I Found My Heart In San Francisco
Book 13 Monogamy
By: S X Meagher
On Friday night, Ryan dragged into the house at 6:15, tossed her bicycle helmet onto the front table, and called out, "Im home, babe." Idly looking through the mail, she barely noticed when Jamie came up behind her and wrapped her in a hug.
"Hows my sweaty girl?" the blonde asked. "Ready for dinner?"
"Yeah, I guess." Ryan turned around and gave her partner a proper hug. "Let me go get out of these wet clothes, okay?"
"Sure, honey." She pulled back and gazed at Ryan for a moment. "You okay?"
"Yeah, sure. Glad its Friday, though. Its been an extraordinarily long week. I guess its gonna take me some time to get used to practicing every day."
"Thats probably it," Jamie said, patting her lightly. "Go take a quick shower. Youll feel better."
Ryan started up the stairs, and Jamie could just see the fatigue in her body. Of course, you might be tired because youre up before dawn riding your bike for two hours every morning, and another hour after softball but Im not going to say I told you so.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Over dinner, Jamie put on her brightest smile and asked, "So, how do you think your first week of practice went?"
"All right," Ryan said, nodding while she chewed thoughtfully. "I really do like the other girls, and the coach is pretty cool. The assistants are nice, too. I think its gonna work out. I just have to shake this lethargy." She gave Jamie a very perturbed look and said, "Im not bouncing back the way I normally do. Maybe I should start taking some supplements, or something."
"Want me to call the doctor for you, and ask what she recommends?"
Ryan shrugged. "Whatever. I can do it if you dont."
"Hey," Jamie reached out and covered her partners hand, "whats bothering you? I know something is."
Putting down her fork, Ryan pushed her plate away and leaned over, resting her chin on her stacked fists. "Im not having fun."
"Why, honey? Isnt softball like you remembered it?"
Staring across the table, Ryan muttered, "Not softball."
"Huh? What is it, then?"
She said it like a curse, and Jamie got up from her chair and pulled her partner upright. Drawing Ryans head against her, she stroked her back and said, "Tell me, Ryan. Tell me why its not fun."
"Its only work this time," she said, her voice muffled by Jamies sweater. "No camaraderie, no teamwork, no getting pleasure from helping people like you reach a goal."
Jamie pulled back and looked into her eyes, seeing the deep sadness that lurked within the blue depths. Screwing up her nerve, she made the proposal that shed been working on all week. "I have an idea Ive been kicking around."
"Yeah? Whats that?"
"Why dont we consider volunteering this year? Youve always said that the volunteers are the most vital contributors. Why dont we see what its like to be on that team for a change?"
Ryan was quiet for a minute, while her hands nervously played with her silverware. "I dont know," she muttered. "I meant it when I said the volunteers were important. But Im not sure I could stand to drive people around in one of those little vans all day. Id feel all cooped up."
Jamie smiled at her, and said, "How would you feel about it if you could still be on a bike; you could still be outdoors; you and I could be together; and you didnt have to train?"
Ryan crossed her arms and gave her partner her most dubious look. "This Ive gotta hear."
"Ive been talking to the people at the Ride office to see what I could do as a volunteer," Jamie said, surprising her partner completely. "Mostly because theres no way Im going to let you share a tent with some stranger."
"So possessive," Ryan said, reaching out to tweak her partners nose.
"Damned right! Anyway, one thing that we could do together is motorcycle support," she said, waiting for Ryan to respond.
"Motorcycle support?" she asked slowly.
"Yep. I thought it would be fun. Wed be able to interact with a lot of people heck, wed be chatting all day."
Ryan looked skeptical. "Where would you get a bike?"
"I found a place that rents em. I think Ill rent a Harley Sportster. Its much more my size." She blinked her eyes at her partner and said, "Soooo someones Fatboy is still available for use."
Ryan shook her head slowly, letting all of the information digest. "I dont know, honey. I mean, motorcycle support is very important, and the people who do it seem to love it but I dont think its my style."
Jamies heart sank, knowing that Ryan wasnt likely to budge from her first impression. Sighing, she asked, "What is your style, baby? What would make you happy?"
"I need time to think," Ryan said. "Give me a little quiet time, okay?"
"Sure. Uhm theres not much to do to clean up from dinner. Why dont you go upstairs and take a bath or something."
"All right. Ill go chill for a bit."
Jamie did the dishes in a leisurely fashion, and just as she was finishing, Mia came in. There was a decent amount of food left over, so she sat at the table while Mia had dinner, and they chatted about their respective days.
Nearly an hour had passed, but Ryan hadnt reappeared, so Jamie went upstairs to check on her. There was no sign of her in the bath, so Jamie poked her head into Ryans bedroom, slightly surprised to find her sitting on the floor, in a yoga pose looking like she was meditating. Sneaking out quietly, she went into their room and worked at her computer for a long while. It was nearly bedtime when Ryan came in and lay down on the bed, her head down at the foot so she was closer to Jamie. "Well, I think I sorted out what about the Ride means the most to me."
