I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 12: Lifeline
by S X
This is a pretty nice place, Mia said as they arrived at their hotel.
The team was scheduled to play in the Pan-Am tournament starting the next day,
and the hotel was located within walking distance of the arena where the games
would be played.
Yeah, Jordan said. I sure lucked out. I thought we'd have to
rent a separate room.
It's nice to have an odd number of players, isn't it? the curly-haired
woman said. She walked over to Jordan and said, I was really impressed that
you told them you had your partner with you. Was that hard for you?
The blonde shook her head, smiling gently. No, it wasn't for some reason.
She bent and kissed Mia, lingering for a moment to enjoy the taste of her lips.
That was the first time I've ever come out to anyone, she said. Other
than Ryan, of course.
It'll get easier every time you do it. Jamie comes out to people on the
street now, she said. If she can feel that comfortable that quickly,
so can you.
It's easier with support from the people I love, Jordan said, giving
her another kiss. It's nice to have open-minded straight people like
you in my life.
I'll give you a straight person, the laughing woman said, pushing
Jordan onto the bed.
Now, now, I have to get to practice, Jordan said, giggling while Mia's
fingers found all of her ticklish spots. I can't let you have your straight
girl way with me.
I'll go easy on you now, but as soon as practice is over you're gonna be
I'm yours anyway, Jordan said, placing a gentle kiss on her lips before
she hopped up to get ready for practice.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Quicker than either woman was prepared for, they were thrust back into reality
when they arrived back in Berkeley from the airport. Ryan was running late and
didn't have time to stop at home first, so she directed the driver to drop her
off at the gym. She kissed Jamie quickly and hopped out, muttering, I've
still got sand in some very sensitive places. Sweating while I run up and down
that court is not going to be fun.
Sorry, Tiger, Jamie said, waving goodbye as her cranky lover trotted
She was nearly at the door of the gym when she saw them. Regrettably, they saw
her at the same time, and descended upon her like a school of piranhas. Ryan!
What do you have to say about the article printed in today's National Inquisitor?
Is what they say about you true, Ryan? You have to comment sometime! Where's Jamie?
Are you still together, or has the publicity caused you to break up?
Staring at the ground, she tried to brush past the small but determined crowd.
As microphone after microphone was thrust into her face, she raised her arms and
clasped her hands together, her sharp elbows poised to jab anyone who got in her
way. The school had posted a guard at the players' entrance, and as she drew near
he opened the door to let her pass, throwing his substantial bulk across the opening
to stop the crowd from following her.
She was nearly in tears by the time she made it into the locker room, feeling
the pressure once again tightening in her chest. It was hard for her to breathe,
and she knew that she was in no shape to play basketball at the moment. Since
she was a little late, the rest of the players were already on the court, and
she hurried to struggle out of her clothes, while pawing through her locker to
find some clean practice shorts. Coach Hayes approached and placed a hand on her
shoulder. Are you okay? she asked gently.
Ryan looked at her with a mixture of panic and revulsion. Yeah. Yeah. I
will be. I'm just having a hard time catching my breath. What in the hell were
the idiots talking about? she asked, her face contorted in stark confusion.
They were asking about Jamie and me.
Mary blinked at her for a moment, then asked, Uhm
don't you know
What latest? I don't know a damned thing. I just got out of a cab from the
I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but the tabloids are now
digging into your personal life, Mary said, feeling sick to her stomach
at the heartbreakingly shocked look on the young woman's face.
my personal life?
someone close to you is obviously talking to the tabloids,
I don't know why anyone would say what he or she has been
Glaring at the woman, Ryan snapped, No one close to me would do that. No
one! The tabloids just make shit up.
they've been printing some pretty specific details about you
and Jamie. All sorts of things about how you first got together. They're fascinated
with the fact that you and Jamie are lovers. Stroking her back, the coach
asked, Your family knows about you, don't they?
Of course. We live with them on the weekends. We're not in the closet, Coach.
it's personal! With a strangled groan, she got to
her feet and kicked one of the lockers
lashing out against the inanimate objects with a fury that shocked the
startled coach. The out-of-control young woman started to grab anything that she
could reach, taking out her rage on the towel cart, the Gatorade cart, and everything
else that wasn't nailed down. Mary was sure she was going to hurt herself, so
she got behind her and grabbed onto her waist, holding on for dear life as Ryan
flailed away, screaming curse words at the top of her lungs.
Lynette came running in just as Mary yanked with all of her might to stop Ryan
from dragging her into the bathroom enclosure. Her desperate grab caused Ryan
to lose her balance, and both of them wound up on the floor, their limbs tangled
together. Jesus Christ! Lynette cried, running to separate them. What
the fuck has gotten into you, Ryan! Turning her head to the door, she yelled,
Somebody call the campus police!
No! For God's sake, don't do that! Mary pried herself away from Ryan,
who was now babbling incoherently, curled up in the fetal position on the wet
tile floor. She didn't try to hurt me, Lynette. She just flipped out, and
I tried to stop her from hurting herself. She's so damned strong, I was afraid
she'd rip the sinks off the wall!
Mary crawled over to Ryan and tugged on her until her head and shoulders were
resting on her lap. Soothingly, she stroked her, murmuring to her as she did so.
Looking up, she saw most of the members of the team standing in the doorway, their
eyes nearly popping from their heads. Turning to Lynette, she said, Get
rid of everyone, and see if you can get Jamie on the phone.
When Lynette left, Mary continued to try to soothe her troubled player, rocking
her like she did her own children when one of them threw a tantrum. Slowly, Ryan
recovered, and she rolled onto her back, gazing up at her coach with a confused
look on her tear-streaked face. Fuck, she muttered. I don't
know what the hell just happened.
Mary didn't say a thing, she just helped Ryan to sit up, then she got to her knees
and stood. Extending a hand, she helped pull the sturdy young woman up, then put
an arm around her waist and led her down the halls to her office. Once inside,
she handed her some tissues and said, We've been trying to get hold of Jamie,
or your family.
No, no, that will just worry her, she said. I'm fine now. I
don't think I should practice today, though.
The coach looked at her player until Ryan raised her eyes and met her gaze. You're
in no shape to play basketball, Ryan. You need to get some help.
I'm fine, she said, her voice rising in agitation. I need to
keep going! If I keep everything as normal as possible, I'll be all right.
No. Mary shook her head slowly. In the last week, you've had
a panic attack, you accidentally took an overdose of sleeping pills and liquor,
and now you practically tear the locker room apart. You're not all right, Ryan,
and until you get some help, I can't let you play.
You're kicking me off the team? she asked, looking like she'd been
No. You're physically unable to perform, Ryan. I want you to see a psychologist
or a psychiatrist to help you through this. You can't play until your doctor says
Fine. She got up and left the office, striding down the hallway to
get her things from the locker room. Mary was right on her heels, and she grasped
her sleeve as Ryan entered the room. The younger woman whirled and glared at her
coach. You don't know what's best for me! I'll be fine if I can just go
about my normal activities!
You can't, Ryan, the woman said. Things have changed. There
are reporters following you, and they're going to be at all of our practices,
all of our games. You can't be normal, because they won't let you. I have to know
that you can handle the stress!
I've handled more stress than you can imagine, Ryan growled. I
can handle this, too.
No, you can't. Not while I'm in charge. I'm sorry Ryan, but I care for you
too much to let you harm yourself.
The young woman crossed her arms over her chest and asked, Are you going
to call my family and tell them this?
No. You're old enough to make your own decisions. I just hope you make the
right one. She looked at her for another moment, then her expression gentled
and she said, I care about you, Ryan, more than I care about winning and
losing. She patted her on the back and left the room, leaving the younger
* * * * * * * * * * *
She didn't have her cell phone, and she had no money on her, since her things
were in the cab with Jamie. Having very few options, she walked towards the players'
entrance, but stopped before she reached it. I'm not going through that again,
she said. She began to prowl around the building, finding herself in the bowels
of the new auditorium. She came upon some workmen unloading supplies from trucks,
and realized that she was at the loading dock. Without announcing her presence,
she sat down on the edge of the dock, then jumped, hitting the ground fairly hard.
Hey! You can't leave the building that way! one of the men yelled
Says who? she growled, not bothering to look back.
Nearly a block from her home, she saw the news trucks double-parked on her normally
quiet street. Suddenly, the place didn't even feel like her home any more. The
reporters had defiled the very ground that the building rested on, and she couldn't
bear the thought of going inside. All she wanted was to grab one of the cars and
drive until she managed to elude the wolves. But both Jim's BMW and the Boxster
were in the driveway, neither doing her much good. While she stood on the sidewalk,
looking as confused as she felt, a woman approached. Hey, aren't you
she started to ask.
