I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 4: Disclosures
By S X Meagher
See Part 1
"God, I love waking up in your arms," Jamie murmured as she stirred from her very restful sleep. "I had no idea that it could feel so wonderful to sleep so close to someone."
The smaller woman was lying on her side, with Ryans dark head resting against her back. She could tell by the breathing pattern that her partner was awake, and the blinking eyelashes that tickled her skin confirmed her guess. "Mmmm," the deep voice vibrated against her skin, sending tingles down her spine. "Ive never felt so peaceful. I could stay here all day."
Just then Duffy came bounding into the room, landing on the bed with glee, and began to lick every bit of unprotected skin he could get his tongue on. "Boy, do you ever take after your mommy!" Jamie cried as she fought in vain to defend herself.
"I cant believe we forgot to close the door!" Ryan was howling as the determined dog dove for her neck, licking her so furiously that she was nearly faint with laughter.
Jamie took advantage of her vulnerability and yanked back the sheet so that Duffy could have his choice of real estate. The frantic dog was content to remain feasting upon Ryans neck and ears, but Jamie had to point out one oddity. Ryan had wrestled the big dog into a headlock, and he calmed down immediately when she began to scratch his belly.
"Ryan," Jamie said, a teasing note in her voice.
"Do you know that your nipples get hard when Duffy licks your neck?" Jamies face was the epitome of innocence.
Ryan blushed three shades of pink as she admitted the truth. "Works every time," she laughed, a little self-consciously.
"And I thought I was special," Jamie huffed in mock outrage.
"Nope." Ryan laced her hands behind her head and said, "Women, dogs, makes no difference. A warm tongue in my ear and Im yours."
The pillow that slammed into her face didnt catch her by surprise, since her reflexes were extraordinary, but the velocity did give her pause. "Nice one," she said admiringly, squeezing Jamies bicep. "Were gonna make an OFlaherty out of you yet!"
"The requirements for that are what?" she laughed. "Having an ability to hurt one another physically?"
Ryan considered that thought for a moment. "Hmmm its not a requirement, but it sure doesnt hurt your chances."
"Living here with you ruffians is gonna be a real learning experience for me," Jamie said with just a hint of worry in her voice.
"Youll fit right in," Ryan assured her. "Were not such a bad bunch when you get to know us." She wrestled Duffy aside and wrapped her partner in a firm embrace. "Youre not worried, are you, Babe?"
Jamie shook her head briskly. "Its not worry but I feel a little odd going upstairs when Im sure they know what we were doing last night."
"Ewww!" Ryan winced when the truth of that statement hit her. "I see your point. Youre the first outsider to have an orgasm in this house since ever!"
Jamie drew a pillow over her face and mumbled, "Now I feel better."
"Hey itll be fine, Babe. Remember, Im in this with you, Honey. They only know you as a woman, but Da still thinks of me as his baby, and the boys arent used to seeing me be affectionate with women, either. This is gonna be an adjustment for all of us, but it will be fine. I promise you, Babe." Ryans quiet confidence was deeply reassuring, and Jamie felt herself begin to loosen up.
"I guess it will be as weird for you, wont it?" She tried to suppress it, but a giggle started to work its way out of her and before long she was laughing out loud. "I just have this image of Conor and Brendan and Rory and Da sitting at the kitchen table trying to ignore the moans and groans coming from the sweet little baby girls bedroom." Jamie was fairly gasping for breath as this scene played out in front of her.
Ryan found it funny too, but since it was at her expense, slightly less so than Jamie did. "I guess wed better get upstairs and see if your fantasy has become a reality," she said in an ominous tone.
That stopped Jamie short, and she looked over at her partner with wide eyes.
"Not so funny now, is it, Sport?"
The blonde head shook slowly as the covers were drawn over her head. "Im staying! You go up and let me know when everybodys left for the day."
"Hey, dont you want to go to Gay Pride?" Ryan was up and picking up her clothes as she asked this question.
The sheet was tossed aside as Jamie caught her partners gaze. "Go, as in sit on the sidelines and watch or go, as in jump on that Harley and be on the front page of the Chronicle kinda go?"
"Ooooh." Ryan sat on the edge of the bed, maintaining eye contact. "Does that worry you, Honey?"
Jamie took a minute to assess her feelings. She had to admit they were conflicted, so she decided to share them with her partner. "I would love to go, Baby. It was so much fun to do that last night, and today will be even bigger. But Im worried about being with the motorcycle group. I know we probably wont be on the news, but Im still worried about it."
"I can understand that," Ryan said. "They always make sure they have a few photos of the women on bikes, and to be honest, they try to find the toughest looking ones and the cutest ones. And you, my sweet, are definitely the cutest one in the whole city, so you might well be caught on film."
"Thanks," Jamie said, both for the compliment and for understanding her fears.
"Running into Melissa freaked you out, didnt it, Honey?" Ryans tone was gentle, and Jamie felt enormously pleased that her partner understood that this process was difficult for her.
"Yeah, I guess it did. It was just weird having somebody from my high school see me like that." Her lips were pursed as she tried to explain the issue, but her attention was diverted when she recalled a major detail. "Hey, you never said how you know her."
Ryan laughed, glad that she had an innocent explanation for a change. "She went to USF with me, Honey. She was a cheerleader and used to cheer at the basketball games."
"Ooohhh! Thats so funny, Ryan. Did you know she was gay?"
"Nope. We didnt really talk much, I just knew her name because we were in a class together. In hindsight, Im glad I didnt know she was gay." She wiped her brow in mock relief. "Shes awfully cute, ya know!"
Jamie gave her a playful slug in the gut, as usual causing no pain at all.
"Did you know she was gay?" Ryan asked, quite certain that Jamie had never mentioned knowing any lesbians from her social circle.
