I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 9: Intentions

By S X Meagher

Part Nine

Ryan dragged her tired body into the house on Wednesday night, Jordan trailing right behind her.

Mia poked her head out of the kitchen, giving Jordan a wave and blowing a kiss. "I'm in charge of feeding you two. Are you ready to eat?"

"I'm too tired to eat," Ryan moaned as she tossed her legs over the arm of the loveseat and reclined fully.

"Uh-uh, Ryan. Jamie will have my head if I don't pour some calories into you."

"Where is Jamie, anyway?" Ryan asked. "Did she leave a note?"

"Nope. She's out with her dad," Mia informed her. "He came into town early, so she decided to have dinner with him."

"That's nice," Ryan said, preferring to have her partner at home, but glad that she was getting in a little bonding time with her father.

"Look on the table for your messages, Ryan," Mia instructed. "Some girl's been calling here every 15 minutes looking for you. Jennie something or other."

Her fatigue forgotten, Ryan leapt to her feet so quickly she got a head rush. "Damn, damn, damn!" she said as she dashed to the table by the stairs and looked at the message that merely stated Jennie's name. "How do I get in touch with her?"

"She said she has to call you 'cause she's not at home. She sounded really upset, Ryan. What's going on?"

"I mentor her through a program for gay and lesbian kids that have trouble at home. She's really a handful," she said, sitting down on the wooden chair they kept by the table.

As if on cue, the phone rang. Ryan picked up and heard the tremulous voice say, "Ryan?"

"What's wrong, Jen?" she asked immediately.

"I got thrown out again," she sobbed.

"Oh, Sweetheart," she said sympathetically, "Where are you, Hon? I'll come get you and see if can't work this out."

"I'm sick of this, Ryan," she wailed. "I want to go home!"

"We can talk about it when I get there, Jen, now tell me where you are."

"I'm over by the office," she said.

"Jennie," Ryan said, "the office is closed now. What are you doing there?"

"I'm just hanging out, Ryan. It's no big deal."

"It is a big deal, and you know it," she chided her gently. "You're just going to get into more trouble. I'll be over to get you within 15 minutes. Are you at the pay phone on the corner?"

"Yeah, but I have to keep moving. Just ask some of the kids. They all know me."

I bet they do, Ryan thought to herself. "Okay, don't leave and don't talk to anyone in a car. Do you hear me?"

"Yes, Ryan. I hear you. See you soon."

Ryan hung up and blew out an aggrieved breath. "Maybe we shouldn't have kids," she mumbled to herself.

"Ryan, what's going on?" Mia demanded.

"I've got to go," she said absently as she started for the door, but Mia's surprisingly strong grasp pulled her up short.

"No way, Ryan. You're going to eat something before you walk out that door. And that's final!"

"Jesus! She really did put the fear of the Lord into you didn't she?"

"I'm not afraid of Jamie, but I care about you, Ryan," she said softly. "I want to make sure you stay healthy."

Ryan's face broke into a shy grin as she agreed. "Okay, but I've gotta eat quick. God knows how much trouble she can get into in an amazingly brief period of time."

"Well she's been calling here since five, so another 15 minutes won't kill her. Now tell us what's going on?" Mia demanded as she placed a sweet kiss on Jordan's lips and led both athletes into the kitchen.

Ryan took a deep breath and gathered her thoughts, knowing that Jennie wouldn't mind some disclosure of her situation. "As I said, I work with Jennie, and have for almost 18 months. She's a very sweet kid, but she and her mother are like oil and water, and regrettably her father's not in the picture, so it's just the two of them. Her mom discovered she was gay and threw her out of the house-absolutely refused to allow her to return."

Mia and Jordan were staring at her, their eyes wide with shock. Ryan nodded in agreement, "Amazing, isn't it? Well, the Department of Children and Family Services got involved, thanks to one of Jennie's friend's mothers. They finally agreed that Jennie could not go home, given how tense things were, so after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at placing her in foster care, she eventually wound up in this group home for 'throwaway' kids as they're called. That's how I got involved."

"Her mom would rather have her in a home? Just because she's gay?" Mia asked in shock.

"Well, that's open to interpretation. In Jennie's case, being gay doesn't help, but she probably would have been thrown out even if she was straight. She and her mom are both really volatile, and they're on each other constantly. Her mom is very authoritarian, and Jennie just has to push her to the edge on every issue."

"How long has she been at the home?"

"She was there almost a year. She finally went home to her mother a few months ago. Jennie's social worker has been doing everything she can to keep them together-which is what they both say they want, by the way-but it sounds like Mrs. Willis snapped again."

"So where is she now?" Mia asked as she spooned a generous portion of vegetable soufflé onto all three plates.

"The Gay Teens in Crisis office is where the kids hang out during the day. They can use the phone there and get referrals to various programs. They also have counselors and substance abuse meetings. But at night it becomes a big pick-up place for the scum that prey on young, troubled kids. One of the few times I wished I had a firearm was when I went to get her one night and saw a 40-year-old man trying to talk a little boy into his car. I pulled up alongside and made a show of writing his license plate down so he took off, but I assume he came back as soon as I left."

"That's beyond disgusting," Jordan muttered as she shivered involuntarily.

"Anyway, that's why I don't want to waste time. Jennie is prone to act out when she and her mom fight. I don't think she's ever tricked, but I honestly wouldn't put anything past her."

"Should we go with you, Ryan?" Jordan asked. "Sounds like a rough neighborhood."

"Nah. It's not dangerous for adults. It's just vulnerable kids who are at risk in this place."

"You sure?" Jordan asked, not willing to let her friend invite trouble she might not be able to handle.

"Positive. I've done this several times."

"Will you be home late?" Mia asked, knowing that Jamie would be concerned.

"Well, probably not, but I'll have to bring her back here first. I want to talk to her mom on the phone, and if she agrees then I'll take her home. Damn," she muttered, "Jennie was just starting to feel comfortable in her new school. She just started high school, by the way. I hope to God that she doesn't have to go back to the home-she'll have to switch high schools if that happens." Ryan had gulped down all of the food that Mia had doled out, and she bent to kiss her friends, then made for the door. "Tell Jamie where I am if she gets here before I do."