Swiveling around in her chair, Jamie gave her partner her full attention. "Tell me."
"Its always been a multi-step process for me. The training meeting new people sleeping with new people," she added, chuckling a little. "All of that was a lot of fun, and made me feel part of the whole. The months leading up to the ride let me share my excitement with a lot of people, and that really meant something to me."
"And thats why not being able to lead training rides has been so disappointing for you."
"Yeah thats exactly it."
"Well, maybe theres some way we can figure out "
"No," Ryan said, holding up a hand. "It dawned on me tonight that as much as I enjoyed all of that its not why the Ride has so much meaning for me. The bottom line is that all of the other things were nice incidentals. What mattered the most was the quiet time I had every day to think and reflect about Michael. Those few hours each day seemed like a culmination of several months of work that I dedicated to him, Jamie. It was a way to keep him close to my heart."
"I understand," Jamie said, quietly. "Really, I do, baby."
Ryan nodded. "I knew you would once I figured it out for myself. So, Im gonna have to do the work the hard way this time because those hours during the ride mean more to me than the pain Im gonna have to go through to get there." She didnt look terribly happy, but the look on her face was one of resolution, and Jamie knew that Ryan would stick to her path now that she was clear about the goal.
With some trepidation, Jamie got up and lay next to her partner, pulling Ryans head to her chest. As she stroked the soft, dark hair, she offered the suggestion that had occurred to her as Ryan was speaking. "Let me be sure I understand, okay?"
"Youre willing to give up all of the fun parts just to have a couple of hours of quiet time a day during the ride?"
"Yeah. I am. Being out there in nature, making my body do something thats difficult lets me concentrate in a way that Im not usually able to do. Those few stolen hours mean too much to let them go."
"How about this?" Jamie asked. "I agree completely that you need to spend time honoring your cousins memory. I know how easy it is to let things like that slip by when your life is as busy as yours is. I get that, Ryan I do."
"Thank you," the brunette said quietly.
"But this year, with all that you have going on I worry about you, sweetheart; and if theres any way to fulfill your needs without stressing you more, I want you to consider it."
"I know you worry about me, Jamie, but I can take care of myself. Really I can."
Looking into her big, blue eyes, Jamie steeled her courage and told the whole truth. "I cant stop worrying, Ryan. Ive tried to I swear that I have. Ive talked to Anna, Ive prayed over it, Ive talked to my mom but I cant stop worrying."
"Hey," Ryan soothed, shifting to wrap her arms around her partner. "I didnt know it was bothering you this much."
"It is. I lie in bed in the morning worrying about you riding in the dark. And my stomachs a nervous wreck when you ride after practice; there is so much traffic around here, honey. It makes me crazy!"
Ryan was quiet for a minute, her hand softly stroking her partners hair. "Then Ill quit. This is important to me but its not important enough to cause you pain. Ive given you enough to worry about for a lifetime."
Jamie lifted her head and gazed at Ryan for a long time. "You love me very much, dont you."
"I do," Ryan whispered. "I love you more than I ever knew was possible. Youre my life, Jamie."
Kissing her tenderly, Jamie rolled her partner onto her back and stared at her for a minute. "Youre mine, too. So, lets figure out a way for both of us to get our needs met."
"Sounds like youve got something brewing up in that active, little brain," Ryan said, smiling up at her partner.
"I think I do," Jamie said. "I know you need some solitude, Ryan. But I happen to think that you need more than a few hours a day during the AIDS Ride."
"Go on," Ryan said. "I know theres more."
"I think that you should take a week by yourself to meditate, and pray and reflect. I think you need it now more than you ever have, sweetheart. You could schedule it during the same time as the AIDS Ride, and spend some of your time praying for the people on the ride I know that would mean a lot to them, and to you."
"Where would I do this?" Ryan asked.
"Anywhere you wanted to, honey. There are a lot of retreat centers within an hour or two of us, or you could be wild and go to Sienna, or Assisi, or to any of the places that have spiritual meaning for you."
"Damn," Ryan said, her eyes glazing over. "Its too much to consider how much money we have. Lets stay local so I can keep the top of my head on."
"Okay, sweetie. Im sure my grandfather has a list of retreat centers, and Father Pender could hook you up, too. Actually, Poppa went to one a couple of years ago that Ive wanted to go to. It was a silent retreat, and it was for Christians but it was conducted on an Eastern model with guided meditation led by a Buddhist monk."
"Wow, Id love that," Ryan said softly. "Damn, I havent been on a retreat since I was in high school and we just goofed off at that one."
"Will you consider it, babe? Ill be happy to get all of the information for you."
Ryan was quiet for a minute, then nodded her head. "Yeah. Ill definitely consider it. Uhm could we still give a contribution to the Ride?"
"Of course, honey. We can give as much as you want. You know," she said thoughtfully, "theres a retreat center in Santa Barbara. You could go over to UCSB on Saturday and have lunch with some of your buddies maybe feel connected to them that way."
