I Found My Heart in San Francisco

 

Book 1: Awakenings

 

By: S X Meagher

 

Disclaimers: See Chapter 1

 

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

 

Chapter 6

 

One of the class projects they had agreed to tackle involved at least one day spent volunteering at a Lesbian or Gay community organization. Ryan had a long association with one such outfit and she agreed to arrange for two evening volunteer sessions at the Gay and Lesbian Teen Talk Line.

 

Jamie picked Ryan up from the Biology building at 6:30. They generally didn't see each other on Tuesdays but Jamie knew that it was Ryan's busiest day. She also knew that she had a tendency to ignore her own needs in order to be early for her appointments. "Have you eaten?" she inquired sternly.

 

"Yep," Ryan replied as she patted her flat belly. "Da fixed me a delicious spaghetti dinner which I ate with gusto."

 

"Good. Then let's get over there early so we can get set up." Jamie always felt more comfortable when she was early for an appointment and she knew that Ryan had the same quirk.

 

They drove through the streets of Berkeley and crossed over into Oakland. When they reached a rather seedy neighborhood, Ryan pointed out the building and Jamie pulled up in front. A small sign read 'G.L.T.T.L.'. "That's certainly unobtrusive enough," Jamie remarked. "Do you think they get harassed here?"

 

"Not that I've ever heard of," Ryan replied. "It's not a bad idea to be cautious, though."

 

As they went into the small building Jamie noticed several cubicles each about 6 feet in height. She could hear soft voices coming from them and she assumed that people were within each one, taking calls. Ryan confirmed this as they walked into a small office near the rear of the building. A large red-headed woman rose to greet Ryan with a big smile on her expressive face. "Ryan, I have missed you..." she said as Ryan enveloped her in a hug.

 

"I've missed you too, Yvonne. I really miss having the time to come help out."

 

"Honey, I think you still hold the honor of logging the most hours of any volunteer we've ever had. Your name is still up on the plaque," she reminded her, indicating a little wooden sign that listed the most loyal volunteers. "We're just glad to see you again," she said as she patted Ryan's back.

 

"Oh, Yvonne, this is my friend Jamie." Jamie nodded at Yvonne as Ryan continued, "I thought I could take calls and Jamie can listen in. If she wants to handle some, we can do that on Thursday after she feels more comfortable. Does that sound okay to you?"

 

"That sounds fine, Ryan. You know the drill. You can use Marsha's office to give yourselves a little more room."

 

Ryan thanked her and escorted Jamie to a second little office. There was a cluttered desk and it took Ryan a minute to find the phone. Once she did she searched for a pair of headphones for Jamie. She came back with the headset and hooked it in to the side of the device.

 

"All of the calls come in and are answered by one person. She logs them in and sets them into a cue. She tries to match the calls to the abilities of the volunteers. I requested calls from lesbians because that's more germane to our class. The operator knows that I have a lot of experience and that I'm older, so she'll probably send some tough ones our way," Ryan explained.

 

"But you're going to actually talk to the callers, right? And you want me to just listen?" she inquired.

 

"No, not just listen. I want you to observe. There are a great number of resources here and I want you to get comfortable with them," she gestured at the disarray that surrounded her, "I just don't know if I can work in all this mess," she admitted. "Sometimes my neatness fetish gets in the way."

 

Ryan set to work to locate all of the pertinent reference materials. She explained that Jamie could hear, but that the caller could not hear her. She told Jamie that she could mute her own voice so that they could talk about a call in progress. She pointed at a white board on the wall and told Jamie to write down any points or questions that she hadn't covered.

 

She looked at Jamie for a few seconds with a very serious expression. "The calls can cover anything. I've had people ask me how to use a microwave oven," she laughed. "But about 10 percent of the calls are really serious. I do my best to make appropriate referrals, but sometimes the kids' stories are truly heartbreaking. If any of the calls bother you, just let me know and we'll stop for a while to decompress, okay?"

 

Jamie was truly touched by Ryan's concern for her. "Thanks for looking out for me," she said with a smile. "I'll let you know if anything gets to me."

 

When she felt comfortable she pressed a button and told the operator she was ready. Less than a second later, the phone rang. "Gay and Lesbian Teen Talk Line, this is Ryan. How can I help you?"

 

The first two hours passed in a blur. Jamie was truly amazed at the astounding variety of issues that kids called about. And most of the callers were kids, she thought. They took calls from girls as young as 12, which truly shocked her. One young girl had kissed another girl at a party and she wanted to know if that made her gay; a 16 year old was sure she was gay but her Orthodox Jewish parents prohibited her from going out without being chaperoned; a 19 year old wanted help with a paper she was doing for school. Ryan didn't spend a lot of time with that call, but she knew who to refer her to and she gave her some interesting sounding web sites to look up. Ryan handled each call with professionalism but an amazing amount of empathy. She dispatched the calls as quickly as possible, but let kids ramble on if she thought they needed to. God, she has an amazing amount of patience, Jamie thought when a particularly non-verbal young woman could not spit out her question. Jamie jumped to her feet several times to write questions for Ryan on the board, and each time Ryan incorporated them into the call. She would generally mouth a thank you or give Jamie a grin when this happened. After two hours Ryan buzzed the operator to take a break.

 

Ryan stood and stretched thoroughly. After a minute she lay down on the floor and stretched her back out even more systematically. Jamie did the same, but with much less efficiency. Ryan gave her a little smile and asked if her back was stiff. When she nodded Ryan said, "Come here and put yours arms around my neck." Jamie gave her a puzzled look but did exactly as she was told. She got close and placed her hands around Ryan's neck as the taller woman leaned over to accommodate Jamie's height. "Now lock your hands together tightly," she said from mere millimeters away. Jamie again followed her instructions and was surprised to feel Ryan rise to her full height. She felt and heard the pops as each vertebra seemed to slip back into place.

 

"Ohhhh God, this feels good," Jamie moaned in pleasure.

 

"All better?" Ryan inquired with a satisfied grin.

 

"Pretty much," she agreed as she twisted around a little bit. "Except for one spot right in the middle," she said as she rubbed the spot with her hand.

 

"I've got another one for that," she replied confidently. "This time put your elbows around my neck," she instructed. Jamie felt her mouth go dry as she contemplated this move. She stood so close and Ryan leaned over so far that they were breathing the same air. The warmth of Ryan's breath on her cheek caused her heart to pick up its beat, but she gamely stood her ground and placed her arms just as Ryan instructed. This time when Ryan rose she was draped along her body and her chin rested right on her broad chest. She turned slightly so that her face lay on Ryan's clean smelling white T-shirt. They both heard an audible snap and Ryan's low laugh rumbled right through her entire body. Jamie hoped fervently that her legs would hold her when she was returned to earth. That low voice rumbled through her again. "Ready?" it asked.

 

"For what?" was her mumbled reply into the strong pectoral muscle.

 

"For me to put you down," came her deep chuckle.

 

"If you must," she heard herself reply after a deep sigh.

 

Ryan wore a bemused grin as Jamie got her legs functioning. "You really are a pleasure hound, aren't you?" she inquired with a light tone.

 

"Um, I can't say that I knew that about myself, but I guess I am," she replied with an embarrassed grin.