"Oh! She took your car. She said yours is always low on gas so she took it to fill it up for you."

Ryan shook her head as she headed for the door. "I am so terribly spoiled," she said as she shot her friends a guilty look.

"You spoil each other," Mia corrected her, "and that's the way it should be."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie had the top down on the car and rather than waste time, Ryan left it as it was. The night was cool and a little foggy, but she thought the cool air might revive her a bit. Thank God I took a shower tonight, she thought wryly. My clothes were so wet they would have frozen right on me.

She arrived at the run- down industrial neighborhood about ten minutes later. The young kids hung out in about a three-block area, most of them standing in groups of two or three. The older kids and young men liked to work a corner alone, so the area they worked could be six or seven blocks long, depending on how many of them there were on a given night. There were always a few transsexuals on one particular corner, and tonight was no exception. Because of the near-constant harassment and the possibility of gay bashing, during business hours they stayed close to the office in case they had to make a run for it. At night, however, there was no safe haven in this very rough neighborhood, despite the fact that the Oakland police had been trying to crack down on prostitution. It seemed to Ryan that too often the victims became the targets of such initiatives, starting with the transsexuals.

About three blocks from the office, Ryan spotted the first group of young men. Three boys about 15 years old were having a discussion and when Ryan slowed down, one of them immediately came to the car and leaned over, holding on to the top of the windshield as he did so. "Oh no, Honey," he said dramatically. "You're in the wrong place."

"I'm looking for a friend," Ryan assured him.

"Aren't we all?" he coyly replied as he batted his big brown eyes.

"I'm looking for a girl named Jennie. Do you guys know her? Shaved head, baggy bell-bottoms? Usually has on a big white T-shirt?"

"Oh, she's here," the young man assured her. "She was by a little while ago. But she doesn't trick, girlfriend," he said in a dismissive tone.

"I'm glad to hear that. She really is my friend," Ryan said with a smile, before she pulled away.

After her fifth stop, the occupants of an unmarked police car looked to each other and nodded with a knowing smirk. They radioed ahead to the detectives waiting behind the office of the teen center, "Yellow Porsche Boxster. Driver has long brown hair. Obviously looking for something special. License number JDSE 211. Vehicle registered to James Evans, Hillsborough. Looks like Mr. Evans is keeping company outside of his neighborhood tonight. Pull him over if he snags anyone."

"Roger," crackled the radio.

Moments later Ryan finally spotted Jennie. She was standing with two other girls, both of whom looked like they were hooking. Damn, damn, damn! Ryan cried in frustration. If she lives to see 15, I'll be surprised!

Jennie ran to the car and leaned into the passenger compartment. "Do you have any money, Ryan?" she asked anxiously. "My friends haven't eaten since yesterday, and business is so slow they're not gonna eat tonight either."

Ryan rolled her eyes and reached for her wallet but stopped short when she realized it was still in her gym bag. Luckily she remembered that Jamie always kept money in the ashtray for emergencies. She reached inside and pulled out the two twenties and stuck her hand out to offer the money to Jennie just as both of her friends began to run for their lives. The spotlight of the unmarked car hit her at precisely the same time that Jennie accepted the money and started to get into the car. "Don't anybody move!" the disembodied voice from the loudspeaker ordered.

Jennie looked panicked, and before Ryan could say a word, she took off in the same direction as her friends. "Fuck!" Ryan cried as she watched her run down the dark street, holding up her outrageously huge pants.

"Put your hands on the steering wheel," the voice boomed, and Ryan immediately complied.

The two officers approached her car with their weapons drawn. They had parked about ten yards behind her, and one officer came from each side. The one on the right stayed behind the car with his weapon aimed at her head while the other approached the driver door. "Keep your hands on the wheel. Do not make any sudden moves," he commanded.

Ryan knew enough about law enforcement to know it was futile to argue at this point, so she immediately complied with each of their instructions, while remaining silent.

The officer yanked open her door and ordered, "Put your hands above your head and exit the vehicle." She had removed her seat belt when she reached out with the money, so she was able to get out without impediment. "Walk around to the hood of the car," he directed. When she got there he said, "Step back two paces and lean forward with your hands on the hood." As soon as she complied, he whipped a pair of handcuffs onto her right wrist and yanked her arm behind her back as he pulled her left arm back and snapped that cuff on.

"License and registration," the officer demanded.

"Registration in the glove box. I don't have my license with me."

The second officer went to the radio to communicate with the lead officer. "We have the perp in the Porsche cuffed. $40 confiscated. All three juveniles escaped. No identification. Registration looks clean. Check for vehicle reported stolen."

The radio crackled back, "That car belongs to our new senator. If it's Evans, you'd better let him off with a warning."

"Not him," the officer replied. "It's a woman."

There was a pause, then the voice asked, "It's not his wife, is it?"

"No way," the officer confidently said. "I'll identify her."

He walked back to Ryan and asked, "What's your name?"

"Siobhán O'Flaherty."

Walking back to the car the officer reported, "She's not an Evans. Some kinda Irish sounding name."

"There's been no report of theft, but I think the Senator's in Washington already. She might have stolen the car. Run her in. Impound the vehicle. We'll wait for the tow."

The officer went back to Ryan, grasping her firmly by the bicep as he led her to the car. He placed his hand on her head to make sure she didn't hit it on the frame of the car and pushed her into the back seat. "Does it matter what my explanation is?" she demanded, her anger boiling at both Jennie and the officers.

"Nope. Tell it to the judge," he instructed as he punched the accelerator, causing her head to snap back sharply.

It took almost 45 minutes to get her processed enough to allow her a phone call. She briefly thought of calling Brendan, but knew that Jamie would be upset if she wasn't called first. One handcuff was removed to allow her to use the pay phone by the door to the lockup, but the other was firmly attached to one of the arresting officers, who listened to every word she uttered.

"Hi, Hon," she said in as normal a tone of voice as she could muster. "You'll never guess where I am."

"Well, you should be in bed," Jamie responded, "It's after nine. Where are you, anyway?"

"I'm in a holding cell at the North Oakland police station," she said neutrally. "Any chance you can come bail me out?"

