I Found My Heart In San Francisco

Book 14


By SX Meagher

Part Four

Ryan had a short day on Tuesday and found herself with three hours between her last class and practice. There were a million things she could have done, but she found herself thinking about Proposition 22 in a way she hadn't done before. Something about the whole thing had been bugging her, and she wanted to get a few things straight in her mind. She made a call, set up an appointment, and raced across the Bay Bridge, considering while she drove what she wanted to get out of the impending discussion. By the time she arrived, she was resolved.

A short time later, she settled her long frame into the straight-backed wooden chair in Father Pender's small office. "Thanks for seeing me on such short notice," Ryan said. "I know how busy you are on Sundays, so I thought this would be a better time to talk."

"My pleasure, Siobhán," he said, then corrected himself. "I mean Ryan. I know it's what you prefer."

"It is, but as I've gotten older, I've come to like Siobhán again."

"I suppose I've always referred to you as Siobhán since that's what your father calls you," the priest said, looking down at his hands. "How is he?"

"He's good," Ryan said. "Married life suits him."

"That's hardly a surprise," the priest said. "Some men are born to be good husbands and fathers. He's one of them."

"That he is," Ryan said. "I hope I'm half as good a spouse. I don't have much time to work on my skills, 'cause Jamie and I are going to have our union blessed in August."

Having spent years listening to people reveal their secrets, it was relatively easy for Father Pender not to rise to the bait of Ryan's intentionally provocative statement. He just smiled at her and nodded politely-leaving her room to expound on the thought if she chose.

Having a different agenda item in mind, she didn't pursue it. Her face grew serious as she posed the question that had been on her mind since she'd heard the rumor. "Something's been troubling me, Father, and I wanted to see if you could shed some light on the issue for me."

"I will if I can, Ryan. What is it?"

"I heard that the bishops in California have pledged several hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Proposition 22. Is that true?"

He leaned back in his chair, a pensive look on his face. Rocking slowly, he finally nodded. "Yes, it's true." He waited a moment to see if she was going to follow up with a question, but her big, blue eyes were trained on him, and he knew her question without its being asked. "The Church supports many propositions, and it's perfectly legal to do so. We're not supporting a political party here, so it's not a question of separation of church and state."

With a puzzled look on her face, Ryan said, "I don't give a damn about the legality of the donation, Father. I'm sure the church knows what it can get away with. Yes, I'm questioning it, but not on legal grounds. I'm upset because my church is using funds that my family contributes to support a proposition that we strongly disagree with."

"I can see that it might bother you, Ryan, but the Church has to take stands that it feels are supportive of the greater moral good-even if they're unpopular. Our stand opposing the death penalty and abortion has taken a heavy toll, causing us to lose many parishioners. But we have to do what we think is right. It's the only moral path."

"I don't disagree with that either, Father. I understand that the Church is in the business of taking moral stands. And I support that, even though the Church's position differs from mine on things like abortion. My complaint isn't so much the stand you're taking, even though I'm confident it's misguided at best and intentionally discriminatory at worst. My complaint is that you're using our contributions to join up with the far right. This proposition is nothing but posturing-and I think you know that. If my guess is right, I'd say it's probably Archbishop Levada who's one of the biggest proponents of this contribution, and that just sickens me."

The priest nodded, knowing that there was little common ground between this fiery young woman and his very conservative spiritual leader. "I don't know what to say, Ryan. Archbishop Levada has some very strong views on the sanctity of marriage, and he believes that Proposition 22 will help strengthen the institution."

"I hope for his sake that he's not that stupid," Ryan snapped, reminding the priest of his old friend Martin, right down to imitating her father's facial expressions. "The guy is the leader of a city with more gay people than anywhere on earth, and he's more antagonistic to us than someone from the most remote backwoods village in the country."

"That's hardly fair," Father Pender said, scowling at her. "Calling him antagonistic to gay people is ridiculous. He loves all of God's children. Just because he believes your conduct is against God's will doesn't mean he's antagonistic to you as people … as Christians."

Her face flushed an even deeper shade of pink. "He's not antagonistic, but he's willing to spend my money to deny me my civil … and I do mean civil … rights. This isn't about whether the Church will let me marry; this is a proposition to prevent the state from marrying me."

