I Found My Heart in
By SX Meagher
Ryan walked into the waiting area of Ellen’s office and smiled tensely at Barb. They’d been unable to use the room when they were in group, since the building was locked prior to their early-morning session. But now that they were going to meet after the usual group, they could relax in the waiting room. But Ryan wasn’t able to relax, and she quickly wished they were outside again, since the silence was much more pronounced in the small, quiet room. She was going to pick up a magazine, but that seemed odd, so she laced her fingers around a knee and rocked a little bit, knowing she looked nervous and uncomfortable.
“Do you wanna do this?” Barb asked.
“No. I hate therapy.”
“Me too,” Ryan said, feeling a little better at hearing Barb’s revelation. “I thought you were into it. You always talk in group.”
Shrugging, Barb said, “I wanna feel better. Sometimes it helped. But not enough.”
“Yeah,” Ryan said, her expression thoughtful. “Same for me. It helped a little, but it didn’t help enough to make me wanna keep coming.”
“So … why do this?”
“Mmm … I didn’t wanna find a new therapist. And I promised my girlfriend I’d keep trying.”
“That’s not a very good reason,” Barb said.
Even though her words were frank, she didn’t sound like she was scolding Ryan. “You’re probably right. But I hate this therapy stuff. It works great for some people, but I don’t like to talk about things that upset me.”
“That’s kinda the entrance requirement,” Barb said, smirking.
“I know. And I do try.”
“Do you really? Doesn’t seem like it.”
Ryan thought for a moment, then said, “You must be right. Ellen says the same thing. Maybe I’m an underachiever.”
“You don’t look like it,” Barb said. “And the stuff I read about you in the papers made you sound like a super hero.”
Ryan laughed. “They make an image for you. Whatever they think will make people buy the paper.”
Ellen opened the door and beckoned them in. They made a few awkward moves to choose a place to sit, and finally wound up next to each other on the sofa. Ellen took her usual chair and said, “I heard you laughing in the waiting room. That’s a good sign.”
Barb smiled and said, “We were talking about how neither of us really likes therapy. But we’re still gonna do our best.”
“I didn’t say that,” Ryan corrected, giving her a grin.
“I have confidence in you both,” Ellen said. “I was thinking about how to start, and it doesn’t make sense to have you tell your stories again. If you’re willing, I’d like to try something a little different. I think we all agree we want to get a little deeper than we did in the group.”
“I don’t wanna, but I know I have to,” Ryan said.
Barb nodded and Ellen continued, “Why don’t you each tell me what you know about the other. Why she’s here, what’s really stopping her from living life to the fullest?”
“You want me to tell you about Barb?” Ryan asked, looking puzzled.
“Yes. I don’t want you to analyze her. Just say what you’ve learned about her. I think it’s a way to let you each see what you’re projecting.”
“I’m willing,” Barb said. “I was kinda doing that in the waiting room.”
Ryan smiled at her. “Go ahead.”
“Okay.” Barb pursed her lips, her eyes narrowed. “I think Ryan feels angry. Mostly at herself. I think she’s got really high standards that she sets for herself, and when she doesn’t meet ‘em, she beats herself up.”
“True,” Ryan said, nodding.
“I think she’s also scared. Probably that she’s not able to take care of the people she loves. This whole thing probably made her realize how powerless she is. Nobody likes to face that.”
Ryan didn’t nod this time. She folded her arms over her chest and leaned against the arm of the sofa.
“She’s said that she feels bad that she didn’t act earlier and kill the guy who was driving the car. But I don’t think that’s true,” Barb said, glancing at Ryan. “I think she feels guilty about having anything to do with a guy dying. Even though he deserved to. Twice.”
It didn’t take long for Ryan’s reserve to shatter. Tears were rolling down her cheeks by the time Barb finished talking. Ellen held out a box of tissues and Ryan took the first of many she would use in the next forty minutes.
A full hour hadn’t passed, but Ryan felt like she’d been on the sofa for a week. Her body felt so heavy and lethargic that she wasn’t sure she’d be able to stand up. Ellen escorted them out and they stood outside the door for a second before Ryan impulsively put her arms around Barb and hugged her. “You get it,” she whispered. “You’re the only person I’ve talked to who gets it.”
“Yeah, I do,” Barb said, returning the hug. “It’s awful, isn’t it?”
“The fucking worst.” Ryan laughed ruefully. “I used to feel like I’d been hit with a stick after a session. Now I feel like I’ve been beaten with a belt. I guess that’s progress.”
Luckily, Jamie was at class when Ryan got home. Ryan had a long list of things she needed to accomplish, but she couldn’t bear to even look at her day-planner. She kicked off her shoes and lay down on the bed fully clothed, falling asleep in minutes.
Jamie was walking across campus, headed for the library when her cell phone rang. “Hello?” she said after wrestling it out of her pocket.
“It’s Ray Wisnewski. A couple of new properties came on the market this week and Niall said you might be able to come look at them.”
“Oh, he did, did he?” She laughed, shaking her head.
“Is … that okay? I don’t really know who I should be dealing with here.”
“Oh, it’s fine that you call me, Ray. We’ve got a whole crew and everyone acts like the boss until it’s time to actually make a decision. But don’t let that put you off. We usually argue amongst ourselves and not in public.”
“To be honest, I don’t recall ever working with a group as large as yours where there wasn't one or two decision makers.”
“Hmm … maybe you should just call me. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about any of the rehab issues, but I think I know enough about the neighborhood to know if something is worth looking at. And, to be honest, my schedule is the most flexible.”
“Great! That’s one hurdle down. Do you have time to come today?”
“Sure. I was going to study, but that’s never any fun. I can be there in an hour. Is that okay?”
The visit to
After a two-hour nap, Ryan woke up feeling better—lighter—than she had in days. She still felt emotionally bruised, but she had to admit that talking to someone who really, truly understood how she felt—and how guilt was consuming her—would eventually help. If it didn’t kill her first.
That evening Jamie struggled down the stairs with her traveling bag, scowling at Ryan who was sitting placidly on the couch, reading a book. “Thanks for the help!”
