Disclaimers in Part 1

Chapter 14

Thursday morning found them bundling Caitlin into a thick jacket for a walk to the playground. Annie was home, but she appreciated the little break and jumped at the chance to do some grocery shopping alone for a change.

Rather than take the stroller, Ryan strapped the baby in a sturdy backpack for the six-block walk. Jamie entertained their passenger, walking behind her partner and making faces at the baby. The park was rather full despite the cold foggy morning, and Caitlin immediately found some likely-looking playmates.

When Ryan was a child, the neighborhood was filled with working-class people and lots of stay-at-home moms, but the Internet boom had brought many young professionals and their families into the Noe Valley. Many of them hired babysitters or nannies—often Spanish speaking immigrants--to watch their children. Ryan mused about this phenomenon while she watched Caitlin make some tentative overtures to another baby about her age. That's exactly how young Irish women started out in this country in the late 19th century—minding people's children and cleaning their houses. I wonder if Latinos will one day be as welcome here as the Irish are now? There were ads in the local paper every week for agencies that promised au pairs from the British Isles, but she didn't see many young colleens from the Emerald Isle at the park this morning. A group of about six young Latina women chatted while they sipped cups of coffee and ate sweet rolls.

The kids at the park were all playing nicely, and everything was calm and peaceful in the cold morning. "That coffee looks delicious," Ryan said, looking longingly at the steam rising from the cups.

"You had your coffee, young lady," Jamie said pointedly.

"I can dream, can't I?" Ryan asked sweetly as she batted her eyes at her partner.

Her companion stood and held out a hand. "Gimme some money," she said with a mock scowl as she shook her head.

"You don't have to go," Ryan said unconvincingly.

"I don't mind, Love. I can get a cocoa and pick up a biscotti for the baby. She's nuts for the almond ones."

"Well if you're sure you don't mind…"

"I'd do anything to please you, and you know it," Jamie teased. "You and the little blonde one both have me wrapped around your little fingers."

"You're just a sucker for the Irish lassies," Ryan chided. "I'm just lucky I claimed you before some Kelly or O'Reilly or Shaunessy got their paws on you."

"Not a chance, Babe. I'm a sucker for O'Flahertys only." A little kiss on the forehead and she was gone, leaving Ryan to her musings.

Ryan generally tried to hang back and let Caitlin play with the other kids when they went to the park. She knew it was the right thing to do, but she still felt a little left out when the baby would spend ten or fifteen minutes totally ignoring her. Guess I'd better get used to that, she considered. Someday she'll be a teenager and have no use whatsoever for her old cousin.

While she was considering her cousin's adolescence, an older woman appeared with a baby about Caitlin's age. The baby was cranky and out of sorts, and the woman looked like she'd had more than her fill of the child for the day. She dumped her onto the sand right next to Caitlin and plopped down on a bench about ten feet away. Ryan observed both of the newcomers, paying particular attention to the babysitter. The woman seemingly had no connection to the child. She barely looked in her direction and just seemed glad to be a few feet away from the wailing infant. The baby looked like she was having a bad day, but she obviously was not bonded in any way with the woman. Ryan sat down in the sand and tried to comfort the baby. The sitter certainly didn't seem to mind Ryan's attempt, but it was largely unsuccessful also. The baby was crying so loudly that the other kids seemed bothered by it. The other nannies cast a disapproving glance at the woman, but she was not paying enough attention to even notice their stares.

Some of the other kids now started to cry and, one by one, the other nannies buckled their charges into their strollers and took off for quieter playgrounds. Only Ryan, the seemingly deaf babysitter, and the two babies were left at the park after the others departed, and Ryan would have left if she weren't waiting for Jamie. The crying baby, while probably about nine months old, didn't have the motor skills that Caitlin had, and she kept falling over, getting sand in her face time and again. Ryan propped her up a few times, then finally held the baby on her lap. Still she cried, actually managing to increase the volume and the incessant sobs and gasps for breath.

