I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 11: Karma
by S X
The sand-colored Lexus RX 300 glided down 101, the traffic
almost non-existent. There's something to be said for traveling on Thanksgiving
afternoon, Ryan smiled to her partner when she turned off the freeway at
the exit for the San Francisco International Airport.
You seem pretty darned happy, Jamie observed. I thought you'd be bummed that we had to leave so early.
Ryan spared a glance at her partner, as her mouth twitched into a smile. I hate to admit this, but sometimes I feel a huge sense of relief when we leave a party like that.
Yep. It's not that I don't love them all, but it's draining to be around that many people especially in such a small house.
The smaller woman smiled back at her. I also hate to admit it, but I feel the same. There are so many people, and so much noise, that it's like a blast of fresh air when you leave. It honestly takes me a while to relax after that kind of sensory onslaught.
Me too, Ryan decided. It's nice to be alone again.
Jamie looked at her partner for a moment, and said thoughtfully, As much as the family re-charges me, I get my real sustenance from being alone with you. I'm really looking forward to this weekend.
Ryan shot her a glance and warned, Most of my time has been scheduled for me, love. Coach Hayes doesn't like to leave much to the vagaries of chance, you know. She's not the laid-back person that Coach Placer was.
I know, Jamie acknowledged. But we'll get to sleep together, and we'll have our morning together, won't we?
Yeah. I think we meet at eleven tomorrow but I didn't get a final schedule, yet.
That's enough for me, the blonde decided. Sleeping with you and cuddling you in the morning will be just perfect. The rest of the time, I can get caught up on my work.
I'm looking forward to this too, Ryan declared. Since I don't know the other players, and for the most part they don't seem very friendly, it'll be nice to have your sweet face greet me after the game.
I'm friendly enough to make up for all of 'em, Jamie promised, smiling brightly at her.
You're friendly enough to make up for a pack of snarling pit bulls, Ryan chuckled.
Seven members of the team were already at the gate when Jamie and Ryan arrived. Each was dressed as Ryan was in the Cal Basketball warm-up suit. Since they were going to Colorado, everyone also had a winter coat with them in Ryan's case, a snowboarding jacket that had seen better days. Jamie was still trying to understand why the strip of duct tape that sealed a rip in the nylon was a source of pride for her partner, but she had finally decided that some things were simply unknowable.
The crew was quite motley looking, and their attitudes didn't increase their attractiveness in Jamie's opinion. Each woman looked up, but only five of them bothered to acknowledge Ryan or Jamie's presence and even they merely nodded.
Ryan looked totally out of her element, standing there awkwardly and Jamie could tell she was trying to decide if she should bother to try to speak to her teammates. Let's go sit down, and you can give me the run down on these characters, she whispered.
Nodding briefly, Ryan went to the far corner of the seating area and flopped down onto one of the molded vinyl chairs. Janae and I have our work cut out for us.
If you're referring to your plan for gaining leadership of this crowd, I should say so. Jamie shot a glance at the women and asked, Who are they all?
The two sour-looking ones are Wendy and Janet. They don't speak to anyone else on the team, near as I can tell. Strangely enough, it seems like they're favorites of Coach Hayes although I can't for the life of me figure out why.
Nice, Jamie nodded, giving the women a glare.
The tiny woman is Franny Sumitomo. Nice kid. She's a freshman from San Francisco. I think she can speak but I've never heard her, she smirked wryly. The two dark-haired ones are juniors, and their names are
Ryan scrunched her eyebrows together and gave their names her best try. Drzislava and Zeljka. She gave Jamie a look and added, I'm not even gonna take a whack at their last names.
I'm guessing they're from out of town?
Ryan chuckled and said, They're both Croatians. I'm not sure how, but their families got out during the Balkan conflict, and they got permission to emigrate. They seem like a nice pair, but they don't appear to want to interact with the rest of the team. I suppose language is an issue for them. She smiled wanly and said, I guess we should be glad that the two of them were on the same side during the conflict. Lord knows we don't need any more dissention.
Who are the last two?
Oh, they are
She was interrupted by a very tall, very large, black woman, who flashed a warm smile and took the seat opposite them.
