See part 1 for disclaimers

Chapter Five

Even though the temptation was strong, Jamie refused Ryan's offer to join the family for dinner that evening. "I've got to make some progress on my big paper," she explained. "It's got to be at least 50 pages long and I don't even have a good outline yet."

"I understand," Ryan assured her, even though she was inordinately depressed by her partner's decision. "God knows I've got enough to keep me busy."

"Yeah, we should spend the evening getting caught up so we're a little less stressed this week."

"You're right…as usual," Ryan smiled as she walked her to her car. After a few minutes of giving the neighbors a free R-rated show Ryan climbed the stairs to the front door and spent a few moments on the deck, watching Jamie's car descend Noe. Could I be any more lovesick? she asked herself with a smirk.

Dinner would be ready in 45 minutes, which wasn't enough time to really make much progress on her studies. Instead, she decided to take care of some housekeeping issues. Grabbing the phone from the living room, she took it onto the deck and plugged it into the outside hookup. She then started to make a few phone calls that were a little overdue.

She started with Ally but her old friend wasn't home, so she left a brief message. "Hi, Ally, it's Ryan. Good news. Jamie and I have finally hooked up and I'm in L-O-V-E. Call me some time if you want to work out together. I've been slacking off in the weight room--other things on my mind. I hope things are going well for you. Bye."

Next on the list was Alisa Guerra, her friend, the assistant district attorney. As she dialed the memorized number she spent a moment reflecting on the relationship they had.

Alisa was almost ten years older than she. Physically, she was one of the most attractive women that Ryan had ever dated, with her long wavy black hair and deep brown eyes. But those eyes had seen a lot that had hardened Alisa and Ryan knew from the start that they could never make it as a couple. Alisa's perspective on life was always jaded and sometimes cynical and after a while that attitude wore on Ryan. Even though Alisa could find the dark cloud around every silver lining, Ryan secretly thought that there was a hidden optimist buried behind that tough shell of sarcasm. Alisa didn't seem to want a partner to help her release that lighter side, though. She actually seemed rather happy being a cynic, so Ryan took what she had to offer and was thankful for it.

They had been seeing each other for just over three years, with most of their liaisons coming after an exuberant mountain bike ride. They had drifted in and out of each other's lives but Ryan felt close to Alisa in many ways and she knew that she had to tell her about Jamie before she found out through the lesbian grapevine.

"Alisa?" she asked when a sleepy-sounding voice answered.

"Yeah," the voice croaked out. "Who the hell is it?"

"Ahhh, wrong number?" Ryan tried, but her friend had recognized her voice by this time.

"O'Flaherty," she said with pleasure. "Where the hell have you been? I could really use a fill up, Baby. My tank is dangerously low." Her lightly accented, honey smooth voice dropped into it's lowest, sexiest register as she said this and Ryan felt just the slightest stirrings of desire trickle down her spine.

"Ahhh, that's kinda why I wanted to call, Alisa…" she began, but the sexy voice cut her off.

"I'm already in bed, Querida, come on over and remind me why I love to see you."

"Umm," Ryan gulped. "You see Alisa…it's ahh…well, I can't come over any more…"

"What?" she snapped sharply. "Why can't you come over?"

Ryan shook her head slightly as she recalled why she had always thought Alisa would be a good trial attorney. She had an uncanny knack for lulling someone into an unguarded moment but in an instant could pounce on them like a panther. "Because I've fallen in love," she said clearly. "I'm in a monogamous relationship."

"YOU!?" Alisa cried, sending Ryan's teeth on edge. "You, of all people, are monogamous?"

"Yes, I am," Ryan said with her own voice taking on an uncharacteristically sharp tone. "I thought I owed you a phone call, Alisa, so I'll see you around…"

"NO, no, don't hang up, mí hija . I'm sorry I've offended you. I just didn't think you had any interest in that type of thing. You always said you wanted to wait until you were through with school to find a lover."

Ryan felt her temper abate as Alisa tried to placate her. "That was my plan," she agreed. "But you don't always have control over your heart."

