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 13


Ryan had been pestering Jamie for a week trying to get her to decide what she wanted to do to celebrate her birthday. Since it fell on a Thursday she was not going to see Jack or her parents. Her parents had invited her down for a celebration on Saturday and Jack decided that they should celebrate both her birthday and Valentine's Day since it fell on the following Sunday. Ryan found this arrangement more than odd, but she kept her comments to herself. The jerk lives 25 minutes from here! He can't drag his ass up here for a couple of hours to celebrate her 21st birthday?! And who wants to lump their birthday in with Valentine's Day? That is beyond cheap!!


On Wednesday Jamie finally decided that she wanted to go to a bar to have a legal drink. This was fine with Ryan but the next problem was finding an acceptable bar. "Where do you normally go?" Jamie inquired.


"I don't go to a lot of bars to be honest," Ryan said. "I don't drink much and I'm not crazy about crowded places. But when I do go to one in the East Bay I usually choose a lesbian bar right on Telegraph. I don't think that's what you had in mind though. Maybe we should ask Mia, I'm sure she knows every hot spot in the Bay area."


"I don't really care about the atmosphere, Ryan. I just want to have a drink without fake I.D.'s"


" Would you be comfortable in a lesbian bar?"


"Yeah I would if I was with you. Besides, we would be bothered less at a gay place."


"Hey, speak for yourself," she said haughtily as she ineffectively hid a grin.


"You know what I mean, silly. The men there won't want us and you've said that women aren't very aggressive, so I thought we would be left alone."


"That's probably true" she replied. "It's fine with me if that's what you want to do. How about dinner first?"


"Sure. You pick where we go. Why don't you come over at 6 or so to pick me up?"


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


As promised Ryan showed up slightly before 6 o'clock. She was dressed in her black silk t-shirt and a new pair of black lightweight wool slacks with deep pleats. The pants were held up by a thin black belt and they draped attractively over her long legs. Her black leather jacket was draped casually over her shoulder. "We need to get going, Jamie. I made reservations for dinner at 6 sharp."


"Reservations? We're going somewhere that you need reservations?" she asked in surprise.


"It's your birthday, knucklehead. I thought it would be nice to take you somewhere where the biggest question isn't 'You want fries with that?' "


"You wait right here, I'm going to change," she said as she looked down at her jeans and golf shirt. "I need to keep up with my escort. You look so..so.."


"Evil?" Ryan supplied helpfully, her face breaking into a crooked grin.


"No, I'd say you look sleek," she decided.


"Sleek, I think I like that," she mused.


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


5 minutes later Jamie came down the stairs in an outfit that clearly rivaled her escorts in terms of sleekness. She had changed into a little black crepe tube dress that followed every curve of her slim body. The little dress was covered by a supple black leather bolero jacket that gleamed dully in the light of the staircase. Small black flats finished the look. "I've decided that we should both be PIBS," Jamie announced.


"PIBS?" Ryan inquired as she slowly walked around her friend, looking at her outfit with open appreciation.


"People In Black," she replied. "It's very L.A."


"If this is how they look in L.A., I'm moving tomorrow," Ryan said decisively.


"You are such a tease Ms. O'Flaherty," she replied.


"Oh, I'm not teasing," she said with mock sobriety. "You just look so...so....so..." Ryan fumbled.


"Sleek?" Jamie inquired.


"Yes, but more than that," she pondered her image again. "Sophisticated, glamorous, sexy, somewhere in there," she finally decided as she waved her hands in the air.


"That's probably because my mother bought this for me. She forced me to attend an art exhibit down in SOMA and she insisted that all of my clothes were either too 'mainstream', or 'juvenile'."


"Well," Ryan reflected, "I would agree that is one of the least juvenile outfits I have ever seen," she said appreciatively.


As they left the house Ryan dashed ahead and opened her car door, waiting until Jamie was settled before she gently shut it. Jack could learn some manners from her, she thought. Ryan drove, of course, and they pulled up to the valet at 'Chez Panisse' at 6 sharp.


"Ryan, you are so sweet! I told you I liked this place months ago. It's adorable that you remembered," she enthused.


Ryan gave her a curious look as she replied, "If it's important enough for you to tell me it's important enough for me to remember." As she held the door for her she related, "I couldn't get reservations downstairs, but I thought we would be more comfortable upstairs anyway. It's a lot more casual," she said happily.


"I actually prefer the upstairs. It's not filled with stuffy businessmen trying to impress clients. Normal people from the neighborhood eat upstairs," she said knowledgeably.


Jamie ordered her favorite meal; a small steak with French fries. Ryan had rack of lamb with some delectable oil-roasted rosemary potatoes. She insisted on ordering a bottle of wine but made Jamie pick out the vintage since she was wholly ignorant on the subject. Jamie was just a bit disappointed that the server did not ask for her I.D., but she had to admit that she was glad that she looked over 21 tonight.


They had a thoroughly enjoyable dinner. Jamie was impressed that Ryan seemed very comfortable in this atmosphere even though she was certain that she did not dine out much. After they had savored cups of cappuccino and a delightful piece of chocolate silk cake they headed home. The bar was very close to her house so rather than trying to park they had planned on walking. After they had parked the car Ryan dashed out to her bike and removed something large that had been lashed to the seat. She carried the big box into the house with a wide grin on her face.


Jamie tried to wrestle the box from her hands but Ryan held it securely, finally holding it above the laughing woman's head. "What makes you think this is for you anyway?" she teased.


"Because it's my birthday and you are too sweet not to give me a present, even though you don't need to," she replied logically.


"Well, you've got me there. This is for you," she said as she presented the box to Jamie with a flourish.


Jamie proceeded to rip off the wrapping paper and tear the heavy cardboard in a matter of seconds. She was delighted to pull out a brand new bright yellow motorcycle helmet. "Ryan this is so cool!" she said gleefully. "I absolutely love it!"


"I've been worried about you wearing my spare," Ryan admitted. "My spare is fairly large so that anyone can wear it. But I wanted to get you one that would fit properly. Your head is mighty important to me, you know," she said as she began to adjust the helmet properly. The fit was perfect and now Jamie wanted to take the bike to the bar. Ryan agreed conceptually, but she suggested that Jamie might want to change first. "Have you ever ridden a motorcycle in a short tight skirt?" she asked helpfully.


"Oh, good point," she said with a little blush. "Should I change or should we drive my car?"


"I'm very content to have you remain in that outfit," she said with an eyebrow waggle. "But you get to choose. It's your birthday."


"Can I drive?" she begged as her face scrunched into an adorable little pout.


Ryan pursed her lips as though deep in thought. But she quickly let her face slide into a grin as she admitted, "You know I'm powerless against that puppy dog face. Of course you can."


"Be right back," she said as she ran up the stairs to change.


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


In a surprisingly short time Jamie came trotting back downstairs, still looking lovely, but much more equipped to drive a motorcycle. The short black leather jacket remained but now it covered a white turtleneck. Neat black jeans topped shiny black boots, now firmly placing Jamie into the sleek category. "Do you often have to warn your dates not to wear skirts?" she teased as they made their way to the driveway.


"Well, no," Ryan admitted with a leer. "I encourage my dates to wear short skirts."


Jamie was concentrating on getting onto the bike and she hadn't noticed Ryan's leering grin. "Why would you..." she started to say but the obvious answer came to her quickly. "Ryan!" she cried as she slapped her friend in the stomach. "You are such a..."


"Letch?" she once again helpfully supplied.


"At least!" her giggling companion agreed.


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


Moments later they pulled up to a rare legal parking space near the bar. It was still early and there were not many people in the establishment. It was dark and smelled of smoke even with the ordinance that banned smoking in bars. Jamie figured that years of smoke smell had just permeated the walls.