“I’m sorry,” Ryan said, looking anything but. “Did you ask for help? I must not have heard you.”
“A really good girlfriend would have jumped to her feet the minute she heard me hit the first stair.”
“See? I’ve been telling you I’m not a good girlfriend. I always know best.” She got up and took the bag from Jamie, helpfully relieving her of her burden for one step.
Jamie stayed on the first step and grabbed Ryan’s collar, holding her still. “I’ve never criticized your kissing, so get busy.”
Dutifully, Ryan put her hands on Jamie’s hips and spent a moment looking into her eyes. “Sometimes I wish you were taller. It’s nice being able to look at you without bending.”
“Hey, you could be shorter. I’m not crazy about having to stretch to get a kiss.”
A silly look settled on Ryan’s face. “We could work with what we have.” She stood next to Jamie on the step and started to kiss the top of her head, making ridiculously enthusiastic sounds while she rubbed against her. Jamie followed suit, making smacking noises against the point where Ryan’s clavicles met. They were both giggling when Ryan pulled away. “I’d rather bend,” she said, jumping back down to the floor.
“And I’d rather stretch. Your mouth is much more responsive than your sternum.”
Grasping her hips again, Ryan once more studied Jamie’s eyes. “It’s weird to be going to the same state, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. This is a first, isn’t it?”
“I think so. I’m glad we’ll only be apart one night. I don’t even know how far
“It must not be too far if you’re taking a bus after your game.”
“Don’t be so sure. The athletic department doesn’t throw money away. I didn’t bother to check the schedule. For all I know it’s a twelve hour ride.”
“You hate buses, don’t you?”
“Yeah. It’s impossible for me to get comfortable. Buses were made for people your size.”
Jamie put her arms around Ryan’s neck and clasped her hands. “This step was made for people my size to get a kiss. What’s with the holdout?”
“Nothin’. I just like looking at you. I never have enough time to just look at you.” She brushed her fingers across Jamie’s forehead, fluffing her hair. “You’re such a beautiful woman.”
Jamie smiled and looked into Ryan’s eyes, searching them for clues about her state of mind. She couldn’t read anything, so she asked, “How’re you feeling about going? Okay?”
Ryan nodded. “Yeah. I’m fine. Really fine. See?” She smiled so brightly and artificially that Jamie had to laugh.
“That’s a beauty.” She kissed Ryan’s smiling face. “When’s your flight?”
“Not sure. I just know I have to be on the bus in two hours.”
“You’ve gotten very laid-back about your travel plans, buddy. That’s not like you.”
“Yeah, it is. When I’m on a team I just do what I’m told. It’s like the military. Don’t ask, ’cause they don’t tell ya much.”
“Well, I’ve got to go now. Give me enough kisses to last until tomorrow.”
Ryan gave her a dramatically lovesick look. “Not possible. No matter how many I give you, I’ll still want more.”
“Then stop talking and start kissing!”
Mia came barreling out of their room and threw her arms around Jordan before she’d stopped running. “I knew it! I knew it! You rule!”
“I shouldn’t feel so good,” Jordan said. “I saw Rachel cleaning out her locker. She looked like someone just died.”
“Ooo … that’s because you’re my sweet, generous girl. You don’t like to see someone else suffer.”
“No, I really don’t. But at this point—it’s her or me. And I don’t want it to be me!”
Bright and early the next morning, Mia set out to start looking for apartments. She’d used the Internet and the local free paper, and had a list of ten buildings to check out. Her list of “musts” was short, since her main goal was to be away from their roommates. But if they were going to move, it only made sense to live close to the Olympic Training Center. So Mia concentrated her search to a three mile circle around the Center.
The first three buildings didn’t merit getting out of the car for. But the fourth one was decent enough, so Mia parked and went looking for the building manager. It took her a few minutes, since the place was fairly large, but she eventually found the office and buzzed. She entered an apartment turned office and smiled at the woman behind a desk. “Hi. I’m looking for an apartment.”
The woman didn’t smile back. In fact, she didn’t look up. “Student?”
“Uhm … no,” Mia said, figuring that was the correct answer given the tone in the woman’s voice.
“How many bedrooms?”
“Ahh … a one bedroom, I guess.”
The woman idly looked through a large book, and said, “Interior, first floor, $450. And View, third floor, $650.” She finally lifted her head and met Mia’s eyes. “Interested?”
“Uhm … sure. Can I see the cheaper one?”
The woman chortled to herself and said, “Everybody wants the cheaper one.” But she hauled herself to her feet and grabbed a huge key ring before leading Mia to the apartment. It was, as advertised, on the interior. But the way the building was designed meant there wasn’t a hint of sun in the unit.
“Does it get sun in the afternoon?” Mia asked.
The woman pointed at the window. “That’s East.”
Mia waited patiently until it became clear that was the entire statement. Luckily, she knew the sun set in the West, so an East facing apartment would be bright in the morning—which it now was. She went to the window in the living room and saw that the sun was hitting the upper floors, but couldn’t reach far enough to get to the first floor.
“The unit on the third floor gets sun all day. It’s on a corner, so it gets a cross-breeze, too.”
Mia was tempted, but she couldn’t ask Jordan to spend that kind of money on rent, and she couldn’t bear to be in a place that was dark all day. “No thanks,” she said. “That’s a little too much for me to spend. I guess I’ll keep looking.”
“You’re not gonna find a nicer place for $650,” the woman said. “Two hundred bucks isn’t that big of a deal. Cut back on something else.”
“I’m living on $800 a month,” Mia said, the number seeming even smaller when she heard it come out of her mouth. “I’d have to cut out eating.”
“Can’t have everything,” the woman said, laughing at her own joke.
The next place looked promising. Too promising to Mia’s view. It was very close to a nice business district, there were small restaurants and bookstores all around, and a $1.00 movie theatre just a block away. And the building looked better maintained than the last place. So she was sure she wouldn’t be able to afford a decent place, but she rang the bell anyway.
A gruff-looking man answered. “Help ya?”