"So…tell me, Dulcita, tell me about your lover." Alisa's voice had grown warm and comforting again and Ryan found herself spilling everything about Jamie--her engagement and her confusion about her sexual orientation; her family's wealth; her well-known and powerful father. To her surprise, she even told the attorney about Jamie's attempt at reconciliation with Jack. Alisa asked few questions, but she gently encouraged Ryan to continue until the whole story was out. It had taken quite a while to tell the tale and just as she was finishing Conor poked his head out to tell her that dinner was ready.

"I've got to go, Alisa," she explained. "Dinner's ready."

"Come see me after dinner," she said firmly. "We have more to talk about."

"But Alisa," she began, but once again the older woman insisted.

"I won't touch your perfect little body, Ryan. I don't want to change your mind…I just want to talk to you."

She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly as she considered the invitation. "Just talk?" she asked suspiciously.

"I promise, Ryan. Just talk."

"Okay. I'll be over about…seven," she decided as she checked her watch.

"I'll be waiting," Alisa agreed as she disconnected.

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

On the way over to Alisa's apartment in Bernal Heights Ryan mused that she probably should have told Jamie where she was going. She really didn't have a good read on Jamie's feelings about her past lovers, though, so she decided to tell her after the discussion was over rather than have her worry about it.

She wedged her bike into a semi-legal space between two cars that looked like they were in for the night and approached Alisa's apartment with some trepidation. She knew that nothing Alisa could offer could compromise her fidelity to Jamie but she wasn't entirely sure that her friend wouldn't try to tempt her. Alisa loved to play…and she was very good at most of the games she chose. Even though Ryan knew she could take anything her friend could dish out, she was not interested in having a scene.

Alisa's roommate Mike answered the door, and he gave Ryan a hug as she entered. "Hey, Ryan," he said happily. "Long time no see."

"Yeah, I've been pretty busy," she smiled as she entered. Mike was also an attorney in the D.A.'s office. He was straight and Ryan had met many of his girlfriends, but they never seemed to stay around for long. As she entered the living room she saw what she assumed was the girlfriend of the week and Mike confirmed this fact as he introduced her.

"Ryan, this is Ellen. Ellen…Ryan." The women shook hands as Mike said, "Alisa's in her room. Go on back."

"Good to meet you Ellen," Ryan said as she continued on through the apartment. She wasn't too happy to be consigned to Alisa's room but she didn't have much choice at that point. Knocking lightly, Alisa's warm voice bade her to enter. "Hi," Ryan said as she breathed a sigh of relief that her friend was fully dressed and sitting on the neatly-made bed.

"Hi yourself," she said as she scampered off the bed and wrapped her arms around Ryan's waist. "Can I kiss you or are your sweet lips off limits?"

Ryan gave her a smirk and a friendly kiss, adding a little squeeze for good measure. "I'm not really sure what the rules are, to tell you the truth," she admitted as she sat on Alisa's desk chair. "I've never had a steady girl before."

"I know, Querida," she said softly as she ran her fingers through Ryan's hair in an almost maternal gesture. "That's why I wanted to talk to you. Let me get us a glass of wine, okay?"

"Okay," Ryan said. "I'm not going to study tonight anyway."

Alisa's laugh floated over her shoulder as she left the room for the kitchen. "You could pass every class without opening a book and you know it. That struggling student act doesn't work with me."

Ryan laughed at her friend's teasing, admitting the truth of her statement. She knew that Alisa had also done exceptionally well in school, earning a full scholarship to Stanford undergrad as well as a free ride at Harvard Law School. The gorgeous, poised woman could have had her choice of any law firm in the city and Ryan mused that Alisa must have been courted by Jamie's father's firm. But she had political aspirations and she thought the D.A.'s office was the best way to move up in the public eye.