The silence that greeted her indicated that Jamie was less than pleased with the news. "Ryan, I'm sure you have a very good explanation for why you've been arrested," she said calmly. "I really can't wait to hear it."

"I'm really innocent," she assured her partner as the officer rolled his eyes.

"Why are you in jail?" Jamie finally cried, tired of waiting for an explanation.

"Umm…solicitation of prostitution?" she squeaked out.

There was a terribly long pause until Jamie let out a sigh and said, "This I gotta hear."

"My three minutes are up, Hon. If you don't want me going steady with the really scary-looking woman in the lockup, you'll hurry over here."

"What's the address?" she sighed, continually amazed at the trouble that one woman could get into.

Ryan gave her all of the particulars and reminded her, "You have to bring cash or go to a bail bondsman. Can you get $1000?"

"Yes, Ryan, I can get $1000. I'll be there as soon as I can. And, Honey?"


"If you drop the soap, just leave it on the floor."

"Very funny. It's nice that you can keep your sense of humor while I sit in a cell with Big Bertha."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

45 minutes later Ryan was brought from the holding cell back out to the desk sergeant. Jamie was accompanied by her father, and Ryan could only think I don't think this is the best way to make Jim start to trust me.

Jamie tossed her arms around Ryan and gave her a fierce hug. "I think Daddy has convinced them to let you go," she said softly. "Trouble just follows you, doesn't it?"

"It didn't used to," she insisted.

"What happened?" Jamie demanded.

"I went to pick Jennie up. She and her mom had a big fight, and she got thrown out again. She was with two of her friends and they hadn't had anything to eat, so I was giving them the money from your ashtray when the spotlight hit me. Of course they all ran, so I was left in your car with no I.D. and three teenaged prostitutes running down the street!"

"Jennie's not a prostitute! You'd know if she was!"

"I'm not so sure," Ryan admitted. "There's not much I'd put past her at this point."

Jim walked over and said, "They've agreed to release you, Ryan. All they really had to go on was the fact that you were in a car that wasn't registered to you and you didn't have I.D. Since they didn't catch the girls, they'd have a hard time making the solicitation charge stick."

"Thank you so much for your help," she said gratefully.

"Well, I have a lot of questions I'd like to have answered, Ryan. This whole incident is very suspicious."

"I understand that," she conceded.

"She doesn't have to defend herself, Daddy," Jamie began, automatically springing to Ryan's defense.

Ryan stopped her as she said, "Why don't you come by the house for some coffee, Jim. I'll explain everything."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Fifteen minutes later they were sitting in the kitchen listening to Ryan's tale. Luckily Mia came downstairs for a drink, and so provided corroborating testimony. Jim seemed placated after she backed Ryan up, and he stood to leave when his coffee was finished. As they walked to the door Ryan said, "I hope I don't get arrested again, but I have to go find Jennie. Otherwise, God knows where she'll end up tonight."

"I understand, Honey," Jamie agreed. "We can go in your car."

"Absolutely not!" Jim said, then immediately backed off when he saw his daughter's face. "Uhh…why don't you let me go with Ryan?" he asked carefully. "You said you needed to study."

She hesitated a little, and Ryan stepped in and said, "It's really fine if you stay, Honey. We shouldn't be gone long."

"Sure?" Jamie asked, a part of her wanting her father to spend a few moments alone with her partner in the hope that a positive shared experience could help to make up for some of the destructive episodes of the recent past.

"Positive," Ryan said, kissing her on the cheek. "Get some work done while we're gone, okay?"

Jamie walked them to the drive, where Jim said, "We'll take my car," as he walked to a full-sized sedan that he had obviously rented, since it wasn't sexy or fast.

"Hurry back," Jamie said as the pair got into the car and took off.

While they drove along, Jim turned to Ryan and asked, "Tell me more about this girl."

Ryan launched into the same spiel she had given Mia, adding some of the more explicit details just to show Jim how lucky he was to have a child like Jamie. "How does she do in school?" he asked.

"Well, that's a tough subject," she admitted. "She's very malleable, and the other kids can talk her into anything. She's been suspended three times in the year and a half I've known her. I'm about out of ideas for how to reach her. When we're together, you just couldn't ask for a sweeter kid. If she was given any love at home, she'd be fine. But she gets so angry at her mom that she does incredibly stupid things to get back at her, but of course it only hurts Jennie."

"Why is her mother so antagonistic?" he finally asked.

"Partly because Jennie is gay," Ryan informed him. "A couple of years ago her mom got religion, and since that time she's tried to force Jennie to follow her beliefs. That's hard to do with any twelve-year-old, but nearly impossible with one as headstrong as Jennie. I know that Jennie gets into a lot of situations that she wouldn't ordinarily be tempted by, but she willingly dives in just to prove that her mother doesn't control her. It's really dangerous, and it just worries me sick."

"She's lucky to have you, Ryan," he said softly, staring straight ahead.

"Thanks," she replied, "but I feel lucky to know her. She's such a bright, sweet kid, and I know she'll be fine…if she survives these tumultuous times."

They reached the neighborhood just as things were starting to heat up. Every corner was filled with kids from ages 12 and up. Some were selling drugs; most were selling their young bodies. Jim looked physically ill as he stared at the young kids struggling to survive with the only tools they knew how to use. "I…I had no idea," he murmured as they passed each little group. Ryan directed him to the side street from which she had seen the police car emerge. About a block down the street, the same car that had picked her up was waiting to be called again.

The passenger window rolled down as Jim pulled up. "Evening, officers," he said calmly. "We're just trying to find a young woman and take her to a group home. I trust we won't be disturbed?"

The officer merely nodded and rolled his window back up. "Chatty fellow," Jim laughed as they pulled away.

Ryan recognized one of the young women who had been hanging out with Jennie earlier in the evening. "Hey," she said, rolling the window down, "did Jennie come back?"

"Yeah, she's down the street about a block. Are you gonna kick her ass?"

Ryan laughed softly as she said, "No. I don't kick many asses. Did you get enough money for some food?"

"No. And I've only blown one guy all night," she said disgustedly.

"Here's forty," Ryan said, handing her the money that she had reclaimed from the police. "Why don't you call it a night?"

