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 9


When Jamie arrived home just before 1 a.m. there was a message on her machine from Ryan. "Hi. Call me if you need to talk. It doesn't matter how late it is."


She is so sweet to me. I don't know what I've done to deserve her friendship, but I'm really happy I have it. She didn't feel the need to take Ryan up on her offer and she didn't have any intention of waking her up needlessly so she refrained from calling.


She barely made it to her 8 o'clock class. After a rather tedious class discussion she stumbled out of the classroom sleepily, bumping directly into a grinning Ryan.

"Somebody didn't have their latte' yet," she teased.


"It's that obvious isn't it?" she agreed. "I barely made it to class. Speaking of class, what are you doing here?"


"My lab was canceled so I had some free time. I thought I'd come see how you were."


"I didn't know you even knew what classes I had on Tuesday, much less where they were," she said, slightly amazed.


"Of course I know those little details," Ryan said, a bit puzzled. "Don't you know my class schedule?"


"Yeah, I guess I do," she admitted. "Is this what you meant about women being more connected than men?"


"Precisely," Ryan agreed as she guided her through the building in search of a latte'.


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


Jamie spent a few minutes updating Ryan on her evening with Jack. "It sounds like it went pretty well," Ryan said thoughtfully. "I've got to admit that his assumptions about me are not uncommon. Hopefully he'll realize over time that all I want from you is friendship...and lasagna," she grinned. "But he really does sound like he wants to make you happy, Jamie."


"I know he does, Ryan," she acknowledged. "I think you're advice was right on point. I need to spend more time letting him know what I need rather than expecting him to just intuit things."


"I really hope it works out for you, Jamie," she said sincerely.


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


One Tuesday in early November Jamie showed up at the gym hoping to get a little cardiovascular work in. She looked around for her friend and found her in the rear corner of the gym chatting with a woman. Trying to be unobtrusive, she hopped on a Stairclimber to get warmed up. But being on the slightly elevated machine gave her an even clearer view of the action and she could not help but watch.


Ryan was leaning up against one of the chest press machines. The woman was seated on the integrated stool of the machine and she gazed up at Ryan with a very flirtatious look. Jamie was pretty sure that she was not a client and as she looked more closely she noticed that the woman was considerably older than Ryan. She's old enough to be my mother! she thought in alarm. The woman looked to be about 45 or so, but she was in great shape. She was about 5'6", very fit, with short dark hair. She looked very well taken care of, and the thought occurred to Jamie that this could be any one of her mother's friends.


Ryan had adopted a very casual pose. She had one of her long arms extended above her head to hang over the top bar of the machine. She was leaning against the bulk of it and the woman had to crane her neck to make eye contact with her. But even though her pose was casual there was that barely concealed force that just begged to be released from her body. Jamie had often seen her look completely relaxed and casual. But every time Ryan was sizing someone up she adopted this predatory posture. Jamie had to admit that it was very appealing and for one brief instant she was jealous of the seated woman. But she quickly brushed that troublesome thought from her brain as she tried to watch while appearing not to.


After a few minutes the woman tried to stand but Ryan was directly in her path. She did not budge one inch and the woman was forced to alter her path a bit. Since Ryan had a good 6 inches on her the woman still had to look up to meet her gaze, but she seemed unable to look away from Ryan's penetrating stare. They were standing terribly close to one another and Ryan was clearly not going to move. To get past her the woman placed her hands on Ryan's waist and gently guided her out of her path. Gotcha! Jamie thought. Once you touch her there's no escape!


Ryan leaned over to hear a question and when she lifted her head again she had the confident smirk that she so often wore when she was hitting on someone. She nodded her head slowly and leaned back on her heels to watch the woman make her way to the locker room. She walked over to another trainer and spoke to her for a moment or two, and then she went to the front desk and chatted with the woman on duty. She didn't look into the cardio area, so she did not see Jamie. Next she walked over to the coat hooks and picked up her leather jacket and walked out the front door with a definite swagger.


A minute or two later her prey emerged from the locker room. She left quickly and Jamie spent a moment wondering if they were meeting up in the parking lot. Knowing Ryan they don't even have to leave the lot if that woman has a big enough sports utility vehicle, she thought as a shudder rolled down her body.

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

Ryan stood by her bike, grinning wickedly at the woman as she exited the building. "Wanna go for a ride?" she teased in her deep rumbling voice.


"Aaah, I don't think that's such a good idea," Laura said hesitantly. "I really can't afford to be seen on the back of a motorcycle."


"Are you a spy or a fugitive from justice?" Ryan asked casually.


"Nooo, but I'm fairly well known around the East Bay, and my..."


"Husband?" Ryan supplied.


"Yes, my husband is well known too," Laura admitted. "Does that bother you?"


"It depends," Ryan replied. "Is this the first time you've..."


"Hardly," she scoffed. "We've been married for twen...a long while. We have an arrangement."


"Will this be the last time you do this?"


"Doubtful, unless you can keep me faithful to you," she purred as she moved to stand even closer.


"Doubtful," Ryan admitted with a smirk. "Any kids?"


"Yes, but not at home. They're away at ...school."


"So you would say that spending the afternoon with me will not alter your world in any significant way?"


"Well," she said, as she brushed up against the taller woman. "I hope it will. But I promise it won't have a negative impact on my life. Or that of my family."


"One last question. And please don't think I'm as full of myself as this sounds. Do you have any interest in having an ongoing relationship with me?"


The woman's eyes grew wide with surprise. She shook her head briskly and said, "Honey, my life is nearly perfect. The only thing I don't get enough of is good sex. I have no interest in losing my husband or the fragile respect of my children so if that's what you want let's stop right now," she said firmly.


"You're my kinda woman, Laura," Ryan said with a grin. "Where to?"


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


Laura hopped into the driver's seat of a new black Mercedes S class sedan. "Nice ride," Ryan said as she looked around.


"Thanks. I just got it a week ago. I like it pretty well but it's a little sedate, don't you think?"


"A little, but I'm sure you have other outlets for your wild side."


That earned her a little smirk and a gentle pat on the leg. "Do you prefer the Mark Hopkins or the Fairmont?" Laura asked as she got on the freeway leading back to the City.


"Never been in either, so it's your choice," Ryan said noncommittally.


Laura shot her quizzical look but continued the planning. "Okay, I'll drop you off a block away. Then you go in and get us a room. I'll pay you back of course. Then I'll meet you by the elevator. Please don't talk to me or acknowledge me in any way, though. Okay?"


Ryan looked a bit askance as she admitted, "I don't have a charge card. Can you stop at an ATM?"


"Jesus! You are over 21 aren't you?" she asked tentatively as she turned to give Ryan another appraising glance.


"Yes, I am," Ryan replied with a smile. "I'm still in school at Cal. The personal training is just part time."


"How do you manage without a charge card?" Laura asked.


"Well, I live at home, I don't have a car, I don't buy groceries, I never go on vacation, and I don't buy things over the Internet. Other than that, why would I need one?"


"Good point, I guess," she admitted, giving Ryan another quick glance. "No one's going to come looking for you if you're not home for dinner, are they?" she asked, only partly in jest. "I don't want to see your picture on the back of a milk carton."


"Nope. I don't even have a curfew," she said happily.


