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
The workout schedule that they had agreed on was meeting their needs perfectly. It allowed Jamie to tax her legs 4 times per week, which allowed a full day of rest between workouts. Jamie rode her long distances on Monday and Wednesday. Her hill climb was on Saturday or Sunday depending on her weekend plans. She found a good set of hills near Jack's apartment, so she was set. They worked her trunk and shoulders on Monday, her arms and back on Wednesday and her legs and chest on Fridays,
After two weeks of this regimen Ryan decided to leave her mountain bike at Jamie's so they could ride together on Monday and Wednesday. As much as Ryan loved her new gym she could no longer go on her morning bike rides, so she had to use whatever time she had available in the afternoons. She began to ride her motorcycle to Jamie's and leave it in her driveway at 5:00 a.m. She would then fetch her bike and ride to work, and later to class. Cassie was not very happy to be roused from sleep every morning at 5:00 by the thrumming engine of the Harley, but she eventually stopped complaining when Ryan agreed to turn off the engine at the curb and walk the bike down the drive.
Cassie was also not particularly happy when Jamie gave Ryan a key to the house.
"Jamie, I don't want that woman to be able to barge in here whenever she pleases," she huffed.
"Okay Cassie," Jamie agreed. "She needs to come in to change out of her boots and heavy jacket before she can ride her bike, so I'll just tell her to ring the bell every morning. You are a really light sleeper, so would you run down and let her in?" she inquired sweetly.
"Fine Jamie, just give all the sex crazed lesbians in town a key to our house," she fumed. "You know, I talked to some people who know her and they say she is a real slut. I can't believe that's the type of person you like to associate with."
She pursed her lips and regarded her roommate for a long moment. "Cassie if all of my friends were as kind and as generous and as honorable as Ryan, I would be one happy woman," she stated with narrow, flashing eyes, as she turned on her heel; hoping that Cassie understood the true meaning of the jibe.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
As the term progressed the demands on Jamie's time increased until she felt like she didn't have a moment to herself. She spent a massive amount of time reading for her 4 English classes and she occasionally kicked herself mentally for taking so many classes that required so much reading. When her face was not actually buried in a book she was either at the gym or riding in the hills. But she found that no matter how much time she dedicated to her workouts she did not regret one minute of them. When she was on her bike she was able to free her mind of every concern about her classes and her future. She didn't worry about her relationship with Jack or think about their life together. She merely put her mind on hold and let the wind fly past her face as she pedaled along the steep hills of Berkeley. Having been away from bike riding for so many years she realized that she had forgotten the freedom that two wheels afforded. No matter how bad traffic was she could scoot right past the stalled cars and be home in a matter of minutes.
But the workouts with Ryan were what really kept her motivated. They worked together 3 hours a week but she had to admit that they were among the most enjoyable hours of her busy week. Even though they spent lots of time together having coffee or a quick meal the workouts were when Jamie felt truly special.
When she really allowed herself to think about it Jamie was the one who usually spent her time making other people feel special. Sometimes it seemed that her entire relationship with Jack was spent making sure that his needs were met: making him lunch and dinner; being with him while he studied; never making demands to go out to dinner or a movie; and being available to him sexually. But for 3 hours a week the world revolved around Jamie and her slowly developing body.
One of the things she had grown to appreciate about Ryan was her ability to intensely focus on a task. As the weeks passed she realized that focus was never welcomer than when it centered around her.
Jamie had observed many other trainers during her weeks at the gym but she had never observed anyone who concentrated so fiercely on their clients. Without a word from Jamie Ryan would automatically remove 5 pounds from the weight stack if it was a tiny bit too heavy; she would order her to stop at 9 reps instead of 10 if she detected too much fatigue; she would skip a certain exercise if a related exercise was too difficult on a given day. All in all she was just so highly attuned to Jamie and her body that after a while they spoke very little during the sessions.
After most sessions they rode to Jamie's home on their bikes. Ryan was always vigilant to make sure that Jamie's muscles were warm enough to handle the short trek and once they arrived she would invariably order her client into the shower. Ryan would wait patiently for Jamie to finish in the bath and then she would give her a thorough massage on whatever body part they had stressed. During the massage Ryan would usually spend at least 10 minutes praising her performance in the weight room. Jamie knew that part of the reason Ryan did this was to keep her motivated; nonetheless, she ate it up greedily. She just felt so unique and special when they spent this time together that she began to wake up in a very happy mood on every workout day.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
On a cool and overcast Wednesday Jamie arrived at the gym for their usual 4 o'clock appointment. She looked around for Ryan but did not see her hanging around the front desk as was her usual habit. She dropped her things off in a locker and entered the main part of the gym, looking for her friend. After she was about to give up and have her paged she spotted her in the far corner of the gym.
Jamie had never even noticed the boxing equipment located on a slightly raised platform in the corner. But Ryan was standing in front of a heavy leather covered bag, banging the stuffing out of it with her hands which were encased in bright red boxing gloves. She stood for a second and observed her friend, watching the sweat fly from her face as she delivered one strong blow after another. Jamie mused that she would not hit the bag the way her friend was doing it. But when she watched carefully she could see that Ryan's technique was the proper one. She punched from her shoulder, getting the force of her entire torso behind each blow. Jamie noted that she was nearly standing on her toes while she punched the bag and that her body followed her arm, with even her hips helping provide thrust. It truly amazed her that she could stand and watch her friend for such a long time without her being aware of her scrutiny, but Ryan was so intent that she was obviously unaware of anything other than her furious assault on the heavy bag. "Um..mad at someone?" she finally asked to break the spell.
Ryan whirled to face her, sweat flying from her hair and hitting Jamie in a light spray. "When did you get...what time is it?" she asked as she looked at her watch. "My God!" she gasped. "It's 4:15!"
"I know," Jamie said with a smile. "I've been watching you for 15 minutes."
"You have?" Ryan asked with a truly perplexed look on her face.
As she said that Jamie realized how odd it sounded to just be watching her so she explained, "I've never seen anyone work on a bag like that. I've always been fascinated by boxing."
"You have?" Ryan asked dubiously as she grabbed a small towel from a stack and wiped her face and neck down.
"Yeah, I have. That was pretty impressive, by the way," she said with a smile.
"Thanks," Ryan said as she blushed a bit. "My 3 o'clock cancelled and I wanted to do something aerobic for a few minutes. I thought this would be something that I could do and not sweat too much," she said as she looked at herself rather helplessly. Sweat was still running down her face and into her black shirt. Rivulets ran down her arms and even her thick black golf shirt looked drenched.
"Um...you were wrong?" Jamie hazarded.
"Well, I started out just playing around with the speed bag," Ryan admitted. "But when I was finished I still felt kind of twitchy so I thought the heavy bag would tire me out."
"Yeah," she said as a blush covered her face and neck. "Sometimes I just need to...I don't know...like let off some steam."
"I think you were successful," Jamie observed wryly.
"I didn't look too bad after the speed bag," Ryan insisted.
"Well as long as you're doing a demo let me see you on that for a minute," she begged, truly interested in seeing her friend work her magic again.
Ryan graced her with a quirky grin. "You sure?" she asked dubiously.
"Positive," Jamie insisted. Ryan shrugged her broad shoulders and stuck out her hands. After a second Jamie realized that she could not take the gloves off herself. "Wow, these would have been a good way for my parents to make me stop sucking my thumb at night," she laughed.
"Hmm, I didn't suck my thumb but I could have used these for a little self control at night myself," Ryan mused as Jamie slapped her firmly in the stomach.
"Some of your dates probably wish you had them now," Jamie chided her.
"Ooo, that's cold," Ryan muttered. She pulled off the gloves that Jamie had unlaced and put on a pair of very lightweight hand protectors. Facing the bag she centered her weight and raised her fists almost to eye level. "My brother Conor put up a speed bag in the garage when I was about 10," she revealed as she started to slowly tap the bag with each hand in sequence. "I had to stand on a box to hit the darn thing but I was much more dedicated than he was. Of course he was 14 and just starting to get into girls so his attention was diverted," she smirked. "Anyway, I loved working on that bag and it really helped me enormously with my hand/eye coordination as well as my concentration. I was so skinny that bag would have knocked me right off that box if I didn't pay attention."
By the time she was finished recounting this insight into her youth her speed had picked up to such an extent that the bag was a mere blur as she worked it easily with her fists barely moving. It was truly mesmerizing to watch and Jamie mused that she could stand here all day and just watch Ryan flail away. But after a few minutes she slowed and eventually stopped the bag by grabbing it with both hands. "Look like fun?" she asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Yeah, when you do it," she said with a laugh. "Why doesn't anybody ever use this stuff?"
"Well, it is a lot harder than it looks and most women don't grow up around the stuff so they don't know where to start. But I'd love to show you how if you want. It would be good for your upper body."
"Let's stick with the machines for awhile, Pal. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew." She regarded her friend for a moment and asked, "Do you have another shirt? That one's a mess."
"Good point," she agreed as she plucked at the limp garment. "I think I can grab another from the office. Be right back."
A few minutes later she trotted back over in a much too small shirt. Jamie guessed that she normally wore an extra large and this one could not have been more than a medium. But she didn't have any complaints and neither did the two women on the stair climbers who followed Ryan's progress across the gym. "The only one they had was from someone who quit earlier this year," she said with a scowl. "She must have been a 9 year old."
"You look fine," Jamie assured her. "Now let's get busy, Coach. I've got my work cut out for me if I'm going to keep up with you!"
After their very strenuous workout Jamie asked, "Do you have time for dinner? I could whip something up?"
Ryan appeared to consider the offer for a moment, but finally said, "I'd love to, Jamie, but I can't squeeze it in. My father made a brown bag dinner for me, so I'm just gonna go study."
"That's okay," Jamie said, trying not to sound like she cared. In truth, she cared a great deal. As much as she enjoyed the workouts she equally enjoyed the post shower massage and the praise. But she didn't feel comfortable admitting how much that special time meant to her so she tried to appear casual.
Ryan caught the small look of disappointment in her face. "If you need some company tonight, I'll make time for you," she said kindly.
Jamie felt a little busted, and tried to cover it up with a careless reply. "No, I should study too, I'm just looking for a reason not to."
"If you're sure, Jamie," Ryan said with an intense gaze as she squatted down a bit to make eye contact.
"Positive," she replied, immensely glad that Ryan cared enough to meet her needs.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
4 hours later Jamie was hard at work on a short paper for 'The Lesbian Experience' when she realized that she did not have an important book. Darn, I must have left it at Jack's. The paper wasn't due until Friday, but she had plans to study for a 'Romantic Poets' class the next day. This was really the best night to write the paper, but it was 9 o'clock and she wasn't sure where to buy the book. She called around and found that 'Daughters of Sappho' had the only copy in the area so she hopped in the Porsche and drove to Oakland.