Yeah, I am, she said. Do you live here? Ryan indicated
the house that the woman stood in front of.
Yes, I do.
Could I please use your phone? I can't get into my house, and I've got to
see if my girlfriend is okay.
Sure, come on in, she said immediately. Is Jamie all right?
Ryan blinked at her and said, It's so odd, hearing you talk about her like
you know her.
The woman blushed and said, Well, I feel like I do. You two could have your
own channel, you're on TV so much.
Ryan just shook her head and made for the phone, relieved when her partner answered.
Where are you, honey? she asked, hearing noise in the background.
I'm still in the cab, she grumbled. We're close to the gym.
I'm gonna brave the crowds to pull you out of there when practice is over.
It's over, Ryan said. Can you come get me? I'm a block north
of our house.
Be right there, Jamie said, instructing the driver.
They escaped their neighborhood without further incident, but just stared at each
other when the driver asked where they wanted to go. I have to go home,
Ryan said, her voice breaking. I have to see my family.
Jamie immediately gave the driver directions, glad beyond words that he didn't
seem to recognize them, or think their behavior odd. Jamie reached Martin on her
cell, and he instructed them to go to Niall's house, since the media had not encroached
upon his house in Sunset.
They had the driver stop at a Bank of America so Jamie could get enough cash to
pay the exorbitant fare, and he dropped them off at around five o'clock. It was
dark, but Martin wasn't taking any chances. He whisked the young women into the
house, then went back for their bags, and to settle up with the cabbie after Jamie
thrust $200 at him.
Ryan stood in the hallway, tears streaming down her face, her partner holding
on to her body tightly. Martin came back inside and wrapped them both in a fierce
hug, holding on until his daughter's sobs had calmed. He led them over to the
redwood table and benches, the only furniture in the house. Ryan looked around,
a desolate expression on her face. I can't stay here, she moaned,
her voice rising in panic. It's like a prison cell!
Sshhh, sshhh, Martin soothed. I don't want you to stay here,
love. I just wanted to get your things into a safe place. The reporters are covering
our house, too, sweetheart, so we have to get you in surreptitiously, and I didn't
want to chance it until after dark. But don't you worry, Siobhán, I'll
take you home with me, and come back and get your things later.
Our house or your house? she asked, her lower lip quivering.
Wherever you'll feel better, he said, wrapping her in another embrace.
My poor, poor baby. He sat down on one of the benches and held her
tight, cradling her like he had when she was a young child. Jamie sat on her other
side and patted her thigh soothingly, just trying to stay connected.
What have we done to be hounded like this? she asked.
Nothing, darlin'. You've done nothing to deserve this. They're a pack of
jackals, he spat, his anger rising precipitously.
Jamie stood and went to her purse, extracting her cell phone. I want to
call my father and let him know we're back.
He's called the house every day that you've been gone, Martin said.
He's very worried about you both.
She nodded and waited as the speed dial connected to his apartment. He wasn't
home, so she tried his cell, and he answered quickly. Daddy?
Oh, Jamie, thank God, he sighed. I was afraid you'd gone into
No, she said with a ghost of a laugh. Although that's very appealing.
Where are you, honey?
We just got back to San Francisco. We're at Ryan's cousin's house in Sunset.
Let me come get you, he said. I can have a limo pick you up
and I'm quite sure the police department will stop the reporters from following
Jamie took one look at her partner, her dark head cradled against Martin's chest.
We need to stay here, Dad. I think it'll be okay once we get settled.
Jamie, I'm so sorry about everything that's come out, he said, sounding
What is it, Daddy? I've been in a cab for hours. I don't know what you're
Someone who knows you spoke to the press. I'm not certain, but I think it
was Cassie Martin.
Oh, God. She sank onto the bench, and leaned heavily against Ryan.
Why do you think that?
The things that were printed are the kinds of things that only Mia or Cassie
or Jack would know, honey. I know Mia wouldn't do that to you, and Jack is far
too honorable to betray you like that. I don't think Cassie has the same moral
code as Mia and Jack do.
Sighing, Jamie asked, Okay, give it to me. What did she say?
Jim paused for a moment, trying to think of the best way to present the things
he had read. She had two main points. One, that Ryan uses women for what
she can get out of them casting them aside when she's finished; and two,
that she set out on a path to destroy your relationship with Jack. The implication
was that she's using you like she's used the others and that once she has
taken as much of your money as she can get her hands on she'll leave you
for a real lesbian.
I am suddenly so damned tired, she said, I don't even have the
strength to get angry.
I understand, honey, Jim said, but it's clear that you can't
continue to ignore this. It's not going to go away on its own. You have to have
a spokesperson. I understand that you don't want to talk, but I think you need
an expert to guide you through this morass.
Fine, she said wearily. We'll be at
at Martin, who mouthed, My house. We'll be at Martin's,
she informed her father, giving him the telephone number and the address. Oh,
and Daddy, make sure this person knows that the house is surrounded. He or she
will be harassed just trying to get in.
Public relations people are used to that, honey. It's how they earn their
When Jamie hung up, she gazed at her partner for a moment, then said, Given
how upset you are, I have a feeling that you know about the tabloids.
Ryan's dark head nodded, but she didn't say a word.
Do you know who sold us out, honey?
With her eyes blinking slowly, Ryan said, I didn't before, but I do now.
I hope that she's made her peace with God 'cause she's gonna meet him soon
as soon as I get my hands on her.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Hearing that the girls were back in the neighborhood, Conor was dispatched to
the Necessaries, and stood in front of the magazine rack, reading the entire article
from the tabloid. When he was finished, he approached the owner of the store.
Hey, Mr. Kim? How much money do you get for selling one of these?
He held the magazine up by the corner, touching it with only his thumb and index
finger to avoid having it taint him.
about twenty-five cents, he said.
If you don't sell them, can you return them?
Oh, sure, sure.
Conor counted the supply and made an offer. I'll give you thirty cents for
each one if you return them all.
The man nodded for a moment, then asked, Do these hurt Ryan?
Then I send back. No need to pay, Conor. I make plenty from reporters drinking
Conor gave the man a warm smile and said, Thanks, Mr. Kim. I can't have
my sister walk in here and see these.
* * * * * * * * * * *
While pushing her food around her plate, Ryan gave a brief, emotionless account
of Coach Hayes' asking her to leave the team temporarily, leaving out a few important
details such as her emotional meltdown.
Jamie could tell that Martin was steamed, but he wisely said little, trying not
to work his daughter into even more of a state. This will all be over soon,
Siobhán. Then you can go back and finish out the year in peace.
Right, she said tersely, giving no indication that she believed one
word of his statement.
* * * * * * * * * * *
For the rest of the night, Ryan sat in front of the television, flipping between
CNN, MSNBC, and all of the local news outlets, seemingly transfixed by the coverage.
No one had anything of substance to say, of course, but that didn't stop the drone
of talk. Jamie couldn't stomach the coverage, so she went to Kevin's old room
and wrote in her journal, trying to relieve her stress.
A gentle knock on the door just before nine o'clock brought Martin to his feet
and caused Ryan to look up like a trapped animal. Who is it? he asked.
Leslie King, a female voice said. Senator Evans asked me to
come. I'm with Rosenberg, Kelly and Martini. Martin had no idea what that
meant, but Ryan got to her feet and opened the door.
Ryan O'Flaherty, she said, extending one hand, while the other shielded
her eyes from the glare of the lights trained upon the door.
The woman slipped past her, then spent a moment smoothing her hair back into place.
Quiet a gauntlet out there, she said.
We had to come in through the back, Ryan said. It pays to live
in a neighborhood for thirty years. The neighbors don't try to shoot you when
you traipse through their back yards.
Well, Leslie said. It's good to meet you, Ryan, even though
the circumstances aren't ideal. I'm here to see if we can't help get you and Jamie
a little peace.
Anything you can do will be much appreciated, Ryan sighed, heading
back into the living room. Honey? she called up the stairs.
Jamie came down, and after introductions were made, Leslie got down to business.
Senator Evans tells me that you're both unwilling to make any type of statement,
Correct, Ryan said, her eyes blazing with determination. At
this point, it's a test of wills.
Looking up into those slate blue eyes, Leslie decided that this resolute young
woman probably didn't lose many such tests.
