I Found My Heart in San Francisco

 

Book 1: Awakenings

 

By: S X Meagher

 

Disclaimers: See Chapter 1

 

Feedback: I'm consumed by self-criticism; therefore only positive feedback will be read. If you enjoyed the story please stroke my fragile ego, if not, flush it from your memory bank and move on. You can email me at sx_meagher@mindspring.com

 

Chapter 11

 

She's turned you down twice, Jamie. Twice in a week. Of all the times you've seen her, she has refused you just twice. Don't be such a baby. She has a girlfriend now. She can't be sitting by the phone just waiting for your call. Tracy is everything that you say you want for her. She's smart, she's sweet, and she's very funny. Ryan seems awfully cute with her. Do you want her to be happy or not?

 

At least Tracy is going home to visit her parents for a couple of weeks during winter break, she thought selfishly. That's nice, Jamie, very generous of you. Do you think Ryan would wish the same for you? She has been nothing if not supportive of your relationship. You have to do the same for her. She knew that her conscience was correct but she really did not want to share Ryan with another woman. But that honest reaction made her feel quite ashamed of herself. Do you really want Ryan to be fulfilled or do you just want her to be available to you when you call? You can't have it both ways, Jamie. Either be her friend or admit that you're just using her to satisfy your own needs!

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

After class on Friday Ryan popped over and asked, "What's the earliest you're free today?"

 

"Ahh, I'm free after 2, why?"

 

"Let's have some fun before you have to go down to Palo Alto," she suggested with bright eyes. "I thought we could take our workout outdoors for a change of pace."

 

"Okay," Jamie said cautiously. "Where should we go?"

 

"Let's meet at the football stadium at 2:15. But first let's get some juice. I've gotta tell you all about this opera thing!"

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

At 2:15 sharp Ryan climbed out of the small set of bleachers set up next to the track and jogged over to meet her friend. "Been waiting long?" Jamie asked as she trotted over to meet her halfway.

 

"Nope. Just got here," she said happily. She carried a small nylon gym bag which Jamie eyed suspiciously.

 

"We're gonna duplicate our workout with the things you have in that little bag?" she asked as she pointed at the kelly green bag that read, 'Lady Dons'. "And what in the heck is a Lady Don?"

 

"Oh," Ryan said rather absently, "That's my old school, U.S.F. And to answer your question, yes we can duplicate your workout with even less than I have in here. I'm gonna work out too, and I bet I use less of this stuff than you do," she said, in a challenging tone.

 

"Okay, Ms. Magic, let's see what you've got."

 

"Well first, let's just do some warm-ups. Since it's cool out we need to make sure we get loose before we try anything strenuous." She walked over to the grass infield and sat down on the closely cropped grass. "Let's do some hamstring stretches and loosen up our adductors and abductors." Jamie joined her and they spent a few minutes getting their muscles warm. When they were warmed up to Ryan's satisfaction she suggested, "Let's jog a little to get our blood moving." The quarter mile track was completely deserted on this cool but sunny afternoon since it was too early in the season for the track or field athletes to be working outdoors. They moved together briskly down the brick red pebbled rubberized surface, increasing their pace slightly after the first quarter mile. 4 loops of the track had them sufficiently warm, but Jamie was already a little winded.

 

"Wow," she panted. "I've never run on a real track before. You move so easily on that surface!"

 

"Yeah," Ryan agreed. "This surface is pretty new. They're always coming up with something better in the lab. When you put on a pair of track spikes you can really fly on this."

 

"Have you run track?"

 

"Yeah, I fooled around with it in high school," she admitted. "I liked it pretty well but team sports have always held my interest better."

 

"I bet you were fast," Jamie said appraisingly as she looked at her friend's lean, lithe form.

 

"Good guess," Ryan said with a raised eyebrow as she dashed back to the track for another very quick lap. "I was pretty quick," she said with a proud grin.

 

"Showoff," Jamie teased as she slapped her on the stomach.

 

"That wasn't showing off," Ryan insisted. "But if you want to see me in action I'll challenge you to a little race." Her waggling eyebrows attested to her confidence in her abilities. Jamie knew that no matter how the race was structured she would lose, but she was terribly interested to see her friend perform.

 

"Okay, how am I going to be humiliated?" she groused.

 

"You're not going to be humiliated," she promised. "I'll give you a very, very big advantage." Ryan walked over to her bag and extracted a well worn pair of spikes. She sat down on the infield and quickly laced them up, then jumped up and down a few times to settle them on her feet.

 

"You've got the right shoes!" she complained.

 

"Yeah, but I need them," Ryan assured her. "I'll probably break my neck as it is, Jamie. Don't make it harder for me."

 

"Break your neck?" she asked, truly confused.

 

"Yeah," Ryan explained. "You're going to run the track but I'm going to do the hurdles," she said as she pointed at the low hurdles set up around the track.

 

"When was the last time you did this?" Jamie asked with trepidation.

 

"Umm, 7 years ago?"

 

"Are you nuts?" she nearly screamed. "You'd better practice or something before we do this for real!"

 

"Nah, I'll be fine," Ryan assured her. "It's really not that hard. Besides, I'm a couple of inches taller than I was the last time I did this. My crotch is even higher off the ground." She said this with that terribly adorable crooked grin that Jamie had discovered that she was addicted to and powerless over.

 

"Do you have your health insurance card on you?" she asked as they walked over to the starting line.

 

"Not to worry, Pal," Ryan assured her once again. "I've fallen dozens of times and lived to tell the tale." They stood together on the bright track; Jamie shooting worried glances at her friend. "They've got the hurdles set up for the 440," Ryan informed her. "So let's run a 440 meter sprint. You've got to run on the outside here," she pointed at the lane next to the hurdles." She got down in a modified sprinters crouch and asked, "Ready?"

 

"I guess so," Jamie replied, truly reluctant to encourage her daredevil friend.

 

"You call the start."

 

"Um...ready...set...go!" And they were off, flying down the track as fast as their legs would take them. Jamie was concentrating so hard on her own race that she didn't even pay attention to Ryan. She heard several of the hurdles fall to the ground and she shot a quick glance over when the first hit, but Ryan seemed fine, so she focused again and gave it her all. She dug into the track for any extra speed she could get but she saw Ryan's dark blue clad body streak by her about 5 meters from the finish line.

 

"Excellent!" Ryan's voice rang out as she continued on about another 25 meters to cool down.

 

"But I didn't get to see anything!" Jamie complained. "Show me how you do that!"

 

Ryan bent over and placed her hands on her knees and sucked in a few deep breaths. "Boy, I really had to haul ass to take you," she gasped. "You're pretty quick yourself, you little sand bagger!"

 

"Yeah, I'm sure I was a real threat," she laughed, secretly proud that she had at least made Ryan go all out.

 

After they had gotten their wind back Ryan stripped out of her sweats, revealing a pair of shiny electric blue Lycra leggings and a skin tight white nylon tank top. "If I'm gonna do that again I need to cool down," she admitted.

 

Walking back to the start she explained, "Hurdles are more about timing than anything else. It's really not that hard to stick one leg out and tuck the other one up. But you have to practice a lot to be able to always start with the same foot and keep your stride length the same. You try to take the same number of steps between each hurdle and that's impossible to do if you vary your stride too much."

 

"That makes sense," Jamie said slowly. "I didn't realize that timing would be so important. It looks like the hard part is getting that leg up."

 

"Well, it takes a while to build up your legs when you're a kid. That's actually how I got my big thighs," she said as she slapped her powerful quads. "You've got to have strong muscles to be able to sprint and pop that leg out."

 

"Show me how you do it," Jamie urged.

 

"Okay," Ryan said as she got into position. "I start on my left leg. I take 12 steps between each hurdle, which is kind of a lot. I used to use 10 steps but I pulled my hamstrings a lot. So I shortened up my stride and adopted the 12 step routine. It didn't slow me down much but it sure helped with the injuries." She leaned over and squatted down a bit before she took off, more slowly this time so she could explain what she was doing.

 

She counted her steps aloud, and when she reached 11 she called out, "Watch!" as her left leg shot out straight in front of her and her right leg tucked up just like a gazelle's. She leaned in to the hurdle a little bit as she went over, almost touching her thigh with her chest. Rather than go on to the next she made a little half circle and came back to stand by Jamie. "Get it?"

 

"Yeah," she said thoughtfully. "When my father took me to Africa we saw gazelles in the wild. I swear that their back legs look just like yours," she said with wonder.

 

"I'm sure they're a little more graceful," she said modestly, "But thanks for the compliment."

 

"Will you do the whole thing for me again?" she asked hopefully. "I'd really like to see you."

