemy dies.' I really do believe that, Catherine. I can't spend my life being wrapped up in this little drama. I have forgiven him, and I'm perfectly willing to move on.”

Catherine tilted her head just a bit as she asked, “What does that mean when you say you forgive him?”

“Well, I'll tell you what it doesn't mean,” she said. “It doesn't mean that I've forgotten what he's done—to any of us. He tried to hurt you, Jamie, and me, and I will never forget any of his actions. When I say I forgive him, it just means that I'm no longer invested in continuing the fight. I won't ever try to exact revenge,” she explained.

“So you just mean that you don't need to get even or force him to make amends?”

“Yeah. That's about it. He can't really make amends because what he did will always be between us. I have a very, very long memory, and I am certain that I will never trust him. What he did was calculating and callous and terribly cruel. He fully intended to hurt you and me in any way that he could just to have his own way. That wasn't just the heat of passion talking. He meant everything that he did, and I have no doubt that he would have hurt me physically if he'd thought it would achieve his ends. It takes a certain kind of self-centeredness to act like he did, and that's not something that will ever go away. I'll always keep an eye on him.”

“But you still forgive him?” she asked incredulously.

“Absolutely. To keep the wound open will only hurt me, and I refuse to participate in that. I can be perfectly civil to him, and I'm sure I will eventually even enjoy spending time with him. But I will never trust him, and I will never, ever give him the opportunity to hurt me again.”

“I just find it remarkable that you are willing to do this for Jamie.”

Ryan looked at her with her piercing blue eyes and leveled her gaze. “I would die for her, Catherine. Having a topically friendly relationship with her father is nothing compared to what I would do for her.”

“I am so glad that she found you, Ryan. You've brought out the best in her.”

“I'm the lucky one, Catherine. And to get you as a mother-in-law is just an added bonus!”

* * * * * * * * * * *

As they left the restaurant Catherine dangled the keys in front of Ryan and asked, “Care to drive?”

With reflexes as quick as a jungle cat's, Ryan snatched the keys away, just in case Catherine decided to withdraw her offer. “Can I drop the top?” she asked, her blue eyes dancing.

“For that smile you can drop the top and choose what we listen to on the stereo,” Catherine said, linking hands with her daughter-in-law as they walked down the street to the Mercedes.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan got the seat and mirrors adjusted to her satisfaction, then hit the button and listened to the cloth top secure itself into the trunk. “I love this car,” she said, with a bright smile.

“It suits you,” Catherine decided, thinking that the bright red convertible matched Ryan's personality quite well.

“Thanks,” she grinned. “Now I'll just find some tunes I like, and we're off.” She started to run through the CD's that Catherine had in the changer, giving her mother-in-law a slight frown as she did so. “All classical all the time, huh?”

“Yes, I'm afraid so, Dear. My knowledge of what songs were current came to a grinding halt around 1978, I'm afraid.”

“One of my favorite years,” Ryan smiled. “I actually have a few selections from your era in my bag,” she indicated. “Would you pull my CD case out?”

Catherine did so, and she spent a minute flipping through the choices. “I don't recognize most of them, Dear, but I owned a few of these when I was in college. Why the interest in ancient history?”

“It's not so ancient. I like some of it because it's the music my mother liked,” she admitted. “Some of it appeals to me because my cousin Michael got me hooked. It's hard to say why some music touches your heart, to be honest. I've never gotten into rap or hip-hop, and I hate the current group of pop artists, so I tend to go retro.” She smiled as she added, “No offense, of course.”

“None taken,” Catherine assured her. “So what is your choice?” she asked shaking the CD case a little.

“Pick something that you know,” Ryan urged. “We can sing together to stay awake.”

The older woman smiled at her and chose a disc that she hadn't heard in many years. Popping it into the cartridge Ryan smiled and said, “I pulled this one out to work on a song I sang in honor of my cousin. The anniversary of his death was a couple of weeks ago.”

Catherine gave her a sympathetic smile and nodded. “Jamie told me about that, Dear. She was very moved by your performance.”

