AUTHOR'S NOTE: As I began writing the sequel for Hammer and Nails, I started reading it again and made some changes to it. Nothing drastic, the outcome is still the same. Just some improvements and an added chapter. Basically it happens from chapter 10 and on.

Hammer and Nails

Revised 7/19/04


Chapter 1

Bernadette was used to being in charge. She'd gotten used to it early in life being the first-born of 4 children. Her parents were wonderful, caring people, but living where they did in California, they worked multiple jobs to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. That left Bernadette to watch her siblings as soon as she was old enough to cook macaroni and cheese.

She'd grown comfortable with being needed by others and with that she found herself constantly being the one people called. Take for instance her youngest brother Matt. She'd pretty much raised him and she was definitely more of a mother figure than a sister to him.

So, naturally, when Matt had asked if his sister could join him for his 21st birthday party, he also asked if she could be the designated driver.

"Jeez… 21 years old. That makes me... 29, again!" Bernadette happily mused as they headed towards the first bar of the evening.

"Bernsy, are you that old you've forgotten we are 12 years apart?" Matt chuckled as she gave him an affectionate pinch on the cheek he halfheartedly tried to duck out of.

"Look, young man, it ain't nice ta mess with ya elders. Now I want ya ta behave or we'll be havin' us a little talk." He grinned widely at his sister's very poor impersonation of their cranky grandfather Chase, who passed away some years ago. They loved him dearly and impromptu impersonations brought back fond memories of the old cuss.

Their twin blue eyes sparkled as they pulled into the first bar of the night called the Post. It was a weekend warrior bar where middle-class men and women would stop their beloved Harleys and Yamahas after a day trip up and down the Southern California stretch of Pacific Coast Highway. It was pretty crowded on this warm September night; the sounds of a popular blues band emanating from the building.

Bernadette walked into the bar after Matt and watched him greet his buddies. She recognized Sean and Pete from the basketball court where she'd sometimes play pick up ball with Matt. She knew the rest, Clay and Alex, from work.

As she continued her walk towards Matt and his friends, she tensed and froze when she felt a heavy hand on her shoulder. But before she could spin around and confront whoever it was, a big toothy grin invaded her personal space.

"Mark!" she exclaimed giving the tall man a hug. "When did you get in?" she asked, a little breathless at the surprise. "Pretty much now. I figured you guys would stop here first." He turned in the direction she was heading in when he approached her and searched for a familiar dark head.

"He's over with his buddies. Come on, let's go join him."

Bernadette took a moment to look at her middle brother. He looked a lot thinner than his usual svelte self and she made it a point to ask him about it later. She imagined though that it had to do with being stationed abroad for 6 months with the Navy. She smiled to herself remembering what a picky eater he was.

He was right between her and Matt in age and was probably the best looking of the men in the family. Not to say any of them were not good looking though. The entire family with their chestnut brown to midnight black hair and cerulean blue eyes were quite beautiful in their own right. But it was Mark and Bernadette who looked the most alike with the darkest of hair and the lightest blue eyes of the bunch. The contrasting colors coupled with their chiseled features made them quite striking.

You wouldn't get either of them to say it about themselves though. It wasn't out of modesty either, they just didn't think like that. Growing up the way they did, aesthetic beauty just wasn't considered any kind of asset. Thick skin, physical strength and sense of humor were.

"Well, look what the cat drug in!" Matt exclaimed upon seeing his older brother. They hugged each other slapping the other's back like only men do. Bernadette chuckled at the two of them. I'm really glad he's here, she thought.

"So how long are you back?" asked Matt as he handed Mark a beer. "Five months. I'll be off to Japan next." Matt seemed to digest this info in stride but Bernadette was a bit disappointed. "How long will you be stationed there?" she asked.

Mark caught the tone in his big sister's voice and gave a small smile before answering. "Probably about a year."

She looked down at her beer for a moment and then nodded acceptingly as she met his eyes.

"So how is work going, you two?" Mark asked his siblings, changing the subject.

"Good. Except my boss works me to death." Matt smirked as Bernadette rolled her eyes.

"You'd have to show up on time for me to work you to death!" Bernadette countered back.

"Hey! I'm not late…that often." He trailed off weakly.

"Never was an early riser, this one." Mark said as he wrapped his long fingers around the back of Matt's neck playfully.

"You guys still working on that commercial building on Truitt Street?" Mark asked Bernadette as he released his little brother's neck.

"Nah, we finished that up about two weeks ago, thank God!" Bernadette sighed. "Some people just can't handle having a female foreman, especially on a big project."

Matt's friends nodded in understanding. After swallowing a drink of his beer, Alex chuckled, "Boss, I was sure you were gonna wrap a piece of rebar around that subcontractor's head when he called you 'girl' and asked where the foreman was."

"He wasn't even the worst." Matt said shaking his head. He was just about to say something else when he caught a subtle "shh" motion from Bernadette. He recovered quickly by waving over the attractive waitress for another round.

Bernadette knew that it made Mark a little uncomfortable to hear how some men in the construction field would give her a hard time. He'd worked a few years in construction when Bernadette was just getting started and when they were on the same site, he witnessed first hand how men would treat women they thought didn't belong on a site.

Bernadette, he knew, was more than capable of fighting her own battles. Being her brother made it hard not to teach the chauvinists a lesson though. He remembered a time when it was particularly bad and he was ready to go to the foreman. She'd told him not to.

"It would only give them more reason to say I shouldn't be here. If I keep my head down, work hard and take no shit from these guys they'll figure I'm not going anywhere and they'll eventually leave me alone."

She'd been right. Even a few of those same guys work on her crew now.


"Don't wanna."

"Matt you have to."


"You cannot sleep in my car. You've already christened it once tonight. You are not going to puke in my car anymore." Bernadette turned to her brother slumped over in the passenger seat and began to poke him in the ribs. Not hard, but enough to annoy even a very drunk 21 year old.

She'd dropped off everyone else with assurances that their cars would be safe in the parking lots until they were sober enough to get them.

Mark had gone home after the second bar to get some sleep. He stayed true to his word and had had only one beer at the first bar so he could drive home. Bernadette felt an odd sense of pride at her middle brother. He hadn't always made good decisions when he drank. I guess the Navy is doing him some good, she thought.

"Bernsy… The world is spinning…very fast…and…"

"Oh no you don't, brother, not again!" Before Matt could expel anymore of the contents of his stomach, she leaned over and opened the car door. Just as Matt was about to fall headfirst into the driveway she grabbed him around the waist and let him pollute something other than her poor truck.

"Don't worry, Matt, you'll feel better in the morning!" She sang to him as he leaned his head against the car doorframe and groaned.


"I feel like shit."

Bernadette chuckled as a boxer-clad Matt came staggering out of her guest room. His chestnut hair, which was usually well kept, was sticking out and up like Lady Liberty's crown in a tornado. Tiny red veins surrounded his blue eyes and he had a bruise shaped like a perfect circle between his eyes from where he fell against the door lock in the truck.

After she filled him in on the previous night's activities and just how embarrassed he should be at work tomorrow, she took pity on him and made him some toast and coffee.

He ate it gingerly at the table while Bernadette stood at the kitchen counter reading the paper and sipping her coffee. She paused to look at him every once in awhile, marveling at the speed in which her little brother had grown up. He's still such a kid though, she thought to herself with a smile.

"Hey, I found this phone number in my pocket." He said when he came out of the shower. He'd gone back to bed for a couple of more hours and finally felt human enough to shower and dress at about noon.

"Yeah… I think I remember you asking a girl to dance."

"Oh." He said casually. 3,2,1…

"OH!! I didn't…dance…Did I?" His look of utter panic sent her into a laughing fit so hard, she had to breathe deeply to calm herself.

"Mmm, brother, you tried." She said sympathetically. She began laughing again at the vision of this pretty little blonde's eyes going round as saucers as her brother began 'dancing.'

"Hey, I must not have sucked that bad, she gave me her number, see!" He looked at the number and then turned it around to read the back. "Her name is…is… Charles Lucas, dance instructor?"

Matt could only stare slack-jawed as his sister convulsed on the floor in laughter. It was rare to see this side of Bernadette. He would have enjoyed it, had it not been at his expense.

"Shut up." He finally pouted as he turned and headed back to the guest room.


"Rand!" Bernadette heard her last name being called out tersely but not unfriendly and knew immediately whom it was. She looked up slowly from the blueprint she was studying, confirming what she already knew. She was hoping to have a morning without "Type A", the nickname she'd given the new building project owner she was working for.

His name was Kratt and he took anal to a whole other level. Her budget proposal for his small industrial warehouse with a built in office had been returned to her not less than three times for what she thought were extremely ticky-tacky reasons.

Yes, it was his money, but revisions that took off $21.23 from the budget? It wasn't worth the time for him to drive to the site and harass her about it. He keeps this up and I'll never be finished with this, let alone get started.

He had in his hand what appeared to be the latest budget she'd proposed. With a deep sigh, she set her pencil down on the blueprint and began walking to meet him.

"Morning." He called out as she neared him. "I like this one, let's go with it." He said quickly, handing her the file. Thank God, thought Bernadette.

"How is next Tuesday for you?" He asked, surveying the ground that already started to be grated.

"Sounds good. My crew will be finished with some touch ups tomorrow at the other site so we'll be set to go."

They shook hands and he was on his way to his mid-sized luxury car. Even though he was a bit high-strung, she liked the fact he hardly noticed she was female. A female foreman at that. It made her hope the field of construction was changing, if only a little.

She had been around construction sites since she was very young. One of her dad's jobs was as a brick layer and she had sometimes taken her younger siblings down to see him or to bring him lunch during the summers when he worked close by.

As she'd grown up, she realized she enjoyed watching the process of structures being built. To start with nothing to foundation, framing, roofing… the whole process fascinated her.

When her father had begun teaching her how to repair simple things around the house and build cages for her pet rabbits, she knew this is what she wanted to do with her life.

Her mother had had a hard time with it at first. It was 'unlady like'. Deep down though, Bernadette's mother knew she was fighting useless battle. For one, Bernadette was never 'lady-like' to begin with. She excelled in math; she enjoyed team sports and hadn't worn a dress since she was six years old.

It's not that she didn't enjoy being female, she did. It was rather fun to show boys up who dismissed her just because she was a girl. The boys who didn't dismiss her usually ended up admiring her for her strength and beauty, but the latter reason would always be lost on her.

Try as they might, they could never get a date with the elusive tomboy. She wouldn't give them the time of day. Of course this led to nasty rumors about her sexual orientation. The boys couldn't fathom that she just wasn't interested in them because of their immaturity or personalities, not their gender.

She dated a few times after graduating high school before having a long-term relationship with a man named Chuck she met while taking a drafting class at the community college. They dated for a few years and he really helped her get her foot in the door of the male-dominated world of construction. They'd been together for about four years when he decided to take a job as a construction manager for a large company in Virginia. Bernadette could not imagine leaving her family or California for that matter and decided to stay.

Even though it was Chuck who got her her first couple of jobs, her rise to foreman was all her own doing. She always showed up on time, worked hard and learned as many skills and trades as she could.

She ran into the same type of men she did in high school but largely ignored them and let her actions speak for her. More often than not, she was more skilled than the ones making the insults and usually the foremen she worked for caught on to that.

There was only one time she really had to address one of the men, with her fist, and that was because he groped her ass. Not only did he have to endure the ridicule of his fellow construction workers, he had to explain the shiner to his wife.

She had made her way up to foreman about 4 years after starting to work full-time for a large construction company in her city. Her foreman at a couple of her jobs took notice and began grooming her to take over for him.

That was about 10 years ago. Now she had her own crew that treated her just like any other foreman. Except when they sensed a property owner or financial monkey suit was giving her a hard time. They would never say anything; they'd just make sure these guys would see a well-oiled machine of a construction site, which, even to the monkey-suits, would signify a good foreman.

Chapter 2

Jump, as her friends knew her, was happy. She'd be able to get on the trail in the morning, her favorite time to mountain bike. It had been a while since she'd been able to get out so early and she was looking forward to the ride.

Mountain biking had become a nice escape from the pressures of running her business, a small surf shop near the beach. The rough parts of getting it off the ground had passed, but it was still pretty all consuming if she wasn't careful. On the trail, all she had to concentrate on was loose sand, stumps and the occasional rattlesnake.

Jump hummed contentedly as she parked her car behind the shop. She had asked Sue to open up the shop and man it couple of hours. When she turned the corner to the front of the shop, she let out an aggravated sigh.

"Goddamnit, Sue!" Jump cursed her longtime, yet perpetually late friend. She had run by the surf shop to drop off some stuff and then pick up her mountain bike when she saw that the shop was still closed. It should have been open half an hour ago. She could see a few people heading towards her from the nearby beach. Obviously they'd been waiting for the store to open.

"Jump, maybe you should hire someone who can tell time!" called out Tim, a regular who frequented the shop and had become friends with Jump.

She heard him as she turned the key and smiled. Without looking back at him she banged through the door and quipped, "If you would become a productive citizen instead of surf all day, I'd offer you a job!"

"Oh…good one!" he chuckled as he grabbed the door to help her with the box she was carrying. She walked to the counter of the darkened shop and let the box slip from her arms as he found the lights and turned them on.

"Man, I was so looking forward to getting an early start." She whined as she ran her fingers carelessly through her sun-highlighted brown hair that was at the awkward stage of growing out.

"I could man the shop until Sue shows up, if you want…" Tim said as he helped himself to some board wax. She was tempted to let him but knew he was just offering to be polite. Tim was not one to be kept from such a beautiful day for surfing.

"Nah, just make sure you send all of your friends in to buy one item at a time throughout the day." She smiled at the thought of Sue and a long line of customers with just one item in their hand. "And tell them to pay in pennies."

Jump had been at the shop for about 15 minutes, just in time to get the store set up for the day with the postcard racks and sunscreen display just outside the door and register on when she saw a shock of white-blonde hair walking hurriedly into the store.

"I'm sooo sorry!" she said dramatically as she saw Jump with her hands on her hips. She shuffled past Jump and busied herself behind the counter, organizing the pens and bags and credit card machine just the way she liked them while talking at rapid-fire speed to a miffed Jump.

"You won't believe my story so I won't tell you. But, I'm here now. I'll dock my own pay and clean the restrooms for the next week. Do you want me to make you coffee before you go?"

Jump had a hard time staying mad at anyone. Even Sue who was perpetually late. This is why Sue rarely opens. Jump just got it into her head she could actually get in a morning bike ride before coming into the store.

Sue was a good worker and would come in at a moment's notice. She'd been there to help Jump through the tough times of starting a business, even taking little to no pay a couple of times.

This always went through Jump's mind when she wanted to throttle the young woman. So, being Jump, she just smiled and tossed the keys to Sue who snatched them out of the air.

"I'm assuming that somewhere in that story I won't believe that you forgot your keys to the shop as well?"

"God, you know me that well, don't you?" Sue said with genuine surprise as a sheepish smile spread across her lips.

Jump smirked her answer and rolled her well-ridden mountain bike out the door. "I'll be a little late today!" Jump called back as she headed down the sidewalk.

The bike trail Jump liked to take began in a small meadow. She liked riding it in the morning because of the way the sun spread its light through the small valley and enveloped the meadow in hazy illumination.

Since she opened the surf shop five years ago, her mornings usually belonged to it and she rarely got to go biking before 3pm. She'd never gotten around to hiring someone else to work the store, so it was just her and Sue. Jump would open and Sue would usually close.

Mondays were the one day they decided to close the store so they could both have a day off. So far, it was working out. But Jump really needed a bike ride today, so she'd asked Sue yesterday to switch shifts.

Even with the late morning start, she was still happy to get out and climb the hills and ride along the ridge that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. Up here, she thought of nothing but pushing through on her pedal strokes and navigating the slightly rocky terrain of the single-track trail.

After about an hour and a half, she reached the summit. At the lookout bench, she stopped to take a drink of her water and enjoy the view for a few moments. She looked down to where she knew her shop would be and then let her eyes scan the beach. She could barely make out the people setting up their blankets and umbrellas, getting ready for a day of soaking up the last of the late September warmth.

She shielded her eyes as she gazed into the vast blue-green ocean seemingly filled with billions of dancing diamonds as it reflected the sun back up to the sky. She was born and raised in California, one of the natives still left. When her parents divorced when she was in her early teens, she'd opted to stay with her dad in central California while her mom moved to Vermont to pursue a new career.

She'd like to think that she could have just as easily gone with her mom too, but she knew she was closer to her dad. At 18, she left to go to college in southern California, and she ended up staying. That was about 12 years ago. She really couldn't imagine living anywhere else. Especially on a day like today.

She leaned on her bike in a bit of trance for a few more moments until she heard some voices coming up the trail. Her solitude now gone, she pulled her gloves back on, clipped into her pedals and with three strong strokes, was flying down the back of the ridge.




"Christ, sis, couldn't you see I have my ear plugs in!" He cried as he pointed to his ear with one hand while he held the welding torch with the other.

"Sorry, I should have realized." She smiled sheepishly at him. "Is the concrete almost ready?"

"Yep, it's setting up pretty nice, we are just waiting for Alex and Clay to finish up so they can help pour."

"Great. Are you still coming over for dinner tonight? Mark is cooking." Bernadette asked as she made a show of inspecting his work. He unconsciously leaned out of the way so she could get a better look. It made her smile.

"Well, he is leaving for a year, I guess I could take his cooking one more time." They both shared chuckles at Mark's ability, or rather, inability to cook. At least she had extinguishers at home. And Tums.

"I talked him into barbequing steak. I'll watch him closely too." Bernadette winked.

"Right on." Matt said as he flipped his goggles back down. A few seconds later, he flipped them back up and called after Bernadette's retreating form.

"Can I… Oh never mind." Matt faltered. He looked down at his gloved hands and shuffled his feet.

"What?" She had a good idea what he wanted to ask. She just enjoyed torturing her little brother. He was just too adorable.

He really is having a hard time with this, she thought. She decided to spare him.

"Does this have anything to do with a certain blonde?" She smiled as he turned a little red. I guess I have my answer, she mused.

"Bring her along. Perhaps we can go dancing afterwards." She couldn't resist.

For weeks, Matt had been suspiciously quiet about his love life. He was usually very forthright in telling his sister about women he would flirt with or go out with. Not to brag, it was just the way he was. Where Mark and herself were pretty low-key daters, and their younger sister Carrie was already married, Matt would go out on dates weekly.

He was handsome, very charming and boyish; something that it seemed every girl in the region was interested in. So it wasn't a big surprise when Matt started talking about a blonde he'd been dating.

What was a surprise was that he'd kept it a secret for a couple of weeks and that the girl was the same one he asked to dance with the night of his birthday.

When he'd finally told Bernadette about it, she couldn't help but smile. It was just too damn cute. He stopped several times during the telling and threatened not to go on until she stopped sighing like a love-struck teenager. He truly thought she was mocking him when in reality she was a tad bit jealous. She suddenly realized that she would have liked to have someone talking excitedly about her like Matt was about this one.

"So, one night, I just picked up that piece of paper with the dance instructor's name thinking, what have I got to lose? Perhaps I can learn some moves and pick up even more chicks!" He grinned widely at that while his sister just groaned.

"Anyway, I decided to call. I figure the worse that could happen would be she just gave me a bogus name and number and I would just pretend I had the wrong number."

His face lights up a bit as he continues. "So I dial the number and a woman answers. I ask if this is the Charles Lucas Dance Studio and she starts laughing. I started to hang up when she says, "Hey what is your name again?"

"We talked for like an hour and decided to meet. When I asked her about the whole dance instructor thing she told me that if I thought enough to call about dance lessons, I might be good dating material."

"Why did you keep her a secret?" Bernadette realized she really wanted to know the answer. She sensed something was different about this one.

He drew his eyebrows together in thought, trying to find words to explain his feelings.

"Usually the girls I meet just become anecdotal stories I tell others, you know? Not that I don't enjoy going out with them or don't respect them. I'm just not interested in pursuing them for more than just a couple of fun dates. With Sue it is different. I guess I didn't want to jinx it or something. Is that silly of me, Bernsy?"

"No, Matt…not at all. Not at all." Bernadette had said somewhat wistfully.

A few hours later, they were cleaning up the site together when Bernadette turned to Matt. "So you aren't afraid to bring her to meet the crazy Rand family?" She asked as she put her hand on his shoulder heavily.

Matt smiled and answered, "No, well, except for Dad. I'm afraid he'll give me a hard time about her being a little older than me."

"By how much?" Bernadette asked.

"Um, about 6 years." He said quietly.

"Really? Wow, you go little brother!" Bernadette laughed as they walked to their trucks.


"What's wrong?" Jump said as she caught sight of Sue in the shop. This wouldn't have usually caused alarm but Sue was early for her shift. Naturally Jump thought something was wrong.

"Nothing is wrong, Boss. A girl can't be a little early to work once in awhile?" Sue continued to the back of the store to drop off her stuff as Jump muttered, "Try never in awhile."

"I heard that!" Sue called to her as she checked the dressing rooms for clothing to put away. Both Jump and the customer she was ringing up chuckled as they exchanged quick, friendly glances.

"Thanks for coming in." Jump smiled as the customer left with her beach sundries. Sue waited until the customer was out the door before hopping onto the counter and batting her eyelashes at her boss.

"You know that doesn't work on me… much." Jump swatted the girl on the hip. "Whaddya want?"

"Could I skip the store clean up tonight and just lock up? I'll keep it up during the rest of the day so there won't be much to do when you open tomorrow. I promise."

"That's fine. Just don't forget to bring in the display racks from outside, okay? You can bring them in a little early if you want."

"Thank you!" Sue beamed as she hopped off the counter to put the clothing away she'd collected from the dressing rooms.

"You have a date with that same guy?" Jump asked casually as she began collecting her stuff to go home.

"Yep, I'm meeting his family tonight. Apparently he has a brother…"

Jump cut that line of conversation right off.

"Don't even start with me Suzy Matchmaker. I'm way too busy, and besides, I really like where I am right now in my life. I have no one to answer to, no one drinking the last of the orange juice and putting the empty carton back, no one creating extra laundry in the bathroom or extra dishes in the sink. Nope, I'm fine with my life. Beholden to no one."

Sue sighed. Jump didn't know what she was missing. She'd only known Matt a few weeks but she already sensed this guy was the one. She got butterflies just thinking about him. Some day Jump would know this feeling.

She knew Jump well enough not to push her though. As sweet as her boss was, she was pretty set in her ways and not just a little headstrong. She knew what it took Jump to get this prime spot for her shop 5 years ago. It wasn't on her good looks alone.

She'd been friends with Jump since meeting her at lifeguard training 8 years ago. They'd become friends pretty much instantly; definitely supporting the opposites attract theory. Sue's wildness was yin to Jump's practical yang.

Yet they seemed to compliment each other in a way. Sue would drag her out to parties to try and get her friend to cut loose once in a while. Jump actually would, but never to the point where she couldn't track down the blonde who'd inevitably cut loose way too much and make sure she got home safely. Well, accept the night Jump acquired her nickname…

Still, Jump always had it together and Sue was happy to be along for the ride. So, when Jump announced that she was going to open a surf shop and pointed to the exact location where she was going to open it, a small building in desperate need of repair, Sue had no doubt that it was going to happen.

It took her friend 3 years of working God knows how many jobs, saving, going without, pawning and borrowing for enough to buy the lease to the little ramshackle building.

When it became hers, she called in favors from friends, working herself 15 to 18 hours a day for months to get it where it is today- a reputable, stable business with a steady stream of regulars and tourists.

There were many other surf shops on the same street but everyone loved the easy nature of the owner and her willingness to go above and beyond to make her customers happy. She was active in the community, always volunteering her time and or products to help keep the beach clean and kept up.

Now, five years later the shop had finally begun to turn a marginal profit and what Jump didn't use on living expenses went right back into the little shop for little improvements. She also made it a point to give Sue a regular raise twice a year and a small bonus at the end.

Jump didn't know this, but for Sue, their friendship was a true blessing. Sue wasn't sure where she'd be if Jump hadn't taken a chance on her and given her the opportunity as well as responsibility of helping to get the shop running. It settled Sue a great deal and gave her something to look forward to rather than looking for the next party or drink.

"Have a good time tonight. And remember, don't do anything I wouldn't do!" Called Jump as she went to collect her stuff to leave.

Sue giggled at her and couldn't help wishing for her friend the happiness she herself had just begun to experience. Oh Jump, one day you'll know.


"What's the number to order pizza, Bernsy?" Matt called out to Bernadette who was on the back deck of the house.

"It's the little pizza magnet on the fridge. Order whatever you want just make sure it has pepperoni, pineapple and no green peppers!" Bernadette yelled back as her and Mark finished putting out the little 'fire' that used to be 7 lovely cuts of rib-eye.

"Wow, I didn't realize your barbeque burned so hot. You should get one of those new ones. You know with the…"

Mark felt the glare more than saw it from his older sister. Frank, their father, just sat back in his beach chair, chuckling.

"Shut up, pop!" They both growled in unison, which made him laugh even louder.

He sobered a little and wiping the laughing tears from his eyes he said, "What would your mom think, telling your old man off like that!"

They both looked at each other and Mark replied, "She'd have told you to put down the beer and get the fire extinguisher instead of yelling, "Steaks are on fire!"

All three laughed and then trailed off into their own memories, each remembering something about the woman they'd lost almost three years ago to a vicious, indiscriminate killer-cancer. It was times like this when the family was together, that they'd feel her loss the most.

It was their father that broke out of the reverie first with a smile and red-rimmed eyes. "Come on, my children. Let's go make sure Matt ordered enough pizza."


"So, Sue, did you grow up around here?" Mark asked, making small talk while they ate pizza.

"Yeah, lived my whole life within 10 minutes of the beach. I wouldn't trade it for anything. The people are just so nice and easy going, you know?"

Bernadette could tell Mark took a liking to the friendly blonde. If she didn't know Mark better she'd swear he was flirting with her. Watch it, bro.

As Sue started telling Mark about her friend's shop she works at, Bernadette's eyes casually scanned over the table. She caught Matt looking at Sue's profile. She'd never seen Matt look at anyone like that before. It was somewhere between, "What did I do to deserve this" and "I want to jump your bones." She was a little embarrassed at catching that semi-private moment, until it dawned on her. He hadn't slept with her yet. Wow. I'm impressed.

She tuned back into the conversation in time to hear the makings of a textbook matchmaking attempt.

"So, if you are still here for a few more months, you should stop by and meet her. She's really cool and she loves to mountain bike too. Perhaps you could go together." Sue paused and then added, "Her nickname is Jump. Everyone calls her that. Ask her how she got it. That should break the ice easily." She finished with a glint of mischief in her sparkling brown eyes.

Smooth, Sue, but Mark will never go for it, thought Bernadette. Still, she liked this girl. She had a lot of spunk.


"How was dinner with Loverboy and his family last night?" asked Jump as she and Sue were busy opening some boxes filled with light jackets and sweats for the upcoming fall season.

"Well, I'll have you know it was a lot of fun. His family is great. And gorgeous, everyone of them." She seemed to be entertaining a very private, naughty thought when Jump cleared her throat to get her attention.

"Sorry. What was I saying?"

"Never mind what you were saying, what were you thinking?" Jump asked with a grin on her face to match Sue's.

Sue dropped what she was doing and faced her long-time friend. In her Sue-like way she blurted out, "I think I'm in love with him and I haven't even slept with him!"

"Wow. Really?" This was not something Jump expected Sue to say. Ever.

"I really think he's it, my friend. No… I know, he is the one."

After a beat, Jump took her friend's hands in her own and smiled so big her nose and eyes crinkled. Sue rarely saw this type of smile from her friend. It made it all the more special to know that this rare smile was solely for her. Then it made her feel all the guiltier when a newly familiar handsome face sauntered into the shop.

Oh boy… Jump's gonna kill me.


"Remind me again why you're my friend?" Jump said through clenched teeth as Sue showed up to relieve her the next day, an hour early. "Cuz I honestly can't remember."

Sue knew Jump had been livid when she finally realized what was going on. Sue didn't have time to explain before Mark spotted them and nervously introduced himself.

Sue realized that Matt was right in saying Mark was good-looking, but really shy. She imagined the coaxing it must have taken from Matt to get the guy into Jump's shop. Sue stepped in after an awkward silence and formerly introduced them. "Jessie, this is Mark. Mark is Matt's brother."

To her credit, Jump was very polite and gave him a small smile and held out her hand. "Hi, Jessie. It is nice to meet you. Uh…Sue was telling me about what a nice shop you have and I uh…" Both girls were internally wincing at his awkwardness. Right before Sue stepped in to help the poor guy out, he seemed to gather a bit of courage and said, "Would you like to go mountain biking sometime? I mean… Sue told me you liked to and…"

Jump shot Sue a look that said, "You'll pay for this". But still, she couldn't stand seeing the man any more uncomfortable. Besides he was gorgeous, like Sue said.

"Sure, Mark." She replied with a grin.

Mark took a second to register the 'sure.' "Great! When would you like to go?" He smiled so eagerly it made Jump's grin even wider.

"How's next Saturday morning? I'm sure Sue will open the store for me bright and early. Right, Sue?"

"Right!" Sue said a little too happily. She thought she could see Jump relaxing a bit as she began to show Mark around the shop. Sue happily continued unpacking the boxes thinking she'd done her too serious friend a favor.

Until Mark asked about her nickname.


As long as Sue had known Jump, she'd never seen her go on a date. Sue had figured it was because the shop took up so much of her time. But lately, she just seemed so…lonely. Sue looked at her friend and knew she was doing the right thing in trying to get her out there into the dating scene. It was in a moment of fun that she'd told Mark to ask about the nickname. Hopefully she hadn't set the poor guy up for failure.

Sue looked up again at a slightly peeved Jump. She continued to plead her case. "Besides, how was I to know you'd be so sensitive about your nickname. Everyone else thinks its cool!"

"It's cool to people who live their lives recklessly and have no regard for their own safety. It's cool to hotdoggers and wannabes." Jump blew out an exacerbated breath and continued. "It's not cool to have to explain to someone you don't know who…" She didn't know how to finish the sentence.

"You might care what they think?" Sue cautiously finished for her.

Before Jump could argue, Sue continued. "Look, it was dumb of me to tell him to ask you. I just thought with the mountain biking interest and all…"

"It's okay Sue, really…just do me a favor. Never, ever spring something on me like that again, okay?" Jump made Sue promise.

"Okay!" She finally said as green eyes peered at her with intensity.

Chapter 3

Jump had to admit it. Not to Sue, yet, but she would. Maybe. Her friend had done good. Mark was a great guy. What started out as a one-time obligation turned into a month of some fun dates. They got along really well and had very similar interests.

They'd been to a couple of movies and museums. They'd gone to bike shops and drooled over the latest dual suspension mountain bike models. They began to see each other at least twice a week when their schedules permitted.

Even Mark's shyness had gotten less and less pronounced as they spent time together too. She found him quite charming and looked forward to the times she'd get to see him.

It was all kind of bittersweet though. She knew he'd be leaving in a little over 3 months for Japan and he'd be gone for over a year. Hardly practical to start something serious that had no real future, thought Jump. For now though, it was fun.

Tonight, she and Mark would be joining Sue and Matt for dinner. They'd tried to get together sooner but all of their different schedules made it hard. Finally, they found a day they could all go to dinner and both women were looking forward to it.

Sue had come over to Jump's apartment and they were busily getting ready for their date. "I feel like we are going to the prom, sans the ugly dresses." Sue commented excitedly as she brushed her hair.

"I'm so glad I never experienced that particular right of hormone passage." Jump said offhandedly as she tucked her shirt into her favorite jeans.

"What?!" Sue swung around mid brush. "You never went to the prom? Why would you miss your prom?" Sue was baffled.

"Listen Miss Homecoming Queen… I wasn't one of the popular kids. Those things are no fun for ones outside of 'the circle'." Jump gestured, making quote signs in the air at the last two words.

"You didn't have a boyfriend or a friendboy you wanted to go with?" Sue was genuinely intrigued by this whole thing. It made Jump laugh, especially the 'friendboy' comment. She'd have to get clarification on exactly what that meant.

"I had my nose in a book most of my high school career. I wanted to make sure to get good grades so I could go to school down here. If I wasn't reading I was swimming or biking. I just had no time and no desire for that kind of stuff."

Sue just shook her head in disbelief. She had Jump pegged for at least a semi-popular overachiever in high school, like one who would be on the debate team or class treasurer.

She was about to say something else when there was a knock on the door. "That's our boys!" Sue sang cheerfully.


They had agreed on a seafood restaurant close to the shop and up the street from Jump's apartment. The brothers had picked both women up and the four of them chatted animatedly about the day's events at their respective work places.

Matt was relaying a story about how his sister had to eat serious crow after the property owner, Kratt, caught the end of a brief tirade about his penny-pinching ways. She had no idea he was standing behind her listening for a good 20 seconds.

"Didn't you try and warn her he was there?" Jump asked incredulously.

Twin blue eyes met in the rearview mirror. It was Matt who spoke. "Stop my sister while she's on one of her infamous tirades? Not a chance."

Mark saw the unasked question on her face. "Don't worry, she just explained to him that some of the subs she's had to use have been 'dicking' her around…" "Her word" piped in Matt. "…and she wished she had a bit more money to throw these guys out and hire new ones. She had to pay them for the work they'd done so far and was upset she had to continue to work with them because it was all she had budgeted. He asked her an amount and took out his checkbook!"

"Our lovely Bernsy can literally talk her way out of any situation, although she'd rather just do her job and get on with it."

"Sounds like my kinda girl!" Jump said as she smiled at a knowing Sue.

"You know, we should all try and get together for another barbeque!" Said Mark excitedly. Matt and Sue groaned loudly and Jump looked back at them quizzically.

"I didn't say I'd be the one barbequing." Mark quickly amended. He turned to Jump in the passenger seat and explained his lack of culinary skills.

"Well, actually, Thanksgiving is coming up soon. Do you ladies have plans?" Matt asked.

"Um, no, I don't." Said Jump. Jump was generally on her own for Thanksgiving. Her dad still lived in the central California, her mom in Vermont and her brother lived in Seattle. She usually closed the shop and flew out around Christmas for a few days, alternating destinations. When her dad wasn't working, he would drive down during the holiday season and they'd spend time together as well.

"I have the family thing early, but I can usually sneak away by early afternoon." Said Sue. She'd actually been thinking of asking Matt to join her. He glanced at her with a tiny smile and squeezed her hand. Yeah, I'll definitely ask him tonight.

"Cool. Well count on coming over to my sister's then. She's gotta great little beach house that she loves to show off." Matt said as he smiled at his brother through the rearview mirror.

"Shouldn't you ask her first?" Said Jump. "Nah.." the brothers said simultaneously.


Dinner at the casual seafood restaurant was a very fun affair. The brothers were certainly entertaining telling the women stories of their childhood and family. By the time they were finishing dessert, both women felt they knew the entire Rand family well.