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


Laura pulled up in front of an ATM and handed Ryan her card along with her security code. Ryan gave her a small scowl but she got out and withdrew the requested $600. When she hopped back in she remarked, "It's not a terribly good idea to trust a stranger with your ATM card and your access number."


"It's only money," she said lightly. As Ryan tried to hand the card and the money over. Laura took the card but instructed Ryan to keep the money. "You don't want to look like you don't have a little extra," she advised.


Ryan had been to hotels with women, but always cheap little places when neither she nor her date could find a better place. She had also been with older women, but they were always lesbians. This was a first for her and the thought of having sex with a married woman old enough to be her mother was both titillating and a little frightening. This woman had obviously been around the block a few hundred times and Ryan was a little afraid that Laura's experience would upset Ryan's own natural dominance. And even though she was attracted to her she did not want to submit to a stranger. "So, do you usually go out with women?" she asked to flesh out the issue.


"No, not usually," she admitted. "But you just look like too much fun to pass up."


"But you have been with women before, haven't you?"


"Yes, dear, I have. Will you stop worrying? I promise I won't fall in love with you," she said with a hint of exasperation. "Why are you so careful anyway? You're not the daughter of a famous politician are you?"


"Hardly. My dad's a firefighter. I just don't like to cause trouble or hurt anyone's feelings," she said honestly.


They paused at a long red light and Laura turned to look at her closely, "You really are cute, you know." She reached over and cupped Ryan's cheek and trailed her thumb across her lips. "Why is a beautiful young woman doing something like this, anyway? Why not find someone to love?"


"I don't have time for that right now. I've got too much to handle as it is. After I'm finished with school I'll start thinking about settling down. But until then, I'm only interested in good, clean, fun," she said with a leer. "And the clean part is optional."


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


Laura dropped her off about a block away from the hilltop hotel. "Get a nice room, Honey. I hate to feel cramped."


Ryan dutifully climbed the hill, smirking to herself that when Laura called her honey it reminded her of her aunts. She didn't fit in very well in the opulent surroundings in her blue jeans and leather jacket, but she carried herself with so much confidence that she received only appreciative glances. She walked up to the front desk and requested a room for one night.


"Very good, Ma'am," the obviously gay clerk replied.


"What do you have available?" she asked.


He looked down his computer screen and informed her, "I have a single for $135. That's in the back of the hotel, no view. And the only other rooms I have are suites. That's two bedrooms and a sitting area. Those rooms are $450," he said.


"Is that really the best rate you can give me?" she asked with a friendly but determined look.


"Well," he said, "I could give you a discount on the suite. We still have, um... six of them left. Do you only need it for one night?"


"I only need it for one hour," she said with a wiggling eyebrow.


"Oh... ohhh," he said as he saw the light. "How about $300?"


"Sold," she said as she peeled off $350 to cover room tax. He handed her the access card and gave her a wink. "I assume I can just fill in the name and address with any old thing that comes to mind?"


"Knock yourself out," Ryan grinned.


"Have fun," he said lightly.


"Oh I will," she promised. She walked over to the gift shop and purchased two toothbrushes and some paste, then strode confidently over to the elevator. She looked straight ahead and pushed the up button. Seemingly from nowhere Laura appeared a few feet away. They both got on along with a few other passengers. Their room was on the top floor and by the time they reached it they were alone. Ryan continued to ignore Laura, assuming that she would break the silence if she chose to. When the doors opened Ryan turned to the right but Laura hung a left. She walked to the end of the long hallway and opened the door to the suite, leaving it ajar as she entered. A few minutes later Laura came strolling in, and looked around with appreciation.


"You went all out, didn't you?" she said happily.


"Yep. You look like you're used to first class," she replied. "But I got you a deal. I talked the clerk down from $450 to $300."


Laura looked at her very quizzically, but didn't comment. Ryan pulled the toothbrushes from her inner pocket and said, "My contribution to our little endeavor. It's not much, but I didn't have time to shop."


Laura walked over and stood toe to toe with her. She draped her arms around her neck and purred, "How would you like to wash my back?"


"I thought you'd never ask," she growled as she began to gently but determinedly remove her date's clothing.


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


Two hours later Ryan fought through the haze of her exhaustion as Laura slid out of the tangle of sheets and went back into the bathroom. She heard the shower running as she lazily thought, She sure is clean. But then she remembered that Laura was probably going home to her husband and he might not appreciate 'Eau de O'Flaherty'.


She reflected on the previous two hour long marathon. Laura had been nearly insatiable in her appetite for Ryan. She had pleased her in every way imaginable and Ryan once again mused that experience was a very good thing to have in a lover. She had found with a bit of surprise that she really liked being with an older woman. It had been a while and she reflected that there was something very sexy about an older woman's approach to sex. She found Laura to be very sensual and deliberate in her lovemaking. She knew what she liked and she knew how to get it in a very efficient way. She seemed to have a lot of fun exploring Ryan's body and she brought her to orgasm as though they'd been lovers for years. Laura had obviously been telling the truth about having had other quick flings. When Ryan insisted on safer sex practices she went to her purse and pulled out a handful of condoms and they had managed to use every one of them. It wasn't the safest way but a cut open condom was better than nothing.


She dozed off while she was ruminating and the next thing she knew Laura was placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. "I've got to go, Honey," she said. Ryan started to hop up but she put her hand on her shoulder to hold her steady. "I can't afford to be seen going back to the gym with you. I have some friends who sometimes go there in the evening."


"That's okay," Ryan agreed. "I can take BART back. Your change is on the table over there," she said as she pointed to the sitting room.


That got her another puzzled look, but Laura just leaned over and gave her a very friendly kiss. "You could definitely become habit forming," she whispered. "I can see why you offer so many disclaimers."


Ryan blushed a little at the compliment. The sexy yet shy look on her face was too much for the older woman and she sat back down next to her and took her in her arms. A few more kisses started the fires burning again and it was very difficult for Laura to disengage. But she finally tore herself away from the lovely young woman and whispered, "Stay right there and let me see you spread out like that as I leave." She got up and walked over to the table. She turned and said, "I'm leaving you money for a cab, Honey. I don't think it's safe to take BART after dark. Actually, why not stay over and go back in the morning?"


"Hmm, not a bad idea," Ryan replied as she rolled over and stretched languorously. She was on her belly, lying in the rumpled bed with the sheet half covering her thighs. Her legs were bent at the knee with her clean pink feet pointing at the ceiling. Her hair was completely ruffled, but with that 'I've just had great sex look'. She brought herself up onto her elbows and rested her head on her hands as she gave Laura one last sultry smile. "I had a marvelous afternoon," she said. "I hope you did, too."


"If you look at me like that for one more minute you're going to have a marvelous evening, too," she said with a mock glower. "I've got to get back to my so called normal life, but you're making it very difficult to leave."


"Just trying to keep the customer satisfied," Ryan teased.


Laura blew her a kiss and departed as she said, "You were completely successful, Honey."


Funny, Ryan thought. After two hours of having her munching on me she doesn't remind me of my aunts anymore. She stretched out and rested for a few minutes but she couldn't really fall asleep. Looking at her watch she noticed that it was only 6 o'clock. She picked up the phone dialed the familiar pager, putting in the full number of the hotel with her room number added at the end. A few minutes later she answered with a perky, "Hi, Conor, watcha doing?"


