I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 5: Entwined
By S X Meagher
See Part 1
"Would you like to ingratiate yourself with the extended family today?" Ryan asked after they had showered.
"You mean I havent ingratiated myself yet? Is this a constant quest?" Jamies eyes were twinkling, and Ryan recognized her teasing tone.
"Regrettably, it is constant," she admitted, speaking the truth. Jamie cocked her head and gave Ryan a puzzled look, so Ryan tried to explain. "Im teasing about having to ingratiate yourself, of course. The bottom line is that no matter what you do they all love you, and always will. But everybody expects everyone else to help out when they need it, and right now Niall needs help."
"Everything!" Ryan sat down heavily on the bed, shaking her head slowly. "As you saw the other night, hes a long way from being able to move in. He was initially going to try to get by with doing as little as possible on it, but as time has gone on, he keeps adding projects. Now hes completely redoing the kitchen, and he needs every body he can get his hands on to help. I feel like I need to go, Hon. Do you mind?"
"Of course not," Jamie assured her. "What can we do?"
Ryan gave her a shrug and said, "Umm I know what I can do, but I dont know what your skills are. Have you ever done any remodeling?"
Jamie thought for a moment, and said, "Well, Ive helped out at a few barn raisings down in Hillsborough, and my mother and I added on a spare bedroom "
Ryan laughed at her partners obvious teasing. "I didnt think you had, but you get mad sometimes when I assume you havent done stuff. Im trying to be sensitive."
Jamie sat next to her on the bed and slung an arm around her waist. "Youre very sensitive, Babe. But feel free to assume Ive not remodeled any homes. I have watched people remodel both of our houses, but all I learned was how to pick out appliances and fixtures. I dont think thats what you have in mind."
"No this project is a little more hands on than that," she admitted. "I dont mind going alone if youd like to play golf or something today."
"Nope." She shook her head firmly, her still-wet hair sending droplets of moisture all over Ryan. "Were a package deal, Babe. If nothing else, Ill make lunch!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
"So what do we wear to this little event?" Jamie asked as she finished drying her hair.
"Um loose jeans, overalls, carpenters pants. Whatever you have that will protect your legs from splinters, but lets you scramble around easily. Oh, and you need to wear your work boots." With that, Ryan ran upstairs to make them a quick breakfast.
Who does she think shes married to? One of those people on PBS on Saturday mornings? I mean, I have boots, but I cant imagine my new Ferragamos are what she has in mind.
When Jamie came upstairs, Ryan spent a moment gazing happily at her outfit. She was wearing overalls, as requested, but these were not typical overalls, which made perfect sense, since Jamie was not a typical construction worker. They were made of a sturdy twill, which was good, but they were a bright, sunshine yellow, which would obviously show every bit of dust and dirt they would encounter. They didnt fit like normal overalls eitherthese hugged her curves in a most flattering fashion, a detail that Ryan greatly appreciated.
"Are you gonna leer at me all day?" Jamie asked, placing her hands on her hips and adopting a tough look.
"I would expect so," Ryan nodded. "Ive never been more attracted to a member of the crew. Love your outfit," she added for good measure.
"You said overallsthis is all I have." She stood in front of the mirror in the living room and fussed a bit with her grass-green and white checked shirt. "Are long sleeves a good idea?"
"Yes, Babe," Ryan said, snuggling up behind her. "Long sleeves are a good idea. Its nice and cool today, so theyll protect your arms, and you shouldnt be too hot." She looked down at Jamies feet to see her normal running shoes. "No boots?"
"None that I want to scuff up."
"What about your Doc Martens?" Ryan asked.
Jamie looked down at her outfit and stuck her foot out speculatively. Her brow was furrowed as she considered the question. Finally, her head shook decisively. "No, black would look a little severe with my outfit. I want ones like you have," she said, looking at Ryans tan pigskin boots.
"Okey dokey," Ryan agreed slowly, having never heard a member of the crew worry about whether their shoes clashed with their outfit, "but you probably wont wear them often. Maybe you should just wear what you have. I hate to see you waste $100 bucks on new ones."
Better to waste $100 than $500, she thought, knowing that her fawn-colored Ferragamos would be her selection if she was forced to choose from her current wardrobe. "No problem, Hon. Id like to have some like yours. I have a feeling this wont be a one shot deal, anyway."