Jamie really wanted to tell Ryan about Mias sexual encounters with the homecoming queen/cheerleader. But she admired Ryans policy about not revealing everything she knew, and she had decided to try to emulate it. Besides, even though Mia hadnt asked her not to tell, she thought it likely that she would not want Jamie to talk about her dalliances, even with Ryan. "Umm I didnt know a thing in high school. She and Mia were good buddies because their boyfriends were pals, but I didnt know her well. I did hear some rumors about her having a fling with another girl, but I certainly didnt know she was a card-carrying lesbian."
"Yeah, it looked like old Andi was punching her card regularly," Ryan joked.
"It was nice to see that shes found someone,"
Jamie agreed. "But it did freak me out to have even a lesbian see me there.
I really dont want to be in the newspaper, Ryan." She looked up at
her partner, trying to think of alternatives. "I do want to go, though.
Would it bother you to just watch?"
"Hard to say," Ryan mused. "Ive never just watched the parade." She pondered the question for a moment and decided, "I think it would be hard for me to sit for that long, to tell you the truth. Wed have to be there by nine or so to get a good spot, and the parade will last until at least one."
"Hmmm," Jamie didnt want to disappoint her partner, but she really felt nervous about the motorcycle group. "I wouldnt mind being in the parade if we were with a less visible group," she mused.
Ryans eyes lit up at this suggestion. "Really? No problem, Babe. Pick the group you feel comfortable with and well do it!"
"What?" Jamie was shaking her head in surprise. "How do we do that?"
"I was invited to join at least ten different groups this year. You decide which one you want, and well do it!"
Jamie continued to shake her head as she regarded her industrious partner. "You always have a back-up plan, doncha, Baby?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie was in the middle of picking up her scattered clothing from the night before when she asked, "Honey? How did you know what size to buy me? These clothes fit perfectly."
"Thank you," Ryan beamed. "Thats one of my many skills." She was waggling an eyebrow as Jamie tossed one of the heavy boots at her.
"Come on, tell me how you do that."
"Okay," Ryan acquiesced. "I went to the store and found a helpful sales clerk. I showed her what size you were, and we found pants to fit."
"You showed her what size I am?" Green eyes twinkled with mirth as Jamie tried to guess how that particular verb was appropriate.
Ryan looked completely pleased with herself, and Jamie had to know the details. "Go on "
Standing next to her partner, Ryan closed her eyes. She took her hands and held them at about waist level on Jamie, and moved them apart until she was satisfied. "Okay, grab those pants, zip them up, and hold them up to my hands."
Furrowing her brow in question, Jamie did so. To her amazement, the pants, when tugged into shape, extended just to each of Ryans hands. Even with her eyes closed, Ryan knew she had done it again, and her twitching brow indicated her pride.
"That is truly remarkable," Jamie marveled.
"I can do it with your bra, too, but that would be more embarrassing than even I could tolerate!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The first hints of breakfast were starting to waft down the stairs, and Ryan grinned widely when she noticed them. "Oooh, Das home," she said with considerable glee. "Even betterhes making breakfast," she added with a pair of bouncing eyebrows. "Let's get some breakfast and get going."
"Aren't we going to shower first?" Jamie asked, since that was their habit.
"I told you we were on our good behavior before," she teased. "You're in for a rude awakening."
Ryan rummaged through her drawers to find some cotton knit pajama bottoms and a matching long sleeved knit shirt. "Do you have any pajamas?" she asked her partner.
"No, I didn't think I'd need any in Pebble Beach and I was right," she reminded her. "I'll just grab my sweats." Ryan was waiting to go, but Jamie hated to be rushed so she urged her to go ahead. "You run on up, Baby. I want to make a phone call first, okay?"
"Okay, but youd better hurry. Im particularly hungry, and I think Conor is up, too. Food disappears fast when were together."
"Ive noticed," Jamie observed dryly, giving her partner a pat on the butt as a sendoff.
Ryan dashed up the stairs, pleased to find Martin, Brendan and Conor enjoying a big breakfast. "Brendan!" she said with pleasure as she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I had no idea you were here. When did you come over?"
"Just a few minutes ago," he said. "I thought I could snag a decent breakfast before church."
"When are you going?" she asked as she moved about the table, kissing Conor and her father.
He looked at his watch and replied, "I could make 8 o'clock. But I think I'll stay and chat with you both and then go to 9:30."
"Cool. We have to get going soon, but we can spare a little time to chat."
"And just where would you two be off to so early? I assume youre not going to give thanks to God?" Martin asked, a teasing grin belying his gruffness.
"I give thanks to God every morning," Ryan replied honestly. "But my God makes house calls." She was already leaning over her father to kiss his cheek, and was unprepared for the sharp swat to her butt. "Yow!" she cried, rubbing the stinging flesh as she shot an outraged look his way.
"Ill have no such sacrilegious talk in my house on the Lords day," he scowled, and Ryan realized that he was only partially kidding. "Youre not too old for me to take you over my knee, Siobhán."
Ryan gave him another kiss and took her place at the table. "No, but its a little late to start now, Da," she reminded him. "If you were going to beat us, you should have started when we were easier to control."
He laughed at her guileless expression and commented, "Luckily, I have an ally in keeping you in line now. Where is my daughter-in-law, anyway?"
"Yeah, we wanted to harass you both at the same time," Conor chortled, drawing a blush from his sister.
"Give her a break, Conor," Brendan chided, unable to hide a grin.
"Its not every day we get a new victim," Conor said logically. "Its pretty sweet, really. We get to torture Ryan about sex, and we get Jamie thrown in to boot!"
Just then a pale blonde head poked into the dining room and popped back out just as quickly. Ryan spotted the movement and called out in a soothing tone, "Come on in, Honey, Ill thump em if they give you too hard a time."
"Hey!" Brendan cried. "Im on your side, Sis!" He looked over to see Jamie once again peek into the room. "Theres my favorite sister-in-law," he beamed. "Come over here and give me a hug."
She broke into a big smile and came up to the table as he stood and wrapped his arms around her, "I'm really happy for you both," he said sincerely.