After a while, she couldn't take it any more. Caitlin was getting annoyed and looked like she might cry at any minute. Actually, Ryan herself felt a little weepy, and she decided to ask the babysitter to take over. She carried the baby over to the woman and placed her on the bench next to her. "Maybe she needs a bottle or something," she lamely suggested.

The woman looked up at her with a look of total shock. "Pardon?" she asked in a clipped British accent, unaware that Ryan had even been holding the child.

"Your baby seems to be having a tough time today. Do you have anything that might calm her down?"

"Thank you for your concern," she said briefly, as she turned away from Ryan's gaze.

But the nanny made no move to provide comfort for the infant so Ryan persisted, "Don't you have a bottle for her? She seems hungry."

"Listen to me young lady," she said in a very sharp tone. "I'm trying to put this child on a schedule, and that schedule does not call for feeding at this time. Now if you have no further business with us, I'd prefer that you entertain your own child."

Ryan knew that this was truly none of her business, but she had a hard time allowing this woman to treat the poor little girl with such rigid disregard. She began to make another point, but as she did so, the baby started to teeter on the bench. Ryan made a grab for her, but the babysitter grabbed her first. She grasped her arm and yanked sharply, making the baby stop her crying for a few seconds. But when she started again, the sound that came out was unlike any Ryan had ever heard from an infant. She was nearly hysterical in a matter of seconds, and Ryan quickly realized that this time she was crying from pain. The babysitter just sat and stared as she wrung her hands in a helpless gesture. So Ryan quickly unzipped the little jacket and immediately realized that the baby's arm had come out of the socket.

The two women seemed to understand the severity of the injury at exactly the same time. The nanny looked at Ryan with very wide, terror-filled eyes, got to her feet and started running, covering ground at a surprising clip for one her age. Ryan's mouth dropped as her eyes bugged, but the screaming quickly brought her back to focus on her task. She now had two babies, one with a dislocated arm, the other crying from lack of attention. "I'll be right there, Caitlin," she soothed as she tried to focus completely on the child in her arms.

"What in the hell?" she heard over her shoulder and almost cried with relief at the sound of her lover's voice.

"Can you get Caitlin?" Ryan cried over the shrieks.

Jamie hustled over and did just that, setting the drinks on the concrete surround of the sand pit. "What in the hell is going on?" she repeated, shouting to make herself heard.

"Long story," Ryan said in a more normal tone as Jamie carried the Caitlin around to face Ryan. "Her arm is out of the socket." Ryan was bent over, carefully examining the little arm, seemingly determined to take some action on her own.

"What are you going to do?" Jamie asked, astounded that her partner would try such a thing.

"I'm gonna try to put it back into place," she muttered, not very happy to be interrupted.

"You can't do that!!" she cried.

Ryan gave her one of her best no-nonsense looks and declared, "Of course I can. If I do it, this baby will be spared at least an hour of terrible pain. It's worth the risk." With that, she placed her left hand on the baby's tiny chest, holding her firmly against the back of the bench. With her right, she grasped the little arm and slowly rotated it back and across the child's chest. She could feel a small pop as the bone slid back into place. The child's hysterical crying ceased immediately, though she still cried at a more moderate pace.

The dark head lifted, and the dancing blue eyes blinked up at Jamie. "I think I did it," she said, slightly amazed that she had even tried.

Jamie let out the breath she didn't know she had been holding and flopped down next to her partner. "Do you mind filling me in here?" she asked weakly. "Who is she, and why do you have her?"

"Don't know who she is, and I have her because her sitter yanked her arm out of the socket, got scared and ran!" Ryan said, just now grasping the entirety of the events.

"She ran?!"

"Yep. Like a sprinter," she muttered, turning her attention once again to the slightly quieter baby. "Wonder if she'd like half of a biscotti," she mused.

"I bought more than one, you know," her partner said with a laugh. "I knew there was a chance you'd steal Caitlin's!"

"Ha, Ha," Ryan smirked. She offered each baby a cookie and within minutes they were both contentedly gnawing away. "Now what?" she asked. "I hate to take her to the police station, but we have to report this."