"Youre right on that one," Ryan admitted. "Nialls got enough work to keep us occupied all year long."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Much to Ryans dismay, Jamie put as much thought into buying boots as Niall did in buying the house. The salesman eventually left her to her own devices after he had shown her every style that they carried in her size. Ryan insisted that as long as she was going to spend the money on work shoes, she should buy a steel-toed model, and she eventually chose ones identical to Ryans.
With one momentous decision out of the way, Ryan took her lover to the work glove display and cooled her heels while she debated over those. When she had made her selection, Ryan took her by the arm to head to the parking lot. "I want to get some carpenters pants like you have," Jamie protested, but Ryan was firm in her resolve.
"Id like to get to Nialls while theres still a bit of daylight," she said, checking her watch.
"Very funny," Jamie scoffed as she elbowed her in the ribs.
"Look, Babe, I know that you care more about your pants than your shoes. If I extrapolate the amount of time you spent on your shoes "
"I get the point, Buffy. Ill buy the pants on my own time." She stuck her tongue out playfully, mentally reminding herself that the teasing had just begun. A houseful of OFlaherty men meant she had better prepare herself to be the butt of jokes all day long.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The boys were surprised, but pleased to see them, and after teasing Jamie about her new shoes they made some suggestions about how they could help. Only Niall, Padraig, and Conor were on the job this morning since they were the carpenters of the family and the main task was hanging cabinets. Ryan was assigned chalk line duty since she was the most agile of the group, and Jamie was given the task of using the level to make sure everything was square before the cabinets were attached. The work went quickly since all of the boys were actually pros. Jamie realized that they could easily handle the task without her, but she enjoyed helping out and soon expanded her duties to include sweeping up and fetching screws and bolts. She got a lot of pleasure out of watching her partner fit right into the team, and was quite amazed to see that the little crew communicated almost without words. They chatted about a number of things, but most of the construction talk was "left", "right", "good", "mark", and "nail it". Since the boys were stronger, they held the cabinets in place after Jamies leveling task, while Ryan drove the screws into the studs with a big cordless drill. She scampered around on a ladder, or straddled one of the base cabinets, like she had been doing the job all her life. Of course, knowing the OFlahertys, she might have been doing jobs like this throughout her life.
Jamie was even more impressed with how the boys treated Ryan just like one of them. They all recognized her competency, and her strength, and they had no problem with integrating her completely. She was just a tiny bit jealous that they all still treated her like a girl, but she realized that they had never seen her show any skills, and in fact, she had to acknowledge that she didnt have any in this area.
By 11:30 the men were getting hungry, so Jamie offered to go fetch lunch. Ryan automatically grabbed the keys to accompany her as Conor warned that they should buy enough for eight since more cousins were sure to come. "They can smell free food all the way back to Noe Valley, you know," he warned.
They walked to the Lexus hand in hand. "I could have gone alone," Jamie reminded her.
"Did you want to?" Ryan asked, her brow furrowing a bit.
"Of course not! Id always rather be with you!"
Ryan chuckled, hitting the remote door locks and listening for the reassuring click. "And just what makes you think I dont feel the same about you?"
"Good point, Buffy," Jamie admitted. "I guess I just feel more expendable today. Its obvious that my little jobs are pretty much just to keep me occupied."
"Hey, I started out the same way," Ryan informed her. "It took a long time until I was trusted to contribute more."
Batting her bright green eyes Jamie ingenuously asked, "And that was when, Love?"
"Um I guess I was around ten when my uncles let me start helping out with the big stuff. But I had to sweep up for years!" she insisted.
"Uh-huh," Jamie nodded, patting Ryans thigh. "Its okay, Babe. I dont mind that they treat me like a girl. Im used to it."
Ryan shot her a look as she pulled out of Nialls drive and saw the resigned look on her partners face. "Give em some time, Love. Its hard to work a new person in, but when they see how competent you are, theyll start trusting you."
"Okay, Babe," Jamie agreed, not believing her for one instant, but deciding it wasnt something to get upset about.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After an expensive trip to the local deli, Jamie asked, "When do you think the house will be finished? Niall must be anxious to move in."
"Not likely!" Ryan laughed. "Conor and I have a bet that he never will."
"I dont think he really wants to leave home," Ryan informed her. "He had a fight with Uncle Patrick about something or other and bought the house out of spite, in my humble opinion. Hes had it for over a year, and he keeps coming up with something major that has to be done before he can even consider moving in."
"Conor thinks he wants to leave?"