Hey, Janae, Ryan beamed. Meet my partner, Jamie Evans. Jamie, this is Janae Harris.
Hi, Jamie, Janae smiled. Been here long?
Not very, Ryan said. I was introducing the cast of characters to Jamie. I was just about to hit Jaleesa and La Trice. I don't know much about them, though. Have any insight?
Yeah, a little. They're locals they're both from Oakland, Janae revealed. Jaleesa is a junior, and La Trice is a sophomore. They've been close ever since La Trice joined the team.
Are they friends of yours? Jamie asked.
Uh-uh, Janae said decisively. The only things we have in common are skin color and a love of basketball. They're both very religious and neither is very accepting of lesbians. Looking at Jamie she grinned and said, I'm one of you, by the way.
Duly noted, Jamie said, returning her smile.
The bottom line is that we just never hit it off even though I tried when Jaleesa was a freshman. She spent a great deal of time trying to get me to repent. She flashed another grin and added, It didn't work.
Another small knot of players approached, and took seats near the rest of the team. Here comes the rest of our happy little group, Janae observed. Jamie considered the threesome. Two blondes and a brunette, they looked fairly friendly and upbeat. Ella, Hilary and Lily, Janae announced. Hilary and Lily are sophomores, and Ella is a freshman. They're nice enough, but they definitely stay in their own little clique. They seem like typical party girls they're the reason that a lot of guys come to the games. Hilary is dating one of the wide receivers on the football team, and Lily is seeing a guy from the swim team. If nothing else, they've helped attendance.
Doesn't anyone hang around with Franny? Jamie asked, seeing the young woman sitting alone.
Nope. I've tried to talk to her, Ryan said, but she's painfully shy. I felt like I was torturing her, trying to make her converse with me, so I've left her alone since then. It seems to be what she prefers.
Ryan tells me that you two want to try to turn the team around, Jamie commented to Janae. Looks like you've got your hands full.
And then some, Janae agreed, twitching her head in the direction of Coach Hayes, who had just arrived on the scene. She's the biggest part of the problem.
Why is that? Jamie asked. Ryan doesn't seem to have a good read on her.
Well, primarily because she's an asshole, Janae explained.
Jamie shot Ryan a worried look and asked, And you two think you can overcome this?
Ryan shrugged, and Janae spoke up. Coach really doesn't interact much with us. Lynette is the one we have to work with most of the time and she's great.
Does the coach dislike you, Janae? Jamie asked.
Oh, yeah. Not for anything I've done, though. I was a good friend to a player named Deborah who stood up to Coach constantly. There was a big controversy last year you may have read about it in the Daily Californian. One of the seniors was accused of stealing from another student. The other student said that this player, Renee Watkins, stole a mini-stereo from her room. Coach had a meeting with the whole team, and said she was going to suspend Renee from the team until the charges were proved or disproved. Wendy and Janet my two favorite people on the planet vocally sided with the coach just to suck up, of course. Deborah and I argued loudly that kicking Renee off the team solely because of an allegation was just plain wrong.
Deborah was really angry about the whole thing and she let her temper get the best of her during one meeting, and she called Coach a racist. I'm still not sure if Deborah talked to the paper or not, but they printed a story that hinted at racial discord on the team. Now, Coach was a bitch before but she got a lot worse after that. It seems like she started distrusting the players like she was afraid that we were going to turn on her. That's when Lynette took over more and more. That's been a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
What happened to Renee and Deborah? Jamie asked.
Renee was cleared of all charges it was case of mistaken identity, she said with a wry smirk. Deborah graduated after riding the bench for the remainder of the year.
It sounds like a mess, Jamie said, her head shaking slowly.
Oh, it is, Janae agreed. But if we can get just a few of the players to work with us, things might really improve.
Coach Hayes stood up and looked around the room, obviously counting heads. When the announcement was made that they could begin to board, Jamie stood up and slung her carryon over her shoulder. Are you coming with us? Janae asked.
Did Coach give permission for that, Ryan? Janae asked.
Ryan shot her a startled look. Uhm
I didn't ask. Jamie made her own reservation for the flight, and she booked her own hotel room. Why would anyone care?
