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 14



At around 2:30 she pulled up in front of the house in the Noe Valley. She knocked on the door and Conor came to answer. "Hi. How was church?" he asked brightly.


"It was good. What have you been up to?" she replied.


"Rory and I are watching the Warriors on TV. Ryan just got home. Go on down if you want," he said.


She started down the stairs but paused as she reached the open door. Jamie stood in open mouthed shock at the scene in front of her. Ryan was lying half on the bed, with her new pants around her ankles. She had on her standard knit boxers but this pair was bright white. Tracy was straddling her waist and was bent over her prey kissing her in a thoroughly erotic manner. Ryan's wrists were pinned down securely by Tracy's hands, and the smaller woman was slowly undulating her hips in a lust filled pattern. Ryan seemed to be struggling a bit but just as Jamie turned to go back upstairs she heard her friend utter a long, low moan that turned her knees to rubber. She had to place her hand on the wall to steady herself, but she was able to climb the stairs and reach the safety of the living room. She found herself standing in the kitchen when she heard Martin come in the front door.


Doing her best to compose her face she went out to greet him. "Hi, Martin," she said lightly.


"Ah, Jamie. I hoped that was your little car I spotted out in front," he said as he came over to give her a hug. "What are you girls up to today?" he inquired.


"Nothing much. I just got here. I had been at church and Ryan went to brunch with Tracy. I think she's downstairs changing or something," she said, just lying a little.


"Does she know you're here?" he inquired. "Go on down if you like."


"No, no," she responded immediately. "I'll just wait until she's finished."


"Let me get you a drink or a little something to eat, Jamie," he said as he regarded her thoughtfully. "You're still losing weight aren't you?" he said after a moment. "Are you still troubled by the attack?"


"No, it's not that. I've been having kind of a hard time, and I have trouble with my stomach when I'm upset."


"What's troubling you, lass?" he inquired as he brushed her cheek with his palm.


"My fiancé broke off our engagement last night," she replied shakily as a few tears started to stream down her face.


"You poor little thing," he said soothingly as he wrapped her in his arms. For reasons she could not understand Jamie felt completely comfortable resting her head on his chest and letting out her feelings. "That man must be daft to let a prize like you get away."


"Thanks, Martin," she said softly as she pulled away. "That really does make me feel better."


At that moment Ryan and Tracy came in to the kitchen, hand in hand. Martin greeted them both as Jamie struggled to erase the image burned into her brain. Finally, she was able to say hello in a fairly normal tone of voice.


Ryan looked at her quizzically as she asked, "Have you been here long?"


"No, just a few minutes," she fibbed. "I was just chatting with Martin here," she said as she smiled at him.


He smiled back as he replied, "I'm going to go change out of my uniform. Try to get this one to eat a bite or two will you, Darlin?" as he addressed Ryan.


"I try, Da. I really do," she said as she grinned at her friend.


Tracy came over to Jamie as Martin left the room. She placed her hand on her shoulder and looked directly into her eyes. "I'm really sorry to hear about your breakup, Jamie. I really feel for you."


"Thanks, Tracy," she replied, still a little shaky.


Tracy went back to Ryan's side and smiled sweetly at her. "I've got to go study, Sweetie. I had a very good time at brunch."


Ryan placed two of her fingers on Tracy's chin. She slowly lifted her head as she softly touched her lips with her own. Both kept their eyes open and Tracy's mouth broke into a grin as Ryan pulled away. The kiss was completely chaste, no more than a light touch. But Jamie felt like she had witnessed a terribly private moment. She felt an ache of emotion flood through her chest at the tenderness of the contact. And right at that moment, she knew. She was as sure as she had ever been about anything in her life. No qualms, no doubts. She wanted Ryan. She wanted to be with her, to touch her, to love her. She felt herself begin to become aroused thinking about how she wanted to touch her and be touched. Her dream came back in full force and she had to close her eyes to concentrate on remaining centered.


She heard herself say goodbye to Tracy and she knew that she was now alone with Ryan. She wasn't sure who moved first but in seconds she was wrapped in Ryan's arms, holding on tight. But this hug felt different from all the other hugs she had received from her friend. She allowed herself to really feel Ryan this time. She inhaled deeply to imprint her scent; she felt her warm breath tickle the side of her face. She focused on the soft firmness of her breasts as they pressed against her chest. This is what I want! I want this woman!


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


The rest of the day passed in a fog. She knew they had all eaten dinner together. She knew they spent the evening in Ryan's room, studying. Rather, Ryan studied as she tried to force herself to look at her books, instead of daydreaming about the beautiful creature sitting mere feet from her, clad only in her underwear.


As the evening wore on Jamie watched Ryan repeatedly shove her dark hair behind her ears in an irritated gesture. Since her entire focus was on her lovely friend she automatically found herself standing behind her and gently pulling the dark tresses back into a ponytail. But the silky hair felt so fabulous in her hands that she unconsciously began to run her fingers through it, starting at the scalp and extending all along the length. A deeply contented murmur of satisfaction greeted her ministrations, which only served to encourage her. She continued her stroking until Ryan sleepily mumbled, "Two more minutes and I'm out."


Her eyes flew open as she stared down at her hands in amazement. She was fully conscious but she had no memory of getting off the bed and beginning to rub her friend's beautiful head. She stood there with her fingers entwined in the dark hair, not able to reply in any fashion. Slowly, Ryan turned her head and Jamie felt the silky threads fall gently from her hands, one lock at a time. Ryan gave her a gentle smile and asked, "Are you having a tough time concentrating tonight?"


Jamie tried to control the blush that was rapidly traveling up her neck. "Yeah, I guess I am. I've just had so much on my mind that it's really hard to focus."


"Is there a lot you need to do for class?" she inquired.


"No, I'm actually pretty caught up. I studied a lot on Friday night, so I'm just trying to stay ahead."


"Why don't we go for a walk? I'm about to go cross-eyed from looking at these chem problems. If you feel up to it we could walk over to the Castro and get some ice cream."


"How far is that?" Jamie asked suspiciously, knowing that Ryan's athletic capacity far exceeded hers.


"It's about a 20 minute walk, at a leisurely pace, " she replied. "I guarantee it's not too far for you."


They got their shoes and sweatshirts on and stepped out into the foggy, damp evening. There was not another person in sight and the streets were likewise deserted. The fog seemed to muffle every sound from the neighborhood and Jamie felt like they were all alone even though they were in the middle of a very large city. Ryan slipped her arm around her shoulders and said, "I'm so sorry that things are hard for you right now, Jamie."


Jamie just smiled up at her friend, happy for the closeness. She reached up with her right hand and held onto Ryan's dangling hand, pressing it into her shoulder. They walked for another few minutes before Jamie asked, "You seem to get along with Tracy really well. How do you think it's going?"


Ryan's eyebrows gathered in concentration. After a moment she cocked her head slightly and said, "I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. I thought a long walk might actually clear my mind enough to let me consider how it's going." She pursed her lips together and allowed her forehead to crease into a little frown. "I'm not up for talking about her right now though. Let's talk about you."


"Ugh," she grunted in obvious disgust. "I thought a walk might take my mind off my stuff." Looking up at Ryan she quirked her mouth into a grin and observed, "So both of us have things on our minds that are obviously bothering us but neither wants to talk about it. That's a switch."


"Yeah, I guess it is," she agreed with a little nod, not rising to the bait.


"Well, let's talk about where we're going," Jamie suggested. "I've never been to the Castro you know."


Ryan stopped short and stared at her. "You haven't?! I thought they brought bus loads of straight children up here to observe the natives in their habitat!"


Jamie laughed at her exaggerated antics. "Nope. I missed this on the cultural tour. I guess I just never had a reason to come here. There's no museum, gallery, symphony, or outstanding restaurant here is there?"


"Nope. Although I think 'Hot 'n Hunky Hamburgers' is worth a trip."


"Riiiight," she agreed. "Sounds just like my mother's kind of place. No, for living so close to The City we didn't come up for anything other than restaurants, sporting events, or culture. We actually didn't do a lot of investigating the Bay Area. I've spent much more time sniffing around Tuscany than I have San Francisco."


"Well, stick with me, Pal, and I'll introduce you to every dark alley in this town."


"Did your family do a lot of things together in The City?"


"No, not really," she admitted. "Because there's 6 years between Brendan and I he was involved in sports and school things by the time I was old enough to go out in civilized society. So it was hard to do things that appealed to all of us. We stuck pretty close to home as a family. Our lives centered around our extended family, our parish and our sports teams."


"Then how do you know so much about the back alleys?" she teased.


"Cause as soon as I was old enough to ride my skateboard over these hills I was gone," she said with satisfaction. "I still remember the first time I had the guts...or the stupidity to ride down Castro."


Through the fog Jamie saw the steep terrain that they had to descend to reach the main business area of said Castro Street. "You...you rode down this!?"


"Yep. I strapped my little helmet on as tight as I could and let 'er rip! My heart was in my throat the whole time and my legs were shaking so bad I almost fell off but I did it. When I got to the bottom I actually spent a minute feeling my body to make sure I was still in one piece. I was tingling so much that I couldn't really tell!"


"So once you crossed 'The Rubicon' there was no stopping you, huh?"


"Nope," she said happily. "I had some buddies from the neighborhood, boys of course, who had to do it since I could. Once we all had our 'wings' we just started ranging farther and farther from home. We had passes that let us take MUNI for free so we'd go over to Castro and Market and just jump on the first train. We'd ride until we got tired of it and get off and ride around until we got bored. Then we'd get back on and head home."


"My God!" she cried. "I had to get advance permission to go to a friend's house, and she lived 3 doors down!"


"Well, Da didn't know a tenth of what I did, and it's better that way. But I remember the first time I got pinched for trespassing down in the Embarcadero."


"The Embarcadero! That's miles and miles from here. How old were you?"