Jump kind of envied the closeness Mark had with his family, especially his sister Bernadette. She sounded like something else, the way they talked about her. It was obvious they both idolized her and that she had a lot to do with raising them.

They also credited 'Bernsy' as they call her with keeping the family strong and together after their mom had died of lung cancer a couple of years ago. The brothers admitted to getting a little lost and in trouble following their mother's death and it was Bernadette who "pulled their heads out" and got them help. She hired Matt onto her crew and Mark decided to join the Navy.

Jump had a pretty run-of-the-mill childhood, even after her parents divorced. She had an older brother who lived up north, Shane, whom she hadn't seen in over a year. She knew he'd gotten married and had a baby on the way. Or was it already here? I'll call them tomorrow and see how they are…perhaps plan a visit for this Christmas instead of staying home this year.

The night ended with a walk on the beach, each couple hand in hand. Jump and Mark were in front of the others by about 10 yards and she heard the two laughing at something.

Jump hadn't thought about the limited time she had with Mark all night. She just enjoyed being with him and hearing him talk of his family.

But now, on the beach, she felt a great sadness. She couldn't really pinpoint the reason for it's sudden intensity though. Of course she'd miss Mark, but it seemed more than that. All of the talk of his family made her think about her own family and how remiss she'd been at keeping in contact with them. The guilt and regret came on strong and manifested itself into abject loneliness and the need to feel connected to something, somebody.

"What's wrong, Jump?" Mark asked gently. She looked up at his beautiful blue eyes and smiled through unshed tears. She asked, "Would you like to come home with me tonight?"


"Wow. What a great little house!" Jump said excitedly as she walked into the bright open entryway of Bernadette's newly almost finished renovated beach house. Bernadette smiled proudly as she took in what she'd done to it.

"You did this all yourself?" Jump asked as she joined Sue in the kitchen. "Mostly. These two knuckle heads helped when they had time." She winked at her brothers as they set down the paper bags of food on the open kitchen counter.

"Can I have a tour?" Jump asked as she walked toward the huge picture window that looked out over the Pacific.

"Can I come too?" Sue asked, even though she'd seen the house when Matt brought her over before.

"Absolutely." Bernadette smiled as she began leading the women down the hallway to the bedrooms.

As an afterthought, Bernadette commented over her shoulder, "Mark, don't turn anything on. Matt, make sure he doesn't go in the kitchen." Bernadette deftly caught an apple as it came flying toward her head.

She chuckled as she tossed it to Matt and stuck her tongue out at Mark who was glaring at her. It quickly gave way to a tiny grin as he caught eyes with Jump and winked. Bernadette made a big show of rolling her eyes as she motioned for the women to follow her down the hall.

They trailed the tall dark-haired woman from room to room as she explained the changes she'd made to the floor plan of the beach house, adding a bedroom and an office. Some of the construction terms Bernadette used went beyond Sue and Jump's understanding but they got the idea of the before and after as they admired the little house.

It was obvious Bernadette was very good at what she did and enjoyed it as well. She talked very animatedly about the type of tile she used for the bathrooms and floors and the energy efficiency of the little house.

When they got back to the kitchen, Bernadette explained how she opened up the whole front part of the house to create the openness and light. The kitchen blended easily into the living room and off to the corner was a small elegant dining area that had a view of the beach.

In the center of the picture windows was a large sliding glass door that opened onto a wooden deck with a barbeque and patio furniture neatly arranged. Two small steps off of the deck and you were on the beach. The three women continued their tour outside onto the patio and Bernadette pointed out the small islands in the distance.

"I love this time of the year. It's so clear and the ocean is so blue. Sometimes I take out my telescope and I can see the ships docked on the island."

"Well, it is quite breathtaking. You have quite a nice set up here, Bernadette." Jump said with a polite and genuine smile.

"It was quite interesting how I happened upon this property, actually." Bernadette said as she followed Jump and Sue back into the house.

Jump cocked her head and looked at her with rapt interest, encouraging her to continue.

"I was doing some work for this real estate agent and he was telling me about this dilapidated house on the beach he owned and was trying to sell. Obviously, it was the property the house was on that was so valuable, but he was still having a hard time unloading it. I'd told him I'd seen the house and sometimes I would imagine I owned it. I described exactly how I would remodel it."

She paused and gently laughed at the memory, still quite amazed at the outcome of the story even after telling it so many times. "I should tell you too, this guy was absolutely loaded and I think a bit eccentric, as only loaded people can be. Anyway, he was so impressed with my vision and taken by my obvious fondness for his property, he knocked off a huge chunk of the price, sold it to me and carried part of the note on the house."

"You're kidding!" Jump exclaimed, laughing in disbelief.

"It's true." Mark said as he came up from behind Jump and put his arms around her. Bernadette grinned widely and nodded.

About an hour after Jump, Sue and the brothers arrived, the rest of the Rands showed up. Like Sue had told Jump before, the whole family was extraordinarily good looking. Their father, Frank had dark hair that had started turning gray at the temples some years ago, but he was still very handsome with deep blue eyes and a square jaw.

Their sister Carrie had long chestnut hair and gray blue eyes. While not as striking as her three siblings, she had a subtle beauty. Out of all of them, she looked most like their mother from what Jump could tell from family photos scattered throughout the house. She was also showing a bit of the weight and glow that comes from the early stages of pregnancy.

Jump was thoroughly enjoying the day; getting to know this family she'd heard so much about. They loved to tease each other and push one's buttons, but it was never malicious. They all shared an easy love of one another. A love that was put to the test when their mother died, Jump remembered Mark saying. Seeing their interaction, she couldn't help but drift in and out of thought about her own family again.

She was never really close to her mother or brother, but she was with her father. Even though he worked a lot, he would make time for his daughter. She would come to his office in the small medical plaza for lunch sometimes and even worked a couple of summers filing medical records for him. It was he who encouraged her to follow her dreams of becoming a business owner when she'd first mentioned it.

By the time her dream was becoming a reality, he had nothing monetarily to give her; his divorce from her mother had drained him of everything. He did give her some advice that had been more valuable to her than any amount of money: Don't avoid making mistakes at all costs; avoid repeating them.

The words made little sense to her at first, but as she got older, she understood exactly what they meant. There was a time not too long ago when they saved her life.

She was pulled out of her moment of reverie with a loud "WHHOOAAA" as she saw Mark, Matt and Bernadette down by the shoreline stripping down to their underwear.

"What the hell…"She said louder than she intended.

"It's a tradition these goofballs have." Explained Carrie who was bundled in her husband's sweater this late November afternoon. Sue and Jump looked on slightly slack-jawed as they watched their boyfriends and Bernadette plunge into the icy-cold Pacific Ocean.

Not taking her eyes off of the trio who were frolicking in the surf, Jump smirked and asked Carrie, "You ever join them?"

"Let's put it this way…" She paused as they heard someone shriek like a little girl, and it wasn't Bernadette. "…They got the lion's share of the looks, but I definitely got the lion's share of the brains."

All three women laughed as they continued to watch the three play around for about a minute more and then stumble out of the water and up the shore to the beach house, collecting their clothes on the way.

"I bet you're all sober now!" Carrie's husband, James, laughed.

The three had been drinking homemade beer from Matt's latest batch. It was good, and potent. The instant each got tipsy, they headed to the shoreline.

Now, the three stood on the deck dripping, shaking and blue with large kid-like grins on their faces.

Sue and Jump made moves to go get them towels but were stopped by Frank's voice in the living room. He was in there watching the football game, seemingly oblivious to his offspring's antics. "This is also part of the tradition. First to use a towel to dry off does all of the dishes." He explained, not taking his eyes off of the 3rd and long play on TV.

Chapter 4

This is really why Bernadette got into construction. She could feel the perspiration beginning to form on her forehead and neck and just a hint of fatigue brought on by using her body to construct a building where there was once nothing.

The building project she'd started for Kratt about two months ago was going along fine. It was starting to take shape. Of course it took a bit of convincing on Bernadette's part for Kratt to free up a little more cash so she could build him exactly what he'd envisioned.

The foundation was complete, the framing was up and they would be finishing the roof in the next two days. They were using the daylight hours and unseasonably mild weather to full advantage.

Usually by this time in January the rains would be starting in. So far, so good thought Bernadette as she continued hammering in the roofing nails with quick, expert movements.

"Hey babe, where's my lunch?" She heard Alex croon.

Bernadette looked down at the construction site gate to see a shock of blonde hair walking through it with a lunch pail and a smile. She sat back on her haunches and watched as her brother Matt came trotting out to meet her while addressing Alex with a hand gesture for harassing his girl. Alex laughed it off saying he was just jealous.

Bernadette couldn't help but echo that sentiment. I guess that is what being in love looks like, she thought as she continued to watch Matt give Sue a hug and chaste-like kiss. She could see the smile and light on her brother's face from where she sat up on the half-finished roof. Matt ignored the teasing catcalls from the crew and led Sue over to a lunch table by putting a loose arm around her waist.

She watched a few seconds more and then continued hammering in her roof nails in perfect rows.


Bernadette missed her brothers. Pathetic, thought Bernadette as she strummed along on her old six-string guitar. It was Sunday morning and she'd given her crew a much needed day off and she decided to give herself one too.

Truth be told, she'd hoped her brothers would stop by and want to watch the football play off games or want to play a game of pick up basketball at the nearby park. But she knew they were out with their girlfriends.

It was strange to see both of her brothers in steady relationships. Mark, the most shy of all the Rand children always found asking girls out exceptionally hard. People who didn't know him often mistook his shyness for snobbishness. For that reason, he dated very little.

The only long-term relationship Bernadette ever remembered him having had been with Shelly, a girl he met before joining the servShe never really got the full story on why they broke up, but she knew it involved differences in what they wanted out of the relationship. Bernadette imagined he was getting pressure from not only her, but also her family to get married.

Bernadette could tell quite easily that Jump wasn't that kind of person. She had gotten along well with her when Mark brought her over for Thanksgiving. She could easily see the attraction for Mark. She was pretty, athletic, extremely quick witted and had that dry sense of humor Mark himself had. He'd moped around a bit when she had left for Vermont for Christmas and was subjected to lots of good-natured teasing from his siblings.

Bernadette liked this serious yet smart woman Mark was dating. She saw some potential here for the couple to be happy, and that made her happy.

Everyone was surprised when Jump had even explained her nickname to Bernadette, which apparently was a big deal, given Mark's experience when he asked her about it. Funny, even though she didn't know the woman well at all, she had a hard time picturing her doing what she did to earn the nickname. She'd explained that it was many years and many beers ago.

Bernadette was surprised when she found out that Mark took Sue's advice on going to the surf shop to meet her. And to ask her out, if mountain biking could be considered a date. They'd been seeing each other now for close to four months.

As for Matt and Sue, well, it seemed they were ready to get married. They'd only been dating about a month longer than Mark and Jump but it seemed they'd been made for each other. Perhaps Matt had found 'the one'.

She was not a believer in stuff like love at first sight and soulmates, but Matt and Sue certainly made a strong case for finding someone that 'fit'. That's how her Dad once described his and her mom's marriage. "We just fit, Bernsy. Like two puzzle pieces." It was a simple analogy, but one that made sense.

She herself had not really given any thought to dating in the past few years. First, with her mother's passing, then her job and remodeling her house, she just hadn't the desire or time.

Even seeing her brothers involved didn't stir her to action as far as finding someone. That day watching Matt and Sue eating lunch together, she could almost see herself wanting that but she really was pretty happy with her life. Her career was doing well; she had a great little house that kept her busy as well. And she had her family.

She considered herself pretty lucky to be in the place she was. Even in dark times, like when her mother died, she had her family. She had been essential in keeping them together and they had given her reason to get out of bed everyday.

When she would think of her mom now, it was mostly happy memories. She remembered when she was about 17 her dad had gotten a well paying job with the city and her mom was home a little more. Some of Bernadette's best times with her mom were during these years. She was at the age when her mom started treating her like the adult she was and it made Bernadette feel all the more closer to her mom.

As mother and daughter, they would joke about the antics of the boys or share a concern over Carrie's choice of friends. It was during these conversations that it became evident her mother was proud of her. Proud of her part in raising her siblings. It was something Bernadette would always carry with her in her heart.

It was this pride that mother had in daughter that kept Bernadette going after she died too. Through sleepless nights of not knowing where her brothers were, to keeping Carrie from making one terrible mistake after another, to keeping her father alive, she did everything in her power to get everyone through.

Now, both brothers were productive, happy young men and Carrie was happily married to a wonderful man and about to have a baby. Even her dad had seemingly started to come out of his own dark hell. He started talking about her again. It was something Bernadette had little hope for before, but it was happening.

A single tear found it's way down Bernadette's cheek and curved its way to the corner of her mouth. She brought the back of her hand up and wiped it away slowly and then leaned up, set her guitar down and rested her forearms on her thighs, interlacing her fingers. She closed her eyes and smiled for a moment picturing her own mom's smile. Then with a deep sigh she dropped her head and scrubbed her face with both hands.

Okay Bernsy, enough deep thoughts, time to get busy. And she did by going to the back room and sanding doors to the tunes of Jeff Buckley's Grace.


It was a slow day in the surf shop. The weather had turned downright frigid in late January and people were taking refuge in their own homes or heading up to the ski slopes not too far away. Sue was propped up on the counter in the storeroom, watching more than helping Jump with an inventory count.

"You know, Jump, you should add a ski/snowboard part to the shop. We are only a couple of hours from the mountains and you could probably just build off of your regular clientele. I know most of them ski in winter."

Jump paused from her counting and turned to Sue. "You think it could work?" Then more to herself, "The shop is doing well, but it could do better during the cooler months…I would have business from my regulars who surf and ski or snowboard…" Suddenly both women smiled widely at each other. "I know who could help with the addition!" Sue added in a singsong voice.

Jump's smile dropped like marble in a bucket. She'd avoided thinking about it all morning, but now… Sue immediately knew the source of the frown.

"When does he leave?" Sue asked gently.

"February twelfth." Two weeks. Jump sat heavily on the worn stool and sighed. She looked at her watch. Mark was cutting out of work early from the site and coming to take her to lunch.

"Listen, Sue, I love the idea of adding a ski shop. Talk to Matt about it and perhaps we can work something out when the weather gets warmer."

They heard the bell go off signaling a customer had come into the shop. Sue hopped off the counter and went to the front. Jump turned to finish her counting when she felt eyes on her. She grinned before she turned, knowing who it was already.

Mark took a step forward as she slowly walked into his open arms. "Well, hello again." He said around a smile. "I hope you didn't mind that I let you sleep this morning." He said as they looked at each other. He had left a note on her nightstand asking if he could meet her for lunch today. Her answer was a light peck on his lips and a shy smile.

"Ready to go get some lunch?" He asked as she released him.

"Yep, let me get my keys." She said as she turned from him to reach over a box and grab them.

"Is everything alright?" Mark asked as they headed to his car. He'd sensed something for a few days and finally decided to ask. Jump was hard to read sometimes, but he definitely felt a shift in mood from her.

She took a few seconds and finally gave him a noncommittal "yeah" which they both knew wasn't the truth. But he didn't want to press the issue because he would be leaving soon. He only wanted to enjoy the time they had together.

This isn't fair to him, thought Jump as he opened the door to his car for her. I'm already saying goodbye instead of enjoying what time we have left.

He rounded the car to the driver's seat and looked at Jump as he started the car. She sensed this and met his eyes and let a small smile form on her lips.

In that instant, she knew that this was going to be an opportunity that would be lost to her. He'd leave and it would be the end of their budding relationship. The latter would be her decision and she felt powerless to change it.

Why can't it be like Matt and Sue have? Thought Jump. She felt an overwhelming sense of guilt building also. She had no idea why she was having a hard time letting go, even when she didn't feel like she was in love with him.

As he started the car, her eyes slowly shifted towards the passenger window and she looked out of it focusing on the late morning shadow of the lifeguard tower and falling deep into thought.


Bernadette finished measuring the last door to be cut for the day. It had started raining in earnest yesterday, so the site was shut down for the day. They'd been real lucky with the weather and had made a lot of progress with the warehouse/office she was building for Kratt.

She'd really been concentrating on the project and leaving her little beach house to when she had time. Now with possibly a few days off, she decided to get some work done on it.

"Hey, about time you dragged yourself away from your honey." Bernadette called to the footsteps she figured to be her brother Matt. "Now wipe that shit-eating grin off of your face and get to work. Obviously we can't paint today, but there's plenty to do!"

When there was no comment forthcoming or even a chuckle, she turned around to see a very sad looking Mark. "What's up? She said standing up and dusting off her hands on her jeans.

He sighed heavily and picked up a measuring tape, playing with it while he worked out the words in his head. He'd come straight over here when he'd left Jump's apartment, a place he'd been at for the better part of three months.

"It's over Bernsy. We decided to call it quits. It's stupid really. I'll be gone for a year, you know? It's not fair to either of us."

Seeing her brother in so much pain, her first instinct was to try and protect him. But she realized he was a grown man and it was decision they'd both made apparently.

So instead, she folded her arms around his lean frame and hugged him tight. She could hear him sniffling, but by the time he pulled away his eyes were dry if not their usual bright.

"What do you want me to do, hang the door?" He asked. She knew that was the end of the conversation and she would get no more from him. She was used to the way men dealt with these things from the line of work she was in, but it still pained her to see her brother like this. She decided to make it her mission to cheer her brother up the last few days he had in the States.


Jump awoke while it was still dark out. Slightly disoriented she looked at the clock, 5:45 a.m. She slipped out from between her sheets and walked over to the window. Peering out she saw that the sky was thick with charcoal gray clouds. It smelled like rain. Great, it fits my mood.

She padded out of her room and into the kitchen to make herself some coffee. It wasn't until she had her first cup that she realized she had grown used to waking up and making coffee for two. She closed her eyes tightly and bit at her bottom lip as a wave of guilt hit her. She felt terrible about what had happened but didn't know what else to do. She didn't regret the decision that was made, but it didn't make it any easier on her heart.

As she got ready for work, she played out the events of the past few days. Each time she thought about she wondered if she should have done something differently. But what? She couldn't have offered anything else wholeheartedly. Even if it hurt Mark now, it was better than a while down the road or while he was stationed halfway across the world.

When she'd invited Mark to spend that first night three months ago, she'd intended to break it off the next day. She realized now how cruel that would have been but she figured it would be easier if he'd gotten at least something out of it.

She knew deep down he wasn't that kind of guy though. His sweetness and charm made it easy for her to keep inviting him over until it was understood he had an open invitation. It was surprisingly easy for Jump to open her home to him and share her space.

He was also a kind and gentle lover. In the three months they'd been together, he'd spent most of his nights at Jump's. It was a welcomed change for Jump's rather solitary life. Ultimately though, it felt more like a warm diversion rather than something that might last.

She couldn't explain it except to say maybe they didn't know each other well enough yet. It would sadden her to see him leave; that much she knew. But what ever it was that was holding her back from hoping or believing it could be more than just fun, it permeated the last few days they were together.

Mark had noticed something was wrong and asked if they could talk one evening. He'd come over, not quite knowing what he'd say. He really liked this woman. It was the first time he regretted joining the navy. He didn't want to leave. But he also sensed some reluctance from Jump to talk about their future. Reluctance or indifference, he'd thought cynically. He'd never spent so much time and energy trying to interpret what was going on in a woman's mind. A futile effort, Rand. Stick to operating heavy weaponry, it's safer.

When Jump opened the door, he stepped in to give her a hug and a kiss. They broke away after a few heartbeats, but not before Mark realized what he would say to her tonight. The kiss was all he needed to make his decision.

It was strange, she thought. She dreaded whatever he had to say. Whether he said that he wanted to continue in a long distance relationship or break it off, she didn't want to have to make a decision. It frustrated Jump that she couldn't get a clear read on her own feelings. She'd always been decisive and sure of herself.

However, she'd never been in a serious relationship before. She had nothing to compare this to. Should there be more intensity in her feelings for Mark? Will it come with time? Could she see herself in love with him? Even after months of seeing Mark, feelings of platonic friendship, attraction, affection, still ebb and flow like waves, none staying on shore for any more time than the other. She enjoyed being with them very much, but couldn't picture him in her life beyond these last few nights.

In the end, he'd been the one. He'd made the decision for both of them. As he spoke, full of reason and regret, he'd hoped she'd tell him he was wrong, to reconsider. But she didn't. She nodded wordlessly, looking at him with a visible mixture of relief and passive resolve.

Listening to him make the decision she couldn't, Jump began to cry. She cried for the opportunity she couldn't understand why she'd let pass. She cried for the loss of his warmth and smell in her bed. She cried for the inability to understand her own fears. But most of all, she cried for her own incapability to tell him what she knew he really wanted to hear, that she'd wait for him. The words she'd said to Sue months ago echoed in her head, a self-imposed mockery of her situation. Nope, I'm fine with my life. Beholden to no one.

Loath to leave things as they were, she gave him a watery smile and asked him if he'd still visit her when he came back into town. He smiled and caressed her cheek using his thumb to brush away a tear. "I'd like that, very much." He said and then walked out the door, closing it quietly behind him.

"Fuck!" she'd exclaimed as she turned the key to get into the shop. It was raining hard and she couldn't get the damn door to unlock.

"Hey, lemme help." A friendly voice behind her. Tim. "Hey, Tim. Thanks." She gave him a watery smile as he unlocked the door and swung it wide for her to enter.

"You okay?" He asked, concern evident for the young woman.

"I've head better days. But, I'm okay." She changed the subject before he asked any more questions she didn't want to answer.

"What's the surf like today?" She asked as she flipped on the lights.

"Currents are real strong. I'm sittin' out today. Thought I'd come get some coffee and enjoy the storm."

"I probably shouldn't be open today anyway." She said as she continued to get the shop ready for business. "You want some company for a while?" Tim asked. "I could get you some coffee or something?"

"Thanks Tim. That would be nice."


"He asked about you, you know." Sue said casually as she was pulling in the postcard rack as they closed the store together. "He asked how you were, if he could write you." Sue looked at her as she said the last part of her sentence. "So? Is it okay?"

She knew Sue was trying to bait her. She wasn't in the mood for any of it. Mark had shipped off yesterday and Jump thought it would be easier on everyone if she didn't go. Besides he needed to be with his family.

"I already told him he could…that day." Jump was really beginning to get tired of this conversation topic. She stopped sweeping and leaned on the handle as she looked warily at her friend. "Butt out, okay Sue?" Sue looked at her with wounded eyes. "Christ…" Jump said under her breath. She didn't mean the words to come out as harsh as they did. She apologized.

"Look, it's hard enough having Matt and Bernadette thinking I'm some sort of evil woman hell-bent on destroying their brother. He's a big boy. It was a decision both of us made. Jesus, you think I'm not hurting?" Jump looked away from her friend, suddenly bone-tired.

"I'm sorry, it's just that he was so devastated. You seemed to take it in stride. Like you do everything." The last remark chafed at Jump and her friend saw it. She walked to her friend and put an arm around her. "It's just so hard to tell with you Jump. You play everything so close to the vest, you know?"

Jump shrugged off her arm and looked up at her with hot, angry, red-rimmed eyes. "Look, I'm sorry I don't wallow or look for sympathy by displaying my emotions for everyone to see. It doesn't mean I don't have them! Christ, Sue, you've known me long enough to know that!"

Sue sighed heavily. Taking another long, slow breath she looked at her friend apologetically. "You are right, and I'm the one who is sorry."

She now took both of Jump's hands in hers until Jump would meet her eyes. "Let's go get something to eat. Just you and me, okay?" Jump smiled warily and nodded. After grabbing her purse, she finished pushing in the postcard rack and locked the door.

Chapter 5

The rains of February subsided and gave way to the cool winds of March. During this time Jump threw herself into working on a plan to get a loan for the expansion of her shop. She'd thanked Sue again for the idea and was happy to have the challenge before her.

After the initial sadness of Mark leaving and the loneliness that followed, Jump started to rebound. She also noted that as time passed, both Matt and Bernadette had stopped treating her as 'the woman who broke Mark's heart.'

Apparently Sue had had a talk with Matt about how Jump was hurting too and Matt had talked to Bernadette. She was mad at first for her friend discussing her personal life, but she realized even though she wasn't dating their brother anymore, she really cared about how both Matt and Bernadette viewed her, especially Bernadette. Strange.

Either way, she was glad things had smoothed over. It made hiring Matt to do the work on the addition easier. She was meeting with him and Sue later that day to iron out some details. She was hoping to start as soon as the loan was approved.

Since she had a few hours before she met them, she decided to clean up her apartment a bit. She had started the dishes just as the phone rang.

"Hello?" She said as she reached for a towel to dry off her hands, cradling the phone between ear and shoulder.

"Hey, it's Bernadette."

"Hey there, what's going on?" Jump itched the bridge of her nose with her slightly damp index finger. She was a bit surprised by the call.

"Um.. Matt was telling me about the addition you were putting on your shop. He asked if I could help him out with it."

"Oh? Well, I'm sure you are busy. I mean, you wouldn't have to…" Jump was unsure what else to say. This seemed way too small a project for Bernadette to get involved with.

"I told him I'd help out. I have some time before starting on my next project. Their financing fell through so they have to regroup. Besides, it sounds kind of fun. I understand you wanna do some cool stuff." Jump could hear the smile through the phone.

"Well, in that case, I'd be happy to hire you, Foreman Rand." Jump quipped into the phone. She was actually very pleased that Bernadette was offering her help.

"Cool. Mind if I join you guys today then? Get up to speed on when you wanna start and all that?"

"Sure… I'll see you at the shop." Jump smiled.

"Alright. Bye!"

"Bye Bernadette."

Hmmm, thought Jump as she hung up the phone. She hadn't thought to ask Bernadette for her help, she figured she was just too busy. I hope I didn't offend her by asking Matt and not her. Jump thought on that for a moment. She'd just mention why she didn't ask her before again and make sure there were no hard feelings or anything.

Jump chuckled softly at her concern over Bernadette. It wasn't the first time she worried about what the eldest Rand child thought. Perhaps it was just that 'I'm in charge' quality about Bernadette that had her thinking like that.

When Jump got to the shop, the trio was already there. Sue had let them in and they were already looking at possibilities on where best to expand. Jump then took them outside and showed them where the property line ended and they talked about her vision of what she'd like to do.

Bernadette fell into full work mode when she began sketching out rough plans, guided by Jump's input. Every once in a while Bernadette or Matt would make a suggestion or tell Jump why something wouldn't work but gave an alternative as close to the original idea as possible.

Jump was impressed at how easily and accurately Bernadette sketched up a design based on her descriptions. The drawing that resulted was even better than what Jump had envisioned. When Jump said as much, Bernadette offered a small, shy smile.

When they were done, they had a rough plan to start with. In the hours before their meeting, Bernadette had already done a little work on getting some pricing on materials and had contacted the city to start pulling permits. Jump was pleasantly pleased at the initiative Bernadette was taking on her little shop addition.

"I can see how you have gotten to where you are." Jump told Bernadette as they walked out of the shop. Bernadette said nothing but grinned widely at the compliment. A few seconds later as she stood behind Jump while she was locking the door, Bernadette said, "It wasn't easy, that's for sure. Not that I'm complaining. I love the work, it's the assholes who get in my way that make it a pain."

"I totally understand." Jump said, remembering how many banks she went to before she had someone who took her and her business plan seriously.

They both shared an empathetic smile.

"Listen, I'm going to call in a few of my crew to work on this if that is okay. It will get done pretty fast. I don't want you to close down anymore than you have to while this is going on."

"Of course." Jump said enthusiastically. As they both headed for their cars Jump realized Matt's car was still there. "Where did Matt and Sue go?" Jump asked as she looked around. "I thought they left before us."

"I don't know." Said Bernadette as she too looked around. Just as Jump began heading back to the shop, they both heard giggling as the two lovebirds rounded the back of the shop, a bit disheveled.

Matt was the first to look up and see four pairs of quizzical eyes looking at them. Upon hearing Matt's "Uh…" Sue looked up… and blushed.

"I don't even want to know." Said Bernadette as she headed to her car, head shaking in amused disbelief.

Jump clapped her hands together and grinned gleefully. "I do!"


By the second week of April, work on the addition had begun in earnest. The roofing, stucco, and insulation had been torn from the south side of the surf shop to make way for the new large structure that would house the skiing and snowboarding equipment and accessories.

Bernadette had started her other job on a business building inland and would basically come by on weekends or sneak in for the afternoon during the week to see how things were going. She'd had Matt, Alex and Scott stay on to work on the addition and left hiring a few day workers up to Matt to expedite the building.

Things were going very well for Jump. Even with the construction going on, business was on track for this time of the year. People inquired about what the extra room was for and were elated that they could not only get their summer recreation equipment here but their winter stuff too.

It warmed Jump's heart to see the enthusiasm of her regular customers that came in for their board wax, leashes and sunscreen. They all promised to spread the word to their friends about the addition too.

"Now if only I could get rid of this stupid flu bug." Said Jump as she closed out the last sale. She had come back in to see how things were going this afternoon. She had been real tired and nauseous for a good week now and was thinking about going to the doctor.

"You still feeling crappy?" Asked Sue who was rehanging some clothing from the dressing rooms.

"Yeah. I start to feel better in the late morning, but then it comes back. Ugh…" Jump said as she leaned her elbows on the counter and dropped her head down.

"Go home. Matt and I can finish up from here. Call a doctor will ya? The flu doesn't last this long."

"You're right. I'll schedule an appointment. I might need you to cover in the morning if I get one in the a.m." Jump looked pointedly at her friend to make sure she understood that meant opening the store.

"Got it covered, babe. Matt is here at dawn practically. We'll come in together." Sue smiled as she saw the object of discussion coming through the framed up far wall of the new part of the shop. She did love a man in a tool belt.

Jump chuckled at the lust in her friend's eyes. Jeez, those two are something else. "I'll call you later if I need you to cover." Called Jump as she headed out the door and towards her car.

Jump called her doctor as soon as she got home. She usually wasn't one to go to the doctor unless something was broken or bleeding profusely, but this nausea and tiredness thing was going on way too long. It was getting in the way of her daily routine.

"Hello. I was wondering if Dr. Seavers is working tomorrow… Are there any appointments available? Anytime would be fine. 8:30 a.m. would be perfect… Oh, flu like symptoms….yes… Thanks." Jump hung up the phone as a wave of nausea came over her. "I am so tired of this!" She groaned as she headed towards the bathroom.


The next day, Sue was busy helping out a family pick out some Hawaiian shirts when she heard Bernadette's voice in the new construction part of the shop. Her and Matt were talking about the sub floor or something like that. It was funny to see how serious the crew got when Bernadette was around. No joking or playing, the radio was turned down, not a smile out of any of them.

Sue could see how the tall woman could be intimidating-looking. Not the overt, yelling and ordering around kind of intimidating, but the quiet, unsettling kind. Like you aren't sure what she'll do if you are caught not giving 100 %.

Sue knew such a different side of her though, the joking with her family and such. It was interesting to see this side of her when she was supervising a project.

She had turned her full attention back to the family when she heard the bell ring on the front door. It was an ashen-faced Jump. Sue tried to get her attention to see what was wrong, but Jump just went directly back to the back of the shop.

She quickly guided the undecided family to a decision and rang them up, all the while looking at the storeroom door. As the father was signing the credit card slip, Sue glanced at her watch. Noon. Had Jump been at the doctor's all this time?

Finally, the family left and Sue went to put the "Be back in 5 Minutes" sign on the door.

"Jump?" Sue called out quietly as she opened the storeroom door. She saw Jump looking through some purchase orders, seemingly looking for one in particular.

When Jump heard her name, she stopped and stood stock-still. Sue could tell even from looking at her friend's back, that she was far from okay.

"Well, it ain't the flu…" Jump said without turning around to face her friend. Sue's imagination filled in dozens of terrible incurable diseases that her dear friend might have.

"What is it?" Sue asked in a half-whisper as she closed the gap between her and her friend and put her hand on her back. Jump sniffled and let out a short, humorless laugh.

"I'm pregnant."

Jump had left the doctor's office in an utter daze. She didn't recall getting into her car or driving home. She sat on the edge of her bed for what seemed like days but in reality it was a couple of hours.

She sat on the corner, feet on the ground and hands on her lower thighs. She stared at the corner of her room, the space where her closet met the wall where the window was.

She was aware of noises outside, people talking, someone calling for their dog, car doors opening and shutting. After about 15 minutes of sitting in a near comatose state, her mind began to work again. She replayed the scene in Dr. Seavers office.

First, confusion. She'd been on birth control for years. When she started dating Mark she'd been like clockwork with taking it. She hadn't lapsed once. She could hear her doctor's voice here. "Nothing is 100%, Jess." Yeah, no shit.

Then the disbelief. She'd had him double check that it was her blood he tested. She'd even wanted to take it again. He humored her. It came back exactly the same.

She was nine weeks along. A little over two months. In the past when she'd been exercising a lot, it was common for her to skip her period. When Mark left she increased the activity that brought her peace- mountain biking. When she went a month without her period, it wasn't a surprise.

She would have an abortion. No one would know. She began mentally planning it out. She'd find a clinic; have it done on a Monday. She'd have to find a ride. She couldn't tell Sue. Sue would tell Matt and then…

No, this is what I have to do. I can have kids when I'm ready. When I've found someone I can't live without. Jump's mind went over and over what she'd do and how she'd handle the details of getting rid of the pregnancy.

She'd started feeling better about this now. She had a plan. No one had to know. Her life would continue on as it had been. She could deal with the guilt. Women did it all the time, every day in fact. She wasn't ready, she wasn't mother material. There were too many things she hadn't done or seen.

A baby. A child. In her. Growing as she breathed and planned and decided its fate. Jump took her hands off of her thighs and brought them around her stomach. Her hands moved around, feeling for something different. Nothing. But there was a life. A new one, part her, part Mark.

He wouldn't know. He couldn't know. He would want to come home and marry her. She knew this for certain. Why would it be so bad, she asked herself.

"I'm such a fucking coward." She needlessly confessed to herself.

Her thoughts again turned inward. Why can't I just be in love with him? Why can't this be good? She had no answer.

She bonelessly slipped to the floor and brought her knees up to her chest. Her head rested on her knees and she covered her head with her hands. She felt the tears come from behind her eyes and she let them fall unbidden for a long time until they turned into full-blown, racking sobs.

"What are you going to do?" Sue asked as she turned her friend around to look at her. Jump's eyes were puffy and red. She kept her eyes focused on the edge of the desk as if trying to make up her mind on something.

After her sobs had racked her body for the better part of an hour, Jump had started having second thoughts on an abortion. She wasn't religious by any stretch of the imagination, but she did believe that things happened for a reason. Perhaps she hadn't realized the reason of her being pregnant yet, but she knew, despite her plans, she couldn't just terminate this pregnancy.

So, after more thought and tears, she had decided that she would keep the baby and tell Mark about it too. She knew there were several other major decisions to be made, but for now, this was her plan.

