I Found My Heart In San Francisco
Book 13 Monogamy
By: S X Meagher
As she tried to make her bleary eyes focus, Ryan jogged down the stairs to answer the doorbell. Who in the heck is at the door at this time of the morning? Oh well, at least it got my lazy butt out of bed. If left to my own devices, I would have been tempted to bag my whole morning schedule. As she flung the door open, she was surprised to come face to face with a huge bouquet of flowers, her nose twitching as a spider mum poked her cheek.
"Delivery for Evans-OFlaherty," the invisible deliveryman announced.
"Thats me," she replied, and placed her hands around the substantial vase, relieving the now visible man of his burden. She turned and placed the vase on the hall table, then made eye contact with the visitor. "Do I need to sign for it?"
"No need," the attractive, well-dressed man said. "I own the shop."
Ryan shook her head, a smirk covering her face. "Let me guess," she drawled. "Catherine Evans is behind this special delivery."
"She said it was important that they arrive before you left for school," he said. "My delivery guys dont start until eight, so I thought Id drop them off on the way back from my daily visit to the flower mart."
"Catherine has a way of making things happen," Ryan said.
"For what she spends at my shop, I could afford to go to Holland to pick up those tulips," he said, nodding his head toward the arrangement. "Her complete satisfaction is very important to me." Ryan started to grab her wallet from the table, but he saw what she was doing and said, "No, really, theres no need to tip me. But, I would appreciate it if you let Mrs. Evans know that you were happy."
"Ill make sure to give her a good report," Ryan promised. "Thanks for going out of your way." She closed the door and stood back to assess the gift, marveling at the remarkable assortment of flowers the elaborate ceramic vase held. Snatching the large card, she trotted back up the stairs, dropped her sweats and slid into bed.
"Mmm good morning to the future Mrs. Evans," Jamie purred lazily as she snuggled close.
"Good morning to you, the future Mrs. OFlaherty," Ryan murmured. "Hows my fiancée this morning?"
"Shes good," Jamie mumbled through a yawn. "Hows mine?"
"Shes very good." Ryan wrapped her arms around her still-drowsy partner and cuddled her to her chest. "Shes well-loved, well-rested and ready to blind a few of her classmates when the sun hits her hand." Extending her left hand, she admired her ring, amazed that she felt perfectly at ease to have the substantial investment resting on her finger.
"Do you really like it?" Jamie asked, with the faintest note of worry in her soft voice.
Giving her answer thoughtful consideration, Ryan said, "Its certainly not what I would have picked for myself."
Jamies heart picked up, suddenly chagrined at having asked Ryan such a direct question. She knew her partner was always frank about issues of style; and while she applauded her honesty, for a moment she wished this was one of the times Ryan would humanely lie to spare her feelings.
Ryan continued in her slow, analytical fashion, "Im sure I would have tried to get away with something much more modest if I consented to a ring at all." Now the smaller womans heart began to thud in her chest, beating so loudly that Ryan noticed it. "You okay?"
"Uh-huh," she said tightly. "Go on."
Ryan shrugged and continued. "Im so glad that you didnt consult with me before you bought it. It would have been a shame to let my frugal nature stop me from wearing something this gorgeous. This is a little much for me right now, but Im going to wear it for the rest of my life, and Ill slowly grow into it. If you bought me something I was comfortable with now, it would look kinda silly when I was in my forties or fifties."
"So you do like it?"
Lifting her head up so that she could look into Jamies eyes, Ryan cocked her head and asked, "How could I not like it? Its stupendous, Jamie! Havent I made that clear?"
"Well, you seem a little hesitant "
"Look," Ryan said, lifting Jamies chin with her fingers. "I am hesitant to get used to this kind of lifestyle. Thats no news flash. But being your spouse puts me into this economic stratum, and Ive got to work on getting comfortable with it. It is what it is, and I refuse to have this be a chronic issue between us. Im gonna try to chill a bit and look at the long view."
It took a little maneuvering, but Jamie managed to get Ryans hand close to her face. She spent a moment looking at the ring, admiring the way it looked against the long, elegant fingers. "It suits you," she said softly.
Ryan chuckled and nodded her head. "It does, strangely enough. I dont see myself as the kind of woman whos suited to diamonds of this size. Im gonna have to do some mental adjustments." She gazed at the three oval diamonds, the center stone nearly two and a half carats, with each of the flanking stones over a carat. In color, they perfectly matched her diamond earrings, and the platinum band stylistically tied them to the platinum collars of the earrings as well. "Im very glad that you bought it for me. And Im flattered that you see me as an elegant enough woman to be able to pull off wearing it." They kissed gently, their lips barely brushing against each other. "What about yours? Are you happy with it?"
"Of course I am!" Jamie brought her hand up to rest between them, so they could both view the new ring. "Im glad that we didnt try to make them match," she said, considering the massive differences in the rings. "We would have both had to compromise to get something we both liked. I think its cool that theyre so different theyre as different as we are."