"That's true," he admitted. "But many issues cross into the secular." He leaned back in his chair and rocked slowly for a moment or two. "Look, I'll admit there's a large gap between your beliefs and his," Father Pender said, "but he comes by his beliefs from a position of prayer and contemplation, Ryan. You can't fault a man for disagreeing with you."

"Of course I can!" She got to her feet and paced behind her chair, too agitated to remain still. "When he's making decisions that I find not only offensive, but morally wrong, I most certainly can fault him." She stopped abruptly and gazed at the man, trying to remember how close they had all been for so many years. "Look, Father, I think it's obvious we're never going to see eye to eye on this. I just want to make a few points."

"Of course," he said calmly. "Why don't you sit down?"

"I think better when I move."

"I know that, Ryan, that's why I suggested it." He tried to suppress a grin.

She smiled back begrudgingly, but kept moving, covering all of the available ground in two long strides, then turning to go in the opposite direction. "Here's the deal. I don't know of many groups that need the support of the Church more than gay people. So many of us are tossed away by our families, and because of that, we desperately need a place that accepts us and loves us unquestioningly. In my opinion, that should-no, that has to be the Church, if the Church has any intention of following in the footsteps of Jesus. But not only do you not welcome us, you go out of your way to discourage us from belonging. I know for a fact that you wouldn't be comfortable with my being a Eucharistic minister."

The accusation hung in the air for a moment before he answered. "No, I wouldn't," he said quietly. "You're in open dissent with the Church, and it wouldn't send a good message to allow you to dispense Communion when it's common knowledge that you're a practicing lesbian."

"I've been practicing since I was seventeen," she said, making him blush. "I think I've got it right by now."

"There's no need to be snide," he said.

"Yes, there is! You allow single people who live together to hand out Communion. Why is their sin less grievous than mine? What about all of the people with only one or two children? Are they all infertile? Of course not! They're using birth control, and everyone knows it! But that's okay. You're willing to ignore those sins. It's only homosexuality that rises to this level of censure." She stopped and gripped the back of her chair with her hands, her knuckles turning white from the pressure she applied. "You're singling out gay people for particular discrimination, Father. This is an archdiocesan-wide practice, and I'm sick of it!"

"I don't think we do that," he said quietly, his eyes locked upon hers. "It's not the fact that you're gay that's the problem, Ryan. It's that you're so vocal about it. You introduce Jamie to everyone as your spouse, making it very clear that you're sexually intimate. You can't expect to act like that and then have me ignore it. Of course I know that people live with their boyfriends and girlfriends, but they don't make an issue of it. They're discreet," he insisted, puzzled that she didn't understand his logic. "The entire point is your discretion … or lack of it. You act like having Jamie around is perfectly normal, but it's not. I've gotten more than one complaint about the way you two behave in church."

"I have nothing to be ashamed of." Ryan's voice was quiet but full of anger. "I love Jamie with all of my heart. I desire her sexually. I express my love for her in a carnal fashion, and I will continue to do so until I am carted away by the anti-gay police!"

"Ryan, you're taking this to extremes," the priest said patiently.

"No, I'm not," she insisted. "If you're able to limit my participation in the Church-which is my birthright, as a matter of fact-you're, in essence, supporting other institutions in their efforts to push homosexuality back into the deepest, darkest closet imaginable. You can't discriminate and then say that you're opposed to discrimination; it's untenable!"

"I'll admit that this is a complicated issue and that there are many views, Ryan, but I assure you that I do welcome you at Mass. I welcome you and Jamie. I wish you'd be more discreet, but even if you won't, I'll defend your right to attend Mass."

"Big of you," she snarled. "But you wouldn't bless our union."

"You know I'm not allowed to do that," he said.

"You're boxing me into a corner, Father," Ryan said, shaking her head. "I want to have a relationship with an organized church, but the Catholic church is making it very, very difficult for me to stick with them. Jamie's grandfather is going to perform our commitment ceremony. I think it's time we considered joining his church. It hardly makes sense to belong here and go to the Episcopal church to bless us before God."

His head cocked quizzically. "Her grandfather is an Episcopal priest?"