"I'm going to keep it Sue. I'm going to keep the baby." Jump was surprised by a tight hug and squeal from her best friend. If this were what Jump wanted, she'd support her with love and enthusiasm. Like she always did.

"What about Mark?" Sue asked tentatively. She knew how it ended with Mark and Jump's desire not to continue with a long distance relationship.

"I'm going to tell him and then we will figure it out. I don't want to mess up his life. I don't want anything from him. If he wants to be involved that is fine. I just…" She trailed off when she realized how she might sound.

Once Mark was gone, she hadn't had to consider how she felt about him. They'd broken it off before he left, and to her that was the end of it.

This was how Jump operated. Things were always considered, categorized and put away until needed again. It worked for her well in business and so it naturally extended into her personal life.

Now, for Jump, things had changed and she had to look at what this would mean for the both of them. Still, she couldn't see her being with him much less marrying him. She was petrified that that was what everyone would expect of her.

Sue looked at her friend with understanding. Not for what Jump was going through exactly because Sue could only imagine. But she did understand how hard this was going to be for Jump.

So, Sue went against her natural predilection to push Jump to continue her sentence. She just held her friend's hand as they both leaned their backsides on the desk and looked at their toes in the comfortable, non-threatening silence reserved for best friends.

Chapter 6

"I'm fat."

"You are beautiful."

"You are just saying that, you damn liar."

"Oh, that book was right on."

"What book?"

"The one that talks all about hormonal changes…it can make a pregnant woman moody and such…" Sue chuckled as she ducked yet another shoe her pregnant friend couldn't get her swollen foot into.

"I'm going to remember all the cruelness you've bestowed on me when you get knocked up by Wonderboy." Jump stated as she bent down to grab one of her shoes. She gave up trying to reach it and kicked it into the closet.

"You do glow though." Sue said seriously, ignoring her friend's idle, hormone induced threats.

Jump's answer was a large grin and a request for a tuna and peanut butter sandwich.

It was early September and Jump was seven months pregnant. Everything was going along fine. With each doctor's appointment she'd begun to get more excited. With the hard part of telling Mark and his family over, she could now look forward to the birth of her son.

She'd made Sue promise not to tell Matt or Bernadette until she could get into direct contact with Mark. After a couple of agonizing weeks for both Sue and Jump, she was finally able to reach Mark on a landline in Japan.

At first he didn't believe it. But he had the good sense to not ask if it was his. He knew there was no question it was. He slowly began to get excited - until Jump told him how she would raise the baby alone, but he could be involved in its life if he chose.

Up until that point he was excited at the prospect of raising the baby with Jump. His mind was racing about how he could possibly get home earlier and he and Jump could pick up where they left off and start making plans. But as she continued on about her plans, the truth of the situation cut into his heart.

To him this changed everything; to her it changed nothing.

It took a few longer and sometimes heated phone calls to come to an amicable agreement between the two. Mark could not let this go without a fight. He argued the fact that the baby should have a mother and father. He felt he deserved a chance at making her happy. He promised that he'd be good to Jump. Not knowing what else would convince her, he told her that he loved her. It momentarily threw her; she didn't expect him to say that at all. Once he did say it, he felt a weight being lifted from him and he began to tell her all the things he wanted to tell her that day he walked out of her apartment.

He was putting up a good argument. He was building his case on why this could work between them. Why she had to give it a chance at least.

Finally, they decided. It was essentially this- when he got home, they'd start dating again. It would be Jump who would decide if this would be something she might want. It was a huge emotional risk to Mark who'd already given his heart to her, but he figured he couldn't lose what he'd already given away.


"Are you sure it's straight?" Asked Jump as she sat in a worn director's chair, watching Bernadette hang pictures of snowy scenery in the new ski shop.

Bernadette gingerly slid the hammer into her tool belt and looked back at the seven-month pregnant nit-pick machine with a placating little smile. She had grown accustomed to Jump's little mood swings coupled with her perfectionist tendencies, so when Jump asked if the picture was straight, she pulled out her level and watched as Jump leaned up in her chair and squinted to see for herself.

"Wow. Maybe the wall is crooked then." Before Bernadette could do anything harmful to the mother of her unborn nephew, Sue stepped in with some cookies and lemonade.

As Sue handed Bernadette a cookie, she whispered, "Breathe…"

Bernadette did just that and let out a soft chuckle.

When Bernadette had learned that Jump was pregnant, she didn't know what to think. She knew Jump wasn't the type of girl who was trying to trap her brother or anything. She had the sense from the way things ended between the two that it would have been the other way around if anything.

So, Bernadette had asked Jump what her intentions were regarding her brother. Bernadette was impressed that she'd already talked with him before the rest of the family knew. But when Jump stopped short of saying what this would mean for Mark and her relationship, Bernadette was a bit put off. Again came the knee-jerk reaction from Bernadette to protect her brother.

Jump must have sensed it and explained that her and Mark needed to talk some more and figure it out for themselves before discussing it in depth with anyone else because it would be unfair to him.

Bernadette respected that and was admittedly happy with Jump's honesty. In turn, Jump realized Bernadette was just being the protective sister and admired her for that. That brief but telling conversation between the two was the start of a friendship of sorts for the women who up until then had just been perpetual acquaintances brought together by the brothers and Sue.

As a result of this burgeoning friendship, Bernadette's protective nature that encompassed her family extended to Jump and the baby, too. As Bernadette's business building project wrapped up, she put off looking for another and just helped out with setting up the ski shop and made sure Jump wasn't tiring herself out trying to get it ready for ski season.

All of the construction was done on it; all that was left was a little finish work and bringing in product and setting up racks and displays. Some days it would be Bernadette and Matt and other days it would just be Bernadette that would work on the last details.

Being the fiercely independent person Jump was, she knew Jump was a little frustrated at not being able to do all of this herself. So, Bernadette made sure to be extra patient with the woman - even when she made her straighten pictures 6 or 7 times.

"Hey, Foreman!" Jump called out from around a mouthful of cookie to Bernadette, using her favorite nickname for the construction worker.

Bernadette looked at her with elevated eyebrows and the cup of lemonade half raised to her mouth.

"You wanna hang the pictures in my apartment too? They've been sitting in the spare room for a year and half now. I gotta get 'em outta there soon, you know!"

Just as Bernadette was about to reply, Jump tossed her a quick, toothy smile and winked at her and then slid out of her director's chair and announced that she had to pee.

And Bernadette's stomach turned over- in a not-so-unpleasant way. Strange.


Jump sat on her couch with her feet propped up under a pillow, resting her eight-month pregnant body. She was dozing off and on while reading a book about what to expect while delivering. She'd put it off until now and could easily see why. Ugh…

In the soon-to-be nursery, she could hear Sue and Matt putting together some of the toys and furniture she'd gotten at her surprise baby shower.

She had waddled into the surf shop at about 4pm last week, per Sue's request to 'check in some inventory'. She'd wondered why Sue and Casey, the help she'd let Sue hire, couldn't manage it alone.

But, she'd come anyway as Sue had been a bit adamant. What are they gonna do without me for a couple of months? She mused. As she pushed open the door a loud, "Surprise!" exploded in the shop and nearly made her water break then and there. After the initial confusion, she smiled widely at all the people who had come bearing gifts for her and her baby. There was Matt and Sue, Bernadette and Frank, Tim and some of his surfing buddies and girlfriends and to her utter surprise and glee, her dad.

Apparently, Sue had gotten a hold of him and he had driven the four hours from central California to come and see his daughter and celebrate her impending motherhood. It had been almost a year since they'd seen each other last and they had spent the better part of two days catching up and reconnecting.

Together, they'd called her mother (her and Jump's dad were divorced), and talked for a while and her mother had promised to fly from Vermont over Christmas and visit her and the new baby.

If Jump had any doubts about people accepting her pregnancy or being happy for her, they were erased at the baby shower. She was deeply moved when, for the last gift, Bernadette and Matt had presented her with a beautiful handmade baby crib. It had brought Jump to tears and she'd stood by the siblings, sniffling softly as they showed her how it converted from infant bassinette to toddler bed, pride and tenderness evident in their demonstrations.

"Are you sure you guys don't need any help? I can be useful still!" Jump yelled back from the couch to Matt and Sue. She heard Sue's sock covered feet coming down the hallway so she rested her book on her round belly.

"How are you feeling? Anymore dizziness?" Sue asked as she swept an errant piece of blonde hair from her eyes.

"No, Doctor Lucas. I'm feeling much better." Jump replied with a good-humored eye roll and smile. She had begun to feel a little dizzy when she was helping to put away some of the baby clothes in the baby's room. Matt and Sue quickly ushered her to the couch to lie down and take it easy.

"This kid is gonna have so many people looking after him, he won't get away with anything!" Jump had laughed as they'd propped her feet up and Sue had felt Jump's forehead for fever.

"You're just lucky Bernadette wasn't here or you'd be at the hospital already!" Joked Sue. "You are probably right!" Laughed Jump.

Bernadette had been a great help and a great friend throughout Jump's pregnancy. She'd often come over to the apartment to make sure Jump was eating well and had everything she needed. Jump had gotten to the point where she'd really looked forward to Bernadette's visits.

They'd talk about their families and growing up. Bernadette would relay some of the same stories Matt and Mark had already shared, but with a different perspective that was equally entertaining and enlightening. They talked about their respective professions and the challenges they'd endured along the way.

They talked about boyfriends and relationships. Jump didn't get too much into her and Mark's relationship for fear of making things awkward, but she did share with Bernadette some of the things they had in common.

When talk would switch to Bernadette's love life, she simply repeated what she'd told her brothers and dad. She was happy with her life as it is and had no desire to complicate it. Jump seemed to absorb that information in stride and went as far as admitting to Bernadette that that was exactly what she told Sue right before she met Mark.

"Speaking of Bernadette, is she coming over tonight?" Asked Matt as he came into the room and sat next to Sue on the loveseat adjacent to Jump.

"I think so. Later though. She said she had a basketball game. She mentioned something about a certain brother too busy to play, so she's had to fill in on one of the teams." This last sentence was said with a little wink.

"Whatever. She's just jealous that I gots me a honey to spend time with!" Matt grinned stupidly as he put his arm around Sue.

Sue rolled her eyes and jabbed him in the ribs playfully. She did so again and looked at Matt sideways. "You know, I used to be able to feel your ribs when I did that."

Matt got what she was implying and poked at his own ribs. "Well, I guess I better spend some time on the court then…."

The women giggled as Matt stuck his tongue out at them. Just then, the phone rang and Jump grunted as she reached over the coffee table to pick up the cordless.


"Hey Jump." It was Mark.

"How are you?" she asked. She felt a little nervous on the phone with him for some reason.

Matt and Sue picked up on it and mimed their way out the door with a mouthed 'thank you for everything' from Jump.

When she heard the door click shut, she resumed her full attention to Mark.

"I think I'm going to be able to come home early." He said. Jump tried to hide the hesitation in her voice. She figured he'd find a way, pull some strings or something. For some reason, she felt a bit of trepidation in seeing him again.

"Great. When?" She asked, trying to find the balance between genuine excitement and casualness.

"I'm not exactly sure, but within the next two weeks. I'm trying to catch a military flight out of here to New York and then get on a commercial connecting flight."

"How are you feeling?" He said after a beat.

"I'm feeling pretty good. I haven't seen my feet in 3 weeks though." She said lightly, trying to untie this knot in her stomach.

"Wow. I can't imagine…" He said, leaving the thought unvoiced. He cleared his throat and Jump heard him take a deep breath.

"I wish I was there with you. I'm sorry I had to be gone."

Jump heard the utter sadness and longing in his voice and felt a single tear form in the corner of her eye. He was such a good, sweet man…

"Me too." She said, trying to clear her tickly throat, a result of the emotion welling up inside her.

"Is he kicking yet?" Asked Mark, sounding a bit brighter.

"Like a punter." She said with an easy laugh. There was a beat of silence then, "Will you put the phone to… to your stomach? So I can talk to him?" He said this in such a small, careful voice; it broke Jump's heart a little.

"Of course…of course I will Mark." She said in a barely audible whisper.


Jump was awakened by the telephone ringing next to her ear.

"Jeez, what time is it?" She mumbled aloud as she reached for the cordless she'd carried with her to bed after hanging up with Mark.

As she picked it up, she glanced at the clock. 9:08 a.m. Okay, not so early then. The person on the other line won't get an earful…

"Jump?" came the voice of Bernadette when Jump didn't say hello into the phone right away.

"Sorry, I'm here." Jump said as she became fully awake at her friend's voice.

"Ah man, did I wake you? I'm sorry…"

"Yeah, but it's okay. I didn't realize it was so late." Jump yawned loudly, which made Bernadette giggle.

"I'm sorry, that was rude." Said Jump as she sat up and leaned against the headboard. She could feel her hair sticking up against her head in all different angles. She unconsciously tried to smooth them down.

"You're allowed. How are you feeling?" Bernadette asked.

"I'm feeling good. How was your basketball game last night?" Jump was a bit bummed when Bernadette had not come over last night or called.

"Well, it was fun until I slipped on the court and rolled my ankle. The doctor said it was just a sprain so I'll live."

"Ow. I heard sprains hurt worse than breaks." Jump winced in sympathy. That explained why she didn't come over, poor thing, thought Jump.

"Well, generally I would say that's true. This isn't a bad sprain though. I've had worse when I was younger." Bernadette explained.

Both women fell into a rare, awkward silence. Finally, Jump broke it by telling her about Mark coming home early.

"Oh yeah?" Said Bernadette with genuine surprise and joy. "I knew he'd find away to come early. Will he make it back for the birth?"

"He said it would be about two weeks, so he might be able to actually."

"I hope he does, Jump." Bernadette said with quite sincerity.

"Yeah, me too." Jump said, struggling to sound enthusiastic. As the time for Mark to come home got closer, Jump was feeling more apprehensive about seeing him again. Jump knew she was expected to pretty much continue where they left off and it scared her senseless.

A clearing of the throat by Bernadette brought Jump back out of her head and back to her conversation.

"Hey listen, I was going to hobble down to the Beachside Café for some breakfast. Can I pick you up something?" Asked Bernadette.

"Actually, could I join you? I'd like to get out a little and stretch my poor little legs."

Jump could almost hear the smile on Bernadette's face as she said, "Absolutely! I'll come pick you up."

Chapter 7

The shops near the beach had a tradition of staying open a little later than usual to pass out candy to the kids on Halloween. Jump loved Halloween and enjoyed seeing the kids dressed up like princesses, football players and various creatures. She'd usually dress up as well, but this year, she didn't want to put on any more clothes than she had too. She was nearing her due date and was constantly hot despite the mild October weather.

So, there she was, sitting in the rolling office chair from the storeroom with a bowl full of candy resting on her belly and a smile on her face.

"You sure it's okay if we go?" Sue asked.

"Please, go have fun. Pamela." Jump chuckled as she gingerly spun around in her rolling chair to face her.

Jump had nearly given herself a contraction when she saw Sue and Matt walking up to the shop as Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson. Sue had her entire sock drawer stuffed into a white tank top and Matt had fake piercings and tattoos with drumsticks sticking out of his ripped jeans and a video camera in his hand. They were on their way to the Post for a Halloween party.

Sue continued to look at her when her friend didn't make a move to be on her way. "Bernadette will be here in a couple of minutes. I just talked to her. I'll be fine!" Jump said as she swatted Tommy Lee's ass.

"Now get out of here, you are scaring the children away."

"We'll just wait for Bernadette." Said Sue, adjusting her 'boobs'. Just as she finished her sentence, Bernadette walked up in her tool belt, flannel shirt and white hardhat.

"Sue…have you had some work done?" Bernadette asked in mock seriousness.

"Shut up!" Sue bellowed in smiling through her angry shout.

"Who the hell are you supposed to be?" Sue said, looking Bernadette up and down.

"I figured it would be obvious. I'm one of the Village People." Bernadette said with a dead serious face.

Sue and Jump rolled their eyes and groaned.

"What?" Asked Bernadette, hands raised at her sides in confusion.


"Well, Bernsy, that was a lot of candy we handed out." Jump said as she made a motion to get out of her rolling office chair. Bernadette saw her struggling and went to help her stand up.

As Jump gave her a look of thanks and grabbed Bernadette's hand to steady herself, Bernadette giggled and said, "Nobody calls me that but Matt and Mark…I don't…"

"Oh Shit." Said Jump in measured panic and surprise as she froze.

"No! It's okay that you call me that…" Bernadette's sentence died right in her throat and was quickly replaced by something halfway between a shriek and a gasp when she saw the large puddle of liquid dripping off of the chair and onto the floor.

"Uh…Jump, is that what I think it is?" Bernadette said. She felt faint.

"It is." She said all too calmly.

"Oh Christ! We gotta get…. Shit… I didn't drive! I have to call…! Bernadette was definitely losing it and losing it quick.

"Calm down…. Bernsy… calm down." Jump said as if trying to soothe a child. "Look at me." Finally, Bernadette stopped fumbling for her cell phone and looked at Jump. "Listen. I'm not going to have the baby right now, okay? This is just the first step, okay? It will probably be hours before I…." Jump's words cut off abruptly as she was hit with a huge contraction that made her collapse back into the chair.

Bernadette's eyes grew so large Jump would have laughed if she wasn't in so much pain. Okay, that was a BIG contraction. Not good,/ vthought Jump.

"Jump…." Bernadette cried, waiting for Jump to tell her it was still okay. When no answer was forth coming, Bernadette turned pale.

"We are gonna have that baby here, aren't we?"

Jump felt another contraction coming before she could answer. She groped for Bernadette's hand as she clinched her teeth in utter pain. After a few seconds, Jump focused through the pain and started her breathing techniques. Remember to thank Sue for insisting on Lamaze classes, Jump said to herself.

Feeling the muscles relax finally, Jump again focused on a distraught Bernadette whose eyes were saying, 'what do I do?'

"Call an ambulance, Bernadette. There are some beach towels over by the counter. Put them on the floor and help me lie down."

Bernadette was torn. She didn't want to leave Jump's side for a millisecond. Jump saw it. "Go quick, I'll be fine." Bernadette ran to the towels and haphazardly arranged them on the floor. She paused to watch Jump begin breathing rhythmically and then dialed 911.

The ambulance was there within 6 minutes. In that time, Bernadette had Jump lying down on the small mountain of towels and was holding her hand tightly as she kneeled by her left hip. Both women were sweating but for entirely different reasons.

As the paramedics rolled up with their gurney another large contraction hit Jump. They quickly kneeled next to Jump as Bernadette scrambled out of the way. They immediately began to take her vitals and radio in to dispatch on her condition.

"This one wants out in a hurry!" The handsome paramedic smiled as his hands worked in a blur, trying to determine how much time they had. He looked at his colleague; a well-built Asian guy and he seemed to understand what he was thinking. Bernadette had taken those forty-five seconds between their arrival and now to gather herself together. She heard Jump's scared voice calling out her name.

"I'm here, Jump, I'm here." She said as she put both hands on Jump's forehead, smoothing her damp hair back. Jump's frightened eyes finally found Bernadette's and she was instantly calmer.

Bernadette reluctantly broke eye contact to look at the paramedics who were taking out some instruments that looked like surgery scissors, syringes, forceps, paper blankets…

"Jump.." The Asian paramedic said as he looked at Bernadette to verify he was saying the correct name. She nodded and he brought his eyes back to Jump's. "We are gonna deliver your baby here, okay? We won't have enough time to get back to the hospital. We've got the baby's heartbeat. It's nice and strong. Now when I say ready, you are going to push one time, okay?"

Panting, Jump, nodded. She searched for Bernadette who had scooted closer to Jump's head. Jump raised her arm above her head weakly and Bernadette grabbed her hand and gave Jump a reassuring smile.

"You'll be fine, Jump. They do this all the time…right?" She said as she looked up at the paramedics.

"All the time." Smiled the handsome one as he positioned Jump's legs for delivery. "Now relax as much as you can Jump. I'm gonna see how this little…." "boy." Jump offered, smiling through tears of pain and exertion. "Little guy is positioned." He finished.

Bernadette watched the paramedic probe Jump and saw Jump's quick intake of breath. "Easy, Jump." Bernadette said calmly, smiling through some tears of her own as she responded to Jump's tightening of her grip on her hand.

"He's almost ready, Jump. Are you ready to push for me?" Jump breathed out a strangled yes as she continued her breathing. Bernadette watched as the other paramedic injected something in Jump under the curtain of paper sheet. He then picked up the scissors. I'm so glad I'm at this angle and not the other, mused Bernadette. She knew enough from Jump's often too detailed descriptions from her book what was going on.

The paramedic positioned right between Jump's legs was concentrating intently and without looking up at Jump said, "Okay…. Go ahead and push now Jump, just once." Jump's upper body rose from the ground with the effort of pushing and Bernadette slipped her arm beneath her for support. Jump still had a death grip on her left hand so Bernadette scooted closer behind Jump until she was resting partially in her lap.

"That's good Jump! Now relax for a moment." More cutting to make way for the tiny baby. Ouch, thought Bernadette. "Okay, Jump, he's almost out. I'm getting his shoulders now… go ahead and push again…that's it…. Good… one more time, Jump! Your doing great!" Jump was screaming and grunting now. To her credit, she was not cursing Mark or threatening bodily harm. There were just a lot of four letter words.

Bernadette was awestruck. She craned her neck a bit to see what was happening. She could see a slimy, round, purplish mass with black as a moonless night hair slowly appearing from under the paper blanket. "What is it!?" Jump cried as she saw Bernadette's face. Without taking her eyes off of the miracle in front of her she smiled. She could feel tears running down her face as the paramedic rotated the tiny baby and she got a glimpse of his face.

"He's beautiful Jump…he's beautiful…." Bernadette choked out, overcome by emotion. Bernadette and Jump's eyes met just as a tiny, angry cry pierced the brisk, late October night.


"Wow. He is pretty attractive, as far as newborn babies go." Offered Matt who grinned madly as the little guy latched onto his finger. "Cool."

"He's got so much hair, too!" Marveled Sue as she gingerly ran her fingers over his temple. The two were standing on either side of Jump's hospital bed. They had come over the following afternoon after mom and baby had been transported to the hospital.

"I think he looks like a Peter." Said Sue after looking intently at his tiny feet. "Nah… more like a Samuel or Nathan." Said Matt as he continued playing with his little fingers.

"You afraid I'm not gonna name him?" Piped up Jump who cradled the baby boy gingerly against her chest. She couldn't believe this little life came out of her. He is beautiful. She had instantly fallen in love with him as soon as the paramedic put him on her deeply heaving chest. He even let a still-pale Bernadette cut the cord. It was an amazing moment during an amazing night for both women. Neither of them would ever forget it.

"Mark really wanted to be here when we name him, which will be in about half an hour. Besides, the baby hasn't told me his name yet." Both Matt and Sue looked at Jump quizzically.

"He will tell me what he wants his name to be." Jump reasoned, but with no further elaboration. Both shrugged and continued playing with little hands and feet.

Suddenly, there was a light rap on the door and a tall dark head appeared with bright blue eyes. "Mark!" Jump exclaimed. With only a second's hesitation he covered the five feet to the bed quickly and stood next to Jump. He bent down and gingerly kissed her forehead and stood back up with a sheepish smile on his face.

Jump looked at him and smiled. Her eyes then caught movement at the door. It was Bernadette leaning against the doorjamb, looking tired and more beautiful than Jump had ever remembered her being. She was momentarily overcome and covered it with a little smile and a wink, which Bernadette returned in kind. Jump then turned her attention to Mark and the baby as Bernadette slipped away and down the hallway.

Looking at Jump for a moment more, Mark turned his eyes to his son and closed them tightly and opened them quickly as if he didn't believe what he was seeing. He reached into the bundle of blankets and rubbed his index finger against the tiny baby's chest. His eyes filled with tears at the sight of this tiny life he'd helped create. He let out an almost breathless, "Ryan."

"Yeah. That's what it is." Said Jump smiling. Both Sue and Matt gaped at each other. It seemed Mark had just noticed them at that point. "Oh, hey guys!" He said cheerfully as he got hugs from both. After exchanging happy greetings, Sue and Matt made there way out of the room to go look for Bernadette.

"Bernadette told me about last night." Mark said as he threw a glance towards the door. "I'm so glad everything was okay." He said quietly.

"Bernadette was wonderful. If she wasn't there… I don't even want to think about it." Jump finished, shivering at the possibility of her going through the ordeal alone.

"I don't think she's slept at all. She picked me up at the airport just now and I thought she was gonna nod off in the car." He said.

She was still in her jeans and flannel shirt. Suddenly, Jump was very concerned. "Mark, can you make sure Sue and Matt take her home? I don't want her driving if she's that tired."

Mark chuckled as he moved to the door to go get his sister. "Already being the mom." He teased. "You bet." She grinned.

After a few days, Jump and Ryan were released from the hospital. Mark and Sue were there to take them home and get them all set up in the apartment. Not sure where he fit in quite yet, Mark made sure Jump had what she needed and let her know he was only a quick phone call away. He said he'd be staying at Bernadette so he could be over within five minutes.

He didn't ask to stay, but she could certainly tell he wanted to. She was too tired to have to make any decisions right now, but she understood Mark's wanting to be here. She knew he didn't want to push, but he did want to help and be involved.

Before he was about to leave Jump said, "Why don't you stay, Mark." They decided that he would take the couch and assist in changing the little guy. Jump was breastfeeding, so Mark couldn't really help there, she'd reasoned. They both had a laugh about that scenario.

After about an hour of talking and getting used to being around each other again they both decided to get some sleep in before little Ryan awoke to be fed or changed.

Chapter 8

Jump watched, mesmerized by the sight of this little cherubic face suckling her nipple. It was quite an interesting sensation at first, but it had come to be something amazing that just she and her baby boy shared. She loved looking at him and studying his little hands and feet, his tiny nose and ears.

Sometimes at night, she'd wake up, even without hearing a cry. She'd go into the nursery and just watch him in wonder as he slept. This is the best thing I've ever done, she thought to herself.

Jump's quiet observation of Ryan was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Who is it?" She called from her recliner.

"Just me." She heard Sue call and then the jangle of keys as she opened the front door. "I thought you'd be feeding the little linebacker." Teased Sue as she let herself in and dropped a few groceries off on the counter.

"Thank you so much Sue." Jump said sincerely.

"Not a problem Mommy Jump!" Sue said cheerily. "I've got a few minutes before I need to be back at the shop." She said as she plunked down her purse and took a seat at the end of the couch closest to Jump.

"How are things going at the shop?" asked Jump as she gingerly switched breasts for the hungry boy. The one-month old baby was growing exponentially and mom's sore nipples were living proof.

Sue chuckled as she watched little Ryan latch onto the other nipple with vigor. "Ouch, you little sucker!" Jump laughed.

"Men…" Sue said, rolling her eyes. Jump barked out a laugh.

"Things are going great, boss. I'm interviewing a couple of those college kids. Did you want to see their apps again?" Sue made a motion to get them out of her purse.

"Nah, I trust you."

"You have no choice, now, do you?" Sue challenged as a smile formed on her lips.

A few quiet moments passed between the friends as they both looked on at the little baby.

Finally, Sue steeled herself and looked at Jump gently. "How are things going with Mark?"

About two weeks ago, Jump had finally filled Sue in about her apprehension on dating Mark again. Jump had explained that she was having a hard time rekindling their relationship, much less thinking about marrying him. She liked him very much and he was just great with Ryan, but there was that proverbial 'something missing' between the two, at least for her.

Sue had reasoned that Jump had been so used to going it alone, she just had to warm up to the idea and to Mark. Jump gave that a moment's consideration and quickly dismissed it. She had been through all of this in her head a million times. Each time she came up with the same results. She tried to lay it out for her friend.

"Look, what you and Matt have, it's evident in your face when you talk about him. It radiates off of you two." Jump breathed in deeply and let it out slowly. She continued, "It was evident weeks after you started dating him. You even said it yourself that you thought he was the one, even before you slept with him."

"But Jump," Sue said gingerly, "Mark has only been back for a couple of weeks."

Jump blew out a frustrated breath. "Yeah, but we dated for almost 4 months before he left." Jump looked at Sue evenly. "Haven't you ever just looked at a couple and known they were deeply in love? Did you see it in me with Mark? Ever?"

Sue listened. She hadn't realized it was that evident for her friend-her love for Matt. But Sue had seen it in other couples. She'd seen it in her parents, in Matt's sister Carrie and her husband, James.

But she hadn't seen it in Jump.

"Oh, Jump…" Sue said, realization and sympathy evident in her voice. "What are you going to do? Does Mark know how you are feeling about all of this?"

Seemingly not hearing what Sue just asked, Jump began talking, looking unfocused. "I've tried and tried to do what I think I should. I should be in love with him. I should marry him… Damnit…." She broke off, getting too distraught to continue. Sue had never seen her stolid, all-together friend like this. It was breaking her heart.

"You can't go on like this, Jump. I can see it is killing you." Sue reached over and grabbed her friend's hand over the kitchen table they were quietly sitting at. Ryan was sleeping in his nursery and they could hear him breathing softly through the monitor.

Jump let the tears come now. She had finally voiced her emotional struggle and her friend had understood. Jump felt a bit of relief, but also knew that the hardest part was still to come.

So, three days later, she sat down with Mark and told him everything.

So, when Jump heard Sue's question, she responded by saying, "Things are going as good as can be expected, I guess. He's still angry. I can tell that. But he comes to see Ryan all the time. I'm never going to deny him that." Jump said, sadness evident in her voice.

"He's gonna rent an apartment near here. He wants to be the boy's father, no matter what." Jump sniffled a little as she brought Ryan up to her shoulder and pulled down her top to cover herself. "I told him there is no need to get the courts involved for custody or child support. We'll work it all out together." Jump laughed bitterly. "He was at least happy about that."

Sue looked at her friend empathetically. "Hey, I gotta get going back to the shop. Do you need me to bring you anything? You want me to come back later tonight?"

Jump smiled at her friend's endless love and support. "No, that's okay. Spend time with your man. I know you haven't had a lot of time with him lately."

Sue grinned widely. "Yeah, I'm forgetting what he looks like!"

"Oh no! Wouldn't want that to happen!" Jump teased as she rose with Ryan and walked her friend to the door.


A couple hours after Sue left, there was a knock at the door. Expecting it to be Mark, she opened the door without looking through the peephole. She was surprised when it was Bernadette, clad in what could only be her attire for her pick up basketball games. She had on a cut off sweatshirt showing her well-toned arms and long poly-blend shorts with NAVY on the leg. Her hair was tied back, showing her angular jaw.

"Hey." Jump said.

"Hey yourself." Said a subdued Bernadette. They hadn't seen each other much since her and Mark had talked. Jump got the impression that again the tall brunette was upset at her for what happened with her brother.

There was an awkward moment of silence in which Jump shifted Ryan from one arm to the other. Bernadette watched, a big smile growing on her face.

"How's the big guy doing?" Asked Bernadette as she reached for his little hand. Jump stepped into the touch so Bernadette could see him better.

"He's doing great. Eating like a horse." She laughed.

Bernadette looked up into Jump's eyes and for a split second something passed between them. It left Jump a bit perplexed, but she figured it was just from not seeing her friend for a while.

"Sorry, where are my manners. Come in!" Jump said as she stepped away from the door.

"I can only stay a minute, I'm meeting the guys soon to play." Bernadette said as she stepped across the threshold and into the living room.

"Can I get you something to drink or anything?" Jump called over her shoulder as she headed towards the kitchen. Bernadette followed her and asked if she had some water.

"Sure, can you hold him a minute?" asked Jump, not waiting for an answer as she put the baby in Bernadette's waiting arms. Bernadette cooed at the baby and touched his dark brow.

"He looks so much like Mark." Commented Bernadette. As soon as it was out of her mouth she looked up at Jump a little nervously. She didn't come here to make Jump uncomfortable. If anything it was to make sure everything was okay.

Jump took the comment in stride and walked up to Bernadette, setting the water down onto the counter. She then put her hand on little Ryan's head and looked at him. "You're right. He looks just like him." Jump said with a wide smile. It's okay, Bernadette, I don't hate your brother, thought Jump.

Bernadette looked at Jump until Jump caught her eyes. Bernadette shifted from foot to foot and Jump knew she was about to hear the reason for this impromptu visit.

"Look Jump. No matter what happens with my brother, I want you and I to remain friends. I want to be Ryan's aunt in all respects too, if that is okay. If and when Mark gets shipped out again, I want you to always feel free to call on me… for anything."

Those four sentences were exactly what Jump needed to hear from her friend. She was so happy she said that because that was just what Jump wanted too. Jump's nose and eyes crinkled from the enormous smile she bestowed upon Bernadette.

"I want all of those things too, Bernadette. Thank you so much…for everything you've done already. I know I've told you, but it can never be enough."

"I'm glad I was there." Bernadette said sincerely, knowing what Jump was talking about.

They stood in silence as they each looked down on the little guy who was busily sucking at his thumb now. "Hungry again?" Laughed Jump. "I'm telling you, this guy could eat non-stop." As if on cue, he started to fuss a bit. Wordlessly, Bernadette gave him gently to Jump, who went over to her recliner.

Bernadette realized she was going to breastfeed him right there and suddenly felt enormously flushed.

"Uh, thanks for the water and all." She rushed out as she gulped it down in two swallows.

"You have to go already?" Jump sounded a bit disappointed.

"Yeah, I'll be late. They hate h-holding up the court, ya know." Bernadette could not get out of there fast enough as she saw Jump lifting up her t-shirt. Why am I freaking out, I see my sister breastfeeding all the time, went through Bernadette's head as she tried looking everywhere but Jump's breasts. Her ears felt hot and she could've sworn she just stuttered.

"Okay. Don't be a stranger." Jump smiled widely. Bernadette could only nod as she reached for the door. Before she got all the way out, Jump called her name.

"Bernadette, thanks for coming over."

A small smile and wave and a 'sure' and Bernadette was out the door and into cool air.

"What the hell was that?" Said Bernadette as she jogged back to her truck. "I acted like a teenage boy or something." Deciding to put that train of thought away for later, she started up her truck, and sped out of the parking lot.

Jump smiled at Bernadette's retreating figure. She looked positively flustered, thought Jump as she positioned Ryan on her right breast. "I guess I should warn people before I start whipping out my boob for you, little man." She chuckled as she sat back and relaxed.


"Jeez, Bernadette, you played like crap tonight!" laughed Matt. "You're little mind elsewhere tonight?" he continued.

"You keep hassling me and your little 'head' will be elsewhere, little brother." Bernadette growled as she stuffed her towel in her gym bag and grabbed a bottle of water from it.

"Ouch! I was just messin' with ya!" Matt said as he flinched at Bernadette's uncharacteristic comment. She could usually take his teasing about her playing because she often wiped the floor with most of the guys out here.

"Sorry, Matt. I guess I'm a little distracted tonight." Bernadette reached out her hand, asking for a truce. Matt obliged and gave his sister a conciliatory smile.