"Yeah. A square cut emerald with two square cut diamonds in a yellow gold setting is about as far from mine as you can get," Ryan said. "Do you really like the square cut? I was torn between the square and the round."
"I prefer the square," Jamie said, "and Im very glad you went with the Princess cut. It has so much more fire than the flat emerald cut. I dont know why, but Ive always pictured a square cut emerald when I thought about my engagement ring."
Ryan chucked as she said, "I can honestly say that the thought of an engagement ring had never crossed my mind. I dont think thats a common lesbian daydream."
"Youre my lesbian daydream," Jamie sighed as she wrapped Ryan in her arms, only to be poked by a sharp object. "Ow!"
"Oops." Ryan giggled as she took the card out from between their bodies. "Forgot about that."
Jamie removed the card from her hand and batted her eyes at her. "Oh you bought me a card. How sweet."
"Cant cop to that," Ryan said. "Its from your mom. She had a bouquet the size of a Buick delivered this morning."
"Really? Thats cool," Jamie said, opening the card. She cleared her throat and read, "Congratulations, Jamie and Ryan. I know that your marriage will bring both of you unlimited happiness. I love you both,
"Shes a peach," Ryan said.
"Theres more," the smaller woman intoned. "We need to get together immediately to start planning! Dinner at my house tonight?"
Ryan pulled the covers over her head and muttered, "She was the soul of restraint for Da and Maeve, but I know shes gonna take off the gloves now. Heaven help me!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Good news, Poppa," Jamie giggled into the phone later that day when she caught her grandfather in. "She said yes!"
"Im speechless," he said. "I thought youd have to spend weeks convincing her."
"No, she jumped aboard without a complaint. Gullible little thing, isnt she?"
"I happen to think you both have excellent taste," he said. "I take it youre both on cloud nine today?"
"Yes, except that mother wants to discuss our wedding plans tonight. I have a feeling thats going to be a bit of a struggle with Miss Cant We Order a Pizza And Be Done With It?"
"At least you dont have to worry that she loves you for your money, Jamie," he reminded her. "Unless shes a fabulous actress."
"No, shes a pretty awful actress, actually. She genuinely doesnt like having this much money. But she was very sweet about the ring I bought her. Nary a complaint."
"Thats good to hear. Its not that common for couples to have the issue of fighting over too much money, but it can be as bad as having too little. Im glad that youre both trying to find a middle ground."
"We are," she said. "But still, Mother might try her patience with her plans for the ceremony. Can I convince you to join us for dinner say, around eight?"
"Im happy to. We have a few things to discuss, anyway, and we can wrap up my issues at the same time."
"Great. Meet us at Mothers.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Hi, Mom, its me," Jamie announced late that afternoon. "Poppas on board, so well be there around eight. Should we coordinate our ideas before we get together?"
"Why would we want to do that? Isnt that the point of the meeting?"
"Not when Ryans involved," Jamie said with a chuckle. "She thought Martin and Maeves reception was ostentatious. I think were gonna have to struggle to get her to agree to anything fancy."
"I dont want to make her uncomfortable," Catherine insisted. "We can keep this very low key."
"But I dont want low key, Mom. I want something memorable. It doesnt have to be opulent or anything, but Ive dreamt about my wedding since I was a little girl. Its important to me."
Catherine paused, thinking that perhaps it was unwise to discuss the issue until the young couple had come to a private agreement about the tone for the ceremony. "I dont want this to cause trouble for you, Jamie," she said. "Maybe we should hold off until you and Ryan agree."
"Dont worry about that," Jamie said. "We dont fight about issues like this. Ryan acts like shes making a huge sacrifice, then I thank her profusely. It all works out."
"If youre sure," Catherine said warily.
"I am. I dont want her to be unhappy, Mom. I can tell if shes really uncomfortable, or being dramatic. I have found one trick that works, though. She likes to be able to compromise about issues like this."
"Thats good to hear," Catherine said, a smile reflected in her voice.
"So, what works is to ask for something outrageous," the younger woman revealed. "Then, the compromise is close to what I wanted anyway."
With a tone that was only partially teasing, Catherine said, "Thats frighteningly devious, sweetheart. Are you sure thats a good idea?"
"Look, Mom," Jamie said. "Shes still talking about how fabulous Martin and Maeves wedding was. She loved the fact that it was a special day and that they had a party that was different from all of their other gatherings. Shes programmed to say that she doesnt want it. If she could let herself go and say what she truly wants, I bet its nearly identical to what I want."
"You know her well, Jamie," Catherine said. "But try not to push her too hard. Theres nothing more unattractive than a woman who constantly manipulates her spouse."