Martin hopped up and offered a similarly warm embrace. "Youre the first addition to our family in almost 24 years, Jamie," he murmured, holding her close. "I guess its true that good things come to those who wait."
She struggled to hold back the tears as the powerful arms released her. Brendan tried to lighten the mood by teasing. "Conor and Rory are really going to have to work to come up with a better sister-in-law than you, Jamie."
Conor held up his hands in surrender. "We both concede," he said with a twinkle in his clear blue eyes. "Ryan wins, hands down."
Jamie was blushing deeply as she remarked, "I think I'm the lucky one. I told Ryan just last night that if she ever dumped me, I would make a play for one of you."
Ryan got up and slid her arm around her partner's shoulder as she said, "Don't get your hopes up, boys. We're in this for the long haul."
Martin smiled at the two of them, a lump forming in his throat as he witnessed their obvious joy. "Sit down and have some breakfast before it gets cold, you two. Now where did you say you were off to, Siobhán?" By the time he finished his question he was already bustling around noisily, getting breakfast ready for the female members of the family.
"I didnt say," she replied, raising her voice just enough for her father to hear her in the kitchen. "You started beating me before I could get a word in."
At Jamies shocked look, Martin shouted back, "Dont listen to a word she says, Jamie. Its the devil in her talking this morning."
"Im just now becoming familiar with that little devil," Jamie called back, leaning over to place a gentle kiss on the devilish cheek. "To answer your question, Martin, this little devil is taking me to my first gay pride parade."
"Oh, is she now?" he laughed, exiting the kitchen with platters full of steaming hot food balanced along his arms.
"Are you sure youre up for that, Jamie?" Conor asked with twinkling eyes. "She used to run with a pretty wild crowd, you know."
"Like you would know," Ryan scoffed, quite certain that Conors opinion was based more on fancy than fact.
"Ive learned an awful lot about Ryans past over the last couple of weeks," Jamie laughed. "I dont think she can shock me much at this point."
Ryan just grinned at her, sharing a wink with her mischievous brother, whose fantasies were actually close to the truth.
"So are you ready to lead the parade?" Conor asked. "If you dont have an outfit picked out, Id recommend the recent trend of a tiny little X made of electrical tape that you put over your nip " the rest of his wish was cut off by his fathers large hand clamping over his mouth.
"Ill not have you two harassing poor Jamie in this house," he decreed firmly.
"Two?" Brendan cried. "Dont paint me with that brush, Da!"
"Fair warning to the lot of you. Jamies not used to that kind of talk, and Ill not have it!"
"Its okay, Martin," she assured him, feeling much more comfortable now that they boys were teasing her like a member of the family. "I can take whatever Ryan dishes out; Im sure I can handle anything Conor might throw at me."
Conors bright blue eyes lit up at this opening, but before a single syllable could form on his lips his fathers hand was once again covering his mouth. "Dishes!" he ordered. "Now!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
While Conor went to serve his punishment, Jamie looked at the remaining men and said, "We can't thank you all enough for the wonderful presents you left for us last night. It really made it special to come home to."
"We relied on Maeves expert guidance to help us put that together," Martin admitted. "How did we do?"
"Everything looks great," Ryan said, carefully avoiding the question. Conor was carrying emptied dishes into the kitchen, and he shot her a smirk, picking up on her evasion. "We haven't tried everything yet, but we'll give you a full report when we do."
Ryan tore into breakfast like she hadn't eaten in a week. She cleaned every morsel of food from every platter, shifting her eyes from plate to plate to ascertain that no one had left a spare bite. The boys stared at her in shocked silence, but Martin just got up and went into the kitchen. They heard the pans rattling around as he called out, "How many and how do you want them?"
"Three. Sunny side up," Ryan replied with a grin. "Do we have any bagels?" she called out.
"Rye or poppy seed?"
"Both," she said decisively, to the continued stare of her brother. "I'm hungry," she said rather defensively as she shrugged her shoulders.
"Being in love sure hasn't hurt your appetite," Brendan marveled.
"Don't tease your sister," Martin's voice boomed from the kitchen. "Jamie's just got some weight back on her, I'm pleased to see. But you still need to add a few more pounds, Darlin," he added.
"This morning ought to take care of at least five pounds," Conor joked as he re-entered the dining room. Before he sat, he leaned down and whispered into Ryan's ear, "You didn't have a bite of food last night, did you?"
Her deep blush was her only answer.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When they returned to their room, Jamie looked at the list Ryan had made and chose the group that held the most meaning in her heart. Ryan looked over her shoulder and nodded, having a very good idea that would be her choice. "Our buddies wont recognize us on our mountain bikes," Ryan laughed softly, thinking of how easy it had been on the AIDS Ride to spot Jamie on her bright orange bike.
"I had no idea that a group from the AIDS Ride participated in the Gay Pride March," the smaller woman murmured, now getting very excited about the day.
"Yep. And if the logistics work out, well have time to join another group or two if you want. We might as well indoctrinate you fully!"
Their racing bikes were somewhere between L.A. and San Francisco, sent via bus after the ride. Luckily, both mountain bikes were at Ryans, and since those were better for riding on city streets anyway, everything was working out well.
An hour later they were gliding down a steep hill, rolling onto Market Street in the light early morning traffic. Jamie had never gotten used to riding in the city, so Ryan stayed behind to give her a small illusion of safety. The morning was cool, but amazingly clear, with not a wisp of the usual morning fog.
They both wore their purple, long-sleeved AIDS Ride shirts and black bike shorts, and Jamie added a light jacket against the morning chill.
They were about three blocks from 1st St. when they could hear the first sounds of activity. It was a faint thrumming that grew and grew as they drew closer. Jamie turned to give her partner a startled look as the noise level evened out at a dull roar. Turning a corner, they were hit with a burst of color and noise that almost caused the smaller woman to fall off her bike.
Stretched out in front of them, as far as the eye could see, were floats and bands and classic cars, and groups of people on horseback, motorcycles, bicycles and of course, on foot. At first, it looked like complete chaos, but after a moment of staring in open-mouthed amazement, Jamie began to see order within the chaotic jumble.
