I Found My Heart In San Francisco
Book 13 Monogamy
By: S X Meagher
"Hey, Mia," Jamie said as she entered her friends room on Tuesday morning.
"Hi. Toss me those jeans, will ya?"
Jamie took the jeans from the bed and threw them to her friend. "Wanna play golf with me this afternoon?"
While wriggling into her pants, Mia gave her friend a puzzled look, "Dont you have your teammates to play with?"
"Yeah, I do, and theyll be there, but I want you to help me figure something out. Besides, I havent had a chance to talk to you in any depth since weve both been back. I miss you."
"We do some of our best talking while riding around a golf course," Mia said, smiling. "Yeah, I guess I can do it. I only have one afternoon class today. Will I have to skip it?"
"Well, we play at one "
"No problem. Where are we playing and what do you want me to help you figure out?"
"We play at Tilden. Be home by 12:30 and Ill drive. Our goal is to figure out if one of my teammates is hitting on me."
"Ooh! This Im good at! Is she a hottie?"
"Uhm shes actually pretty cute, but Im not in the market for a replacement. Ryans all I want or need."
"Yeah," Mia said, running her fingers through her curls to provide some order, "I think Ryans enough for any woman." Mia started to gather her books, saying, "I was thinking about her last night after I spoke with Jordy. Having Ryan as a girlfriend is really a full-time job. Shes a weird kind of high-maintenance girl. You dont think of her as high-maintenance, since she doesnt spend a lot of time on her hair or makeup, and shes always ready to go but she gets into so damned much trouble that you have to keep an eye on her all the time!"
"Thats my Buffy," Jamie agreed, smiling broadly. "But I love every little trouble-attracting part of her."
* * * * * * * * * * *
The other girls all chose to walk, so Jamie rented an electric cart so that she and Mia could dish while they drove. "Well, what do you think so far?" Jamie asked, after theyd teed off on one.
"Shes cute definitely cute at least, I think she is," Mia said. "Could she wear that visor any lower on her face?"
"She likes to concentrate," Jamie said. "And Im not seeking opinions on her attractiveness, bud, I want to know if you think shes gay and if you think shes sending vibes my way."
"Oh, lord! Of course shes gay! Are you blind?"
Jamie looked at the determined young woman again, trying to see her through Mias eyes. No matter how hard she tried, Juliet didnt look one bit gayer to Jamie than any of the other players. "I dont see it. I honestly dont."
"How can you not? She oozes lesbianism." Mia gave her a puzzled look, cocking her head while she wrinkled her nose.
"What is it, Mia? What do you look for?"
"I cant believe I have to tell you these things, James, I mean, youre a full-fledged member of the club."
"Well, I dont have gaydar for women, at least. I can almost always pick out gay men, though."
"Now, theres an unhelpful skill," Mia said, patting her hand.
"Come on you have to be able to give me some clues. How do you tell?"
Mia sighed, then looked at Juliet critically. "Okay, heres one. When we went to check in, the guy at the starters window was totally cute. And he was flirting his ass off with every single woman who was standing there. Every one of the women acknowledged him in some way. Those little freshmen blushed, the juniors acted like they didnt notice he was flirting, and you were your usual friendly, but not flirty self. You gave him the Ill be nice to you so you dont give me a bad tee time, but dont get your hopes up, buddy look that youre so good at."
Jamies mouth gaped open in surprise. "I do that?"
"Yep. Constantly. Youve been doing it since I met you, almost 8 years ago."
"Go figure I didnt realize I did that."
"Well, ya do. Now, Juliet she acted as if there was a robot at the window. She didnt acknowledge him as even a human much less a man. Thats gay, Jamie. Way gay."
"Maybe she has a boyfriend, Mia. Maybe she doesnt like to encourage men to flirt with her."
"Nope. Not buying it. When youre attuned to men youre always attuned to them. You dont turn it on and off. The juniors acted like they had boyfriends and they were telling the guy nonverbally that they werent interested because they were taken." Tilting her head in question, she asked, "Do they?"
"Yep," Jamie said, nodding. "Every one of them."
"Ha! Told ya! Im great at this!"
"Maybe she isnt into anyone," Jamie said. "Shes so focused, Mia. Maybe shes asexual."
"Mmm maybe, but asexual women dont put their sunglasses on so they can check out your ass when you put your spikes on."
"She did not!"
"She did so," Mia said, laughing heartily. "She waited until you stuck your foot up on your bumper, then she hurriedly put her glasses on, and turned her head so it didnt look like she was facing your way. But she was," she said, giggling fiendishly. "I moved over so I could see her eyes behind her glasses, and they were definitely on your sweet little ass." She elbowed her friend in the ribs and said, "Your butt looks adorable in those pants, by the way. Can I borrow em?"
"Oh, lord!" Jamie dropped her head and let it rest on the steering wheel. "I dont want Juliet checking me out. It makes me uncomfortable."
"Why?" Mia looked totally perplexed, her face scrunched up in question.
"Because Im married!"
"So? Shes just looking. You dont have to let her touch. Its a compliment," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "I love it when people check me out. Hell, were only gonna be young and hot for a few years. Enjoy it while ya can."
"You and I are wired differently, Mia," Jamie said. "Besides, I know it would bother Ryan, and I dont want to get her riled up right now. Shes got enough people on her hit list."
"She doesnt seem like the jealous type to me," Mia said. "Shes so full of confidence its sickening."
"Mmm not so much now. The carjacking has changed her. She was so jealous of one of the golf pros down in Pebble Beach that she nearly threw a tantrum when I played golf with him."
"Ryan? Ryan did that?"
"Yeah. My sweet Ryan did that. I dont blame her, and I really do understand, but it was still hard. She felt so broken, Mia, that she started to doubt who she was. It deeply affected her self-esteem."
"Uhm I dont wanna pry, but you two looked pretty normal after dinner last night. Is everything working again?"
"Yeah." Jamie nodded as she blushed slightly. "Weve been making very slow, but steady progress, and I thought it might take us another month or so to be open again. But we worked through some tough things on Sunday night, and Ryan really pushed herself. I dont wanna jinx anything, but I think were gonna be fine. I was so moved " She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. "She touches my soul when we make love, Mia, and she touched it all over again on Sunday night. I was so overwhelmed that I decided that I have to marry her," she said, smiling shyly. "I just have to."
