I Found My Heart in
By SX Meagher
The group spent the next hour and a half chatting more than watching the game. Since Ryan didn’t play and the game lacked offense there wasn’t much happening on the field to hold their attention. “Who wants to go out to dinner?” Jim asked. “I should treat since my team won.”
“I’m not gonna tell Ryan you were openly rooting for Stanford,” Jamie said, frowning.
“She’ll understand,” he predicted. “Years from now she’ll be a
“Probably true,” she said. “Well, we were planning on having dinner here,” Jamie said. “Mia?”
“Sure. I have plans, but not for hours.”
“We should have a party,” Jim said. “It’s not often I get home. What do you fellas say?”
“We can make it,” Conor said, not even giving Rory a vote.
“Catherine?” Jim asked.
“I’d love to.”
“Where should we go, Cat? Anyplace you know of that can seat a big group?”
“I know just the place. It’s in Hillsborough, and the chef is always ready to get to work.”
Even though Catherine offered, Ryan didn’t invite her teammates to the house. She knew Marta loved to cook, but she couldn’t imagine anyone loved having twenty-five unexpected guests show up. Jamie called Marta and offered to stop at the grocery store to buy whatever she needed to feed the crowd. By the time they arrived at the house, Rory and Conor were sitting by the pool, sipping cool drinks and listening to Jim talk about something that obviously interested them.
Jamie looked out the door of the kitchen, then commented to her mother, “Dad’s charming the boys, eh?”
“He seems to be.” She leaned over and whispered, “He was doing his best with me this afternoon, too. That always makes me suspicious.”
Turning, Jamie tried to put her arm around Catherine, then realized it was her left, which had no flexibility. She laughed and moved to her other side, giving her mother a hug. “He was very nice to me at dinner the other night. He seemed different somehow.”
“Mmm … not to me. He was his same old charming self, the persona that was always able to talk me into nearly anything.”
Jamie looked at her mother with a grimace. “That might be bordering on too much information.”
“Oh! No! I didn’t mean anything racy, dear. I’m not that insensitive.”
“Aw, you’re not insensitive at all.” Jamie faced her and gave her a long, warm hug. “You’re as sensitive a person as I’ve ever known. You and Ryan are very similar in that way. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I was attracted to her.”
Pulling back, Catherine stared at her daughter, obviously surprised. “If there’s even a kernel of truth in that, I’m enormously pleased.”
“Much more than a kernel, Mom. I’m just sorry I’ve been so grouchy these last few weeks. You’ve been wonderful—taking care of me and getting me in to see a good doctor. I truly appreciate it.”
Catherine kissed her gently. “You may be an adult, but you’re still my sweet little baby in here.” She tapped her chest over her heart. “I’ll always try to be there for you.”
Mia was hovering around Marta, sneaking a bite of food every time the cook turned her back. “Are you doing anything interesting tonight, Mia?” Catherine asked.
“I think we’re going out clubbing. Probably in the city.”
“Did you bring another outfit?” Jamie asked. “Or are you going to wear what you have on?”
“No, I didn’t think to bring anything. I’ve gotta go home and change. I’ve gotta look good to get into the coolest places.”
“Come up to my room,” Jamie said. “I’ve got some dresses here that you might like.”
“Let’s go! I’d love not to have to go to
They left the room, leaving Catherine smiling at Marta. “It seems like yesterday when they were riding their bikes to visit each other, doesn’t it?”
“It does.” Marta reached up and wiped away the tears that threatened to slip from her eyes. “The time has gone so fast. They seemed so young then … and now …” She shook her head and turned away, wiping at her eyes again.
Catherine moved to stand behind Marta and tentatively hugged her. “She’s not our little girl any more.”
“No,” Marta sniffed. “She’s a woman now with her own life. But I miss her.” She turned and grasped Catherine, crying against her shoulder. “I don’t know why I’m so emotional. Then change of life makes me act like a different person.” She pulled away and composed herself while letting out an embarrassed laugh. “I act like she’s my daughter.”
Catherine touched her cheek, looking into her eyes. “She’s both of ours. She wouldn’t be the woman she is without your influence, Marta.”
“You’re her mother,” Marta said, her gaze intent. “I’m just lucky I was here to watch her grow up. You make me feel like I’ve done an important job and that means so very much to me.”
“You have done an important job. Very important.”
Marta turned Catherine around and gently pushed her towards the back door. “Now go visit your guests and let me do it!”
Ryan sat by the edge of the pool, dangling her feet in the water.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t get to see you play, Ryan,” Jim said.
“I’m the secret weapon,” she said. “So secret that even Coach Roberts forgets about me. But I love being outside and getting free sunflower seeds … so I don’t mind.”
“Ryan would join any club that gave her free food,” Rory teased.
“Depends on the food,” she said. “I really love sunflower seeds.”
“Tell me about this math competition,” Jim said. “I’d never heard of it.”
“Nobody has,” she admitted. “Nobody who’s not into math, that is. For college students, it’s the biggest math competition in the country. It’s been going on for years.”
“Jamie said it was an all-day thing. Is it like the SATs?”
“No, not really. There are only twelve questions.”
“Twelve?” Conor asked. “I didn’t know that!”
“Yep. Only twelve.”
“How do they pick a winner? Don’t most people get ’em right”
“Ahh … no.” She smiled. “You get up to ten points for each question. So even if you get the wrong answer, you can get points. It’s hard to get more than five or six points for a question.”