 

"Sure," Ryan agreed. "But you might have to carry me home." She trotted back over and adopted her most focused gaze. Jamie could almost see the world fading away from her friend's deep blue eyes. Her face became a mask of concentration and after a few seconds she nodded briefly and took off. Now that she knew the drill Jamie counted with her and smiled to herself as she watched her friend make exactly 12 strides between each hurdle, always starting with her left foot and always sticking that same leg out to take the hurdle. She noticed that this time Ryan knocked down every single hurdle, and she thought, She must be a little rusty. Not that she shouldn't be after 7 years!"

 

When Ryan came trotting back, winded but very happy looking Jamie enthusiastically complimented her. "You were great!" she enthused.

 

"Yeah, it felt pretty smooth," she admitted with a satisfied grin. "And I did a great job on the hurdles if I do say so myself."

 

"But...you knocked them over," Jamie offered hesitantly.

 

"I know," the crooked grin replied. "I tried to, Silly," she laughed. "The lower you go the less time you waste. You try to be so low that your trailing foot just ticks the hurdle enough to knock it down, but not so low that you catch your foot."

 

"Well, then you did even better than I thought!" she laughed as she wrapped her arm around Ryan and gave her a squeeze. "Get that sweatshirt back on, young lady," she ordered. "You're drenched!"

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

After she had dried off and put her regular shoes back on Ryan produced several lengths of rubber tubing in various colors. The attached handles made them look like sort of a jump rope. "What are those?" Jamie asked as she examined one length.

 

"These are your weights," Ryan said with one wiggling eyebrow.

 

"These little things?" Jamie scoffed. "How can they duplicate what we do at the gym?"

 

"Oh, you'd be surprised," she assured her. "I believe this is leg day?" she inquired.

 

"Yep."

 

"Okay. On your back," she ordered as she produced a very thin foam pad for Jamie to lie on. Once she was down Ryan showed her how to use the bands to provide resistance to her quads. She had her using the strongest band and after 10 reps of the exercise her legs dropped to the ground and she moaned, "Enough!"

 

"Not so easy, is it?" Ryan laughed. "I'll knock you down one level for your next set."

 

"You'd better if you want me to do more than 4 reps! That was killer!"

 

"Well, it isn't just the tension in the band. When you use these you don't have the machine guiding you at all. Every bit of force and energy has to come solely from you and that takes a lot more effort."

 

"I'll say," she agreed as she started her next set with the lighter tubing.

 

The next exercise called for her to tie one of the ends around each ankle and slowly pull one leg away while balancing on one foot. This motion also had her calling for mercy after only 9 reps. "Geez!" she complained. "Am I that weak?"

 

"Not at all," Ryan assured her. "This is much harder than what you're used to. This makes you use your legs to hold your balance at the same time and that makes it very tough. But it's very important that your balance be very good, especially for a long bike ride. I work on my balance all the time," she conceded.

 

"With these?" Jamie asked.

 

"Sometimes, but I've got lots of things I do to keep myself entertained."

 

"Show me some of them if you can," she urged.

 

"Well," she said digging into her bag. "I jump rope sometimes. That helps a lot." She produced a professional quality jump rope with wooden handles and little ball bearings in them to allow the rope to turn smoothly. She began to slowly jump rope, increasing her speed gradually until the rope was just a slight blur. When she was at full speed she lifted one leg slightly and jumped on one foot alone. "I try to jump on each leg for 10 minutes or so," she advised as she proceeded to do just that while Jamie did another set of her own exercises.

 

"God, doesn't that hurt?" Jamie finally asked with a grimace.

 

"It starts to burn a bit," Ryan gamely agreed. "But it's not too bad." When she was finished she got a little gleam in her eye and said, "Another thing I do is run up and down the stadium."

 

"I can see that would stress your legs, but how does that help balance?"

 

"Watch," she said with a grin. She took off and started to run not up and down the steps, as Jamie expected, but down the narrow metal seats. The slick benches were spaced significantly further apart than the stairs and their surface didn't allow for much traction. Once Ryan started flying down the steep seats it was obvious that her balance was the only thing that kept her from coming down head first. After she had completed three loops she started to run across the narrow benches. Each bench was only about a foot wide but she flew across the surface like it was an airport runway. When she reached the end of a section she leapt across the aisle to the next section, never touching down on the concrete steps. The fact that she chose the uppermost bench did not in any way relieve the knot in Jamie's stomach as she watched her dart around the stadium. When she returned to the section that she started at she once again flew down the seats, completely at ease. Jamie was waiting for her at the bottom, wide eyed with mouth agape.

 

"You amaze me," she said solemnly.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Even the normally indefatigable Ryan O'Flaherty needed a breather after that demonstration. She took the exercise pad and spread it out on the infield, and then she stretched out on it like she was sunning herself at the beach. Just a few minutes of rest found her ready for more. "Now what?" she asked brightly.

 

"Umm...I think I need an exercise for my calves and then I'm done. Whatcha got?"

 

"Hmm, I can think of a few," she mused. "But the easiest is just to do calf raises. You can use the first bench here in the bleachers," she said, indicating the nearby stands.

 

"I normally do calf raises with weight," she reminded her. "I'm up to 45 pounds now."

 

"We can duplicate that," Ryan smiled. "Actually, I could sit on your shoulders and give you a real workout." Her eyes were shining in the late afternoon sun, and her sun bronzed skin seemed to glow in the fading light. Jamie's appreciative eyes took her in and just for a moment she thought that was a terribly good idea. But her conscious mind reminded her that Ryan had to outweigh her by 50 pounds, so it was best that she refuse.

 

She gave her friend a smile and got up to do her calf raises. Ryan assisted by placing her hands on her shoulders and pressing down, actually doing a good job of duplicating the feel of a 50 pound weight on the machine. "How did you figure out all of these ways to exercise without equipment?" Jamie asked as she completed her three sets.

 

Ryan thought about that for a minute. "I don't really plan this stuff," she admitted. "But I was such an active kid that I was in fabulous shape just from playing. As I got older and started to work out with equipment I found that the structure would bore me after a while. One day it dawned on me that I was in better shape from playing than I was from working out. So I decided to stay childish!"

 

"Why not play all the time?"

 

"Well, it is easier to chart my progress in the gym, and sometimes it's too hot or wet to be outside for long. But I'd say I play once or twice a week through most of the year."

 

"I feel like I'm done, how about you?"

 

"I can do more if you don't mind hanging around," Ryan conceded.

 

"Mind? It's terribly entertaining. What else do you want to do?"

 

"I need to work on my core balance a little, and I haven't done anything for my upper body balance."

 

"Upper body balance? What's that?"

 

"I try to work on keeping my balance no matter what plane I'm on. I've got an exercise I haven't done in a while that would let me show off a little," she said with a childlike grin. "Wanna see?"

 

"Absolutely."

 

"Okay, I need something about waist high that I can curl my fingers around." She squinted a bit in the bright light that was about a half hour from dusk and finally found what she was looking for. They strolled over to where trucks could drive in and out of the complex. A series of concrete filled yellow metal sleeves were locked in place vertically across the entryway. Each was about 12 inches in diameter and very sturdy looking. It was clear that they were removable when a truck needed to enter, but they were very stable in their locked position.

 

Ryan grabbed one with both hands and gave it a very firm yank. It did not budge an inch since it was obviously sunk into the ground several feet. "This one's perfect," she declared as she took off her sweatshirt again. "I need to loosen up my biceps a little first," she commented as she hit the ground and did about 25 quick push-ups. "Here goes nothing," she said as she backed up about 10 yards and took off in a brisk trot. Jamie's eyes grew wide as Ryan neared the post. What in the hell is she going to do? She had her answer a moment later as Ryan slapped her hands down on the post and executed a perfect vault, landing neatly on her flexed legs, adding a quick little hop to maintain her balance. "Okay, I think I'm ready," she declared.

 

When she heard no response she turned to find Jamie once again slack jawed. "You okay over there?" she asked with a chuckle.

 

"That was the warm up? My God, what is the exercise?" she gasped.

 

One waggling eyebrow was Ryan's only response. She walked back to the post and faced it, then placed both of her hands flat on the top. The heels of her hands were touching and her fingers were spread wide, obviously to give her a strong platform. A very quick movement flexed her biceps and in the next instant her feet were off the ground and she was holding herself parallel to the earth, mostly held up by her powerful biceps. Her arms straightened slowly as she rotated into a handstand. Now she was absolutely perpendicular to the ground, her entire body braced on her two hands.