As she circled the block, looking for parking, she noticed an unmistakable vehicle. A turquoise and cream Harley. Hmmm, what's she doing here, 'Little Miss I Have To Study'? She was a trifle annoyed when she entered the bookstore side of the store. She looked around furtively but didn't see Ryan anywhere. Well I guess there could be two women who ride that Harley. That is within the realm of possibilities. She found her book, stopped at the counter to pay for it and was getting ready to leave when she paused to take a quick look around the coffeehouse.
The room was quite a bit darker than the last time she had visited. A woman was on the small stage singing some contemporary ballads in an adequate fashion. Jamie scanned the crowd in the dim light and noticed that only 3 of the small tables were occupied--none of them by Ryan. As she turned her head slowly, trying to adjust for the differences in brightness between the two rooms she caught what looked like a familiar form in the farthest corner of the establishment. Two women occupied a small loveseat in the very dark corner. You couldn't really say they were sitting, because neither of them was upright. An attractive black woman with very close cropped hair was half reclining on the loveseat and Ryan was practically lying on top of her.
Jamie stood slack jawed in the bright light of the bookstore, staring in shock at the pair. Ryan was kissing the woman deeply and moving gently against her whole body as she did so. Jamie did not think she had ever seen anything that was more erotic but every fiber of her being wanted to run out of the store and never think about the sight again. She watched as Ryan gripped the woman's face and kissed her even more passionately. She was completely unable to move but equally unable to stop watching.
Ryan began to sit up and the woman came right with her, latched on to her mouth like an eel. When they were both upright Ryan put one arm around her shoulders and another under her knees and pulled the woman onto her lap. Jamie saw those strong tanned hands begin to caress the woman all over her body. She knew she would faint if she did not look away, but she felt rooted in place. She watched as Ryan's hands again moved to either side of the woman's head and held her still as she began another round of deep kisses. Jamie saw tongues passing between mouths as they drew back an inch or two and then fell right back into each other. The woman's hands slowly slid up Ryan's torso and Jamie had to grasp for something to steady herself as she saw one small dark hand firmly grasp Ryan's left breast and begin to knead it. Ryan's head rose slowly and dropped back against her shoulders as a look of absolute pleasure crossed her beautiful face.
As the book slid from her now nerveless fingers Jamie heard a voice ask, "How ya doing kid?" The question, which came from directly behind her right shoulder, nearly caused her to scream. She used all of her composure to focus her attention in the direction of the voice. Babs, the owner of the shop, and Ryan's friend, looked at her in sympathy. "Don't be mad at her, hon," she said. "Ryan's not a bad kid, but she just can't get tied down to any one woman. She's just not the type."
"What?" Jamie looked at her in total confusion. "Why would I be m...? What?" Never in her 20 years had she felt so completely inarticulate.
"It's okay, kid. You aren't the first and you won't be the last. Don't let it get to ya."
"B..b..but, we're not...she isn't...I'M NOT...I didn't..." Jamie truly wanted to sink to the floor and cry. She was so frustrated with her inability to form a coherent sentence and her chaotic feelings about Ryan that she was truly at a loss.
"All I'm saying is that there are plenty of women who would love to date a good lookin' girl like you. And most of them wouldn't give you up so easy as Ryan did," at this she patted Jamie on the back and walked back in to the coffeehouse.
Jamie was even more stunned now. As if in a trance her eyes traveled on their own accord back to the dark corner. She watched as Ryan and her date disentangled themselves from each other and stood on wobbly legs. The woman had her arm wrapped around Ryan's waist and Ryan's arm was draped across her shoulders. Their heads were very close together as they stumbled out into the darkness.
In order to give herself time to collect her feelings Jamie picked up her book and sat down at one of the small tables. She sat motionless and dazed for at least 15 minutes with her mind a complete jumble. She was angry, puzzled and curious and although she hated to admit it...totally aroused.
Finally, she felt as though she had enough control to drive. She walked outside and was very surprised to see the Harley still in its space. She made her way around the corner and saw Ryan and the woman leaning up against a car, continuing what they had been doing in the coffeehouse. The problem was that the car was right in front of Jamie's.
Now Jamie was able to sort out her feelings--she was angry! I want to leave for god's sake! And I don't want her to see me.
Her quandary was solved a moment later when the woman opened the rear door, crouched down and slid across the seat. Ryan dove in and obviously landed right on top of her. Their heads immediately dropped below the windows and Jamie felt like she could leave and not be seen.
She ran to her car and got in quickly. After a moment of fumbling with her keys she started the engine and roared off as fast as her little German wheels would take her.
Once at home, and safe in her room, she let her mind ruminate. It's not like I didn't know she was with a lot of women. It's just that actually seeing her with a woman was such a shock. But why did I feel so turned on? She pondered that question for long minutes. It must just be the shock and the thrill of seeing someone do something that is kind of forbidden. I would probably get turned on from watching Mia and her boyfriend really go at it, too. She could feel her body flush as she considered just how passionate Ryan had looked with her date. God, she sure was going at it. She looked so powerful and strong. Her hands just possessed that woman. She kissed her with a fierceness that I have never felt. She just looked so intense. God, I wonder what they're doing now? Her mind only paused a second before it delivered the obvious message. What do you think Jamie? They're having hot sex in the back seat of that car! Oh god, why didn't I take abnormal psychology like everybody else?
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie decided that speaking to Ryan about seeing her at the coffeehouse would serve no useful purpose. They did not speak on Thursday but after class on Friday they stopped for their customary juice break. Jamie was amused to see Ryan pull a brown bag from her book bag and begin to eat her snack.
"Um, Ryan?" she began.
"Why are you eating cold dry pancakes?"
"They're cold because they were made last night, and I don't have access to a microwave. They're dry because syrup doesn't travel well." After delivering her logical answer she gazed at Jamie with an open, placid look on her face. This was one of Ryan's idiosyncrasies that Jamie both loved and hated. She invariably answered your question...she just answered it exactly as it was asked. The thought passed through Jamie's mind that everyone she knew thought like a lawyer.
"You know that's not my real question," Jamie said as she gave her arm a little slap.
"Okay, I'll confess. I didn't call home by 3 p.m. to tell my father that I wouldn't be home for dinner. This," she said as she shook a dry cold pancake, "is my punishment."
"Um, I guess that clears it up," she replied with a confused look.
"Okay, my father expects each of us to be home for dinner at 6 p.m. sharp. It's no big deal if we can't make it. But if you don't opt out by 3 p.m. he cooks for you. If he cooks for you, you damn well better eat it. So whatever you didn't eat for dinner, you get for lunch the next day."
"But you don't have to eat it, Ryan," Jamie laughed.
"Yes I do," Ryan intoned seriously. "It's important to my father."
"What do you mean?" she asked completely unable to understand how eating cold pancakes could be important to anyone.
"When my mother died he did his best to keep us functioning as a real family. Having meals together is a big part of what makes that work. When I break one of the family rules there should be a price to pay. It's all about respect." Her deep blue eyes were serious as she gazed steadily at Jamie.
"I would love to meet the man that you love and respect so much, Ryan," Jamie said as she covered Ryan's hand with one of her own.
Ryan blushed just a little and gave Jamie a big smile. "Why don't you come for Sunday dinner and meet everyone?"
"I would love to," Jamie replied enthusiastically.
"Sunday at 3 p.m. Don't be late," she threatened ominously as she gave her cold pancake another shake right in Jamie's face.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie left Palo Alto extra early to insure that she would be on time for Sunday dinner. She followed Ryan's neatly written directions as she moved along the 101 and as she exited at Cesar Chavez Blvd. She mused to herself that she had never been in this section of the city. She often took the 101, but usually only to see her grandfather up near Nob Hill. As she drove along Chavez it became clear why she had never been to this neighborhood. Her family was interested in high culture, fine restaurants and major sporting events. This modest neighborhood looked like a fine place to get a good Nicaraguan meal, but that was about it. The neighborhood wasn't terribly run down but it strongly reflected the culture of its recent immigrants from Central America. Is this Ryan's neighborhood? she mused thoughtfully. I know she doesn't have much family money but this seems awfully modest.
After a couple of miles she crossed Dolores, a broad, divided street with a large greensward down the center. At that imaginary dividing line the neighborhood began to change dramatically. The houses were very neatly tended and the shops looked decidedly more upscale. This is really cute, she mused as she regarded the plethora of small 2 and 3 story Victorians that graced every block.
She arrived at the stated address at 2:40. She found a parking space rather easily and walked up to the neat little Victorian. She heard music playing from the attached garage and decided to check there before climbing the exterior staircase to approach the front door. Two dark figures were lying on the floor flanking a turquoise and cream Harley as she approached.
Walking into the garage she tentatively asked, "Ryan?" still not positive that one of the figures was her friend.
"Hey, Jamie," replied her friendly voice. "Did you bring your overalls?" Ryan scooted out from beneath the bike and rose to her full 6 ft. plus height. She wore her black hair in a neat braid that stuck out from beneath the bill of her backwards red baseball cap. A tight white ribbed tank top showed every one of the many assets of her torso. Very old, very faded 501's covered her long legs. The jeans bore large rips at each knee and small ones beneath the soft curves of her butt. As she stood Jamie could make out gray underwear through the rear rips that seemed to extend well past the norm. What does she have on under those jeans?" she mused. Does she wear boxers? Big brown lineman's boots covered her feet.
Jamie could almost feel her chin hit her chest when the next figure stood. She was fairly certain that Ryan did not have a twin. But the tall man who now stood beside Ryan was clearly a testosterone laden clone. Looking at them together Jamie marveled at the likeness. But where Ryan had smooth curves, the man had tight muscle. He was at least 5 or 6 inches taller and a lot broader in the shoulders, but his hips were narrow. He did not have an ounce of fat anywhere it did not belong. His hair was identical in color and texture, but he wore it short around the side of his head and a little long on top. His eyes were the same deep blue and they had the same intensity as Ryan's. But Jamie quickly noticed that they lacked the gentleness that Ryan's often bore. His gaze seemed intimidating, almost predatory, while Ryan's usually seemed open and interested. He was dressed in a similar manner, but his T-shirt covered his shoulders and his jeans had fewer holes.
Ryan looked bemused at the expression on Jamie's face. "Kinda creepy, huh?" she teased.
"Wha...Oh...yeah," she admitted. "You aren't twins, are you?"
The man was busy wiping his hands on a towel. As he finished he extended his right one in greeting. "She should be so lucky to share my chromosomes," he said with bravado.
Jamie laughed as Ryan punched him rather hard in his bicep. "This is my sweet, charming brother Conor. Conor, this is my friend, Jamie."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Conor," Jamie finally got out, aware that she was still staring, but unable to stop.
