I Found My Heart in San Francisco: Book 15


A gradual, often unconscious process of absorption or learning

By SX Meagher

Part One

“Hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm—”

“What are you humming?”

“Are you awake, baby?” Jamie Evans moved the thick, dark hair aside and kissed the nape of her lover’s neck. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Huh-uh. I can feel when you start to wake up. It’s automatic.” Ryan O’Flaherty rolled onto her back and wrapped Jamie in a loose embrace. “We’re on the same wavelength.”

Jamie smiled at her and kissed the tip of her nose. “Sail Away.”

“Uhm … okay. Can I take a shower first?”

“That’s what I was humming.”

“Ooo. Sing it for me. Sounds pretty.”

“I don’t know all the words. But I was singing the bit I do know all night long. Do you ever do that?”

“Uh-huh. Especially if I hear something right before I go to bed.”

“I didn’t hear this, but it’s appropriate. I think it came to me because of our … whatever we had last night.”

She could feel Ryan’s body grow tense, and Jamie winced at the reaction. “I had a nuclear meltdown,” Ryan said flatly. “My best friend on the team thinks I beat you, and we have to pay for a new chair that we’ll never sit in. And if you tell me how much the hotel’s gonna charge you for the chair, I’ll probably have another fit.”

Jamie began to gently rub Ryan’s belly, an act that usually served to relax her. But it didn’t take long to see the technique wasn’t working today. “You didn’t have a fit or a meltdown. Well, maybe you had a meltdown, but it was a good one.”

Ryan’s voice was nearly a growl. “Meltdowns aren’t good.”

“If they melt down some of the barriers you’ve been putting up they can be very good.”

Her tone filled with self-loathing, Ryan asked, “Is that why you’ve got a song about sailing away from me in your head?”

Lifting up on one elbow, Jamie reached out and grasped Ryan’s chin with her free hand, forcing their eyes to meet. “Don’t go to that dark place again. I’m not thinking about getting away from you. I was thinking about how it feels after a storm.” Her eyes were fiery when she said, “Stay with me. We were in a good place when we went to sleep. Don’t let that go.”

Ryan blinked slowly, then nodded almost imperceptibly. “Sorry. My new baseline is self-hatred.”

“I know that, honey, and that’s something you have to work through. But I’m not gonna participate in it any more. I don’t hate one thing about you. Not one thing.”

“I find that hard to believe. I’m not the same person I was when we met. It only makes sense that you’d feel different about me.”

She spent a few moments letting Ryan’s words really sink in, then spent a few more thinking of her response. The delay made Ryan’s body become even more rigid, but Jamie didn’t rush to reassure her. She’d learned that her opinion about Ryan wasn’t what mattered. It was Ryan’s opinion of herself that was the crux of the problem. “Do you wanna hear the unvarnished truth?”

Eyes wide, Ryan looked at her, and Jamie could see the child-like fright glowing in her eyes. “Yeah.”

“I don’t feel the same way I did when we met.”

Ryan’s eyes closed for a second, and Jamie was fairly sure she was holding back tears.

Jamie continued. “I didn’t know you well, and I only had the image you project to work with. I thought you were pretty and cool and smart and amazingly self-confident. No, more than that … self-involved.”

A derisive laugh echoed through the room. “Had you fooled.”

“Yeah,” Jamie said softly. “You did. You’re not self-involved at all.”

Ryan’s head turned sharply and she searched Jamie’s eyes. “What’s that mean?”

“It means what it sounds like. You care much more about everyone else than you do yourself. That’s part of the reason you’re such a good partner. But it’s also part of the reason you get so down on yourself.”

“I only get down on myself when I deserve it,” Ryan muttered.

Jamie lay back down, knowing this would take a while. “Fine. Tell me why you deserve to be treated so poorly. What terrible thing have you done?”

Sighing, Ryan said, “I haven’t done anything terrible. I’m just not myself. I’ve lost my confidence and I’m not as self-sufficient as I used to be. I don’t even feel … sexy any more. I just feel … hollow.”

“You’re not always like that,” Jamie reminded her. “You forget the good days when you have a bad one. And you forget the happy ending when you have a bad beginning. Yes, you threw a fit yesterday, but we had such a nice time after you cleared some of that muck out of your head. But you wake up today and can only think about the beginning.”

“I acted like an asshole!” Ryan’s voice bounced off the walls, and Jamie was afraid the neighbors would hear her again. “How can you ignore the facts?”

Jamie sat up and rested her elbows on her knees, her repositioning giving her a few seconds to think of her reply. “I don’t ignore the facts. You’re the one who has a selective memory.”

Ryan blinked at her, obviously unaccustomed to being spoken to so frankly.

“We agreed to be more vulnerable. I rushed things by telling you something I was deeply ashamed of. I hit you below the belt, baby, and I never should have done that. I don’t have a reason in the world for worrying about your being faithful, and last night wasn’t the time to tell you about my baseless fears.”

“It was on your mind. You should be able to tell me anything on your mind and not be worried about my breaking a chair into kindling.”

“Fine. Let’s agree to disagree on that. But after you vented we had a good talk and we resolved some things. But now you act like that last part didn’t happen. That’s your selective memory. You hold onto the bad things and let the good things fly right out of your mind.”

“It’s …” Ryan roughly rubbed her face with her hands. “It’s like an earthquake. If something gets high enough on the Richter scale it sticks with me. That tantrum last night was about a 7.0. You don’t forget 7.0’s very quickly.”

