I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 5: Entwined

By S X Meagher


See Part 1

Part 14

The next morning Ryan wandered through the maze of offices in the under-construction Haas Arena, stepping over drywall materials and ignoring the not-so-subtle leers she received from a few of the workmen. She was planning on making a few changes to her fall class schedule to better accommodate her volleyball commitments, and she thought it wise to check with Coach Placer before she did anything hasty.

As she turned down the hallway towards the volleyball offices, she nearly collided with Coach Greene, who was balancing a large cup of coffee and a small brown bag in one hand, her briefcase under the same arm, and trying to insert one of the keys from a massive ring into her door. "Need a hand…or two?" Ryan asked, and whisked the keys from her hand.

"I’m happy to accept a spare hand, Ryan," she smiled, "although I’d prefer your feet."

"Still recruiting, huh?" Ryan observed, feeling the key turn roughly in the new lock.

"You’re not the kind of player a coach gets over very quickly," she said wistfully. "It’s kinda like having your heart broken." Her eyes were playful, and Ryan considered flashing a smile and taking off, but something inside urged her to stay for a minute and try to glean another bit of information from the woman.

"Do you have a few minutes to chat?" Ryan asked, cocking her head a bit.

"You bet," the older woman said quickly. "Especially if you want to talk about how much you hate volleyball!"

Ryan gave a slight smirk and followed the coach into her inner office, waiting patiently while she got herself organized. "So what’s up, Ryan?" she asked while taking a sip of coffee, her eyes fluttering closed in pleasure at the first taste.

"I uh…don’t know if you know this or not, but I’ve had a very hard time letting go of all of the things that went on when I was a senior in high school."

Coach Greene cocked her head, and looked at Ryan quizzically. "No, I didn’t know that, Ryan. I assumed that you had put that behind you. You certainly seem happy…"

"Oh, I am happy, Coach. I’ve just felt that I had some unfinished business. The good news is that I’ve learned a number of things in the past couple of weeks that have been very positive for me. Some people that I thought had betrayed me really hadn’t, and it has been a tremendous weight off my mind." She shifted nervously in her chair and got to the point. "There’s just one little thing that’s still bothering me."

Coach Greene paused mid-sip and regarded Ryan carefully. "What’s that?"

"I still don’t understand why you gave up so easily. I was under the impression that Sara or Coach Ratzinger warned you to steer clear of me. But they both assure me that they didn’t do that. If that’s true, it makes even less sense that you would dump me so quickly."

The older woman nodded her head, looking thoughtful. "Would you mind if I got out your recruiting folder? My memory is pretty hazy that far back."

"No, not at all." Ryan said. I’d appreciate it."

Five minutes later, the coach walked back into her office, holding the open folder in both hands. As she sat down, she began to thumb through the notes and memos that were neatly affixed to the manila folder. She paged through the notes, finally finding what she was looking for. Dropping her head into her hands, she carefully read the document, pursing her lips while she nodded her head. "I think I have it clear in my mind now, Ryan. Do you have some particular question you’d like me to answer?"

Ryan shifted in her seat, staring thoughtfully at the coach. "I thought I already asked my question. If Sara and Coach Ratzinger are telling the truth, you dropped me just because I didn’t play during my senior year…and I have a hard time believing that."

Pushing her chair back and grasping a knee with both hands, Coach Greene stretched in her chair for a few seconds, obviously trying to decide how much to reveal. She shook her head and confirmed, "No, it was more than that, Ryan. I um…I don’t feel comfortable revealing who told me this, but someone did tell me about the trouble between you and Sara."

The look on Ryan’s face was painful to watch, and the coach hastened to assure her. "It wasn’t Coach Ratzinger or Sara, Ryan. Rest assured that neither of them spoke against you."

"Sister Mary Magdalene?" Ryan asked, still looking heartbroken.

"No, Ryan, it wasn’t anyone in a position of authority. To tell you the complete truth, it was one of your teammates. I don’t want to reveal who it was, but it was someone who obviously had a bone to pick with you."

