By SX Meagher
Mia woke with a start on Sunday morning when Jordan's shrill alarm rang at 5:30, but after a few gentle kisses and a nice back scratch she settled down again and went back to sleep. Hours later she woke, visited the bathroom, then wandered around the apartment, pleased by the lack of noise. Jordan and her roommates were obviously working out together, so she decided to enjoy a leisurely breakfast.
Her investigation of the kitchen cabinets revealed only protein powder, nutritional supplements, powdered sports drink and vitamins. Hmm … the food has to be around here somewhere … But further exploration didn't reveal any food-just more performance enhancing drinks, potions and elixirs. My Jordy had better not be taking anything that hasn't been tested. I don't want her to turn into one of those women who starts looking like a guy.
She wasn't in the mood to shower, so she put on her clothing from the day before and ran out to her car, shivering in the crisp twenty degree day. Jordan had assured her that the cold spell they were experiencing was very unusual for that time of year, but Mia wasn't sure she believed her. Having spent her whole life in California, she thought fifty degrees was time to pull out the down comforter. In her mind, if you needed a coat-it was damned cold.
She was able to scrounge up a pack of Oreos, half of a Twix bar and a Diet Coke, although the Coke was half frozen. Running back towards the apartment, she stopped in her tracks when a man started to dart up the same staircase. Oh, fuck! I didn't lock the door! She was angry with herself for being careless, but also a little angry with Jordan for making her fear what was probably an ordinary guy going to his apartment.
Since this was the first time she'd seen the place in daylight, she didn't know how many apartments the staircase served. There were three more sets of stairs, and she guessed there were about twelve apartments on the second floor. She did the math as she walked closer to the staircase, figuring that the case served three apartments. She heard the man quietly open and close a door. Damn, I can't tell if he used a key or not. It sure didn't take him long to open his-or my-door. Maybe he was watching me and ran upstairs when he thought I wasn't looking. She felt in the pockets of her coat and pants, hoping that her cell phone was there. What would you do? she asked herself once she determined it wasn't. Call the police to report a man walking up the stairs? I'm sure they'd send a dozen squad cars for that.
She was freezing, not so much due to the temperature as to her lack of acclimation. Going from fifty to twenty degrees was a big drop, especially when the bracing wind chafing her bare hands was factored in. She tossed the Coke from hand to hand while she considered her options. Finally deciding that she was too afraid to go inside, she got into her car and turned it on, blowing the heater at full power until the cold air became blessedly warm.
Mia ate the cookies and the candy, nearly breaking a tooth on the frozen Twix bar. She desperately wanted coffee, but Jordan's neighborhood didn't seem like an espresso kind of place, and she didn't have any idea where the latte and biscotti crowd gathered in Colorado Springs. She warmed the Coke up enough to drink it after managing to spray several ounces onto her windshield and dashboard due to its having been shaken during her earlier deliberations.
She never took her eyes off the apartment, but no one exited. She was reasonably sure that if the man she had seen was a rapist, he'd leave the apartment when she didn't come back in. But she realized that was more wishful thinking than gospel, so she stayed in the car and waited for a good idea to strike her.
Feeling out-of-sorts and a little scared, she looked around the car in search of more food. She surprised herself by finding her cell phone, further pleased to see that it had nearly a full charge. Almost automatically, she called her mother, breathing a sigh of relief when she answered. "Hi, Mom," she said, tearing up at the mere sound of her voice.
"Mia! Where are you?" Anna Lisa's tone was harsh and angry, but when she heard her daughter suck in a breath and begin to sob, she immediately grew concerned. "Sweetheart, what's wrong? Are you hurt?"
"No," Mia said, her voice shaking. "I'm just sad."
"Oh, honey, I'm sad, too." Then Anna Lisa started to cry, her cries sounding so much like her child's that no one would have been able to tell them apart. "Please come home so we can talk about this."
"I can't, Mom," she said, struggling to speak. "I'm in Colorado."
"What?" Now the tears stopped and the sharp tone was even sharper than before. "You're where?"
"I did what I said I was going to do," Mia said, her own tears evaporating. "Why should I stay in Berkeley and work for minimum wage to stay in school? It was hard enough being there without Jordan when all I had to think about was school. I wasn't going to have to work every spare minute just to be miserable."