 

Jamie was awestruck, unable to do anything but watch in wonder as her friend performed. After a few moments in the vertical position Ryan did a few push ups, obviously, just showing off. Now she bent her body once more, this time rotating until her arms were rigid and her body was again horizontal. After holding the position for a few seconds she removed one of her hands and held up her entire body by one powerful arm. She held the position for a few seconds, although Jamie could see the immense strain the move was putting on her dangerously shaky arm. Then she switched arms and held the position for an even longer time with her left arm. She placed both hands back onto the post and pushed up forcefully, landing next to it with another little hop. Just for effect she stood ramrod straight and affixed a very theatrical smile onto her face. She raised her right arm and waved dramatically as she turned slowly, acknowledging the massive crowd that filled the stadium to watch her record setting performance.

 

Jamie trotted the few feet that separated them and gazed up at her beaming friend. "Are you sure that both of your parents are humans?" she asked with a smile. "Cause that was not of this world," she said emphatically.

 

"Sure it is," Ryan assured her. "It's pretty basic gymnastics."

 

"I took gymnastics, Buddy, and I never got close to doing anything like that! I spent my years on the damn balance beam!"

 

"Yeah, well I took gymnastics for boys," she said proudly. "You just weren't in the cool class."

 

"You took boys gymnastics?" she asked in amazement.

 

"Yep. I thought it was cool when I saw it in the Olympics. Brendan took me down to sign me up. It was pretty funny," she said as she laughed in remembrance. "He practically had to fight the guy to get him to let me in, but after they gave me a few tests they pretty readily agreed."

 

"I just bet they did," Jamie said with a smirk.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Jamie was still smiling at her friend's theatrics as they walked back across the enormous stadium. Something caught Ryan's eye as they moved along and she zipped over to the interior of the stadium and yelled, "Hey, Jamie, come over here."

 

With a smirk and a small shake of her head she trotted over to the underside of the stadium. Near the end zone of the football field the school had erected relatively modern bleachers to make the stadium homier for the normally small crowds that Cal drew for football. The back of the bleachers was a series of interconnecting metal supports that ran through the underside like a maze. Ryan was staring at the interlocking braces with a very studious look on her face. "Doesn't this remind you of a great big jungle gym?" she asked thoughtfully.

 

"Ahh, yeah, I guess it does," she admitted. "Boy, I used to like the one we had at a park near our house. But they decided that too many kids got hurt on it so they removed it and the slide and the swings and replaced them with a really lame bunch of horses on springs. I never wanted to go again," she said somewhat wistfully.

 

"Well, you've got to admit that they can be a little dangerous," Ryan said with a gleam in her eye. "Especially when they're really, really tall." She said this last statement as she leapt to her full reach and grabbed one of the supports with both of her hands. She was only off the ground about 18 inches, but she looked pretty comical, nonetheless.

 

"Okay, Tarzana, let's go," she said fondly.

 

"Go? You want to go?" Ryan said with an even bigger gleam. "Race you to the other end!" she cried as she started to propel herself along the undercarriage of the structure. Jamie not only did not race her, she was stuck in place as she stared at her daredevil friend. Ryan was motoring at an unbelievable clip but she had to follow the supports to get where she was going. In order to do so, she climbed higher and higher until she was at the very top of the very tall structure, dangling like a chimp. A wildly laughing chimp that is, who was having the time of her life.

 

Jamie started to jog just to keep up but Ryan was moving much too fast for her. She truly looked like some breed of beautiful simian as she swung up and down the supports, gracefully propelling herself along with ease. She was standing on the ground, looking rather bored when her panting friend caught up to her moments later. "Are you insane?" she shrieked as she ran up and slapped Ryan hard on the chest with both of her open hands.

 

"You said you wanted to go," she said innocently as she blinked down at her. "I assumed you wanted to go fast."

 

"I can't imagine what I would say to your father if you had fallen!" Jamie chided her laughing friend.

 

"You could have said, 'You were finally right, Martin. She did fall and break her neck!'"

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

They walked the rest of the way in silence, with Jamie reflecting on all that she had seen. "Do you know that you can do things like that?" she finally asked with a very thoughtful look on her face.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"I guess I want to know if you're certain that you can do something dangerous before you try it," she said.

 

"Oh, heck no," Ryan admitted. "Where's the fun in that?"

 

"Ryan!" she said as she stopped and grabbed onto the back of her tank top. "You mean to tell me that you might have not been able to do that but you tried it anyway?"

 

"Well, yeah," she explained slowly. "That's what makes it fun. I mean, I know I'm strong and that my grip is really good. I know I'm flexible and that I have good balance. There's no reason to assume I can't do something like that, so I try it. Once I get into a situation I'm certainly not going to back out, so I have to figure out a way to finish without breaking my neck. But I've never done that before, and if I had I probably wouldn't be interested in trying it again. Once I've done something it loses its allure," she admitted with a toothy grin.

 

Like your women, Jamie thought with an internal smirk as she stole another glance at the grinning, sweaty, gorgeous hunk of woman that blithely strolled along beside her.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

When they reached their gear Ryan checked the position of the sun and regretfully announced, "Time to go, Pal."

 

"I don't wanna go," Jamie pouted. "I'm having too much fun!"

 

"Come on," Ryan urged as she bent to pick up her keys and her gym bag.

 

But her small friend was too quick for her as Jamie's hand snaked out and grabbed the keys at the last instant. "You can't leave without your bike!" she declared defiantly as she dangled them in front of Ryan's darting eyes.

 

One quick swipe with her hand left her grasping nothing but air as Jamie laughed wildly and took off. Ryan joined her laugh and doggedly began to pursue her. In reality she could have caught the smaller, slower woman within three strides. But Ryan felt a little guilty about turning down her last two invitations and she had actually planned this afternoon to give them a chance to reconnect and just have fun. She had a date with Tracy but it wasn't for another 2 hours so she had plenty of time to play. And Jamie seems so childlike and free, she thought with a smile. She hasn't been this way very often lately. We've got to get outside and play more, she decided immediately. She really needs some cheering up on a routine basis, given how things are going with Jack. So even though she was happy to be forced into staying longer she could not let Jamie just win...she couldn't let anybody just win!

 

Jamie darted around the infield, using various track paraphernalia as a shield to keep Ryan away. She scurried around hurdles, the long jump pit, even the huge cushion that the pole vaulters landed on. But Ryan was dangerously close; never more than two body lengths away, no matter what she tried. About 25 yards away she saw what she hoped would be her salvation. A large, bright blue, square cushion that protected the high jumpers was beckoning to her. She latched onto an idea and scampered aboard, crawling frantically on all fours just before Ryan grabbed her feet. The cushion stood about 4 feet high, clearly no barrier for her chimp-like pursuer. But as Jamie coyly reminded her, "Wherever you start to climb I can run to the other side and jump down before you get up!"

 

Ryan pursed her lips and reviewed the situation. Jamie did have a point, her analytical mind agreed. It would not do to just try to climb aboard. She needed to get up there, but not from the ground. A sly smile crossed her lips and Jamie looked around suspiciously, recognizing the gleam in those deep blue eyes. "There's more than one way to skin a cat," Ryan declared as she walked back to her gym bag at a leisurely pace and sat down to lace her spikes up again. When she was finished she walked back to the cushion and turned her back to it as she appeared to be measuring off a distance in her head. She was obviously satisfied because she turned and started to run, gaining speed as she approached the bag. Jamie didn't try to run because she still didn't know what Ryan was going to do...she just stood stock still and watched in amazement as Ryan continued to barrel towards her.

 

When her momentum was satisfactory she actually slowed down appreciably and turned her back just as she flexed her knees deeply and propelled herself into the air, landing rather forcefully and inelegantly onto the cushion. Her momentum carried her on her back quite a few feet across the surface, but she eventually skidded to a halt right at Jamie's feet.

 

She looked up at her with dancing blue eyes and put on her sexiest smile as she said, "Hi there."

 

"Yikes!" Jamie cried as she tried to run. But this time Ryan's cat-like reflexes halted her progress abruptly as Ryan firmly grasped an ankle. She crashed into the cushion face first and quickly rolled onto her back just as Ryan began to crawl up her body like a panther, first her right hand, then her left knee, left hand, right knee. Then she hovered over the supine woman, staring at her intently as she asked, "I believe you have something of mine?"

 

"Can't have it!" Jamie insisted, still not willing to give up. In an impetuous move she took the keys and shoved them into her cleavage, safe within her tight navy blue sports bra.

 

"That isn't much of a barrier," Ryan purred, locking her eyes on her prey. She was panting a little from the exertion of her leap, and the smaller woman could actually watch the progress of the individual drops of sweat as they rolled down her hairline, past her strong jaw, down her chin and onto Jamie's chest.

 

"No, but I fight dirty," she promised. "When you reach for the keys I've got two hands free to cause all sorts of mayhem." Her misty green eyes had grown fiery in the last rays of sunlight, and Ryan mused that she could see flecks of gold and amber and even a bit of orange in the shining orbs. She shook her head, spattering Jamie with drops of sweat as she did so. "Hey, cut that out!" she cried.