"Probably 10 or so," she mused. "Anyway, we were skateboarding down some really cool handicapped ramps some of the big buildings have. The big clothes trend had just barely started and we were all dressed up in our big skateboarding pants and those huge parkas. It was winter and really cold so I had on a stocking cap too. Da would not buy me the big pants of course, so I would swipe Connor's pants when Da was at work and roll them up so I didn't break my neck. Anyway, the pants were too big, even for my purposes and they started to fall down just when the guards started running. My buddies blew out of there but I caught the rolled up hem in a wheel and took a header. One of the guards caught me and started treating me pretty rough, just to teach me a lesson.


"Did he hit you?" she asked in horror.


"No, he was just dragging me by my coat and screaming at me. Anyway, he drags me in the security office and they start to give me the 3rd degree. But I clam up and refuse to talk. I figure they'll let me go cause I'm just a little girl, right?"


"Wrong?" she asked tentatively.


"Wrong indeed! They searched me and found my MUNI pass. It was in my name but they still hadn't figured out I was a girl yet and the pass didn't help! I had to sit in that office with these goons threatening me for hours! They left a message on the machine at home since the number was on my pass and Da finally called at around 6 o'clock. Listening to their end of the conversation was pretty funny," she recalled. "I heard them say, 'Mr. O'Flaherty, we have your son down at #3 Embarcadero. He was caught illegally skateboarding and we're holding him prior to sending him to the Youth Authority.' "


Jamie was horrified at the rough treatment that her friend had been subjected to. "Weren't you terrified?" she cried.


"Not of them or the Youth Authority," she admitted. "Actually the Youth Authority sounded pretty good compared to facing my father. The guy on the phone started insisting that I was Da's son and I could just imagine him telling the boys to line up and count off," she laughed. But then the guard's eyes got big and he turned to me and yanked off my stocking cap. He about croaked when he saw that I was a little girl. They got real nice to me after that...brought me a soda and some cookies. That really pissed me off," she grumbled.


"What? It pissed you off that he was nice to you?"


"Yeah, since it was only because I was a girl. If he was going to be a jerk cause I was a boy he should have been a jerk when I turned out to be a girl!"


"You're something else, Ryan," she laughed. "So then what happened?"


"Oh, I had to sit there until Da came to get me."


"Was he mad?"


"He was more mad about the parking fee than anything else," she laughed. "But I had to pay him back for that out of my allowance. Since I only got $2 a week it took me a month!"


"Was that your only punishment?" she asked, not imagining that Martin would ever hit a child.


"Yeah, plus a very long lecture that I really deserved about using a handicapped ramp for play. We learned our lesson that day though," she admitted. "From then on we always kept one kid near the ramp to warn us if a real handicapped person was coming!"


"You are incorrigible, Ryan O'Flaherty."


"Yeah, well hanging out on my skateboard was nothing compared to the trouble I got into down here," she smirked as they entered the business district of Castro St.


"It looks so...ordinary," she remarked as she looked around.


"You expected what? Dungeons, transvestites in every window?"


"No...I don't know what I expected but it hardly looks gay at all," she mused as she turned in a complete circle.


"Yeah, it's pretty hard to tell," Ryan dryly remarked as they stopped in front of a small house wares store. "Do you like those towel bars?"


Jamie squinted at the very small towel racks that were displayed right near the front window. The bars were actually cast concrete replicas of massively engorged penises, all extra large. The towels were embroidered as usual for guest towels. One read 'Cum Towel', and other 'Trick Towel', and a pair that hung together read 'His and His'. She stood in slack jawed shock, finally turning to her grinning friend as she muttered, "I don't know what a trick towel is and I don't think I want to!" as she turned and continued to march down the street.


Another little video store had a display up celebrating the upcoming Academy Awards. Cute little Oscar replicas lined the display window but each Oscar was sporting a massive gold erection. Jamie gazed up at her smirking friend and asked, "Is the other side of the street all vaginas?"


"No," Ryan laughed. "It's pretty much all about the penis in the Castro."


Now Jamie's sense of equality was insulted. "That hardly seems fair," she demanded with hands on her hips. "Lesbians need love too!"


"I couldn't agree more," Ryan soothed as she wrapped her arm around her feisty friend to continue their walk.


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


When they reached the 'Double Rainbow' Ryan insisted that Jamie get two scoops of the double chocolate flavor. Because it was a little cold out they ate in the small shop. Ryan had ordered a hot fudge sundae and Jamie watched her eat with obvious pleasure.


"Are you sure you like kissing better than eating?" she teased.


"I'm positive," she replied with a little eyebrow wiggle.


"Then you must really like kissing," she said slowly.


"You have no idea," she intoned solemnly as she slowly shook her head.


Oh God, but I want to know. I really want to know!


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


Back on the street they decided to return via the opposite side just in case there were hidden vaginas that Ryan hadn't previously noticed. "It really seems unfair to me Ryan," Jamie insisted as they confirmed that the street was clearly focused on gay men and their equipment. "I mean, the Castro is supposed to be this big gay Mecca and it's all about men. I mean lesbians are the least interested group in the world when it comes to penises."


"Well," Ryan drawled, "one's with feeling in them at least."


"Huh?" she asked as she turned to face her friend, cocking her head slightly as she did so.


"Sorry," Ryan said quickly. "I was just making a joke. I was merely referring to lesbians interest in non-human penises."


Jamie gazed down at the ground for a moment and Ryan thought she had offended her by the little joke. But she was obviously considering the matter because she finally looked up and said, "Is that really a 'thing'? I mean, I thought that was a bad joke that guys always make."


Ryan's color rose dramatically as she pursed her lips and tried to decide how much to reveal. "Um...well, it's kind of a...do you really...um...should I give you my personal response or do you want a lesbian-wide answer," she finally got out.


Jamie immediately grasped her arm as she assured her, "I'm sorry, Ryan, I don't mean to make you uncomfortable. I've just heard snide little comments about lesbians and their fake penises for years. I guess I want to know if there's any truth to it."


"Well, you did see the assortment at 'Good Vibrations', " she reminded her.


"Yeah, but I thought the vibrators would be the lesbian thing. I kinda thought the penises were for gay men."


"Um...well...I guess it depends on the um...person..." she stammered.


"You don't have to answer, Ryan," she assured her. "I just...I guess I'm surprised this bothers you since nothing else has seemed to."


Ryan considered this as they started to walk again. "Hmmm, you are right about that," she mused. "Maybe it's because I know you a lot better now. I don't know, Jamie," she said slowly. "Maybe I don't want you to think badly of me...you're opinion has come to mean an awful lot to me," she admitted shyly.


"Ryan," she said emphatically, "why would something like this change my opinion of you?"


"I don't know," she mumbled, looking oddly adolescent. "You've been so conservative with your sexual expression, I guess I worry that you'll think my experiences make me kinda...I don't know...um, maybe slutty?" she gazed down at Jamie through the long bangs that had fallen into her eyes, adding to her adolescent demeanor.


"Ryan!" she nearly shouted. "You are a totally honorable woman! I would never think any such thing about you! But I also have no desire to make you uncomfortable. Let's just drop the whole topic, okay?" she asked gently.


" 'Kay," she agreed, happy that Jamie respected her privacy. She slung her arm around her friend's shoulders and asked, "Um...I would like to talk about Tracy a little. Are up to hearing about it?"


"Yes, definitely," she said sincerely as she turned slightly and Ryan's arm dropped from her shoulder. But she was not ready to relinquish the contact so she reached over and grasped Ryan's hand. She threaded their fingers together as they walked along, hand in hand, as Ryan gathered her thoughts.


"Okay," she finally began. "I've told you that I don't want to be sexual with her until I'm sure that there will be some permanence there." She looked to Jamie for acknowledgment.


When she got it she continued, "When we first discussed this she was very much in support of that." Here she looked a bit sheepish, "But she seems to have changed the rules on me and I'm not sure what to do."


"What do you mean, 'Changed the rules'?" Jamie inquired, having a pretty good idea about this change given Tracy's behavior earlier in the day.


"Well, last night she really pushed me, and I nearly gave in. But I didn't," she said proudly. "But if I'm gonna stay focused I need to stop going to her apartment. God! She put on this little camisole and a thin silk robe when we got back from dinner. In no time at all my hands were inside that robe and she felt better than naked in just that thin, soft silk." They had been making steady progress on their walk but this thought made Ryan stand stock still for several moments. She looked positively transported by her memories and Jamie actually had to give her hand a squeeze to bring her back. "Wow!" she blushed. "I'm sorry for zoning out like that. It's just..." she mumbled as she shook her head.


"I know," Jamie said gently. "She's obviously decided that she's ready to sleep with you, Ryan. Women don't put on clothes like that just to stay cool."


"Right," Ryan nodded. Then as if she had just heard her statement she looked at her and laughed as she gently shook her head. "Well last night was bad enough, but today, I went downstairs to change. I thought she would stay upstairs, but I had my pants half off when she came down and literally threw herself at me. I had to actually fight her off!" she said with a bewildered expression. "It's hard enough to hold my own lust in check. There's no way I can keep a handle on hers at the same time!" she said rather helplessly.


"Do you want to be with her...like that?" Jamie inquired.


"Yes, ... yes, ... God, yes!" she stated with conviction. "I want her so much my teeth ache," she moaned. "I've never in my life turned down sex from someone that I wanted like this Jamie."


"So....what's the problem? She wants you, you want her...."


"I feel like I want her like I normally want women. I'm used to having sex, Jamie. A lot of sex!" she said. "I think Tracy is beautiful, and very sweet. She's smart and quick and funny. And if she makes love as good as she kisses, I bet she is tremendous in bed," she intoned solemnly.


"And those are bad things?" Jamie asked, thoroughly confused.


"No, those are good things. But I have a hard time imagining that she is the last woman in my life. I don't know if I'm in love with her," she said thoughtfully. "And since I made this pledge to her and to myself, I don't feel right about breaking it."


"I can't tell you how much I admire your self control, Ryan," she said with conviction. "I know how hard this is for you."


"I guess you probably do know, given how long you waited to be sexual with Jack," she admitted. "How did you deal with the frustration?" she moaned as she shook her dark head slowly.