"I understand that, Mom. We do tend to manipulate each other a little bit, but we get over it quickly if we dont get our way. Ill be fine with it if we end up having a barbeque in the back yard. But Im going to ask for more than I want and see where we end up."
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Hey," Ryan called as she ran up the stairs after softball practice. They were on a tight schedule, so she didnt take the time for her usual welcome home buss.
Jamie poked her head out of the kitchen and called up the stairs, "One day of being engaged and I no longer merit a hello kiss? This bodes ill, Ms. OFlaherty."
"Ill make it up to you later," Ryan hollered as she dashed into the shower.
"Youd better," the smaller woman chuckled in a normal tone of voice, since Ryan couldnt hear her anyway.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The first stop was to dash by Martin and Maeves to make their announcement. On the drive over the traffic-clogged bridge, Ryan said reflectively, "This is kind of an odd situation to be in, isnt it?"
"To tell people that were engaged. Its kinda bass-ackwards, isnt it? I mean, weve told people that were, in essence, married. You already wear a wedding ring. We refer to each other as spouses. Yet, now were engaged. Its odd."
"I dont think its much odder than a straight couple who lives together, is it? They probably consider that theyre spouses, too."
"I guess," Ryan said. "I do kinda like the formality of being engaged, to tell you the truth. Its cool to think of you as my fiancée. Its like we get to do the whole thing over again. And having our families with us is going to make it special." She shot Jamie a wide grin and said, "Im really looking forward to this. Its one bit of heterosexual privilege that I want to claim."
Jamie grinned back at her, charmed by how much the ceremony meant to her partner. "You know, I was thinking about it today," she said. "I suppose I should take my wedding ring off until we make it official." She caught Ryans startled look and immediately followed up. "But I cant. I couldnt bear to."
A luminous grin lit up Ryans entire face. She reached across the car and captured her partners hand, bringing it close to her lips for a soft kiss. "Im glad. I dont want you to ever take it off."
"Ill take off the engagement ring when I play golf," she said, "but I leave the wedding ring on all the time. Im developing a nice little callus at the base of my finger, as a matter of fact. I like it," she said.
Since the hand in question was still available, Ryan tickled the callus with the tip of her tongue. "I look forward to developing my own. One more small reminder of my love for you."
"Only you could make a callus sound romantic," Jamie sighed as she unbuckled her seat belt and leaned over for a warm kiss. "Might as well give the other drivers something to talk about on their cell phones," she said.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Anybody home?" Ryan called out as she popped her head into her aunts house. As usual, the front door was unlocked, but she didnt want to fully enter without permission; trying to give the newlyweds some level of privacy.
"Siobhán?" Martins voice carried from the kitchen.
"Yep." She and Jamie entered the house as Martin and Maeve exited the room.
"Did you come for dinner, girls?"
"No. Were headed over to Catherines place for dinner, but we wanted to stop by and show you something first." She was smiling broadly, and Martins smile reflexively broadened to match hers.
"What is it?" Maeve asked.
"Last night we proved that we truly belong together," Ryan said. "We both had the same thought at exactly the same time."
"Get on with it," Martin ordered, his curiosity overriding his normal patience.
"We asked each other to marry," she announced proudly, with both her and Jamie extending their hands to Martin and Maeves astonished eyes.
"Holy mother of God!" Martin reached for both hands simultaneously. "Ive been blinded!" he cried dramatically, as the light hit the substantial stones.
"Oh, girls," Maeve gushed, "Ive never seen two more beautiful rings!" She tore her eyes away from the jewelry to gaze at her niece. "And you didnt talk about this beforehand?"
"No, thats why its so funny," Ryan said. "We knew that we wanted to have a commitment ceremony, but we hadnt discussed it at all."
"Well, this is grand, just grand," Martin enthused, wrapping each woman in a hug, as Maeve did the same. "Congratulations, girls."
"Thanks, Da," Ryan said as she pulled away. "Were running late to get to Catherines, but we had to stop by to let you know."
"Will you be home this weekend, love?"
"No. Another tournament. Were gonna have to start coming over for dinner during the week so I can see you two."
"Wed be happy to bring Caitlin over some evening, too," Maeve offered. "She misses you fiercely when you dont come home. She associates you both with church now," she revealed. "She was anxious all during Mass on Sunday, and I think she was looking for you."
"Id love it if youd bring her over," Ryan said. "But I hate to have you sit through that much traffic."
"Well come early and watch your softball practice," Martin suggested. "Im off next Tuesday and Wednesday. Maybe we can do it then."
"Sounds like a plan," Ryan said as she kissed him goodbye. "Weve gotta run now."
As they ran back down the stairs, hand in hand, Martin found himself transported to the morning that Ryan had announced that Jamie was the one for her. It was the morning that theyd left for Pebble Beach, and father and daughter were able to carve out a few private moments in the midst of doing laundry and packing.