"So you quit school just because you didn't have money to spend on luxuries? Very mature, Mia. Very mature. I can see what you meant when you told us how much you'd grown."
The young woman took a deep breath, then reminded herself that she had grown up. "I didn't call to be yelled at, Mom. I know you're worried about me, and I wanted to let you know where I am. I'm going to be living with Jordan and her roommates until we can afford an apartment."
"And just how do you think-"
"I'm not asking for advice. I'm just telling you where I am and what I'm doing. If you want to talk after you've calmed down, you can call me on my cell phone. But I'm not going to let you yell at me. I'm just not." She pursed her lips to steel her courage, then hung up.
Mia leaned back against the headrest, feeling deeply sad and a little lost. Nothing around her was familiar, and she didn't know a soul except for Jordan. Even though she'd been the one to leave, she felt abandoned by everyone and everything she'd grown used to in Berkeley.
It took a while to regain her composure, but she finally shoved the various junk food wrappers in her coat and got out of the car. Marching up the stairs, she opened the door to her apartment and called out in a loud voice, "I saw you go into the apartment, asshole. I called the cops, but they're taking for-fucking-ever to get here, and I'm freezing my ass off. So I'm gonna walk back downstairs and give you a chance to escape. If you don't wanna spend the next few years in …" She searched her mind and realized she had no idea where the worst prison in Colorado was. "The slammer, you'd better run." She ran back down the stairs and hid behind a truck, watching the staircase like a hawk. No one emerged, and after a few minutes, she decided that the man had been going to his own apartment. Nonetheless, she dialed 911, waiting to hit "send" until she got inside. Feeling like the victim in a slasher movie, she left the door wide open, then methodically went from room to room, looking inside the closets like a cat waiting to be attacked. She also checked under every bed, reassured that most of them weren't high enough off the floor for a human to fit underneath.
Finally satisfied that she was alone, she locked the door and stripped off her clothes on the way to the shower, immediately learning that it was unwise to strip during the winter without fresh clothes nearby. When she emerged from the shower, she heard her phone ringing and dashed to answer it, feeling her heart drop to her stomach when she saw her parents' number. "Hi, Mom," she said.
"You can't hang up on me whenever you want," Anna Lisa said, sounding just past irate. "You have to show me some respect."
"I do respect you. That's why I called you. But you have to respect me, too. I won't let you yell at my anymore. Period."
"Don't you dare tell me what-"
Once again, Mia hung up. She got into bed and hugged both pillows to her chest, burying her face into the down while she cried herself to sleep.
* * * * * * * *
Jordan opened the door to her bedroom to find her partner sitting up in bed, dressed in a sweatshirt, her computer propped up on her legs. Mia turned and their eyes met, and both women began to smile. Without saying a word, Jordan started to strip off her clothing and was stark naked in a matter of moments. Mia's smile grew as the long, lean blonde slid into bed with her.
The computer was lifted and removed, then Jordan's arms were around her. Suddenly, the world seemed safe and secure and full of promise. Mia took off her shirt, her body feeling the chill immediately. But when Jordan's skin touched hers, the cold was forgotten.
Few things felt better than having Jordan's body pressed up against hers, and Mia spent a moment trying to get as close as possible. Her head was nestled between Jordan's neck and shoulder, and blonde hair covered her face. The hair smelled so good, so fresh and clean that she had no desire to move it.
Their breasts compressed against each other, bellies lightly touching, Jordan's heat warming Mia's body and heart. She slid her leg up over the larger woman's hip, trying to have every part of their bodies touch.
Jordan's hands danced up and down Mia's back and settled on her shapely ass. She filled her hands with the chilly flesh, warming it as she stroked.
Mia purred contentedly while nuzzling her face against her lover's neck. She lifted her head and shook it, letting Jordan's hair fall back to the pillow. Looking into the guileless blue eyes, she softly said, "I love you."
Giving her a half-smile, Jordan's lips opened, drawing Mia to them. They kissed. Gently, with an almost leisurely feel to their interactions. Between the kisses, Jordan lifted her head and spent a moment gazing into Mia's eyes, looking into their depths, their inner fire.