“Oh, come on,” Conor said. “You’re a genius!”
“Right. Well, your genius sister got a fifty-eight.”
“Fifty-eight?” Both Conor and Rory looked surprised. Rory said, “But you got an award, right?”
“’Cause you’re the girl with the highest score?” Conor asked.
“I got a $1,000 for that, but I don’t think they should even have that award. It’s not like we have to solve problems while carrying bags of cement on our shoulders. Women’s brains are just as adept at math as men’s.”
“How did you do against everyone?” Jim asked.
“I came in twenty-fifth.” Ryan smiled. ‘Now that I’m proud of. Even though that only merits a measly $250.”
“People obviously don’t take this test for the money,” Jim said.
“No, it’s all for bragging rights. They publish the top 150 scores and the solutions in American Mathematical Monthly, and that’s an honor.”
“How many guys got 120?” Conor asked.
“None,” Ryan said. “I’m telling you, Conor, it’s hard. The top score was 74.”
“That’s a ‘D’!”
“I know. But I got an ‘F’ and I came in twenty-fifth! I’m sure there were a lot of people who got zero.”
Rory raised his hand. “I would have been one of them.”
“I bet I could have gotten a five or a six,” Conor said, grinning at his sister.
“I’ll let you take the test,” Ryan said. “The solution’s in the magazine. If you get more than a two, I’ll give you the $1,000 I got for being the top woman.”
Scowling, Conor said, “No thanks. You wouldn’t make that kinda deal if there was a chance in hell I could do it. Prying a thou out of your hands is like trying to get Heidi Klum’s phone number.”
“I could have the INS look it up for you,” Jim said. “She’s a foreign national.”
“Good lord,” Ryan said, getting up and going into the house for a refill. “With Conor’s mind and your connections—the federal pen isn’t too far off!”
Assembling in the living room when it got too chilly outside, the guests sipped cocktails and shared jokes and stories, the scene reminding Ryan of parties at her own home. The difference between this gathering and the first one she’d attended at the Evans house was stuck in her mind when Jim asked, “How are your plans for the future shaping up, Ryan? The last time we talked, you were considering applying to every graduate program except astronomy, weren’t you?”
She nodded, thinking of how he’d used her plans to make her feel insignificant and greedy.
“Tell Daddy what you’re thinking of now, honey,” Jamie prompted when it became clear Ryan wasn’t going to elaborate.
“Oh.” She tried to snap out of her reverie. “I’m a long way from making up my mind, but if I stick with biology, I’m thinking of sociogenomics.”
“That’s a new one for me,” Catherine said. “It sounds like a cross between sociology and economics.”
“It’s not, but it does kinda sound like that. It’s a term for a pretty new area of study. It’s … kinda … complicated, but in short—it’s the study of how genes affect the behavior of humans and how social forces can affect a gene.”
“Sounds fascinating,” Mia said, yawning dramatically.
Ryan scratched her cheek with her middle finger, making Jim laugh out loud. “I did that when I was in grade school!” he said.
“That’s Ryan’s emotional age,” Jamie said fondly. “The math and science parts are overly developed—leaving precious little room for anything else. She’s brain-bound.”
“This clearly isn’t my field, but I’m very interested, Ryan,” Catherine said. “I’m a little shaky on exactly what a gene is, but I know it’s the main thing you study in biology, correct?”
“Absolutely correct!” Ryan said, smiling. “I’m a biology major, but it’s hard for me to find anything in biology alone that interests me enough to spend my life studying it. But it’s hard to branch out and not bang your head against a wall. I’d like to be a biophysicist if I work in research, but even that isn’t everything I’m interested in.”
Jamie put her hand about a foot away from her head. “Big, big, brain.”
“Help your poor brother out,” Rory said. “What’s a biophysicist?”
“Uhm … let me see how to explain this without using too much jargon.” She considered the topic for a few moments, then said, “It’s the merger of biology, chemistry, and physics. That doesn’t sound like a new thing, but it kinda is. Even though it’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it that there aren’t borders around the different systems of the body—biologists tend to study only genes and their infrastructure of cells and receptors and proteins and the complex systems they produce.”
“Yeah, only an idiot wouldn’t understand that,” Mia said, batting her eyes.
“I’m interested,” Rory said, staring at Ryan’s mouth as if that would make her explanation more understandable.
“Well, chemists study the microscopic products those cellular systems put out. Those systems produce microscopic interaction … commerce really, between those molecular products. And physicists study the behavioral psychology of the forces and particles that are kinda the mechanics of that commerce.” She looked puzzled. “I don’t know why people think biophysics is a fad. It just seems obvious to me.”
“Oh, me too,” Mia said solemnly. “Plain as day.”
“Did you understand that?” Jim asked, stunned.
“Not a word. But she shuts up faster if you act like you agree with her.”
“Hey!” Ryan said. “Rory asked!”
“I tracked a little bit,” Catherine said. “But did you ever say what a gene was? I got a little lost.”
“Oh. Sorry. Maybe I didn’t. A gene is the string of molecules,” she spoke slowly and watched Catherine’s face to make sure she understood, “…which build cells, which then assemble into organs...”
Catherine nodded. “I’m with you.”
Smiling, Ryan went on. “And the organs organize as systems … like the endocrine system or the alimentary track and so on…”
“Got it,” Catherine said.
“And those systems make up the human body. So a gene is a small building block of the body, but it’s not the smallest one by far.”