"I cant say Im surprised, but I didnt know you were ready to make a permanent commitment at this point in your life," Martin began.
Ryans clear blue eyes were slightly wide, and her expression was one of pure determination. "This is it for me, Da. You know I dont enter into relationships easily, but this was the most natural thing in the world. I barely had to think about it."
"Thats how it was for me with your mother. Getting married was the furthest thing from my mind, but after a few weeks, it seemed like something I had to do."
"Had to do. Thats exactly it," she said reflectively. "This is something I had to do."
"Im happy for you both," he whispered into her ear as he hugged her close. "I know youll be happy together."
"I know we will," Ryan said, sniffing a little. "I had a very good example of a successful marriage."
Expressing his seldom-revealed regret, Martin said, "I wish you would have had that example for many, many more years, darlin." He held her close as the tears started to fall. "Your mother would have been so happy for you. And she would have loved Jamie like her own. Im sure of that."
"Thanks, Da," she whispered, her voice too raw with emotion to speak any louder. "If its okay with you, I want to give Jamie Mamas wedding ring. I want to always have her with us, and having Jamie wear it will always remind me of her."
He didnt answer verbally, since he was too choked up to speak. He just hugged her so tight she was nearly bruised, giving her his enthusiastic permission.
"Marty Marty." Maeves hand on his arm startled him from his reverie, and he shook his head to clear it.
"Sorry. I was wandering a bit."
"Its hard to see her grow up so soon, isnt it?" she asked softly.
"It is," he said. "Luckily, shes chosen well. I have every confidence that theyll love each for their whole lives."
"I do, too," she said, taking his hand. "Jamies a very lucky young woman. If Ryans anything like her father, and I know she is, Jamies going to be very well loved."
Martin gave his blushing bride a very enthusiastic kiss, giving complete credence to her words.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After Marta had worked her magic with a perfect paella, the foursome got down to business.
"Why dont you start, Poppa?" Jamie suggested. "I know you have some thoughts about the timing of the ceremony."
"All right," he said. "Normally, I have an unwritten rule about marrying people who have only been together a short time. I generally request that a couple be together for two years, and be members of the congregation before Ill agree to join them." Ryans eyes widened a bit, but he quickly said, "There is a benefit to being my granddaughter, though. I know that neither of you are behaving frivolously here and, given what youve been through in the past few months, I think theres been a very good indication of the stability of your partnership. So Im willing to waive my two year rule," he said. "I would, however, like to wait until you have a full year together. Is that something you can live with?"
"Thats fine," Ryan said immediately, and Jamie nodded her consent as well. "We could actually have the ceremony on the anniversary of our " She searched for words to explain their bonding on that June day in Pebble Beach, finding herself completely tongue-tied.
Jamie came to her rescue, saying, "We pledged our permanent commitment to one another on June the fourteenth. I think it would be a great idea to have our wedding right around then."
Ryan nodded at this suggestion, and Charles agreed. "Thats fine, girls. Now the only other thing I need to have you do is participate in our marriage preparation class."
Looking a little ill, Ryan managed to say, "Another class? I dont mean to be difficult, but Ive got about all I can handle on my schedule now, Charlie. How big of a time commitment is this?"
"Its two hours a week for eight weeks, Ryan. Weve got a class starting up on the first week of March for all of the couples marrying in June." He gazed at her thoughtfully for a moment, then said, "I dont feel comfortable waiving the requirement, especially since youve been together such a short time. I think its important and I think it can help assure the success of your relationship."
"Oh, Im not trying to get out of it," she said. "Im trying to figure out how on earth I can participate."
"It wont be easy for me either, Poppa," Jamie said. "When is the class?"
"Its on Thursday nights," he said.
"That clinches it," Ryan said, shaking her head. "We either play on Thursday, or are on a plane going to a tournament. Id have to quit the team to participate."
"No, no, dont be silly," Jamie insisted. "Well figure this out."
Catherine piped up with a suggestion. "Why rush, girls? Now that youve decided not to go to graduate school yet, why not take it easy and have the ceremony later in the summer? That will give you time to plan and relax a bit after you graduate."
"Well, I like the idea of having it be on our anniversary, but I dont see any way around this," Jamie said. "How about August, Ryan? Does that work for you?"
"August 26 is a perfect day," Ryan said, grinning widely. "Its not only a Saturday, its my parents anniversary."
Reaching across the table, Jamie grasped Ryans hand and gave it a squeeze, locking her eyes on her as she said, "Thats a wonderful suggestion, sweetheart." Looking at her grandfather, Jamie asked, "Could we do a class that would allow us to use that date?"
"Yes," he said, looking at his schedule. "I can start another near the end of June. Thatll be just about right."
Giving her partner a big smile, Jamie said, "Lets do it."