"It's only gonna get worse, Jamie. Prepare yourself," Ryan warned.
The grungy siblings spent a few moments putting away their tools and neatening up the work area. Jamie watched them work, still unable to get over the astounding similarity. After they had finished they all exited the front of the garage and hung a left to walk up the narrow staircase that led to the front entrance. When they reached the landing she noticed a very nice flower rimmed deck that obviously covered the two garages. "Nice," she said appreciatively, taking in the neat space.
"Yeah," Ryan agreed. "We've got the only deck on the whole block. Actually, one of the few in the whole neighborhood. It's a great place to sit out and get a fog tan," she chuckled, acknowledging the few clear days that The City was blessed with. Giving a quick glance at the surrounding houses she noticed that they were all of a similar type. They were all quite narrow and spaced very closely together; actually most of them seemed to touch each other on both sides.
Conor held the door for her and she stepped in before the siblings. "Your home is charming, Ryan," she enthused. As Jamie looked around she thought to herself that part of the charm was the near Lilliputian size of the rooms. The house was only two rooms wide and two rooms long. The small entryway led to an equally small but attractive living room. The living room opened into a formal dining room that was identical in size to the living room. The living room held two love seats and a comfortable looking leather wing back chair. A full sized sofa would never have fit, and the room was a little cramped with the current seating arrangement. There was a small fireplace topped by a mantel that was filled with pictures of the family. Small leaded glass windows bracketed the fireplace. Additional photos and diplomas lined the walls under the windows. The wall to the left of the fireplace held a floor to ceiling bookcase that was lined with books and more photos. The opposite wall revealed a door but Jamie couldn't figure out what room would open off the front of the living room.
As she looked around she noticed that the most attractive part of the room was all of the exquisitely detailed woodwork. The ceiling was bordered by a deep crown molding with a wide picture molding right underneath. Each window and door was trimmed out, as was the fireplace. Jamie guessed that the home was 60 or 70 years old, really too new to have all of the millwork be original. "I love all of the moldings in here," she said to Ryan.
Conor gave her a big grin as he offered a slight bow. "Thank you, Jamie," he said.
Ryan explained, "Conor's a finish carpenter. After he got out of trade school he used the house as his little project. We've got every kind of molding and trim that you can imagine."
She ran her hand over the elaborate woodwork of the mantel. "You certainly do nice work, Conor," she said appreciatively.
"Don't encourage him too much," Ryan warned. "He'll pull out his pictures and monopolize you all night!"
"Some people are interested in craftsmanship," he sniffed. "Jamie certainly seems to be able to recognize quality."
"My mother's very much into home decorating," Jamie explained. "We did a major remodel a couple of years ago and we had a lot of trim installed, so I learned a ton about your craft, Conor."
The cozy dining room held a very large oak table, rectangular in shape. It had room for 10, but only 6 places were set today. As Jamie finished surveying the room she was greeted by yet another of Ryan's clones. This one looked a bit older and while he was also well built he did not leave the impression of raw power waiting to burst out of his skin that his siblings had. "Oh, Brendan, when did you show up?" Ryan asked as she crossed the room to give him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"I came over about a half hour ago, but I've got good clothes on and I wasn't going to let you grease monkeys talk me into ruining another pair of pants," he replied sagely.
"Brendan, this is my friend, Jamie," Ryan again began the introductions, and was forced to add another, "and this is Rory," she said to Jamie as the last brother entered.
Well at least he's not a clone, too, Jamie thought. Rory was shorter than Ryan by 2 or 3 inches. His hair was also lighter, and Jamie guessed that it would be a deep red in the sunlight. His eyes were a soft green and they twinkled when he smiled. His skin was fairer than his siblings, but his features were quite similar.
"I'm pleased to meet you both," Jamie said as she shook hands with each in turn.
A voice rang out from the kitchen, "Dinner will be served in exactly 1/2 hour. Anyone with a spot of grease on them will not be served."
Conor and Ryan stole guilty glances at each other. "Flip you for the shower," Ryan said. She produced a dime from her jeans, but Conor lucked out. "Please leave some hot water for me, Conor," she begged.
"What's it worth to ya?" he inquired.
"Well, it's you who has the most to gain since I sit next to you at the table," she reasoned.
"Good point, Stinky," he relented, "I'll hurry."
The voice boomed from the kitchen yet again. "Shi' vawn," it appeared to say, "Use some manners and bring your guest in here."
"Shi' vawn?" Jamie mouthed to her friend.
Ryan looked a little sheepish. "It's my real name," she admitted. "I changed it long ago, but my father doesn't acknowledge it."
They walked through the dining room and turned right into a very large kitchen. The room was rectangular in shape and ran about 15 feet to a screened door at the rear. It was only about 10 feet in width, but the high ceilings and bright tile made it look much bigger. The kitchen was not what Jamie was mesmerized by however, that distinction fell to the older male clone stirring a pot on the stove.
Gee, I guess they're not adopted, thought Jamie. Martin O'Flaherty was clearly the original from whom the little O'Flaherty copies sprang. He was a good 4 inches taller than Ryan, with a bit of gray at the temples. His physique matched that of Brendan and from a distance he could have been 30 years old. But up close his face had the small lines and weathered skin that befitted a man who worked at a dangerous profession. His eyes, however, were exact copies of Ryan's, deep blue, warm and friendly.
"Da, this is my friend, Jamie," Ryan again made the introduction.
"Ahh, Jamie," he said warmly with a more than a hint of an Irish accent. "Shi' vawn speaks of you well and often. I'm very pleased to make your acquaintance, but I wish it had been weeks earlier," he said as he shot a glare at his smirking daughter.
"If she speaks half as well of me as she does of you Mr. O'Flaherty, then I'm a lucky woman," Jamie replied with a twinkle.
"Shi' vawn are you certain this little one is not from the old sod?" he said with a laugh. "She seems to have kissed the Blarney Stone rather recently. But there is no Mr. O'Flaherty here darlin'. You may call me Martin or Marty, whichever you choose."
"What do you prefer?" she inquired.
"Pay attention, Shi' vawn," he said with a grin identical to the one Jamie had seen hundreds of times on her friend. "This one's got manners." He turned to Jamie and looked a bit pensive as he finally said, "I suppose I prefer Martin. It's the name my parents gave me and I can't think of a reason to change it." This last was directed at a bemused looking Ryan. "Another lesson you could take from this one is how to dress for dinner," he said as he regarded Jamie's outfit. She wore a forest green cashmere crew neck sweater and a pair of wide wale corduroy slacks in a soft buttery cream color. Shiny brown faux alligator loafers completed the outfit.
"I'll try, Da," Ryan agreed. "But I don't think even Jamie could do much for my sense of style." She cocked her head in concentration. "I think Conor's out of the shower. Wanna come to my room to give me some pointers, Jamie?"
"Sure, Ryan," she replied a little hesitantly. Even though she was very interested in seeing what was under those jeans, she knew it was not the wisest course of action. But she put her cautions to the side and followed right on Ryan's heels. They walked back to the small entryway and opened a door that Jamie had not noticed. As they descended a low staircase Ryan was forced to duck her head severely. It seemed to Jamie that they were in a room that would be located right behind the garages. The room was surprisingly bright as it was above ground even though she supposed it was technically in the basement. A large casement double hung window loomed over the bed and faced the small neat backyard. Jamie could see a large black dog looking through the window with a quizzical look on its face.
"Hi Duffy," Ryan said as she sat on her large bed and opened the window. "Duff, this is Jamie," she said as she pointed at her amused friend. "She's my very good friend, and I want you to greet her gently." The dog cocked his big black head and gave her a stern expression that seemed to imply agreement. "We'll be out soon, so you go practice," she said as she closed the window and the dog trotted away.
"He's awfully cute, Ryan," Jamie said. "What kind of dog is he?"
"He's half black lab and half standard poodle. I got him from a client 3 years ago. Best tip I ever got," she said proudly.
Ryan rose from the bed and crossed the room to a well built set of drawers and doors that lined the entire side wall of her room. She began to open the doors and look at her wardrobe. Jamie walked up next to her and marveled at the way everything was organized. Each drawer was labeled neatly. T-shirts L/S; T-shirts S/S; T-shirts N/S; Sweats; Socks; U/W etc.
"Got enough T-shirts?" Jamie asked casually as she opened the N/S drawer to confirm that indeed the shirts stored inside did not in fact have sleeves.
"Hey, I'm a dyke," she said defensively. "T-shirts are part of the uniform."
"Do you need help Shi' vawn?" Jamie asked innocently as her friend seemed at a loss.
"Don't start," she warned with a smile.
"God, Ryan, I think I know you so well, but I don't even know your real name."
"I haven't used that name since I was seven," Ryan replied. "Only Da and my grandparents use it, the boys even stopped when I beat them up," she admitted. "And you do know me, Jamie," she said sincerely. "You know me very well. I wouldn't have invited you here otherwise."
Jamie remembered that Ryan's mother had died when she was seven. Thinking there might be a connection she chose not to pursue the matter. "I'm sure I know all the important parts," she admitted. "Besides, a touch of mystery becomes you."
Ryan laughed and resumed her task. "My big problem is that I don't have any nice pants," she moaned. "Every time I decide to buy something nice I find some new bike pants or a new warm up suit that I know I'll wear ten times more often and I buy that instead."
She pulled out a perfectly acceptable pair of navy blue wool slacks and a cream colored cable knit sweater. She laid her selections out on the bed and sat down to unlace her boots. Jamie chickened out as she considered watching her undress, so she knew she had better get out now. "I think I'll offer to help your father while you get ready," she offered.
"He won't let you help, but he'd appreciate the offer," Ryan predicted.
As she turned to leave she remembered something that had puzzled her. "Why do you call him 'Da'?"
"It's the Irish equivalent of Dad. Many kids call their parents Ma and Da rather than Mom and Dad."
"It's kind of cute," Jamie offered as she began to walk up the stairs.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
As Ryan predicted, Jamie's offer to help was rebuffed by Martin. "You go play with the children," he said as he directed her to the now open door off the living room. The relatively big bedroom facing the street was filled by a king sized bed, a well worn upholstered chair and 3 men lounging in various positions as they watched the 49'ers battle the St. Louis Rams from a TV set located in another lovely built-in cabinet lining the wall.
Jamie sat on the floor after refusing the offer of the chair. She quickly joined in the discussion of the 9ers lack of a good tight end. "Tom Rathman and Brent Jones made them click," she added knowledgeably. Ryan joined them, freshly scrubbed and shockingly beautiful in her dress up clothes, as half time was just beginning. She sat next to Jamie on the floor and watched a little challenge that Conor had obviously just made with Jamie. They were each putting $5 up and Rory was acting as judge. Jamie scrunched her face up, deep in thought. "Well, there has to be an 'S', she said, "and an 'H'?" she asked hopefully.