"No, Conor thinks Nialls too hardheaded to admit that he doesnt want to leave. It all comes down to whether hes gonna let his pride take over." She shook her head and muttered, "Hardheaded and proud. I dont know where he gets it from."
"Must be from your Aunt Deirdres side of the family," Jamie assured her, working hard to keep from laughing aloud.
* * * * * * * * * * *
They werent back in the house for five minutes before Colm and Kieran showed up--both ravenous, of course. Jamie took care of getting everyone set up with a plate, also noticing that Ryan had forgotten to take a root beer. She went out to the small back yard, carrying a bottle for her lover, presenting it to her with a flourish. "You take such good care of me," Ryan said fondly as Jamie bent for a kiss.
"Hey, were trying to eat here," Niall complained. "No mushy stuff!"
Just for spite, Ryan yanked Jamie from her feet, pulling across her lap and planting a very big kiss onto her surprised mouth. She twined her hands behind Ryans neck and leaned back in her embrace with a cute little smile on her face. "What was that for?" she asked as the boys all groaned.
"I cant let these lugs dictate my level of mush!" she declared defiantly. "You will note that Im the only one with a girl. If I listened to them, Id be single too!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The cabinets were all in, so Colm prepared to set the ceramic tile that Niall had picked. The brothers spent a few minutes debating what pattern to use, using no words at all. Niall took a few tiles and set them on the floor in straightforward square set. Colm scratched his head and moved them into a more complex pattern, folding his arms across his chest as they both stared at the proposal for a minute. Niall knelt and moved them back into the plain set, grunted once, and went outside to have a beer. Jamie had been watching this interchange and she noticed that Colm did not look very happy about the decision, but he shrugged and started assembling his materials.
The carpenters, save for Ryan, considered their work finished, so they stayed outside to relax in the warm sun and have a beer. Kieran, the brother between Niall and Colm in age, was the plasterer in the family, and his task was next since there were a few holes in the wall made during the new placement of the cabinets. He waited around for a bit, but Colm finally told him he could go join the boys, and hed call him when he needed him.
Jamie was particularly fond of Colm, really appreciating his quiet, thoughtful approach to things. He was a bit of an artist and spent as much time designing his tile creations as he did installing them. He wasnt very happy to be called on to perform such a straightforward task since he knew he could create something more eye catching, but he didnt like to push his opinions too forcefully. Jamie watched him survey the wall and counter areas. He crossed his muscular arms over his chest once again, and shook his head as he walked over to start mixing his thin-set.
"Youre not happy with the design, are you?" Jamie asked.
"Its that obvious?" he said with a laugh.
"What would you rather do?" she asked, truly interested.
Ryan could smell trouble, so she patted Colm on the back and said, "Good luck," as she went to the refrigerator to grab a beer and join the boys in the back yard. She caught the impudent tongue stuck out in her direction, and answered it with a blown kiss.
"Im happy to show you my idea if youre really interested," Colm offered. "None of the other boyos care about design," he sniffed.
"Im really interested, Colm. I want to learn how to do something so I can contribute more, and this interests me the most. Do you think I could be your assistant?"
"Id love to have a willing apprentice," he said happily. "Let me get some craft paper and show you what Id like to do." Colm cut a piece of craft paper slightly larger than the wall surface and taped it to the floor. He knelt down and used his straightedge to quickly draw the accurate borders of the surface he would cover. "Okay, heres what Niall wants," he explained as he expertly spaced the four-inch squares straight across and down the paper. They looked very neat, but Jamie agreed that there was no imagination involved.
"And heres what I want to do," he said as he went to the corner to pull out two boxes of tile. He produced a tile with a small curve on the bottom edge and showed Jamie how it would frame the bottom of the wall where the wall met the counter. "Niall wants a jack on jack bond," he explained as he laid out a small square, with each tile sitting directly the other. "But I want to do a running bond." He then laid out a pyramid-shape, where each tile corner sat on the middle of the tile underneath it. "I hate jack on jack because you see every imperfection in the wall," he complained.
"Lets lay this out the way you want to do it and let him decide if he likes it," she suggested. "Once he sees how nice it looks, Im sure hell appreciate it."
"Well, I dont know about that," he laughed. "But he wont want me to waste the time to redo it!"
"That was my second thought," she conceded as she realized she had found a kindred soul.
"Wanna see what else I want to try?" he asked with an eyebrow wiggle to rival Ryans.