“Yeah. I’m looking for an apartment. An inexpensive apartment,” she added.
He smiled. “That’s what everyone’s looking for. We just have different ideas of what inexpensive means.”
Mia smiled back. “I’m looking for a one bedroom, and I’d love to have some light.”
He nodded his head in the direction of the elevator. “I’ve got just what ya want. Just learned about it yesterday.” She followed him to the elevator, and they went to the third floor. He opened the door, and she was struck with the smell of … she twitched her nose and decided it was either incense or a strange variety of pot. “These guys will be out in two weeks. It’s not due for painting, but I think we’re gonna have to re-carpet.”
She looked down at the floor and saw stains that she couldn’t begin to identify. “Yeah. I think that’s a must.”
“Young guys tear a place up faster than a pack of wild dogs,” he said, with a surprising bit of amusement in his voice.
The unit was flooded with light, and it was big, much bigger than she would have guessed. The bedroom was jammed, but when she realized there were two futons and a full-sized bed she realized just how big it was. The kitchen was much bigger than their current one, although she wasn’t sure it would ever be usable again, given the cans, bottles, take-out containers and pizza boxes that covered every surface, including the floor. “It could use a little cleaning,” she said, unable to stop herself from making a face.
“And people wonder why they get roaches,” he said, laughing. “One bunch like this and I’ve got the whole line complaining about roaches and mice.” He shrugged. “What can I do? Clean everybody’s apartment?”
“No, I guess not. You didn’t tell me how much this was.”
“These guys are paying $450,” he said, smiling when Mia’s eyes opened wide. “If I clean it up right and re-carpet I could easily get $550. But …” He paused, looking at her carefully. “You seem like a nice kid. How many people?” His eyes narrowed. “Be honest.”
“Two,” she said, holding up a pair of fingers. “Two women. Clean women.”
“Which means two boyfriends,” he said.
“No, no boyfriends. We’re … partners. Life partners.”
He looked a little surprised, but he nodded agreeably. “You two party much?”
She laughed. “Not at all. We’re in bed by 9:00 almost every night.”
“Okay. I assume you’re bullshitting me, but you look clean. I’ll let you have it for the same price for six months, then $500 for the rest of the lease.”
“That seems like a good deal,” Mia said. “Too good if you know what I mean. What’s the catch?”
“No catch. I don’t like to screw with people, so I’ll tell you the truth. We’ve got a lot of Section 8 housing here.”
“Welfare,” he said. “A lot of single mothers with kids. So it can be noisy. We also have a lot of students. Our tenants turn over pretty quick. And we have to keep the security deposit on most of ’em to repair the damage. So this isn’t the place for a person who’s lookin’ for quiet and considerate neighbors.”
“But the apartment is nice,” she said, looking around again. “And big.”
“Yeah, it is. It’s a good deal for the money.”
“Can I bring my girlfriend over tomorrow to see it?”
He made a face and started to say no, but he hesitated for just a moment then said, “Early?”
“We’re up by 5:30. How early do you want us here?”
Jamie stood on the 18th green and tried to look interested, but Juliet was having the worst game Jamie had ever seen her have, and her mind had started to wander at about the 6th hole. Juliet looked like she’d been eating sour grapes, and Jamie knew that she was furious with herself, but Jamie didn’t have much sympathy for her. Once she’d realized that Juliet was really a jerk, she’d let her drop off her radar screen. Now she didn’t bother trying to talk to her or even acknowledge her presence.
After what seemed like twenty minutes, Juliet finally putted out, ending the match. Jamie shook hands with their opponents and started to walk toward the trailer where the tournament officials were collecting the scorecards. It took just a few moments to read off her scores and sign her card, and she was heading for the clubhouse when a young man caught her attention.
“Hey! Excuse me,” he said. He pointed toward a woman loaded down with cameras and lenses. “We’re with the ASU newspaper. Could we get a picture of you?”
Jamie looked over her shoulder, then back at the duo. “Me?”
“Yeah. We wanted a photo of your foursome. Melissa Walker shot the lowest round today.”
Melissa was a student at ASU, so it made sense they’d want her, but Jamie was puzzled. “Why the foursome? Why not just her?”
He frowned. “It won’t take long. My editor likes to have a lot of shots to choose from.”
“I don’t mind,” Jamie said. “Just wondering.” Juliet walked out of the scorer’s trailer and Jamie smirked at the thought of what the reporter would have to do to get her to stop.
The persistent staffer jogged in front of Juliet and gave her the same pitch he’d given Jamie. Juliet obviously thought he wanted a picture of just her, because she smiled and said, “Sure. Any time.”
Oh. She’s in her “I’m gonna be a big star on the LPGA tour” mode. No wonder she didn’t kick him in the crotch.
The reporter led her over toward Jamie, and Juliet’s smile faded instantly. The photographer rounded up the other two women and they stood there awkwardly for a moment as the photographer set up the shot. “Was this your idea?” Juliet muttered just loud enough for Jamie to hear.
“Yeah. I’m so crazy about you that I’d do anything to get a picture of us together.”
Melissa heard Jamie and she tried, unsuccessfully, not to look shocked.
The photographer said, “Can you all look like you just finished your round? Shake hands or something.”
Jamie played along, reaching out to shake the hand of the golfer from Texas A&M. Much to Jamie’s surprise, Juliet also did as she was asked.
A series of pictures was snapped, but the photographer wasn’t finished with them. She said, “This time I want the
Jamie saw the color drain from Juliet’s face and knew she was gone. Without a word, Juliet walked away, not pausing when both the photographer and the reporter called out to her. Still smiling, albeit falsely, Jamie stood there, waiting to see if they wanted to take a different picture.
The photographer looked a little puzzled, then said, “I guess I’ll just take a couple shots of Melissa. Thanks.”
The reporter walked over to them and asked for their names. The woman from
“Why? Because of Juliet?”
“Is that your teammate’s name? She really looked pissed.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. She’s … like that.”
He looked completely befuddled. “Like what?”
Jamie wasn’t sure why things had gotten to her, but her patience was shot. She looked at the man and asked, “Off the record?”