Alisa had done very well for herself as a prosecutor. She had been promoted three times in her seven years and was now prosecuting high-profile death penalty cases. Ryan knew that Alisa was very committed to working for the Latino community and she had every confidence that someday her friend would make it in politics if she continued on that path. But she also knew that Alisa would probably never have a permanent lover as long as she sought that goal. Lesbianism was no longer an insurmountable bar in San Francisco politics, but such was not the case in the Latino community. Alisa had told Ryan on many occasions that her own father would disown her if she ever admitted to her lesbianism and she firmly believed that her political aspirations would be foiled if her private life was revealed. So she dated a lot but kept the relationships mostly sexual. Ryan had a lot of empathy for her friend's dilemma but she privately thought that perhaps Alisa used her reasons as a shield so she didn't have to risk being in a more intimate relationship. She wasn't going to figure that out tonight, though, so she brushed the thoughts away as her friend returned with two glasses of red wine. "Cabernet okay?" she asked.

"Perfect," Ryan agreed as she accepted the glass.

Alisa clinked the rims together and toasted, "To happy endings." She leaned over and placed another very gentle kiss on Ryan's lips and pulled back a little to lightly stroke her face. "I wish you every happiness, Ryan. You deserve only the best."

"Thank you, Alisa," she said softly. "That means a lot." They resumed their previous seats with Ryan astride the wooden-backed desk chair and Alisa sitting cross-legged on the bed. "So what did you want to talk about?" she asked after she took a sip of the tannin-rich wine.

"I'm concerned about you, Ryan," she admitted. "I don't want you to get hurt and I'm afraid that you're setting yourself up to do just that."

"Because…" Ryan drawled.

"You know why," Alisa said gently. "Straight girls are the kiss of death, Querida. And I don't want her to break your sweet little heart when she goes back to men. She will do so, Ryan. They always do."

Ryan knew that her friend was speaking from painful personal experience. She and Alisa had spent the better part of a weekend once eating carryout and drinking wine while they tearfully confessed their broken hearts. Alisa's wounds were just as deep as Ryan's and even though the stories had different results, they were equally painful.

Alisa had fallen in love for the first time in college. The object of her affection was a teaching assistant in the political science department at Stanford when Alisa was an undergraduate. Linda had equally strong feelings for Alisa but she steadfastly refused to be open about their relationship. The end came rather violently when an acquaintance had greeted them on campus one day by asking Alisa if Linda was the mysterious girlfriend that none of her friends had met. Linda had been polite as she denied their involvement to the woman but as soon as they were alone she told Alisa she couldn't see her any longer. All of Alisa's attempts to contact her were rebuffed and less than six months later Linda married a professor in the Spanish language department. Linda had gone on to earn her doctorate and the last Alisa had heard she was on the faculty at Stanford and had just published a book on the increasing political clout of Latinos in California politics.

"I know that's a possibility, Alisa," Ryan said. "But there are risks with any lover. Anyone can break your heart."

"Not like a straight girl," she said bitterly. "That is the worst! To love you and be pleasured by you and then to run back to their safe little world when things get difficult…it is…it is horrible," she concluded, her shoulders now slumped in defeat. "It is different for us, Ryan. We have no choice…we either love women or we don't love at all. But a straight girl can always choose the other way…and they will!"

"Jamie won't," Ryan said firmly, her face full of confidence.

"Ryan, sweetheart, you already told me that she tried to go back once. What made her do that? Did she have a bad experience when she told someone about you?"

Ryan had to take in a calming breath before she could answer. She knew that the truth was strong evidence for Alisa's point but she had no interest in being less than forthright with her old friend. "She hasn't told anyone yet. To be honest she tried to reconcile with her fiancé just because she was afraid of committing to being gay."

Alisa tried to jump in but Ryan held up a hand, asking for a moment to complete her thought. "She worked that through, Alisa. She really regrets that she tried to take the easy way out and she's spent a lot of time in therapy trying to get comfortable."

"She's told no one?" Alisa asked quietly, her eyes locked upon Ryan's.

"No. No one."

"Not even her close friends from college, or a brother or sister?"

"No. No one," Ryan admitted as she stared at the ground. Alisa crawled off the bed and squatted down in front of Ryan. She gently pushed the hair from her eyes and whispered, "Are you sure you can trust her, Cariña?"

Ryan closed her eyes and nodded almost imperceptibly. As her eyes fluttered open a smile graced her face as she said, "With my heart…with my life…with my soul."