Charlie penciled the date in, as Catherine jotted the day down in her massive Filofax. "I think thats a better time anyway, girls," Catherine said. "It gives me six full months to plan." Her eyes were twinkling, and Ryan knew the tag-team harassment was about to begin.
"Can I have a glass of wine before Im beaten into submission?" she asked with an aggrieved expression on her face.
Charlie rose from his chair and patted her on the back. "Buck up, Ryan. Youve marrying into a family of very determined women. You can either submit now, or submit later. Either way, the outcome is predetermined," he said, chuckling softly.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After taking a sip of her wine, Ryan said, "We havent discussed a pretty important element here. Since Im broke, and Da isnt flush, we either have to have a very modest affair, or the Evans family will wind up paying for the entire thing. How do you two feel about that?"
"I want to pay for it," Catherine insisted. "I want you to have exactly what you want, and I dont want you to give the finances another thought." Looking at her daughter-in-law, she asked, "Can you live with that, Ryan?"
"Yeah, I think I can," she nodded. "At least, Ill try my best." Looking at her partner, she said, "Having a wedding has never been a dream for me, but it has been for Jamie. I want this to be perfect for her."
"I want it to be perfect for you, too," Jamie said. "Lets get to it, then. I suppose we have to decide on the location. Id prefer to have the service in Poppas church, and then move to the reception. What about you, honey?"
"Agreed," said Ryan. "Weddings in an informal setting dont seem real to me."
"Excellent," Jamie said, giving her partner a little wink. "See how easy this is?"
Charles made a note in his calendar and nodded for Jamie to continue.
"Next is the venue for the reception. We could do it in Hillsborough, but I was thinking that it might be nice to have it at a hotel, or a club. Id like for Marta to be a guest and she would never be able to let strangers into her kitchen without closely supervising them." She braced herself for Ryans rejoinder, expecting her opening volley to be a suggestion that they have the party in the backyard in Noe.
One dark eyebrow rose, then she nodded her head slowly. "How about the Olympic Club? After all, we are members."
Jamie nearly fell to the floor in amazement, but she managed to cover fairly well. "Youre okay with having it at Olympic?"
"I suggested it," Ryan said, blinking her big blue eyes ingenuously.
"All right," Jamie said, still a little flustered. "What do you think, Mom?"
"I think its a good idea. Olympic has a lot of family memories for us, too, Jamie. Itll be rather homey." Giving Ryan a quick glance, she offered, "My only other suggestion is the Ritz-Carlton. They have a lovely room, and the food is better than it is at Olympic."
Ryan shrugged and said, "Either ones fine with me." Then she relaxed in her chair and took a long sip of wine, smiling serenely at her stunned partner.
Going for an item that she knew would provoke controversy, Jamie said, "Id like to have a formal reception. What do you think, Ryan?"
"Im not sure I know what that means," Ryan said, waiting for elucidation.
"Well, everyone in the wedding party would wear formal attire. Tuxes for the men and gowns of some sort for the women."
"What about the guests?" she asked, looking very dubious.
"The men would have the option of wearing a suit or a tux, and the women could choose between a dress and a formal gown."
Her eyebrows remained in their hitched position as she enunciated clearly, "Some women will be wearing slacks, Jamie. One of them is in the wedding party."
"We can work that out," she soothed. "I know you wouldnt feel comfortable in a bridal gown with a big train."
Once again, Ryan stunned the assembled group when she shrugged her broad shoulders and said, "Okay. As long as I can wear slacks, whatever you want to do is okay with me."
"You dont mind that your cousins will have to wear suits? And your brothers will have to wear tuxes?" This was too much agreement for the smaller womans brain to process, and she took another swallow of wine to calm her nerves.
"Nope. Wont kill em." Another small, satisfied grin took up residence on her face, and Jamie wondered once again who this imposter was.
"Well, maybe we should discuss how many people we want to invite," Jamie suggested, giving Ryan another quick look. "I was thinking about 250."
Now Ryans familiar scowl settled on her face, and Jamie was reassured that the tall beauty at her side was really her partner. "I dont know about that," she said, adding a little headshake to emphasize her disagreement. "I think we might have to go higher than that."
"Well, yeah," Ryan said, ticking the categories off on her fingers. "Family on my side alone will be over 50. If we invite all of my aunts people, I could easily get to 100. I want to invite my volleyball team and all of the coaches, my softball team; the basketball team can kiss my Irish ass," she added with a grin. "A lot of people from the AIDS Ride, some of the people from my old gym " Blinking at Jamie, she hesitated and asked, "Is that too many?"
Jamie held up a hand, trying to make the words coming out of Ryans mouth fit with her usual parsimony. "You dont mind having three or four hundred people at our wedding?"
"Why would I mind?" she asked, cocking her head. "I want to share this with everyone whos important to me." Narrowing her eyes a tiny bit, she asked, "Dont you?"
"Of course I do," Jamie immediately said. "But I thought youd want to keep it simple and quiet."