Mia threw her arms around her friend and whispered, "Im so happy for you, James; I knew youd get it back. You guys have too good a relationship to let the sex fade away."
"Thanks. I even called my father and asked if hed participate in our ceremony. To my amazement, he not only said yes he was supportive."
"Thats great! So when are you going to ask your maid of honor if shes busy?"
Jamie wrapped an arm around her friend and kissed her cheek. "I dont know when were going to have the ceremony probably early this summer. Can you make it?"
"I think I can squeeze you in. As long as you dont have it during the Olympics, Im there."
"Well, we obviously havent discussed the details yet, but if my hunch is correct, Jordans gonna be an integral part of the ceremony."
"So, Ryan doesnt know yet?"
"Nope. Ive got to get a big, flashy, engagement ring for her," Jamie said, smiling brightly. "This is probably my one and only chance to get some diamonds on that lovely left hand so Im gonna take full advantage."
"You are so gonna take me with you when you go shopping," Mia said. "I wanna go to one of those snooty places where they bring you champagne and caviar while you shop."
"Ill definitely take you with me," Jamie said. "Were gonna have to negotiate on the champagne and caviar, though. You know that I love a bargain as much as I love champagne and those ritzy places are waaaaay overpriced."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Both Jamie and Mia were playing well, and having the cart allowed them to sneak ahead to the green on most holes, giving them time to sit and chat while Juliet and Lauren caught up. "I opened my big mouth at practice this morning, and suggested we have a party at our house this Saturday night," Jamie said, looking glum.
"Oh, James, dont make a big deal out of this. If Ryan sees Juliet staring at you, shell loosen a few of her teeth and itll all be settled."
"You act like this is a joke, Mia, but its not. Ryans usually so placid and peaceful, but lately her temper can get away from her. I know shes feeling a lot better, but I still worry about her."
"Can I come to the party?" Mia asked, "or do I have to make myself scarce?"
"Of course you can come. I dont know why youd want to, to be honest, but youre certainly welcome."
"Why wouldnt I want to come?"
"Well, this isnt the most interesting group of people Ive ever met," Jamie said, shrugging. "The athletes that Ryans played with have been outgoing and fun-loving for the most part, but this group isnt like that at all. I think the fact that many of them have dreams of playing in the LPGA has made them a lot more serious about the game than is wise. Juliet in particular acts like shes merely marking time until she can play professionally. She doesnt seem to be enjoying college at all and that just seems a shame."
"Well, maybe you can have a wild party and loosen them all up. Wanna make Jell-O shots?" she asked, her eyes lighting up.
"Mmm I dont know if thats a good idea. Some of the girls are just 18."
"Youre not their mom, Jamie. Come on, loosen up a little. Part of the fun of being in college is getting drunk. Everybody knows that!"
"Well see," Jamie said, smiling at her friend. "The question remains why you want to come, Mia. Dont you have more interesting things to do on a Saturday night?"
"No," she said, shaking her head. "Its no fun doing things without Jordy. I doubt that Ill hang out much at your party, but I dont want to leave the house if I dont have to."
"Oh, Mia," Jamie said, patting her leg, "I hate to see you so down."
"Its hard," she said, looking like she was on the verge of tears. "I had no idea how hard it would be to be this far away from her." She wrapped her arms around her knees and leaned over, hugging herself. "She gave my life a focus a direction." Looking at Jamie, she cocked her head and asked, "Do you know what I mean?"
"Yes, of course I do, but its only for a few more months. I hate to see you having so little fun during your last semester. Id love to see some spark back in those big, brown eyes."
"Thats where youre wrong, James," Mia said, her voice sounding flat and lifeless. "Its gonna be a lot longer than a few months if Jordan fulfils her dream."
"When she signed on for the team, it was with the intent of staying with them until she was cut. She hopes to play in Athens in 2004."
"Youre youre kidding!"
"Do I look like Im kidding?" Mia asked, looking anything but. "She says that it takes a long time to make a team gel, and that playing together over a period of years is the only way to do that."
"Oh, Mia " Jamie said, patting her leg in sympathy.
"Shes willing to quit after Sydney but I know thats not what she wants to do. Shed only do that if I want her to, and that puts a tremendous burden on my shoulders. Jesus! I dont want her to resent me for convincing her to abandon her dream before shes ready. But I also dont want to live in Colorado Springs for the next four years working at some crap job while shes off playing volleyball all around the world."
"You could go with her when she travels," Jamie said.
"On what? Shell make around $30,000, and shes got to pay for her own housing and meals. That doesnt leave much money to be buying me plane tickets for everywhere on earth."
"But what about her modeling money?" Jamie asked. "I know she has to make a good buck for that."
"She does, but shes trying to put that money aside to pay for graduate school. She wants to get a masters degree when shes done playing, and she doesnt want to be saddled with a lot of student loans."
"You two are very creative people," Jamie said. "I know you can figure this out. Heck, you could go to grad school in Colorado, and that would keep you busy while Jordan was playing. Then youd have the credentials to get a good job and support her while she was in grad school. Youve got to put your minds to it, honey."
"Yeah I guess. It just seems like there are so many barriers, James. It depresses the hell out of me."
"I know," Jamie sighed. "If I didnt have Ryan nearby, Id go bonkers; so I really do understand."
"Who knew being in love with such a wonderful woman could suck so bad?" Mia asked, getting out of the cart and grumbling to herself as she walked to the next tee.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Mias sour mood didnt last long, and when Jamie walked back to the cart after her tee shot on 9 she couldnt help but see the smirk that her friend was trying to hide. "Whats funny?"
"Nothing nothing at all," the curly-haired woman said.
"Come on. I know that look, and I know that Im the butt of the joke. Spill it."
"Well, butt is the operative word," Mia said, trying to look innocent.
"Mia out with it!"
"Okay," she said, still trying not to laugh. "Did you know that you wiggled your butt right before you swing?"
"I do not!"
"Yeah, you do. You always have. Its part of your swing no big deal. But Ive been watching Juliet try to get into position to watch you without anyone else see her do it. That time she almost broke her neck when she backed into the ball washer." Mia was smiling brightly, but Jamies expression did not match hers.
