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 firstname.lastname@example.org
On Thursday at 5 p.m. Jamie pulled into her driveway, fresh from a visit to her favorite market. She was stunned and a bit dismayed to see Jack's Honda Accord parked in front of the house. "Oh shit, not tonight!" she moaned aloud. "Ryan will be here soon!"
She grabbed her grocery bags and made her way into the house. Jack was sitting in the kitchen with Cassie, drinking a Coke and looking very relaxed. Jamie pasted on a smile and greeted him as she put her bags down on the marble counter.
"To what do I owe the honor?" she asked as she crossed the kitchen and kissed him.
He rose and enveloped her in a hug. "I had to drop off some research at the office and I figured this would be a good place to ride out rush hour. I thought we could have dinner before I have to head back," he said as he began to investigate the contents of her bags. "Ooo, this looks good," he said as he pulled out the fresh pasta and the marinara sauce. "What are you making?"
"Oh honey I would love to, but I have a classmate coming for dinner. We're working on a special project together and we need the time to discuss it," she said with more regret than she really felt.
"What kind of projects do you have for English classes?" he asked absently, as he continued to poke through the bags.
Jamie was unreasonably annoyed at his interest in her purchases. She began to take the items out of his hands as he removed them from the bags. She put the salad ingredients on the counter by the double stainless steel sinks, and placed the pasta and sauce in the refrigerator. She snagged the chocolate gelato and placed it in the freezer. As he looked longingly at a fresh loaf of Italian bread, she took pity on him and relented. "I can try to make you a little something before she gets here," she said tentatively.
He gave her his little puppy dog look as he said, "I don't want to put you out, Jamie."
Cassie made her presence known by saying, "Jack, why don't you let me take you out to dinner. You and I don't get to spend much time together, what with Jamie monopolizing all of your time".
Jamie was completely grateful to her roommate for this unexpectedly thoughtful offer. Jack looked like he wanted to refuse, but when Jamie just looked at him with a blank expression he shrugged his broad shoulders and said, "Okay Cassie. That would be great. Can we wait until Jamie's guest gets here so I can have at least a few minutes with my girlfriend?"
"Sure Jack, I'll be up in my room. Call me when you're ready."
Jack sat back down as Jamie began to prepare dinner. He chatted about his day and updated her on the progress of his law review article. Jamie tried to stay interested, but the intricacies of the R.I.C.O. laws as applied to the violation of restraining orders against protest groups did not really hold her attention. She was also very nervous about Jack meeting Ryan. Why didn't I think this through more thoroughly? Now this will be a whole big thing. God, I hope she doesn't look too gay tonight.
Jamie handed Jack plates and silverware, followed by napkins and place mats. "You may as well make yourself useful, honey".
"I guess this is good preparation for married life," he admitted. "I suppose this will be my job until I train one of our little tow headed offspring to do it."
Jamie was surprised and touched at his train of thought. Jack did not often speak of his vision of their future. He usually spoke of his future career or things they would do together. But it was rare for him to speak of having children.
"Are kids important to you Jack?" she asked after a while.
"Well, yeah, I guess they are. I've just assumed we would have a few. Aren't they important to you?" he asked with a note of shock as he turned to look at her.
"Oh, yeah," Jamie agreed as a genuine smile lit up her face. "I would love to have a raft of little blonde copies of you," she said as she drew near and placed her arms around his neck.
He bent down willingly and began to place several tender kisses on her lips. The softness of his kisses contrasted with the slightly rough feel of the stubble on his face. She hugged him tightly and smiled as he returned the hug enthusiastically and increased the intensity of his kisses. Uh uh, Jack, she thought wryly. I'm not going to change my mind no matter how turned on you try to make me. She began to release him when the door to the living room opened and Mia and Ryan strolled in. Jamie jumped in surprise nearly hitting Jack's chin with the top of her head as she did so.
"Knock it off, lovebirds, your company is here," Mia commented, stating the obvious.
Jamie stared open-mouthed at Ryan, completely nonplussed. Slightly tousled black hair hanging loosely around her shoulders. Black leather baseball style jacket covering a tight black t-shirt. Black jeans topping sleek black low heeled leather boots. In her right hand was a shiny black motorcycle helmet. Oh, my god. She looks like the centerfold for 'Big Dyke Magazine!'
"Hi, Jamie," the black clad vision uttered.
"Hi," Jamie eventually choked out. Jack cleared his throat as he stepped back out of Jamie's loose embrace.
"Hi, I'm Jack Townsend," he said as he extended his hand when it became clear that Jamie was not going to introduce him.
Jamie regained her composure and her manners and eventually gave proper introductions. Cassie came downstairs moments later and was included in the scene. Jamie noticed both of her roommates eyeing Ryan critically, passing raised eyebrow looks between them. Oh shit! Mia must have told Cassie about my class. They're really giving her the once over. Not that it would be too tough to guess that she's gay, she thought wryly.
"So, what is this project you two are working on?" Jack asked Ryan innocently.
Ryan gave Jamie a little glance and allowed her to answer. "It's just a little project for our psych class. I'll tell you all about it later Sweetheart. We've got to hurry up and eat and you two need to get going," she said to Cassie and Jack. "I'm sure you've got a ton of work to do tonight," she told Jack.
"Okay, I know when to leave," he said with a small smile. Jamie gave him another hug and a kiss as he and Cassie made their way out. Mia, however, apparently found this all too interesting and made no move to depart.
"What's for dinner?" she asked as she peeked at the pans on the stove.
Jamie came up behind her and physically removed her from her position. "Ryan and I are having pasta. You are having whatever you make for yourself after we leave," she stated with authority.
"Okay, okay," Mia laughed as she retreated. "Can I at least get a soda? And maybe a little of that bread?" she asked hopefully.
"Yes, Mia, you may have some bread," Jamie responded generously. "Then scram."
"You run a pretty tight ship around here, Jamie," Ryan said after Mia scampered out with her purloined bread.
"Those three would have eaten every bite," she replied knowledgeably with a shake of her blonde head.
"Well, I don't blame them. It smells great," Ryan said. "And I really am starving. I didn't get a proper lunch today."
"I forgot to ask you if there were any things you don't eat. I figured pasta was on almost everyone's list."
"I don't eat anything that's currently breathing," Ryan stated. "Other than that, I'll eat it."
Ryan proved herself true to her word. Jamie had made the entire two pounds of fresh pasta in order to have leftovers for lunch the next day. But Ryan acted as though her two massive helpings of pasta were the bare minimum required to keep her going. Jamie mused that she had never seen a woman eat quite so much, but her thoughts were interrupted by Ryan beginning to eye the salad bowl. Jamie pushed it over to her and Ryan bent her dark head down and ate every bite, finishing off the loaf of bread along with it.
"Do you have room for some gelato?" Jamie asked warily, knowing that her guest had to be full to bursting.
"What flavor?" Ryan asked thoughtfully.
"Chocolate," came the response.
"I've always got room for chocolate," Ryan said without hesitation.
"What flavor would you have refused?" Jamie queried her teasingly.
"I can't think of one, but you can't be too sure," Ryan replied prudently.
Jamie had only bought one pint of the freshly made gelato and as Ryan finished her second bowl she regretted that she had not bought two. "Um...have you had enough?" she asked hesitantly as Ryan leaned back in her chair with a satisfied smile on her lovely face.
"Why, is there more?" she asked as she looked around the kitchen hopefully.
"Are you teasing me again, Ryan?" Jamie asked with a tolerant smile.
"Just a little," her new friend replied. "I think that delicious dinner has managed to actually fill me up for a change," she admitted. "Not an easy task, I concede."
"You do have a healthy appetite," Jamie observed tactfully. Healthy for a defensive end!
"Hey, I'm a growing girl," she replied happily.
"Don't grow too much or I'll need a stepladder to talk to you," Jamie said with a smile.
"That's not the direction I would grow if all of my meals were that delicious," Ryan replied with one of her dazzling smiles as Jamie blushed at the compliment.
After they quickly cleaned the kitchen they made their way to the front door. "Would you like me to drive?" Ryan asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Sure," Jamie replied as she handed her the keys to the Porsche.
"No, I mean would you like to ride on my bike? It's the perfect ride for a visit to a lesbian bookstore," she stated smugly.
"I've never been on a motorcycle before," Jamie admitted with a little nervous laugh. "But I've always thought they were cool..."
"My motto is 'Always give in to temptation'," Ryan said with a sexy leer than made Jamie's knees slightly weak.