Coach Hayes cares about everything, Janae informed her. Absolutely everything.
Lynette came up to the threesome just before they boarded, and called Ryan aside. You should have checked with me before you decided to bring Jamie along, Ryan. We don't really like surprises.
I'm sorry if I did something wrong, Ryan said. I just didn't know it would be a problem. She's paying for herself, and getting her own room. We did this all the time with the volleyball team. I didn't think to ask.
It's not the reality, Ryan, it's how it looks. Coach doesn't like it to look like anyone is getting special treatment. It's no big deal just keep us informed, okay?
Okay. Again, I'm sorry, Lynette. I'm not a rule-breaker.
Don't worry about it. It's a small issue. She gave Ryan a very serious look and added, But don't let it happen again.
They were settled in their seats, a stranger taking up the third spot in their row. Jamie leaned over after takeoff and said, I was just thinking about our last little photo opportunity this afternoon.
Ryan smiled, thinking about the elaborate photo set-up that Jamie had arranged at the Thanksgiving feast. That was fun. We should do that more often.
It was a lot more than I bargained for, Jamie smiled, giving Ryan a little wink.
I thought you wanted to see the look on my face when I told you how much I loved you, Ryan reminded her in a whisper.
Tiger, we nearly captured the look on your face when you make love to me. But it will be kinda fun to see on film how we progress from a gentle kiss to near copulation in less than a minute!
After an uneventful flight and a bus ride to the motel, the two young women sat at a round Formica table, one of the pair resting her chin on her braced hands, staring in wonder at her partner, who was methodically consuming two pieces of pie one pecan, one pumpkin.
I was thinking about this pie during the entire flight, the dark-haired half of the couple mused.
The blonde smiled at her, her head wagging the entire time. I know you love pie, but you can't possibly be hungry, honey. I've seen some prodigious displays of food intake, but today had to be some sort of record for gluttony!
Ryan batted her blue eyes and said, I thought you wanted me to gain weight?
I do, babe, but you don't have to do it all in one day! I don't want you to have nightmares.
I never have nightmares from eating too much food, Ryan declared. Too little? Definitely!
Far be it from me to interfere with your well-oiled machine, Jamie conceded. You know what the beast can handle.
I do indeed. Want some? Ryan offered as she extended a fork carrying a tiny shard of the pecan pie.
Nope. I'm gonna have to borrow your pants if I eat another bite. I will never understand how everyone in your family is so thin.
Well, most of them do manual labor, and that burns up the calories, you know. But I also think the O'Flahertys have a pretty quick metabolism. As for the Ryan side, they're just small boned and thin.
Good genes once again, Jamie decided. When Ryan was finished with her snack, she went into the bath to get ready for bed. Jamie followed close behind, and by 10:30 they were snuggling together to try to get warm. Jeez, it's cold here! Jamie complained.
We might have to put on clothes, Ryan agreed. This blanket isn't very thick. I don't think we'll ever warm up.
Why can't we leave the bedspread on? the smaller woman asked, her whole body shivering.
Ryan cocked her head, giving her partner an amused look. You haven't stayed in many motels, have you?
Nope. I've been in hotels on every continent, but when the golf team went to Oregon, that was my first motel. Why do you ask?
different from what you're used to, Ryan said. The room rate card says this place costs $39.00. That's not a lot of money even for me, she laughed. Now, I'm not saying that hotels appeal to low-class people, but people tend to subject these places to a lot of
What's your point, Ryan? I'm freezing here!
All sorts of things go on in a bed, right?
Grinning widely, Jamie agreed. Yes, love. Lots of things. And we've done most of them.
Right, Ryan nodded emphatically. And some of those things that we and lots of other people do on a bed cause bodily fluids to be exchanged, right?
yeah, that's rather obvious.
A lot of people don't take the bedspread off before they start playing, Ryan said, letting that thought hang in the air for a moment.
Jamie's head swiveled to look at the bedspread, now neatly folded over a chair.
They don't wash them very often, the dark woman concluded, smiling to herself when a visible shiver raced down her partner's body.
That would never
ever have occurred to me, she said, a look of complete distaste on her face.
That's why you have me, Ryan reminded her. I'm your tour guide to the seedy side of life.