"Damn it! Im gonna have to have a talk with her! I refuse to let her gawk at me."
"What can you say?" Mia asked, still chuckling. "Shes very subtle about it, James. Shell know I ratted her out."
Scowling, Jamie crossed her arms over her chest. "Ill have to wait until I catch her."
* * * * * * * * * * *
After the round, the pair went to a nearby coffee bar to warm up. The afternoon had grown chilly, and there was a definite hint of rain in the air. "Well, that was an all-time sucko round," Jamie said, looking at her scorecard. "I had a 35 going out and a 50 coming in." She looked up at her friend and said, "Of course, trying to swing without wiggling my butt might have contributed to my stellar play." Rapping Mia over the head with the card, she said, "Thanks for totally messing up my swing, pal. I never knew that my butt was the key to my success."
"Why do you think this bothers you, James? Shes not being aggressive or anything. She thinks youre cute. Why is that so awful?"
Jamie sighed and rested her head on the table, mumbling into the wood. "I dont know. I just cant stand the thought of someone looking at me without my permission."
Laughing, Mia said, "James! Youve had the majority of the press corps taking your picture for over a month, and you got through that without much trouble."
Looking at her friend for a moment, Jamie said, "That didnt bother me as much because those werent people in my life if that makes any sense. Juliet is a teammate, Mia. Shes someone who I wanted to get closer to, to bond with. I dont want to feel like an object with someone that I let inside my circle of friends." She shook her head and sat up, running her hands through her hair. "I dont know. I dont have a lot of patience lately. Im not sleeping well again, and its pretty darned easy to piss me off."
Reaching across the table, Mia slipped her fingers through Jamies and held her hand. "Tell me why youre not sleeping well."
"Oh, its the usual," the blonde said, giving Mia a resigned shrug. "I have a couple of good days, then I have a few nights in a row where I have nightmares. They scare me, and make me afraid to go back to sleep."
"Are the nightmares about the "
"Yeah, theyre about the carjacking in some variation. Last night was a new one, though. In this one, we were in the boat with the paramedics and I was struggling to regain consciousness. I finally focused on Ryan, and saw that she was crying hysterically. When she saw I was awake, she looked at me with an expression Ill never forget and said, "We lost Caitlin."
"Oh, God, James! What a horrible dream!"
"The worst part was that I was the one whod lost her. Id been holding her, and shed slipped out of my arms. It was all my fault," Jamie whispered, as tears started to run down her cheeks.
Mia scooted her chair around and wrapped her friend in a hug. "Shh its okay, baby. Caitlins fine. You saved her."
"I know," Jamie sniffed. "But at night, my imagination goes wild. Ive been through every variation possible, Mia. Some nights I die and I feel my soul hovering over my body while Ryan beats on my chest to make me breathe again. That one is so horrible," she whispered. "Seeing the pain on her face breaks my heart and I want to come back so badly but I cant. I feel myself slipping into an unfathomable darkness, and my last thought is that Ill never see my Ryan again."
"Oh, James, thats so horrible," Mia said, tightening her hug.
"Its even worse when she dies," Jamie murmured, her voice choked with tears. "Shes died every way possible in my nightmares, Mia. Shes gotten caught on the submerged car; one of the carjackers fights with her and knocks her out and she drowns; shes fallen off the car and I see her land and split her head open; and they shoot her through the roof of the car. Oh, and I had a doozy where each of us was killed in a dark alley, execution style and I was last. I got to watch both Ryan and Caitie die."
"You poor, poor thing," Mia soothed, rocking Jamie in her arms. "I didnt know it was still so bad for you."
Jamie sat up, trying to regain her composure. "It comes and goes," she said. "Ryans doing pretty well this week. When I wake up, shes usually sound asleep. Its like one of us gets worse when the other one gets better." Wiping her eyes with a napkin, she said, "Anna says this will pass, but its awful while Im in the middle of it."
"Have you told Ryan that youre having nightmares again?" Mia asked.
"Huh-uh. Shes just starting to get some of her equilibrium back, and having her worrying about me wont help a bit. It also wont stop me from having nightmares," she said glumly.
Mia reached out and touched Jamies chin, lifting it so she could see her eyes. "Am I your best friend?"
"Yes, of course you are."
"Then let me act like it. The next time you have a bad nightmare, I want you to come wake me up. I havent been through what you and Ryan have, James Im not all stressed and wrung out like you two are. I have the capacity, and Id like to help you get through this. Knowing youre not alone and knowing that you can talk to someone might help."
Jamie gazed into Mias eyes for a moment, seeing that her friend was very serious about her offer. "All right," she said, nodding her head. "That might help. Lying there in bed and feeling so alone makes it a lot worse. Talking to someone whos not running on empty emotionally would really be helpful." Hugging her friend soundly, Jamie said, "Thanks."
"Dont mention it, James. Were all in this together, babe."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie woke at her normal time on Wednesday, and automatically reached out to cuddle for a few minutes before she had to get up. But her cuddle partner was notably absent, and Ryans side of the bed was cold. Jamie sat up and switched on the bedside light, squinting against the brightness. There, atop Ryans pillow, was a pithy note.
5:30 went riding. Love you, R
Well, given that its 6:05 and still dark out, shed better be using her headlamp. Damn, if its not one thing to worry about with her, its another.
Taking the quickest shower of her life, Jamie got dressed and drove around the streets of their neighborhood, finally finding Ryan about four blocks from their house. She didnt chase her down, since it was nearly time for golf practice, but she had to reassure herself that Ryan was all right. Well, this is going to be fun. Ill get to lie in bed and worry about her, then have to track her down before I can go to practice. No coffee, no breakfast I should be in great spirits today. Shit! I may as well do the damned ride with her!
* * * * * * * * * * *
That afternoon, Jamie sat in Annas office, her mood having grown darker over the course of the day. "I know that I cant make Ryan give up her plans to participate in the AIDS Ride, but Im spending so much of my energy worrying about her! I know thats why my nightmares are back."
"I take it youve told Ryan this?" Anna asked.