"Anything you wanna talk about?" he asked as he began pulling on his sweat pants.

"No, just some stuff I gotta work out in my head." Like why can't I get Jump OUT of my head for more than an hour.

"Well, if you need someone to talk to, you can talk to me, or even Sue if it's a girl thing." Matt said, smiling at the last part.

"Thanks, bro." Bernadette said as she climbed into her truck.

Driving home, Bernadette's mind was running a million miles an hour. When she'd been introduced to Jump, she'd liked her almost immediately. She'd seen what Mark liked in her right away and had set out to try and get to know her as a person, not just as Mark's girlfriend.

When she thought of how it was when Matt brought home Sue, she'd liked her too, but there wasn't this driving desire to really sit down with her and talk. She'd expressed an interest in getting to know her, but really just as Matt's girlfriend.

But with Jump there was definitely something different. Sure, they'd been through a lot with Ryan being born; maybe that was part of it. It started way before that and you know it Bernadette.

Bernadette was not one to run from feelings or fall prey to denial. As she added all these things up in her head it left her with one conclusion- she was attracted to Jump.

The really weird thing about this all was that she'd never even considered women before. She'd been accused of it many a time in high school when she wouldn't sleep with any of the guys who asked, but the truth was, she just didn't like any of them. Popularity didn't matter to Bernadette, but being true to her self did. But being true to ones self sometimes meant doing what was best for others. So Bernadette made the only choice she could. She acknowledged the fact and then vowed to never think about it again.

Chapter 9

"A little to the right. No, left…okay…perfect." Jump clapped her hands excitedly as the last of the trimming was put on the Christmas tree in the corner of the 'Snow' part of the shop. Jump bounded over to Ryan's playpen and picked him, showing the almost two month old the tree. "Look, he's smiling! He likes it!" Laughed Jump as she tilted him up for them to see that he did indeed have a smile.

"He just has gas." Bernadette said around a smile.

Sue and Bernadette had endured about an hour of Jump's direction giving and were elated when the star was placed on the top of the tree and Jump as well as Ryan, were happy with it.

At about the same time, Matt and Tim finished stringing the Christmas lights around the outside of the shop. Upon seeing the soft glow of the multi-colored lights, the women, with Ryan in tow, all ran outside to see.

The shop also had new signage outside, perfectly designed and painted by Bernadette, who was quite an artist in her own right. It sported the new name "Surf and Snow" to include the new ski shop.

"Beautiful job guys!" Announced Sue as she looped an arm around Matt's waist. The six of them stood on the sidewalk marveling at the festive look of the shop. "Okay, enough of being outside. It must be like 50 degrees out here!" Sue said with all the cold-bloodedness of a native Californian.

"Well, I do have hot chocolate in the back room. We could make some and really make it feel like winter." Reasoned Jump as she pulled the blanket tighter around Ryan.

"Let's go then. We'll have a Winter Wonderland in our minds." Grinned Tim as he put his hand on Jump's shoulder. She smiled back at him as he led her to the door, followed by the rest.

"When does your mom come in, Jump?" Asked Bernadette as she poured hot water over chocolate powder in the line of Styrofoam cups.

Jump was happily surprised when her mom had made plans to come visit her. Since their initial talk about her pregnancy, they'd talked almost weekly.

Jump and her mother hadn't shared a close relationship while Jump was growing up. When Jump had pondered why, her father came up with the reason that perhaps they were too much alike. He saw a lot of his wife in their daughter from an early age. The tendency for Jump to go it alone, figure things out by her self and generally be self sufficient left very little room for the need for guidance. At least that was what Claire, Jump's mom, concluded.

Claire admitted to her husband that she felt she wasn't really needed by her daughter so she kind of kept her distance. It may seem like a strange thing for a mother to do, but Claire, like her daughter, didn't really dwell on things too long. She saw her daughter taking care of her own things, doing well in school so she saw little reason to step in.

For Jump, she'd just figured that was how her mother was and left it at that. She knew her mother loved her. It was just that if Jump needed something, she'd have to ask for it directly because her mother would never pick up on it. And being a teen, some things were just plain hard to come out and ask for. Fortunately, she got the emotional support she needed from her father who would make it his job to draw Jump out and talk with her when she was having problems with anything.

As Jump became an adult, things became easier for her and her mom. Jump had learned a little more about voicing her thoughts and feelings and that made it easier for her mother to know how exactly to respond to Jump. For Claire, there was no longer this self imposed pressure to give Jump what she already seemed to possess.

When Jump was thinking about starting a business, her mom had been surprised when she asked her opinion. The first couple of times she didn't really offer much, thinking Jump was just being polite in asking her. But there was one particular time when Jump called and asked her mom to really tell her what she should do. She was having trouble with financing and was thinking about not starting a business at all. It was then that her mom had laid out all that she could expect, good and bad. She didn't try to discourage her at all, that wasn't Claire. She mainly gave her the facts and let her decide for herself whether it was worth the risk.

To say that Claire and Jump grew close as a result of that conversation would not be true, however, a seed had been planted. The water needed for it to grow would happen when Jump told her mom about her pregnancy.

When she talked to her mom back in May and told her about the pregnancy, she wasn't sure of the reaction her mother would have. Especially since she wasn't married and didn't plan to be. Her mother surprised her though and talked about her pregnancy with Jump and gave her some anecdotal stories of her own experiences with Jump as an infant. It was the best conversation that Jump had ever remembered having with her mom.

So, when she responded to Bernadette's question, a smile creased her lips.

"Her plane is coming in around 6pm on the 21st." Jump answered as she came in behind Bernadette with the little wooden stir sticks.

Jump giggled as the pair wordlessly organized the napkins, one with each cup of hot chocolate.

"What?" Bernadette asked curiously.

"We make quite a team, you know that?" Jump said as she began to take a sip of her chocolate while simultaneously handing one to Bernadette, which she took with a smile.

"Oh yeah?" Bernadette asked in a way that begged Jump to elaborate.

"Yeah." Said Jump, confidence in her statement growing as she thought. "There's the building of the addition. Of course lots of people worked on it, but it seemed we read each other's mind at times, ya know? You'd know exactly what color I wanted this or that or that I wanted this thing here or there when I wasn't here to tell you. And the whole, 'having the baby here, now' event." She laughed at it all, but her laugh held a hint of wonder.

"I really think I was destined to meet you, Bernadette." Jump concluded with a smile so sweet it made Bernadette's pulse race.

Before Bernadette could respond, Jump was out of the storeroom with her extra cup of hot chocolate and a little bit more of Bernadette's heart.


"Mom!" exclaimed Jump as she ran up to meet her as she exited the airport's exterior doors. Bernadette had offered to drive so Jump wouldn't have to worry about navigating the airport and caring for Ryan in the backseat. As Jump brought her mom over to the car, Bernadette slipped out of the driver's seat to meet her.

"Mom, this is Bernadette, my friend." Jump said around a radiant smile. "Bernadette, this is my mom, Claire." Jump beamed as the two politely shook hands and smiled at one another. Bernadette noted that Claire was a few inches taller than Jump, with lighter hair and sharper features. Her eyes were also a bit grayer than Jumps greenish-hazel ones. You could definitely tell they were related though. It was interesting meeting both her mother and father for now she saw how Jump was almost literally a hybrid of both.

As Bernadette picked up her luggage, Claire seemed to suddenly realize one of the major reasons she came for a visit. It was almost comical to hear her politely thank Bernadette for putting her bags away and then in the same breath, shout joyfully, "Where's my new grandson!?"

She then dashed to the window of the back seat, peered in, yelped, and opened the door all within a few seconds. That made Bernadette giggle. She had the baby out of his car seat and into her arms in an instant.

As Bernadette rounded the car to get into the driver's seat, a burly, dim-looking man came by in an airport security uniform, too tight for him about 25 lbs. ago. "You'll have to move your car, you can't park here."

Bernadette rolled her eyes and remembered Jump's mom was here. She restrained herself and smiled sweetly. "We are buckling an infant in his seat, can you give us a second? We'll be gone in a few."

The security officer grunted his answer and kept walking and looking back every two steps as if Bernadette was lying to him. "Please, do we look like a national security threat?" Bernadette mumbled to herself.

After everyone had piled into the car, they headed back to Jump's apartment. On the drive, Jump filled in her mom about how Bernadette was Mark's sister. Because they, or rather Jump, had decided not to be linked romantically to Ryan's father, it was a bit awkward bringing him into the conversation in relation to Bernadette. After all, it was Bernadette, not Mark, who was the one to drive Jump to the airport and the first one to meet Claire.

Claire immediately sensed the closeness the women shared too. Their easy manner and humor with each other spoke of a very strong, supportive friendship. Claire was happy to see that her daughter had seemed to find a friend that she could count on. Especially after hearing the story of Ryan being born. She would make sure and thank Bernadette in private for being there for her daughter during that ordeal.

"Oh, he is just beautiful, Jess. He has your nose, definitely!" Cooed the proud grandmother.

Bernadette was momentarily confused at the name Claire said. She'd actually forgotten Jump's real first name was Jessica. She looked over to Jump in the passenger seat and gave her a teasing wink.

"Oh, shut up, 'Bernsy!" Jump said with mock anger.

Claire picked up on the exchange and said, "She calls you Jump too?"

It sounded more like disappointment than curiosity to Bernadette and she looked at Jump with questioning eyes. "My mom hates that nickname, or more precise, how I got it." Jump explained.

"Well it isn't something you go around telling people at the bridge club." Claire stated matter-of-factly. Then in a mock conversational tone she continued. "Hey, Marge, let me tell you about my lovely daughter who got drunk one night and tried bunny hopping from one truck bed to another, breaking her left arm in the process!"

Bernadette grimaced as Jump's mom retold the tale with painful accuracy. She looked over at Jump who had slumped over, propped her elbow on the arm of the door and held her forehead. She slowly shook her head as she remembered the night… kind of.

"Well, I did almost make it. And at least the trucks weren't moving." Jump offered as some sort of 'it could have been worse' scenario that might make her mom happy.

"Oh, honey, I know the days of impressing your little surf friends at the shop are over, as are your drinking days…right?" Claire said.

Jump turned around as if to hurl some invective, but it died on her lips when she saw the wicked smile on her mother's face. "You are evil…" Jump murmured. Claire just laughed and turned her attention to her new grandson.

They didn't know it, but both mother and daughter were silently marveling at how far they'd come in their relationship in the last year. Teasing like this would have been just out of their reach in relating to each other, but with the pregnancy, both women were looking at things a bit differently. And it was a good different.

Once they got back to Jump's apartment, Bernadette stuck around long enough to unload Claire's bags and ask if there was anything else they needed. When Jump hugged her friend and told her she'd done more than enough already, they said their goodbyes and Bernadette was off to go shopping for Christmas Eve dinner.

While driving, Bernadette thought about the last couple of hours and decided she really liked Jump's mom. She knew a bit of the history between them and knew they weren't close when Jump was young, but you wouldn't be able to tell by the way she was with Jump and Ryan today. It warmed Bernadette's heart to see Jump so happy and to see her mom share in the joy of her baby.

Her thoughts then turned to Mark. He'd kept a real low profile after Jump had told him she didn't think they'd be together as a couple again. He visited Ryan often, but he did little else with family or friends. Bernadette knew he was hurting and had tried to talk to him, but he'd just shut down. He wouldn't even talk to Matt.

When she first heard about what had happened between Mark and Jump a month or so ago, she was a bit angry. Here, Mark offered up his heart once more and it was thrown back into his face. But as she thought about it, she realized perhaps Mark wasn't the only victim here. They'd called it quits before he left for Japan, but the pregnancy changed everything for them. Perhaps Jump realized she couldn't be what Mark wanted the first time, but felt obligated to try again because she was carrying his child.

It was funny to Bernadette, all of this analyzing and conjecture she'd felt compelled to take on in a relationship she had nothing to do with. Getting to know Jump well had not permitted her to think of Jump as anyone but a good and decent person. Bernadette knew in her heart that Jump made the right decision concerning her brother. She knew it was right because she had confidence that Jump knew what was right for her and Ryan.

How would Bernadette have handled growing up if she knew her parents were merely together for the kids? If she didn't witness the utter love and devotion they had for each other? Not experiencing the former, fortunately, she had nothing to go by. But she did know this, her parent's love for each other spilled out into their offspring. None were afraid to show their feelings for each other and for those they felt close to. They also knew the power and resiliency of love because of what they went through with their mother and what their father went through with his beloved wife. Bernadette knew that whatever the Rands would encounter, good or bad, they would be okay.

"Well, except for Mark right now…" Bernadette mumbled to herself. But she knew he'd be okay with time. That was how they were raised.


Christmas Eve arrived quickly and Bernadette was in the throes of cooking for more people than she ever had before. Last Thanksgiving Carrie had done most of it, with Bernadette helping out. She was not sure she was going to survive this day. Her brothers were no help, her dad had a golf date, Carrie was busy with Blake, her 7 month old, who had a cold and Sue and Jump couldn't possibly miss the Christmas Eve Day sales going on. This is what Bernadette figured when she insisted on cooking the meal all by her self. They'd offered their help, but Bernadette refused, saying she welcomed the challenge. I must have been on crack, thought Bernadette quite honestly.

The sound of the doorbell ringing brought instant panic. "Three o'clock already!" she cried as she pulled off her apron to answer the door. She was shocked speechless by the sight of Claire with a smile on her face and an industrial mixer in her hands.

"Jess figured you'd need help." Claire said by way of explanation as to why she was here. Bernadette took a second to squint at her kitchen clock but couldn't see it from that distance. "It's noon dear." Claire smirked as she stepped inside the door and headed to the kitchen, all business. Bernadette obediently followed her with a twinge of nervousness that was quickly overshadowed by utter relief. Thanks, Jump!

"What would you like me to do now?" Asked Bernadette. She sounded like an overeager elementary school girl, but she didn't care. This woman was a whirlwind in the kitchen and they'd be done about half an hour before everyone arrives. She'd also saved a large part of Bernadette's sanity, not to mention her fingers. Her fingers would have never gotten through the entire vegetable cutting in one piece. Wielding a hammer was way different than wielding a knife, as Bernadette had experienced many times before.

By 2:45, the table was set, the food was in the oven to keep warm and Claire was busy choosing some old Christmas favorites from Bernadette's impressive CD collection. After she'd chosen a compilation of classics, she wondered over to the picture window and looked out into the winter cold, gray-green ocean. The clouds overhead were dense and dark, promising rain before the night was through. She imagined it was probably snowing in Vermont.

The sound of the front door being opened pulled her out of her reverie and she smiled widely as Ryan was placed into the entryway, car seat and all, followed by her daughter, Sue and Matt. Bernadette was still in her bedroom dressing so she took everyone's coats and led them into the living room.

"Smells great." Said Matt as he walked into the kitchen. "No grazing!" yelled back Claire in a friendly manner as she went to deposit the coats into the extra room. They all chuckled, as they knew that was Matt's exact intention.

Jump kneeled down to unbuckle Ryan and take him out of the car seat. Sue went about setting up his little bouncy seat so he could be part of all the action and watch the people come in. As Jump lifted him out, she caught sight of a freshly showered Bernadette in worn jeans and gray turtleneck. Jump's face broke into a smile unbidden and she gave up her little boy to the outstretched arms of his aunt.

"Hey, big guy!" She cooed as she held him in her long arms. He smiled for her, as he always did, and she beamed. She looked at Jump who was looking on at them and said in a near whisper. "By the way, thanks for sending your mom over. She was awesome. I wouldn't have finished without her."

"You bet. I knew you'd be in over your head." Jump teased as she stepped a bit closer and stood opposite Bernadette who still had Ryan. She looked up into Bernadette's eyes. "But thanks for making the effort. It was sweet of you to offer your home once again. And thanks for including us."

Bernadette looked at Jump surprisingly. "Why wouldn't I?"

"I know Mark's not having an easy time and I know it is because of me." At this, Jump looked down at her feet. It was the first time she'd acknowledged the discord between herself and Mark to Bernadette so directly. Jump began to get a little teary and Bernadette had the sense that Jump wanted to continue talking, so Bernadette gestured toward her room and Jump wordlessly followed.

"We're gonna change him." Bernadette said in way of explanation to everyone. When they stepped into the room, Jump sat heavily on the bed as Bernadette stayed standing and unconsciously bobbed up and down to soothe the baby.

"I just feel so guilty. I can't be what he needs Bernadette. I like him a lot, but that isn't enough to get married on. It isn't fair to him or Ryan. I know we share a child and that won't ever change, nor do I want it too. I…I…" Jump broke off with a deep sigh.

Bernadette listened and absorbed what Jump was telling her. Bernadette had been right about Jump's motives for breaking it off with her brother.

Bernadette felt bad for both of them. She was thankful not to have been in their situation also. She tried to think of something to say that might assuage Jump's guilt a bit. It was the same thing she'd said to Mark recently when she'd had about enough of his moping around.

"Look, if it was meant to be, both of you would have felt it by now. There is someone waiting just for Mark. I'm sure of it. It's like my dad used to say, "we find people that fit us." Mark will find that someone who feels for him what he feels for you. And it will happen for you too, Jump."

Jump seemed to take this in, and with a nod, she set her jaw. "I hope some day I can believe that Bernadette. I really do. On both counts." Jump rose from the bed and placed her arm around Bernadette's waist. "You can probably stop bouncing. He's been asleep for a while now." Jump said as she looked at his bright cherubic face. Both women chuckled softly and made their way back to the living room.

"There you are. I just got off the phone with Carrie. Blake's fever is gone, so they are going to come on over." Said Matt as he flipped the channels looking for the 24-hour "Christmas Story" Marathon.

A few minutes later, the door creaked open and in came Frank and Mark. "It's a little wet out there." Said Mark as he shook out his jacket outside the door. The two men continued in, leaving their jackets on the bench next to the covered front entry.

Even though Jump had seen him when he came to visit Ryan, she was a little apprehensive about seeing him tonight with so many of his family here. They hadn't really spoken except to talk about Ryan. She hung back a bit as Mark made his way around the room greeting everyone. She was glad he'd already met her mom. It wasn't as awkward as she'd anticipated fortunately. Mark was a bit quiet, but they seemed to get on, especially when they talked of the baby. They greeted each other now with polite smiles and Mark made a cute joke about how he would have loved to help with the cooking but probably would have burned the house down.

When he finally got to Jump, he smiled warmly and gave her a hug. This surprised her somewhat and she was caught speechless. "Can I talk to you outside for a moment?" He asked. She nodded and motioned to her mom to watch over Ryan.

Once outside, he leaned against the deck railing and looked out at the dark ocean. He was silent for so long, Jump was unsure he was even going to speak. Just as she was about to begin apologizing for what she'd put him through, he turned around and looked at her intently.

"Jump, I love you. That won't change."

She began to interrupt him, but he held up his hand for her to hear him out.

"I also realize that it isn't there for you. Whether it would've been next year or 5 years from now, we would eventually be in this very same situation. I blamed you for a while; I'm ashamed to admit that. But you know what? My parents loved each other so deeply you couldn't help but notice. If I can't make you that happy; if we can't make each other that happy, it would be unfair to all of us."

Jump was speechless. This is all that she felt. And Mark understood. As he talked, she searched his face for any signs of untruth or disbelief. He was speaking from his heart. She felt the weight of the world slide off of her shoulders. He had freed her from her prison of guilt.

"Mark. I don't know really what to say…except thank you. If I could change this, you know I would. But you deserve someone…who is in love with you and will love you with all her heart. Believe me when I say, I wish it was me." Jump said through a steady stream of tears coming from the corners of her eyes.

He nodded, showing he understood and gave her a sad but peaceful smile. He pulled her into a huge hug and they stayed that way for a few minutes. "I'm sorry to spring this on you tonight, but I'm being transferred to Pensacola. I leave right after the new year."

"So soon?" Jump asked. He nodded sadly.

"I'd like to spend as much time as I can with Ryan…"

"Of course, of course. Listen, if you want to take him overnight, or spend a few days…I have a full house with mom, but you can stay." Jump stumbled out.

"No, I'll just come over, perhaps bring him to Bernadette's for a few hours if that is okay." He smiled.

Her answer was a bright smile and a nod. They wordlessly headed back into the house, feeling a lot better than they had in a long time.

The rest of then night was filled with eating, playful arguing, story telling and most of all happiness. Mark and Jump spent time with Ryan and even took to teasing each other. Jump felt good to be at that stage with Mark. She wasn't sure it would ever happen. It seemed that during the course of the evening they had both figured out how to fit into each other's lives and hearts.

Claire had everyone in stitches telling stories of Jump's antics while growing up. Seems the tables were turned and the Rand family enjoyed hearing about Jump's batched gerbil breeding services when she was 11 and the scrapes she'd get into with her brother. Jump was sure she'd never been more embarrassed in her life.

The holiday week passed quickly and soon it was time for Claire to return to Vermont. It was very hard on Jump to see her mom go. It seemed they'd made up a lifetime of mother/daughter closeness and Jump didn't want it to end. They'd promised each other more frequent visits and made plans for Jump to come out when the baby was a little older.


"I let her off the hook."

"What do you mean? Asked Bernadette, turning to Mark as she came to a stop at a red light. Her brother shifted to turn towards the passenger window. He sat silently for a moment watching the drops of rain fuse together and run down the glass in chaotic patterns.

"I told her I realize she doesn't feel for me what I feel for her and that it was okay." He sighed, somewhat defeated. "I told her she would find someone who would make her happy. I let her go."

"Are you okay?" Bernadette asked pointedly.

"I have to be Bernadette. What other choice do I have?"

Seeing the pain in her brother's eyes, she lifted her hand off of the steering wheel and squeezed his shoulder gently, trying to convey her love and support with the simple gesture. He turned his face to her and gave her a small smile.

"For what it's worth, I'm very sorry Mark. I'm sorry you had to go through this…twice."

He shrugged halfheartedly. "It's my fault really. I should have realized the truth of it the first time we parted. She just isn't in love with me. I shouldn't have tried to force the issue. Even with Ryan in our lives now."

Bernadette didn't know what to say to that, so she stayed silent. She knew nothing she could say would take his pain away. They both remained silent for the remainder of the trip to the airport.


The days turned into weeks and all had fallen into the post-holiday work rhythm. Around the end of January, the construction company Bernadette was working for had secured a bid for building a private school. The project kept her extremely busy, but it was a welcomed distraction to thinking about where her life was going.

After Mark had left for Pensacola, Bernadette really started looking hard at her life and what she wanted. Seeing Mark and Jump come close to marrying and building a life together gave Bernadette pause. Was having a family something she wanted? It seemed something that she should want, she guessed. She thought about how happy her parents were.

It's strange really, she hadn't really thought much about seeking out someone to spend her life with. She'd been single for so long, it had become a non-issue for her really. But, despite things turning out the way they did for Mark, Bernadette couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to want someone in her life. To have a family even. No use thinking about it until you have a reason to. And with that thought, Bernadette threw herself into the new project, leaving little time and energy for such musings.

Chapter 10

By the beginning of March, Jump had decided to go back part-time to get a little time out of the house. She would bundle up little Ryan and they'd head over to the shop. When there, she'd usually just do behind the scenes things like ordering or following up on vendor questions and left the sales to Sue and their new hire Casey, an undergrad student at the local university who had mornings free.

Once Jump got back into working, she realized how she really missed it. She loved being with Ryan, but she missed the interaction with Sue and the customers as well. Being able to bring Ryan to work was like having the best of two worlds. She set up a playpen in the storeroom and made a place on one of the shelves for all of the necessary baby accessories. There she'd be able to put him down for naps and come out to the shop and help out and visit a bit.

She was also enjoying getting to know Casey. She was turning out to be quite a good find. Sue made sure she reminded Jump who found her every time Jump brought it up too.

"You know, Sue, ultimate credit does go to me, because it was I who found you!" Jump announced from her place at the counter after hearing Sue gloat for the last time.

Sue turned to her thoughtfully and nodded. "You're right. How lucky can you get?" She smiled and turned back to tagging a new shipment of aloe vera gel and sunscreen.

"Uggh, such an ego!" Jump laughed as she watched Casey walk in with their lunch.

"Who's got an ego?" Casey asked as she set the sandwiches on the counter and looked at Jump expectantly with a smile.

"Miss Thing over there. She might need help getting out of the door tonight with her big head." Jump chuckled as she gestured toward Sue with her soda she'd quickly liberated from the cardboard container.

"Speaking of egos…" Sue started as she made her way to the counter, "Matt told me this funny story about his friend Kevin's getting stomped on, big time." Both Jump and Casey looked at her encouraging her to continue. She chuckled slightly before continuing. "Matt decided to bring Kevin to play a pick up game a few Friday nights ago and apparently he fell head over heels for Bernadette, literally."

The mention of Bernadette's name along with someone else brought a strange twinge to Jump's stomach. She hadn't heard much from her friend at all since January and she'd wondered how she was…and who this Kevin was. Suddenly, hearing Sue's story took on an unexplained importance to Jump. She stopped unwrapping her sandwich to give Sue her full attention.

If Sue noticed, she didn't indicate it as she continued with her story. "Apparently the guy kept trying to call all of these fouls until finally Bernadette just told him to shut up and quit playing like a girl." Sue could hardly contain her mirth as she recounted what Matt had told her. "Everyone went dead quiet on the court at what Bernadette had said. To his credit, this Kevin guy was the first to laugh at the absurdity of the only woman on the court telling him not to play like a girl. Sue and Jump shared a laugh at the thought of Bernadette, standing defiantly among the players, trying not to laugh at her own statement. "So anyway, play continues and apparently, while going for a loose ball, Bernadette accidentally trips Kevin and he ends up breaking his wrist."

"How terrible! Jump and Casey both say in unison. "Well, yes and no. It was Bernadette who drove him to the hospital. According to Matt they got on quite well and when Kevin had shared that he was a high school basketball coach, the situation took on a whole other level of silly irony. Kevin used the sympathy he was getting from Bernadette and asked her out. They've been dating ever since."

Jump gave a noncommittal grunt. Inside was a different story. That strange twinge had just become a heavy thud. She suddenly lost her appetite. She tried hard to hide her discomfort at the news and decided to ask a few questions. She was supposed to be happy for Bernadette. Why wasn't she?

Clearing her throat, she asked how long they'd been dating. Sue looked up to her left, trying to place the time that Matt had said this all happened. "I think he said around the middle of February. You didn't know she was dating someone? I thought you guys hung out?" Sue asked as kind of an afterthought. She didn't even realize she hadn't figured Jump had heard the story before her from Bernadette.

"No, no… Jump said distractedly. "I haven't talked to her in over a month. I guess I know why now." She said, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

"I guess he's a real looker from what Carrie says. We are supposed to have dinner with the two next weekend. You should join us." Sue said, looking pointedly at Jump after Casey moved off to make a phone call when the conversation turned two-sided.

"I'll see." Jump said quietly.


What am I doing? Bernadette asked her reflection as she was getting dressed to go over to Sue's for dinner with Matt and her… boyfriend? They'd been dating for almost a month now and she knew he thought of her as his girlfriend. She should be looking forward to this night, but all she felt was this mounting apprehension.

In the beginning, she'd felt like she was finally on the road to having some sort of life. A dating life at least. Kevin was a fun, intelligent, sincere guy. They had similar interests. He seemed genuinely curious about her opinions and thoughts. He was kind and attentive in bed. He talked of her meeting his family and friends. He was very much into her.

But she just wasn't into him. It made her angry, like she was sabotaging her chance at happiness against her own will. What was her will? If he called tonight and cancelled, she wouldn't be upset at all. She just didn't understand why she couldn't be in love with this seemingly perfect guy for her.

Looking again at herself in the mirror she decided to just give it more time. He deserves that much at least.


Jump couldn't shake the feeling of dread as she finished getting Ryan's stuff together to go over to Sue's. I'll be a fifth wheel. It will be uncomfortable.

I don't want to see Bernadette with someone.

That's it isn't it? When did it start to matter? Jump finally accepted Sue's invitation to come over mostly out of curiosity. She wanted to see the guy who had captured Bernadette's heart. And she'd done a good job of ignoring the unnamed discomfort that she felt when she pictured Bernadette dating someone. For a while at least.

She remembered being a bit jealous when Sue and Matt started dating too. What were you jealous of though? The time Matt took Sue from you or Matt himself? Jump hadn't met Kevin but already she disliked him.

Even before this Kevin guy, her and Bernadette hadn't talked or spent that much time together. Bernadette was incredibly busy on her building project, or so Jump thought. Jump let out a frustrated growl that made Ryan drop his toy and swing his attention to her.

Jesus, what is wrong with me? She's your friend. Now go to this dinner, get to know Kevin and be happy for her. For them.

Jump had come a tad bit early, hoping to beat everyone there so she could prepare herself somewhat. Sue misinterpreted Jump's slight unease, figuring Jump was just preoccupied with making sure Ryan wasn't fussy during the dinner. Sue knew Jump was ultra-sensitive about taking Ryan out and having him get agitated at different surroundings and being around a lot of people.

Jump caught on and guiltily decided to play up to what Sue assumed to be the truth. Jump knew Ryan would be fine because he didn't have much of a nap that day and would probably be out for the night as soon as she fed him.

When the moment came and Bernadette and Kevin arrived, it wasn't as surreal as Jump had imagined. Bernadette was genuinely glad that Jump and Ryan were there and apologized profusely for not calling or coming to visit. Jump suddenly felt a little foolish at the way she'd been acting and thinking lately.

She graciously greeted Kevin, who was indeed very handsome. As it turned out he was very charming and witty as well. It was not hard to see what Bernadette saw in him. He and Jump actually talked a lot during the course of the evening. He was very interested in hearing about her foray into self-employment and shared his dreams of opening his own summer basketball camp some time in the next couple of years.

Throughout the night she caught Bernadette's eyes and each time her own were met with warmth and sometimes a twinkle, depending on what the conversation contained at the moment. She'd even stayed an hour later than she'd planned because she was enjoying the company and conversation so much.

When she finally decided to call it a night, Bernadette jumped up quickly to help with Ryan. As they both busied themselves with gathering up his things in Sue's bedroom, Bernadette kept looking at her. So much so that Jump actually stopped collapsing the playpen and asked amusedly if she had something on her face.

"No, not..nothing." Bernadette stammered and smiled. Her eyes and facial features quickly melted into a calm seriousness, almost sadness. It surprised Jump. "I just really miss hanging out with you and Ryan, that's all."

Jump took a deep breath and diffused the seriousness with an easy smile. It was suddenly a bit too much to bear right now, after such a fun dinner. "Well, you can remedy that Bernadette. We miss you too you know. Why don't we try and get together next week?" Then Jump remembered. "If you have a free evening." She finished with forced casualness as she let her eyes drift towards the dining room where they could hear the other's talking animatedly.

Oh…Kevin. She'd forgotten all about him the second she'd joined Jump in the bedroom. "Oh.. well, we aren't attached at the hip or anything…" She said with way more defensiveness than she meant.

It came out so defensive, Bernadette sounded like a defiant teenager. It made them both laugh a little.

"Okay…" Jump said around a smile as she put her hands in surrender. "Sorry to assume you were such a kept woman."

Bernadette's response was to put her hands on her hips and narrow her eyes challengingly at Jump. "Just name the night, I'll be there."

Jump nodded and gave Bernadette a playful smile. "I will."

As Bernadette walked Jump out to her car, Jump turned to look at Bernadette's profile for a second before she said, "Kevin is really nice, Bernadette. I'm happy for you."

Bernadette looked at Jump, searching her eyes for… what, she didn't know. After a second's pause, she said simply, "Thanks."

They loaded Ryan into the car wordlessly and when the task was done, Bernadette stood and gently closed the car door. There was a moment of awkward silence that was broken when Jump told her she'd call her in the next few days, naming the night they'd get together. With a nod and a small smile Bernadette reached to squeeze Jump's shoulder. Jump immediately covered Bernadette's hand with her own and looked up into Bernadette's eyes. They had that same expression they did earlier when they were getting Ryan's stuff together. Jump didn't have the courage to ask what was behind that look. Chances were it was just guilt at not keeping in touch better.

"I'll see you later then?" Jump offered as her hand fell away from Bernadette's. A split second later, Bernadette's hand came off of her shoulder.

"Count on it." She said with conviction.

"Goodnight, Bernadette." And then she was gone. Bernadette watched her go, not turning to go in until the taillights on her car were too small to make out.

"Kevin and Bernadette seem to get on very well." Sue commented to Matt as he brought in dishes from the dinner table. When she didn't hear him say anything, Sue turned around to see if he was avoiding saying something and realized what he was doing. The look of abject concentration, his tongue sticking out through tense lips, was evident as he balanced way too many dishes on top of each other. She smiled. He's so cute…

"Yeah, Kevin is quite taken with her. It's a little weird to hear your sister's…attributes discussed enthusiastically, though." He said as he began drying dishes she had recently washed, having run out of room in the dishwasher.

Sue shot him a look and he read it right away. "He's a gentleman, don't get me wrong…but he is a man and when men get together and talk"…He gave her an exasperated sigh, not knowing how to get himself out of this one. Stupidly, he continued…"you know how men are and…" Matt finally stopped mid-sentence, as Sue's expression got more and more heated. He sighed again, defeated, waiting for one of his beloved's little speeches about men's obsession with sex. Instead, Sue unceremoniously dropped the spoons she was cleaning and pushed a bewildered Matt up against the refrigerator. "Tell me about how men are…" She growled seductively into his ear.


Bernadette took a deep breath as she closed her front door. She could tell that Kevin expected to spend the night tonight. Why would he not? Poor guy, thought Bernadette. She ran her hand through her hair and began to think about how to get out of this mess she had created. Forgotten was her idea to just give it more time. Deep down she knew no more time was needed. She knew he wasn't that puzzle piece that 'fit'.


Two days later and true to her word, Jump called and invited Bernadette over for dinner and a movie. Bernadette readily accepted and promised to bring a good movie. They joked about each other's interpretation of a good movie, Jump being more of the independent or foreign film type and Bernadette being more of the romantic comedy type.

"You're a fan of romantic comedies?" Jump said around a giggle.

"Yes, I am. Why is that so funny?" Bernadette wanted to know.

"Well, it just seems so unlike you." Jump said reasonably.

"And what seems more 'like me'?

"Uhm… Thrillers, mysteries…action flicks?" Jump offered. She had the feeling she was getting herself in trouble here. Had she offended her? She waited an agonizingly long time for Bernadette to respond.

"I'm not that much of a hard-ass that I don't enjoy a good romantic comedy. I am a very romantic person, actually." Ha! Respond to that, Miss Know-It-All.

Jump was floored. Now she was having fun. "I had no idea Miss Rand. I am badly mistaken and I apologize profusely. I'll look forward to watching When Harry Met Sally, then." Bernadette could just hear the merriment in her words. She found herself smiling brightly as well.