"Let's go to Annie's and see what she thinks," Jamie suggested.

They did just that, and luckily Annie was home from shopping. "I think we should call the Department of Children and Family Services," she advised. "The police will get them involved anyway, and if we go direct she might not have to spend time in the station house. Let me call someone at the hospital and see if we have any good contacts."

She made a few phone calls and finally got hold of a very nice social worker. When Annie identified herself, the woman said they could keep the baby while the paperwork was being written up. Ryan got on the phone and made a complete report, mentioning every detail she could remember. The social worker promised to call back after she had notified the local police station, since that was likely where the parents would begin their search.

When Ryan hung up Annie mused, "I've seen this baby at the park before. I think she lives really close." As she was talking, she sat down at the small desk they had wedged into the corner of the kitchen. She turned on her computer and printer and quickly drew up a notice stating that they had found a brown-haired, brown-eyed baby girl, about nine months old, at Douglas Playground. She listed the number of the police station and her contact at DCFS, and after playing around with the font size, she printed off 30 copies and sent Jamie to ring every doorbell on the two main streets near the park.

An hour later, the messenger returned. "I'm pretty sure she lives on Diamond, right by the park," she related. "A neighbor said there's a baby that fits that description there, and she thinks the mother just went back to work a week or so ago. I handed the flyers out to everyone who was home and taped them to the doors of the houses where I didn't get an answer."

"Good girl," Ryan praised her as she bent to kiss her on the head. The babies were both in Caitlin's playpen, mostly ignoring each other--as babies that age tend to do. The visitor had stopped crying, however, and Ryan was terribly happy about that.

By the time Ryan had to get ready for work, both babies were down for a nap. Jamie decided to stay and help Annie with them, but they promised to call Ryan with any news.

"If the parents don't want her we, could always keep her," she reminded Jamie as she batted her big blue eyes at her.

"First comes love, then comes marriage," Jamie teased in a sing-song voice. "Then comes a long period of nothing but hot sex, then comes Ryan with a baby carriage," she added, spicing up the nursery rhyme a little bit.

"Spoilsport," Ryan mumbled as she walked down the street to pick up her motorcycle.

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

When Ryan returned from work, the baby's parents had just arrived to claim her after a trip to the police station to file charges against their erstwhile nanny. The mother, Michelle, told Jamie and Annie that she had just gone back to work after seven months of maternity leave. She claimed that they had thoroughly checked the references of the nanny, but it was obvious that she was too distraught to discuss the matter at much length.

The baby, Taylor, was overjoyed at her mother's return, but everyone in the room knew the joy was short lived. Robert, the father, grasped the tiny child in a tight embrace and spoke softly to her while the women briefly discussed the immediate future. "What will you do until you find another nanny?" Annie asked.

Michelle lifted her hands and covered her face as she shook her head roughly a few times. A deep sigh preceded her answer. "I…I guess I'll just have to stay home," she mumbled.

Robert gave her an incredulous look as he said, "Honey, you have your first trial starting tomorrow! You can't miss that!"

She looked at him with a face full of angst. "What else can we do? You have to go to L.A. for that meeting—they'll have your hide if you skip that."

"No family in the neighborhood?" Annie asked.

"None in the state," Robert informed her as he bounced the baby in his arms. "I work for Bank of America. We were transferred here from North Carolina right after Michelle graduated from the University of North Carolina Law School. She got a job with Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro and things were going great, but we kind of unexpectedly got pregnant and they weren't very happy about that. She wants to be a litigator, and they put her on this important case with some senior attorneys. All she has to do is make the appearances just to get some experience, but if she isn't reliable, I'm afraid they'll pull her off."

"Let me watch her tomorrow," Annie volunteered. "I don't go to work until four p.m."

"We couldn't do that!" Michelle cried, but it was obvious she wished that they could, judging from the hope in her eyes.

"Nonsense," Annie stated in her most nurse-like voice. "Two aren't much worse than one at this age and, since neither can walk, it won't be bad at all."