"Heck no! This is a very big deal to me, Jamie. I never thought Id get to have anything like this, and now that I can, I want to blow the lid off! I want this to be a party that people will remember for years!" Her face was beaming such a wide grin that Jamies astonishment faded away, to be replaced with a matching smile.
"I want that, too," she said, leaning over to press her lips against Ryans. She kissed her cheek several times, adding a firm hug. "I want everyone we care for to be there with us."
Ryan nodded, slipping an arm around her to return the hug. "Weve had the private ceremony. This ones a party."
As she sat upright, Jamie spared a glance for her mother and grandfather, who were both doing their best not to laugh. "The only consistent thing about Ryan OFlaherty is her consistent inconsistency," she announced. "Thank God I love every one of her adorable quirks."
* * * * * * * * * * *
By the time they left, they had decided on either the Olympic Club or the Ritz, depending on availability and capacity; hiring a band so that Rory didnt have to work; a noon church service, with the reception beginning at six oclock; a full dinner with dancing afterwards; and a honeymoon trip of undetermined length and destination.
They were settled in the Boxster, and Ryan had dropped the top, even though the night was cool. She had been going non-stop since six a.m., and she thought the cool air might help revive her. Since Jamie was tired as well, she didnt complain, even though the weather was quite brisk.
Riding in companionable silence until they reached the bridge, Jamie leaned over as far as she could and tucked her left hand under Ryans jacket, knowing that her body heat would warm it in seconds. "You pleasantly surprised me tonight, tiger," she said reflectively.
"How so?" Ryan asked over the whipping of the wind as they passed by the massive supports of the bridge.
"I thought youd have a lot of problems with the ideas I suggested for the reception. Im still amazed at how agreeable you were."
Sparing a warm smile, Ryan said, "Ill take that as a compliment."
"Thats how I meant it," Jamie said, giving her side a little pat.
"I meant what I said earlier," Ryan said. "This is the first and last time Ill ever have a huge party like this. We might as well do it up right."
"Youre honestly okay with all of the elements we decided on?"
"Well, the formal dress is a little much, but I want you to be happy, Jamie. If you get pleasure out of that, I figure its the least I can do. After all," she said, "the bride pays for the wedding. You should have the bigger say."
Giving her a pinch, she demanded, "If Im the bride, who are you?"
"Mmm Im not sure. I only know that Im not the bride."
"Maybe well have the ushers ask the guests whether they want to sit on the bride or the non-brides side," Jamie said.
"Works for me. Im neither a bride, nor a groom. Those terms dont fit me."
"The title doesnt matter," Jamie insisted. "All that matters is that you love me and I love you."
"Thats a title I can get behind," Ryan said, gracing her partner with a winning smile. "Im a Jamie-lover."
* * * * * * * * * * *
When Ryan came home from her morning class on Wednesday, the phone rang right as she was wrestling with the key in the lock. Grabbing the device, she said, "Hlo?"
"Hi, Ryan, its Amanda."
"Oh, hi. Whats up?"
"I think Ive found you a group that will fit your stringent requirements," the doctor said.
"Oh, boy," Ryan said, letting her decided lack of enthusiasm show.
"You dont have to go, Ryan," Amanda said. "I wont think badly of you if youre not able to commit to this. But I believe that at this point, youll get more from the group than you will from me."
Ryan sighed, and chided herself for giving Amanda a hard time. "Lets hear the details."
"It meets in Oakland, which shouldnt be too inconvenient; and the best news is that it meets at 7 a.m. on Monday and Thursday. How does that sound?"
Forcing herself to be polite, Ryan said, "It sounds like you went to a lot of trouble to find this for me, Amanda. I might not sound very enthusiastic, but I appreciate that. I guess the group meets tomorrow?"
"Yes, it does. Bright and early."
"Uhm Jamie and I are going to Las Vegas tomorrow for a softball tournament Im not sure I can "
"When does your flight leave, Ryan?"
Blowing out a breath, Ryan admitted, "Late afternoon. I guess youd better give me the address since I suppose Im headed over there in the morning."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Later that afternoon, Ryan rushed around the house, getting her gear packed for the short bus trip to Moraga for a double-header against St. Marys. The day was very overcast, and promised a good drenching, so she made sure she took the new rain jacket that Jamie had purchased for her. She was almost out the door when the phone rang; and when she heard her fathers voice on the machine, she dashed over and picked up. "Hey, Da, Im about to head out. Whats up?"
"Your aunt and I talked about it today, Siobhán, and were not willing to wait another week to see you. I arranged to take the afternoon off, so were going to come see your game."
Smiling brightly at his thoughtfulness, she warned, "Id love to have you, Da, but it looks like we might get rained out. I hate to see you drive that far for nothing."
"Not to worry. I know its a risk, but one youre well worth. Tell Jamie well see her there."
