Author's Note: Well, I finished it. I apologize for the long hiatus. I have no excuse other than real life. I have revised the whole story a bit, the most significant part being the adoption details.
Violence: Not really
Language: Some bad, some good!
Drop me a line, let me know what you think! Don't worry, I have thick skin, just don't be rude! :) Luciddream@cox.net
Thanks to all of those who read Hammer and Nails. Your encouragement has earned Jump and Bernadette further adventures (finally!)
Revised and Completed on 3/28/05
Bernadette looked lovingly over at Jump who was brushing back a tear. She is so beautiful, thought Bernadette. Caught looking, she grinned shyly and turned her attention back to the minister who was performing the simple ceremony on the beach. What did the minister just say? Oh right the rings! She quickly produced them from her linen pant pocket and handed them to a clearly nervous, sweating Matt.
"Thanks," he whispered as he took them from her with slightly shaky hands.
She gave him her best Best Man/Sister supportive smile and brushed his sleeve as he turned to Sue. Jump saw the exchange between the two and lifted a corner of her mouth in touching amusement.
The ceremony continued as the early May sun made its slow and colorful decent beyond the Pacific Ocean. Both Maid of Honor and Best Man/Sister looked on as they watched their best friend and brother make promises of undying love and commitment. The couple looked deeply into each other's eyes, their words soft and solemn.
Soon the minister was announcing Sue and Matt husband and wife to the small number of family and friends. As they started down the aisle following behind the bride and groom, Bernadette took Jump's hand. "You look wonderful," mouthed Jump to Bernadette. Bernadette squeezed her hand in response. Her eye caught Mark's in the front row. She smiled at him and gave a little wave to Ryan who was sitting on his lap. Mark returned the smile with genuine warmth.
"Wow, what a beautiful ceremony!" Beamed Carrie as she joined Jump and Bernadette out on the deck of the beach house. In order to save money for a house, Matt and Sue wanted a small and simple ceremony. They knew they would only be inviting a small number of people and didn't want to have to rent out a church or reception hall so they were delighted when Bernadette and Jump offered up the beach house for the wedding and reception.
"Yeah," added Bernadette as she propped her elbows on the deck railing and faced out at the now dark ocean. It had been perfect day. The weather was mild, no wind, everyone showed up on time, the caterers had done a great job setting up in the house. Matt hadn't passed out or puked. The day went off without a hitch. She smiled in relief realizing she just might get her house back now that all of the frantic party favor making, last minute phone calls and decoration duty was over. Jump had been every bit the Maid of Honor and took care of a lot of the wedding planning as Sue was such a nervous wreck. As for Bernadette's Best Man/Sister duties, she just had to keep Matt out of the way, and from running away. No chance of that, the boy is whipped, she thought with a smile. Like I am.
She had been concerned at how Mark would take the news at him not being Best Man at Matt's wedding. Luckily her concern was unfounded as she discovered it was he who had actually brought it up over the phone a month before the wedding. He'd actually suggested it to Matt saying she had been there for him more than he had. Bernadette had the suspicion though that it was also Mark's way of poking fun of Bernadette's 'butch' attributes.
Through their sarcastic and dry senses of humor, Bernadette and Mark found a sort of truce with each other. They'd tease each other and give each other nicknames as a way of accepting the situation neither felt in control of. Their easy banter and comfort around each other hadn't returned completely but they both knew it was on the right track. There was hope.
The sound of clinking glasses got everyone's attention and they gathered around the bride and groom who were standing just outside the kitchen inside the house.
"I think it's the Best Man that is supposed to make the first toast, but I'm gonna do it." Announced a stupidly grinning Matt. He took a deep breath and squeezed Sue's hand. She looked at him with such affection and love it made some of the guests smile with benign envy.
"If someone were to tell me five years ago that I'd be getting married today I would have told them...bullshit." That got a round of laughs and snickers and a playful slap from Sue. Matt sobered and turned fully around to face Sue. He took both of her hands. Swallowing a rather large lump in his throat, he continued. "I know I'm young, baby, but I promise every day that I will try to be the best man I can be, for you. I thank God I found you so early in my life and I look forward to spending the rest of it with you." The small gathering broke out into applause, whistles and 'ahhs' as the couple kissed.
"Now for you..." Matt said, pointing directly at Bernadette. She figured it was her turn and she cleared her throat to speak. Thinking frantically about what she would say, she heard him continue. "Bernsy, you have always been there for me. When mom died, you held the family together and probably saved my life more than once...literally and figuratively." That got a private smile between the two and slight nods in affirmation from both Carrie and Mark. "You were the voice of reason and the can of 'whoop ass' when ever I needed it. When it comes down to it, sis, words cannot express how much you mean to me. You are a big part of why I'm standing here today and I...I thank you." The last words were hard to hear as Matt's voice cracked with emotion. But Bernadette heard them. They held each other's eyes for a few seconds, hundreds of memories being relived in that instance by the two of them.
Bernadette was aware of Jump's hand resting loosely around her waist as she listened to Matt's speech. She was surprised, humbled and boundlessly touched by what he had said. She had no idea how much she had impacted his life. It filled her heart. As Matt finished she felt Jump's hand tighten on her side. She turned now to her and saw that Jump had tears coming down her cheeks. She smiled through them and looked at Bernadette with infinite pride and love.
With a steadying breath, for it was completely quiet in the room after that, Bernadette opened her mouth to speak. The room was so heavy with emotion she wasn't sure what to say. "Wow. I guess you were paying attention all those times!" She said with overstated revelation. That got everyone laughing, especially Matt, who was grateful for the lightening of the mood he'd suddenly created. "Matt, I couldn't be prouder of you. You have grown into such a fine young man. You have found a wonderful woman to share your life with. You've done all right, bro. Congratulations, you two."
"Here, here!" came a chorus of shouts as each person lifted their glass and toasted the bride and groom.
Jump had just finished putting the last of the enormous amounts of food in the refrigerator when she heard a deep rumbling noise coming from Ryan's room. Curious to see what it was, she walked down the hall and into his room. The sight that welcomed her warmed her heart...and made her snort with laughter. Bernadette had fallen asleep in the rocking chair that was situated next to the crib. Her body had slumped over and her head was now resting against the rungs of the crib. Ryan was sitting in his crib, pulling at strands of Bernadette's dark hair through the rungs and sucking on them with abandon. Then she heard the noise that brought her there in the first place. Bernadette's mouth opened emitting a deep, loud snore. So loud in fact, it woke her up instantly. She looked around, clearly confused. She lifted her head and winced as she felt her hair being pulled. "Hey, I need that." She said with a tired smile. Ryan began to whimper until she stood up and promptly swept him out of his crib making him giggle.
"Oh, man, my hair is crusty!" She sang in mock anger. It made him laugh even more. Suddenly she realized a presence at the door. "Hey, babe... I was just..."
"Reading him a story?" Jump finished with a wry smile. She crossed the remaining space between them and laid her head on Bernadette's shoulder. She reached out to ruffle Ryan's hair as Bernadette brought him closer to her chest.
"I had no idea weddings could be so tiring." Mused Bernadette through a yawn.
"Yeah and it wasn't even ours." Jump sighed.
"Do you wish it was?" Bernadette responded without thought. Where did that come from? She held her breath. They'd never talked about something like that seriously. She knew Jump was of the opinion that if it didn't count in the eyes of the law, it didn't count.
"Uh..." Caught off guard, Jump didn't know how to respond.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have said that. Tired and emotional I guess." She offered as a way of explanation. Quick change the subject, Rand.
"Is there any more chicken?" Bernadette asked suddenly.
"You still hungry? Laughed Jump, a mixture of relief and disappointment that the subject had been dropped. She had no idea Bernadette had even considered them having some sort of ceremony.
"It sure is quiet without Sue, " observed Casey as she helped Jump with opening some shipments that had come in that morning. Jump gave an unconscious grunt of agreement as she tried to figure out how to reconfigure the space for the new board shorts. The ones she had already on the shelf were not selling as fast as they had last year and she wondered if she should have order the same amount she did last year.
After deciding what to move she took stacks of shorts out of the shelf and rearranged them. She then responded to Casey's statement. "Yeah, but take advantage of it while you can. She'll be back on Wednesday." Jump nodded in satisfaction at the new configuration of shorts. She began tagging the new merchandise and separating them by sizes.
As a wedding gift, Jump, Bernadette, Mark and the Rand's father, Frank, pitched in to send them up the coast to a B&B for a few nights. The couple hadn't expected it and were genuinely touched at the gesture.
"I hope I can be that happy someday," mused Casey as she began breaking down the empty boxes. "Speaking of being happy, how are you and Bernadette doing?" Asked Casey with a good-natured grin. She had become a friend as well as an employee and some time babysitter during the course of a year and Jump had grown to like the young girl a lot. She was responsible and 'had a good head on her shoulders' as Bernadette pointed out once. She freed up a lot of Jump's time for doing the accounting and day-to -day business of the shop.
"We are doing really well. I can't believe we are coming up on a year already." Replied Jump. She really couldn't. Moving in with her last November had been an easy decision and it had worked out wonderfully. She sensed it took some time for Bernadette to get used to two other people living with her as she'd been on her own for so long. But she adjusted quickly and enthusiastically, taking some of her stuff to storage to make room for some of Jump's books and furniture. The office was turned into a work place for both of them. Bernadette even spent hours 'baby-proofing' the house the first time she realized Ryan could start opening cabinets and drawers.
"Yeah, time flies, huh?" Casey agreed as she helped Jump with the tagging and folding now. "Have you guys ever thought of having a ceremony, or anything?" Casey asked curiously. She realized by Jump's heavy sigh that she might have been prying. She began to apologize for asking when Jump responded.
"Well, since it isn't legal yet, I guess not. I mean what is the point? Spend a bunch of money on something that isn't even real you know?" Jump said as she finished tagging the last pair of shorts. She stood up and stretched her back muscles. She looked at Casey pointedly and felt the need to explain further. "I would love to, but I don't know. I guess it shouldn't matter what the law says as long as both people wanted to." She thought back to the previous night when Bernadette brought up the subject. "I think I'd rather wait until it was legal." She finished.
"I guess you are right. It sucks though, huh?" Casey said as she began picking up the boxes to take them to the trash. She heard Jump over her shoulder.
"Yeah, it does suck. A lot."
"And that is how you fix a leaky faucet." Bernadette concluded dramatically to the oblivious toddler as she grabbed a dishtowel to wipe her hands. Ryan was happily chasing lime Jell-O around his high chair tray trying to put the little squiggly cube into his mouth. He banged the tray in frustration and Bernadette took pity on him.