"Hey, thanks," the girl said. "What do you want for this? I'll go down on you," she said conversationally. Looking past Ryan to the driver, she twitched her head at Jim and added, "Or him."

"No, thanks," Ryan choked out, a deep flush traveling up her cheeks. "Just get some food."

Jim gave her a wide-eyed look as they drove away, and Ryan just shrugged her shoulders. "Most people want something from them," she said. "They actually are very suspicious of people who don't want sex. It makes them think that you'll want something worse down the line."

"What could be worse?" Jim mumbled, his hands tight on the steering wheel.

They pulled up alongside the small group that Jennie stood with, Ryan opening the car door just as her young friend caught sight of her. She turned and took off again, running as fast as she could, but Ryan was in no mood for her nonsense tonight. She took off after her like a defensive end chasing down a streaking wide receiver and grabbed onto her XX-large T-shirt with enough force to slow her down, then snaked a long arm around Jennie's slim waist and lifted her off her feet, using her momentum to toss the young girl over her shoulder. "One word and I'll spank you in front of all your friends," she threatened as she marched back to the car. She opened the back door and checked the side of the door, flicking the switch she found there before tossing Jennie into the car and dashing around to the other side to get in next to her. "I activated the baby lock on that side, Jim," she informed him. "I don't want this little hellion to sneak out at a stoplight."

Jim turned around to get a look at his passenger, and Ryan could tell that he was astounded by what he saw. Jennie was a very sweet, very young-looking fourteen-year-old. She had an angelic round face, with pink cheeks and dancing blue eyes; with her nearly bald head, when she smiled she looked like one of the adorable babies from the baby food ads. The eyebrow and ear piercings ruined the innocent look, however, appearing so incongruous on the sweet face that it did take some time to get used to her appearance. "Jim Evans, this is Jennie Willis," Ryan said.

"Good to meet you, Jennie," he said. "Where to, Ryan?"

"Our house," she said decisively.

Jennie looked up at her warily. "Why your house? Are you gonna beat me?"

"Jennie," she said softly as she placed her hand on her leg, "I've known you for 18 months. Have I ever given you reason to think I would hit you?"

"Well, no," she said slowly. "But I never got you arrested before, either."

"Good point," Ryan agreed. "But I'm not the type of person who hits. I just want to talk to you and then call your mom."

They proceeded to the house, and Ryan showed her in as Jamie ran to the door to see what had happened. "God, Ryan, I was afraid you got arrested again! What took so long?"

"My friend didn't want to be found. And when I did see her, she ran away. So it took me a few minutes to run her down and carry her back," she said with a grimace.

Jamie looked over at the blushing youngster and slipped an arm around her shoulders to escort her inside. Leaning over, she whispered, "Don't worry about it, Jen, sometimes she picks me up and carries me, too."

That got a small laugh out of Jennie and served to relieve some of the tension in the room. Jamie took her into the kitchen to get her a snack, while Ryan got on the phone and woke Jennie's none-too-happy mother.

"Hi, Mrs. Willis, it's Ryan O'Flaherty."

"Oh great," she groused, making Ryan roll her eyes. "I assume Jennie has convinced you to come to her rescue again?"

"Well, I wouldn't characterize it like that, but she is at my house."

"Aren't you the lucky one," she mumbled. "If you have any sense, you'll give her a good beating and throw her out. That child needs to learn that her actions have consequences. She wanted to stay out all night Tuesday night. Let her see what it's like on the streets. She'll change her tune."

"So you'd rather I let her go sleep on the street?"

"She'll be fine," she said curtly. "She's just got to learn."

"I can't do that, Mrs. Willis," Ryan explained. "I'll bring her home, but I won't throw her out."

"She's not welcome here, Ryan. I will not let her return here until she shows that she's matured."

"Let her stay here overnight at least, Mrs. Willis," Ryan begged. "I can't bear to take her to the Youth Authority. God knows where they'll put her at this time of night."

"You can't coddle her, Ryan," she insisted. "She'll run roughshod over you."

"Mrs. Willis, if I take her to the Youth Authority, I'll have to tell them that you threw her out," Ryan said, playing her trump card. "Do you want to have your parental rights revoked? I don't have to remind you that her social worker wouldn't hesitate to petition the court to do that."

There was a pause as the older woman considered whether or not Ryan was bluffing. Deciding not to take the risk, she snapped, "Fine. Keep her as long as you like. But don't say I didn't warn you."

Jamie had hustled Jennie back out of the room as soon as it was evident that her mom was giving Ryan a hard time, but Jim stayed in the living room with his mouth gaping open. "How could anyone care so little for their child?" he cried as he sank down onto a chair.

"She told me to toss her out on the street so she learns her lesson," Ryan reported, shaking her head slowly.

"That's unconscionable!"

"I agree, and I wish she didn't have to go back, but tossing a rebellious, gay kid into the foster care system is no picnic either. She does pretty well in the group home," Ryan informed him. "It's a good atmosphere for her. Lots of structure-she has little jobs to do around the house, really firm curfew. The problem is that the court doesn't often approve permanent placements with a home like that."

"Why not?" Jim asked.

"Well, for one thing, it's much more expensive than keeping a kid in a foster home. For another, it's hard to supervise one troubled kid, much less eight or ten. The older kids can sometimes prey on the younger ones; they really need to be watched constantly."

"How old is she?" Jim asked.

"She just turned 14," Ryan said, "but she's seen more in 14 years than I have in 24."

"Has she a father?"

"Yeah, and Jennie's crazy about him." Ryan rolled her eyes to show that she didn't agree with the child's opinion. "He's career Navy, remarried with a new baby. He pays child support-the Navy sees to that-but all he's good for is a few broken promises per year. Besides, he's on a ship for months at a time, and the stepmother has no interest in having a 14-year-old to take care of. I doubt she'd be better off with him-even if he'd have her."

"No grandparents? Aunts? Uncles?" Jim asked, grasping at straws.

"No one who wants to be involved. She's really on her own," she said softly, the pain she often felt when she thought of Jennie's situation grabbing her heart yet again.

Jamie and Jennie came back into the living room, and Jennie gave Ryan a very cautious look. "Can I stay?"

