I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 6: Fidelity
By S X Meagher
"Okay, guys," Ryan said to the assembled group, holding out the long string of tickets Cami and Heather had just purchased. "I think we should play in two teams of seven. Any objections?"
The group all agreed and Ryan handed out five tickets to each woman while they tried to come up with an equitable means of choosing sides. Jordan finally spoke up, "Lets go by class. Every team should have two freshmen, two sophomores, two juniors, and one senior. Argue amongst yourselves for who goes with Ryan and who goes with me." When most of the players started lining up next to Ryan, Jordan shot them a glare and said, "Remember that I lead warm-ups during the season." Now all of the players scooted over to Jordans side, giggling as they did so.
"I have a car for making ice cream runs for the rest of the week," Ryan taunted, and miraculously she was surrounded by 12 bright smiles.
"This could go on all night," Jordan decided. "Lets go in alphabetical order. Ill take the first two of each class alphabetically."
"The first shall be last, and the last, first," Ryan teased, surrounded by her six smiling teammates.
* * * * * * * * * * *
As the members of her team got into their reflective vests, Ryan gave them a few pieces of advice. "Okay guys, the key to winning in laser tag is to move unpredictably. This should be easy for us, since weve been hurling our bodies all over the gym since Sunday. Dont move in a straight linestart and stop repeatedly. And dont stay on the same plane for long. Stand up tall, then drop into a crouch quickly. Dont ever let them be able to guess where youre going to go next. Any questions?"
"Does it hurt?" Amy asked, her eyes darting from Ryan to the laser tag gun in her hand.
"Hurt? You mean the laser?" Ryan shot her a puzzled look and scratched her head. "Um theyre not surgical lasers, Amy. Why would they hurt?"
The embarrassed woman shrugged her shoulders helplessly and said, "My brother had welts all over himself when he played."
"Nah he was probably playing paintball," Ryan guessed. "My brother plays that all the time, too. He looks like someones been hitting him with a ballpeen hammer!"
No one else knew what a ballpeen hammer was, so her joke didnt have the desired effect, but Ryan had successfully allayed their fears.
The teams took off when they were given the signal, running through, around, and over the obstacles and barriers placed around the huge space. The room was completely devoid of natural light, instead using black light to provide the dim illumination. The darkness made maneuvering difficult, but the reflective vests showed, in eerie contrast, the exact path that every woman trod.
Using the skills they had been honing for the last four days, the women followed Ryans advice beautifully, and managed to pick off two members of Jordans team before their opponents copied their strategy and began to follow it as well. They all dropped, weaved, jumped, rolled, and squatted, moving from obstacle to obstacle, doing their best to stay unpredictable.
After running around like mad for quite some time, Ryan realized that very few people were being "shot". Then she realized that few of the women had probably ever had real or fake "guns" in their hands before. She got down behind a low barrier and relaxed for a moment, taking her time to slow her breathing. Dropping to one knee, bracing her free arm across the other leg to help steady her weapon, she aimed carefully, picking off three more members of Jordans team, leaving just two of her opponents standing. She had no idea where the other two members were, but she found out the location of one of them very quickly when Jordan popped up on the other side of the barrier and shot her right between the eyes. "Die, sucker!" she cried, obviously enjoying herself immensely.
Hating to lose at anything, Ryan grumbled all the way back to the sidelines, only partially cheered when her team emerged victorious a few minutes later. "Hey this is like in Saving Private Ryan, Erika said. "We won, but the captain died."
"Great. Just great," Ryan grumbled, still a little miffed at being killed.
"Quit crying, OFlaherty," Jordan teased. "We have to do your stinking laundry for the rest of the week. That should give you some satisfaction."
Ryan immediately brightened at the prospect of her friend having to wash all of her very ripe clothing. "Now that you mention it, Jordan, Im feeling better already." She smiled as she draped an arm around her new laundry woman, and they made their way to the bus for the short ride home.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The minute Ryan arrived at the dorm she tried her cell, grumbling to herself when she could not get a strong signal. Hmm maybe its the building, she decided. Shrugging into one of the Cal Volleyball sweatshirts they had been issued, she went outside and turned on her phone, smiling to herself when the signal strength meter indicated that there was an acceptable level. I wonder if maybe I can get this a little stronger. She walked around aimlessly, not paying any attention to where she was headed, looking only at the level of the signal. She wound up near the tennis courts and took a seat on a wooden bench, spreading her arm out across the back of the bench as she settled in for a long chat with her beloved.
Jamie answered on the second ring. "Now theres the voice that makes me smile," Ryan said upon hearing her partners warm tones.
"Ooh, that goes double for me, Love. I just want to listen to you breathe." She sighed heavily, wishing there was some way to crawl through the phone lines to wrap her body around her partner.
Ryan thought that was a pretty good idea herself, not wanting to go into any of the upsetting topics that she knew she had to broach. "Ive uh got a few things to talk to you about, Hon," she said. "Can I do that before I breathe for you?"
"Of course, Honey." She paused a beat adding, "Nothing is wrong, is it?"
"No, no, not wrong but I dont have a lot of good news," she admitted.