“It sounds so simple when you describe it,” Catherine said. “But I think I’ve had you describe it many times. It just doesn’t stick.”
“It would if you took the basic classes,” Ryan said. “It’s hard to jump in at the biophysics level and expect to get much out of it.”
“Isn’t the atom the smallest thing?” Jim asked, looking a little embarrassed at his lack of knowledge.
“In a way,” Ryan said. “Unless you want to talk about sub-atomic particles and things like that.”
“Do we have to?” Mia asked, folding her hands in prayer.
“No, we don’t need to,” Ryan said. She turned to Jim. “Right now, both chemists and physicists study the atom, but chemists stick to the electrons and physicists stick to the nucleus. To me, that’s like trying to understand a car by having one set of guys look at the transmission, another look only at the engine, and another look only at the cooling system.”
“But that’s what mechanics do,” Conor said, suddenly interested. “They’re all specialists now.”
“Right, right,” Ryan said, glad to see some spark of interest in the room. “But you need a generalist … someone who understands the whole system … to design the car. A designer has to be an engineer who can get all of those systems, and more, to work together. A biophysicist looks at the bigger picture … by looking at the small picture.”
Conor threw up his hands. “You had me, but you lost me.”
“That’s because the analogy isn’t perfect, but it’s the only one that comes to mind. Biophysicists focus on particle science. They study atoms—both the nucleus and the electrons. They also study molecules and genes and cells and organs and systems—just the way an automotive engineer looks at everything from a drop of oil to an engine when designing a car.”
“Okay, I think I understand that a biophysicist tries to understand all of the three major branches of science,” Catherine said, “but why isn’t that enough for you?”
“Oh, right! That’s where we started, isn’t it?” Ryan chuckled. “I’d like to be a biophysicist who also made math and computer science part of my discipline. But math people are uncomfortable with hard science, and hard science people think math is too simple to bother with. They’re really antagonistic to math, which I just don’t get, since math is required in almost every scientific study at some level.”
“Maybe they don’t understand it,” Mia said, her voice a monotone as she acted like she was fashioning a noose and hanging herself with it.
Ryan’s face lit up. ‘You know, you’re probably right. Most scientists are pretty narrow and most mathematicians are, too. Maybe it’s just a turf war!”
Jamie got up and sat on the arm of Ryan’s chair, and ran her hand along her partner’s face, brushing some stray hair from her cheek. “I wish I understood more of what you love, but that was a really good explanation. Now let’s see if I can repeat any of it tomorrow.”
“Don’t bother asking me,” Mia said, blowing Ryan a kiss. “It’s all gone already.”
Marta called them to dinner and Jim pointedly sat in the chair Catherine had occupied during their marriage. She was taken aback, but didn’t move to his old place at the head of the table. Instead, she sat opposite him, and everyone else sat on the sides of the table as well, leaving the head vacant. Jim gave her a sly smile as she sat and she returned it, adding a wink.
“I think I have a better chance of understanding your career plans,” Jim said, addressing his daughter. “Cooking school?”
“No. I don’t think so. I don’t want to work in a restaurant, so it would be kind of a waste.”
“Do you have any plans yet, dear?” Catherine asked.
“Well …” Jamie pursed her lips in thought. “I wanna do something fun and pretty easy … I was considering making trivets out of Popsicle sticks.” Ryan reached under the table and pinched her. “Ow!” she said, scowling at Ryan. “I really don’t have any idea, Mom. I’m not like the big, giant brain here who can’t find something hard enough.”
“You can do anything you want, Jamie Evans,” Ryan said. “You’re as bright as a shiny, new dime.”
“I know I have a lot of options,” she said. “I just haven’t settled on anything that speaks to me.”
“Having time off will help,” Ryan said. “I’m looking forward to this summer as much as I did when I was a kid. Graduation can’t come soon enough for me!”
At around 10:00, Mia looked at her watch and said, “I need to get going to meet my friends. Does anyone mind if I take off?”
“We’d love to have you stay over,” Catherine said, “but we understand you have a busy social life while you’re here.”
“Still okay if I drive your car, James?”
Jim looked up, then laughed. “I forgot you call Jamie that. But you can have my car if you want it, Mia.”
“You guys are easy,” she said.
“Sure. You can drive my car. But will you be sober enough to drive home? That’s the critical question.” Jamie gazed intently at her friend, knowing Mia would be honest with her.
“Eww.” Mia’s sweet-looking mouth turned down in a grimace. “I guess I’ll have to go to
Conor’s eyes had been darting back and forth between Mia and Jamie. He cleared his throat and said, “We’re ready to leave. Want a ride?”
Jamie raised her hand. “Hey! Don’t forget about me! You brought my car down here, Mia, and it’s gotta get home. I can’t drive it yet, and Ryan’s is down here so she can’t do it.”
Conor chuckled softly. “Oh, right. I forgot you’re not like Ryan. She drove her motorcycle with a broken wrist.”
“Don’t tell her that!” Ryan whispered menacingly.
“Sorry,” Conor said, “I thought she knew all of your secrets.”
“Not half of them,” Jamie said, making a face at her partner.
“That estimate is a little high,” Ryan teased.
“How do you drive a bike with one hand?” Jim asked.
“My throttle hand was fine, so I just drove slowly since I couldn’t change gears.”
“I could imagine myself doing something like that when I was in college,” Jim said.