"Where are you?" he asked suspiciously.


"I'm playing grown up. What are you doing tonight?"


"Nothing, really. Da's at work so I was trying to decide what to do for dinner."


"Come over and play grown up with me," she cajoled.


"Where the heck are you?" he asked again.


"I'm at the Mark Hopkins. Room 2350. Bring your toothbrush and a change of clothes. Oh, and bring me some clean underwear and a T-shirt," she instructed as she hung up before he could ask any more questions.


A half hour later she was sitting on the big bed in her room watching cartoons. She had showered and was wearing the fluffy terry cloth robe that the hotel provided. She responded to the tentative knock on the main door, calling out, "Be right there," as she scrambled off the bed. She threw open the door to find a very confused looking Conor.


"Why are we staying at the Mark Hopkins Hotel?" he asked.


"I had a little date earlier today and she had to leave. It seemed an awful waste to let this neat 2 bedroom suite sit idle all night so I thought we should enjoy it."


"Hmm," he said suspiciously. "Why not call your little friend from the gym," referring to Ally.


"You know her name, Conor," she reminded him.


"Yeah? Well I've never been introduced."


"I know," she admitted. "She's not my girlfriend, you know. We just fool around together."


"So why not call her?" he persisted.


"Because the last thing I want is more sex," she said with a small grimace. "I had a great time, but enough is enough!"


"Wow," he enthused as he looked around the spacious dwelling. "Two bedrooms and a sitting room? What did this place cost you?"


"They tried to get $450 for it, but they settled for $300," she said, proud of her negotiating skills.


"Where'd you get $300 for a hotel?" he scoffed as he investigated every nook and cranny.


"Are you nuts?" she nearly shouted. "I wouldn't pop for Motel 6! My date paid for the room; all I bought were the toothbrushes," she said with a little eyebrow wiggle.


"Gee, what kind of dough does she have? And why did you have to get a hotel room?"


"Well, she has a...um..." she stammered as a deep blush covered her face and neck.




"Nope. She's normally on your team, but she likes to switch hit once in a while."


"Husband?" he asked, rather incredulously.


"Yep. I'm not terribly proud of that part but she does this all the time so I figured I wasn't a home wrecker."


"Wow, why would someone your age get married and then cheat with women?"


"When did I say she was my age?" she demanded rather impetuously.


"How old was she?" he asked rather hesitantly.


"Let's just say she would be a much more appropriate date for Da," she admitted.


"Gee, Sis, your moral code is just going down the toilet," he said as he shook his head. "Congratulations!"


"Thanks, Conor, you really know how to brighten my day. Now go look at the room service menu and I'll buy you dinner."


"Cool!" he said as he walked over to the table to look for the menu. "Hey, where'd you get all the money?"


"Oh, my date said she was going to leave me cab fare. She must have put it there."


"Where did you tell her you lived? Napa?" he asked as he walked back into the bedroom flapping the wad of cash.


"Shit!" she cried as she jumped off the bed and ran to grab the money. "I can't believe she left me..." she started counting the money, "$250!"


"Don't forget to declare this on your taxes," he teased as he grabbed it back and slapped her with the wad of bills. "I think there is a code for self employed prostitute."


She sank down in the nearest chair and dropped her head into her hands. "Conor I swear if you tell Da any of this..."


"Oh sure, Ryan. 'Hey, Da, Ryan had sex with a 50 year old married woman at the Mark Hopkins who left her a $250 dollar tip! Cool huh?' He'd beat me just for telling him!"


"I think I need to do a little soul searching," she admitted. "This is getting out of hand."


"Before you change your evil ways let's call room service and spend your ill gotten money. Then if the vice squad comes we will have eaten the evidence!"

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


As Jamie left the gym over an hour later she noticed that Ryan's bike was still in its place. "Gee, I wonder where she went?" she thought wryly.

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


Several hours later she drove by the gym on her way to a movie with Mia. She cast a quick glance and noticed the bike still sitting in the parking lot. Hmmm, that's strange. I hope she's okay.


When they drove by on their return trip the gym was closed but the Harley was still sitting there. Jamie really was worried about her friend, but she didn't want to call and disturb her if she was still with the woman. I guess it's possible that they went to her house and just didn't want to go out again, she thought.


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


The next morning in class Ryan was her usual bubbly self. Jamie casually asked, "What did you do yesterday?"


"Um...I had a date."


"Anyone I know?"


"Um...don't think so," she said quickly.


"Someone from school?"


"Ahhh, no."


"Did you do anything fun?"


"Um...yeah, we had fun."


"Think you'll see her again?"


"Jamie," she finally said. "What are you getting at?"


"Who, me? Getting at something? Oh, do you need a ride to pick up your bike from the gym? I saw it there at midnight last night."


Ryan nodded to herself and said in more of a statement than a question, "And that bothered you."


Jamie looked a little flustered as she said, "No, it didn't bother me. But I was worried about you, Ryan. It's not like you to leave your bike like that and I was worried that something had happened to you."


Ryan asked the obvious question, "Why didn't you page me?"


"Good question. I'm not sure. But it's no big deal. You left your bike there all night. You had a date. You had a good time. Case closed."


"You saw me leave with Laura didn't you?" she asked as she fixed her blue eyes firmly on Jamie.


She looked very guilty as she admitted, "Yeah, I kinda did. I saw you leave, then I saw her leave, and then I saw that your bike was still there."


"What bothers you?" she continued. "Her age?"


"Partly. She could be one of my mother's friends!"


"Yes, and your point is that women over 40 shouldn't have fun?"


"No, that's not my point at all. It just bothered me, but I'm not sure why. Do you have to make a big deal out of it?" she asked crossly.


"Nope. I wasn't aware that I started this. But I can stop it. See you later, Jamie," she snapped as she turned and quickly walked away.


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


"Shit! Shit! Shit!" She cried as she watched Ryan stride down the curving path leading to the biology building.


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


That afternoon Jamie showed up early for their training session. She had a healthy suspicion that Ryan would just blow her off and she wanted to get there while she was still with her pervious client. But as soon as she finished Ryan made a bee line over to Jamie. "I am so sorry for snapping at you today," she said sincerely. "You just hit a raw nerve and I let you have it."


"It's okay," she reassured her. "I shouldn't have been butting into your business."


"Jamie, I love it when you are involved in my life. Please butt in as much as you wish," she said as she put her arm around her and gave her a small squeeze.


"So...why were you upset? If you don't mind my butting in."


She looked quite contemplative as she stuck her hands into the slash pockets of her warm up pants and rocked back on her heels for a moment. "It's hard to explain," she admitted. "I guess I just feel like I...I don't know, Jamie. I'm just a little disappointed in myself," she said softly. "This isn't who I expected to be." She had such an open, vulnerable look on her face that Jamie truly wanted to toss her arms around her friend and take all of her pain away.


Instead, she merely gripped her shoulder and assured her, "I think the person you are is absolutely fantastic, Ryan. If you could see yourself through my eyes you wouldn't have any doubts about the person that you've become."


Ryan's face curled up into a crooked grin and she returned the pressure on Jamie's shoulder. "That was a terribly generous thing to say. Thanks for the vote of confidence."


"I'd vote early and often for you," she said as she beamed up at her friend.