"What is it, Ryan?" Jamies voice was a little sharp now, and she felt her heart start to beat faster. "Its so hard to do this on the phone," she moaned. "I cant see your face and look into your eyes to see how you really are."
"Im fine, Love," she assured her. "Let me stop torturing you and tell you whats going on."
It took 20 minutes to discuss the revocation of the scholarship. Ryan had chosen this item first since she needed to talk to Coach Placer the next day, and she didnt want to run out of time. As expected, Jamie felt strongly that the scholarship should have no impact on Ryans decision to play, and Ryan felt very secure and happy to know how enthusiastic her partner was in her support. Jamies point was that if her father gave them a hard time about the money, she would ask her mother for a loan. Ryan had never considered this option, but she had to acknowledge that it made sense. The suggestion made Ryan feel better immediately, and she thanked the heavens that Catherine was being so supportive of their young relationship.
As they continued to talk Ryan could tell that Jamie was fading fast, and she considered continuing their discussion the next day. But the incident at the Boardwalk had bothered her much more than she had let on, and she knew that Jamie would be angry if she didnt tell her something like this as soon as she could.
"Anything else going on, Hon?" Jamie asked sleepily.
"Umm " Ryan thought fast and made a decision. "Yeah, actually there is. I uh got into a little scrape tonight and "
"Scrape?" the sharp voice demanded, now very alert. "What kind of scrape were you in, Ryan?"
"Um we were all at the Boardwalk and some guys were harassing two of the freshmen. I um made them stop."
"Ryan," Jamie said slowly. "Did you get hurt?"
"No, no, really I didnt," Ryan assured her. "My face is a little red where this asshole slapped me "
"WHAT?! Someone slapped you?" Her voice was now firm and low, and Ryan knew that trouble was a-brew. "Im coming home on the first plane," she announced, not sounding like this was a topic for discussion.
"Jamie," Ryan soothed, "please, Honey, dont make this into a bigger deal than it was." Damn it, damn it, damn it! I knew this would upset her! I should have kept my big mouth shut!
"How can you even say that? Someone assaults you, and you dont want me to make a big deal about it?! Have you been to the police station to make a statement?"
"Uhh we decided not to press charges," she said weakly, immediately realizing that Jamie did not agree with her decision.
"Pardon me?" Each word was enunciated slowly as Jamie tried to understand her partners words. "You didnt press charges after someone HITS YOU!"
Oooh sounds like someone else would hit me if she was in town. Thank God for Rhode Island. "Jamie," she soothed in her best placating voice, "I handled it, Honey. Believe me, I gave him a much harder whack than he gave me, and I got in a very good knee to his chest. Hes gonna have a bruise that will remind him of me every time he breathes."
"Did you start the fight?"
Oh boy when it takes two minutes to get out five words, Im in big trouble. "No, no, of course I didnt. I was defending my friends, Jamie. He clearly asked for it."
"My point exactly, Ryan," she insisted. "Some thug hits you you press charges. How could you let him off scot-free, Ryan? That gives him permission to do this again."
Okay, so I didnt think of that, she admitted. So maybe I do need Jamie close by to keep me from doing stupid things. "I screwed up, huh?" Her voice was low and soft, and Jamie could just picture the big blue eyes peeking out through the long bangs.
"Yes, Honey, you screwed up. Im proud of you for helping your friends, but I think you were wrong to let the guy off. People like that have to suffer some consequences or they have no reason to behave civilly."
"Im sorry, Jamie," she said, very contrite. "I should have been thinking of the long term, but I just wanted out of there." Her voice grew quiet as she admitted, "The whole thing upset me, Honey, and I wasnt thinking."
"Ryan, Im going to come down there and make sure youre really all right. Im feeling very uneasy about this."
"Jamie, please dont do that," she begged. "Im absolutely fine, Honey, and if you came down I wouldnt be able to spend any time at all with you. I swear it would be more stressful than reassuring for me." It was clear from the pleading tone in her voice that Ryan was serious, but Jamie had such a bad feeling about the incident that she had a hard time acceding to her wishes. "Please, Honey," the dark woman continued. "I really dont want you to come."
With a heavy sigh, Jamie capitulated. "All right, Honey. I dont want to make things worse for you." She sounded tireddefeated, and Ryan immediately felt guilty for the way she had presented her last point.
"Jamers," she soothed, using the pet name she invoked infrequently, "I always feel better when youre with me, Love. You know that, dont you?"
"Yes, Honey," Jamie replied softly. "I know that. This is just hard for both of us. My imagination runs wild since I know you downplay everything."
Thinking of a solution to the problem, Ryan said, "Im outside now. Call me on the dorm phone in ten minutes, okay?"
"Okay," Jamie said slowly. "Whats--" But Ryan had hung up by the time she uttered her question, and she was forced to wait to determine the point of the exercise.
Exactly ten minutes later, Jamie dialed the dorm phone, smiling to herself when Ryans out-of-breath voice said, "Jordan wants to give you the story, Honey. Shes impartial."
"Hi Jamie," Jordans soft soprano voice said. "Im looking at Ryans homely mug right now, and I promise that shes no uglier than she was earlier in the day."