 

"Hmm, that's an idea," Ryan mused aloud. "When my brothers would have me pinned they would invariably spit in my face to gross me out enough to give up whatever prize I had. I bet that would work with you, too."

 

Jamie gave her a slightly suspicious gaze, but she didn't think Ryan had the nerve to spit on her.

 

"Nah, that's too easy," she finally decided, causing Jamie to let out the breath she didn't know she had been holding. "But this might work," she said as she quickly spread her hands out and clamped vise-like grips on each of her captive's wrists. "That'll keep you docile," she mused, still surveying her options.

 

Jamie felt the deep sigh leave her chest as she looked up at the gorgeous woman holding her prisoner. I've been in worse situations, she mused as she watched the deep blue eyes dart around in thought. "How does it help you to have both of my hands if you have to use both of yours to do so?" she smirked. But as soon as the words were out of her mouth she knew she had made a fatal tactical error. Almost before the end of the sentence Ryan pushed her hands together, placing one atop the other. Her much larger and stronger left hand easily grasped both of Jamie's wrists, holding them both above her head firmly.

 

"Got any more bright ideas?" Ryan growled as she wiggled her free right hand directly in front of Jamie's face. That determined hand moved slowly toward her target, a fiendish look in her eyes that showed she was not afraid to claim her prize.

 

"You wouldn't dare," Jamie croaked out nervously.

 

Ryan leaned down until their noses were touching. Her wet skin smelled like the earth: like rich, warm soil, just turned over after the spring rains. Jamie had never smelled another person who shared the rich scent. It was terribly intoxicating and she truly wanted to just lie there beneath the weight of her friend and breathe in that heady aroma. But Ryan's voice startled her back into her senses. "I never...ever...ever refuse a dare," she purred with a determined look in her eyes. Her right hand was less than an inch from Jamie's heaving chest and the captive knew that she had to put a stop to this but something deep inside wanted Ryan's hand to snake inside her bra and stay there for a very, very long time.

 

But her conscience finally woke up and forced her to utter the only appropriate response. "Uncle!"

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

A few minutes later they were standing in the deep dusk, once again clad in their sweats. "I had a fantastic time today, Ryan," she said gratefully.

 

"I had a great time, myself," Ryan said with a grin. "But that's not a surprise when I'm with you." She raised her left hand and touched Jamie lightly on the nose, giving her an affectionate smile to go with it. "You bring out my wild side," she added with a chuckle.

 

"I think you do all right bringing it out on your own," she scoffed, but secretly she hoped that Ryan's sentiments were true.

 

She leaned in for a hug but Ryan complained, "I'm all sweaty. I must smell terrible."

 

Jamie did not argue with her but she nonetheless ignored the warning. She held her in a fierce embrace for a few moments, wishing to imprint that distinctive scent onto her memory forever.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Christmas break was looming ahead of Jamie like a trip to the slaughterhouse. She was planning on spending the nearly 4 week break at her parents home. Intense anxiety would have been an appropriate term for her mental state as she prepared for the visit. The Thanksgiving visit had gone so poorly that she could not help but assume this one would be worse. Thanksgiving was only really 3 days when she counted the time she was with Jack.

 

Her last final was on December 17, and school did not start again until January 19. Her only planned respite was a short visit to Ryan's on Christmas Eve day. She wasn't sure how she was going to explain that little trip, but she was going to go no matter what. She had also decided that she was going to meet Ryan at the gym for their 3 afternoon weekly meetings. Ryan had offered to do them earlier in the day but Jamie wanted an excuse to hang around to avoid rush hour so she kept their normal 4 o'clock time.

 

It just kills me that Ryan's going to be alone for most of the break and I won't be able to spend evenings with her, she groused to herself when they met for their last workout before the break. "So what do you have planned for your time off?" she asked as their hour wound down.

 

"Not a lot, thankfully. I've got to do some things around the house that I've been putting off but I think I'll spend most of my time with Caitlin. She's really turning into a little person now," she said fondly. "Every time I see her she's picked up something new."

 

"Wanna have dinner tonight?" Jamie asked a little hesitantly, truly not wanting to be rebuffed.

 

Ryan gave her a luminous grin as she said, "I can't think of a better way to start my winter break!"

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

She drove down to Hillsborough on Thursday evening and was pleased to learn that Marta had prepared a lovely meal for her little homecoming. Jamie sat in the kitchen with the cook for a long while talking about school and the training she was doing for the ride. Marta was fascinated by the changes in her body, and she teased her about her new muscles and asked if she could pick Jack up now. Jamie realized after a while that Marta was the only one in the house who had asked her a personal question.

 

They ate dinner after her father arrived home from work. It was late, around 8:15 and dinner was a bit overdone, but the meal was still relatively pleasant. Even though they had not discussed it, the tension between Jim and Jamie seemed to be gone. He was in a very good mood, having just come from his office Christmas Party. He seemed to enjoy spending a few hours socializing with the other attorneys. A much more elaborate party was scheduled for the next week for the entire firm. This little party was just for the partners and their spouses.

 

During dinner Jim talked about the little party and how enjoyable it was to get to know some of the younger partners. "I did have to stop and wonder at one point, though," he reflected. "One of those young men brought another man to the party. What on earth do you think came over him?" he directed his question at his wife.

 

"I'm sure I don't know dear," was her flat reply as she did not even look up from her plate.

 

"They just seem to have taken leave of their senses," he continued. " Why can't they realize how uncomfortable that makes everyone else at a party?"

 

Jamie knew that her color was rising, but this was the first evening of a 32-day stay. She could not afford to blow up now. She fought with every bit of her self-control to refrain from speaking.

 

"I guess you're used to that type of thing at Berkeley, Jamie," he said as he regarded his daughter. "But it just isn't done in the business world."

 

Jamie stared at her soup until she could see the individual molecules bumping into one another. She fought for composure before she finally replied, "I need some more spice in my soup. Does anyone else?" as she rose from the table, soup bowl held by a shaking hand.

 

She leaned against the door to the kitchen, willing her knees to stop shaking. Marta came over to see what was wrong, but Jamie just shook her head and went to the sink for a glass of water. "Marta, could you please get me a small glass of Scotch?" she finally asked. When Marta returned Jamie thanked her and downed the 2 fingers of amber liquid in one burning gulp. "Thank you," she politely replied as she stepped back into the dining room, leaving the cook staring at her in disbelief.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Jamie spent most of Christmas Eve day with Jack. He had studied through most of the day, but he did take an hour break to convince her to make love. As she got in the shower after their break she devised her plan. She had called Ryan earlier and had been issued a blanket invitation to come any time and stay as long as she liked. A number of cousins and aunts and uncles would be there and most of them were going to midnight Mass.

 

Jamie put her casual clothes back on and announced, "I'm going to Berkeley to take care of a few things. Would you mind just meeting me at church before the service?"

 

'Gee, Jamie, that's awfully late."

 

"I know honey, but there are a couple of little things that didn't arrive before I left. I want to go to my house and wrap them. Then I need to go shopping for one teeny thing for my outfit. Rather than come back here I thought I could just go home and take a nap before Mass. I want to be rested for the service tonight," she batted her eyes sweetly. Or: I'm leaving now so I can spend as much time with Ryan as possible, and I like her family so much better than mine. One of these two stories is the truth. Oops, wrong choice, she thought when he gamely agreed.

 

Well, things are really going well. I have to drink Scotch to get through dinner with my parents and I'm making up bold-faced lies to avoid being with Jack all day. Have yourself a Merry Fucking Christmas!

 

Nonetheless, she dashed home and dressed carefully. She donned a pure white heavy silk jacquard blouse, embroidered with an Asian inspired design. The banded collar was held together by a tiny black pearl button. A trim black velvet square cut vest just brushed the waistband of her black velvet pleated slacks. Black velvet slippers covered her feet. By 5 o'clock she was satisfied with her look and on her way. She called Ryan from her car to inquire if she needed anything. She laughed at her response, "Yeah, a bigger house or fewer relatives."

 

Ryan answered the door, looking lovelier than Jamie had ever seen her. Her black hair was combed straight back, held off her face by a black velvet headband. She wore a crimson colored angora turtleneck sweater that gently hugged her smooth curves. Simple pearl earrings graced the ears that Jamie had never noticed were pierced. A single strand of pearls hung just above the swell of her breasts. Black silk pants covered her long shapely legs, and simple black leather shoes completed the ensemble. "Wow!" was all that Jamie could get out.

 

"Wow, yourself," Ryan said as she ran her blue eyes up and down Jamie's small form. "You look positively lovely," she said sincerely. "C'mon in and let the men pretend not to stare at you," she teased. When she saw Conor making a beeline for them she whispered, "All except one who has no shame, of course."