When she looked closely, each group was standing or sitting by a large poster board sign that identified them by name and number. Some groups wore T-shirts that further identified them; as she took it all in, she felt a comforting hand on her back. "Overwhelmed?" a soft voice asked gently.
"Ive seen pictures in the paper, but I had no idea," Jamie murmured slowly.
Ryan chuckled a little at the look on her partners face. "This is just the early call, Babe. Our group is the second one out, so we have to be here early. New groups will be arriving every half-hour or so until this street is filled and cleared at least six times."
Jamie turned slowly and tried to express herself clearly. "Are these all our gay people?" she asked, rather inelegantly.
Ryan cocked her head slightly, trying to discern the meaning of the question. "Our gay people?" she repeated slowly, then realization dawned. "Oh! I get it! You mean are these all locals?"
"Yeah," she blushed. "It seems like an awful lot of people to just be from San Francisco. I mean, people joke that everyone here is gay, but given this crowd " she trailed off, having already stated the obvious.
"No, Honey," Ryan said. "These people are mostly from the Bay Area, but thats a pretty big area, as you know. Beside locals, though, there are lots and lots of visiting groups, mostly from Northern California, but there are some people from around the country, and even from other countries."
"Wow," she muttered, leaning against Ryan as well as she could given her position, still atop her bike. "Thats still a lot of people." After staring for another moment she asked, "Do other cities have this?"
"Yeah," Ryan said. "Lots of cities around the world have pride events. Ours and New Yorks are the biggest, though."
"Thats nice," the smaller woman said decisively. "We shouldnt get to have all the fun."
Well, well, well, Ryan mused as they walked their bikes the rest of the way to better observe the crowd. It seems like my little neophyte is acclimating pretty darned well.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
At 10:30 on the dot, the motorcycles started to rev their engines, as they waited impatiently at Market and Beale. The traditional leaders of the parade--the group now formally known as the Womens Motorcycle Contingent, but constantly referred to as "Dykes on Bikes"--were given the signal and they roared away, two by two. Ryan felt a small stab of longing, having ridden with her buddies since she was 18. But the fleeting wish in no way dampened her deep satisfaction at being able to share the parade with her partner.
She had often taken a date to the parade, and had once gone with Ally, but she had never shared the event with anyone who really mattered to her. While they waited to get the signal, she decided that being a part of the parade with Jamie made all of the difference in the world. She was now able to view the event through her partners novice eyes, and she found that it was a deeply satisfying experience.
For the past hour and a half, Jamie had been a veritable whirlwind of questions, exclamations and exhortations. They walked around investigating every little cache of people; Ryan proudly introduced her partner to everyone that she had even a passing acquaintance with.
Now, as they awaited their sendoff, Jamie turned to her with a luminous smile and said, "Thank you so much for making this safe for me, Ryan. Im so glad I didnt let my fears stop me from coming."
"Youre up!" the co-coordinator shouted, before Ryan could say a word, and their group started to roll. Rounding the corner onto Market, the thunderous applause that greeted them brought tears to the eyes of most of the riders, who were spread across the street, six abreast.
When they met up with their group, Jamie was amazed to see so many familiar faces from the just-finished AIDS Ride. They walked through their pack just before they took off, so that Jamie could count everyone. She lost count at 105, and Ryan was unwilling to start over, so she satisfied herself with the knowledge that more than 100 of her peers had come out to join in the festivities.
Much to their surprise, Karen Joncas had come over from Sacramento, and they were able to spend a few minutes giving her a honeymoon update.
"I dont really need to ask how it went," she laughed when she took in the beaming duo. "If you two looked any happier youd be illegal!"
Giving Jamie a healthy squeeze, Ryan agreed. "This should be a controlled substance. In the wrong hands this could be lethal!"
"Im just glad that its in your capable hands, O," she said with genuine affection, as she ruffled Ryans hair. "It couldnt happen to a better person."
* * * * * * * * * * *
As they rolled down the wide street, Jamie considered how grateful she was that they did not have their road bikes. Those temperamental lightweight frames not only didnt fare well over potholes, they also responded much too quickly to steering corrections. Since she felt absolutely compelled to wave to nearly every person on the route, she knew she would have been eatin pavement if she hasn't been astride the more forgiving mount.
Looking over at her partner, Jamie was once again struck by the dark womans simple beauty. Right before they took off, Ryan removed her helmet and clipped it to her handlebars, pulling out a traditional, cotton racing hat, this one a bright yellow. The hat bore a black Campagnolo logo, which surprised Jamie, since Ryan hated to use her body to provide free advertising. But her musing stopped when Ryan settled the cap on her head, backwards, of course. Does she just look fantastic in every hat in the world, or does she only wear the ones that show off her gorgeous face? This question had flitted through her mind on many occasions, and she considered it for a moment. As well as she knew her lover, she didnt have a feel for how conscious Ryan was of her looks. Even after all of the time they had spent together, she had never seen Ryan "try" to look attractive, but she always managed to.
Todays millinery choice was a perfect example. Jamie had seen dozens of people sporting the tiny style of cap that Ryan now wore, but most looked totally silly, at best. However, something about Ryans strong face and square jaw allowed the hat to accentuate her bone structure, and Jamie was very glad that she had chosen to wear it. Although I cant for the life of me see what the point is of wearing a tiny hat like that backwards, she laughed to herself. Nonetheless, Ryan looked fantastic, and Jamie decided that she didnt much care whether or not Ryan secretly fussed over her appearance. The effect was fabulous, no matter the motivation.
They didnt have the opportunity to speak much since they were about 20 feet away from each other. Even if they had been riding tandem, Jamie doubted they would have been able to hear each other, since the crowd was so incredibly vocal. Time after time she had to swallow a lump in her throat from the outpouring of emotion from the massive crowd. It seemed as though every single person on the route was familiar with the AIDS Ride, given the thunderously enthusiastic reception they received.