“Eh…” Ryan shrugged. “The choir was great, I just helped out.”

The CD whirled in the player, song after song forcing Catherine to think back to her youth until she finally took the lyrics out of the jewel case to recall the words of the once very familiar tunes.

The pair sang along companionably, the brisk wind blowing their hair in the breeze. The night was clear and the stars were dotting the sky, the lights of the city obscuring all but the brightest of them. When Ryan didn't hear Catherine's voice for a few minutes she shot a look at her, dismayed to see tears streaking down her cheeks. “Hey, what's wrong?” she asked softly, turning down the volume of the player.

Catherine sighed, embarrassed to be caught in such a vulnerable moment. She shook her head briskly, trying to dry her eyes with a tissue and ignore the question. But Ryan was too determined for that, and she pressed the point. “Catherine? You can talk about how you're feeling if it will help. I'm a good listener.”

Something about Ryan's soothing, gentle tone make her open up a little, sharing her feelings in a way she was only just now getting used to with Jamie. “I remember playing this album when Jim and I were dating,” she said softly. “I identified very strongly with a few songs on here…especially 'Too Shy to Say.' It made me think of how it felt to be falling for Jim and not having the nerve to let him know how I felt.”

Ryan moved her right hand from the wheel and gave Catherine's thigh a squeeze. “I like that song too,” she said. “I felt a little like that with Jamie.”

Catherine smiled and placed her hand atop Ryan's, feeling the smooth skin that covered her powerful but gentle hands. “It's hard to think that the song playing now had no meaning for me then,” she said. “Now it's the only one that makes sense to me.”

The song was entitled “It Ain't No Use,” and as it continued to play, Ryan thought of how it must feel to have this sad song be the only one that stood out. She said nothing for a while, letting the words wash over her,

As I look back I'm merely trying to see,
Just what it was that made us spark

'Cause the fire's out, it leaves no doubt,
the flame's not burning in our hearts.

We still are young and both of us have time,
To find our winter love in spring
'Cause we know the truth, it ain't no use.
We're not each other's everything.

Ryan shot Catherine a sympathetic gaze and patted her leg once again. “I can't tell you how sorry I am, Catherine. I know you loved him…I think you still do,” she added.

“Yes, yes, I do,” she whispered through her tears. “Through everything that he's done…all of the ways he's hurt me and my child, there's something that isn't dead yet, Ryan. I don't know if that means I'm too hard-headed to let go, or if my love for him is still alive, but it eats at me, Ryan. It honestly breaks my heart.”

“It's not over yet, Catherine,” Ryan reminded her. “You never know what will happen.”

“That's true,” Catherine sighed. “I suppose I need to see how this story ends.” Looking up at Ryan she pasted on a brave smile and said, “Maybe there's still a happy ending in store for us.”

They were now in front of the house and Ryan asked, “Do you want to come in and say hi to Jamie?”

“Oh, Honey, I'd rather not. I don't like her to see me when I've been crying.”

“She can handle it, Catherine. She's a pretty strong woman.”

“You're right, Dear,” the older woman smiled. “Perhaps it's just my own insecurities.” She looked at Ryan and said, “I'd still rather not.”

“Okay,” Ryan agreed quietly. She put the car into park and got out, going over to the passenger side as Catherine exited. As the smaller woman looked up at her, Ryan encircled her with her long arms, holding her close until Catherine began to lean more heavily against her, finally allowing the warm hug to break through her carefully erected defenses. She sagged against Ryan, feeling younger and more vulnerable than she had felt in years, and the powerful arms tightened around her to hold her up.

“Let it out, Catherine,” Ryan whispered. “It's okay. Just let it out.”

The distraught woman cried for several minutes, her tears flowing unabated. Ryan hated to see her so upset, but she knew that her mother-in-law couldn't get through the coming months without a lot of tears falling from her warm brown eyes, and she was glad that she was here with her now, providing what comfort she could.

Catherine's blonde head finally lifted, and she reached into the car for another tissue, blotting her eyes repeatedly. “You've certainly seen me at my worst, Ryan,” she said, a mild chuckle rising up from her chest.