“You can forget them, Ryan. Especially if you don’t feel like you created them. You’ve got to learn how to let go of things, baby. You just have to.”

“Easier said than done.”

“I know. But you can learn how. Therapy can help.”

“Ugh. I truly hate therapy. It’s like paying someone to hit you with a switch.”

“That’s a matter of perspective. I agree that it’s hard sometimes, but it’s also freeing. At least it can be—if you’re honest and talk about things before they explode on you.”

Ryan fidgeted a little, and her voice was tense when she said, “I told you I’d go. See if Anna has any ideas of who to go to. But if I go to see someone on my own, I’m quitting the group. I can’t take three hours of being stretched on the rack.”

Jamie laughed softly. “If someone convinced you that being stretched on a rack would make you faster or stronger you’d do it in a second!”

“Well, yeah. But nothing good happens in therapy.”

Jamie blew out a breath and grumbled. “I’m gonna act like you’re kidding. Then I won’t have to slap you.”

Wrapping her in a hug, Ryan said, “I was. Sorta.”

‘That’s what I thought. It’s the sorta that freaks me out. But I know you’ll give it your best. You always do.”

Ryan maneuvered her hand to take a peek at her watch. “I’d better get shakin’. Breakfast starts in ten minutes.”

“Don’t you wanna hear the lyrics I was singing?”

“Oh! Sure. Can you sing the song?”

“No. I just know little pieces. But the lines I kept singing were, ‘We’ll glide over tears, the saltiest sea, beyond all our fears back to you and me. After the darkness, after the gray and into the sun we shall sail away. Yes, into the sun we shall sail away.’”

Ryan looked up at her face, then slowly traced her features with a finger. “You have such a pretty voice. I could listen to you sing for hours.”

Looking a little embarrassed, Jamie said, “Uhm … thanks. I don’t sing as well as you do, so I’m always a little hesitant.”

“Who’s the idiot who says you don’t sing well?”

“Uhm … me?”

“Ha! I’d say you had a tin ear, but if you did you couldn’t sing well. So we’ll have to chalk this up to a lack of self-confidence. You’d better talk about this in therapy!”

“God, you’re funny,” Jamie said, not breaking a smile.

“You think you can hold out. But I can make you smile.”

“Can not.”

Ryan pushed her down and climbed on top of her, then set about making the most ridiculous faces Jamie had ever seen. She managed to contort her lovely face into some configurations that would have made Caitlin cry, and it didn’t take many of them to make Jamie smile, then laugh. “Stop! I’m gonna have nightmares!”

“Kiss me,” Ryan said, her mouth at a strange angle and her nostrils flaring.

“No way! Get that ugly mug away from me!”

“Come on, kiss me!” Ryan burrowed underneath Jamie’s hands, getting to her chin, where she delivered some wet, sloppy kisses.

“Ahh! Gross!”

“Come on,” Ryan said, sliding off Jamie to get to her feet. “I’ll wash the slobber off you.”

“You’re worse than Duffy!” Jamie wiped at her wet face with both hands.


Ryan bent over and started to snuffle at various spots on Jamie’s naked body, sending the giggling woman towards the safety of the bathroom. “Get that wet muzzle off me!”

Grabbing her just before she reached the door, Ryan trapped one of Jamie’s thighs between her own and started to hump her, looking just like Duffy did when he caught a weaker dog and wanted to show him he was dominant.

“Stop humping me!” Jamie shouted, trying to wriggle out of Ryan’s grasp.

There was a quiet knock on the door and Jamie gave Ryan a murderous look. “If that’s security …” She went into the bathroom and grabbed a towel, wrapping herself in it. Looking out the peephole, she saw Jackie, once again looking uncomfortable. Opening the door, she smiled and theatrically said, “Yes?”

“Uhm … breakfast?”

“We’re just getting in the shower.”

“Okay. Tell Ryan I’ll see her downstairs. Coach wants us there on time.” She looked down for a second, then shyly met Jamie’s eyes. “Everything okay? I heard some noises.”

Ryan’s voice called out, “If you’re gonna come investigate every time Jamie squeals, you’d better just stay in our room.”

“No thanks!” Jackie said, looking relieved. “I don’t know what you people do to each other, but I don’t think my heart could take it.”

“Don’t rush to judgment,” Ryan said, “Jamie used to be on your team.”

Jackie looked surprised. “Really?” She looked to Jamie for confirmation.

“Yeah. It’s been just about a year since I went over to the dark side.”

“Wow, you must’ve caught on quick.”

“She’s a natural,” Ryan called out. “Now close the damned door so we can get a shower!”

“See you downstairs, O. And hurry up!”

Jamie closed the door and went into the bathroom where Ryan was adjusting the shower. “You’re being very playful today. I thought you might feel uncomfortable around Jackie.”

“I do,” Ryan said. “But that’s how I get over it … with jocks.”

Ryan was in such a vulnerable position that Jamie couldn’t resist giving her butt a slap. “You know, I’m on a varsity sport, too. Why don’t you treat me like a jock?”

“I could, but I don’t think you’d like it. Lots of towel snapping and wrapping you up in athletic tape and throwing you into a whirlpool filled with ice. Nothing very romantic.”