An amused chuckle greeted Jordans news, and Jamie asked, "Did she get hit on the head, Jordan? I dont know if you know this, but shes had a number of head injuries. She really has to be careful."
Recognizing the seriousness of Jamies question, Jordan assured her, "No, she didnt really get hit, Jamie. The idiot slapped her on the cheek and hes the only one who touched her."
"How many were there?" Jamie gaped, not realizing there had been multiple assailants.
"Four," Jordan informed her. "She kicked one guy in the gut, two of them ran, then she took the last guy out. She did pretty good for herself, to be honest. I was there to back her up of course, but she didnt seem to need it."
Ryan wrestled the phone from her friends hand, informing Jamie, "With backup like Jordan, Id better carry a firearm." Looking up at the outraged look on her friends face she said, "Dismissed, pal. Thanks for your help."
"Anytime, Ryan. Remember, I live to serve."
As Jordan shuffled back to their room, Ryan said, "Feel any better, Love?"
"Yes, Honey, Im sure Jordan would have loved to bust you if she could."
At her gentle laugh Ryan had to agree. "Youve got that right! Shes worse than my brothers!"
"Heres the deal, Babe. Ill call you tomorrow to make sure you still feel all right. If you have any and I do mean any pain or stiffness or anything you will tell me, right?"
"Yes, Dear. If I feel any pain other than the chronic pain from two-a-day practices, I will let you know. My health is worth more than this camp, Honey. I promise you that."
"Okay, Love," Jamie sighed. "Ive got to get to bed, now, Honey. Ive got to get up early for sailing."
"I love you, Babe. Talk to you tomorrow."
"Night, Honey. Love you."
Well, this is just not the night to tell her about her father, Ryan decided. One more day wont make any difference at this point.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Good morning," Jamie said to the assembled guests when she went down for breakfast. Much to her surprise her mother was already sipping a glass of orange juice, looking quite awake and perky.
"Morning, Jamie," the older woman said. "Ready for our sail?"
"Yep. Im looking forward to it, actually. Itll be nice to go out a little farther than usual." When she sailed with her father they almost always stayed within the confines of the Bay, not wanting to risk the unpredictability of the Pacific, and she found that she was enjoying the thought of a long sail on the calm Atlantic.
She looked around the table to see that all hands were on deck, save for Stephanie. "It looks like were almost all here," she said, smiling at Trey, who looked like he could use another five or six hours of sleep.
Carolyn spoke up. "I sent one of the servants to try to rouse my eldest. I swear, that girl would sleep until dinner if I allowed her to."
The servant in question returned to the table moments later, and bent to whisper into Carolyns ear. She folded her napkin and sighed heavily, pushing her chair back. One of the waiters was in the process of delivering her omelet, and she grumbled, "Just when my breakfast gets here, and I have to go wake that child up."
"Let me," Jamie offered, getting to her feet. "I havent even decided what I want for breakfast, Carolyn."
"Are you sure you dont mind, Jamie?" Carolyn was already sitting back down, and her napkin was neatly placed on her lap by the time her sentence was finished.
"Not a bit." Catching the waiters eye, she indicated that shed have an omelet too, and made her way towards the stairs.
"Oh, Jamie, heres the key to her room. I doubt that shell answer your knock."
* * * * * * * * * * *
After the fourth round of knocking brought no response, Jamie inserted the key and poked her head into Stephanies room. The young woman had been occupying the room for less than a week, but it looked as though at least six people were squatting in the space. Clothes covered every piece of furniture, CDs, tapes, and other accessories of adolescence lay scattered across the dresser and the club table, and discarded shoes provided an additional hazard.
The room was pitch dark, even though it was a bright, sunny morning. Jamie didnt want to wake her cousin too abruptly, so she stumbled around in the dark room for a few minutes, trying to reach the bed. She finally found it, and grasped Stephanies shoulder and shook it a few times. "Stephanie its time to get up." No response. Three more tries finally elicited a response, but it was merely a very unhappy sounding moan. Well, at least shes breathing.
Deciding that drastic action was called for, Jamie turned on the bedside lamp, casting a warm glow over the disordered room. What a pit! Jamie thought to herself. I would never have been allowed to leave my room like this! She stooped to pick up some of the discarded items that littered the area around the bed, grabbing a pair of jeans by the hems to fold them. A ticket of some sort fell to the ground, and she retrieved it to put it on the dresser. Hmmm thats odd. Why would she have a receipt from The Minuteman Mini Mart in her jeans? She looked at the paper idly as she placed it on the cluttered dresser, and almost gasped when she noted the time and the date. This is from Boston and its from this morning! What in the hell was she doing in Boston at four a.m.!?
Turning back to the bed, she shook the frail young woman harder, not stopping until she got a response. The response was a mumbled, "Leave me the fuck alone!"
Jesus! I dont think she knows its me trying to wake her up! Dont tell me she talks to her mother like that!
Her patience at an end, Jamie got close to Stephanies head and insisted, "Im not leaving until you get up, Steph. Lets go!"