"Don't worry, son, your motor skills will kick in soon." She chuckled as she scooped up a glob and put it into his open mouth, deftly avoiding the two very sharp teeth coming in. Son... thought Bernadette with a wistful smile. It quickly faded, as she knew what would come next when she had thoughts like this. The reality of their situation came upon her full force. She pushed it away immediately, but knew she'd feel the dull pain for the rest of the night.
They'd discussed child-rearing philosophies when Jump had moved in. It wasn't a surprise to either that they'd found out they would handle most situations just the same. They were reasonable, down to earth people who had had good enough childhoods to draw from.
But what wasn't discussed was what exact role Bernadette would play in raising Ryan. The immediate future was filled with adapting to a life together and continuing to get to know each other, but as for the more distant future, neither woman had brought it up and for some reason Bernadette figured it would have to be Jump. So, she decided to wait and it was beginning to gnaw at Bernadette with more intensity than she'd realized.
Trying desperately to shake off her negative feelings, she couldn't help but smile down at the yellow-green tinted face with affection. She loved him and his mom more than she thought was possible and while feeling an absolute miracle had taken place to bring both people into her life, she wondered if it was something beyond what she could handle. There were so many things stacked up against them and it made her anxious not knowing exactly how they'd handle them all.
"Let's get you cleaned up before your mom thinks you have some kind of weird disease."
Jump poured through the last two month's sales receipts again. It couldn't be right. The numbers from last year's same months were much higher. She looked back to the year before that and saw they were about the same as last year. She had noticed less people coming in to the shop, but she figured it was because school was still in session. Looking at the discrepancy in this month's numbers, she wondered if there was more to it. Maybe it is time to do more advertising, she thought as she closed the books and began to pack up to go home.
As Jump left the shop, the sun was just beginning to set. She loved the light at this time. Objects took on a glowing, almost ethereal pink and orangish tint that seemed to make them look clean, sharp and new. She just wished she'd remembered to grab her sunglasses.
Her thoughts then turned to her and Bernadette's impending one-year anniversary. That brought a little grin. It was coming up in a little less than a month. She wondered what she would get Bernadette. She mentally ran through a list of things she could get, discarding each one as being too practical or too impersonal. She wanted to get her something special and meaningful, she just wasn't sure what yet. Then suddenly, it came to her. I know exactly what I'll give to her!
"Look who is home, little man!" Bernadette crooned as they were coming in from the deck. Jump had just set her stuff down on the counter when a wobbling, slobbering Ryan greeted her. He wrapped his arms around her legs for balance, as he'd come in a bit fast for his tiny legs. Bernadette chuckled as she picked him up so he could give his mommy a kiss.
"How have his teeth been?" Jump asked as she looked at her slobbering son. He'd been teething for the last couple of weeks and some days were better than others.
"He was fine today. Just a whole lot of slobbering...obviously." Bernadette said as she leaned in for a kiss of her own. It apparently lasted too long for Ryan's taste as he began to clap and yelp loudly into Bernadette's ear. "All right, I get it!" She laughed. He then began wiggling out of her arms.
"What is it?" They both asked in unison as he made a beeline for the T.V. He began pointing at it saying "Boo...Boo".
Jump looked at Bernadette who was also puzzled until she remembered what had been on T.V. that morning. "Oh.... BoohBah." She said.
"Yeah it is this really warped children's cartoon with these dancing blobby things. Think of the Tele-Tubbies on LSD." Bernadette explained.
"Uh huh." Jump said slowly.
"I turned on the T.V. and he was like instantly hooked. It was the damnedest thing. They must send out some sort of brain waves to children. WATCH ME...WATCH ME..." Bernadette said in a zombie like voice. Her eyes got big and unfocused like she was in a trance, making Jump start laughing. The commotion caused Ryan to start jumping around animatedly shrieking, "Boo-Boo!" until both of the women were doubled over laughing.
"How was your day?" asked Bernadette as she watched Jump undress and put on her customary sleeping shirt. She pulled down the covers for her to slide in. Jump smiled at the unconscious act.
"It was okay. Got a new shipment of shorts. Enjoyed the quiet while Sue was away." She paused debating whether to bring up the recent sales numbers. Hiding it seemed stupid. "The last two months' sales numbers were down though. Considerably." Jump said as matter-of-fact as she could.
"Yeah? Why do you think?" Asked Bernadette as she sat up a bit.
"School not being out yet. Weather. Not really sure." Jump said off-handedly. "I'm sure it is nothing to stress over." Jump said, trying to make herself believe it.
"Well, I'm sure it will pick up once school gets out." Bernadette offered. She wrapped around Jump and pulled her down to rest against her.
Feeling Bernadette's steady heartbeat brought her a bit of relief and optimism. It's amazing how one person can bring such peace to another, thought Jump as she drifted off to sleep. Things will be all right.
Bernadette was so excited. She hadn't been up to the cabin in a year and she was looking forward to showing Jump the place that held so many memories for her. She had lucked out and been able to rent the cabin on their anniversary weekend. Now all she had to do was convince Jump that Casey could indeed watch Ryan for the weekend. It would be the longest time she'd ever been apart from him, Jump pointed out numerous times. Finally, Bernadette had suggested they not go. In the end though, Jump had agreed it would be good for them to spend some time together, just the two of them. Especially after Bernadette mentioned the large claw foot tub she had helped the owner install a few years back.
"The car's all packed!" Shouted Bernadette from the truck as she tied down the last of the food boxes, luggage and bikes. She debated going back in to save Casey from Jump's compulsive instruction routine, but decided it was what made Jump feel better about leaving Ryan. Besides, Casey was quite used to it and put up with it with the most amazing display of patience.
Finally, after a few more minutes of Bernadette tightening down the load, making sure all the paper coffee cups were cleared out of the cab and an adequate supply of CDs were available, Jump emerged from the house. Bernadette tried to read her mood by her facial expression but had a hard time. She looked at her partner tentatively and was finally rewarded with an easy smile.
"I'm okay Bernadette. I know Ryan is going to be fine with Casey." Jump said with assurance as she made her way to the passenger side of the car. Bernadette looked back at the house to see Casey with Ryan in her arms, both waving with big smiles on their faces.
"What does Ryan have in his other hand?" Asked Bernadette.
"Casey's collection of Boohbah episodes." Jump said as she waved back at the two, blowing kisses to Ryan. Bernadette just looked at her with a slightly stricken look on her face. "Don't worry. She began taping them when I told her how much he loved them. She has a week's worth."
"Oh, okay." Bernadette said with relief. She too waved back at the two waving as they pulled out of the driveway.
The drive was a pleasant one. Surprisingly, there wasn't a lot of traffic and the weather was clear and mild. Each woman took turns talking about various childhood memories and the benefits and drawbacks to growing up in California. Neither had lived anywhere else and couldn't imagine moving from this beautiful state, despite it's sometimes unfriendly small business atmosphere and packed freeways.
"Out of curiosity, if you had to live somewhere else, where would it be?" Asked Jump after a bit of comfortable silence.
Bernadette thought for a few seconds. "I think I'd like to stay out West if I could. Maybe Arizona or New Mexico. I've been to New Mexico a couple of times. It isn't as gay family friendly as California though, and California still has a long way to go." Bernadette paused for a moment. "Then there is the East Coast... I've always wanted to visit out there... So much history, you know? How about you?"
Jump was taking Bernadette's answer in. She was pleasantly surprised that Bernadette had referred to them as a family. Yeah, I guess we are, she mused. "Hmm. I don't know, I'd like to stay out west, but the East Coast would be an option. They actually have 4 seasons there." She laughed. "And it is absolutely beautiful. I've been to Vermont a few times visiting my mom and I just loved it."
Bernadette nodded and smiled without taking her eyes off the road as it had become windy due to the ascent up the mountain. "Perhaps we should take a trip out there. Visit your mom. I know she'd love to see Ryan."
"Yeah, that would be nice. I know we are pretty overdue for a visit with her." Jump reasoned. "Later this summer, maybe?"
"I think I might be able to swing a few days off." Bernadette replied. She began thinking of her upcoming building projects. "Perhaps the end of August or beginning of September?"
"Let's try and plan on that." Jump said, now beginning to get excited by the prospect of seeing her mom and showing Bernadette the East Coast.
They arrived at the cabin a little before dinnertime. There was still an ample amount of sunlight so Bernadette decided to give Jump a tour around the place after checking in and getting the key.
They walked hand in hand towards the river, which was about 30 yards from the cabin. Bernadette would point out the different plant life she'd remembered learning about while growing up. Her mother had had an interest in being able to name them so her kids had to also. Jump loved to hear stories of Bernadette growing up with her three siblings. It gave her even more insight into the woman she was still finding things out about. Like her inability to back down from a dare. She'd heard about the tree incident and jumping into a semi-frozen river on a dare.
In fact, she was still laughing when Bernadette stopped and pointed to a boulder. "This is where it happened." She reflected. "This is where I realized that I was most likely in love with you." Jump looked at her with curious amusement, then revelation.
"The bear?" Jump remembered the story told in vivid detail by Bernadette when she'd returned. The perfectly timed phone call she had made to Bernadette that day might have saved her life. 'In more ways than one', Bernadette had told her. She thought she was just being silly, when she'd seen the serious look in Bernadette's eyes.
"You know, I expected the 'life flashing before my eyes' routine, but all I could think about was the fact that I'd never get to tell you how I really felt about you. That I loved you."
Bernadette looked furtively at the ground. Jump stayed silent, thinking she'd continue speaking, but she didn't. Bernadette kicked at the boulder lightly and it was at that moment Jump realized Bernadette's nose was a little red at the tip, a telltale sign of her emotions rising to the surface.
"Hey, baby." Jump said quietly as she took Bernadette's face between her hands. "You are here now, with me." She brought Bernadette's forehead down to rest on her own and then a second later brought her lips up to meet the taller woman's in a deep, affirming kiss.
When the kiss broke, both women pulled back only enough to look into each other's eyes. Encouraged by the other, their shy smiles formed in to big beaming ones. "You know, it really is a wonder." Jump started. "I can barely remember what life was like before you and Ryan. It seems like two lifetimes ago."
"I know what you mean." Bernadette said as she took Jump by the hand and led her to the cabin. She had quite a special evening planned for them and it involved a small fire in the fireplace and a claw foot tub.
Jump awoke to the wonderful smell of pancakes and coffee and the sound of Bernadette singing loudly in the kitchen. She smiled at the memory of last night. I had no idea the hot water heater was that large for a small cabin... she thought idly as she began to make her way to the bathroom. "Hey, I was going to serve you breakfast in bed." Bernadette said loud enough for Jump to hear her in the bathroom. She set the tray down on the nightstand and ambled into the bathroom.