"Yes." She leveled her gaze at him and said, "Jamie's an Episcopalian, Father. She comes to church with me because I've been happy here, and because it's where the rest of the family goes. But we're going to have to think long and hard before we continue to financially support this parish. I just don't think I can participate in my own oppression." With that, she nodded her head once, and left the room, leaving a befuddled, saddened man behind her.

* * * * * * * *

Pissed off and agitated, Ryan found herself automatically heading over to her Aunt Maeve's house. She knocked perfunctorily, then opened the door. "Anyone home?"

"Is that my Siobhán?" Maeve's soft, lyrical voice called out.

"Sure is," Ryan called back, smiling at the always-warm welcome her aunt had for her. "Am I disturbing anything?" She took off her jacket and hung it on the front door knob.

Maeve walked into the parlor and smiled. She put her hands on her hips and asked, "When will you believe that's not possible? A visit from you is preferable to anything I could have possibly been doing."

Ryan went to her and hugged her tight, feeling a little ungainly when she felt her aunt's much smaller and frailer body in her arms. "You say I throw the blarney around," she said, laughing. "You're not bad at it yourself."

"Every word is true," Maeve said. "Now go say hello to your father. He's outside trying to make a vegetable garden out of that sorry excuse for a yard. I swear the Aran Islands are better suited to gardening."

"Oh, it can't be that bad," Ryan said.

"Yes, it is," Maeve insisted. "Thirty-odd years of the pounding of children's feet, and what seems like the remnants of a quarry. Your father says there isn't a wheelbarrow full of good soil in the whole patch."

"I'll go give him my expert opinion," Ryan said. "He loves to be second-guessed."

Maeve laughed. "Oh, you know him well, sweetheart. Have fun." Ryan had only gone a few feet when Maeve asked, "Will you stay for dinner?"

"Thanks, but I can't. I have softball practice tonight. I just stopped by because I've been to see Father Pender."

Maeve's eyebrows rose. "Father Pender?"

Ryan made a dismissive gesture with her hand. "I had the crazy idea that I might be able to have a rational discussion with him about this ridiculous Proposition 22."

"Oh, dear," Maeve said. "I'm so embarrassed about that whole affair. They tried to get us to take signs for our yards after Mass on Sunday. I thought your father was going to take the whole lot of them and rip them to shreds."

"Then we're probably in the same mood," Ryan said, smiling. "Ignore any cursing you hear, okay?"

Maeve playfully put her hands over her ears. "Hear no evil, Siobhán."

* * * * * * * *

Ryan saw her dad working on a small patch of the small yard, hefting spades full of dirt into a wheelbarrow. "Trying to grow rocks?" she asked.

Martin turned, and his determined expression immediately grew into a wide smile. "There's my favorite girl! What brings you to the western part of the bay?"

"I was visiting a former friend of yours," she said, her smile now absent.

He looked confused for a moment, then scowled. "What's your business with that blackguard?"

She put her hands into the pockets of her jeans, then rocked on her heels. "I was in a hurry to waste some time," she said. "Sometimes I think that reason and logic rule the world." She gave him an abashed smile and added, "They don't."

He wiped his brow, then took off his leather gloves and twitched his head towards the picnic table. "Take a load off, love, and tell me what happened."

She kissed him when he got near, smiling when her lips touched the fine dusting of earth on his cheek. Taking a seat, she said, "I went to talk to him about Prop 22." She shook her head in disgust. "I must have been delusional to think he'd see my point of view."

"He's an idiot," Martin said. "I don't know how he hid it for so long, but the man is a complete and utter fool."

She smiled, knowing that her father didn't have the ability to see many shades of gray. "He acted that way today," Ryan admitted. "He wouldn't give an inch."

He looked at her for a moment, clearly puzzled by her attempt to connect with the priest. "Why waste your time, love?"

"I wanted to check something out," she said. "And even though I know he's not on my side, I knew he'd tell the truth."

Martin scowled again and scoffed, "You trust him more than I do. I wouldn't believe him if he told me it was raining during a monsoon."

"He's not that bad, Da," Ryan said. "And I think he did tell me the truth. Not that it helped," she added. "Now I'm angrier than I was before."

"What now?" he asked, already getting angry himself.