"Thatd be nice," Ryan said, nuzzling her head against Jamies chest. "So, you wouldnt want to go with me?"
"Mmm no. I could never keep my mouth shut for a week if you were nearby. I think this is something you need to do alone. Maybe Ill go to a spa with my mom. Id like to spend some time alone with her this year."
"Wow, were not even together a year, and were planning separate vacations," Ryan said, smiling sadly at her lover.
"Its been a unique year," Jamie said, smiling back and adding a gentle kiss. "But next year, you and I are going to be on our bikes just like normal."
"Thatll be nice," Ryan sighed. "I wanna be normal again."
"Me too, sweetie, me too."
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Want me to go pick up the sushi?" Ryan asked, late on Saturday afternoon.
"Sure. Thatll give me time to finish a few last-minute details," Jamie said.
"You know," Ryan said, twirling her keys on her finger, "you arent putting much of your energies into this party. Its not like you to only order a couple of sushi platters when youre entertaining. Whats up with that?"
"Well, I dont know most of the girls very well, so I dont know if any of them are vegetarians. I figured thered be something for everyone with a big assortment of sushi, since I made sure that at least a quarter of the things are meatless."
"Okay," Ryan said, picking up her wallet. "Whatever."
She started to walk out, but Jamie dashed across the room and grabbed her by her waistband. "Truth?" the blonde asked.
"Yeah, thatd be nice for a change," Ryan said, smiling warmly.
"I think the partys gonna be a big bust, and I dont wanna spend too much time working on it. Im making an effort to try to draw these girls out a little bit but Ill admit that Im not making too much of an effort."
"Thats cool," Ryan said, bending to kiss her. "Im not complaining. I merely wanted to see what was going on in that decidedly pretty head."
"Just being practical," Jamie said. "And thanks for helping me out. Im counting on you charming the pants off a few of these shy little introverts."
"Well, that should make the party interesting," Ryan said. "I didnt know that was allowed under the rules of monogamy but Im up for it." She gave Jamie a lecherous grin and palmed her ass, adding a firm squeeze.
"Youd scare these girls half to death if you looked at them that way," the blonde said, chuckling. "That sexy grin had better only come out if youre looking at me."
The sexy grin appeared on cue. "Thats the only time it wants to come out," Ryan said. "Only you inspire me."
* * * * * * * * * * *
The party had been in full-drone for almost an hour when Mia came downstairs, fresh from a long talk with her beloved. She was feeling quite anti-social, evading everyone in the living and dining rooms to sneak into the kitchen hoping that Jamie had stowed the excess food in there.
She nearly ran into Juliet, or at least the woman who looked like Juliet without a tee stuck between her teeth, or a visor covering her face. "Hey," Mia said. "Juliet, right?"
"Uh yeah," she said, giving Mia a blank look.
"Im Mia, Jamies roommate. We played golf together on Tuesday."
"Oh, right. Hi."
Damn, maybe she isnt a lesbian. I didnt even get into her short-term memory. "Were you looking for something, Juliet? I live here, so I know my way around."
"Uhm no, not really," she said, her nervousness showing. "Im not much for parties, to tell the truth. I try to find the quietest place and just hang out."
Sensing an opportunity to probe Juliets defenses, Mia pulled out a chair and said, "Have a seat. You can sit and chat with me for a while. I dont like crowds, either."
Looking grateful, the golfer sat down, then gazed at Mia, waiting to be led.
"Would you like a drink?" Mia asked. "Jamie didnt want to put alcohol out, since so many of the girls are underage but youre a senior, arent ya?"
"Uh-huh." She looked a little uncomfortable, and said, "I dont drink much, though. I never got used to the taste."
"Ooo lets have some fun, then," Mia said. "Lets make Jell-O shots."
"Ive never had those," Juliet said.
"Well, you will soon. Ill get the Jell-O and the vodka, you put a little water in the tea kettle and were on our way."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan caught Jamie when she saw the smaller woman near the library. Pulling her into the quiet space she whispered, "Im about to take poison! Isnt there anything we can do to spice this party up?"
Jamie shrugged her shoulders. "Naked Twister? Body shots? Russian Roulette? Ill try anything. Actually, why dont we take off? Let em sit here until they bore each other to death, and then sweep up the bodies."
"Damn, if staying at this party isnt a sign of my undying love, nothing is," Ryan said, her grumbling obviously good-natured.
"I cant believe that no one brought a date," Jamie said. "Guys would have at least added a little volume. Ive been to livelier wakes."
"Well, lets try to get em playing a game or something. Anything to make people start talking about something other than golf!"
They started to leave the room, but Ryan pulled her aside to whisper, "Oh, and your friend, Juliet? Big dyke. Weve gotta sit over at Sproul Plaza one day so I can teach you how to pick em out, baby. If you werent sure about Juliet, you clearly dont know what to look for!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
While Mia and Juliet waited for the Jell-O to set, Mia decided to probe a little to see if she could get the monosyllabic woman to open up. "So, Ive never seen you around campus. Whats your major?"