Jamie scampered out of bed and started hastily tossing garments from her suitcase. She put on a turtleneck, a sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants, then tossed Ryan one of her volleyball T-shirts, knowing that her partner wouldn't need nearly as much clothing as she would. As she got into bed, she looked at the bedspread with revulsion and said, I'm not even going to sit on that thing to tie my shoes!
Ryan cuddled her up, deciding not to tell her that many motels didn't wash the blankets very often either.
Despite the clothing, and the vigorous rubbing from her partner, the smaller woman was still decidedly cold. My God, my nipples are so hard they could break off! she cried as she ran her hands over her breasts vigorously.
Let me help, Ryan said with a little grin as she tried to slip her hands under her partner's shirts.
Don't you dare touch me with those ice cubes, the feisty blonde ordered.
But it's a great way to warm up, Ryan reminded her.
It can be a nice way to wake up in the morning, Jamie insisted. I'm too cold to even think about taking anything off, and I don't want to have sex fully clothed.
Have you ever? Ryan asked, snuggling even closer.
No, love, I have not. I'm a respectable woman who likes to have sex in a nice, big bed, with a nice, nude body.
It can also be fun to get really hot
so hot you can't bear to wait, Ryan murmured, her breath finally warming one of Jamie's ears. Then you find a quiet place and start touching each other through your clothes
then under your clothes, she added, just in case Jamie missed her point.
Well, I hate to be closed-minded, Jamie decided. We can try that in the morning, she reiterated, unwilling to budge on that point. When your hands are nice and warm. She grasped one of Ryan's hands and kissed the frosty digits, tucking them into her armpits to warm them.
Okay, Ryan muttered as she snuggled into her partner's now warm embrace. You're the boss.
Jamie woke when the sun peeked through the window, and when she went to the bathroom she tucked the curtains closed so they would not be disturbed. Few things gave her more pleasure than cuddling with Ryan in the morning, and since they had time, she knew their cuddling would soon be very, very fulfilling.
It was just 6:30, and Ryan was still sleeping soundly. Smiling broadly at her partner, Jamie snuck back into bed and wrapped her arms around the sleeping woman. A small moan was Ryan's only reply, and as the warmth enveloped her, Jamie slid back into slumber, looking forward to the next time they woke.
The shrill ringing of the phone ripped Ryan from a delightful dream. She fumbled for the receiver and croaked out, Yeah?
Ryan? Lynette, she said, brusquely. Team breakfast is in ten minutes. Did you forget about it?
Huh? she gasped. I didn't know about it!
Well, you'd better hustle. You won't play tonight if you're late.
Shit! Shit! Shit! she cried as she leapt from bed and jumped into her warm-ups. Jamie saw her shoving her bare feet into her high-tops, and rushed to lend a hand.
She ran into the bathroom and handed Ryan a brush, but the irritated woman just stormed into the bath, grabbed a covered band from the counter and tied it haphazardly around a ponytail. Her Cal baseball cap was shoved onto her head, and she jogged for the door, mumbling profanities to herself the entire time.
Well, that was fun, Jamie said to the empty room as she collapsed onto the bed.
Ryan was in the middle of a full-scale rant, and Jamie sat on the bed and let her vent -- knowing that she had to blow off some steam. Lynette assumed Coach Hayes had given me the rule book, Ryan complained, slapping the plastic-covered notebook against her hand. Coach Hayes assumed Lynette had given it to me. I look like a loser for breaking practically every rule on my first road trip! She shook the book at Jamie as she paced in a tight pattern. I have chemistry textbooks with less information in them than this! Is this a basketball team, or boot camp?
I know this is disappointing, Jamie said. This hasn't turned out at all like you had hoped, has it, love?
No! Some of the starch left her sails, and she flopped down on the bed. Nothing has gone right so far, Jamie. I'm afraid I made a big mistake here.
Biting her tongue, Jamie didn't say the obvious. She didn't think that joining the team was a good idea; she didn't think that playing for a jerk was a good idea; and she didn't think that it would be possible for Ryan and Janae to create a more harmonious atmosphere. But Ryan had made her decision, and so she wasn't about to share her trepidation at this point. Deciding that it was best to just offer some reassurance, she said, Maybe you did, but you won't really know for a while. Just try to learn the rules and go along with the flow.