"Two for two!" said Rory.
"How about an 'A'?"
"Three for three!"
"Nope, one wrong," he replied.
"S-I-O-B-H-A-N," Ryan enunciated as she handed each contestant back their $5.
"No fair, Ryan," said Conor, a little perturbed.
"I don't like people to play games with the spelling of my name," she said seriously. "It bothers me," she said softly as she looked at the floor.
"I'm sorry, Ryan," Conor said quickly as he rose from the bed and squatted down to give her a little kiss. "I wouldn't have done it if I knew it would bother you."
"Well," she admitted, "It doesn't bother me much, but it did get you off the bed and into my evil hands," she laughed gleefully as she began to tickle his sides unmercifully. He quickly lost his ability to remain upright but she stuck right with him, as he rolled around on the floor.
"Please, please, no more, I can't take it," he pleaded as he giggled hysterically. "You win, you win!"
"I always win," she said proudly as she helped him straighten up. "I'm the little sister."
"Just our luck boys," he addressed his laughing brothers. "To have a little sister that can kick all of our butts."
The game began again just as Martin called them all to dinner. Brendan rose and hit the record button on the VCR, and they all walked into the dining room without a word of complaint.
Jamie could not remember ever having a better time at the dinner table. Meals at her home were always pleasant enough, but there was never much spark. When she and her mother ate alone, they often went out to dinner and the conversation revolved around her mother's interests; clothes, travel, art and her many social obligations. When her father was at home for a meal they usually talked about his work or his latest case or politics.
The O'Flaherty clan however, spent their mealtimes in a boisterous game of one- upmanship: funny stories, jokes and constant teasing. Jamie was pleased that they seemed to welcome her into the group seamlessly. They teased her unmercifully but gently, but she noticed that they did the same to each other. By the end of the meal Jamie had formed some tentative impressions of each of the O'Flaherty men.
Martin was clearly in charge. All of the children seemed to respect and admire him, but she did not detect even a glimmer of fear. When he told one of them to stop a tease that was becoming too sharp, they did so immediately. He had quite a flair for storytelling and Jamie noticed that each of the kids listened to him raptly even though she imagined they had heard his stories many times. The number of repetitions was obvious when he finished one, and all of the children complained that he had changed the ending. "How else can I keep the lot of you on your toes?" he explained with a laugh.
Brendan was the most serious of the group. He was a lawyer with a small public interest law firm, working to secure the rights of people with disabilities. The other boys and Ryan looked to him as a bit of an arbiter also. He was quite adept at keeping the rest of them in line, with his wit and easy laughter, but his teasing was very gentle and sweet.
Conor was clearly the troublemaker of the boys. He seemed to love to get under everyone else's skin. Jamie could just imagine the practical jokes he must play on the others. She wasn't surprised when Martin told of the number of times he had to leave work to bail Conor out of the principal's office when he was young.
Conor worked as a carpenter, a trade that he loved and was obviously very good at. He had built Ryan's wall-to-wall closet and Martin's bookcase and the work was immaculate. He worked for a firm that did renovation work in the City, and he took obvious pride in talking about the historically accurate work his firm did on the City's many Victorian homes.
Rory was very boyish and a little shy. He was a musician and played in a band that often performed at various pubs and clubs in the City. Ryan explained that his group played primarily traditional Irish music. Jamie wasn't sure what that meant, but she hoped to find out. He traveled quite a bit when his band toured with bigger name acts, but he was at home for several months this winter, playing around the City. He would occasionally lapse into a soft Irish brogue that one of the others would call him on. Ryan explained that he spent most of the summer in Ireland every year, playing all over the country. Ryan seemed particularly fond of Rory, and she boasted to Jamie about his considerable talents as a musician. He just blushed and shook his head at the compliments, but it was clear that he appreciated them.
When dinner was ended Jamie was amazed at what happened next. With nary a word from Martin, or to each other, each child got up and began to perform a particular task.
Brendan went into the kitchen, rolled up his sleeves and put on an apron. He began to run water in the big double sink as he cleared off the surrounding counters. Conor began to clear the table in a quick but efficient manner. Rory joined Brendan and prepared to dry the dishes. Ryan was in charge of removing and folding the linen tablecloth and napkins. Jamie offered to help, but Ryan refused her offer saying, "Once we get going you could get hurt if you tried to step in."
Conor moved to Rory's right and began to place each washed and dried item in its' proper home. Ryan grabbed a broom and began to sweep the entire dining room floor. She had to shoo Martin and Jamie away from the table in order to place the chairs upside down by their seats on the wooden surface. Jamie moved to the doorway of the kitchen to watch the precision event unfold.
Brendan was finished washing by now and he moved to wash each counter in the kitchen with a mild bleach solution that he had prepared in the sink. Rory and Conor finished up and moved back into the dining room to set the table for the next meal. They used a pretty everyday tablecloth and some ironstone dishes, setting the table for 5. Brendan cleaned the tops and fronts of all of the appliances while Ryan swept the kitchen. After she had finished she got out a mop and bucket and mopped the entire room. She backed out of the room toward the screened in porch and disappeared, reemerging a few minutes later, via the front door, accompanied by Duffy.
Duffy tried his best, but gentle was not the term best used for his initial greeting of Jamie. He placed his big black paws on her waist and whimpered until she lowered her face enough to be thoroughly licked. "I guess I should have asked if you like dogs," Ryan drawled.
"Lucky for you, I love them," Jamie enthused. Her family had never had any pets but she had always wanted a dog. Her grandfather had a cute little long haired Chihuahua when she was young but he had not replaced him when the elderly dog passed away.
Duffy however, was a real dog. He went to each of the brothers in turn and licked each face. Martin made a show of disliking the attention, but he giggled as Duffy worked away despite his complaints.
As Ryan sat down on a love seat Duffy climbed right up next to her and dropped his head in her lap. "Duffy, we have company," she rebuked him. "You know there are only enough seats for the humans."
He looked up at her with plaintive, sad eyes, begging for a reprieve. He was rescued by Brendan who reminded everyone that the game was probably over. When the door to the bedroom opened Duffy bounded off the couch and headed right for the middle of the bed. Brendan checked the TV to make sure the game was over, and when everyone else was assured they would not inadvertently hear the score they all entered the room.
Jamie was surprised to see Ryan, Duffy, Conor and Rory all fit on the bed. Ryan had dashed downstairs to put on a pair of jeans and a navy blue hooded 'Cal' sweatshirt, and Duffy cuddled next to her from her horizontal position at the foot of the bed. Conor and Rory each sat against the headboard, easily able to see over Ryan and Duffy's dark heads. Brendan brought in a dining room chair for himself alone after Jamie refused his offer to bring one for her. She sat on the floor at the foot of the bed, close to Ryan's head. Martin sat in his well-used upholstered chair, and began to act as though he was reading the newspaper.
The game was a close one, way too close for the assembled 9ers fans. Everyone complained and cajoled the team to improve their execution. Every mouth however, dropped open in shock when Jamie shouted in frustration, "Oh please! My grandmother could have read that blitzing linebacker. Hit the slot, Steve, hit the slot!"
After a moments pause she realized that all eyes were on her. "Um, I watch a lot of football," she admitted with a small blush.
"How much is a lot?" Ryan inquired once she had put her eyes back in her head.
"Well, I've gone to every Stanford home game since I was born, and we go to almost every 9ers game," she admitted shyly.
"You've got tickets?" Conor and Rory shouted at once.
"Yeah, um, my father's firm has tickets."
"What's your fathers' firm?" asked Brendan.
"Morris and Foster," she said quietly.
"Oh," was all he said.
No one else seemed interested in talking about law firms after Young threw a perfect spiral to Hearst to cap a beautiful game ending 45 yard scoring drive.
They chatted about the game for a few more minutes until Brendan excused himself to go home and get caught up on some work. Ryan caught Jamie's eye and indicated that she wanted to go downstairs. Jamie got up and followed her out the door and down the stairs.
"So, what do you think?" Ryan asked as she flopped down on her big bed. Jamie sat on Ryan's desk chair, pulling it next to the bed and putting her stockinged feet up on the comforter.
"About what?" she asked innocently.
"You know what--what did you think of my family?" Ryan stated the obvious.
Jamie gave her a big smile as she admitted, "I don't remember when I've met a nicer group of people."
"You must not get out much," Ryan drawled, but she was obviously pleased by the compliment.
"I get out plenty, Ryan, and believe me, you are one lucky woman. Your brothers clearly adore you and your father's face lights up every time he looks at you."
Ryan gazed at her in contemplative silence for a few minutes. "I really do know how lucky I am Jamie," she said softly. "I spent a couple of years feeling sorry for myself during puberty. I missed my mother so much and it was just hard going through that with a bunch of clueless men. But once I got a little older and saw how few people share the love we have for each other..." she let out a sigh, "I thank God every day for all that I have".
"Do you really?" Jamie asked, interested in this new facet of her friend. "You've never talked about your spirituality."
"Yeah, I really do," Ryan admitted. She looked a little bashful, but continued tentatively, "I wanna tell you something that I've only told Da." She locked her clear eyes on Jamie, obviously waiting for permission.
Jamie returned her look and gave her a little encouraging smile, "Please do."
Ryan cleared her throat a little nervously as she began. "As I've told you before, my mother died when I was seven. I was just starting first grade when it happened and we were beginning instruction to receive religious instruction. The nuns told us about letting Jesus in to our hearts and all of the standard religious stuff they think 7 year olds can comprehend. But what struck me the most was when they talked about the Virgin Mary. Sister Kevin explained that we could talk to Jesus directly, but we could also get a message to him via his mother. She said that Mary would always watch over us just like our own mothers would." Ryan looked down at her folded hands and wiped a tear from her eye. Jamie took this opportunity to get up and sit down right next to her, reassuring her by her presence.
"I figured that since my mother was already with God, I didn't have to go through the Virgin Mary, I had an insider to listen to my prayers and direct them to the proper party." Here, she laughed a little at the memory of her childish self. "So from then on I prayed to my mother instead of to God or Jesus. I knew that no one would ever care more for me than she did, and I knew she would always be there to watch over me. I still do that every night," she admitted with a catch in her voice as the tears began to flow in earnest. Jamie scooted even closer and wrapped her arms tightly around Ryan's sobbing shoulders.
"Shhh, shhh, "Jamie cooed into her ear as she rocked her gently and caressed her head.