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


Jamie drove through the thick fog one early Sunday morning in mid-November. Traffic was light but the pace was slow due to the poor visibility. She arrived at Ryan's with very little time to spare. She was dressed in a pair of pressed khakis, a gold turtleneck and a dark green cashmere v-neck sweater. Ryan had told her to dress casually, but she had also brought along dressier clothes for later in the day.


She was a bit apprehensive about their plans for the day. Not that people haven't already thought that Ryan was my lover, she reflected. Her own aunt thought so for goodness sake. This experience was going to be a bit different, however. They had discussed all of the options available to them for their 'Gay for a Day' project. It made sense to both of them to do something of a spiritual nature, so they agreed on this morning's destination, The Metropolitan Community Church. Jamie was surprised to learn that this denomination had been in existence for over 25 years. It was founded to serve the needs of disenfranchised gay and lesbian Christians but was open to all.


Ryan trotted down the stairs just seconds after Jamie pulled up in front of the house. She was dressed in a similar manner, wearing a light blue turtleneck sweater with a fisherman's knit cable crew neck over the top. She eschewed khakis for her usual blue jeans, but this pair was a little less faded than usual.


"Jeans for church, Miss O'Flaherty?" Jamie asked with an arched eyebrow.


"It's gay church, Jamie. No dress code," she said knowingly.


The church was close to the Noe Valley. They arrived for the 9:00 a.m. service about 10 minutes early. The church was rather small; Jamie guessed it would hold about 300 people, but it was obviously lovingly cared for. It was less traditional than most churches she had been to, but very familiar nonetheless. There was a large raised sanctuary that held a pulpit and a large altar. A beautiful stained glass window rose majestically from behind the sanctuary. There was a choir loft with a large organ and quite a few choir members already in place. Comfortable pews radiated out from the center aisle.


Three happy looking people were at the door to greet them. A tall, bearded man welcomed them and directed them to printed worship aids. They each took one of the little booklets and settled themselves into a pew not far from the front of the church. Jamie looked around with interest. The church was about half full and most of the people seemed to know one another. There were many hugs and kisses and handshakes being passed around. She guessed that the majority of people were gay, but she was fairly certain that she detected a few traditional family units as well.


Ryan had never attended the church so she was unable to shed much light on what to expect. After a few minutes the organ began to ring out a rather traditional hymn that Jamie recognized. A large procession began down the center aisle with the entire choir and various other acolytes and ministers following. Several people, men and women, were dressed as ministers.


The choir gathered in the sanctuary as the ministers took their places behind the altar. Both women were surprised to find that the service echoed the traditional Eucharist that both were familiar with. The main difference was that the service was concelebrated among 5 different ministers. An impressive looking black woman seemed to be the main celebrant, but a short pudgy Asian man read the Gospel and two Caucasian men read various scripture passages. The music varied between rather traditional Protestant hymns and very joyous African inspired melodies. A Caribbean themed Hallelujah sung before the Gospel had everyone swaying to the beat.


After the consecration the minister urged everyone to come forward and receive the Eucharist. Jamie and Ryan rose with everyone else and stepped forward. Ryan followed her but as they reached the front of the line the minister reached out and pulled Ryan forward until they stood shoulder to shoulder. After she handed each of them a host she placed her arms around them and pulled their heads together. She offered a prayer over them and solemnly blessed their relationship. She leaned over and kissed each of them on the cheek saying, "God loves you!"


Jamie was shaken by the experience as they returned to the pew. She cast a sidelong glance at Ryan who was kneeling down with her eyes closed. She did not detect anything out of the ordinary with her, so she sat quietly and reflected. Why did she assume we were a couple? Do we act like the other couples here? She looked carefully at the people approaching the communion rail. It was fairly easy to pick out who was together. People just seemed to fit as a couple. For some it was obvious, as they held hands or touched gently. For others it was their similar styles of dress. For still others there was just a clear bond between them that was obvious even to a casual observer. It was the way they stood next to one another, or perhaps an unconscious look or a smile. Whatever it was she wondered whether she and Ryan had it. We are dressed very similarly. We look about the same age, about the same socio-economic strata. But still...there is something more. Just then Ryan leaned over and whispered, "That was sweet, wasn't it?"


She found herself smiling at Ryan in the same way she had seen the other couples do. There is something about us that just fits. And I think it is obvious to others. Maybe that's what Cassie and Jack have picked up on. She worried about this for the remainder of the service. As they filed out the minister who had given them communion stopped them to shake their hands and offer a welcome. "Are you natives or from out of town?" she asked pleasantly.


"We're locals," Ryan replied easily. "But we've never attended services here before. It's a very impressive ceremony," she said with a smile.


"I hope you enjoyed it and that you'll come again. It's nice to have younger couples attend church together. How long have you been together?"


Jamie was completely tongue-tied but Ryan was clearly in charge anyway. "Gosh honey, how long have we known each other?" She counted off the months on her fingers. "It's been nearly 4 months," she said proudly.


"Ohhh newlyweds! That's very sweet. We perform a very nice service for members of the congregation who want their union blessed. You two should think about it."


Ryan grasped Jamie's hand and said decisively, "We'll do that, won't we sweetheart?"


Jamie mutely nodded her assent as Ryan dragged her down the stairs and led her to the car. "Work with me here, Jamie," she said teasingly. "You're gay today, remember?"


"I..I..I'm sorry," she stammered. "That just caught me by surprise."


Ryan looked at her carefully as she hopped into the Boxster and started the engine. "Maybe we should have talked about this a little bit more," she said carefully. "You look like that bothered you, and I do not want you to be uncomfortable." She paused and gave Jamie a small smile, "Especially just before going into enemy territory."


Jamie managed a smile in return. "No, it's nothing, really. I guess I just don't think I look gay, and it surprises me when people think we're a couple."


"Surprises you or bothers you?" Ryan asked as gently as possible.


"Maybe both," she admitted truthfully. "I just had so many preconceived notions about lesbians before I took this class. It makes me look more carefully at some of my stereotypes."


"Do you feel comfortable enough to go to our next destination?"


"Yeah, I do," she replied firmly. After a bit she continued on with the earlier topic. "I think what bothers me the most is that it bothers me," she said looking at Ryan quizzically. "Do you know what I mean?"


"I think so. Do you mean that you don't like the fact that you have a bit of an adverse reaction to people assuming you're gay?"


"Yeah. It really bothers me that it bothers me. How am I different from Cassie or Jack or my parents if it bothers me when people assume I'm with you? I give them these big lectures about how normal it all is. Do I really believe that?"


"Jamie, don't be so hard on yourself. You've gotten negative images about lesbians for a long time. You've been seeing a more balanced portrait for only 4 months." She smiled and took her hand, "I've got to tell you, I am very sensitive to negative vibes. And I've never gotten any from you. I feel perfectly comfortable touching you and hugging you. I wouldn't feel that way if I detected that it made you in the least bit uncomfortable."


"You know, Jack asked me about how we interact," she admitted. "I told him that you touched me more than my other friends, but that I felt very comfortable with it."


"Do I really touch you more than your straight friends?" she asked with a touch of surprise.


"Yeah, you do. I told him that I thought it was because you are so comfortable touching women in general, and you just treated me the same way."


"I don't always initiate it, do I?" she asked shyly.


"No, I do it a lot of the time. I just feel more comfortable around you physically than I do my other friends." She paused for a moment, "What about you?"