"I have a very good suspicion of who that was," Ryan muttered. But something about the story still didn’t sit right with her. "It just doesn’t make sense that you dropped me because of unfounded gossip, Coach. You’re just not that easily influenced."

"No, no, I’m not." She got up and stood, facing the small window that looked out upon an expanse of dirt that had yet to be landscaped. "It was a number of factors, Ryan. When you quit the team, I was astounded, and I tried my best to get the truth out of Coach Ratzinger. The fact that she offered such a flimsy reason for your departure really had me scratching my head. I went to Sara, since I knew you two were very close, but she acted like I wanted her to give up state secrets," she laughed quietly. "As you know, Sara was usually quite forthcoming, and her refusal to talk made me even more suspicious."

She turned and sat on the edge of her credenza, giving Ryan a long look. "I knew you were a phenomenal player, Ryan, and I knew that your potential was even greater. But you had never been focused on soccer. It came down to making a choice between you and Mindy Lau from Vallejo."

Ryan nodded, recalling the woman that she had played against in an all-star game. "She was good," she said quietly.

"Yes…she was good. She was a starter for me for three years, and I was very happy with her, to tell you the truth. The bottom line, Ryan, is that I had to choose between someone who was dedicated to the sport, had fantastic grades, got along great with her teammates, and was highly recommended by her school administration, and you. I thought you had more potential–as a matter of fact, I’m sure you did. But something about your situation just didn’t smell right to me, and I didn’t want to go looking for trouble." Looking down at Ryan she cocked her head and said, "I’m sure it feels like I screwed you over, Ryan, but that was certainly not my intent. I just made the decision that I thought I could live with."

"It would have been nice if you’d told me that," Ryan said quietly, still hurt by the complete snub she had been given.

The coach shrugged her shoulders and said, "It was a tough situation, Ryan. Would you have felt better if I told you I was going with someone else because I had a hunch there was something up with you?"

Ryan shook her head and admitted, "No, I guess not. It just hurt to be dumped. I always thought it was because you were afraid to have me on the team because I was gay."

Coach Greene laughed softly. "Nothing could be further from the truth, Ryan. I don’t have any negative feelings about your orientation. Heck," she said, a smile covering her face, "I’d be gay with you if you’d play for me this year!"

Ryan joined in her laugh and observed, "I think my spouse and your husband would take a dim view of that."

"Oh, my husband’s a pretty forgiving guy," she teased. "When you’re married to a college level coach, you learn that they’ll sell their souls for a recruit. "

Ryan stood and extended her hand to the coach, clasping it in a firm shake. "My partner would not be so forgiving," she smiled. "Besides, I think volleyball is more my style at this point in my life. I had a very serious head injury a year ago, and it just wouldn’t be wise to go looking for trouble."

"Ryan, I’ve seen you play volleyball," the older woman laughed, getting up to slink an arm around her shoulders. "If everyone played like you did, they’d require helmets and face shields."

Shrugging her broad shoulders slightly, Ryan conceded, "I uh…get focused."

"That’s an understatement," Coach Greene smiled. When they reached the door to the outer office she placed both of her hands on Ryan’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. "I wish you all the best, Ryan. Rich Placer’s gain is my loss, but I hope you enjoy every minute of your season."

"Thanks Coach," she said, blushing a little under the scrutiny. "I’d like to come watch some of your matches this season."

"I’ll definitely come see some of yours, Ryan. Full-contact volleyball sounds like my kind of sport!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

On the way back to the O’Flaherty home late that afternoon, they exited the freeway and headed towards the financial district. As they inched through the heavy weekend-bound traffic, Ryan once again expressed her reluctance to make the trip. "I just don’t know if it’s wise to take me with to visit your trust officer," she insisted. "It’s obvious that your dad isn’t wild about my involvement in your finances."

"He doesn’t dislike you, Baby. He’s just…well, he’s just acting like my father. He’s very, very protective of me."

"Well, I can’t fault him for that," she grinned as she reached over and squeezed her thigh.