Okay, I can see that's a dead issue, she said. That wouldn't
be my recommendation, but I can understand it.
What is your recommendation, Leslie? Jamie asked, feeling her lover
I think this would die down if you just made a statement saying that you
won't address the incident, or your personal lives. If they could see you, and
let America hear you, I think it would go away.
Think, or know? the blonde asked.
Well, I have 20 years of experience in the field, and I can assure you that
the one thing the press loves is a recluse. You two have been wonderful for them.
If you had just made a statement the first night, this would have been over immediately.
Too bad, Ryan said, jutting her jaw out defiantly. I'm not going
to talk, because it's no one's business.
Of course it isn't, the woman said. But sometimes you have to
No, I don't, Ryan said, her eyes burning hot.
Okay, Leslie said. Pragmatism is out.
I don't mean to be rigid, Ryan said, but I will be very upset
with myself if I let the press make me do things that I don't think are right.
It might take the immediate problem away, but it will create a bigger internal
problem for me.
I can understand that, the older woman said, lightly patting Ryan's
arm, seeing the young woman jerk noticeably. So the question remains, what
do we do now?
Not a clue, Jamie said.
What about having another family member make the statement? Leslie
No, Ryan said, her eyes not blinking.
Okay, then I guess it's up to me. I'll write up a speech, and you two can
approve it, of course. I'll call a press conference, and try to get all of the
media outlets to send someone.
What do you plan on saying? Ryan asked, her eyes narrowing.
Nothing, she said. Absolutely nothing. I want every person who
leaves that room to be cursing my name. I want to give them plenty of nothing,
Ryan. After a while, they'll realize that they're wasting their time.
That I can live with, Ryan said for the first time since they left
* * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as Leslie left, Jamie got on the phone with her father. Thanks so
much for sending a pro to help us out, Dad. I'm not sure her plan will work, but
at least it's a step.''
We discussed what she was going to suggest, he said. Are you
going to let her make a statement?
Yeah, we are, but we want her to make it. We're just not up to it, Daddy.
Is there any way we can see each other, honey? I have to leave for Washington
tomorrow, you know.
No, I didn't know, she sighed. I want to see you, too, Dad,
but we don't have a lot of options. Either you come over here, or I sneak out.
Are you being followed?
Like a fox at the hunt, he growled. But I won't let that stop
me, Jamie. If you want to get together, I'll be there.
It's up to you, Dad. If you don't mind braving the hordes, I'd love to see
I'll be there in fifteen minutes, honey, he said.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jim proved to be accurate in his prediction, and a cab dropped him off not long
after they had finished speaking. Soon after he arrived, Martin and Maeve went
to their room, to give Jamie and Ryan some time alone with him. Ryan was grumpy
and irritable, so Jamie excused her after just a few minutes.
Father and daughter stared at each other for a few minutes, then Jim reached across
the kitchen table and grasped his child's hand. I'll do anything
anything to make your life more comfortable, Jamie. I'm more than happy to hire
a driver for you, so they can't see you get into cars; I'll get a security team
to clear the area for you before you leave a place anything.
I really do appreciate that, Daddy, but I don't think that would help. I
think going through that kind of thing every time we leave the house will drive
He gazed at her for a moment, then asked, I'm not criticizing you, Jamie,
but so far every decision you've mentioned has been made by Ryan and for Ryan.
Is that how you want it to be?
She started to defend her partner, then paused and realized that her father had
a valid concern. I have let her take the lead, Daddy, but for a good reason.
She sighed and said, Being the focus of attention is driving her mad. It's
not that bad for me, for some reason. I'd just go to the Berkeley house and ignore
them but she's not able to. Since she's having such a hard time, I'm trying
to let her make the decisions. I'm just trying to support her, she said
You're being a very good
Partner, she said, giving him a wry smile.
Right, he said, nodding. You're being a very good partner, honey.
But are you sure that your needs are being met?
Yes, they are. My biggest need right now is making sure that Ryan gets through
this. Once I'm sure she's okay, everything will be fine.
Okay, he said, letting the issue drop. I just want you to know
that I'll get as involved as you want me to. I'll do anything to fix this for
Daddy, she said softly, placing a hand on his tensed arm, sometimes
you can't fix things. This will go away in time, and I really don't think there's
much you can do to make it stop. I appreciate that you want to try, but I think
you need to just go back to Washington, and let this die out on its own.
He looked down at the table, I don't know if I can do that, honey. I can't
stand to feel that powerless.
This time we are powerless, Dad. We need to calm down and wait until it
* * * * * * * * * * *
After her father left, Jamie went into the living room and spent a few moments
watching her partner. She seemed to have been hypnotized by the television and
remained oblivious to Jamie's presence. Can I convince you to come to bed?
I don't know, Ryan said. I think I'm too keyed up
This isn't helping, Ryan. It's just making you angrier. I can tell by your
that's about it, she snapped. I honestly
don't think I've ever been this angry. She let out a humorless laugh and
said, I keep saying that, and then some bastard makes me hit a new high.
Jamie came around the front of the sofa to take a better look at her partner.
The tall woman's hands were curled into fists, and every muscle looked like it
was coiled to strike. Jamie placed her hands on her belly, and just as she thought,
the muscles were rigid with tension. Honey, please turn it off. It's making
I want vengeance, Ryan said quietly, her flashing eyes glowing in
the blue light of the television.
Oh, honey, Jamie sighed. She sat down next to her and tried to draw
her attention away from the television. Ryan, that's not like you. Come
on, now. You've got to put this in perspective.
The dark head finally turned towards her, Ryan's face showing a mixture of incredulity
and indignation. Perspective? I'll give you perspective! One of your former
friends, a woman who sponged off your generosity for three years, a woman whose
mother was your mother's best friend for 15 years, decides, out of nothing but
spite and vindictiveness, to throw us to the wolves. I've seen our faces plastered
on every news show, with the skuzzy ones asking if I'm the hero I'm purported
to be, or just an opportunist who's taking advantage of my wealthy, inexperienced
lover. Even the shows that claim to take the high ground are covering the story
in nearly the same way they just use the subterfuge of talking about how
wrong it is to know all of these nasty things, and how little privacy we all have.
Her eyes burned in their intensity as she growled, There's your perspective!
Jamie didn't respond, knowing there was nothing she could say at this point to
soothe her partner. Looking into troubled blue eyes she made a decision and said,
We're leaving tomorrow. I'm taking you someplace warm
where we can
snorkel to our heart's content. Narrowing her eyes, she said, Don't
even think about arguing with me. I will not allow this to torture you, Ryan,
and the only solution I can think of is to leave until it's over.
In the blink of an eye, Ryan's expression changed from rage to wide-eyed worry.
What if it's never over?
Every news story has a life-cycle. When something else happens, we'll fade
back into anonymity.
Is this really the best idea, Jamie? Is it really wise to just run away?
She pursed her lips together and said, I've never run from anything in my
Jamie stroked her face with the tips of her fingers. I don't see any other
way. We'll be trapped here as long as the press is in front of both of our homes.
It will eat you alive to be trapped here in the house. We have options. Let's
Ryan cocked her head and asked, How about Pebble Beach? We could hide out
there and not be that bothered if the press was outside the gates. You can't see
a darned thing from the street.
That's an option, she said. I just thought you'd prefer to be
in Mexico or Belize. I'm sure we'd be completely anonymous there.
Yeah, we would, Ryan said. But if we went to Pebble Beach, we
could have my family come down for the weekend. That would really help. I need
You've got a deal, Jamie said, smoothing the hair from her forehead.
We just have to figure out a way to get the Boxster out of the garage.
That's impossible, Ryan said, shaking her head. We'll either
have to rent a car or borrow Rory's.
Let's rent, Jamie said. I don't want the parasites to know our
Ryan looked over at her partner. Now all we have to do is get some clothes
Nope. We're traveling with the clothes on our backs, Jamie said. We
can stop and buy a few things on the way down. I don't want to alert anyone that
we're taking off again.
Are you sure this isn't an elaborate scheme to be able to buy me clothes?
Ryan asked, her face gentling into a surprisingly warm smile.
No, but it's a nice side benefit.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Hey, Con, Ryan said when her brother picked up the phone.
Yeah? he asked sleepily. In just a moment he was wide awake, asking,
Nothing. We just decided we have to get out of here. The walls are closing
in on me, bro, she said with a shaky voice.