Jamie wasn’t sure which of Ryan’s tales were accurate or heavily embellished, but she decided she wouldn’t care to be treated to an ice bath. “Okay. You can continue to think of me like a girl.”

“Mmm,” Ryan said, popping a hard nipple into her mouth. “I like girls.”


Mia Christopher sat at the table in her spacious, nearly empty kitchen, idly stirring her coffee while reading the San Francisco Chronicle. She’d finished breakfast—a bowl of the same health-saturated granola that Jordan ate before she left for practice. Like her partner, she’d added dates and a sliced banana; unlike Jordan, the addition of a few tablespoons of brown sugar made her actually like the stuff.

She craved a latte, but had trained herself to settle for coffee. It wasn’t her favorite, but now that she didn’t have a charge card and a doting, bill-paying father, she was careful with her money. It was hard for her to justify a $4.00 latte for breakfast, especially since she’d have one later in the day if she went to her local espresso shrine to read. The latte tax was high, but she refused to be one of those people who took up a table and didn’t buy anything. So she nursed her coffee and tried not to feel a little ache of longing when she read that the Bay Area was shrouded with fog. A quick look out the window in the living room confirmed that the Colorado skies were crystal clear and saturated with blue.

Realizing that she was perversely longing for foul weather, she got up and washed the few dishes they’d dirtied, then went into their bedroom and neatened it. There wasn’t much to do, since Jordan was preternaturally neat, and she’d almost unintentionally become so herself. Their room was so small that it looked awful with just a few things lying about, so she’d learned to put her clothing away when she took it off. This morning, all she had to do was smooth the duvet out and arrange their pillows. Once that task was finished, she went to shower and dress for the day. Looking at the clock on the sink, she blinked, having to confirm that it was, indeed, only 6:30 in the morning.


It was fairly warm, so Mia dressed in a fleece top and jeans, adding her tall shearling boots. She’d found that their apartment was cool even when it was 60 degrees, so she’d taken to bundling up no matter the weather. Her favorite bookstore didn’t open until 10:00, and Jordan was due home a little after noon, so it didn’t seem worth it to venture out, even for that lusted-after latte. Besides, Jordan had taken her car, so she’d have to take a bus to the bookstore, and that seemed like far too much trouble. So she bunched up the pillows in the living room and made herself comfortable, then started to read a book that one of her professors had assigned as additional reading. It was the first time in her life that she’d done anything extra for any class, but she was determined to pull straight A’s her last term—just to show her parents that moving to Colorado hadn’t been a mistake.


At 11:00 someone rang the doorbell. Mildly annoyed, Mia looked at the door, then went right back to her book. It took a while to get comfortable on the floor, and once she was in a good position she didn’t like to move. And she’d learned that the only visitors they ever received were magazine salespeople and the odd election worker. But the person at the door was determined, and after the bell had been rung three times she got up, cursing softly; ready to give whomever it was a lesson in manners.

Peering out the peephole, she let out a gasp, sure that the person on the other side of the door was her mother. But that realization didn’t help her body, which was completely unsure of what to do. It wasn’t until Anna Lisa started to walk back down the stairs that Mia flung the door open. “Mom!” She ran down the few stairs and lunged for her mother, grabbing her recklessly and pinning her against the wrought-iron railing.

Anna Lisa kissed her cheeks, murmuring, “My sweet girl.” They were both crying while they hugged and kissed each other repeatedly. Once the first flush of emotion had quelled, Mia pulled back and led her mother into the apartment. But instead of continuing their tearful reunion, Anna Lisa stopped abruptly and said, “Oh, my dear God, don’t tell me you’re living here!”

Stung, Mia stepped away and glared at her mother. “Did you come here to bitch at me? You could do the same thing from Hillsborough … if you cared enough to call!” She started to turn and go to her room, but realized how silly that would be. This was her apartment, and if anyone were to leave, it would be her mother. Standing as tall as she could, Mia folded her arms over her chest. “You can stay if you treat me like a human. But if you’re gonna yell at me … go.” She emphasized her last word with as much cold disregard as she could manage, even though part of her wanted to run to her mother and lose herself in her embrace.

“I wish I didn’t have to yell at you! I wish you’d act like an adult!” Anna Lisa looked around the bare room, her eyes roving over the drab pillows on the floor. “An adult wouldn’t live in some kind of … flop house!”

Mia marched to the door and yanked it open. “Leave.”

“What? You wouldn’t dare!”

Mia steeled her nerves against the impulses that urged her to hold onto her mother and feel the love that she knew was hidden under the hurtful words. But she held firm. “Leave my house. You can’t come in here and insult me.”

There was a firmness to her voice that clearly stunned Anna Lisa. She closed her mouth and didn’t even attempt to speak. There was a moment or two of electric silence, then Anna Lisa said, “I’m sorry.”

Mia gaped at her, not able to remember her mother ever apologizing for anything. “Are you really?”

Anna Lisa nodded. “Yes. I didn’t come this far to argue with you.” Her chin quivered, then her body began to shake. “I miss you so much,” she whimpered as tears began to flow again.

Instantly, Mia was holding her, and they cried again, sniffling and wiping their eyes while they clung to each other. “Why do we fight like this? I hate it. I hate it!”

“I do too.” Anna Lisa fumbled in her purse and found a packet of tissues. She wiped her eyes while Mia fished out a tissue for herself and did the same. “I can’t explain it, but I love you so much … that sometimes I can’t control myself. I have to make you come to your senses!”