“Uhm … sure.”
“She’s an ass … hole.”
His eyes grew wide, then he smiled. “She seemed like one.”
“One of the biggest.”
“Oh. Can I have your names if they use that picture?”
Jamie paused, then said, “Just say ‘unidentified
Jamie answered her cell phone on the way to dinner. Caller ID showed it was Ryan, and she said, “Hey, good lookin’. What’s the good news?”
“Got our asses handed to us again,” Ryan said, sounding disgusted. “We can’t buy a run! We’re in such a slump, Jamers. Nothing Coach does seems to help.”
“That’s ’cause he hasn’t put you in.”
“Ha ha. Takes more than one person. The whole team’s not able to hit the broad side of a barn. Pisses me off.”
“Well, we came in thirteenth place today.”
“In the PAC-10? How’d you do that?”
“You’re too funny. There were fifteen teams. And two of them suck more than we do!”
“I’m sorry, babe. Are you upset?”
“No, not really. I did pretty well.”
“Cool! How’d you play?”
“Got a seventy-three. I came in twenty-eighth.”
“Wow,” Ryan said, thinking twenty-eighth wasn’t anything to brag about. “Good for you.”
“Led the team … not that that’s much to crow about. We’re in a slump, too. Juliet had an eighty-one. I thought she was gonna break her clubs.”
“She’s an asshole,” Ryan said, having never changed her mind about Juliet’s worth.
“Yeah, she is.” Jamie quickly decided to tell Ryan about Juliet’s snub later in the evening.
“You oughta hit her with a nine-iron.”
“Just my style. But not a bad idea. When will you be here? Soon?”
“Nope. We just finished. The bus isn’t gonna leave for an hour, and then we’re gonna stop for dinner. We’ll probably get to
“You know I will, but thanks for the offer. I hope your bus ride isn’t too bad.”
“It’s only about two hours. I’ll be fine. Have a good evening, babe.”
“Love you. See you later.”
Walking into the dining room, Jamie saw her usual place waiting for her. Lauren and Samantha, the two shy freshmen, waved at her and she joined them. As always, she talked while the two younger women smiled at everything she said. Juliet was eating by herself, but one of the assistant coaches sat with her. Jamie figured he was trying to cheer her up, but she could have told him not to bother. When Juliet played badly, she was unmerciful with herself.
Juliet finished gulping down her food, and she walked right by Jamie’s table, not making eye contact with anyone. Lauren shot her a look, then cocked her head toward Jamie. “Does Juliet dislike us?”
“Dislike you? No! No way!”
“But she doesn’t talk to us, Jamie. She hardly says hello when we’re paired with her. It really makes it hard. We’re supposed to be a team.”
Lauren looked so earnest that Jamie’s anger toward Juliet flared. It was tough, but she managed to say, “She’s very self-involved, Lauren. Golf means an awful lot to her, and she doesn’t really think about anything else when she’s playing.” Like being polite!
It wasn’t usually easy to get to Jamie. But once someone did, she was well-gotten. And Juliet had definitely gotten to her. As soon as dinner was over, she got onto the elevator and went directly to Juliet’s room. She knocked briskly and a minute later heard an, “I’m busy.”
That didn’t help her mood. More determined than ever, Jamie knocked louder. Juliet didn’t bother to answer, so Jamie kicked the door loud enough to have someone down the hall open his door and glare at her. “Forgot my key,” she said, trying to smile. “Heavy sleeper.” The man shook his head and went back inside, and Jamie said loudly, “I’m not leaving. So you can open it, or I can stand out here and scream at you.”
The door flew open. “Fuck you,” Juliet said lethargically, turning her back on Jamie and walking over to one of the beds to lie down.
Jamie sat down on the other bed, staring at Juliet who was staring at the television. “Why’d you act like such a jerk today?”
Not turning to look at her, Juliet said, “I didn’t do anything. I just didn’t want to stand there and have some idiot take my picture.”
Letting her comment hang in the air for a moment, Jamie said, “Bullshit. You didn’t leave until she asked you to pose with me.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. They didn’t want our pictures; they were just trying to show some of the chumps Melissa beat.”
“Mmm … Then why’d you let them take the first picture?”
Juliet turned toward the window, letting her eyes wander idly. “Why not? It only took a second.”
Jamie sat there for a moment wondering what sequence of events helped turn Juliet into such a mess, but her anger was greater than her sympathy. “The reporter and the photographer were really shocked when you walked away. But I told ’em a little bit about you and they understood.”
Whirling, Juliet’s feet hit the ground and she was inches from Jamie’s face. “What did you say?”
Jamie could see the veins in her throat pulsing, and she got a little thrill from upsetting Juliet. “Not much. I told them you were an asshole to everyone and that it wasn’t personal.”
“I told them the truth, Juliet. You’re an asshole, and you only care about yourself.”
Jumping to her feet, Juliet stormed over to the window and kicked the wall. “God damn it! My image is critical!”
“Oh, please! You only care about your image if you think someone can help you. You’re one messed-up chick. I don’t know how you got so screwed up, but someone’s convinced you of some strange shit.”
“What in the fuck are you talking about?”
“Your so called ‘image’ means so much to you that you make yourself look like an idiot to keep people from guessing your deep, dark, awful secret.”
Juliet’s eyes were nearly ablaze with anger. It seemed that the angrier she got, the quieter her voice became. “What are you hinting at?”
“I’m not hinting at anything, I’m stating it. You’re a l-e-s-b-i-a-n. A dyed-in-the-wool dyke.”
Juliet looked like Jamie had accused her of being into bestiality. “I am not!”
“You admitted to it after you tried to kiss me. Don’t tell me you forgot!”
“I’m not a real lesbian,” she said, grinding her teeth. “I just … I said I had … that I wouldn’t ever …”
“Juliet,” Jamie said, trying to inject some concern into her voice, “no one cares. No one’s interested enough to care. If you’d just live your life, you could have a girlfriend and no one would give a fuck. But you’re so homophobic that you’d rather be miserable and paranoid.”