Catherine laughed. “Not after I got my hands on you!”
“True,” he said, smiling fondly at her. “I had to grow up. Finally.”
“Ryan doesn’t realize that yet,” Jamie said. “But she’s trying.”
“I’m gonna go change into my clubbing clothes,” Mia said. “I’ll take the car back to
“I don’t wanna go back to the city tonight,” Jamie said.
“I was talking to Conor and Rory, James. I don’t wanna take a good-looking woman clubbing. Too much competition.”
“Where are you going?” Conor asked, frowning slightly.
“Not sure. But it’ll be fun.”
“Will there be girls there? Besides you, that is.”
“Yeah. The guys I’m going with are gay, but there are always a lot of straight chicks at the clubs. I’m not sure why they go, but they’re always there. The odds are fantastic,” Mia added, smiling wickedly.
“I’m in,” Conor said.
“Ehh … I don’t know.” Rory looked very hesitant.
“Come on,” Conor said. “I don’t wanna be the only straight guy.”
“Okay. But I’ll only promise to stay for an hour. If there aren’t girls there—I’m out.”
Conor looked at him blankly for a few seconds. “If there aren’t girls there, I’m out in 10 minutes. I don’t mind hanging out with gay guys, but I don’t wanna dance with ’em.”
“Argue amongst yourselves,” Mia said. “I’ll be back in a sec.”
“You ride with Mia and meet me at home,” Conor suggested to Rory. “Then we can all ride in my truck. Mia can get a ride home from one of her sober friends.”
“The world has changed,” Jim mused. “When I was in college no one considered whether he was sober enough to drive. It’s amazing all of my fraternity brothers reached adulthood.”
“Thank God it’s changed,” Jamie said. “But that’s one of the best things about living within walking distance of bars.”
Mia got ready in a flash and she returned to appreciative murmurs from all of the men and Ryan. “Thank you,” she said, bowing. “Jamie lent me this dress.”
“Give it back in a hurry,” Ryan said huskily, her eyes looking Mia over slowly.
Jamie elbowed her, whispering, “Don’t ogle girls in front of my parents.”
“Oh! Sorry,” Ryan whispered back. “I just saw the dress and imagined how fantastic you’d look in it. I was really ogling you.”
Slipping her hand under the table, Jamie squeezed her partner’s upper thigh. “Good save.”
Ryan’s cheeks were rapidly coloring and she whispered intently. “I’m being serious. You’d look much better in that dress than Mia does. I took her out of it and put you in it. Really!”
Turning, Jamie saw that Ryan was agitated as well as embarrassed. She started to stand up, whispering, “It’s okay, honey. It’s no big deal. Forget it. Everybody’s leaving now. We’ve got to say goodbye.”
Everyone else was already standing, and Ryan hurriedly got to her feet. Everyone was talking at once, spending at least 10 minutes in a flurry of goodbyes. After they left, Jim said, “I suppose I shouldn’t be one of those guests you have to throw out.”
“Don’t be silly,” Catherine said. “Let’s all go into the living room and have some brandy.” She slipped her hand around his arm and led him out of the room, as Jamie gave her partner a puzzled shrug.
“Jamie’s been telling me about this big project you’re working on, Ryan. Is it something a political science major can understand?” Jim asked.
Ryan took a sip of her brandy, a spirit she’d decided she rather liked. “Uhm … the science of it is pretty far out there, but you might be interested in the results.”
“Hit me. I’m willing to show my ignorance.”
“I get this one, Dad. It’s a snap.”
“Like I said,” Ryan began, “the science is pretty difficult, but what I’m trying to do is use a formula to predict the stock market.”
“Hasn’t that been done before?” Jim asked. “A thousand times?”
“Yeah, sure. But this theory is based on physics and math and—”
“Don’t tell me,” he said, “Biology?”
“No.” She laughed. “Computer science.”
He snapped his fingers. “Should have guessed that one.”
“The point was to show I knew enough physics and math to work out the formulas,” she said. “It’s almost incidental whether or not it works. But I sure as heck thought it was gonna work.”
“And it hasn’t?” Catherine asked.
“Not as accurately as it should. If my work was correct, the market would have started to tank about two months ago.”
“Things have slowed down a little,” Jim said. “And Alan Greenspan has been urging caution for what … two years?”
“I don’t know,” Ryan said. “The stock market isn’t my thing … at least until I started working on this. Now it’s holding my interest.”
“It’s like gambling,” Jamie said, gazing fondly at her partner. “Ryan loves to gamble.”
“Me too,” Jim said. “We’ll have to go to
“I don’t have enough money to throw away,” she said. “Let me get a job first.”
He gave Jamie a quick look, but didn’t follow up. He was sure the girls were sharing money, so it didn’t make sense that Ryan felt she had none. But Ryan was speaking again, and he knew he had to listen to not be left behind. “Even though Greenspan has been bearish, I talk to a lot of economists,” Jim said. “A lot of them think there might not be a limit to how high the market can go. They think the equilibrium of the past might really be over.”
“Because of technology?” Ryan asked.
“Yes. Technological innovations might have created a whole new ballgame.”
“I could buy that if this boom was based on manufacturing or services, but it seems more like the tulip frenzy in
“I knew the Dutch loved tulips, but I hadn’t realized it was a frenzy,” Jim said.
“Oh, not now. This was in the seventeen hundreds. In the space of a month, the price of a single tulip bulb went from a relatively consistent price to an astronomical one,” Ryan said. “Like from $1 to $200.”