Reaching out to grasp her mother’s shoulders, Mia held her at arm’s length. “You can’t do that, Mom. No matter what I do … you can’t make me think differently or act differently. I’m an adult now. Even when you don’t agree with me … I’m an adult. You’ve got to let me make my own choices or we can’t have a relationship.”

Blinking, Anna Lisa started to cry again. “You’d turn your back on me? Knowing how much I love you?”

Her heart was thudding in her chest, and she thought she might be sick, but Mia nodded slowly. “I’d have to. I wouldn’t ever want to … but I’d have to.”

“How can you say that to me? I’m your mother!”

Mia released her, but kept her gaze fixed on her mother’s dark eyes. “I love you and Dad more than you’ll ever know, but I have to live my own life. I have to make my own decisions. If I let you make them … I’ll blame you if they don’t go well. That’s not how I want to live.” She wiped at her eyes with her sleeve. “I miss you so much, Mom, but I can’t go on like we have been.”

Anna Lisa looked as stunned as Mia had ever seen her. She also looked so deeply wounded that Mia’s heart hurt from seeing her expression. “What are you talking about? What have I done that’s so wrong?”

“It’s not you,” Mia said, trying to remove every bit of blame or judgment from her voice. “It’s us. We’re too much alike. We both get too emotional and start yelling at each other.”

Making a dismissive gesture, Anna Lisa said, “That’s nothing! It all blows over in a few minutes.”

“Not for me it doesn’t. You hurt me more than I’ve ever been hurt. And I keep replaying what you said to me in my head. And if things had blown over for you, you would have called me before now.”

Dropping her shoulders, Anna Lisa scanned the apartment again. “Is there anywhere to sit? I’m exhausted.”

“In the kitchen.”

They walked into the kitchen and both sat down. “Do you want something?” Mia asked. “I could make a fresh pot of coffee.”

“No, no, don’t get up. I’ve had too much coffee already.” Anna Lisa sat still for a few moments, then gazed at her daughter. “Are you here because you want to be, or are you doing this just to punish me?”

Unable to stop a derisive laugh, Mia shook her head. “I know I’ve done a lot of stupid things, but I wouldn’t fake being in love with someone just to piss you off.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it.” The snappish quality was back in Anna Lisa’s voice. “I meant coming here … dropping out of school … cutting yourself off from us.”

Holding up her hand, Mia ticked off her answers. “One, I didn’t drop out of school. I’m going to finish on time. Two, I didn’t cut myself off from you. You cut yourselves off from me. And three, I came here because I love Jordan and want to support her during a tough time.” She blew out a weary breath. “But I did come here when I did partially to get you back. I was being dramatic.”

Cocking her head, Anna Lisa asked, “Dramatic?”

“Yeah. When you told me that you weren’t going to pay for my living expenses any more I got crazy. It was overly dramatic of me to pack up and leave.”

“Thank God you see that now!”

“Unh-uh,” Mia said. “I agree that I shouldn’t have been so rash, but I’m glad I came. I’m doing really well with my course work and I’m being a good partner for Jordan. She works so hard that she really needs someone to make sure she eats a good meal and gets her rest.”

With a puzzled look, Anna Lisa asked, “Who makes sure she eats well?”

“You don’t have to look so shocked,” Mia said, a little snappishness coming back to her voice. “Jamie’s walked me through a bunch of things I can make. I admit I suck at doing anything interesting, but you’ve got to admit you never let me do a thing in the kitchen.”

“You never asked!”

“I most certainly did!” The volume was rising, but Mia felt powerless to stop. “When I was little I always wanted to help. You always told me that I was too little and cooking was too hard for a child.”

“It is! It was! A five-year-old can’t make a decent ragu!”

Mia slapped her hands onto the table. “This is nuts! We’re arguing about things that happened fifteen years ago!”

“Then don’t blame me because you can’t cook. I would have loved some help in the kitchen.”

“I refuse to argue about this. The facts are that Nonna won’t let you do a thing when you visit her and you won’t let me do a thing at our house. That’s just how you are.”

“Nonna taught me how to cook when I got married,” Anna Lisa said. “That’s how we do things.”

“Fine. You can teach me now. Jordan and I would marry in an instant if we could. She’s your … daughter-in-law.”

“She’s no such thing. You can’t get married, and even if you could … you’re not mature enough. You’re still a child, Mia, and you prove that by doing childish things.” She looked around the room. “This apartment is the best indication of that. What would cause you two to pick such an awful place?”

Her inclination was to snap off a smart remark, but Mia didn’t give in. “I know this is a dump. But Jordan’s trying to pay as little as possible for rent. We share this with four other women.”

“Four!” Anna Lisa stood up and started to walk down the hall. Every door was open, and she looked into each mostly-bare room, shaking her head and mumbling. When she reached the end of the hall, Mia pointed into her and Jordan’s room. Eyes wide, Anna Lisa seemed at a loss for words. She stood in the tiny, cramped space; her eyes scanning over the plastic bins that held clothes and books and personal items. “Those people locked in a house on that TV show live better than this.”

“This is how you live when you don’t have money. Jordan gets a small stipend, and, as you know, I get nothing.”

“You have a lovely home in Berkeley. And you’ll never convince me that Jamie would have thrown you out for being behind in rent.”