"Absolutely," she said happily.
He opened his other box and took out a beautiful emerald green four-inch tile. He showed Jamie how he wanted to set the green tiles on the diagonal in a horizontal line right across the center of the wall. He said he planned on doing the same on the counter and then he produced a box of matching green bullnose tiles that would frame the corners of the counter. She agreed that his ideas would make the kitchen look clean and sharp and very well thought out. "Lets do it," she said as she gave her co-conspirator a handshake.
Before they started, she delivered fresh beers to everyone to keep them out of the kitchen for a while. Of course, Ryan merited another little kiss just for looking cute, and the boys had to razz her a bit for that.
Colm worked incredibly fast as he expertly laid the tile out. He nipped the edges of the surrounding tiles to accommodate the diagonal tiles and when he was finished, Jamie was very enthusiastic. "That looks absolutely superb!" she cried. "Ill go get Niall."
The entire group came trooping in and looked at the design for a minute. Finally Niall pursed his lips and said, "Hmm, green looks good. Go for it."
Jamie chided them for their non-artistic ways and sent them back to the yard to stay out of trouble. She patted Colm on the back and reminded him, "An artist is never appreciated in his own time."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
By four oclock Jamie had more information about tile in her head than she would have ever thought possible. Her clothes were covered with thin-set mortar, and she had so much grit under her nails she knew she would have to take a nailbrush to them to make them decent again. The walls were finished, and Ryan providentially entered the kitchen just as the pair was setting the last row on the counter. Ryan spent a few minutes pulling dried bits of quick set from Jamies dusty hair, bending to kiss her gently. "Ive got to take your assistant home and soak her for a few hours, Colm," she informed him. "Have you ever been this dirty, Honey?"
"Hmm Id have to say no to that," she smiled. "But I kinda like it." Her eyes were twinkling, and she looked very childlike and playful.
"Its fun to be filthy," Ryan agreed wholeheartedly.
"Youve been a tremendous help, Jamie," Colm said as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I think I can have you pretty well trained with a few more projects. Are you up for the shower in the master bathroom?"
"Yep. I can help either Saturday or Sunday."
"Fine," he said. "Now Im going to come over on Wednesday evening to grout. Any interest?"
"I wouldnt miss it for the world." Looking up at Ryan she said proudly, "Im an apprentice!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Did you have fun?" Ryan asked as they approached the car.
"Yep," she said happily. "Looks like you did too," she gently chided her as she got a whiff of her breath, then quickly snuck her hand into Ryans pocket to remove the keys. "How many beers did you have?"
"Just two," she said. "I should have stopped at one, but you know how it is when youre with the boyos."
"No, I cant say that I do know," she admitted. "I dont even know why you call them boyos."
"Oh thats a term for kind of a wild, sexually adventuresome guy. Kind of like a playboy, but the term is more affectionate than that."
"Whats the equivalent for a girl?"
"There isnt a cute one. Terms for sexually active women are universally derogatory, like slag."
"Well, I thought it was cute to see all of you boyos sitting in the yard drinking beer. Youre just like them, you know," she insisted as she slid into the leather seating of the Lexus and adjusted the electric seat from its full extension to accommodate her shorter legs.
"Yeah, I am when were together, but I like to think I have a more feminine side when Im with you," Ryan said as she slid her hand up Jamies thigh.
"Watch it, boyo, you bruised the merchandise last night. Thats a no-fly zone today."
Ryan cast a glance down at her own fully functioning equipment and patted herself as she said, "All systems are go down here." Jamie turned to see bright eyes, a waggling eyebrow and a delightfully crooked grin.
"As usual, I cant resist your romantic offer," she laughed. "Let me soak in the tub to get some of this mortar off, and Ill take you for a little spin."
"Make you a deal," Ryan said. "Ill clean your overalls while you clean yourself. Then we can meet in bed for a quickie and a nap."
"As usual, your ideas are simply brilliant." Jamie smiled broadly, looking forward to both parts of Ryans suggestion.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The physical labor of the day caused both women to fall asleep early, which made getting up for eight a.m. Mass a breeze. They needed to get an early start to be on time for their brunch date with Catherine, and at 10:30 on the dot Ryan pulled the Boxster into the valet parking lot of the Claremont Hotel and hopped out, surveying the property now that it was summer and the roses were in bloom. "Theyre keeping our little sanctuary up nicely," she said to Jamie as the smaller woman took her hand and led her into the dining room.