Mia didn't try to hurry her, content to lie still and let Jordan lead the way. Sometimes, Mia needed to have her world rocked, and they would nearly attack each other, their lovemaking filled with wild abandon. As pleasurable and as satisfying as that always was, that wasn't what fed Jordan's primal need. What she needed was connection-touching and being touched slowly, methodically-letting the heat build up between them at a very deliberate rate. She often spend an hour or two studying Mia's body, kissing every part of it, unconcerned with trying to sexually excite her. It was more akin to worship than sex, but it seemed to fill her up in a way that nothing else did.
Mia was more orgasm-centered than Jordan was, but in their time together, she'd learned to pace herself. Usually, Jordan made it clear from the beginning that she was going to take her on a slow, sensual ride. So Mia stretched her arms out over her head and closed her eyes, silently telling Jordan that she understood and had happily acquiesced to her wishes.
Mia tried to clear her mind and let Jordan take her where she wanted. She knew they'd be touching each other for hours, and that once Jordan set this pace, there'd be no hurrying her. So she tried to tamp down her thrumming desire and open herself to the delightful sensation of being totally and thoroughly loved by the woman to whom she'd pledged her entire future.
* * * * * * * *
The softball team arrived back in Berkeley late on Sunday night. Ryan was tired, finding it much more draining sitting in a dugout watching rain fall than to actually play the game. Jamie had stayed at the hotel, working on a paper for her economics class, and she'd finished it long before the team arrived after their third rainout in a row.
Everyone but Jennie was a little down on the flight home. They all loved the team, but spending the weekend in a motel wasn't much fun for anyone but a high-school freshman with a serious case of hero worship.
When they dropped her off at the group home, Jennie was as happy as Ryan had ever seen her. She thanked Jamie so enthusiastically for taking her that both Ryan and Jamie laughed about it on the way home.
"Sometimes I feel so old and jaded around her," Jamie said.
"You're seven years older. That's a long time during those particular years."
"Yeah, but I feel so parental with her. And she treats us more like parents than peers."
"We're not her peers. And I've always tried to maintain an adult/parental role with her. The last thing I wanted was for her to get a crush on me."
"Yeah," Jamie said, smiling to herself. "That worked out well."
They arrived at their house a few minutes later. It was strange not to have the answering machine filled with messages for Mia, and Ryan started poking around the house in an aimless fashion, as she often did when she was a little melancholy.
Jamie's anxiety had started to build as soon as the plane landed. Her opinion piece was scheduled to run in the morning paper, and she still hadn't heard from her father. She had debated whether to call him, but had finally decided against it. Even without knowing his feelings about the article, she felt thoroughly torn about her decision to do it. In her heart, she knew it was the right thing to do, but that didn't make it any easier to face the consequences. And she knew there would be consequences-with her father and with her personal life.
Ryan passed through the parlor and saw Jamie sitting on the sofa, staring into space. She sat down next to her and asked, "Wanna take a long bath and try to relax?"
"Mmm … a bath does sound pretty good. What are you gonna do?"
"I've got a big day tomorrow. I'd better turn in."
"Why don't you hop into bed, and I'll come cuddle you when I'm finished."
They got up together and Ryan leaned in to kiss her. "No running off to another bed, okay?"
"I promise," Jamie said, smiling. A little embarrassed, she hadn't told Ryan the whole truth of why she'd fallen asleep in the second bed at the hotel. "If I wanna watch TV, I'll put headphones on and watch from our bed."
"Our bed," Ryan said, a goofy smile on her face. "Such a simple, but wonderful image."
Jamie patted her butt. "Go dive in, tiger. I'll be in to join you as soon as I feel able to sleep."
"I'll rub your back."
Jamie appreciated the offer, but knew it was for a limited time. Once Ryan was sound asleep, she'd have to shake her to wake her, and she hated to do that. "If I need it."
They kissed, holding each other just long enough to make Ryan sigh heavily and tilt her head to deepen the kiss.
"Mmm … maybe you wanna relax another way," Jamie said.
"I do." Ryan smiled wryly and kissed her again. "But I'm too tired. How old am I?"
Jamie rubbed her back. "You're younger than springtime. And your energy level is stupendous. You just had a long weekend."
Ryan leaned heavily on her, making Jamie struggle to keep her feet. "I used to be able to stay up until 3:00 a.m. and still make it to class on time."
"You still could. But you don't have to." She slapped her on the butt. "Now get to bed. I'll see you soon."