After a few blocks, Jamie decided that the only way she would be able to focus well enough to finish the route was if she avoided looking at her partner. Every time she cast a glance at the child-like, exuberant face she nearly wept, and she was afraid of hitting a pothole or another rider if she couldnt focus properly. She couldnt however, avoid one last look at the terribly appealing woman.
Ryan had many "looks", and Jamie loved every one of them. She had the ability to express more with a twitch of an eyebrow or a hint of a grin, than most people could convey with a prepared speech. Jamie considered that, of all of Ryans looks, the one she wore at the moment was perhaps the most fetching of all.
A smile wide enough to expose her molars graced her lovely face, and her eyes flashed with glee. She was sitting tall in her saddle, holding on with only her right hand, while her left waved enthusiastically at the crowd. Her bright blue eyes zeroed in on one member of the crowd after another, making each lucky recipient feel like her smile was for them alone. Jamies smile grew wider as she observed that Ryan seemed to reserve her most enthusiastic waves for the small children that she effortlessly picked out of the massive crowd. She held their gaze until the child matched the intensity of her own smile, often gifting them with a wink or a blown kiss.
I have got to stop looking at her! Jamie shouted to herself as she narrowly avoided striking a parade volunteer. Her internal warnings went unheeded, however, and after another near miss she crossed the street as soon as there was an opportunity, and slid into the empty space in front of her partner. She tossed a wave over her shoulder at what she knew was a puzzled look, and got down to the business of focusing on the crowd, rather than the devastatingly charming woman who rode right behind her.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The parade route was long, covering quite a bit of Market Street, and Jamie expected it would take quite a while to complete. To her surprise, they reached the end rather quickly. Parade volunteers indicated a place for the riders to park their bikes, but they had other plans and quickly turned away from the pack. It took a few blocks to be far enough removed to hear each other speak, but soon Jamie was chattering away non-stop.
Ryan beamed over at her, terribly pleased that her partner had enjoyed her first parade so much. Nearing Beale again, they securely locked their bikes to a couple of street signs, threading their helmets through the Kryptonite locks at the same time. Ryan pulled two pairs of khaki shorts from her backpack and they each slipped a pair over their bike pants. Baseball caps were added next; Jamies worn in the traditional manner, Ryans not. After tinkering with their look in the window of an office building, they headed back to the holding area for the next groups.
It didnt take long to find the one they were looking for, but Ryan nearly fainted from surprise when she spotted a most unexpected participant. "DA!" she cried from a good 50 feet away. Bobbing and weaving through the crowd, she threw her arms around her father, nearly crushing the sturdily built man with her embrace. "I never expected you to come!"
Jamie came running up a moment later, pleased beyond measure to find Martin locked in his daughters robust embrace. "Maeve," she chided, "you didnt let the cat out of the bag when we called you this morning!"
Ryans aunt laughed gently, rubbing her nieces back. "I didnt know he wanted to come until after I spoke with you, Jamie, or I might have. Im no good at all at keeping a secret."
Ryan sniffed away her tears and reluctantly released her father, stepping back just enough to grasp her aunt in a gentler, but no less fervid hug. Martin kept one hand on her back while he stretched to offer his other arm to Jamie. "When Siobhán said you were coming to your first parade, I decided it was about time I made an appearance myself. I called my helpful sister-in-law and made arrangements to join her and here we are."
"This means so much to me, Da," Ryan murmured as she grabbed her father once more.
"I would have been here before, but you were always riding that infernal motorbike," he reminded her. "This was the first time we had the opportunity to join you."
"I cant thank you both enough for being here with us," Jamie said, grasping Maeve for a hug. "It really makes me feel like part of the family."
"You are part of the family, Jamie," the older woman assured her.
Jamie was struggling with her own emotions when she heard Ryan moan, "Oh no! Not you, too!"
Brendan came loping up to the small gathering, flashing the patented OFlaherty grin. "We had a hell of time finding a place to park," he began, but did a double take when he saw he was alone. "I cant believe I lost him again!" he groaned, standing on his tiptoes to look around.
"Conors here too?" Ryan asked, amazed that her brothers would make the effort to join them.
"Of course," Brendan said, as though this was their normal habit. "But hes carrying a distraction with him that keeps delaying him."
Seconds later, a smiling Conor popped from the crowd, carrying a giggling Caitlin on his shoulders. "Just my luck," he groused. "Every woman at this darned thing runs over to see the babyand every one of them is a lesbian! I cant catch a break!"
Ryan nearly knocked the breath out of him with the hug she enveloped him in. "You are the best brothers in the world," she whispered fiercely.
"We would have come before, but you were "
"Always on the motorcycle," she finished for him.
"Plus, we had to bring Caitlin to her first parade." Ryan reached up and snatched the giggling baby, holding her in front of her body to carefully observe her. The youngest member of the clan wore a pink T-shirt emblazoned "Baby Woman," recently purchased for her by her beaming cousin.
"Got your new shirt on, doncha baby?" Ryan cooed to the adorable tot.
Making like she understood the thread of the conversation, Caitlin giggled and slapped at Ryans face, making both participants laugh together.
Maeve went to talk with one of the leaders of the group and came back with T-shirts for the boys. "I think you two might want to wear these." She chuckled as she held them up for inspection. One read, "My sisters gay and thats okay," while the other proclaimed, "Straight, but not narrow."
Conor immediately grabbed the latter, insisting, "Ive been cruised more times than I can count, just walking over here. I want to make things perfectly clear!"
Ryan laughed at his antics, knowing that her brothers popularity would not be dimmed one bit by his proclamation that he was straight. In fact, some of her closest male friends were attracted exclusively to straight men. You can run, but you cant hide, she silently smirked.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A few minutes after noon, they were given the signal to take off, marching together as a family under the banner "Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays."