"Well, well, well," smiled the bartender. "The class factor in here just went up 100%," she said as she shook Ryan's hand. "Haven't seen you for a while, Ryan. I would ask what you've been up to, but it's pretty obvious," she teased as she regarded Jamie with a long look.


"You are incorrigible, Sandy," she grinned as she shook her head. "This is Jamie. Tonight is her 21st birthday, so treat her right."


"You certainly look like you're used to being treated right, Jamie," she said as she leaned over the bar a bit and moved her head close. "I guarantee that I'll continue that tradition," she purred.


Jamie unconsciously moved closer to Ryan and meekly ordered a white wine spritzer. Ryan asked for the same, although without the wine. After Sandy had placed their drinks before them Jamie whispered with a laugh, "I thought you said women didn't come on so strong."


"Sandy would be the most surprised person in the world if anyone ever took her up on one of her propositions. She's been in a committed relationship for years but she loves to joke around," Ryan informed her.


They found two stools near the rear of the bar. The juke box was on and the volume was a little higher than Jamie would have preferred but they could hear each other if they leaned close. "So what do you think?" Ryan asked. "Is it what you expected?"


"Well," she said as she looked around, "I have not been to a lot of neighborhood bars but from the few I've seen this one looks pretty typical. If you looked in quickly you wouldn't notice it was a gay place at all. Are most gay bars like this?"


"No, this is more like your typical middle class lesbian place. Some of the weekend clubs are very glitzy and appeal more to the 'lipstick lesbians'. I don't know why, but I feel more comfortable here. There are tons of good looking women at the weekend places but they're always really noisy. I think I just like the more laid back atmosphere of this place."


"Why do you call them weekend places?"


"Some promoters have a traveling club that is only open 1 night a month or 1 night a week. You'll see signs up advertising where the party will be. It's a lot cheaper to just rent a place for 1 night. Then they don't have the upkeep of keeping a place open on the slow nights."


"But you don't like them?"


"No, it's not that. Sometimes they're a lot of fun. But they're real high energy and um...well, let's just say that I wouldn't take a date to one."


"Why not?"


"It's hard to um..well, I tend to um..."


"You get hit on a lot don't you?" she said with a big grin.


Ryan's chagrined look was a clearly affirmative answer. "There's usually a lot of people that I know that go to those and it gets kind of embarrassing," she admitted shyly.


"You can't help it that you're irresistible," she teased.


"It's hardly that, Jamie. I've just dated so darn many women that it seems like half of the city knows me when I go to one of those big parties."


"Well, I think it's because you're so darned cute," she said as she tweaked her nose. "I've got to use the rest room. Is it right there?" she asked as she pointed.


"Yep. It's just behind that wall. I'll keep your seat warm."


There were about 5 women in line and she waited patiently while she watched a spirited game of pool. When she emerged from behind the partition she was surprised and a bit peeved to see someone on her stool. I don't get any respect in this community, she thought crossly. Hitting on her when I go to the bathroom! Unacceptable !


She marched right over and slid in between Ryan and the stranger. Ryan's legs were splayed wide apart and she nestled herself right between them as she leaned back against her. When she received a rather wide eyed look from the woman she smiled sweetly and said, "Hi, I'm Jamie, Ryan's date. Who are you?"


"Just leaving," she said quickly as she did just that.


Ryan's head moved forward just a bit to rest on Jamie's shoulder. Her deep chuckle rumbled across Jamie's back as she said, "I guess I could take you to one of those weekend clubs. You'd just open a can of whupass on anyone who got near me."


"It's all about respect," she said easily. "You've got to let them know they can't mess with you."


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


After Jamie had reclaimed her stool they sat and chatted amiably while they people watched. After a while Jamie ordered another drink which surprised Ryan a bit. "Are you sure you're up to another?" she gently inquired.


"Yes, Mom. I may have just turned 21, but I've been drinking for years. I've spent a lot of time in Europe and wine is part of every dinner there."


"I just want you to be careful. Alcohol will hit you harder because of your weight loss. You won't be insulted if I drive home, will you?"


"Nope. I'm a big fan of the designated driver. But since you're driving it won't kill me to get buzzed on my birthday," she said firmly.


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


Around 10 o'clock Jamie decided that she needed to dance. The small dance floor was nearly filled as she pulled Ryan to her feet and led her to a spot near the juke box. A current song that Jamie particularly liked was playing as they began to move to the beat. My God, I assumed that she could dance, but this is ridiculous! she thought as Ryan became one with the music. Every part of her body reflected the strong beat of the thrumming bass. She moved her hips and her shoulders in a teasingly seductive way that had every pair of eyes on her. I am sure she is not conscious of how sexy she is. Every woman in this bar wants her, she marveled. They continued to dance as 3 more good songs came on. Jamie was no slouch as a dancer herself and by the time they finished most of the women in the bar were deciding which one of them they would choose if given a chance.


The exertion of their dancing and the closeness of the room made Jamie feel a bit tipsier than she normally would after her two drinks. Ryan actually felt a little light headed herself, due to the lingering effects of the wine they had at dinner. They went back to the bar for a few minutes as Jamie signaled Sandy for another round. When her spritzer was delivered she drank it quickly, mostly to rehydrate. She knew she was getting buzzed but she was having such a good time that she just let herself go for a change. She ignored her inner voice that normally kept a tight watch on her actions and her emotions. She just let herself have fun.


It was too loud to talk so they just sat back on their stools and watched people dance for a few minutes. After a while Jamie felt cool again and as soon as another favorite came on she rose and took Ryan's hand. The song was very slow and sensual and Ryan cocked her head as she gazed down at her. She leaned over a little and asked, "Are you sure?" Jamie's answer was to guide her to the dance floor without a word. As she slipped her arms around Ryan's waist she felt her partner's strong arms slide around behind her shoulders and drape loosely behind her neck.


As they moved to the slow, insistent beat of the music Jamie drew imperceptibly closer to her friend. There was still a respectable distance between them but she could occasionally feel Ryan's thigh brush against hers. A warm tingle passed down her body when Ryan's breasts touched hers slightly. They continued this soft and gentle connection when the song changed and another soft melody began.


There may have been other people on the dance floor, but only one person existed for Jamie at that moment. The connection between them was both soothing and electric. Each small touch, each warm breath that passed by her ear made her feel more and more deeply bonded. The next song was considerably faster but neither woman made a move to break the connection. They continued to hold one another as they moved at half time to the quick beat.


When the next song began Jamie found herself drawn inexorably closer to Ryan's body. The slow love song thrummed in the background but Jamie felt so connected that she swore they were moving to the merged beat of their hearts. The song was over much too soon and as it wound down they stood back slightly with their arms still gently holding each other and silently regarded each other for a few long moments. Ryan leaned down just slightly to speak but Jamie misinterpreted her movement. She slowly closed her eyes as she slid her hands up the powerful back to rest behind her neck. She placed her lips softly on Ryan's and let the warmth just wash over her like a warm summer rain shower. The kiss was gentle and tender and relatively chaste. But it lasted considerably longer than she had intended. Ryan didn't make any move to separate so Jamie eventually pulled back. But Ryan's crystal blue eyes locked onto hers, freezing her in place for a moment. There was a hint of a question in those deep blue eyes, but Jamie simply wrapped her arms around her neck and held her in a tender embrace for a few seconds. Ryan returned the affection and when they broke apart Jamie found that she held Ryan's hand in hers.


The clear blue eyes had gentled as Ryan looked down at her and asked, "Are you ready to leave? It's getting a little late." As her face broke into a sweet smile she added, "And I think we're both a little drunk."


Jamie returned the smile and acknowledged the truth of both statements. "Yes, we probably should go," she said as she leaned against her for another full body hug. "It's nearly midnight, so my special day's almost over."