“Oh, right. Look who’s talking! People in
“My situation was a little unique. But I wouldn’t change things even if I could. I’d rather have everyone in the world know than try to hide who I am. I did that before, and it nearly drove me crazy.”
“I … am … not … a … lesbian!”
Jamie had to laugh. She couldn’t keep the mocking tone from her voice; she wouldn’t have, even if she’d been able. “Okay. You’re not a lesbian. You’re a nice, normal, straight girl who tried to get me into bed. That’s what all the straight girls do.” She stood up and got right in Juliet’s face. “I’ve been there. I’ve done that. You can’t bullshit me.”
“I told you about some … feelings I had, and now you try to use what I said against me!” Her cheeks flushed and it looked like she was going to cry, but she held it in. “Get out of my way,” Juliet said.
Her voice was so cold, it startled Jamie. She stepped back and watched Juliet nearly run out the door. Before the furious woman got out the door, Jamie started to feel guilty. She knew that Juliet deserved to have her butt kicked, but she still had some sympathy for a woman who was in such a total state of denial. She noticed both room keys lying on the dresser, so she picked one up and went downstairs, assuming she’d find Juliet somewhere on the first floor.
There were still a few players lingering over dinner, but none of them had seen Juliet. Jamie was just leaving when Samantha walked in.
“Hi,” she said when she saw Jamie. “What’s wrong with Juliet?”
“Uhm … why?”
“I saw her leave the hotel a couple of minutes ago. She looked really, really mad.”
“Did you see where she went?”
“No. She just started walking. But I don’t know where she could have gone. There’s nothing around here except gas stations.”
Jamie patted her shoulder. “Thanks. I’ll go take a look. Maybe she just went out for some snacks.”
“Maybe. But she looked like she was gonna punch somebody.”
Jamie didn’t mention that she was the intended target. She went outside and scanned the parking lot, but didn’t see anyone. There were a couple of gas stations across the four lane highway, but Jamie didn’t think Juliet could get across the road without being run over. And there was nothing on their side of the highway for as far as Jamie could see. So she sat down on a bench at the corner of the building, deciding to wait Juliet out. If she’s not back in an hour, I’ll tell Scott.
Just under the hour limit, Juliet walked across the parking lot, heading for the front door. “Hey!” Jamie called out.
Juliet gave her a brief glance and kept going.
“I’ve got your room key. You left both of them.” Jamie could see the heavy sigh leave Juliet’s lungs. She approached rather tentatively and held out her hand. Jamie pulled the key from her pocket, but didn’t offer it up. “I’m sorry for the things I said.”
“Sure you are.”
“I believe them,” Jamie clarified, “but I know you don’t wanna hear them. And it’s none of my business how you live your life. If you wanna build a nuclear bomb-proof closet—go right ahead. I just know how lonely it is.”
Surprising Jamie, Juliet flopped down next to her on the bench. “You don’t know anything,” she said, sounding tired.
“I really do. I know what it’s like to have feelings that you’re afraid of. I know what it’s like to be terrified of disappointing people. I get that,” she said earnestly.
“I have …” Juliet’s mouth tightened. “I have a problem with alcohol. When I drink, I do crazy things. That’s why I … did whatever I did to you. I don’t remember it, so I can’t really know what I was thinking, but I’m sure I was just out of my mind.”
“Alcohol lowers inhibitions; it doesn’t make you into a different person.”
“What are you, a psychiatrist? You don’t know me, and you don’t know what was going on in my head. For all I know, you were hitting on me! Maybe you just came up with this story to … convince your girlfriend you didn’t start it!”
Jamie’s anger had faded and she didn’t have the desire to continue the argument. She laughed softly. “Yeah. That’s probably it. I’m always trying to think of ways to cheat on Ryan.”
“I don’t know how you people behave. You might fool around with anyone who’ll let you.”
“Yeah, we do,” Jamie said, smiling agreeably. “All of the stories you’ve heard are true. We’re like wild dogs. My favorite trick is to go to someone’s house and get so drunk she has to take me home. Then, when I get her into my room, I try to hump her. Oh, wait! That’s what you did!”
“I didn’t do that! You must have been drunk if that’s what you thought!”
“Nope. I wasn’t drunk. But even if I had been, I wouldn’t have hit on you.”
Stung, Juliet drew back, looking like Jamie had hit her.
“I didn’t mean it that way,” Jamie said. “I just mean that I’m happy and fulfilled in my relationship. Even though you probably find it hard to believe, lesbians can be happy.”
“Whatever,” Juliet said, trying to look like she didn’t care. “I only want to make sure that people don’t associate me with you. I’ve got to make sure sponsors don’t think I’m gay, because even though you don’t have much contact with the real world, people still want to sign straight women to endorsement contracts.”
Once again, Jamie couldn’t stop herself from laughing. “And what kind of endorsement contracts do you think you’re gonna get?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Juliet snapped.
“You heard me. Who do you think’s gonna sign you?”
“The usual—a resort, a ball company, a shoe company. Maybe a watch or a car manufacturer.”
“And why would they do that?”
“Are you stupid?” Juliet asked. “They sign people who they think present a good image and make people want to buy their products.”
“I’m not stupid,” Jamie said, feeling her temper flare again. “And you’re no Anna Kournikova. You’re a decent looking woman, but no one’s gonna sign you to make you an X-rated screensaver.”
“You’re such a bitch!”
“And you’re delusional! The only way for you to get endorsement contracts is to play well. Really, really well. You’re never going to get signed because you’re sizzling hot, Juliet, so the only thing … truly the only thing that matters … is how well you play. So stop your ridiculous paranoia and focus on your game! My guess is that you screwed up today partly because you were paired with me.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.”
“While I was sitting out here, I was thinking about your play and it dawned on me that you have a shitty round every time we’re paired. I think you’ve got half of your brain on your game and half on making sure no one thinks of me when they see you.”