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

By the time the bottle of wine was finished it was eleven o'clock and Ryan knew she was too drunk to drive, so she called home and asked for a ride. Rory was chosen to go since he had shoes on and 15 minutes later he buzzed the doorbell. Ryan bid goodbye to Alisa with a sweet but chaste kiss as she thanked her for her concern and her companionship for the past three years.

"For your sake I hope we never share a bed again, Querida, even though it will break my heart to lose you."

"I truly believe I'll be with Jamie for the rest of my days, but if I'm wrong you're the woman I'd choose to help mend my broken heart," Ryan murmured as she wrapped her in a warm hug. "Keep in touch, Alisa," she said as she scampered down the stairs, wobbling slightly.

"What happened to you?" Rory asked as she climbed into his truck. "And why are you over here anyway?"

"Old flame," Ryan said briefly. "Tried to warn me to expect a broken heart from Jamie."

"And she got you drunk?" he asked, unused to seeing his sister inebriated.

"A little," she admitted. "It's kinda upsetting to think about, Rory. I guess I let the wine take the edge off."

The O'Flaherty brothers had all been discussing their sister's new commitment and after several discussions Rory was chosen as the spokesperson for their position. He knew he had won only because he was the youngest of the three and he always got the dirty jobs, but he agreed anyway. He had been trying all week to find a good moment to bring up their concerns. And now seemed just about perfect: Ryan was open, vulnerable, reflective and drunk. Rory could count on one hand the number of times his little sister had actually heeded his advice but he reasoned that her weakened state gave him a leg up.

"Um…what was your friend trying to warn you about?" he asked as casually as possible, hoping the liquor had dulled Ryan's always sharp mind.

"Oh, the usual lesbian stuff," she said lazily as her head dropped back against the seat. "Straight women are evil…blah, blah blah."

"Is that a lesbian thing?" Rory asked, a little surprised that it would be so. "I know it's a straight guy thing."

"Huh? What do you mean?" she asked as she turned her head in his direction.

"If a guy dates a woman who has ever been with another woman everybody assumes she'll go back the first time he acts like an ass. Which is usually not very long," he added with a chuckle.

"Hmm," she said thoughtfully. "It's the same thing but reversed. I guess everybody's a little leery of people who can go either way."

"What about you?" he asked with forced nonchalance.

"I don't think I'm going to give guys a try," she smirked. "I've got my hands full with Jamie."

"That's not what I meant," he said with a grin. "Are you leery about Jamie?"

"Oooh," she drawled. "Did you win the honor of talking to me about this?"

"Can't we ever get away with anything?" he grumbled. "Even drunk you're ahead of me."

"No I'm not, Bro. I'm just not surprised that you guys are worried. Is Da among your group?"

"No! God no! None of us would have the nerve to question anything about Jamie to him…or to Duffy," he laughed. "Those two are her biggest supporters."

"Nope. I am," Ryan said seriously. "Look Ror, I know you all care about me and I know you only want to protect me. But I'm confident about Jamie's decision. I know her a lot better than you guys do and I know we're going to be together for life. So get used to her 'cause she's gonna be the mother of at least one of your nieces or nephews."

He turned as much as he was able and shot her one of the patented O'Flaherty dazzlers. "Nothing would make me happier, Ryan. And if you need any genetic material…"

"I know where to look," she laughed. "And since the lot of you doesn't seem to want to use it for anything constructive…"

"Hey…hey…now watch it," he warned. "Don't go throwing stones at a lad's hobbies!"

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

Ryan spent their walk on Monday morning explaining the long talk with Alisa and her shorter one with Rory to her partner. Jamie was a little perturbed that she would be considered unstable just because she had recently been with a man, but she had to admit that they had some valid concerns. "Are you worried about me going back, Ryan?" she asked, realizing that only one opinion mattered to her.

"No, I'm not Jamie. I don't believe you would hurt me like that no matter how strong the pressure was."

"You do know me well, don't you?" she teased as she gave her a small kiss right in front of the Applied Science Building.

"Apparently not!" Ryan gasped as she tried to reconcile this new boldness.

"I like to keep you on your toes," she purred as she added another kiss and scampered away to class.

Chapter 6

Return to Main Page