"We've got nothing planned tomorrow," Jamie piped up. "We'd love to help."

"Oh, I don't know," Michelle wavered.

"Look," Annie said. "We don't mind, it's no trouble, and you need the help. We're all neighbors here and we need to watch out for each other. Give it up, Michelle."

The small, thin, overly stressed woman gratefully agreed. "You're quite persuasive," she laughed. "Maybe you should be the lawyer."

"Nope. I'm an anesthetist at San Francisco General. I only convince people to go to sleep!"

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

Martin had held dinner for the girls after Jamie called to tell him of their exciting day. When they arrived, he sat at the table with them as they recounted all of the events.

"I'm proud of the lot of you," he beamed with pride. "It's a rare thing to get involved in other people's troubles, and I'm very happy that you three understand what it means to be neighbors."

"I just feel so bad for little Taylor," Jamie mused. "It's hard enough to have your mommy leave you all day long. But to hear Ryan tell it, that babysitter should be found and arrested!"

"Yeah, it wasn't so bad that she yanked on her arm like that, but her indifference was just astonishing! The dog walkers at the park are much more concerned about the pets they watch than she was. To get up and run after the baby was hurt was truly criminal. My guess is that she's in the country illegally, and that's why she ran. She was probably afraid that the authorities would get involved."

"Did the parents take the baby to the doctor?" Martin asked.

"Not yet. She really seemed fine, and her arm didn't seem to bother her at all. Annie said she'd take her with her to the hospital tomorrow and have one of the bone doctors look at it if she acted like it bothered her at all. I didn't know this, but Annie says that's a common thing for some kids. Their ligaments are very stretchy, and a sharp tug can easily yank the arm from the socket," Ryan related.

"Don't forget to tell your father that Annie said you did a perfect job when you popped it back in," Jamie urged.

"She should know how!" Martin laughed. "She's dislocated her right arm twice and her left once. She's such a tough little thing that she watched the doctor when he put it back in every time!"

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

Sunday morning found Ryan standing in front of her closet, hands on hips, scowl firmly etched on her face. She was grumbling under her breath, but the tone was so low that Jamie had no idea of the content of her quiet diatribe. "Need some help?" she finally offered.

"Love some," Ryan said with a disgusted shrug. "But the department stores aren't open yet."

Jamie got up from her perch on the bed and went to stand behind her partner. "You have some perfectly nice things in there," she reminded her. Turning Ryan around a little, she captured her chin and tilted it until they were gazing into each other's eyes. "Maybe you're just a little nervous," she ventured.

"A little," Ryan muttered softly as she rolled her eyes. "It's worse than meeting the in-laws for the first time."

"Why, Honey? I'm certain my grandfather will love you!"

"Because you love him so much," Ryan explained. "I know his opinion means more to you than your parents', so it's even more important that he like me." She looked so fragile and unsure of herself that Jamie just wanted to wrap her up in her arms and cradle her until she was her normal confident self. She also knew that wasn't what Ryan needed at the moment. So she helped in the way she thought would be most effective.

"Let me help you pick out an outfit, okay?"

"Okay, but I'd really rather not wear that stupid skirt if I don't have to," she insisted with her lower lip sticking out like a five-year-olds.

"All right, Love, no skirt," Jamie soothed as she started assessing the modest wardrobe. "You go brush your teeth, and I'll be ready for you when you're done." As Ryan compliantly walked away, Jamie re-thought her earlier assessment. It wasn't that Ryan didn't have a lot of clothes; she actually had more clothes than Jamie did. Ninety-five percent of them were shorts, t-shirts, Lycra leggings, and sweats--none of which were appropriate for mass at a conservative Episcopal church. Plus, since Jamie was wearing a dress, she knew that Ryan would want to look like she was going to the same event. She quickly pulled out several perfectly acceptable selections and waited for Ryan to return.

"Hmm," her slightly grumpy partner mused when she viewed her choices. "You'll look lots better than me."