As the young woman rolled onto her back, Jamie crossed the room and flung open the curtains. The bright light that washed in glinted off a small, foil- wrapped packet lying on the floor, and Jamie bent to pick it up, also. "Stephanie," she said, much louder this time, "its time to get up!"
"Fuck off, Jamie," she growled, pulling the pillow over her head.
Hmm maybe she just doesnt like me, Jamie thought with a smirk. She unwrapped the tiny package and found a brownish-white powder. I might not know a lot about drugs, but this is certainly not marijuana! Damn this sucks!
Now angry, Jamie grabbed her cousin's damp tank top and yanked hard, finally propelling the young woman into action. Stephanie threw her pillow across the room and sat up, scrubbing at her face with both hands. "What in the hell is wrong with you? The fucking door was locked!"
"I know that, Stephanie. Your mother asked me to come wake you to go sailing, and since you ignored the earlier attempts to get you up, she gave me the key to your room."
"Im not going sailing or any other goddamned place. Now leave me alone!" She flopped back down on to the bed, the acrid smell of perspiration hitting Jamie as she did so.
"Im not leaving you alone until I know why you were in Boston early this morning," Jamie demanded in her best no-nonsense voice.
"Go fuck yourself," Stephanie snapped, pulling the covers over her head. "What I do is none of your business."
Not to be deterred, Jamie grabbed the covers with both hands and yanked hard, pulling them completely off the bed. Stephanie was wearing a tank top and a pair of bikinis, and as Jamie got a good view of her emaciated body, she shuddered involuntarily. Her earlier guess of 95 pounds was a significant overestimate, as she now realized that her young cousin was probably ten pounds under that.
With an outraged squawk, the girl jumped from the bed, and Jamie feared for a moment that she would punch her. Instead the irate young woman stormed into the bath and slammed the door, locking it after her.
"I dont know if this is cocaine or some other drug, so Ill just take it downstairs and let everyone discuss it over breakfast," Jamie called to the closed door.
The door flew open, and Stephanie lunged for her older, bigger, and much stronger cousin. Jamie sidestepped her, causing the young woman to hit the carpet forcefully. "Gimme that!" she cried, her thin arms flailing.
"No way, Stephanie. Come downstairs with me, right now, and well get this out in the open. You obviously have a problem."
"I do not!" she cried. "Its Treys! Hes afraid that his parents will search his room, so I agreed to keep it for him! Dont tell on him, Jamie. Please!"
"Oh, Jesus." Jamie sank onto the bed, holding her head in her hands. "And thats a reason not to tell!? Stephanie, that makes it even worse! He almost died from a overdose!"
"Hes trying to stop, Jamie, I swear! Im helping him to stop. Thats why Ive got his stuff! Hes going to call his counselor from the last clinic he was in to see if he can get admitted. Come on youve got to let him do this on his own."
"Why? Why does it matter who calls as long as he gets back in treatment?"
"His grandfather will disinherit him if he finds out hes using again! He told him the last time that he would not stand for it if Trey had a relapse. You cant let that happen, Jamie! Trey would be out on the streets if Grandfather told Uncle Skip to throw him out!"
Jamie considered this argument for a moment. David Dunlop had some very strong views on a number of topics, and one of them was drugs. He thought that illegal drug usage was a sign of weak character, and Catherine had confirmed that Trey was on thin ice after his last relapse. "So whats his plan?" she asked.
"Hes going to try to contact his counselor today. If he can get in, hell just make some excuse to his grandfather and take off. Give him a chance, Jamie. Please! Hed never make it without his inheritance."
Jamie took a deep breath and locked her eyes on Stephanie. "Do you swear you are telling me the truth?"
"Yes. Yes, I am, Jamie. I swear it!"
"Okay, Steph. Ill wait until tomorrow. But if Trey isnt on his way to treatment by tomorrow evening, Im going to talk to Skip."
"He will be, Jamie. Im sure he will be."
* * * * * * * * * * *
By the time Jamie returned to the dining room, Trey was nowhere to be found. "Any luck?" Carolyn asked from across the table.
"Yes, shes up. She should be down in a few minutes."
"Have you ever seen a girl who was more difficult to wake?" Carolyn asked, laughing softly.
"No, shes something all right," Jamie agreed, forcing a smile.
* * * * * * * * * * *
It was 7:45 on the west coast by the time Jamie was finished with breakfast, but she desperately needed to speak with her partner. Maybe theres a phone near her practice area, she hoped, dialing in her number on Ryans pager service.
Thankfully, just a few minutes later Ryans honeyed tones came through the receiver. "God, its good to hear you," Jamie sighed.
"Whats wrong, Baby? You sound upset."
"Can I ask you a question about drug use?"
"Uhh Jamie, thats not the best way to open a conversation when Im due at practice in ten minutes. What in the heck is going on?"
"Its a long story, Honey, but the bottom line is that I found drugs in my cousin Stephanies room. She swears that they belong to my cousin Trey, but theres a part of me that doesnt believe her."
"Jesus! How old are these people?"
"Steph is just sixteen. Trey is my age. Hes been in and out of treatment centers since he was in high school. Hes been clean for a year now but Stephanie told me that hes using again."