“No, she wouldn’t. But it’s a moot point because I wouldn’t take advantage of her that way. I wouldn’t sponge off my best friend just because my parents were being unreasonable.”

Anna Lisa brushed by her on the way back to the kitchen. “It’s not unreasonable to expect your daughter to act like herself. I wouldn’t support your living in a cult or joining the French Foreign Legion either.”

When they’d both sat down, Mia stared at her mother for a little while, her eyes narrowed in thought. “I don’t know how to prove to you that I love Jordan. I guess it’s not possible. This is where our love for each other should take over. This is when you trust me. Not because you think I’m doing the right thing … but because you acknowledge I’m old enough to make my own decisions. It’s that simple, Mom. Either you support my being an adult or you don’t.”

“And by support … you mean paying for you to do something we disapprove of.”

“Nope. I don’t want your money.” Mia leaned back in her chair and met her mother’s eyes. “I think we’ll be better off if I support myself. Besides, if you’re not truly supportive … I’d rather you didn’t fake it. All I want is to have a relationship with you and Dad again. That’s it.”

“And you’ll stay here … in this boarding house?”

“Uh-huh. Until we decide we can afford something better. Obviously, we’re paying next to nothing to live here. But if I get a job, we’ll be able to move someplace nicer. Once we decide what our travel schedule is, I’ll be able to look for work.”

“Traveling? Why are you traveling?”

Mia paused for a second before she answered. Slowly, she explained once more. “Jordan is on the Olympic volleyball team. They travel to play teams from other countries. Russia is our first stop. That’s in two weeks.”


“Yes, Russia. They play all over the world.”

“Who’s paying for that?”

“Jordan’s paying for my part. She gets to travel for free, of course.”

“That must be a lot of money! Why not use that money to get a nicer apartment? And some furniture!”

“Because Jordan wants me to go with her. She plays better when we’re together.”

Anna Lisa put her head in her hands and groaned. “Is this some sort of hero-worship thing you have going on? Do you wish you were on this team?”

Mia grasped her mother’s arm and pulled it from her face. “I’m … in … love. That’s all there is to it. I love Jordan, and I’m doing what’s best for her at this point in her life. When her career is over, we’ll decide where to live and what to do.”

A long minute passed while Anna Lisa stared at her daughter, her feelings masked behind her puzzled expression. “There are a lot of things I don’t understand about young women, and this … experimenting with homosexuality is one of them. I’ve been doing some reading, and it seems like this is a nationwide fad. I just can’t imagine why this appeals to you girls. When I was your age …” She shook her head, looking totally confused as well as frustrated. “I can’t even imagine what would have become of a girl who not only played around with other girls … but wasn’t even ashamed of it!”

“Would that make you happy?” Mia jumped to her feet, looking like she was going to throw something … possibly a punch. “Would you like it better if I was ready to hang myself because of these disgusting urges?”

“Calm down!” Anna Lisa shouted. “I didn’t say it was disgusting. Especially not if that’s the only thing you know. If you’d been a little tom-boy who never looked at a boy I’d understand better. But you’re not like that!” She growled with frustration, then slapped her hands on the table. “I spent hours pulling you off boys. You were always trying to go too far … right under my roof! You can’t tell me you were acting when you had some boy on his back on my good sofa, looking like you were going to mount him at any second!”

“I wasn’t acting!” She kicked the nearest cabinet and whirled around in a tight circle, feeling like she’d explode. “I like having sex with men! But I also like having sex with women. I like them both … a lot. And I’ve had enough experience to know what really satisfies me. And I know …” She leaned over and put her hands flat on the table, resting her weight on them while she glared at her mother. “That no one has ever pleased me like Jordan does. And that’s not because of her sex. It’s because she loves me and I love her.”

Acting as though she hadn’t heard a word, Anna Lisa shook her head and looked away. “Is Jordan going to make all of your decisions?” she asked, making Mia’s head spin.

“What in the hell are you talking about?”

“Your story about delaying law school was just that, wasn’t it? A story? Something you told us to placate us? Something you came up with so you could follow Jordan’s dream?”

“No, it wasn’t. And we don’t have the kind of relationship where one of us makes the decisions. We’ll each have time to do what we want, and her time is now.”

“But it wasn’t a story,” Anna Lisa said, her suspicion obvious.

“I didn’t know all of the facts when I told you that. I wasn’t aware that Jordan might want to stay with the team for the next quadrennial.”

“A what?”

“Quadrennial. That’s what they call the four years leading up to the next Olympics. She might want to play in 2004. She’s pretty excited about being able to play in Athens … the birthplace of the ancient Olympics.”

“And you’d … what?”

“We’re not sure. There’s nothing very concrete about being a world-class athlete. A thousand things could happen to make her stick with this or leave. One of her teammates is playing in her fourth Olympics. That’s sixteen years.”

“Oh, my God! Don’t tell me Jordan wants to do that!”

Mia shrugged. “She might. And if she does, I want to be there for her. This isn’t just a whim for her. She’s worked for this since she was a little girl.”

“And her dream has to be yours?”

Nodding, Mia said, “Yep. When you fall in love with someone who has a dream, you have to do your best to help her realize it. It’s not really love if you don’t.”

Anna Lisa sighed and closed her eyes. After a moment, she looked at Mia and stroked her cheek, her expression full of tenderness. “This isn’t what I want for you.”