Jamie shook her head. "No, I havent." She sat quietly for a moment, then looked at the therapist and said, "One of the reasons we have a good relationship is because I give Ryan the freedom she needs. The problem is that she needs a lot of freedom and when it comes to something like this her needs and my needs cant both be satisfied."
"So does that mean that your needs have to be ignored?" Anna asked.
"No," Jamie said a little tentatively. "Not ignored. But this is an either/or situation. Either Ryan trains as much as she can so she can do the ride properly, or she cuts back and risks injuring herself."
"Theres another option, Jamie, and I think it should be on the table as well."
"Yeah? Whats that?" the younger woman asked.
"You can let Ryan know how much youre worried about her, and try to find an alternative to her doing the ride."
The blonde head was shaking before Anna finished her sentence. "She knows I dont think its wise for her to do this. But its truly important to her."
"And shes important to you, Jamie. Given what youve told me about Ryan, I cant imagine shed intentionally participate in something that was causing you a lot of distress. I have a feeling that you havent made clear to her how much this is worrying you."
"No, youre right," she said softly. "I havent let her know that." She shook her head again and asked, "Is being in a relationship ever easy?"
"Yes," Anna said, smiling. "And when youre feeling better, youll get your perspective back and remember how easy it sometimes is." Annas eyes crinkled up as her smile grew. "You have to realize that youve chosen a woman who will always challenge your patience, Jamie."
"You dont think this is a phase, huh?" Jamie asked, a smirk forming.
"No, Ryan sounds like the type who will always be a handful. But, I have a feeling thats one of her attributes that appeals to you. You dont seem like the kind of woman who would be satisfied with a predictable, stodgy partner."
"Stodgy and Ryan dont belong in the same sentence," Jamie admitted, a smile finally beginning to form.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After her session, Jamie went over to the softball stadium and hunkered down in the warmest, least windy corner. Ashley arrived about an hour later, and came over to sit by her friend. "I just stopped by on my way home," the younger woman said. "Its too cold for me!"
"Its awful out," Jamie agreed, her body shivering.
"Why dont you go home?? They sure arent doing anything very interesting."
"Yeah, I probably will," Jamie said. "Ill leave in a few."
"Okay." Ashley got up and said, "Ill see you when it warms up a bit. Dont freeze!"
As Jamie watched her go, she rolled her eyes as she considered what she was doing. You cant keep her in your sight every minute, Jamie. Sitting here in the cold to keep an eye on her is stupid! You know darned well that shes going to go ride that damned bike for an hour after practice, and you cant follow her around in the car. Youve got to let go!
* * * * * * * * * * *
After returning from her pre-dawn bike ride the next morning, Ryan reached her mother-in-law. "Ive got three hours available from eleven to two," she said. "Is that enough time to go to the best jewelry store you know?"
"Hmm no, that wont do, since its in Rome," Catherine drawled. "But thats ample time to go to the best jewelry store in the Bay Area."
"Great! Should I come pick you up?"
"No, its in the city, dear. Ill meet you. Now, let me in on what youre planning to buy. Are you looking for matching bands?"
Ryan smiled broadly, even though Catherine couldnt see her. "Oh, no. Jamie will want to continue to wear my mothers wedding band. I want to buy her an engagement ring, Catherine. A ring special enough that Jamie will proudly wear it forever."
"Oh, Ryan," Catherine chided. "If it came from you, Jamie would be pleased to wear a ring from a Cracker Jack box."
"Maybe," the younger woman allowed, "but its important to me that she have something really nice."
"Then, Im your woman," Catherine said. "Really nice is my specialty."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Mia was up for a shopping trip as well, and the three of them arrived at Catherines jeweler of choice just after eleven. "Mrs. Evans," the elegantly dressed man murmured as they were admitted to the small store located on the upper floor of a building near Union Square. "Its wonderful to see you again," he said, giving her a wink to show that he remembered to be discreet, careful not to mention that Catherine and Jamie had an appointment for the following Monday to purchase Ryans ring.
"Thank you, Jeffrey," Catherine said. "This is Ryan OFlaherty," she said, "and our friend, Mia Christopher."
"Pleased to meet you," he said to each woman.
"Ryan is in the market to purchase a ring for my daughter, Jeffrey." Ryan raised an eyebrow at the relaxed way that Catherine announced this fact, but she was very pleased by it.
"Marvelous," he said, acting like he was very used to women buying women engagement rings. "We have every style and size stone that you could wish for. Would you like to begin by looking at some diamonds?"
"I think so," Ryan said. She turned to her companions and asked, "Jamies a diamond kinda girl, isnt she?"
Catherine and Mia shared a look, then both of them said, "Or an emerald."
"Really?" Ryan asked. "Weve never discussed this, so I have no idea what would appeal to her."
"Well, she and I talked about it until I was ready to gag her," Mia said. "When she and Jack were getting serious, we went to every jewelry store in town; and she always gravitated towards the emeralds."
"Hmm but she didnt wear an emerald when she was engaged," Ryan mused. "She wore Jacks grandmothers diamond ring."
"Yeah, and she was perfectly happy with it," Mia said. "It didnt bother her one bit that it was a dated style, with a tiny diamond. She was touched that it meant so much to Jack, and that he wanted to share it with her."
"What do you think, Catherine? Would Jamie prefer an emerald? That is," she scowled slightly, "if I can afford one."
"I dont want to influence you too much, Ryan," Catherine said. "I meant it when I said that Jamie would love anything that you gave her." She gazed at her daughter-in-law for a long moment and decided, "If I had to make the choice, though, Id choose an emerald. Shes spoken of emeralds as her favorite stones ever since she was a young girl." Smiling at Ryan, she added, "Besides, diamonds are fairly traditional. And neither of you seems too bound by tradition."
Jeffrey caught Ryans eye and said, "Let me go to my safe and bring out a selection of diamonds and emeralds. Seeing the stones might help you decide between the two."
As he left, Catherine said, "Dont let the cost influence you, Ryan. Youre only going to buy a stone like this once in your life. Im sure Jamie wouldnt want the price to even cross your mind."
Ryan cleared her throat and revealed her plan to her mother-in-law. "Im not using our money, Catherine." At Catherines raised eyebrow she extracted a small, blue, dog-eared document and said, "All of the money I have in the world is in this bank account. This represents the savings that Ive been accumulating since I started to baby-sit when I was 13."