"Okay. I love you, Da. Thanks for being so supportive of me."
"Always a pleasure, love. Now see what you can do about getting your coach to let you play an inning or two, okay? I want to see you stretch those long legs."
"Will do," she said, knowing that he was kidding.
* * * * * * * * * * *
On the bus ride to St. Marys, Ryan sat in the seat behind Jackie, and they played one of their favorite games "guess whos driving the car." The point of the game was to guess the sex and approximate age of the drivers of the cars they passed, and over the weeks Ryan had gotten quite good at it. But she was still no match for Jackie, who beat her every time out.
Nearing their exit on the freeway they approached a black Nissan mini truck, and Ryan called out, "Two people no, three. A man, a woman and a baby. Both of the adults are in their late fifties, and the baby is " she scrunched her nose as she appeared to concentrate, "about a year and a half." Nodding, she added, "The babys blonde." The bus passed the truck, and Jackie shot a quick look at the occupants, then turned to Ryan with her mouth hanging open. "My parents and my cousin," the taller woman laughed heartily.
"Your parents, huh? Have they been to any of the other games?"
"Nope. They came to almost every volleyball and basketball game I played in, but our games are a little harder for them to get to, since theyre usually in the afternoon. Besides, since I generally dont play, I hate to see them waste a trip to see me sit on the bench."
Jackie gave her a concerned look and asked, "Do you ever resent not playing? I mean, its obvious that you have a ton of talent, Rof."
"No, I really dont," she said. "I played my ass off in volleyball and basketball. Im enjoying being part of the team." She smiled and said, "I think my father would enjoy getting to see me play, but he wont be disappointed if I dont."
"I dont think my parents will get to make it to a game this year," Jackie said wistfully. "This is calving season, and you dont leave the farm when youve got a bunch of animals giving birth."
"How about later in the year?" Ryan asked.
"They promised theyd go to Oklahoma City if we make it to the College World Series," she revealed. "Thatd be sweet."
"Well, were undefeated," Ryan reminded her. "If we keep playing like this, were a lock."
"Uh-huh," Jackie said, knowing that Ryan was joking. "Its one thing to do well in the early season. Its a whole nother thing to kick ass in the PAC-10."
"St. Marys Arizona UCLA no difference," Ryan said, pumping up the bravado. "Just a bunch of girls who cant touch us!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Cal was beating St. Marys 3-0 in the fourth inning when the rain started to fall. It was a light drizzle, not enough to halt play, but it looked like it was the front edge of a much bigger storm. Cal was at bat, and when Jackie went to the on-deck circle to warm up, she took a few tentative swings and signaled the trainer. After a brief consultation, she headed back to the dugout, and Ryan heard Coach Roberts call out, "OFlaherty! Grab a bat and earn your keep!"
"Yes, sir!" she yelled back, getting to her feet so quickly that she almost tripped over her own bag. Sparing a glance a Jackie, she saw her friend give her the okay sign, relieving her worry about her injury. Ryan dashed to the bat rack and pulled out her favorite, then ran to the on deck circle and started to warm up. She didnt have much time to spare, but she did manage to find her family in the stands and give them a ghost of a wink.
Of course, Martin, Maeve and Jamie all waved excitedly, and Ryan hoped that her teammates didnt notice their exuberance. Softball, above all of her other sports, was about being cool and having your family hooting and hollering was far from cool. Inwardly, however, Ryan was tremendously pleased that her family was there to see her finally get to play in a real game.
Julie, the catcher, made the second out, and as Ryan narrowed her concentration to approach the plate, it hit her: Jackie was faking her injury! Her friend had obviously wanted Ryan to get to play in front of her parents and she had decided to take the matter out of the coachs hands. Ryan shot a quick glance to the bench and saw her friend sitting at the far end, grinning widely. Damn! she thought, approaching the plate and knocking the mud from her spikes. Well, no matter how it happened, Im in the game. I might as well take advantage of it.
Standing at the plate, she focused intently, trying to see only the ball. The pitcher had a rough, irregular motion, and she forced herself to ignore all of the twitches and jerks and concentrate on that yellow orb. Ryan had been studying the pitcher throughout the game, and she smiled inwardly when the woman threw her a fastball off the plate, the same as she had with Jackie at her previous two at bats. Assuming that shed follow up with the same second pitch slider that she had throw her predecessor, Ryan focused even more intently, and was ready for the ball when it reached her. She swung and made solid contact, knocking the ball over the head of the shortstop, where it fell, untouched. Lupe, who had been on second, ran for all she was worth, and she scampered across the plate moments ahead of the desperate throw from the left fielder. Ryan knew theyd throw home, so she headed for second as soon as the ball left the fielders hand. The catcher fired down to second, and Ryan arrived a split second before the ball, sliding in safely.