"But...I don't...um...have a helmet, wouldn't I need one?"
"That's why I brought this one in," Ryan reassured her. "I thought we could adjust it where the light was better."
"Isn't this yours?" Jamie asked as she narrowed her eyes in concern.
"No, mine is on the bike. This is my extra one."
"Okay, I'm game," Jamie replied with significantly less hesitation than she felt.
Ryan leaned over and placed the helmet on Jamie's head. She fidgeted with the strap until she was satisfied with the fit. Gripping the helmet with both hands she gave it a little tug. "How does that feel?" she asked, looking closely at Jamie's face for her reaction.
"Feels great...let's go," she stated with false confidence. She grabbed a tailored butterscotch leather jacket from the coat closet and slid it on as they walked out the front door.
"Wow, that is a good looking bike!" Jamie enthused. She regarded the aqua and cream-colored Harley with a critical eye. She knew absolutely nothing about motorcycles, but it was clear that this one was well loved. The leather was supple and immaculate, the chrome gleamed and the paint was perfect.
"Yeah, I really love this one. I've had a Yamaha, a Honda and an Indian. But this one really sounds like a bike. You feel it all the way through your spine," she said proudly as she trailed her hand lovingly over the saddle.
Jamie was unsure of what that really meant, but she figured she would find out soon enough. Ryan threw her long leg over the saddle and pushed the bike off the kickstand. "Come on," she said as she held out a hand.
Jamie took her left hand and placed her right hand on Ryan's shoulder as she swung her leg over the seat. It was a stretch but she accomplished the feat with a little hop on the planted foot. She settled down comfortably, feeling a little exposed as she nestled her thighs behind Ryan's.
"Hang on tight," Ryan instructed. "Feel free to put your arms around my waist. All you have to do is hold on and lean into the turns like I do. And don't worry, you'll have fun," she said as she patted Jamie lightly on the thigh.
Jamie privately admitted that she was already having fun. She loved sitting on the big bike, so close to Ryan. She realized that she inexplicably felt safe and protected by this near stranger. As the bike roared to life, she understood what Ryan meant about the sound. She definitely heard it, but she realized that she felt it with her body more than her ears. Wow, this is pretty intense. The intensity grew as the bike began to cruise down the street. Involuntarily, she threw her arms around Ryan as the bike moved through its gears. There was a small jerk with each shift and she unconsciously held on tighter.
As she become accustomed to the sensation Jamie realized that this was truly a glorious feeling. She had never realized how insulated she was while in a car, even a small convertible like her own. This, however, was a feeling of complete freedom. She almost felt as if she was flying. She could smell the flowers and the scent of damp grass as they passed the well tended lawns. Wow, why would you ever ride in a car if you had one of these?
The trip was over much too soon, and as they pulled up in front of the bookstore Jamie regretted having to get off the bike. Ryan let her get off first, then she propped the bike on its stand and killed the engine. As Ryan turned to face her she reflexively returned the huge grin on Jamie's face.
"I take it you enjoyed your first time?" she teased.
"That was awesome, Ryan!" she gushed, her enthusiasm bubbling up. "I had no idea it would be so cool! Why would you ever ride in a car?" she asked with a puzzled look on her flushed face.
"Well, when it's under 50 degrees and raining, cars start to look pretty good," Ryan said with a wide smile as she slid her arm around Jamie's shoulders.
She held the door open and waited for the smaller woman to enter. Placing her hand on the small of her friend's back, she followed her into the cozy store.
Jamie was very aware of how Ryan seemingly unconsciously touched her. She treats me kind of like a guy would if we were on a first date, she mused. But it doesn't feel like she's coming on to me today. It feels like that's just part of her personality. She's obviously used to being in charge. I wonder if lesbians really have roles when they're together? If so, Ryan's definitely the guy. But a guy with an absolutely drop dead gorgeous body!" she thought with a smirk as her friend guided her further into the store.
The place was larger than it looked from the street. It was roughly divided into two separate spaces, the one in which they were standing which was the coffeehouse/entertainment side and the other which housed books and other items. As they stepped more fully into the space Jamie saw that the front of the room held a small elevated platform that was obviously a stage. Near the right side of the room was a coffee bar. Behind the bar was a small window that must have led to an unseen kitchen. A woman was busily making coffee drinks for the customers who were seated at the scattered small tables. Towards the rear and left side of the space were comfortable well-used sofas and a few overstuffed chairs. They did not match nor seem to be terribly clean, but they lent a comfortable familiarity to the room that appealed to Jamie.
Ryan caught her wandering gaze and quietly asked, "Would you like to sit and have a coffee, or would you rather look in the bookstore for a bit?"
"Since it's not too crowded let's look around first, then maybe we can sit down for a while. Will there be entertainment later?"
Ryan looked up at a good sized chalkboard near the stage. Multicolored chalk letters heralded the name of a performer and the notation ë8:00 p.m. Tonight.' "Yeah, in about an hour," she replied as she checked her enormous watch. Jamie grasped her hand and took a look at the timepiece.
"God, Ryan, what does that monster do?"
"Well, I have to time my clients so they don't overstay their hour," she replied reasonably. "And sometimes I'm doing two people at once, so I need two timers." She indicated the two timers with her index finger. "And I use it for running and swimming. See, it has two lap counters," she indicated them both. "I also use it as my alarm in the morning, and every once in a while I can get a little nap in at work", she said with a conspiratorial wink.
What in the hell does she do for a living!!
Just as Jamie was forming the question a short, pleasant looking middle aged woman appeared from behind the bar. She was heading right for them and Jamie noticed Ryan's face light up in a smile.
"Ryan O'Flaherty, as I live and breathe!" the woman gushed in a broad, theatrical Irish accent.
"Hi, Babs. It's good to see you again," Ryan said as she gave the small woman a big friendly hug. "This is my friend Jamie. Jamie, this is Babs Jablonski, she owns this den of ill repute," Ryan teased.
Babs elbowed Ryan sharply in the ribs as she grasped Jamie's hand in a firm shake. "Any friend of Ryan's is still welcome here," she joked in her normal voice.
After a few more minutes of banter, Ryan showed Jamie to the bookstore. She was surprised to find the store sectioned off in categories, just like at a regular bookstore. But these categories were a bit different than the ones found at Barnes & Noble. 'Coming Out', 'Lesbian Sexuality', and 'Lesbian Parenting' caught Jamie's eye as she glanced around the small space. She also noticed that there was a section where CD's and tapes were sold. She strolled over to that area and realized that none of the artists were familiar to her.
"Are these um...'lesbian specific' singers?" she asked tentatively while holding up a CD for Ryan's inspection.
"That's a cute way to put it," Ryan said. "I would say for the most part these artists are lesbians, but there is a good bit of generic women's music also, along with some self help and spirituality tapes," she said knowledgeably.
"How do you know so much about this place, and how do you know Babs?" Jamie found the courage to ask, hoping that she wasn't prying too much.
"When I was a kid, I couldn't get into the bars, even though I thought I looked quite mature," she said smugly. "I read about this place in one of the lesbian newspapers I found in the Castro. I came over one day on BART and I became such a pest that Babs took pity on me and let me hang out on the weekends and earn a few bucks helping out."
"So you've known you were gay for a long time?" Jamie asked with interest.
"I'll tell you the whole sordid story," Ryan agreed, "but let's finish up in here first."
Jamie spent quite a few more minutes looking carefully at the titles that lined the lilac painted wooden shelves. "I must admit, this is all a bit surprising to me," Jamie said with a touch of embarrassment. "I guess I just never thought that there would be a whole cottage industry catering to lesbians like this. Do you think it's necessary, Ryan?" she asked thoughtfully.
Ryan seemed to consider her question for a moment. She gazed at her carefully as she replied, "Yes, Jamie, I really do. When you think about it, gay people are the only minority group that doesn't share their minority status with their parents. When people come out, many of them are overwhelmed by the experience. Even if their parents are supportive, they don't know how to help. Places like this can be a lifesaver for people who are really struggling. I know it was for me," she said somberly.
"I can see that it would really help someone who was sure of their preferences," Jamie stated after a moment. "But what about girls who are just confused? Don't you think this could push them into a place that they don't really belong?" she asked with a look of concern on her face.
"I know you don't know all of the lingo but gay people really prefer to have their sexuality be considered an orientation rather than a preference, Jamie," she said clearly.