Catherine looked from the bankbook back to Ryans sober face, urging her to go on.
"I wont spend more than I need to, of course, but Id like to use this all to buy Jamie something very special."
"Oh, Ryan! Jamie wouldnt want you to do that! Im sure of it!"
"Its what I want to do, Catherine. Really," she insisted, the determined look in her eyes emphasizing her point. "I want to make a statement with this gift I want to show Jamie that Im giving up all of my worldly goods to commit myself to her. Im not sure why this means so much to me," she said, "but I want to see her wearing the evidence of everything I have for the rest of her life."
Catherine slid her arms around the earnest young woman, repeating an oft-expressed feeling. "Im so glad that she found you, Ryan. You are such a gift."
"I dont give my heart away easily, Catherine," she said. "Jamie deserves everything that I have to give."
A very discreet clearing of his throat announced that Jeffrey had returned, and before Ryan could make her way back to the counter, Mia was eagerly sorting through his selections.
The threesome used all of their allotted time, but by 1:30, Ryan was completely satisfied. Catherine and Mia agreed with her selections wholeheartedly, and after measuring Mias ring finger which was exactly the same size as Jamies they departed the small shop.
"When will you give her the ring?" Catherine asked.
"On her birthday." Catherines eyes involuntarily widened, and Ryan raised an eyebrow and asked, "Thats not a good day?"
Hmm Jamies going to ask Ryan on Valentines Day. It would work out better if they both did it on the same day.
Luckily, Mia was thinking the same thing, and she came to her rescue. "Jack broke up with her on her birthday last year, Ryan. Why dont you do it on Valentines Day instead?"
"Isnt that a little cliché?" she asked.
"No! I think Jamie would prefer it," Catherine said, both she and Mia nodding in unison.
"Shell love it," Mia said once again. "Weve talked about this, Ryan." When Ryan continued to look doubtful, Mia said, "Trust me its a girl thing."
"Oh! Okay, then," she said, as they walked to the elevator lobby. "I dont know where I was when they were handing out the girl lessons, but I seem to have missed every one of em."
"You were probably at softball practice," Mia teased, getting a pinch in the side for her suggestion.
* * * * * * * * * * *
A very tall, very large woman, holding the hand of a much more diminutive one, walked down a dark, damp street just south of Market, heading back to their hard-won parking space. The attractive brunette smiled at her substantial friend and said, "You were a very good sport to agree to take my car tonight."
Ally chuckled softly, squeezing Saras hand as they approached the red Toyota Spyder convertible. "Well, you were a good sport to buy me dinner at such a nice place. Besides, I fit into the car just fine, although, I wouldnt recommend it when it rains."
"I thought you were kidding when you said that we had to have the top down. You werent!"
"Nope. I dont think I fit into the demographic model that car manufacturers in Japan use."
"Its actually a little close for me," Sara said. "The BMW was more my size, but I couldnt make myself buy it. Something about a young lawyer, living in the Marina, and driving a BMW that I couldnt stomach."
When they reached the car, they worked together to drop the top, then they sped off down the street. The air was cool and moist, and there was an acrid, stale smell to the streets down in SOMA. Ally commented, "This comes fairly close to riding my motorcycle. You can still smell the city and hear whats going on all around you."
The smaller woman cocked her head and her eyes narrowed a bit. "You have a bike and you havent mentioned it before now? This is critical no vital information, Ms. Webster. What else are you hiding from me?"
Seeing the gentle humor in the dark brown eyes, Ally chuckled softly. "I swear I wasnt holding out on you. It hasnt come up. But Ill take you for a spin the first chance I get."
"Oh, youll take me for a spin, all right." Sara reached over and gave Allys arm a squeeze. "Theres no doubt about that." They rode along in silence for a few minutes, until Sara gave her friend a tentative smile and slid her hand from her arm down to her thigh. "Do you mind?" she asked softly.
One corner of her mouth curled up in a grin as Ally took the hand and moved it higher, placing it nearly at the apex of her legs. "Not a bit," she said, leveling her gaze.
Sara nearly gasped at the frank, open desire that radiated from Ally, hitting her body like a laser. Deciding to see where things led, she swallowed and asked, "Are you ready to go home? Or would you like to stay up and talk for a while?"
"Id like to talk," Ally said, placing her hand upon Saras and squeezing it gently.
"Lets go to my apartment. I have a parking space."
"A permanent parking space in the Marina," Ally drawled. "That enhances your already substantial allure."
Sara gave her a raised eyebrow glance, seeing the other woman looking at her with thinly veiled interest. Now were getting somewhere, she said, guiding the little car down the wet streets as quickly as possible.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Sara tossed her keys onto the tiny table by the front door and shrugged out of her raincoat. "Let me hang up your jacket."
Ally handed it over and walked into the kitchen. "Id love some water. Do you have any in the fridge?"
"Help yourself," Sara said, coming into the room behind her. "Id like one, too."
Ally took two bottles and politely opened both, then handed one to Sara. The brunette grasped her friends free hand and led her into the living room, sitting very close to her on the sofa. "So what do you want to talk about?" she asked softly as she started to place tiny kisses on her jaw line.
Ally blinked slowly, looking like she was reminding herself of something as her head shook firmly. "I I think we do have something to talk about, Sara," she said, her voice growing earnest. "We need to talk about Ryan and other things."
"Ryan?" Sara asked, her head cocking slightly. "Why do we have to talk about Ryan?"
"I uhm dont want to do this either, Sara, but I think we have to."
"O okay," Sara said, shifting away from Ally and looking at her warily.
The larger woman cleared her throat, then sat up a little straighter. Following a long drink from her water bottle, she looked at Sara and began, "I know she was and is important to you, and shes important to me, too. I want to make sure that we arent fooling ourselves, here. I want to be sure that were not interested in each other because we cant have her." She said this very quietly, looking slightly embarrassed.
Tilting the bottle of water to her mouth, Sara took a long, slow drink, trying to clear her head as the water slid down her throat. Blowing out a stream of air from her pursed lips, she said, "I uhm I could have had her, Ally. She was mine for the asking for almost seven years. Im the last person in the world who can claim that she didnt get the chance to be with Ryan."