"Shit." Ryan desperately wanted to go to Rhode Island and bring her lover back from the crazy situation, but she knew that wasnt an option. Instead, she tried her best to provide as much help as she could.
"It sounds like you are confident that Trey is using, huh?"
"Yeah that seems pretty likely. But I dont know how to tell if Steph is, too, Do you know much about drugs, Babe?"
"Well, not from personal experience," Ryan said. "But Ive taken a number of seminars on drug use when I worked at the teen crisis center. Describe her manner and her appearance."
"She looks pretty normal, actually. She dresses like a Dunlop, and she obviously cares about her appearance. Shes painfully thin, but I think thats normal for her age. Her eyes are funny, though. On Monday they looked dull and flat, but yesterday they just sparkled. I guess that could be boredom, but it seemed odd."
"Does she look like she has a rash or does she scratch her skin a lot?"
"No, nothing like that."
"Does she wear long sleeves all the time?"
"No. But shes normally pretty well covered up. She wears the oversized clothes that girls her age wear. I saw her almost naked today and she didnt have tracks in her arms or anything, if thats what you mean."
"Hows her mood?"
"Well, on Monday she acted really withdrawn. We were by the pool for a couple of hours, and she was either asleep or bored to death. She didnt say two words at brunch or dinner. I also noticed that she moved her food around her plate, but she didnt seem to eat hardly any of it"
"Sounds like she could be bulimic or anorexic. Does she have a history of eating disorders?"
"I think all of the women in my family have some sort of eating disorder," she admitted. "I look like I could play nose tackle for the 49ers compared with the rest of the women here."
"Hmm " Ryans agile mind was considering all of the details, and just hearing her partner think was reassuring to Jamie. "You say you saw her today when she was almost naked. Whats that about?"
"I went to her room to get her up to go sailing. Stumbling around in her pit of room I came across a foil packet which is obviously drugs of some kind. I confronted her about them, and I was afraid she was going to hit me! She got so angry that it was a little frightening."
"Unfortunately, that all sounds like plausible adolescent behavior. But it could also indicate cocaine or even heroin use."
"Heroin! But I didnt see any marks on her arms or anything."
"Kids smoke or snort heroin more than they shoot nowadays. What drugs did Trey do?"
"Im not sure. You know how closed-mouthed my family is about problems. But I know he overdosed a little over a year ago. Thats when he got clean. Steph says that hes trying to get back into treatment now. She doesnt want me to tell his parents because theyve threatened to disinherit him if he relapses."
"Jeez! So all you have is Stephanies word, huh?"
"Yep. Thats it."
"Only one problem with that, Honey."
"Addicts lie. All the time. Its the universal trait of an addict. So if hes using and shes using, you wont get one bit of truth out of the pair of them."
"Great. Just great," Jamie muttered.
"Does it seem like hes at least trying to straighten up? Is he going to AA or NA meetings this week?"
"Apparently he participates in a very liberal treatment program," Jamie scoffed. "The program includes wine with dinner and Bloody Marys by the pool."
"Huh," Ryan mused. "I guess that would make more people get into treatment wouldnt it? Thats very progressive." Her tone was heavy with derision, and Jamie realized that Ryan would have very little patience for people who voluntarily abused their bodies.
"What do you think I should do, Honey?"
"Whered you leave it with Stephanie?" Ryan asked.
"She said hes going to try to get into treatment today. If he does, I wont have to worry about him. But I still think I have to tell Stephanies parents that she was traipsing all over New England with him at five this morning. Im willing to wait to make sure Trey gets located first, but if you think I should just tell now, I will."
"Gosh, thats hard to say," Ryan mused, giving Erin the signal that shed be right there. "I guess it cant hurt to wait a little bit. Are they going sailing with you today?"
"Yeah, the whole bunch is going."
"Well, keep an eye on them. Maybe your mom will have some advice. She knows the personalities involved a lot better than you do."
"True. Ill do that. Thanks for calling back so quickly, Babe. I feel better now."
"I always feel better when I talk with you," Ryan said sincerely. "But Ive gotta scoot. Love you."
"Love you, too. OH! Hows your head?"
"Fine, Love. Im only volleyball sore today. Call me tonight."
Just ten minutes with her, and I feel so much better, Jamie mused, giving her stuffed tiger a hug.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The first hour out, Stephanie and Trey took turns running for the head. No one but Jamie seemed to notice, and after they got their sea legs, they both sprawled out on towels on the bow deck and promptly went to sleep.
The boat was impressively long, providing numerous places for the various members of the family to gather. During the trip people moved about, sometimes gathering around the large round table in the dining area near the galley, sitting on the edge of the deck and leaning against the rails. At one point, Jamie was alone with her uncle David as he piloted the yacht. "Why dont you take the wheel, Jamie," he offered. "Your mother tells me that youve become quite the little sailor."