"I'm sorry," she said quickly. "What did I say?"
"You referred to someone being sure of their preferences," Ryan explained. "It's not a real big deal but it's not a preference for me."
"Okaaay," she said slowly, drawing the word out while she considered this. "I don't really see the difference..."
"Okay," Ryan said quickly. "I assume you consider yourself heterosexual, right?"
"Well, yeah," she laughed. "So does Jack," she added with a grin.
"But if you broke up would you accept a date from a woman?"
"Uhh..."Jamie found herself absolutely dumbstruck at this question. She seemed to have lost her ability to speak but Ryan replied for her.
"I take it that's a 'no'," she said helpfully. "I think sexuality is like that for many if not most people. You focus on one gender for your sexual attraction. You don't look at the whole human race and decide which one you slightly prefer, Jamie. Your orientation leads you to only look at men as sexual partners, right?" she asked quietly.
"Uhh...right!" she finally said, as a deep blush covered her face and neck. "Right!" she said again for emphasis.
"Please don't be embarrassed, Jamie," she said gently. "You're not offending me at all." She smiled sweetly and maintained eye contact as she continued. "That's how it is for me too," Ryan advised. "I don't 'prefer' women. The thought of being with a man sexually has as much pull for me as being with my dog. And that's not a put down of dogs or men," she added with a laugh. "It's just something so outside of my orientation that both of those options seem equally far-fetched to me."
"Okay," Jamie said slowly. "I think I get your point. And I can see why having it called a preference could be offensive."
"Sorry if that seemed like a lecture," Ryan said. "But I figure that you want to understand this stuff or you wouldn't have taken the class."
"Absolutely!" she agreed. "Now do you remember the rest of my question?"
"Verbatim," she said with a waggling eyebrow. "I don't think a place like this can push someone into a life that wasn't right for them, Jamie. The purpose of this type of place is not to recruit. It's to help people figure out their true orientation and learn to be comfortable with it."
"But," Jamie interrupted, "what about all the girls and women who are just dabbling in lesbianism? It sure is popular now to have 'done it' with a woman."
"I doubt that those women will eventually consider themselves lesbians," Ryan replied. I think for many of them it is a rite of passage, kind of like getting a tattoo or a piercing. In the long run though, that might be a good thing...it might remove some of the stigma from being gay if more people had some experience with the act."
"I guess you could be right, but how do you think it will affect those women who are just playing around in the long run? Jamie persisted.
"You're kind of making it sound like the Scarlet Letter, Jamie," she said with a tiny frown. "For many women having sex is just that...sex. It's no big psychological incident for most women if they're just playing around. They know they're just experimenting. I think the women who have a harder time are the true lesbians. For many of them having sex with a woman finally confirms their feelings. Then they have to deal with all of the fallout from that realization. And that's where this place comes in."
"I guess I see your point, but this is a lot to absorb. It's kind of like visiting another culture. It takes time to get acclimated," she reasoned.
"Maybe some coffee would help," Ryan suggested with a smile. "Let me buy you one."
As she settled down into a burgundy velour sofa Jamie accepted two large mugs of latte' from Ryan. She waited until her friend was seated at a polite distance and handed one mug back to her.
"Ohh, this is good. I like the little sprinkle of chocolate on the top," she said as she licked a white foam mustache from her top lip. "Do you have time to tell me the story of your sordid lesbian past?" she teased, reminding Ryan of her earlier promise.
"I've only got an hour," she replied as she looked at her watch, "that should get us through a year or two if I gloss over the scary parts," she drawled.
"Was it really hard for you Ryan?" she asked as her face grew serious. "I mean, you seem very happy being gay now."
"Yeah, I am perfectly content with who I am now, sexually at least," she said with a smile. "But it was really hard for me. I mean, I knew from a very early age that I was somehow different from the other girls. But I didn't understand how I was different...I just knew there was something."
"Did you have boyfriends when you were younger?" Jamie inquired gently.
"Nope...never had one. No dates, no crushes, nothing! And I don't think I ever will at this point," she replied with a small smile.
Jamie gave her a tentative smile as she shot a look up and down her rather voluptuous but still sleek form. "I don't mean to embarrass you, but how did you avoid having boys hound you? You're pretty gorgeous, you know."
"Thanks," Ryan grinned. "I was lucky because I went to an all girls high school, so that took some of the pressure off. There weren't any guys around to make it obvious that I wasn't interested. I was really into sports and the girls I hung out with weren't very boy crazy either. Plus I was almost 5' 10" by the end of 8th grade. I was a head taller than the boys my age until I was 16 or so."
"So you really had no interest in going out with guys?"
"Zip," she said decisively. "I liked boys, but I thought of them as friends. I just couldn't imagine kissing one of them. I really didn't understand what was going on with me. I mean, most of my friends talked about guys they liked and by high school guys were the main topic of conversation for most of my classmates. But it was not until the end of my junior year that it all fell into place for me."
Jamie waited expectantly for Ryan to continue. But her face had clouded and she stared into her mug with a very sad look on her face.
"We don't have to talk about this, Ryan," she said softly as she placed her hand gently on Ryan's forearm.
She looked up at her with such pain in her eyes that Jamie had to resist the urge to reach out and wrap her in a hug. "It's okay, Jamie," she replied with a little catch in her voice. "I knew I was gay because I finally realized that I was madly in love with my best friend." She pursed her lips as she needlessly added, "Let's just say that she did not share my feelings."
Jamie slid her hand down and grasped Ryan's hand. She gave it a little squeeze as she caught and held her gaze. "I'm sorry," she said simply.
Ryan's lips slowly curled up into a shy smile. "I don't know why, but I'm kind of embarrassed by this," she admitted, as a look of shame passed across her face. "I know it was a long time ago, but it still hurts me to think about it. Those early wounds don't ever seem to go away. When I think of that time, I feel just as devastated today as I did then," she admitted with a forlorn look.
"Well, I think it's her loss to refuse a prize like you," Jamie said before she could censor the words falling out of her mouth.
Ryan looked at her with a large measure of surprise on her face, but she recovered to give Jamie a huge crooked grin. "Easy for you to say now, but I was kind of a mess back then."
"I rather doubt you were ever a mess, Ryan," she replied confidently.
They passed the next few minutes in idle chatter. Ryan stood after a bit and shrugged out of her leather jacket, folding it neatly and placing it over the arm of the sofa. Jamie had a hard time controlling her desire to stare at Ryan's sculpted body, starkly outlined by the skin tight French cut t-shirt that covered her. To her relief Babs approached again. "Hey, Irish, are you gonna ride again this year?" she asked as she nodded her head toward a large poster proclaiming the 5th Annual California AIDS Ride.
"Yep, I'm doing it again," Ryan replied. "Don't worry Babs, I'll be hitting you up for a sponsorship sooner than you wish."
"Oh Ryan, that is so cool! Every year I watch the news coverage of the ride. But I've never known anyone who has done it," Jamie enthused.
"Well, now you do," Ryan said, sounding pleased. "And don't think I won't try to wheedle money out of you too," she added as she pinched Jamie's cheek.
"No problem. I would be honored to support you," Jamie quickly responded
"Don't make it easy on her, honey," Babs replied. "She can already sweet talk the silk off the corn. Make her work for it."
As Babs wandered away, Jamie continued her inquiry. "How many times have you done the ride, Ryan?"
"Every year," she replied with a note of pride in her voice. "This will be my 6th."
"I really admire your dedication," Jamie marveled. "It must be quite an ordeal."
"It's not too bad if you stay in training throughout the year. I just do the same amount of riding all year, so it doesn't seem like that big a deal. There is one day of the ride that is a real bear though. It's an inland day, so there isn't much of a breeze, and it's mostly uphill all day. That's the time you just wish you could get in the sag van and ride the whole way."
"Yeah, the ride is fully supported. There are vans to help you if you can't make a hill. Some people use the vans to get up the worst of the hills. And of course, some get injured and have no choice," she replied.
"I would love to come and watch you all take off this year," Jamie stated, surprising herself at her forwardness.
"You could get a really good view, if you rode instead of watched," she teased.
"I could never do anything like that," Jamie complained. "I am way too much of a wimp."
"That's what most people think. But it's not a race, it's a ride. The point is to challenge yourself. People with AIDS are challenged every day just to survive. This is a really great way of showing your support," Ryan explained.
"You know, I don't know anyone who has had AIDS," Jamie said as she wracked her brain.