"Well, besides the obvious ways of releasing pressure," she grinned, "I just knew it was the right thing for me. And to be honest, I enjoyed those days a lot more than I enjoyed actually having sex," she admitted.


Ryan stopped dead in her tracks, mouth gaping open. "You did?" she squeaked out.


"Yeah, I did," she replied as she looked down at the pavement. "I guess that should have been a clue that things weren't going well in the relationship, huh?"


"That must have been awful for you, Jamie," she said sincerely. "What do you think changed?"


"Mia tells me that this is what to expect from a lot of guys," she said with disgust. "She says that they like kissing and touching but that once you will have sex, they focus on that instead of foreplay."


"Conor always teases me that lesbian sex is all foreplay," Ryan laughed. "Obviously it's not, but I'm not sure if it would bother me that much if it was," she said thoughtfully. "There is nothing on earth that I enjoy more than kissing a woman," she closed her eyes in pleasure and Jamie felt her own close as well. "I guess that having a penis just changes the focus of sex," she ventured.


"From my limited experience I would tend to agree," Jamie said, her voice straining a bit as they climbed the aptly named Hill St. "With Jack, sex was all about intercourse and orgasm," she said. "I would just be getting into it and he'd be done."


"Ouch," said Ryan as she visibly grimaced. "You've told me about him not liking oral sex after intercourse but I guess I didn't realize how pervasive the problem was," she admitted. "Were things ever good?"


"Yes, sometimes we'd be on the same wavelength. But usually I just felt like I had to have an orgasm by the time he did or it wouldn't happen. It made me feel under pressure to finish and that just doesn't work for me."


"I don't know anyone who can finish if they're under pressure to do so," Ryan agreed. "I know it doesn't seem like it now, but maybe it's best that Jack broke it off," she said. "If you were really in love with him don't you think sex would have been great?" she asked.


"I always thought so," Jamie replied. "I've just assumed there was just something wrong with me, that I wasn't responsive enough or something."


"I rather doubt that," Ryan said with a grin. "I bet you'd be a little firecracker with the right person," she said as she slid her arm around her shoulders again.


And you're the one I want to light my fuse, she silently replied.


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


Ryan finally turned to her and asked, "What do you think I should I do about Tracy?"


Don't ask me that, please! she pleaded. I want you to drop her like a hot rock and kiss me until I pass out! But she stoically quieted her inner conflict and responded thoughtfully, "Tell me how you feel about her."


"I like her a lot," she replied confidently. "She's got all the attributes that I want in a woman. But there is one thing that really bothers me," she said.


"What's that?" Jamie inquired.


"I don't think she likes my family much," she said thoughtfully.


"How could that be?" Jamie asked in true surprise. "You've got the nicest family on earth!"


"Obviously, she's always been complimentary, but she has very good manners, so I would expect that. She's from a wealthy family in Los Angeles." After a beat she added, "No offense," with a little grin.


"None taken," Jamie replied with a smile.


"She doesn't speak badly about her own family, she just wouldn't do that. But I don't sense any real love there. She doesn't like to visit them and she never mentions talking to them on the phone." She shook her head, "I just can't imagine that."


"God Ryan, I just cannot imagine not loving your family. I miss them when I haven't seen them for a few days!" she laughed. "Maybe she just hasn't had enough time with them."


"No, that's not it. I've had her over for dinner at least 6 times. After it became clear that I was trying to get close to her Da encouraged me to have her over more often. She always says she's had a nice time, but she always seems to prefer getting me alone."


"I can see that would concern you, but maybe she wants to spend her time getting to know you. Maybe she thinks you'll have time later for the extended family," Jamie offered.


"You may be right," she said slowly. "But I suggested that we take the baby for the day and she was decidedly unenthusiastic."


"Well, that seems very odd. Caitlin is the most precious thing on earth. But again, maybe she just wants to be alone with you."


"Maybe," Ryan mused. "But when I talk about my desire to have children she always changes the subject or tries to distract me. The other day I asked her flat out if she wanted children and she just laughed and said she hadn't spent much time thinking about it."


"Well, she is young," Jamie reminded her. "Lots of women don't make up their minds about that until they're in their 30's."


"True. And if you both agree that's just fine. But I don't want to wait that long. Having kids is one of the biggest reasons that I want to be in a stable relationship. And I want to have them before I get terribly involved in my career. If Tracy and I are to be a couple she has to be enthusiastic about having kids in the next couple of years. And I sure don't get the idea she's on that same wavelength."


"I guess you have to be more blunt with her, Ryan. Tell her what your plans are and see if she is willing to share them. She might surprise you," she offered.


"Well, there is one other thing," Ryan added somberly. "And it's one thing that could be the deal breaker."


"What's that?" Jamie asked.


"She doesn't believe in God," she said quietly.


"Do you mean she's agnostic?" she inquired.


"Nope. She's a card carrying atheist," she replied. "I don't think I ever considered that I would require a girlfriend to have some spiritual belief, but I think I do." She added thoughtfully, "It wouldn't even bother me if she was agnostic, you know, like she didn't believe in God, but she allowed that there was a possibility of a God. But we've talked about this several times. She believes in nothing. No God, no creator, no karma, no afterlife. She thinks we're here by some cosmic accident and she thinks every bit of our energy dies and is put in a box. She has actually referred to spirituality as a 'fairy tale'."


They were approaching the crest of the hill that led them back to the Noe Valley and Jamie had to concentrate just to keep her breathing even. But the pause let her collect her thoughts for a moment. "I think I know what you mean, Ryan. My faith is so much a part of my life that I would hate to not be able to share it with someone I loved."


"Exactly!" Ryan replied. "I mean it's clear that I have issues, big issues with the Catholic Church. I go back and forth between being really connected and really disconnected. I'm in a disconnected period right now, as a matter of fact. But my belief in God as the source of love and goodness and peace is unwavering. I just don't know if I can love someone who doesn't believe in what I trust to be source of love," she said with conviction.


"I get it, Ryan, I really do. I mean, I love to go to church. It's often the highlight of my week. And I could love someone who didn't go. I could love someone with an entirely different view of the world, like a Buddhist or a Hindu. But I would hate to have my lover think I was wasting my time, or doing something foolish."


"That is precisely the problem with Tracy. It's not just that she doesn't believe, I think she equates my faith with believing in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. She seems to think it's kind of a cute little phase that I'll grow out of when I mature. I mean, I like her so much, but if I'm going to be committed to her we have to have a similar moral framework. My faith and my family are so integral to me, it's almost like she can't know me if she can't understand and respect that."


"It sounds to me like you've already made up your mind, Ryan," she observed.

"Yeah," she glumly replied as she let out a breath. "I suppose I have. I've just been trying to convince myself that it can work. I mean, it's hard to find everything you want in one person, and she seems so close," she said emphatically as she held her hand up and spread her thumb and index finger just a tiny bit apart.


"What will you do?"


"I guess I could tell her I'm not interested in a committed relationship and see if she just wants to play around," she replied with a leer. "Or I could just tell her I'm not ready to go any further, and stop seeing her." She gave a little scowl. "I don't like option number two, but that's probably what I'll do."


"I think you'll feel better about yourself if you do that, Ryan. Although you could tell her the total truth and see if she's open to changing her opinions," she replied.


"I think the Spanish Inquisition showed that you can't force faith on someone, Jamie," she teased.


"I don't mean that, Goofy. I mean, tell her the whole truth and see if she wants to just fool around for a while."


"I'm not certain what I'll do. But I guess she deserves total honesty for putting up with me for almost 4 months."


"That is a lot for one poor woman to bear," she laughed in response. "Gosh, we're home already!" she said as she looked up and noticed they had turned onto Noe. "That went fast."


"Yeah, it did," Ryan agreed. "But time always flies when I'm with you."


Jamie looked over at her grinning friend's guileless face and gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "You can say that again, Pal."


Ryan let her smaller friend precede her as they climbed the short flight of stairs up to the front door. When they were nearly at the top she leaned in close and whispered, "Just for the record I've been on both ends of artificial penises. As Martha Stewart would say, 'It's a good thing!' "


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


When they went back downstairs, Jamie had to admit that she felt a lot better about her breakup but now she had a whole new topic setting her teeth on edge. Both ends?? What in the hell does she mean by that? she mused, unable to get the images of Ryan and artificial penises out of her mind.


Ryan walked over to her bookshelf and pulled out a neatly labeled photo album. Idly turning the pages she found the photo she was looking for and called Jamie over. Turning the book and handing it to her she pointed at the photo in the center of the page without comment. Jamie barked out a laugh, slapping her hand over her mouth and staring up at Ryan in shock. There, memorialized for all to see, was the little street urchin that Ryan had described earlier in the evening. "My God!" she finally got out, now able to control her laughter. "Is this really you?"


Ryan walked around to stand next to her friend. Taking the book in her hands she smiled fondly at the image of her young self and nodded briefly. The photo showed 5 little ragamuffins, all of a similar age. They were posing on Maeve's front steps, and each child tried to appear older and tougher for the camera. The other 4 were boys but they were all dressed nearly identically. Ryan was in the front, standing on the ground in front of the stairs. She was so extraordinarily tall that she was the same height as the two boys standing on the stair behind her. Jamie guessed that she was rail thin but it was very difficult to tell for sure because of her laughingly large clothes.


She had on a canvas barn jacket, tan in color, with a darker brown corduroy collar. The hood of a dark green sweatshirt peeked out past the collar but the jacket was so huge she could have easily fit another sweatshirt on and still have had room. Stiff looking dark blue jeans covered her long legs, the cuffs rolled up at least 5 inches. The pants were so large it was impossible to see where one leg started and the other stopped...it just looked like a big mass of fabric. She also sported flat, black, thick soled tennis shoes that looked to be about size 8. A black baseball cap rested on her long black hair in its usual backwards position. Her trusty skateboard was resting on its tail, held upright by her long, slender fingers.


Every child bore a scowl with varying degrees of success. Ryan was probably the least successful of all, her dancing blue eyes and microscopic smile giving her away.