"The archdiocese gave several hundred thousand dollars to support Prop 22," she said, getting ready for the fireworks. She actually flinched, but the blast didn't come. Her father was looking at her with a surprisingly calm expression on his face.

"We've got to leave," he said, and his tone indicated that the topic wasn't open to discussion. "I heard about a mostly Spanish parish on Mission Dolores we might try. They have an English service, but it's with a Vietnamese priest, and no one can understand a word he says. So even if he's spouting the same malarkey that Pender is, we wouldn't know it."

Ryan looked at him for a moment, trying to determine if he was serious. When she realized he was, she said, "What's the point, Da? If we have to find a Mass where we can't understand the sermon, we might as well quit altogether."

"Quit the Church?" He looked at her as if she'd grown another head. "We can't do that!"

She nodded, understanding his position without his having to utter a word. "Can we let it ride for a while?"

"Why should we?"

She tried not to look as pathetic as she felt. "I can't take a lot of change right now, Da. Leaving St. Philip's would be a very big deal for me. and I don't wanna upset my apple cart." She smiled. "I've just gotten all of the apples into the damned thing, and it's still hard to keep it level."

He got up from his side of the table and walked around to stand behind her. Without speaking, he began to rub her shoulders, applying his usual firm, deep pressure. She felt her body relax, and within a few moments, her neck felt rubbery. "I'm okay," she said to reassure him. "I just don't want to ask for trouble. I'm trying to keep things simple."

He kissed her head. "Simple it is," he agreed. "We won't talk about it again until you bring it up."

"That's a deal," she said. "I've gotta go soon. Do you think Aunt Maeve has any cookies lying around?"

"That's why I'm still here," he said, laughing when she nudged his stomach with her head.

* * * * * * * *

Martin took off his dirty boots at the door. He wrapped his arms around his wife's waist and said, "It's teatime, love. Want me to start the boil?"

"That'd be lovely," she agreed. "I was just making some scones."

Ryan snuck her head around her aunt's shoulder. "What kind?"

Maeve reached behind her and swatted Ryan's butt with a wooden spoon. "If you had called to say you were coming, I would have made your favorite-chocolate potato cake. But since you're always a last-minute-lassie, you'll have to suffer with sultana scones."

"I love sultana scones," Ryan said, kissing her aunt's cheek. "But I love chocolate potato cake even more. I've got to start coming by for tea more often." She went to the refrigerator and took out some honey, jam and butter. "We never have tea. I'm gonna have to train Jamie better."

Martin laughed at her. "You know how to make a proper tea, my little princess. You don't want to have an English girl mucking up the whole process."

"She's not very English, Da. Her people were in America when our people were still making peat fires in thatched-roof houses."

He laughed. "That's even worse. American tea is a travesty."

"I've just about finished the first batch," Maeve said.

She was cooking the scones on the stove top using a cast-iron pan, Ryan's favorite method. They were crisper and lighter than a baked scone, and her mouth was watering just imagining how good they'd taste.

Martin was in charge of the tea, and he asked, "Irish Breakfast, assam or green pekoe?"

"Green tea?" Ryan asked, her brows lifting. "Since when do you drink green tea?"

"Even though it does taste a little like hay, we're not above branching out a bit," he replied smugly.

Maeve smiled at her niece. "And Doctor Terry told him green tea's good for him. You know how compliant he is."

Ryan gave her father a fond look. He was remarkably independent and usually scoffed at every health fad. But if his doctor told him something might be good for him, he adopted the habit at once. "I'll have the green," she said. "I drink espresso in the morning, but I like a nice cuppa green in the afternoon."

Martin started to make the pot, while Maeve asked, "So tell us what you're working on now, Siobhán. How's your independent study going?"

"Fine," Ryan said. "I'm making progress, but it's a lot of work."

"Tell us what the topic is again, sweetheart," Martin asked.

Ryan made a face. She loved to talk about her work, but she knew that her family didn't have a clue what she was talking about. She tried to give them a summary while not insulting their intelligence. "Well, it's pretty technical, but the bottom line is that I'm trying to use some physics principles to predict trends in the stock market."

Martin shot her a look. "Physics? Like gravity and things like that?"