"You're lucky," Ryan said as a flash of pain clouded her face, "You're really lucky."
At 8:30 sharp Ryan stood and stretched and gracefully slid her jacket back on. She held a smooth hand out to Jamie and said, "I can't be late for work, so I've got to run."
They rode the short distance in silence which was fine with Jamie since she needed all of her concentration to focus on the sensations of the ride. She had to admit that she enjoyed the experience even more on the return trip, now that she felt more comfortable being with Ryan. God, she is so easy to talk to, she thought. It feels like we've known each other forever.
As the bike pulled up in front of her house, Jamie struggled to get off with a little assist from her new friend. The engine was still running as Ryan retrieved Jamie's helmet and secured it. "I had a nice time, Jamie, thanks for going with me."
"I really enjoyed it, Ryan. Thanks for being such a good tour guide and for giving me my maiden motorcycle ride," she added with a grin.
Ryan reached out and gave her shoulder a little squeeze. "Always happy to initiate a new convert," she grinned with that devastatingly sexy smile. "See you tomorrow," she called out as she roared away.
Jamie was so occupied in watching her ride away that she did not see Jack glaring at her from the front door.
As Jamie made her way to the door, she noted with alarm that Jack's Accord was still parked in the driveway. Oh, oh, this is probably not good. She hit the first step of the wraparound porch as the front door opened.
"Hi," Jack said quietly with an unreadable expression on his face.
"Hi, yourself," Jamie replied as casually as possible. She made sure that she was smiling and did her best to adopt a neutral expression. "This is a nice surprise," she said, as she stood on her tip-toes to wrap her arms around his neck and give him a kiss. She noted with alarm that he did not respond to the kiss and in fact seemed to move back away from her touch. She stepped back slightly and placed her hands upon his broad chest as she looked up into his eyes with concern. "What's wrong, honey?"
"Where were you tonight, Jamie?" he asked while looking directly into her eyes.
"I had to work on a class project with Ryan, like I told you," she answered with more than a touch of defensiveness in her voice. "Why?"
He backed away from the door and turned to cross the parlor. He began to climb the staircase, apparently to go to the bedroom. She noticed that he looked very tired, and his posture did not carry its usual confident attitude.
Jamie began to follow him up the stairs. She grabbed his hand as she caught up with him and pulled him to a stop. "Jack, what is wrong?" she demanded with growing alarm.
"In private," he responded wearily
Jamie was beginning to panic as her mind grasped wildly for an explanation for his obvious anger. In their two years together they had never had what most people would call a fight. Of course they had disagreements, differences of opinion and the like. But they agreed on most of the important issues in life and both of them felt more comfortable keeping their relationship on an even keel. Usually, when one or the other was angry they would think of a reason to take a short time out, until the storm had passed. Jamie also realized that she usually gave in when there was a potential trouble spot. But tonight, there was no way out.
Jack entered her room and she followed close behind. He closed the door and made his way to her stereo system. He considered her CD's for a moment before he made his selection and loaded the disk. Turning the volume louder than Jamie would have chosen he walked over to the love seat in front of the far window. He sank into the comfortable cushions and dropped his head into his hands. He looked weary and frustrated and Jamie knew this was going to be very bad.
"I feel like you've lied to me, Jamie," he finally said behind sad and confused blue eyes.
"Lied to you? I've never lied to you Jack," she said as she walked over to the loveseat and dropped to her knees right in front of him. She tried to grasp his hands but he shook her off rather roughly.
"Why didn't you tell me about this class, or about this...woman?" he demanded as his eyes bore into her.
"What?! WHAT?!" she demanded in a louder voice. "What on earth are you talking about? What is the big deal?" She was becoming angry now both at his attitude and his obvious disapproval. "I'm taking a stupid psych class. Since when are you so interested in my schedule? May I point out that you never once asked me what I was taking this term? You acted completely uninterested," she said defensively.
"Jamie this is not a class that a normal girl should take," he explained as if talking to a slow child. "Why would someone like you want to spend their time learning about the 'Lesbian Experience?' "
Like a jolt, a light came on in Jamie's head. She took a deep breath and asked slowly, "How did you know the name of the class, Jack?"
Now it was his turn to look defensive. "Jesus, Jamie, you're out late, on a motorcycle no less, with some big dyke and you've told no one where you're going. Cassie didn't know, Mia didn't know. I was worried about you!" he shouted.
"Oh, I see. You were worried about me because I was out until almost 9:00 p.m., right?" she questioned him carefully. "So you did what...look through my book bag and my organizer?"
"Yes, Jamie, I was worried about you and I did look through your stuff. But only to find out where you were. Cassie told me that woman was hitting on you. What if you had needed my help?"
Jamie was flabbergasted both by his behavior and by his assumptions.
"You have got to be kidding! Do you think I would spend the evening with someone who frightened me? Do you think I need your protection to get through the day? Who in the holy hell do you think I am Jack? I am not some little girl that you have to supervise. And what did you think would happen? Did you think she would throw me across her bike and kidnap me? Or do you think lesbians have to rape straight women to get any action?" She was really heating up now. "I am furious that you looked through my things. I never want you to do that again. Do you hear me?" This last was said at full volume as she stood and towered over him.
"Yes Jamie, all of Berkeley heard you," he said bitterly. "It's obvious that you are in no place to discuss this rationally. I'll call you tomorrow." He turned and started to make his way to the door. But Jamie was on him like a panther, grabbing his arm and abruptly turning him around.
"How dare you start this and then leave!!" she shouted in frustration.
He reached over to her small hand which was wrapped around his bicep and gently began to remove her fingers, one by one. "I said I'll call you tomorrow," he said firmly as he again turned and walked out.
She stood in the center of her room, panting from the flood of emotions that raced through her brain. She felt a stomach churning mixture of anger, sadness, hurt, betrayal and fear. Hurling herself to the bed she began to cry somewhat hysterically. She stayed just like that for a long while until exhaustion overtook her. Finally, she kicked off her shoes, removed her leather jacket and fell back onto the bed where she quickly fell into an exhausted sleep.
The next morning Jamie waited outside of the classroom until the professor entered. She didn't want to have to make small talk with Ryan today. For that matter she didn't want to speak to anyone but Jack. She was still terribly upset about their fight but she really didn't want to talk about it with anyone else, particularly Ryan. Even though she didn't know Ryan very well, she had a feeling that her new friend was perceptive enough to know if something was bothering her, so avoiding her seemed like the best idea.
That was so unlike Jack. I have to get to the bottom of this, but I have a very strong feeling that Cassie was involved in making this into a bigger deal than it had to be. Cassie must have said something that pushed him over the edge. He just doesn't do things like that. She wished that she could have marched into Cassie's room and confronted her last night. But Jamie tended to resolve her anger first, and then have a rational discussion later, and today was no exception.
As she took her seat, Ryan turned and smiled at her, mouthing a greeting. Jamie returned both with a look that was close to her normal demeanor in spite of her sour mood. Ryan was wearing a navy blue and cream vintage Hawaiian shirt and a pair of well-worn khakis. Jamie looked at the Teva sandals on her feet and hoped that she had not ridden her motorcycle. Maybe her mother should worry about those things for her, Jamie, she chided herself.
Linda took her usual place on the corner of the large wooden desk. "Hello people," she greeted them in her usual cheerful manner. "Today we're going to discuss social attitudes toward lesbian identity." She launched them into a fascinating discussion of the subject. Jamie paid rapt attention, running her mind on two tracks. Although she was very focused on Linda's words, she was concurrently applying those words to Jack's behavior of the previous evening. The discussion was lively and most of the class participated. The hour passed much too quickly and she was still so filled with unanswered questions that she just could not turn off her brain at the end of class. As she sat at her desk, deep in thought, she sensed and then saw Ryan squat down next to her so they were at eye level.
"Hey, you look a little down today," Ryan said carefully, her deep blue eyes filled with concern. "Are you alright?"
She took a deep breath and tried to answer but she just couldn't find the words to express how she was feeling. Her head was still tilted down, causing her hair to fall into her eyes. With a terribly tender gesture Ryan reached up and gently brushed her bangs hack to reveal her troubled green eyes. "Yeah, sure," Jamie lied weakly, "I'm fine." Then, almost as an afterthought, she asked, "Do you have a few minutes to talk?"
Ryan glanced at her watch. "I have nearly an hour at your disposal," she said with a warm grin as she held out a hand and pulled the troubled woman to her feet.