 

Conor complimented Jamie until she blushed to the roots of her hair. He looked fabulous also, however. He wore a well-made navy blue double-breasted suit with a crisp white shirt and a green and red rep tie. His hair looked jet black and very shiny as it was neatly combed for a change. "Are you going to stay and go to Mass with us?" he asked hopefully.

 

"No, I can't. I'm meeting my fiancé for services at my Grandfather's church," she replied.

 

"Your grandfather is a minister?" Conor inquired.

 

"Actually, he's a priest," she replied. When she saw the shocked look on his face she added, "Episcopal."

 

"Oh, I thought maybe I'd been away from church too long and I missed something important," he laughed.

 

Maeve came up behind him at that moment and stated, "You have been away from church too long sweetheart. The last time I saw you there was Easter," she gently chided.

 

Ryan took Jamie by the arm and whispered, "Let's get out of here before she starts on me." They squeezed through the mass of relatives until Ryan spied her prize. She snatched Caitlin from her Aunt Peggy and eventually found the path to her room.

 

Duffy followed them down the stairs, eagerly sniffing at the bundle in Ryan's arms. When they got downstairs she sat down on the bed and allowed Duffy to lick the baby's giggling face clean.

 

"Duffy sure is good with her," Jamie observed. "He seems to know he has to be very gentle."

 

"Yeah, he loves kids more than I do. Luckily Caitlin is crazy about him too," she replied as the big dog started to clean the tiny hands one at a time. "Okay Duff, you've had enough baby kissing," she said as she scooped her off her lap and over her shoulder. She went to her dresser and took out a clean T-shirt, which she placed over her shoulder and chest. "Can't be too careful," she said from experience. "She just had dinner and there's always a chance of rejection."

 

They all sat on the bed as Ryan propped the baby up against her legs. "So what have you been up to this week?" Jamie asked.

 

"Not a lot during the week but I had a great weekend!"

 

"What did you do?"

 

"Conor has a friend with a condo up near Tahoe and we went up to ski and snowboard for the weekend. It was absolutely fantastic," she said with a very happy grin covering her lovely face.

 

"I can't imagine what a hellion you must be on the slopes," she mused. "Do you ski a lot?"

 

"Every chance I get," Ryan admitted. "If I had just a little less of a work ethic I could really be a ski bum."

 

"That would be a pretty sweet job for you," her smirking friend admitted. "You could live in Aspen or St. Moritz and have the wealthy women support you in the style you deserve."

 

"Hmm, maybe this work ethic thing isn't such a good idea," she purred as she considered the suggestion. "Well, that's enough about me. I really want to know how it's going for you so far?" Ryan asked her friend.

 

Jamie considered how much to reveal, finally deciding that she needed to talk. "I had to chug a glass of Scotch to get through dinner one night, and I told Jack a blatant lie today," she grimaced as she continued, "All in all, not great."

 

Ryan thought about this for a moment. "Did you enjoy being with your family in the past? Or is this a new development?"

 

Jamie knew the answer, but was a bit embarrassed to admit it. "I didn't mind before because I thought that was what families were supposed to be like. But after spending time with you and your family I see how stilted and formal my family is. I swear, Ryan, your family shows much more interest in me than my own does."

 

Ryan smiled at her sympathetically. "We love having you here, Jamie. I think of you as a part of my family. You're always welcome." She shook her head briefly, "I feel sorry for your parents. They don't know what a treasure they have in you."

 

As she blushed shyly at the compliment Jamie replied, "In their defense, it is me who has changed. I want more from them and I want more from Jack. In a way it's a bit unfair of me, I'm the one who changed the rules."

 

"It's never unfair to expect the people closest to you to love and honor and cherish you Jamie." She got up from the bed and went to her dresser. "I certainly do," she said as she handed her friend a small package.

 

Jamie looked up, a wide smile lighting up her whole face. "I really love getting presents, you know. But I feel the time I spend with you is a gift. I don't need anything tangible to know how you feel about our friendship." After a pause she added with a giggle, "But I still love presents."

 

She carefully removed the red and green striped paper from the little box. Inside was a small black leather book, about the size of a paperback. She opened the pages to find a little map of each of the major bike routes in the Bay Area. The maps had obviously been meticulously removed from another book. Each little map was carefully glued to a strong piece of heavy white paper. Underneath each map was a legend in Ryan's hand detailing the options for each route and the difficulty of each. On the page opposite each map was a space for Jamie to mark the date she completed the ride, what the weather was like and how she felt during the ride. Every 4th or 5th page carried a small handwritten message meant to inspire or motivate Jamie. Some were funny, some spiritual, and some practical. Jamie was touched beyond words at the time and effort that Ryan had obviously expended in making this journal. She fought back a tear as she wrapped her arms around her friend in silence. After a moment she simply whispered, "Thank you."

 

After Jamie pulled back, Ryan gave her a luminous grin, "I'm glad you like it." After a moment she added, "You know I don't think I tell you enough how much it means to me that you are doing this ride. I know that AIDS hasn't had a big impact on your life, and I appreciate how willing you were to take on this challenge. I think part of the reason that you agreed was because you knew it was important to me. I really thank you for that."

 

"That is the biggest reason I agreed to do it," she replied honestly. "I knew that you wouldn't give so much of your time to something that wasn't really worthwhile."

 

Caitlin was getting tired of being confined to the bed so Jamie placed the shirt over her shoulder and picked her up. She carried her around the room, letting her touch all the books and the small items on the shelves. She pointed out the pictures of Ryan and the rest of the family and explained who each person was, even though Caitlin had no idea what she was talking about. Ryan lay back on the bed and watched her friend charm her little cousin. After a while Jamie announced, "I have a gift for you too, Ryan. It's in my purse. Would you mind getting it out?"

 

Ryan gamely retrieved Jamie's purse and began look through it. She found a card with her name on it and held it up questioningly. "Yes, that's it," Jamie replied.

 

Ryan sat back down on the bed with a look of anticipation on her face. "I like presents, too," she admitted. She tore open the card as several pieces of paper fell out onto her lap. She began to gather them up as she pulled the card fully out of the envelope. After she had organized all of the paper she began to look at them carefully. Her face lit up with childlike glee as she read off each ticket. "Ohh wow, the Exploratorium, ohh the Children's Museum, Marineland!" she shouted with delight. She came over to Jamie and held up the tickets, "There's two adults and one child for each of these. Where will we ever get a child?" She dangled the tickets in front of the baby and said, "We're going to play, Sweetie!"

 

Jamie laughed at Ryan's obvious delight. "There's a few more in there, Sport." Ryan grabbed the envelope and found after a thorough audit that Jamie had purchased tickets for them to do nearly every baby friendly event in the Bay area. Finally she read the card, 'Thank you for giving me a second chance at a happy childhood,' read the note.

 

Ryan hugged her friend soundly, catching the laughing baby in the embrace for good measure. "This was a terribly thoughtful gift," she said sincerely. "Caitlin and I thank you very much."

 

"I've just never seen you happier than you are with her," Jamie stated. "Being around you two is so healing for me. It allows me to experience some of those childhood pleasures that I didn't get to have," she admitted.

 

"It really surprises me that you didn't do these things as a child. I mean," here she struggled a bit, "I thought that people with money did all these things, especially for an only child." She blushed a bit, "I just assumed you were spoiled."

 

"I was spoiled with things," Jamie admitted. "I had every toy and stuffed animal known to mankind. But my father didn't have time to do kid stuff and my mother had no interest. She took me to the symphony and to plays and the opera when I was 3 and 4 years old. So it's not that I didn't go places, I just didn't go to kid places."

 

"Did you enjoy going to those places?" Ryan asked gently.

 

Jamie gave her a sardonic look, "You're kidding, right?"

 

"Didn't you have friends or cousins to do things with?" Ryan continued to probe, unable to believe that Jamie's life had been so barren.

 

"I don't have very many cousins that we socialize with. My father's sister lives in Chicago and she has two kids so they weren't very convenient. We almost never saw them. My mother is an only child, and the maternal side of her extended family just gets together in Rhode Island in the summer. We're not a real close group," she said, stating the obvious. "I didn't start making friends until I was in Montessori school when I was 4, and I was never encouraged to have those kids over. I basically played with Marta, our cook, or the maids."

 

"So you've been a little adult your whole life, haven't you?" Ryan said sympathetically.

 

"Yeah, I guess I have," she replied.

 

"Well, Caitlin and I are going to change that pretty darn quick. You'll have regressed to infancy when we get through with you," she said confidently as she put her arm around her friend.

 

"I have one more thing to give you, but it's not a gift," Jamie said tentatively.

 

Ryan cocked her head in question and waited for her friend to continue.