"Really? Thats mine, too. Weird I would have thought wed have been in the same classes."
"I always try to get all of my classes in on Tuesday through Thursday," Juliet said. "That way Im free for tournaments and things. Ive been forced to take some of the worst classes in the major, just because of when the class meets."
"What else do you do for fun, Juliet? I know golf takes up a lot of your time, but where do you hang out?"
"Mmm nowhere, really. I have a room in a private home not far from here. I eat my meals with the family I live with so I dont go out very much. The couple has two young kids, and I watch them in the evenings when the parents go out. I tend to hang around the house a lot."
"Wow that must inhibit your love life. I mean can you have dates stay overnight?"
"Oh, no, Matt and Patricia have asked me not to do that. It sets a bad example for the kids." She shrugged and said, "Its not a problem, though. I dont date."
"You dont?" Mia asked. "At all?"
"No, not really. Not since Ive been at Berkeley."
"Juliet! Youre a senior! Youre wasting your prime dating years!"
The young woman laughed softly and said, "Ive had other priorities, Mia. My goal is to make the LPGA tour. After that I can start to concentrate on my social life."
"Damn," Mia said, shaking her head. "Did you date in high school?"
"Yeah." Juliet got up and pulled open the refrigerator. "Think these are ready yet?"
Mia walked over to her and peered over her shoulder. "Yeah, I think theyre close. Lets have one and then put them back in to firm up a little." She cut 2 generous squares and handed one to Juliet, while letting her own slide down her throat. "Smooth, huh?" she asked when Juliet swallowed.
"Yeah," the taller woman said, smiling. "Really smooth. It didnt taste like alcohol at all."
"Thats the beauty of the Jell-O shot," Mia said. She sat back down and asked, "Would you be interested in going out on a date or two? Im sure I could fix you up if I knew your type."
"Ah no, really, Im not in the market." To get the focus off of herself, Juliet asked, "What about you? Are you dating anyone?"
"Mmm Im not dating. Im in love big time." She gave Juliet a very warm smile and asked, "Wanna see a pic?"
"Uhm sure." She shrugged, looking less than fascinated, but when Mia went to the refrigerator and removed an action picture from a volleyball game showing Jordan and Ryan rising in tandem to block a shot, Juliets eyes nearly popped from her head.
"This this is your ?
"Lover," Mia said helpfully. "Thats Jordan Ericsson. You might have seen her play volleyball, but if you missed her theres still time to catch her in action. Shes on the U.S. Olympic team," she said with a great deal of pride in her voice.
"Wow! She must be great."
"Oh, she is," Mia said. "In many, many ways. Only problem is that shes in Colorado Springs at the Olympic training facility. We cant be together until schools out."
Staring at the picture, Juliet said softly, "Its horrible to be separated from someone you love, isnt it?"
"Yeah, it really is." Mia walked back to the refrigerator and took out the Jell-O. "Care for another?"
"Sure. I didnt even notice that first one."
"Uhm they tend to catch up with you," Mia said, offering fair warning. "Theres over a cup of vodka in here."
"Is that a lot?"
"It depends on what your goal is," Mia said, wrinkling her nose in a grin. "Its just about right if you wanna get wasted."
"Wasted, huh?" Juliet asked. "Ive never been wasted maybe its time."
"Stick with me," Mia said, chuckling. "Ill make sure your first trip to Wastedville is a pleasant one."
* * * * * * * * * * *
At 10:30, Jamie stood in the doorway, waving to the last of her teammates. As she closed the door, Ryan grabbed her from behind, then turned her and pinned her into the corner where she pounced upon her lips. Raining a torrent of kisses upon her sweet lips, Ryan growled as she pressed her hips against Jamies, murmuring, "Finally, a way to get my blood moving again."
Jamie slapped her hard on the butt, unable to stop giggling. "Youre such a bad girl, Ryan OFlaherty. I looooove bad girls." She gave her a rough squeeze and said, "Help me clean up a little and Ill let you do as many bad things to me as you want."
"Mmm motivation," the brunette said, releasing her captive. They started to pick up a wealth of paper cups, plates and napkins, and when Ryans hands were full she popped the kitchen door open with her hip. The dark woman let out a gasp when she spotted Mia and Juliet, sitting or, rather slumping at the kitchen table. "What in the hell is going on in here?" she asked.
Jamie came scampering over, peering around Ryans shoulder to get a good look. The two drunken women looked up at them, two pairs of unfocused eyes trying to think of an appropriate response. "Were doing Jell-O shots," Mia said, her words slightly slurred. "Want one?" She looked down at the empty glass baking dish and scratched her head. "We made two batches. Whered they all go?"
"Right to your heads," Ryan said, walking into the room and depositing the trash she carried onto the counter. Turning to Jamie, she said, "Help me load Juliet into the car. Ill take her home." Twitching her head towards Mia, she added, "You can get Sir Drinks A Lot into bed."
"No, no, Ill take Juliet," Jamie said. "I know where she lives."