“For one bulb?” Catherine asked in disbelief.
“Yep. And there was nothing special about the bulbs. These were the same old tulips they’d always had.”
“Why the rise?” Catherine asked.
“No one knows. But it lasted a long time. It was the beginning of the Dutch bulb trade, and that lasts to this day. So this bubble started a new trade, kinda like Internet stocks might be doing now.”
“You do agree that Internet stocks have potential, don’t you?” Jim asked. “It’s not possible that they’re a total bust.”
She chuckled. “Well, it is possible, but I think the bubble will settle down and people will start investing in things that can make money. Before this craze started, that used to matter to people.”
“It still does,” Jim said. “But people are betting on the potential of these companies.”
“I understand that. But there aren’t many predictors that show these companies are doing much to actually make money. They’re using venture capital that people are literally handing over without much investigation.”
“But, as you said, there was a legitimate tulip market that was created,” Jim said.
“Right. But tulips never reached those crazy prices again. They call that kind of speculation ‘the greater fool’ theory. You’re not crazy to buy a tulip for $1,000 if there’s a greater fool who’s willing to pay $1,010.”
“It seems foolish not to be in that market,” Jamie said.
“True,” Ryan said. “People were making money hand over fist. And people from all over Europe heard about this and went to
“So, what happened?”
“One day — and no one knows why — a guy stood up in a tavern and offered a rare bulb for … let’s say $200. No takers. He dropped the price and kept dropping it. Everybody was frozen … like they’d all just realized they were thinking of buying a bulb for a ridiculous amount of money!”
“Did he get a buyer?” Jamie asked.
“I don’t know. But within two days, you couldn’t give a tulip bulb away. People lost fortunes, true fortunes. And some of these people had gone from nothing to the equivalent of millions and back down to nothing in a couple of years.”
The room was quiet for a couple of minutes, then Catherine said, “If you were in the market, what would you do?”
“I’d get out of tech stocks completely. That’s what I did in my play portfolio.”
“Yeah, I would. I’d look at what I’d earned so far as a very nice profit, and then take my money and hide.” She laughed softly.
“But if tech stocks crash, so will the whole market,” Jim said.
“Yeah,” Ryan said, scratching her head. “I guess I’d get out of the whole market and invest in bonds. Then stick my head out in a while and see if the bottom has hit.”
“You’re alone in that prediction,” Jim said. “I know you’re a very bright woman, but economics isn’t your forte.”
“All true. I’m not saying I’m right, just that my theory says the market’s past its zenith.”
“It makes sense to me,” Catherine said. “I’ve made a ridiculous amount of money in the market in the last few years. Maybe it’s time to be a little more cautious.”
Jamie looked at her mother. “What do your brokers say?”
“Buy, buy, buy,” Catherine admitted. “I’ve had to fight them to let me be more conservative than they want me to be.”
“I’ve been pretty conservative, too,” Jim said. “I try to invest in companies that are going to make something or sell a good service. Things like Webvan, and companies that are filling a need and have a lot of capital behind them. I’ve made a thirty-seven percent return this past year, and I’m not going to walk away from that kind of money.”
Ryan nodded. “I’m certainly not saying I’m smarter than economists who’ve been doing this for thirty years. I guess I have a vested interest in the market crashing,” she admitted. “So maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of small signs. But I’ve seen enough signs—like the Palm/3Com spin-off—to make me think it’s time to hide. I might lose some profit—but I won’t lose what I’ve made so far.”
Jim looked at her for a moment, his eyes slightly closed in thought. “You’ve obviously spent a lot of time on this, Ryan, but for the economy’s sake—I hope you’re wrong. I’m willing to bet you are.”
“I did work hard,” she said, “but I kinda hope I’m wrong.
“It’s late, baby,” Jamie said, scratching Ryan’s back. “You must be tired.”
Ryan stood and stretched. “Yeah, sitting on the bench is more tiring than it looks.”
Jamie bent and kissed her father, then her mother. “See you in the morning, Mom. And I’ll see you the next time you’re in town, Dad.”
Jim stood and shook Ryan’s hand. “I had a very nice time talking with you tonight, Ryan. I can see why Jamie says she’s never bored.”
“Well,” Ryan said, smiling at her partner, “we don’t really talk about the stock market very often—”
Jamie put her hand over Ryan’s mouth. “Too much information,” she giggled. “Let’s go before you say something I’ll regret.”
Jim watched the young women walk upstairs. “They’re a pair, aren’t they?”
“How could I have never seen that kind of spark with Jack and still thought Jamie was happy?”
“I was fairly sure she wasn’t happy,” Catherine said, “but I didn’t step in. I still feel criminally negligent about that.” She stood up and started for the door.
Jim followed her and leaned against the wall, putting his hands in his pockets. “It’s a good thing she knows herself better than we did.”
“And it’s a good thing she didn’t let us … especially you,” she added, smiling impishly, “stop her from doing what she felt was right.”
“Let’s not revisit that, shall we? Being an idiot was bad; thinking about it is worse.” He smiled at her, looking very relaxed and comfortable. “Are you really thinking of following Ryan’s advice?”
“I am. And not just because of her theory. I’ve been skittish for a while now, and my brokers get more aggressive every time I try to back off. I don’t like that.”