 

"Lucky for you that pleasure hounds are my favorite animals," Ryan intoned as she tweaked her nose.

 

I'm gonna have to sit on uncomfortable chairs more often.

 

After their little break the first really tough call of the evening came in. It was from a 14 year old girl who had been raped by her mother's boyfriend, apparently because he thought she was gay. Karen related that the man had been with her mother for about a year and had been harassing her because she didn't have a boyfriend yet. She claimed that he drank a lot and that his abuse got worse when he was drunk. Her mother worked nights as a waitress and Karen was often left at home with the boyfriend.

 

She said that he had come into her room on Sunday night and demanded to know why she never had boys calling. She tried to get rid of him with a flippant answer by telling him that she was a lesbian. He had flown into a rage and beat her severely and then raped her, telling her that he wasn't going to have a queer living in his house.

 

She was terrified to tell her mother because she was afraid that her mother would believe him rather than her. During the call she was hysterical periodically which was absolutely normal. But the hysteria was followed by long periods of silence which frightened both women. Ryan asked her directly, "Have you had any thoughts of death or killing yourself, Karen?"

 

Jamie looked at her with wide eyes. She thought it was a very bad idea to suggest such a thing to the girl. She was afraid that it would give her an idea that she didn't currently have. But after a long pause Karen finally answered.

 

"Yes," she said softly.

 

"Tell me about them," she urged softly.

 

"I keep thinking about my funeral. I think about how sorry my mom's gonna be for having him in the house. And I think about the kids from my school finally understanding how much this hurts," she gasped out.

 

Ryan quickly placed the call on mute and told Jamie, "I hate to do this, but we've got to trace this call. I think she may have already taken something. Go talk to Yvonne and tell her what's going on."

 

Jamie dashed in to Yvonne's office and hastily told her about the call, and Ryan's assessment. She ran back in after Yvonne immediately agreed to call the phone company to trace the call. During one particularly long period of silence, Ryan caught a look at Jamie's terrified face and grabbed her hand, holding it tight while she continued to talk in quiet, reassuring tones, hoping to draw Karen out again. At least 10 more minutes had passed and by now Jamie agreed with Ryan's assessment of the severity of the girl's mental state. Her voice was becoming slow and dreamy when she wasn't crying uncontrollably. Ryan had been letting her lapse into silence for a few minutes. But after another interminable silence Jamie could see the tension in Ryan's face and felt the pressure of her hand becoming more intense.

 

Several minutes passed and the tension in the room was unbearable. Ryan finally stood up and started to pace in a small circle. She started to talk in a louder voice, "Come on, Karen talk to me. Please talk to me," she pleaded. Finally she couldn't take the silence anymore and she yelled in a frustrated plea, "KAREN! FOR GOD'S SAKE!! PLEASE TALK TO ME!"

 

Every muscle in Jamie's body was coiled with tension. Ryan was pale and rigid as she stood in place with her eyes tightly shut. Just when Jamie was sure they had lost her an older female voice picked up the phone and identified herself as an Oakland Fire Department paramedic. She had to hang up immediately to begin resuscitation, but she promised that someone from the department would call back when they got the girl stabilized.

 

Ryan hit the disconnect button and sank into her chair. Her head dropped into her hands and she sat motionless for many long moments. Jamie was shaking all over and felt like she was freezing to death. When Ryan finally looked up she saw the pallor on Jamie's face and she immediately got up and shoved Jamie's head between her knees. She grabbed a paperweight from the desk and flung it against the wall. Yvonne came running and Ryan instructed her to get a cold cloth. She returned seconds later with the requested item. Ryan told her she could leave, thinking that Jamie would respond better to her alone. She placed the cloth on the back of her clammy neck and slowly massaged her tense muscles. After a few minutes she felt her begin to stir and she helped her sit up.

 

Jamie was still stark white but she was shaking less and Ryan guessed that she was in no danger of passing out. She helped her to her feet and guided her out of the small office. As they passed Yvonne's office Ryan said quietly, "I'll call in an hour to see how the girl is." Yvonne mouthed a thank you and Ryan nodded her acknowledgment.

 

As they got to the curb Ryan propped her up against the car and searched through Jamie's bag for the car keys. When she found them, she turned off the alarm and opened the passenger door. Jamie's color had not improved and Ryan began to worry that she should not have moved her. She appeared to be in shock, and Ryan hoped that being in familiar surroundings would calm her down. She had a rather vacant look in her eyes, but she seemed cognizant of where they were.

 

Ryan maneuvered her into the seat and belted her in securely. She ran around the car to get into the drivers seat. As she started the engine Jamie moaned loudly and started to struggle to free herself from the seat belt. Ryan unhooked her own belt and ran around to the other side. As she opened the door Jamie leaned over dangerously close to the sidewalk and began to vomit. There wasn't much Ryan could do at this point so she just knelt down and placed her hand on the back of her neck for comfort. She grabbed some tissues from the box on the floor and wiped her mouth gently. Then she lifted her back into the car and checked her vital signs. Her pulse seemed a little quick, but Ryan expected that. She reclined the seat as much as possible and placed her limp form back against the seat.

 

Jamie was beginning to stir as they approached her house. She moaned slightly and shifted a bit as Ryan pulled into the drive. "Please let no one be home," Ryan prayed aloud. She trotted to the passenger side, opened the door and removed her seat belt. She squatted down and made eye contact. "Are you going to be sick again?"

 

A small nod and a lurching movement were the only warning that Jamie provided. Regrettably Ryan's reflexes were not fast enough and the remaining contents of Jamie's stomach caught her right in the crotch of her jeans. She swallowed the bile that was rushing up her own throat and did her best to comfort her friend. When she was finished gagging Ryan slid one strong arm behind Jamie's shoulders and the other under her knees. She grunted deeply from the strain as she rose to a standing position. Boy, I wish we had the Range Rover tonight. That squat was a killer!

 

She struggled to carry her friend up the walk and shot a concerned look at her as she moaned softly. Her diverted attention caused her to stumble just a bit on one of the stairs. Please don't drop her, she pleaded with herself. She hoisted her burden higher on her chest to free her right arm. She managed to get the key in the lock and turned the knob, where she was overjoyed to find the house dark and still. She crossed the threshold and laid her down on the sofa. "Jamie?" she said quietly. When she got no response she lightly slapped her face. Great! Now she's unconscious! After making sure that she would not tumble off the small sofa she dashed into the kitchen to fetch a dish towel which she wet and filled with a few handfuls of ice. She flicked on the overhead lights as she returned to the sofa.

 

She sat Jamie up again and gave her a brisk ice massage on the back of her neck. She began to respond and finally muttered, "What happened?"

 

"You almost passed out at the help line. You're in your living room now. How do you feel?" Ryan dropped to her knees and held on to her shoulders to steady her and looked closely at her eyes.

 

"Okay, I guess. A little sick to my stomach, though. How long was I out?"

 

"Not long," Ryan said as she exhaled deeply and rubbed her eyes in her familiar gesture of fatigue. "But a lot longer than I'm comfortable with. Has this happened to you before?"