I can lend you a mask, he said, trying to be helpful. Maeve had entertained
the young women earlier in the evening with her story of Conor's exploits with
the press. Always creative, he had paid a visit to a costume shop and purchased
several rubber masks of former presidents, bloody ghouls and even a Monica Lewinski
mask. Maeve claimed that seeing the huge man walk to his truck wearing that mask
with a big cigar stuck in his mouth was the funniest thing she'd ever seen in
No, we thought we'd go down to Pebble Beach. We just have one problem,
she said. We'd really like to take Jamie's dad's BMW, but it's in Berkeley.
Interested in a reconnaissance mission?
Sure, he said, sounding brighter by the minute. Now?
Yeah, if you don't mind. Are you being followed?
No. They perk up when I leave, but they don't even take my picture any longer.
Want me to swing by and pick you up?
No, meet me at 24th
and Noe. Can you leave soon?
Yep. Gimme five.
A few minutes later the siblings were headed to Berkeley. Ryan had prevailed upon
her partner to stay home, and after a half-hearted argument, the exhausted woman
agreed. Conor hatched the plan on the way over. It's late enough that they're
gonna be inattentive, he said. Drop me off a block away. I'll just
stroll down the street, and make a run for the car. I should be able to evade
them, since I assume I'll catch them unawares.
What if they catch you? Ryan asked. I don't want you to do anything
If they catch me, they catch me. It's still worth a try.
Okay, Ryan said. Now remember to leave it by Mr. Regan's house.
Just leave the keys under the mat.
Well, let's give it a go. If it doesn't work, we'll just rent a car.
Oh, it'll work, he said, his blue eyes flashing with excitement.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan parked just far enough away to be able to watch her brother lope down the
street, one of her Cal caps on his head to disguise his appearance. It looked
as though the press was caught napping, because he reached the car and took off
before anyone could scramble to his car or van. As the BMW flew past the truck,
Ryan could hear Conor's demonic laugh, broadcast to all over the car's public
address system. He's having altogether too much fun with this, she thought
as a fond grin settled onto her face.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan slept very little, her newly developed claustrophobia kicking in with a vengeance.
Knowing that the reporters were right outside of her father's house felt like
another invasion, and her imagination began to work overtime. Unable to shake
the feeling of being trapped, she finally got up and put on her warm-ups. She
hunted around in Kevin's old room and found a bandana, then tied it around her
head, hiding her distinctive mane. Leaving a note upon her pillow for Jamie, she
snuck out of the back door, crossing through every yard that she knew didn't house
She circled around the block and peered down at the reporters, the crowd now dwindled
to a pair. They were obviously chilled, as the night was cold and foggy, and she
took some solace in that fact, hoping they were as uncomfortable as she.
Feeling a bit better now that she was outdoors, she walked the two blocks to her
own home, just to see what was going on. A small pack of men was standing on the
street corner, also looking chilled and bored. They were drinking coffee, and
she smiled when she realized that all of the decent coffee shops in the neighborhood
were long-closed. I hope you choke on the swill, she thought, with venom
filling her heart.
Bored, anxious, and filled with rage, she made the only choice available to her.
She started to walk, then when her muscles limbered up, she broke into a slow
jog, then a quicker one. It didn't take too long, and just after 3 a.m. she walked
up to the front counter of Castro Fitness. Luckily, the person at the front desk
knew her, and after a few minutes of murmuring sympathetic words for her plight,
he waved her in.
Her bandana changed her look just enough so that hardly anyone recognized her.
There were only six people working out at that early hour, and the one sharp-eyed
man who did manage to place her just walked by and muttered, Don't let the
bastards get you down, girl.
She smiled at him and nodded, I'm trying not to.
Deciding that what she most needed was a focus for her anger, she slipped on some
lightweight hand-protectors and started to work on the speed bag, getting a nice
rhythm going, imagining that the bag bore the image of a certain blonde traitor
that she was certain to wreak disaster upon.
After working the speed bag until her arms were heavy, Ryan had the trainer on
duty lace her hands into a pair of boxing gloves, and she gave the heavy bag such
a workout that the sturdy hooks holding it into the ceiling groaned. By the time
she was finished, every person in the gym was casting curious glances at her
but this time it wasn't because they recognized her. Every person there was actually
glad that they didn't know her and relieved that they weren't the ones
that the darkly beautiful woman was cursing under her breath while she whaled
upon the leather of the innocent bag.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Tiptoeing into the bedroom, Ryan shucked her clothing as quickly as possible.
She didn't have a change of clothes, so she had been forced to run home just to
keep from freezing once the cold night air hit her sodden warm-ups.
They had left their suitcases at Niall's, since they had to sneak into the house,
so she didn't have another thing to put on. Wrapping herself in a sheet, she took
her wet clothing and put it in the dryer so she could wear it until she could
send someone to her house for a fresh supply. She dropped the sheet and slipped
into bed, her body a dichotomy of ice cold and steaming hot. Regrettably, Jamie
automatically cuddled up to her as soon as she slipped beneath the covers, and
her nice warm thighs pressed against the freezing cold flesh of Ryan's butt.
she mumbled, then blinked her eyes open. Ryan turned over
and looked at her, and when Jamie focused on the alert, haunted blue eyes staring
at her, she knew something was awry. Why are you so wide awake? Her
warm hands touched various parts of Ryan's body, then she sat up. Reaching up
to touch Ryan's hair she said, You're dripping wet and freezing cold. Were
you outside? Is it raining?
I was outside. I was going nuts, Ryan said softly. I couldn't
stand to be trapped in here another minute. I finally went to the gym and tortured
some of the equipment. I guess I didn't realize how much I was sweating. I couldn't
find a hair dryer
Jamie yawned noisily, and immediately made an offer. This is silly. Let's
get up and go right now. You're obviously not going to sleep.
Really? Ryan asked, her hopeful, fragile expression nearly breaking
Of course, she said, giving her a firm squeeze. I might need
to crawl in the back seat and sleep, but I think you'll feel better once we're
out of here.
I will, she said, her voice hoarse with emotion. I'm sure I
Come on then. We can grab breakfast on the road, and shower when we get
there. Let's get out of here before the reporters wake up.
When he heard them stirring, Martin came into the living room. What are
you two up to? he asked. It's not 5 a.m.!
We're going down to Pebble Beach, Da, Ryan said. I can't take
another minute of this.
He nodded, understanding that his daughter was one of the last people in the world
who could tolerate forced confinement. How long will you be gone?
As long as we have to be. I'm sure we'll be there on the weekend,
she said. Any chance of a visit?
You don't have to ask twice, he said. We'll be there.
Bring everybody. Come down on Saturday morning and stay over, okay?
We'll come on Friday, he said. And we'll stay the whole weekend.
Will you be all right, sweetheart? he asked, cupping her cheek with his
She just nodded her head.
Call me when you get there, okay?
I will, she said, another few tears leaking out. Don't worry
about me, Da, I'm sure I'll be fine as soon as I don't feel like a rat caught
in a trap.
Her wrapped her in his arms and held her tight, rocking her soothingly for a few
moments. I know that it upset you, darlin', but I think your coach did you
a great favor by asking you not to play basketball for a while. You and Jamie
can relax and just focus on building your strength back up. I've been worried
about you ever since you had the flu, and this stress is just making matters worse.
Patting her at various spots, he said, Why are your clothes wet?
Long story. I went over to the gym to work out and I don't have anything
to change into. This stuff dries quickly, though. It'll be fine by the time we
get to the beach.
He shook his head, sharing a knowing look with Jamie.
I'm going to focus on putting some weight back on her, and making her sleep
twelve hours a day, Jamie said, patting her lover's concave stomach when
Martin released her. I'm looking at this as a blessing in disguise.
Now who's the optimist? Ryan challenged.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan drove slowly down the streets of Carmel, looking about anxiously as she tried
to determine if anyone was watching them.
Noticing her darting eyes, Jamie placed a hand on her thigh and soothed, We
weren't followed. No one knows we're here.
They will as soon as we get out of the car. Someone will spot us and call
I don't think that's necessarily true
Carmel is pretty
laid back, and people are very used to celebrities. There are practically no tourists
this time of year, and I think the locals will ignore us completely.
I hope so, Ryan said, the small furrow between her eyes threatening
to become a permanent fixture.
* * * * * * * * * * *
They had breakfast without event, and Ryan started to relax just a little when
she began to see that Jamie's prediction was holding true. No one gave them a
second glance at the restaurant, and when they stood on the sidewalk after their
meal, the passersby blithely ignored them.