The ovation they had received on their bikes paled in comparison to the reception they now received. PFLAG was one of the most beloved groups in the entire community, and the enthusiasm of the crowd certainly supported that claim. Maeve had been a member since the year Michael disclosed that he was gay, and she remained very active in the local chapter even now, 11 years after his death. She often told Ryan that the group was the major factor in getting her through the pain of his illness and death, since so many other mothers in the group were struggling with the same issue. Martin had never joined, mainly since he didnt struggle much with the news of his daughters lesbianism. But seeing the impact the group had on the assembled crowd, he began to rethink his decision. Leaning over to his sister-in-law he commented, "I think I just might have to join you at your next meeting, Mrs. Driscoll."
Startled by this declaration, she beamed up at him and said, "It would be my pleasure, Mr. OFlaherty."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The parade route seemed significantly longer on foot than it had on the bikes, and by the time they reached the Civic Center they were all exhausted, except for the youngest member of the crowd. Caitlin had ridden on every pair of shoulders except for Maeves, so she was as fresh as a daisy.
The boys both had things to do, so they were anxious to get going. They agreed to take the bikes home in the truck so that Ryan and Jamie could just hop on Muni for the ride home.
Logistics settled, the five remaining participants sat down in the shade of the trees that lined the long promenade in front of City Hall. The main stage was in full gear, with an energetic salsa band beating out a fierce rhythm. Ryan took off to buy Italian ices for everyone, and when she returned she chuckled at the extemporaneous entertainment that Caitlin was providing.
The tiny tot was dancing to the music, swaying her little hips as well as could be expected for a ten-month-old. Jamie was holding one chubby hand to provide stability, while the baby kept remarkably good time to the beat. As Ryan sank to the ground next to her, Martin related, "I was just telling Jamie about your dancing career."
She covered her face with her hands, shaking her head in embarrassment. "Can a woman have no secrets around here?"
"Of course not, dear," Maeve joined in. "How can we embarrass you if we dont dig into the archives?"
"Let me get this straight," Jamie chortled, trying to keep a straight face. "You Ryan OFlaherty wanted to be a cheerleader for the 49ers?"
"Ummm I liked football?" Ryan was blushing furiously, and Jamie could not help but prolong her agony.
"Then why didnt you decide to break the sexual barrier and play for the team, Honey?" Green eyes blinked ingenuously.
"Fine," Ryan huffed, giving up on the pretext. "I liked the girls! I liked football, but I loved the girls in those tight outfits!"
"Siobhán!" her father cried. "You were no more than four years old!"
She shrugged her broad shoulders and gave him a helpless smile. "I was a prodigy!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
As usual, Jamie was carrying her cell phone, and when Conor got near the Civic Center, he called her to announce his whereabouts. After a bout of hugs and kisses, Martin, Maeve and Caitlin headed on home, leaving Jamie and Ryan to enjoy the rest of the festival.
They wandered around the various booths, with Jamie doing a little shopping, as usual. Approaching the "Good Vibrations" table, Ryan called out greetings to her friends who were working the booth. "Still going strong, huh, O?" one of the women grinned.
"Permanently partnered," Ryan beamed back at her. "No more dates in the try on room."
"Hey," Jamie nudged her with a hip. "You can still take me there!"
"Excellent point, as usual, Love." Ryan shot her a grin so high-powered that her friend couldnt help but join in.
"You are soooooo whipped, OFlaherty," she chuckled.
"And Ive never been happier," Ryan replied absently, her attention focused on the sparkling green eyes that looked up at her with total devotion.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"I think his booth should be right around here, somewhere " Jamie scanned the area until she focused on the banner that heralded, "The Episcopal Archdiocese of San Francisco Welcomes You." "Poppa!" she cried when she made eye contact with the senior member of the Evans family.
Ryan was pulled along forcibly as Jamie dashed the last 25 feet to greet her grandfather. "Jamie, Ryan," he murmured, wrapping each woman in a hug. "Its so good to see you both looking so healthy and happy!"
"Happy!" his gleeful granddaughter cried. "Happy!? Id have to be severely depressed to only be happy," she laughed. "Ive never been happier, Poppa," she insisted, shaking her head at her inability to convey the depth of her joy.
"Thats obvious, Sweetheart," he soothed, clutching her to his chest. "You both look completely blissful." Holding her at arms length he offered an apology. "Im sorry I wasnt able to walk with you in the parade, girls. Even though Im on my sabbatical, I needed to conduct the services today. My associate priests are far younger than I am, and they both wanted to march with our gay and lesbian group, so I filled in for them. But next year, I hope you will join our group. We could use a vibrant pair like you two."
"We might just do that," Jamie said, looking to Ryan for approval.
"Its a date," Ryan said. "It will be nice to have an organized religion welcome us with open arms."
"Oh we have our struggles with the issue in both the national and the international church," Rev. Evans said. "But the archdiocese is very supportive, and my congregation has been extraordinarily foresighted in outreach to gay men and lesbians."
"Thanks to you," Jamie smiled.
"No, no, thats not true at all, Jamie," he insisted. "Ill gladly take credit where its due, but the members of my congregation are light years ahead of me on many social issues. I just try to keep up."
"Its so nice to have your support," Ryan insisted. "Its meant an awful lot to both Jamie and me."
"Youll always have it," he replied confidently, grasping Ryans shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Ill help you both in any way possible."
"Maybe its just the day and the freedom I feel, but I think Im going to tell my parents soon, Poppa," Jamie informed him.
"You are?" Ryan blinked in surprise.
"Yeah I dont see any point in waiting, Honey. Youre my life, and they need to either accept that, or get out of the way and let us start our lives together. I think they need to know."
Ryan continued to blink at her, unsure of what her response should be. Rev. Evans patted Jamie on the back and offered, "Lets get together and strategize before you do that, Honey. I can offer you some tips that you might not have thought about."
"Okay, Poppa," she agreed immediately. "Im not quite ready, and I havent really discussed it at any length in therapy, but I want to do it soon. Lets get together for dinner. Is Friday okay?"
"Yes, I can make Friday," he said. "Is that good for you, Ryan?"
"Sure. My schedule is all about Jamie," she grinned.