 

"Yeah. I..." she started, but Ryan saw the green tinge return to her face. She scooped her up and began to climb the stairs quickly, feeling beads of sweat pop out on her forehead as she struggled with her weight.

 

She carried her into the bathroom and allowed her to kneel on the floor and rest her head on her folded arms crossed upon the toilet seat. Another round of gagging followed and after a few quiet minutes she helped her to her feet and guided her into her room.

 

"What did you have to eat today?" she inquired.

 

Jamie thought for a minute, trying to order her muddled brain. "I don't remember. Didn't we eat together?"

 

"No, that was yesterday," Ryan said as another look of worry crossed her face. "Jamie, I want you to think about today. This is Tuesday. Tell me about what you did today."

 

"Um, did we have psych today?"

 

"No, that's on Monday. This is Tuesday. You have your Romantic Poets class on Tuesday. Did you go?"

 

Jamie concentrated hard and after a few minutes her memory came back. "Yeah, I did. After that I went to the library and then I got some lunch."

 

"What did you have?" Ryan asked.

 

"Um, I felt a little funny so I just had some soup and a couple of crackers."

 

"No breakfast?"

 

"Um, I don't think so. Oh, no, I was running late so I just had a diet coke."

 

"Okay, then what did you do after lunch?" Ryan continued.

 

"I had my next two English classes, back to back. Then I went back to the library and got really engrossed in reading for my class. My watch alarm went off at 6 and I rode my bike home and got my car. I drove back and picked you up at 6:30," she gave Ryan a little smile, proud of her accomplishment of remembering her day.

 

"So, you asked if I had eaten, but you didn't tell me that you hadn't," she chided her gently. "I guess you need someone to look after you too," she said as she ruffled Jamie's hair. "I'm going to call your parents to let them know about this. I think you should see your doctor."

 

"NO!" she cried. "Don't call them, Ryan! Please!" she begged with a note of panic in her voice.

 

"Okay, okay," Ryan said as she gently caressed her cheek. "But we've got to get something into your tummy. Do you think you have any 7-up or ginger ale?"

 

"Probably, but I'm not sure."

 

"Do you feel like I can leave you for a minute or two?"

 

"Yeah. My stomach is still bad but I don't think I'll pass out again."

 

When Ryan returned with a glass of ginger ale she resumed her questioning. "Tell me about when you passed out before"

 

"It's kind of embarrassing, but I tend to pass out when I'm under stress. My blood pressure is kind of low and I just tend to go out."

 

"Do you get any warning?" Ryan asked.

 

"Yeah, like tonight I could tell that as soon as you disconnected the phone..." here her voice got fainter and she began to lose her color again. Ryan reached over quickly and removed the glass from her weak hand.

 

"I'm gonna get you into bed. Then we're gonna talk about this a little. What do you wear to bed?"

 

"A T-shirt," Jamie replied as she pointed to her chest of drawers. Ryan pushed her down on the bed and lifted her legs, placing them on the bed also. She walked over to the chest and picked out a very large light blue t-shirt, obviously one of Jack's. She returned to the bed holding the shirt up for Jamie's approval. Her questioning look received a nod in return.

 

Ryan stood at the foot of the bed and began to unlace Jamie's brown leather ankle length boots. She dropped each boot to the carpet and touched a sock as she asked, "On or off?"

 

"Off," was the faint reply.

 

She walked around to the side of the bed and began to unbuckle the brown leather belt which held up the khaki chinos. "I can do that, Ryan," she insisted as she tried to sit up.

 

Ryan let her give it a try but she flopped back down again in seconds. "God, why am I so dizzy?"

 

"Because you've been vomiting and you had almost no food in your stomach to start with. You're probably a little dehydrated. Let me get you undressed and then we'll try to get some fluids down you, okay?"

 

"I feel embarrassed, Ryan," she admitted with a small voice.

 

Ryan gave her a sad look and sat down next to her on the bed. "Jamie," she said softly. "I...I'm not trying to...I mean I don't want to..."

 

All at once it hit the smaller woman and she hastened to reassure her friend. "No, no, Ryan. Please don't think I'm worried about you seeing me naked. I'm just shy...around everyone," she insisted. "I don't even like Mia to see me naked."

 

Ryan nodded her head, feeling reassured that Jamie wasn't afraid of her in particular, but she didn't want her friend to lie in bed with her stained and smelly clothes on. She looked rather helpless until Jamie sighed and said, "I'm being silly. Please help me."

 

She dropped her arms to the bed and let Ryan do her job. She unbuttoned and unzipped the pants and instructed, "Pick your butt up a little." Jamie did as she was told and the chinos were removed and folded neatly.

 

Ryan began to unbutton the multicolor pastel plaid flannel shirt. She worked the buttons of the sleeves open and removed one arm. She turned Jamie over onto her side and removed the shirt completely. Next she tugged the pale yellow t-shirt up her torso and over her head.

 

Ryan pulled her up into a sitting position, braced against her own body. "Are you okay?" she asked gently.

 

"Yeah," she said weakly, but it was clear that she was feeling queasy again. She put her arms around her torso and easily unclasped her peach colored silky bra. She slid it off her shoulders and tossed it away, being careful to avert her eyes as much as possible. Gathering the blue t-shirt, she bunched the fabric together and pulled it over Jamie's head, and then pulled an arm through each sleeve and placed her back onto the bed.

 

Next she went to the other side of the bed and pulled back the comforter and the sheet. She returned to Jamie and rolled her over until she was lying on the exposed bottom sheet. She went back around again and pulled her up until her head rested on a pair of fluffy down pillows.

 

Jamie's color was much better now. Ryan checked her watch and noticed that it was almost 11 p.m. so she walked over to the phone and called the help line. Yvonne answered the main number and Ryan asked if they had received word on Karen yet.

 

"Yes, the paramedics called about 10 minutes ago. They pumped her stomach and have stabilized her. They seemed quite confident that she'll be okay. Physically, at least," she added. "How's your friend?"

 

"She's okay, that was not an uncommon reaction apparently." After a few more words Ryan hung up and went back to the bed. Jamie's color was nearly normal, but now she was quietly crying.

 

Ryan untied her shoes and kicked them off. She finally pulled off her leather jacket and draped it over a chair. She had to get her sodden jeans off but she didn't want to leave her friend for long. So she just shucked them and looked in the dresser for some sweats or pajama bottoms. Luckily she found some thin cotton flannel pajama bottoms that must have been Jack's. She slipped them on and shimmied out of her bra without taking off her T-shirt. Crossing over to the bed she climbed in and pulled another two pillows behind her back. She scooted right next to Jamie and pulled her into the crook of her shoulder. Jamie's head dropped onto Ryan's breast and she shook with quiet sobs for a long while.

 

"How could someone be so cruel to a child?" Jamie finally gasped out. "How could you rape a little girl because you think she's gay?!"

 

"I can't answer that Jamie. I can't imagine abusing someone so vulnerable. The really awful thing is that Karen's innocence is destroyed. She might get through the trauma but she can't reclaim her childhood. That's gone forever."

 

"I'm so proud of you Ryan," she murmured. "You saved her life. You really saved her life!"

 

"No, the paramedic did that. I just knew enough to call them."