Jamie stared at the picture for so long that her eyes became dry. "I don't think I've ever seen anything more precious," she finally said, looking up into Ryan's bemused eyes.


"Precious?" she squawked. "I look like a...I don't even know what I look like!"


"You look just like a tiny little seed of who you have become," she said with a voice full of wonder. "Look at yourself!" she urged excitedly. "You look so confident and strong! Those boys weren't leading that little group...you were! That's completely obvious," she announced. "And even though you were trying to look tough you still have that terribly gentle spirit, just oozing out of those blue eyes. See it?" she demanded.


Ryan gazed at the picture and then turned back to her friend. "Are we looking at the same picture? I just look like a little hoodlum!"


"Not at all!" Jamie cried. "I would have killed to be able to hang out with you for just a day! I bet you guys had more fun in an afternoon than I did in a year! This is what being a kid should be, Ryan," she cried. "Testing your own capabilities; learning to interact with other kids; trying to look outrageous! That's the essence of youth!"


"I guess I see your point," she said slowly. "Da let me test myself constantly when I was little. I don't think I ever got in trouble for trying something stupid. He only got mad when I did something that could hurt someone else, like taking over those handicapped ramps. He really let me be who I was even though I'm sure he was constantly worried about me. That really was a gift," she reflected somberly. "I hope I can do the same for my kids."


Jamie wrapped her arm around her friend's sturdy waist. "You'll probably be completely overprotective," she teased.


"Hmm, maybe," she allowed reflectively. "But I don't think so. I want my kids to experience the freedom that I had. It's what allowed me to dream," she added with a small smile.


As she closed the book and replaced it on the shelf she turned to her friend and announced, "Now it's time for you to dream, Pal. To bed with 'ya."


The walk, or the climb, as she referred to it, had really relaxed Jamie and she felt ready to sleep. She went to the bathroom to put on her pajamas and when she returned she was pleasantly surprised to see a grinning Ryan, sitting on the bed, holding the bottle of massage lotion.


Jamie flung herself onto the bed, pulling her shirt up as she fell.


"I don't want to force you...." Ryan teased.


As the strong, cool hands began to work their magic, Jamie closed her eyes and silently wished that one day those hands would know her completely.


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


The next few days were not pleasant ones for Jamie. Cassie and Mia were shocked at the breakup and had both insisted on a long recitation of the events leading up to it. Jamie was tired of talking about it, but after the whole story was out, Mia was very supportive. Cassie was less so, but Jamie had a feeling that even she felt a little guilty about the role she played in the scenario.


She decided to tell her parents in person. On Tuesday afternoon she drove down to the Peninsula, arriving just after her father had returned home. She had never come down on a weekday and when she thought about it, she had never come down unannounced. Her parents were obviously quite surprised to see her and they both seemed a little anxious so she immediately launched in to the reason for her visit. She told them most of the story, omitting, of course, the role that Ryan had played. She talked more about the difficulty of being apart during the week, of Jack's intense schedule, and of her own doubts about her commitment.


To her amazement, her parents were completely sympathetic. It was obvious that her father was saddened by the news since he had grown quite fond of Jack. But she had tried her best to remove any animus towards Jack when she described the reasons for the breakup. They both seemed to agree that even though he was a wonderful young man, Jamie was probably not really ready to make a permanent commitment. Catherine in particular, seemed relieved that Jamie would not be tied down at so young an age.


As she was leaving, her father walked her to the car. "Was part of this because of your friend, Jamie?" he inquired with a touch of hesitation.


"Yes, Daddy, it was partly that," she admitted.


"It seems odd to me that Jack would be so bothered by that, but maybe that was just a sign that he wasn't ready either," he reflected.


"I am so happy that you and mother are so supportive of me, Daddy. I can't thank you enough," she said sincerely.


"I love you very much, Jamie. I've always been proud of you and the way you've handled this makes me that much prouder," he said with a smile.


"I want you to promise me that you won't treat Jack any differently, Daddy. I don't want this to interfere with his job opportunities."


"I don't mix business with emotions, Honey. Jack will be a good lawyer and we'll be lucky to land him. Don't worry about that," he said as he kissed her cheek.


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


On Wednesday morning Jamie sat in a long hallway waiting for Linda Levy's office hours to begin. The professor came strolling down the hall and waved a friendly greeting. "Hi Jamie," she said. "Sorry I couldn't see you earlier in the week. Come on in and tell me what's on your mind."


"I need a referral for a therapist, and I thought you might be able to refer me to someone good," she related, a bit hesitantly.


"Sure, I know a lot of therapists in the area. Would you feel comfortable telling me what types of issues you need to deal with?" she asked.


"I'm just having some general growing up issues. I'm having a little trouble with my parents," she said as she stalled for time. "And I think I might have some issues with my sexual orientation," she finally got out.


"Okay, I know a lot of people that could probably help you. Is cost a factor?"


"No, not really," she admitted.


"Do you have a preference for any particular type of therapist, like a psychiatrist or a psychologist?"


"No. I just want someone I can relate to," she said.


"Do you care if it's a man or a woman?" she continued.


"I think I'd like a woman," she blushed as she heard her double entendre.


Linda grinned back at her and looked through her address book, finally jotting down 3 different names. "I'm going to refer you to a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a clinical social worker. They're all good and I think you would like each of them. You can set up an appointment with each if you would like to interview them or you can just pick one. Do whatever feels comfortable, Jamie."


"Is there one of these women that you would recommend more highly than the others?"


"I know the psychologist pretty well. So I would say I know her style the best. I suppose she would be my pick," Linda replied.


"Thanks a lot Linda. I really appreciate your input."


"Any time, Jamie. If you ever need to chat on a non-therapeutic basis, I'd be happy to. I hope things work out well for you." Jamie reached for the note but Linda held onto it tightly, drawing Jamie's eyes to hers. "One piece of advice," she said quietly. "You can never make a mistake by being who you really are, no matter how scary the truth might seem."


Jamie nodded briefly and took the names from the professor. They shared a quick smile as Jamie left the office.


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


On Tuesday evening Ryan finished preparing the simple dinner that she and Conor were going to share. He finished setting the table and came back into the kitchen to help carry their plates to the dining room. "Boy, Tracy sure looked good on Sunday," he said appreciatively. "She looks fabulous in that dark brown color. You should have her wear that color more often."


"I don't think I get to have input any more," she said as she carried the last of the dishes into the room. "We broke up this afternoon."


"What? I thought you were serious about her?" He had stopped in the center of the room, a big plate of pasta held in one strong hand.


"I was. But I finally realized that she wasn't 'the one'. So rather than wasting her time I told her the truth."


"How did she take it?" he asked, remembering some of his more disastrous break ups.


"Fine. Actually a little too fine," she admitted with a smirk. "She told me she loved me on New Years Eve so I thought this would be hard on her. But she took it like a trooper."


"That's kind of weird," he agreed. "But why did you break up with her? She was pretty, smart, funny and very sexy. Well, she looked sexy," he grinned. "But you'd know better than I."


"She was all that," Ryan agreed. "But she didn't really like the amount of time I spend with the family. She said she loved me but she wasn't ready to love my whole family."


"What is she, some kind of psycho?" he teased. "What's not to love?"


"That's how I feel," she agreed with a smile. "But she was pretty reserved. I think we were a little overpowering for her when we were all together. And I quickly noticed that she doesn't like to be teased. And as you know you can't get through a dinner here without being teased 10 times!"


"Gee Ryan, did we contribute to your breakup? If you would have told us we would have laid off the teasing."


"Nope. That's not the kind of woman I want. I can't be with someone that I have to be so careful with. But you know, if she had told me that she wanted to work on being more comfortable around you guys I would have made some concessions. But she just wanted to maneuver me into spending less time at home. And that was just not going to happen," she said firmly.


Conor looked at her for a moment and said, "It's too bad Jamie's straight. She would be perfect for you."


"Really? I thought she was perfect for you," she dryly observed.


"Yeah, but I've never gotten any vibes from her. She treats me like an older brother. How about you? Any vibes?" he asked, mostly because he was interested, but partly to protect his $50 bet with Rory.


"Umm," she started to say but her cheeks were rapidly blushing.


"I thought so," he said slowly. "You two were acting awfully friendly when we went bowling together. So what are you going to do about it?"


"Well, she did a little something about it last week. But it was nothing huge," she said defensively. "She got a little tipsy on her birthday and she kissed me. But we both just acted like it didn't happen."


"Again, what are you going to do about it?"

"Nothing," she said quickly. "I have a firm policy not to date good friends. And Jamie is the best friend I have. I couldn't stand to lose her companionship."

"You know, Ryan, I'm certainly not the best person to give relationship advice but maybe you should change that policy."


"Why do you say that?"


"Well, you claim you're ready to find a real girlfriend. Why not get rid of 6 months of work and date someone you already know? You were with Tracy for 4 months before you found out she didn't have some vital requirements. If you tried to make it work with a friend you could concentrate on the love and sex parts instead of having to get to know one another."


"That might be a good idea in theory, but given my record all I would succeed in is losing her as a friend as well as a lover."


"That's not being fair to yourself," he admonished her. "You haven't tried to have many steady girlfriends."


"That's true but I just don't think it's wise to even consider Jamie. She's ostensibly straight; she just broke up with her fiancé; and she's my best friend. That's an awful lot to overcome."


"But you do find her attractive, don't you?"


"I'm not blind Conor," she laughed.


"So you would try to date her if you weren't friends, right?"


"I'd be on her like green on grass," she said with a sly grin.


"Well I still think you should consider what I said," he urged.


"Hmm, I'll give that some thought, Conor, but right now I've got to go make up for lost time," she said with a wildly waggling eyebrow.


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


"Hi, Ally," she said happily. "It's Ryan."


"Hey, gorgeous. Long time no see."


"I've been out of circulation for a few months. Do you have any interest in helping me get back in the saddle?"


"I'll be home by 8," she replied immediately.


"Should I bring anything?"


"Just a hearty appetite," she purred.