They sat like that for a few long minutes, Ryan seemingly at ease revealing herself so totally; Jamie touched beyond words at the trust that Ryan showed by her actions. After a bit Ryan leaned away to grope for a box of Kleenex on her bedside table. She took several for herself and wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She watched as Jamie did the same, clearly having been moved by the story.
"Does it bother you to talk about her, Ryan?" she finally asked.
"No, not with you or my family," Ryan replied. "I miss her more than I can express in words, but she loved me so well that I can still feel her love. Of course I would give anything to have her back, but I had her so totally when she was alive, that I am forever grateful for the short time we had together. I really love talking about her with people who understand what she means to me. It makes her come alive for me again when I talk about her."
Jamie was wonderfully pleased at this revelation of Ryan's feelings for their friendship. She leaned over and gently kissed both of Ryan's moist, pink cheeks. "I'm sure she would be proud of the woman that you have become, Ryan," she said simply.
Ryan looked up at her with the most adorable little grin that Jamie had ever seen on a human being. Her eyes were a little hooded and she looked just a bit embarrassed as she said, "Thanks Jamie, that means a lot, coming from you."
After they sat in companionable silence for a few more minutes, Jamie got up from the bed and walked around the room, examining it closely. The room looked very much like Ryan. Clean, neat, organized and fairly utilitarian, but with a little color here and there. A large built-in bookshelf covered the wall opposite the closet and it was filled with science texts, magazines, awards, trophies for various sports and photos. Jamie was struck by one such photo and after staring at it for a few moments she turned back to Ryan with tears in her eyes again. "You knew, didn't you?" she inquired plainly. Ryan rose and came to stand next to her. She put an arm around Jamie's shoulders and looked at the very familiar picture.
The 3x5 color photo in the simple frame showed a very ill woman holding a small, very melancholy child. Ryan's big blue eyes stared up at the camera and revealed all of her fears. The woman, whom Jamie guessed was quite beautiful before her illness ravaged her, also stared directly into the lens. She had a stoic, calm look in her green eyes and it was clear that she still possessed a fiery spirit. Little Ryan was holding on to her tightly, her small arms wrapped around the frail waist. Ryan's head was resting on a bony shoulder and a painfully thin hand held the back of her small head.
"Yes, I knew how sick she was. This was my 7th birthday," she said wistfully. "I didn't understand what death was but I knew that she was going to leave soon, and I knew she wasn't coming back. She died about a month after this picture was taken," she said with a flat voice.
"Oh, Ryan, I'm so sorry you had to feel all of that pain," Jamie said as she turned and was enveloped by Ryan's strong arms.
"Everybody feels pain like that if they really love someone," Ryan whispered. "No one gets out of here alive, you know," she said into Jamie's ear.
"I know, but you were such a baby, Ryan. Look at that precious little face," she lamented as she looked at the photo again.
"I'm not saying that I didn't have a difficult time, Jamie; I know I did. It was incredibly tough for a little girl not to have her mother. There were times that I felt so lost that I didn't think I could survive. The pain was just so great. But I got through it and it made me stronger and it enhanced the connection that I have with my brothers and my father. That's what I am the most grateful for. Death tears many families apart but it made ours much stronger."
"You don't have to answer this if you don't want to, Ryan," Jamie said as she pulled away from their embrace, "but why did you change your name?"
"As I'm sure you guessed, it was because of my mother. She loved the name Siobhan and Da said she was ready with the name for each of the 3 boys. I liked it too, mainly because it was different. I got through first grade okay because everybody was just getting used to each other, and having an odd name was hardly noticed. But right after I came back to school after my mother died a little boy started making fun of my name. We were just learning to spell using phonics and as you found out today, that's one name where phonics doesn't apply. The other kids kind of picked up on his teasing and I just flipped out. It was probably too soon for me to be back at school, but there I was, and I had kind of a little episode. In retrospect it must have been a panic attack. But from that day forward every time a person outside of my family called me Siobhan I flipped out and got hysterical. Nobody knew what to do with me. It was only a couple of weeks after my mother died and everybody in the family had their own issues they were trying to deal with. Luckily, Sister Kevin sat me down and asked me what I would rather be called. Most of my ideas were unacceptable. I was particularly fond of Tigger as I recall," she said with a gentle laugh.
Jamie let out a little laugh of her own as she continued to look at the picture.
"Finally, and with a lot of prompting from Sister Kevin, we settled on Ryan. It was my middle name and my mother's maiden name and Sister Kevin pointed out how that would keep her with me every time someone spoke my name. That was just about the only time that Da just wasn't able to support me," she admitted sadly. "He was really invested in the name since my mother had loved it so. But he didn't put up too much of a fuss after Sister Kevin explained it all to him. The side benefit, of course, is that I don't have to spell Siobhan several times a day," she said with a little smile.
"Wow, Sister Kevin sounds like a neat lady," Jamie said.
"Yeah, she really was. I lost touch with her when her order left our parish, but I still think of her often," Ryan said.
"I do have one more question," Jamie finally said. "That balletic performance of cleaning the kitchen was something to behold. How did that come about?"
"That's another effect of my mother's illness. When she was too ill to cook or do housework we were all assigned jobs. I was so little that I had to do the jobs closest to the floor. Brendan helped me with the moping for years, but I think it was important that they made me feel a part of it," she smiled at the memory. "After my mother died, we just kept to the same tasks. Da transferred from active fire fighting and became a cook. He did it mostly because he just wasn't willing to risk his life anymore. We couldn't afford to lose him, too. He became a good cook and we just drifted into him doing all the cooking and us doing all the cleaning. It's a little militaristic, but that's how a firehouse is run."
Jamie spent a few more minutes looking at the photos placed all over the room. She found one of Ryan's mother when she was about Ryan's age. "Wow, she was a great looking woman," Jamie said.
Ryan grasped the picture in her hand and looked at it for a few moments. "Yeah, she was," she said softly. "I used to wish I looked more like her. She was small and delicate, fair skinned, with auburn hair and vivid green eyes. She had a lovely soprano singing voice and just the gentlest touch you could imagine. When I was going through puberty I felt so big and awkward that I wished I had inherited her bone structure. But it all worked out in the end," she admitted.
"Yeah," Jamie agreed with a chuckle. "I don't think you'd get much sympathy complaining about your looks, Ms. O'Flaherty."
Ryan blushed deeply as she changed the subject quickly. "Let's go see what the boys are doing," she suggested. As they returned to the second floor Conor came out of the bedroom and asked with a hopeful grin, "Jamie, Ryan said you have a Boxster. Could I take a look at it?"
"Sure, Conor, you can drive it if you want."
"Can I really?" he asked with delight. "I've never driven a Porsche. Cars are kind of my passion but I have to drive a truck for work," he said sadly.
"Here's the keys," she replied as she tossed him the set.
"Aren't you gonna go with me?" he asked as his baby blues lit up.
"I will if you want me to, but it's okay if you want to go alone," she replied.
"I don't want to hurt anything. You can show me where all the buttons are," he grinned.
As they began to make their way to the stairs Ryan grabbed Jamie's arm and whispered, "Be careful. He thinks he's God's gift to women."
Jamie wrinkled up her nose and whispered back, "And you don't?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Conor wore a look of childlike exuberance as they walked down the street to the waiting Porsche. "Thanks a lot for letting me do this, Jamie," he said with a dazzling grin.
"It's my pleasure," Jamie replied. "If your love of cars is anything like your sisters, it would be a crime to deprive you of this experience," she teased.
"I think I've got the car bug more than Ryan does," he said reflectively. "But she's got the motorcycle bug a lot worse than I do. We used to drive Da crazy. We were always in the garage working on some engine. I got my license when she was only 12, and from that time on you couldn't keep the grease off of her."
"So she gets it from you?"
"I guess she does. Neither Brendan nor Rory cares much about cars. Da just sees them as transportation. I think I got my license at a time when Ryan idolized me a little, and she took it up to be able to spend more time with me."
"That's so cute," Jamie laughed. "But didn't it bother you to have your little sister hanging around all the time?"
He looked at her quizzically as he opened the driver door. "Why would it bother me? You know Ryan. She was always pretty much like she is now. She never was a pest. She picked things up really quickly and was always eager to do the grunt work. She had a lot of patience for a little kid, and her small hands fit into a lot of spots that mine wouldn't."
Jamie was charmed by this open expression of affection. "You all seem so close, Conor. It's really nice."
"Yeah, we are. I guess we're lucky that way, huh?"
He was now firmly ensconced in the driver's seat, carefully noting all of the gauges and switches. He adjusted the side view mirrors and brought the engine to life. "Oh, this is sweet", he said as he closed his eyes and let a satisfied smile cross his lips.
"Conor, that is exactly what Ryan looked like when she turned the car on!" Jamie said in amazement.
He looked at her with a leer. "I bet she didn't punch it like this!" he said as he hit the accelerator hard and they lurched away from the curb.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Conor drove much faster than Jamie thought prudent. But the streets of the Noe Valley were deserted on this early Sunday evening, so she allowed him to conduct his test drive as he chose. She noted that he seemed much more aggressive than Ryan, and that he seemed to get some satisfaction from making her squeal as they crested a rise in a hill. I bet that's not the only way he likes to make women squeal, she thought. He could certainly be a bad boy fantasy for a lot of women.
"Do you think I could drop the top?" he asked after they reached a more congested neighborhood.
"Sure, as long as you keep it under 40 or so. I'll freeze if you go as fast as you have been," she warned.
"Scout's honor," he promised as he raised 3 fingers in pledge.
They glided down Market for a while, Conor keeping his promise about the speed. They had crossed nearly the entire city when Conor noticed that Jamie looked a little cold. "How about a hot drink? There's a Starbucks right up ahead."
"I'd love a latte', " she admitted.
"Your wish is my command," he said gallantly, as he found an on street parking spot. "Come on in with me. You can warm up a bit."
"Okay, but I think I'll call your house to tell them we'll be gone awhile," she said as she pulled her Startac from the glove box. "What's the number?"
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a $20. "You go on in and order me a latte' too. I'll call and then put the top back up. Go get warm," he said firmly.
As Jamie hopped out he dialed the little phone. Ryan answered on the first ring. "Hi Sis, it's me."
"Where are you?" she said crossly. "You've been gone over an hour."
"You sound a bit possessive, Ryan. I thought this one was on my team," he laughed.
"She is on your team, but she's somebody else's starting pitcher--so keep your mitts off her," she warned.
"I have no intention of touching her...unless she asks me to of course. We're going to stop for coffee to warm up a bit. We'll be home soon. Don't wait up if you get tired. I'll make sure she's well taken care of."
"Conor, if you harm one hair on her head I'll kick your butt all the way down Market Street," she threatened.
"How can I hurt her getting a cup of coffee?" he asked innocently.
"Just bring her back in one piece...and still engaged!" she said as she hung up.