Smiling, Ryan said, "Yeah, that kinda physics. Actually, it's a mix of physics and statistics and engineering and computer science, and of course, math."

"We know all about these things, don't we, darlin'?" Martin asked his wife, giving her a sweet smile.

"Oh, my, yes." She set the piping-hot scones on the table, laughing when Ryan brushed her hand aside to get at them. "Don't act like a hungry dog, dear. I can make more."

"You'd better," Ryan said. "I'm weak with the hunger." She tossed the scone back and forth, letting it cool just enough to be spread with butter. "Well, how about this?" Ryan asked. "I can't really explain how I'm doing it, but here's what I want to do. The stock market has gotten so crazy that people are starting to doubt the analytic methods they've been using for years to predict trends. I mean, really unpredictable things are happening, and it looks like they'll continue. I want to try to find a model that might work even in a crazy market."

"What sorts of things are happening?" Maeve asked. "We know about the ridiculous amounts of money people are making from the Internet, but the details are over our heads. Give us an example, dear."

The girl took a bite of her scone, then went through her usual paroxysms of delight, making her aunt laugh. When she could contain herself, she said, "How's this? There's a company you probably know called 3Com."

"The idiots who put their name on Candlestick Park," Martin said. "They'd change the name of the country if someone offered enough money."

"Right," Ryan said, trying to avoid that particular discussion. "Well, they make a product called Palm. That's the electronic organizer that Jamie uses."

"Ah, yes. She's always looking at a tiny little thing, trying to decide if she has the day free."

"Right. Well, 3Com is spinning Palm off, making it its own company."

"Why would they do that, dear?" Maeve asked, looking befuddled.

"That's not the important part," Ryan said. "We can't get bogged down in details." Both Martin and Maeve nodded, waiting for her to continue. "Companies do things like that all of the time. But the funny part is that people expect Palm to be worth a lot more than 3Com was, even though Palm was only a part of the original company."

Martin stared at her for a minute, then said, "I must not understand. It sounded like you said that a plus b equals x. But a minus b is greater than x."

"That's exactly right," Ryan said, proud of her father for catching on so quickly.

"That's ridiculous," he said. "It's not just ridiculous, it's not possible."

"But it is," Ryan said, her excitement showing. "That's why the market is so volatile. Things that seem implausible are happening every day!"

Martin took a bite of his scone, paused to kiss his wife for making them, and said, "That's not volatility, that's insanity. And it's not implausible, it's impossible."

"Well, maybe," Ryan said. "But that's what makes it exciting-you never know what'll happen next!"

"Siobhán," he said patiently. "The world has been spinning for a long time. In all of that time there's never been a situation where something is worth more once it's been devalued. Just listen to the word, child! The only time you benefit from losing something is if that something is harming the host … like … a cancerous growth. Does losing Palm make 3Com a better company?"

"Well, no, not really."

"Does Palm benefit from not having 3Com associated with it? Is there some horrible 3Com scandal that makes Palm guilty by association?"

"No, no, not at all. That's why this is such a crazy market. That's the point, Da."

He pursed his lips and shook his head firmly. "It doesn't make sense. And when things don't make sense, you're well advised to stay away from them."

Ryan scratched her head. "Well, when you say it like that, it does sound kinda silly."

"The emperor has no clothes," he said. "Just because everyone says he looks nice, doesn't mean he's not naked."

Deep in thought, Ryan ate some more and sipped at her tea. Her aunt and father knew better than to try to talk to her when she was in one of her trances, so they carried on their own conversation about the garden, waiting for Ryan to return to them.

* * * * * * * *

The next night, after she'd returned from softball practice, Ryan ran up the stairs, calling out, "Hey, Mia! Your doppelganger's downstairs. Want me to send her up?"

Mia leapt to her feet and ran over to Ryan. "Do you really think she looks like me?"

"Yeah," Ryan said. "I wasn't kidding. She doesn't look identical, but you could be sisters."

Mia threw her arms around Ryan's neck and kissed her. "You're the best!" she yelled, running down the stairs at breakneck speed.

Ryan stood in the doorway, scratching her chin while she tried to figure out what had just happened. She finally gave up and went back downstairs, deciding that she was just happy that Mia was showing some signs of life again.