“Mmm … I see what you mean, but I don’t think we’re at the peak. I’d hate to lose ten or fifteen percent on the basis of Ryan’s school project.”
“It sounds silly when you say it like that,” Catherine admitted, “but she’s worked awfully hard on this and her advisors agree that it’s very well done.”
“I hate to undersell Ryan, but I’ve gotta go with the economists in
“I won’t tell her,” Catherine said, tilting her head and gazing at him through half-closed eyes. “If you make millions in the next few months, I might have to ask for alimony, though.”
“I’d give you everything I have, Cat,” he said, gazing into her eyes so deeply that she felt her heart start to race.
She reached out and opened the door, the fresh air that flowed in helping her get back on track. “I’m sure you would. It’s been nice seeing you, Jim. Next time you’re in town, we’ll have to make it over to the city to see my new place.”
“Right. I forgot all about it. I got involved with a few things and the time flew by.”
“Next time,” she said. She hugged him quickly, pulling away before he was ready to. “Good night.”
Jamie opened her eyes on Sunday morning, slowly smiling at her lover, who was sitting on the window seat looking at a large photo album. “Is your cute little bare ass on my mother’s imported silk fabric?”
“Morning,” Ryan said, returning her smile. She stood up and flung the T-shirt she’d been sitting on at Jamie. “I’m not a wild animal!” She jumped onto the bed, acting exactly like the beast she claimed she was not.
“Stop it! My mother’s gonna come in here and you’re gonna be embarrassed!” Jamie was giggling so hard she could hardly form the words.
“She wouldn’t dare! She knows I’m wild and untamed!” She attached herself to Jamie’s neck, sucking and licking and nibbling in a frenzy.
Her flanks were exposed, so Jamie gave her a wallop right on the butt.
“Yow!” Ryan yelped, covering her ass with her hands. “You’re vicious!”
Batting her eyes, Jamie said, “Was that too hard, honey?”
“Yeah. But I liked it. You know I love stimulation of any kind.” She slid off the bed and did some jumping jacks, making Jamie ogle her bouncing body parts. “Let’s do something!”
“I was dreaming about going to
Ryan sat down on the window seat, then jumped up, grabbed the T-shirt and placed it carefully on the fabric before sitting again. “Damn, why do you have such great ideas when we can’t act on ’em?”
“No,” Ryan grumbled. “We’ve gotta go home. Mia’s leaving today and I wanna take her to the airport.”
Jamie gritted her teeth. “How could I forget that? My mind’s not working right.” She slid out of bed and took Ryan’s hand. “Let’s have breakfast with Mom and then hit the road. Maybe we can go to
“If not, we can go in June. If you want to celebrate our anniversary there, that is. I sure do.”
“I do, too,” Jamie said, taking Ryan’s hand and leading her into the shower.
Later that morning, Jim Evans stood at the first tee of Olympic Country Club, feeling content and at home. His old friends and golfing partners, John Chase and Gary Swibel had been playing with Adam Christopher and Jim for nearly ten years, and the men quickly fell into their usual routine of teasing and taunting each other. Jim was pleased and relieved that none of the men treated him any differently than they had when they were all local lawyers.
After the round they had lunch in the grill, and when
“Yes,” Jim answered honestly. “I am seeing someone. I don’t think it will last, but it’s fun for a while.”
“That’s great,” John said. “It was nice to see Catherine at the big fundraiser for the opera a couple of weeks ago. She looked great.”
“Ahh…that’s one of her favorite events,” Jim mused fondly. Then he made a face and said, “I hope she doesn’t find it too awkward to go to things like that alone.”
His friend looked at him with surprise, but immediately bit his tongue to avoid saying another word.
“What?” Jim asked immediately. “Did she take one of her stunningly gay friends with her?” Jim found it amusing that Catherine had always been such a magnet for gay men, and he assumed she’d recruit some of them to escort her until she was ready to start dating.
“I uhm … I suppose the guy she was with might have been gay, but if he was, he sure wasn’t obvious. He looked like he could have been an actor or a model though,” he said thoughtfully. “He was in great shape, I’ll give him that.”
Jim’s gaze sharpened and he demanded, “Describe him to me.”
“Uhm … I …” John said, “I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at him, but Marcy kept staring at him, wondering who he was.”
“Should I call Marcy?” Jim asked, tired of waiting for his friend to get to the point.
“No, I think I remember. He was big … very big … dark hair … very good looking … a real rugged kinda guy … looked like he spends most of his day in the gym.”
“Black hair? Blue eyes?”
“Yeah. As a matter of fact, Marcy made a big deal about how beautiful his eyes were. Hey …” He gave Jim a thoughtful look. “He looked like your daughter’s … uhm …”
“Partner,” Jim said tersely. “He’s her brother. And he doesn’t look like it, but that guy is the queerest of the queer. A real flamer.”
“Really? He seemed so macho.”
The senator gave his friend an evil smile and assured him, “All an act. I had dinner with him just last night and he had to leave to go to a gay dance club.” He smiled at his friend. “I think the whole family’s gay. Must be genetics.”
Mia got up on Sunday afternoon and wandered into the kitchen, finding Ryan making lunch for Jamie. “Any coffee?” she asked, dropping into a chair. Her eyes were barely open and her hair was going in every direction at once.
“Tough night?” Ryan asked.
“A little. I was over-served.”
“Where’d you go?” Jamie asked.
“Everywhere.” Mia laughed.
“Did the boys stay with you?”