The weather was damp and cold, the brisk wind whipping through their light clothes
Ryan's T-shirt still damp from her early-morning workout. Time to
go shopping, Jamie said. Is there anything you need?
Need? No, she said immediately. But there are some things that
I'd like to have.
Name it, Jamie said.
Well, I could use a new ski jacket. Mine's pretty thrashed, and I know the
duct tape that holds it together bothers you. And I like those fleece pullovers
you have. They look really soft. Maybe some fleece pants, too. Do they make those?
Sure, the blonde said. Cocking her head at her partner, she realized
that Ryan was seeking warmth and comfort in any form she could manage, and she
decided that her partner would be cuddled in softness the whole time they were
in Pebble Beach.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When they entered the first store, Jamie noted that Ryan was fidgeting within
three minutes. Make you a deal. I'll shop for underwear, pajamas, socks
and shirts. You go down the street to the ski and surf shop and buy yourself a
new jacket and some sweats. By the time you get back here, we'll get you a pair
of slacks and some shoes and be done.
I don't need slacks, Ryan said. Besides, they won't have any
that fit me.
You've told me you can wear men's slacks if they're pleated and cut slim.
I want to be able to take you out to dinner, so just humor me, okay?
Okay. Be back in a few.
Take your time so I can buy some things without being supervised! Jamie
thought, but wisely didn't give voice to her wish.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan returned with an attractive jacket; a nice spruce green with a little bit
of black detailing around the slash pockets. She had also purchased a pair of
snug-fitting black fleece pants with a matching vest; a pair of fleece overalls
in a green color very similar to her jacket; two turtleneck sweaters; and a pair
of running shoes. How'd I do? she asked as Jamie poked her head into
Very well! I was afraid every purchase would be a fight.
Nope. I'm planning on being very compliant while we're here. I have enough
things to worry about without arguing about money.
Jamie's eyes brightened and she said, Then let's make one last stop. I've
got something all picked out for you.
Ryan gamely went along, allowing herself to be talked into a form-fitting, black
knit polo sweater, a pair of men's Italian-made pleated slacks in a slate gray,
and a pair of shiny black leather shoes. Done? the dark-haired woman
Done, Jamie said.
* * * * * * * * * * *
I don't think you could look any cuter, Jamie said as she regarded
her partner who was modeling in front of a cozy fire in the kitchen.
Looking at the tall woman, Jamie practically teared up at the adorable, childlike
grin on her face. I feel like I'm three years old, she said, giggling.
I've always been a little miffed that they didn't make rompers and onesies
for adults. Now I've got one.
Ryan was attired in her fleece overalls, along with a bright gold turtleneck.
Jamie knew that her partner would neglect to purchase anything to keep her feet
warm indoors, so she had bought matching pairs of Uggsfleece-lined shearling
boots that would keep them both toasty warm.
You do look like a little kid, Jamie said. It's a very flattering
look on you. Your whole mood seems brighter.
I feel like I can breathe again, Ryan said. I've never been
as happy as I was when we pulled in here without a news truck or a pack of reporters
nipping at our heels.
We're safe here. They can't get onto the property, and I doubt they'll even
be allowed in the compound. She looked thoughtful and said, I'm going
to call security and warn them that we're here just so they're prepared.
Ryan's eyes grew wide at that idea. But
they'll tell someone!
No, they won't. I'll talk to the head of the security force. He's a nice
guy, and I'm sure he'll do whatever he can to make sure we're safe. I think it's
wise to let him make some plans before we're tracked down.
Ryan swallowed, looking a little sick. You think they'll find us, huh?
That's a possibility, Jamie said. But if it happens, we'll just
stay on the property. We have plenty of room to run around here, and we can have
the service stock the refrigerator with anything we want. We really don't have
Ryan nodded, not very happy with the thought, but resigned to their fate. Okay.
Give him a call, she said glumly.
Jamie urged her to take a seat, then crawled onto her lap, snuggling close for
a moment. It will be fine, Ryan. I promise you that we're safe here. We
can swim, we can play tennis
there's even enough land to run if you want.
We won't feel trapped even if we have to stay on the property.
Ryan nodded, acknowledging that the statement was probably accurate. I'm
just twitchy, she said softly. My startle-response is off the scale.
I know, love. Why don't you go make some phone calls, she said as
she patted her gently. Call your father at work, then call your aunt. I
know they want to hear that we're okay.
All right, she said, her face brightening a little. I'll page
Conor, too, to let him know that we got the car without any problem. Then, I'll
check in with Rory, I know he's worried
Jamie got up and watched her lover go to the phone, seeing her step actually grow
lighter as she went to connect with her family.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Sneaking upstairs, Jamie stuck her head in the office and saw that Ryan was sitting
at the desk, staring at her computer, obviously concentrating fiercely on something.
Creeping back downstairs, she took the portable phone and called Anna, leaving
her number on her machine. She took the phone and went out onto her favorite patio,
the one with the glass wall and the incredible view of the ocean. She wrote in
her journal for a long time, and when the phone rang she had to flex her fingers
for a moment to get the circulation back into them.
Jamie? It's Anna Fleming.
Hi, Anna. Do you have time to talk now?
Yes. Is the way we've set this up all right for you?
Yeah, I think it'll work. If I don't have to, I'd rather not be tied to
a set time to speak with you. I'm sure some days I'll need to speak with you a
couple of times, and I'd really like the flexibility.
I think this will work, if you don't mind having to wait for me to call
you back when I can carve out some time.
I don't mind waiting, Anna. I have a feeling I'm going to be housebound
while we're down here.
Oh, dear, have the reporters found you already?
No, actually they haven't. I just think it's best for Ryan to hide out for
a while. She seems to feel safer if she's certain she's protected.
That's understandable, Anna said. But that doesn't tell me how
you feel about it.
Well, this wouldn't have been my choice, Anna. I wanted to go to Central
America and lie on a beach until this all calmed down. I'm sure we would have
been safe in Belize or Venezuela, and being outside in the warm sunshine was very,
So, how did you wind up in Pebble Beach?
It's what Ryan needed. She couldn't stand to be that far from her family,
Anna. They'll be able to come down and visit on the weekend, and I know that will
help her a lot.
But, Jamie, you have needs, too, and you can't afford to ignore them.
I'm not; really I'm not, Anna. But Ryan's about ready to snap! I've never
seen her like this, and it frightens me half to death. Her needs have to come
first right now.
I can understand that there are times in every relationship where one partner's
needs predominate, but you have to find other ways to tend to yourself, Jamie.
Why don't you tell me why you didn't want to visit Pebble Beach.
Well, it's certainly not a bad place to be captive, but I feel a little
like a bird in a gilded cage it's still a cage. I don't need to hide like
Ryan does right now. What I need is to interact with people that calms
me down. I'd like to spend time with my grandfather, and my mother when she gets
back from Italy. I want to be outside, Anna, and not just here on the grounds.
Then you're going to have to find a way to do that, Jamie. You say you're
confident that you're safe there. Why can't you leave Ryan for a while and go
out on your own?
Oh, I don't think I could do that, she said. She couldn't stand
to be here alone.
How long do you have before school starts, Jamie?
two weeks. Why?
Can you tolerate being cooped up there for two weeks?
Oh, God, I don't think I can, she said, her voice filled with worry.
Look, Jamie, I know how much you love Ryan, but driving yourself crazy to
help keep her sane seems like a bad trade-off. I also doubt that she'd like it
if she knew that you wanted to go out but didn't, because of her.
No, she'd hate that. But, Anna, you should see the look in her eyes when
she gets frightened. It breaks my heart!
I understand that, Jamie, but you have needs, too, and you can't afford
to ignore them. You're coping well so far, but that could change quickly if you
begin to feel trapped.
Sighing, she nodded and said, You're right. I'm already struggling with
nightmares, and these dreadful thoughts that keep bombarding me. Feeling like
a prisoner will make it worse.
You don't have to be gone for hours and hours. Keep it short at first, and
slowly increase the time you're gone. That will let both of you adjust.
Okay, Jamie said, sounding very unhappy. I suppose I don't have
much choice at this point.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Late that afternoon, Jamie found her partner diligently working at the computer
up in Catherine's office. Hi. You've been awfully busy this afternoon. Whatcha
Mmm, Ryan moaned as she stretched languidly. I answered all
of my mail, e-mailed my cousin, wrote real letters to my aunt and my grandparents,
then started to sketch out my plans for my independent study. She gave her
a sheepish look and added, I'm doing everything possible to avoid working
on my grad school applications.