 

"I didn't realize how bad it was until the end. She would have died if I had been there alone," she began to sob again.

 

"You don't know what you would have done if you were alone, Jamie. Don't speculate about things like that," Ryan said into her ear as she held her close.

 

Jamie began to calm down after a few more minutes of sobbing. The stress of the evening began to claim her and she was sound asleep within moments. After Ryan was sure she was in a deep slumber she rolled her onto her back. She drew the comforter up to cover her breasts and pulled her arms out of the covers.

 

Ryan rolled out of bed and went to the phone. She dialed the familiar number of the firehouse and heard her father's strong voice answer. "Hi, Da. It's me."

 

"What's wrong, Siobhan?" he said with a note of concern.

 

"Nothing big. Jamie and I went to the teen talk line tonight and we had a really stressful call. A young girl overdosed and we just got to her in time. Jamie hadn't eaten and she passed out. None of her roommates are here, so I'm gonna stay over to watch her."

 

"Oh, the poor lass, you take good care of her, Siobhan, she's a lovely little thing."

 

"Thanks Da, will you let the boys know I won't be home?"

 

"Sure thing, sweetheart. I love you, Siobhan," he said softly. "And I'm proud of you for helping that child tonight."

 

"I love you too, Da. See you tomorrow."

 

Ryan found a small quilt lying on a chair. She flipped off the lights and got onto the bed . She lay outside of the covers and placed the quilt around herself. She lay in that position for a long time, unable to relax enough to sleep. Hours later she drifted off for a few restless hours of sleep.

 

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

 

Just after dawn she awoke with a start. She rubbed her weary eyes and carefully rolled out of bed. As she picked up her shoes she heard Jamie stir.

 

"What time is it?" Jamie asked groggily.

 

"It's just 6 a.m.," Ryan replied. "You can go back to sleep. You could use the rest."

 

Ryan came over to Jamie's side of the bed and sat on the edge to check her out. "I'm going to take a shower and go downstairs to fix some breakfast. You stay in bed and I'll come check on you at 7. If you're better you can come down and have some breakfast before school, okay?"

 

"Okay," Jamie agreed. "Gimme a hug," she said as she extended her arms. Ryan dutifully complied, giving her a small kiss on the top of her head for good measure.

 

By the time Ryan had reached the door to the bathroom she heard Jamie's breathing fall into a steady pattern. She smiled wearily at her sleeping friend and closed the door.

 

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

 

After a partially rejuvenating shower Ryan ambled down stairs to find something for breakfast. She had slipped Jack's pants back on along with her own T-shirt. She did a reasonably decent job of washing her jeans out and tossed them in the dryer while she searched the kitchen for acceptable food. The closest she could come was some instant oatmeal. The pantry held every type of spice and herb, but the only real food was microwave popcorn, fat free cookies and diet soda. This is disgusting. Every one of those 3 is underweight and I bet they're all malnutritioned. I can't do much about the other two but Jamie is going to start eating better if I have to move in here to cook for her. There was no fruit in the house, but she did find some milk that had a day left before it went bad. She put the instant oatmeal in the microwave and grumbled to herself as it cooked.

 

She extracted the bowl and added the milk and some brown sugar. She was on the verge of gagging as soon as she took her first bite. What a terrible thing to do to a poor little oat, she moaned. Every bit of flavor and texture has been removed!

 

Her stomach was queasy as it was, and the wallpaper paste that claimed to be oatmeal was making matters worse. I can't do it. I'll grab something on the way to class. Anything would be better than that!

 

She was pleased to hear Jamie stomping around upstairs but she thought she should give her some privacy so she climbed up on the marble counter to wait for her pants to dry. Just a few minutes after 7 Jamie came down the stairs, clean, pressed and very pale.

 

Ryan hopped off the counter and walked over to her. "You don't look much better," she admitted. "How do you feel?"

 

"About like I look," she said weakly. "I'm still a little sick to my stomach and I feel pretty shaky."

 

"I think this is a perfect day to skip school," Ryan suggested. "Why don't you go back upstairs and hop into bed. I'll go to the store and buy you some human food for breakfast."

 

Jamie looked at her blankly while Ryan turned her around and steered her back up the stairs. "Scoot," she commanded.

 

Without a word she climbed the stairs, unbuttoning her blouse as she did so. Ryan pulled her still damp jeans from the dryer and struggled into them. Nothing better than hot, wet jeans that still smell like vomit, she thought cheerily. She picked up the keys to the Porsche and was just locking up when Cassie pulled into the driveway.

 

"What a surprise," she said dryly as Ryan passed her on the walk. "Do you have keys to the house and the car now?"

 

Ryan bit her lip to stop herself from snapping at her. "No, I don't. Jamie's ill and I'm taking her car to get her something for her stomach. Is that all right with you?" she added with a false smile.

 

"What's wrong with her?" she asked with a look of concern.

 

"She got upset last night and hadn't had much to eat. I think her stomach is just raw from throwing up."

 

"Why was she upset?" Cassie asked with a narrowed glance.

 

"She and I were volunteering at a help line and we had a really stressful call. A young girl had been raped and she tried to kill herself." Ryan didn't want to give her all of this information, but she didn't want to lie either.

 

"That's ridiculous!" Cassie huffed.

 

Ryan thought that was an odd term to use, but she agreed. "Yeah, it's really upsetting to think of what people can do to kids."

 

"No, it's ridiculous that Jamie was put in that position. She's not used to that type of person, Ryan," she said dismissively.

 

There was not one thing in the world Ryan could have said that would not have involved profanity so she shut her mouth and turned on her heel. Cassie was left standing on the sidewalk, mouth open in shock at being treated so rudely by Jamie's uncouth friend.

 

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

 

After a $50 trip to the market Ryan returned to the house to start breakfast. Luckily Cassie had obviously just stopped in before class because she was gone when Ryan returned. She organized all of the supplies in the pantry, leaving out just the items that she needed for breakfast.

 

The first order of business was getting her own meal started. She assumed that Jamie would not be up for some time but she could hardly wait another minute. As it was she had bought some energy bars and had to munch on one during the ride home. She decided she wanted French toast and ham so she mixed up the batter for the crusty brioche that she had purchased. She got everything together quickly and within minutes had it all cooking away. When everything was ready she put her very large latte' in the microwave to heat it up and sat down to enjoy her repast. She pulled out one of her textbooks so she could study while she ate. The time flew by and she was astounded when she realized it was 10 o'clock. I guess I'm skipping my bio lab, she thought. Good thing I'm pretty well caught up.

 

Moments later she heard Jamie get out of bed. She gave her a few minutes to go to the bathroom but when she didn't hear the shower she walked back up the stairs to see how she was.

 

"Come on in," Jamie replied when Ryan knocked softly. She had crawled back into bed but she looked a lot better. Her color was nearly normal and she didn't have the dark circles under her eyes that she had earlier.

 

"Are you going back to sleep or are you ready for some food?"

 

Jamie recoiled at the mere thought. She scrunched up her face in distaste and moaned, "I'm never going to eat again."

 

"Oh yes you are," Ryan insisted. "Your stomach will not feel better until you get something in there. You can have tea and toast, or cereal, or oatmeal or French toast, or pancakes, or scrambled eggs. But you're putting something in there if I have to hold you down," she said with her hands on her hips.