Jamie was looking around the big, old hotel with a very fond expression, recalling the closeness she had felt in being able to cuddle with her partner every night during their short stay. "I guess we wont have to come back here to study for finals this term, huh?"
"No, we dont have to," Ryan agreed, "but Id be more than willing to come back for a night just for old times sake. Id like to get you in that big bathtub with me." Her bright eyes and leering grin nearly caused Jamie to detour to the front desk to make a reservation for that very night, but since her mother was waiting she soldiered on.
Catherine was sitting by the pool and sipping what Ryan guessed was a Bloody Mary. As she stood to greet them Ryan was again taken by what a lovely woman she was. She wore a pale blue summery dress that somehow managed to make her look cool, youthful, and sophisticated--all at the same time. An attractive straw hat framed her pale blond hair, adding to her summery image. She extended her hand to Ryan, shaking it firmly, then leaning in for a kiss to both cheeks. Jamie received roughly the same greeting, minus the handshake.
The waiter dashed over and the younger women chose their usual beverage, drawing a smile from Catherine when Jamie placed the order without even looking at Ryan. They passed a few minutes in small talk, and Jamie recounted her indoctrination into the OFlaherty Laborers Guild. They were nearly finished with their lattés when Catherine looked at Jamie and got to the real reason she had requested the meeting. "Your father told me that you had words over the car you bought, and I can imagine that upset you, Dear. I just want to assure you that he doesnt speak for me about the issue. I hope you know that I want you to feel free to spend your money in any way that you wish, Jamie."
"I dont see how thats possible, Mother," she protested warily. "Daddy is a trustee "
"As am I," Catherine stated firmly. "I generally dont get involved in financial discussions with your fatherI learned that its rarely beneficial to our marriage to do sobut Ill not have him second-guessing how you spend such a negligible amount of money."
The pained look on Jamies face grew more constricted as her mother spoke. "I dont want to cause friction between the two of you, Mother."
"I appreciate that, Dear," Catherine said, covering Jamies hand with her own. "I fail to see any other option at this point, though."
Jamie was quiet as the waiter delivered their meals, mulling over her response. "There is another option," she said decisively. "I want to handle this myself. Id really prefer that you didnt get involved right now, Mother. I appreciate the offer more than I can say, but I dont want to see this issue hurt us as a family."
Ryans already high regard for Jamie grew markedly as her partner made this statement. She knew that the argument with Jim had hurt her and she knew that Catherine could make it go away by handling it for her. The fact that Jamie put family harmony ahead of her own comfort was admirable , and Ryan's smile conveyed her approval.
Catherine nodded and took a contemplative sip of her drink. "All right," she agreed. "Ill not mention anything unless you ask me to get involved."
"Thanks, Mother," Jamie said. "Lets hope this blows over quickly, and he realizes that Im capable of making my own financial decisions."
"I certainly hope so, Dear." Catherine looked a little worried, but she moved on. "How do you feel things are going between us in general?" she asked. "Are we being supportive?"
Jamie smiled at her mother and assured her, "Youre being absolutely marvelous, Mother, but Daddys got a ways to go."
Catherine knew this was true from her private discussions with Jim, but she was uncertain how much of this had been transmitted to Jamie. "Tell me how you mean that, Dear."
Jamie sighed, shook her head slightly and said, "Hes been okay about the lesbian angle, which surprised the heck out of me. But he seems focused on the money. Im not sure exactly what he said when we were over for dinner, since my beloved wont give me any details," here she cast a smirk in Ryans direction, "but I have the impression that he thinks Ryan is interested in my bank account as much as she is in me."
Catherine shook her head and muttered, "This reminds me of fraternity hazing."
"Youre going to have to explain that one, Mother," Jamie chuckled.
Catherine smiled and said, "My point is that pledges are treated abysmally by their older frat brothers, but the next year they do the same thing to the incoming class. Instead of having empathy for the situation these boys are in, they treat them as poorly, if not worse, than they themselves were treated."
"And this relates to us, how?"
"Jamie, do you know much about the welcome my family extended to your father?" Catherines tone was genuinely inquiring, and Ryan smiled at the quick intelligence that reminded her so much of her partner.
"No, neither of you talks about your youth much," she admitted.
"Oh, its such ancient history," Catherine said blithely, "I suppose I didnt think youd be interested. But I want to give you a little insight into how things went for your father."