“Do you blame me?” Juliet jumped to her feet. “You’ve been on the cover of every tabloid in the country! Everywhere we go, people follow you just to see the woman they saw every night on TV. I don’t wanna be associated with that!” She was so upset she was panting, and she stepped back just enough to lose her balance on the sidewalk. She started to wave her arms to right herself.
Jamie jumped up and grabbed her flailing hand. But Juliet was too far gone and she started to fall. Jamie should have let go, but she tried to pull her back—only to have the heavier, taller woman pull her down on top of her. Seeing that she was going to fall, Jamie pushed off the sidewalk, trying not to land on Juliet. It seemed like everything was in slow motion. Jamie knew she was going to hit the ground, but her feet still tried to come down first. They didn’t. She felt her right arm hit the ground, then her chin hit her chest. She knew her legs were on something soft, and she assumed that softness was Juliet, but she couldn’t make herself move. Everything seemed very quiet, and her brain didn’t accept that she’d fallen. It was very much like a movie that she wanted to rewind, but she didn’t quite know how.
Juliet’s voice sounded far away, and isolated—like it was the only sound besides the pounding of blood that was throbbing in Jamie’s ears. Struggling to move, Juliet got hold of Jamie’s hips and tried to push her, but as soon as her body moved, Jamie felt a jolt of pain in her arm that made her scream. “Don’t! Don’t touch me!”
“You’re lying on me! Get off, God damn it!”
“Don’t move me!” Jamie cried. “I’m hurt!”
“I’m hurt too and you’re making it worse!” Ignoring Jamie’s protests, Juliet again tried to slide out from under her hips.
“Stop!” Jamie cried. “God damn it. Stop!”
A security guard saw them and ran across the parking lot. “What’s going on?” he demanded.
“We fell,” Juliet said. “And she can’t get off me.”
“Are you two drunk?”
“No!” Juliet snapped. “Help get her off me!”
“Don’t you dare!” Jamie said just as firmly. “Just let me make sure I’m okay.”
“You’re okay? I think I broke my tailbone!”
“Juliet! Will you shut up for a second? I’m trying to make sure I can move my legs.”
When the guard heard that, he ran for the lobby to alert the manager on duty. Both the manager and the guard ran back outside to where Jamie was assessing her injuries.
“Don’t move!” the manager said. “I called an ambulance and they’ll be here in just a minute. They’ll know what to do.”
“It’s okay,” Jamie said. “I think I’m all right.” She tried to roll off Juliet, but the pain hit her again and she gasped. “Fuck.”
A cab pulled up in front of the hotel and Ryan got out and spent a moment paying the driver. She saw the men standing over a couple of people on the ground and assumed it was a liquor-driven fight, but she took a quick look before going inside and saw a body that she knew in an instant was her lover. Dropping her bag, she ran over to the scene and fell to her knees. “Baby! What happened?”
“God, I’m glad to see you,” Jamie said, then she started to cry.
Ryan was desperate for information, but a quick look at the men showed her that either they didn’t know or weren’t going to say what had happened. She looked down again and saw Juliet. Her stomach flipped at the thought of Jamie lying atop Juliet, but she swallowed her anxiety and asked again, “What happened?”
“I started to fall and Jamie tried to catch me. I went down and she fell on top of me. Now she won’t get off.”
“I can’t,” Jamie sobbed. “It hurts.”
“Okay. Let’s take this one step at a time. Tell me where the pain is, Jamie.”
“My right … everything. My arm and my chest. And my knee.”
“How about your head? Any pain there?”
Juliet interrupted. “I’m in pain too, and it doesn’t help to have her on me!”
Ryan looked her right in the eye. “I don’t care about you. So just shut up and wait.” She shifted her gaze to Jamie and her expression softened. “How’s your head?”
“Okay, but it hurts. I feel like I hit my chin.”
Jamie’s head was resting on her right cheek, and Ryan reached down and touched her face. “You’re not bleeding. Is your neck stiff?”
“No, I don’t think so. I think I’m fine, honey. I just hurt my arm. Can you help me up?”
“I’m not sure,” Ryan said. “I’m worried you might have injured your head or your neck.” She looked up and asked, “Is an ambulance coming?”
The manager pointed in the distance, and Ryan looked up to see the vehicle screaming up the highway. “We’ll let the paramedics do this, baby. They’ll make sure you’re fine.”
“Damn it,” Juliet cried. “Get her off me!’
Ryan leaned down once again and got so close their noses nearly touched. “I’d be happy to knock you out so you don’t notice her. Wanna give it a try?”
“Oh, you’re tough, real tough. Just try it!”
“You’re obviously fine,” Ryan said, standing up and brushing off her knees as the ambulance pulled up. “If you were really hurt, you wouldn’t have the strength to be a jerk.”
The ambulance squealed to a stop and the driver walked over to the women while the passenger opened the back door of their vehicle. “What happened?” the driver asked.
Juliet volunteered, “I started to fall backwards and she grabbed me. But I fell and she fell on top of me. Can you get her off?”
“In a moment, ma’am. Can you tell me how you’re feeling?”
“My butt hurts and she’s crushing me, but other than that I think I’m okay.”
He got down on his knees beside Jamie. “Did you lose consciousness?”
“I’m not sure,” she said. “Things felt really funny. I think I hit my chin. Maybe … I don’t know.”
He looked at the other paramedic and said, “Backboard.” The woman pulled out a stretcher with a backboard on top of it. She rolled it over to the pair and they began attaching Jamie to it.
It took them quite a while, but Ryan was thankful that they worked carefully, making sure to secure Jamie’s head and neck before they allowed her to move. The driver checked everything one last time, then looked at his partner. “Ready?”
“Yeah,” she said. They both crouched and lifted the backboard, then set it on the edge of the stretcher and slowly turned it so Jamie lay on her back. Ryan was right there, holding her hand and smiling encouragingly.
Juliet started to get up but the hotel manager said, “Wait! They didn’t tell you to get up!”
“Oh, quit worrying about your insurance.” She sat up before the paramedics could say a word. “Damn, my butt hurts!” She rolled over and got to her knees, then stood. Just as she got steady on her feet, Scott Godfrey, the golf coach, ran out.