"I think you were correct. I am very touch positive anyway. I really believe you need a minimum daily requirement of hugs to sustain life. But because I'm so comfortable with women I guess I do just let that comfort flow to women that I'm not sexual with." After a bit she continued with a concerned glance, "You never feel I'm coming on to you, do you?"


"No Ryan, I never have," she said firmly.


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


By this time they were back at the house. Ryan looked at her seriously and asked, "Are you sure you want to make our next stop?"




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


When they had discussed their options for the day they agreed that they needed to go at least one place where they might encounter some discord. Jamie suggested that they go to a lovely little tea room right in the heart of the Peninsula. "If there is a straighter place on earth, I'd hate to see it," she said at the time.


Now Ryan was a little concerned. She was afraid that Jamie might run into someone she knew, perhaps even her mother. But Jamie was firm in her resolve. They went downstairs to change, with Jamie taking the bathroom where she could hear Ryan rummaging through her closet, softly cursing. "Having trouble out there?" she asked.


"I have one acceptable outfit to wear. And I don't wanna wear it," she grumbled.


Jamie emerged from the bathroom looking every bit the young Hillsborough debutante. She wore a short dark tan skirt in a fine washable silk. Atop the skirt she wore a long silk jacket in a tan, black and cream paisley. The jacket was made to be worn without a blouse as the stand up collar buttoned all the way up to her throat. Large gold knots graced her ears and a heavy gold chain hung from her neck, resting just under her collarbones.


She gasped slightly at she took her friend in. She might not like her outfit, but it liked her very, very much. A pastel pink cashmere sweater set covered a simple short black shirt. A black velvet headband held her bangs back and the pearls again covered her ears and neck. She wore plain stockings and simple black pumps. The short skirt and heels managed to make her legs look tantalizingly long and her smoothly curved calves were very attractively displayed.


"Why on earth do you not like this outfit?" Jamie marveled. "You look beautiful."


"I hate, loath and despise skirts," she said with disdain. "Next to skirts, I hate heels," here she held up her foot to display the offending footwear. "They both change the way you walk and the way you sit. I am sure they are both an evil plot to subjugate women and render us unable to protect ourselves." After a pause she continued with a smile, "But thank you for the compliment."


She walked around Jamie slowly, examining her wardrobe. "This kind of thing looks like it was made for you," she said as she pulled the jacket up to look for a label. "But knowing your family, it might have been," she said teasingly.


"No, I bought this off the rack with the rest of you mortals," she replied haughtily. "But I did buy it in Milan if that makes you feel better," she said with a twinkle.


"My Aunt Maeve gave me this outfit 5 years ago for Christmas. This is only the second time I've worn it," she said proudly.


As they walked back upstairs they met Conor coming down from his room. "Wow!" he said with appreciation. "Where are you two going?"


"We're going to the Peninsula for tea," Ryan replied elegantly.


"I don't know how you did it, Jamie, but keep up the good work," he teased as he eyed his sisters' legs. "I forgot she was a girl," he said as he tried unsuccessfully to tickle Ryan.


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


As they drove along in the lifting fog Ryan did her best to prepare Jamie for the encounter. "The only way you will get a taste of what being gay is like is if we really act like girlfriends. But I want to be sure that is not going to bother you," she said solicitously.


"What do you plan on doing?" Jamie asked somewhat nervously.


"Nothing graphic, Jamie," she laughed and slapped her arm.


"I was afraid you were going to act like you did that night I saw you at the bookstore," she teased.


"That would get us arrested in the Peninsula," she said somewhat seriously. "No, I just plan on acting like I would with anyone I was seriously dating. I just want to be sure you won't be uncomfortable if I touch you or hold your hand."


"I guess that depends on where you touch me," she said with a mock leer. "No, I'm certain I'll be fine. I really do want to see the reactions you get when straight people realize you're gay."


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


They arrived just before noon. The shop was located on a main business street and they were forced to park several blocks away. Jamie was amazed at the physical transformation of her friend. Ryan acted completely comfortable and natural in her outfit. Her gait was shorter and her hips moved noticeably more, as Jamie was all too happy to observe as she walked slightly behind her. Her posture was significantly less aggressive and she gave off an almost demure aura. She looked physically smaller and more feminine, and Jamie was unable to stop herself from staring. Ryan noticed her stare and teased, "I like to keep'em guessing. I think I do a pretty good straight girl imitation, don't I?"


"It's...it's amazing," Jamie stuttered. "How do you do that?"


"I just try to look a little less imposing. I try to look less like a jock, too," she added with a grin. "Wearing a skirt and heels helps because they really don't let you take a normal gait."


"But your demeanor is so different."


"Having 3 brothers helps. I know what they like in a woman, so I try to be like that."


"Truly remarkable," Jamie remarked. "I don't think I've ever noticed before but you really are different from my straight friends."


"Aren't you observant?" Ryan smirked. "What was your first clue?"


Jamie gave her a pretty good elbow right in the ribs. "Not that difference, silly. It just dawned on me what is different about you. You don't look like you're trying to please or appeal to men. You just look like yourself."


"Exactly!" Ryan cried. "It's not that I don't like men, I just don't go out of my way to appeal to them."


"Right," Jamie agreed. "You relate to men as an equal. I noticed that when you met Jack. But when I see Cassie around him she's always batting her eyes at him or acting kind of helpless. And I do that too. I always let him do things for me that I could easily do for myself but he seems to enjoy showing that he's stronger than I am."


"I think a lot of that is very unconscious, almost like it's hard wired into people. I don't consciously try to intimidate men but I do a really good job at it. Guys flirt with me all the time but it usually only lasts for a few seconds. Once they interact with me they almost invariably back off. Funny, huh?"


"Yeah, you just give off a vibe that says, 'Not interested'. But when I see you flirting with a woman the energy coming off you is almost visible."


"Really?" she asked as she blushed a little. "I don't think I realized that."


"Oh yeah," Jamie drawled. "Every ounce of your considerable charisma comes right to the surface. It's fascinating to watch."


"I've got to be more discrete," she moaned as Jamie laughed at her discomfort.


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


They walked into the tiny shop a few minutes later. The room was rather stuffy and proper, just as Ryan expected. They were greeted at the door by an elegantly dressed woman who graciously showed them to a center table. After they were handed menus Ryan asked Jamie if she had noticed the admiring glances from the other diners when they had entered. Jamie admitted that she had not. "Pay closer attention," Ryan instructed. "People are definitely looking at us."


Jamie casually glanced around the room and noticed that people were still looking at them with approval. She looked back at Ryan and said, "I agree that people have noticed us, but I get that a lot. Don't you?"


"Why do you think people do that?" Ryan asked, ignoring the question.


"I guess because we're attractive and we're dressed well. We look like we fit in I suppose."


"Precisely," Ryan agreed. "Now continue to pay attention to the other diners." Jamie watched in fascination as the real Ryan returned. She slid her hand across the table and gently grasped Jamie's. Her eyes softened and she stared deeply into Jamie's eyes lovingly. After a moment she tenderly lifted Jamie's hand and kissed her palm, closing her eyes in pleasure, then softly placed Jamie's hand on her cheek, cradling it there for a moment. As she released her she whispered, "Still paying attention?"