"Not at all, Babe. I want you to look like yourself, Honey. Your own personality and your style are part of what makes you unique. I want my grandfather to meet the real you, and these outfits reflect that."

"Oh, all right," Ryan agreed. "Pick one out. I really don't care."

Jamie had on a bright blue and beige cotton print dress that looked very summery and casual.

She chose khaki pants, a white knit shell and a light blue chambray shirt for her partner. Ryan raised an eyebrow but started to drop her sweats and put on the outfit. Jamie studied the pictures on the bookshelves to distract herself, and a few moments later Ryan asked, "Okay?"

Turning around, Jamie gave her a very big smile and said, "Almost perfect." She went to the closet and added a black leather belt and a pair of shiny black loafers that Ryan dutifully slipped on. Then, in one final touch, she rolled Ryan's sleeves up three turns, leaving them at mid-forearm.

"Really?" Ryan asked, doubtful that the casual look was appropriate.

"You always roll your sleeves up," she reminded her; aware of the fact that few blouses in Ryan's size had sleeves that were long enough for her arms.

"I know but…" she muttered as she pursed her lips.

"But nothing, Honey. You don't have to put on a show for my grandfather. You'll feel more comfortable if you're dressed in a way that makes you comfortable."

"Aw, Jamie…" she groused.

"Okay," she said quickly. "I'll tell you the real reason." She bent over and kissed each exposed forearm and traced the protuberant muscles with her index finger. "Your arms make me drool." As she tossed her arms around Ryan's neck, she caught the barest hint of a grin start to peek out of her grumpy face.

"Drool, huh?" she murmured into her nearby ear.

"Definitely drool," Jamie pronounced, thoroughly satisfied with another job well done. Now I have three weapons to fight bad moods: talk about food, sex or her muscles. A smile curled up the corners of her own mouth as she considered, Why shouldn't that work with her? It works for me!

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

This service on the last weekend of May was notable for two reasons. It was not only the first time Ryan would meet Rev. Evans, it was also the beginning of the priest's summer vacation.

Charles Evans spent every summer on some type of sabbatical, and this year was no exception. Instead of journeying to another country this year, he was taking an intensive course in Spanish at Cal. He was looking forward to the time away from tending to the needs of his congregation and equally happy to be able to sleep in his own bed while expanding his mind.

When the young women arrived at the small, but lavishly decorated church, they sat close to the aisle, but positioned themselves further back than the bulk of the other congregants. Jamie wanted to be able to offer commentary to her partner, and she wanted to be careful not to annoy any of the others.

When the service began, Ryan was able to pick out Rev. Evans immediately. It helped that he was the only man among the three priests, and his position at the rear of the procession certainly didn't hurt, but even in a crowd of similarly attired men she thought she would have been able to spot him. There was just something so 'Jamie-ish' about the man, even though Ryan couldn't quite put her finger on the resemblance as the procession moved down the center aisle. When the minister reached their pew he broke ranks and threw an arm around his only granddaughter and gave her a kiss on the cheek as well as a generous hug. Looking up at Ryan, he smiled and added a wink for her benefit as he released Jamie and scurried to catch up with the rest of his staff. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Ryan whispered as she leaned over her partner. "He's as cute as you are!"

"I wish I was half as cute as he is," Jamie smiled, enormously pleased by the comparison.

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

Forty-five minutes later they were walking down a stone path to the small house on the property that his position afforded him. "So, Ryan, what did you think?" he asked with a twinkle in his dancing green eyes.

"It was very nice, Rev. Evans," she said honestly. "Very much like what I'm used to, but a little more formal in some areas like the music. Parts of the service were much more progressive than my church."

"Like what?" Jamie asked.

"Oh, like women priests, for one tiny thing," Ryan said with a smirk. "More subtle things too, like the entire congregation being welcomed to receive the Eucharist. That was really nice."

"They don't do that at Catholic church?" she asked, shocked by the news.