 

Jamie had to laugh at her fierce demeanor. "Jokes on you, Ryan. We don't have anything to eat around here except popcorn."

 

"You do now," she informed her. "I went to the store." She waited a beat before she added, "And I ran into Cassie. We had a little chat and I'm pretty sure she's mad at me."

 

Jamie rolled her eyes and pulled the pillow over her head. "I'm not up to hearing about it right now. Will you tell me after my stomach has calmed down?"

 

"I don't need to tell you at all," Ryan said. "I just wanted to let you know so you were in the loop. Now what can I make you?"

 

"I tend to like sweet things when I'm sick. Do you think I could keep French toast down?"

 

"I think you could if you don't put too much syrup or butter on it. You stay in bed until I'm ready for you, okay?"

 

"Okay," she agreed as she let out a massive yawn. "I'm still a little tired."

 

Ryan trotted down stairs and made 3 pieces of French toast for her. She put the plate on a tray and added a small pitcher of syrup, a mug of sweetened tea, silverware, a linen napkin and a bud vase with a bright yellow Gerber daisy that she had purchased at the market. She expertly balanced the tray as she opened the door to Jamie's room. "Breakfast is served," she said cheerily as she entered.

 

She struggled to sit up as her face curled up into a delighted grin. "That's so sweet, Ryan! I just can't believe how thoughtful you're being."

 

"You were really in a bad way last night, Jamie. And I feel a little responsible for it. I feel like I should have better prepared you for the types of calls we got, or at least asked them to give us easier calls."

 

"No way, Ryan," she said as she shook her head. "This is just me. There's no way you could have known that I had a tendency to pass out under stress. I should have warned you," she admitted. She took a bite of the toast and closed her eyes in pleasure. "Thanks for making this. It's just perfect for my sad little tummy."

 

Ryan was still quite concerned about her and peppered Jamie with questions about her health, as the now ravenous woman diligently worked away at her breakfast. "How many times have you passed out?" she inquired.

"I would say it's happened to me 4 or 5 times."

"How old were you when it first happened?"

"I don't know, but I think I was in high school," Jamie replied. "I do remember that I had been studying for a big test and I felt sick to my stomach and I just went out."

"Have you ever mentioned this to your physician?" Ryan continued.

"Yes, I did. I had to have a physical before I was admitted here and she asked me if I had ever fainted. She didn't think it was a big deal."

"When it has happened before did it last as long?" Ryan asked, still concerned.

"I'm not sure how long I was out. I think it's usually just a few seconds," she replied.

"I would estimate that you were out cold for a total of 10 minutes. I was really worried about you. I was wrestling with the decision of whether to take to the hospital," she admitted.

"I'm sure I've never been out that long. Maybe I should call my doctor."

"You said that you felt funny at lunch yesterday. What did you mean?" Ryan asked.

"I just felt queasy all morning. Actually I've been feeling a little off for a while. Maybe I'm not getting enough sleep or something."

"Um...I don't want to upset you but is there a chance that you might be pregnant?" Ryan asked gently.

Jamie's face was drained of all color in less than a second. Ryan could see her hands grip the edges of the tray so tightly that her knuckles turned white. Her eyes were wide and Ryan was very concerned that she would pass out or throw up again. After she sat for a minute in shocked silence, she tried to answer but couldn't find her voice.

 

"I'm gonna take that as a yes," Ryan said as she raised her hand to gently stroke Jamie's cheek. "I'm sorry I brought it up since it's obviously upsetting you but if it's a possibility you really should be seen by your doctor."

 

She pushed the now empty tray away from her lap and let her head fall back against the pillows. "Please God, make it not be true," she begged. "I don't know what I'll do if I'm pregnant, Ryan," she said with a terribly pathetic look on her face. Ryan sat closer and wrapped her arms around her tightly.

 

"Don't worry about it, Jamie. Let's get you dressed and go to your doctor. They can give you the results in just a few minutes...then you can put your mind at ease. Do you want to call Jack and have him go with you?"

 

"No, no, I really don't. Won't you go with me?" she asked, looking like a frightened child.

 

"Of course I will. I'll call the doctor and make sure they can see you. Do you have the number handy?"

 

"Yeah, I have her business card in my wallet."

 

Ryan found the number and instructed Jamie to get dressed while she went downstairs to make the call. She didn't want Jamie to hear her cancel her 1 and 2 o'clock clients or to hear what she said to the doctor so she hoped it took her a few minutes to get ready.

 

"Hi," she said when the receptionist answered. "I'm calling for Jamie Evans. She had an episode last night where she was unconscious for almost 10 minutes. She also vomited numerous times. She can't rule out that she's pregnant so she'd like to come in for a pregnancy test and to have the doctor look at her if possible."

 

"Well, the doctor is only in the office for another hour today. She's at the hospital all afternoon. Could she get here quickly?"

 

"Yes," Ryan said confidently. "We can be there in hour."

 

Jamie came down just as Ryan was canceling all of her clients for the afternoon. She knew that she wouldn't be able to leave her if Jamie was pregnant so she decided to be cautious. "We've got to rush," she told her. "I promised we'd be there in hour."

 

They dashed out of the house and quickly got onto the relatively clear freeway. Luckily they were on the road right between the morning rush hour and the heavy traffic that occurred around lunch time. They didn't talk at all on the way down. Jamie was going over every possible scenario that could occur if she was pregnant; Ryan was just concentrating on driving fast enough to get there but slow enough to avoid a ticket or an accident.

 

When they pulled up to the charming 2 story brick building that held her physician's office Ryan pulled over to the curb to let her out. "I'll park and be right in," she reassured her. Jamie looked hesitant, but Ryan insisted that she get in before the doctor left.

 

Ryan found a spot only 2 blocks away. She ran all the way back to the office and was pleased to see that Jamie had already been shown to a room. The waiting room was empty and she started to sit down to read a magazine when the door opened and a nurse beckoned her in. "She's in room 3," she said as she pointed Ryan toward the room.

 

"Does she want me with her?" she asked in shock.

 

The nurse looked at her like she was slow. "How else would I have known to come get you?" she asked with a slight smile.

 

Ryan just shrugged and walked down the hall to the examining room. Jamie had already taken off her clothes and was sitting on the examining table with just a green paper gown on. She looked small and scared and very cold. Ryan immediately stood right next to the table and wrapped her in her arms, not caring who saw them. Jamie seemed very grateful for the comfort and she nestled her head right into Ryan's neck. "I already gave them a urine sample," she mumbled. "They're doing the test now."

 

After a perfunctory knock the door opened and a very young looking doctor entered. She looked a bit surprised to see Ryan but she recovered quickly. "Hi Jamie," she said with a friendly smile. "I hear you've had a tough day."

 

"Yeah, pretty tough," she agreed. "This is my friend, Ryan. She was with me last night, so she can answer any questions that you might have since I was so out of it."

 

"Hi, Ryan," she said as she extended her hand. "I'm Alison Aiken."