"Okay, but feel free to wake me up if you wanna get rockin'."
"You'll be the first," Jamie said, giving her one last quick kiss.
* * * * * * * *
Jamie was just about to call it a night when her cell phone rang. Her heart leapt to her throat, and she ran to the table in the entryway to grab the phone. "Hello?"
"Is this a good time to talk?" Jim asked with studied politeness.
"Sure. Of course," Jamie said, miffed at his formal, distant tone.
"Uhm … I read it, then I had Kayla read it," he began. "Just to make sure, I had another aide read it, as well as my press secretary."
"What did the doorman at your hotel think?" Jamie asked, mildly offended that he had to have a quorum of opinions before he could give her his reaction.
He paused then said, "That's a low blow. It's one thing to have a difference of opinion with me, and quite another to take your opinion to the San Francisco Chronicle. You can't play the political game and then be angry when I treat this as a political issue. Your actions affect me as your father and as a senator."
"You're right," she said softly. "That was unfair of me."
He replied in an equally quiet tone. "Thanks for saying so."
"Even though this affects you in a couple of ways, Dad, I'm really only interested in how my father feels about it."
Once again he was quiet for a few moments. "Well, as you might guess, I have mixed feelings. Just one question: did you write this on your own?"
"Every word," she confirmed. "GLBTQDAAD offered to help, but I didn't want them to be involved."
"I see," he mused. "Well, I guess my reaction is that this could have been a hell of a lot worse. Most twenty-two-year-olds couldn't have written something like this, especially when they were really angry. Thanks for that."
"I wish we hadn't fought about this, and I wish you hadn't agreed to write it. But given that you did, this was the best outcome I could have hoped for." He chuckled lightly. "As your father, I have to add that I'm really impressed with how well you write. You have a real talent for expressing your ideas."
"Thanks, Dad," she said, feeling surprisingly proud. She cleared her throat and said, "I guess I lied. I do want to know how this affects you as a senator. What does your staff think?"
"They don't think it will be a huge problem. Actually, Kayla's already figured out a way to spin this; it shows that even though you and I disagree on an important issue, we're still close. She thinks it'll make me appear compassionate as well as principled."
"It's all about appearances, isn't it?" she asked, trying to keep the sarcasm from her voice.
"Well, I hope I haven't made things too difficult for you." She paused for a moment and corrected herself. "Actually, that's not true. I do want to make things difficult for you, and for every other lawmaker who tries to keep society from recognizing the validity of my love. But I still love you-even though I strongly disagree with your position."
"I understand that, Jamie. I hope we can continue to talk about this. Maybe, over time, you'll see why I voted the way I did."
"Or maybe you'll change your position," she said, smiling to herself.
"I guess one never knows, does one?" He laughed, sounding at ease and relaxed. "It's past my bedtime, honey. Good luck with your article."
"Thanks, Dad. I'll talk to you soon."
"I hope it's very soon," he said. "Give Ryan my regards."
"I will." It was on the tip of her tongue to wish the same for Kayla, but she wasn't able to do that yet, so she just signed off. "G'night, Dad."
* * * * * * * *
On Monday morning, Mia woke to the sound of voices. She lay still for a moment, hoping Jordan was just in the bathroom, but the front door closed loudly and the apartment was shrouded in complete silence. It was still dark out, and she saw that it wasn't yet six o'clock. Damn. I've got nothing to do, but if I'm gonna go to sleep with Jordy, I'm gonna have to get up with her, too. She pushed the covers away, pleased to find that it wasn't nearly as cold as it had been the day before.
Having the place to herself was preferable in some ways, since she didn't have to make conversation with strangers. But it was also lonely, and she once again felt completely adrift, as though she'd lost her compass and couldn't find true north.
A long shower didn't help her mood, but it did wake her up. She got dressed and found the coffee pot, but there was no milk and no sugar, only artificial sweetener. She realized that even if she could make fantastic coffee she had a need for some human connection. Logging on to the Internet, she found a Starbucks that was just five miles from the apartment. After writing careful directions, she got into her car and started to drive, feeling better to have some sense of purpose.
The Starbucks was connected to a Barnes & Noble, and she brightened at seeing two familiar stores. She bought a copy of the newspaper and drank two cappuccinos, spending the better part of an hour doing so.