Jamie sat down close to the desk and said, I don't think there's a person
in the world who likes to fill those out. Is there any way I can help?
Ryan sighed and shrugged her shoulders. No, I don't think so. I actually
finished most of them before the
Nodding slightly, Jamie picked up one of the unfinished packets and idly leafed
through it. You're nearly done, honey. Why not just finish this one up?
Taking it from her hand, Ryan went to the part of the application she was having
trouble with. I can't fill this in, she said, her frustration
Jamie looked to where she was pointing and nodded, That's a pretty important
part, honey. Maybe you should consider if your reticence means something.
Rolling her eyes dramatically, Ryan said, Out with it. Say what's on your
Reminding herself that Ryan was understandably short-tempered, Jamie ignored her
curtness. If you can't express why you want to go to medical school, maybe
you don't want to go.
Looking as though she was trying to curb her anger, Ryan said, I told you
that in so many words, Jamie. I don't want to go to medical school. I don't
want to be a physician. But if I want to do genetics research that involves clinical
trials, I either have to be a medical doctor, or do my work under the supervision
of a medical doctor. I have no intention of having someone else looking over my
shoulder through my entire career!
Having a feeling that Ryan was overstating the onerous nature of this requirement,
Jamie wisely decided not to voice that thought. Instead, she gentled her voice
and said, Do you want to get your Ph.D.?
Ryan nodded briefly. I do.
Then why not get your Ph.D. first? You could go to med school after you
worked a year or two and got a feeling for how bad it would be to work under the
direction of a physician.
Obviously feeling more than a little intractable, Ryan crossed her arms and shook
her head firmly. No. I know I'd hate having someone supervise me. I've talked
to plenty of researchers, Jamie, and it's a common complaint.
Well, the blonde said, trying to find an acceptable alternative, you
could get your Ph.D. first, and then go to med school, couldn't you? That way
you'd get to have a couple of years doing something you liked.
Again, the dark head shook. I don't want to waste any more time than is
absolutely necessary. Doing a joint M.D./Ph.D. program will save me from having
to take quite a few courses. It's the smarter way to do it.
Furrowing her brow, Jamie asked, I've never heard you say you want to do
work in a setting that would involve clinical trials. I thought you wanted to
do basic genetics research.
That's what I think today, she said. But I might change my mind
later on. I want to have a degree that will let me do anything that interests
me. It will be a hell of a lot easier to get the credentials now than when we
have a bunch of kids.
Jamie stood and looked at her partner, seeing that the woman was not going to
budge from her beliefs no matter how irrational they seemed to Jamie. Okay,
she sighed. Then you'd better think of a way to make your reasons for going
to med school sound a whole lot more earnest and noble. I don't think you'll win
many friends on the admissions committee if you say you want to be a doctor just
so you don't have to work for a doctor.
Surprisingly, Ryan found this funny, and her genuine laugh seemed like music to
Jamie's ears. That's what I've been struggling with. I'm just not in an
ass-kissing mood these days.
You'll get there, Jamie said. You're one of the best ass-kissers
I've ever met.
All depends on the ass, Ryan said. Now tell me about your day.
I haven't seen much of you.
I was on the phone, Jamie said as she lay down on the chaise and stretched
out. I spoke with the head of security, then I called my mom we talked
for a long time. Then I spoke with my father, and I called Leslie at the public
How's your mom? Ryan asked, getting to the call she considered the
Good, she said thoughtfully. At least, I think she's good. She
seemed a little down, but it's hard to tell if it's because of her own mood, or
if she's just worried about us. I did have to spend quite a while trying to talk
her out of coming home early. She's really upset about all of this.
Any thoughts on why she might be down, other than this stuff?
The blonde head shook gently and Jamie said, No, not really. She said things
are going well. She's seen her
I don't know what to call him,
she said. Nodding her head once she made her decision. I think I'll call
him by his name. She's spent time with Giacomo, and she's seen her cousins a couple
of times. Stephanie and Trey are due to be released from the drug rehab facility
this week, but she didn't sound very hopeful. She shrugged her shoulders
and added, I guess being around that group could affect your mood.
It would mine, Ryan said. But it's obvious that my mood's all
over the place anyway.
She looked a little sheepish, and Jamie gave her a gentle smile. We're both
tense, honey. You wouldn't be human if your mood wasn't a little volatile.
Ryan gazed at her reflectively for a moment. Why do you think the press
bothers me so much more than it does you?
I was thinking about that when I talked to my mom, Jamie
said. I'm not sure. Maybe I'm just used to feeling like I'm under a microscope,
but whatever the reason, it really doesn't bother me much, to be honest.
She looked at her partner and added, I'm sure I'd feel differently if I
had to play golf with them hovering over me. I think those incidents in North
Carolina really spooked you.
Maybe, Ryan said. I think you're just tougher than I am.
Jamie laughed, knowing that she was teasing, but she acknowledged the grain of
truth in her partner's statement. There are things I handle better, and
things you handle better. I think it's nice that we balance each other out a little
We do that, Ryan said. I'd be much more freaked out about this
if you weren't calm. You're really helping me to keep a lid on it. Thanks for
Jamie got up and stood next to Ryan. Absently playing with the fastener for the
strap of Ryan's overalls, she said, I don't think it's a good idea to keep
a lid on it, honey. I spoke with Anna this afternoon, and she gave me a referral
for a doctor down here. I uhm
made you an appointment for this afternoon.
Me? I thought you wanted to see someone to do some crisis counseling. I
assumed we'd talk to someone together.
I don't think that's a good idea, Jamie said. Our experiences
were very different, and I don't think it's a good idea to commingle them.
Looking at Ryan carefully she said, You've been talking and crying in your
sleep at night. It breaks my heart to hear you moaning and whimpering, honey.
You have to talk to someone to get those feelings out. I know that we each experienced
our own version of hell that night and I don't think it's good to visit
You do it, too, Ryan said quietly. Last night you started to
moan and then you sat straight up and screamed Caitlin's name. She shivered
and said, I couldn't get back to sleep after that.
We're going to drive each other mad, Jamie said. We both need
help, Ryan, and the sooner we get it, the sooner we'll get back to normal.
I don't want to talk about it, the dark woman said quietly. It's
like re-living it, Jamie, and I don't ever want to do that.
Jamie held her close and whispered into her ear. You're a very, very brave
woman, Ryan, and I know you can do this. She pulled away and kissed her
partner's pink cheeks. This is the only way, honey. You either talk about
it now, or let it torture you at night.
Okay, she sighed. Are you sure this is the only way?
Yes, baby. You need a professional. She kissed the top of her head
and said, I'm going to go into Carmel when you do. I want to do a little
You don't have to drive me, Ryan said.
I'm going to take one of Daddy's cars, honey. You go ahead and
take the BMW.
? Does that mean you might not be home when I get back?
maybe, she said. I need to get out for a little bit.
No big deal. I want to shop, maybe stop for a cup of cocoa. I need to feel like
I can go about my business.
But, why won't you be home when I am? the dark woman asked, her eyes
wide. How long will that take you?
Jamie wrapped her arms around her and said, I need to be outside for a while,
honey. I promise that I'll be fine and that you'll be fine. I'll bring
something home for dinner, and I swear I'll be home by six, okay?
Okay, Ryan said, her voice sounding as frightened as a small child
after a nightmare.
* * * * * * * * * * *
At 2 o'clock, the tall, dark, recalcitrant woman was shown into the therapist's
offices. Hi, Ryan said, extending her hand. I'm Ryan O'Flaherty.
Amanda Johns, the motherly, slightly rotund woman said. She led Ryan
into the spacious, tastefully decorated office and then stood just inside the
door. I usually sit in the brown recliner, she said. Take your
pick of any of the other seats.
Ryan chose the chair that was the greatest distance from the woman, and sat, stretching
her long legs out in front of her. The doctor took her seat as well, and gazed
at Ryan for a moment. I think I know why you're here, Ryan, she said,
but I'd like to hear what specifically brings you to me.
My girlfriend and a gun to my head, she said, trying to smile, but
failing rather dramatically. She scowled a bit and asked, What would you
like me to call you?
Whatever you like. I'm a medical doctor, so you can call me Doctor Johns,
or even Amanda if that pleases you.
Ryan nodded, then said, I'll decide later. She shifted in her seat,
and briefly wished she'd chosen the more comfortable looking sofa. Uhm
what did you ask?