"Huh?" she said vacantly. But she mentally slapped herself back into consciousness and looked around the room again. The formerly friendly faces had uniformly grown dark and disapproving. People were discreetly pointing them out to others who had not noticed. Jamie nodded her head to show that she was still doing her job.


"Want to make it worse?" she asked with one raised eyebrow. A small nod caused Ryan to pick up her chair and move very close. She took a roll from the basket on the table, broke it apart and put a little butter on it. She held up the morsel in front of Jamie and raised an eyebrow seductively. She cocked her head a little and raised the eyebrow again. Jamie mutely nodded as her mouth fell open. Ryan placed the bread in her mouth, tipping it in with her index finger. She gave Jamie an extremely sexy smile and grasped her hand again.


After a few moments of trying to make her mouth work again Jamie looked around. Now no one was looking at them. Every other diner tried to make them invisible. They continued to chat and observe the other patrons but as the time passed Jamie began to grow impatient. They had been at the restaurant for a good 15 minutes, but no one had come to take their order. After another few minutes passed Jamie signaled to the hostess but she blithely ignored her. So she got up from her chair and stormed over to the woman, ready for a fight. "Why haven't we been served?" she demanded, rather loudly.


"We're very busy today," was the arch reply.


"Every table that entered after we did has been served. I'm asking you again, why haven't we been served?"


"Why can't you people stay in the City?" she asked with an aggrieved sigh as she brushed past Jamie and into the kitchen.


Jamie stood in shocked silence for several minutes. Every other diner in the restaurant was looking at her, either blatantly or surreptitiously. She finally walked back over to Ryan with a very angry look on her face. "For two cents I'd throw you right down on this table and ravish you in front of these idiots!" she said fiercely.


As Ryan trotted out the door after her she said somberly, "That's why I hate to wear skirts."


Jamie turned to look at her with a puzzled look on her face. "What?"


"No pockets for change. I don't have two cents."


Jamie backhanded her right in her firm belly. "Wiseass," she muttered as they walked to the car laughing.


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


Ryan patiently listened as Jamie vented her anger all the way back to the Noe Valley. She was just about out of steam as they neared the house. "Ryan, why aren't you angry?" she finally asked out of frustration.


Ryan considered the question for a long while. Finally she replied, "I don't find anger that productive. I figure that if people are put off by me it's only because they are not used to seeing lesbians be authentic with each other." With a little shrug she added, "I try not to take it too personally."


"But how can you not?" Jamie insisted.


"Look, Jamie, I get my feelings hurt just like everyone else does. I wish that everyone could just get over making gayness such a big deal. But that's not going to happen very soon. I just can't afford to waste my energies caring what strangers think of me."


"Does it ever bother you?" she inquired.


"Of course it does. Every once in a while if I'm feeling vulnerable or I have PMS I'm tempted to really lash out when it happens. You saw how it bothered me when Cassie was giving me a hard time. It bothers me when Jack or your parents do it. But I still try not to get angry. Anger is just not an emotion that works well for me."


Jamie looked at her friend thoughtfully, "You are incredibly well adjusted you know."


"A lot of people wouldn't agree with that, but thank you anyway," she grinned.


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


As Jamie pulled up in front of the house Ryan asked, "Did you bring gay clothes?"


"I wasn't sure what to wear to a lesbian sex emporium. My charm class apparently didn't cover that occasion," she replied airily.


"Did you bring some jeans?" Ryan asked.


"Yeah, some old 501's," Jamie replied.


"I can take care of the rest," Ryan said decisively.


After watching a few minutes of the 49ers game with Da and Conor, Ryan led Jamie downstairs. "Okay, let's see what you have."


Jamie pulled out a very old pair of 501's and a pair of black high top Converse basketball shoes. "Is this a good start?" she asked hopefully.


"What size are these jeans?" Ryan asked suspiciously as she searched for the inside tag. "Jamie, this is a 24 inch waist. How old are these?"


"Um, freshman year I think," she replied honestly.


"Freshman year of what?" Ryan asked, seeing through the deceit.


"Um, high school?" was the timid reply.


"It's been obvious that you haven't been able to gain any weight but it's starting to look like you're still losing. You are, aren't you?" Ryan inquired sadly.


"Yeah, a little I guess," Jamie admitted. "I know what I should be eating but I just can't do it when I'm tense. I'm kinda surprised you haven't been giving me a hard time about it," she admitted. "I was afraid you were going to really be on me."


"I reconsidered my threat to watch you like a hawk. The last thing I want to do is increase your anxiety. I want to be supportive of you, but I don't want to be another person who tries to control you. You've got enough of that already."


Jamie gave her a delighted smile as she slid her arms around her for a hug. "Thanks. I appreciate your concern but I really am glad that you haven't tried to supervise me."


"I'm confident that you now know what you should be eating. I assume the nutritionist can do her job and the rest is up to you. If you need any help I hope you'll ask, but other than that I just want to support you. Is your energy level okay?"


"Yeah, it's pretty good. I know I have to eat more but given that, I feel good."


"Okay, you're the boss. If you feel good we can keep your workouts pretty intense even with your weight dropping. But I want you to promise me that you'll tell me if you start to feel tired or fatigued."


"It's a deal, Coach," she promised.


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


After several attempts Ryan was finally satisfied with her choices for Jamie's lesbian look. She wore the smallest t-shirt that Ryan owned. It was a thick yellow cotton baby tee that was supposed to fit rather snugly. On Ryan it stopped about 4 inches above her waistband, but it was just below the waistband of Jamie's jeans. Over the tee she wore a light blue bowling shirt that proclaimed 'Holten's Mortuary' across the back in black script. Her own jeans and high tops completed the outfit and Ryan was quite satisfied that she could pass for a lesbian anywhere in town.


Ryan, of course, never had a problem looking gay. She wore one of Jamie's favorite outfits. A snug black short sleeved t-shirt tucked into amazingly well fitting faded jeans, a black belt, big, heavy black boots, and her favorite hat, the backwards black driving cap.


They walked back upstairs so Jamie could watch a bit of the game while Ryan made lunch. Conor jumped up from his prone position on the bed, his face wide open in shock. "Ryan, what have you done to her?" he said as he shot his sister a glare. "I thought she was rubbing off on you, but now this?" he said sadly as he waved his hand toward Jamie's outfit.


"Relax, Conor," Ryan said wearily. "It's just an experiment for our class."


"You'd better bring her back to her normal gorgeous self, Ryan. This is too precious a commodity to hide under bowling shirts," he said distastefully.


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


Ryan decided that she wanted another breakfast for lunch and Jamie readily agreed. Da and Conor had already eaten, so it was just the two of them at the kitchen counter. Ryan had made fabulous banana pancakes along with Irish bacon and big glasses of orange juice. "This is beyond delicious, Ryan. You are quite the little cook," Jamie said appreciatively.


"I would say that breakfast is my favorite meal to cook. You get quick feedback that I really like. I don't really have the patience to cook dinner. Everything takes so long," she reasoned.


While they munched away Ryan asked her again if she was comfortable with their next stop. "We could just go and look around like normal," she offered. "You don't have to make people believe we're together."


"No, we set it up this way for a reason, Ryan. I want to really get a flavor for all of the different facets of life as a lesbian. We had a little spirituality, we had a little homophobia and now we get a little sex," she waggled an eyebrow seductively.