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


The next morning Jamie was waiting for Ryan after her 8 o'clock class. "I was going to ask you if you wanted to go get coffee, but I can see I'm too late," she said as she pointed at the empty 24 oz. cup in her friend's hand.


"I can use more," she said as she shook her head.


"Are you okay? I know you were planning on speaking to Tracy and I was concerned that it might be hard for you."


"No, actually we had lunch yesterday and we talked it all out. She admitted that she didn't really have an interest in being part of my extended family. She said that she wanted to have a relationship with me, but that she wasn't really ready for a big commitment thing. She said she probably doesn't want kids either, so my suspicions were correct"


"So how did you leave it?"


"Well," she blushed a little, "she was more than willing to have a little fling but for some weird reason it didn't feel right to me."


"Really?" she said happily. Maybe she's getting this serial dating out of her system. Oh please, oh please.


"Yeah, it was really weird. Once I decided that I wanted a committed relationship with her just having sex didn't seem that appealing. It felt like I would have been settling for something inferior."


"Wow," Jamie said. "Maybe you've really changed how you feel about sex. Maybe you won't be satisfied without some substance in your encounters."


"I think that's a rush to judgment," she admitted with another blush.


"Why? Are you already planning for your next victim?"


"Um...I had a date last night," she admitted.


"Jeez, Ryan! You didn't break up with her until noon. How did you find someone to go out with in an afternoon?"


"I didn't really go out," she revealed. "I called my friend Ally and she um...helped me...ahh...make up for lost time."


"God, I bet Tracy would love to hear that!"


"She was really okay with breaking up, Jamie. As a matter of fact I got the impression that she was mainly interested in me to see if she could get me to be faithful. She was hardly broken up about it. It just made me realize that I can't merely look at a check list of what I want in a woman. There just has to be some chemistry there, and I don't think Tracy and I ever had that. We just really wanted different things from a relationship."


"I'm sorry if I sound judgmental, Ryan. I think I'm just projecting how I'd feel if Jack had a date on Sunday."


"I understand, Jamie. It's hard not to apply other situations to your own. But believe me, Tracy didn't cry herself to sleep last night."


"And you obviously didn't either," she said as she gave her a mock scowl.


"Oh, I cried," she teased. "I cried for mercy!"


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


Just after 8 a.m. Jamie and Ryan pulled into a parking space in Golden Gate Park. Jamie was riding in the back seat of Conor's big crew cab, playing with a giggling Caitlin. Ryan hopped out and came around to the rear passenger door, and began to busily unstrap the baby from her car seat. When she was released Jamie held her while Ryan climbed into the bed of the truck by holding on to the top rail, stepping on the top of the big tire and throwing her leg over the rail. She picked up one bike at a time, lowering each to the ground to rest against the truck. Then she picked up the lime green baby carrier and did the same.


She spent a few minutes attaching the carrier to her bike, after playfully attempting to stick it on to Jamie's. When everything was set they all put on their helmets. Jamie and Ryan laughed for a long while when Caitlin kept trying to see what was on her head by looking straight up. She finally satisfied her curiosity by reaching for the helmet repeatedly with her little hands. The baby had just celebrated her 6 month birthday and she was going to be put to the test. She had been in the carrier many times but the last time she was quite a bit smaller and Ryan was certain she did not remember the experience.


Caitlin was not at all sure that she wanted to get into the carrier by herself. She made some very serious baby faces but finally began to smile as Ryan started to pedal. The wind whipped by her little head and she giggled from the sensation of the movement and the gentle bouncing of the carrier on the pavement. Jamie stayed behind for a while to make sure that the baby was enjoying the experience.


"She's loving it, Ryan!" she happily said as she came up alongside her companion. She continued this little switch for a long time. A few minutes behind or next to Caitlin, chatting with the happy infant and laughing at her joyous face; then a few minutes next to Ryan, excitedly describing the baby's antics.


They rode through every available road in the park. After a good hour they both needed a rest. They left the park and rode a very short distance to a coffee house. Although they had eaten breakfast, they were both hungry now that it was after 9 a.m. Jamie offered to buy and she waited in line while Ryan took the baby to the restroom to check her diaper. When they returned, changed and happy, Jamie was waiting for them at a table in front of the window. Since Jamie was left to her own devices she had purchased 2 cranberry scones, a poppy seed muffin and a big cinnamon roll. Two very large lattés waited alongside the food. "Jamie, you're finally starting to catch on," Ryan said appreciatively. "You can never order too much."


While Jamie ate her scone Ryan polished off the remaining 3 items. Caitlin sucked on her bottle and observed the other patrons from her resting place on Ryan's lap. Ryan looked at Jamie thoughtfully and asked, "How did it feel to be back in the park?"


"It felt okay," she replied after she took a minute to think. "I'm not sure how I would feel if we were sitting down like we were then. And I don't think I could relax enough to sleep," she admitted.


"How do you feel about testifying?" she continued. "It's coming up pretty soon."


Jamie was well aware that they were scheduled to testify at the trial of her attacker in 2 weeks. "It's kind of weird for me. I mean I didn't see him until after it was over, and he was unconscious, thanks to you." She shivered a bit as she said," I'm not nervous about the actual trial or anything, but I don't like to have to talk about the whole thing."


"I know what you mean. It's not my favorite thing to think about either," she said slowly.


"Does it still bother you, Ryan? I mean, I know you had trouble sleeping for a while. Are you okay now?" she asked gently as she touched Ryan's hand.


"I'm mostly fine," she said. "Every once in a while I have a flashback though. It still scares me a little bit," she conceded.


"Tell me what bothers you," Jamie coaxed her friend.


"I flash back to the helpless feeling that I had when I thought he was going to drag you into the woods. I knew I couldn't put the baby down in case he was working with someone. It might have been a ruse to steal Caitlin," she smiled down at the gurgling baby on her lap. "But I also knew that I couldn't take her with me if I had to run after you. I couldn't risk getting her injured," she shook her head at the memory. "It was just the most awful feeling of powerlessness. I knew I could stop that guy in a second but I couldn't risk it, " she said as she stared at her hands. "I don't think I could have lived with myself if he had hurt you, Jamie," she said softly.


Jamie smiled at her in sympathy. "Sometimes I forget that this whole thing is probably harder on you than it is on me," she said gently. "You saw everything and you had to make the hard decisions." She gripped Ryan's hand now, "If anything had happened, it would not have been your fault, Ryan. You did everything just perfectly. When you are trusted with the care of a child she has to come first. I would have been very angry with you if you had not secured her safety first. But you know, I'm still impressed by the hurt you put on him. Tell me about your training."


"When I was about 12 I started taking martial arts. Da was worried about me, justifiably, as it turns out. I ran around all over the city on my skateboard and I had many opportunities to get into trouble. I studied for about 6 years and I was pretty good," she reflected. "I haven't had to use it in a long while, but I did teach a kick boxing class at my old gym."


"You know, I might feel more confident if I learned some self defense. What do you think?" Jamie asked.


"I think that anything that empowers a person is a good idea," she replied. "That would help your physical preparedness. But what about your emotional health? Have you considered talking about it to anyone else?" Ryan asked.


"Funny you should ask that," Jamie replied. "I had my first appointment with a therapist on Friday morning."


"To talk about the attack?" Ryan asked.


"Um...I guess that is a part of it. I need to talk about Jack and my parents and a bunch of stuff that's been on my mind."


'How did you decide to try this?" Ryan inquired.


"My grandfather actually persuaded me. He didn't like all of my weight loss and he thought that a therapist could help me be less nervous."


"Was he able to recommend someone to you?" she asked.


"Um, actually I asked Professor Levy for a referral. I mean, I know she knows people in Berkeley so I thought it would be easier."


"So, what did you think? Did you like him or her?" Ryan asked.


"Yeah, I did like her. Her name is Anna Fleming and she seems pretty cool. She's down on Telegraph by Andronico's."


"I hope she can help you get rid of some of your stress," Ryan said as she patted her hand. Just then Caitlin let out a yell that drew the attention of the entire store. "I think Caitlin has been still long enough. Ready to go?"


"Yep, let's go."


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


As they rode along Jamie brought her bike alongside Ryan for a little while since Caitlin was sound asleep in her carrier. "Have you ever been in therapy, Ryan?"


"Yeah. I've had short term counseling a couple of times to get me through some rough periods. After my cousin Michael died I had a really hard time. He and I had always been close, but we got a lot closer during his illness. I tried to go see him every day after school and help out in any way that I could. I think I believed that if I worked hard enough, and we all did everything possible that we could save him. In retrospect I think I was re-experiencing the trauma of my mother's death." She looked over at Jamie with her big blue eyes clouded over with grief. "I had a hard time eating or sleeping for a long time. Da didn't know what to do, but luckily someone from the S.F. Aids Foundation referred us to a grief workshop for kids. I went for almost a year. I can't tell you how helpful it was to talk to other kids who had lost someone to AIDS. Most of the others had lost a parent, and some of them had lost both parents."


"God, I can't imagine how horrible that would be. To watch your parents just waste away," Jamie said empathetically. "Wasn't it tough to listen to that?"


"Yeah, it was really hard. But some weeks the only peace I got was at that meeting. It was one of the most worthwhile things I've ever participated in."


"I'm really glad it was available to you," Jamie said. "I hope therapy works for me, but I guess it will take a while to adjust to it."


"I'm glad you've decided to do it, Jamie. You've had an incredibly stressful year and it just makes sense that you might need some help to get through it."


"You've helped me more that I can say, Ryan. You've really been my rock and I thank God every day that I have your friendship."


"I do that too," Ryan admitted with a shy grin.


"What?" Jamie asked.


"I thank God for your friendship every day," she said. "You're part of my roster now."


Jamie beamed over at her for a moment as she said, "Best team I've ever been on."


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


Two weeks later they emerged from the rather stately entrance to the Superior Court of San Francisco. The entire day had been consumed by the 'hurry up and wait' atmosphere of the trial and for reasons they couldn't understand the prosecutor stuck the policewomen in between them to testify, forcing Ryan to hang around for an additional 4 hours to wait for Jamie.