Ally shook her head in question, her brow furrowing a bit as she did so. "I dont think I realized " she started to say, but Sara patted her leg and continued.
"Ive never talked to Ryan about this, and I dont think I ever will," the brunette said thoughtfully. "Ive given this so much thought over the past few months, that my head hurts to even talk about it."
"I still think we ought to "
"I agree, Ally. Im only trying to show you that this isnt something that just occurred to me. Ive searched my soul over this."
Scooting a little closer, Ally placed her hand on Saras shoulder. "Im sorry I interrupted. Go ahead."
"As much thought as Ive given to this, I can only come up with one explanation for why I let her go." She turned and gazed into Allys warm eyes and said, "I dont think I ever felt worthy of her." Her eyes closed as she let out a heavy sigh. "I was a year older than her, but from the first time I met her, she was like the older, smarter, more talented kid. Yes, she was my best friend, yes I loved her but I was always slightly intimidated by her. I always felt like shed wake up one day and see that I wasnt who she thought I was." Tears came to her eyes and she wiped at them angrily. "Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecies." She shook her head roughly, a few tears flying from her eyes at the gesture. "If I had only trusted myself, Ryan could have helped me get over my fears and my insecurities, but I ran from them, Ally. I ran from her, and I ran from my sexuality, and I ran from ever letting anyone know me well. I didnt deserve her."
"Hey " Ally tossed an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close, letting her comforting warmth soothe the shaken woman. "Dont be so hard on yourself."
"Im not, Im really not. Im being honest. Ive grown up a lot over the last few years, Ally. I like myself better. If I met Ryan today I think we might have a chance, but that cant happen. Even if we were both single, Im certain that its too late. Id never get over my guilt for hurting her like I did, and I cant imagine that shed ever truly forgive me." She paused for a second and a small smile slipped out. "Well, shed probably forgive me. Shes extraordinary like that. But I know that it couldnt work as much as I would want it to."
"Hold on." Ally held a hand up, shaking her head quickly. "I dont know what went on between you two. I dont know how you hurt her."
Taking a breath, Sara looked at her friend for nearly a minute. "Do you want to know what happened?"
In the blink of an eye, Ally shook her head decisively. "No, I dont. I dont want to know what happened between the two of you, and I dont want to tell you much about what went on between Ryan and me. Thats intensely personal stuff, Sara, and I cant imagine it would help either of us to learn it. All I want to know is how you feel about her now."
Her brown eyes closed and she forced herself to be entirely honest. "If I could change the world, Id be with her until the day I died. But I cant." She looked down and blinked slowly. "Its going to take me a while to completely purge her from my system, but Im resolved, Ally. Shes in the right relationship for her, and I hope it lasts for their whole lives. Im ready to move on, and Im not attracted to you because youve known Ryan. You have your own special allure that isnt at all reminiscent of her."
"Thank you," Ally said softly, her warm Southern accent sending tickles of delight down Saras spine. "Wanna hear my story?"
"Well, its obvious from the way you kiss her when you see each other that you were sexual together, but it didnt work out, or youd be together now. Anything else critical that I should know?"
"No," the larger woman said. "That about covers it." Her expression grew serious, and she said, "You know, if I could change the world Id be with Ryan, too." She sighed and let her mouth curl into a gentle grin. "I wonder how many women in the Bay Area have had that very thought?"
"Probably quite a few. Ive gotten the distinct impression that she got around quite a bit before Jamie tamed her."
Ally twitched her head nervously and said, "Uhm were the only two to fall under her spell."
Sara chuckled mildly and said, "Shes damned near irresistible, Ally. I cant imagine who wouldnt be attracted to her, and Ryans always had a big appetite. I cant imagine her appetite for women wasnt as voracious as her desire for everything else."
"No comment," Ally said. "She and I both have a rather sordid past." Giving Sara a shy look, she asked, "Does it bother you that Ive been with more than a few women?"
"No, no, it doesnt. If we get serious Id need to be sure you could be monogamous, but I dont see why your past is any of my business."
Ally leaned forward and brushed her lips gently across Saras. "Im already monogamous. I havent felt the slightest attraction for anyone else since the day I met you."
"I I havent either," Sara murmured, pulling Ally close and returning the kiss with gentle intensity.
Pulling away, Ally grasped Saras hand and looked into her eyes, saying, "There is something else I need to talk about, and your kisses make me lose my train of thought."
"Name it," the brunette said, giving the larger hand a squeeze.
"Ive been talking to my therapist about you," she said, making Saras stomach flip. "Shes a little worried about my motivations for being with you."
"Go on," Sara said, her stomach churning at what she feared was bad news.
"This is embarrassing for me to talk about, Sara, but I need for you to know whats in my head." She continued, "I have a tendency to be pretty dominant with women. Its something that Ive struggled with, because being dominant is too reminiscent of how my brother was with me. Im trying very hard to avoid getting into another relationship where Im on top all of the time."
The smaller woman nodded, waiting to see if her friend was finished speaking. "I understand that, Ally, I do. I can see that you might be more comfortable if you try not to re-create those dynamics." Sara draped an arm around her shoulders and said, "I worked as a volunteer with a rape crisis help line when I was at Berkeley. Im not an expert by any means, but I do know that your brother wasnt merely dominating you he raped you. Thats a very long way down the road from dominance."
"I know that." Allys voice sounded rough and dry, and she nervously jiggled her empty bottle as she got up. "More water. Need anything?"
Sara shook her head and watched as her friends posture and gait transformed from their usual confident ease into a slow, almost halting way of moving. She sat down inelegantly, then leaned back against the couch. "I want to get rid of all of this. I want to be able to make love with a woman and not have to worry about whos doing what. But I have no idea how to get there."
"How long have you been working on this?" Saras voice was soft and gentle, soothing Ally a little.
"Not very. About 7 months, I suppose. Ive been in therapy for a long time but I had a lot of things on my agenda. This is the first time weve been able to get to my dominance issues."
"Have you always felt the need to be dominant, Ally? Even when you were first having sex with other girls?"
"Always," she said quietly, staring blankly at the floor. "The first time the very first time I tied the girls hands with a sheet."