"Nope. Catholics only. It seems that Jesus was very specific in his instructions," she said with her tongue in cheek. "He said 'Do this in remembrance of me if you're a Catholic. If not, convert before you're damned to hell.' Not many people know the whole story," she added with a wink.

Rev. Evans tossed his head back and laughed at that comment, causing Jamie to join him. "Isn't she cute?" Jamie asked as she grasped Ryan's arm and pulled her close for a hug.

"You both are," he replied with a fond smile at both young women.

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

Over a simple but delicious lunch served by his housekeeper, Rev. Evans turned to Ryan and asked with mock seriousness, "So, Ryan, what are your intentions toward my granddaughter?"

"Poppa!" Jamie cried, amazed that he would even tease Ryan that way.

"It's okay, Jamie," Ryan said easily. "I know exactly what my intentions are, and I think your grandfather should know too." Jamie gave her a wide-eyed stare as she thought about Ryan's often felt, but not yet expressed intentions. Her partner merely reached across the table and lightly grasped her hand, gazing into her eyes with a somber look.

"My intention is to love, honor and cherish her for the rest of my life," Ryan said slowly, smiling at Jamie as she spoke. "I want to build a life with her, and have children with her, and grow old with her. I'll consider my life well lived if I can die in her arms," she concluded, her smile dimming as she let the words sink in.

"You are so incredibly sweet," Jamie murmured, her attention fully engaged.

Rev. Evans gazed at the two young lovers and thought to himself, There's the spark that was always missing with Jack! This is exactly how a young couple should behave. As the intense gaze continued, he added with an internal chuckle, But that's also why I feel like excess baggage at the moment!

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

The babysitting worked out so well that they offered to watch Taylor for the entire next week. Michelle set about interviewing every domestic agency in the city, but Annie stepped in and found an ideal situation for the baby. A lesbian couple at work had a baby just a little older than Taylor; the moms were both nurses, and they worked split shifts so that one was always at home. They were trying to move to a bigger apartment and some extra cash was badly needed. Annie vouched for both of them and assured Michelle that she couldn't do much better than to have a pediatric nurse and an emergency room specialist caring for her child.

Michelle and Robert were very excited about having Taylor spend the day with a slightly older child, and they quickly agreed to the arrangement.

The Friday before the ride was spent with two babies who seemed to enjoy each other's company quite a bit. They paid attention to each other in spurts, but their temperaments were similar and they seemed to like to sleep at the same time. In a way it was easier to watch two of them, since they did entertain each other a little bit.

Tommy was at home and, even though he loved his child deeply, he was always happy to have someone take her for a day. Since they had Taylor's jogger stroller, they each put a baby in a stroller and took off for a long run/walk. Helping Annie and Tommy with the kids had actually proved fortuitous for Ryan and Jamie. They didn't want to ride their bikes this week, but running up and down the hills with their young charges gave them a cardiovascular workout that easily topped a long bike ride. They both felt like they had not only kept up their fitness level, but they had actually increased it a bit while saving their butts completely.

After almost two hours playing at the playground in the Castro, both babies were ready for their naps. Rather than take them home, though, they settled them into the joggers and rocked them a little while they rested against a big tree. Once the babies were quiet, Ryan ran over to Hot 'n Hunky for some nice sloppy cheeseburgers and malts. They decided to splurge on calories since they would expend so many in the next week, but Jamie had to laugh when she saw her lover carrying two huge bags of food with her. "What did you buy?" she gasped as Ryan started to pull the food from the bags.

"A single for you, a double for me, chili fries, and malts," she said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"How many malts are in that bag?" Jamie asked pointedly.


"You're gonna eat two malts?" she gasped.

"Well…I kinda thought I'd get two and a half," she admitted with a grin. "You never finish yours."

"You have the metabolism of a hummingbird!" Jamie laughed as her lover sat down to demolish the meal.

"Yep and in ten days I'm gonna have my beak in your nectar for hours at a time!" she leered with one wildly wiggling eyebrow.

"Gulp!" the smaller woman said as she audibly mimicked the word.

Chapter 15

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