"Well, at least we're done with it," Ryan observed as she filled her lungs with the cool, moist fresh air.


"I don't know what you're planning on doing for a living but you should consider becoming an expert witness in whatever it it," Jamie told her with admiration. "You were just phenomenal."


"Thanks," Ryan said, blushing a little. "I wrote down a very detailed description of what happened that day right after we got home. It helped me sort things out a little. I've reviewed it a couple of times when I was having problems sleeping...in a odd way it calmed me down...so the details were pretty well set in my mind."


"I sounded like the village idiot compared to you," Jamie smirked. "The jury must have thought I had brain damage."


"I think they understood that it's a little hard to remember details when you're unconscious," Ryan teased. "I think you did great."


"I guess we just have to hope we convinced them," she said soberly. "I want him to be put away for a very long time."


"Well, we should know within a couple of days. The prosecutor thinks they'll have a verdict by tomorrow or the next day. Do you want to know what the outcome is?"


Jamie thought for a moment as she leaned against the large base of a statue near the front steps. "Surprisingly, I don't. I don't think they can put him away long enough to suit me, so I think I'd rather assume the best. How about you?"


"I'm interested, but only so I don't have to worry about him for a while. I see him in my dreams enough without being worried about seeing him on the street," she said as a shudder raced up her spine.


"I'm so sorry that you're still bothered by it," she said softly as she leaned in to wrap Ryan in a gentle hug. "I hardly think about it anymore, thanks to you."


"I'd trade a lifetime of nightmares for your safety," Ryan said softly, right into her ear.


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


Jamie had been seeing her therapist for 3 weeks when she finally had the nerve to bring up her sexuality. Since cost was not an issue they had decided that twice a week sessions were a good idea, at least until Jamie felt some relief. After only 4 sessions she actually felt significantly better. But she had spent nearly all of those sessions talking about Jack and her distress over the breakup. Now it was time to open up fully.


After 7 sessions she finally broached the subject. "There's something that's bothering me, Anna," she said hesitantly.


"Tell me, Jamie," she replied neutrally.


"I think that I might be gay," she replied as she stared at the pattern on the rug.


"What makes you think so?" Anna asked.


"I'm incredibly attracted to my closest friend, Ryan," she revealed. "I haven't told you the whole story about why Jack and I broke up," she admitted shyly.


After going through the entire story Anna asked, "Have you ever acted on any of your feelings for Ryan?"


"Sort of. On my birthday I gave her a kiss on the lips," she replied.


"How did she react?"


"We both acted like everything was normal. But right after that she said she thought we should leave because we were both a little drunk." After a moment she added, "Maybe it made her uncomfortable."


"Did she act any differently towards you after the incident?"


"No, not really. She's pretty much the same."


"So it must not have bothered her too much," she observed. "Do you want to pursue her, Jamie?" she asked.


"I really think I do, Anna. But I just feel so overwhelmed by everything that's happened. I'm afraid of what I'll do if she isn't interested."


"Is there any reason that you feel compelled to do something right now? Or could you wait a while until you feel more grounded?" she queried.


"I guess I'm not in a rush," she said as though this were the first time she had considered this. "She just broke up with someone and I don't think she wants to get into another relationship right away. You know, it makes me feel better to think that I don't have to hurry."


"You might feel better if you resolved some of your feelings about Jack before you put all of your energies into connecting with another person, Jamie. And I think you would be more clear on what to do about Ryan if we spend some time really exploring your feelings."


"So you would recommend that I not tell her about how I feel right now?" she asked.


"My recommendation is that you keep your life as simple as possible until you're sleeping better and able to eat. If expressing your feelings to Ryan would cause more stress, I would advise against it for the time being," she replied.


"Well, given that I feel 100% better already I guess that's good advice," she replied happily.


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


Ryan was finally able to fulfill her long standing promise to take Jamie to hear Rory's band play locally. On that Friday evening Jamie drove over to the O'Flaherty house at 6 p.m. Everyone was there and dinner was a boisterous affair with lots of teasing and boasting from the boys. Rory left at 6:30 to get ready for the performance.


At 8 o'clock they left in several cars to hear the band play at Molly McGuire's, a local pub where they played frequently when in town. Jamie was really looking forward to hearing Rory and his band mates. She didn't know a thing about traditional Irish music, but she assumed she would love it because Ryan did.


There were 5 members in the band. Rory played keyboards and accordion, Terry played tenor and soprano sax, William played the fiddle and the violin, Mike played percussion and Dylan played bass. Shortly after they all arrived the band began their first set. Jamie was charmed by the very accomplished musicians. Most of the melodies were light and melodic, although the lyrics to nearly every song were sad or downright tragic. All of the band members sang, but Rory handled most of the lead vocals. He had a rich, mellow tenor which carried beautifully through the small room.


Jamie had been with Rory on numerous occasions, but she never would have guessed how much emotion he packed into his music. She was nearly brought to tears on several occasions by the expressiveness of his voice. After playing almost 15 songs the band took a long break. Rory came over to the table while the other musicians went outside to smoke.


Rory sat in the glow of the compliments being sent his way. Jamie was effusive in her praise and he soaked it all up happily. He asked her which songs she had most enjoyed. She thought for a long while and finally admitted that she liked the more poignant ones the best. They all laughed at this and asked her which songs had been happy. Together they went through the list; losing the farm, losing children to war, being forced to marry for money, having your lover stop seeing you because you were poor, and having your mate lost at sea. After much discussion they all agreed that every song had been sad in some way or another.


Finally Conor asked Ryan to get up and sing a happy song for the crowd. Jamie chimed in, "I didn't know you sang in public, Ryan!"


Rory replied, "She could make a good living with music if she wanted to, Jamie. She's probably the most talented of all of us."


Ryan blushed a bit at this praise but she admitted that singing for others was not a driving force for her. "I like to sing for myself mostly," she admitted. "I don't mind singing in public once in a while, but it's not something that I love enough to do every day."


"I would love to hear you Ryan," Jamie begged. "Please?"


"Okay, okay. You know I can't turn down begging," she grinned. Since the band was still on their break Brendan agreed to accompany her on the guitar. They discussed what songs to play and finally settled on two favorites. "You asked for it, Jamie," she said with a smile as she got up.


She was wearing her deep red Angora turtleneck and a pair of soft black slacks. Her hair was loose around her shoulders and she had just a few wispy bangs touching her forehead. Brendan grabbed an acoustic guitar and adjusted the strap. When he was ready he introduced himself. There was a single spotlight shining on Ryan as Brendan introduced her as the most beautiful and talented of the entire O'Flaherty clan. She beamed back at him as he began the first chords to the song they had chosen.


The spotlight highlighted the mahogany and gold tones in her raven hair. Her cheeks were pink from the warmth of the room and her eyes sparkled and danced in the bright white light. She looked entirely at ease as she sat on a tall stool with the heels of her loafers hooked over a rung. Her posture was upright and poised but very casual. She looked as though she was singing in front of very close friends at her home.


The song they had chosen was, in fact, rather happy. In her smooth, clear alto Ryan began to sing,


"First when I came to the town, they called me young and bonny,

Now they've changed my name, call me the Lee boys honey.

I'll dye my petticoats red, and I'll face them with a yellow,

I'll tell the Dyster lads, that the Lee boys I've to follow."


Several things impressed Jamie immediately. First, of course, was the sheer beauty of Ryan's voice. The music seemed to flow from her effortlessly. She almost seemed to be talking rather than singing. The second thing was the girlish smile and body language that Ryan had appropriated to sing the song. This was clearly a song about a young heterosexual girl and Ryan had the ability to adopt that demeanor to sell the lyrics. The final impressive element was Ryan's ability to just have fun with this. She even shot Jamie a cute little smile when she sang the next line:


"It's over hill and dale, and over dykes and ditches,

Say, will I like the lad, that wears the moleskin britches?

The black horse draws the cart, and she's as proud as any

Say will I like the lad that drives him on so canny?"


"Feather beds are fine, painted rooms are bonny

But I would leave them all to jog away with Johnny.

Oh for Saturday night, it's I that'll see my dearie

He'll come whistling in when I am tired and weary."


"First when I came to the town, they called me proud and saucy

Now they've changed my name, call me the Lee boys lassie."


Jamie was easily able to believe that Ryan could be the Lee boys lassie. But for a genetic difference she could easily be the girl that boys fought over. She could be sitting in her house on a Saturday night waiting for her Johnny. Jamie was never so glad that homosexuality existed. It gave her a fighting chance to one day know the love of this woman.


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


Conor and Rory sat behind Jamie casually watching both their sister and her friend. Conor had told Rory of his conversation with Ryan and they had decided to determine if there was any mutual interest on Jamie's part. Even though Conor doubted that he would win the bet he offered to double it. But Rory held firm. At the end of the song they both looked at the expression on Jamie's face. It was a mixture of love and desire with a good measure of pure worship thrown in. Rory smiled sweetly at Conor as he held out his hand. Conor reached into his wallet, pulling out two 20's and a ten that he slapped onto the table.


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


Later that night, Ryan walked her friend out to her car. Jamie lavished praise upon Ryan for both her singing voice and her stage presence. After discussing the band and the various members for a long while she could tell that Ryan was beat so she bid her goodnight.


As Jamie got into the car Ryan asked, "What are you doing tomorrow?"


"Uh...nothing. Why?"


"It's Saint Patrick's Day, lassie!" she announced in her lilting Irish accent.


"Okay...what are you doing?"


"I'm the barmaid at The Dubliner of course!"


"Since when do you work in a bar?!"


"I do it every St. Patrick's day," she explained in her normal voice. "If you're free come over and have a pint. Conor and some of the cousins will be there to harass me of course, so it should be fun."


"Is that the place right on 24th?"


"Yeah, but if you come be prepared for a huge crowd. It's quite a zoo!"


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


Jamie didn't want to be at the bar alone so she waited until 8 to head over. She had to park so far away from the bar that she wound up a block past Ryan's house. My God, it's never been this congested over here, she marveled. I guess everyone is out celebrating St. Patrick's Day.