"Happy anniversary." Crooned Bernadette as she kissed Jump's neck as she leaned over washing her face in the sink. Jump turned around, wet face and all and kissed Bernadette.
"Back at ya." Smiled Jump as she toweled off her face and affectionately blotted Bernadette's lips and chin.
"Come back to bed and eat breakfast with me." Smiled Bernadette as she led the way back to bed. Jump happily complied.
"You are so good to me." Said Jump as she settled down into a sitting position in bed. She crossed her legs so Bernadette could sit in front of her on the side of the bed. They both shared a stack of pancakes, feeding each other every once in a while.
"Wow. I can't believe it has been a year already." Bernadette mused. Abruptly she stood and went to her small suitcase and pulled out a wrapped box, no bigger than her palm. "I got you something..." She said as she handed Jump the box. Jump took it slowly. "You can open it now." Bernadette smiled.
Jump looked at the box for another second and began unwrapping it. She opened the small box and saw that it was a beautiful watch. As she lifted it out of the box, Bernadette said, "There is an inscription on the back too." Jump turned it over and read: Loving every minute ... B.
Jump smiled at the saying. It was so Bernadette. "I love it, Baby. Thank you." Jump said as she cleared her throat. And she did love it. She remembered telling Bernadette almost six months ago how she'd lost her favorite watch at the beach when she'd moved here. This watch was pretty darn close to what she'd described too. Jump smiled at how fitting this situation was in regards to her gift to Bernadette.
She put on the watch, which fit perfectly and gave Bernadette a kiss. "I've got something for you too." She announced as she ambled off the bed and went to her backpack. She took out the envelope and walked over to Bernadette. She handed it to her saying, "It's not a present or anything..."
Bernadette took the envelope with a small quizzical smile on her face. She opened it and saw that it was a poem, written by Jump, dated a week ago.
I love the way you look at me in the morning,
I love the way you call me at lunch just to say hi,
I love the way you put the right amount of sugar and cream in my coffee,
I love the way you play 'peekaboo' with Ryan,
I love the way you put on your socks,
I love the way you hum when you think I'm not listening,
I love the way you remember what I wore three days later,
I love the way you kiss me,
I love the way you give me the bigger slice of cake at parties,
I love the way you listen,
I love the way you moan,
I love the way you say my name,
There are so many ways I love you I can't count,
But most of all,
I love the way you love me.
Jump watched patiently and attentively as Bernadette read her poem. She was reading it slowly, a small tear the only thing betraying her emotion.
Finally, she looked up from the paper. She looked at Jump intently and with wonder. Jump looked back a little wide-eyed. "You like?" She asked needlessly. Bernadette's answered her anyway, but not with words.
Hours later, they were on a meandering dirt trail. Jump had convinced Bernadette to bring their mountain bikes so they could get in some riding. Jump missed it desperately. She just hadn't had the time to go lately. Looking at the smile on Jump's face, even on the tame trail, Bernadette decided she'd try to give Jump more opportunity to get out on the trail at home.
Jump was enjoying the view of the gently sloping glen when she heard a loud, raspy growl followed by what sounded like teeth snapping. Then out of the corner of her eye came a black and gray blur, about the size of a small dog, coming right at her bike. If she'd been a less experienced biker she would have dumped her bike in panic. Quickly assessing that it was in fact a dog and not a wild beast, she slowed down and slipped quickly off of her bike so that she had the bike between her and the dog.
Bernadette, who was a few yards behind her, jumped off of her bike and began running quickly towards them yelling and clapping. The dog paid no attention to her, suddenly grabbing Jump's tire and shaking it violently like it would a small animal.
"What the hell?" Shouted Jump as she tried to pull the tire out of the dog's mouth. Bernadette now approached the dog slowly crouching low. "Be careful, hon, the dog could be feral." Jump said as she continued to shake the bike. The only thing that did was cause the dog to puncture the tire.
"I think he's trying to eat my tire!" Jump bellowed incredulously. She was no longer fearful of the little mongrel, just angry. She'd paid a lot for the tires. Anger turned to amusement quickly though and soon she and Bernadette were laughing at the dog's tenacity.
"Hey I have some jerky in my pack." Bernadette said as she took off her water pack and sifted through the small pocket. She waved it near the dog and after a moment, his keen smelling picked it up and he relinquished the tire and snatched the jerky, choking it down in two bites.
Both women looked at each other in wonder as the dog sat up on its haunches and began barking. "Is he begging for more?" Asked Jump.
"I think he is." Bernadette said as she tore off another chunk. He did the same thing, only taking the jerky a little more politely.
"Does he have a collar?" Asked Jump as she approached the dog with her hand outstretched.
"Careful." Warned Bernadette.
Jump nodded as she slowly placed her hand in front of the dog for him to smell. He sniffed cautiously and then began licking her fingers enthusiastically. Soon she had him on his back in the dirt.
"Huh." Bernadette breathed. She then reached down to pet the dog. "Well, he's obviously not wild. I wonder how he got out here." She pondered.
"Maybe he was dumped by someone." Jump reasoned. "He is pretty skinny." She said as she felt his sides. "Poor thing." She cooed as he sat up and continued licking her fingers.
Bernadette took a minute to look at the dog's ears and teeth and feet. "Well, his ears and teeth look pretty clean. His pads and nails are worn down though." Jump looked at her a little quizzically. "We used to find strays all the time growing up. The vet we took them to shown me how to tell if a dog had been on the streets a long time. Or in this case, out in the wild."
"Oh." Jump said. I learn something new everyday about her. She thought. Bernadette continued looking through the dog's mottled black and gray fur, looking for ticks or fleas. Surprisingly, she found only one tick and no fleas.
"What should we do with him?" Bernadette asked. Jump looked at the mutt and thought.
"Well, we can't very well leave him out here. There is no one for miles and he's pretty dirty so I'd say he didn't just wonder off..." She said.
"Right." Bernadette said as she stroked the dog thoughtfully. He looked at her with big brown, pleading eyes. Yep, I'm a sucker... she thought. She turned to look up at Jump, silently relaying that Jump would be making this decision.
"Okay. Let's take him back and give him a bath. We'll keep him with us until we head back and then take him to the animal shelter." Jump said reasonably. Bernadette looked at the scruffy tire and jerky snatching dog. He was adorable, matted hair and all. The wheels began turning. All right, big guy, all you need is a bath and a brush. She'll fall in love with you too, don't worry.
"Well, since he shredded my tire, I'll carry him and walk my bike." Jump announced as she bent to pick the dog up. He couldn't have weighed more than 10 pounds. He settled happily in her arms. She sighed but smiled good-naturedly at Bernadette who just laughed as she jogged back to her bike to pick it up.
"Huh. He is pretty cute." Said Jump as she began towel drying him. He'd been very gracious during the bath. Sitting still as they both bathed him in the large kitchen sink.
They'd decided he was some kind of terrier mix. His ears were small and his nose was square and short. He was covered with a wiry but soft gray and black coat. His legs were rather stubby suggesting he might have a bit of dachshund too. He also had large chocolate brown eyes.
"I wonder if he's trained at all." Mused Bernadette as she set him down on the floor. She gave him the command 'Sit' and he sat quickly. "Hmm." She grunted, pleased. She gave the commands, 'Shake', 'Lay down' and he did each one obediently. Both women exchanged pleasantly surprised grins. "Jump, you stand over there." Bernadette directed, pointing to the other side of the kitchen. She complied. "Now, call him." She said.
"Come here, boy." She called. Nothing. "Come on." She commanded again. She ran through all of the common little dog names and still nothing.
"I guess the little Tire Snatcher doesn't know that one." She said as she began walking back over. Mid-sentence though, the dog barked once sharply and trotted over to her.
"Go back over there again and call him." Bernadette said. Jump did, with no result. "Say that same sentence you did." She added.
"The one about the Tire Snatcher?" No sooner had she said the sentence, the dog barked again.
Bernadette looked at the dog, brows furrowed in concentration. "Is your name Tire?" The dog just cocked its head. "Snatch?" That got another sharp bark. Jump rolled her eyes in disbelief.
"You're telling me the dog's name is Snatch?" She asked incredulously.
"That's what he's telling us." Bernadette said pointedly as she crossed the room. "Come here, Snatch!" Immediately, the dog raced across the room, nails clicking on the hardwood floor.
"Great." Was all Jump could say as Bernadette snickered.
You Want a Family with those Fries?
Just as Bernadette predicted, Jump did fall in love with the unfortunately named dog. Over the course of the weekend they'd found the dog to be lovable, even-tempered and best of all, house trained.
At first they were both baffled as to why someone would abandon a dog like this until they realized the dog was quite appropriately named. They started to see things go missing- a sock, a hairbrush, a shoe, coffee cup coaster, even a pair of jeans. Bernadette had recovered them after an intense search of the cabin. She'd found them under the bed in a neat pile guarded by the dog. After about 15 minutes of trying to coax the dog out from under the bed, she finally plied him away with pieces of their left over breakfast with Jump amusedly looking on from the doorway.
Despite that, both women were convinced that with some intense training, they could break the dog of this unusual yet highly annoying habit.
They left their phone number and description of the dog with the cabin rental manager and the little mountain town post office, but they knew no one would be claiming the dog and that was just fine with them.
"You know, we really should rename him." Jump stated about halfway home. She'd been studying him intently, waiting for a name to come to her. A name other than 'Snatch'.
"What's wrong with Snatch?" Bernadette asked playfully with a smirk as she fumbled with the CD case. Jump rolled her eyes at the question and mechanically took the case from the driving Bernadette and picked out the CD she knew she was looking for. Bernadette's smirk widened into a smile. Jump looked at her and just shook her head with a chuckle.
"You really want an answer to that?" Jump responded as she slipped the CD out of its plastic sleeve.
"Oh babe, I didn't realize you were such a prude." Bernadette teased. She cautioned a look at Jump to see her reaction. When there was none, she began to worry she'd offended her.
"I'll remember that when you want to fool around next time." Jump said after a moment. The CD she'd selected for Bernadette went back into its sleeve and was replaced by one of Jump's hardcore mountain biking mixes that Bernadette tolerated because she loved Jump. She listened to it now without complaint the rest of the way home.
Jump and Bernadette had been successful in introducing Snatch into the home. He and Ryan became inseparable, mostly because of the amount of food Ryan had on his face at any given time, but also because Ryan was fascinated by the moving, barking toy and Snatch was fascinated by the flailing, slobbering little boy. Where Ryan was, Snatch was.
They'd even been successful in breaking the habit that got Snatch his name. The only thing they couldn't do was change the dog's name. Try as she might, Jump could not get the dog to respond to any other name.
Finally, after three weeks of trying names like 'Jack', 'Fred', 'Pete', and even 'Spot', she gave up.