She wasnt fond of the "little sailor" comment, but she decided to bear with these indignities, deciding they were not worth making a fuss over. Taking the helm, she smiled when she felt the bulk of the huge teak wheel in her hands. The yacht was nearly seventy feet long, substantially larger than her fathers boat, but her years of experience piloting the smaller craft had prepared her well for the job at hand. They didnt speak for a long while, and Jamie let her mind wander as the brilliant sun glinted off the small whitecaps they powered through. The day was quite warm, with very little marine layer, and the fresh breeze felt delightfully cool on her exposed skin. As she had promised Ryan, she wore a thin life-vest over her suit, and she had a pair of cargo shorts on to protect her legs from the burning sun.
"Its bad for morale to have the captain be the only one with a vest on, Jamie," David kidded her. "You really dont need that bulky thing. Why dont you take it off and get comfortable?"
It was awfully warm, and she briefly considered his suggestion. She decided that her promise to Ryan overrode all other considerations, and she shook her head briskly, saying, "Im more comfortable with one on, Uncle David. Ive taken quite a few spills into the drink, and I like to be prepared."
"Okay, Jamie," he said gravely, "but dont complain to me if theres a mutiny."
"I wont," she grinned. Her thoughts returned to her absent partner. I miss you, Love. But when I look at my relatives I realize how very much we have to be thankful for. Jamie looked at her family scattered around the decks of this ultimate emblem of wealth and privilege, her eyes coming to rest on her cousins. This entire family should be so thankful, and yet Her mind became preoccupied with the thought of drugs and the destruction they could cause. As if on cue, Trey got up from the deck and made his way below. He was gone for a long while, and Jamie decided to go fishing for information. "Its really been nice to be able to spend some time with J.C. and Trey," she began, but David didnt bite. He just nodded, gazing across the horizon, looking for other vessels.
"I havent really seen either of them since I was a child," she mused.
"I suppose thats true," he agreed, focusing his attention on her. "You should be glad that you were spared watching that foolish young man almost throw his life away," he said somberly, twitching his head in Treys direction. The young man in question had just popped back up on deck, and he quickly made his way back to his towel in the furthest part of the bow.
"Drugs are a horrible thing," Jamie agreed. "Hes doing well now, though, isnt he?"
"Oh yes, weve made it clear that nonsense will not be tolerated any longer."
"Umm how did you do that?" she asked, surprised that he was talking about this so openly.
"We spoke to the boy in the only language that he seems to understand, Jamie. Skip is with me 100% on this, Im proud to say. Weve told Trey that if hes caught one more time, hes on his own financially. Neither his father nor I will give him another cent!" He looked very proud of himself for taking this stand, and since he seemed approachable, Jamie asked a follow-up question.
"Does Sara feel the same way too?" Knowing that the easygoing woman had always overlooked her sons transgressions, she was surprised to think that Treys mother would agree to this plan.
"Skip and I control the funds in this family, Jamie," David said, as though that should have been obvious. "Saras coddling of that boy is the main reason hes gotten in half of the trouble hes been in. Its time someone took a firm hand with him."
It sounded more like a plan for controlling a three-year-old, but Jamie kept that opinion to herself. "Lets hope that you never have to follow through on your threat," she said, shuddering with the knowledge that the consequences could be realized in the very near future.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After her stint at the helm was completed, Jamie managed to get her mother alone in the bow of the boat. "I uhh have some bad news about my cousins," she said when they were comfortably seated on a pair of cushions.
"Bad news? What how do you come to have bad news about them, Jamie?"
"Long story," Jamie said, anxious to get to the heart of the matter.
Catherine pointedly gazed ahead to the still very distant island, then back to Jamie. "We have time," she stated, encouraging her daughter to start from the beginning.
"Okay, on Tuesday while the rest of you were sailing I spent a little time with Stephanie and Trey. Steph inadvertently revealed the fact that she and Trey had been out the night before, and after a few questions she admitted that they had been smoking grass."
Catherine nodded, a small furrow in her brow. "I dont think thats uncommon for high school girls, to be honest, Jamie. And Im sure that marijuana is one of Treys drugs of choice. I dont think its anything to worry about, Dear."
"Uh-huh," Jamie nodded, not surprised that her mother took this news in stride. "Dont you find it a little odd that he drinks and smokes grass? I mean, he is supposedly clean, isnt he?"
Pursing her lips, Catherine nodded, considering the matter. "Yes, I think hes clean," she agreed, looking at Jamie rather blankly.
"When youre trying to stop doing drugs, you have to stop all drugs, Mom, not just the one youre addicted to."
"Oh, I didnt know that, Dear. You mean to say that Trey can never drink again?" Her tone of voice sounded like she thought never was a very, very long time.
"Thats the general plan, Mom. If youre addicted to one substance its very easy to become addicted to another. Every treatment program Ive ever heard of stresses complete abstinence."
"But surely Skip and Sara know that he drinks, Jamie. He has alcohol with his meals, just like everyone else."
"Im sure they do, Mom, and thats part of my concern, but thats not the major problem."
"What is, Honey?"
"At least one of them is also doing hard drugs," she said gravely.
"What!? Oh, Jamie, are you sure?" The concern in her voice was genuine.
"When I went to wake Stephanie this morning, I found some drugs on her floor. She claims theyre Treys, but for all I know they are both doing them."