"Yeah, you can stay. I'll take you upstairs and get you settled," Ryan said. She placed an arm around her shoulders and guided her upstairs, asking, "Did you get a little snack?"

"Yeah, Jamie fixed me up," she said as they walked up to the second floor.

Jim sat in a depressed silence as the pair went upstairs. "I have such a hard time believing that sweet little girl is so horrible to live with!"

"I don't think she is, Daddy. Her mother is trying to force her to be straight in every sense of the word. She won't let her hang out with other gay kids, she makes her dress very conservatively, she forces her to go to some conservative church where they try to pray her sexuality out of her. It's just a mess. It would be one thing to try to guide Jennie, but her mom just lays down these inflexible rules and then punishes her severely when she breaks one. And she invariably breaks one," she said with a smirk. "Usually a big one." As Ryan descended the stairs, Jamie asked, "What happened this time?"

"She stayed out all night with one of her friends. Hard to imagine she thought she was going to get away with that one," she chuckled.

"Nonetheless," Jim argued, "you don't throw your child out of the house because you don't approve of her behavior."

"Obviously we agree with that opinion, Daddy," Jamie said, as the upstairs door opened and Jennie came out into the hall and looked over the railing. She was dressed in a pair of Jamie's flannel pajamas, the roomy red and black plaid outfit making her look even younger than her fourteen years. "I'm going to bed," she announced. "I just wanted to say goodnight."

"Goodnight, Jennie," Jamie said as she ran up the stairs and kissed her cheek and gave her a hug. "Do you have everything that you need?"

"Yeah, this is an awesome house, Jamie."

"You're welcome any time," Jamie told her, giving her another squeeze. "But next time don't make Ryan spend the evening in jail first, okay?"

"Okay, I won't," she said, an adorable little blush climbing up her cheeks.

"Goodnight, Mr. Evans," she said politely. "It was good to meet you. And thank you for coming to get me. I would have been outside all night if you hadn't."

"My pleasure," he said briskly, but Ryan caught just a glimmer of a catch in his voice. This has really affected him, she marveled.

After Jennie went back upstairs, Jim got ready to leave. "You were a lifesaver tonight," Ryan acknowledged gratefully. "If I had gone back alone, they probably would have arrested me again."

"They didn't look very fond of you," Jim admitted with a chuckle.

Jamie slid her arm around her partner's waist and said, "But to know her is to love her."

Jim wasn't ready to make that concession, but he shook Ryan's hand in a friendly manner and said, "I admire how much you've tried to help that child. You can tell it means a lot to her."

"Thank you," Ryan said. "She means a lot to me too."

"See you Friday," he said as he kissed Jamie goodbye.

Ryan walked over to the love seat and flopped down with a groan as she said, "I thought I was tired at seven!"

"Let's get to bed, jailbait," Jamie said, tugging her to her feet.

"Jailbait is what they call a minor who sleeps with an adult, Babe," she informed her, chuckling a little at Jamie's faux pas.

"Nope. If you were in jail, I'd commit a crime just to get in there with you. You would definitely be jail bait!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As they snuggled in bed, Jamie softly said, "I guess we should be good chaperones and just go to sleep, huh?"

"Yeah, we should. Besides, I've had enough exploration of my more intimate parts for one day," Ryan chuckled.

"What?" she exclaimed indignantly, abruptly sitting up.

"They booked me, Honey. Before they put you in a cell, they do a very thorough pat down."

"Somebody had their hands on you?" she whispered fiercely.

"Yep," she admitted. "It was not an experience I would like to revisit."

"You poor thing! They manhandled you!"

"It was a hell of a night," Ryan agreed, trying to stifle a yawn. "I guess monogamy isn't as restrictive as I thought, though," she chuckled. "I thought you'd be the last woman to touch me quite that intimately."

"Well, you'd better not have gotten aroused by her," Jamie whispered as she climbed on top of Ryan and touched noses.

"Honey, this woman was absolutely scary! If she had aroused me, I'd seek professional help!"

"Boy it makes my blood boil to think of those people roughing you up," Jamie sighed, rolling off her partner. "It just frightens me how easy it is to abuse power."

"Well, in their defense, it did look pretty incriminating. And since I'm so much in favor of cracking down on pedophiles, I guess I can't really complain."

"I can complain plenty," Jamie said. "And if I ever see the woman who put her hands on you, I'll give her a pop!"

"Honey, Mike Tyson would run from this woman. She looks like she eats nails for breakfast. She'd crush you like a grape."

"I would go up against a hydra to defend you, Sweetness. She doesn't scare me!"

"She'd scare you plenty if you saw her snapping a rubber glove onto those big mitts! I'm used to a more delicate touch," she teased, lifting Jamie's small hand and kissing each finger. "And just for the record, I'd be very happy if no other hands ever touched me again."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As a concession to Jamie, Ryan managed to remain in bed until eight o'clock, when she padded downstairs to rustle up breakfast. She was on her second helping of oatmeal when Jennie's sleepy face peeked into the kitchen. "Hi," she yawned as she shuffled in and sat down. "Got any more breakfast? I'm starved."

"Sure. You name it and I can make it for you," Ryan offered. "Breakfast is my specialty."

"Can you really cook?" Jennie asked in surprise.

"Yeah, I cook pretty well. Why, does that surprise you?"

"I don't know. You just seem like the type who would have people cooking for you."

Ryan smirked at her assessment, thinking it a little too accurate for her comfort. "Well, Jamie does most of the cooking," she admitted honestly, "but I can handle myself just fine, thank you. Now what will it be?"

"Can you make pancakes?" Jennie asked hopefully, not often meriting a hot breakfast at home.

"Absolutely. What do you want in them?"

"Uhh…syrup?" she asked, unsure of her choices.

"Don't you want to spice them up? I like mine with bananas and blueberries or pecans or chocolate chips."

"Really? You can do that?"

"Yes, Jennie, I can do that. Now, make a decision," she ordered as she started to mix the ingredients together.

"I'll have them the way you make them for yourself," she decided.

"Okay. Bananas and blueberries coming right up." She mixed the ingredients together and put a little butter on the griddle. Waiting until the butter was hot, she took a paper towel and wiped the pan until the butter was invisible. "Trick of the trade," she said with a wiggling eyebrow. "Too much butter makes the first pancake turn out flat."