"It isn't that bad." Bernadette reasoned one day while they were relaxing out on the beach. "I can think of other bad habits he could have that would warrant him a way worse name than Snatch."
"Don't name them, please." Jump laughed as she got up from their beach blanket and grabbed the sandy tennis ball. Snatch immediately hopped up and down and barked. Ryan squirmed out of Bernadette's lap and wobbled over to the excited dog. "Careful, Ry." Jump cautioned as she chucked the tennis ball towards the surf. Snatch took off after it, retrieving it quickly and dumping it in front of Jump to throw again.
Bernadette watched the scene with a contented smile. She felt a strong jolt of emotion suddenly and she swallowed hard to get it under control. She loved Jump and Ryan so much. She marveled at how her life had changed in the last year. Priorities, desires, dreams, they were all so different now.
She still found a satisfaction in her work, but real joy, the real sense of accomplishment was found in these two people in front of her. She wanted so much to tell Jump what was in her heart, but was unsure of the words to use. Jump knew she loved her. Bernadette knew Jump loved her.
But Jump's simple poem had stirred something in Bernadette's soul. She realized she was no longer satisfied with just living together. She wanted Jump as her wife, her partner, her mate. She wanted Ryan to think of her as his other caring parent.
Still a part of her was hesitant to express this all to Jump. Saying it opened up the possibility of rejection or realizing that Jump wasn't ready or worse, didn't want the same thing. The thought terrified her.
Brushing off sand from the top of her toes, Bernadette gathered her self together. She pushed herself off the blanket and joined Jump, Ryan and Snatch in the surf, her distress pushed aside for the moment.
"How was your mini-honeymoon?" Asked Jump as she spotted Sue behind the counter at the shop. She had been in the back calling to check on Ryan when Sue had come in.
"Wonderful." She said dreamily, giving Jump a dramatic sigh. She then grew more serious as she continued. "It is so different, Jump. I didn't think it would be. I mean we've been living together and all. Making it official though, it just feels so... complete, real."
"Yeah?" responded Jump, her thoughts now turning inward. She barely heard what Sue said about the rest of the trip, her mind occupied with what it would be like to have the same thing for her and Bernadette.
"I want to thank you and Bernadette." Sue said slowly, sincerely. Jump almost asked her for what and caught herself, sensing the meaning beyond her words of thanks. Jump just smiled warmly and gave her best friend a tight hug. When they pulled away, Sue looked intently at Jump. "Why don't you guys register as domestic partners?" Jump looked at her blankly, making Sue chuckle. "You know what that is, don't you?"
"I've heard of it." Jump answered vaguely. She had, but really hadn't given it much thought as to what it entailed. She just knew it didn't have the same rights attached to it as marriage did and therefore didn't look into it.
Rolling her eyes at her friend, Sue fished through her bag and pulled out a folder. "Here, read about it." When Jump looked up at her questioningly, Sue added, "I picked it up when were up north." She handed Jump the folder. Smiling at her friend's thoughtfulness, Jump took the folder and opened it up. For the next half hour, the friends poured through the information together.
Bernadette felt the rivulets of sweat gathering and releasing from her forehead as she worked the junction box into the framing of what would be one of the bathrooms of their current project. Her fingers kept slipping off the metal and she banged her knuckles against the 2x4 studs. She wiped her hands on her jeans once more to get a better grip.
"Ah, finally!" She grunted as the box slipped in place. She stood back and mentally calculated how many more she could get done before lunch. She checked her watch and then went to get a few more from outside.
"Fuck it is hot!" Exclaimed Alex, one of Bernadette's construction crewmen. Their building project, a three story industrial building, had brought them inland about 30 miles, which meant about a 20 degree increase in the summer temperature.
"You are such a pussy!" Matt shouted back at him. Bernadette laughed. She was one of those people who loved the heat. When the men would be struggling to stay cool, she'd savor the enveloping warmth on her skin feeling strangely energized by it.
"So when are you gonna get Sue knocked up?" Bernadette teased as she and Matt sat down for lunch. He looked up at her and shook his head at her choice of words.
"Tell you the truth sis, probably not for a few years." He responded as he took a bite out of his burrito. Her eyes fixed on him questioningly as he swallowed. "We want to travel and stuff. Have some fun before we really settle in to the family thing." He took a sip of his drink. "Unlike you, huh? You're about as settled as one can get!" He said good-naturedly.
"Yeah, I guess I am." Bernadette said mostly to herself, smiling inwardly. They both fell into a companionable silence, eating their meals, minds miles away from their inland building project.
After picking up Ryan from Casey's apartment, Jump decided to make a special dinner for Bernadette. She stopped at the store and then at the corner flower shop. Tonight she planned on having a serious talk with Bernadette about the next step in their relationship.
Bernadette's comment after Matt and Sue's wedding had been playing on her mind off and on the last couple of weeks. Bernadette hadn't brought up having a ceremony again, but Jump had a feeling it was something Bernadette wanted. Reading about this domestic partnership was a bit of a revelation to Jump. It wasn't marriage, but it was a step in the right direction. It gave them some protections if one or the other fell ill and other things like being able to add each other onto their insurance, something important to self employed people like herself.
Jump made it through the door just in time to hear the answering machine click off. She put Ryan down in front of her made her way around the stumbling baby and the happy-to-see humans dog and pushed the message button. It was Bernadette saying they were going to be really late because of an accident on the freeway. "Crap." Mumbled Jump as she picked up the phone and dialed Bernadette's cell phone number.
"Hey babe." Bernadette answered. "Matt and I are going to grab a bite to eat and wait out the traffic. It's backed up for miles with this accident."
Jump was disappointed, but she understood. "All right. Just be careful, okay?"
"Of course. I'll call you when we're back on the road. Love you." Bernadette said. Jump could hear Matt saying something in the background and then a loud, "Ouch!"
Jump laughed. "You two better behave!" Then, "I love you too." As she pressed the button to disconnect, she could still hear the two arguing playfully. "Well, I guess it is you and me for dinner tonight, kiddo." She said as she picked up Ryan and made her way to the sliding glass door to let the dog out.
Some time later, Jump awoke to the unmistakable feeling of warm skin pressed into her back. The thin tank top and boxer shorts she had on did nothing to disguise the feel of Bernadette's erect nipples and course patch of hair pushing into the back of Jump's boxers. She became more awake as the rise of Bernadette's body temperature seeped into her skin. It made Jump wet with anticipation. She loved when Bernadette woke her up like this. She had no idea what time it was, but knew it wasn't morning yet. Had she just gotten home?
A slow, sensuous smile spread over Jump's face as she felt Bernadette's hand slide around her waist and into her boxer shorts. She tilted her head back to rest on Bernadette's shoulder as she rotated her hips and spread her legs to give Bernadette full access.
Bernadette wasted no time, delving into Jump's folds, going deep into her and then sliding up to her clit. Soon both women were rasping out shallow, rapid breaths as they began to move rhythmically into each other. Jump's hand came up to the back of Bernadette's neck signaling her impending release. God, how Bernadette loved the seconds before Jump came. She slowed her rhythm knowing this would prolong Jump's orgasm. Just as Jump began to moan and call out her name, she bit down lightly on Jump's shoulder, riding out her release with her.
"Jesus, Bernadette. You sure know how to say 'hi honey, I'm home'." Jump sighed happily, catching her breath as she turned into Bernadette's arms and gave her a long, sweet kiss.
"Sorry I was so late. They actually shut down the friggin' freeway for like an hour." Bernadette said between kisses.
"It's okay. You are home now." Jump said sleepily, making Bernadette smile.
"I love you so much, Jump." Bernadette said as she hugged her tightly. Jump returned the hug just as tight and then pulled away from Bernadette to see her face. She could barely make out her features in the moonlight.
"Good." Jump said furtively as she tucked some of Bernadette's hair behind her ear.
"Good?" Bernadette amusingly barked out.
"Yep." Was all Jump said before she fell asleep right there in Bernadette's arms, a half-smile gracing her angelic face.
The two were woken up just after sunrise by Snatch who barreled his way into their room and onto the bed. He busied himself with cleaning his masters' faces thoroughly before he was gently tossed off the bed by a groggy Jump.
As if on cue, they heard Ryan stirring through the monitor. "I'll get him," said Bernadette as she slid her legs out from the bed and slipped on some shorts and a t-shirt.
"Oh, how I love you..." Jump half sang, half mumbled as she pulled Bernadette's still warm pillow over her head. Bernadette just giggled as she swatted her love on the butt and headed out of the bedroom.
"Hey, big guy!" Bernadette said as she lifted Ryan out of his crib. She made quick work of changing him and taking him out to the back deck to let Snatch do his business, as was their normal morning routine.
On mornings Jump had to get up early, she'd join them, but this being Sunday; she usually slept in a few extra minutes. Usually by the time they all came back in, she'd be shuffling to the bathroom.
Sure enough, as Bernadette sat wiping Ryan's feet off she heard a loud yawn and some unintelligible words. "Let's make mommy some pancakes this morning, whaddya say?" Bernadette asked the toddler. He knew the word pancakes and began to hop in place, slapping at Bernadette's thighs.
By the time Jump had emerged from the bathroom, more coherent and awake, Bernadette and Ryan were making pancakes. Well, Bernadette was making them and Ryan sat on the kitchen floor with a spatula in one hand and a vegetable strainer in the other.
"Good morning, Iron Chef." She said cheerfully as she bent down to give Ryan a kiss on the head. "And you." Jump purred as she wrapped herself around Bernadette who was still holding an egg in one hand and the mixing spoon in the other. She brought her lips to Bernadette's and explored her lips and tongue thoroughly.
"Wow... I should wake you up more often at night." Bernadette whispered into Jump's ear. Jump smiled seductively and swatted Bernadette's ass.
"What time was it anyway?" She asked as she poured herself and Bernadette a cup of coffee.
"It was around ten o'clock." Bernadette said as she poured the now mixed batter onto the hot pan.
"Really? Huh, I didn't realize I was that tired." Jump said absently as she leaned against the counter to watch Bernadette expertly flip the pancake.
"You think Snatch is ready to be introduced to the dog park?" Asked Bernadette, not looking up from her cooking task. Jump looked down at the dog that was between the kitchen and living room, engrossed in the task of licking himself.
She chuckled at the sight as she replied. "Oh yeah." Bernadette looked at what Jump thought was so funny.
"Nice, Snatch! The girls are gonna love you!" Bernadette said as she pointed the spatula at him.
A couple of hours later, they found themselves at the nearest dog park. "So, would he be considered a small dog, or large dog?" Bernadette pondered as they stood at the dog park gate. It had two different yards, one for small and one for large dogs. Jump looked down at the decidedly right in the middle sized Snatch and then over to both yards.