“What happened? Ryan?” he said, looking at her quickly. “What are you doing here?”
“Softball,” she said. “Jamie and Juliet got tangled up somehow and they fell. Juliet seems fine, but she’s a pain in the ass. I mean, she has a pain in the ass. Jamie’s banged up, but it doesn’t look too serious.”
“Says you,” Jamie said, wincing.
“I just meant it doesn’t seem life threatening or anything,” Ryan rushed to explain.
“Where I’m from, this is serious.” Jamie managed a half smile, but looked startled when they started to move her into the ambulance. “Don’t leave!’ she said, grabbing Ryan’s hand.
“I won’t.” Ryan looked at the ambulance driver and he shrugged.
“You can ride up front in the passenger seat.”
“I’ll take Juliet to the hospital,” Scott said.
“I don’t need to go!’
“Yeah, you do. If there’s any possibility that you’re hurt, we can’t take any chances.”
“No arguments,” he said. “We’ll get a cab.”
She sighed, but nodded. The manager went in to call a cab and the attendant closed one side of the ambulance door, then jumped in. “We’re going to St. Luke’s,” she said.
“We’re right behind you,” Scott said, watching the ambulance pull away.
Ryan got in and buckled up, then turned around to check on Jamie while the driver pulled into traffic. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, but I wish you were back here.”
“Stop!” Ryan ordered, making the driver do a double-take.
“Stop the ambulance! My partner wants me in the back with her.”
“Honey, it’s all right,” Jamie said. “Really.”
“You’re sure?” Ryan’s tone indicated that she’d figure out a way to get back there, even if she had to take hostages.
“Yeah. I’m sure.”
The woman sitting beside Jamie started to take her blood pressure. “We’ll be at the hospital in less than five minutes. Let’s all calm down.”
“I started it,” Jamie said. “I know Ryan does whatever I ask of her. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Being injured is hard,” the woman said. “Nobody really likes being back here.” She checked the readout and said, “Your pressure’s low. Do you know what your normal reading is?”
“I forget,” Jamie said. “But it’s usually a little low.”
The woman nodded and made a note, then carefully put pressure on various parts of Jamie’s body and asked if she could feel them. Ryan was practically turned around in her seat, watching the woman like a hawk. They pulled up at the emergency room entrance before the paramedic could finish her cursory evaluation, and in just a few moments they were inside.
A nurse approached and spoke to the paramedics, their voices too quiet for Ryan to hear—even though she tried. They moved Jamie into a large room filled with other patients on gurneys, then they pulled some blue drapes around her spot and took their leave.
It took a few minutes for anyone to appear; Ryan was just about to go collar someone when a young woman came in.
“Hi. I’m Doctor Singh. I’m going to examine you.”
“Hi,” Jamie said. Too intent on watching the doctor, Ryan didn’t speak.
“So, tell me what happened.”
“I was talking with someone and she started to fall backwards. She was kinda on the edge of a sidewalk. I grabbed at her hand but she fell anyway. I remember trying to jump so I didn’t land right on her. Then … I remember falling … and that’s about it.”
“Did you black out?”
“I’m not sure,” Jamie said. “But things got … fuzzy.”
“Did you hit your head?”
“I don’t think so, but I hit my chin … somewhere.”
“Hmm …” The doctor looked at her face. “No marks.”
“It’s her arm that hurts,” Ryan said, unable to stay quiet.
“Yeah. My arm,” Jamie said.
“Okay.” The doctor looked into Jamie’s eyes with a small penlight, and had her follow the pinpoint. She spent a few minutes making sure Jamie could focus, then asked her some simple questions, which Jamie answered without problem. “Any stiffness in your neck?”
“Hard to tell,” Jamie said, “but I don’t think so.”
The doctor reached out to test her grip. When Jamie explained that her left arm hurt too much to move it, the doctor positioned herself so Jamie could keep it where it was, then asked her to grip. Then she removed Jamie’s shoes and had her press against her hands with her feet. She continued doing all sorts of small tests for a few minutes, then said, “Okay. You seem fine, but I’ll order a CAT scan just to make sure.” She smiled and was gone before Ryan could grab her by the lapels of her starched white coat.
“She didn’t look at your arm!”
“I noticed,” Jamie said, scowling. “It’s throbbing like a bitch!”
“I’ll get somebody to come in and look at it,” Ryan said, starting to take off.
“No, no, baby. Stay here. They know what they’re doing.”
A nurse came in and said, “Do you need help getting undressed?”
Jamie blinked. “Uhm … no, why?”
“I’d like you to put on a gown.”
“We can do it,” Ryan said, taking it from her. “When is somebody gonna look at what hurts her?”
The nurse looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“That doctor just looked at her head.”
“Right. This is the neurology E.R. The doctor said we could take your friend off the backboard. She just wants a CAT scan to be sure.”
Ryan’s look could have melted ice. “It’s her arm that hurts.”
“Oh. Right. Well, after the CAT scan, we’ll move her to orthopedics.”
“How long will that take?”
“I’m not sure. We’re busy tonight.” She took out a scissors and cut the tape that was holding Jamie’s head still. She gently pulled the remnants away from her face and loosened the straps that held her. “Sure you can undress without help?”
“Yeah. I’m certain,” Ryan said.
The nurse left and Ryan spent some time organizing the straps and pieces of tape that were far too haphazard for her tastes. “You just lie still and I’ll get you undressed.”
“Kinda like home.”
“Yeah. I think my motor’s really gonna be runnin’ when I get you into this lovely puke-green gown.”
Jamie lay still and let Ryan work.
She started at her feet and had no problem until she got to the long-sleeved shirt. That took some maneuvering, but she finally got it off. Ryan carefully examined the arm, wincing at the three-inch long scrape on Jamie’s elbow. “This looks really raw.”
“Hurts,” she said.
“Can you sit up so I can get your bra off?”
“If you help me.”
Ryan did, bracing Jamie’s body so she didn’t have to hold herself up. She got her bra off and her gown on with remarkable economy. “Okay. If you want me to take the board away, you’re gonna have to stand up.”