 

She walked back over to her purse and extracted another envelope as she balanced the baby on her knee. This one was not marked and she withdrew a white form and a check. "I was sending in my check for the AIDS Ride because I wanted to make some charitable donations before year end. I decided to donate $25,000 and it dawned on me that I should make a donation in your name of at least that much. I wouldn't be doing this ride without your support, Ryan. It's become much more to me than an athletic goal. It's helping me to change my life in a fundamental manner. And it's all because of you," she said sincerely. "I know you like to secure your own pledges but I also know how busy you've been. I just want you to know that if you are running short you don't have to worry."

 

Ryan closed her eyes tightly as she struggled to hold back the tears. She bit her lip to control her shaking chin and took in a few deep breaths. Finally, she was able to open her eyes. She gazed at Jamie with her unwavering blue eyes and opened her arms. Jamie walked right into the embrace, cuddling Caitlin between them. Ryan didn't say a word but she leaned over and kissed each of Jamie's cheeks. She had so much emotion threatening to spill out that she didn't trust herself to say a thing. But she maintained the hug for a very long while, kissing Jamie's head and cheek repeatedly.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

The rest of the evening was spent laughing and eating and joking with the whole O'Flaherty clan. Small gifts were given to Caitlin by everyone in attendance, and by the time Jamie was ready to leave the baby was once again fast asleep in Ryan's arms.

 

The two friends walked to Jamie's car together. "I think this was the best Christmas I've ever had, Ryan," Jamie said softly when they reached the little car.

 

"You made it more special for me than I'll ever be able to say," Ryan replied as she gave her friend a one armed hug, being careful of the sleeping infant. "If your family gets to be too much I want you to call me. I've got a lot of free time before school starts, so don't be shy."

 

"I won't and thanks again for everything," Jamie said as she pulled the Boxster onto the small quiet street for the short ride to Nob Hill.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

On the Wednesday after Christmas Jamie had to get away for a while. Jack was obviously trying hard but his attempts at being closer were driving her absolutely crazy. The message that he had gotten was that she didn't like to make meals and clean up alone. So he gamely hung around in the kitchen while she tried to work. But he really was inept, whether through design or inability she wasn't sure. He was in her way so badly that she finally released him to go back to his work. So the pattern returned to their previous one. He studied, she read. He studied, she cooked. He studied, she watched a movie. The routine was getting so monotonous that she wanted to scream. We never do anything, she whined to herself. We don't go out for dinner; we don't even go for walks any more. I know he has a lot on his mind, but I feel like we're setting up a schedule that might never vary. He'll just replace school with work and be just as unavailable to me.

 

She realized that the main outside activity they had was brunch and golf at the club. But I've been doing that since I was born. I want some excitement in my life!

 

She dialed Ryan's pager and waited just a few minutes for her call. "Hi, what's up?" she asked cheerfully.

 

"What's your schedule today?"

 

"I'm at the gym right now. I've got clients until 11, then I don't have much scheduled, except your workout at 4. Why, do you want to play?"

 

"I need to do something fun," she stated firmly. "I feel like my life is so routine! If I don't get my blood pumping a little bit I swear I'll go mad!"

 

"When do you have to be back home?"

 

"I don't care if I ever go home," she sulked.

 

"Okay, meet me at my house at 11:30. Dress warmly and wear boots if you have them. We'll go burn the carbon off your sparkplugs."

 

"You want to take a drive in my car?"

 

"Nope. Just be there."

 

At 11:30 on the dot Ryan was sitting on her front porch. She walked over to the Porsche and inspected Jamie's outfit. She was wearing a distressed brown leather fleece lined bomber jacket, a taupe colored turtleneck and faded jeans. As she got out of the car Ryan nodded her approval at her ankle length brown boots.

 

Ryan was wearing her usual jeans, a crew necked sky blue sweater and her black leather jacket, along with her low heeled black boots. She gave Jamie a sly look as she said, "I know just the prescription for boredom. Come with me, little girl."

 

She led Jamie over to the Harley and handed her the spare helmet. After her own was secured she got on and helped her friend hop on. Jamie immediately slid her arms around her waist and got ready to take off.

 

Moments later they were heading over to Route 1. Even though she had been on the bike several times, they had never gone very far or very fast and she found that she loved the excitement of the higher speed. Ryan drove the bike just like she drove a car. She went as fast as possible, while being as careful as she could be. When traffic slowed she would straddle the line between the number one and two lanes and slide right between the stalled cars.

 

Jamie knew that she should feel some level of fear or trepidation to be so thoroughly exposed at such a high rate of speed. But she had never felt calmer or safer. Every bit of anxiety left her body as they flew down the highway. She forgot all about her fights with Jack and her unhappiness with her parents. All she felt was warm and protected and safe. The wind was really quite intense and she found herself tucking her head down and nestling it into Ryan's broad back. From her little cocoon she truly felt impervious to the outside world. Her world was just Ryan's protective body, the bike thrumming between her legs and the freedom of the open road.

 

She wasn't at all sure where they were going but eventually she saw the Golden Gate bridge looming in the distance. They crossed the structure and continued on, staying on Highway 1 the whole while. The scenery was absolutely beautiful at this time of year. There were very few cars on the road as they passed the forested acres around Muir Woods. They kept going and eventually the road wound down to Stinson Beach. When they reached the sea Ryan pulled the bike off the road and hopped off. "Let's go for a walk," she said as she held out her hand to Jamie.

 

After Ryan had secured their helmets they crossed over to the sea side of the road and began to walk along on the hard packed sand. Even though the day was beautiful there was not another soul on the beach. The sun was bright although the wind was stiff and cold as it blew in from the ocean. "I'm glad you told me to dress warmly," Jamie said as a chill shot down her spine.

 

Of course, Ryan noticed this and held her arm out in an inviting gesture. Jamie shot her a shy grin but snuggled up against her anyway. They walked along in companionable silence for at least a mile before Ryan turned around and guided her back. I would feel odd talking so little with anyone else. But with Ryan the silence is never uncomfortable. Even when we don't speak I feel like we're communicating. Like now, she just wants me to feel free. She brought me here so I could feel how huge the world is, and maybe that would make me feel less confined.

 

When they were almost back to their starting place Ryan broke the silence as she asked, "Are you ready?"

 

"To leave?" she replied with a winsome look on her face. "I guess so," she said, even though that was the last thing in the world she wanted to do.

 

"No," Ryan said with a twinkle in her eyes. "Are you ready to get started?"

 

"Get started doing what?"

 

"Having your first lesson, of course," she explained patiently.

 

"In what?" Jamie asked, even though she would gladly take a lesson in breathing or walking from Ryan.

 

"Your first lesson on how to ride a motorcycle," she said, as though it was obvious.

 

"What!!"

 

"I don't know of a better way to get your blood pumping than to put 80 cubic inches of power between your legs," she purred.

 

"Uh...uh..." Jamie stuttered as she tried to decide what was more stimulating: the thought of driving the bike or considering the clear sexual tone of Ryan's invitation.

 

"Come on," she urged as Jamie's feet seemed unable to propel her forward. "Once you've ridden on a Fat Boy you'll never be the same."

 

"Fat Boy?" she gulped as she thought, Is there a sexual allusion to every part of motorcycle riding?

 

"That's the style of bike I have, it's a Harley Softail Fat Boy."

 

"And you want me to drive it," she finally got out.

 

"Yep. Your blood is going to pump so hard you might have to open a vein," she teased.

 

"Or several," she squeaked out, as she pictured her broken body strewn across the pavement.

 

"I guarantee you'll enjoy this," Ryan reassured her. "And I've never lost a student."

 

"Okay," she gamely agreed. They crossed the road and approached the bike. Ryan pointed to a small paved road that gently led up into the hills.

 

"I thought that would be a good place to start," she told her. "I haven't seen a car come down that road the entire time we've been here. I'll move her over there and we can get started." She started the engine and rolled the big bike onto the blacktop. The road was relatively flat for a long while, but there was a hairpin turn about mile out. It then began a rapid ascent up into the hills. But you could easily see and be seen from where they were.

 

Jamie trotted behind her and waited patiently as Ryan slapped the helmet on her head. "Buckle up tight," she warned. When she was ready Ryan began the lesson. "Do you know anything at all about motorcycles?"

 

"Just that they're fun to ride on," she admitted with a grin.

 

"That is the most important factor," Ryan agreed. "But there are a few more little details. Have you ever watched me shift?"

 

"Yeah, I think you use your right foot. Oh, and I know that you brake with your hands, kind of like on a regular bike, and I know the throttle is on the right hand thingy."

 

"Excellent! It really is quite a lot like being on a regular bike. Just like on your bike, it's important to stay balanced with your center of gravity right over the seat. It's important to brake with both hands and not hit the front brake too hard. There's a lean angle on both types of bikes. If you stay above the angle you won't tip over. On this bike the angle is 28 degrees. Can you picture that?"