Mia covered her mother’s hand with her own. “I know that. But it’s what I want. Jordan’s who I want. I’d love her if she were a demolitions expert or a stunt woman or a helicopter pilot. When you love a woman you have to love all of her … even the things that worry you or make life unpredictable.”

Picking up Mia’s other hand, Anna Lisa kissed it tenderly, then clutched it to her heart for a moment, clearly struggling with her emotions. “Where is this woman?”

Mia glanced at the clock on the stove. “She should be home soon. She took my car so she could come straight home. The other women stay at the facility to eat the free food.”

“What do you have for her to eat?”

“Uhm … nothing. I was going to go to the grocery store when she got home.”

Anna Lisa stood. “I have a rental car. Let’s go now.”

Mia looked up at her. “Now?”

“You have a job, right? How are you going to feed her if you don’t have food in the house?”

Stunned, Mia stood and gamely followed her mother out of the apartment, then dashed back in and left a note for Jordan.

Hi, babe.

Big surprise. My mom’s here. We went to the store. Be back soon.

Love you!



When Mia opened the door to the apartment, she heard the blow dryer in the bathroom. “She just took a shower,” she said to her mother. “She does that here so she’s home sooner.”

“I’ll put the groceries away,” Anna Lisa said. “You can go tell her that I’m not carrying a weapon.”

“I don’t know that you’re not!” Mia wrinkled her nose and took off down the hall.

Without knocking, she flung the door open, making Jordan squeal. “Ahh!”

“It’s just me.” Mia wrapped her arms around Jordan’s warm body and kissed her gently. “Miss me?”

“Is your mother here?”

“Yeah. She’s in the kitchen.”

“Then why are you so … normal?”

Pulling away, Mia sat on the edge of the tub. “I’m not sure. We have had a few arguments, but she seems like she wants to make peace. It was her idea to go to the store so we could get something ready for your lunch.”

Jordan tilted her head. “Really?”

“Yeah. It feels weird, but … also kinda normal. I’m … I’m not sure how I feel yet, but it’s going okay so far. She really wants to meet you.”

“I wanna meet her, too, but I’m a little worried about doing it in the kitchen.”

Mia stood and patted Jordan’s bare butt. “We don’t have any knives sharp enough to kill you. Don’t sweat it.”


It took a very, very long time for Jordan to emerge from their room, but Mia thought it was well worth the wait. Jordan walked into the kitchen wearing a sky-blue cashmere turtleneck and off-white corduroy jeans. She wore her hair just like Mia liked it—parted on the side so that a few strands tumbled into her eyes. Mia noted that she’d put on makeup … just enough to make her look fantastically casual. “Hi,” she said, making Anna Lisa turn from the sink and stare at her. “I’m Jordan.”

Wiping her hands on a towel, Anna Lisa shook Jordan’s proffered hand. “Anna Lisa. It’s good to finally meet you, Jordan.”

“Yeah. It is.” Jordan stood there, looking like she didn’t have another word to offer. But she was smiling as if she were waiting for a camera shutter to snap.

“We’re making your lunch,” Anna Lisa said. “I’ve never had tofu. Do you really like it?”

Still smiling, Jordan said, “No, not really. It’s not bad if you can flavor it with something good, but I’m not eating much fat right now, so I’m kinda limited. It’s a good way to add protein to my salad, though, so I just gobble it down. I’m usually so hungry that I barely register what goes into my mouth.”

Scoffing, Anna Lisa said, “That’s no way to go through life! Food is one of the most wonderful things we have.”

“I agree, and I love to eat good food. My nutritionist just has some firm rules. I’m doing my best to stick with them.”

“I don’t know if what I’m trying will be edible, but when Mia told me how you were limited I decided to see if I could think of something a little bit different. You must be going mad!”

Jordan shrugged, looking adorable to Mia, who was studying her with affection. “I don’t mind. I’m used to making sacrifices.”

“Sit down,” Anna Lisa insisted. “You must be tired.”

Jordan did, then asked, “Did you fly in … Mrs. Christopher?”

“Call me Anna Lisa. And, yes, I did. Early this morning.”

“Uhm … staying long?”

Anna Lisa looked over her shoulder and smiled at Jordan. “Don’t worry. I’m not moving in.”

“Oh! I didn’t mean anything by that. I just don’t know … uhm … anything.”

“My visit was a surprise. I was moping around the house yesterday and decided this has gone on long enough.”

“What has?” Jordan asked, sounding terrified.

Anna Lisa turned and put her arm around Mia, who was standing next to her. “No, I’m not here to drag my little girl home … although I wish I could.”

“Mom!” Mia scowled at her.

“I’m being honest. I wish I could take your hand and bring you home. But … I can’t. And I can’t bear to have this distance between us. So … you win. I’m going to try to keep my mouth shut and let you make your own decisions.”

Jordan beamed at her. “That’s gonna make Mia so happy. She’s really been down.”

“I’ve been fine,” Mia said, scowling. “But it has been hard to feel like I can’t call home.”

“You can call any time,” Anna Lisa said. “And I’ll call you every week. I hate the fact that I can’t put you over my knee and spank you to get you to do what I want, but I suppose those days are over.”

Mia laughed. “You didn’t spank me very often, and I’m absolutely sure it never did any good.”

“Maybe not. But it made me feel like I was doing something! Sometimes you had me at the end of my rope!”

“I think the last time you spanked me was when you caught me trying to cross El Camino Real.”