By the time she'd finished her coffee, the bookstore was open, but instead of browsing she went back to the apartment and got her notes and textbooks from one of her classes. She returned to the bookstore, found a comfortable chair, and took up residence, spending the next four hours studying.
* * * * * *
When Jamie woke, she rolled over and found not Ryan, but the neatly folded editorial section of the Chronicle bearing a note that read, "I'm proud of you, R."
Well, that's always a nice start to the day, although I'd rather have my girl here.
Already knowing the words all too well, she didn't bother to read the article. She dawdled a little in the shower, not in a rush to get to school. On the walk over, even though she didn't run into many people on the street, she had the creepy feeling that people were looking at her. You're being ridiculous, she told herself. You're on the verge of being a full-fledged paranoid. People are not pulling their curtains aside to look at you.
Not many students read the Chronicle, but the few that did must have told others. By the time she was in the middle of campus, Jamie was getting a lot of looks, and this time it wasn't her imagination. Her cheeks were burning with embarrassment, and she was so angry with herself for putting herself into such a situation that she felt like running back home and staying inside for a week.
When she entered her classroom, the normal chatter died to a hush. Jamie was certain that people were talking about her, and she was sure of it when she saw one woman pass the editorial section to another. For a few moments, she felt the same sense of panic she'd felt when she and Ryan were being hounded by the media. Her heart was racing, feeling like it would burst from her chest. A glance at the clock showed that class wouldn't start for a couple of minutes, and she was torn between getting up and leaving or jumping out the window.
Her cell phone vibrated in her pocket, and she reached out with her shaking hand to open the cover. It was Ryan. Immediately, her heart started to slow, and she touched the answer button and held the phone to her ear. "Come get me," she whispered.
"Be right there," Ryan said.
"No," Jamie said with a little more volume. "I'm kidding … mostly."
"You don't need to put up with any shit today. You can just go home. I'm happy to come and get you, and I swear I'll pop the first person who stares at you."
"You'd better have your brass knuckles on," Jamie said. "I don't want you to bruise that pretty hand." She could almost hear Ryan's smile.
"Are you gonna be okay? Tell me the truth."
"Yeah, I am. Thanks for calling, baby. It always helps to know you're there for me."
"Always will be," Ryan said, her conviction sounding rock-solid.
"Gotta go," Jamie said. "My prof's here. I love you."
"Love you, too. Call me if you need me. Any time."
Jamie blew a quiet kiss into the phone then hung up, trying her best to listen to her professor. But the hour passed with little of the lecture getting into her head. Instead, she spent the time trying to tamp down the anger she felt at her father. Not just for the stand he'd taken, but for his getting into politics at all. She and Ryan would have still had more infamy than she'd ever wanted, but her being the daughter of a senator made the carjacking story last longer than it would have if she'd been an ordinary college student.
Even the divorce was now news because of Jim's position. Having a senator get divorced was a big deal in the entire state, not just the San Francisco legal community. By the time the class was over, the blonde was steaming-angry for herself and her lover and her mother.
She left the classroom building and tried to scamper to her next class as quickly as possible. From the corner of her eye, she saw a guy start to approach her. Though she walked even faster, he caught up with her.
"Hi," he said, smiling brightly.
A polite smile flitted across her lips, and she kept walking. The man touched her shoulder, and she ducked away, ready to slap him. But he was still smiling, and his friendliness finally penetrated her fog. "Yeah?"
"Thanks for the piece in the paper," he said. "It meant a lot to me."
"Oh." She looked at him for a moment, not sure how to respond. "You're welcome."
"That's all," he said. "I just wanted to say thanks." He smiled again and took off in the opposite direction. She stood there for a moment, then started to walk again. A group of women passed her, and one of them said, "No on 22!" as they walked on.
When she approached her next classroom building, her professor caught her eye and approached. "You did a great job on that opinion piece, Jamie. It must have been hard for you to do."
She nodded. "It was. I don't think it'll do any good, but I felt like I had to give it a try."
They got on the elevator together, and he said, "You don't always know what good you're doing. Sometimes you help people you aren't intending to reach. You just have to do your best."
"True," she said. "But I hope I can be just another anonymous student after this blows over. I never knew how nice it was to be ignored when I walk across campus."