"Have you ever been to a place like this for straight people?" Ryan inquired.


"No. I've never had much of an interest. It all seems so lurid," she said as she made a face. "I just don't get most porn. It is all so objectifying of women. I fail to understand how you can say you love women when you really just make different parts of them a fetish."


"So why do you want to go to ' Good Vibrations'?" Ryan asked.


"I didn't know there was an erotic themed store made for women. I guess I want to see if women are interested in the same things men are. Have you been there before?" she inquired.


"Uh...Yeah," she said simply.


They arrived at the little store just after 3 o'clock. Jamie was impressed with the set up. It looked just like a regular bookstore. Neat shelves were arranged along the outside walls. Books, videos and paraphernalia were neatly displayed in an open manner. There was nothing clandestine or lurid about the place. There were big windows that were whitewashed to keep out casual observers and the windows combined with the open shelving to make the store look clean and spacious and inviting. "Hi, Ryan," said a young woman shelving books. Ryan greeted her in a friendly manner as they continued to look around the store.


"Oh, hi Ryan," said the woman at the counter as they passed.


Jamie leaned in close and whispered, "Did you say you've been here or that you lived here?"


Ryan blushed all the way up to her hat. "Maybe I just have a memorable name?" she meekly replied.


A prominently displayed video caught Jamie's eye. The title was 'Bend Over Boyfriend,' and it was advertised as an instructional video for straight women who want to penetrate their male partners. Jamie stood in front of the display with her mouth hanging open and Ryan couldn't help but lean over and ask, "Getting ideas?"


She turned her head and made eye contact with her but she could not reply. She shook her head numbly as Ryan led her away. "I...I...I would never have guessed that women wanted to do that!" she gasped out. After a second she started to chuckle just a little bit under her breath and soon she was laughing out loud at her private joke.


"What's so funny?" Ryan finally asked.


"Even though I didn't know that people actually did that I had a very pleasant fantasy the other night about impaling Jack on something. I just didn't know that it was an approved form of sexual expressions!"


"Hey, sexual expression is pretty fluid. People seem a little less role oriented now."


"Jack would have me committed if I brought that home!" she muttered.


"Hi, Ryan. How have you been?" cooed a customer as she eyed Ryan with unconcealed interest.


"She's been busy!" said Jamie curtly as she grabbed Ryan's hand and dragged her away.


Ryan nearly doubled over with laughter. "What was that about?" she finally choked out.


"I'm supposed to be with you," she replied logically. "She was hitting on you right in front of me. I can't tolerate someone dissing me like that."


"You are a piece of work, Jamie. A real piece of work," she said admiringly. "So you want to play for real, huh?" she said with a glimmer of danger in her blue eyes.


"Yeah," Jamie said with more confidence than she felt.


"Come with me," Ryan purred, as she took her hand. They walked over to the counter where yet another woman greeted Ryan by name. "Hi, J.C." Ryan said with a friendly smile. "Got anything new in the try on rooms?"


"Yeah, we got some new things in this week. But remember, Ryan, you break it--you buy it," she said seriously. "And don't forget to put a condom on!" she said rather loudly as Jamie felt herself being led to a small dressing room in the back of the store.


Her eyes were wide with alarm as Ryan opened the door to the small room. As she closed the door she turned a little sign that read 'occupied' around to face outward. On a little table lay the most unique and mysterious sex toys that Jamie had ever seen. Actually, Jamie had never seen a sex toy, but there was little doubt that was what they were. "Yipes!" was all she could get out as she tried to avert her eyes.


Ryan laughed gently at her discomfort as she sat down in one of the two chairs in the small room. "Do you want to continue the game, or are you uncomfortable?" she asked solicitously.


"W..w..what do I have to do?" she asked with wide eyes.


"Nothing, nothing at all," Ryan reassured her. "I was just going to show you some of the toys if you want me to."


"Um ... Okay," she replied gamely. "What did that woman at the counter mean?" she finally asked.


Ryan blushed again as she answered, "I brought someone here last year and she got a little enthusiastic and broke one of these," she laughed as she held up what Jamie guessed was a vibrator. "I thought she should pay for it, since she broke it, but she didn't have any money, so I got stuck paying $40 for a vibrator I didn't use. It seemed quite unfair to me," she said reasonably.


"What was that about a condom? That confused the heck out of me."


"They're very careful about safer sex here. They clean everything with bleach between customers, but they still want you to put a condom on before you insert anything." Now Jamie blushed as Ryan continued. "The same woman who broke the vibrator wanted to play with some of these," here she held up a lavender latex object shaped like a dolphin, "and she refused to put a condom on. So when we left I ratted her out," she said proudly. "So now they think they have to remind me to use a condom when it was me who told on her." She shook her head, "I don't get it. I'm entirely innocent."


"Of all the adjectives in the world, innocent would be the last one I would use for you," Jamie said as she patted Ryan's pink cheek. After a moment she regained her poise and asked, "Do you bring dates here a lot?"


"Well, you've gotta remember that I live at home..." she trailed off.


"And sometimes the cars are too small, right?" Jamie offered helpfully.


"Yeeeah, that's about it," she agreed.


Jamie was really rather fascinated by the assortment of devices that the little room held. There was one vibrator that interested her in particular. It was a rather normal looking red plastic from the cord until about 4 inches up. But a clear, flexible rubber piece above that was filled with multicolor beads. When the vibrator was turned on that rubber piece began to twist, extend and retract in a rhythmic fashion. It looked much more like a child's toy than a sex object.


There was an assortment of dildos in pretty pastel colors. Some were shaped like women; some like animals and some were just plain cylinders. Jamie noted that none were made to resemble an actual penis.


A large bowl of various styles of condoms was centered on the table along with a box of baby wipes. 3 or 4 bottles of lubricant were also available for use. Jamie shuddered a bit to think of Ryan using these toys, especially with another woman, right here in public. She was very curious to find out if Ryan used things like this on a regular basis, but she realized that was too invasive a question, so she refrained.


"Do you think most lesbians use things like this?" she heard herself asking just a moment later as her curiosity got the best of her.


"I can't speak for most lesbians," Ryan replied with a smirk.


"What about the thousands of women you can speak for?" she asked sweetly.


"I think most women like to play around with toys once in a while. It spices things up a bit. But I don't think that most women need things like this to be satisfied." She reflected for a moment, "My philosophy is that sex should be fun. If playing with toys makes it more fun for both of you, why not?"


"That's a philosophy that I would like to be able to copy. Maybe someday," she said wistfully.


"Are you about ready to leave?"


"Yeah, I guess we made a statement of some sort by the amount of time we spent in here," she laughed.


As Ryan opened the door she wrapped her strong arm around Jamie's waist and whispered into her ear, "Look satisfied." Jamie was very glad that arm was where it was as her knees turned to rubber at the thought.


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


The next stop was back to the O'Flaherty house for their last change. They both got into workout clothes and covered their outfits with sweats. Jamie loaded all of her previously worn clothes into her garment bag and they took off for the gym.


They had decided to work out together since the day didn't allow for their normal bike ride. Jamie realized that in the nearly 2 months that she had worked with Ryan she had never actually seen her lift weights. They arrived at the gym at around 5 o'clock. There was almost no one else in attendance on this cool fall day. The 49ers were locked in a big game for the lead in their conference and the game was obviously keeping people at home or at a sports bar.