I don't wanna learn the rules, Ryan whined, throwing the book at the wall with a good deal of force.
Wanna come back to bed? the smaller woman asked. I could help relieve some stress.
Can't. Ryan got up and shook her head. We've got a team meeting unscheduled of course and then we have to leave to go to the gym for a walk-through. I won't be free until after the game.
What about dinner? Jamie asked, her eyes going round.
I'll have to eat mine before the game. I think it's scheduled for four. You're on your own, sweetie. She came over to the bed and squatted down so that she could look Jamie in the eye. Do you regret coming with me?
No, not in the least. I'm going to go over to the campus to study, and then I'll grab a snack and come to the game. Just being able to sleep with you is enough for me. Really, honey.
You're too good a sport, Ryan smiled. I think I need to take a lesson from you.
You're not usually upset by things like this. It's just a lot all at once. You'll be fine.
I hope you have enough confidence for both of us, Ryan said, bending to place a soft kiss on her partner's smiling lips.
The weekend produced not one, but two humiliating defeats, the only bright spot being that now the team could try to make an earlier flight home on Sunday, since they didn't qualify to play in even the consolation game. Ryan didn't play much in either game, racking up a grand total of two and three minutes respectively.
Dinner? Jamie asked when she greeted her outside of the visitors' locker room.
Love to. But I can't go anywhere very nice in my warm ups, she warned.
Okay. Let's go back to the hotel and you can change. Should we take a cab?
No, let's take the bus. Maybe we can get some people to have dinner with us.
When they got to the bus, Lynette was standing by the door, and she motioned Ryan aside. I assume you didn't have time to study the book yet, Ryan, but no outsiders are allowed on the bus.
She looked embarrassed to have to deliver this news but Ryan quickly reassured her. Sorry, I didn't know, but that's okay. We'll grab a cab.
Again, sorry to be the heavy, but Coach requires the team to travel together. You can meet Jamie back at the hotel.
Ryan looked at her carefully to make sure she was serious, but the grim set to her mouth clearly said that she was. Okay, she muttered as she turned to tell Jamie the news.
After making sure Jamie could find a cab, she ran back and hopped on the bus, receiving a narrowed look from Coach Hayes. We leave 30 minutes after the game, Ryan. I think you'd better spend some time with Lynette this week going over the rules.
Yeah, I think I'd better, she muttered on her way to an empty seat.
Jamie went down to the lobby to inquire about local restaurants, and some time later her partner joined her. She smiled when she saw her, decked out in a marine blue, wool cable-knit sweater, an ecru colored turtleneck and a pair of winter-white wide-wale corduroys. But Ryan didn't return her smile as she marched across the lobby. How old am I? she demanded, her face flushed with anger.
I'm guessing this is rhetorical but you're 24.
Right, she fumed. Isn't a 24-year-old woman old enough to be treated like an adult?
Yes, of course you are. Are you gonna tell me what's wrong now? Jamie asked, ready to get to the point.
We got special permission to eat wherever we want to tonight. Usually we are forced
to eat with the team!
Well that sucks, Jamie agreed. That's not going to make traveling with you much fun.
No, and I got a little lecture about that, too, she groused. Turns out Coach Hayes had to make a point about you traveling with me even though Lynette already had.
Why would they deny permission, honey? I pay for myself
you're staying in my room.
How do I know? Ryan said, her voice much louder than normal. I hate this!
Calm down, Tiger, she soothed. Let's have some dinner. You'll feel better when you've had a good meal.
It's so stupid, she grumbled as Jamie led her into the dining room. They had some skanky-looking buffet set up in one of the meeting rooms. Everything looked greasy and cold. I can't gain weight eating that kind of crap!
Honey, calm down, Jamie said again. You can go to the buffet, and snack on something that looks okay, and then go order a meal later. They allow you to do what you want after the team meal, don't they?
Yeah, I guess, she said, unwilling to be mollified.
They were shown to a table, and after they scanned the menu, Jamie said, I thought you were going to see if anyone wanted to join us.