Her suspicions were confirmed when she tried to wedge into the bar. The rowdy patrons were packed in so tight she knew they were violating several city ordinances, but she assumed the local police turned a blind eye on St. Paddy's Day. It took a great deal of patience and a few well placed elbows but she finally made her way near to the large wooden bar. She lucked out and found that the crowd had deposited her right next to a happy little group that featured Brendan, Conor, Niall, Kieran and Frank. "Jamie!" they cried, nearly as one.


The overly exuberant tone to their call indicated the advanced level of their inebriation but she gamely allowed each of the men to offer a hug and didn't even complain about Conor's rather sloppy kiss on her cheek. "How long have you boys been here?" she shouted over the din.


"We walked Ryan over at 5," Brendan supplied. "What time is it now?"


"Almost 9," she yelled in reply.


"No wonder I can't feel me feet!" he marveled in his own little Irish accent.


Just then Jamie spotted her favorite barmaid. Ryan looked extremely attractive this evening, not that that was a news flash. But there was something about her that looked very different. It took Jamie a moment to realize that Ryan looked straight! It wasn't just that her hair was held back with a braided green and white ribbon; it wasn't that she was dressed in a form fitting emerald green knit vest sans blouse; it wasn't even the fact that she wore a touch of makeup. No, it was the fact that she was acting straight and that, most decidedly, to Jamie's keen eye, was a first. Ryan spotted her and gave a demure little wave along with a toss of her jet black hair. Jamie grinned and shook her head at the display, but when Ryan approached the man to her left she nearly fell from the stool that Brendan insisted she occupy.


"Evenin' darlin'," she announced in a rather dramatic, thick Irish accent, as she graced him with her most winning smile and a girlish batting of her eyes. "How can I help ya?"


The tongue tied man seemed as flabbergasted by the raven haired beauty as Jamie was but he managed to choke out, "Are you new around here?"


"Aye!" she cried. "Just over from Killala in Mayo!" She said this with such joy that it appeared she expected the man to be a relative from the old sod or at least a fellow Kilallan.


"Welcome to America," he said dreamily. "Can I have a pint of Guinness and your phone number?"


"Ahh, go on with ya!" she cried. "You lads are all so friendly! I've had more good wishes and offers to show me around than I can count. Such a friendly place!" she said as she turned to draw his pint. Jamie noticed that her friend bent over just enough to show her best assets as she drew his stout, smiling that unnerving smile the entire time. She placed the pint in front of him and said coyly, "I'm not sure how long I'll be stayin' luv. It costs a pretty pence to stay in your lovely city. But if I can afford it maybe you can come 'round some time, eh?"


He nodded as if in a trance, pulling out a $5 for the $3 pint and thanking Ryan profusely as he walked back to his mates, happy to leave the gorgeous woman a 66% tip. Ryan dashed to the register and rang up the $3 sticking two singles into her bulging back pocket. She trotted back and signaled to Jamie, "Meet me at the end of the bar!"


It was a tough trip but she made the short distance not too much after her grinning friend. Ryan dug into her straining pocket and handed the gob of slightly damp bills to her friend. "Keep my tips, will you?" she said right into Jamie's ear in order to be heard. "It doesn't look right to look like I'm doing too well."


"Geez Ryan!" she cried. "How did you make all this?"


"An Irish accent, a tight sweater and a Wonder bra!" she laughed. "How else?"


"So you put on this act just to make money?" she asked, slightly incredulous.


"Mighty!" she agreed as she pinched Jamie's cheek and trotted back to her post.


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


By the time Jamie made it back Conor had procured a perfectly poured pint of Guinness for her as well as another round for his drinking buddies. She had never seen any of the boys in their cups...had never in fact seen them drink at all except for bowling night. But she had to admit that they were a fun group of drunks. Conor especially was twice as charming, if a little sloppy. He tossed an arm around Jamie and held on to her for the duration of the evening. But after a while it became clear that he did so to maintain his balance as much as to show his affection.


The boys had been teasing and taunting each other mercilessly all night and Jamie found herself on the end of a few pointed barbs herself. But she didn't mind a bit...in fact it made her feel like one of the group and she did her best to give as good as she got. She limited herself to two pints but that was more than enough to give her a very pleasant buzz. Her mind reeled at the thought of how the boys must be feeling since she had personally seen them each have 3 in the two hours she had occupied her stool.


When one patron got a little too enamored of Ryan she watched all of the boys give him a long stern look but they didn't make an obvious move to deter him. Ryan took his wandering hands in stride, stepping quickly out of the way when he tried to grab a handful of her shapely butt. "I'm amazed you didn't flatten him," Jamie chuckled into Conor's ear.


"Ahh, you can't blame them, Jamie," he explained rather expansively. "She looks like she wants them to grab her; she flirts with them constantly...hell, I'm half tempted to make a play for her!" He laughed at his own joke and nearly passed out in hysterics when he caught the look on Jamie's stunned face. "I'm kidding, Jamie!" he howled. She slapped him lightly on the side and rolled her eyes in exasperation at his antics. But he leaned over as he pulled her tightly against his side. "How about you?" he purred rather seductively.


Her mouth grew bone dry as she stammered, "M...M...Me what?"


"Do you have an interest in my baby sister?" he asked in the same seductive growl.


"W...W...Why would I have an interest?" she stuttered weakly.


"I asked first," he reminded her. "Come on now, you can tell Uncle Conor," he crooned. "I promise I won't tell."


"I...I...I um..." she muttered, annoyed at her own inarticulateness.


"Um hmm," he murmured, "Just as I thought." Her rapidly blushing face and weakening knees caused him to pat her shoulder comfortingly and hold on a bit tighter. "There, there," he assured her. "You could do worse than to fall for my sister, you know. And personally, I think she'd be a fool to let you get away." He tilted his dark head down and rested it against Jamie's for a moment. "You're quite a woman, Jamie."


She closed her eyes tightly and accepted the truth of his statement. But a relatively soft object hurled at her head at close range broke the moment. Turning faster than her slightly blurry eyes appreciated she whirled around to find a grinning Ryan tossing peanuts at her head from a dish on the bar. "Don't encourage him, Jamie," she warned. "He'll follow you home like a lost puppy."


"No problem," she replied with a grin of her own. "I've always wanted a puppy," she said affectionately as she teasingly petted Conor's dark head.


"Well, don't blame me if he starts humpin' your leg," she warned, accent firmly in place as she dashed down the bar to pour another pint.


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


Even though she had tried valiantly to leave several times Jamie found herself still in place as Ryan called out, "Last call, lads! Final pints!"


She lifted her arm to gaze in amazement at her watch which did, in fact, read 1:45 a.m. "My God," she muttered. "How did it get to be so late!"


"And how did I get to be so drunk?" Brendan moaned, dropping his head into his hands.


"You are drunk," Frank agreed, shaking his head and clucking in disdain.


"Can't hold his liquor," agreed Kieran, who was clearly as drunk as the rest of the boys.


"I've only had two and I can hardly talk!" Jamie moaned. "How will I get home?"


"Yer comin' wit us," Conor insisted in his own Irish accent. "As soon as we help the wee one wit her chores."


Jamie watched in awe as the drunken O'Flaherty's got to their wobbly feet and gamely bussed the small tables around the still crowded bar. "Drink up, drink up," Niall insisted as he walked from patron to patron trying to retrieve their still full glasses.


She hopped to her feet and went behind the bar to aid Ryan and the other two women in their daunting task of washing each glass that was returned. But many hands made short work of it and by the time Frank and Brendan rather forcibly ushered the last patron out at 2:15 the bar was clean enough for the professional cleaning crew that arrived every morning to clean the floors and the bathrooms.


Ryan walked and the others stumbled the few short blocks first to Frank's home, then another few to Kieran and Niall's. They arrived at the O'Flaherty house at 2:45, grateful for the fact that Martin was at work. Ryan guided Brendan to her father's room and gave him a kiss on the cheek as he fell to the bed. Conor was able to make it all the way up to his room but he accomplished the feat by holding on to the banister for dear life.


Ryan tossed an arm around Jamie and guided her down to her bedroom. "So, did ya have fun?" she asked, back in her Gaelic persona.


"Yeah, very much so," she admitted. "Your family is really a blast to hang out with, Ryan. And it was worth the trip to see you playing the coquettish straight girl," she teased as she playfully backhanded her in the belly.


Ryan looked thoughtful as they reached the lower floor. "It's fun for me to act like that once in a while," she mused. "But I can't imagine having to do that every day! I don't know how some straight women keep that act up!" She held out her hands as Jamie started unburdening her pockets of the plethora of bills she carried. "Like you," Ryan said as she started to sort the money. "You're a straight girl and you don't hardly ever seem like you're putting on that 'Oh you're so cool and I'm such a helpless creature' routine." She looked up at Jamie who was choosing a t-shirt from the massive selection in Ryan's neatly labeled drawers.


"Hardly ever?" Jamie asked.


"Well, I saw you do it with Jack that time I was in Palo Alto," she mused. "But that's the only time."


"Hmm, I guess I don't do it much," she admitted. "But Cassie does it constantly," she observed as she considered her circle of friends. "She acts like she's got a brain stem injury when her boyfriend is around."


"Well it's nice that you don't do it much," Ryan observed. "It must be demeaning."


"Well, you do some manipulative things to get women too, Ryan, don't act like you don't."


Ryan looked up at her with a completely guileless look on her handsome face. "I don't think I do," she said. "Oh, I flirt and act a little more forceful than normal, but I don't think I try to alter who I am or what my capabilities are," she mused. "I just try to show my assets to the best of my ability," she said with a wicked glare as she shook her shoulders and jiggled her breasts in an entirely provocative manner. "That kind of stuff is too easy," she muttered disdainfully. "Women just don't go for it."

Some women do, Jamie thought as she quickly scrambled to the bed to avoid falling down.


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


After Ryan had methodically counted her booty they got ready for bed and hopped in together. "What's up?" Jamie finally said after she felt Ryan toss and turn for long minutes.