 

"Yeah," she said with surprise. "That's really low. I have a hard time imagining going that low."

 

"Wanna see?" she asked with a devilish gleam in her big blue eyes.

 

"Uhh, not just because I dared you," she said quickly. "I know you can't resist a challenge."

 

"No, I feel really comfortable on my bike. I'll just show you how low you can go. It might reassure you."

 

"Okay," she said hesitantly.

 

"Don't worry," Ryan said easily. "Just watch me."

 

She put her helmet on and brought the beast to life. She took it up the flat part of the road and went about another mile, and then she turned around and began to roar down the hill. Jamie could see her perfectly well from her angle. When Ryan got to the hairpin turn she leaned the bike over so far that Jamie's heart flew to her throat. Ryan's knee was nearly touching the pavement but she made the corner and straightened up easily. She skidded to a quick halt right in front of her open mouthed student. "That was awesome," she said. "But you're out of your mind if you think I'm ever going to do that!"

 

"You never know," she drawled.

 

"Oh, I know, Ryan, I know," she assured her. "But I would like to go for a nice, safe, smooth little ride."

 

"Okay. The first step is making sure you can hold her up. I bought this bike from a woman who had the suspension lowered about 2 inches. She wasn't much taller than you so I think you'll be able to handle it."

 

"How much does it weigh?"

"With the stuff I have on it, she goes about 640," she said easily.

 

"640 pounds!!" Jamie shrieked. "I can't hold up 640 pounds!"

 

"You don't hold it up, Silly. The wheels do that. You just have to help it balance. I couldn't hold it up if it got below a 40 degree angle while it was stationary. Let's give it a try," she urged. "I'll scoot back, you come up here and sit in front." She patted the seat in front of her as she beamed an encouraging grin at her tentative friend. "Come on, she won't bite."

 

Jamie struggled to throw her leg over since she had limited room, what with Ryan sitting in the back. She finally got up with a great deal of assistance from her friend. "Whoa!" she said, as she quickly let the air out of her lungs. "This is sweet." She placed her hands on the hand grips and shifted around in the seat until she felt comfortable. It was particularly comforting to have Ryan nestled up against her back, and she realized that she felt really good sitting in front.

 

"Okay, I'm going to stand up a little and let you feel what it's like to hold her up. I'll be right here if you have any trouble. I promise," she vowed as she began to stand.

 

Jamie's heart began to thump in her chest but she concentrated and held on tight. She found to her amazement that it wasn't really that hard to balance such a huge weight if you stayed centered. "I feel okay," she said slowly.

 

"Great! Now I'll show you how to shift." She provided a basic lesson in shifting and let her practice a few times; going through all of the gears one at a time. "Why don't we go for a little spin? I'll keep my hands on yours and guide you up and down the hill. All you have to do is shift when I tell you."

 

"That's all? You're sure?"

 

"Yep. Believe me, Jamie. I will not trick you into doing something you're uncomfortable with. I'll tell you what you need to do and I swear I won't expect you to do one thing more than that. Okay?" she asked as she leaned over to make eye contact.

 

"Okay," she agreed, now completely reassured.

 

Ryan brought the bike to life and sat back while Jamie got comfortable. "Are you ready?" she asked as she glued herself to her back. A small nod was her answer. "Okay, put her into first gear," she instructed. As Jamie did so Ryan's large hands covered hers, gripping the brakes firmly. "Now I'm going to let the brakes off, so the bike might move a little. I'm going to give it a little gas. Just relax and let me guide you," she said confidently.

 

Her stomach leapt to her throat but she did her best to stay relaxed as the bike began to move. Ryan really was driving but sitting in the front was a very heady experience. And the experience was made even headier by having her friend covering her body almost totally. Ryan's chin was hanging over her shoulder and her chest was pressed tight against her back. Her warm pelvis was snuggled up against her butt, sending jolts of feeling down and between her legs. Ohh, I hope I don't have to walk anytime soon. I know my legs are completely useless.

 

As they slowly climbed the small grade Ryan called out when she wanted her to shift. By the time they reached the turnaround point she was up in 3rd gear, and she felt proud of her small accomplishment. Ryan was very enthusiastic in her praise and Jamie was excited about the trip back down. She paid rapt attention to how Ryan's hands worked the throttle and the brakes and by the time they reached the bottom she was ready to go up again. They made the little 1 mile loop 3 more times. Jamie was having a ball and was more than happy to keep her knowledge right at this level. But Ryan raised the stakes when she said, "I think you're ready to move on."

 

"What do you mean?" she asked suspiciously.

 

"This time, you take the throttle and the brakes. I'll scoot up and shift for you so you don't have too many things to think of."

 

"I don't know, Ryan," she demurred.

 

"I have total confidence in you, Jamie. I know you can do this easily," she insisted.

 

Somehow Ryan's confidence was enough to bolster her own and she finally agreed. Ryan had to scoot even closer to comfortably reach the shifter, but Jamie was not about to complain. She rested her hands on the grips and prepared herself mentally, and then she nodded to show her readiness. Ryan kept her feet on the ground until the last moment to help balance the big bike. Jamie slowly turned the throttle and the bike smoothly began to roll. Ryan kept her promise and kept her own hands down by the grips by her butt...letting Jamie have complete control. Jamie could feel her warm body pressed against her and she was reassured by the relaxed posture that her friend maintained. If she's relaxed I should be, she thought. Within seconds they were at the turnaround and she performed her next little test very well. She slowly squeezed the brakes and brought the bike to a smooth halt.

 

Ryan's arms circled her waist for a quick hug as Jamie turned and beamed at her. "More!" she demanded as Ryan laughed heartily.

 

"It's addictive, isn't it?" she teased.

 

An enthusiastic nod was her clear reply. Ryan took the controls to negotiate the sharp turn, but quickly turned it over to her happy friend. They made 3 more complete circuits before Ryan's deep voice rumbled through her back, "Wanna go all the way?"

 

God, how does any woman refuse her? Oh that's right, no one does refuse her! she thought wryly.

 

"O..o..okay," she stuttered. Ryan sat back an inch or two and let Jamie have full control. She put the bike into first and let her go one more time. The increase in sensation was small but significant. Now she was really in charge. If she hit the accelerator too hard or grabbed the front brake alone they could easily be on the ground. But the responsibility didn't frighten her at this point. The slow buildup had reassured her at every step of the way and now she just felt confident. They did 3 more circuits just the same way, but before they began the fourth Ryan said, "This time, you negotiate the turn on your own."

 

Jamie gulped noticeably but she nodded slightly and started up again. Her heart was pounding when she neared the top but she smoothly downshifted just like she had seen Ryan do. When the bike was going nice and slow she turned the wheel and leaned over just a tiny bit, turning the bike perfectly. When they reached the bottom Ryan squeezed her until she had trouble getting a breath. "I'm so proud of you!" she said with a high wattage grin. "You were so smooth and controlled. I really think you could do more if you're up to it."

 

"Like what?" she asked, both flushed with accomplishment and hesitant.

 

"Let's go further up this hill. You can practice leaning into turns a little bit."

 

"Okay," she said with only a moment's resistance. As they climbed past their previous stopping point she could hear Ryan begin to hum over the drone of the engine. After a few moments she recognized the tune and began to hum along with her. They rode for at least two more miles, humming the whole way. After they had begun the song for the second time Ryan began to sing. Jamie didn't know all the words so she just let that rich deep voice rumble against her back.

 

She didn't start at the beginning of the song, instead picking it up right where they had left it.

 

"Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend; I wanna guard your dreams and visions.

Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims and strap your hands across my engines.

Together Wendy we'll break with the sadness, I'll love you with all the madness in my soul."

 

"Will you walk with me out on the wire? Cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely traveler,

And I wanna know how it feels. I wanna know if love is right, and I wanna know if love is real."

 

Ryan then began to hum the instrumental part of the song and Jamie happily joined her. Moments later they reached a wide point that looked like a perfect place to turn around, Without even waiting for permission she smoothly downshifted and glided the big bike in a perfectly executed turn. Ryan signaled her pleasure by squeezing her thighs and patting her on the leg as she began to sing again.

 

She was signing at full voice by the time they neared their starting point. Jamie had heard the song hundreds of times on the classic rock station but she had never had anyone sing it to her while astride a motorcycle. Particularly a very sexy woman who had her strong thighs wrapped tightly around her body. Between the intense concentration needed to ride the bike and the focus needed to ignore Ryan's body, she hardly heard a word. But Ryan had timed the song perfectly and as they pulled up she wailed out,

 

"Come on Wendy, tramps like us, baby we were born to run!

Ooooh, oooo, ooooh o..o..o..oooh, tramps like us were born..."