* * * * * * * *

After her guest left, Mia went into the living room and collapsed into a chair, smiling smugly at her roommates.

"I'd recognize that smile anywhere," Jamie said. "That's the 'I got my way' smile."

"I did," Mia said, giggling. "It cost me $250, but it was worth it."

"Can I be let in on this scam?" Ryan asked. "Are you paying someone to steal your identity? 'Cause I think most people are willing to do that for free."

"No, silly. I was paying her to finish a class for me. One of my teachers is being all honorable, and he won't let me finish from Colorado. So I spent yesterday and today searching the campus for someone who looks like me."

She looked very satisfied with herself, but Ryan didn't grasp the full meaning of her story. "So? How does that help?"

"She's gonna go to class for me and tell me if anything unusual comes up. She's more like me than I thought, 'cause she got me to increase my offer from $150 to $250. I shouldn't have let her know how desperate I was!"

"But how can that work?" Ryan asked. "Won't she have to study and be prepared for class?"

Mia looked blank. "I never did. Why should she?"

The brunette smiled at her friend. "My mistake. I keep thinking like a real student."

"Don't put those weird values on me, O'Flaherty," Mia said, laughing. "College is just a way to keep us off the streets for four or five years."

"Right. I'll make a note," Ryan said. "But how will you make sure she follows through? She might screw you."

"Nope. I have a friend in the class, and I'm gonna call her every week to check up on my employee. I'm paying Hannan by the week, in case you're wondering."

"Hannan? That's an unusual name. I noticed she had a pretty thick accent. Where's she from?"

"Lebanon," Mia said. "She's only a freshman, but I think she has potential. She knows how to hustle."

"It must be nice to know you leave your reputation in such good hands," Ryan said.

"Sure is. And now I'm doubly glad I never spoke during class. Hannan sounds like she's been taking English lessons for about fifteen minutes!" She got up and fluffed her curls, posing for her friends. "I'm gonna go call my woman and tell her to warm up the bed for me."

"When are you going?" Ryan asked, looking a little stunned.

Mia thought for a moment. "Well, I've got a lot to do to get organized, and Jordy's only day off is Sunday … I guess I'll leave on Friday morning so I can get there on Saturday night."

"That's so soon," Ryan said, her voice higher than normal.

"It's not soon enough!" Mia said. "I'd leave tonight if I could possibly get ready." She scampered up the stairs, giggling with anticipation.

Jamie looked at her partner. "Our little girl is growing up, Ma."

"I liked it when she was little and still believed in Santa Claus," Ryan grumbled.

Jamie scooted over and snuggled up next to her lover. "Ohh … it won't be so bad to be alone in the house. We'll have a new room to make love in."

"Hmm …" The corners of Ryan's mouth curled into a reluctant grin. "I guess it won't be all bad. We can finally have this place be clothing optional."

"That's my tiger," Jamie said, chucking Ryan under the chin. "Now let's get some dinner going." They got up and Jamie said, "You must be starving. I noticed you didn't eat all of the leftovers before softball practice."

"Oh, I went over to the city and stopped by Da's. Aunt Maeve made me a bunch of scones."

"What were you doing over there?" Jamie asked. She opened the refrigerator door and pulled out some cold cuts and condiments.

"I went to see Father Pender," Ryan said. She took the baguette that Jamie had purchased on her way home and started to slice it.

"I can't imagine why you did that," Jamie said. "Not getting enough frustration in the east bay?"

"Why don't I ask you about these things first?" Ryan said, looking disgusted with herself. "Sometimes I'm such a Pollyanna. I thought he would apologize for the Church's giving so much money to support Prop 22."

Jamie's eyes opened wide. "Apologize? He was probably the chief fundraiser."

Ryan's head dropped and she mumbled something to herself.

Jamie walked over to her and put her arms around her lover. "What's wrong, babe? Did he upset you?"

"Yeah … no … I don't know." Ryan didn't turn around; her body was tense and unyielding.

"Come on," Jamie said, tugging on her. Ryan let herself be turned, but she immediately put her head against Jamie's, shielding her face. "Tell me what's going on."