"Gotcha!" he crowed as he shut the phone off.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie was sitting at a little table with two steaming cups of latte' in front of her. Conor slid into a chair and accepted the mug with his thanks. "So Jamie," he said as he gazed at her with those intent blue eyes, "Tell me about yourself."
"What would you like to know?" she inquired, as she tried to avoid his penetrating gaze. Boy this guy could be trouble. He's a real operator.
"Well, you know all about my family, tell me about yours."
"I'm an only child. We live down in Hillsborough. My dad is an attorney and my mom stays at home. We don't have a dog. There--now we're even," she teased.
"Gee, could you be a little more succinct? You were rambling so much I think I missed a lot."
"I'm just teasing you. What do you really want to know?"
"What do you do for fun?"
"Do you mean when I'm alone or with my fiancé?" she asked innocently.
He gave her a charming smile as he drawled, "Oh yeah, Ryan mentioned something about a boyfriend. Isn't he getting out of San Quentin soon?" he asked as he pursed his lips in thought.
"Something like that. He's graduating from Stanford law school this year."
"Right. I knew it had something to do with law...or prison," he added as he looked a little confused.
"His name's Jack and we're getting married a year from June."
"How old are you, if I can be indelicate?" he asked.
"I'm 20 now. I'll be 22 when we get married," she said.
"Isn't that kind of young to be making permanent life choices?" he asked with a note of concern. Gosh, I'm 27 and I can hardly decide what to have for lunch. There are so many choices on the menu and they all look so good," he drawled.
"Yeah, but when you find that perfect, one of a kind sandwich, you better order it before someone else does," she replied, keeping up the analogy.
"With my luck, there would be some hidden ingredient that I was allergic to," he laughed.
"Well, I'm really happy with what I've ordered," she stated firmly.
"Well Lassie, if you ever get hungry for a little Irish fare," he said with a heavy brogue, "don't forget me."
"Between you and your sister, no woman in San Francisco is safe," she said as she laughed heartily.
"You're telling me," he agreed. "I'm just glad she's a lesbian. If she were a guy, there wouldn't be any straight women left unsullied."
"Does her, um, sexual orientation bother you, Conor?"
"No, it really doesn't. It was obvious from very early on that she was never going to be swooning over guys. She never did any of that teenaged girl stuff. She never had crushes on guys or anything. And it's not like she wasn't good looking or anything," he added. "When she was 14 I had 18 year old friends who wanted to go out with her, and Rory had to stop bringing guys over because they all wanted to hang around until Ryan came home. She finally told us when she was 17 and we were all like, 'What took you so long?" he laughed at the memory. "I'm sure it helps that we live around a lot of gay people and we had a gay cousin that we all loved, so it doesn't seem like such a big deal."
"I'm sure my family would not be so accepting as yours," she said disparagingly.
"Well, lucky for you, you'll never have to find out, will you?" he said as his blue eyes bore into hers.
"No. Of course not," she said a little defensively as she averted her gaze.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The next day Ryan's head was swimming from the plethora of questions that Jamie threw at her. They were sitting outside having their usual juice break. It was a clear sunny day keeping with the usual Bay Area phenomena of the best weather of the year being in the fall. Ryan was wearing a black warm up suit made of a fabric that looked like washable silk. A bright white T-shirt peeked out from behind the jacket. Ryan looked carefully at Jamie as she spoke. She was wearing a sleeveless golden yellow sweater that just covered the belt of her green khaki pants. A matching cardigan was loosely tied around her shoulders. Ryan thought about how much she liked Jamie's clothing. She always wears something that compliments her. Like that sweater. It is just a shade or two darker than her hair. I wonder who taught her how to dress? Probably her mother, unless her mother hired someone to do that too!
"So what instruments does Rory play?" Jamie persisted as she asked her fiftieth question of the day.
"He plays keyboard and accordion."
"Do the rest of you play anything?" she continued.
"Yes," Ryan answered patiently. "We all have some competence with an instrument. And the answer to your next question is that I play clarinet, flute and the Irish whistle," she grinned. "I can muddle along on keyboards and I was rabidly interested in the guitar for a few years, but my ardor has cooled recently."
"Tell me about the kind of music his band plays," Jamie inquired. "I don't know much about Irish music."
"I can see there is only one way to satisfy your curiosity," Ryan laughed, "The next time he plays locally I'll take you to hear him. Then all of your questions will be answered."
"I'd love to," Jamie enthused.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The week passed in its usual fashion. On Thursday night Jamie was riding her bike home after a long night at the library. It was about 9 o'clock and the wafting scent from 'Sufficient Grounds' called to her. She locked up her bike and walked in to the warm space. As she stood at the counter waiting for her latte' she spied Ryan sitting in the corner, her head bent in conversation with a young woman. A very young woman. A very, very young woman. Boy does she not fit the mold. The woman had a shaved head and a riot of piercings on her ears and eyebrows. I bet she's got some that are hidden, also. That bet was quickly resolved when she got up to go to the restroom. She walked right by Jamie and fairly large rings clearly showed their shape upon her nipples through her thin tank top. Jamie stared at her in shock. She couldn't be out of high school! She turned her gaze to Ryan who was staring at her with a bemused expression on her calm face. Jamie marched right over to her, her outrage growing with each step.
"Gee, Ryan, isn't it a school night?" she asked sweetly. "You don't want your date to be late for the bus!"
"What do you mean, Jamie?" Ryan inquired with a look of pure innocence on her face.
"That woman doesn't look like she's even out of high school!" she fumed.
"Don't be ridiculous, Jamie," she said with a big grin. "Jennie isn't in high school."
"Well, you could have fooled me..." she began but was cut off by the woman's return.
"Jennie, Jamie thought you were in high school," she laughed.
Jennie laughed too, and mumbled, "I wish."
"Jamie, Jennie is in grade school," she said with a sweet innocence that matched Jamie's earlier tone. "She just turned 13."
Jamie felt as though her head would burst. She knew her face was bright red and she felt completely unable to form a word or a thought.
Ryan turned to Jennie, "You don't mind if I tell Jamie about the nature of our relationship, do you?"
"Nope," Jennie replied easily as she smiled up at Jamie.
"I work with Jennie though a group called 'Gay Teens in Crisis'. She had some tough times at home, and is currently living in a group home here in Berkeley. She's kind of my little sister," she said as Jennie beamed at her.
Jamie felt all of the color drain out of her face. She struggled to pull out a chair and sit down before she fell down. As soon as she looked up at Ryan's sweet smile, she felt her color rise again, this time in shame.
"Did you order something, Jamie?" Jennie asked looking at the empty space in front of Jamie.
"Uh huh, a latte'," she mumbled in reply.
"I'll get it for you. Then I gotta take off, Ryan. 9:30 is my curfew," she said as she rose from the table.
Jamie stared at Ryan who just looked back at her placidly. They sat that way until Jennie returned. She kissed Ryan on the cheek and picked up her book bag and her bike helmet. "Put it on," Ryan ordered.
"It's so rank, Ryan. I've got an image to maintain."
"Well, I happen to like your brain," Ryan said as she stood and plunked the helmet on the stubbly head, "and since you don't even have hair to cushion it, you've gotta wear this."
"Okay, you win," Jennie said as she gave Ryan a quick hug. "Good to meet you, Jamie," she said over her shoulder as she hiked up her huge khaki pants and left the shop.
Jamie dropped her head to the table with an audible thunk. "I am such a jerk!" she moaned into the wood.
"It's okay, Jamie," Ryan replied as she patted her back. "It's not like it's outside of the realm of possibility that I would be with a younger woman," she admitted. "Although 13 is a little young, even for me. I like my women to at least be able to go to an 'PG-13' rated movie with me," she teased.
"I am such a jerk!" Jamie repeated, still not lifting her head from the table.
"You are most definitely not a jerk, Jamie. I was taunting you a bit. I made it worse, and I'm sorry," she said sincerely. After a moment she added, "As long as you've got your head down there can I ask you something?" she inquired.
"Sure," she mumbled from her new table top home.
"Were you at the bookstore last Wednesday night?"
"Ohhh, God," she moaned, and sunk even lower in her chair. "Is there no end to my humiliation?"
"What did you see?" she asked gently as she again placed her hand on Jamie's back and gave it a reassuring scratch.
"I saw you...um... talking to someone," she said as she lifted her head, hoping that Ryan did not know what she had seen. "How did you know I was there?"
"I saw your car when I went outside. I figured you were there, but I was kind of a...occupied," she admitted with a little blush. Now Jamie felt much better. She was beginning to get her normal color back and had risen to sit upright in her chair. But Ryan decided she needed to be completely honest with Jamie, so she told her the rest. "Plus, Babs told me she thought she saw you," she admitted.
As Jamie's color rose, her body sunk until she was again face down on the table. "Shoot me now, please," she moaned. "What did she tell you?" she asked with a quavering voice.
"Ummm, she was under the impression that we had benn...umm... dating," Ryan explained. "And she said that you looked kind of upset." Ryan paused a bit. "I wasn't going to say anything, but I thought that maybe that was why seeing Jennie bothered you," she revealed.
"Yeah, that's probably true," she said with her muffled voice.
"Why didn't you say something, Jamie? I hate to think that my behavior upset you in any way. Tell me what happened," she said gently as she lifted Jamie's head with both hands.
Jamie lifted her head the entire way and sat up straight. "I had to pick up a book for that report we were doing. I went and was just leaving when I saw you. It was like watching a train wreck, Ryan!"
"Um...I don't think I get the analogy," she said with a confused look on her face.
"You know, when something happens that you know you shouldn't see, but you can't help it. I saw you getting kind of um...frisky, and Babs came up behind me. I felt like I had been caught doing something wrong. She jumped to all sorts of conclusions, but I was too embarrassed to set her straight. I just stood there unable to explain a darn thing."
"Go on," Ryan reassured her.
"Well, I was mortified to have her make those assumptions and to have been caught staring at you, so I went out to my car, and you were um...occupied, right in front of me. I felt like I was stuck there, because I certainly wasn't going to interrupt you at that point," here she blushed fiercely. "But you got in her car, and I was able to leave," she said as she let out a big breath.
"So...does it bother you to see me with a woman?" she asked sincerely.
"No, I don't think so. I saw you with Chitra from class that time and it didn't bother me at all."
"That's true," she mused. "But you didn't know me very well then. Do you think that made a difference?"
"That might be part of it," she admitted. "But I think the bigger issue this time was that you didn't know you were being watched. I felt like voyeur," she confessed. "I'm really sorry I saw you and that I didn't turn away immediately, Ryan."