They went to the locker room and removed their sweats. Jamie was wearing a pair of navy blue leggings with a matching sports bra covered by a lemon yellow oversized tank top. Ryan had on a bright red Lycra unitard. The garment was sleeveless and styled like a tank top and the legs stopped just at the largest point of Ryan's muscular thighs. I am so glad that she doesn't work out with me on a regular basis, Jamie thought with a shudder. It's just not fair for any one woman to look that good.


They moved out into the gym and each spent a few minutes on the stair climber to loosen up and raise their heart rates a bit. After 10 minutes Ryan hopped off and went to the first machine. They had agreed that Jamie would do a very light intensity workout of all 6 of the major muscle groups, partly because Ryan was afraid of overstressing her already taxed system.


Ryan had been varying her own routine just to keep things interesting. She had done a lot of rollerblading and a good bit of running to keep herself fresh. She hadn't worked out in the gym for over a week, but it was now time to get serious, so she decided she needed a fairly high intensity session.


Jamie sat down on the seat of the chest press machine as Ryan adjusted the weight. She went through her reps in the usual manner, but Ryan advised against doing two sets. After she rose, Ryan adjusted the seat and the weights for herself. Jamie noticed with a bit of envy that she lifted over three times the amount of weight that she could handle. Ryan had been relaxed and chatty as she usually was when Jamie worked out. But the minute she sat down on that seat her entire demeanor changed. Jamie watched in fascination as the dramatic change came over her friend.


Ryan was a study of total focus. She did not look at herself nor did she glance in the mirror. She kept her eyes unfocused, staring out into space. Her face was unlined, but there was a level of concentration that Jamie had rarely seen before. She began to move the weight with a smooth cadence, with each rep exactly matching the one before. The plates barely touched down lightly before they were pulled into motion again. Ryan did not appear to strain nor did she make any sound. It was truly as though Ryan had become the machine. She did not look like she was lifting something. She was just moving gracefully and the huge stack of weight moved right along with her.


After her first set she paused for less than a minute. She was still in a deep state of concentration, but it was clear that her breathing was slightly elevated as she began the next set. By the time she had finished her third set Jamie could see the perspiration begin to pop out at her hairline. Amazingly, she increased the weight 10 pounds and sat back down for another set. She was obviously having trouble with this one, but she kept at it. Jamie could see that she struggled to make the reps perfect and she smiled when she saw Ryan's right foot begin to tap rather impatiently on the floor as she pushed. The exertion was making her veins bulge and Jamie couldn't help but notice that Ryan's nipples popped out as she strained with the heavy weight. She sat for a moment at the end and got up smoothly. "Oooh, that felt good," she purred.


It was all Jamie could do not to swoon as she followed Ryan around from machine to machine. Her friend followed the same routine for each exercise, but Jamie found each to be a thing of beauty. Ryan was a study of power, grace and fluidity. She reverted to her normal demeanor when Jamie was lifting, then effortlessly shifted back into the intense concentration that she obviously needed to work.


When Ryan had adjusted the Leg Press machine Jamie watched in rapt amazement at the amount of weight that she could push. Every muscle in those tanned legs stood out in start relief, and Jamie could see the strands of muscle jump and flex from the strain. The massive weight moved smoothly through all three sets, and by the end of the 3rd set Jamie had to fight to make herself stop staring before Ryan looked up. She was only partially successful but just received a grin in response. "Would you like to have quads like these when you grow up, little girl?" she said with a flourish as she slapped her pumped thighs.


Jamie could only nod her head as she struggled to shut her gaping mouth. The rest of the workout went smoothly and they were finished in a little over an hour. Jamie was sweating freely when they finished, but Ryan had been dripping onto the floor for some time now. "Do you always sweat so much?" Jamie asked in amazement.


"Yeah, I do," she easily replied. "Your output of perspiration follows your fitness level. I only worry when I don't sweat," she said as she chugged a liter of water.


"How much water do you drink in a day?" Jamie inquired.


"A minimum of 5 liters, much more if I'm doing something strenuous," she replied.


"Um, this wasn't strenuous?" she regarded Ryan's dripping clothing.


"I mean aerobically strenuous, like running or riding my bike on hills. You won't believe how much I will drink on the ride," she smiled in remembrance. "You haven't lived until you've tried to find your tent in a dark campground in the middle of the night when you have to get up to pee 3 times," she laughed.


"You know, I've never even asked you what the accommodations were for the ride. We sleep in big tents?"


"Nope. Little tents. Little two person tents."


"We each get one?"


"Nope. 2 per tent. There's barely room to change your mind," she laughed. "I thought we'd bunk together, if that's okay with you."


After a short internal struggle to move her mouth Jamie croaked out, "Sure. Fine," as she was assaulted with images of sharing a tiny little space with her friend for a whole week.


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


After they had returned to the locker room Ryan began to shuck every stitch of her wet clothing. Jamie turned her back as she put her sweats back on over her own damp gear. Ryan was grumbling as she looked through her gym bag. "You don't have any extra clothes do you?" she inquired.


"No, why do you ask?" she replied.


"I guess I'm going commando," she grumbled as she dried off and put her sweats back on.


"What's commando?" Jamie inquired as she turned around to face her friend.


"That's what the boys call it when they don't wear underwear," she revealed. "I forgot to bring any and I can't go out in this weather with wet clothes on."


Why does she have to tell me everything? Jamie moaned as she followed behind Ryan, eyes cast downward in an attempt to avoid an independent investigation.


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


As she dropped Ryan off Jamie declined her offer of a warm shower. "I think I'm gonna go down to Palo Alto and try to make nice with Jack," she revealed. "I think he'd appreciate it if I came down to make him dinner."


Ryan nodded sagely and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I had a fantastic day, Jamie. Thanks for making it so much fun."


"I'm the one who should be thanking you, Ryan. It was really cool to be let into the inner sanctum," she said with a laugh.


"Well, you didn't really see the inner sanctum," she admitted. "You have to take the oath before we let you in there. More importantly, you have to learn the secret handshake," she said with a definite leer.


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


As Jamie headed back to the expressway thoughts about the day drifted across her mind. Images of the workout continued to flood her mind and by the time she reached Jack's her entire body was flushed with excitement and desire. She buzzed his apartment on her way up the stairs, taking them two at a time. He opened the door in surprise as she pushed him back in to the apartment.


"I don't want to talk, I just want to do this!" she growled as she grasped his head and kissed him thoroughly. He didn't utter a word as she began to strip off her still sweaty clothes. When she was naked she performed the same service for him. He was instantly aroused and as she pushed him back against the couch he finally muttered, "I missed you today, Jamie."


She cut off all attempts at further conversation as she straddled his seated form and locked his lips with hers, never letting them go until they were both collapsed in a post coital haze.


I guess I just need a gym in our house when we get married, she mused as they stumbled to the bedroom for another round.


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


She awoke at around 10 p.m. Jack was lying behind her with his arms wrapped tightly around her naked body. His head was snuggled against her back and she felt content for the first time in a long while. We get along fine when we don't talk, she thought disgustedly as she extricated herself from his arms. I wonder how many years we can stay married if the only way we communicate is with moans and grunts, she mused as she stumbled into her sweats to make the long drive home.


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


Chapter Ten

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