“I’d better. It’s like lying on a board,” she said, giving Ryan a glimmer of a smile.
They worked together and soon Jamie was lying on the fairly comfortable gurney. Ryan adjusted it so she was reclining, but not supine. Then she started to examine her arm. Jamie smiled at the level of concentration and care that Ryan exhibited. Ryan had her grip her hand, and nodded when Jamie was able to make a pretty good fist. She was also able to move her arm, even though she said it was very stiff.
“Mmm … I think it’s broken,” Ryan said.
“Yeah.” She looked truly sorry for delivering the bad news.
“But … I can move it!”
“I could be wrong,” Ryan said. “But I’ve broken mine … a couple of times … and it looks broken to me. It’s really starting to swell. That’s a bad sign.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “I’ll see if I can get you an ice bag.”
She went out to the nurses’ station and asked for one, but the new nurse on duty said a doctor would have to approve it. Ryan was going to point out the inherent safety of frozen water, but she knew it wouldn’t do any good. She’d spent far too many hours in Emergency Rooms to think that a lecture would get them to change their policies.
So she went back to the little room and left the curtain open so they could see what the competition was. It didn’t take long to realize that nearly everyone in the room had suffered a stroke or some other form of brain injury. The women looked at each other and Ryan went in search of a chair, knowing it wouldn’t be their turn very soon.
After an hour Jamie said, “I should call my mom.”
“Wanna wait until we know what’s wrong?”
“Mmm … if our daughter was in the hospital, when would you want to know?”
Without comment, Ryan pulled Jamie’s cell phone from the pile of her belongings and handed it to her. Jamie smiled and dialed. “Hi, Marta. It’s Jamie. Is my mom home?” She blinked, “In New York? When did she leave?” Jamie looked less than happy. “Was this planned?” She paused to let Marta reply, then said, “No, it’s nothing. I can call her on her cell phone. Thanks. G’night, Marta.”
She snapped her phone closed and said, “She left for
Ryan raised her eyebrows. “Maybe she just decided to see a play or something.”
“Nope. Marta said she told her about the trip over a week ago. She intentionally didn’t tell me.”
“Uhm … maybe she forgot,” Ryan said, knowing that wasn’t the case.
“She didn’t want me to know.” Jamie’s scowl grew deeper. “She must be with Giacomo.”
“Well, he’s an art dealer. I’m sure he goes to
“Huh. I wonder why she didn’t say anything.”
“Either she doesn’t want me to know or she doesn’t want me to give her a hard time or she embarrassed.”
Ryan nodded. “Those sound like the most logical reasons. I hope she’s not embarrassed.”
“I hope she is,” Jamie grumbled. “Then she might stop this nonsense!”
“Aren’t you gonna call her?”
“No,” Jamie said, pouting. “If she can have secrets, so can I.”
They took Jamie for the CAT scan at one o’clock in the morning, and shortly after she left, Scott found Ryan sitting in the empty cubicle. “Hi,” he said. “How’s Jamie?”
“I think her elbow’s broken, but I’m the only one who has looked at it. She’s having a CAT scan now—for no good reason. How’s Juliet?”
“Fine. Just bruised her tailbone. I’ll send her back to the hotel in a cab and stay with you.”
“Nah. Don’t do that, Scott. We’ll probably be here all night. You should get some rest. I can take care of Jamie.”
He gave her a rueful grin. “How can I sleep when one of my best players is in the hospital?”
“She’ll be fine. I might be wrong; she might just have a bad bruise. Think happy thoughts and go to sleep.”
He looked reluctant, but said, “I normally wouldn’t leave, but you two are clearly capable of taking care of yourselves. I can’t say that about the rest of the team.”
“This is kinda like having a bunch of college-aged daughters, isn’t it?”
“A little bit. Jamie’s the best of the bunch,” he said, smiling.
“You don’t have to convince me.” Ryan’s eyes shifted and she stood up. “Here’s my girl now.”
Jamie looked remarkably pale and small in the large, green gown, but she was smiling and looked good, all things considered. “Hi,” she said to Scott. “They just took a picture of my head. They’re working their way down to my arm.”
Scott took a look at the elbow and tried not to wince. It was already turning blue and was at least twice its normal size. Jamie had her hand resting on her belly, and Ryan had rolled a sheet up to support the arm. “Looks like it hurts,” he said.
“Actually, it doesn’t hurt much if I don’t move it.”
“Well, keep a good thought. Maybe it’s just a bruise.”
“That’s what I think,” Jamie said. “I think it’d hurt more if it was broken.”
Ryan smiled, knowing that had never been the case with her broken bones. But she didn’t want to dash Jamie’s hopes for a quick recovery.
“Ryan told me to head back to the hotel,” Scott said. “Is that okay with you?”
“Yeah. You don’t need to stay. At this rate, today’s match’ll be over before I get anyone to look at me.”
“I’ll have my cell phone on,” Scott said. “Call me if you need anything. Do you need me to call your parents, Jamie?”
“No, I’m good. Thanks, Scott. Good luck today.”
“I’ll count it lucky if you’re not badly hurt.”
He turned and left and Ryan smiled and said, “You didn’t ask how Juliet was.”
“Huh. Guess I don’t care.”
“That’s a good sign,” Ryan said. “Shows you’re coming to your senses.”
The neurologist came by at 2:00 and said there was no indication of a head injury. She ordered an ice pack for Jamie’s arm, but the swelling was about as bad as it was going to get. When the ice pack arrived, Ryan got it placed around Jamie’s arm and held it in place. Her brow furrowed and she pulled the gown down from Jamie’s neck.
“Big bruise on your chest. That must be where your chin hit.” She touched it lightly and Jamie winced.
“That’s the spot.”
“Hey, if we’re here long enough, we’ll have you completely diagnosed.”
“Super. Hey, would you get me a soda? I need some caffeine if I’m gonna be up all night.”
“You can sleep, honey. You’re on a nice bed.”
“If this is a nice bed, Juliet’s a nice teammate.”
Continued in Part 4
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