"And I'm sorry that I embarrassed you, Jamie. Robin lives at home too, so we don't really have anywhere to go to be um...alone. I don't usually let myself get that carried away in public," here she blushed furiously, "but it's been kind of a while, and I just lost my head," she confided. "Like I said at the gym, I was feeling a little twitchy," she said as her blush deepened.
"I'm sorry Ryan, that must be difficult for you," she said sincerely.
Here Ryan grinned broadly, "You don't know what difficult is until you try to do it in the back seat of a Corolla when you're over six feet tall," she said wisely.
"Well, I hope it all worked out in the end," Jamie teased back.
"Yeah, we reached our destination," she divulged, "but my neck's still stiff," she laughed as she rubbed the part in question. "I've got to start inquiring about living arrangements before I accept dates," she said with a grin.
Jamie smiled as she forced herself not to consider exactly how that neck got so stiff.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After class on Friday Ryan was bubbling with energy due to her newfound freedom. She had recently decided that she no longer needed to work the early shift at the gym since Jamie had secured 15 hours of private training per week, and that was more than enough to support her. The gym was sorry to see her cut back, but they were so happy with the new members she had brought in that they still felt they had gotten a good deal.
Now, her first appointment was her 8:00 a.m. class. This allowed her to sleep an extra two and a half hours or even go out at night, something that had not been possible for years. "You know Jamie, you have allowed me to have a quality of life that I didn't think was possible. Getting me that job at the gym has allowed me to feel more rested than I have in years."
Jamie regarded her friend carefully. Ryan did look better than she had ever seen her. Not that she had ever looked truly bad, she thought with a laugh. But Ryan now looked completely relaxed and was childlike and very playful the vast majority of the time. The little lines of tension that sometimes nestled between her eyebrows were completely gone and Jamie also noticed that Ryan's chronic habit of rubbing her eyes had almost stopped.
"Did you hear Linda say that we didn't have class on Monday?" she asked, off topic.
"I have never missed a teacher canceling a class," Ryan replied lightly. "I could sleep 'til noon if I wanted to," she said happily. "I'm all caught up on my lab work so I don't have that on Monday either."
Jamie was very pleased to see her friend look so serene. "I have a little idea for how to occupy your morning, if you're up to getting your butt kicked," she offered.
"I guess that depends on who is doing the kicking," she mused.
"How about me?" Jamie replied.
"What method are you planning on using for kicking my butt?"
"Golf clubs," Jamie replied fiendishly.
"I think my butt is in big trouble," Ryan replied with a grimace.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie pulled up in front of the 2 story home at 6 a.m. sharp. She was driving an enormous claret red Range Rover. Ryan popped out of the front door looking absolutely perfect for a day on the links. She wore a navy blue turtleneck under a navy blue, emerald and white argyle cardigan. Navy blue poplin slacks covered her long legs. Her hair was in a neat braid that hung down her back. She looked at Jamie with a quizzical little grin. "Um, Jamie," she said across the roof of the big car, "Something ate your car."
"As much as I love my little car, golf clubs do not fit well," Jamie replied. "My father has an apartment in the City and he keeps this car there. I called him and he wasn't planning on using it, so here we are."
"Pretty nice spare," Ryan replied as she looked the car over thoroughly.
Jamie tossed the keys to her with out a word. Ryan gave her a winning grin and trotted around to the driver's side. "You know me too well, Jamie. I have to learn to keep some secrets from you."
"I don't think you can ever learn to keep that grin off your face," she replied fondly.
Ryan looked like she belonged in the big car. The scale of the car fit her perfectly, unlike Jamie, who looked a bit lost in it. "So where to?" she inquired brightly. "I hope it's far," she added as she gripped the wheel and got a devilish look in her eyes.
"We're going to the Olympic Club," Jamie replied.
"The Olympic Club?" Ryan nearly shouted. "I've never played before, Jamie. They have the U.S. Open there!"
"I'm well aware of the history of the club, Ryan. My mother's family has belonged for generations," she stated honestly. "But don't worry your pretty little head. We'll get warmed up on the driving range, then we'll get a cart and you can caddy for me if you don't feel comfortable."
"Do I get to drive the cart?" she pleaded. "I've always wanted to drive one of those little things."
"Yes, you can drive the cart," she replied indulgently as she smiled at Ryan's hopeful look.
"Okay, let's go!" she responded gleefully.
As she glanced into the rear of the car Ryan noticed only one set of clubs. "Did you bring some clubs for me?" she asked.
"Yep, those are for you. If you can play with right handed clubs, that is. My father keeps a spare set at the apartment for guests or when he wants to play another course. He's about your height, and you're easily as strong as he is, so I thought they would fit you," she explained.
"Well, since I've never struck a golf ball I guess I can do it equally poorly from either side, so right handed clubs should be fine."
"Well, it's a little more complex than that, Ryan. Is your right hand dexterous?"
A waggling right eyebrow was her devilish response.
"Come on, silly. Be honest with me. I'm sure we can rent a set of left handed clubs at the course if we need to."
"No, Jamie. Right handed ones are fine. I'm a natural lefty but I switch hit when I play softball and I can throw with either hand."
"You are quite the jock, aren't you?" she observed as she cast a sly glance at Ryan's athletic body.
"I do all right," she said with a touch of smugness.
A few minutes later, Ryan pulled up to the attractive clubhouse as an attendant in a white shirt and pants dashed out to greet them. "Good morning Miss Evans," he greeted Jamie cheerfully. "Are you joining Mr. Evans this morning?"
"No, my friend and I are going to play alone today," Jamie replied as another attendant ran to open Ryan's door. The first young man trotted around to the trunk and lifted the gate. "Will you be having breakfast first?" he inquired.
"No, but I would like a large hot chocolate," she said as she rubbed her hands together against the morning chill. "How about you, Ryan?"
"Sounds great. I'd love one," Ryan replied.
"We'll be over at the range, Charlie," she replied as she led Ryan into the clubhouse.
Jamie led her cautious looking friend through the ornate clubhouse, finally finding their way to the ladies locker room. She walked over to a narrow but long wooden door which bore a neat plaque labeled 'J. Evans'. Jamie opened the door with a key that she produced from her pocket. Ryan watched as she removed a neatly polished pair of white golf shoes and sat on a bench to put them on. As she watched her Ryan mused that Jamie looked particularly at home in this setting. She wore a sea foam green turtleneck with a cream colored sleeveless cardigan. Her cream colored lightweight wool slacks were held up by a thin black belt, giving her a casual, yet elegant look. After she had tied her spikes she pulled a navy blue nylon anorak out of her locker and stood to leave.
"What size shoes do you wear?" she asked curiously.
"It depends on the shoes," Ryan replied. "My gym shoes are usually 10's, but some of my loafers are 9 1/2's. Why?"
"Come with me," Jamie replied mysteriously.
They walked into the opulent pro shop. Ryan gazed around the overstocked shelves, a bit in awe. "Hi Jason," Jamie called brightly.
"Morning Miss Evans," he replied. "What can I do for you today?"
"My friend here," she indicated Ryan, "needs a couple of things. Hold up your left hand," she instructed as Ryan dumbly complied.
"Hmm," replied Jason. "Looks like a men's small. What color?"
Jamie replied for her, "Navy," she replied firmly.
He handed Ryan a navy glove which she slipped onto her left hand. "Seems perfect," she replied as she got the idea and held up her hand for Jason's inspection.
"What else?" Jason inquired.
"A pair of Foot-Joys, 9 1/2's, leather soles, this style," she lifted her own foot for him to see. This got her a wide eyed look from Ryan, but Jamie just winked at her and said, "Trust me."
Jason brought the shoes out and Ryan sat down and removed her gym shoes. "Would you like to wear two pairs of socks, Ma'am?" he inquired. Ryan looked to Jamie who again replied for her. "Yes, a pair of Foot Joys."
As he left to find the proper socks Ryan said in a whisper, "What are you doing? I can't afford this, and I don't want you buying all this for me."
"You can't judge if you like the game if you don't have the right equipment. Now be quiet or I'll buy you golf clubs!" she threatened. Ryan closed her mouth abruptly and kept it closed. With two pairs of socks she needed the size 10 shoes, but she nodded her assent when Jason asked about her comfort.
They clomped out of the pro shop and walked in silence to the rear of the building. Exiting the rear door they walked the short distance to the driving range where their clubs were set up neatly on bag stands. Large buckets of clean white balls stood near each set of clubs. A golf cart sat about 5 feet behind the clubs and Ryan could see two large insulated mugs in the drink holders.
"So this is how the other 1/2 of 1 percent lives," she teased. "But I have a bone to pick with you Miss Evans. I would not have accepted this invitation if I had known you were going to spend this much money on me," she chided.
"Well, Miss O'Flaherty," she replied logically, "Why do you think I didn't tell you beforehand?"
"It really does make me uncomfortable," Ryan revealed. "I'm not used to my friends spending money on me."
"Look Ryan, lets get this settled," she said as she sat in the cart and patted the seat next to her. Ryan gamely joined her, and met her eyes. "I will personally have so much money one day that I don't believe I could spend it all in my lifetime, unless I started buying military aircraft."
"But..." Ryan started but was cut off.
"I wanted to come here to play today. It's much more fun for me to have you with me. You will enjoy the day more if you have the correct shoes. You will not get a blister on your hand if you wear a glove. The membership here belongs to my father. He is happy that I brought you here. He figures that if I have a friend to play with, I will play more. If I play more I get better. When I play well it gives him enormous pleasure. So, really, you've made my whole family happy by being my guest," her face curled into a cute little grin that Ryan had no defenses against.
"Well, if it makes the whole family happy, I guess I can't turn it down," she grumbled.
"Ryan, you are the last person who would want to be my friend because of my money. But it gives me pleasure to spend just a tiny bit of it on you. Will you let me do that once in a while?"
She took a deep breath, gazing into Jamie's eyes and found herself saying, "Yes, Jamie, I will. I promise I will not bring it up the rest of the day. I will just sink into the lap of luxury and enjoy."
They hopped out of the cart and walked over to the clubs. Jamie explained all of the rudiments of grip, stance and swing mechanics. Ryan watched her studiously and seemed to absorb all of the important points. Jamie picked up a 3 iron and instructed, "Stand behind me and watch for a few minutes. Then go around and watch from the front."
Ryan gamely did as she was told. She noticed that Jamie began her swing with a small downward and forward movement of her hands. The next move was a pronounced cock of her wrists, followed by a pulling of her right arm as the club moved behind her back. Her torso was fully coiled at the top of her backswing. Ryan also noted a counterbalancing tension in her legs. When she reached the apex of her swing it almost looked as though her upper body was ready to be thrust forward by her lower body. A millisecond later that was exactly what happened. Her arms paused at the top of the swing. Her left shoulder was tucked firmly under her chin, her hands were behind her head and her body was fully coiled. She exploded out of the stance by striking her left heel to the ground. Her knees shifted laterally as her hips opened toward her target. At impact it appeared that all of her momentum was taking her in the same direction the ball was traveling. The ball clicked sharply as it flew into the cool air and landed a good 200 yards away. Jamie finished her swing with almost all of her weight on her firm right leg, her torso turned toward the flight of the ball, her chest pointing slightly upward, and her hands pausing high above her left shoulder.