"Thats so sad." Catherine looked truly pained, and Jamie shared her dismay. "Sara told me just this morning how happy they were with him. She said they still watch him for warning signs like agitation or dilated pupils, but she says hes been very calm and tranquil ever since he quit."
"That may be, Mom, but if Trey isnt using, that means that Stephanie is. Im not sure if its cocaine or heroin, but either way its very bad news."
"What should we do?" Catherine asked, looking absolutely helpless.
With a sigh, Jamie gave her mother a slow smile. "Thanks for feeling like this is something for both of us to deal with, Mom. That helps a lot."
Catherine clasped both hands around a knee and leaned back, letting her head drop back against her shoulders. Her face was composed, but her eyes held a good deal of sadness. "This is something for us to handle together, Jamie. Its going to be hard for me, as odd as that seems. Discussing matters like this is just not something that we Dunlops do, and I doubt that anyone will be pleased with us for sharing this information. But Trey almost died last year, and I couldnt live with myself if something horrible happened to either him or Stephanie."
"If you want, I could talk to them aloneI dont want to make this difficult for you, Mom."
Sitting up straight, Catherine shook her head firmly. "Jamie, the other day you told me you wanted me to be your mother, not your friend. Im going to try to be your mothereven when its not easy."
* * * * * * * * * * *
After morning practice, as the teammates walked into the bright sun, Jordan immediately grasped Ryan by the shoulders and turned her so that the morning light shone directly onto her face. "Youve got a little bruise under your eye, Slugger. That jerk must have struck the bone."
Ryan reached up and fingered the spot, wincing a little as she did so. "Probably did," she agreed. "Id like to see his ugly mug today," she chuckled. "I bet they could dust him for fingerprints!"
"You really walloped him," she said a little pensively. "Ive never hit anyone. It must feel weird."
Ryan considered the implied question and shrugged. "Ive been hitting people since I could crawl. You get used to it."
"Hmm. I always figured you for a lover, not a fighter. You seem pretty gentle."
"I am, but my family is really physical. Weve always foughteven though we never hurt each other. Its a good tension reliever. Call it the Irish version of psychoanalysis."
Jordan looked a little surprised by this information. "You and Jamie dont " she trailed off, giving Ryan a very concerned look.
"God no! I would never raise a finger against her, even in jest! Its a completely different thing with my family, Jordan. Wait til you meet themyoull understand what I mean."
"Do you have a big family?" Jordan asked, pausing at the door.
"Just to give you the lineup would make us late for brunch," Ryan said with a laugh. "Ill give you the whole rundown when you have an hour."
* * * * * * * * * * *
The yacht pulled into a slip on Block Island just in time for lunch. Nearly everyone wanted to remain on board to eat, but Jamie agreed to go ashore with Julia to enjoy a meal.
She hadnt spent any quality time with the young woman, and was frankly a little afraid to get to know her. She could only assume that Julia would follow the path of the rest of her cousins, and she was loath to come to know her well only to see her destroy her life.
As soon as they hit solid ground the young woman announced, "If I dont get a hamburger soon, Im gonna die! That French junk weve been eating is making me sick!"
Jamie laughed and agreed with the fourteen-year-old. "It is a little rich, isnt it?"
"Aaaccchhhh!" was Julias pithy assessment.
Wandering around the small shops on the quiet streets, they found a place that Julia approved of and went in to have some good old-fashioned American cuisine. For the first time all week, Jamie saw her young cousin actually enjoy a meal, and she was quite astounded at the amount of food the young girl could put away. "Do you eat like this all the time?" she laughed as Julia looked longingly at her unfinished fries.
As Jamie handed them over, the young woman shook her head. "Nope. But I dont think Ive had a full meal since weve been here. Im about to starve!"
"Id have to say that both you and Stephanie look like you could use a few square meals."
Julia scoffed at the statement, crushing the sack that her fries had come in. "She doesnt need to eat any more, Jamie. Havent you noticed?"
"Umm Ive noticed that neither of you seems to eat more than three bites during our meals, but I assumed you just didnt like the food."
"I dont like the food," Julia corrected. "Stephanie doesnt need to eat. Big difference." She got up from the table and yawned, shaking her head as she said, "One decent meal and Im ready to go back to bed. Lets go back so I can grab a bunk before theyre all taken."
Does anyone in this family have any stamina at all? Even the fourteen-year-olds are sloths! "Hang with me for a while," Jamie urged. "Were gonna be on the boat the rest of the day. Lets at least walk around a little."
The girl considered the request for a moment, shrugged her narrow shoulders, and then agreed. "Okay. Will you buy me some ice cream?"
As they walked along, Jamie tried to engage the young woman in conversation, finding the task quite difficult. "Are you excited about your new school?" she asked, nearly biting her tongue as she heard the words come out of her mouth. She had always despised the fact that adults focused on school when they tried to talk to her when she was young, and she had sworn that she would not do the same thing when she reached adulthood.
"Um, I..ah..I guess so," Julia said haltingly, shrugging her shoulders a little.
"Doesnt sound like it," Jamie decided. "Whats bothering you?"
"I guess Id rather go someplace different," she explained, not shedding much more light on her concerns.
"Anywhere in particular?"