Anna Lisa looked at Jordan. “That road is basically a highway! And this little one was trying to dash across it in the middle of the road. I spanked her so hard my hand hurt for days!”

Jordan’s eyes were wide, but Mia was laughing. “I’d gotten off the school bus and was supposed to walk home. But I wanted to cross the street to buy some candy. Mom unexpectedly drove down to get me and the fur flew! I’m surprised she didn’t whack me right then and there!”

“I would have if I could have!”

“And you didn’t just hit me with your hand,” Mia said. “When your hand got sore you hit me with a metal spatula. I thought you were gonna kill me! I should never have let you catch me in the kitchen.”

Anna Lisa laughed along with her daughter. “I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police. I was yelling at you, you were screaming at the top of your lungs … it was mayhem!”

“It was,” Mia agreed. “Dad was mad at you for hitting me so hard.”

“I never should have done that while I was so scared and angry. I think that’s why I never did it again.” She patted Mia’s butt. “But I think it made an impression.”

“It did. It didn’t stop me, though. A couple of weeks later, when I knew you weren’t home, I did it again. I almost got hit by truck, though, so I never did it again.” Mia started to laugh at the befuddled look on her mother’s face. “You should have known by then that the best way to get me to do something was to forbid it.”

Chuckling, Anna Lisa said, “It’s amazing I have one dark hair on my head. This child made me old before my time!”

“But … she’s so … easy-going,” Jordan said, looking bewildered.

“She doesn’t know you very well yet,” Anna Lisa said to her daughter. “Poor thing.”


The trio ate together, both Mia and Jordan complimenting Anna Lisa on her experimentation. “It’s just a Waldorf salad,” she said. “Simple as pie.”

“And everything in here is on my approved list?” Jordan asked.

“Uh-huh. I put the tofu in the blender with lemon juice and a speck of olive oil to make the dressing. It isn’t as good as mayonnaise, but it’s not half bad if I do say so myself.”

“It’s so much better than a plain green salad,” Jordan said. “But I shouldn’t really have the olive oil.”

“You’re a young woman,” Anna Lisa said. “And you look like you just stopped growing about ten minutes ago. You need some fat in your diet. Don’t let people tell you what to do when it doesn’t make sense. You have to judge things for yourself. Be your own boss.”

Jordan smiled at her, then snuck a glance at her lover, who grinned back. “I didn’t get my independent streak from the wind,” Mia said, chuckling.


After lunch, Mia suggested going for a drive. “I’ve wanted to do that Gold Belt tour I read about,” she said. “I think the roads are all clear now. Anyone up for it?”

“Sure,” Jordan said. “It’s about time we got out of this apartment. Anna Lisa?”

“Anything you two want is fine with me. I’ve never been here before.”

“Neither have we,” Jordan said, chuckling.


They took Mia’s car after Anna Lisa found out that much of the drive was on gravel roads. “I know how your mind works, Mia,” her mother said. “But the rental car companies check for damage, and I’m not paying for a new … whatever the bottom of the car is called.”

“Oh, they’d have to get down on the ground to check that. Let’s take the rental and have some fun!”

“Mia!” Jordan looked at her like she was a stranger. “We can’t do that!”

“I’m kidding, honey.” She put her arm around her waist to give her a squeeze, and was only slightly upset to see her mother turn her head.


The scenic drive gobbled up the entire afternoon. Since none of them had experienced much of the inherent beauty of Colorado Springs they pulled off at every opportunity to get out and smell the crisp, clean air and marvel at the stark but alluring grandeur of the scenery. It was getting dark when they drew near Colorado Springs and Anna Lisa said, “Let me treat you to dinner. Where’s your favorite restaurant?”

“Uhm …” Mia looked at Jordan. “Have we been anywhere besides the place at the end of the street?”

“No, I don’t think we have. I guess we’re not very good resources.”

“You two have honestly not been out for a good dinner?”

“No. We eat at home,” Mia said. “We don’t like to throw our money away.”

“Have you even heard of any nice places?”

“No. None of the other women go out, either. We’re all poor.” Mia’s face lit up in a bright smile. “I know someone who’s not, though.” She pulled her cell phone out of her jacket and handed it to Jordan. “Call Jamie and ask her where to eat. She’ll know.”

Dialing, Jordan asked, “Has she been here before?”

“Doesn’t matter. She’ll know.”


As expected, Jamie made a few recommendations. She had to resort to the Internet to pull it off, but Mia knew her friend would never disappoint when it came to finding a restaurant. They decided on a place that specialized in seafood, since that was Jordan’s usual protein. The place was nice … much nicer than Mia would have ever chosen to spend their money on. “We could go someplace less expensive,” she whispered to her mother while the man at the reservations desk discretely assessed them.

“Don’t be silly. Since when do you even notice how much things cost?”

“Since I have to pay for them. We try to live on $200 a week.”

The maitre d’hotel began to lead them to a table, and when they were seated, Anna Lisa said, “You live on $200 a week?”

“We try to,” Jordan said. “But it usually ends up closer to $250.”

“You only spend $250 a week?” Anna Lisa gaped. “$250 for food and entertainment?”

“No,” Mia said. “For everything. Rent, utilities, cell phone, gas, car insurance, food … everything.”

“You spent more than that on clothes in Berkeley.”

Mia shrugged. “I’m not going to run through Jordan’s savings, Mom. We do all right.”