Both young women nodded their interest and Catherine began. "I dont know how much you know about my family, Ryan, but when I was young we were one of the wealthiest families in the Bay Area. Now this is before all of these new high-tech billionaires hit the scene. This was back in the days when a hundred million dollars was a lot of money! And in contrast to the computer geeks who run the world now, my family earned our money the old-fashioned way," she stated, "by exploiting immigrants and the poor!"
She laughed at her wry joke and both young women did the same. She does have a sense of humor when shes away from Jim, Ryan mused. Kinda self-deprecating, but thats actually rather appealing.
"Anyway, I was just a sophomore at Stanford when a sorority sister of mine coerced me into going on a blind date with a much older man," here she laughed gently. "I was impressed with Jim from the first time I met him," she said fondly. "He just seemed so determined and sure of himself. And I really liked the fact that he wasnt afraid of hard work." Turning to Ryan she said, "Having a job is considered a sign of feeblemindedness in my family." Her mouth was smiling but her eyes were deadly serious, and Ryan understood that she actually meant what she said.
"I didnt take Jim home to meet my family, mainly because I knew they wouldnt approve, and I hated to be told what to do." Ryan looked up to the sky and rolled her eyes a bit until Jamie pinched her on the side.
"I saw that," she muttered.
"Just thinking that the apple doesnt fall far from the tree," Ryan said with a grin.
"We do share some personality traits," Catherine admitted as she cast a fond gaze upon her smirking daughter. "Anyway, at the end of the school year, we decided to get married. My parents were justifiably shocked that the first time they met Jim was when we went to tell them the news. But just as I expected, they were rather violently opposed to the idea."
"What happened?" Jamie asked, having never met her grandmother and having few clear memories of her grandfather, who died when she was five.
"My father acted like it was Field Marshall Cinque showing up at the door!" she laughed. When two blank faces stared at her, she explained. "More ancient history, Im afraid. A few years before this, a radical terrorist group kidnapped the daughter of William Randolph Hearst--one of my fathers good friends, by the way."
"Was that Patty Hearst?" Ryan asked, vaguely familiar with the incident.
"Exactly," Catherine agreed. "Patty was a few years older than I, and she was a lovely young woman, very traditional and a seemingly happy girl. We actually went to the same prep school, so I knew her fairly well. Anyway, she was kidnapped from her Berkeley apartment, which was not far from your home, young lady," she said to Jamie. "This group set about brainwashing poor Patty and before long she was a willing participant in their bank robberies and other such acts."
"Was she really a willing participant?" Jamie asked in amazement.
"Not in my opinion," Catherine said. "But the jury believed she was, and she was sent to prison. Oh, I could talk about this for days," she laughed, "but the point is that times were very turbulent, and though my parents were terribly upset that I was going to marry, I think they were more upset about my rebellion."
"Getting married doesnt sound very rebellious to me," Jamie mused.
"Especially back then!" Catherine laughed. "A traditional marriage with a church service was almost unheard of for people my age. There were so many weddings in Golden Gate Park that you could hardly move through there on a Saturday!" she chuckled. "But I had always been a very compliant child, and this was the first, and only, decision of mine that they did not agree with."
"So when did they come around?" Jamie asked, thinking her mothers story sounded remarkably similar to her own.
"Mother never did," Catherine said with a sharp pain of loss streaking across her face. "She died just a few months after the wedding, and Im pained to say that we did not reconcile. She was terribly unhappy that I wasnt going to have a life on my own. I dont know why it was so important to her, but she was terribly invested in my finishing school and having some sort of professional life before I settled down."
"She wanted you to get a job?" Jamie asked, trying to understand the logic behind this.
"Well, not a real job," Catherine laughed. "I was an art history major, and she wanted me to work at one of the museums in Europe. She was terribly upset by the changes in the States, and she wanted me to spend more time in a civilized society, as she referred to the Continent."
"Do you regret your decision?" Jamie asked tentatively, hoping that her mother was happy with the choices she had made.
"Regret? Look at what I got in the bargain," she said fondly as she patted her daughters cheek. "Ive never regretted my decision to have you, Dear."
Warning bells went off in Ryans head when she realized that Catherine had completely avoided the question. Jamie, however, didnt seem to notice. "But what if you could have had me later? Would you like to have gone to Europe and worked for a while?"