“They left about 1:00 I think. I’m not sure, but I think I saw a girl with them. I’m not sure who she was with.”
“I’m glad at least one of them went home happy,” Ryan said.
“They had fun. We all did. After they left we went to some righteous drag bar full of fantastic-looking black men … or women.” She waved her hand. “I assume they were all men, but it was sure easy to be confused.”
Ryan had started the coffee maker as soon as she heard Mia using the upstairs bathroom, and she poured her a cup. “Hungry?”
“Not much. We went out for a snack after the bar closed, then we found an after-hours club, then we had another snack.” She made a face. “Biscuits and gravy at 5:00 a.m. Yum.”
“Someone must have been smoking pot,” Jamie said. “Sounds like munchie time to me.”
“Yeah, I had a little.”
Ryan opened her mouth and Mia held up a hand. “I can smoke once in a while. I just have to stay away from Ecstasy and acid and things like that.”
“I was gonna ask if you wanted some orange juice. I don’t care if you smoke a kilo of pot.” She shook her head. “I do care, but I certainly wouldn’t give you a hard time about it.”
“Sorry,” Mia said, looking up contritely. “But I know you don’t like it and you don’t want Jamie to do it.”
“Jamie can do it if she wants to,” Ryan said. “But I don’t have to like it.”
“I’m the one who decided I didn’t want to smoke pot anymore,” Jamie said. “It’s not fun unless I’m doing it with other people, and Ryan’s never gonna do it.”
“Got that right,” she said, smiling. “I have enough addictions.”
“You don’t have addictions,” Mia said, puzzled.
Jamie looked at her. “She does. Trust me. They’re just not the usual ones. She’s addicted to thrills and risk and danger, and she’s obsessive about finishing something she’s started and—”
“Mia’s heard enough,” Ryan said, clamping a hand over Jamie’s mouth.
“I’ve got all day.” She put her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her hands.
“No you don’t,” Ryan said. “When’s your flight?”
“Oh, fuck!” She dropped her head to the table. “I forgot!”
“Don’t you wanna get home to Jordan?”
“No,” she pouted. “I want Jordan to come here.” She stuck her tongue out at Jamie. “She could, too, if Jamie would build a new Olympic Training Center.”
Ryan looked from one woman to the other. “Huh?”
“Never mind, honey,” Jamie said. “Mia had an idea that seemed logical from her slightly unique perspective.”
“Well, if you’re gonna build one, let me know. I’d try out for a dozen sports if I could train near home.”
“Super,” Jamie said, rolling her eyes.
Mia was just finishing her oatmeal when someone knocked on the front door. “I’ll get it,” Jamie said. “If it’s someone trying to convert us, Ryan always invites them in and listens to their whole spiel.”
“I admire people who spend their time trying to promote something that’s important to them,” Ryan said. “Even though they’re never very good at answering my questions.” She looked thoughtful. “Why would you believe in a faith that you hadn’t investigated thoroughly?”
“You talking to me?” Mia asked, blinking when she looked up.
Laughing, Ryan said, “You’re the only one here.”
“Oh. Sometimes it sounds like you’re talking to yourself, kinda like you’re wondering out loud.”
“No, no, I’m talking to you.”
“Huh. Then why do you talk about things I’m not interested in?”
Ryan bent over and kissed her on the head. “There’s only so much to say about sex, hip hop, and drinking.”
A voice from the doorway said, “Who’s kissing my woman?”
“Jordan!” Mia jumped up so quickly that she almost knocked Ryan over.
Ryan was right behind her, grabbing the small portion of Jordan’s body that Mia wasn’t attached to. “What in the hell are you doing here?”
“Our coaches gave us three days off. Three whole days! I could have gone home and slept, but I miss you guys. I thought this would be an ideal time to visit.”
Mia was kissing every bit of her face, but she let Jordan use her mouth to talk. “I missed you,” she said, coming up for air.
Jordan looked down at her, her face creasing into a love-filled smile. “I missed you, too.” She dipped her head and they started to kiss. Ryan squeezed Jordan’s shoulder and went into the living room with Jamie, giving the couple time to say hello.
It took quite a while for Mia to finish welcoming
“Sit down,” Ryan said, “unless Mia’s dragging you to bed.”
Jordan took a seat and Mia climbed onto her lap. “I think we’ll stay up,” Jordan said. “If I’d wanted to just stay in bed, I would have gone back to
“We’re really happy to see you,” Jamie said. “One of the best surprises we’ve had in ages.”
“What have you been doing?” Jordan asked Mia. “Getting into trouble?”
“Nope. I’ve been sucking up to all of the people who are taking notes for me. I took all of ’em except Hannan out to lunch or dinner, and I made good copies of some of the notes I couldn’t read very well.”
“Why didn’t Hannan get a lunch?” Jordan asked.
“’Cause she’s getting a salary. Only the volunteers get benefits.”
“Tell us about
Jordan shrugged. “I guess it would have been more fun if we hadn’t gotten beaten so bad. We did salvage a match with
“Would it have been better if I’d been there?” Mia placed a soft kiss on Jordan’s forehead.
Looking at her for a minute, Jordan frowned and shook her head. “No. It was better to be able to focus … and bitch.”
“Did you hang out with your teammates?”
“Yeah. We talked volleyball every minute.” She gave Mia a robust hug. “I’d always rather be with you, but you would have had an awful time. I was able to put all of my energies into my game, and that’s the only smart thing for me to do.”