"My favorite movie!" Bernadette finished with cheerleader-voiced enthusiasm. They both giggled as they finished making plans and then said their goodbyes.

Bernadette was really looking forward to a night with Jump. Now, all she had to do was get out of her standing Saturday night date with Kevin.


"I love the smell of wood glue in the morning!" Bellowed Matt through a yawn as he stretched his arms out. Bernadette chuckled as she closed her truck door and grabbed her tool belt from the back of the truck.

"How are things this morning?" She asked as she made her way to the trailer. It was their normal routine of the morning and had been since Matt came to work for his sister. He'd follow her into the trailer and give a brief status report, what they planned on getting done in the day, who was here, who wasn't.

"Things are great sis! I am doing really well. And you?"

Bernadette eyed her brother suspiciously. He'd either had a really good morning (i.e. stayed over at Sue's), or he wanted to ask her for something. She decided to play along. "I'm doing just fine, thanks. No complaints." She stepped into the trailer and waited for him to follow her. He did, but didn't take his customary seat opposite her at her desk. Something was definitely up.

"What is it brother?" She asked, pinning him with a no nonsense look. He took a deep breath.

"I need some advice." He said finally. He'd thought long and hard about asking Bernadette what to do. He knew he ran the risk of a lecture on how he's too young and they'd only been dating a little over a year. He valued his sister's opinion though and what ever she said would be good enough for him.

She looked at him expectantly. He took another breath and started. "I was thinking of asking Sue to marry me." He said in a rush. Bernadette's eyebrows rose in unison. She was expecting him to ask to borrow money. "Look, before you say anything, I know I'm only 22. I know we've been dating only a year and a half. But, I love her with all my heart. I'm making good money and I have my own place…" He looked at her, eagerly awaiting what she'd say.

She took a moment and looked at her brother seriously. She knew he wasn't really looking for advice, but her approval. Her blessing. She was once again reminded how much of a mother figure she was for him. She knew what Matt said was true and she wanted to give her blessing more than anything. But, she felt it her responsibility to at least give him something to think about. The younger people married, the less of a chance they have at making it. She didn't want that to happen to them.

"Look, I absolutely support you in wanting to marry Sue. But I want you to think long and hard about it." He began to say something, but Bernadette put up her finger, indicating she wasn't finished yet. "I have no doubt you love her very much and that she loves you. The fact remains though, that you have a lot of life to live yet. There are experiences you've yet to have that are going to make you a better person and husband. There is no harm in waiting a few years, Matt."

He looked at her and she could tell he was absorbing what she'd told him. She also knew her brother was stubborn. He was going to do what he was going to do, no matter what she said. He may value her opinion, but he was just as headstrong as his older sister. "How about if I ask her to move in with me instead?"

She smiled at that. It wasn't exactly what she thought he should do, but it was his way of letting her know he had taken what she'd said to heart and more importantly, agreed with her to some extent.

"You know your gonna have to clean up after yourself now, right? He grimaced for a brief moment and then rounded his sister's desk, enveloping her into a great big hug.


Bernadette stood in front of Jump's door, suddenly nervous. The prospect of spending an evening with her and Ryan alone after not seeing her for so long gave her butterflies. She knew her movie choice wouldn't help either. She'd picked it up in the foreign film section because it looked neat. It wasn't until later that she really looked at the back and read what it was about. Oh well, how romantic can a movie with subtitles be, anyway?

She finally knocked on the door and was greeted by an apron covered Jump. She smiled brightly at her and they stood speechless for a second. "Come on in. Jump said while taking the bag from Bernadette.

"Help yourself to the veggies and dip." Jump said over her shoulder as she made her way back to the kitchen. She opened the bag and 'ahhed' at the contents. She called out from the kitchen. "Dessert and…." She continued rifling through the bag as she came back out to Bernadette. "Like Water for Chocolate." Jump beamed at Bernadette who returned the big smile without knowing exactly why. "Did you know this was my all-time favorite movie?" Jump continued to marvel at the video as Bernadette switched from one foot to the other.

"I knew you liked foreign films, so I picked one…." Bernadette offered lamely.

"You've never seen it?" Jump asked. When Bernadette shook her head no, Jump smiled brightly. "Well, it isn't a comedy, but it is very romantic. It is a beautiful film. I'm sure you'll enjoy it, being the big romantic you are." Jump said playfully as she set the video onto the coffee table. Bernadette tried to hide her blush, but was unsuccessful. Thankfully, Ryan took that moment to cry and Bernadette quickly offered to go get him.

"I'll feed him," Bernadette offered, remembering the little guy's routine.

She made her way into the kitchen and began watching as Jump prepared his bottle. He was gurgling and drooling happily over a pastel colored bunny in Bernadette's arms. She smiled and waved at him and he giggled in return.

"He is so fun at this stage." Remarked Jump as she handed the bottle over to Bernadette. "He's so alert and responsive. He keeps trying to sit up too. Sometimes I'll just hear him grunting away in his playpen and I see he's trying to get his feet under him too. He'll be crawling in no time as well." Jump was going to continue talking but stopped short as she watched Bernadette settle him against her chest. She then began feeding him as if she'd been doing it all the time.

"You know before Ryan, I used to be scared to death to hold babies." Bernadette mused as she looked down at the chubby, contented face. When she didn't hear a response from Jump, she looked up to see if she had gone back to the kitchen. She hadn't. She was still there, looking down at Bernadette and Ryan with such a look of wonder and warmth it made Bernadette's heart skip a beat.

Quickly the moment passed and Jump finally spoke. "Well, you sure seem like a pro now." Smiling, she wiped her hands on her apron and began to remove it as she made her way back to the kitchen. Over her shoulder she let Bernadette know that dinner would be served in a few minutes, after she was done feeding Ryan.

"You ready to watch the movie now?" Asked Bernadette as she helped with clearing the dishes. Ryan was finally asleep and they'd been relaxing, talking and eating the carrot cake that Bernadette brought. The conversation steered clear of any talk of her and Kevin. Jump didn't ask beyond the polite "How are things going?" and Bernadette didn't offer any thing beyond "Fine." Instead, they talked about the shop and how it was coming along, they talked about the antics at the construction site and what Bernadette was doing at the beach house.

It didn't surprise Jump anymore how at ease she was with Bernadette. It just was something that was. No matter how much time would pass before they saw or spoke, they always picked up without missing a beat. They still finished each other's thoughts from time to time, which made them both chuckle. They were so different, yet so alike in some respects. They had many different views on the world, but when it came to the real important stuff: family, principles, work ethic, they mirrored each other.

They settled onto the couch as the movie began, Jump staking claim to the corner nearest the front door and tucking her legs under her. She propped her elbow on the armrest and rested her chin on her fist. Bernadette sat more near the middle and with prompting from Jump, propped her feet up on the coffee table, sans shoes. Bernadette was only preoccupied with the proximity of Jump for only a few minutes as she quickly became engrossed in the film and caught up in the fate of the young lovers, Tita and Pedro.

"Wow, you were right. What an incredible film. Even with subtitles." Commented Bernadette as the credits rolled. She looked over at Jump and realized she was fast asleep; her head slumped over her arm. "Poor thing." Bernadette whispered. Running a business and raising a child must be taking its toll on her. I should offer her more help.

Bernadette smiled at the sleeping woman for a moment and then got up and turned off the TV and then proceeded to get a blanket from Jump's bedroom.

She felt a bit intrusive for some reason as she stood in the doorway. This was Jump's most private place. She gave herself a few moments just to look around at the things that took up space on the nightstand, the dresser. Lots of pictures of Ryan, clean clothes neatly folded, waiting to go into the drawers, big white binders that said 'Vendor numbers', baby toys. On the nightstand nearest the bedroom door was a box of tissue, a glass of water, half empty, an alarm clock and a book by Robert Ludlow. "Who's into mysteries?" Bernadette laughed to herself.

Feeling a little guilty, she grabbed the blanket at the end of Jump's bed and made her way back to the living room. She covered her gently with it and smoothed the bangs from her face. She then turned down the hall to check on Ryan. Satisfied he was sleeping peacefully, she made her way to the living room again and was about to let herself out when she realized she didn't have a key to lock up. She searched the utility drawer she knew Jump had and quietly looked for a spare key, knowing she'd find one. She did and left a note saying thank you for the dinner and movie and that she'd return the spare key tomorrow as well as pick up the movie.

With one last look to make sure everything was turned off and locked up, she quietly slipped out the door and locked it behind her. As she walked to the car, her mind kept going back to the look Jump gave her when she was feeding Ryan. She knew the meaning behind that look would plague her thoughts until she found purchase in Morpheus' realm and probably long after that as well.

Chapter 11

It was nearing the end of April and as always in Southern California, the weather was warming up nicely. Jump had taken Bernadette up on her offer to spend the afternoon and evening at the house while Jump's apartment was being re-carpeted. Even though they spent time on the phone, they really hadn't seen a lot of each other since Bernadette had spent the evening at Jump's in early March. Between Bernadette's work schedule and Jump's preparations for the busy summer months at the shop, they just hadn't had the time. Bernadette had helped out when she could by taking Ryan for a bit, but those times became more few and far between as problems kept coming up at the construction site.

But when Bernadette heard about Jump's apartment being re-carpeted, she jumped at the chance to have her friend and favorite nephew over. So after Jump finished up at the shop she headed to Bernadette's. She was surprised by the offer but very happy she'd get to spend the time with her friend whom she'd been missing.

Now, Bernadette looked on as Jump and Ryan sat on a large beach blanket. She had turned away briefly from the window when she heard Jump scream. She came running out drafting pencil still in hand. "What is it?" She said in a panic. Her frantic question was no sooner asked than answered as she saw the gray-eyed boy gurgling in delight in a sitting position.

"Holy cow! Look at that! He's sitting up!" She beamed as she slumped down, knees first into the sand in front of him. "Look at my big guy! He's sitting up!" She gently rubbed his head with her fingertips, a smile of pure joy on her lips.

The sight made Jump's heart warm unexpectedly. Bernadette would make such a great mother. She didn't realize she was staring at Bernadette until Bernadette turned to face her and their eyes met. There it is again! Thought Bernadette. This time Bernadette didn't look away. She held Jump's eyes for as long as she could trying to read her thoughts before the moment began lapsing into awkwardness.

"You ready for dinner?" Bernadette asked quickly as she cleared her throat. "Uh, sure. I'll pack up if you grab the 'sitting one'." Jump giggled, trying to hide her flustered feeling. Both women busily grabbed everything up and Bernadette carried Ryan in, Jump trailing them with the blanket and toys.

"How 'bout I go wash up and set the table while you change Ryan?" Bernadette offered as she slid her blueprints over and headed into the kitchen. Jump nodded and headed off into the guest room.

They came out about 10 minutes later to the wonderful smell of barbequed hamburgers and potato salad. Jump squealed with delight when she saw the special recipe potato salad sitting on the table. "Oh, you know I love your mom's potato salad!" sung Jump as she sat Ryan in his highchair. She beckoned Bernadette over to the table and they watched him for a few moments as he squealed and mumbled little baby words.

They eventually made it to their seats where Bernadette watched Jump pull the bowl of potato salad to herself rather predatorily. It made her laugh outright. "If you are a good girl, I might give you the recipe some day." Bernadette said brightly. A brief flash of utter happiness filled Bernadette and then suddenly ebbed away to contentment. It caught Bernadette a bit off guard.

Jump nodded exaggeratingly and smiled at the comment. She plumped down a mountain of potato salad onto her plate. Apparently Jump did not catch the silence left in the wake of Bernadette's strange feeling, premonition? Bernadette quickly recovered though by opening up Ryan's jar of pears and spooning it into a small bowl.

Dinner was fun with both women taking turns feeding Ryan, sharing stories and catching up on what they'd missed in each other's busy lives. Bernadette hadn't realized just how much she'd missed this woman's company until she was back in it tonight. Their easy conversation and comfortable silences were as natural as anything Bernadette had ever experienced with friend and family alike and it made her happier than she'd been in many years. It wasn't that she'd been unhappy, just that she'd been getting by in life and content to do just that.

Day turned into day and she'd go to work and play basketball, work on her house, play guitar. All of these things made her happy, but with Jump it was something more. It was something to look forward to.

Her private musings had caused her not to hear Jump's question. She figured it was a question because Jump was looking at her expectantly. "I'm sorry, I zoned out. What did you ask?" Bernadette asked with a sheepish grin.

"I asked if Ryan and I can come watch you play basketball some time. The weather has been pleasant in the evenings and I thought it would be nice to see you play." Jump hoped she wasn't being too forward or smothering by asking. Why would she be? She reasoned in her head.

"Uh, sure. We play Wednesday and Friday nights mostly. Let me know what day you'd like to come and I can pick you up, if you'd like." Bernadette said. She wants to see me play? "I gotta tell you though, we are just a bunch of hacks. Don't expect a lot of skill." Bernadette added. If anything, Jump would be entertained at the creative use of words when players talked trash.

"How about Friday night?" Asked Jump. Jump knew that Kevin usually played on Friday nights. Truth be told she was as curious as hell to find out what was going on with him and Bernadette. Bernadette had been very tight-lipped about her relationship with Kevin for some reason and Jump just couldn't think of a way to approach it without sounding nosey.

She decided to go for broke. Before Bernadette could respond, Jump asked, "Will, uh, Kevin be there? I haven't heard you talk about him in awhile." Wow, Jump, that sounded REAL casual. Geez…

"Uh. I haven't talked to him in a while, actually. We broke up a couple of weeks ago. Just wasn't working for me, I guess." Bernadette offered lamely.

Wow, Sue actually kept that bit of news to herself, thought Bernadette as she watched Jump's lips pull slightly apart with surprise. Jump recovered and played it cool though, trying not to let her true feelings at the news show. Her lips closed subtly and she looked at Bernadette thoughtfully. "I'm sorry. Things like that are tough." She said, a flash of guilt at her emotion tempering her words.

"Yeah, well, I think it was harder on him than on me. I just had to be honest with him you know, before it got further, well, any further than it had already." Jump almost asked about the further part, but decided she really didn't want to know. She doubted Bernadette would elaborate either. Instead they both took simultaneous deep breaths.

Anyway, if you really want to come, Friday will be fine. You are bound to see all the usual suspects that night. You might want to bring some earplugs for little Ryan though." Bernadette said only half-jokingly.

"Ryan already knows his auntie has a goddamned potty mouth." Jump said without cracking a smile. It made Bernadette burst out in laughter.

"Uh huh…" Bernadette nodded as she stood to clear the table. Jump took this as her cue to get going because she knew Bernadette had to be at work as soon as the sun was up. She stood as well and took the rest of the dishes into the kitchen behind Bernadette.

They quietly cleaned up the table and kitchen and did the dishes, each woman in their own heads as they did the tasks automatically. Every once in a while they'd say a word or two to each other. To an outsider at this moment, they would have appeared to be a long-together couple, but to Jump and Bernadette, each was a potential at happiness unrealized.

When Bernadette walked Jump to her car and helped strap in Ryan, she'd felt a bit sad. It was strange really. She'd see her in five days.

"Thank you so much for letting us hang out, Bernadette. It was sweet of you." Jump said with an easy smile. Bernadette returned the smile and was surprised when Jump folded her arms around her. Bernadette returned the hug and put her hand on the back of Jump's golden red head. They broke away slowly and Jump had an unreadable look on her face, almost somber-looking. Bernadette was about to ask what was wrong, but she decided against it and just gave one of her trademark half smiles reserved for those close to her.

On the ride home, Jump smiled unconsciously. She thought again at how she had missed her company as she navigated the short distance between her apartment and Bernadette's beach house.

These last couple of months she hadn't seen her very often and the void it created was fully realized tonight at dinner. The weird restlessness she'd felt when she usually had downtime had disappeared today. She sat with Ryan for hours on the beach, watched Bernadette work on blueprints, and play the guitar. At no time did she feel that restlessness. In fact it was just the opposite. She'd felt a peace she'd only previously enjoyed with Ryan late at night when she'd watch him sleep or play.

Later that night, after she'd put Ryan to bed, she lay on her back staring at the stark white ceiling above her bed. She went over the day in her head a couple of times with a contented smile until she finally fell asleep.


The days between the day spent at Bernadette's and Friday flew by as Jump was up to her neck in product ordering and pricing. When she arrived home around 6 p.m., she had just enough time to shower, feed Ryan and get his little diaper bag and stroller ready. Bernadette arrived a little before 7p.m. in her basketball clothes. The women greeted each other with a quick hug and when Ryan and accessories were loaded, they were off.

Bernadette began filling her in on the 'rules' of the court and what she might expect to hear and see. Jump listened with a small, amused smile on her face. She got the sense Bernadette was a little nervous about what she'd see on the court tonight. Jump felt she should put her at ease.

"You know I've spent a lot of time around surfers right? However crude they were, I was usually right along there with them. I'm not as worldly as you, Miss Rand, but I'm certainly not naïve." She said with humor in her voice.

"Did I make it sound like that?" Bernadette asked sincerely. She didn't mean to offend her.

"It's okay. I imagine you are just trying to protect my…sensibilities." Jump reasoned in that dry manner Bernadette found hilarious.

"Yeah, that must be it." Bernadette said as she pulled into the parking lot.

They made their way to the benches where Bernadette put on her court shoes and began stretching out. Jump began to settle on the adjacent bench with Ryan in his stroller when she spotted Matt shooting around on the court.

"Hey Rand!" she called out. He turned around to see who was yelling at him and looked at her with a curious smile. When he saw his sister stretching out he realized they must have come together. He passed the ball off to one of the other players and came jogging up to say hi.

"How are you doing?" he asked as he bent down and began playing with Ryan.

"I'm doing well, busy, but well. And you?" she asked as she watched him tugging on Ryan's boot.

"Great! Did Sue tell you the news?" He asked as he looked up at her with a huge grin on his face.

"No. What news is this?" Jump asked, her curiosity peaking.

"She didn't? I'm surprised…" Matt trailed off.

"I didn't see her today. WHAT IS THE NEWS? Jump nearly shouted.

He laughed at her. Sue was probably gonna be a little mad, but he was just too excited and he feared for his life if he didn't tell Jump.

"I asked her to move in with me." He said nonchalantly. "She said yes." He said with an air of playful arrogance.

"You're kidding? That's great Matt! I'm so happy for you two!" she beamed.

"How my little brother is growing up." Jump heard the smiling sound of Bernadette's voice over her head. She was about to turn around but felt a firm grip on her shoulder. She heard a soft grunt from Bernadette who was pulling up her leg to stretch her quad.

"Just use me as a pole for balance." Jump said in mock irritation. Bernadette chuckled and switched shoulders as she lifted the other foot to her rear to stretch out the other quad.

"I will, thanks!" she said brightly. The three of them chatted a few more minutes until Bernadette saw that they were choosing up teams. Bernadette leaned down and said into Jump's ear. "Wish me luck."

"Luck…" Jump said with a goofy smile. Jump took a moment to look around to see if Kevin was here. She didn't see him. Good, she thought predatorily. She laughed at her jealous instinct.

Jump immediately saw why Bernadette made quote marks with her fingers when she mentioned the word rules of pick up games. In short, there were none. She was pretty sure elbows to the jaw wasn't allowed in the NBA. Nor was the trash talk. Jump had to admit, it was creative. She had no idea of all the things players did with and to each other's mothers.

She would never let her surprise become evident though. Bernadette would feel uncomfortable bringing her back. But when Ryan gets older and impressionable… A vision of a 5-year-old Ryan talking about someone's mother on the kindergarten playground came into her head and she had to laugh out loud.

No sooner did her laughter die down than she saw a blur of blue drop from just under the basket to the ground. "You motherfucker! You trying to kill me?!" Bernadette got up and inspected her elbow for injury. There was none, which Jump figured was really good for the guy who leaned heavily into her hip, dumping Bernadette on her side as she was coming down from a lay up. Apparently, there were rules for that as even his own teammates chastised him for the action.

Jump was extremely fascinated by this side of Bernadette. She'd seen the In Charge Bernadette, the Gentle and Silly Bernadette, even the Peeved Bernadette. But this…Competitive Bernadette was something else. When Bernadette said they were all were hacks with no skill, she obviously wasn't talking about herself. She didn't have to foul these guys because she easily moved around them. She took fouls better than most of them too.

Jump had to admit she was a bit intrigued by this display of athletic prowess in Bernadette. She looked to either side of her and watched as the various wives and girlfriends of the men watched with rapt fascination at their respective mates, chests puffed out, trash talking. It made her laugh at the absurdity of it. She felt like one of the female lionesses watching potential mates exert their power and superiority. Or something… mused Jump as she watched Matt clumsily strip the ball from a hard driving Bernadette.

After the game, Bernadette and Jump joined Matt and Sue for a late dinner. Bernadette spent the drive there making sure Jump wasn't offended or mortified by witnessing a Friday night pickup game. Jump laughed and told Bernadette how the whole thing was entertaining and amusing. She did enjoy herself, but it was mostly because she got to watch Bernadette running around building up a sweat. She kept this little revelation to herself though.

When they all arrived at the pizza place Jump properly chastised Sue for not calling with the news. They then got on with the serious 'girlie-talk' as Matt called it, when Sue filled Jump and Bernadette in on all the details of how he asked and when she was moving in and all that. Matt decided to take Ryan for a little walk around the restaurant. He hated being talked about in the third person when he was sitting right there which happened a lot when Sue and Jump were in the same room with him.

He was on the other side of the restaurant watching part of a baseball game when he looked over and saw Sue waving to him with a smile just for him. He grinned and held up Ryan's hand to wave back.

"Little guy, when you find the right person; don't ever hesitate to tell her how you feel."

"So, what took you so long to ask Sue to move in with you? I figured you would have asked her right after we talked that one day." Bernadette reasoned as she joined her brother in watching the game. They both glanced over at Jump and Sue, heads together conspiratorially. "That can't be good at all." They both said at the same time. They shared a wide, knowing smile.

"You really got me to thinking, Bernsy. If I was ready for the next step. I decided to give it some more time, save up some money. I've been looking into some contractor classes to get my license. Burned my 'black book'." At this Bernadette swung her head around in surprise. She then smiled and tussled his hair as if he were still 10.

"I guess you really are serious, huh?" She said playfully. He could hear the approval in her voice though. It made him feel very happy. Proud even. They shared another warm smile and began making their way back to the group.


"You have to get a babysitter." Sue announced as she came into the shop.

"OOOKay… why?" Jump asked cautiously.

"I have four tickets to go see Sting." Sue announced proudly.

"And…" Jump prompted. She just loved playing this game with Sue. It annoyed her blonde friend to no end.

"Jeez…so you, me, Matt and Bernadette can go." Sue said. Jump could just hear the eye-roll in her voice.

"Bernadette is a Sting fan too?" Jump asked, simultaneously realizing she had no idea what Bernadette's musical tastes were.

"Who isn't?" Sue responded with a shrug of the shoulders.

Jump ignored the last comment and asked when it was. "It's next Saturday at 7:30. Ask Casey, I'm sure she'd love to sit for the little man again." Sue reasoned as she busily dug into the bottom of her enormous purse. Jump had to laugh, half of her arm had disappeared and all she heard was change and keys being shifted from the bottom.

"Damn, I know I have her phone number in here…." Sue said, more to herself than Jump.

"It's on the board in the storeroom. I'll go give her a call." Jump said as she pointedly put a hand on the half-buried arm, stopping the fruitless effort.

"I knew that…" called Sue as Jump headed for the storeroom, shaking her head.

As Jump opened the storeroom door, a question of utmost importance popped into her head. What am I going to wear?


Bernadette stared at her closet. Flannels, short sleeve t-shirts, long sleeve t-shirts, jeans, jeans and sweats. "Do I own nothing nice?" she asked the pair of jeans in her hand. Why do you even care, anyway? It isn't like there is anyone to impress, reasoned the little voice in her head. It's had a lot to say lately. She settled on her newest pair of Levi's and a black T-shirt. She looked into the mirror and decided to add a black belt. It'll do, she thought as she grabbed her keys and headed for Jump's place to pick everyone up.

"Will you just put something on and get out here!" Jump heard Sue bellow from the living room. Jump was on her fourth outfit when she looked at the clock. Casey will be here in a few minutes. Even though Casey had sat for Ryan a couple of times, Jump always wanted to go through the procedures and routines. It was more for her own peace of mind than for Casey's. Casey had it embedded into memory the third time Jump had told her the first time Casey had sat for Ryan.

"I'm coming. Just need shoes." Jump called back, trying not to sound as nervous as she felt. Why the hell am I so nervous? She asked herself. She checked her appearance in her mirror. Because you feel like it's a date. The little voice answered. "Uggh…." Was all Jump could say as she smoothed out her faded jeans and navy v-neck t-shirt.

Bernadette arrived about 15 minutes after Casey, and Jump was still in the midst of bedtime procedures. Sue began dragging her friend to the door when she began to quiz poor Casey. "The number for the hospital is on the upper left corner of the whiteboard. My cell phone number is…" Sue clamped her hand over Jump's mouth and Casey recited the location of the rest of the emergency numbers as she laughed at Sue's antics. Jump was still mumbling something unintelligible as she was led out the door, followed by an amused Matt and Bernadette.

Casey gently lifted the six month old out of his playpen and he squealed with delight. "All right Little Man. What's on the Disney Channel tonight?"


"Fifteen dollars to park? That's robbery!" exclaimed Jump as Bernadette handed the parking attendant a 20 dollar bill. The parking attendant rolled his eyes at the comment and Bernadette chuckled as Sue swatted Jump's arm and told her, "Don't be such an old lady."

Jump just huffed loudly and peeled out a five-dollar bill and handed it to Bernadette. "What's this for?" asked Bernadette as the bill fell to her lap when she maneuvered around an apparent concert-parking novice.

"It's my share of the parking." Announced Jump haughtily. Bernadette picked up the bill between her index and middle finger and handed it back to her. It hung in the air as Jump refused to take it.

Without looking at her passenger, Bernadette quipped. "You better take it Jump, wait 'til you see the price of beer." The two in the back chuckled knowingly.

Jump did in fact freak at the price of beer and decided on just bottled water, which wasn't a whole lot cheaper. Her mood soon changed though as they found their seats and the electricity of the excited crowd flowed through the venue.

Sue had shoved Bernadette and Jump ahead of her so she and Matt could have the end seats. They were about 12 rows up from the stage and slightly to the left. They were great seats and Jump was eager to hear one of her favorite performers. She'd never seen him in concert, but had heard he was great.

Jump looked over to Bernadette and saw that she was sitting in her seat, slightly rigid with both hands on the arms of the chair. "You okay?" asked Jump as she quickly took her seat beside Bernadette's.

"Oh, yeah. I'm just a little claustrophobic. It takes me a moment to get into the right mindset." Bernadette saw that Jump still looked at her, concerned. "Really, I'm okay." She said with a smile.

"Would it help if you had the end? I could scoot down one and they could scoot down…" Jump started to get up and ask the others to move down.

"Nah, that's okay. I'd rather sit by you than those two smitten lovebirds anyway." Bernadette gave her a goofy grin that was returned.

"Okay, but you let me know if it gets too much." Jump said seriously. Bernadette nodded. She liked when Jump looked out for her.

They spent the time between the opening act and Sting discussing Bernadette and Matt's father's birthday that was coming up in a few months. It was his 60th so they wanted to have a party for him. They'd decided on a luau theme since it was at the end of July.

Just as Matt started talking about roasting a pig, the crowd erupted into screams and applause as the lights went down in the venue and the spotlight trained onto a lone figure with a guitar.

The energy in the arena was contagious as everyone stood up and began getting clapping and singing to the first song. It was so loud, but Jump didn't care. She hadn't been to a concert in so long. She was having a blast.

Jump found herself stealing glances at Bernadette, who had become as animated as she'd ever seen her, singing, clapping and dancing to almost every song. It filled Jump's heart to see Bernadette enjoy herself so much. She was simply beautiful. Especially when she didn't know she was being watched. Jump couldn't believe she hadn't realized this before now.

"That was incredible!" Exclaimed Sue as they walked back to Bernadette's truck. They were all buzzing and half deaf from the show.

"I loved the old Police stuff he did." Added Matt as he and Sue swung their interlaced hands to the rhythm of their walking feet.

"Yeah, I was definitely reminded why I'm such a big fan." Reasoned Bernadette as she fished for her keys. The parking lot was a sea of people making their way to their cars. Some were running like kids, singing songs they'd heard only moments before. Meanwhile, cars were trying to navigate their way to the exits through the people as they walked.

"You think they'd devise a better plan to get people out of these huge venues." Jump said as she shielded her eyes from a large truck's headlights that were heading towards them at a slow pace.

"No doubt." Said Bernadette absently as she watched a pair of girls get nearly run over by a small car in the row of cars next to where they were walking. Geez.

Just as she started to sweep her gaze back to what was in front of her she felt a sharp tug on her elbow. It was Jump pulling her out of the path of the slow moving truck. They caught eyes and Bernadette gave her a sheepish grin. "I better keep an eye on you, oh distracted one." Smiled Jump. Indeed, thought Bernadette. Indeed.

Jump unlocked her apartment door and smiled when she found Casey asleep on the couch. She heard Ryan snoring softly through the baby monitor.

"Hey, Casey." Jump tried to wake her gently. "Case." She said a little louder. The girl did not wake up. Jump smiled and took a blanket from the linen closet and covered the girl. Ryan had obviously run her ragged. She walked through the apartment, double-checking the doors and then checked on Ryan. He was on his side with his tiny thumb near his mouth. She bent down and pressed a kiss to his forehead and pulled the door almost shut.

Jump changed into her pajamas and slid into bed and replayed the evening through her mind. She really enjoyed the music. Sting was an amazing performer. But what she really liked was the time with Bernadette. She was hard to hear over the performer or the rest of the crowd, but Jump could sometimes pick out Bernadette's voice. It was beautiful and she'd enjoyed hearing her friend sing along.

Jump had gotten a little sample of her voice when she'd play guitar and sing to Ryan, but those were funny children songs she'd sing with silly exaggerations. Jump had thought to herself while she listened to Bernadette singing tonight that she'd really like Bernadette to sing for her sometime.

Jump's mind went from unconsciously wandering through thoughts of Bernadette to consciously thinking about what other kind of music she liked, what she cared most about in the world, what her pet peeves were… With an incredulous smile to herself, Jump sighed. I don't thinking about my other friend like this…

It wasn't unusual these days for Jump to go to bed thinking about Bernadette if she'd spent any amount of time with her that day. But tonight- tonight it was a little different. Something in Jump's heart- or maybe head- had shifted. All of the sudden something subtle had grown into something very succinct.

Jump had always unconsciously stopped herself before she got to a point of thinking of Bernadette as anything more than just a close friend. The idea was something out of her realm of experience and therefore incomprehensible, until now it seemed. She knew she felt something different for Bernadette. It was a stirring of emotion. That was the only way she could think to describe it. Ever the pragmatist, Jump carefully examined this new feeling by comparing it with others.

She thought of Sue. She loved Sue very much. She loved spending time with her as well. Sue is funny, thoughtful and cares a lot about Ryan and I. Do I think about Sue a lot when she isn't around? No. Do I worry about her when she doesn't call me at least once a day when we aren't working together? No. Do I think about the way she always smells so good? That would be a no… Oh boy…

Jump knew of course that women could feel romantically about other women. Up until now, she couldn't see how it happened but knew it did. She stared unfocused at the ceiling. The reality of her situation was overwhelming and terrifying. She felt a rising panic, but after a few moments she calmed and continued exploring her thoughts, foolishly determined to figure this all out in one night.

Jump's thoughts turned to the last few months. From the time between the Friday night basketball game and the concert, Jump and Bernadette had spent a lot of time together. Apparently it was enough to have Sue comment on it.

She'd made a joke about it, but Jump could sense the small undercurrent of jealousy in the words. There had been a few times when Jump had blown off Sue for time with Bernadette. Jump had thought nothing of it, thinking Sue wouldn't care one way or the other, but Sue was an incredibly observant person, and it was only a matter of time before she'd be getting some awkward questions from her best friend about it.

Jump knew she was heading for something big, and it would be the result of these feelings for Bernadette. Whether it would be a huge disaster or the best thing that could ever happen to her and Ryan, she didn't know. But she did know this-it was imminent.

As she felt the pull of a long day and a night full of contemplation and revelation, Jump finally gave her mind permission to explore Bernadette in a new light, not as friend or aunt to her child, but as someone who, she finally acknowledged, made her heart beat a little faster every time she thought about her.

Just a few miles away, Bernadette sat on the corner of her chaise lounge filled with wonder at the ceaseless mystery of the ocean. She thought about how the visible surface of the breaking waves didn't even begin to hint at the fathomless depths of this body of water teeming with life and activity just yards from her house. The next thought that popped into her head as she sat mesmerized was simple yet profound, obvious yet a surprising revelation. I wish Jump was here with me.

She sighed heavily under the weight of that revelation. Things started to blur around her as decisions and seemingly errant thoughts began to fall into place. The loneliness she's felt lately when Jump isn't around… being nervous when she is around her. Hell, the real reason she broke up with Kevin. He wasn't Jump.

She took a moment to really take stock of how she felt about Jump. She loved her as a friend. That much she'd come to realize over the year. But that wasn't all was it? Admit it, you've been attracted to her for some time. The memory of a breast-feeding Jump crept into Bernadette's mind, making her bark with laughter. Holy Shit! How could she have been so blind?

The physical attraction wasn't all there was either. It was something deeper. Looking at her friendship with Jump with new eyes now, she could see it. The way her heart beat when watching Jump with Ryan. The way she guarded her opportunities to see and talk to Jump lately. Jump was the first person that popped into her mind whenever she wanted to share something or get an opinion. That spot had previously been reserved for Matt.

In that moment Bernadette found herself beginning to dream. She began dreaming of a future with maybe someone in it. She felt the edge of giddiness start in the pit of her stomach. Entertaining just a thought of what it would be like to call Jump something other than friend was scary and elating at the same time. It brought a bright, private smile to her face. But admitting it to her self was one thing. Could she tell Jump these things? Jump couldn't possibly feel the same way, right? And if she was, how could it be acceptable under their circumstances?

Bernadette knew Mark's pain when he and Jump had chose to break up. No matter what their relationship would evolve into, Jump and Mark would always share a bond. And Bernadette knew Mark was still in love with Jump. How could Bernadette put herself in the middle of that?

Bernadette realized she was getting ahead of herself. She had no idea whether Jump felt the same way. She'd like to think she'd picked up on certain instances, but she really had no experience in this. It was obvious when men were attracted to Bernadette. They were open books in that department. Maybe I'm just thinking wishfully. But if I'm not, we could be both passing up an opportunity of a lifetime.

Bernadette had never felt this unbalanced before in her life. She'd always known what to do, what decision to make in any situation. Here, in this, she was at a complete loss. Her heart warred with her head on how to proceed and it looked like a dead stalemate.