I asked you to tell me why you decided to come see me. That is, assuming
that your original answer was a joke, she said, her eyes twinkling.
but only partially, Ryan said. I don't want to
be here, and I'm only doing it because my lover thinks I should. I don't want
to upset her any more than she already is, so I came.
You're from San Francisco, right? the doctor asked.
Uh-huh. We're seniors at Cal. I'm on the basketball team, and Jamie's on
the golf team we can't afford to be gone for too long.
so, you're just here for a short while?
I assume so. I have every intention of being at school in two weeks when
the next term starts.
Well then, we'd better get busy, hadn't we? Amanda leaned back, and
the footstool rose. You don't mind if I get comfortable, do you?
Are you comfortable, Ryan?
Do you want to change seats?
I guess. She got up and tried the sofa, maneuvering around until she
looked a bit more relaxed. This is better. That other chair's too low for
You're a little taller than my average client, the doctor said, giving
her another small smile.
I do tend to skew a curve, she said.
Amanda gazed at her for another moment, then said, There could be many reasons
for you to be here, Ryan, but I assume you're having some trouble because of the
carjacking. Is that right?
Yeah. The carjacking, killing a guy, being hunted like prey
little things, she said with more sarcasm than was polite.
Like most people, I'm aware of what happened to you and your partner,
the doctor said, but I didn't see it on television. So, while I know the
broad overview, I'm very weak on the details. Would you mind telling me what happened?
She sighed and sank further down in her seat. Looking bored, she said, We
were carjacked by two brothers. My little cousin was in the backseat of our car,
and when they took over, they threw both Jamie and me out. Jamie climbed back
into the backseat, and I jumped onto the roof right as they took off. We drove
around for a while, then I got a gun away from one of them and eventually I leaned
over and shot the driver. The bullet wounded both of them, and shortly after that
we drove into the bay. We all made it out of the car, and later, the one with
the more minor wound got an infection and died. She shrugged her shoulders
and said, That's it.
The doctor nodded, and said, I knew that much from the papers, Ryan.
She leaned forward and the footrest snapped shut. She rested her forearms on her
knees, now bringing her fairly close to her client. My guess is that you're
having trouble sleeping; you're irritable and anxious; probably a little paranoid;
most likely forgetful; and
She narrowed her eyes as she thought,
Also probably worried about your own health and/or your partner's.
She sat up taller and said, And, if you're like most people, you probably
feel some level of guilt about something that you did, or didn't do during the
ordeal. Leaning back against her chair again, she asked, How did I
The surprised look on Ryan's face gave testimony to her accuracy. How do
you know that?
I work with a lot of people who've been traumatized, Ryan. Those are very,
very common reactions. You wouldn't be human if you didn't have some of them.
I must be one major human, the tall woman grumbled, 'cause I
have all of 'em.
Then we have our work cut out for us, don't we? Amanda asked, giving
Ryan another smile. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but when you're awake
at 3 a.m. I bet you don't think of the ordeal in the cool, dispassionate tone
that you used when you recounted it to me.
No, I don't, Ryan said.
Okay. Then let's do it again, but this time, I'd really like for you to
start at the beginning and tell me not only what happened, but how you felt as
the events unfolded.
The tall woman sat upright, her body stiff. I don't wanna do that.
Tell me why, the doctor asked softly.
Ryan got to her feet and went to the window, the muscles in her back so tight
that they were visible through her knit shirt. I lived it once. Once was
too many times.
You have panic attacks, don't you, Ryan?
I just had one
bad one, she said.
Are you afraid of having another?
The dark head nodded briefly.
Are you afraid of having one in front of me?
Again, Ryan nodded, not saying a word.
That's understandable, the doctor said. I've been with a lot
of people who have them, Ryan, and they're nothing to be ashamed of. It's just
the way your body reacts to extreme levels of stress. It's really very common.
They scare me, she said quietly.
Of course they do, Amanda said. Why don't you sit down and tell
me how you've been dealing with the stress so far?
Ryan did so, sticking her feet out in front of herself, looking like a sullen
teenager. I went berserk and nearly trashed the women's locker room at the
new gym at Cal; I took some sleeping pills and drank everything I could get my
hands on in my mini bar when we were on a road trip; and of course, I had a panic
attack on national television. They're unconventional strategies, but they've
The doctor nodded. I rather doubt that. With a little work, we can get you
past your fears, Ryan, but you've got to be willing to work hard. I know you don't
want to talk about how you feel, but that's the only way to reduce the hold these
fears have over you. I promise you that it's the only way.
I don't want to, she repeated, sounding more intractable by the minute.
How about this? Amanda said. Would it help you to write down
your thoughts, rather than speak them?
The young woman shrugged her shoulders, still looking sullen and withdrawn.
Are you willing to try?
Amanda looked at her watch and said, Our time is up, Ryan, but I don't want
you to leave yet. It's really important that you get a little of this out today,
and I'd like you to be here in the office when you do. I have another small room,
where my secretary sits. She's not here today, so you can use her computer. I'd
like you to take the next hour and try to express some of your feelings about
what happened when you were carjacked. Take your time, do it slowly, and if you
start to feel tense, just take a break. Walk around, take some deep breaths; just
don't let yourself be overwhelmed. I'll come and get you in an hour. If you want
to, we can talk some more. But if not, you can go home. Okay?
All right. Ryan got up and followed the doctor into a small, but cheery
office. She looked the computer over and said, I'm a Mac person, but I know
how to use Word. This will be fine.
Patting her on the back, Amanda said, I'll be back in an hour. Remember,
don't try to go outside of your comfort zone. It's important to get this out,
but you don't have to do it all in a day.
Right. See you then. She sat down and adjusted the office chair, then
got to work, her fingers flying over the keys by the time Amanda closed the door.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When the doctor opened the door an hour later, Ryan was bent at the waist, head
lying atop the desk on her crossed arms. She lifted her head when she heard Amanda,
and the doctor nearly gasped at the sight. Her eyes were red and swollen, and
her long bangs clung to her sweat dampened face. Her skin was pale and clammy
looking, and she shook noticeably when she tried to sit up.
Going to her, Amanda placed a hand on her shoulder and stroked her gently. Got
carried away, huh?
You said it was important to get it out, she said. I don't like
to give in to my fears.
Do you want to stay and talk about this, or have you had enough? the
I really get to choose?
Of course you do, Ryan. I want to help you. If you really don't want to
be here, you're wasting your money.
She looked up at her, her expression childlike, and hopeful. Don't you want
to see what I wrote?
Sure. Why don't you print it out, the doctor said. Then delete
it so no one else can read it.
Ryan did so, then handed her the impressive stack of paper. Do you want
to read it, or should I read it to you?
That depends on what you want. I'm happy to read it myself; either with
you here or not. I'd also be happy to have you read it to me.
Extending the papers, Ryan said, I've never been so tired. Would you mind
just reading it?
No, not at all. The doctor took the papers and said, Will you
Yeah. I have to, she said glumly.
You certainly seem like the type of woman who doesn't mind working hard
once she puts her mind to it, Amanda said. I can see you at
10 and at 2 tomorrow.
Twice? Ryan asked, eyes wide.
At first, I think we should, Amanda said. Just until you're
not feeling so panicky.
Will this last long? Ryan asked tentatively.
It doesn't have to, Amanda said. We'll get through this. We'll
work together, and get through this. Looking at her for a moment, she said,
As you know, I can prescribe medication to help you cope, Ryan. Some of
the selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors have shown good results in people
prone to panic attacks. Would you like to consider that avenue?
No, Ryan said, her eyes wide. I don't want to depend on drugs
to get me through this.
Medication can be a tool that helps you get over the rough spots, Ryan.
But it won't do the work for you.
I'd really rather not, she said, shaking her dark head. I feel
broken enough as it is. Having to take drugs would make me feel worse.
Okay, Amanda said. But if you change your mind, I'm confident
there is a drug that can help with the panic attacks.
I'll keep that in mind, Ryan said, giving the doctor a look that indicated
a complete lack of receptivity.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When she got home, the street was still free of reporters, and she heaved a sigh
of relief, unable to bear the thought of being harassed further. Sticking her
head in the house, she called out for her partner, then her stomach flipped when
she realized that Jamie wasn't home.