"Excellent. Call me later in the week and well decide on the details, okay, honey?"
"Will do, Poppa," she agreed, giving him another hug. "Well see you then."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Walking away from the booth, Ryan asked, "Do you happen to have a feather on you, Love?"
"A feather? Ahhh, why would I need a feather?"
"I just wanted to see if you could, in fact, knock me over with one," Ryan mused, giving the question serious consideration.
"Does it really surprise you that I want to tell my parents, Honey?" Jamie stopped and tugged Ryan to a halt beside her. "I guess I should have asked you first, Ryan. Im sorry that it didnt dawn on me to."
"No, no," Ryan soothed, fluffing the golden bangs that framed Jamies face. "I dont want you to ask me for permission to do what you need to do, Hon. It just took me by surprise, thats all."
"Do you think its a bad idea?" Jamie queried, now a little concerned by Ryans apparent reticence.
The taller woman took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she considered the issue. "No, I dont think its a bad idea," she said. "I guess Im afraid that its going to be stressful, though. A large part of me wants to maintain this euphoria that were in for as long as possible." She had such a wistful, lovesick expression on her face that Jamie just had to kiss her tempting lips. They stood in a tender embrace for a long while, oblivious to every person that passed.
"I didnt think of it like that," Jamie murmured as they broke apart. "Its a good point though. Ill wait until the euphoria dies down, then Ill tell them."
"Now, Honey," Ryan informed her, "lets not get carried away. The average life expectancy for a man is only 75. I think we should tell them before that!"
"You are soooo cute!" the smaller woman cooed, holding Ryans face in such a tight squeeze that her lips went from their normal horizontal orientation to a vertical one.
Jamie placed a few more kisses on the newly oriented lips, deciding that she couldnt get enough of the pink flesh, no matter how it was placed.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
By the time late afternoon rolled around, they had seen every booth and said hello to most of the gay and lesbian population of the San Francisco Bay Area. Once again, Jamie was taken aback by the sheer number of people that her partner knew. "It still boggles my mind how you know all of these people and remember their names," she said as they walked toward one of the dance floors.
"Well, I am pretty good with names, Jamie, and I didnt just meet most of these people once or twice. I worked at the largest gay gym in the whole Bay Area since I was 17, and tons of people belong there. I met lots more on the AIDS Rides, and got to know lots more through women that I dated. It all starts to add up."
"Add to that a few thousand women whove known you in the biblical sense, and you get an even better picture," Jamie teased, sneaking her fingers just underneath Ryans ribs, a lethal spot.
Ryan slung an arm around her partners shoulders and guided her towards the dance floor. A nice, slow number was playing and as they began to sway to the music, Ryan commented, "You know, I was worried about how you would be with the women Ive known before. Youve actually surprised me quite a bit. You seemed jealous of them before we got together, but now you seem fine with it."
"I really was jealous then," the smaller woman laughed, only slightly embarrassed by her behavior. "Its just that I had all of these feelings for you, and I couldnt express them or even think about them much. I think they came out as irrational jealousy."
"And now?" Ryans deep voice burred against her ear as the taller woman leaned over and let the tip of her tongue caress the outer edge of her partners ear.
"Huh?" Several moments had passed, and Jamie sensed it was her turn to talk, but she didnt know about what.
"And you are not jealous now " Ryan prompted, taking a swipe at the tempting ear once again.
"Honey," Jamies voice floated up to Ryan," if you want to have a conversation, you have to stop that."
"Which would you rather have?" Ryan queried. "This " another long swipe of her warm tongue, "or conversation?"
"Ummm can I get back to you on that?" Jamies somewhat breathless voice replied. "Im concentrating on something right now." She craned her neck just enough to allow Ryan full access to her other ear. "Continue," she commanded, while sliding her arms around Ryans trim waist, holding her close.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie lost track of how many dances they shared, but when they finally stopped they were both sweaty and tired. "You are so cute!" the smaller woman said as they left the dance floor to grab a beer.
"Why am I so cute today?" Ryan grinned in reply.
"Youre cute every day, Goofy. But its adorable how you turned down all of those women who wanted to dance with you."
"Hey, I said nothing but the truth," Ryan insisted.
"You told every woman that you had promised the next dance to your spouse," she teased, recalling that Ryan used the same line every time.
"And thats the truth," Ryan repeated, her blue eyes darkening as she grew serious. She turned to face Jamie, holding her hands up to her lips, where she kissed each one reverently. "Every dance, for the rest of my life, is promised to my beloved spouse."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
While they enjoyed a cold beer, they relaxed in the grass to listen to the music from the main stage. It didnt take long for the events of the day to catch up with both of them and in no time they were sound asleep, curled up together like newborn pups.
Their impromptu nap lasted almost an hour, but they were both relatively refreshed when they woke. "Ready to head home, Love?" Ryan asked.
"Yeah." Jamie stretched and yawned for several moments, getting all of the kinks out. "I guess wed better. Its a long walk from Muni."
"I think Ill page Conor from the station and see if hell meet us. Im beat!"
"Thank God for large families," Jamie agreed wholeheartedly. "Theres almost always someone at home!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Conor immediately agreed to fetch them, giving his sister pause. "Thats odd," she muttered when she returned to the station platform. "He didnt make me promise to do anything to pay him back. I usually have to at least wash his car for a ride somewhere."
"Maybe hes being particularly nice because its Gay Pride Day," Jamie suggested.
"Yeah that sounds like him," Ryan agreed with a good bit of sarcasm in her voice.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Muni was exceptionally crowded for a Sunday afternoon, but a train arrived after just a short wait on the cool, damp subway platform. The closest stop to the OFlaherty home was Castro, but Ryan knew it would be a madhouse in the neighborhood, so she suggested that Conor pick them up at the stop just prior to that. They werent able to find seats together, forced to claim aisle seats, one in front of the other. Jamie was still buzzing from the energy and excitement of the day, and she continually perched on the edge of her seat, leaning close to speak into Ryans ear.