"That's where you're wrong," Ryan said as she slid her arm around Jamie's waist. "The day doesn't make you special. It's the other way around."


Jamie dropped her head against Ryan's shoulder as she mused, How does she do that? She just makes me feel so precious.


When they emerged from the bar they followed their previous agreement to have Ryan drive. It was just a few short blocks to the house but as Jamie hopped off the skies opened up as a heavy rain began to pelt them. They both made a mad dash for the door, making the front porch relatively unscathed. Both Cassie and Mia were obviously at home, but the house was quiet. Jamie beckoned Ryan to follow her into the kitchen where they could speak normally without waking anyone.


"I don't want you to ride home in this weather, Ryan," she said.


"This is one of those nights I told you about," Ryan admitted. "You know, 50 degrees and raining like heck."


"Take my car home tonight. You can return it tomorrow," she offered.


"I don't really feel comfortable driving your car alone, especially in the rain," Ryan demurred. "I'm not on the title or the registration, and my motorcycle insurance wouldn't cover me if I wrecked it. I'm a careful driver, but not everyone else is. I don't want you to have to explain an accident to your father," she stated firmly.


"Then call home and tell them you're staying here," she insisted. "I won't be able to sleep if you drive home in this."


"Okay, you win," Ryan finally agreed. "I can ride in the rain, but it isn't the safest thing to do." She looked a bit shy as she asked, "Where should I sleep?"


"It looks like everyone is home, so you're stuck with me," she said with a crooked grin. "Unless you want to sneak into Cassie's room and make a woman out of her," she teased.


"I think that is beyond even my many skills," she replied with a return grin.


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


Jamie took her clothes into the bathroom to change as Ryan called home to tell her father she was taking refuge from the rain. A few minutes later Jamie emerged in glen plaid flannel pajamas, with her face scrubbed and her teeth brushed. She offered Ryan a new toothbrush and showed her where the clean towels were. Finally she asked, "What do you normally sleep in?"


"Um, my normal outfit is a little casual for a sleep over," she admitted shyly.


"It's okay if you like to sleep in your underwear," Jamie reassured her. "Your underwear covers a lot more than mine does."


"My normal attire is quite a bit more casual than that," she said with a blush.


"Ooooh," Jamie replied. "That would be a touch casual. I'll find something for you." Jamie rummaged through her dresser finally coming up with an old pair of sweats and a t-shirt that Jack had left with her during the summer. "He's a little taller than you are but these should fit," she said as she handed the bundle to her friend.


Ryan followed Jamie's lead and went into the bathroom to change. As she brushed her teeth she reflected on the events of the evening. God, I don't know what happened at the bar, but it felt all together too good. I know the alcohol got to her a little bit, but there was more to it than that. I know she feels close to me but I have to keep my head. The last thing she needs is to make her life more complicated right now. When she kissed me I didn't want to encourage her but I also didn't want to hurt her feelings by pulling away. I'm not sure I did the right thing but honestly it just felt too good to stop it. Boy, this is one of those days that it's a real bitch to have morals, she mused.


As she slipped into Jack's clothes she thought, I don't know if it's a good idea to sleep in her bed tonight. I wish there was another place to crash but it would really be insulting to curl up on that little loveseat when she has a king sized bed. I just have to remind myself that she's a wonderful, attractive, sexy straight woman, who's engaged to be married.


After a few minutes she emerged with her hair in a simple braid and Jack's clothes covering her body. Jamie marveled at her appearance for a moment, "You and Jack could not look more different, but those are exactly your size," she said.


"Yeah, we just fill them out in different places," she grinned.

I'll say, thought Jamie silently. She climbed into bed and turned the covers down for both of them.


Ryan looked at the bed and hesitated. After Jamie was settled she attempted to pull the covers back up on her side and lie down on top of them. "What are you doing?" asked Jamie with a confused look on her face.


"I just thought I should sleep outside the covers," she said shyly.


"Afraid I'll bite?" Jamie replied a bit cross at the insinuation.


"No, not at all," she replied although that was exactly what she was afraid of. "I just don't want to put you in a bad position. I know Jack isn't wild about me, and I don't want you to have to explain anything that might make him mad."


"It'll make me mad if I'm trapped by these covers all night," she said. "Get in here," she ordered.


Ryan complied despite her reservations. "I do kind of hate to sleep on top," she admitted. "It's lots cozier inside."


They kept a respectful distance as they shifted and adjusted their positions for a few moments. As they both settled down Ryan quietly said, "Happy birthday, Jamie."


Jamie smiled at her friend in the dark and replied, "You made it happy, Ryan. Thank you."


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


Several hours later a loud clap of thunder woke Jamie from a deep sleep. She had been having a vaguely arousing dream and as she struggled into consciousness she realized with alarm why the dream had seemed so real. She was plastered up next to Ryan, touching her with her body from her shoulders all the way down to her feet. Her right hand was slowly tracing gentle patterns on her friend, starting at her waist and traveling down her hip to the inside of her thigh. She nearly gasped in shock at what she had been doing, but when she pulled the offending appendage away she heard Ryan softly mumble, "Please...please don't stop."


Jamie felt as though she was in a trance as she felt Ryan's strong hand grasp hers and place it on her breast. She felt those sensuous hips move against her as they began a slow, steady beat. She was not sure what propelled her to respond, but she did so enthusiastically. Her hand touched, and rubbed and teased both of those perfect breasts until Ryan's hips began to grind into her lap insistently.


Suddenly, she felt herself being rolled onto her back. Ryan appeared on top of her, bracing her body with her forearms, blue eyes dark with desire. She dipped her head and stared intently for a moment, gauging Jamie's receptivity. The vivid green eyes that gazed up at her unblinkingly were a clear signal so she locked her warm mouth onto Jamie's waiting lips. The smaller woman felt her mouth open just a bit and seconds later that warm, wet tongue slid in.


Jamie felt her head begin to spin as the sensations became overpowering. Ryan's tongue moved slowly in her mouth as her own tongue joined in the sensual dance. Jamie felt her body respond in a way that she had never imagined possible. She felt a depth of connection with this woman that felt bone deep.


Ryan lowered her torso onto Jamie's and began to move slowly against her body. Every part of Jamie's body was rubbed softly by its counterpart. Breasts glided against breasts, firm bellies and strong thighs slid sensually against each other. Every nerve ending tingled in anticipation. As the touch became overwhelming Jamie growled as she wrapped Ryan in her arms and rolled her onto her back. She felt Ryan's legs open in invitation and she slid in between them, settling her hips in the warm furrow. Those long strong thighs wrapped around her hips as she pressed herself against the apex of Ryan's desire. The heat radiated from her as Jamie groaned into her mouth, claiming her with her lips again and again.


Ryan's hands slid under her top and moved slowly up her sides until they found their target. Soft, warm fingers teased the taut nipples as Jamie felt the contact deep in her groin. She moaned again and again as those fingers continued to torment her aching breasts. She reached down and grabbed the hem of her top, pulling it over her head in one swift move as she pulled herself up towards that inviting mouth. Ryan did not relinquish the firm hold that her thighs had claimed as she moved as one with her.


Jamie lowered herself over Ryan's mouth and let out a low growl as that warm mouth captured a throbbing breast. She raised and lowered herself repeatedly as each breast was loved in turn. Ryan's hips were nearly off the bed as she clung desperately to her.


Jamie felt herself nearing climax as Ryan bit down on a tender breast. She threw her head back and felt herself release as wave after wave of sensation coursed down her body. She was unable to support herself on her shaking arms and she felt herself collapse onto Ryan's powerful chest.