 

Ryan shook her hand and stepped back out of the way as Alison started to examine Jamie. She positioned herself so she was close to Jamie's head, but far enough away so that she couldn't see the more intimate part of the exam. Alison checked her blood pressure and took her temperature and then she drew a vial of blood to run some tests Next she asked Jamie to lie down so she could perform a pelvic exam. Ryan felt a little uncomfortable but Jamie clearly wanted her here, so she stayed right where she was.

 

"Have you had any adverse reactions to the new pill, Jamie?" Alison asked.

 

"No, I haven't had any side effects from it," she said. "But I haven't been on it for a full month, so it might be too soon to tell," she admitted.

 

"Have you been using condoms?"

 

Jamie blushed deeply as she admitted, "Usually. But there were two times where I had sex without one. Both times were on the same weekend, about 3 weeks ago."

 

"The date of your last period was..." she looked on Jamie's chart and checked her watch to confirm the date. "30 days ago," she concluded.

 

"Yeah, I should have gotten my period 2 days ago, but I thought the new pill could have messed me up a little."

 

"Hmmm," Alison said as she stripped off her latex glove and tossed it away. "You can scoot up now," she said as she lightly patted Jamie's leg. "Everything seems normal. But it's too early for me to detect much if you were pregnant. Tell me about your symptoms."

 

"I've felt a little lethargic for a month or so. My sleep has been off a little bit too. I've been queasy in the mornings for about a week."

 

Alison was staring at her intently as she listened to her description of her symptoms. "Are you urinating more than normal?"

 

"No, no difference."

 

"How do your breasts feel? Any tenderness?" she asked as she lightly palpated them.

 

"Yeah, they're tender but they always are before my period."

 

"Tell me about last night," she asked.

 

"We were volunteering at a crisis line and we got a call from a young girl who was raped and tried to commit suicide. The call went on for at least hour and I was tenser than I've ever been by the time the paramedics got there. I started to pass out but Ryan got my head between my knees and I felt better. But as soon as we got in the car I started to throw up. I'm not sure how long I threw up but eventually we got home. I'm not sure about anything after that," she admitted.

 

Ryan piped up to continue the story. "She passed out briefly in the car but she came to pretty quickly. She vomited several more times before I could get her out of the car and as soon as we got in the house she fainted again. She was out a long time...much longer than I was comfortable with...I'd say a total of 10 minutes."

 

"Hmmm, that is a long time," she mused. "Any other symptoms? Have you changed your eating habits or your activity level?"

 

Jamie started to say no, but Ryan butted in. "Yes she has. She's decided to ride in the AIDS ride this year and I'm training her. She rides 50-75 miles a week and she works out 3 days a week with weights. She also works out on a stairclimber or an elliptical trainer 3 times a week."

 

"I'm a little concerned about your weight, Jamie. I notice that you're 10 pounds lighter than the last time you were in. How have you changed your diet to accommodate your increased activity?"

 

"Umm, I haven't?" she admitted weakly.

 

Ryan butted in again. "Could you recommend a sports nutritionist for Jamie? I don't think she has very good eating habits."

 

"Yes, I know someone in the East Bay who could help you change your diet. Let me run some tests on your blood. I'll have the results by Friday, okay?"

 

"Okay," Jamie agreed.

 

"I'll be right back," Alison said as she opened the door. "You can get dressed, Jamie."

 

As Ryan handed her the neatly folded garments she said angrily, "I should have my certificate revoked!"

 

"What?"

 

"It's criminal that I didn't notice that you had lost 10 pounds! That's my responsibility, Jamie. I'm really sorry that I let you down."

 

"You didn't let me down, Ryan. It's all my fault. I knew I was losing weight but I didn't say anything or make any adjustments to my eating. I thought it was really neat to be underweight for a while. I usually gain weight around the holidays so I figured it would all even out."

 

"I guess it's not as obvious with you because I see you so often. It's hard to detect a change when it comes on so gradually, but I'm still really mad at myself for not noticing it."

 

"Ryan, you don't see me naked and I've been wearing looser clothes to work out in. I didn't want you to see that I was losing weight. It's really my fault and I'm sorry."

 

The doctor knocked as she came in again. "You didn't want to be pregnant did you?" she asked with a smile.

 

"God no!" Jamie shouted.

 

"Then I have good news," she said with a grin. "You are officially not pregnant."

 

Jamie threw her arms around Ryan's neck as she broke into tears. Alison just nodded to Ryan and backed out of the room quietly. Jamie cried for a few minutes as Ryan rubbed her back. She finally lifted her head and said," Thank you so much for being with me today. I don't know what I would have done without you."

 

"I'm glad I was able to be with you. That's what friends are for, Jamie."

 

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

 

When they were back in the car Jamie looked a little embarrassed as she said, "Was it okay to be in the examining room with me? I mean I know I should have asked you first, but I just didn't want to be alone."

 

"Of course it's okay. I'm honored that you trust me enough to want me to be with you. But I was a little surprised," she admitted. "You seemed so embarrassed last night."

 

"Oh, I'm just a big baby sometimes. I slapped some sense into myself last night though. I'm gonna try to be more relaxed about my body. It was kinda weird when she was asking me about having sex, though," she admitted.

 

Ryan patted her now relaxed hand and said, "It's okay Jamie. It's perfectly natural to have sex with your fiancé."

Now Jamie blushed deeply. "I know; it's just embarrassing to talk about it."

"Now you know how I felt when you saw me practically having sex in public," Ryan teased.

"There was nothing practical about it Ryan, you were having sex," she teased right back.

Ryan shot her a little grin as she quickly changed the subject. "Tell me about your typical daily caloric intake."

"I have no idea what I take in," she admitted. "I just try to eat when I'm hungry."

"What do you usually have for breakfast?" Ryan inquired.

"Usually a latte', sometimes a biscotti," she replied.

"Okaaaay, what about lunch?"

"I usually get a salad from the Student Union."

"Do you eat anything between breakfast and lunch?" Ryan asked.

"No, I almost never eat between meals. And before you ask I usually make soup and a salad for dinner."

"That sounds like you're eating less than 1000 calories a day!" Ryan nearly shouted.

 

"Ryan, you told me at the beginning that I needed to eat right. I guess I just ignored you," she admitted.

"Well, you're not going to ignore me anymore. I'm going to watch you like a hawk. And I'm going to weigh you at the gym every week. If you lose another pound you're moving in to my house. Da will fatten you up in no time!"

"Speaking of eating, do you want to have dinner together on Friday?"

"Um, sure," Ryan said as she shook her head slightly at the abrupt change of topic. "I don't have any dinner plans. Where do you want to go?"

"My house. I want to cook for you to thank you for taking such good care of me last night. What's your favorite food?"

"Well, you certainly don't have to do that, Jamie. You're my friend...and my duty as your friend means that I take care of you when you need my help."

 

"I know that Ryan, but I want to do this. Now spill it!"

 

"My favorite food--no restrictions?" she asked with a familiar look of satisfied contemplation on her beautiful face. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She cocked her head just a little and met Jamie's amused gaze, "Lasagna," she said with finality.

"Lasagna it is," Jamie agreed happily.

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

When they reached the O'Flaherty home Jamie gave Ryan a broad smile as she said, "Thanks again for being there for me. I just realized that today is Wednesday and you missed all of your clients. Can I pay you back for that?"