"Something happened last night that is really bothering me," Jamie said pensively as she shot a glance up at Ryan.
"Was it something I did?" Ryan asked with concern clouding her face.
"Oh no, not at all. I had a great time with you," Jamie admitted with a shy grin. "It was after you dropped me off that the shit hit the fan."
Ryan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Let's go sit outside. There are some pretty good vending machines and we can get a soda."
They walked in relative silence. Ryan glanced at Jamie occasionally, noticing that her friend seemed very deep in the problem that was bothering her. I hope she doesn't want boyfriend advice, Ryan hoped. I'm pretty much out of my league there. For that matter I'm pretty much out of my league giving advice on almost any kind of relationship, she thought wryly.
As they approached the shaded outdoor patio Ryan reached into her pocket and fished out a handful of change. "I'll buy...what'll you have?"
"Um, some kind of soda, doesn't really matter," Jamie replied absently.
Ryan nodded and started to trot off but she spent another moment looking at Jamie's face. She really doesn't seem like herself today. I think I'll get her some juice. She could use some energy instead of empty calories, she thought wisely.
She took the two bottles of cranberry juice and the two smaller bottles of apple juice over to the table. Jamie looked up at her in surprise with a question in her eyes.
"You just look like you could use a little energy," Ryan shrugged.
Jamie was charmed by this thoughtful gesture and without stopping to censure herself she reached out and patted Ryan's hand while giving her a sincere smile. "Thanks for caring," she stated simply.
Ryan looked a little embarrassed at this gesture, but she gamely returned the smile. "So, what's up?" she finally asked, as she began opening bottles.
"I was just thinking about our discussion of this morning," Jamie said thoughtfully. "You know, about homophobia and heterosexism?" At Ryan's nod, she continued. "I think I got a first hand example of both last night."
"What happened?" Ryan asked, genuinely interested, but also a little worried that it concerned her.
"It seems that my roommates are overly interested in the fact that I am taking this class," she finally answered. Jamie was not going to tell Ryan the whole context of her evening. She did not want to hurt her new friend's feelings so obviously she would not tell her that Jack called her a big dyke. And she also did not want to reveal issues that she felt belonged to her and Jack alone, so she tip toed around the issue as carefully as she could, while still telling enough to be able to get some advice.
She continued, "One of my roommates apparently told my boyfriend about the class and he flipped out that I had not told him about it. What really has me confused is why he had such an emotional reaction to the mere fact that I was taking a silly class."
"Was he also upset that you were with me?" Ryan asked softly, lowering her eyes to the table.
Jamie did not really want to go there, but she did not feel comfortable lying to Ryan either. "Um, I guess that was part of it, she finally admitted. "But I think the bigger problem is that my roommate stirred up some suspicion in his mind. I guess it just surprised me that they would all be so weird about it. You know; the class and the topic and, well, you." Jamie was also staring at the table by this time. She felt Ryan's reassuring hand gently grip her folded ones.
"That is exactly what Linda was talking about today," she told her gravely, blue eyes locked on green. "Many people have an almost physical reaction to gay people and gay issues. I can't say I totally understand it, but I see it often in my life," she admitted sadly. "Those reactions have caused me a lot of pain through the years, Jamie. I'm very sorry that you had to experience it too. I just hope that it will not affect our friendship. I really like you," she said shyly as her eyes once again fell to the ground.
"Oh no, Ryan. I like you too," she agreed forcefully. "This is an issue that they are going to have to get used to. I just want to understand it better so I can help them get through it."
Ryan looked at her carefully as she pursed her lips in thought. "Can I ask you a personal question?" she finally inquired.
Jamie fidgeted in her seat as she tried to guess what her new friend wanted to know, but she replied, "Sure, what is it?"
"Why didn't you tell your boyfriend you were taking the class?"
4 excuses readily popped into Jamie's head: they hadn't discussed her schedule at all; Jack was too busy to be bothered with the details of her life; she didn't think it was important; she was going to tell him when she got a minute. But as she gazed into Ryan's eyes she felt drawn to be completely honest with her. As she opened her heart she realized that she had not been honest with herself, either. She was surprised to hear her own answer, "I didn't think he'd like it, and I was afraid that he would either talk me out of it or somehow make me feel bad about it."
Ryan didn't say a word in response. She just slowly nodded her head as if she had expected that answer. Jamie wondered what was going on behind those ice blue eyes but Ryan wasn't giving up her secrets today. She patted Jamie's shoulder and said, "I've read some really good books on homophobia and heterosexism. Call me at home this afternoon and I'll give you the titles. I'll be home by 3 and I don't leave for work until almost 5. But speaking of time, I've got a bio lab in 5 minutes," she said as she stood and chugged her remaining cranberry juice. She eyed Jamie's untouched apple juice as she hefted her enormous book bag onto her shoulder.
"Go ahead," she said generously. "You are a bit of a bottomless pit, aren't you?" she teased.
"My father always says I have two hollow legs," she happily agreed.
"You get going...I'll call you later." Jamie gave her a much more relaxed smile as Ryan took off at a surprisingly fast clip.
The phone rang shrilly in the neat white home in the Noe Valley. It was picked up on the 2nd ring and answered by a deep, melodic male voice. "Hello," the voice rumbled.
"Hello, this is Jamie Evans, is Ryan at home?"
"Hold on a minute and I'll check," he politely offered.
"RYAN! PHONE!" he bellowed.
Ryan trotted up the stairs from her basement room to glare at her brother. "Thanks a lot Conor. Very cultured. All those years of charm school really paid off. Do you know who it is?" she inquired.
"I assume it is the girlfriend du jour," he replied with a French accent.
"That's helpful," Ryan said as she elbowed him out of the way. They tussled briefly before she wrenched the receiver from his hands.
"Hello," she finally said into the phone.
"Jeez, what's going on over there?" Jamie inquired. "It sounded like the phone was being ripped from the wall."
"Well that has happened, actually more than once," Ryan remembered. "That was just my charming older brother trying to gain some much needed attention," she said as she glared at the brother in question.
"I didn't know you lived with your brother," Jamie said.
"Actually I still live at home," Ryan replied. "Much to my regret, at times," she said as she stuck her tongue out at her grinning brother.
"I don't know why, but you don't seem like the type to live at home," Jamie mused. "I guess you just seem too independent."
"No, that's not really what I'm like," Ryan said easily. "I'm really close to most of the members of my family," she giggled as her brother snuck up behind her and tickled her around the waist. "Stop it!" she shrieked as Jamie laughed at her surprisingly adolescent girlish giggle.
"It sounds kinda wild over there," she finally commented as Ryan continued to giggle.
"It's always wild over here," she agreed as she tried to control her breath. "Oh, I've got those titles for you," she said as she reached into her pants pocket for a folded piece of paper.
"Great," Jamie said. "I'm ready"
After they conversed for a few minutes Ryan excused herself to get ready for work. As she began to walk back down the stairs to her room, her brother spoke from his place on the sofa.
"Was that today's entree, Ryan?"
"No, Conor," she explained patiently. "Actually that one is in your camp. She is a woman from my psych class and she is straight!" she said with mock alarm.
"Not for long, Sis, not for long," he predicted with a chuckle.
After her conversation with Ryan Jamie hopped in her car and drove to the bookstore they had visited the night before. She knew that the store would definitely have the titles that Ryan had told her about and she guessed that Barnes & Noble might not. After purchasing the books she got back in her Porsche and began the long drive down to Palo Alto. Jack was due to be home by 7 or so and since she imagined the trip could take up to 2 hours she felt she needed to brave the usually heavy traffic to be there when he got home.
Much to Jamie's surprise the trip took merely an hour. So she was in Palo Alto by a little after 6 p.m. She had a key to the apartment, but after the fight she was reticent to show up without his permission. Instead she went to her favorite coffee shop, just down the street from Jack's. She settled herself down at a table with a steaming cup of latte' and began to peruse her purchases. She was immediately engrossed by 'Loving Someone Gay'. The time flew as she concentrated on the book. It seemed like only a few minutes had passed but she glanced at her watch and saw that it was already 7 p.m. She retrieved her cell phone and dialed his familiar number. Jack answered on the 3rd ring.
"Hi," she said as neutrally as possible.
"Jamie," he said, a clear tone of relief in his voice. "I just called your house, but no one knew where you were."
"I'm right down the street, Honey," she relied warmly. "If you want to see me I can be there in 5 minutes."