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


A loud thunderclap rumbled through the house. Jamie sat bolt upright in bed and whipped her head around trying to make sense of where she was. She focused her senses and found that she was fully clothed. She looked to her left and found a peacefully sleeping Ryan. Oh my God, was that a dream?!


She lay back down and let the dream wash over her again. I have never felt anything so real! Touching her and being touched felt so completely erotic. I don't think I've ever been that aroused.


Thoughts and sensations fought for space in her overtaxed brain. Why did I dream about Ryan like that? Is it just because I'm a little high and she's lying so close to me? I mean every woman at that bar wanted her. If I'm going to fantasize about a woman why not choose Ryan?


I'd give anything to be able to respond to Jack like that. Why can't I just accept what he's able to give me and get on with my life? It's not like there's anything wrong with him. He's really a lovely man. I just wish he could excite me half as much as I was in that dream.


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


The alarm sounded at 6:30 a.m. Jamie stuck an arm out of the covers and slapped it with her hand. She groaned as she opened her eyes and saw the time. She turned and saw Ryan gazing over at her with a big smile on her alert face. "You're not a morning person, are you?" she observed happily.


Jamie merely responded by covering her head with the pillow. She felt Ryan hop out of bed and found herself falling back to sleep when she heard the shower running. When Ryan was finished in the bathroom she came over and perched on the side of the bed. She was wrapped in a huge bath sheet and she debated whether to put her nice clothes back on or try to get away with wearing Jacks sweats. While she debated her wardrobe choices she decided to wake Jamie. She looked down at her friend, so peaceful and serene in sleep. She contemplated a gentle way to wake her; finally letting her evil side win. She threw the covers back as she climbed onto the bed and began to tickle her mercilessly. Jamie giggled and thrashed about on the bed as Ryan refused to let her go. There was a very brief knock on the door that occurred almost simultaneously to it being thrown open.


Cassie opened the door a bit and stuck her head in. Ryan was mostly covered by the bath sheet but she was straddling a wildly twitching Jamie. Their hands were locked together as they fought but the open door caused them both to freeze in place. Both women caught the expression on Cassie's face that was a mixture of glee and revulsion. "Jack's on the phone," she said as she ignored Ryan's presence and their very compromised position. "He said he called you yesterday to wish you a happy birthday, but you were obviously...out. Do you want to speak to him...or are you too... busy?" she said innocently.


"Of course I'll speak to him. Just give me a second," she said as she hopped up and dashed to the bathroom.


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


Cassie went back downstairs and was speaking with Jack when Jamie picked up the upstairs extension. "You can hang up now, Cassie. I've got it." Cassie signed off and Jamie greeted him. "Hi honey, thanks for calling. Sorry I missed you last night."


"Isn't it a little early to have visitors, Jamie?" he inquired softly.


She sighed deeply as her hopes were dashed that Cassie had been discrete. "Do you want me to answer that or was that a rhetorical question, Jack?"


"I suppose it might as well be rhetorical. I don't feel that I ever get the whole truth out of you anymore," he replied.


"If you want to know why Ryan is here you can ask me. I don't lie to you Jack, and if you don't know that we've really got problems."


"I'm not sure that I do know that, but I would agree that we most definitely do have problems. I hope you had a nice birthday, Jamie. I'll see you tonight if you're still planning on coming down." He hung up before she could form a reply.


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


This is a big deal, Jamie. You can't continue to ignore the fact that Cassie is making him nuts about this. Look at it from his perspective...to him, Ryan is the same as a guy. All he knows is that you were in bed with someone who he believes is sexually interested in you. Cassie probably made it sound even worse than it was...which wouldn't actually be hard to do, she admitted.


But even though she knew that the last two weeks had been very damaging to her relationship, and that she should be concentrating on that, she could not help thinking about Ryan. I cannot believe that I kissed her like that! God, I can't believe how incredibly soft her lips were. So much different than kissing a man. It was just like melting into the softest thing I can imagine. And what in the hell must she have been thinking? She wasn't as buzzed as I was, and she's always in such control. Did she enjoy it too? I know I should bring it up or apologize or something, but I don't think I can.


Her stomach was in such turmoil that she was only able to get down a diet 7-up for breakfast. Ryan bought her story about being a bit hung over so she didn't give her too hard of a time about not eating. Now lunch was coming up but there was no way she could even think of eating.


I've got to talk to Jack. Obviously I can't concentrate today anyway; maybe I'll drive down to Stanford and look for him. What the hell. I'll take my bike and ride around campus for a couple of hours to get rid of some of this stress.


An hour later she was furiously pedaling around the campus. She knew he had a long class on Friday afternoon, but she seemed to remember that it was over at 3. I think that's his last class of the day so I should be able to find him.


At 2:45 she was riding up and down the street where most of the law buildings were housed. Oh, there's his law review partner. She'll know where he is. "Hey, Natalie!" she called out.


"Oh, hi Jamie," she replied with less warmth that she usually exhibited. "Looking for Jack?"


"Yeah. Do you know where he is?"


"He's just getting out of his 'Secured Transactions' class. I'm supposed to meet him here to go over some things. But...um...I'll just go to the law review office. Ask him to come over there when you're done talking." She looked a little uncomfortable as she added, "Good luck."


A few minutes later he came around the corner with a neutral expression on his face. But the moment he saw Jamie his eyes narrowed and his entire demeanor became rigid. "I saw Natalie and asked her if I could talk to you for a few minutes before you get together. She said she'll meet you in the law review office. Can we please go somewhere quiet for a little while?"


"Sure. Let's go over to one of those benches," he said, pointing to a quiet picnic bench in a grove of pine trees.


She walked her bike as he walked beside her in silence. She climbed up to sit on the table and he sat on the bench so that her head was a little higher than his. "Will you talk to me about how you're feeling?" she asked gently.


He stared straight ahead for a few moments until he finally said, "I'm confused, Jamie. I'm more confused than I've ever been. Were things really so bad for you before? I really thought we were happy, but maybe I was deluding myself."


"No, Jack, that's not true. I was happy before, we were happy before. And we still have really good times together. I know this is a hard period of adjustment for both of us, but I promise it can be even better when we get through it. I know it seems like I've changed an awful lot, but deep down inside I don't think I've changed at all. I think I was just afraid to let my real self out before. I was trying to be the woman that my father and mother wanted me to be. Then I wanted to be the woman you wanted. Now I'm just trying to be who I am. I know it's difficult but I think I'm getting to the real me. And in the long run I think that's the only way you and I can be happy together. We both have to have the freedom to be ourselves."


"I'm not really sure what you mean by freedom," he said slowly. "Have I been stopping you from doing what you want?"


"No, not really," she admitted. "But you're not always as supportive as I would like. The AIDS ride is really important to me, and you just don't seem to have any interest in how my training is going. And you don't seem interested in my schoolwork. You used to ask me questions about my classes, but you don't anymore."


He looked down at the ground for a few moments as he pondered this. "You're right. I haven't been supportive. It's just that since Ryan is so intrinsically involved in the ride I try to steer clear of the topic. I don't think we've ever discussed her without a fight, so I guess I do avoid asking you about it just to keep the peace."


"But we can't live like that, Jack. You have to be able to tell me when things bother you, it doesn't help to avoid topics."


He looked at her for a moment and nodded his head slowly. "Okay, Jamie, I think that Ryan's continued influence is harming our relationship. I would feel much better and more secure if you would stop seeing her."


She took in a deep breath before she replied. "That's not talking about your feelings, Jack. That's just telling me what to do," she explained. "I want you to talk about how my friendship with Ryan affects you. But I can't stop seeing her just because it bothers you. What if it bothered you that I was in college? Should I drop out?"