Ultimately, however, she realized the potential hazards in voicing her feelings. How could I risk losing my relationship with Mark? Jeopardizing a wonderful friendship with Jump? It was as if Bernadette felt a physical blow and it knocked her back slightly into her chair.

Bernadette sat limp. She knew telling Jump her feelings would most likely cause a lot more harm than anything else. The reality of it all settled on her heavily and she began to weep.

Chapter 12

A little more than a month had passed since the concert and Bernadette's decision to keep her feelings to herself about Jump were weighing heavily on her. It seemed the more she tried to keep her distance from Jump, the more her feelings intensified. Jump was sensing things weren't all right with Bernadette as well and it was getting harder and harder for Bernadette to come up with excuses. Not to mention the fact that she hated not seeing Ryan, whom she'd grown to love very much.

As a result, Bernadette decided just to push those feelings deep down. She had no other choice. She increased her time out at the basketball courts just to relieve some of the energy and tension she'd began to build up. She knew though that there was going to be a breaking point if she continued on this path. It was only a matter of time.

Perhaps she'd take some time off and go spend it up north where she liked to fish and hike. There was a sense of clarity and simplicity in her trips to their cabin in Central California. No one to answer to, no deadlines- just peace and quiet. Maybe it was just what she needed to get her head clear again.

So, the decision was made. She'd take a couple of weeks off after the private school project was done and she'd be home in time for her father's birthday party at the end of July.


"What's going on with you and Bernadette?"

Jump's back stiffened as she stopped reaching for the black purchase order binder above the desk in the storeroom. Here it comes. Time to come clean, Jump. Before you drive yourself crazy. How can Sue understand though? I don't even want to accept it.

Decision made, Jump decided to go with ignorance. "What do you mean?" She asked, hands on her hips.

"You'd tell me if something was going on, wouldn't you? I just get the sense that… Oh, I don't know how to explain it without offending you if I'm wrong…" Sue's sudden confidence in figuring out the mutual attraction between Jump and Bernadette had wavered as she continued looking at her seemingly confused friend. This thing between the two of them had seemed so evident to her. I know I'm right, Sue thought.

Sue had found herself waiting for Jump to say something for weeks, but she hadn't. Today, in the shop, Sue could stand it no more. She had to ask her best friend what was going on. And if she didn't know, Sue felt she should tell her what it looked like.

"Well, it just seems that…well… with the way Bernadette looks at you and how…

"What do you mean, the way Bernadette looks at me?" Jump interrupted, shock evident in her voice.

Sue mistook it for fear and quickly backpedaled. Maybe she was wrong about it and Jump had no clue. "Well, I don't know… maybe…"

Jump pounced on Sue's first comment. She needed Sue to tell her what she thought. It couldn't be? Could it?

"What exactly do you mean, Sue? How does she look at me?" Jump asked as if her life depended on the answer.

Sue was still a bit confused at Jump's intensity. "Well, remember when we talked about… about Matt and me and…. Oh forget it Jump. I'm sorry. I must have been reading those times wrong." Sue was really afraid she'd made a horrible mistake, as Jump seemed to get more and more agitated.

"Has there been a lot of times?" Jump asked in a small voice. She took a deep breath and slumped down in her chair, a look of disbelief on her face. Then, out broke the tiniest of smiles. If Sue weren't staring at her friend intently, thinking she'd really put her foot in it, she would have missed it. Holy Shit!

Sue bit her tongue though and caught eyes with Jump. She quickly slid over a chair and sat so that her knees were touching Jump's. She took both of Jump's hands in hers and looked into her eyes intently and then grinned like a little girl on Christmas morning.

"All right, Missy, you better tell me everything!"

And Jump did. She told her friend how she felt for the dark haired woman and how she'd been thinking of her a lot for about a month now. Sue would periodically just shake her head in wonder. She watched her friend just beam as she talked about Bernadette.

"You aren't freaked out by all of this? I mean, first Bernadette is a woman and second she's Mark's sister. Hell, I'm freaked out by it." Jump said matter-of-factly. "I'm not even a lesbian! Christ, I can't believe I told you. I wasn't going to say anything, you know…" Jump expelled a deep breath. "But when you said you saw something in Bernadette, I couldn't hold it in any longer. Perhaps it's why she's been avoiding me." Jump said, more to herself than to Sue.

Jump dropped her head and looked at her hands still linked with Sue's. She felt a million times lighter and a million times more scared. It was out there now. Her feelings for Bernadette. She couldn't call the words back, or their potential implications. Suddenly, she looked at Sue with panic in her eyes.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to breath a word to anyone. What are you going to say to Bernadette though? She obviously feels something for you too. I know that look." Sue said with an emphatic nod.

"What can I say, Sue? And where could it go? I mean she's Ryan's aunt…" Jump trailed off.

"I gotta admit, it is weird, Jump." Sue said gently.

"Gee, no shit." Jump responded with crushing sarcasm. She slumped back into her seat again and stared blankly at the floor.

Sue, who always took her title as 'Jump's best friend' very seriously, had to make a decision. Point out the obvious and discourage her friend from acting on this or be supportive and let Jump make her own decision.

"Have you ever felt this way? With Mark, anyone?" Asked Sue, taking Jump's hand. It was Jump who had to assume the risk and responsibility. Sue'd be damned if she was not going to be a help instead of a hindrance.

"No." Jump's answer was quick and quiet.

Sue thought as much and gave her friend a small smile. After a couple of minutes of contemplative silence on both sides, Jump spoke.

"I can't do this, Sue." She said with sad conviction, as she looked at Ryan who was fast asleep in his playpen next to her desk.

"Because of Mark…" Sue reasoned aloud as she too looked over at the sleeping baby.

"Yes that. And the fact that I'm not a lesbian." Jump released Sue's hands with a soft squeeze and stood up, running her hands down her thighs.

Sue looked at her with affectionate amusement. She admired Jump a great deal, but sometimes her density on matters of the heart left her speechless.

"It's not like you need permission to love someone other than the opposite sex, Jump. We have about as much control over whom we love as we do the weather."

"But I've never been attracted to…" Jump paused mid-sentence. She tried to hide the look of epiphany but Sue was watching way too closely. Knowing she'd been figured out, Jump rolled her eyes warily and explained. "Rachel. Swim team, junior year." Sue was intrigued; she leaned forward. "Never went anywhere, it was just abject appreciation from afar on my part."

"Uhhuh." Sue said. Jump hated that cryptic psychoanalyst-like tone Sue subjected her to during these types of conversations. Thank God they'd only had a handful. Jump was feeling like a case study.

"Okay, fine. So this isn't completely foreign to me. But, geez, the sister of the father of my child?"

"Look, Jump, I just want to see you happy. If Bernadette has a chance to make that happen, go for it. You will regret it if you don't. I mean, look at how Matt dances for Pete's sake! I still went out with him. Look how happy we are!"

"This is a little different than a lack of rhythm!" Jump cried incredulity.

"I know! It was just an analogy!" Sue let out a heavy sigh. Time to lay it out for her friend.

"Listen, just bring it up to her and you two can talk about what you want to do. That way it's out there and acknowledged and you two might be able to get some sort of answers or something. 'Cuz I gotta be honest with you my friend, your moods have been…" Sue mimicked the movements of a rollercoaster as Jump slapped at her hands and chuckled.

"Have I been that bad?" Jump asked as her chuckles died down.

"Let's put it this way, even Matt has noticed. But since he's a guy, I've been able to blame it on your PMS and he hasn't been the wiser." Sue smirked.

"You Shit!" yelled Jump as she shook her finger at her friend.


This day could not get any worse for Bernadette. Two of her guys had called in sick today and one had given his notice because he was moving. She'd also just found out one of the subcontractors had forgotten to bury some wire before they laid the sub flooring. Now, she was going to be behind schedule fixing it and she wasn't sure she was going to be able to take time off between jobs. Her mood had deteriorated so much her crew was afraid to approach her.

She stalked around the site, taking notes on what they'd have to do to get the wire buried with minimal demolition of the sub flooring. "Fucking subcontractors." She mumbled to herself. She felt a presence next to her and immediately knew it was her brother Matt. "It better be good fucking news." She growled at him. She turned to face him and his jaw was set firm and his eyes held a little fear in them.

"Uh, no, sis, it isn't. Chris just cut through one of the plumbing lines and I have to dig in and replace it. It's gonna put us back a bit more." Matt could see the purplish veins gaining color and pulse in his sister's neck. He barely had time to duck out of the way before she punched through the newly hung drywall.

This was not her. That was the first thing that went through Matt's mind as he watched his sister violently pulled her hand out of the drywall. It was slightly misshapen on the side of her pinky finger and he figured it was probably broken. She quickly wiped away a single tear and sniffled slightly. They didn't say anything for a full minute as they both looked at what she'd done and then at her hand.

Mindful of the eyes watching them, he resisted the urge to put his arm around her and just motioned with his head for her to follow him to his truck. He gave instructions to a couple of the men and let them know he'd be right back after he took the foreman to the hospital.

Once in the truck, Bernadette broke down. She apologized for her outburst and for her mood in general lately. She told him how she was dealing with something that she didn't know how to handle and it was wearing her down mentally. She stopped short of telling him the reason why, afraid of what he'd think. So she just sank back into the seat, cradling her arm.

Matt listened intently and his heart broke for his sister. She'd always been the stable, grounded one. She'd become unhinged before his eyes today and he wanted to know what had his sister so off balance and hurting. It was obvious either she didn't know or she didn't want to tell him. He remembered once he'd told her to talk to Sue because she's such a good listener.

He started out gently as if trying to soothe a hurt child. "Bernsy, I don't know what's eating you, but you gotta let it out. Even if you're not sure what it is, just talking might help, you know."

"I know, Matt." He was surprised she'd responded. He was encouraged and looked at her as long as he safely could while driving.

He parked and then went around to the passenger side and helped Bernadette out. They walked to the emergency room entrance in silence.

After they'd taken Bernadette's information, they realized they were going be here for a while. Matt looked at her, the question in his eyes unspoken.

"You should get back to the site. God knows the whole thing probably fell through a sinkhole." Bernadette said quite seriously as she gingerly sat down and grabbed a magazine with her good hand and sat it on her lap.

"You sure you'll be okay?" Asked Matt. He really wanted to stay, but knew his sister would have none of it when the site was still open and being that it was such a clusterfuck today…

"I'll be fine. I'll call you or dad when I'm out, okay?"

That seemed to satisfy him and he reached down and gave her shoulder a squeeze and headed back out to his truck.

Bernadette sat with the magazine untouched on her lap. She tried to avoid thinking of why she was in here but it was impossible. She thought about apologizing to her crew, but thought the better of it. They didn't need to know anything except that she'd been in a bad mood for a while. Men didn't really care anyway. It is really a blessing sometimes to work with men, mused Bernadette.

She heard her name being called, so she set her magazine on the table and walked to one of the emergency bays. The two bones in her hand on the side of her pinky and ring finger were indeed broken and would require casting.

"I hope this wasn't your writing hand." Quipped the handsome Indian doctor who was busy casting her hand. She looked down at it and smiled. Of course it would be my left hand. "I guess I'll learn to be ambidextrous for a while."

She hadn't had a cast for many years and was quickly reminded how much she hated the confinement of one. This sucks even worse knowing I did it, she thought to herself.

After she'd taken care of the insurance stuff and called Matt, Bernadette sat out on the bench outside the emergency room, her newly casted hand sitting awkwardly in her lap. She noted that it was a beautiful day and wished she could just go home, walk on the beach and get lost in the rhythm of the moving ocean. She knew she had to get back to the site though as it was still open for at least another 3 hours.

She looked up when she heard the familiar rumbling of a truck, but was surprised to see who was driving it. Sneaky brother, thought Bernadette as she got up and walked to the now idling truck near the curb.

"Hey, Sue." Bernadette smiled as she opened the truck with her good hand and hopped in.

"Hey yourself, Mike." Sue smiled at Bernadette. She'd guessed Matt filled her in on how she broke her hand. She was appreciative of Sue's humor though. It made it a little less awkward to be in her company on the trip back to the site.

When Sue didn't take the freeway, Bernadette knew she was in for an impromptu counseling session, set up by her little brother. Taking the long way would ensure dialogue between the two.

"Bernadette, your brother is worried about you." Sue started. Sue didn't know Bernadette well enough to ask pointed questions, even though she wanted to very much. It was in her nature to be curious, but she also cared a lot about people and couldn't help but try and lend a hand. So, she'd just throw out some open-ended statements, hoping Bernadette would confide in her. Sue saw the pain etched on her face and it wasn't pain of the physical kind. Matt had told Sue that if Bernadette wanted to talk she would, but if she didn't don't push.

"I know he's worried…Hell, I'm worried about me too." Bernadette added quietly, a bit surprised by the admission. She liked Sue, but she was the last one that needed to know what was on her mind.

Sue saw this as an opening. "Is it something you wanna talk about? I'm a good listener." Sue gave her a bright, eager smile that made Bernadette chuckle a bit.

"Jump's told me."

"Oh really? Well, she's right, you know." Come on Bernadette, trust me.

They sat in suspended silence for a few moments. Bernadette warred with herself. If she told Sue, it could be a disaster. No, it was best to keep this to herself. She'd figure out a way to deal with it. She really had no choice and it was what she preferred anyway. She'd never been one to lean on others. In addition, she had no intention of risking the friendship that had developed between her and Jump or putting Sue in an awkward position she knew her confession would do. She looked vacantly at her newly casted hand.

"I just think I am going through a rough period right now." Bernadette said, her voice taking on a bit more strength and resolve. "It's nothing that can't be helped by a week of vacation. I think I've lost sight of what it is like to relax."

Sue didn't expect a big confession, but Bernadette's statement took her by surprise. The Mike Tyson imitation was because you are overworked and stressed about the job? She chanced a sideways glance at Bernadette to see if Bernadette would continue. She didn't. It was then that she reluctantly realized that what Bernadette was going through was in fact none of her business. Even if she thought it concerned her best friend. Bernadette was an immensely private person and rarely talked at length about herself. This instance was no different.

Sensing Bernadette's desire to drop the topic and get back to the site, Sue flipped on the radio and renewed her focus on the road, silently wondering if in fact, she'd read Bernadette all wrong where Jump was concerned. I just need to learn to keep my big nosy self out of things!


"I came up and turned on the water and electricity for ya when I got your message." The old man said as he handed the key to the cabin to Bernadette.

"Thanks a lot Chuck. I'm glad it was available at such late notice." Bernadette said as she grabbed her bag and began making her way out of the cabin rental office.

"You got here at just the right time. Right before the kids get out of school. Jus' be careful when yer out and about though. Had a couple of bear and mountain lion sightings up the mountain." He came around the counter to give Bernadette a hand with her bags when he noticed the cast. "What did ya do to your hand?"

"Oh," she glanced down, forgetting about it momentarily. "Accident."

He seemed to accept that as her answer and hoisted up a box of provisions and followed her out the door and up the hill to the cabin.

The cabin had the faint musty smell from being closed up for a few months so Bernadette moved about opening the small windows throughout. The bite of winter was loosing its hold and the gentle breeze was refreshing and comfortable. Bernadette once again was grateful she was able to get away. Her mood had improved markedly, even as she was making the two hour drive to her favorite little mountain town.

Thoughts of home or work were quickly replaced by thoughts of fishing and catching up on reading. Two things she enjoyed immensely but hadn't done in a long time. She saw this time as an opportunity to clear her head, set it right even. She'd start with unpacking, fix a light lunch for herself, read a bit and be out at the river at dusk to see what she could catch.


Jump paced the area of worn carpet along the glass counter at her shop. She'd decided this morning that her soul-searching was over. She knew the answer, had known it for a while now. Now, she could honestly say that she was ready.

She'd weighed the pros and cons. Ran through as many scenarios as she could think of. She felt pretty sure Bernadette at least had similar feelings based on what Sue had said. She had grilled Sue further on what she had thought until she was satisfied Sue wasn't just seeing things. You'd better be right about her Sue, she had warned at least a dozen times. Now, this day, Jump was ready to talk to Bernadette about her feelings. Was it a lot to risk? Yes. Was there a lot to gain though? Definitely.

These feelings for Bernadette weren't going anywhere. They weren't waning, they weren't fading. They were indeed growing and intensifying to the point they could no longer be shoved back into denial or confusion.

She was ready. All she needed now was Bernadette.

Jump's eyes brightened at the sight of Matt coming in to the shop. She was hoping to get an idea of Bernadette's work schedule from him so she could give her a call and finally tell her what she's been feeling. What he said though was anything but what she wanted to hear.

"What do you mean she went up to the mountains for a week?" Jump nearly bellowed as she stood leaning over the counter of her shop. When she'd asked Matt where Bernadette was, it was the last answer she'd expected.

Matt shrugged his shoulders, bewildered at Jump's reaction. "She said she needed some time off. She left this morning. I guess she didn't tell you." He said unnecessarily.

Oblivious to the fact that her demeanor was causing Matt concern, Jump stood in quiet dismay. She'd agonized over the decision to talk to Bernadette about her feelings. Gone back and forth over the implications, consequences and most frightening of all, possibilities of her feelings for Bernadette being reciprocated.

She'd had the conversation, at least her side of it, a million times. It was rehearsed, tested on Sue and all but scripted on a piece of paper. And Bernadette up and leaves. Without telling me…

Oh Bernadette, of all the times… This was like getting ready to jump out of an airplane, parachute ready, and someone grabs you back at the end of your countdown. It's unexpected, throws you off balance. It also leaves room for second-guessing.

Calming her self and giving Matt an apologetic, slightly embarrassed smile, she let her eyes travel over the counter. She had about a dozen questions she wanted to ask, but could bring herself to. Instead she'd used the few seconds to let the fact that Bernadette left sink in. When she failed to say anything else, Matt filled in awkwardly, "Look, if you need to get a hold of her, she has her cell phone…" He was still confused at Jump's strange reaction. She smiled at him again, a genuine smile, this time.

"Thanks, Matt. I… I'm just surprised she didn't at least let me know she'd be gone. Was she..okay?"

Matt looked down at the countertop thoughtfully, unsure of how much he should divulge about his very private sister. The one he'd been mildly chastised by for sending his girlfriend to 'pry' into her life. Truth of the matter was, he didn't know what was bugging his sister.

He knew though that it must be something big. She never left town without weeks of pre-planning, making sure everything was covered and taken care of. She'd just left him a note with a fellow foreman's name and number from her construction company that could fill in for her for a few days and instructions on watering her indoor plants and picking up her mail.

"I think she's okay, though. She just seemed to have a lot on her mind." He looked up at Jump now, seeing vivid concern in her eyes. He suddenly wanted very much to end this topic of conversation. He felt a bit in the middle of something, though he couldn't figure out what. He gently drummed his fingers on the countertop and then began heading over to where Sue was. "Well, you have her cell number, just in case you…need to talk to her, right?" He asked slightly over his shoulder. Women, may I never have my life depend on trying to understand them.

"Yeah.. I do." But what I have to say has to be face to face.


Bernadette walked down to the river's edge, tackle box in one hand and fishing pole under her arm. She'd practice casting and reeling with her right hand and figured as long as she didn't catch anything huge, she'd be okay. She could close her casted fingers around the pole just enough to reel in the line. Lucky for her Matt was right handed and lent her his pole. She took a moment to look out at the swiftly moving river, losing focus as her mind wandered to previous visits up here with her family. If she tried hard enough, she could probably find the tree she climbed halfway up and promptly fell out of when she was eight, or the bank where she took on a dare to jump into the river during a winter vacation.

After becoming an adult, she'd come up to the cabin as often as she could. Many chapters in her life were celebrated, mourned and dealt with in this place that held a piece of her heart. She felt safe and at home here more than any place she'd ever been. Even her beach house didn't have the hold on her that this small cabin in the woods near the river did. Whenever she found herself here, it was always for a reason. This visit was no different.

She hadn't fully realized the reason for this particular visit yet, but she knew it had to do with Jump. Another chapter in her life would get its starting point here, of that she was certain. But right now, in the waning moments of this beautiful day, all she wanted to do was enjoy the fresh air, the calm, steady movement of the river and the tug of a medium size trout at the end of her line.


"So she didn't say anything to you, huh?" Matt queried.

"Nope, not even my super empathetic powers could get her to open up."

Matt and Sue sat opposite each other at the little café after she'd gotten off work. Matt had told Sue about the peculiar reaction Jump had to Bernadette leaving for a week. He was surprised too of course, but there was something a little more…desperate or something in Jump's reaction.

"You know Bernadette got mad at me for sending you to pick her up." Matt supplied with a humorless chuckle.

"Well, in retrospect, I can't say I blame her. I'd be a little put off by that also, if I were Bernadette." Sue wasn't quite ready to speculate what she thought was going on with Bernadette, especially to her brother. If she was wrong, she'd never forgive herself.

She continued on. "Like you've said, she's just such a private person. I'm sure when she has whatever is bothering her figured out, she'll let us know about it." Perhaps a certain friend of mine too.


"Shit!" Bernadette exclaimed as she snapped her third line, losing her hook and bait. Her hopes of having a nice, calm relaxing break from reality was quickly dwindling as she reeled in the useless line once more. Why is life so cruel, she thought to herself in a moment of self-pity. She figured she could have at least this one evening of not thinking about the situation with Jump. It wasn't even really a situation either. It had gone no further than Bernadette's mind, but yet it was encroaching on her every mood and action lately.

She absently began packing up her fishing gear when she heard a heavy rustling of leaves a few feet to her left. Upon turning around to see what it was, she gasped as a 300 pound brown bear stared back at her, front paws raised. Guess it couldn't have been a squirrel, thought Bernadette ruefully as she tried to figure out how she was going to get out of this one.


You are gonna lose your nerve if you don't do this, thought Jump as she sat in her apartment, staring at the phone. Just call her, ask if her if she's okay and then ask if you can meet when she gets back. And if she asks why? "Christ Jump…you can burn that bridge when you come to it," she said to the phone as she picked it up.


"Easy now…" Bernadette crooned as she began backing towards the cabin. Great, I've come up to the woods to clear my head after one of the worse days in years and instead I'm going to be killed and half-eaten by a goddamned bear. A medium-sized brown bear that appeared pretty surprised then angry at running into her.

Years of being schooled on what to do when in a situation like this came to Bernadette's head in jumbled sound bites: "Throw rocks…Don't run…Make big noises…" None of them really made sense to her fear-rattled brain except to run. But she stood her ground and continued to back away slowly, all the while speaking in a calm manner to the bear. At least it had gone down to all fours instead of rearing up on the two back feet like when she first saw it, but it was still approaching Bernadette and sniffing enthusiastically in her direction.

Think, Bernadette, think! Bears don't like humans, they like to eat….OH! The tackle box! Bernadette knew enough about bears to know that ones that weren't afraid of humans usually just wanted food.

Suddenly, all rational thought was lost as she backs into a low boulder that pitches her backwards onto her casted arm. The sudden movement alarms the bear, but it does not run, instead it picks up its pace towards Bernadette. Now in excruciating pain and fearing for her life, she reaches for the nearby tackle box and hurls it towards the bear with her right hand. It's not a rock, but.... The bear momentarily stops and eyes the tackle box. As it goes to sniff it in investigation, the tackle box rattles violently, making a low-pitched vibrating noise.

It was enough to startle the bear back to where it came from and keep Bernadette's heart from being digested by her stomach. Still on her back with her legs sprawled over the boulder, Bernadette's head dropped to the ground unceremoniously. Eyes closed, she thanked who ever that was who called her cell phone at that particular moment, and she thanked who ever for putting a cell tower near. Mostly though, she was thankful for thinking to put her phone on vibrate and toss it into her tackle box.


Oh good, voicemail. "Hey Bernadette, this is Jump. I heard from Matt that you were up in the mountains this week. I hope you are okay… Listen, would you like to get together when you get back? For coffee or…dinner… There's something I've been really needing to talk to you about and…well…it is about you and I and… just let me know….call me if you'd like…okay.. bye." Wow, thought Jump. I could not have left a lamer message.

Chapter 13

Bernadette sat on the beach watching the people set up their blankets and umbrellas with the first warming rays of the early June afternoon sun. It was Sunday and she'd spent most of the morning thinking about her meeting with Jump. Before Bernadette had begun trying to distance herself from Jump, they'd kind of had standing plans on Sundays where one would come over to the other's place and just hang out. One of them would usually call after lunchtime, when Bernadette was done with house chores and Casey or Sue at the shop had relieved Jump.

Now, after a good month had passed since they'd had those Sunday times together, Bernadette was feeling a little apprehensive. But with the apprehension was a little spark of excitement too. Especially after Jump's cryptic message, the one that saved her life, so to speak. It still made Bernadette chuckle with relief.

After Bernadette was positive the bear was well away from where she was, she carefully retrieved her tackle box and walked dazedly back to the cabin. She sat in the first chair she came to. She then took out her cell phone as an afterthought, curious as to who called at that serendipitous moment. She smiled widely at who it was, replaying the message about three times before snapping it shut, leaning back in her chair, eyes closed.

She sat for what seemed like hours, just processing what had just happened to her and more importantly, what Jump's phone call meant. Could she really be reading it right? She knew what she hoped Jump meant by needing to talk to her.

Bernadette mentally went over her encounters with Jump and tried to decipher little things like the looks Jump would give her, the sometimes giddy awkwardness that was evident in both women after a long absence from each other. The way Jump would fuss over her when she had a cold or was working too hard. Then there was the phone call. Jump had to know the general circumstances surrounding her leaving- the fact that it was somewhat unplanned. More like I took off running. She didn't know how much Matt had told her, but it was enough for Jump to call and ask if she was okay.

Whether unconscious at the time or not, Bernadette interpreted the timing of the call and the call itself as something of a sign.

She didn't consider herself a person that really believed in stuff like that, but Bernadette hadn't really been herself in a while. Not since admitting to her self her feelings for Jump. She knew these feelings were not fleeting. They were not growing less intense with time; the opposite was true. The reality was that Bernadette was desperate for an answer. An answer to this situation she could live with. Perhaps Jump could live with too.

Now, back at home, Bernadette was quite scared, but excited. She stood up and brushed the sand off the back of her legs. She walked into the house and into the kitchen and grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil. She began to write out with her right hand rather sloppily what she'd wanted to say to Jump. After a few times, she just crumpled up the paper and threw it into the trash. I'm no writer… I'll just tell her how I feel…in about an hour. Bernadette grimaced. Am I ready for this?

At no time in history had an hour ever passed so slowly. Bernadette went over what she'd tell Jump, she straightened and re-straightened couch cushions, she debated putting out snacks (she didn't). She alphabetized her DVD collection. She changed her clothes four times. Bernadette was ready to climb the walls by the time Jump knocked on the door.

"Hey, come on in." Bernadette said in an uneasy rush.

"I dropped Ryan off at Casey's." She said when she saw Bernadette looking for the little guy.

"Oh, okay. Come on in." Bernadette smiled, embarrassed. "I already said that didn't I?"

"You did." Jump said around a shy smile.

"Let's have a seat in the living room. I've arranged the cushions 44 times, so they should be comfortable." Both women laughed at that and it seemed to ease the tension a bit.

They sat on the sectional and turned their bodies so they faced each other. They were about half a foot apart. Bernadette's casted hand rested on the back of the couch and Jump tapped it gently with her right index finger. "Sue told me what happened. I never knew construction could get you so fired up you had to punch holes in the wall." Jump teased.

"Well, it does take a lot to fire me up. That particular day I never want to repeat again, that's for sure." Nor the day after it, she silently thought.

"Am I gonna ever hear the whole story?" Asked Jump, all teasing aside.

"You will Jump. You will." Bernadette said as she dropped her head in order to get her emotions back together. She felt Jump's hand under her chin, lifting it up slowly, a hint of pressure. Jump smiled the sweetest smile Bernadette had ever seen. Her heart filled with hope at that smile. They looked into each other's eyes for a long time. I feel like I'm about to jump off of a cliff without looking to see where I'm gonna land, thought Bernadette.

It was Jump who broke the silence first. "Bernadette, I… I don't where to start." She swallowed hard but maintained eye contact with Bernadette. Bernadette just sat silently, waiting for Jump to continue.

She gave Bernadette a small smile and looked down at her hands sitting lamely in her lap. With a deep breath, she locked eyes with Bernadette.

"I like you, as in more than a friend Bernadette. It took me a while to figure it out, but I did."

Bernadette's eyes closed slowly and stayed closed for a good few breathless seconds. A huge, bright smile spread across her face as she took a deep breath finally

She opened her eyes to look at Jump who was waiting patiently for her response. By the smile on Bernadette's face, Jumps knew the feeling was mutual.

"Thank God." Bernadette finally breathed.

They both released a sigh that masqueraded as a soft chuckle. They both sat a few heartbeats in silence.

Finally, Bernadette gave Jump a crooked smile and said, "I wrote out what I wanted to say to you today. It was so silly, I threw it away. There is so much I want to tell you Jump. So much." At that, Bernadette took Jump's hand in hers.

Jump had begun to sniffle intermittently. She felt the moisture in the back of her eyes starting to form. This was more than she could ever have hoped when she began to have feelings for the strong, independent and beautiful woman.

"At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I've never felt this way before, Jump. The things you make me feel, just the thought of you. I've been fighting it for a while and…I just couldn't… I just…" Bernadette took a breath. "Do you think we can take a chance at this- at us?" Bernadette watched Jump's face for any sign of fear. She knew she'd put it pretty plainly. But it was what she felt.

"Yes." Jump said in a quiet sob. She smiled through freely flowing tears now. "Yes, I want to give us a chance." She said, her voice stronger. They both smiled widely at each other and Bernadette brought her thumb up and wiped at Jump's tears. She hadn't realized that she was crying too until she felt wet drops on her cheeks.

"You've felt this way for awhile, huh?" Jump asked, her voice rising at the last word in wonder.

Bernadette's smile softened and her voice grew serious. "I have and it has been rough. I know there is so much more we need to talk about, but, I want to be with you, Jessica Thomas." Bernadette tentatively took Jump's hand in her own again. She softly brushed Jump's knuckles. Jump didn't pull away.

If Jump walked into Bernadette's house unaware she was in love with her, it certainly became evident to her as she heard this woman speak her name. The sound of it coming from Bernadette was the sweetest thing she'd ever heard. She wanted to hear it again and again from the woman who indeed captured her heart.

"Wow." Was all Jump could manage at the moment. She looked down at their joined hands and took a moment to compose herself.

"I've never experienced anything like this, Bernadette. I feel so deeply for you it's overwhelming…but in a good way." She quickly added with a shy smile.

They were both having such a hard time voicing their thoughts that they gave up all together. Jump was the first to make a move as she scooted towards Bernadette. Then there were hands on backs of heads and cheeks against cheeks as they fell into a tight embrace. They breathed in each other's skin and hair and only after a few minutes did they pull away enough to look into each other's eyes once more.

"I've never kissed a woman before." Jump said shyly.

"Neither have I." Bernadette responded with a shy smile of her own.

"But I've never wanted to kiss someone so badly in all my life." Came Jump's frank admission. They both chuckled at that. Before Bernadette's chuckle died away completely, Jump covered her mouth with her own. It surprised them both, but they recovered quickly and let their lips linger on each other's. It was the softest, sweetest kiss Bernadette had ever felt.

"I had to do that before I lost my nerve." Explained a blushing Jump.

"I appreciate your initiative. I've never made the first move. It might have taken me a long time." Grinned Bernadette. Then she added, "Can we do that again?"

Jump's answer was a quirky grin as she pulled Bernadette's head in for another kiss. This one was a bit bolder but still simple and sweet. Neither woman was quiet ready for anything more. They relaxed into the couch cushions, but Bernadette kept a hold of Jump's hand as they began to find their words again.

It was Bernadette who started. "I was so scared to tell you about how I felt. Actually, I'd made the decision to keep it to myself. I didn't want to jeopardize our friendship, you know?"

Jump knew exactly how she felt, and told her as much. "I tried to ignore them for a while." Jump said with a twinge of sadness.

"So, why now?" Bernadette asked gently, her eyes searching Jump's.

"It took me a while to figure out what these feelings were that I was having for you, and when I did, it scared the shit out of me." Jump laughed a self-depreciating laugh. "To be honest with you, I was prompted by Sue. Here I was agonizing over these feelings for you and all of the potential fall out and not once did I figure you might feel the same way. When Sue said something about you… "the way Bernadette looks at you", I think she said, I realized I had to say something. The feelings for you were not going anywhere. Even in our circumstances, I figured we deserved a chance to at least try this out, especially when I found out that you might feel the same way."

Bernadette listened patiently to what Jump was saying. When she got to the Sue part, her eyebrows raised in surprise. Had she been that transparent? She shook her head ruefully. The ride back from the hospital that she got from Sue took on a whole other meaning. "Huh…Sue's pretty observant," Bernadette said neutrally.

"More like just really nosey," quipped Jump. She shifted a bit on the couch, settling in. It made Bernadette smile.

"Well I for one am glad Sue is nosey. Otherwise, I don't know how much longer I could've gone without telling you." Bernadette said lightly. Jump smiled brightly at that and then turned serious.

"I imagine a big part of both of us not wanting to say anything much less act on our feelings has to do with Mark." There I said it. We are gonna have to deal with it sooner or later. Bernadette's smile turned to a grim expression as she thought about that. It was the truth. Bernadette's head slumped slightly and she couldn't meet Jump's eyes.

As if reading Bernadette's mind, Jump brushed her thigh to bring her eyes back to her. "We'll deal with what to say to Mark when we need to okay? We'll work it out together." Jump said with confidence. She didn't want Bernadette feeling any worse about that situation than she knew she already did.

"Okay." Said Bernadette.

Jump looked down at her watch. She'd been at Bernadette's for a couple of hours and she needed to go pick up Ryan. "Hey, I gotta go get Ryan. Do you wanna come with?" Jump didn't want to part company just yet. They still had so much to talk about.

"Sure. Let's go get him." Bernadette smiled at being included. She didn't want to part from her quite yet either.

After they picked up Ryan, they headed back to Jump's apartment where she cooked an early dinner for the both of them.

"Hey, buddy, don't eat the spoon!" Laughed Bernadette as she fed Ryan his favorite strained pear baby food. The baby slapped his high chair tray excitedly as he responded to Bernadette's voice. Jump looked across the counter to where they sat. She stopped what she was doing to watch the two interact. A small tear threatened to roll down her cheek and she slowly wiped it away. The scene did something to her that was hard to explain. It was almost like she was looking into the future and the past at the same time. It filled her with a peace she'd never knew she was lacking. She smiled warmly when she saw Bernadette looking up at her.


Bernadette had a hard time getting to sleep that night. Her mind was abuzz with thoughts of Jump. It was another chapter in her life she was looking forward to exploring but she knew soon the challenges would begin that would either strengthen or pull apart this burgeoning relationship. She prayed it would be the former.


Matt sat dumbfounded. When his sister asked him to lunch, he figured it was to get the lowdown on the progress of the sub flooring demolition, not to tell him she was dating their brother's ex.