"This is fun," Jennie said happily. "I wish I could live with you," she added wistfully.

Ryan gave her a crooked grin as she said, "I'd like that too."

Two minutes later the first pancake was ready, and Jennie dove into it like she hadn't eaten in days. "This is so totally fine," she said happily. "You really can cook!"

"I don't lie to you, Jennie," Ryan responded seriously. "And I hope you don't lie to me." She removed the pan from the heat and sat down next to the young woman. "Tell me what happened on Tuesday night."

"Umm, I went out with my friend Axel," she said simply.

"Why did you stay out all night?"

"His parents were gone, and we were just hangin' out. You know."

"What were you doing?" Ryan persisted.

"Nothing much," she said, still trying to evade the question.

"Jennie, tell me what you did that night. There's no reason for you to stay out all night if you weren't fucked up somehow."

She stared at her plate for a long moment as she tried to decide how honest she had to be. "We had some wine," she finally admitted.

"What else?" Ryan persisted.

"A little ganja."

"Anything else?"

"Huh-uh, that's it."

"How many times have we had the conversation about drinking and doing drugs, Jennie?" she asked, her eyes darkening.

"Um…a bunch?"

"A bunch sounds about right," Ryan agreed. "Has nothing I've said reached you, Jen? Do you understand why it's dangerous to do these things at your age?"

Her little bald head nodded, and she mumbled, " 'Cause my brain's not cooked yet."

"That's right," Ryan insisted, grasping her chin to force eye contact. "Your brain isn't fully mature, Jennie, and exposing it to drugs and alcohol can permanently impair its ability to form itself properly. I'm being totally honest with you here, Jen. I'm not just saying this because I disapprove of drugs and alcohol. It's truly dangerous at your age, and it can have lasting consequences." The child nodded again, her sweet, innocent-looking face making Ryan's heart clench with emotion. "What did you do all night?" she asked. "It doesn't take all evening to drink a little and smoke a little." Ryan's tone indicated that she thought "a little" might have been an inaccurate description of the girl's consumption.

"We were just playing around, you know."

"No, I don't know. I want you to tell me." There was something very evasive about the child's demeanor; she seemed almost embarrassed. Acting on a hunch, Ryan asked, "Did you have sex with your friend, Jennie?"

She laughed nervously, her eyes never leaving her empty plate. "He's gay, Ryan."

"Did you have sex with him?" Ryan asked again in a quiet but determined voice.

Her full lips were pressed together so hard that they were nearly invisible. "Not really…I mean…well, maybe…but just a little bit," she stuttered.

Ryan placed her hands on the wooden back of the chair. She easily moved it so that Jennie was facing her fully, then lowered her head just enough to be able to stare into the girl's eyes. "Tell me exactly what happened," she said gravely. "I want every detail."

A heavy sigh came from the small body, but she blinked slowly and began her tale. "We were a little high. Not that bad, but just enough. I've never really seen a guy, and he's never really seen a girl, and after a while we started undressing each other. It was kinda fun 'cause it was really different, you know?"

"I know," Ryan said, blinking slowly as she fought the nausea that was starting to build. "Go on."

"Well, when we were naked, I asked if I could touch him and he said okay. It was really weird but kinda cool, so I played with it for a while. He got hard and said he wanted to do it, but I was afraid. You know?" she asked with a childlike expression on her sweet face.

"I know," Ryan assured her as she placed her hand on the thin shoulder. "Go on, Jen, tell me the rest."

"We started kissing and stuff, and he kept putting my hand on it. But it kept getting soft-I guess 'cause I'm a girl. So after a while he had me get on my hands and knees so he could act like I was…you know."

"So he could imagine you were a boy," Ryan supplied.

"Yeah. I guess so. I told him we couldn't really do it 'cause I didn't want it to hurt, so he just kinda rubbed against me. It felt pretty good, and he liked it too, I think."

"Jennie, this is really important. Think carefully about everything you remember. Did he at any time put his penis in your vagina?"

"Unh…I don't think so," she said slowly. "Would I know for sure?" She looked up at Ryan with such trust that the woman felt like going to Mrs. Willis' house and knocking her silly for letting her child face such adult experiences alone.

"Was he wearing a condom, Jen?"

"Huh-uh, he said he was just gonna rub against me," she explained.

"I understand that, Honey, but this is important. Did he come inside of you?"

"Umm, I'm not sure how you know that. I'm not really sure," she reiterated, looking as confused as she was embarrassed.

"Oh, Jennie," Ryan said, dropping her head onto the small shoulder. "You're so young to be playing games like this. I just hate to see you put yourself in so much danger."

As Ryan straightened up, Jennie looked up at her with big blue eyes and asked, "Will it be okay, Ryan?"

"I'm not sure, Jen. I'm not sure." She shook her head slowly, gazing at her young friend and watching her composure shatter. Within seconds she was crying fiercely, her small shoulders shaking as she sobbed deeply.

"I'm scared, Ryan. I…I…didn't want to do it, but he really wanted to and…and I didn't want to be a big baby."

Ryan grasped her shoulders and pulled her onto her lap where she rocked her and hummed a little tune for a long while. "I'll do my best to make sure you're okay," she promised, "but we have to go see the doctor today."

Jennie tensed up noticeably but Ryan reassured her. "I'll be with you. I promise I'll take care of you."

Ryan knew that she should just call Jennie's social worker and tell her everything that had happened, but she couldn't bear to think of the child spending the day at some impersonal clinic. She decided to take Jennie to the doctor first, then call the social worker.

When she was composed, Ryan got up and made another emergency call to Alison Aiken, recalling that it had been nearly a year since she had taken Jamie down to see her. Ryan hated to go so far, but she didn't know any other gynecologist and from her experience with Jamie, she knew Alison would be gentle with the child. She spoke with the very competent receptionist and told her that she had a young friend who might have had sex with a boy and that there was a chance the boy was HIV positive. The receptionist told her to bring the girl down, but she couldn't promise that they wouldn't have a long wait.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They had to wait nearly an hour and a half, but they were finally shown into Alison's private office a little before eleven. The doctor strode into the room and gave both women a friendly smile. "Uhh, hi," she said, looking from one to the other. "Who am I seeing today?"