"If you chose to go to college in New Zealand or Japan, and we could never see each other, and I couldn't afford to talk to you on the phone? Yes, you should drop out if it was harming our relationship. I'm not asking you to get my approval over all of your friends. I'm just telling you that this particular friend is a real threat."


"But she's not, Jack! That's the point. She's only harming our relationship because you perceive that she does." She reached down and rested her hand on his shoulder as she looked into his eyes. "This is just the type of issue that we're going to have again and again in our relationship. There are going to be choices we make that the other is not going to be happy with. But this is me. I have needs just like you do. And one of my primary needs is for the freedom to chose my friends and my activities."


He looked up at her in reflective silence for a few minutes. He gazed at her face carefully, starting with her eyes. She felt like she was on display but she allowed the discomfort since he seemed to need to do this. "Okay," he finally said. "I think I'm finally starting to understand. This isn't just some temporary thing. You are just showing me for the first time who you really are. And it seems that one of the things that's most different is your independence. You want to be able to make your own decisions without regard for how it affects me or your parents. Right?"


"Well, I wouldn't say without regard, but that's essentially correct. I need to do the things that are important to me even if the people that I love aren't that crazy about them."


"Like when you told Stephanie that you weren't going to have children for several years," he said by way of another example.


"Exactly," she said, happy that he was finally beginning to understand. "I know that's something that we haven't really talked about but I want to go to grad school, or spend a few years writing. I don't think I'll be ready to have kids for at least 5 years."


"I see," he said rather neutrally. "Well, it is your body, so I guess the decision rests with you."


"Well, no, not completely, Jack. Your opinion matters too. Either of us has veto power over something like that. We both have to say yes at the same time. I wouldn't get pregnant if you didn't think you were ready yet," she explained.


"Okay," he said. "I think I understand. I need to go see Natalie now, so..."


"Are we okay?" she asked tentatively.


"I'm glad you came down, Jamie. I appreciate that you went out of your way to clear some things up," he said as he reached up to kiss her lightly. "I'll see you later," he said as he got up and strode away.


Did that go well? she wondered. He seemed so flat, but he did sound like he finally understood my point. I guess time will tell.


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


When he arrived home they discussed neither Jamie's birthday nor their subsequent fight. As usual, we ignore the things that cause the most strain in our relationship. It amazes me that he still hasn't asked why she was in my bed. If another man slept with him I'd like to know why! They spent their evening as they usually did. Jamie made dinner and later watched a movie while Jack read. When they went to bed he made love to her, but she could tell that he was not very emotionally connected. Normally he spent a lot of time looking into her eyes while they made love. But this time he broke off eye contact just a few moments after he entered her. He buried his head in her shoulder and just pumped away, almost like he was forcing himself to finish. She did not have an orgasm and for the first time that she could remember he was not concerned about that fact. When he was finished he merely kissed her on the cheek and wrapped his arms around her. He was asleep in moments but she was awake for hours, feeling partially aroused and rather lonely even in his embrace.


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


On Saturday night they went to her parents home together. Jack looked very handsome in a navy blue double breasted blazer over a white long sleeved golf shirt. Gray flannel pleated slacks finished his look. Jamie was dressed in a short, sleek dress of nubby silk in a deep burnt umber. The deep earth color complimented her golden hair and showed off the tan she had obtained from her frequent bike rides.


Catherine greeted them at the door. She was obviously over her pique at Jamie as she kissed her cheek and gave her a firm hug. Jim came down the stairs moments later, giving Jamie a hug and a kiss as well.


They chatted about law review and Jack's recently completed finals. Jim was working on a case that had been in the news and he and Jack discussed it in detail. After a while Catherine asked what Jamie had done on her actual birthday. She casually replied that she had gone out for a drink with friends, noticing Jack's discomfort at the topic. She did not elaborate and they did not pursue the topic.


After a delicious dinner, Catherine brought out several small boxes as Marta presented a lovely white cake with coconut frosting, Jamie's favorite. Her mother had purchased a lovely pair of emerald earrings, the stones fashioned in a brilliant cut, nestled in simple gold collars. The earrings were lovely and they looked fantastic when Jamie put them on.


Her father gave her the thinnest watch that she had ever seen. Its solid gold case was no more than 1/8 inch. It was waterproof and shock resistant which made her happy as she thought about wearing it while working out and riding. It had a woven gold bracelet that hung a little loosely on her small wrist. Engraved on the back was 'Happy 21st, Love, Daddy'.


Jamie was terribly pleased with the gifts and she thanked both of her parents profusely. They told her of their travails and different choices available to them in deciding on the gifts. After a little while Catherine handed Jamie an envelope. Inside was a first class ticket to Florence via Air Italia. "I want to take you to a wonderful new exhibit at the Ufizzi," Catherine said with excitement in her voice. "I've seen so little of you this year I thought it would be a great way to reconnect a little bit."


Jamie's pleasure turned to dismay when she noted the departure and return dates. "Oh Mother, this is so thoughtful, but I'm not free during these weeks," she lamented.


"Of course you can be free Jamie. School will be out by then, I checked myself."


"Mother, I told you about the bike ride I'm participating in," she explained. "My ride is right in the middle of this trip."


"Jamie, I thought I made it clear that I didn't want you to do that ride," Catherine said slowly.


At this point Jim interrupted. "I don't know anything about a bike ride," he said with a confused look on his face.


"As I told Mother I committed to riding in the California AIDS ride this year, Daddy. It begins on June 6th and ends on the 12th."


"Where are you riding to, New York?" he asked in surprise.


"No, silly, it's from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This year almost 3000 people are going to participate," she explained.


Catherine interrupted, "Jim have you ever heard of anything more dangerous or fool hearty? You know what Highway 1 is like. I'm afraid she'll be killed!"


Jim regarded his daughter for a long while. He cast a glance at Jack who seemed to be studying the pattern of the Oriental rug. "Is this something you are preparing for properly, Jamie?" he asked slowly.


"Yes, Daddy. I bought the right kind of bike, I've been working out in a gym with a trainer and I'm riding about 100 miles a week now," she stated confidently.


"What do you think of this, Jack?" he asked.


"Jamie makes her own decisions, Jim," he said without much enthusiasm.


"Catherine, I think that Jamie is old enough now that she can make her own decisions in matters such as these. I trust her judgment and this seems like a good character building experience." He smiled at his now grinning daughter, "How does this benefit people with AIDS?"


"Every rider pledges to raise at least $2500. The money I raise will go to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. People who live in Southern California donate their pledges to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Both of those groups give direct care to people living with AIDS," she said knowledgeably.


"Catherine, I think you should allow Jamie to decide if she wants to go to Europe with you this summer. If she chooses not to go, perhaps she can turn that ticket in and donate the money to her ride," he said with twinkling eyes.


Jamie jumped off her chair and trotted over to her father. She wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered into his ear, "I knew you would understand. Thank you, Daddy."


As she pulled back he laid his hand on her cheek and smiled up at her with admiration. "I'm proud of you, Cupcake," he said as he used a favorite childhood nickname. He turned to Jack and beamed, "This one has a ton of determination, doesn't she Jack?"


"Yes Sir, she certainly does," he replied somewhat stiffly.


Catherine finally relented and agreed that Jamie could use the ticket however she chose. She was firm in her resolve to worry as much as she wanted, however. "I still think of you as my little girl, Jamie. I'm having a hard time letting go, I guess."


Jamie walked over to her mother and kissed her cheek. "I don't want you to let me go completely," she smiled. "Just let me make my own decisions."


"It is so hard for me to believe that you'll be married in a little over a year. But I suppose you can decide to ride a bike if you can decide to get married," Catherine laughed.


Jack had been nearly silent during this whole interchange. He finally spoke up to tell Jamie that he had a present for her back at his apartment. She found that a bit odd, but happily nodded her assent.