“I've seen you at your best, too, Catherine,” Ryan insisted. “Any way you are is just fine with me. We're family, remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” she said softly. “It's one of the things that's kept me going over the last months. I hope you know that, Ryan.”

“You mean a lot to me, Catherine. Are you sure you can drive home? We have an extra bed, you know.”

“No, no, I'm fine. Please don't worry about me.”

Ryan stroked her still-wet cheek and said, “I do worry about you, Catherine. One of the pleasant duties of family. Call when you get home, okay?”

“I'll will, Ryan…thank you,” she added, standing on her tiptoes to place a kiss on her daughter-in-law's cheek.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Catherine walked into the kitchen a little before midnight. She slipped off her butterscotch suede jacket, exposing the off-white cashmere turtleneck, and twitched the sweater smooth over her dark brown wool slacks more from habit than need, since no one was up to see her.

She had called Jim from the car just a few minutes after leaving Ryan, but he had not answered the phone at his apartment. She left a message telling him that she'd be home around midnight if he wanted to call back. To her surprise, the phone rang at twelve on the dot, and she answered immediately.


“Catherine, it's Jim,” he said, sounding a little concerned. “Is everything all right?”

“Yes, everything is fine, Jim. I was actually calling to see if you were interested in coming home this weekend.”

“Home?” he said slowly, not at all sure of her meaning.

“Yes. As you probably know, both Jamie and Ryan are playing in tournaments at Stanford this weekend.”

“And…?” he asked, thinking that she was inviting him, but having his doubts.

“The girls are staying here for the weekend, Jim, and Ryan's entire family will be here for a little party on Friday night. If you would like to come, it might be a good opportunity for you to meet her family and get to know her a little. I think Jamie would like it,” she added needlessly.

“I'd be happy to come, Catherine. I appreciate that you're inviting me.” He paused for just a second and asked, “How do you feel about me coming? Are you all right with it?”

“Of course,” she said quickly. There was a tense silence as she added, “I'd like you to come too.”

She could hear his smile even though she couldn't see it. “That's great, Catherine,” he said. “I'll have my secretary make the arrangements. I suppose I should stay in San Mateo so I don't have to drive all the way into the city…”

“Stay here, Jim,” she said before she had time to stop herself. “Surely we can manage to share a house for one weekend.” Her tone was light, and it was clear that she was trying to inject some humor into a relatively tense situation.

“I'd like that, Catherine,” he said quietly. “I've missed you.”

“It's hard to have your routine destroyed,” she ventured, trying to take the emotional note out of the conversation. “I'm sure Jamie will like having you here, Jim.” She added, deciding that she'd better be clear, “Will you have a problem with her and Ryan sleeping together?”

He whistled through his teeth, letting out a low chuckle as he said, “You certainly know how to destroy a perfectly good mood.”

“I just don't want there to be any nasty surprises this weekend, Jim. The girls are lovers, and they act very familiar with each other. I doubt they'll censor themselves because you're here. I'd rather that you didn't come if you don't think you can tolerate this.”

He tried to brush off her concern again, saying, “No 'don't ask, don't tell' policy at the house, eh?”

“This is serious, Jim,” she warned.

He sighed and said, “I know it is, Catherine, and I wish I could lie and say that it doesn't bother me, but it does. I uh…I think the sexual element is a big part of my discomfort with Ryan. I just don't want her in my daughter's bed,” he said, his voice tight with tension.

“You can either get over that on your own, or you can try to work through it with Jamie, Jim. Those are your only options if you want to be close with her.”

“I know that's not politically correct, but it's how I feel, Catherine,” he pleaded.
“I hate to have to compromise my beliefs over this issue.”

“No one is asking you to compromise your beliefs, Jim.” After a pause she asked, “What are they anyway?”

There was a long silence as Jim tried to control his temper. “I don't believe that straight people should always have to tread lightly to avoid offending gay people! I don't want my child to be gay, and I'd prefer that I didn't have to witness her behavior, but I realize that isn't my choice any longer.”

“Jim, I don't mean to belittle you, but those are not beliefs. Those are prejudices.”