"All right. Lets get Mia into bed, and we can take off."
"You dont need to go with, love. Id rather you stayed and kept an eye on Mia."
"Are you sure?" Ryan asked.
"Yeah, Im positive. Put the rest of the things in a trash bag, carry Mia to bed, and by the time youre in bed Ill be back."
"Im not undressing her," Ryan said firmly. "Shes so damned ticklish, its like wrestling a puma."
"I dont need undressing," Mia said, her dignity still intact. "Only Jordy undresses me." As she said those words, she started to cry. "I miss my Jordy." She laid her head on the table and sobbed, with Juliet trying to find her back to pat it.
Ryan met Jamies eyes and said, "No more parties. Clean-up is a bitch!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
With Ryans help, they poured Juliet into the BMW, then Jamie dashed around to the drivers side. "Im gonna have to help her get into bed, so it might take me a few minutes. She lives with a family and Im sure they wouldnt like to have the kids find her passed out in the hallway."
"Dont be long," Ryan said. "Do you have your cell phone?"
"Of course. Ill be back as soon as I can, love. Be nice to Mia, okay? Shes awfully sad."
"I will," Ryan said, smiling. "Ill nicely dump her butt into bed."
* * * * * * * * * * *
When Jamie pulled into the driveway of the home where Juliet lived, she was pleased to see the lights out. At least I dont have to attempt this maneuver in front of an audience. "Okay, Juliet, Id appreciate some help here." She went over to her friends side of the car, and found that Juliet was a bit more cooperative than shed been a few minutes earlier. "The fresh air must have revived you a little," she said.
Working together, they got up to the house, and Jamie got the key into the door hoping fervently that there was no alarm. When nothing chimed, beeped or buzzed, she smiled to herself and helped Juliet up the stairs. Luckily, the golfer was sober enough to find her own room, and after stumbling and crashing into the wall once or twice, they reached the door. Jamie got it open, then helped Juliet in, looking around quickly to make sure they were in the right place. When all she saw were textbooks on a desk, and an LPGA calendar on the bare walls, she knew theyd hit pay dirt.
"Okay, Juliet," Jamie said as she got her to the bed. "Ill get your shoes off, then Ill help you with your jeans. After that youre on your own."
"Kay," the taller woman said, struggling to get that much out.
When Jamie had her as undressed as she was willing to go, she pulled down the covers and helped her into a horizontal position. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, she asked, "Are you going to be all right? I worry that you wont be able to get to the bathroom without hurting yourself."
"Fine," she said, pointing in the direction of the bath. Jamie got up and made sure the path was unobstructed, then turned the light on, pulling the door halfway closed so Juliet could find it during the night.
Returning to the bed, Jamie said, "Im gonna go now. I left your keys on your desk there. I assume the front door will lock behind me," she said, trying to think of what shed do if that werent the case. Shrugging, she said, "I hope you feel okay, tomorrow, even though Im sure you wont."
"I have to pee," Juliet said, looking at the bathroom, which seemed very far away.
Taking pity on her, Jamie helped her up, then waited outside the door, hoping that Juliet didnt lose any of her Jell-O shots. She heard her friend noisily brush her teeth, which seemed like a good sign, then Juliet emerged, looking a little more put-together.
Jamie got her back to the bed, but the larger woman just sat on the edge of the bed, rather than lying down. "Thanks for the help," she said, her voice still slurred, but understandable.
"Hey, no problem. Ive been in worse shape." Jamie reached over and ruffled Juliets hair.
Jamie was surprised when Juliet grasped her hand and held it to her cheek, nuzzling her face against the palm. "Youre such a nice woman," she said, sighing.
"No problem," Jamie said. "Were teammates, Juliet. Youd do the same for me."
"No one else would," she said, a few tears sliding down her cheeks. "No one else cares enough."
"Hey, dont say that," Jamie said, her maternal instincts coming out in full force. "Youre a very nice person. You dont let people get to know you."
"I I cant," she said, sounding defeated. "I just cant."
Jamie stroked her back with her free hand, feeling sorry for the woman who obviously had some serious problems with intimacy. "Sure you can, Juliet. You have to be more open with people, and let them get to know the real you. But you can do it."
"No, no, I cant," she said again, crying harder. "Im so damned lonely."
"Hey," Jamie said softly, stroking her hair, "you dont have to be lonely. Youre a nice woman, youre very attractive, and youre gonna be a big success in your field. I think youre quite a catch, Juliet."
Suddenly, the larger womans arms were around Jamies waist, and Juliet was holding on tight, crying her eyes out. Jamie didnt know what to do, so she continued to stroke her hair and her shoulders, murmuring soothing words. "Come on, now, lie down," Jamie said.
Juliet did as she was told, but she failed to remove her arms from Jamies waist first. The pair tumbled to the bed, their legs entwined. For a second, Jamie was too surprised to move, but when Juliet started kissing her chest, making her way towards her mouth, the shock turned to outrage. "Hey!" Jamie got her hands between them and pushed Juliet roughly, then disentangled her legs and stood up. "Dont you ever try anything like that again!" she said, her face flushed with anger. "Only Ryan touches me that way!" She straightened her shirt, then ran her hands through her hair, trying to control her temper.