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


At around 10 o'clock the young couple was on their way back to Palo Alto. Jack was silent on the ride home. Jamie noticed that he looked very tired and that his movements were not as smooth and graceful as usual.


When they arrived at the apartment Jamie was surprised that Jack did not immediately change into his sleepwear. He sat down on the couch and looked at her with a blank expression on his face. She was very uncomfortable with his attitude and she sat next to him on the couch as she took his limp hand in hers. "Honey, are you all right?" she asked hesitantly.


In a flat voice, he responded "Don't you want your gift?"


"Um, sure, if you want to give it to me," she said unsteadily as her heart started to pound strongly in her chest.


"I'm giving you what you most want, Jamie. I'm giving you your freedom," he said as he stared at her with emotionless blue eyes.


"H...h...how are you giving me freedom," she replied, already knowing the answer.


"I'm giving you the freedom to live your life exactly as you wish. You no longer have to answer to me. You no longer have to be concerned with my feelings. You are officially a free woman, Jamie. Congratulations."


"Jack, please don't do this," she begged on a quavering voice. "It doesn't have to be like this, sweetheart."


"Yes it does, Jamie. I just don't feel the way I used to feel about you. You've become a different person." He slowly looked at her right in her sea green eyes as he delivered the knock out punch, enunciating clearly. "I don't like that person."


Jamie rose on shaking legs to stare at him as she backed away from the couch. "Is there anything I can do to make you change your mind?" she finally choked out.


"No, Jamie. I realized last night when we had sex that I'm just not in love with you any more," he said, rather flatly.


She could feel her ire rise as her eye narrowed dangerously. "Did you realize that before, during or after we had sex, Jack?" she spat out in anger.


"During," he said through gritted teeth. "I tried to connect with you, Jamie. But as usual you looked like you would just as soon have been riding your bike as making love."

Jamie used every bit of control that she had left in her shaking body to refrain from hurling an insult back at him. She knew from the look in his eyes that his love for her was gone. She felt her control start to take over as she slowly, sadly, and thoughtfully removed his grandmothers' engagement ring from her left hand and handed it to him. "You're right, Jack" she said slowly, "You do deserve someone who can please you. I'm just sorry that it couldn't be me." With that she turned and went to the bedroom to pack her bag.


When she returned to the living room he was sitting right where she had left him with silent tears running down his cheeks. His eyes stared at the floor, unfocused. She stood by the couch and looked down on his face, as she touched his cheek with her palm. After a moment she leaned over and kissed him one last time, whispering as she rose, "I'm sorry, Jack. I'm truly sorry."


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


She didn't want to do it, she really didn't. But she just had no other option. It was nearly midnight but it was Saturday night and there was a good chance that she was still out. But she just had to call her. She dialed the pager number from memory.


Minutes later the smooth deep voice came through the little phone, "What's wrong?" more of a statement than a question.


"Are you busy right now?" was the hesitant reply.


"No, I'm just trying to get to sleep after a very frustrating evening with Tracy," Ryan replied.


"Did you have a fight?" was Jamie's concerned response.


"Not that kind of frustrating," Ryan's voice rumbled out a full octave lower.


"Oh, I'm sorry. I ... I ... I didn't mean to disturb you," Jamie muttered.


"Jamie, I'm teasing you. Now please tell me what's wrong," she said, the concern evident in her voice.


"Jack just...broke up with me," she sobbed in reply.


"Oh God, Jamie, I'm so sorry to hear that," she soothed. "Where are you?"


"I'm in Palo Alto, sitting in my car," she sobbed.


"Jamie, it's not a good idea to drive when you're upset. I can come get you wherever you are."


"No, I can drive," she said as she continued to sob. "It just hurts so much," she wailed as she had to pull over to the curb. She was overcome by wracking, deep sobs that felt like they were being pulled from her body. She continued to cry without a pause for several minutes. Ryan was very concerned since she didn't really know where she was. She couldn't hear much background noise so she was obviously not on the freeway, but she really wanted to go get her.


"Jamie, Jamie," she said loudly. "Where are you?"


"I'm just about to get on the freeway," she said weakly.


"I'm going to come get you," Ryan said firmly. "I don't want you to drive in this condition."


"I'll be okay. I don't want to just sit here and wait for you."


"Could you go to your parents?"


"No, that's the last place I want to be tonight. I just want to go home," she said as the sobs began again.


"Please let me come get you," Ryan begged. "I'll be crazy with worry if you drive home."


"How about if I drive but stay on the phone. Would you feel better then?"


"Call me back in 5 minutes. I want to get dressed in case you can't make it," she said as she switched off. Damn him, damn him to hell! He breaks up with her at midnight and then lets her get into her car and drive all the way home!


Ryan was sitting on the front stairs of her house in navy blue sweats and a long sleeved red t-shirt when Jamie pulled up 30 minutes later. She was exhausted emotionally from trying to keep her friend focused on the long drive, and her constant pacing made her feel like she had made the trip by foot. She approached the car as Jamie killed the engine and squatted down by the driver's door as she opened it. "You can stay here tonight or I'll drive you home. I want you to think about where you'd feel more comfortable," she said soothingly.


"Can I stay here with you?" she uttered through her tears.


"Absolutely," Ryan replied firmly. "For as long as you like." She stood and offered her hand to Jamie. When her friend was firmly on her feet Ryan slipped her arms around her and hugged her close. They stood like that on the street for many long minutes. Finally, Ryan pulled back and guided the distraught woman up the stairs.


Ryan was the only one home. She led Jamie into the kitchen to make her one of her famous hot cocoa drinks. As the milk was heating up Ryan asked her if she had any other clothes. Jamie nodded silently and started toward the door to get her bag. Ryan pulled her back onto a stool and instructed her to watch the milk. She trotted out to the car to retrieve the small suitcase and was back in the house before the milk began to boil.


Jamie went downstairs to change into her pajamas while Ryan finished the drinks. She carried two big mugs with her as she settled herself on the bed. Minutes later Jamie emerged from the bathroom still in her dress, crying inconsolably. "I only have one of Jack's t-shirts, " she held up the light blue garment. "I can't bear to smell him," she sobbed violently as she bent over, wrapping her arms around her stomach.


Ryan had learned this early warning signal and she jumped up to steady her friend. "Are you going to be sick?" she asked soothingly.


A silent bobbing head was her answer. She came up behind Jamie and quickly unzipped her dress. She slid it down her slim body and helped her step out of it. Then guided her over to the toilet and supported her as she fell to her knees and began to retch violently. Ryan knelt down right next to her, with reassuring hands around her heaving waist. When all of the contents of her stomach had been expelled Jamie was stark white and sweating. Ryan dropped the lid and maneuvered her so she was sitting on the seat. She grabbed a washcloth and ran cold water over it for a moment then squatted down in front of Jamie and began to wipe her face and neck with the cool cloth. When she was fairly certain that the nausea had subsided she guided her over to the bed and sat her down.


She dashed over to her dresser and pulled out a long sleeved white t-shirt. Dashing back to the bed she slipped the gathered garment over her head. She reached behind her back and unhooked her bra, slipping the delicate lace off her shoulders and in nearly a single move managed to slide her limp arms into the long sleeves and pulled the hem down.


Jamie looked a bit better now. Her color was returning and Ryan was relieved at the thought that she would probably not pass out. Ryan pulled her up onto the bed and placed a few pillows behind her head. She debated whether to offer her the cocoa at this point. She had slipped a healthy shot of Bailey's into the drink and she was concerned that the alcohol would further irritate her delicate stomach. Nonetheless, she held up the mug in front of Jamie's eyes. "What do you think?" she inquired.