"You didnt do that against her will," Sara said, the confidence and sureness in her voice startling her friend.
"How do you know that? How can you possibly know that?" Her eyes were wide, and bore a childlike wonder that made Sara want to hold her in her arms and make all of her pain disappear.
Wrapping both arms around the broad shoulders, Sara leaned close and whispered into Allys ear, "You would never ever do to another woman what your brother did to you. I know that about you, Ally. I know that in my soul." Suddenly, the powerful shoulders began to shake violently, and she began to sob. Sara held her close, murmuring soothing words into her flushed ears. "I trust you, Ally. I know you have a very gentle soul. Youve been hurt, but you wouldnt hurt others. Not you, sweetheart, not you."
The tear-streaked face lifted, and red-rimmed gray eyes gazed at Sara for a long while. "Do you trust me?"
"Completely," Sara said immediately. "Well work together, and well find a way that both of us can be comfortable. We will, Ally. Trust me."
"I do," she whispered. "I really do." She looked down again and said, "I worry that you wont be able to wait for me."
"Ive told you before that Im very patient. I meant that." Sara kissed her forehead, letting her lips linger on the skin for a moment. "Well get there, Ally."
The larger woman lay back against the couch again, looking thoroughly wrung-out. "Im beat, but I hate to make you drive me home. Ill call a cab."
"Why dont you stay?" Sara asked. At Allys stunned look, she clarified. "Youre tired, and so am I. Im feeling a little raw from talking about this, and I bet you are, too. Why dont we comfort each other tonight?"
"Ive Ive never slept just slept with a woman. Im not sure I can relax enough to comfort you, or to let you comfort me." She looked terribly sad at this admission, but Sara did her best to reassure her.
"We dont have to touch. Really. I only want to be close." She kissed her cheek and added, "I want to hear you breathe."
Summoning her courage, Ally nodded. "Okay. Do you have a T-shirt that might fit me?"
"Yeah. I can fix you up. I like to sleep in extra large T-shirts, and Im sure one of them will fit you."
Ally stood and wrapped her arms around Sara, giving her a gentle squeeze. "Thank you. For everything."
Kissing her gently, again, just on the cheek, Sara took her hand and led her into her bedroom. Rummaging through a drawer stuffed with shirts, she pulled one out and extended it. "Im not the neatest person in the world, but its clean." Letting her eyes slide down Allys body, she asked, "You dont need bottoms, do you? My sweats wouldnt go to your shins."
"No, Im fine. Let me get changed." The larger woman ducked into the bath, feeling her heart rate rising precipitously. She calmed herself as well as she could and changed into the red, Stanford Law T-shirt, leaving on her pink and white striped cotton boxers. Poking her head out, she asked, "Spare toothbrush?"
Before the words were out of her mouth, a brush was in her hand. "I just went to the dentist," Sara said. "Compliments of my hygienist."
Chuckling, Ally finished her bedtime preparations and went back into the bedroom, trying not to look at the long T-shirt that covered Saras body. She looked so profoundly alluring in the thigh-length shirt, that Ally could feel her pulse start to race, but she knew this was not the night to start experimenting with each other, so she tried to tamp down her lust. "Bathrooms all yours. Thanks for the brush."
Sara walked up to her and kissed her gently, tickling her lips with the tip of her tongue. "Ill save it for you. It might come in handy again," she said, her voice dropping into a decidedly sultry range. She left Ally standing in the middle of the room, hoping that her shaking legs would carry her the three feet to the bed.
Luckily, her legs propelled her properly, and she was firmly clinging to the far edge of the queen-sized mattress when Sara emerged. The smaller woman slid into the bed, staying a respectful distance away. "Is this okay?" Sara asked softly.
Allys tight voice betrayed her anxiety, and Sara tried to loosen her up by talking a little more. "You know," she said, "you dont know a thing about how I normally am in bed. Do you wanna?"
Despite her nervousness, Ally couldnt help but laugh gently. "Uhm sure. Not many women start off a conversation quite like that, but Im game."
"Well, youve told me a lot, and I believe in reciprocating," Sara replied logically. "I uhm dont think Ive ever had a role in bed. Most of the women Ive been with have been kinda like me more concerned about being outed than anything else. Actually, most of the sex Ive had hasnt been all that great." She shrugged her shoulders, the dim bedside lamp illuminating her lovely features. "Its hard to have good sex with someone you dont care for."
Ally reached across the expanse of mattress and placed her hand on Saras hip, closing her eyes at how unspeakably delicious it felt to touch that gentle curve. "I care for you," she whispered.
Saras hand covered Allys, patting it gently. "I know you do. Thats why I know well be able to work things out." She smiled, her eyes twinkling, and said, "Even if the sex we have is very poor quality which I doubt itll be what Im used to."
"Thats strangely reassuring," Ally said, her teeth glinting in the warm light. "Im used to some pretty awesome sex so long as Im completely in control."
"Tell me what that means," Sara asked. "Tell me how you like to have sex."
Sara could both see and hear the larger woman swallow, but Ally forced herself to answer. "I I have to control everything totally everything. I have to make the first move, even deciding when to kiss her for the first time. I want her to be totally compliant to follow my lead, and let me take her where she needs to go."
"Mmm " Saras sultry voice purred. "Sounds divine."
"Yeah well " Ally tried to get some moisture back into her mouth, then she continued. "I need to undress my partner, then I have to decide how to love her. I dont want any direction."
"Mmm what idiot would want to direct you when its clear you know what youre doing?" Sara said, her warm voice sending tingles down Allys spine.
"Uh-huh." Her voice was much higher than normal, but Ally continued. "Then I try to make my partner lose her rational mind. I uhm get a lot of pleasure out of making a woman beg me to make her come. Nothing makes me hotter than to have a woman writhing under me, moaning insensibly," she whispered, unconsciously drawing closer to Sara. "I want her shaking with desire, unable to form a coherent sentence. Her body craving release so feverishly that shes nearly faint."
"Oh, God, I want that," Sara gasped, wrapping her arms around Ally and pulling her tight against her body.
"Whoa!" Allys eyes flew open and she pulled away roughly. "What happened?" Her heart was beating wildly, and she wanted to put her clothes on and bolt, but she forced herself to stay and try to at least appear calm.