“How do you do it, Catherine? How do you handle seeing her with that woman? Doesn't it bother you in the least to know what they do together?”

She sighed heavily and took a moment to think about her answer, assuming that his question was sincere. “I don't know why, but it bothered me more to think of Jamie with Jack,” she admitted.


“You heard me. I knew what she and Jack did together—I knew they did the same kinds of things that I did. But I don't know what it's like to love a woman, so I don't really have many mental images to deal with. Ignorance can be bliss, Jim.”

He shook his head, mentally chiding himself for all of the XXX movies with a lesbian theme that he had watched from his hotel rooms over the years. “It's different for you,” he insisted. “She's not rejecting your entire sex!”

“She's not rejecting yours either, Jim. I certainly didn't feel that she was rejecting women when she was with Jack,” she said in a frustrated tone. “Where do you even come up with arguments like this?”

“I don't know,” he said glumly, sounding like a little boy who had been scolded. “I just don't want to have to think of them…like that.”

“Look, Jim,” she said firmly, “I try to treat Jamie like what she is—an adult. I don't get involved in my friends' sex lives, and I don't think I should intrude on Jamie's either. It's still a little odd for me when I see them kiss, but I'm happy that they act naturally around me. I guarantee that she will not spend any time alone with you until you make her believe that you accept both her relationship and her lover.”

“Do you have to call her that?” he winced.

“What would you prefer?” she asked calmly.

“Anything that sounded less sexual!”

“All right, let's call Ryan her partner. You can delude yourself into believing it's a business relationship.”

“This isn't funny, Catherine,” he said in a clipped voice.

“I agree this is far from humorous, Jim. You seem nearly phobic about the sexual aspect of their relationship. I think you have to put that out of your mind and focus on their emotional bond.”

“Fine. I'll focus on the bond Jamie has with her and ignore the fact that she used to have that with me!”

Catherine actually felt some empathy for him at that moment. She knew that her husband needed to control every aspect of his life, and she could well imagine that no longer being able to control Jamie was wreaking havoc on his psyche. “She never had that with you, Jim. The love you have for a parent is nothing like the bond you feel for your lov…partner,” she said quickly as she corrected herself. “She has the capacity to love you both, if you will only let her.”

He sighed, a thoroughly defeated man as he whispered, “Is this the only way?”

“Yes,” she said firmly. “It is the only way.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

On Wednesday morning Jim put in a call to Jamie's cell phone as soon as he thought she might be up. Ryan had already left, and she was just about to head to class when the call came in.

“Hi, Daddy,” she said, finding that she no longer experienced a sense of dread when she heard his voice. “What's up?”

“Your mother called last night, Honey, and she has generously asked me to come down this weekend for the Stanford matches. I'd love to come, but I wanted to make sure you would like me to.”

“Oh, well, yes, that would be great.” She paused for a minute and asked, “Do you think you're ready for that, Dad? Ryan's whole family will be there…” She trailed off, not needing to mention her wish to have him attend only if he was able to behave himself.

“I want to get to know her better, Jamie,” he said. “I can't think of a better way to know someone than to see them with their family.”

“Okay, Dad, if you feel like making an effort, I'd be glad to have you come.”

“Great, Honey, that's just great. I think I'll come this afternoon and spend some time at the office. I'm still trying to wind up some work that I couldn't get finished before I left for Washington.”

“Oh, okay,” she said.

“Any chance we could have dinner together?” he asked hopefully.

She considered the offer for just a moment, deciding that she needed to reserve some time alone with her father in order to normalize relations once again. “Sure. I have a lot of studying to do since it's mid-term week, so it'll have to be a quick one.”

“Great,” he said, sounding very happy. “I'll come by and pick you up. I think I'll be there around 5:30. Is that all right?”

“Yes, that's fine. That'll just give me enough time to stop and buy something simple for Ryan to have for dinner.”

He smirked to himself, thinking it rather ironic that his daughter had fallen into a homemaker role, given her upbringing.. “All right, Honey. I'll pick you up this evening.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 9

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