Jamie reached for the still steaming mug and swallowed a mouthful. "I think it'll be okay," she said as she savored the steaming concoction. They sat in companionable silence as they sipped their drinks. Ryan did not want to rush her, so she allowed her friend to go at her own pace. After a good half-hour of reflective silence Jamie was ready.


"You know, I'm mostly sad, but there is a small part of me that is so angry at him that I can hardly see straight. I think that's the part that is making my stomach hurt," she pondered.


"Why are you angry?" Ryan inquired.


"I think he said something just to hurt me," she replied sadly. "I've never known him to do that and it just made me question what kind of a man he is."


"Do you want to tell me about it?" Ryan asked gently.


"Yeah, I guess so," she replied. "He told me that he realized that he didn't love me anymore while we were having sex on Friday night," she blushed deeply at revealing this intimacy. "I asked him at what point did he arrive at this conclusion, before, during or after sex." She sighed deeply, "He said during!" she gasped out as she began to cry again.


Ryan wrapped her arms around her friend and began to rock her gently. After long minutes she was able to continue. "It just made me feel so violated!" she cried. "I thought we were making love while he was planning on breaking up with me." She heaved a few more deep sighs, "Could you continue having sex if you had that realization, Ryan?"


Fuck no! she wanted to scream. I would never have sex just to satisfy myself! But instead she soothed, "I don't know that I can answer that Jamie. Except for Sara I've never had sex with someone I love. It's impossible for me to be able to put myself in his place. But I can empathize with how that made you feel," she said sincerely as she continued to rock her softly. "I'm certainly not on Jack's side here, but there is a chance that he was just lashing out at you for hurting him. You might feel better if you don't try to understand his motivations, and just let yourself feel the hurt," she said tenderly.


Jamie nodded her agreement as she tried to let go of her anger. But she quickly realized that the anger was helping her stay afloat. As she felt it ebb she was overcome with sadness. She rested her head on Ryan's chest and let herself reflect on the 3 years they had together. Images of Jack flooded her mind; his smile, the way he cocked his head when he was interested in something, his quick mind, his long lean body, the way he smiled at her in pleasure after she climaxed. There were so many sweet and loving things he had done for her it became impossible to focus on this one betrayal. But the sorrow was so overpowering that she felt too weak to bear it. Only Ryan's strong arms and powerful body kept her grounded.


It was nearly 2 a.m. when she began to feel a little more in control. For the past 10 minutes or so Ryan had been softly humming into her ear. The melody was gentle and smooth as the vibrations rumbled through her body. Finally she asked, "What are you humming?"


Ryan paused for so long that Jamie was unsure if she was going to answer. "A song that my mother used to sing to me," she finally said, in just above a whisper.


"And you remember it after so long?" Jamie inquired gently.


"Yeah, it's the only one I really remember," she sadly admitted. "She sang it as a lullaby. I'm sure I heard it hundreds of times." After a very long pause she finally asked, "Would you like me to sing it for you? It always worked to make me feel better."


"I would love it," Jamie replied simply. "I've never had anyone sing me to sleep," she admitted shyly.


"Then we're even because I've never sung this for anyone," she revealed.


Ryan pulled down the covers and got Jamie all snuggled in. She slipped off her own sweats and nestled close. She fluffed the pillows and had her friend adjust them to her taste. When she was in her favorite sleep position lying on her left side Ryan snuggled up against her back as she wrapped an arm around her and began to sing the tune.


"It's a cold old world that we're walking through

they ought to tell you from the start.

But it's warm as toast, walking two by two

lay down the burdens of your heart"


"Lay down the burdens of your heart

I know you'll never miss them

Just show me, Angel, where it hurts

And let your Mama kiss it."


"It's a fine, fine line between love and hate,

it's hard to tell the two apart

But what strength I have, I offer you

Lay down the burdens of your heart"


As Ryan began the refrain again, Jamie was soothed into slumber. Her last conscious thought as she drifted off was of the bone deep connection she felt for this woman. There is no safer place on earth than in her arms.


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


She felt Ryan slip out of bed just after the sun came up. Not one molecule in her body wanted to follow her friend so she slipped back into sleep easily. At around 9 her body demanded that she answer its call and she slowly stirred. She heard a soft chuckle from behind and she sleepily turned and saw a smiling Ryan, sitting at her desk, in her underwear, pouring over her books. "I didn't wake you, did I?" she asked.


"No, I didn't hear a thing. How long have you been up?" she asked through a yawn.


"About 3 hours," Ryan replied after checking her watch. "Duffy and I went on a run, then I made breakfast for the boys and I've been studying for about an hour," she said.


"What time is it?" Jamie inquired after shaking the fog from her brain.


"It's just after 9. What can I make you for breakfast? You name it."


"Something bland would be good. I'm still a little queasy," she admitted. "I think I'm going to go to Mass at 10:30." She stretched languidly and asked, "Do you want to go with me?"


"Um...I will if you need me to," Ryan replied after a brief hesitation. "I have plans to have brunch with Tracy, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind if we shifted it to a late lunch. Actually," she said as she rose and went to the phone. "Let me call her and cancel. I think I need to stay close to you today."


"No, Ryan, really. I'm fine going alone. I'll call my grandfather and see if he can spend some time with me after the service. You go meet your girlfriend," she said as she climbed out of bed and patted Ryan on the shoulder. She walked a step or two before she turned back and wrapped her arms around Ryan's neck and gave her a strong squeeze. "I can't thank you enough for last night. I honestly don't know what I would have done without you."


Ryan leaned her head down to rest on Jamie's entwined arms and gave her a gentle pat. "I'm glad you called, Jamie. Now go get ready while I get your breakfast."


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


Jamie was amazed at the array of items in front of her place at the table. There was a large bowl of slow cooked oatmeal, a small pitcher of cream, bowls of brown and white sugar, a bowl of raisins, a cut up banana and a tiny bowl of blueberries. "I wasn't sure what you liked on your oatmeal, so I brought out everything," she said logically.


"I usually have what Mr. Quaker gives me," she replied with a gentle shake of her head. "I'm unfamiliar with all of these options. What do you recommend?"


"I am a fan of cream, brown sugar, banana and blueberries," she replied. "May I?" she asked as she picked up the bowl of oatmeal.


Jamie nodded her assent as Ryan got to work mixing the ingredients one by one until the dish had the proper consistency. She presented it with a flourish and was very pleased by Jamie's compliments.


"I don't think I've ever had oatmeal before," she mumbled through a large mouthful of the delicious cereal.


Conor came in just then and sniffed appreciatively. "Oooh, oatmeal. Is there any more?" He walked over to Jamie and kissed the top of her head as he gave her a firm hug. She leaned back against him from her position on the kitchen stool as he maintained the contact. It was obvious that Ryan had told him what happened, but equally obvious that he was more comfortable giving her physical comfort than verbal. She patted his hands as he drew away.


Ryan came back with two more bowls filled with the warm dish. She placed one in front of Conor and the other in front of an empty stool. Moments later Rory poked his head in inquiring, "Oatmeal?" as all three laughed.


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


As Jamie was leaving Ryan inquired, "What are you doing after you speak with your grandfather?"


"I guess I'll just go home," was the sad little reply. "I've got some reading to do for school."


Ryan moved around so that she was facing her friend. She squatted down a tiny bit so that she could look directly into her sad green eyes. "I'd feel better if you came back here," she said somberly. "You've got your books with you, don't you?"


When Jamie admitted that she did indeed, Ryan persisted. "I want to see you again today. My date will be over by 3 at the latest. Why don't you come back here and study?"


"I don't know, Ryan. I might feel a little uncomfortable with you not here," she replied with a tiny bit of hesitation.