 

"Yes," Ryan said quickly, surprising Jamie a bit. "You can go home and make yourself a nice dinner with the things I bought from the store this morning. Then you can call the nutritionist and make an appointment. After that you can take a long nap and pamper yourself for the rest of the day. If you do all of that we're even," she grinned.

 

"You're the best friend I have, Ryan," she said softly as she gave her a gentle smile.

 

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

 

After she left the City she stopped at her favorite gourmet grocery store to buy the ingredients for Bolognese sauce. Luckily the store carried her favorite Italian cookbook so she could double check the ingredients.

Once home, she began to make the sauce. She spent a good hour prepping the vegetables and then began to cook. The sauce took her 3 hours to make, but it was delicious. She put some on spaghetti for her dinner, along with a basil, tomato and montrachet salad that she sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Is this good enough for you Dr. O'Flaherty?

At around 9:30 the phone rang. Ryan's deep voice asked, "Did you speak to the nutritionist?"

"Hi, Ryan, yes I dutifully followed your instructions. I'm meeting with him on Monday. And I've eaten so much today I could burst," she laughed.

"Was this your first pregnancy scare?" Ryan inquired a trifle tentatively.

"Yeah, it was," Jamie said. "And I certainly hope it's my last."

"One more reason to be thankful I'm a lesbian," Ryan teased. "I'd probably have 10 kids by now if I was straight."

"Well, you do seem to have a few things in common with bunnies," Jamie laughed.

"You're just lucky I can't reach you from here," Ryan replied threateningly.

"Where are you anyway? It sounds loud."

"I'm at a bar in Oakland. I've kinda got a date waiting for me so I'd better go."

"Okay, you little rabbit. Don't do anything I wouldn't do," she teased.

"Don't count on it, Jamie. They don't call it the luck of the Irish for nothing," she said as she hung up.

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

"Now, you're sure you're up to this?" Ryan asked for the third time.

"Yes, Ryan, I'm sure. Tuesday was just an anomaly. I'm much better prepared for the types of calls we can get, I've eaten, and I feel perfectly fine."

Ryan was still concerned, but she trusted Jamie to be able to assess how she felt. She had already decided to tell the operator not to give them any really rough calls if possible.

When they arrived Yvonne greeted them with concern. "Are you feeling alright, hon?" she asked Jamie solicitously.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Jamie assured her. "That was just a series of factors that combined to knock me out. I'll be fine tonight."

They sat in the little cluttered office after Ryan again tried her best to neaten it up. She got Jamie's headset ready and signaled the operator to start putting calls through. After an hour Ryan insisted that they take a break. As they stood outside in the cool night air Ryan asked if she wanted to take some calls. "Oh, I don't know, Ryan. I'm still a little freaked from Tuesday, " she admitted.

"If you want to, I'll talk to the operator and ask her to give you some easy calls. She will do that if we ask."

"I'm willing to try, but will you promise to take over if I ask you to?" she finally agreed.

"Absolutely," she replied without hesitation.

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

"Gay and Lesbian Teen Talk Line, this is Jamie. How can I help you?" she asked a little nervously.

"Hi, this is Carrie. I've got a problem that I can't figure out. Can you help me?

"I'll certainly try, Carrie. Tell me about it," Jamie replied.

Carrie was 16 years old and was attracted to her best friend. She knew her friend had been sexual with another girl, but Carrie didn't know if she should pursue her friend. She wasn't sure what it would do to their friendship and she was afraid of being labeled gay.

"Tell me about your friend," Jamie asked.

"She's my age and we go to school together. She's real cute and really nice to me. She goes out with boys but she told me about one time when she went down on a girl." Jamie blushed as Ryan caught her eye and gave her a little eyebrow wiggle. "We do almost everything together. She's a lot of fun and she makes me laugh all the time," Carrie explained.

"How do you feel when you're with her?" Jamie inquired.

"It's kinda hard to explain. I guess things just feel right when we're together. My stomach gets all tingly when I know she's coming over."

"Have you had any boyfriends?" Jamie asked.

"Not really boyfriends, but I've gone out with guys," she replied.

"Did you ever really, really like a guy?" Jamie asked patiently.

"Yeah, one guy at school, last year. We went out a couple of times, but he dumped me."

"How did you feel about him? Did it feel anything like you feel for your friend?"

"No, not really. I liked him and everything, but it didn't feel like it does with Lori."

"Have you had sex with any guys yet?" Jamie asked.

"No, I haven't had sex. I don't want to until I'm sure about a guy. Wow, I'm really impressed! I thought every 16 year old girl had lost her virginity. "I've given guys blow jobs, but that's all," she said proudly. Oh brother.

She turned to Ryan who was grinning broadly. Jamie stuck her tongue out at her and continued on gamely, "Do you think about having sex with your friend?"

"Yeah, I think about it all the time. I think about how she would feel and what it would be like to kiss her and stuff," Carrie replied.

"Hmmm," Jamie thought for a moment, and finally replied, "You know Carrie, it's possible to have very complex feelings for your friends. Some of those feelings might be sexual. But just because you have that feeling doesn't make you a lesbian. Actually, sometimes it's hard to tell if your feelings are really sexual or just a desire for closeness. It's possible that you just want to feel even closer to Lori and you think that sex is the way to do that."

"I don't know," Carrie replied suspiciously, "I think I really wanna have sex with her."

Another glance at Ryan earned another lascivious wink.

"Has she given you any indication that she would like to have sex with you?" Jamie asked.

"No, not really. We hug and stuff but that's about all."

"Imagine that she came over to your house tonight and you had sex. How do you think you would feel tomorrow?" Jamie inquired.

"I think I'd feel good..." she replied, "But I'm afraid that I'd feel gay."

"What does that mean to you, 'to feel gay'?" Jamie asked. "Do you think your friends or your parents would be different to you if they thought you were gay? Or is it how you feel about yourself?"

"I guess I'm afraid of what the other kids at school would say if they found out," she admitted.

"Do you think that Lori is someone you can trust? How many people did she tell that she had sex with another girl? Jamie asked.

"I think I'm the only one who knows. None of our other friends have ever mentioned it."

"Okay, I think I've got enough information to give you my opinion," Jamie said after a moment. "It sounds like you really care a lot for Lori. It also sounds like you are really interested in pursuing a sexual dimension to your relationship. But your privacy is very important too, and you're afraid that your friends will give you a hard time if they found out."

"Yeah, that's all true," Carrie agreed.

"Do you really feel that you need to make a decision right now?" Jamie asked.

"Um, no I guess I don't," she admitted.

"One option is to continue to play with your fantasies. You could be a little more open to Lori with your feelings in general. Then if she feels the same way, she may approach you. That might take some of the pressure off," Jamie said.

"Okay, I think I could do that," she agreed tentatively.

"Another option is to tell her that you are confused by your feelings for her. You can tell her that you feel that things are changing in your relationship and ask if she feels them too. If she says no, you're not as vulnerable as you would be if you made some physical overture that she didn't like."

"Yeah, I like that idea a lot. That one feels right" Carrie said confidently.

"But there is one thing I want you to remember," Jamie said firmly. "Are you listening?"