I did, Ryan muttered, I got a bunch of blank looks and a few 'no thanks'. Janae looked like she wanted to come, but she doesn't have two nickels to rub together. She has to eat the damned buffet. That's probably why she's 20 pounds overweight, she groused.
Maybe everyone was just tired, Jamie offered, but her theory was blown when four of the players came down to the dining room together. One of them made eye contact with Jamie, and even though they did an immediate about-face, Ryan saw them and raised an eyebrow at her partner.
You were saying?
They don't know you well enough to dislike you, Jamie offered, but quickly realized the thought hadn't come out right. You know what I mean.
Yeah, I do. I don't think it's me, actually. It's always hard to come onto a team late. They didn't get to know me during the long fall practice sessions.
Does it bother you, hon? Jamie asked, already knowing that it did.
Yeah, she admitted quietly. That's what I loved so much about volleyball. We were such a tight group that it made even the practices fun. I don't get that same feeling at all with the basketball team. The practices seem like workonly work.
Once again, Jamie shot her a worried glance that Ryan caught. I'm just grouchy probably because I'm not playing and we just lost two games. I'll feel better soon.
It was just after seven when they finished dinner, but neither was ready to go up to their room. Wanna go for a walk or something? Ryan offered feebly.
It's 25 degrees outside! Jamie protested. And the only thing around here is the freeway.
Good point. They really do a good job of isolating us, don't they?
Yes, they do, Jamie grumbled. I took the bus to campus today, and we passed at least six motels that were significantly closer. They intentionally put you next to the freeway. I don't get it.
I think they're afraid we'll get into trouble if we're too close to campus. One more example of treating us like kids.
Let's go hang out in the bar, Jamie suggested. They've probably got a basketball game on.
Okay. Maybe we can pick up some women and have a party, Ryan grinned as she waggled an eyebrow.
Your pick up technique had better be very rusty, Jamie warned as she narrowed her eyes at her partner.
Wanna try me? Ryan asked in challenge, her eyes dancing for the first time that night.
sure, Jamie replied with a grin curling up the corner of her mouth. How?
Ryan pursed her lips and thought for a minute. Finally, she crossed her arms and nodded confidently. You know what I've always been curious about?
I've always wondered if you would have given me a tumble if you hadn't been engaged, and you were a little more aware of your attraction for women. What do you think?
Jamie grinned up at her and patted her on the side. I think your womanly charms would have convinced me to do something very uncharacteristic. You would have had me out of my knickers in a matter of days if I hadn't been trying to repress my urges.
Days? Ryan's mouth gaped open as she said, I was thinking hours!
The nerve! Jamie huffed playfully at her cocky lover. I'll have you know that I'm not that kind of girl, Ryan O'Flaherty. I admit that you would have compromised my virtuebut it would have taken you a while!
Let's play a game, Ryan suggested, the gleam in her eyes suggesting the naughty nature of her proposal. Let's act like we've never met. I'll try my rusty technique out on you, and see how well it still works.
okay, the smaller woman agreed, thinking the idea had potential. Only one problem. I can't be myself, or this won't work. If I put myself in the mindset I had when I met you, I'd never allow you to pick me upno matter how attracted I was to you.
Fine. Then be someone else. I know, Ryan suggested, be Mia.
Jamie tossed her head back and laughed. No way, sport. You and Mia would be doing it in the elevator on the way to your room! No, if we're gonna play a game, it's got to be a contest. You've gotta work!
Surprise me, Ryan said as she placed a kiss on her cheek. I'll be myself, and you be anyone your little heart desires. You go on in, and find an isolated place at the bar. I'll come in and sweep you off your feet in a matter of moments. Her wildly waggling eyebrow indicated just how excited she was at the thought of playing this little game.
You're on, Tiger, but I'm not going to give in as easily as you might think. You're going to have to use all of your charm to get me to give it up, she said with a smile as she patted Ryan's face.
I'm up to the challenge, the brunette assured her.
We'll just see about that. Now, I'm really going to try to play a role, okay? Don't try to mess with my concentration. I'm a method actor, you know.
Whatever works, Ryan smiled. Now go get ready to meet your Princess Charming.
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