"Of course I want to see you," he said fervently. "I couldn't stop thinking about you all day."
"Okay, I'll be right there," she agreed, with relief flooding her voice.
By the time she had put her purchased books in her bag and began to exit the shop she could see Jack's long form jogging down the street. That's better than an apology, she thought as she smiled widely at his approaching form.
She walked just a step or two before he was upon her. He lifted her effortlessly off her feet as his arms fully encircled her small waist. He squeezed nearly all of the air out of her lungs as he nestled his head between her shoulder and neck. She leaned back a bit to regard him as he uttered with his eyes closed, "I am so sorry, Jamie. I acted like a total asshole and I hope you can forgive me."
She responded with a tender kiss to his soft lips. That kiss was followed by another, slightly less tender but with a bit more emotion. As he lowered her softly to her feet
he grasped her cheeks with his large hands. He pulled her close for a dizzying series of kisses that left her panting. "Let's go," she rasped out as she grabbed his hand and began to lead him down the street.
The pent up emotion of the past 24 hours began to pulse in her veins as they covered the short distance. As they entered the apartment she grabbed him by the shirt and roughly pushed him against the wall. He gasped a bit in surprise at this totally unexpected display of aggression from his normally demure lover. She pounced upon his mouth and kissed him thoroughly, until she felt his knees begin to buckle. They began to slide down the wall in tandem as she fought frantically to undo his belt. He wrenched his t-shirt over his head as she bent to focus intently on her task. Finally she had loosened his belt and unzipped him. She grabbed his jeans and shorts with her small hands and yanked them as far down his legs as their position would allow her.
He was sitting with his back against the wall, pants around his shins as Jamie straddled his thighs. He grabbed her golf shirt by the hem and pulled it over her compliant outstretched arms. As she threw her arms around his neck for another bout of heated kisses he expertly removed her bra. The only barrier now was her jeans and Jack could not tolerate this encumbrance to her skin for another second. He grasped her around her waist and tumbled them both onto their sides. His nimble hands slid her zipper down with agonizing slowness, hearing the click, click, click as the metal gave way. They both gasped at the sound and at the promise of what lay ahead. Then Jamie pushed her jeans and panties down and out of the way.
She took the opportunity the momentary distraction provided and rolled him onto his back on the hardwood floor. She straddled him again as she grabbed his hands and placed them firmly on her breasts. Using her own hands to guide him she pushed his hands against herself roughly. She began to grind his large hands against her aroused breasts with a brazenness that Jack had never before seen her display.
She dropped her head to his and again began the assault on his lips. Her tongue entered his mouth as she let out a fierce, animalistic groan. His hands never stopped grasping and squeezing her now tender breasts. She slid back a bit onto his lap as he raised his knees. She impaled herself on his aching member and she rode him for a few short moments before she screamed out her release. He followed her seconds later as she collapsed onto his chest.
Their sweat-drenched bodies lay tangled together, arms, legs, jeans all entwined.
"Does that mean I'm forgiven?' he finally asked with a wan smile from his languid stupor.
They passed the rest of the weekend in a familiar pattern. Jamie caught up on most of her reading for the week and completed her short paper on the visit to the bookstore. They sat together in the sunny, small living room focused on their studies. Jamie had gotten current on all of her classes while Jack had just started to make a dent on his by Saturday night. Late in the afternoon she began to make dinner after taking a quick trip to the grocery store. She had decided to make Jack's favorite meal, chicken enchiladas, as a little peace offering. After their bout of passion yesterday evening their relationship seemed back to normal. They did not discuss the fight at all and that was fine with her. Both of them thought that the blow up was a one time only occurrence and neither saw the need to rehash it. That was one thing that both of them appreciated about their relationship. Neither of them needed or wanted a lot of drama to keep them entertained. But even though she was not a drama queen Jamie had to admit that she had never felt as much lust for Jack as she had yesterday. Maybe a blow up is a good idea every once in a while, she thought.
After dinner Jamie watched a movie that she had rented while on her earlier errand. She watched wearing headphones, as Jack was still diligently working away. They sat on the couch together, he sitting up, she lying on her side with her head on a pillow at the other end of the couch, and her legs resting on his lap. His textbook was resting on his thighs, but propped up by her legs.
Around midnight Jack gently stroked her arm to wake her. "C'mon sleeping beauty, time for bed." He helped her to sit up but she only lasted in that position for a moment before she collapsed onto his chest.
"Too tired," she grumbled sleepily.
He turned a bit and reached under her knees with one arm while the other cradled her back. He rose with her in his arms as she nestled down into his embrace.
"My hero," she crooned softly.
They reached the bedroom and Jack placed her on the edge of the bed. He bent to remove her shoes as she fell to the bed in an exhausted heap. He eventually removed the rest of her clothing with not a bit of help from Jamie. He smiled at her as she lay naked, legs hanging off the side of the bed, arms stretched out over her head, just as he had left them after removing her shirt. He took off his clothes as well, taking his just removed t-shirt and placing it over her head. He wrestled her arms into the garment and moved her into a more comfortable position. Then he slipped into a pair of cotton pajama bottoms and joined her. He had never met anyone who fell asleep so soundly or completely. It was a trait that he found undeniably cute, even when it prevented him from making love to her. He pulled her into an embrace, kissing her face and head, and then settling her against his side as they both fell into a deep sleep.
Jamie began to wake just as the dawn was beginning to break. Her first sensation was of a tender, languid touch roaming up and down her bare legs. Hands slowly moved to the front and began a slow, teasing dance on her twitching thighs. Slowly she began to gain some semblance of consciousness. She began to respond to the touch by gently sliding into it. It was clear that she was not fully awake, but also clear that she was not asleep.
The touch moved up her body to tenderly rub her stomach, sides, breasts and arms. Her t-shirt disappeared and the touch now encompassed her whole bare body. Jack was still lying on his side behind her. She began to move her hips in time with his touch. As she arched her back into him sensually he turned her so they lay face to face. He began to slowly, teasingly kiss every part of her that he could reach. After a seeming eternity she was softly moaning and grinding her hips, needing his immediate attention. He responded quickly at this point, slipping into her as she let out a small gasp. They moved together smoothly and she was happily surprised to find herself once more groaning out her release, minutes later.
Jack cuddled her and spoke nonsense words of love into her ear for a few tender moments. The feeling of warmth and contentment overtook her again and she fell back into a sated sleep.
At 10 a.m. Jamie pried her eyes open and forced herself to look at the bedside clock. Wow, I had the strangest dream, she thought. After a quick physical inspection however, she realized that she had not been dreaming. God, two times in two days! What's gotten into him? For that matter, what's gotten into me? Whatever it is I hope it stays around, she laughed to herself.
Jamie felt much better about her relationship with Jack when she returned to Berkeley. By Monday morning she was still in high spirits during her psychology class and she received a good bit of teasing from Ryan after the class was over. "May I assume that things got resolved between you and your boyfriend?" she asked with a twinkle in her clear blue eyes.
Jamie gave her a smirk and replied, "We definitely made up. I'm not sure that we resolved anything, though. That behavior was so out of character for Jack that I'm just going to assume that he was momentarily possessed."
"Hey, I've got my usual hour free, can I interest you in another bottle of juice or three?"
"Yeah," Jamie replied, "that would be nice." As they walked through the campus Ryan was pleased to notice that Jamie chattered away non-stop in her usual style. Jamie was first to reach into her book bag and offered to pay for the drinks so Ryan agreed and picked out a table, watching Jamie struggle to carry the four bottles back.
"I'm not even going to pretend that two of these are for me," she teased.
"Actually, I could drink all four, so you'd better be careful," Ryan replied with a little eyebrow wiggle.
"How do you consume all of the calories you do and stay so thin?" Jamie inquired as she shook her head.
"Well," Ryan said thoughtfully, "I am really active, and then with all of the sweating I do at my job, I find I can eat whatever I want."
"What in the hell do you DO for a living?" Jamie finally blurted out.
Ryan looked slightly confused as she answered, "I'm a personal trainer. I told you that." Jamie began to laugh so hard that tears began to roll down her face. She clutched at her sides as she began to rock back and forth in her chair.
"Gee Jamie, I've had a lot of reactions but never that," Ryan said confusedly.
"No, Ryan, I'm not laughing at your job," she explained. "You had not told me what you do, and I let my fertile imagination run wild. I imagined you as some high paid lesbian prostitute." At this Ryan threw back her head and roared.