"I don't know. I guess I'm just a little worked up after tonight. I've having a hard time relaxing," she admitted.


"Let me help you out for a change," Jamie said as she reached down on her side of the bed and found the massage lotion.


Ryan smiled in the darkness and willingly rolled over onto her stomach. Jamie began to push her t-shirt up, but Ryan just reached down and yanked it off. There was no moon and the light in the room was too dim to make out anything but rough shapes, but Jamie was still a bit excited at the thought of Ryan's half naked form lying right before her.


When Ryan rubbed Jamie's back she usually straddled her waist. But she had always had sweats on. Jamie was only wearing a long t-shirt and her underwear. She considered her options; get up and put sweats on, sit next to Ryan on the bed, or jump on and hope for the best. She threw caution to the wind and hopped on. Thankfully, Ryan was still wearing her sweatpants, so when Jamie straddled her hips there was an adequate layer of fabric between them. Nonetheless, she found herself feeling a bit weak at the sensation of sitting on those softly muscled buttocks.


She hadn't given many massages, but she had received hundreds during their travels in Europe. She knew what she liked and she assumed that Ryan would like a similar touch. She did her best to rub the strong back in a clinical, professional manner. But she failed miserably. She found that her hands were guided by an unseen force. They lightly and gently touched and rubbed and prodded the tense muscles. Her hands began to dig deeper into the tissue, eliciting a hiss of pleasure from Ryan. After that sensuous verbal cue she really got into the experience. After a while she had a difficult time feeling where her hands ended and Ryan's back began. She felt so connected and close to her friend.


She was rewarded with occasional grunts of satisfaction when she hit a particularly tense spot, but her toes nearly curled when she touched a spot low on her back and Ryan let out a low, pleasure filled moan. Focus, damn it, she shouted to herself. After working for a long while the muscles felt smooth and pliable under her fingers. Ryan hadn't made a sound for several minutes and her body was still and loose. Jamie finished up by touching her entire back lightly with just the tips of her fingers. She slid off the strong hips and was surprised when she felt no movement from her friend. She leaned over and heard rhythmic deep breathing and realized that she was sound asleep.


Oh, this is not good. Definitely not good. I don't want to wake her to get dressed, but I can't sleep next to her naked chest.


She fretted about the situation for a few minutes, finally deciding to be brave and try to get to sleep. She lay right next to her deeply sleeping friend, occasionally trailing her fingers down her lovely bare back. When her fingers strayed too far to the side she could make out a very sexy bulge where Ryan's generous breasts had compressed. Try as she might she had a very tough time keeping that hand away from that gentle curve. Every nerve in her hand itched in anticipation but she clamped down on her raging impulses and forced herself to close her eyes. Eventually she succeeded and she fell into a deep, sound sleep.


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


Ryan woke just before 7. She was puzzled by several sensations. One was that she was in exactly the same position that she had been in for her massage. I never sleep on my stomach, she thought. Secondly, she was naked from the waist up. Did I take off my shirt? Oh, yeah, I took it off for my massage. Oooh, what a massage. I had no idea Jamie was that good. Thirdly was the warm hand of her masseuse resting low on her back, with a couple of fingers slid under the waistband of her sweats. God, this is a pleasant way to wake up. She wanted to just lie there and feel the connection. Why does it feel so good to have her touch me in such an innocent way? Geez! I don't know if I can keep my wits about me this morning. Finally her good sense got in the way and she slowly extricated herself from the contact. As she rolled over she pulled the shirt on over her head.


Jamie was still just inches away. Ryan lay back and regarded her sleeping face in the morning light. The sun was just beginning to touch the pillow where her head rested. Her golden hair was mussed from sleep and tumbled in an attractive fashion around her face. The tips of her long dark blonde eyelashes were lightly brushed by the sun's rays. Her smooth skin was beginning to take on a golden tone from all of the outdoor activity, and a few freckles dusted her nose. It was all that Ryan could do not to lean over and kiss each of those cute little freckles.


God, I wish she were a lesbian! It's so frustrating to feel this way about her but not be able to do anything about it. But she knew that she could never do anything about it. It was one thing to take a lesbian friend and try to make her into a lover. But it was quite another to take a straight friend and try to turn her into a lesbian. Thanks Conor, thanks a lot! I've never thought of the possibility, but you had to put the idea in my head! She shifted a bit in frustration as she gazed at the peaceful face resting so close to her. God, I would love to touch her. She just looks so delectable lying there, all soft and smooth. And she smells so good, she thought. It can't hurt to take a little sniff can it? she thought as she leaned over to inhale.


And was greeted by sleepy green eyes, smiling up at her sweetly. "Is it time to get up?" she asked through a yawn as she stretched slowly and thoroughly.


Ryan was having a hard time ordering her thoughts, but she finally replied, "Only if you want to. We're not in a rush today." With that she tousled the golden hair a bit and hopped out of bed. Definitely time for a cold shower thanks to you Conor, she muttered to herself as she closed the bathroom door.


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


After going for a brisk run with Duffy she stopped at her favorite coffee shop, 'Martha & Brothers', for a pair of giant lattés. She didn't expect Jamie to be up for a while but knew that her friend would be in a much better mood if she had a big cup of coffee waiting for her.


As expected, the house was completely still when she entered. Since the morning was cool and her pace had been slower than usual she didn't really need another shower. Sneaking back down to her room she grabbed a pair of sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt and tip-toed back upstairs. She had to get dressed in the kitchen since every room was occupied but when she was finished she briskly towel dried her hair and went out to the front deck.


The fog showed no sign of dissipating but that fact didn't bother her in the least. She actually had to admit that she preferred a cool, gray morning, a nice soft day as her Granny would say, to a bright, sunny dawn. Given her habit of running nearly every morning she welcomed the heavy damp air that the fog brought, and she always found that her times were better and she was more rested after a run in the fog. Her coffee was nearly finished and her perusal of the 'Comical', San Francisco's daily joke of a newspaper was just about complete when a still sleepy tousled blonde head poked out of the front door.


"It's freezing out here!" the grumpy little mole face groused.


Oh oh, Ryan privately thought. Somebody's hung over. "It's not too bad," Ryan said as she rose to greet her friend. "Sit down and I'll bring you a nice cup of latté and a blanket."


Jamie didn't reply to this thoughtful offer, she merely flopped down on Ryan's now empty chair and waited for her delivery.


Well, I've become pretty adept at getting Caitlin out of her cranky moods. Now I'll see how my skills work with a bigger baby. She dashed into the linen closet next to her father's room and got out a soft cotton quilt that her grandmother's sewing circle had made for her when she was a baby. Even though she was tiny the women had let practicality dictate and they had made the quilt fit a full sized bed so it was plenty big to wrap her grumpy friend up in. Trotting back to her charge she gently tucked the blanket around the shivering woman, receiving only a grunt of thanks.


Next came the coffee which she warmed in the microwave while she took out a big earthenware mug and ran some hot water through it so it wouldn't chill the coffee. By the time she returned Jamie looked warmer but even grumpier as she waited for her caffeine boost. Hmm, this calls for drastic action, she decided.


Ryan sat down on the roomy padded chaise lounge and said, "If you come sit by me I can make your headache go away."


"Who said I have a headache?" she muttered, staring into her cup.


"No one," Ryan hastened to agree. "But sometimes I get one when I'm up late at night." Especially when I've had too much Guinness, she silently added.


"Where do you want me?" she replied, none too happily as she tried to hold on to her coffee and her blanket.


Ryan spread her legs wide, placing her feet on the floor. She patted the seat in front of her crotch and said, "Come sit between my legs. I'll hold your coffee until you're settled."


Jamie handed her the cup and climbed onto the chaise with her back to her friend. She settled the comforter over her body and held her hand out silently, indicating that she wished the return of her beverage. When Ryan was sure she was settled she brought her hands up and began a very light massage of her shoulders. "Tell me where it hurts," she cooed into the nearby pink ear. "Here?" she asked as her fingers climbed the throbbing head and settled just above the neck. "Here?" she asked again as her hands moved to the area just behind her ears. "Or here?" as they moved to her temples.


"Yes," her patient replied with a sigh. "Everywhere."


"Okay," Ryan soothed. "First I'm going to massage your shoulders and neck to get the blood flowing. Then, when you're nice and loose I'm going to apply some acupressure points on your head. I guarantee that you'll feel better in no time," she announced confidently.


"Prove it," the grouchy skeptic demanded.


Wow, tough crowd, Ryan mused with a smirk as she set to work. But she enjoyed few things more than a good challenge and she was determined to make her friend happy before the morning was up. She started off nice and slow and gentle, allowing time for deep sips of the steaming latté. When she could see that the cup was nearly drained she got a bit more aggressive and within minutes Jamie's head was rolling around on her shoulders like a limp rag doll's. When she had thoroughly relaxed her she started on the acupressure points. Working gently but firmly she applied pressure to all of the spots that she knew might be causing her friend pain. She compressed each of the major blood vessels for a few seconds and smiled to herself as the limp woman in her lap sighed with each release.


It took almost a half hour of determined work but she was amply rewarded when a very satisfied voice purred, "God, that felt divine. Thank you, Ryan. You're the best." She replied by beginning a very gentle head rub of the adorably mussed golden hair and within minutes Jamie was curled up against her chest, purring audibly. Watching her friend relax so thoroughly brought a wave of sleepiness over Ryan and before she knew it she felt her eyes begin to slowly close.


At 10 o'clock Conor stumbled onto the deck, stopping dead in his tracks at the sight before him. His sister and Jamie were sharing the same chaise; Ryan in the back with Jamie nestled between her legs. The smaller woman was slightly on her side with her knees drawn up and her head pillowed nicely on a plump breast. Ryan's baby quilt covered them both and Ryan's arms were loosely draped around her body in a protective embrace. Sweet smiles graced both sets of lips. That is about the cutest damn thing I've ever seen, he mused through his own splitting headache. But call me narrow minded...I'd be out of my mind if my straight girlfriend was curled up like that on her best friends lap.


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


Chapter Fifteen Return to Main Page