"So, was this the thing you were dealing with?" He asked needlessly.

"Yep. Listen, I am surprised by all this as well. It just happened, you know?" She was hoping he could see the similarity between how he felt for Sue and how she felt for Jump.

"But, she's a woman. Mark's ex-girlfriend. Mother of his child, Bernadette." He said slowly.

"I know all this. Why do you think I kept this to myself for so long? But you could see yourself it was eating me alive." She raised her cast for emphasis. "When I found out she felt the same way… I had to take a chance, Matt… I think I might be in love with her." She finished quietly.

"Am I the only one who knows about this?" Matt asked suddenly.

"You and Sue I imagine. Jump said she'd be talking to her too. Look Matt, no one else knows. It's all still too new. We're not even sure where it is going…but I needed to tell you because we are going to give it a try." She looked intently at her youngest brother, trying to gauge how he was taking this. She didn't have to wait too long.

"Look, I have no idea how Mark is going to take this, but I want you and Jump to be happy. If you make each other happy, then it is enough for me." He gave her a reassuring smile.

"I'm sure I don't have to spell this out for you, but I don't want Carrie or dad knowing about this yet. I don't want it getting back to Mark without me talking to him first." She held his eyes until he nodded.

"Don't worry about that, sis. I'll leave that all up to you."

She began to give him a hostile look until she saw him smile.

"Look, Bernsy, I know as well as anyone that you have no control over who you fall in love with. Sue took me by total surprise too. I can't lie to you though; this is a little weird. But I support you. Both you and Jump. Obviously there was a reason her and Mark didn't work out." He said logically. He then graced her with a big smile and grabbed her shoulder across the lunch table.

"My big sister is in love…" he said in a sing-song voice.

"Watch it." She growled playfully.

Sue sat casually in the booth at her and Jump's favorite café with a smug look on her face. Jump rolled her eyes and laughed. "Yeah, so you were right, Cupid."

"It's kind of ironic in an…ironic sort of way. After all, it was I who set you up with Mark." Sue observed as she took a long pull of her Diet Coke. She continued. "You think you and Bernadette would have still fallen for each other? I mean, I am dating her brother and all. You guys would have met regardless."

Jump thought about that for a moment. "I think we would have gotten together. But I don't regret what I had with Mark. I have Ryan now and I wouldn't change that for anything. Are the circumstances more complicated, absolutely. I know we have some obstacles to face, but I truly believe this was meant to be. And we haven't even done anything yet." Jump added with a blush.

"Explain 'anything'." Sue countered as she sat up straight in the booth. Jump was sorry she spoke that last sentence. Nevertheless, she giggled like a schoolgirl.

"We kissed…three times." Jump said. God, I sound like I'm back in the sixth grade.

"Three?" Sue said in mock astonishment.

"Shut up!" Jump said. She was truly embarrassed now.

"I'm just teasing you Jump. I hope you know how truly happy I am for you and Bernadette." She said with a genuine smile.

"Thanks. That means a lot to me." Jump said as she took one of Sue's hands between her own.

Chapter 14

Bernadette was nervous. Her house was decorated with all things Hawaiian for her dad's 60th and her family and her dad's friends would be there in a few hours. Mark would be there too. She hadn't really had an opportunity to tell Mark about her and Jump. Each time she tried, it was bad timing or the words just wouldn't come. She'd hoped he would be coming a few days early so she could sit down with him, but he was flying in right before the party started.

She knew Jump would understand about keeping a low profile, but she hated to pretend they were not together, if even for the night. They'd been 'dating' openly now for nearly two months and things had been going really well. They'd slowly grown more confident in their physical expressions for each other and their love and affection was taking its natural course. Whenever they were near each other, they were touching. They'd hold hands when they felt comfortable enough to do so. If their heavy make out sessions were any indication, they'd soon be consummating their relationship. Sue called it the "can't keep my hands off" stage of the relationship. Bernadette hoped it lasted a very long time.

As it was, Bernadette had already sat down with her dad and Carrie and James and although they had the same reservations regarding telling Mark, they were happy for the two. It was a heavy burden off of her shoulders and both Bernadette and Jump were thankful for that.

"Hey, are you okay?" Jump asked as she came from behind Bernadette and wrapped her arms around her.

"I'm just anxious to get telling Mark over with." She said honestly. She felt Jump's ear press into her back as she tightened her arms around her waist.

"Do you want us to do it together? Or maybe I should alone?"

Bernadette smiled at Jump's desire to take away her anxiety or at least lessen it. She turned in Jump's arms and put her own arms around the smaller woman.

"I should be the one to tell him. If he's gonna be angry, I'd rather it be at me first." Bernadette reasoned.

"I really hope it won't go down like that." Jump said as she loosened her arms around Bernadette still looking at her. "I don't want to be the cause of any rift between you and Mark." She admitted quietly.

"Listen, you don't have anything to feel guilty about. You are following your heart, as am I. If he can't see that, it's no fault of ours. It took me months to figure that out, Jump, but please trust that I am right about this, that we are fine in wanting this."

Jump heard what she said and she trusted her implicitly, but she still couldn't help but worry. "What if he does react badly? What if he threatens…" She couldn't finish the thought or the sentence.

Bernadette realized what all this was about now. She's afraid of losing Ryan.

"Oh, Jump. Mark is my brother, I know him. He's not the type of person that would do that. You have nothing to worry about. It might be hard on him, and God knows, it's gonna be awkward. But we are two grown adults being true to ourselves. I certainly don't want to replace him in Ryan's life. We'll sit down and talk and we'll make it work." Bernadette ducked down to get eye to eye with Jump. She moved her hand from Jump's waist to her neck and caressed it gently.

Jump sighed. "I believe you, Bernadette. I'm just scared I guess." She sighed and blew out a breath as she put her hand over Bernadette's that had come to rest on her shoulder.

"I know." Bernadette said in a whisper as she pulled Jump into a tight hug. After a beat, Bernadette released her. "Is Ryan awake?" Jump had placed him in the guest room as she came over to Bernadette's to help decorate.

"Sounds like it." Jump responded with a smile. She could hear the baby now, quietly playing in his playpen.

"How about we take him for a little stroll on the beach before we start cooking?" Bernadette suggested with a bright grin.

"Let's do it." Jump smiled back. As they entered the guest room, Ryan was standing in the corner of his playpen reaching for his reflection in the closet mirror. They stood and watched him for a moment as he smiled at himself and babbled. His dark brown hair and gray eyes were shining as the sunlight filtered through the half-closed blinds and reflected off the mirror.

Bernadette picked him up and laid him on the bed to change him. Jump loved how Bernadette took on caring for him so naturally. It had taken on a new sort of significance these last two months as well. Thoughts of a future, a long future with Bernadette made her smile inwardly. She came to stand next to her as she deftly changed him before he could aim and fire. He did delight in that and Bernadette had learned quickly at the expense of a new suede shirt.

After he was changed Bernadette straightened up and gazed down at him intently. "He definitely has your chin." She reached and touched the body part in question. "Your nose…" she then tapped on it gently making him giggle.

Bernadette felt Jump's hand slip up her back slowly and she turned to Jump and looked at her with a mixture of desire and wonder. Her eyes went from Jump's eyes to her lips, unconsciously licking her own. "He's got your lips too…." She trailed off as she kissed Jump soundly. As both women's temperatures started to rise, a soft, "mamamama" was heard. It took them a moment to realize it was coming from Ryan.

They both looked down at the baby and then at each other. Their faces beamed as the boy continued to speak. Then Jump squealed with joy. "He's saying 'mama'!" Bernadette grinned widely until her face ached. She picked up the boy and the three danced around the room, all anxiety about tonight momentarily forgotten.

After a quiet walk on the beach, the three returned to begin cooking. Luckily, Bernadette had talked Matt out of purchasing an entire pig to roast. She couldn't imagine having to cook it either. They instead bought a Hawaiian cookbook and cooked some traditional luau food that didn't include roasting an entire animal.

The two women worked efficiently in the kitchen while listening to Bernadette's newly purchased 'Sounds of Hawaii' CD. Ryan bounced around in his little walker, seemingly enjoying the music as well. Every once in a while they'd break into dance and they'd twirl around Ryan as they held hands.

They didn't hear the soft knock on the door or see Mark step into the house. But he saw them. A huge smile creased his face as he saw them dancing around his son. He was about to announce himself when Bernadette pulled Jump in for a kiss.

At first he was confused. Why would Bernadette kiss Jump like that? Shortly after that came realization and then anger. He wanted so badly to confront them, but they were still oblivious to him there. Instead he turned and left, slamming the door behind him. That brought the women abruptly apart and Bernadette moved cautiously towards the door. She opened it just in time to see a cab pull away. Shit.

Jump was at her side in an instant. "That was Mark." She said grimly. Jump dropped her head on her hands that were against the door jamb.

"What are we gonna do?" Asked Jump. She saw that the guests would be here in about two hours.

Bernadette turned from the door and went to grab her keys and wallet. "I'm going after him." She said resolutely.

"Are you sure that's a good idea? Do you even know where he's going?" Jump followed her as she walked to the door.

"I have a pretty good idea where he's going. That's why I have to go after him." Bernadette said cryptically. She made her way past Jump and stalked to her car. Of all the fucking moments to walk in… She started the car angrily and just as she was about to turn around to back up, her eyes stopped on Jump standing at the doorway looking worried and not a little ashamed.

She abruptly shut the car off and walked to the door, Jump came up and met her halfway. "Just, be careful okay. He must have been pretty angry to just slam the door and take off like that." Jump said.

"He's probably going to go drink. It was how he dealt with things before. I want to get to him before he starts. Don't worry, I'll just explain to him what's going on…and…we'll work it out, okay?" Bernadette looked at Jump and gave her a small smile of reassurance and then she turned to leave.

Bernadette headed to the bar inland where her brother liked to frequent before he quit drinking. It was a dive that saw its share of customers on any day of the week morning, noon and night. It was where people came to be alone and drink. She parked her truck in an empty spot in front of the building. She opened the heavy metal door and let her eyes adjust to the darkness. She began to scan the bar first and then the booths. No Mark. She went to the back and checked the restrooms. They were both empty. She began to feel a sense of relief.

She dialed Matt's home phone and Matt picked up on the second ring. "Is Mark there?" She asked, trying to keep the nervousness out of her voice.

"He is." Matt said tersely.

"I'm coming over." She said quickly.

"I'm not sure you should do that Bernsy." Matt said. He looked over to his brother who was clenching and unclenching his fists.

"I've got to explain to him what he saw, Matt." She reasoned.

"Listen, give me a few minutes to calm him down. Come over in half an hour." He said quietly.

"Okay. Just don't let him leave. Bernadette instructed.

"I won't." He said.

They hung up and Bernadette called back to her house. Jump answered on the first ring.

"Hey, he went to Matt's." Bernadette said immediately.

"That's good right? He didn't go drinking?" Jump said with small hope in her voice.

"I would say it is good. But Matt is trying to calm him down. I'm going over there in about half an hour. Listen, about the party…"

Jump interrupted her gently, "Don't worry about any of it. I got it covered, okay?"

"Thank you." Bernadette said quietly. Then, "I love you, you know that?"

"I know that. I love you. Good luck. If you need me to come over there too, call me. I can drop off Ryan at Sue's." Jump said.

"No, that is okay. But thank you for offering that." Bernadette sighed into the phone. Hearing that helped her resolve to go talk to her brother.

"I'll call you later, okay?" Bernadette finally said.

"Yes." Jump said, her voice showing her growing emotion.

Bernadette arrived at Matt and Sue's condo. She sat in the truck for a couple of minutes to collect herself and plan out what she'd say. Just tell the truth. Plain and simple.

She knocked lightly on the door and Matt answered. He looked a bit disheveled, like he'd been up all night or something.

"Come in." he said quietly as he waved her in.

She could see Mark's back as he sat out on a chair on the balcony. She saw a drink on the table next to him and she glared at Matt.

"He's only had one." He half-whispered defensively.

She tore her eyes away from him and began moving out towards the balcony. Before she got to the open sliding glass door, Mark was out of his chair and in her face. His eyes were bloodshot and shiny.

"What the fuck, Bernsy?" He said with a mixture of pain and anger.

She took a step back and gestured for him to sit back down. He looked at her threateningly and she thought for a split second he was going to hit her. He was breathing heavily and his breath was saturated with alcohol. She mentally prepared to defend herself. Instead he angrily stalked back out and sat heavily back in his chair. He put his elbows on his knees and rested his head in his hands. She took the chair adjacent to him and put her elbows on her knees too, clasping her hands together inches from his knee.

"How long?" he ground out, not looking at her.

"Almost two months." She answered.

"How could you?" came the quiet question.

"Look, Mark. It happened. We weren't looking for it. We both ignored it for as long as we could. It had nothing to do with you or what happened between you two." She said gently but with conviction.

"You knew how much I loved her…love her. How could you let this happen?" He asked as if he didn't even hear her. He took a deep breath and looked up at her with cold eyes. "You gonna be Ryan's daddy now? You gonna replace me? You don't have the right equipment."

She knew it was the pain and alcohol talking, yet the sympathy she had for him was slowly draining away and turning into anger. She checked it though and set her jaw and looked at him hard until he met her eyes with his own.

"Look Mark, I'm sorry it didn't happen between you two. But the fact is, she and I fell in love. I don't want to replace you in any way."

He sat there silently for a long time. She wanted to touch him, but thought the better of it. Suddenly he stood up and went into the condo. After a beat Bernadette got up and followed him. Matt heard them inside and came out of the back room to see what was going on.

"Jesus, I should have known you'd be a fuckin' dyke." Mark slurred. Bernadette's head reeled back at the venom in his voice. The words stung. What the hell? She looked at Matt disbelievingly as if to say, 'Only one drink?' He just shrugged his shoulders in ignorance.

Both Matt and Bernadette looked on as Mark headed for the front door. Bernadette began to go after him when Matt grabbed her arm. "Let him go, Bernsy. He can't drive. He's probably just gone for a walk to think."

She looked at Matt now and he pulled his hand away. "I'm just gonna follow him, make sure he's okay." She said as she headed out the door too.

She couldn't blame him really. She thought how she would feel if it was she in Mark's place. But the fact remained; she wasn't in love with him. He was going to have to move on. Even if she weren't with Jump, it wouldn't change anything between Jump and Mark. No, it just changed things between Mark and I, she thought ruefully.

Bernadette spotted him walking up the palm tree lined busy road about a block away. She jogged up to meet him. He knew she was now standing next to him but he didn't acknowledge her. She looked at his profile and it seemed he'd calmed down since leaving the condo. His jaw muscles were working though and she could tell he was thinking. She kept pace with him about another half a block, both walking in loaded silence.

"What do you want me to do?" Came Bernadette's voice finally.

He picked up his pace, only offering her a sideways glance, nothing more. She stepped in front of him and put a hand on his chest to stop him. He made a half-hearted effort to step around her and finally stopped with a sigh when she moved with him to block his path. Once she realized he wouldn't move, her hand dropped to her side.

"What would you have me do brother?" She said, now a bit of pain and desperation in her voice.

He looked anywhere but in her eyes as they stood face to face in the middle of a busy street sidewalk. He was making a decision, she could tell. A decision he'd been working on the moment he left the condo.

"I wish it was me, Bernsy. I wish it was me she loved." He said in a defeated voice. He looked up to the sky and closed his eyes briefly. "I thought that if I left again, she'd miss me, realize…" he let the sentence die. He quickly gained his composure, jaw set.

She stood, rooted to her spot. Listening. There was nothing for her to say.

"I can't believe my sister is dating the woman I love." He finally looked at her resolutely. "There ain't a thing I can do about it, is there?" It was more of a statement than a real question, but Bernadette knew she'd better address it.

"Honestly, Mark, no. I'd like to think you wouldn't take it out on Jump in regards to Ryan though. Am I right?" Silence. She looked at him directly in the eye and repeated her self with quiet force, "Am I right?"

He looked at her for a good long time and finally nodded, swallowing hard. "I'm pissed Bernadette, but I'm not an asshole. I couldn't do that to Jump." He gave her a half-smile that almost reached his eyes, but not quite.

Jump was in the kitchen when Bernadette walked into her house. She felt emotionally exhausted from talking with Mark, but she also felt a modicum of peace from him knowing. She wanted nothing more than to hold Jump for a moment. She wordlessly walked up to her and put her arms around her for a long time.

When they'd separated, Jump put her hand gently on Bernadette's cheek, her eyes asking the question.

"It'll be okay. He'll come around." Bernadette said, not entirely convinced of her own words. Jump stood silently, waiting for her to continue. "He's hurt and angry, but we knew that would be the case. Matt spoke to him before I got there, filled him in a little more. Told him I wasn't taking advantage of you or anything." She gave an incredulous smirk at that.

"I guess we kind of came to an understanding… He said he wouldn't stand in our way. Not that he could anyway. I wouldn't let him." The words felt a bit cold coming out of her mouth, but it was what it was. Her and Mark's relationship was probably damaged irrevocably but there was really no other option in her mind. So, she'd concentrate on making Jump and Ryan happy and maybe she' be able to get back the relationship she'd had with her brother…someday.

"What about Ryan? Did he say anything?" Jump asked cautiously.

Bernadette didn't feel it necessary to repeat what Mark initially said. Instead she told Jump what Mark had told her when they'd returned to the condo.

"He said he still wants to be part of his life. He wants to visit him still when he comes in. I told him that was what you wanted too." Bernadette said. She and Jump talked about it early that week and Jump wholeheartedly agreed that if Mark wanted to be in Ryan's life after they'd talked to him, she welcomed it. She did hope he felt that way still and he did. She smiled at that, very pleased.

Bernadette looked at the kitchen clock and saw she only had about an hour before the guests arrived. She took a moment to look around and saw that Jump had indeed taken care of everything. The house was decorated meticulously and there were trays sitting out filled with Polynesian hors de vours.

"I guess we better get dressed, huh?" Bernadette said lightly. She took Jump's hand and kissed her knuckles. "Thank you. The house looks amazing."

Jump bowed her head in a gesture of 'your welcome' and gave Bernadette a sweet smile. She grew serious for a moment and said, "I'm truly sorry about Mark, Bernadette. I still can't help but feel a little guilty about it." she said honestly.

Bernadette knew she wasn't looking for any placating words, that wasn't who Jump was. So Bernadette responded honestly as well, "I do too. It will lessen with time. Mark will find the person that will fit him. He's too good of a guy not too." At that Jump nodded in agreement.

They walked back to the master bathroom together to where Ryan was napping. Bernadette went into the master bath and turned on the shower. As Jump picked up a quietly murmuring Ryan who had just awoken from his nap, she caught a glimpse in the mirror of Bernadette's partially nude form as she checked the shower temperature. She had taken off her shirt and bra and was now leaning in to the shower stall with her hand stretched under the water.

Jump loved Bernadette so much for who she was inside that there were times when she'd forget how beautiful she was on the outside as well. Tall and lean, with just enough softness and hardness in muscle and flesh, she was truly beautiful to look at. Jump's breath was taken away at this vision she saw now. She felt a little guilty at staring without Bernadette's knowledge, but surely Bernadette didn't care as she left the door open.

Not wanting to go and start something she'd want to spend many hours finishing, Jump gave Ryan a quick peck on his head and went into the guest bathroom to shower and change. The heat that had spread throughout her body moments before dissipated as her mind went back to Mark and possibly seeing him tonight. She wasn't sure he'd come and she felt terrible about it.

About thirty minutes later, a Hawaiian shirt clad Bernadette was playing with Ryan on the living room rug when she heard Jump's soft footsteps coming down the hall. Bernadette's face lit up as she admired Jump in her little Hawaiian print sundress. It really looked good against her lightly tanned skin and golden red hair.

What a vision, thought Bernadette as she stood up, bringing Ryan with her to go greet his mom. As Jump reached out to take Ryan she caught Bernadette looking at her, but not into her eyes. They rested on her small amount of cleavage the dress displayed slightly.

"Enjoying the view, foreman?" Jump smirked. Bernadette's eyes shot up to Jump's.

"As a matter of fact, I am." Purred Bernadette. They both giggled at the scene and Bernadette brought Jump and Ryan into her long arms. She hugged them, kissing both on the forehead. Then she sobered a bit. "Are you ready for tonight?"

Jump thought for a second and then gave a confident nod. "I am."

"Good." Said Bernadette said simply. "I've got something planned for you after the party, by the way." Bernadette said in a low whisper.

"Oh, really?" Jump said, her curiosity piqued.

"Yup." Bernadette gleefully replied.

"Would you like a Mai Tai?" Bernadette asked Jump as she walked out to the balcony. Jump nodded with a smile and fell into conversation with Carrie and James.

"Did you get Ryan off okay to Casey's?" asked Bernadette as she brought her drink back.

"Yep. She is so good with him." Jump said. "Sue knows how to pick 'em. Good worker and good with babies."

"Well I must confess…"Sue said from behind her. She'd overheard her name and had to hear what it was about. "That was one of my interview questions. I knew if I didn't find someone who'd be willing to watch Ryan sometimes, I'd be doing it ALL the time." She said melodramatically.

"What are you saying?" Jump asked incredously.

Sue just smirked and threw her arm around her long-time friend. "Oh hon, I'm just kidding. You know I love the little rugrat." She continued a little more seriously. As serious as three Mai Tai's would allow, anyway. "You are a great mom, Jump. I could only hope to do half as well."

"Thank you, Sue." Jump said, tapping her friend's hand which was still around her shoulder.

Bernadette caught Jump's attention and motioned for her to follow her out to the beach.

"Mark should be here soon. Matt said he's doing better. He went to spend time with one of his old service buddies who lives here and he's gonna drop him by." Bernadette looked at Jump thoughtfully as she told her this, looking for signs of nervousness. She saw none.

"Thanks for letting me know. When he gets here, I want to talk to him privately for a bit. Explain my side, I guess." Jump reasoned. "If he even wants to hear it." she added.

"I imagine he wants to talk to you as well." Bernadette said neutrally.

Their conversation was sidetracked when they heard a few people greeting Mark in the house. With an understanding look between them, they turned and began making the short walk back into the house. Before they got to the balcony though, Jump reached for Bernadette's hand and held it for a few steps. She gave it a squeeze and then released it as they stepped onto the balcony.

When they entered the house, Mark was hugging Carrie. He caught sight of Bernadette and Jump and his gregarious smile turned neutral. He broke the hug with Carrie and told her he'd catch up with her later. He then made his way over to Bernadette and Jump. Not even looking at Bernadette, he asked Jump if they could talk privately. His demeanor was subdued but Bernadette sensed his anger still. She wasn't going to let him take Jump and berate her so she stepped in. "Look Mark. Why don't you talk about this later. Not here." He started to respond but was interrupted by Jump.

"It's okay, Bernadette. We need to talk. The sooner the better." Jump gave Bernadette a soft, trusting look, but did not make physical contact like she would've liked to to calm her.

Mark looked on, his face unreadable. "Let's go out back." Jump said and gestured towards the back door. He followed her obediently, sparing a pained look towards his sister.

When they finally got out to the moonlit beach, Mark being stopped and greeted on the way by people, they stood side by side, staring out at the ocean. Jump waited patiently for Mark to start. She was taken by surprise with the sound of a deep, broken sigh. She'd expected an angry tirade. She turned to face him. He continued to stare out at the ocean, unfocused.

"All I ever wanted was to make you happy."

He didn't say another word for a full minute and Jump wasn't sure he'd say anything else. But she herself wasn't sure what to say, so she remained silent as well. Just as she began to turn back to the house, he continued. "Why can't it be me? Wasn't I good to you? Or were you just using me? I mean, were you gay all along? Was I some sperm donor?" His voice broke at the last word, and still he couldn't face her.

She took a deep breath, thinking about her words very carefully. She only wanted to have to do this once. "I don't know why it wasn't you Mark. We touched on this before and I still don't have the answer. It isn't for lack of trying though. I wanted to love you, be in love with you. It…It just wasn't to be." He finally looked at her, defeated. She took the opportunity to look him in the face now. "You being good to me had nothing to do with why we didn't work. You are a wonderful guy, Mark." At that, his head dropped and he looked at the ground. She continued, trying not to let the anger she felt at his last question permeate her next answer. She grabbed his hand and his eyes shot up in surprise. "As for me using you, do you really think that? What indication did I ever give that I was doing that? As for being gay, I was surprised as hell to find I was attracted to women, let alone Bernadette." A tiny white lie, but generally, it was true. The crush on Rachel didn't hold a candle compared to what she felt just thinking of Bernadette.

He didn't answer; there was no need. He just took a deep breath and tilted his head up toward the sky, closing his eyes for a few long seconds. "Of all the people Jump. My sister. I don't know if I can ever… accept that."

She gently let go of his hand and said in a small voice. "It wasn't a choice for me, or her. You can't control who you fall in love with." She gave him a rueful look, but continued. "We both ignored it for months, thinking it would just go away. It didn't… As for you accepting it, I don't expect you to, right now. But what I do wish is that someday, down the road, you will. If not for my sake or Ryan's, then for your and Bernadette's relationship. She is hurting and hurting for you too."

She could tell he was holding an angry retort at bay. She waited patiently for him to decide how he would play this. She didn't have to wait long. "Look Jump. I'm not sure I'll ever stop loving you. That is why I'm not going to stand in your way or make things difficult for you and Bernadette…and Ryan." She knew what he was driving at and where she was angered he'd even bring it up, she knew he was just making a point. "But understand that I want to be his father. I'll be moving back here in the near future and I want to be involved."

"I wouldn't want anything less, Mark. Please know that."

Instead of responding, he held out his hand and she quickly took it. He squeezed gently and then let it go. "Let's get back to the party before Bernadette comes out with her hammer." They both chuckled at that, eagerly accepting the lightening of the tense, serious mood.


"Goodnight! Drive safe!" Bernadette called to the last of the guests as they made their way to their cars. She shut the door and turned to face the mess that indicated a well-attended party. It was great to see Frank in such high spirits tonight too. Towards the end of the night, he'd gotten up on a chair and gave a brief speech. He thanked everyone for attending, his children and their 'significant others' for caring to plan it, and for a rather emotional moment, thanked the people who helped during the dark period following his wife's passing. Jump watched Bernadette fight tears as she looked at her siblings who had similar expressions.

"Are you gonna call to see if Sue and Matt picked up Ryan?" Bernadette asked. If Jump picked up that Bernadette was teasing her about being overprotective; she didn't show it. It endeared Jump to her even more.

"Sue already called and told me she had him all settled and Matt did an excellent job in changing him." Jump reported seriously. Bernadette was actually a bit surprised when Jump agreed to leave Ryan with Sue and Matt overnight. But Jump had made the decision after reasoning that it was only for one night and they were just a phone call away. And that this particular night would demand lots of uninterrupted hours. That last comment made Bernadette blush, even though she's the one who planned it.

"We can leave this until tomorrow morning, right?" Jump asked, indicating the cups and plates and napkins lying around.

"Late morning." Bernadette responded with the sexiest smile Jump had ever seen. They each made sure the doors were locked and headed back to the master bedroom. There was a momentary silence as both women entered the room. This would be the night.

When Bernadette had shyly asked her if she would stay over the night of the party, Jump couldn't say yes fast enough. If Bernadette hadn't asked tonight, Jump would have. It had gotten really hard to say goodnight to Bernadette when she'd come over for a visit or when she'd come over to Bernadette's. She didn't want to say goodnight to this woman ever again unless it was in their own bed.

"I had all of these grand schemes of seduction tonight, but honestly, I feel like this is my first time." Bernadette confessed as she held up her hand to show that it was shaking slightly. Jump smiled and closed the distance between the two. She took Bernadette's hand and placed it over her heart.

"You feel that?" She asked. Bernadette's eyes widened as she felt the rapid, strong heartbeat. "You are doing that. It beats for you tonight. From tonight on."

Bernadette closed her eyes slowly and brought her hand to Jump's neck pulling her in for a long, slow kiss. They both pulled apart after a few heartbeats and smiled shyly at each other. Wordlessly, Bernadette unbuttoned her shirt and let it slip off of her shoulders, then she undid her bra. Jump watched with parted lips. Bernadette was even more beautiful than she imagined. I don't deserve her, she thought.

"Can I help you?" Came Bernadette's slightly unsteady voice. Jump pulled her eyes up to Bernadette's and nodded, smiling. She slowly spun around and let Bernadette undo her dress zipper. Together, they slipped off the dress and let it fall to the floor. Before Jump could turn around she felt warm hands on her back, caressing her shoulders, drawing a finger down her spine to her bra clasp. It was quickly undone and slowly slid off of her shoulders. She then felt Bernadette press into her from behind. The touch of nipples on her back was electric and she gasped.

"You have the most amazing back." Came the low purr into her ear. She tilted her neck, instinctively knowing where Bernadette wanted to kiss her next. She was not disappointed as she felt warm, wet lips on her. Long, tanned arms wrapped around her then, just touching the underside of her breasts.

A small moan was heard and it encouraged Bernadette. Running the tip of her tongue from shoulder to earlobe, she took it in her mouth and sucked gently. When she released it, Jump turned to face her. She brought her hands up tentatively to touch Bernadette's breasts. She took fingertips to nipples and circled the areola, watching Bernadette's face with rapt attention. The half closed eyes and glistening, parted lips turned her on more than anything yet. "They are perfect." Jump breathed as she continued to explore and touch.

Her hands traveled to Bernadette's stomach, touching the smooth skin that had turned to gooseflesh at her touch. She looked up at Bernadette questioningly when she touched the button of her shorts. With a quick nod from Bernadette, Jump eased her out of them. She marveled in the length of Bernadette's legs and the perfect shape of hips. She then took Bernadette's hand and led her to the bed. She motioned for Bernadette to lay down on her back. Bernadette was more than happy to oblige.

Jump took her spot next to Bernadette and she lay there for a moment just touching Bernadette's impossibly smooth skin. She had nothing to compare this to, but she was pretty sure she was meant to do this. Bernadette was breathing heavily and Jump sensed it was time to take things further. She slowly sat up and removed her underwear and then helped Bernadette's out of hers.

The smell of arousal was never something Jump enjoyed at all. But tonight, right now, it was the sweetest smell on earth. She thought she couldn't be turned on anymore when she realized the effect she had on this woman. She smiled down at Bernadette, who was fully naked and beautiful lying on the bed. Bernadette's hands came up to bring Jump on top of her and she obliged. They were now face to face and searching each other's eyes intently.

"I love you so much." It was somewhere between a cry and whisper and it broke Jump's heart again and again as she rained down kisses all over Bernadette's face. Thoughts about what they'd been through came flooding into her mind and she began to weep. It might have scared Bernadette, but she didn't show it. She just took Jump's face in her hands and alternated kissing and wiping her tears way.

In this moment, Jump knew she'd spend the rest of her life with Bernadette.

Bernadette's comforting kisses turned passionate and Jump welcomed it. Soon hands were exploring and tongues were tasting. Jump slid down Bernadette's body, kissing and sucking the flesh of her breasts. Bernadette's hands came to Jump's head in pure reflex. Her open mouth moans became louder, spurring Jump on. Even though she had never been with a woman, she did know what she enjoyed. She smiled up at Bernadette, who was beyond any lucid thought at the moment. Not for the first time that night, Jump marveled at the effect she had on her love. So, she moved further down and settled between Bernadette's long, beautiful legs. She spent time kissing the spot between naval and pubic hair, enjoying the undulating hips and heavy breathing. She's pretty sure she heard, "Jesus." Being breathed out in a low murmur too.

If Jump wasn't so aroused herself, she might have chuckled at the state of her lover in waiting. She set her sights on the pink bubblegum folds of Bernadette's lips and slowly brought her fingers up to them, she stroked them with wonder and abject lust and nearly came herself as she heard Bernadette call out her name. Emboldened, she stroked a few more times with her fingers and brought her tongue in to taste. She began to lick and suck and taste her Bernadette, all the while feeling Bernadette's wetness spread onto her chin.

I think I might die tonight. This was Bernadette's final thought as Jump brushed through her folds with the gentlest of touches. There were no experiences that could have prepared her for the exquisite feeling of having this beautiful woman touch her like this.

Her fantasies didn't even begin to come close to the delicious tickle she'd felt as Jump pressed her tongue in to taste her. She felt her wetness pouring out of her but didn't care. She brought one hand to the back of Jump's head and the other gripped the headboard as Jump began tasting and licking in earnest. Bernadette's knees bent to give her more leverage to bring her hips up to Jump's seeking and searing tongue. Soon both women were moving as one. Sweat began to drench their bodies and the sheets.

Only soft grunts, heavy breath and rhythmically rustling sheets could be heard in the room.

Bernadette made an effort to hold on and savor the beautiful contact of Jump's tongue on her, but it was futile. She soon screamed out her orgasm, saying Jump's name again and again. Jump didn't let up until Bernadette was licked nearly dry. Finally, she gave Bernadette a kiss on her glistening curls and crawled up her body. She was on fire and praying to be consumed.

Before Bernadette could take in a deep breath Jump was on her. She could taste herself on Jump's tongue and she felt her own wetness anew. How could I have done without this for so many years? Thought Bernadette as she flipped a sweaty Jump onto her back and growled.

Chapter 15

Jump idly watched as Ryan stood at the coffee table, slapping it rhythmically and laughing. He'll be walking soon, she thought to herself. That fact brought pleasure and also a little dread to the young mother. She knew she'd have to be even more vigilant with him when he became really mobile. She'd already begun putting little locks on the cabinets and plug protectors in the open outlets. He'd proved to be a very curious baby and loved to get into and explore anything within his reach. Pulling things out of fingers and mouth became routine for Jump she saw it continuing for a long time.

"Just wait til you empty his pockets when he gets older." Bernadette had said when they had discussed the boy's propensity to explore.

Bernadette. Jump smiled at the mere thought of her… partner? Girlfriend? Lover? She hadn't really thought about labeling what she'd had with Bernadette. It had only been a month since Frank's birthday, but Bernadette had become a permanent fixture in both Jump and Ryan's life. She supposed that she'd have to identify Bernadette as something other than just friend, because she was so much more than that. So much more.

When Bernadette wasn't working or playing basketball, she was at Jump's or they were at her beach house. They'd only spent a handful of nights together, Bernadette's newest project had her up before the sun and she was usually loath to disturb the quiet of the house when they were together for fear of waking Ryan.

Jump knew that eventually, the sporadic night stays wouldn't do. She'd grown all too comfortable having her in her bed. And in the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room… Jump blushed at the christening of almost every room in her smallish apartment. Bernadette quipped that the beach house would be next. When Jump laughed, Bernadette stated she was serious. Thinking about that now got Jump a bit hot and she glanced at the clock. She'll be here soon. She turned her full attention back on her little man.

She giggled as he wobbled around the table, shuffling one foot and then the other, all the while drooling and giggling at something. She looked where his eyes were trained and realized he was looking at his reflection in the glass. "Yes, you are a handsome devil!" She laughed. She slid her checkbook and bills towards the middle of the counter and joined her son at the table. She got down next to him and put her head beside his so he could see her reflection too. He reached out and touched her reflection and smiled, showing off his two and a half teeth.