After a few moments she wiped the tears from her eyes and gave Jamie a little half scowl. "Hey, it just dawned on me that might have been an insult," she said slowly. "Are you saying I look like a prostitute?"
"No! Of course not!" Jamie explained. "But I couldn't figure out why else you would have to time your clients for an hour, potentially have two at a time, and be able to take naps in between. And, let's be honest Ryan, you are great looking and I could see women paying for the pleasure of your company."
"Hmm," she said as if contemplating switching jobs. "I wonder how many women share that view. Nah, I'd hate to mix business with pleasure," she finally decided with a good natured grin.
They fell into a routine of spending an hour after class chatting before Ryan's Biology Lab. Within a few weeks the habit was so ingrained that they didn't even ask each other before they automatically began the short walk to the vending area.
Jamie had inquired once or twice about Ryan's participation in the AIDS Ride, asking how her training was going. On a crisp, clear, September morning after another such question Ryan looked at her seriously and said, "You know Jamie, if you are at all interested I could get you ready to do the ride." Jamie was nonplussed at the mere suggestion that she could accomplish such a monumental undertaking and quickly demurred.
"Ryan, I don't even own a bike. I haven't ridden at all since high school and I wasn't very serious about it even then. The most energetic thing I do is play golf, and as I always say, if you can smoke while doing it, it isn't a sport."
"Everybody who rides has doubts about their ability Jamie. There were people on the first ride who had every type of physical and emotional disability you can think of. The group has gotten more diverse every year since then. There are 300 pounders. There are people with missing limbs. There are people with AIDS. There were two people last year that had never been on a bike before they started training. From the looks of you," she eyed her carefully up and down, "you have none of the above mentioned excuses."
"Well, I guess you are right. I don't have a really good excuse. Do you really think you could get me ready to do it? It just seems like such a gargantuan task. I'm really out of shape, Ryan. I don't know if it's possible."
"Gee, could you come up with any more excuses?" Ryan teased as her eyes twinkled playfully. "I'm quite confident I could get you ready if you want to try. I've trained people for ultramarathons and I've trained people for triathlons and the principles are the same. Start out slowly and build. I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not. But for me it is one of the most rewarding things I do," Ryan stated firmly. "I lost my dear cousin Michael 10 years ago to AIDS. He was one of the sweetest men I ever knew and he was only 27 when he died. Any small thing that I can do to stop another family from going through that pain is worth any amount of sacrifice to me," she said soberly.
Jamie sat in pensive silence for a few moments. "Well, if you are willing to take on a hopeless case like me, I'm willing to give it a try. Where do we start?"
Ryan beamed a smile that Jamie was forced to return. "I suppose the first order of business is to get you a bike, assuming you don't have one. Can you afford to spend some money on a bike now?"
"Yeah, I can manage," she said easily.
"When are you free to go shopping?"
"How about tomorrow?" Jamie suggested. "We'd better do it before I lose my nerve."
"It's a deal. I'm free from 10-1 p.m. tomorrow. I normally study during that break but I am amazingly caught up for a change. Is that good for you?"
"Perfect" Jamie agreed.
As agreed Jamie picked Ryan up at 10 a.m. and they drove to her favorite bike shop in Oakland.
"I've been coming here for a long time," Ryan told her. "These guys really know their stuff and they don't try to sell you things you don't need."
They entered the shop to a boisterous welcome from the gray haired man behind the counter. "Hi ya Ryan, long time no see," he said with good humor.
"That's only because you do such a good job on my bikes that I never have to come back. It's your own fault, Bill," she teased.
As he made his way around the counter Ryan made introductions. "Bill, this is my friend Jamie. I've convinced her to ride with me this year in the AIDS ride. But she doesn't have a bike, so you need to fix her up."
"Excellent, Jamie," he said enthusiastically. "With Ryan as your guide you'll do well. She has gotten some pretty hopeless characters through that experience successfully. So what do you have in mind?"
"I know nothing about bikes. You two are the experts. What do you suggest?" she said as she looked at Ryan.
"A road bike would be the best for the ride," Ryan said thoughtfully. "The only downside is that you can't take it off road at all. But it will let you climb hills easier and it goes a lot faster than a mountain bike."
"Price is a big factor, Jamie," Bill explained. "I can get you a road bike for $1000 but you will feel every pound on that long ride. At the other end of the spectrum, I can make you a bike that will feel like you're riding on air...but that will cost some serious money."
"I think I'm gonna need all the help I can get. I'd rather spend a little more to insure that I can do this," she reasoned. "What would you suggest if money wasn't a factor?"
Ryan's eyes nearly flew from her head but Bill replied enthusiastically, "Not a factor at all?"
Ryan gathered her wits and interrupted, "Jamie are you sure that you mean that? Bikes can really get up there in a hurry. I mean, Bill won't take advantage of you, but he can work with whatever budget you have."
"Well," Jamie reasoned, "what is the difference between a moderately priced bike and the top of the line?"
"There are a lot of factors that are influenced by price," he admitted. "The higher quality components are a lot smoother and more responsive. But the biggest factor is weight. You could easily save about 7 pounds of weight by going with top quality," Bill responded. "The higher priced bike would have much lighter components. You would save 3 pounds just on wheels alone if I made you top quality rims. Now, 7 pounds doesn't sound like a lot, but believe me, you would notice it-- especially on a 500 mile ride."
"500 MILES!" Jamie shouted. "I've driven to L.A. and it's only 380 miles. What gives, Ryan?"
"Oh, didn't I mention that the route is not real direct?" Ryan replied casually as her attention was seemingly focused on a new bike seat.
Jamie had her hands on her hips and was glaring at Ryan with narrowed eyes.
Slowly she raised her head and looked at her friend with a slightly chagrined expression. "Come on, Jamie. Do you really think 380 miles would be easy? The difference between the two is pretty minor over 7 days."
"Well, I guess that's true," she agreed, somewhat placated. "What do you think I should do, Ryan?"
"If I could afford to drop 7 pounds off my bike, I would be first in line to do so," Ryan stated without hesitation. "But it's not something you need to do if you can't comfortably afford it."
"I can afford it, and I really do want to make this as enjoyable an experience as possible," Jamie replied.
"Looks like this is your lucky day Bill; show us some frames."
"Cute ones," Jamie demanded with a twinkle in her eyes as she grinned up at Ryan.
"Cute ones," Ryan somberly agreed.
They left the bike shop a little before noon. "I'm famished," groaned Ryan, theatrically clutching at her stomach. "I've never seen anyone take longer to make a decision on anything."
"I wanted to make sure I got what I wanted," Jamie defended herself. "You're the one who convinced me to have Bill make the bike rather than buy a stock model."
"I would have taken you to Target if I knew it was going to take so long," she said with a teasing grin.
"Okay, you big baby, I'll buy you lunch. And I know just the place," she said with a wink as they climbed into the Porsche and drove a short distance to 'Luca Deli' in Oakland.
"Oh wow," Ryan enthused. "I did not know there was one of these in the East Bay. I go to the main store in the Marina all the time. I absolutely love this place." Her clear blue eyes lit up as she licked her lips in anticipation of her meal.
"You really are easy to please," Jamie marveled. While they waited in line at the counter she reflected that one of Ryan's most appealing qualities was the joy she experienced at the little things life offered. She had an unguarded, childlike exuberance that was truly infectious, and Jamie marveled that she never felt more alive than when she was with her new friend. As she watched Ryan carefully peruse the menu she laughed to herself. Ryan read every word and changed her mind at least 6 times while they waited to order. "It's almost our turn, Ryan. Are you able to stick with your decision?"
"You are referring to the highlight of my day, Jamie," she explained patiently. "Lunch is my favorite meal. And since eating is my favorite activity, lunch is no laughing matter."
As Ryan spoke Jamie began looking though her wallet. "I've only got $47 on me. Do you think that will cover it?" she asked innocently.
"I'll go easy on you since you're new at this," Ryan drawled. "But next time don't be so unprepared. A trip to the ATM is always a good idea before you offer to buy me lunch."
After ordering their food they found a little table outside. The weather was starting to turn, but the table was in the bright noonday sun so they were quite comfortable even without jackets.
"So," Ryan said after they got comfortable. "That was some exhibition of buying power. I don't think I've ever seen Bill look so happy. He hasn't made that much off me in 7 years."
Jamie blushed a little at having the spotlight on her financial status. "It just made sense to buy the better bike for a ride like this," she explained.