"Let me ask Conor if he'll be home. If you're lonely he can keep you company or you can go to my room and read." When Jamie hesitated Ryan played her trump card, "Will you do it as a favor to me? If you won't come over I'll have to come to your house to check on you. It will save me a lot of driving."


"Like I could refuse to do you a favor, huh? Very sneaky Ms. O'Flaherty, very sneaky indeed," Jamie teased her as she easily saw through the ruse.


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


As they had arranged, Rev. Evans waited for Jamie in the Sacristy after Mass. He was in very good spirits and was happy to see his only granddaughter. But one look at her forlorn face immediately alerted him that something major was amiss. "Do you want to tell me what's wrong now, or over lunch?" he asked as he gave her a hug.


"Over lunch I think," she replied. "It's gonna take a while." They walked next door to the small house that the church provided. The housekeeper had made them a nice lunch before she left for the day and as they sat down at the kitchen table Rev. Evans placed his hand on Jamie's and said, "Tell me what's wrong, Sweetheart."


Before she could even attempt to stop them the tears started to flow. Jamie could not remember crying like this in front of her grandfather but he patiently waited until she was able to speak. Finally, she was able to say, "Jack broke off our engagement, Poppa."


"Oh, Jamie, I'm so sorry. What a sad thing for both of you," he said with sympathy. "Tell me what happened."


"Well, we haven't been getting along great since the school year started. We just fight about little things, and we had never done that before," she related.


"I must admit that surprises me, Jamie. I honestly never saw any tension between you two."


"Maybe that's part of the problem," she ventured. "Neither one of us is very good at showing how we feel," she reflected. "Anyway, it's been getting worse lately. He's gotten very jealous and he really doesn't like one of my friends."


When Rev. Evans looked confused Jamie explained, "Remember Ryan who is training me for the ride?" At his nod, she continued, "Jack doesn't like me to see her, and it had become a big issue. I don't think the issue is really Ryan though. I just don't think he liked the fact that I did something against his wishes."


"Do you really think he called off your marriage just because he didn't like your friend? That just doesn't seem like Jack."


"Part of it is that, but another part is that I was spending lots of time with Ryan, even though it didn't interfere with our time together. He didn't like the fact that I was doing this ride, and he didn't like the changes in my body," she blushed a bit as she said this.


"Still, Jamie, that is a drastic action over some minor issues. Is this really everything? What specifically doesn't he like about Ryan?"


"I think it's mostly that she's a lesbian," she admitted. "He thinks that hanging out with a lesbian is exactly like hanging out with another man. I've got to admit, I've been disappointed in his attitudes about gay people, Poppa."


"As you know, that's not a uncommon reaction, Jamie." He paused to look at her carefully. "Do your parents know your friend?"


"Um..no, I've never taken her home."


"But you've been at her home," he said with a tiny frown. "Quite often if I recall."


"Yes," she said as she smiled. "Her family has just about adopted me."


"Why haven't you introduced her to your family, Honey?"


"Mainly because Daddy agrees that I should stop seeing Ryan because Jack doesn't like her. He doesn't understand why I would make Jack unhappy over a friend," she replied.


He leaned back in his chair and nodded briefly. "Do your friends like Ryan?" he persisted.


"Well, Cassie hates her. She is part of the reason this got so bad with Jack. She's been trying to get him upset about Ryan and she's been very successful," she admitted disgustedly. "But Mia likes her a lot. She's even hired her to train with."


"I want you to think about the next question carefully Jamie. You tell me that your fiancÈ has broken up with you over her, your father agrees with him and one of your closest friends hates this woman. Is there something about her to create this emotion or are they all just narrow minded?"


Jamie did as he suggested. She was deep in thought for several minutes. Finally she replied, "I think Ryan is the sweetest, most thoughtful, most kind person I've ever met. I swear there is nothing about Ryan that isn't a positive force on my life. I really think they've just jumped to conclusions because she's gay, Poppa."


He let out a breath and rubbed the bridge of his nose in a frustrated gesture. "Well, it wouldn't be the first time that people had an irrational reaction to a lesbian." He shook his head a little and turned to gaze thoughtfully at his granddaughter. "How do you feel about her Jamie?" he asked carefully.


Jamie began to turn red as she realized that she had to tell everything. "I feel safe with her. She's my best friend and I treasure every moment we share. She is just the most extraordinary person I've ever met."


Rev. Evans leaned over and gently grasped Jamie's hand. He gave her a small smile as he said, "Seeing how your face lights up when you talk about her could be part of the issue, Jamie. Perhaps Jack felt that he had to compete against her. And maybe he thought that he would lose."


"What do you mean, Poppa?" she nearly gasped.


"Describing her as the most extraordinary person you've ever met doesn't leave much room at the top for Jack, does it Honey?" he asked gently.


A deep sigh preceded her answer. "No, I suppose not," she replied glumly. "But she really is remarkable, Poppa. She's helped me change and grow in so many ways. And I just couldn't give her up. Not for Jack...not for anyone!"


After a moment spent gazing at her face he asked, "Do you have romantic feelings for her, Sweetheart?"


The blush that flew to every exposed inch of her skin was a dead giveaway. "Um, I...I...I guess the thought has crossed my mind," she admitted rather weakly. "She is incredibly attractive and I have had a...romantic dream about her. But that is really recent. I haven't had any thought about leaving Jack for her, I swear! I love her, Poppa, but just because I love her doesn't mean I'm in love with her does it?"


"Of course not. It's entirely possible to form a very close and loving attachment to a friend. But you say that you have recently been thinking about her in a different manner," he reminded her. "Tell me more about that."


"I guess it's just snuck up on me," she said slowly. "I...I actually kissed her on my birthday," she admitted with a furious blush. "But it was just one kiss and we didn't even talk about it afterwards. We've slept in the same bed twice since then and nothing has happened so I think it was just kind of a fluke."


"Do you think it is within the realm of possibility that Jack could have picked up on your changing feelings?" he asked.


"What? That I kissed her?"


"No, Honey," he said. "Could he have picked up on the fact that your feelings are beginning to deepen?"


"I'm not sure that they have deepened, Poppa. I'm just so confused," she moaned. "I suppose it's possible that Jack noticed something. But he disliked her from the very beginning, Poppa, long before I knew her well at all."


"Besides this thing with Ryan, how are you getting along with your parents?" he asked.


"Not great. Mother is very unhappy about my involvement with the AIDS ride. Daddy actually defended me last night that really made me feel better, but I just don't think the issue is dead. And I'm worried about their reaction to Jack's breaking up with me. I'm sure they'll blame me."


"Anything else?" he persisted.


"I just feel like I'm growing up all at once, Poppa. I'm making decisions for myself and no one is supporting me. They still think of me as a child, and I think Jack did too," she added.


"How have you been feeling, honey? Is this all bothering you a lot?"


"Yeah, it really has. My sleep has been way off and I can't seem to keep my weight up. You know how I get my nervous stomach? It's been a lot more nervous than normal and that contributes to the weight loss," she admitted. "I'm down to less than I weighed when I entered high school."


"Have you ever considered seeing a counselor, Jamie? I think this would be a great time to get some professional help with these issues," he opined.


"Can't you help me? You always have before," she asked with a look that reflected both fear and surprise.


"No, Honey, I'm too involved. I don't think you have any terrible secrets just waiting to jump out at you, Jamie. But I do think you're going through a tough time dealing with some very adult matters, and I think you could use some help. What do you think?"


"I guess that's a good idea," she replied a bit hesitantly. "Can you help me find someone?"


"Sure, I have a couple of referrals. I really think this will help, Jamie. Give it a little time and I guarantee you'll feel better. Now lets try to get some of this lunch into you," he said affectionately.


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


Chapter Fourteen Return to Main Page