"Oh, Ally, Im sorry," Sara said quickly. "I you I just got carried away. I promise I wont do it again."
The larger woman shook her head, then absently patted her friend. "Its okay. I Im pretty sure you didnt drag me over to your side of the bed. I Im very, very attracted to you, Sara. Lying in bed with you and not doing what my bodys telling me to do is damned near torture."
"What does you body tell you to do?" Sara asked, her hand reaching out to touch Allys.
"Huh-uh. No way." The larger woman chuckled softly. "If I tell you, Ill wind up doing it, and thats not how I want to start. Weve got to slow down."
"We say that a lot, dont we?" Sara asked, laughing.
"Yeah, I guess we do." Ally rolled over and hovered above Sara, staring into her warm eyes for a moment, her resolve wavering the longer she did so. "Lets go to sleep before we get into any more trouble. Can I kiss you goodnight?"
"Yes." Ally leaned into her, allowing their breasts to compress together. Then she opened her mouth just a touch and let her lips caress the incredibly soft mouth. Only her strong will kept her from abandoning her decision and ravaging the ever-so-willing woman, but she broke the kiss after a few seconds, already feeling her breathing go ragged. "This sleeping together thing is harder than I thought," she murmured, her eyes filled with desire.
"It is. Much harder than I remember from prior attempts." Sara ruffled Allys sandy hair and offered, "Let me try to help you sleep. Come on, lie on your side."
Ally raised an eyebrow, but complied, rolling over to face the window. Sara scooted up behind her and started to stroke her body soothingly, letting her touch glide over her clothing. "Just relax, Ally. We wont do one thing before youre ready. Not one thing."
After a few minutes, the larger woman began to relax, letting Saras soft touch calm her heart and her libido. "Nice. Very nice," she murmured, feeling her body grow heavy.
"Take nice, deep breaths," Sara said, "Relax and feel my touch."
"Sleepy," Ally sighed.
"Yeah, sleepy." Sara snuggled up against her back, smiling when Ally reached around and grasped her hand, tucking it firmly between her breasts.
Feeling the strong, slow beat of Allys heart underneath her fingertips, Sara kissed the back of her neck and snuggled even closer. "Gnight, Ally. Sleep tight."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Early the next morning, Sara slowly emerged from a very vivid dream to find that her reality was a near-perfect match for her dream. Ally was lying on her back, and Sara was cradled up tight to her side, her head resting on the muscular chest feeling the slow cadence of the other womans heartbeat. It was such a peaceful feeling, that she wished shed never have to move but it was a workday, and her alarm was set to go off in only 5 minutes. Deciding to make use of every precious moment, she started to trail her hand up and down Allys side, trying to wake her slowly so the alarm didnt startle her.
The larger woman was obviously not in favor of waking up at all. She rolled over on her side, taking Sara with her pinning the brunette to the bed with a good portion of weight atop her. This position was even nicer to feel the sheer size of the woman who she was coming to care for deeply, and feel the trust that Ally obviously placed in her to be this unguarded and vulnerable.
All too soon the moment ended, and Sara reached over with a free hand to turn off the alarm seconds before it was scheduled to ring. It wasnt easy, but she slowly extricated herself from Allys hold, then stood by the side of the bed and merely watched her sleep with not a single sign that Ally was going to wake in the near future. The larger woman stretched out, and in seconds was lying on her belly, right in the middle of the bed, Saras still-warm pillow held in one arm.
Going into the bath, Sara took a quick shower and blew her hair dry, then tiptoed around her dim room trying to get her clothes together. When she had everything she needed, she went into the living room to get dressed, managing to do a good job even without a full-length mirror. Going back into her room, she sprayed on a whiff of perfume, then sat down to write Ally a note. They hadnt discussed their plans for the day, but Sara crept over to the bed and noted that Allys watch alarm was set, and she hoped it was set for the correct time.
Placing the note on her pillow, she blew her a kiss and found her briefcase in the living room, then headed out.
Two hours later, a very groggy, slightly grumpy woman finally woke, stretching thoroughly as she called out, "Sara?"
Her hand hit the paper, and she chuckled as she read the note.
Its only six, and I know you dont like to get up this early. So, you have a few options you can take my car home if youd like. The keys are on the front table, and I wouldnt mind a bit. Or, you can do it the hard way and take the bus. Id take the easy way out if I were you and then Ill have a very good excuse to see you again soon.
By the way, my hand was running across some very, very firm skin and taut muscle last night. What was that line you were feeding me about losing so much of your tone from eating a cookie? Youre still as hard as a rock, Ms. Webster, so dont try to play the weakling with me.
I really enjoyed our night together, and I hope you did, too. Knowing you better makes me care for you more and more, Ally. I really appreciate that you let me hold you and cuddle with you I know thats not easy for you, and I admire you for taking the risk.
Have a nice day, and feel free to call me at the office if you need anything. I have almost nothing in my refrigerator, so dont expect much help there, but I have a nice shower with some good-smelling products that you can use. Indulge!
Ally lay on her back and read the note several more times. Gotta love a woman whos not afraid to say whats on her mind. This one is definitely getting under my skin. A soft laugh bubbled up as she added, And she has a parking space!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ally chose to take the hard way and took the bus home unwilling to leave Sara without her car. But before she left, she called her at the office to let her know her plans.
"Is this Sara Andrews, cuddle queen?"
"The one and the same. Do I take it that this is Ally Webster, able to sleep through a 4.0 earthquake and not budge?"
"It is, but only when Im being snuggled thoroughly. I dont sleep very soundly when Im alone."
"Well, well just have to do something about that," Sara stated logically. "Your rest is of prime concern, you know."
"Thanks," Ally said. "Id like that, too. Im gonna take the bus home maybe stop and grab some breakfast on the way. Im uhm busy tonight, but Id love to see you soon. How about tomorrow?"
"I have to work tomorrow, but we could get together kinda late so I could take a nap after I get home from the office."
"That sounds fine. How about 9 oclock?"
"Thats good. Lets get dinner on our own so we dont have to worry about it."
"Okay. Come by my place around 9 well fed and well rested. I look forward to seeing you."
"Me, too. See you then, Ally."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 3