By this time Juliet was crying helplessly, and Jamies conscience reminded her that scolding the woman at this point was a complete waste of time. "Juliet," she said, putting her hand on her leg, "get some rest and try to sleep it off. I know that being drunk can make you do things you wouldnt ordinarily do."
"Im sorry," she got out, sobbing roughly.
"Its all right," Jamie said, soothingly. "Just go to sleep. Well talk about this later."
"Do you hate me?" she asked timidly.
"Of course not. Not at all. Now, just relax, will you? Ill see you on Monday morning."
"Im sorry, Jamie," she said once again. "Im so sorry. I couldnt help it "
"Well talk later, Juliet. Now, get some sleep, and try to feel better, okay?"
A few tears were still sliding down her cheeks, and Jamie gave her a compassion-filled look and said, "Its all right, Juliet. Dont worry about it."
"Im sorry," she murmured, lying down with a heavy thump.
"Goodnight," Jamie said, quickly backing out of the room before she had to hear another apology. As soon as she was on the street, she called the house, and Ryan answered on the first ring. "Hi, speedy. I just left the house, so Ill be home in a few. I didnt want you to worry."
"Oh, good. I wanted to get into bed, but I wasnt gonna take my clothes off until you were home. I wanted to be able to come get you if you ran into any trouble."
"Im fine, hon. Get in bed on my side and warm it up for me, will ya?"
"Will do. Hurry home, baby-doll."
Ryan shrugged, even though Jamie couldnt see her. "They just pop out. Lord knows why."
"Ill be right there," Jamie said, smiling at the image of her partner, knowing that she had likely shrugged her broad shoulders when she was explaining herself.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When Jamie got home a few minutes later, her side of the bed was toasty warm at least it looked warm underneath Ryans soundly sleeping body. Well, I guess were switching sides, the blonde decided, getting in on the other side. Ryan immediately cuddled up to her, her warm, sleep-heavy body feeling like a familiar, warm blanket. Damn, Juliet, Jamie sighed, I cant believe you had the nerve to make a move on me after you saw your competition. Do you have a death wish?
* * * * * * * * * * *
After sleeping in, and taking a few minutes to check on Mia, Jamie and Ryan went to Noe Valley to spend the day with the family. Martin and Maeve and Caitlin had saved them seats at Mass, and the five-some spent the service passing Caitlin from one person to the other playing the usual game of "who can entertain a 16-month-old for more than 10 minutes."
Ryan had possession of the toddler when it was time to file out of the pew for communion, and as usual, she and Jamie stood side-by-side in the line. It wasnt a common thing at their parish, but a few couples stood next to one another while receiving the Eucharist, and Ryan liked the idea, so she and Jamie had adopted the practice not long after theyd started attending St. Phils. When they got near the front of the line, the usher directed them to a Eucharistic Minister who stood to the right of Father Pender. Jamie started to go where she was directed, but Ryan tugged on her, staying right where she was. Jamie looked up at her quizzically, then shot a glance at the man from whom they were supposed to receive the sacrament. He gave her a very perturbed look, but she merely shrugged slightly, waiting for Father Pender as Ryan was intent on doing.
After Mass, they went out to the patio to purchase some coffee and donuts that the parish Girl Scout troop was offering. While they waited in line, Jamie asked, "Hey, why were you so intent on receiving communion from Father Pender?"
"Oh, I wasnt," Ryan said. "I didnt like the alternative."
"Well, that guy was pissed off. He gave me a look like he wanted to throttle me."
"No, honey, he was giving us that look before we were directed to go to him. Thats why I refused to do it. That kindly soul is Robert Andrews, Saras dad."
"Oh! So, I wasnt imagining the look!"
"Nope. As soon as he saw us, he started to put a puss on. No way Im having him try to choke me with a communion wafer."
While they were chatting, Father Pender came up to say hello. Martin and Maeve were sitting at a table with Caitlin, everyone knowing that having the child near the donut table was a recipe for disaster. "Siobhán, Jamie, how are you both?"
"Were good," Ryan said. "Buy you a cup of coffee, Father?"
"Thatd be lovely," he said, smiling.
"Could you steer me to a list of good retreat houses, Father?" Ryan asked. "Im thinking about going away for a week this summer, and Id like to find a good place."
"Oh, certainly. What type are you looking for?"
"Well, Im not sure how many options there are," she said.
"There are more styles of retreat than snakes in Ireland before St. Patrick," he said, his eyes crinkling up. "Stop by the rectory before you leave. My secretary has a list of all of the places in the Archdiocese."
"Thanks, Father. I will."
Looking at her for a moment, he asked quietly, "How are things going with you personally, Siobhán? Feeling better?"
"Yeah, Im feeling less guilty about shooting that guy," she said, "but my tempers still pretty explosive. Im about out of cheeks to turn, Father."