"This is Jennie," Ryan explained, "and I'm Ryan. We met about a year ago when I came down with Jamie Evans," she reminded her.

Alison smiled and said, "Oh yes, how is Jamie?"

"She's great," Ryan said, her smile brightening at the mere mention of her partner. "Jennie isn't doing so well, though. She had a sexual experience on Tuesday night, and we want to make sure that she isn't pregnant. She didn't use protection, so we can't rule out STDs either," she said, giving a small nod at Alison's severely raised eyebrow. Jennie was staring down at the floor, and Alison used her best bedside manner to draw her out.

"Do you want to tell me what happened, Jennie?" she asked softly.

"I was fooling around with a guy and he was rubbing his thing against me. He came, but I don't know if he was in me or not when he did it," she said quickly, having learned the important points from Ryan's questioning.

"Okay," Alison said slowly. "Do you know that there is a significant amount of sperm that comes out of a man's penis even before he ejaculates?"

Jennie's eyes grew wide as she shook her head slowly. "I…I thought that if he didn't…you know…"

"No, Jennie. It's very possible to get pregnant if his penis was inside of you at any time during the act. How old are you, Jennie?"

"14," she said softly.

"When did you first get your period?"

"Right before I turned thirteen," she stated, her voice shaking.

"Would you like me to prescribe birth control pills for you today, Jennie?"

"No, I'm gay," she explained as if that fact inhibited fertility.

"It doesn't matter what you are if you have a penis in your vagina, Jennie. You can still get pregnant."

"I know," she said softly. "I just made a mistake. I won't do it again," she sniffed, trying to hold back the tears.

"Have you ever had a gynecological exam, Jennie?"

"Umm," she looked at Ryan for help as her eyes grew wide. "I don't know."

"Let's do one today," Alison suggested. She buzzed for the nurse and asked her to do the preliminaries. Ryan got up too, but Alison indicated that she should stay for a minute.

"I'll be in as soon as you're ready," Ryan assured the girl as she got up to follow the nurse. Jennie looked panic-stricken so Ryan reassured her, "She's just going to weigh you and get you to give a urine sample. No big deal."

Jennie nodded and followed the nurse. As they left, Alison blew out a breath and asked, "What's the story here?"

"I mentor her through a program for gay teens at risk. She has a very shaky home situation, and her mom threw her out on Wednesday. It turns out that she threw her out because she was out all night with this guy. Jennie definitely identifies as gay and so does the boy, but knowing the crowd she hangs out with, he might be a prostitute. So you should check her for every known STD, including HIV," she said softly, feeling the bile at the back of her throat from merely saying the word.

"Well, most of them won't show up this early. Is there any way you can find out if the boy is HIV positive?"

"I can try," she agreed, shrugging her shoulders. "But I wouldn't be reassured even if Jennie assured me that he was okay."

"No, of course not," Alison agreed. "We'll do an HIV test today, and then she can have another done in six months. Do you feel comfortable being in the room with her, or should I have my nurse be there?"

"I think she'll do better if I stay," Ryan said, "but I sure hope her mother never finds out about this. She's not very friendly towards gay people in general, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let her intimidate me from being there for this kid."

"Okay, let's go," Alison said forcefully as she escorted Ryan to the examining room.

Much to Ryan's relief, Alison found no signs of penetration, commenting casually that Jennie's hymen was intact. That threw Ryan for a loop, but she didn't want to make an issue out of it at this point, so she just exchanged glances with Alison and nodded. Nothing abnormal showed up during the exam, which made sense since the incident was only two days before. Alison told Ryan that she would call her with the results of the blood tests since Jennie did not want her mother to know about the incident. Just before she left, Alison bent over until she was eye to eye with Jennie. "I'm sorry you had to go through all of this, but I hope you understand how dangerous it is to play around without proper safer sex precautions. You're risking your future and your life," she said.

Jennie just nodded slowly and continued to stare at the floor. When Alison left, Ryan went over to the table and gave her a very caring hug. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, but I didn't like that exam."

"Nobody really likes them," Ryan informed her. "And if you keep your private parts private, you don't have to have another one for a few years!"

"That's good enough for me!" Jennie agreed immediately. "Off limits! Once was enough."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan paid for the office visit and the lab tests, silently thanking Jamie for the American Express card. Jennie had insurance, but Ryan knew the claim information would go to Mrs. Willis, and she definitely did not want that to happen.

On the way back to the city, Ryan tried to tactfully get some more information about the boy that Jennie had been with. "Tell me about this guy," she asked casually.

"He's just a guy I know from the neighborhood," Jennie said.

"Which neighborhood?" Ryan asked.

"My um…my mom's neighborhood," she said.

"How old is he?" Ryan asked.

Jennie stared out the window for a minute before replying, "I'm kinda embarrassed to tell."

Oh, oh, Ryan thought. This kid doesn't embarrass easily. "You can tell me, Jen."

"Okay," she grumbled. "He's thirteen. He's still in grade school."

"Really?" Ryan asked in surprise. "How do you know him?"

"He just hangs out with some other people I know. He's kind of a loser."

"So why were you with him?"

"I don't know. I kinda feel sorry for him. The guys pick on him a lot cause he's pretty obvious about being gay. That kinda bothers me, so I talk to him."

"Has he been with many other boys?"

"No," she said, laughing softly and shaking her head at the mere suggestion. "The guys would torture another guy that even talked to him. He told me he hasn't even kissed anybody," she said with an embarrassed giggle.

"So you're sure he hasn't had sex with a guy?"

"Yeah. I think he would have told me if he had. I mean, it's kinda pathetic to be gay and have the first person you kiss be a girl, isn't it?" she asked with a wry look.

"I wouldn't say it's pathetic, but how does he know he's gay?"

"Everybody knows he's gay," she said dramatically. "He's SO gay."

Ryan gave her a pointed look and asked, "If he hasn't had any sexual experiences, how did he know to get you into a position that he liked?"