Catherine took in a deep, contemplative breath. "If I could have orchestrated my future, I would have gone to Europe after graduation and worked for a few years. I think I would have found the work very fulfilling, but the biggest reason I would have enjoyed it is that it would have made my mother so happy. I will regret every day of my life that she died when there was so much distance between us." Turning to Jamie with tears in her eyes, she begged, "Please, please dont ever drift away from me like I did with my mother."
Jamie was stunned by this information; it was clear that she didnt quite know how to react. She finally stuck her hand out and grasped her mothers small hand in hers. "I wont, Mother," she promised. "I wont drift away from you."
Ryan was struggling with her own emotions at this tender scene, but they were interrupted by the arrival of their server, asking if they needed anything else. Catherine excused herself to dry her eyes, and Jamie stared at her partner with an amazed look on her face. "I had no idea," she murmured, as she shook her head sadly.
"It explains that little visit to your house in April," Ryan commented, referring to the time Catherine dropped in on Jamie to try to enhance their tenuous connection.
"Yeah, I guess it does," she conceded as she stared at her omelet for long minutes.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When Catherine came back, her pleasant smile was back in place, along with her normally placid attitude. She sipped at her fresh drink and asked, "You dont remember your grandfather much, do you, Jamie?"
Jamie shook her head slightly, not wanting to reveal that nearly all she recalled was a short, slight man with a cigar in one hand and a drink in the other. "I do remember being on his boat quite often," she offered, trying to put a good spin on her memories.
"He did love to sail," Catherine agreed. "Thats what finally proved to be the bridge between him and your father."
"Really? How so?" Jamie asked.
"My father was less than impressed with Jim," Catherine revealed. "He thought I should marry one of the young men from our social circle, someone who came from money, too. Jim had no social connections at all," Catherine laughed, "And my father thought he was primarily after my money."
"A common theme," Jamie mused.
"Yes, it is," Catherine agreed. "Its funny," she mused. "We had so much money that we couldnt have spent it all if we had tried. It seems that the more you have, the more you worry about someone trying to take it from you."
"You dont seem like that," Ryan observed, feeling a little embarrassed that she had spoken this thought aloud.
Catherine smiled at her and said, "Far be it from me to disclaim my wealth, but I have come to see that money does not buy happiness. A good, loving, supportive relationship is hard to come by, Ryan. Making the other persons financial status of prime importance is just ridiculous in my opinion."
"When did Grandfather change his opinion?" Jamie wondered.
"It took a while," Catherine admitted. "But once we had you I think he realized that he was stuck with your father, and he tried to find something in common with him. That turned out to be sailing," she said with a fond smile, thinking back to that time. "Your father grew to love the water nearly as much as my father did, and they bonded during their long hours of working together on Fathers boat." Her expression grew sad as she continued. "My father was ill for much of your childhood," she recalled. "It became a comfort to him to believe that Jim would take over for him, and keep an eye on the family fortune. Obviously he grew to trust him, or he would not have named your father as a co-trustee over his estate." A flash of anger darted across Catherines features so quickly that Ryan almost thought she had imagined it. However, it became clear that she felt some residual anger over the arrangement when she said, "Your grandfather was the type of man who believed that a woman could not be trusted to handle complex financial issues."
"That seems like a common theme, also," Jamie muttered. "Are you sure you and Daddy werent switched at birth? You seem more like Poppas daughter."
"Thats about the nicest compliment Ive ever heard," Catherine smiled. "I only wish I were like Charles."
"Im confused about one thing," Jamie said as they ate their meal. "I thought you graduated from Stanford."
"Oh, I did, Dear," she agreed. "When you were six months old, I went back full time. It was hard on all of us since your father was a first year associate at Morris & Foster at the time, but I was determined to finish. It seemed like a very small thing I could do to make my mother proud of me even though it was too late," she mused quietly.
"Im sure she was proud of you," Jamie insisted.
Ryan turned to Catherine and fixed her with empathetic blue eyes. "My mother died when I was very young, but I truly believe that she shares in all of my accomplishments. Im sure yours does too, Catherine."
"I hope so, Ryan," she said softly. "I hope so."
* * * * * * * * * * *
After brunch, Jamie and Ryan spent a little time walking around the grounds of the stately old hotel, finally sitting down on a bench to watch a tennis match. "That was pretty revealing," the blonde mused.
"It was," Ryan agreed, slipping Jamies hand into her own. "I like your mom more every time were together."
Jamie turned and gazed into Ryans eyes for a moment. "You know, I do too, Honey. I do too."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 12
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