"Not really. Just not there."
"So you dont like the school much?"
"Its okay, Id just rather go by myself."
"You mean that youd rather not be with Stephanie, right?" Jamie prodded gently.
Julia looked down at the ground and hesitated. It appeared she was debating whether she could trust her cousin, but she apparently resolved the issue because she replied, "I dont get along with her much anymore, and I dont like the people she hangs around with." It was clear that the tension between Julia and her sister had been growing for a while, since the young woman looked so completely frustrated. She stared up at her older cousin with a defiant look on her face, as if to say, You want me to share my thoughts? Well there they are. Now fix the problem!
Was I this difficult to communicate with at that age? Jamie wondered as she shrank back a bit from the penetrating glare of her cousin. Deciding to back off a little, Jamie pointed to a well-known and much loved ice cream parlor just up the street from where they stood. "Lets get a treat and then talk about this some more, okay, Julia? I can see that this is really bothering you."
"No its not," the young woman grumbled, dropping her head as she walked along to the store.
Oh boy, this should be fun. Good thing Im used to cross-examining Ryan!
After they were served, they sat down at a picnic table next to the shop and Jamie tried to resurrect the conversation despite Julias complete focus on her ice cream. "Julia," she began, receiving no indication that her cousin heard her, "I know I havent been in your lives much, but were all part of the same family, and I care about you both. I think theres something going on with Steph, and I think you agree with me. Id really love to know what you think the problem is."
Julia lifted her head and stared at Jamie for a full minute, her dark brown eyes flicking across her cousins face. "Why do you really want to know?" she asked, her gaze narrowing.
Trying to maintain her cool, Jamie smiled and said, "Julia, I have nothing to gain by getting involved here. Honestly I just care about your entire family, and I dont want to see Stephanie harm herself." She returned the intense stare and said, "Thats all, Julia. I just want to help."
The younger woman nodded, apparently satisfied with her cousins motives. "Okay. What do you want to know?"
"Do you think shes doing drugs, Julia?"
"I know she is, Jamie," Julia said, shaking her head as she cast an unhappy look at her cone and got up to throw the uneaten portion in the trash, her appetite deserting her. "Ive seen her."
"Youve seen her, what? Smoke pot?"
"Yeah, but everybody does that. Thats not a big deal," she replied impatiently.
"What is a big deal, Julia?" Jamie persisted.
The young woman sighed, considering how much to trust her older cousin. She shrugged again, and decided to tell what she knew. "Every once in a while my mother makes Stephanie take me with her when shes going out. About a month ago we went into Manhattan and we picked up this guy she knows from school. We drove around for a while, and the guy turns around and tells me to get out!"
"Get out of the car?" Jamie asked. "Why did he want you to leave?"
"Cause they were going to buy drugs!" she exclaimed, her frustration evident. "I wouldnt get out, and we had such a big fight that I thought they were going to beat me up! I had my cell phone out, and I told them Id call the police, so they finally just decided to ignore me. The guy was really mad at me, but Stephanie told him that shed make sure I kept my mouth shut. We went to some horrible neighborhood, and this guy takes all of Stephs money and goes into this place that looked like it was about to fall down. He came back a little while later, and we drove a few blocks away. The whole time Stephanie was asking, Did you get it? like she couldnt wait, you know?"
Jamie nodded without speaking, not wanting to interrupt or deprive her cousin of the catharsis of getting all of the story out now that she had started.
"Steph pulls a mirror out of her purse, and they starting cutting this stuff up with a razor blade. Then they each snorted a couple of lines, and they both kinda collapsed. We were in this really scary neighborhoodthey were unconscious or somethingand I dont know how to drive! I was so scared, Jamie. Ive never been more afraid in my life!"
"What did you do, Julia?"
The young woman was still shaking her head, obviously trying to take the scene that had frightened her and erase it from her memory bank. "I decided that I was never going out with her again! If my mom ever makes us go together, Im gonna have her drop me off at the mall!" Jamie stared at the girl for a moment before recognizing that fourteen-year-olds usually saw the world only as it affected them personally, and Julia was obviously no different.
"I meant, what did you do about Stephanie," she clarified patiently.
"Oh," the girl said. "Nothing. My parents dont care." She stood and ran her fingers through her hair, settling it in place. "Can we go back to the boat now? I really need that nap."
Jamie shook her head, reaching up to grasp Julias hand. "Weve got to do something about this. I want to talk to your parents today."
The young woman shrugged her shoulders. "Go ahead. They wont believe you."
"I thought they might if you backed me up," Jamie suggested hesitantly.
"No way, Jamie. I have to be with her up in New Hampshire. She could turn the whole school against me if she wanted toif she didnt kill me first."
Jamie patted her leg and reassured her, "Its okay, Julia. You dont have to get involved. I am going to talk to your parents though. They might ask you questions. You just have to decide how much youll tell them."
Julia gave her a sad smile, chuckling a little to herself. "Youre pretty naïve for an adult, you know. They wont ask me questions, Jamie. They wont believe you, and I bet they tell you to stay out of it."
"I hope youre wrong, Julia. For Stephanies sake, I hope youre wrong."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 9