* * * * * * * * * * *
A little before six, Jamie pulled into the garage, and looked up in surprise when
she turned off the car and heard music blaring. Getting out, she realized that
the sound was coming from the second floor gym. She climbed the stairs and found
Ryan vigorously pumping iron, her chest muscles gleaming with sweat as she did
a set of dumbbell curls. Honey, I'm home, she shouted over the pounding
Ryan looked up and gave her a relieved smile. Trotting over to the stereo, she
turned the volume down. Jamie looked up and noticed that the television was on,
too, her partner obviously trying to fill the room with noise. Hi. I uhm
needed to work off some energy.
Are you all right, baby?
Yeah. I'll come down when I'm finished, okay? I need to do a few more things.
All right, sweetheart. I'll start dinner.
As soon as Jamie left the room, the volume rose again. Ryan was gone for another
half hour, and when she entered the house, she was a sweaty mess. I'll go
shower and come back and help, okay?
Sure, love. I'm just about finished.
Even though Jamie had enjoyed going out, she was a little shaky, as well. After
dinner they sat together in front of a warm fire in the kitchen, sipping on a
nice bottle of deep red cabernet. Ryan had given off clear signals that she wasn't
in the mood for any physical contact, so they maintained a respectful distance
from each other. Are you sure therapy is going to help? Ryan asked,
her voice thin and filled with worry.
Yes, yes, Jamie said. I know it's painful, but we have to suck
it up and do it.
I was afraid you were going to say that, Ryan said, still unable to
stop the lurid video that was rolling in her mind locked on replay.
* * * * * * * * * * *
A terrified scream woke Jamie not twenty minutes after she had fallen asleep.
Her stomach in knots, the groggy blonde enveloped Ryan in a warm embrace and tried
to soothe her through her nightmare, forsaking her own sleep, which she desperately
A little over an hour later, Jamie returned the favor, waking Ryan with her inarticulate
mumbling which slowly turned into groaning and rapid breathing. Ryan tried to
calm her, and slowly succeeded. But her own rest was ruined, and she eventually
got up and sat on the window seat, watching and listening to the waves crashing
against the shore feeling that the roiling of her own soul could rival
the tumultuous surf.
* * * * * * * * * * *
By the end of her first session the next day, Ryan felt like she'd been beaten
with sticks. Amanda had slowly urged her to open her protective shell and talk
about the things that were interfering with her sleep. Trying to stall for time,
Ryan asked, Can you explain something to me?
Sure, if I can.
Why did we both do so well when we were on vacation? We didn't have one
nightmare, we didn't have this crap breaking into every third thought, and we
really enjoyed being together. Now I can hardly stand to be in the same room with
Jamie! I don't feel like having sex, and that's one of the things that usually
keeps me calm, she said. Even kissing her reminds me of the thing.
She was once again unable to refer to the carjacking by any but the most obscure
reference, and had settled on thing. I hide out in her mom's
office, and work on school work all day and that's just not like me!
Amanda nodded, then said, That's not surprising, Ryan. Right now, seeing
Jamie only reminds you of the 'thing'. Being vulnerable, and open, and sexual
with her is just not something that's going to come easily for a while.
That's why I think coming here is a bad idea! Ryan cried. I
should feel better but I'm feeling worse!
You will feel better
I assure you that you will. Look, Ryan, what
happened to you in the Bahamas is not unexpected. You had a horrific, life-threatening
event occur, and a few days later you were able to leave everything behind. The
weather was different, you didn't have to see any of your family members, no one
brought the incident up you were truly on a vacation. Your emotions were
on vacation, too, Ryan. But you can't stay on vacation forever. At some point,
you have to buckle down and face your real life. You real life is pretty tough
right now, and I realize that your instinct is to run from it. But you can only
run so far and so fast. Your emotions have to be dealt with, and I assure you
that this is the right place to deal with them. I guarantee you that you can make
some progress here, and be able to rely on Jamie once again for your emotional
I miss her, Ryan sighed, a few tears escaping. It reminds me
of how close I came to losing her
She dropped her head in her hands
and started to cry again, letting out some of the feelings that had been choking
* * * * * * * * * * *
During her three-hour break, Ryan did nothing more than walk aimlessly down the
streets of Carmel, finally finding herself by the ocean. She sat down and let
the cold breeze and colder sea-spray hit her body, feeling more alive and more
connected to the earth when she was being buffeted by nature. When it was time
to go, she stood and forced herself back to Amanda's office, hoping that the woman
had, during the break, decided to quit practicing psychiatry completely.
* * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as Ryan left the house that morning, Jamie got into the Acura NSX and
drove into Carmel. She really didn't have anything on her agenda, but she desperately
needed to be around other people. Choosing a crowded diner, she sat at the counter,
reading the paper while absently listening to the people around her converse.
Hi, said an elderly woman. What can I get for ya?
Jamie looked up and said, I'd like a bagel and some orange juice.
The woman stared at her for a moment, then said, You're
That's me, she said. She shook her head and let out a mirthless laugh.
It's hard to think of myself as a celebrity, even though I guess I am. I
feel much more like a frightened crime victim.
The woman's motherly instincts immediately emerged, and she said, Well,
of course you do, you poor little thing. Did you come down here for a little vacation?
Not really. My parents have a place down here, and we came to avoid being
hounded. I hope it doesn't start up here, too.
You're safe here, sweetie. It's Jamie
Uh-huh, she said. What's your name?
I'm Helen, she said. You'll be safe here, Jamie. I'll see to
Giving her a warm smile, Jamie asked, And just how will you accomplish that,
This is my place, she said proudly, and I'll fire anyone who
rats you out. I don't put up with any nonsense around here.
I guess I should just stay in the house, but I've been feeling like a prisoner,
she said. I really have to get out a little.
I promise you that you won't be bothered here, the woman said. And
forget the bagel. You need to put on a little weight, Jamie. How about some of
the best blueberry pancakes you've ever had?
Who can say no to blueberry pancakes? she asked, giving the woman
a warm smile. Bring 'em on, Helen.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After enjoying both the food and a long chat with Helen, Jamie was just about
at her car when her cell rang. Hello?
Hi, Jamie. It's Jack.
Oh, hi. Sorry I didn't return your call, but I've just been overwhelmed.
I hope you understand.
Sure I do, he said. And if you don't want to talk now, we don't
have to. I'm just worried about you, and I wanted to hear your voice.
We're okay, she said. Neither of us was hurt badly. We just
have to get a little peace and quiet so we can heal emotionally.
I can't imagine that Ryan isn't pretty banged up. What she did was
Yeah, she's a wow kinda woman.
can I ask you a question? And I'd really like you to be honest
Sure. I'll try.
kinda want to stay in touch with you. Not to be best friends
or anything, but just to
No, I don't think I do know, she said.
I don't want it to be over. I know you don't love me anymore, and I'm really
happy with Natalie, but I want to have at least some connection to you.
She paused and thought about it for a long time. Finally, she made up her mind.
You know, I really wish I were the kind of person who could be friends with
my ex, but I'm not. I love you, Jack, but our relationship is over. I'm sorry,
but it doesn't work for me to maintain contact.
He was quiet for a moment, then asked, Is it Ryan? Does it bother her?
Jamie barked out a wry laugh. She wouldn't complain if I had you move in
with us. No, Jack, she's not like that. She thinks it's great to maintain relationships
with former lovers. This is my decision. I care about you, and I very much want
you to have a fulfilling life. I'd just rather hear about it from people who know
Okay, he said quietly. I'm just having a hard time letting go.
how would Natalie feel if she knew that?
I have no idea
Oh, please. Think about it for a minute, Jack. Natalie would be somewhere
between very uncomfortable and livid about us staying in touch. You'd know that
if you'd let yourself admit it.
you're right. He sighed deeply and said, I
just have trouble closing the door.
I know that about you, Jack. Uhm
speaking of letting go, why did
you let go of your plans to clerk for a federal judge this year? I'm surprised
you're even in town.
Well, Natalie got a job here in town, and we just decided that it wasn't
good for our relationship to be that far away from each other.
it sounds like you two have some good instincts. I urge
you to follow them. Concentrate on her like I concentrate on Ryan, and you'll
have a happy marriage. What you and I had will always be special, Jack, but it's
All right. There was an uncomfortable silence, then he said, Take
care of yourself, Jamie. I'll
I'll always love you.
Thank you, Jack, she said quietly. Have a very nice life.
She hung up and sat in the NSX for a long time, feeling the sadness that came
over her every time they spoke. If I really worked at it, I could get over
my discomfort and be able to talk to him without feeling down. But that's not
where I want to put my energies. My life is messy enough without asking for complications.
It's time to let go, Jack. I have.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 7
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