"Uh, well, since it is our first time, I guess we should go with the small. Plus, with Ryan, it is much easier to hold him away from the dogs if he gets scared." Jump reasoned. They knew Ryan loved dogs, but perhaps the larger park would be a little overwhelming, perhaps for Snatch too.
"Little dog section it is!" Bernadette announced, as she picked up Ryan and swung him over to her hip. Jump took Snatch's leash and they headed into the dog park.
Before getting to the gate though, Jump stopped abruptly. She looked at Bernadette pointedly. "When they ask the dog's name, and they will, you will be the one to tell them."
The dog park had turned out to be quite fun. Especially for Jump who watched Bernadette answer each and every person who asked the name of their dog. Their reactions ranged from quizzical looks, to polite smiles to outright guffaws. She gave up on trying to explain the name after the first two people.
Ryan was delighted to stand on the bench with Jump and watch the dogs run and chase each other. Every once in a while, a dog would jump up on the bench to greet Ryan who would shriek and giggle.
After the dog park adventure, it was decided that they would eat at their favorite taco stand, sharing street-style carnitas tacos and a large bucket of fries. "Who knew a taco place would make the best fries." Pondered Jump as she added a french fry to Ryan's collection of little Vienna sausages and crackers.
"So, I saw the stuff for domestic partnership registration." Bernadette started conversationally. She'd wanted to ask Jump about it last night, but the discovery of the folder had prompted Bernadette to take another course of action. And it wasn't talking.
This morning she'd resigned her self to letting Jump bring it up, but like a kid expecting a gift, she wanted to hurry it along.
Jump's fry stopped halfway to her mouth as she looked up at Bernadette. She kept her expression neutral waiting for Bernadette to continue. She hadn't counted on discussing this sitting outside their neighborhood Taco Loco.
"You asking me to be domestically partnered with you?" Asked Bernadette lightly. She knew that look in Bernadette's eyes though. Hope with a bit of fear mixed in. Oh Bernadette, I want to be so much more.
"This isn't where I envisioned asking you, but yes." Jump replied with a quirky smile. She kept her eyes locked on Bernadette's as her hand reach across the concrete table. It wasn't enough so she slid out of her seat and kneeled in front of Bernadette as Bernadette swung her legs around to get up.
"Nope, you have a seat. I'm asking you proper." Jump cleared her throat as Bernadette looked down at her with brimming eyes. "Would you, Bernadette..."
And that was as far as she got before being joined on the ground and enveloped into a huge hug. Jump felt rather than heard Bernadette say yes as her lips caressed her neck and ear and eyes and mouth in a splendid and very much welcomed public display of affection.
The sound of Ryan squealing in excitement brought them back around and they both sat back down touching him reassuringly.
They looked at each other with crooked, silly little smiles as the reality of what had just happened began to sink in for both of them.
The setting wasn't storybook perfect. The set up was anything but romantic. It wasn't even what they really wanted. But it was what the law allowed them and Bernadette would be damned if she wasn't going to treat Jump's proposal for exactly what it was, an offering of life long commitment that they would build on a strong foundation of love.
Bernadette took a deep breath and then looked over to Ryan. Now is the time. She looked back at Jump.
"I understand that registering as domestic partners will allow me to legally adopt Ryan as well." She continued to hold Jump's eyes. When immediate affirmation didn't come, Bernadette finished quickly, "If that's what you want." .
"Is it what you want?" Jump heard herself blurt out in an unconscious reaction.
Bernadette was a bit thrown by Jump's response. "Of course." She said with quiet emphasis. Suddenly she began to feel insecure. "I figured it was the next logical step."
Jump sat back a little, searching for an answer that didn't sound like she hadn't thought about it. She'd just assumed...
"Is it not?" Bernadette asked, sounding a little desperate and incredibly confused. Shit, this is suddenly like a really bad dream.
"I... I don't know about Mark and..." Jump trailed off. She looked up at Bernadette who had gone from delighted to dejected at Jump's hesitation. Jump sat helpless. She couldn't think of the words to dispel Bernadette's fear immediately. She had no idea about the procedures or what that would do to Mark's rights. While she was already committed and ready to be as legally bound to Bernadette as the law would allow, she hadn't considered the possibility of Bernadette wanting to legally adopt Ryan. She was his aunt, after all, related by blood already. She continued to sit there; stupefied at the hard questions she didn't have answers for.
Suddenly, realization hit Jump like a ton of bricks. She couldn't believe she hadn't seen it sooner. She rushed out of her seat and kneeled in front of Bernadette again who was still looking like she'd been slapped.
"Oh baby. I'm such an idiot. Of course I want you to adopt him. I guess I just thought of you as his parent anyway. I didn't think about how you might want to make that official as well. I should have thought to look into it. I'm sorry I didn't."
Bernadette still looked and felt a bit shaken. She'd gone from one side of the spectrum of emotion to the other in a matter of minutes. Looking into Jump's eyes, she saw fear.
"Please forgive me, baby. I should have..." came Jump's pleading whisper. It broke Bernadette's heart. She scooted over and motioned Jump to sit next to her. She could care less if they were causing a scene.
"I'm sorry I just kind of blurted it out instead of asking you." Bernadette looked down at her feet.
Jump turned towards her and lifted her chin gently. "No, I should have asked you." Jump paused briefly, looking at Bernadette closely. "I already consider you Ryan's parent, Bernadette. But I suppose it isn't the same, is it?"
"It means a lot to me that you consider me his parent, Jump." Bernadette said, a bit relieved at the words. Taking a deep breath she continued. "I should have already know but we never really talked about it, you know? I was so focused on what you hadn't said in words, I ignored what your actions did say. And your actions do tell me that, Jump." She said as she took Jump's hand and looked into her eyes intently.
After a beat of silence, Bernadette cleared her throat. "I did do some research already." She said quietly, getting a smile from Jump, which she returned. Then Bernadette's face grew somber. "In a second parent adoption, Mark has to give up his parental rights. I figure since he's living in Florida and has a new life there..."
"Oh." Said Jump. She sat back some, biting her bottom lip unconsciously. She had no idea how Mark would take this and was admittedly a bit reluctant to respond to Bernadette's statement. She could see that Bernadette was about to say something else and by the look in her eyes, it was going to be capitulating.
Jump put a finger to Bernadette's lips. "I want you to be Ryan's parent. We'll do whatever we need to do, okay?" She looked into Bernadette's beautiful eyes. "Okay?" Jump asked again, quieter.
Jump sat on the stool behind the counter at her shop, lost in thought. It was a slow day and she'd allowed her mind to be consumed by the phone call to Mark she'd have to make soon.
"Wow. I can smell the smoke from over here, girl. Whatcha you thinking about?" Sue chimed in as she leaned up against the opposite side of the counter. She fidgeted with her loose watch as she snapped her gum rapidly. When she thought she'd have to wave a hand in front of her best friend to see if she was still conscious; Jump's eyes jerked towards Sue, slightly unfocused.
"What? Is Ryan awake from his nap?" She asked, shaking her head to get her mind back into the present.
"No, still sleeping like a... baby." Sue paused to chuckle at her own joke then continued. "You were a million miles away. I was just wondering what was going on in that pointy little head of yours." Sue smiled brilliantly.
"So funny!" Jump said sarcastically matching Sue's equally brilliant smile. She sobered a bit and returned to her previous position of legs crossed, elbow resting on knee and hand propping up her chin. "I have to call Mark about Ryan." She said solemnly.
"Is everything okay?" Sue asked, suddenly concerned.
"Yes, yeah. At least it is right now. I'm going to ask him to give up his parental rights so Bernadette can adopt Ryan."
Sue looked perplexed. "She can do that?"
"Yeah, it is a second parent adoption. Mark has to give up his rights." Jump sighed deeply.
Sue fiddled with the corner of a surfing sticker that was coming up off of the glass counter. Jump waited for her best friend to collect her thoughts. She knew Sue well enough to know she was processing and would have something to say. She didn't have to wait long. Continuing to pick at the sticker, studiously not looking at Jump, Sue asked, "Jump, I don't want to sound parental or anything, but are you one hundred percent sure about all of this? I mean this is for real, permanent."
Jump's emotions were already wrought over her predicament and she suddenly felt irrationally angry at Sue's comment. Here Sue was, a self-proclaimed, self-indulgent wild-child, able to legally marry the person she loved. She'd obviously settled down once meeting Matt, but Jump had always been the responsible, pragmatic one. She never made a decision without fully analyzing the pros and cons.
The decision to live with Bernadette and build a life with her was not an easy one, nor was it meant to last anything short of her lifetime and Jump resented Sue for implying anything otherwise.
Jump bit back an angry retort, instead leaning forward on the counter to make sure she had Sue's full attention. "I wouldn't even be contemplating this phone call if I knew what Bernadette and I had wasn't for real. Mark is building a life in Florida and only visits Ryan. That is a fact. Bernadette has been wonderfully patient and sweet and with me every step of the way. She's every bit Ryan's parent as I am. I want to make her happy because she makes Ryan and I happy. I owe her nothing less than an opportunity to make this official. If we can't legally marry, I want to make sure Ryan is as secure as possible. I owe him nothing less, society be damned."
If Sue was surprised by Jump's conviction, she didn't show it. Instead she looked at her friend long and hard, noting the changes she's seen in her friend. She never thought she'd see her settle down with anyone let alone have a child. So much has changed in the last two years. For both of them.
Sue smiled warmly at her friend and then quickly moved around the counter to give her a hug. "Of course you know the stakes here. I'm sorry for implying you didn't. I'm so proud of you Jump. And happy for you. Ryan and Bernadette are lucky to have you. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me, okay?"
"I will." Said a slightly sniffling Jump. "And you've helped me already." Jump said cryptically as she slid off of her stool and walked to the back room to make her phone call. Her little monologue to Sue had left her more confident and sure of what she was about to do than ever.
"Ah hell, Snatch. I thought we were past this." Bernadette grumbled as she picked up a slightly chewed drink coaster. "You have enough chew toys to open a damn store." She said as she tossed the coaster in the trash. She couldn't help but smile at the mutt who did look properly chastised with his ears turned down and eyes big and watery.
"Jesus, what a push over I am." She said as she bent down, the international dog signal for 'come here and get pets.' Snatch did and Bernadette scratched him good and long behind his ears and down his shaggy back. "You need to go out, huh?" She said to the dog as she stood to open the back door to the beach. Snatch barked and happily trotted out, making a beeline for the seagulls and then promptly doing his business. Bernadette dutifully picked up after him and shooed him back into the house. "We'll go for a walk when Ryan and Jump get back, okay?" She said to the dog as if he'd respond to her. Talking to the dog, Bernsy, what's next, plants?