"Youll get there," he said, gripping her shoulder. "Youre a very forgiving girl."
"Up until now I have been," she said, "but Ive never really been tested before."
Jamie gave her a look that questioned her sanity, and Ryan chuckled softly, "Okay, I guess I have been pretty even-tempered before now. My reserves are dangerously low."
"Time and prayer will help you store up all the reserves you need," the priest assured her.
"I hope the reserves are back up before I need them," Ryan said. "I dont want to find out what Im capable of."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Martin and Maeve stayed behind to socialize, since Caitlin had found a boyfriend and was playing happily with the little fellow. On the walk home, Jamie held Ryans hand, looking up to ask, "How are you feeling?"
"Uhm good?" Ryan replied.
"Nice and peaceful? Full of good will towards your fellow person?"
"Who am I going to want to kill, and why?" Ryan asked, giving Jamies hand a squeeze.
"Mmm maybe Juliet."
Stopping dead in her tracks, the blue eyes narrowed and Ryan turned slowly, gazing at Jamie for several seconds before she asked, "What did she do?"
"Uhm you know how drunk she was last night, honey "
Giving her a look that could peel paint, Ryan repeated herself, slowly this time. "What did she do?"
Knowing that she was unable to make it sound better than it was, Jamie told the tale. "I got her into bed and she started crying, saying that no one liked her and things like that. I patted her back and smoothed her hair a little bit just being nice," she said. "She either got the wrong impression from that, or she just lost it, because she put her arms around me and we fell onto the bed together. She uhm kissed my chest, and my neck, and was on her way to moving up when I pushed her away and got up. I told her off, Ryan, and warned her to never do anything like that again."
Jamie looked up at her partner, practically able to see steam coming out of her ears. Without a word, Ryan turned and started to walk home, her grip on Jamies hand just short of painful. Knowing that her partner needed a few minutes to calm down, Jamie didnt say a word. When they got to the house, Ryan strode up to the BMW and beeped the doors open. As she started to get in, Jamie asked, "Where are you going?"
"Were going to Berkeley," she said, her voice flat, but bursting with menace.
"Oh, no, were not. No, way, Ryan!"
"There is no way in hell that Im gonna let her get away with that, Jamie. You are not some piece of meat that she can paw whenever she wants to."
"Im also not an airhead who cant protect herself," the blonde said, her voice starting to rise.
"Get in the car!"
"I will not!"
Jamie started for the stairs, not slowing down when she heard the car door slam loudly.
Conor and Kevin were in the kitchen when Jamie entered, and they called out a greeting. Before Jamie could reply, Ryan strode into the house, saying only one word in a very loud voice. "Downstairs!"
Rolling her eyes at the boys, who each gave her a wide-eyed look, Jamie shook her head and followed her furious partner down to their room. Closing the door, Jamie gently pushed her partner down onto the loveseat and straddled her. "Listen to me," she said, her cheeks pink with anger, "you have every right to be upset by someone trying to touch me against my will, but it was me who was touched, Ryan. Im the one who should be indignant not you. Im not your property, and I dont like being treated as such. Now, calm down and chill." She got up and went to the built-in drawers, pulling out a sweater and a pair of jeans. While Jamie changed, Ryan didnt say a word, she just sat on the loveseat, looking like she was about to explode.
When Jamie was finished, Ryan rose, changed into sweats and laced up a pair of running shoes. "Im going out for a run," she said, not waiting for a response.
The blonde shook her head and went upstairs to chat with the boys, trying to think of an excuse for her partners bad manners that wouldnt reveal anything too personal.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan was gone for a long time a very long time. Jamie had called her father, her mother, her grandfather, and had made a good dent in her accounting homework by the time the sweat-drenched woman returned home.
Jamie looked up from her book, trying to meet Ryans eyes to see if the dark womans mood had brightened. From her initial glance, it seemed unlikely, and she mentally rolled her eyes hoping that their entire day wasnt going to be ruined. But Ryan surprised her; sitting down on her desk chair and gazing at Jamie with a contrite look. "Im sorry for how I behaved. I dont have a lot of control now, Jamie. My mouth gets away from me."
The blonde reached out and stroked Ryans wet arm. "I know things are hard for you, honey. Having something like this happen doesnt help the situation in the least."
"No, it doesnt," Ryan said, nodding. "But Im in bad shape when I cant shrug off some woman making a fairly harmless pass at you. Im not normally jealous of things like that."
"I know youre not, Ryan. Dont worry, this will pass."
Ryan sighed, stretching in her chair. "I went over to the church and talked with Da and Maeve for a while," she said. "Then Father Villareal came over, and I asked him for some advice. But even after having 3 people, whose opinions I trust tell me the same thing I was still steamed. So, I ran until I could finally feel my anger start to dissipate." She chuckled softly, and said, "Its a good thing I dont know where Juliet lives, cause I could have easily made it to Berkeley on foot."