 

Ryan dropped her feet to hold the bike up while she performed an impromptu drum solo/congratulations on Jamie's back. "That was so awesome, Jamie!" she yelled. "You are a total natural!"

 

Jamie could not help but catch the enthusiasm of her friend. She jumped off as Ryan tipped the bike a bit to give her better egress. She threw her arms straight into the air as she ran around like a 2 year old. "I am sooooo pumped!" she shouted.

 

Ryan had secured the bike on its stand and she threw her arms around Jamie's small waist and picked her up as she began to twirl her in a tight circle. "Wasn't that the most wonderful feeling?" Ryan demanded as the world flew by.

 

It took all of Jamie's willpower not to shout. No, this is!

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

An hour later they were negotiating dinner. "Look Ryan, you took me all the way out here just because I was bored. I would really like to buy you dinner to show my appreciation."

 

"But you don't seem to get my point," Ryan explained for the 3rd time. "I do things for you and with you because I enjoy them I can't tell you how much fun it was to teach you to ride. It was like learning all over again for me. I got to experience the thrill through your eyes. That was an awesome gift!"

 

"Okay," she said as she changed tactics. "It's just 5 o'clock and there's no way we want to be crossing the bridge at rush hour. I'm starving because I didn't have lunch and I bet you didn't either. We need to waste about 2 hours to avoid bad traffic. We can either do that in some crummy little place or we can go someplace that I really love. It's a lot more expensive than you like to go for, so why not let me treat us to a great meal just because I can?"

 

"So this is not a payback dinner?" she asked suspiciously.

 

"Nope. It's just a 'hey, I want to go to the Lark Creek Inn. Oh look, there it is. Oh, Ryan's with me. That's okay, it's more fun if I have someone to dine with' kind of thing."

 

"I'm sold. But are you sure we're dressed up enough?"

 

"Yep. We can sit in the bar and watch basketball on TV while we eat. It's really pretty casual."

 

"Let's go," she agreed as they made their way along the tiny streets of Larkspur to the restaurant.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

It was nearly 9 when they reached the City. Dinner had indeed been wonderful and Ryan was terribly glad that she had let herself be talked into it. As they approached the Marina district Ryan pulled over and turned in her seat. "Do you mind if I stop by Tracy's apartment for a second? She's supposed to fly in this afternoon and I told her I might come by tonight."

 

"Geez, Ryan, we didn't have to stay at the restaurant that long! I don't want to interfere with your relationship."

 

As she turned even more fully in her seat Ryan locked her eyes onto Jamie's. "There's not one minute of this day that I would cut out. Don't demean our relationship like that," she said emphatically. "My friendships are just as important to me as my relationship with Tracy."

 

"Ryan, I'm sorry," Jamie said quickly. "I certainly don't demean our relationship. It's incredibly important to me," she stated firmly.

 

"I just can't stand people who immediately drop their friends when they get into a serious relationship," Ryan admitted. "I like to nurture my friendships just as much as I do a sexual relationship." She allowed her face to curve into a crooked grin as she started over. "Do you mind if I stop by Tracy's for a second?"

 

"Not at all," Jamie said happily.

 

A few moments later Ryan was buzzing the apartment. They walked up to the third floor unit together, even though Jamie felt a bit uncomfortable. Tracy was a little surprised to see Jamie, but she greeted her warmly. "Well, well," she said as she looked them over. "What do we have here?" she asked as she wrapped her arms around Ryan for a very friendly kiss. "You've already had dinner," she said as she narrowed her eyes a bit. She leaned in for another kiss which they held for a bit longer than Jamie was comfortable with. "And dessert," she added.

 

If she starts looking for what kind of toothpaste she uses I'm out of here!

 

"So where were you little scamps all day?" she asked. "I called your house and your pager, Ms. O'Flaherty," she said as she placed her hands on her hips.

 

"Did you really?" Ryan asked as she pulled the device from her waistband to check it. "I didn't get a page, Tracy . Did you need something?"

 

"No, I didn't really. I called to tell you I wouldn't be home until about 9. I actually got in right before you got here."

 

"Good. I hate to inconvenience you," she said apologetically. "But the answer to your previous question is that we were up in Marin by Stinson Beach. I taught Jamie how to ride my bike," she said proudly. "And she was an excellent student," she added.

 

"Ohhh, tell me all about it," she demanded as she pushed Ryan down on a chair. "Let me get you both a drink first. Do you want a beer or some wine?"

 

"I'll take some wine," Jamie said.

 

"Water for me," Ryan added.

 

A few moments later Tracy came back to the living room with wine for she and Jamie along with Ryan's usual water. There was seating for 7 in the spacious, well decorated apartment but Tracy chose to sit on Ryan's lap. "I've missed you," she said quietly as she placed another kiss on Ryan's lips.

 

Ryan gazed up at her with a sweet, shy smile. "I missed you too," she replied as she sat up for another warm kiss. They were obviously used to sitting in this position because Ryan looked completely comfortable. She was sitting on a deep overstuffed upholstered chair and Tracy was leaning against her chest with her legs draped over the arm. She had her arm behind Ryan's neck and Ryan's arm cradled her back. All in all they looked very comfortable and relaxed with each other. It didn't seem to bother either of them that Jamie was there, even though she was still a little uncomfortable.

 

They had just been dating a little over a month but they were already finishing each other's sentences and other cute little girlfriend things. Tracy would occasionally brush Ryan's bangs from her forehead or push a lock of hair behind her ear. Ryan teased her quite a bit and seemed to know exactly where each of her most ticklish spots was. She seemed to delight in holding her down with her strong right arm while her left hand got in under her ribs or just behind her knee.

 

When Tracy spoke Ryan would look up at her with barely disguised fascination. She would cock her head and focus intently on her as though she had some vitally important information to impart. They really are cute together, she thought. If I really care for her as much as I think I do I'll be happy for her. Even though Tracy takes her away from me sometimes it's important for Ryan to have this. I get my needs fulfilled by Jack. Or at least I should, she thought disparagingly. Ryan has needs too, and her needs aren't limited to sex. She needs intimacy and romance and tenderness and it looks like she's getting that from Tracy.

 

At around 10 Ryan decided that it was time to go. Jamie wanted them to have a few moments alone so she excused herself to use the restroom. She was gone as long as she thought was polite but when she walked into the hallway it was clear that they were a long way from completing their goodnights. Ryan had her backed up against the wall and Tracy's arms were draped languidly around her neck. Neither of Ryan's hands was visible and Jamie could only guess that they were palming Tracy's firm little butt. It was obvious that Ryan was pulling her hips forward and equally obvious that Tracy did not mind one little bit. Both of them were uttering soft little moans as they frantically devoured each other's mouths.

 

Oh boy, now what? I guess I can go back into the bathroom, but other than shaving my legs I can't think of anything else to do in there. But just as she was beginning to turn to go back in Ryan pulled away with a few loud, wet kisses. "Gotta go, baby," she whispered. Jamie was afraid that Tracy was going to collapse right where she stood. Her legs looked a bit rubbery and she still held her eyes closed. She pulled Ryan toward her and whispered something into her ear that caused Ryan to say, "I know, I'm sure I will, too." She then grasped her head and placed several more searing kisses on her lips before she let her go. Ryan leaned her forehead against her girlfriend's and murmured, "Now I know I will," as she gave her one last tender kiss. "See you tomorrow, baby," she said as she patted her cheek in a loving fashion.

 

"Bye, Jamie," she breathed as the wide eyed woman followed Ryan out.

 

"See you, Tracy, thanks for the wine."

 

"Anytime," she replied as she weakly waved a hand.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Ryan slid her arm around Jamie's shoulders as they walked back down the stairs. "Are you okay?" the smaller woman asked tentatively.

 

"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?"

 

"I thought you might need to...umm...stay over," she hesitantly suggested. "I could easily grab a cab back to your house."

 

"Nope. I want to go home," she replied easily.

 

God, I'm so turned on I ache and all I did was watch for a moment!

 

When they got to the bike Ryan teasingly asked, "Wanna drive?"

 

"I think I'll stick to less populated areas if you don't mind," she replied as she gave her a little pat.

 

15 minutes later they pulled up in front of Ryan's house. As they both got off Jamie gave her a big hug and a kiss on both cheeks. "I had one of the most delightful days of my life, Ryan. Thank you so much for sharing it with me."

 

"You're welcome, Jamie. I had a great time, myself. Do you want to come in for some cocoa before your drive?"

 

"No, I'm sure you need to get to bed."

 

"Well, I do have a date," she admitted with a rakish grin.

 

"A date!"

 

"Yeah," she replied as she held up her left hand and wiggled her fingers. "I'm so turned on I could scream!"

 

That makes two of us, buddy, she thought.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Chapter Twelve Return to Main Page