"Nothin'," the taller woman mumbled. "I just feel stupid. I shoulda known I was wasting my time." She took in a deep breath. "I don't know why I always think the best of people."

Jamie tightened her hold, squeezing her lover hard. "I love that about you. I hope you never get jaded. Don't feel bad about hoping for the best."

"It's one thing to hope," Ryan said. "It's another to expect it."

"That's what's so sweet about you," Jamie said, rocking the larger woman in her arms. "Don't change, baby, and don't feel stupid. You just have a good heart."

Ryan rubbed her face against her lover's head, letting the soft strands and floral scent soothe her. "Maybe I'll feel better after I eat."

"That's my girl," Jamie said, patting her butt. "A little food always makes the day seem brighter."

* * * * * * * *

After dinner, Jamie and Ryan retired to their respective study spots, with Ryan working in their room until 9:00. She went downstairs to get a drink and stopped by the library for a moment. "How's it going?" she asked, looking at her partner lying on the sofa.

"Not well. I'm trying to write my opinion piece, but I'm clearly not in the mood."

"Can I help?"

"No. I don't think I need to talk about it; I need to get started. All I've been able to do is write an outline."

"That's something," Ryan said, giving her an encouraging smile. She walked into the room and sat down, putting Jamie's feet on her lap. "I didn't ask if you've told your mom you're doing this."

"Oh, yeah." She blinked. "Didn't I tell you that?


"Damn, we're both so busy we're starting to lose track of each other." Jamie had a very glum look on her face, and her expression turned even more sour when she added, "I probably didn't say anything because she wasn't very enthusiastic."

"Really?" Ryan asked. "That doesn't sound like her."

"Oh, no," Jamie quickly replied. "She's supportive, but she's worried about my drawing attention to myself after spending two months trying to get away from the press."

Ryan smiled and nodded her understanding. "That does seem a little counterintuitive, doesn't it?"

Jamie's eyes widened, and she got up on one elbow. "Do you think I'm doing the right thing? I know you said that I should do this if it's important to me, but you haven't said what you really think."

"That's a tough one, babe." Ryan started to massage her partner's feet while she considered the question. "I don't like publicity, and my privacy means a lot to me, but making a statement about discrimination means a lot, too. I guess I'd sacrifice my privacy to take a stand, even one that put me in the limelight again. So, if I were you, I'd do it." She pulled Jamie's feet up and hugged them close, giving her a playful grin. "But I'd feel bad about putting my father in an awkward position-even though he's the one who stirred this all up to start with."

With a small grin tugging at the corners of her mouth, Jamie lay back down and gazed at Ryan for a moment. "Are you sure you're not me? 'Cause that's exactly how I feel."

"Makes perfect sense," Ryan agreed. "Just because you're angry doesn't mean you want to publicly humiliate him."

Wincing when she heard those words, Jamie asked, "Do you really think he'll be humiliated?"

Ryan nodded briefly. "Yeah. I think he might. You're going to officially come out very publicly, honey. And you're doing it in the legitimate press. I'm sure all of the major dailies will pick up the story as well as the newsweeklies." She rolled her eyes and added, "MSNBC will probably devote a week to it. But you're not just coming out-you're coming out to publicly chide him and all of the other lawmakers who've voted for these stupid bills. That combo is probably going to hurt and embarrass him."

The smaller woman made an unhappy grunt. "I think I need to talk to my grandfather about this. Maybe he can help me figure out if I'm doing this just to get back at my dad, or to do something that I feel is right."

"If you're going to do that tonight, you'd better do it now. He goes to bed early."

"You look pretty tired yourself, stretch."

Ryan stood and twisted around, loosening her muscles. "I am. I was thinking about getting into bed and reading until I fell asleep."

"Go ahead, honey. I'll call Papa and then try to write again. I'm not in the mood to sleep yet."

Walking to the door, the brunette raised an eyebrow. "Sure?"

"Yeah. Really. I'll kiss you when I come to bed."

Ryan walked back to the sofa and kissed Jamie, their lips touching softly for a few seconds. "I need a kiss while I'm awake," she whispered. "But I'll take one later, too."

"It's a deal." Jamie waved at her, then got up to make her call.

* * * * * * * *

Part 5

Return to the Academy