Ryan was quite a bit calmer than her partner, having experienced the parade and festival many times, but she recalled how she felt the first time she participated in the event, and she happily shared in Jamies enthusiasm.
Unconsciously, the smaller woman played with Ryans dark hair, pulling stray locks from the collar of her T-shirt as she kept up her running commentary on the day. Her actions were more nervous habit than sensual, but she couldnt stand even the foot of separation between them, and the gentle caresses helped calm her.
Ryan, as usual, soaked up the touch greedily. Her eyes fluttered closed as her head dropped onto the plastic handrail on her seat back, allowing Jamie greater access.
Even though her partner didnt verbally respond much, Jamie kept up her rambling chat, covering many of the sights and events that had captured her imagination throughout the day. Looking around, the smaller woman commented, "Its so odd to see so many gay people on the train, isnt it honey?"
"Umm-hmm," Ryan responded lazily, silently hoping for the delightful head scratching to continue. "Snice."
"I think youre placating me, my sweet," the masseuse giggled, leaning in just a few inches to place a very gentle kiss onto the crown of Ryans head. She added a few more scalp scratches, then sat back into her own seat, looking around the crowded car some more. Several same-sex couples were holding hands or snuggling a bit, and a few leather-clad men were striking poses as they held on to the overhead rail. As her eyes trailed past a young mother with a four- or five-year-old girl on her lap, she was shocked to get in return the most hate-filled look she had ever received. Her mouth dropped open and her stomach flipped queasily as she made, and held, eye contact with the young woman. The woman looked to be about her own age, and she gave no clear indication that she was a tourist, but there was something about her that gave the impression that she was not a native of the city. Her style of dress was more conservative than most young San Franciscans, and behind her venomous glare Jamie detected a stark fear of her. Shes afraid of us!! Her mind reeled from the combination of blatant hostility and obvious fright that covered the young womans face, twisting her plain, but attractive, face into a gruesome mask.
Their gaze only held for a moment before the woman shifted her daughter so that the child faced the window, obviously trying to protect the girl from whatever it was that was disturbing her so profoundly.
They were nearing their stop, and Ryan snapped out of her haze to struggle to her feet, casually sticking her hand out to grab Jamies. For the first time in their short union, the blonde felt a flash of embarrassment at accepting the nearly-automatic gesture, and she just gave Ryan a quick pat to let her know she was behind her.
The woman had obviously been trying to banish her fear, and she was plainly successful, for as they passed she looked up at Jamie and spoke in a clear voice. "Godless heathen! Repent before you are damned for all eternity!"
The train was coming to a stop as the words left her mouth, but Ryan heard them, and she whirled to face the woman, catching a glimpse of Jamies wounded look. "What did you say?" she spat out, freezing the woman with one fierce look. Jamie pushed past and grabbed Ryans upper arm firmly, tugging her towards the door as a few other people struggled to exit.
Ryan flicked her gaze from Jamie to the now-terrified woman several times, softening her features when she saw the pleading look in her lovers eyes. Immediately deciding where her priorities lay, she followed her partner out the door, not bothering to engage in a battle of wits with a narrow-minded homophobe.
Ryan tugged Jamie onto a bench on the cool, acrid-smelling subway platform. "What happened?" she asked gently.
The words came out in a rush. "She was staring at me, because because I was touching your h h hair." The smaller woman shook her head roughly, trying to make sense of the encounter. "Ive never, ever had anyone look at me with so much hate in their eyes, Ryan."
Ryans heart clutched in her chest at the injured, fragile green eyes that looked up at her. Her eyes fluttered closed with the memory of the first time she had been treated with the same venom, all because she had the temerity to love a woman. "I would do anything," she whispered, her voice sounding strangely loud on the near-silent platform, "anything to spare you from that type of intolerance." Her broad shoulders slumped in defeat as she admitted the truth. "But I cant, Jamie. God, I wish I could, but I cant." Her head dropped onto Jamies shoulder, and they held each other tenderly for a moment, until they heard footsteps scampering down the stairs. They broke their embrace, neither up to another encounter at the moment. Slowly, they walked to the escalator, standing close enough to brush shoulders, but not holding hands in their usual manner.
Conor was waiting patiently in the truck, and with a conspiratorial glance, the women silently agreed not to mention the incident. Caitlin was still in his care, but she was none too happy to be in her car seat. He was turned around in his seat, running through his normal tricks to calm her, but nothing was working. Jamie hopped in the front as Ryan opened the rear passenger door of the king-cab pickup and climbed in. The crying paused for one blessed moment, but resumed immediately. "Whats the problem?" Ryan asked, launching into her usual baby-pacifying repertoire.
"Shes cranky and needs a nap," Conor said over the babys rising cries.
"Why didnt you say so?" Ryan asked. "You didnt have to come pick us up."
"Well " he began, his blue eyes betraying an impish look. "I kinda have plans and I thought you could "
"Ohhhh " Ryan scoffed, now understanding her brothers willingness to fetch them. "The sooner I get home, the sooner you get to leave."
"Umm something like that," he admitted, flashing his most winning smile at his little sister.
"Can the charm, boyo." Ryan returned his smile and flicked the back of his dark head. "Well all take a nap together."
"Thanks, girls," Conor replied, adding another grin in Jamies direction, even though it wasnt required.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Minutes after they entered the house, all three women were stripped down to their T-shirts and underwear, settling down in the king-sized bed for a nap. Ryan knew they needed to have a little discussion about the encounter on the subway, but she thought they would both be more lucid after a nap. Jamie didnt bring the subject up either and, in fact, was barely speaking at all. Ryan climbed into the middle of the bed, with Jamie on her left and Caitlin on her right, tucking a long arm under each blonde head. Her nap-mates immediately cuddled up to her sides, enveloping her with the warm comfort of their tender embraces. This is what matters, Ryan mused as her eyelids grew heavy. This is all that really matters. Having this love is worth any amount of bullshit we have to put up with.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 3
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