"I can handle her, Ryan. Im gonna tell her in no uncertain terms that she is never allowed to touch me again. I wont stand for that kind of crap from anyone. I feel sorry for her because she seems so lost and alone but I dont feel sorry enough to let her touch me."
"I know you can handle yourself, Jamie. I have to make the irrational part of my brain listen to the rational side a little more."
"Hey," the blonde said, giving Ryan a sultry smile, "remember when we were on our honeymoon and you told me that your father said you should always get naked to have an argument?"
"Yeah," Ryan said, nodding. "Are we still arguing?"
"Noooo but it might be a nice way to make up. Lets hop in the shower and see if we can wash away some of the remnants of our little spat."
"But youre not dirty," Ryan said, giving Jamie a sexy grin.
Standing, Jamie extended her hand and pulled her partner to her feet. "I can be as dirty as the next girl given the right motivation. Come motivate me, hot stuff."
* * * * * * * * * * *
After their make-up shower and a nice nap, the girls went upstairs to socialize a bit. Martin and Maeve had come over to start Sunday dinner, and Brendan, Maggie, Conor, Rory and Kevin were all jammed into Conors room, watching a basketball game. Since there wasnt room for them in the bedroom, Jamie and Ryan went into the kitchen to chat with Martin and Maeve. Ryan sat on a stool and pulled her partner to her, nuzzling her neck and hugging her constantly. "Looks like someones feeling a little better," Martin said, giving his daughter a wry look.
"Nah, this is how we fight," Ryan said, kissing a path across the back of Jamies neck, while the blonde giggled and wriggled on her lap.
"Why dont we fight like that, Marty?" Maeve asked, giving her husband a bump with her hip. "The girls have the best ideas."
"Its never too late to learn a few new tricks," he said. "Maybe we should fight right now." He wrapped his arms around his bride and started to kiss her neck with as much gusto as his daughter had just demonstrated.
"My eyes! My eyes!" Ryan cried, dramatically cupping her hands over the bright blue orbs.
Jamie laughed at her partners antics, while encouraging the older couple. "Go for it, Martin!"
"Ive had to get used to seeing the two of you rubbing against each other like a pair of cats in a sack. Its high time you had a dose of your own medicine," he said, laughing evilly while he continued to kiss the giggling Maeve.
Ryan pushed her partner from her lap and ran from the room. "Im gonna go watch the game if my retinas havent been burned out!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
The only spot available to Ryan was on the floor, next to her cousin. "I havent had much time to talk to you lately, buddy. Hows it going living with us and the boys?"
"Good," Kevin said, smiling brightly. "Better than I thought, really. Its like when Tommy and Michael were still at home. Ya know, I think Id rather stay here than move back to my mas place."
"Have you told your mom that, Kevin? You know, the whole reason theyre gonna move to Nialls is to give you the house."
"Ive kinda hinted at it," he said, "but we havent had a serious discussion. I guess we should, though. I like being around the guys, Ryan, and its nice to share the responsibilities, not to mention the expenses. Now that weve gotten rid of that no overnight guests thing, its perfect living here."
Do my father and your mother know youve abolished the rule?" Ryan asked with an impish grin.
"What they dont know wont hurt them," Kevin said, adding a wink.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Tommy, Annie and Caitlin joined the already full house, and while they were eating, Ryan brought the subject up again. "When is Nialls place supposed to be ready?"
"Its going well," Martin said. "I think, a few weeks, at the maximum."
"Well, Ryan and I were talking about it, and I dont think I want to move back to the house, Ma," Kevin said. "I like living with the guys."
"Really?" Maeve asked. "Well, goodness, Kevin, if you dont want the house, it doesnt make any sense for us to move."
Ryan had a hard time keeping the obvious signs of relief from her face. A persistent thread of worry had been niggling at her over the thought of her father and aunt moving several miles away, and the possibility that they would stay right where they were was overwhelmingly heartening.
Martin sensed her relief and said, "If we dont have to go, well stay right where we are. I need to stay close to keep my eye on you children." He spoke to all, but his eyes were firmly planted on his smiling daughter. "Ive been worried about prowlers," he said, scowling a bit. "I saw a young woman walking down the stairs just after dawn the other morning. I think she may have been casing the joint."
Conor, Rory, and Kevin all put on their most innocent faces, no one willing to confess to that particular encounter.
Partially to deflect the focus from his brother and cousins, Tommy piped up and said, "If you dont take Nialls, I think Annie and I might. Our place is too small to change our minds in, and we just found out were getting another rent increase. Weve got to do something."
"Well, that would work, Tom," Martin said. "Although wed hate to have you so far away."
"Oh, my yes," Maeve said. "Sunset is far too distant to walk to."
"It cant be that far. You were going to live there, Mom," Tommy said. "Its too good of an opportunity for all of us to pass up. The rent is less than we currently pay, and the place is twice as big."
"I realize that," she said. "I just wish there were a better way."
"Well, its not decided," he said. "Lets see how things go."
"All right," Maeve said, but it was obvious she was very unhappy at the thought of Caitlin being so far away.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 4