"Mamamama." He chanted over and over again, dropping rivulets of drool down his arm.

She felt a quickening in her heart a split second before keys in the door turned. The door pushed open to let in a tall, disheveled, weary woman in. Jump stood and plucked Ryan from the floor and crossed the room to Bernadette. Her frown had instantly faded as she saw her two most favorite people in all the world.

"Hey," Jump said softly.

"Hey yourself," Bernadette returned through a crooked, tired smile. She wrapped both up in a tight hug and pressed her lips to both foreheads. She then took Ryan from Jump and held him on her hip as she went in for a deep, renewing kiss. It left Jump reeling and breathless.

"Miss me?" she asked huskily.

"You have no idea." Bernadette deadpanned as she headed to the couch with Ryan in her arms and Jump's hand. She was about to flop down on it when she looked down at herself.

"I'm a mess, ugh." She gently sat Ryan on the floor and asked if she could take a quick shower.

"You don't have to ask, silly." Jump said swatting her on the butt. "You still have your sweats here. I washed them. They're in the closet."

Bernadette nodded and started down the hallway. She stopped mid step and turned around. "If you want, you could come keep me company." She smiled sexily.

Jump returned her smile. "I'll put Ryan in his playpen and come wash your… back."

"Sounds good to me." Bernadette said as she continued down the hallway.

Jump picked up Ryan and swung him gently until he began to laugh. She set him in his playpen and started his little musical mobile. She studied him for a moment to make sure he wouldn't fuss. He quickly turned his attention to the light up caterpillar Bernadette had given him a while ago.

"Be back in a bit." She smiled down at him.

As she walked down the hall she heard the shower turn on and pushed open the bathroom door to watch Bernadette undress. She loved watching this woman shed her clothes. It surprised Jump how much she enjoyed looking at Bernadette. She thought this kind of visual excitement was exclusive to men. She soon learned that she certainly had that wrong.

It was more than just the aesthetic beauty of the tall, softly muscular body; it was what was contained inside. The intelligence, compassion, and humor of this woman was what Jump was attracted to. The outside beauty was just an added bonus. But what a bonus! She gave a contented, almost shy smile to Bernadette when she noticed her watching from just outside the doorframe. Neither of them spoke as Jump stepped in and leaned on the doorframe and crossed her arms over her chest. Bernadette continued undressing, all the while feeling the stirring inside her that only the woman watching her elicited.

Bernadette had been a bit shy at first, but when she saw the look of what her body did to Jump, she quickly got used to it. She knew the effect Jump had on her physically as well and loved to pique that in them both whenever she could. She'd never had much of a libido until she was with Jump. Now, she wanted her constantly. She'd even catch herself daydreaming at work, which really wasn't conducive on a construction site. Her purpling thumbnail could attest to that. She looked down at it as she shed her socks and Jump caught the look.

"What did you do?" She asked amusedly as she took Bernadette's thumb gently.

"You'd laugh." Bernadette said around a big smile.

"Try me." Jump said a little more seriously.

Bernadette sighed a deep sigh and told Jump exactly what she was thinking when she brought the hammer down a bit askew.

Jump remained quiet for a second. She slowly brought Bernadette's thumb up to her lips and kissed it gently. Then she smiled widely and shook her head.

"Oh, Babe, next time daydream while you are getting a drink of water or looking over blueprints." Jump chuckled.

Bernadette tossed her sock at Jump and stepped into the shower. "Just be happy I wasn't working the pneumatic nail gun!" She called over the water.

"Oh, trust me, I'm VERY happy about that. Your digits are extremely important to me!" Jump said loudly around a smile.

Bernadette stuck her head out of the shower and wiggled the thumb at Jump. "I thought you'd say that!"

Jump just smiled wistfully, remembering the last time she experienced Bernadette's extraordinary dexterity.

A soft cry brought Jump out of her own little daydream. She called out to Bernadette saying she was going to check on Ryan. She peeked her head out and Jump gave her a quick kiss.

Bernadette quickly finished her shower so she could join them.

Bernadette came out dressed in sweats and a soft t-shirt and headed to the kitchen where she heard Jump and Ryan singing a terribly off-key children's song. Ryan sat bouncing in his high chair with pieces of fruit and Cherrios liberally scattered on his tray, squealing in delight to his mother's voice. Bernadette smiled widely at the scene. She stood at the counter and watched them for a moment before offering to help with dinner.

"You wanna chop the broccoli?" asked Jump.

"Sure. How was the shop today?" Bernadette asked as she grabbed a cutting board and knife.

"Good. Our end of the summer sale is bringing in a lot of people. Casey made up these great flyers and she's been handing them out around the beach and restaurants." Jump said as she prepared the chicken to be cooked. "Besides smashing your thumb thinking of me, how was your day?" Jump asked.

Bernadette chuckled sarcastically and thought for a moment. "We are getting close to completing the finish work. We'll have to push it to finish on time, but I think we'll get it. The next couple of weeks, I'll probably have myself and the entire crew working on Saturday and Sunday."

"Oh." Jump said, slightly surprised.

"Did we have plans?" Bernadette asked. The 'we' stuff is going to take some getting used to, thought Bernadette.

"No. Not really. I'm sorry. I should have figured you would have to put in some extra hours to get this project done." Jump explained. She was used to at least having Bernadette to herself on Sundays and she'd been thinking about a day trip for them and Ryan.

"Are you sure? I can probably work a half day on one of the Sundays…" Reasoned Bernadette when she saw disappointment flash across Jump's face.

"No, it can wait. I'd rather you not have to worry about finishing on time." Jump said.

At that, Bernadette put down the knife she was chopping broccoli with and gently grabbed Jump from behind. She squeezed her arms around her stomach and whispered into her ear. "Are you always going to be this amiable when I have to work extra days?"

Jump smirked and continued turning the chicken in the skillet. "That depends…" Jump said trying to keep a straight face and even tone.


"Whether you make it up to me each time." Jump said as she put down the tongs and turned into Bernadette's chest. She gave her a slow, deep wet kiss that got both of their pulses humming. Bernadette briefly envisioned putting Jump up on the counter and making it up in advance but thought the better of it when she heard a high pitched cooing coming from a certain little boy in the high chair.

Jump recovered and cleared her throat. "I do think he's making fun of us!"

"Hmm… just wait until you find someone little man. The pictures we'll bring out for your date…" Bernadette mock growled as she bent to tickle him on his belly protruding out of his t-shirt. He giggled incessantly, half heartedly pushing her hands away.

Jump watched as they played. What Bernadette said had touched her heart unexpectedly. They hadn't really discussed anything long-term yet. Both women had agreed to take this day by day. After dealing with Mark and the possible ramifications of family members feelings, both women just wanted to concentrate on the here and now.

A month after Frank's birthday though, it was becoming very apparent that Jump really, truly needed Bernadette. Not for what Bernadette could do for her or Ryan, but for what she was. In this relatively short time, Jump had really begun to depend on Bernadette for the things she'd missed so much as a single person too.

The freedom that came with being alone was what Jump thought would make her happiest. When Ryan came into the world, that freedom became non-existent, but it was replaced by a peace in her heart she never knew could be possible. Now, to have Bernadette, she felt completeness. Things were so good right now, she was almost afraid to believe it.

"I'm going to go change him." Bernadette said as she took him out of the high chair.

"Thanks." Jump said thickly. She didn't trust her voice to say more. She swallowed the deep emotion and began concentrating on dinner. She smiled at the thought of Bernadette spending the night tonight and then remembered she'd probably go home because she had to get up early for work. Perhaps I can convince her to stay, thought Jump.

"Good Morning, Sis." Matt said a little too cheerfully. He handed Bernadette a cup of coffee and glanced at his watch surreptitiously. She's never late…

"I called your house this morning…" He continued.

"I stayed over at Jump's." She said matter-of-factly. Her eyes effectively communicated that there would be no teasing this morning. She couldn't hide her grin though that unceremoniously crept onto her lips when her brother wisely found something interesting on the ground to stare at for a moment.

"Oh." Matt said. He was busting at the seams to say something, but knew that this was a subject too new and precious to his sister to make light of. He would just have to wait on that…. He'd get his chance to tease. His sister was in this for the long haul. That was obvious.

"Everybody here?" She asked as she began buckling on her tool belt.

"Yep. Alex is in painting already. Marcos is finishing up the light fixtures and switch plates." He answered, all business now.

"Great. Hardscape guys will be here in…" She checked her watch. Visibly surprised at the time, she recovered quickly. "About 20 minutes." She turned away from her brother with a nod and headed to the guys who were getting ready for the tiling. Another smile came to her face unbidden as her mind rolled over the memory of what made her late this morning. I better start jogging or something. That woman has some serious stamina…

After dinner that night, they bathed Ryan together and put him to bed. Bernadette was getting her things together to head home when a hand on her back had stopped her movements. She turned and saw the look in Jump's eyes. She knew she'd not be going home this night. Silently, Jump took Bernadette's hand and led her to the bedroom.

While their lovemaking had always been gentle and slow, last night had been markedly more intense and passionate. They seemed to feed off of each other's mutual need for some sort of affirmation. It was an affirmation Bernadette was more than willing to give. It was an affirmation of not only their growing love, but of their growing dependence on each other for completeness. Last night would be a night that Bernadette would keep in her mind for a long time. A very long time.

"Hey, boss!" Smiled Clay. He was busy cutting tile for the office space flooring.

"Hey Clay." She said amiably. Clay had been with her since she'd become a foreman and she'd always been happy with his work ethic and skill.

"We are gonna need some extra days to finish this boss. The paint guys are almost done, but with the square footage of the office spaces…" He left the rest of the sentence unsaid knowing Bernadette got the picture.

"Yeah. I was thinking about us working this Sunday and the next to finish. Is that okay?" She knew he would answer yes with the pay of time and a half. Most of these guys jumped at the opportunity to make extra money either for their vices, over-spending girlfriends or new families. Clay belonged to the latter group. He and his wife were expecting their first child in early February.

When he'd announced the news, she found it oddly easy to relate to the proud and beaming parent to be. She instantly knew why and was a bit surprised yet delighted at the fact. Could Jump ever see me as Ryan's parent too? Could I?

With each passing day, Bernadette believed more and more that it could become a reality. The truth of Ryan's conception had become less of an awkward and uncomfortable fact between the two women and it was opening the door for Bernadette to take more initiative in caring for Ryan. The loving him part was easy and pretty much instantaneously. After all, she'd watched the beautiful baby come into the world.

However, Mark being Ryan's father would never change. Her brother and Jump had a bond that Bernadette could not have with Jump. Biologically, anyway. It hadn't really been something Bernadette really gave a lot of thought, but as her and Jump became closer, she was starting to.

She was honest with herself enough to see that she was a bit jealous that Ryan wasn't hers. The thing that saved her from really obsessing about it was the fact that they were related by blood. He was her nephew. At the risk of sounding like a sordid family story from the Deep South, she tried not to dwell too much on what that might sound like to outsiders.

Her thoughts came back to the present as she continued on through the site, instructing the men on what would be done in the next couple of weeks and setting up work schedules for each task left to be done. By early mid-morning, the hardscapers had finished pouring the outside concrete and had cordoned it off so it could set. Bernadette had busied herself with helping with the tiling and they'd gotten a good portion of it cut and laid out by late afternoon.

She didn't have a chance to make a lunch that morning, which she wasn't sad about in the least bit, so she decided to head over to the catering truck. She was looking at the slim choice of sandwiches left when she heard whistles coming from some of her crew. "Men", she mumbled as she turned around to see what poor female had wondered onto the site. Her heart swelled when she saw who it was- Jump with a little cooler on one arm and Ryan in the other.

Jump had realized when she'd left for the shop that Bernadette didn't have any breakfast or had a chance to make her lunch. She was barely dressed when she left the apartment this morning. That brought a smile to Jump's lips. She decided she'd make Bernadette lunch after her shift at the shop and take it over to her. Truth be told, she didn't want to have to wait until that evening to see her again. Last night had been so amazing and intense; it had left her physically pained when Bernadette had left for work.

Jump wondered why it didn't scare her, the intensity of her feelings for this woman. She'd thought about it a lot during slow periods in the shop today. She wondered if things were moving too fast for her, with Ryan to consider and all. The circumstances of their meeting and subsequent relationship had given her pause initially and they'd talked it through. It helped immensely that Bernadette was of the same mind in regards to possible challenges that they might encounter. They'd overcome them together with the love and support of their families and friends.

They both knew how fortunate they were to have the kind of families they had. Especially Bernadette. Things could have gotten incredibly ugly, but they didn't. Mark had gone back to Florida with promises of visiting Ryan and both she and Mark had each been able to come to an understanding as to what their roles would be in their son's life. Jump knew there would be a time they discussed Bernadette's role too.

Jump had come back to her concern about things moving too fast a few times during the day. They'd both admitted they were in love with each other, spent some nights together. She was definitely getting glimpses on what living with Bernadette would be like. She was clean, picked up after herself and was not bad in the kitchen. There are some definite advantages to being with a woman.

It was so much more than that though. The companionship they shared was a blessing to Jump. Bernadette's easy humor and thoughtfulness was becoming something Jump needed to get through her days. When she couldn't be with Bernadette in the evenings she felt a bit lost. So this is what being love is like, she marveled.

"Hey!" Bernadette beamed as she stuffed her money back in her pocket and jogged over to Jump to relieve her of one of her burdens.

"You left in a hurry this morning, so I…made you some lunch." Jump explained needlessly. Her heart had jumped in her throat when she'd seen Bernadette at the catering truck. Man, what she does to me!

"You are the best. Thank you, Babe." Bernadette said as she shifted Ryan into her arms. She was cognizant of her crew watching intently at the lunch tables so she kept her touches platonic and casual. No need raising questions and gossip among them. It was hard enough being a woman foreman let alone one involved romantically with another woman. Some of the crew knew about Jump, but most didn't. The subs and property owners certainly didn't and she'd rather keep it from being a conversation topic.

They made their way to her trailer and as soon as they set foot, Bernadette closed the door and kissed Jump soundly.

"Well, you are welcome!" Jump said lightly as she brushed her hand against Bernadette's warm cheek.

"Are you wearing sunscreen?" She asked in an overtly motherly tone.

Bernadette rolled her eyes. "Yes, mom." She said around a smile.

"Okay." Jump said over her shoulder as she began emptying the cooler and setting up the lunch she'd brought.

She looked up briefly to see Bernadette trying to figure out where to put Ryan. The floor wasn't safe and she didn't have a high chair. Just as Jump was about to make a suggestion, Bernadette grabbed a couple of cushions off of the worn couch and propped them up on one of the chairs that had a back and arms to it. She then took off her belt, threaded it through the back of the chair and set Ryan in it. She fashioned a little seatbelt around him with her belt and slid him up to the drafting table.

"Huh." Jump breathed out, impressed. "My little problem solver." She grinned and kissed Bernadette's cheek lovingly.

"Well.." Bernadette drawled. She was impressed with herself too. They all three then sat down to a lunch of sandwiches, chips and strained peas.

Chapter 16

Like the setting sun over the Pacific, the end of August slipped by steadily and quickly. The swelter of summer soon gave way to the mild fall. Work and the growing familiarity of being in love filled the days quickly for Jump and Bernadette.

Things had been going exceptionally well for the two and it seemed inevitable that they would be moving in together pretty soon. At least that was what Jump had been thinking. The thought of permanently waking up with Bernadette thrilled her to no end. In fact, she'd catch herself daydreaming about it at work often.

She was doing just that when she sensed an angry platinum blonde staring at her.

"What do you mean you are not going to have a party?" Sue fumed. Sue must have overheard my conversation with Bernadette earlier.

"I didn't say I'm not going to have a party. I'm just not going to have a huge, elaborate one." Jump reasoned. She explained to Sue her plans for a low-key celebration for Ryan's 1st birthday in a couple of months. She also told Sue that since Ryan was just turning 1 and wouldn't remember anything anyway, she wasn't going to have decorations or any big celebration with clowns or balloons.

"Can I bring him a present at least?" Sue asked pitifully. Jump's answer to that was an exasperated sigh and eye roll.

"You know that people from all over the country are flying in for this right?" Jump nearly bellowed. It was true too. Her mom was flying out from Vermont, Mark was coming out from Florida.

"Those are just family members. What about his little friends at the park, hmm?" Sue said with mild indignation.

Jump was not going to win here. She couldn't wait until Sue and Matt got married and started popping out kids. She'd have no time to bug her about how to throw parties for infants.

"Look, close family and friends are the only ones that need to celebrate Ryan's birthday. I'm gonna make a cake." Jump added, hoping to appease her friend. It's my kid for Pete's sake! Thought Jump, a bit annoyed at the whole needless argument.

"Fine. When Ryan gets older and becomes a maladjusted recluse, you'll know why." Sue huffed as she turned to go fold t-shirts.

Jump just dropped her head onto the counter and banged it gently, trying to rid her mind of the last 3 minutes of conversation.

Luckily, the phone rang before she could do any permanent damage to her forehead.

"Surf and Snow, Jessica speaking. How may I help you?"

"I would like some private surfing lessons."

"I'm very expensive." Jump replied seriously.

"Perhaps you can take it out in trade." Came the sultry voice.

"You better be real close." Jump growled. She was pretty sure her pulse was audible at this moment.

The bell to the store rang and Jump looked up to see a tall brunette with cut off shorts and worn t-shirt holding a cell phone. Be still my hard beating heart…


The wonderful thing about living in California is the beautiful weather. Even in early October, the weather hovers around the 70s. It meant Jump could gaze at Bernadette's impossibly long legs for most of the months of the year.

"Are you almost ready?" Bernadette asked as she made her way to the counter where Jump stood gingerly rubbing her forehead.

"Yeah. Let me make sure Sue is still going to watch Ryan for the night." She said without explaining herself to a visibly confused Bernadette. I thought she'd confirmed it already.

When Jump returned after a couple of moments, she told Bernadette the conversation between her and Sue. Bernadette laughed.

"Well, when she has kids, she can have half the state come to their first birthdays. Until then, she can stay out of our… your…party planning business." Bernadette said with mock sternness.

Jump smiled at Bernadette's little correction. It gave Jump some insight into what Bernadette was thinking at least. The last couple of months had been going really well, but they hadn't really talked about any next step yet. Bernadette was still spending the night. After her last project had finished she'd been doing short-term jobs for her construction company. That also meant that she could spend every night with Jump because her mornings were a bit more flexible.

It was wonderful having Bernadette pretty much living with her now too. She'd even had Ryan for the days when she didn't work. It was pretty obvious to Jump at least, that they were ready to take the next step. She didn't want to be the one to bring it up though because she knew Bernadette would not want to give up the beach house and she wasn't going to ask to move in with Bernadette if Bernadette wasn't ready.

So, Jump decided to leave the next step up to Bernadette. If she's been reading things right, it would probably be pretty soon.

When Jump had begun thinking about her and Bernadette living together, she talked to Sue. She wanted to make sure she'd be doing the right thing. She trusted her heart and she trusted Bernadette, but she knew talking to Sue about it would bring anything she'd missed into perspective. Sue, being Sue, played a bit of Devil's Advocate in regards to Ryan and what the implications would be for him as he got older and how it would effect Bernadette at work. With a child, Bernadette would have to be out to more people than she might want, Sue had brought up.

Sue brought to light many valid points Jump hadn't thought of and it was good for Jump to hear them. The decision to live with someone was not a light one for Jump. It meant commitment, sacrifice and work. She wasn't afraid of any of these things, but coupled with the fact that she had a child, with her partner's brother no less, it was a decision of great consequence.

"There are two questions you need to ask yourself, Jump." Sue had said when she saw the weariness in her best friend's eyes. "Do you believe Bernadette will do right by you and Ryan?"


"Can you picture life without her?"

A breath. "No."

"I think you have your answer." Sue said softly as she took Jump's hand in hers.

That was about three weeks ago and Jump had been thinking about it ever since. She certainly didn't want to push Bernadette; it was more of a need to get onto the next phase of their lives together that prompted Jump to ask if Sue could watch Ryan tonight. They were going to have dinner in and a movie at Bernadette's and then they'd go pick up Ryan in the morning and spend the rest of the day at the beach house. Perhaps tonight would be the night.

Bernadette was excited about tonight. Not that she didn't enjoy being with Ryan too… it was just nice to have some 'Just Jump' time. She'd even picked out a new recipe to try for her.

They arrived back at Bernadette's house around five that night and Bernadette began cooking while Jump kept her company at the counter. They talked about Ryan and his upcoming birthday and what each was going to get him. Bernadette was very big on buying him his first pair of 'walking shoes'. It was endearing to Jump to hear how Bernadette did some research online about what a baby's first type of shoe should be for correct support and balance.

The subject of living together hadn't come up at all and Jump was determined not to bring it up. She felt the telltale pull of impatience, but quickly battled it down. It would serve no purpose but to make her edgy and potentially put Bernadette in a corner. Jump reasoned that it wasn't only her happiness that was involved here.

Dinner was delicious and the movie they watched spurred lots of discussion and mild debates. It made Jump laugh at one point when they both conceded the other's point just so they wouldn't get into a disagreement.

"This must be the make-the-other-happy-at-all-costs -phase." Quipped a very Sue sounding Bernadette.

"Or the how-far-can-I-push-without-decreasing-chances-of-sex-phase." Jump deadpanned. At that both women fell into each other's laps in laughter.

When the hour had become late and the bottle of wine had been long polished off, Bernadette stood from the couch and offered her hand to Jump. Shy smiles were shared as they padded down to the master bedroom.

Both had always done their nightly rituals at different times because one was usually putting Ryan down or checking in on him. Tonight, they were side by side flossing, brushing their teeth, washing their face.

"Now this is what I call romance!" beamed Bernadette as she spit out the last of her toothpaste.

Jump chuckled. The easy feeling of shared domesticity with the brunette had not escaped her and she wondered if Bernadette had felt it too. Before she could comment though, Bernadette had kissed the side of her head quickly and headed into the bedroom.

The scene in front of Jump took her a bit by surprise when she made her way to the bed. Bernadette was propped up on pillows, fully engrossed in a book. Was I supposed to bring something to read? Thought Jump momentarily. Granted, they hadn't made love every night they'd been together for the last two months. She just thought this night they definitely would because they were alone.

Jump wasn't sure what to do. For some reason, initiating anything right now seemed awkward. She didn't want to seem needy or clingy… Oh hell, Jump!

"Where are you going?" Bernadette asked looking over her reading glasses at Jump.

"Oh, just going to get a book from your library. I saw one I've really been wanting to read and…"

Bernadette looked at her peculiarly.

"Jump did you look at what I was reading?"

Jump slowly shook her head as she squinted to see the title.

"Oh." A deep blush. "Oh!"

"Now get your cute ass back over here and let's try some of these out!" Bernadette purred.

Try as she might, Jump just couldn't get out of her funk. Bernadette had not asked her and Ryan to move in with her that night. Nor the next week, nor the next. In fact, she hadn't seen much of Bernadette at all. She'd told Jump that she was working on a new project that she needed to be very visible at. She'd only spent a couple of nights over at Jump's too.

Jump understood the demands of Bernadette's job. The fact that she'd had to work a lot the last couple weeks weren't what was really bothering Jump. It was the evasiveness. She'd offered to bring lunch to Bernadette, just to be able to see her, but Bernadette had told her she'd be taking her own lunch and she didn't need to come to the site. When Jump asked where the site was, Bernadette just said it was near downtown.

It was obvious to Jump that Bernadette was reluctant to tell Jump where the site was. That was unlike Bernadette. She'd tried to pry Matt for a little information but he was just as helpful as Bernadette. And when Jump asked if she and Ryan could come over last weekend on their way to the park, Bernadette had told her she wasn't feeling well. Jump could have sworn she'd heard another's voice, but it could have just been the T.V.

She trusted Bernadette with all of her heart but she just didn't understand all the secretiveness. Bernadette seemed to be very happy to see her when she did briefly during the last two weeks. This whole 'thing' was really starting to bother her. She was loath to bring any of it up too because she had to concentrate on Ryan's birthday and find places for the people coming in from out of town to celebrate. So, she'd decided just to let it go for now and put up a brave front. Jump did not do insecurity well and she hated herself for feeling this way.

It can't all be wine and roses and Kama Sutra positions, right?

"Ugh…" She groaned out as she called to confirm the hotel her mom would be staying at. The party was in three days and she still had some things to do before everyone came in.

Just as she was about to wake Ryan from his nap, the phone rang, hoping it was Bernadette she ran down the hallway and grabbed for it before the answering machine switched on.


"Hey Jump, it's me, Mark."

"Oh, hey! How are you doing?" She tried not to let her slight disappointment be heard.

"I'm good. Getting ready to come out to California… Hey, listen… Would it be okay if I brought someone out with me?" Mark asked hesitantly.

"Of course." Then it dawned on her. "Is it a special someone?" She couldn't help but let the slight teasing tone surface. She'd heard through the grapevine that Mark was seeing someone. It made her happy and honestly, a little relieved.

There was a bit of a pause at the end of the line. Had she made him uncomfortable? She was about to apologize when she finally heard him chuckle softly.

"I'm not sure yet, but… it looks that way." She could picture his grin as he talked.

"Then I'm very happy for you, Mark. I'd love to meet her." Jump said with warm sincerity.

"Good. I was actually a little nervous to tell you." He confided.

She wasn't quite sure what to say to that. She wanted to put him at ease though. "I know the feeling." She said benevolently.

"I guess you do."

Jump cleared her throat quietly to dissipate the slight uneasiness that had crept on them both and asked, "Are you staying with Matt and Sue?"


"Cool. I'll see you Saturday then?" Jump asked.

"You will." He said jovially.

After a heartbeat of silence, they both said their goodbyes.

Jump had had about enough. Ryan's party was in a few hours and she hadn't heard hide nor hair from Bernadette. It had been almost two days. She'd gotten a quick phone call from her Thursday morning right after Mark had called. She said she would be caught up at the site and she'd see them at the party.

Jump had half a mind to find out where her site was somehow and go over and straighten this out once and for all. This was not just a case of being at the construction for hours on end. There was something going on. She didn't like that she was thinking about this constantly when she should be baking a cake! Her mom was due to arrive any moment and her dad was in the living room playing with Ryan.

I'll call her cell phone. Just see how she'd doing.

Bernadette heard the phone ring, but she was in no position to pick it up, so she gestured to Patty to get it. She'd been expecting Mark to call her cell and let her know when he was coming in.

"Hello?" Patty answered, a little out of breath.

"Hello?" Who the hell was answering Bernadette's cell phone? She knew she had the right number; it was number one on her speed dial!

"Is Bernadette there?" Jump ground the question out irritably.

"Oh, well, yeah…" Patty wasn't sure what to do. She knew who it was. She also couldn't tell her what Bernadette was doing at the moment. She looked questioningly over at Bernadette and put her hand over the mouthpiece and whispered whom it was.

Shit. Thought Bernadette.

Bernadette couldn't not take the call. What was she going to say?

"Hey, babe!" Bernadette said a bit too cheerfully.

"Who was that?" Jump asked evenly. She didn't want to jump to conclusions, but… Things were not looking good. At all. She wouldn't, Bernadette isn't like that.

"Oh, that's Patty. She's a..a friend." Bernadette offered. Please don't ask why she answered my phone. I'm not that good of a liar.

"I see…" Jump said. She was unsure of what to say or do next. Do I call her on it? Come out and ask what the hell is going on? Because she isn't offering up any information to make me think otherwise. Damn it Bernadette!

Bernadette seemed completely oblivious to Jump's restrained tone as her gaze followed Patty down the hall. I better go help her finish or she'll be mad.

Bernadette's lack of response began to really infuriate Jump. She couldn't deal with this now. She was about to say something she imagined she might come to regret when Bernadette said, "Baby, I've got a few things to do before I come over. But I'll be there a little early to set up, okay?"

Is she for real? Jump seethed.

"Right, see you then, I guess." She said coolly, setting the phone into its receiver abruptly.

"Damn it!" Bernadette said aloud into the silent phone. She thought momentarily about calling her back and explaining. Oh, she'll figure it out at the party, thought Bernadette. She was counting on it.

Jump was numb. This couldn't be happening. This isn't Bernadette. She wouldn't do this. So why was she being so reticent to tell her what she was doing? And I know she was at home, I could hear the goddamn waves in the background.

Oh, fuck this!

"Dad, can you watch Ryan for a bit? I've gotta run an errand real quick." Jump called over her shoulder as she grabbed her car keys. She looked at her watch. Three hours until the party. She'd have time to find out what's going on, possibly torch the beach house and be back in time to bake a cake.

"Sure honey. I'll even let your mom in if she asks nice."

Damn forgot about her. "Thanks, Dad!" Completely missing his dry comment as she raced out the door.

You better have a real good explanation, Bernadette.

The trip to Bernadette's was not enough time to allow Jump to calm down at all. It was just enough time for her to add fuel to her speculative fire. Bernadette better have a lot of homeowner's insurance.

She left her car door open, the soft ding of the door ajar ringing incessantly. In seven strides, she was pounding on the front door.

A slightly disheveled Bernadette answered the door.

"Jump!" She exclaimed in shock. She wasn't prepared for her to find out so soon!

"What the hell is going on Bernadette?" Jump half cried, half shouted.

"Going on? What do you mean?" Bernadette was confused.

"You know damn well…" Jump made a motion to push past Bernadette and enter the house. Bernadette blocked her way.

"Wait, let's talk outside…" A shoulder shoved into her ribcage cut off Bernadette's words. Still confused and now becoming a bit scared, she gave way and let Jump's momentum carry them into the house.

"Why can't I come in? Who do you have…" Jump took a few steps into the house, intent on heading into the bedroom. Something caught her eye though and she stopped.

Oh God.

Suddenly, Jump felt like the biggest idiot who ever walked the earth. Her shoulders slumped and she felt hot tears form in her eyes.

How could I have been so untrusting and suspicious?

Bernadette watched her intently. Whatever had made Jump angry was suddenly forgotten. Bernadette came up behind her, finishing the sentence Jump wouldn't let her earlier. "You can't come in because I wanted it to be a surprise. I'm not quite finished yet."

Jump looked up and read the sign above the back door again. "WELCOME HOME RYAN AND JUMP." She then looked out at where the deck used to be out the sliding door. She could see a four-foot fence where railing used to be and fresh sod covered the ground. Bernadette had torn out her beautiful deck and built a small backyard. For Ryan.

"Oh, Bernadette…" Jump choked out. She turned to look at her, but couldn't meet her eyes.

"I… I…"

Bernadette began to panic. Had she read Jump wrong all this time? Why didn't I just ask her before doing all of this…

"Listen, if it's too soon, or you don't want to I understand. I didn't think you'd be finding out this way." Bernadette said quickly. The unknown reason that brought Jump here in the first place was momentarily forgotten.

Jump recovered and looked up into Bernadette's fear-filled eyes for what seemed like many moments. The rapid melting away of the fear and insecurity she'd been consumed with just moments ago was replaced with a feeling of utter clarity, resolve and finally, love. She took Bernadette's hands in hers.

"Oh, baby…It is exactly what I want. I want nothing more than to be with you."

Bernadette closed her eyes for a moment, letting the words sink in. She opened them slowly to a sight she'd see for the rest of her years to come- the beautiful smile of the woman she loved.

Returning the smile, she wrapped Jump in her arms and gave her a kiss to end all kisses. It left them both breathless and wanting.

After a beat, Bernadette held Jump out at arms length and looked at her, studying her it seemed. Jump squirmed playfully under the relentless scrutiny.

"What?" Jump finally asked.

"You thought I was cheating on you, didn't you? That's what brought you over here…the little tantrum…" Bernadette gestured nonchalantly towards the door.

"Tantrum! I was ready to torch your beloved house!" Jump shouted before she could stop herself. She really didn't want to explain this to Bernadette. Not now, not ever.

Bernadette looked at her in such shock it was almost comical.

"Baby, don't you know how much I love you?" Bernadette's said quietly but with sincerity.

"I do. Now, more than ever. I just jumped to all the wrong conclusions. Not telling me where the site was you were working on, sporadic phone calls. I just began assuming the worst. By the way, who was it that answered your phone?"

"Oh! Well, let me show you. It's easier to explain." Bernadette grabbed Jump's hand to pull her down the hall, but Jump was rooted to the ground. When Bernadette turned around, Jump gave her a look of trepidation.

"Trust me?"

That was all it took.

They walked down the hall hand in hand and stopped in front of the guest bedroom. There was a little wooden sign that had the name "Ryan" on it hanging on the door. Bernadette gave her a quick, bright smile and opened the door.

There were built in bookshelves and an adjustable loft with a crib on the opposite corner. The wall adjacent to the window was a painted scene right out of the children's book Where the Wild Things Are. It was amazing. She listened to Bernadette going on animatedly about how she'd designed the furniture to grow with Ryan.

Jump found it hard to swallow the lump forming in her throat. How could she ever think Bernadette was cheating on her? It was obvious just what 'site' Bernadette was working on and why Jump wasn't allowed over.

As Jump looked around what could only be described as a young boy's fantasy come true, she pieced together what Bernadette had probably planned. Bernadette was going to ask her to move in probably after the party. And she'd ruined the sweet surprise.

Bernadette began speaking from where she stood behind Jump. "Patty is Clay's wife. She's an interior decorator and she was helping me with a 'theme' for Ryan's room. I had no idea there had to be 'themes' in children's rooms. Anyway, she answered my cell phone because I was on my back on the scaffolding painting the ceiling. I was expecting a call from Mark to pick him up at the airport."

Jump looked down at the ground. A new wave of guilt crashed onto her conscience. "I'm so sorry, honey. I spoiled everything because of my lame ass insecurity and paranoia."

"Hey." Bernadette said gently as she put her fingers under Jump's chin. "You are all I want in this world and the next. The fact that you said yes is all that matters okay? If anyone should be sorry, it's me. I could have handled the secrecy thing a hell of a lot better. I just got so caught up in making sure I finished on time."

Jump took this all in. What a rollercoaster of emotions she'd been on the last couple of weeks. If anything, she'd learned a few things about herself. One, she had a rather large propensity towards jealousy. Two, she had quite a temper when faced with aforementioned jealousy. But the third and most important thing she learned about herself was that she didn't ever want to find out what her life would be like without her Bernadette.

She looked pointedly at the object of her undying affection. A small grin crept onto her face and grew larger as did Bernadette's. They stood a couple feet apart, just looking at each other. It was as if they were measuring each other up, but in a playful way. Jump's nose and corners of her eyes crinkled into an adorable smile. She reached her hand out to her beloved. "Are you ready for this Bernadette Rand?"

Bernadette took her hand and reached out for the other too. Her facial expressions slowly began to mirror her beloved's. "Never been more ready for anything in my life, baby."


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