"Wow," Ryan enthused, "that is a very complex move. There must be fifty different elements to that swing."
"That is the biggest problem that golfers have," Jamie agreed. "The swing really is complex. I would guess it is harder to hit a baseball because it's moving, but this it really tough to do well. That's why it annoys me when people say golf doesn't require much skill." She shrugged slightly and added, "I mean it's not as much of a sport as baseball or football, but just because you don't get tackled, doesn't mean it isn't hard."
"Well, it certainly looks hard to me," Ryan agreed. I've got no idea where to start."
"Let me get you set up right so you can see how your body should feel when you address the ball," she suggested. "Move your feet about shoulder width. Flex your knees a little so you feel like your weight is a little over your butt, and on the balls of your feet. Keep your back straight but not rigid. Do you mind if I stand behind you to take a practice swing?"
"I don't mind a bit, but I doubt that you can accomplish it," she teased. "I'm at least 10 inches taller than you are."
"That's where you're wrong, Buffy. It's easier to do when you're smaller than your student." She stood so close that the toes of her shoes touched the heels of Ryan's.
"Bend your knees a little more," she said. "You should almost be sitting on my lap," she instructed as her own knees touched the backs of Ryan's. "That's much better," she said right into her pink ear.
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, she thought weakly when she began to lose her concentration. Ryan smelled so good that she felt herself trying to sniff her neck. Her breasts were pressed against her back and their legs touched from their pelvises down to their knees. Concentrate! she reminded herself firmly.
She wrapped her arms around Ryan's and loosely placed her hands atop her friend's. "Okay, just stay loose and let me move you," she ordered. Ryan complied with her instructions as Jamie began the swing. "Okay, start with a good flex of your left knee...good, now here goes the hands..feel your hips turn...good, now feel the stretch in your torso when we really extend at the top...excellent!" At the top of the swing they were completely entwined. Jamie felt her mouth go dry as jolts of sensation shot up and down her body everywhere that it came in direct contact with Ryan. She knew that they had been in position long enough but she was having trouble making herself move. She took a deep breath to clear her head, but that just made matters worse when she got another good whiff of her sweet scent. She finally forced herself to move through sheer willpower. "Okay, now plant your left heel firmly and uncoil your hips," she said as she pressed her hips against Ryan's. "Here go the arms...just let them follow...good...now a big follow through...excellent!" she said with pride. "You are very easy to work with," she said happily.
Ryan turned around and regarded her thoughtfully for a moment. "This really is your sport, isn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"You just seem to understand the swing at a really fundamental level. When you can explain it as well as you do, it must be something that really resonates with you."
Jamie thought about that for a moment. "I guess you're right," she agreed. "I feel really comfortable when I play. It actually makes me feel kind of calm."
"I feel like that when I run. It's kind of an altered state," she admitted. "But this golf swing is mighty intriguing. There's so many elements that I don't know where to start."
"My suggestion is to put one simple swing thought in your head. Imagine that marker," she pointed at a 100 yard marker, "is an open window in a big wall. Now imagine that you have to stand laterally to that wall and heave a heavy weight through it. Try that without holding a club."
"Okay," Ryan replied, a little doubtful. She did as she was told and felt herself approximate Jamie's swing. "Hey, that works!" she beamed.
"Don't really think about the club, don't think about hitting the ball. Just concentrate on tossing that big weight," Jamie instructed. She handed Ryan a 5 iron and showed her how to sole the club. She bent over and placed a ball in front of the club. "Give it a whack," she exhorted.
Ryan did so, and made very acceptable contact with the little white ball. The ball shot out past the 100 yard marker and she looked up with a big grin flashing those perfect white teeth. "That was fun!" she said gleefully. "Shall I stop while I'm ahead?"
"Nope, we're gonna hit all of these babies," she said as she poked the bucket of balls.
Ryan got to work, and did an admirable job of dispatching each of the little orbs. When she would whiff one or two Jamie stood behind her and gave her a few simple tips. After watching her for a while she commented, "You'll do a lot better if you loosen your grip on the club. Think about caressing it rather than gripping it." Ryan gave her a cute little smirk but applied her tip and found the results to be quite successful. By the time she was finished her sweater was off and her cheeks were flushed bright pink. She spent a good deal of time just watching Jamie. She was very impressed with her friend's skill. She seemed very comfortable, very much in control of her body. She's really a good little athlete, she thought.
Jamie used all of the clubs in her bag to warm up, but she instructed Ryan to stick with the irons for the time being. "Are you ready to hit the links?" Jamie asked brightly when she had finished her bucket.
"If you've got the nerve to play with me, I'm ready."
"My guess is you'd be beating me like a drum in six months if you played regularly," she admitted. "I think I'd better take advantage of you while you're a neophyte."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
They hopped in the little cart, with Ryan at the wheel as promised. Ryan drove carefully over to the starter. "Hi, Miss Evans," he greeted her. "Playing alone today, or would you like me to pair you up?"
"We'd like to play alone, Donald. Can we tee off now?"
"Yep. You're cleared for takeoff. Have a good round, ladies."
Jamie was very impressed with how easily Ryan took to the game. She was strong and tall and her balance was very good. She concentrated during her swing, but was relaxed and playful when one of them was not actually addressing the ball. She had no idea what to do with her pitching or sand wedges and they had spent no time at all on putting. So her short game was non-existent. But her iron play was admirable. Of course she hit her share of clinkers, but accomplished players did that frequently. She didn't keep score, as Jamie told her not to focus on scoring, but instead to focus on feel.
Jamie kept score and seemed quite pleased with her game. Ryan enjoyed the look of intense concentration on her face before she hit a shot. When Jamie missed a shot, she didn't get angry, but Ryan could tell that she went over her swing in her head, trying to figure out what she had done wrong.
The course was truly a marvel, and Ryan was tremendously impressed with the quiet and the peacefulness she felt when it appeared that they were all alone on the course. Some of the views were breathtaking and Ryan felt extremely lucky to be here with her friend.
It was nearly noon when they finished and Jamie asked hopefully, "Lunch?"
"I am famished," she admitted, "but I have a 2 o'clock gym appointment."
"Well, you were supposed to do me at 4. We could skip today if you could move your 2 o'clock."
"You are the Devil, aren't you?" she teased as she picked up the offered cell phone and checked her ever present organizer for the number.
She was pleased to be able to rearrange her schedule, and they spent a moment freshening up in the locker room before they entered The Grill.
Ryan was impressed by the quiet understated opulence of the room. Every server knew Jamie by name, but Ryan was pleased that Jamie had taken the time to learn their names also. Martin had always told Ryan that the easiest way to judge a person was to see how they treated food servers. Ryan was pleased to see that Jamie did very well on this test. Ryan ordered a delicious turkey club and a tart fresh lemonade. Jamie had a chicken Caesar salad and a glass of iced tea.
Jamie signed for the bill as she had all day. Ryan pondered how she would repay her, and finally reached a decision. "Jamie, I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed today," she said sincerely. "But I feel like our friendship has reached a close enough level that I feel uncomfortable having you pay me to train you," she held up her hand to stop Jamie's protest. "Yes, I know that this is my profession, and that I would be able to work with a paying customer if I wasn't working with you. But I want to give my talents to you, Jamie. I don't want you to pay for them anymore."
"But Ryan," she protested. "That's $375 a week you could be earning."
"I'm well aware of that, Jamie," she said as she gazed into her sea green eyes. "But money isn't an issue between us. If we weren't working out together I'd still want to be with you, just hanging out. I really enjoy our workouts...I actually look forward to them. So please don't ask me to accept money for spending 3 enjoyable hours with you a week. At this point in our relationship I just can't accept it."
"Okay," Jamie agreed reluctantly as she gazed back into those mesmerizing eyes. "I can tell that you've made up your mind. But can I bring you to play golf every once in a while?"
"Deal," Ryan replied as they shock hands on the agreement.
Ryan had just enough time for Jamie to drop her off at home. As Jamie pulled up to the house, Conor was maneuvering his big black Dodge Ram into a nearby parking space. Boy, he looks good in that, she mused. He came over to the Range Rover as Ryan got out and dashed in the house to change. "Gee Jamie, do you have a different car for every day of the week?"
"No, Conor. I actually only have one. This is my father's. We borrowed it so we could play golf this morning."
"Golf? Ryan played golf?" he said in amazement. "I started playing about 5 years ago, and she hasn't stop teasing me about it since. Thanks for the ammo Jamie," he said with a twinkle. "So where did you play, Tilden?" he mentioned the name of a city course in Berkeley.
"No, we played at my father's club," she replied, hoping he wouldn't pursue the point.
"Which is...?" he inquired.
"Olympic," she said without embellishment.
"You took Ryan to play at The Olympic Club?" he said, his mouth hanging open in shock. "Are you still a member, or did they throw you out?" he teased.
"She did very, very well, I'll have you know. I've been playing since I was six, and I bet she could beat me within the year if she worked at it. She's such a gifted athlete," she said admiringly.
"Oh, she'll work at it, all right. She owes me at least 20 rounds after all the teasing I've put up with. That gives me a idea for her birthday though."
"Her birthday? When is it?"
"It's Friday. She's going to be 23."
"I had no idea, the little rat!"
"Well, you've really helped me out. I didn't have any ideas for a present for her until now. Hey, it would be fun if Brendan and I could play as a foursome with you two sometime," he added.
"I'd like that," Jamie agreed.
Ryan was barreling down the stairs to fetch her motorcycle when she spotted Conor still at the driver's door of the Range Rover. "You can't drive that one, Conor. It's her father's," she stated with authority.
"Did you drive it?" he questioned.
"Yeah, but I'm trustworthy," she stated in a superior manner.
Jamie laughed and said, "Sorry Conor, I've got to get back to Berkeley before traffic gets bad. But next time, I'll let you drive it," she promised.
Ryan grabbed her bike from the garage and walked it up next to Conor. "What were you two talking about?" Ryan asked suspiciously.
"Oh nothing, nothing at all," he said airily as he sauntered into the house.
Ryan smiled up at Jamie and said, "I really had a fabulous day, Jamie." After a beat she added, "Have we ever had a bad time together?"
"Nope. But I'm sure I'll wear on your nerves over time," she teased.
"Don't count on it, buddy," Ryan said as she patted Jamie's cheek with an affectionate smile on her face.
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