“I know,” Mia said. She relaxed against Jordan and said, “We’ll have plenty of time to play once you’re finished competing.”
“She might not be on another team,” Ryan said, “but she’ll always be competing.”
Jordan met her eyes and nodded, smiling. “Don’t scare Mia off! She thinks I’m gonna be a normal person when this is over.”
Mia and Jamie grew tired of volleyball talk, so they went upstairs to cancel Mia’s flight. Ryan assumed she wouldn’t get much alone time with her friend, so she stood up and said, “Let’s sit in the backyard. It’s a nice day.”
“Okay.” Jordan got up and followed her outside. They sat on the bench, both of them sticking their long legs out in front of them. “How has Mia been?” Jordan asked.
“Fine. Well, she missed you, but she seemed like her old self.” Ryan gazed at her friend for a minute, then said, “You don’t. Everything okay?”
Jordan twitched her head, sending her long hair flying over her shoulder. “Sure. Sure. Everything’s fine.”
“Not buyin’ it,” Ryan said, “but you don’t have to talk if you don’t wanna.”
“I’m cool with talking, I just don’t have much to say. I guess I could be kinda preoccupied about the team … but that’s it.”
“It sucks when you aren’t jelling, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. Especially when I know that we’d be doing better if we got rid of all of the extra players.”
“’Cause … they take up too much playing time?”
“Not really. It’s more of a psychological thing. We all know there’s a team in the group, but we’re not sure who’s on it. It makes us kinda tentative … know what I mean? A lot of people are trying not to screw up, rather than trying to be as good as they can be.”
“Mmm … yeah, that makes sense.”
“I’d rather they made the cuts now and got it over with, but they’re not gonna change the schedule now.”
“I wish you could get some peace of mind. Must really suck. Good thing you have Mia around to talk things over with.”
Jordan didn’t reply. She was staring at the fence, looking preoccupied.
Ryan bumped her with her shoulder. “Hey. Don’t you like having Mia with you?”
Jerking in surprise, Jordan said, “Oh, yeah, of course I do.”
“But?” Ryan bumped her again. “Something’s not right.”
Looking over her shoulder, Jordan’s eyes scanned the windows. “Can they hear us?”
“No. Not unless you yell.”
Chuckling, Jordan said, “I’m not that frustrated.”
“But you are frustrated. I can see it on your face.”
“Okay, okay. I am frustrated. And it pisses me off!”
“What pisses you off? Mia?”
“No, Mia doesn’t piss me off … most of the time. We’ve had a couple of tough days, but circumstances are getting to us more than anything.”
“Like the team roster?”
“No, that gets to me, not Mia. She knows I’ll make it.” She grinned and added, “She thinks I’m the best volleyball player in the world.”
“You are good,” Ryan said, smiling.
“And we both know there are about thirty women playing right now who are much better, Boomer.”
“Thirty seems high,” Ryan said, “but I know what you mean.”
“The things that bother me the most are big things … like Mia not being happy with where we live or with our roommates.”
“She didn’t mention either item,” Ryan said. “Must not be on her mind.”
“She’s been a trooper, Boom, really. Being in
“Wow.” Ryan didn’t say anything for a few moments. “It’s that bad?”
Frustrated, Jordan shook her head. “No, it’s not bad. It’s just … not good. She’s not happy unless I’m home, and that’s only a few hours a day. She doesn’t have any friends or any interests, and we don’t have enough money for her to go shopping,” she added with a short laugh.
“I wouldn’t like being around Jamie if she couldn’t go shopping,” Ryan said, lowering her voice just in case Jamie’s hearing had grown substantially better in the last few minutes.
“It’s little things like that,” Jordan said. “Nothing huge. And I hate to be so self-involved, but I have to be right now.”
“Of course you do. Doesn’t Mia get that?”
“Yeah, she does. But it’s one thing to understand and another thing to be the one who’s self-involved. She’s not as me-involved as I am.” She smiled wryly.
“Can you tell her that you’d rather she moved back?”
Jordan’s wry grin grew bigger. “Yeah. That’d go over great. I might not know much about being in a relationship, but I know not to tell a woman who had a major fight with her family over me to pack up and get out.”
“I thought you could be a little more subtle. I’m not sure how, but…”
“Right. There’s no way. We spent days arguing about whether she was gonna go to
Ryan put her arm around Jordan’s shoulders and hugged her roughly. “No it doesn’t. I understand, bud. I get just as focused as you do, and if I were trying to make the cut for something that meant as much to me as this does to you, I’d want to live in a cave. I couldn’t even stand roommates, much less a girlfriend.”
“Yeah.” Jordan nodded thoughtfully. “That’s it. This doesn’t have hardly anything to do with Mia. It’s my need to focus. The little things she wants would hardly register if I was back at school.”
“But you’re not. You’re at a critical point in a quest you’ve had for fifteen years. You might have to gut it up and tell her that you’d rather she leave.”
Jordan was already shaking her head. “I can’t do that, Boom. Volleyball means an awful lot, but Mia’s more important. I can’t risk hurting her—and our relationship. I don’t know if she’d ever get over the rejection.”
Thinking quietlyfor a few minutes, Ryan nodded. “I don’t think Jamie would either, if we were in your position. Sucks.”
“Yep. Sure does.”
“Wanna go find ’em?”
“Yep. I miss her already.”
Continued in Part 12 ~ Conclusion
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