“But you’re not doing anything fun! You don’t go out and enjoy this beautiful town!”

“We’ll go out more now that it’s warm. We can go hiking and do things like that. And there are things at the university that are really cheap.”

“Mia, I don’t want you to live like a pauper.” She reached into her purse and took out her wallet. “I’m giving you back your charge cards.”

But Mia didn’t reach for them. “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I … don’t want to feel like you’re …” She looked away and shook her head. “It’s not a good idea.”

The waiter came and delivered water and menus, and before he had taken two steps Anna Lisa said, “You don’t want to feel like I’m what?”

“Nothing,” Mia said. She felt Jordan’s hand grasp her knee and give it a gentle squeeze.

“You have something to say. Now say it!”

“I don’t want to argue,” Mia said quietly. “And I don’t want everyone in this place to hear us.”

“Fine,” Anna Lisa whispered. “Then tell me what’s on your mind.”

Mia shot a look at Jordan, then met her mother’s gaze. “I know you don’t approve of … us. You don’t want me to live here, and you think I’m making a big mistake. I don’t want to take your money and come to rely on it again. I think it’s better if we keep it clean between us.”

“Clean? What does that mean?”

“It means,” Mia said, scooting her chair closer to her mother’s, “that we have to learn how to be more like … friends. If you give me money that gives you a right to say how I spend it. I don’t want it to be like that again.”

“You’d rather live in that terrible apartment?”

Mia saw Jordan start to slump in her chair. She knew her partner hated to be involved in any kind of argument, so she decided to stop it before it began. “New topic,” she said. “We can talk about anything but finances.”

“But …!”

“Later, Mom. We can talk later. But I won’t talk about this during dinner. You’re being very generous and I don’t want to ruin the best meal I’ve had since I’ve been here!”


Despite Mia’s edict, the mood at the table was fairly upbeat. Both she and Jordan raved so exuberantly over the well-prepared meal that Anna Lisa wasn’t able to stay angry. Jordan ate very slowly, even though Mia teased her about her pace. “You normally eat so fast that sparks fly.”

“This is just soooo good. I don’t know how they kept this salmon so moist without any butter or oil.”

“You don’t need anything on a good piece of fish,” Anna Lisa said. “As long as it’s very fresh, just a little lemon is perfect. Do you have a good fish store?”

“There might be one, but we don’t go there,” Mia said. “We just go to the local grocery store. I only buy fish if it’s on sale.”

“It’s on sale because it’s old! Don’t ever buy fish on sale, honey!”

“It’s the only way we can afford it, Mom. It’s not spoiled or anything. It’s just usually pretty boring stuff. Frozen whitefish or turbot. Nothing very exotic.”

Anna Lisa opened her mouth to speak, then shut it. She turned to Jordan. “Tell me about this traveling you two are going to be doing.”

“Oh! Uhm … well, we’re going to Moscow in two weeks.”

“That sounds exciting. How long will you be there?”

“Almost a week … including two travel days.”

Frowning, Anna Lisa said, “Only five days then. Well, you can still see a lot in five days. Moscow is a big city, but if you plan well you can get a good feel for it.”

“I don’t think we’ll be able to see much, Mom. At least Jordan won’t.”

“But … why?”

“I won’t have anytime,” Jordan said. “We’ll play every day, and we won’t know what time we’ll be playing until the day before the match. If we play late, we go early to watch the other match, and if we play early, we stay to watch the other match.”

“But that won’t give you any time at all! You’re going all that way just to be in a gym?”

Giving her a half-smile, Jordan nodded. “I’ve traveled a lot during my career, and just about all I can describe are airports and gyms. They have some very nice ones in Italy.”

“You honestly don’t get to do any sight-seeing?”

“Not really. And if we do … it’s something arranged for us. You know … for publicity. Volleyball is a big sport in Russia, so they’ll probably troop us somewhere for a photo-op.”

“What will you do, Mia?” Anna Lisa asked.

“I’ll look around a little. But I want to go to Jordan’s matches. So I’ll try to go to a museum or something before or after she plays.”

“You’ll be able to go to some interesting restaurants won’t you? After your games?”

Jordan shook her head. “I’ll have to eat with the team. They keep us on a short leash when we tour. They’re always afraid we’ll eat something that disagrees with us.”

“But … that’s the point of travel! Doing something different!”

“This isn’t really travel,” Jordan said, looking a little puzzled. “We’re just playing volleyball in a different place. It’s all about the game. But Mia can do whatever she wants. I’d love for her to really get out and see the city. It’s fine with me if she doesn’t come to any of the matches.”

“Jordan! Why would I travel half-way around the world and not come to your games?”

“I want you to do what makes you happy,” Jordan said, staring into her eyes. “Whatever that is. If you want to go on some all-day tours … that’s what I want you to do.”

Gazing back into her eyes, Mia smiled, shaking her head. “You’re not getting rid of me. Even in Moscow, I’ll be sitting there watching your every move.”

“You …” Anna Lisa make a dismissive gesture with her hand when both women looked at her. “Never mind. I just hope you both have a good time. Your father and I went to Russia for a few days when we went to an international law conference a couple of years ago, Mia. I’ll let you know the names of a few places I really enjoyed.”

“Thanks, Mom. I’ll figure out a way to get a little tourist action in. But Jordan’s what I’m most interested in seeing.”


Continued in Part 2

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