She sauntered on into the bedroom and stripped out of her jeans and work shirt and boots turned on the shower. After she was done, she pulled on some sweats and began to cut up vegetables for dinner. She was on the second carrot when the phone rang. Expecting Jump, she didn't bother to look at the caller ID, so she was taken aback when it was Mark.
"So you want to take my kid away from me?" He said as way of greeting.
"I talked to Jump today. She said you were going to adopt Ryan and I needed to release my parental rights. Thanks for the fucking warning, sis."
Shit. "I didn't know she was going to be calling you so soon. I was going to talk to you about it Mark." Bernadette scrambled to control the damage. She desperately wanted to ask if he'd said yes, but didn't want to piss him off further.
"Well it seems I don't have much of a god damned choice here do I?" He said. He sounded near tears. Why couldn't have Jump waited and let me talk to him? Bernadette thought to herself.
"Mark, Jump and I..." Bernadette started calmly.
Mark interrupted almost instantly. "I know what you guys want, Bernadette. But he's my son. I was pushed out of his life..."
"Hold on Mark, you chose to go to Florida. You are building your own life there." Bernadette reasoned.
"Guess where I would have been if it would have been up to me Bernadette?" He replied instantly, bitterly. He took a deep breath, getting his composure back. He wasn't in love with Jump anymore having found someone in Florida he could share his life with, but the past still stung. He thought about apologizing for his last statement, but he was too angry. And there was still something he had to tell her.
"It was a big mistake leaving anyway. I told Jump that too. That's what makes this thing so fucking ironic. I was going to call her later this week to tell her Christie and I talked and we were moving back so I can be there for Ryan."
Bernadette was at a loss. This came as a total shock and pretty much changed everything. Still she had to fight. Her future depended on it.
"Look Mark. This is what it is. I can't apologize enough and I can't change things. I want to be in Ryan's life too." She waited cautiously for the inevitable blow up but it didn't come. She heard a long deep sigh and then silence for a few seconds.
"I can't give you an answer yet Bernadette. I told Jump no outright and I don't know that that will change either." He said, sounding exactly like their father. "The boy needs a father. I intend to be that, legally or not." He added quietly as he hung up.
Bernadette listened to the dial tone for a few moments, stunned and numb. If telling Mark about her and Jump in the first place was bad, this was downright shitty. Now with him moving back, she was ashamed to admit how much this complicated things. She couldn't really in good conscience deny the fact that Ryan needed a father. For the first time since her and Jump had been together, Bernadette wondered if the decision to follow her heart was indeed the best one she could have made. Am I destroying lives for my own happiness? She thought about Ryan growing up, how would he view the truth? Would he resent her, or worse yet, Jump? Was she risking an already tenuous relationship with her brother further? She knew what her heart was saying. But her brain began to fight that. Which would end up dictating her actions?
She'd set down the phone finally as she heard the keys scraping in the lock. She walked purposefully to the door to hold back Snatch so Jump and Ryan could make their way through the door. Jump was just inside the threshold when Bernadette picked up Ryan and held him out of Snatch's reach.
"How was your day?" Jump asked with a weary smile on her face. Bernadette was ready with the third degree for calling her brother without telling her when she saw the deep color under Jump's eyes. She looked as if she'd been crying as well. Bernadette swallowed her anger and when Snatch was calm, she kissed Ryan's forehead and let him down to toddle around.
"It looks like it was about as shitty as yours." Bernadette said gently as she stepped to Jump brushed a strand of hair from her face. Jump looked as if she would burst into tears but instead just wrapped her arms around Bernadette and held her tight. They stood there in the embrace for almost a full minute before Jump pulled away and looked into Bernadette's eyes.
"I talked to Mark today. He's unwilling to give up his rights, Bernadette. And he's moving back to be closer to Ryan." At that, Jump did begin to cry. "What are we going to do?" She asked in a tight voice.
"I wished you would have waited until I talked to him." Bernadette said as gently as she could. "I know him pretty well, ya know?" Bernadette tried at a little lightness, but it didn't work. She guided Jump over to the couch where Ryan was busily pulling on Snatch's tail. She waited until they were both settled on the couch and facing each other before she spoke again. "Mark actually called me a few minutes ago."
Jump looked up in alarm. "He did? What did he say to you?" She asked uneasily. He'd been so angry at her, saying some pretty mean things. She'd hoped he had gone a little easier on his sister.
"He told me he was moving back. It changes things, but I don't how yet. He said he would think about it. I know he told you no, Jump. I think he was just really angry though. And hurt." Bernadette added quietly as she caressed the back of Jump's head. She didn't add what Mark had said about being driven away by Jump's decision not to be with him. She saw no reason to bring it up. Still, the stiffening of Jump's back alarmed her. She removed her hand seeing Jump was looking like she was going to explode.
"Can you blame him?" Jump almost shouted incredulously. She continued in a derisive, mocking tone ticking each point off with a finger. "First I tell him I'm having his child, then I break up with him and then... and then... I tell him I have fallen in love with his sister. Now this." She let out a humorless laugh and threw herself backwards into the cushions. Thoughts of trying to protect Bernadette from what she knew was a far worse guilt disappeared as she wallowed in her own bitterness at this impossible situation. It would always be with them as long as they were together, raising Ryan.
Suddenly, the fight left her momentarily and she said without thinking. "I'm not sure I'm ready for all of this."
Bernadette stood up abruptly and began to argue with Jump, but something stopped her and she just stood there impotent and reeling. It was a bizarre and shocking moment for both of them.
Jump looked up at Bernadette in utter sadness. Jump's mouth worked, but nothing came out. She seemed as surprised as Bernadette at the statement. She wanted to take it back, but didn't know the words to do it. How could she give Bernadette what she wanted now? Mark was coming back. He wanted to be a father to Ryan. After what she'd put him through, how could she deny him that? And yet how could she deny Bernadette the place in Ryan's life she so desperately wanted? With Mark in Florida, it was simple. He'd be like a favorite uncle. Visiting and taking Ryan out when he was in town. They'd all sit down and tell Ryan the truth somewhere down the road. Now it would be drastically different and extremely complicated.
Bernadette blinked rapidly thinking of what she needed to say to make it better, make Jump take it back, make what hung between them disappear. Nothing came to her except- your heart isn't the only thing that should dictate your actions. Think of the long run, Bernadette.
Bernadette waved her hand about aimlessly and then let it drop heavily to her side. All of the past reassurances and promises to see this through seemed na•ve and silly now. They weren't just making decisions for the two of them. And even though their feelings for each other were very much real and Bernadette did love Ryan, there was more to consider. So much more.
The answer became clear to her then. She would step aside and let Mark and Jump work this out. Bernadette knew her desire to become Ryan's legal parent would weigh heavily on Jump's heart when Mark came back to help parent Ryan. Jump would worry about hurting her feelings and she couldn't carry that guilt too. Better to let Jump make decisions for Ryan without having to be concerned about how it will affect her.
So, taking a deep breath she began to speak, her heart breaking with each word. "Listen Jump. I can see how Mark thinks I'm trying to replace him. He's obviously given this a lot of thought; enough to move back here and be Ryan's dad. He deserves that much. You and I both know that." She took a deep breath, half hoping Jump would stop her and praying she wouldn't. She pushed on, barely able to make eye contact as Jump's eyes filled with tears of silent disbelief.
"I love you both with all of my heart and that won't change. But I think this is something that needs to be worked out between the two of you. I will be a complication, at first." She touched Jump's cheek reverently. "You understand what I'm saying, don't you?"
Jump looked up at Bernadette and cleared her throat. "This is so fucking unfair. All I want is for us to be a family." She said brokenly as she looked down at Ryan who was laughing at Snatch as he scratched his back on the area rug.
Bernadette wrapped her up in a tight hug. "We've only been together for a year Jump and I know you are the only one for me. I think we just need to give this time and space. When we come together finally, it will be without guilt and without reservation."
"Why can't we just make Mark see..." Jump started to say but was interrupted gently by Bernadette.
"Mark is my brother and he is a good man. But he will need some time to get used to being a father, then he will deal with me being Ryan's step-monster." Bernadette said with a playful smile.
Jump looked at this blessing of a woman in front of her and then slowly brought her forehead to rest on her collarbone. "You are wonderful, you know that? What did I do to deserve you?"
"I don't know but it must have been something really terrible." Bernadette said as she felt the poke in her rib.
"How are we gonna work this?" Jump said as she sobered and sat back down on the couch with a tired slump. Bernadette followed her, pulling Ryan into her lap and playing peek-a-boo with him for a moment.
"Did Mark happen to mention when they were moving back?" Bernadette asked casually while still making faces at Ryan.
"It sounded like it was pretty soon." Jump said as she watched the two.
"I'll call him tomorrow. Give him some time to cool off." Bernadette said. Forcing lightness into her voice, she said, "I will be starting a new project out in the valley. It will last about 3 months. I guess I can get a place out there."
Jump stiffened and then slumped. "Christ. You're serious about this aren't you?" She started to cry and Bernadette set Ryan down and gathered Jump into her arms.
"This is the last thing I want to do, Jump. But I do think that it is necessary. You and Mark need to work through this and figure out how you will work together to raise him. When the time is right, I'll talk to him and then we'll all sit down, okay?"
"God, this is going to be so hard." Jump said. "And I feel like I'm kicking you out of your home...perhaps I can get my apartment back..." Jump started, crying a bit more now. Ryan ambled towards them, clinging on to Bernadette's leg. He began to whimper at the sight of Jump in such distress.
"Hey, buddy, it's okay." Bernadette cooed as she picked him back up and handed him to Jump. She held tightly onto him as Bernadette enveloped both of them in a hug and wept silently.
That night, Jump and Bernadette stayed up late, affirming their love and commitment to each other. But later that night they both secretly wondered if they were doing the right thing by separating. Jump especially felt as if they might be taking too drastic a step to ensure Mark's comfort and eventual acceptance of Bernadette. He wasn't even there yet and already she was resenting his presence. It was dangerous territory and Jump knew it. She had had enough of feeling guilty and bitter though. As Bernadette had told her before, their situation was what it was. It was up to them to make the best of it.
Bernadette was doing what she thought she had to do and Jump knew it was because of what she had said in her moment of doubt. But as much as she wished she could take back what she said, it had shown her how far Bernadette was willing to go to make it work. Bernadette could have just thrown up her hands at that point and told Jump to figure it out and give her a call when she'd made a decision. But she didn't. Instead, she was willing to move out of her own house. To wait. Willing to do whatever Jump would ask of her.
Turning towards Bernadette, Jump found her on her back, snoring softly. She looked at her for a few moments, noting how the deep purple glow of the pre-dawn sun cast an iridescent shadow over the body of her love. She slid closer to her and slipped her arm around her chest and rested her head on her shoulder and finally fell asleep.
