"He sat up! He sat up!" Jump screamed toward the beach house.
It was mid April and 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 painted. They hadn't really spent a lot of time together between Bernadette's work schedule and Jump's preparations for the busy summer months at the shop. When Bernadette heard about Jump's apartment being painted, 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.
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!" 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 Jump. There was this weird tingly thing that occurred when she caught eyes with Bernadette lately. It was happening more often too. She'd shrugged it off the first few times, citing the circumstances of sharing a joyful moment with Ryan to be the cause. But what about the other times when Ryan wasn't involved? Does Bernadette feel this too?
"You ready for dinner?" Bernadette asked quickly as she cleared her throat. Man, could I be any more attracted to her? Thought a distraught Bernadette.
"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 5 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 playpen. He continued to balance his weight and grabbed a toy. She beckoned Bernadette over and they watched him for a few moments as he squealed and mumbled little baby words.
They eventually made it to the dinner table where Bernadette watched Jump pull the bowl of potato salad to herself rather predatorially. It made her laugh outright. "If you are a good girl, I might give you the recipe some day." Bernadette said brightly. Am I flirting with her? Thought a suddenly alarmed Bernadette.
Jump nodded exaggeratingly and smiled at the comment. She plumped down in her seat and began to spoon a mountain of potato salad onto her plate. Apparently Jump was not offended at all by the comment and that put Bernadette at ease.
Dinner was fun with both women 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 before this. 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.
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 to 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.
"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 were a dream unrealized or unattainable.
When Bernadette walked Jump to her car and helped strap in Ryan, she'd felt a sense of loss. 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. 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 could smell Bernadette on her clothes and she liked it. Her private musings had returned in full force as she navigated the short distance between her apartment and Bernadette's beach house.
These last few 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 newly painted ceiling. She was done thinking about her feelings for Bernadette. She was done analyzing and compartmentalizing them. There was only one conclusion. She was falling for her son's aunt. "Why is life so cruel?" she agonized aloud to the still, cool night.
The days between the barbeque 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.
The ride there was spent hearing about each other's days. Bernadette then filled 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.
"'Bout time too." Jump heard the 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 a little light-headed.
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 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 when she saw a streak of blue drop from 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 into her legs as she went up for 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 excited by this display of athletic prowess in Bernadette. It made her laugh at the absurdity of it. She felt like the female lioness watching a potential mate exert his power or something. Or something… mused Jump as she watched Matt cleanly 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."
"You have to get a babysitter." Sue announced as she came into the shop.
"OOOKay… why?" Jump asked.
"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 with probably too much interest (in her own mind at least.)
"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 she's gonna notice you, came the rotten 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? It'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.
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 at a piano.
"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 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 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 nearly get run over by a small car. Jeez.
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. When Bernadette finally began to feel comfortable with the crowd, she'd stand up and sing along with the song. 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 it when she'd play guitar and sing to Ryan, but those were funny children songs she'd exaggerate. Jump had thought to herself that she'd really like Bernadette to sing for her sometime.
It wasn't unusual these days for Jump to go to bed thinking about Bernadette and the events that transpired that day concerning her. But tonight, it was a little different. She let her mind loose to explore Bernadette in a new light, not as friend or aunt to her child, but as someone who made her heart beat a little faster. Her mind wondered through imaginary scenes of her holding Bernadette and visa-versa. It began to make her body turn warm and it embarrassed her.
Jump had always stopped herself before she got to the point of thinking of Bernadette as anything more than just a close friend. But the more Jump fought it, the more her mind grew curious. What would it be like, romantically, with a woman? Jump had never considered this. With her and men, it was never awkward. It was just pretty much understood what would take place. But thinking about Bernadette that way…
From the time between the barbeque at Bernadette's and the concert, Jump and Bernadette had spent a lot of time together. Apparently it was enough to have Sue comment on it too. She'd made a joke about it, but Jump could sense the small undercurrent of jealousy in the words. Sue was an incredibly observant person, and if she weren't careful, she'd be getting the full interrogation from her best friend.
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 did know this, it was imminent.
Just a few miles away, Bernadette sat on the corner of her chaise lounge looking out into the restless ocean. She thought about how the visible surface 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. A single thought popped into her head as she searched the night sky for the sliver of moon she knew would be there. I wish Jump were here with me in my arms tonight. It was simple yet profound, obvious yet a revelation.
In that moment Bernadette found herself at a crossroads. Turning back was not an option for she couldn't deny that she was falling in love with Jump. It was now time to make some sort of decision on what she'd do about it- come clean and risk everything, or keep this to herself and be whatever Jump needed as a friend.
Whatever decision she'd go with, she knew she needed to think long and hard about it. She really needed someone to talk to, but wasn't sure who. Everyone she thought of had ties to Jump and she didn't want anyone who knew Jump to hear this before Jump had a chance to. But before even talking with someone, she needed to think about what telling Jump would result in.
First would be, does Jump feel the same way? Then there were the obvious things: Ryan and Mark. Ryan was her nephew and Mark… well… God knows what this would do to him. Even though they had seemed to come to some sort of understanding, Mark still loved Jump.
As Bernadette really began to take it apart, she realized how incredibly selfish she was sounding in her own head. How could I risk all of these relationships by putting my wants above everyone else's? Besides, Jump has enough to handle with Ryan and running her shop. She said so herself. 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 shoulders and she began to weep silently.
Continued in Chapter 11
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