"He watches tons of porn," Jennie informed her, rolling her eyes. "He said he comes home every day and gets on the Internet for hours. I think he was just doing what he sees in movies. I mean, I really don't think he was trying to come inside me. He just didn't know what to do."

Thank you, Jesus! Ryan prayed silently. "I believe you, Jen, but we should still go back to the doctor in six months and have you checked for STDs again."

"Will she have to put that thing in me?" she asked warily.

"I'm not sure. I know it's uncomfortable, but when you become sexually active you just have to do it," Ryan insisted.

"Okay, I'll go," she agreed glumly. As they rode along Jennie looked up at Ryan and said, "If I could choose a mom, I'd choose you."

Ryan lifted her hand and rubbed Jennie's stubbly head. "If I could choose a younger sister, I'd choose you," she said with a smile. "I would not have been a very good mother if I'd had you at ten."

She grinned up at her and admitted, "It seems like you're a lot older than me. I forget it's just ten years."

"Sometimes ten years seems like a lot," Ryan agreed. "Some of the women I used to date were ten years older than I was, and it seemed like forever."

Jennie looked at her with a quizzical expression and asked, "Have you ever been with a guy?"

Ryan shook her head briskly. "No, I was never interested in guys like that. And since I went to an all girls school, I didn't have many boy friends my age. My brothers' friends were always interested, but my brothers would have killed them if they had even asked me out!"

"I don't blame them," she said with a little blush.

"Who, my brothers?"

"No, their friends. You're about the best-looking woman I've ever seen," Jennie said as she gazed at her friend appraisingly.

"No…trust me on this, Kiddo. The best-looking woman you'll ever see is the one you fall in love with!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

When Ryan stumbled in the door from practice, Jamie was waiting for her with a warm embrace and a hot dinner. "I fed the children earlier so we could have some time alone," she smiled. "Now tell me all about your day."

"Whew! There is a lot to tell," Ryan said. "I learned a lot about my young friend today."

Jamie tilted her head in question as Ryan continued, "It seems that our little radical queer friend just had her first real sexual experience on Tuesday night."

"Are you kidding?" Jamie gasped. "I thought she had more experience than you do!"

"Gee, thanks," Ryan smirked.

"You know what I mean, Hon. Tell me what happened?"

"Well, the kicker is that her first time getting naked was with a boy."

"A boy? Jennie?"

"Yep. I was as surprised as you are, but it seems that her worldliness is a carefully cultivated image. She has had plenty of crushes on girls, and she was thrown out of the house the first time because her mom caught her kissing her best friend, but she's never actually had genital contact with another girl."

"That is amazing! But why didn't you know this before?"

"I bought her act completely. When we first met, I gave her a very frank lecture on safer sex…"

"Without the visual aids, I assume?" Jamie asked with a smirk.

"Yes, Dear. No hands-on demonstrations. Anyway, she listened patiently and has continually assured me that she's never had unprotected sex. Little did I know that was because she wasn't having sex at all!"

"Amazing," Jamie muttered. "So what happened on Tuesday?"

"It seems that she and a younger boy from her neighborhood got a little drunk and a little high and played 'you show me yours and I'll show you mine.' Neither of them really knew what to do, so this rocket scientist puts her on her hands and knees to simulate anal sex. He was just going to rub against her, but neither of them had a clue about what they were doing, and Jen didn't even know if he entered her."

Jamie blew out the breath she did not know she was holding and shook her head. "Let's make sure we only have boys, okay? This is terrifying." After another moment she asked, "But how does she not know if he was inside her or not? I mean, I don't have a lot of experience, but believe me, I knew when Jack was inside!"

"My guess is that he was just bumping around in the general vicinity. He's only 13, probably not even fully developed. Given her position, I don't think he would be big enough to reach her vagina. But if he was just pushing against her opening it could feel like he was inside, given her inexperience."

"But she can't afford to take that risk, can she?"

"No. Of course not. That's why I took her to the doctor. I took her to see Alison since I didn't know any other gynecologists. Oh…I charged the exam and the tests since I didn't want her mom to find out. Is that okay?"

"Of course. What did Alison say?"

"She was confident that she hadn't been penetrated, so I guess we can relax. We had lunch together, and I gave her another long lecture about sex. She seemed pretty freaked out about the whole incident, so hopefully she'll stay away from loaded penises for a while."

"What happened after you went to the doctor?"

"I was able to get in touch with her social worker, and she met with Jennie and Mrs. Willis this afternoon. After a good deal of begging on my part the social worker agreed to let her stay in the group home for a few days while she investigates placement possibilities. I just hope to God they don't put her into another foster care situation," Ryan sighed.

"Why not, Honey?"

"She was in two foster care homes after her mom threw her out the first time," Ryan said. "She ran away from both of them, and the second time she was on the street for more than a week. I spent every evening looking for her, and by the time I found her I nearly did beat her!"

"Good Lord, Ryan. What can we do to help her? I thought she was so jaded that she was past redemption. But it sounds like she's still pretty impressionable."

"I know, Hon. I'm really worried about her hanging out with the street kids. She doesn't have very much common sense, and I'm afraid her friends will lead her to do things she wouldn't do on her own."

"How does she do in school?" Jamie asked.

"When she's not making a point to her mother, she does really well. She's a very bright kid, Jamie. She's very creative and quite talented. She hasn't had much instruction since the high schools don't offer art anymore, but her drawing skills show a lot of potential."

"How about sports?"

"She hasn't done much, but I think she would get a lot out of athletics. Her school only offers the standard girls sports, and she's not interested in them. I think she'd do better with something like golf or tennis."

"I just wish we could do more," Jamie mused.

Ryan looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "You know, I would even be willing to be her guardian, but Mrs. Willis would fight tooth and nail to stop that from happening."

"Well, we'd have to have a very, very long discussion before I'd give the okay to have her move in with us, Hon," Jamie said, smiling at her partner's generosity but not at the thought of being a parent to a fourteen-year-old. "But I understand how much she means to you."

"I guess we just have to wait and see what happens," Ryan said. "I hate to feel so powerless, but in this situation I guess I really am."

"Yeah, I guess that's so." Jamie sighed and said, "If you think you're powerless, think how Jennie feels."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part Ten

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