"Yeah, I'm listening," Carrie replied seriously.

"Having feelings for another woman does not make you a lesbian. Acting on those feelings with one woman, or several women doesn't make you a lesbian. Your sexual orientation might not be clear to you until you're in your 20's or even later. Nothing that you do now has to be permanent. You're still developing your sexuality; so let yourself develop at your own pace. Got it?"

"Got it. Thanks a lot!"

Jamie hung up and looked over at a beaming Ryan. "Jamie," she asked ingenuously, "Do you think I'm a lesbian?" she said as she batted her eyes.

"No, I think you are a brat!"

 

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

They took another short break for Ryan to heap compliments on her blushing friend. "I can't believe what a good job you did!" she enthused. "You were right there with her. I know you reached her and your advice was so perfect!"

Jamie beamed at these heartfelt compliments. "I must admit, our class has really helped me see sexuality in much broader terms than I did before. When I was her age I would have thought that having feelings for a woman would brand me forever. Now I know it doesn't."

Ryan looked right into Jamie's green eyes with a quizzical expression as she cocked her head slightly. Jamie felt completely exposed as she imagined that her friend saw all of her secrets. Ryan looked like she wanted to ask a question but Jamie quickly looked away and said brightly, "Let's go do another!"

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

"Gay and Lesbian Teen Talk Line, this is Jamie. How can I help you?"

"Hi, this is Star. I've started having sex with my boyfriend and another chick and I don't know how to make sure we have safe sex. Is it okay to go down on her after he comes inside her?"

Jamie sat with her mouth slightly open and a completely stunned expression on her face. She felt the phone being taken from her hand and heard Ryan answer smoothly, "No, Star. You can't safely do that. HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases can infect his semen. Whether it's in his penis or her vagina, it's just as dangerous."

 

"What can I do to her?" she asked.

"HIV is found in semen and blood and vaginal secretions. The safest thing to do is to use a barrier between her vagina and your mouth. You can get free latex barriers called dental dams at the Free Clinic. If you get caught in a bind and can't get a dental dam you can cut open a condom. A lot of women really like how it feels, too."

"Yeah, right," she scoffed.

 

Ryan's brow knit as she insisted. "That really is true, Star. I've been having sex with women for almost 6 years and I practice safer sex every single time. And I've got to tell you, I have a great time even with dental dams."

 

"But how great is the risk?" she insisted.

 

"It's impossible to say, Star. You'd have to know someone's complete sexual history and the sexual histories of all of their partners to know if you're safe. I have a lot of sex and I've never had an S.T.D. I figure that a little inconvenience is not as much trouble as sitting in a 4 hour line at the Free Clinic for penicillin shots."

"Okay," she relented. "That covers going down on her. What else can I do?"

 

Isn't that enough!!? Jamie shouted to herself in indignation.

"Do you ever use sex toys inside each other?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, sometimes. Is that cool?"

"Not unless you put a condom on each toy every time you use it. If you insert something into anyone take the condom off and put on a new one before you insert it into someone else. And never move a toy from your anus to your vagina without changing the condom. I assume you know that your boyfriend should be using a condom every time you put his penis inside your body."

"Even for blow jobs?" she asked incredulously.

"Even for blow jobs," Ryan replied gravely. "I know that guys don't want to do it, but it really can be dangerous not to. If you put just a dab of water based lubricant in the condom before you roll it on, it makes it feel better."

 

"What can I do without latex," she muttered.

 

"You don't need latex to touch each other with your hands and there are some great vibrators out there."

"What about kissing?" Star asked, clearly afraid that nothing was safe.

"Go for it," Ryan said. "There is a very small risk, but a girl's gotta have some fun," she said with a twinkle in her eye.

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

After the call Jamie hung her head. "I feel like Mary Poppins in a leather bar," she moaned. "I can't believe how little I know, or how little I've experienced," she admitted.

"Hey, Jamie, there's nothing wrong with taking sex seriously. I think it's really great that you found someone to be monogamous with. Don't be ashamed of that."

"I'm not ashamed. I just feel so naive. These kids are 4 or 5 years younger than me and they've done tons more than I have."

"So, the guys you've been with have been a little conservative. What's wrong with that?"

"Guy," Jamie corrected her, as she blushed.

"What do you mean?" Ryan asked tentatively.

"I've only had sex with one guy, just Jack. And I mean my definition of sex, not Carrie's," she laughed.

"I think that is adorable, Jamie", she replied sincerely. "He must really feel special that you share your sexuality with only him."

"I don't know if he feels really special. He wasn't particularly happy that I made him wait for so long. I think at times he would have preferred it if I was the town strumpet."

"How long did you make him wait, if I can ask?"

"Till this past summer," she replied with a bigger blush. "June 15 to be exact."

Ryan nodded her head and looked a little at a loss for words. Finally she merely uttered one, "Wow."

 

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

 

The rest of the night went very well. Jamie began to get over her hesitancy and she was even able to get through most of the calls without blushing. On the way back to her house she asked, "Latte' for the road?"

 

"Sure," Ryan replied easily. They stopped at Sufficient Grounds and found a small table near the window. "So," Ryan began, "Tell me how you're feeling."

 

"I feel pretty good. "I've really cranked up the calories and I think it's helping already. My stomach is back to normal so I think I'm ready to start working out again."

 

"I still want you to take tomorrow off," Ryan said firmly. "You need a few days to get your strength back after being as sick as you were."

 

"Okay, doc, I'll stay home and get your dinner ready," she said with a smile.

 

"Can I ask you something pretty personal?" Ryan asked tentatively.

 

"Sure, I don't have any secrets from you," she replied.

 

"Why were you so devastated when you thought you might be pregnant? I mean, I could see why if you weren't in love with the guy, but you are. And you're getting married in a year and a half. So what's up?"

 

Jamie sat in silence for a few minutes. She was obviously thinking so Ryan didn't interrupt. She finally looked up and said, "I'm not sure I know. But it felt absolutely horrible. I felt just like I would have when I was 16."

 

"That's kind of odd, don't you think?" Ryan continued. "I also wondered why you wouldn't tell Jack. Shouldn't he be involved?"

 

"I don't know," Jamie admitted. "It just didn't feel like something he could be helpful with. I mean I know he loves me but he's not very good at the emotional comfort thing. I think he would have been upset...probably with me...for having sex without a condom."

 

"Are you on the pill now?"

 

"Yeah. But I had trouble with the first two types I took. I got breakthrough bleeding with one and the other made me terribly nauseous. So I had to wait a month before I started this new one. Alison told me to use a condom during the transition but we got carried away once and he snuck up on me early in the morning the other time," she said as she looked down at the table in embarrassment.

 

Ryan slid her hand over and patted Jamie's. "I'm sorry if I'm prying. I'm just a little worried about you."

 

She gave her a broad smile and replied, "It's okay. I know I've got some issues that I have to work out with Jack. I guess I just want to make sure that we don't start our family until we get them resolved. I think we have quite a few years of growing up before we're ready."

 

"I think you're awfully mature for a 20 year old," Ryan revealed. "But having kids is a whole new world."

 

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

 

Chapter Seven Return to Main Page