Ryan gazed at her for a moment as if deciding whether to ask a question. Finally she curled the corners of her mouth up in a small grin and asked, "I don't mean to ask an indelicate question, but are you loaded?"
"Gee, I'm glad that wasn't indelicate," Jamie retorted as she playfully slapped her arm.
Ryan quickly backpedaled when it looked as if her friend was offended. "I'm sorry if I'm prying," she quickly added. "You really don't have to answer that question."
"It's not that, Ryan, I don't mind talking about private things with you. But I get kind of embarrassed by it. I mean, oh, it's hard to explain," she fumbled.
"So loaded is not a strong enough word?" Ryan offered helpfully with a crooked little grin.
"Not really," Jamie said with a tinge of shame. "More like filthy rich."
"How filthy?" Ryan asked with a leer.
"Obscenely," Jamie flatly stated.
"Wow! I've never been friends with anyone obscenely rich. That's really kind of cool," she admitted with a pleased smile. "Will you pay me to like you? For the right price I could even be your best friend," she teased.
"Very, very funny."
"I feel like I can tease you because you so do not seem like a rich kid. If it wasn't for the Porsche and the bike you seem just like me," Ryan observed. "But if you're really sensitive about it I promise I'll never tease you about it again."
Jamie considered the question for a moment. Ryan was looking at her with that open, guileless expression that just made Jamie feel like she could trust her with any of her secrets. "It's okay when you tease me, Ryan. I don't know why but your teasing never seems mean spirited. I hate to be so sensitive about this but it has been a problem for me throughout my life."
"Do you feel like talking about it?" Ryan asked with such a friendly, accepting expression that Jamie found herself telling her the whole family story.
"My mother comes from very old money," she explained. "Her maternal grandfather owned most of the coal mines in the country at the turn of the century. And her father's family was pretty well off, too. They're 6th generation Californians and they're into the whole social scene. My dad was pretty middle class, though. His father is an Episcopal priest and his mother was a homemaker. We live mostly off his money now..and he works his tail off. My mother uses her money for trips and she bought most of our houses and the like. But my father has always stressed the value of money and I was given a very modest allowance when I was growing up. I try not to flaunt my wealth, because it really puts people off, but it is a part of my life, and I want my close friends to know about it."
"I'm glad you told me, Jamie," she said sincerely as she fixed her with a mesmerizing stare. "It means a lot to me that you trust me to know about your financial status."
"I do trust you, Ryan. I can't imagine that you'll let this get in the way of our friendship."
"No way," she said emphatically. "After all, you haven't let my lesbianism get in the way of our relationship," she reminded her with a dazzling grin. "Tell me more about your father. It sounds like this would be a hard thing for most men to deal with. He must be really secure to have his wife be a lot more wealthy than he is."
"Yeah, I respect him for it. Although now he makes a load as a partner in a big law firm. So we're rich even without mother's money now. But it must have been hard for him when they were first together," she agreed.
"Do you spend much time with your extended family?"
"No, we really don't. My mother goes to her mother's family home in Rhode Island for at least a month in the summer. When I was little I would go with her. The whole extended family would be there, but I never felt like I fit in. They lived like the truly wealthy: servants everywhere, elegant dinners, spending the day sailing on huge yachts. But I just felt like I didn't belong there. It's hard to explain but I don't like to classify myself by my money," she said earnestly.
"I can see that would be kind of hard," Ryan agreed. "What about your mother's fathers side of the family. Aren't they local?"
"Yeah, there's tons of them around but it's not a warm and fuzzy kind of group. They're not into spending holidays together or anything like that; so I'd say my mother sees them at occasional social functions and the odd wedding and funeral. There's no animosity or anything but there's some definite emotional distance."
"The difficult part is that my money has nothing to do with me. I got it as an accident of birth. I didn't earn it or deserve it in any way. Sometimes it really is a burden," Jamie said with a touch of sadness in her eyes.
"I can understand that," Ryan said softly. "And I bet it doesn't make it any easier since so many people erroneously believe they would be happy if only they had more money," she sympathized.
"Exactly!" Jamie said with relief. "You really do understand, Ryan!"
"I really do, Jamie. The hard parts of my life would not change one bit because of money. I mean, I could work less if I earned more, but I would probably just buy more junk!" she laughed. "People are always talking about how much better their lives would be if they had more money. I've never understood that. If you're happy you'll be happy no matter how much or how little you have. And if you're miserable all the money in the world won't make you happy."
"I think I'm going to consider your offer to be your best friend," Jamie said thoughtfully after a moment. "How much will it cost me?"
Ryan's eyes grew wide as a server delivered their heaping plates. "Consider yourself paid in full!" she said with a happy grin.
After plowing through her sizable lunch and picking over the remnants of Jamie's, Ryan said, "Now we need to work out how we will train you for this ride."
"What are our options?"
"Saddle time is critical. There is not much you can do to duplicate the feeling of actually riding. So we're going to have to log a lot of miles. But to get the most out of your riding you have to be in pretty good shape. I don't mean to be rude, but I don't see a lot of muscle lurking under your skin," she said as she reached for an absent bicep.
"Just cause I'm not rock hard like you doesn't mean I don't have any muscle," Jamie replied defensively as she snatched her arm away before Ryan could get a good grip.
"I am just teasing, you know," she said with twinkling eyes. "But the more muscle you have the more you can demand of your body. So we need to increase your cardiovascular capacity, tone your muscles and ride like crazy. The easiest way to work on your lungs and your muscles is at a gym. Do you belong to a club?"
"No, I was going to join one, but I never got around to it," Jamie sighed.
"Well, now's a good time to join. I assume you would like to work out in the East Bay. Obviously we could use my club, but that is too much traveling for you. My place has a branch in Oakland. I've never been there but I'm willing to check it out for you. Is there any place you have heard about that you would like to try?" Ryan inquired.
"Some of my friends go to a club they really like. Why don't we both do some research and compare notes?"
"Sounds good. I'll check mine out on the way home tonight. Let me know when you've checked out a few and then you can decide," Ryan said.
"Great," she happily agreed. "Now comes the hard part," Jamie said gravely. "Obviously, I'm going to pay you for your time, Ryan. How can we work that out?"
Ryan's eyes grew wide as she shook her head firmly. "I can't charge you, Jamie. I want to do this because you're my friend. It will be fun for me."
"Ryan, I appreciate that and I would agree except for one thing. I know how busy you are. I've seen that little black book of yours, you know," she said fondly. "This is how you make your living. If you were not working with me you would be working with a regular client, would you not?"
"Well yeah, sometimes, I guess so." She said hesitantly. "But I can work you in without too much trouble. I've got 3 or 4 hours a week that are unscheduled, and I can work out with you sometimes, and I never do that with a client."
"What are your arrangements with your club, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I pay them a flat monthly fee, and I can work out whenever I want and train anyone who is a member. They hook me up with clients and I can bring people in myself. The member pays me directly, usually $40 per hour."
"Do you train people who aren't members?"
"Yeah, I have some private clients. There are some workout facilities that let trainers come in and pay an hourly fee. That allows me to train people who don't belong to my gym. And I have one woman who has a gym at her house, but I didn't see any iron laying around your place when I was there for dinner," she teased.
"How much do you charge private clients?" Jamie inquired.
"$125 per hour if I like you," she said with a waggling eyebrow. "The price goes up as your likeability goes down," she said with a big grin.
"Is that really true?" Jamie asked.
"Yeah, the woman with the gym in her home pays me $175 per hour. And if she complains about the price one more time it's going up to $200," she laughed. "She started out at $125 like everyone else, but she kept bitching about how expensive it was. That made me mad so I raised her. She kept bitching, so I kept raising. Pretty soon I won't have to take any other clients. She can support me," she said smugly.
"How about this. If I join your gym I'll pay you the standard $40. But if I choose to join somewhere else where you are not affiliated, I'll pay you $125. Unless, I make you mad, of course," she chuckled. "I know you don't want to take my money but if I don't pay you I won't feel comfortable using you as often as I want. I want you to think of me as a client for this and give me your undivided attention, okay?"
"I don't really like charging friends, Jamie. But I do want you to feel comfortable using me when you need to. So I'll agree with one proviso. If I work out at the same time, you don't pay at all, unless there is a daily gym fee. In that case you can pay to get us in, but that's all. Okay?"
"That is an excellent deal, Ryan. You're hired," she agreed as they clasped hands and share a smile.
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