Who's Your Daddy?
Bernadette slid into the driver's seat of her truck with her cup of coffee balanced on her metal clipboard. How she managed not to spill it all over herself was an ongoing mystery and a source of weird pride. She'd come to rely on caffeine since she'd been out in this god forsaken high desert town. She was living and waiting to see what her next move would be once she returned home, wondering what she'd be left to fix and what would be unfixable between her and her brother.
She had begun to question her decision to move out here during her project almost immediately when she realized she'd essentially left Jump to fend for herself with her brother. But they were both adults and they needed to work through this alone first, no third parties. Still, it was hell for Bernadette not to be there for Jump and Ryan.
The first week had been pure hell for Jump as well. When Mark had moved back, he wasted no time in sitting Jump down and telling her how he wanted things to happen with custody. He was incensed and uncompromising, a result of the festering anger since Jump had called him with her request to give up his son. He raged on about how his sister must have put Jump up to this and how he'd rather flee with Ryan than give up his rights so that she could be his 'pseudo-daddy.'
When Jump reluctantly relayed this to Bernadette she was ready to come back and confront her brother. Sensing what a mess that could potentially be, Jump talked her out of it. Nothing good would come out of it and it would most likely turn physical. Bernadette finally agreed but not without making a phone call to try and diffuse the situation.
These days of self-imposed isolation from what she knew and loved was killing Bernadette. She teetered between anger and hopelessness on bad days and anxiousness and anticipation on good days. She constantly questioned her decision to leave, wondering if it would appear to Mark as a sort of capitulation or worse, guilt for falling in love with Jump.
Matt had even put in his two cents. He couldn't understand why Bernadette had chosen to remove herself entirely.
"This isn't like you, Bernadette. It's like you are running away. I know Mark is having a hard time, but, geez, you're every bit Ryan's parent too. You've been there for him and Jump." He'd said.
Matt had no idea how the last part of his statement had effected Bernadette. She'd clung to it during the hard nights alone in that apartment that was nowhere near home for her.
In the end though, it came down to this simple fact. She knew her brother and knew her constant presence during this time would be construed as a power struggle. A desire for Bernadette to take over his position and leave him with no place in his son's life. Bernadette recalled a conversation she'd overheard by accident between Jump and Mark about a year ago during their father Frank's birthday party. She'd caught the end of it, hearing Mark's parting words,
"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."
It was a statement she hadn't thought of much since she'd heard it, but now was faced with it and once she returned home she would have no choice but to deal with it with patience, compassion and aplomb. Nothing short of everything hinged on her ability to do just that.
So she spent day after day working and worrying and planning what she'd say to her brother to make it right between them.
In the ensuing days after Mark and Jump's initial face-to-face conversation, things slowly began to improve. He began spending some real time with his son and the guilt he'd kept bottled up for missing the first year of his life began to dissipate. A lot of his anger began to abate and he began to see things beyond his own hurt and anger. Also a very frank talk with Matt who told Mark straight out he was being a first class asshole and would get nowhere playing the wounded soul when it was he who left in the first place, gave him the nudge to finally look within himself at what was really bothering him. The moment was a turning point for Mark and one Jump would be forever grateful for.
Mark had invited Jump to breakfast at the little diner adjacent to the shop. As soon as Jump sat down, she could tell that something had changed. His face was softer and she was seeing the old Mark again. She smiled warmly at him as she folded her hands on the chipped pale yellow Formica table.
"Listen, before we order. I have something to say. If I don't do it now, I'm going to lose my nerve." He said in a rush.
Jump nodded and pursed her lips, looking intently at him for him to begin.
"Jump, I know that when I left, it seemed that I'd made the decision not to be involved in Ryan's life, but the truth was, it hurt too damn much to see you and Bernadette. I put up a good front, but it was crumbling by the minute. Some of the guys I know got wind of the situation and gave me a lot of shit. Saying I wasn't man enough. I'd managed not take my anger out on them, but it had to be funneled somewhere and I knew the bottle would be where it would eventually go. I had no intention of self-destructing in front of my family again.
So, I figured a new start in a new place would be the answer. I'd intended on returning sooner, especially after I realized how much I was missing. I don't know my son. I don't want to go through life knowing there is a child out there I helped to bring into the world that has no idea what he means to me. Then you called and asked me to give him up..." He stopped then and roughly wiped at his eyes. "I told you I'd come back, Jump. Now I am here... for good. And I realize Bernadette isn't going anywhere. I don't know how we are going to work this out, but I'd like to try. For Ryan's sake, you know?"
Jump had waited for this for months. Upon hearing this from Mark, she began to cry silently. Through watery eyes she smiled and reached across the table to grasp Mark's hands. He eagerly grasped hers in return and they stayed like that for a few moments.
As the days passed, Jump had begun to make more permanent arrangements with Mark regarding custody. Mark agreed that Jump should still have primary custody. He told her he'd be happy with every other weekend and two weeknights out of the week. When Ryan got to be school-aged, they'd re-evaluate.
Even though Jump missed Bernadette terribly, she knew what she was doing with Mark was right and, under the circumstances, best for Ryan. She had spent quite a bit of time with both Mark and Christie and was beginning to think the time was right to discuss Bernadette's place in Ryan's life. So, she decided to invite the two over for dinner.
"This is such an awesome house." Christie said as she made her way out to the deck. "Bernadette has done such a wonderful job." Jump smiled at the mention of her partner and Christie's attempt at easing Bernadette into the conversation. Jump really liked her and she felt as if they were co-conspirators in trying to get their respective partners to accept each other's places in Ryan's life. She and Christie had talked at length and she had been a huge help in getting Mark to at least hear about how they could all fit in Ryan's life.
"Yeah, but she had a little help. Ask who sanded that damn deck." Mark called out as he followed Christie out. Jump turned to him quickly, ready with a retort when she saw the crooked smile on his face. "She kept coming out, pointing to spots that I had no idea she could tell were still rough." He laughed as he scraped his foot gently across the wood. "The three of us had such a time getting this thing built. Nothing would fit; we had to re-cut the planks a hundred times. I think it was also the hottest summer in ten years that year. I thought for sure we'd kill each other. But look at it now. We buckled down, took our time and worked together. It will last for decades." He said with a wistful smile. The analogy was not lost on Jump as they all each took a sip of their slowly warming beers.
They were heading into the house when Jump heard the phone ring. She picked it up on the second ring.
Jump felt the smile come all the way from her toes. "How are you?"
"I'm doing alright. Are they there yet?" Bernadette asked carefully.
"Yep. They just got here." She said as she felt little fingers curl up in her jeans and yank repeatedly. "Hold on, someone wants to talk to you." She crouched down to Ryan's level and held up the phone to his ear. Upon hearing Bernadette's voice, he let out an excited shriek and began babbling. They all began laughing at his antics until Jump realized that he was saying the same thing over and over.
"B-dit! B-dit! B-dit!" he continued as he jumped in place holding the phone awkwardly to his ear. Jump suddenly felt warm, happy tears spilling from her eyes.
"He's saying Bernadette's name!" She laughed through her tears. Her utter joy was contagious and Christie began to tear up too. Mark just smiled and shook his head.
Jump put her ear to the phone after eventually coaxing it out of Ryan's hand. He began saying Bernadette's name louder. "You hear that baby?" Jump said into the phone.
"I heard it. I heard it." Bernadette choked out. "Let me know how things go, okay?" She said barely above a whisper.
"Certainly. I love you." Jump said seriously.
"Me too, baby." Bernadette said right before she disconnected.
He said my name. Bernadette let her hand slide from the phone absently. She looked at her other hand clutched in a blanket not her own, in a place not her home. She felt the deep, constant ache in her chest spread through her body like a fast moving brush fire. And like fire craves oxygen to live, her ache craved attention. She could no longer ignore it. She let the anger at her situation come as well. The point of this whole thing, the leaving to give Mark quarter, suddenly made no sense to her.
In just the short weeks she'd been gone, she'd felt so cut out of her own life. This waiting around to see how her fate would be decided was maddening and keeping her feelings from Jump seemed necessary to avoid any feelings of guilt or worry. But Bernadette could take no more. She wanted to go home. Damn her brother and his fragile ego. Bernadette belonged at Jump's side in this. She belonged at home with her family.
She looked at the bedside clock, 7:00pm. She could be home in an hour to tuck Ryan in. She began to pack her things.
After dinner Jump, Mark and Christie sat down in the living room. Knowing no easy way to bring up what Jump knew would be difficult for Mark to take, she decided just to go for it.
"Mark, I want Bernadette to have legal protection in regards to Ryan. If I'm going to have primary custody, I want to share it with Bernadette. If something were to happen to me, I... I want Bernadette to maintain custody." Jump had decided to lay it all out for Mark. Before he began to protest she pushed on. "There is a new law allowing for step-parent adoptions for same-sex couples. Bernadette doesn't know yet. I wanted to let you know first since I'll need your consent." She finished.
Mark looked from Jump to Ryan who was quietly playing with Snatch near Jump's feet. His face was hard. He felt cornered and helpless. "I'll consent to the step-parent thing, but the other thing... I don't think..." He looked to Christie for support, some helpful words. She remained silent. "I'm his father." He said somewhat impotently.
"I know." Jump said with quiet understanding. He waited for her to capitulate. She didn't. An awkward silence enveloped the room as both Jump and Mark searched for words to convey their wishes regarding their son. The silence was interrupted by the sound of an engine roaring close and then cutting off. A car door slammed and seconds later the front door opened. Jump stood from the couch, confused first, then inordinately overjoyed.
Upon hearing her name, both Ryan and Snatch ran to the door. She bent down to sweep Ryan up and she held him close. Jump stopped a few feet away and watched the reunion. Upon seeing Bernadette's tears, Jump realized the mistake she had made by agreeing that Bernadette not be here while she worked things out with Mark. She made her way over to her love and wrapped her arms around her. "I'm sorry...I'm sorry." She whispered over and over again into Bernadette's ear.
"It is alright, Jump. I'm home now. I'm not leaving again." The last sentence said while looking at her brother who was slowly making his way over to his sister. Jump took Ryan from Bernadette's arms as she regarded brother. Both Christie and Jump looked on as the siblings approached each other.
Mark watched Bernadette, his expression uncharacteristically unreadable. Bernadette met his eyes somewhat defiantly. She was done tiptoeing around her brother's feelings at the expense of everyone else's, hers included. She began to say as much when Mark spoke first. "Sis, I think you and I need to talk. Do you want to go for a walk?"
His conciliatory tone deflated Bernadette's ire. She took a few seconds to compose herself. She had come home expecting to have to fight. She gave a small smile and gave a quick look at Jump who nodded slightly. She gestured for him to lead the way out the back deck and into the night, leaving their partners to wait and hope for the best.