She asked for a time out, and then hopped up, trying to brush the dirt from her once-pristine uniform. But the drizzle had turned the dirt to mud, and she could already feel it seeping through her uniform. Thats more like it, she thought to herself. Nothing like a filthy uniform to make you feel like you contributed!
* * * * * * * * * * *
After thumping Jackie on the head with her oversized first basemans mitt, Ryan ran out to take her position in the field. Sparing a glance into the stands, she made eye contact with Jamie, who blew her a huge kiss, and then tried to get Caitlin to do the same. It was hard to concentrate with the adorable blondes in the stands, but she managed to block out everything except the game, not even noticing when the rain picked up by the end of the inning.
They had a long rain delay, and after having a word with the coaches, she ran over to the fence to speak to her family. "You might as well pack it in. If we can finish this one, we will; but theyre pretty sure theyll call the next one."
"You were awesome!" Jamie crowed.
"It was only a single," Ryan demurred, but it was obvious to all that she was pleased with herself.
"You did well," Martin said. "And thank that coach for finally coming to his senses."
"Will do, Da. Love you," she said in parting. As she dashed back to the dugout she mused, Its Jackie I have to thank. Coach still thinks Im a bench ornament.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Departing Moraga, Jamie drove to Berkeley to prepare for the second wave of OFlahertys visiting the East Bay. With all of their demanding schedules, this was the only night the girls were able to get together with Brendan and Maggie to discuss the real estate plans, so Jamie rushed to the store to buy enough groceries to make a simple dinner for the small group.
By the time the second game was finally called due to darkness and rain, Jamie nearly had dinner ready. Brendan and Maggie arrived well before Ryan returned, and Jamie and Mia entertained the pair with an extended retelling of the engagement ring fiasco. It amused Jamie to no end that the story had already become Mias to tell, but she didnt mind, since her friend did a marvelous job of recounting the tale. They were still laughing when Ryan finally arrived, hair wet and slicked back off her face, but clothing completely dry sparing her a swat from her disciplinarian lover.
After dinner, Mia retired to spend her evening on the phone, while the foursome sat around the table, with Jamie furiously scribbling notes.
Maggie had worked on a few real estate investment partner deals, so she had some valuable insight as to how the deal should be structured. Most of her ideas made perfect sense, but both Ryan and Brendan balked at her idea of how to assign partnership interests.
"I know it makes logical sense to have each cousin get a share equal to the hours he puts in, but thats not a good idea with this bunch," Brendan said, with Ryan nodding her agreement. "The boyos do better when its all for one, one for all."
"If they have to keep track of hours, theyll be squabbling constantly," Ryan said. "I propose that they each get an equal share. Theyll police themselves into working harder that way Im certain of it."
"Okay," Maggie said, while Jamie continued to write away. "Theres no reason that cant work. My family would probably do it the same way."
"So, how should we do this legally?" Jamie asked.
"I think we should form a real estate investment trust," Maggie suggested. "Everyone gets an equal share of the proceeds after expenses. Niall would put up the capital, but he wouldnt get any return on his investment per se his return would come from his work on the house the same as the other guys."
"Is that fair to Niall?" Jamie asked. "Thats like providing an interest free loan."
"I think its fair," Brendan said. "The cousins are really angry about what they consider his unfair profit. If he doesnt make any additional money off of his principle I think theyll be much more amenable to the deal."
"Yeah, I guess I see your point," Jamie said. "Hopefully, Niall wont squawk about it."
"Would all of you want to be partners, too?" Maggie asked.
"No, no, no, not us," Ryan averred. "Were not skilled enough to contribute as much as the boys will, and if we go to grad school in a year we wont want to spend our weekends working that hard. Well help, but out of solidarity not obligation."
"I dont want to join either," Brendan said. "I dont need the extra money enough to give up all of my weekends. Rory might want to, but hes gone half the year, so we have to figure out how to work that out."
"Hes gone half the year, but hes available nearly full-time when hes home," Ryan reminded him. "I think he should get a full share if hes willing to work during the week when hes home rather than weekends only."
"Sounds fair to me," Brendan said. "So, now what do we do?"
"I think we have a family meeting how about next Wednesday?," Ryan suggested. "We can have everyone over for pizza say seven oclock?"
"I can make it," Brendan said, and Maggie concurred.
"Ill start dialing for cousins," Ryan said and picked up the phone to commence.
"Wait, honey," Jamie said, walking over to stop her in mid-dial. "I dont think we should do that."
"Huh? But I thought you wanted to "
"Oh, I do. I just dont think we should be the ones to make the proposal. I mean, the whole point is to have the boys forgive Niall, right? So lets have Niall make the offer over at his house." She was beaming at Ryan, her green eyes dancing with pride at her brilliant idea.
The grin that met her was nearly identical in its intensity. "That is a completely fabulous idea." She handed the phone to Jamie and said, "Call the man and make it happen."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 13