"One of the little things you don't know you enjoy until it's taken away, huh?"
"Exactly," she said, smiling and feeling much better when they entered the room together.
* * * * * * * *
Ryan was hurrying home from practice later that night, dreaming of spending the evening with Jamie. Her hunger for uninterrupted time with her partner was growing with each day. She'd never before craved the simple satisfaction of doing absolutely nothing with someone she loved, but she craved it like a powerful drug.
She was about halfway home when her cell phone rang. Expecting Jamie, she frowned when she saw "Vijay Khan" on the display. "Oh, fuck!" She said this aloud, startling a young mother taking her son for a walk. "I'm sorry," Ryan said as she rushed past them. She opened her phone and said, "Hi, Vijay."
"Where would you like to meet tonight? We didn't set a place when we spoke the other day."
"Uhm … I'd really like to meet another day, if that's possible."
He made a soft clicking sound with his tongue and said, "That's up to you. But I don't have another night free before your next progress meeting. Do you feel comfortable enough with your work to fly blind?"
"No, I guess I don't."
"I'd love to help you out, but I'm really overscheduled this month."
"Tell me about it," she grumbled. "I'll come to your apartment. What's your address again?"
He told her and she realized she was just two blocks away. "Wanna have dinner together? Maybe we can finish early."
"Sure. You wanna order in?"
"Yeah. Order me anything. I'm not picky."
"Yep. Just order like three people are gonna eat."
Vijay laughed. "I've eaten with you before. I know the routine."
"See you in a few," Ryan said. She hung up and dialed her home, hoping that Jamie wasn't as disappointed as she was.
* * * * * *
There were more points to cover than Ryan had planned on, and she didn't get home until ten o'clock. Jamie was in bed, reading from her econ text.
Ryan walked into the room and flicked the book with her finger. "Sleep aide?"
"It works when I'm sitting in class. I thought it would work here, too." She laid the book on her lap and opened her arms.
Ryan sat on the edge of the bed and nuzzled her face into her partner's neck. "I hate physics."
"Yeah." Ryan sat up and pushed her hair from her eyes. "Physics isn't my strongest point, and it's not Vijay's either. It takes us longer to get through those parts of the problems than either math or programming."
"Maybe you should have a physics advisor, too," Jamie said.
"All I need is another person to have to meet with. It's bad enough that I have to meet every week with Vijay and every month with my prof. I'll struggle through."
Jamie touched the blue tinged skin under Ryan's eyes. "You look beat."
"I am. But my mind is racing. We weren't really finished when we quit, and I can't stop thinking."
"Back rub?" She gently ran her fingers across Ryan's back.
"Nah. I'll go into my room and jot a few things down. If I can get these ideas out of my head I might be able to sleep."
"Mind if I don't wait up for you? Six o'clock comes awfully early."
"No, baby, you go to sleep. I know it's hard for you to get up for practice as it is."
Jamie stretched and yawned. "It is. I've never understood the appeal of playing golf when the grass is wet with dew."
Ryan gently played with Jamie's hair while gazing into her eyes. "You doing okay? You sounded pretty stressed today."
"I'm fine. I think this bout of fame is gonna be fleeting. It's not salacious enough to last long."
"Thank God for that. I didn't notice anyone paying attention to me today, so I must not have hit the radar."
Jamie smiled at her. She'd never been anywhere with Ryan that the majority of people they encountered hadn't obviously or furtively checked her partner out. But Ryan was so used to people being intrigued by her physical presence that she didn't seem to notice it. Jamie wasn't sure what level of scrutiny would penetrate her lover's fog, but she was happy that today didn't reach that level. "I'm glad." She kissed Ryan tenderly, then wrapped her arms around her and held her for a few minutes, finding herself nearly lulled to sleep by her partner's strong, steady heartbeat.
"Come on, sleepy," Ryan said. She took the textbook away and fluffed up Jamie's pillows. "Time for Mr. Sandman to visit."
Jamie scooted down under the covers and puckered up for another kiss. Ryan bent down and they kissed softly until her back began to ache. "I love you."
"I love you, too, honey. Kiss me when you come to bed."
"I always do." Ryan blew her one last kiss and went into her room, grumbling to herself when she sat down at her computer and tried to organize the parade of numbers and formulas dancing in her head.
* * * * * *
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