They walked out towards the shore in silence. The half moon gave enough light to see the outline of the tide and lines of foam from the small waves. Bernadette focused on the offshore rigs in the distance, the soft orange lights dancing off of the black ocean. She would wait until Mark spoke first. She didn't know where he and Jump left off and decided she'd let him take control of this conversation, for now.
"Remember when we were kids and I spilled that entire gallon of brown paint in the garage?" Mark asked finally. Puzzled, Bernadette searched her memory. She recalled the situation and what happened with a half smile. Her brother had been looking for something in the garage and had toppled over the can of paint. It covered most of the garage floor and part of their dad's truck.
"Yep. What a mess that was." She said lightly. Mark had stopped walking and turned to face the ocean. Bernadette mirrored his posture, waiting patiently for him to continue.
"Boy was it. I thought I'd be grounded for life. There was no way I could clean it up by myself. I instantly thought of you, Bernadette. I knew I could count on you to help me. I ran to get you down the street. You were playing basketball. I said I needed help and you came without question, helped clean it off of the truck and floor and it lessened the blow considerably. I only got a stern talking to about climbing the garage shelves."
Bernadette smiled at the memory of them frantically cleaning the paint off the truck with old rags, all the while Mark sniffling and thanking his big sis for the help. "I was happy to do it. I knew it was an accident. You were only eight." She reasoned.
"Yeah, I know. What I'm trying to say is, you have always been there for me Bernadette. Always." He took a deep breath and added quietly, "I guess now, you are there for my son too." That last sentence caused her head to turn quickly towards her brother. She eyed him intently, searching for any sarcasm in his tone. There was none.
He continued, still looking out to the ocean as Bernadette searched his profile. "I'm not gonna pretend that this isn't a hard, or awkward situation. If it was my choice, I'd rather you just be a doting aunt." He let out a small chuckle to take the sting out of his admission. "But like you said once before, this is what it is. You are Ryan's parent as well. I can see that. I saw it clearly tonight."
Relief washed over Bernadette and she just barely refrained from jumping into her brother's arms in gratitude. But there were still more questions without answers and she'd be damned if she was going back without knowing them. She'd waited too long.
"Where do you see us going from here then?" She asked carefully. He still hadn't faced her but Bernadette just continued to stand her ground.
"Jump asked me to consent to a step-parent adoption. She said there is a law that allows same-sex couples to do that. I told her I would consent." He turned to face Bernadette. He knew she didn't know about this. He watched her face stall between confusion and child-like glee. He almost wanted to laugh at her expression, but thought the better of it.
"Apparently, your partner has been turning over every legal rock she can find to make this work. She really, really loves you Bernadette." He finished softly.
Bernadette couldn't fathom how hard it was for her brother to admit that. It surprised her that he recognized the fact and it brought her to tears that he said it to make her feel better. She did the only thing she could do. She pulled her brother into a hug and held him tightly.
Jump and Christie were up off the couch at the first creak of the deck steps. They looked at each other in unspoken apprehension, choosing to stay where they were. They didn't have to wait long. First Bernadette then Mark stepped through the sliding glass doors. They came abreast of each other and took in their partners' cautiously hopeful expressions. Mark spoke first.
"We've worked it out." Mark announced.
"Without bloodshed." Bernadette interjected dryly as she play-punched Mark in the arm.
Jump's eyes reached skyward and she let out a huge breath. Christie stepped to Mark and took both of his hands. She drew him near and whispered something in his ear. By the look on his face, Bernadette could tell it was very good.
"Well, I know we still have some things to sort out, but it is nothing that can't wait for another day." Mark said as he took Christie's hand. Jump and Bernadette both nodded their heads in agreement as they followed them to the door.
After saying their goodbyes, Jump closed the door quietly. She barely had time to turn around before Bernadette's arms wrapped around her. A few moments later, Bernadette pulled away and asked about the law that would allow her to adopt as a step-parent.
"I think I'd like to fill you in on the details tomorrow, if that is alright. Right now, all I want to do is help put our son to bed and then crawl into ours with you."
Bernadette's heart swelled almost painfully. She kissed Jump with passionate reverence, hoping it conveyed what she was unable to verbalize at the moment.
"I thought I'd be more nervous." Bernadette stated to Christie as they both got dressed in the guest room of the beach house.
Christie smirked knowingly. She had gotten to know Bernadette quite well these last few months since moving here with Mark. Through the adoption proceedings and court dealings, which seemed to put Mark on edge at times, Christie had found Bernadette's steadfast composure and diplomacy incredibly admirable under the awkward circumstances. When the adoption had been finalized she'd suggested off handedly that they all go out and celebrate. It seemed to be a balm to her fianc&';'s soul to have him fully included in his son's life.
But now the regularly subdued foreman's hands were shaking slightly as she tried to button her cream linen shirt. It was all Christie could do not to bat her hands away and help. Does this woman ever let go of her restraint?
"Well, getting married effects people in different ways, I guess." She offered as she slipped in her earrings.
"Yeah, I guess so." Bernadette paused and regarded her future sister-in-law. "I guess you'll be experiencing it yourself soon too." She said as she suddenly remembered Christie and Mark's wedding date was only a few months away.
"Right." She said with a great big grin. They faced each other as Christie eyed Bernadette studiously. Bernadette did look beautiful in her linen suit and bared feet. "You ready?" She asked.
"As I'll ever be." Bernadette replied with a deep breath.
"Quit crying. You are going to make me do it too." Jump softly chastised her best friend. They were dressed and had almost made it out the door when Sue had gone and looked at her friend in the mirror.
"I can't help it Jump. I'm overcome here." She said with her usual Sue-like candor. Jump smiled fondly at her friend. It warmed her heart to see her friend so affected by the day too. But they had to get going or Bernadette will think she's being stood up at the altar.
"Oh, Sue. You are the best friend a girl could have." Jump said sincerely as she gave her a big hug. "Now, dry it up, sister. You gotta save some tears for the Matron of Honor toast." At that, Sue guffawed through her tears and quickly composed herself for her friend.
"Listen, oh stoic one, we'll see who is overcome once you get a look at your bride-to-be." Sue huffed as she opened the door for her friend.
Bernadette stood at the sliding glass door, trying not to fidgit. She looked out over the small assembly of guests, less than what Matt and Sue had in almost exactly the same spot. The sun was beginning to set, lighting the sky an orange salmon and giving the ocean a lavender and pale yellow hue.
A few sailboats stood out in shadowed relief in the distance. She looked at the front row of guests, noting Jump's parents sitting together. That will make her happy, thought Bernadette. She spotted the dark haired collection of men on the other side. Her dad had Ryan on his lap and Matt and Mark were sitting together, heads inclined towards each other in conversation.
As a couple of minutes passed, she began to get a little worried. Had Jump decided not to go through with this? The thought made her queasy and she was about to turn into the house when she felt a soft pinch at her elbow. "No she didn't change her mind." She heard as Sue brushed passed her with a brilliant smile and wink. She watched her for a second walk down the aisle to stand opposite Christie. Then, she turned to the right and felt Jump's hand come up between her elbow and side.
She smiled through dampening lashes as they fully faced each other, each taking in the sight of the other. Their clothes were casual and light, perfect for a beach wedding, but there was a certain glow about each woman that transcended what they were wearing. They were at peace in their hearts, knowing that this was exactly what the other woman wanted. All the hard work, tears, heart-ache and joy it took to get here was only the beginning, and they both knew it.
"What the state doesn't recognize in law, we recognize in our hearts. So do they." Bernadette said with a head nod to the people gathered to witness the ceremony. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Jump, in every sense of the word."
"I love you." Jump said simply.
Bernadette's response was a sweet gentle kiss to each eyelid and a thumb brushing away a small tear on Jump's beautiful face. She let her hand slide down Jump's arm and then entwined their fingers. Together they turned and faced their family, their friends and their future as the sun began it's slow decent beyond the horizon.
"As long as there are no clowns." Stated Jump as she finished locking up the store. Now with Mark's input as Ryan's father, planning Ryan's second birthday was a little more complicated and involved. Unfortunately, Bernadette had found herself in the strange position of negotiator. She knew of Jump's desire of just a few friends and family. However, Mark and Christie had joined a little playgroup with Ryan and wanted a large gathering at a public park with all of his playmates.
"Right, no clowns." Bernadette responded obediently. Catching the mirth in Bernadette's voice, Jump swatted her arm.
"You guys make me out to be some sort of birthday grinch. I am no such thing!" Jump defended. "Just because I don't want to plan a huge party for our son who won't remember it, doesn't mean I don't want to celebrate his birthday." Bernadette knew her reasoning behind not wanting big birthday parties. They were unnecessary for a two year old and Jump much rather enjoyed the intimate setting of a few friends and family to celebrate, as did Bernadette. Still, she enjoyed having fun with the running joke. Even at her love's expense. She enveloped her into a big, smothering hug.
"Oh, honey... I'm just giving you a hard time. It's just that your adamancy, especially with the clown thing..." Bernadette reasoned, trying not to laugh. "We'll just have a small petting zoo and one of those jumpy things..."
"Argh!!" Jump growled pulling herself out of Bernadette's now loose embrace. Bernadette laughed out loud now, jogging to catch up to Jump who was stomping towards the car. They both got in the car in silence as Jump trained her eyes straight ahead and started the car. She was attempting to hold onto her mild anger when she sensed Bernadette's timorous eyes on her. She was careful not to look at Bernadette as she turned herself to back out of the parking space, but as soon as she was able, she rested her hand on Bernadette's thigh and smiled when she heard a small sigh of relief from her love and then an apology, which to Jump, wasn't necessary at all. Maybe I am being a birthday grinch.
"Okay, if there must be a clown, I want it done right. No drunken old men with scary make up or aloof teenaged girls who can't even make a decent balloon animal." Jump stated emphatically.
"Jump, you are being stereotypical. Besides, I happen to know a great clown."
Jump's eyebrows shot up into her hairline, causing Bernadette to bark out in laughter. "Matt, my brother. It was his summer job one year. Besides he lost a bet to me. This is his pay up." Bernadette grinned with evil glee.
"Man, I thought you guys loved each other." Jump said with a hint of sarcasm. Truth was, she'd pay to see Matt in a clown costume. As would Sue, Jump thought to herself. "All right." Jump conceded around a smile. "But I get to pick out his costume." She said after a beat.
Bernadette chuckled as she absently rubbed her ring with her thumb, still getting used to the feel of it. She then put her hand in Jump's as it rested on her thigh. She looked down at their entwined fingers and smiled.
"I wouldn't want it any other way, Baby."