Ryan was dressed in some nice navy cotton pants and a crisp white oxford- cloth shirt with three-quarter-length sleeves rolled up just a bit. The shirt hung out, as was the style, but she still looked neat and businesslike. As they drove along in the Boxster, Ryan cast a quick appreciative glance at her partner. Jamie wore a light cotton sweater set in an attractive mint green and slim fitting chinos that served to accentuate her muscular legs. "You look really nice today, Honey," she said with a big smile. "I like you in sweaters."

"Thanks," Jamie replied with a matching grin. "You look pretty swell yourself, Hot Stuff."

"Good enough to meet a stuffy banker?"

Jamie snorted derisively as she considered the implications of that statement. "The question is, are the bankers good enough to meet you?"

* * * * * * * * * * *

H. Tucker Gray was just what you would expect, both from his last name and from his position as a vice president of a large corporate trust department. His skin was so pale that it actually did seem like it was tinted a fine dove gray, and his personality was similarly fiery. "Hello, Jamie," he said with a voice that was surprisingly sonorous for his diminutive size.

Ryan gazed at the little man and perversely counted the number of chalk stripes it took to circle his tiny leg. Only five stripes showed on the front, and she mused that it would take a dozen to get around the same space on her own substantially larger leg. Jamie pulled her from her observations by saying, "Tuck, this is my partner, Ryan O’Flaherty."

He perfunctorily extended his porcelain-like hand, and Ryan wondered if the baby smooth skin had ever done a day of manual labor. "Very pleased to make your acquaintance," he said cordially. Turning to Jamie, he inquired in his nasal Eastern accent, "Are you partners in some endeavor that I should be aware of?"

Both women had to stifle a laugh, but Jamie rallied and said, "We’re life partners, Tuck." His blank expression forced her to elaborate. "She’s my lover."

It wasn’t possible for him to grow any paler, so his skin did the only thing it could–it blushed deeply at this astounding news. "I…I…I…I had no idea," he muttered as he groped blindly for his huge leather chair and flopped down into it rather inelegantly. "I thought you were engaged," he whined, thinking that he must have this young woman confused with one of the many similarly situated beneficiaries for whom he was responsible.

"I was, Tuck," she assured him, "but I broke up with my fiancé a few months ago…mainly because I fell in love with Ryan." It wasn’t the technical truth, but it was the emotional truth, even though she had not previously acknowledged it that way in public.

"I see," he muttered, folding his tiny hands neatly on his desk blotter. "I’m sure that you’ll be very happy together," he managed with a voice that belied his sincerity. Turning to Jamie again he started over, "So, you came here today for…?"

"Two things," she said, businesslike as usual. "First, I can’t find a copy of my trust agreement, so I’d like another. Secondly, I want to see if it’s possible to give Ryan the authority to make withdrawals from my trust in case of emergency."

It was a tie for whose eyes bugged out more at the second part of this statement, but Jamie would have put her money on Ryan. "J…J…Jamie!" her lover finally cried. "I don’t need any such thing!"

"I want to make sure you could handle things if I became incapacitated or was unavailable," she explained soothingly.

But Tuck immediately quashed any such talk. "That’s not possible, Jamie," he said firmly. "You are the beneficiary–only you. If you want to have a power-of-attorney drawn up, that is a different matter altogether, and I would think that your father would be able to help you with that."

"Okay," she said easily. "I’m just asking a simple question, Tuck. It’s difficult for same- sex partners to protect each other legally. I’m just trying to ascertain the best way to handle my affairs."

"Of course," he said stiffly. "I’m happy to answer any questions you have." He looked anything but happy, but Jamie was not going to let him deter her.

"I have some general questions about the trust. Do you have time to answer them?"

"Certainly," he said. "That’s why I’m here."

"As you can imagine, Tuck, this trust will have a big effect on both of our lives. Ryan’s not very familiar with trusts, so I’d like it if you could just give her a general overview of the terms."

He raised one delicate eyebrow, but pulled the document in question from a file folder and spent a few minutes refreshing his memory of its terms. "It’s the Smith Grandchildren’s Trust, but as you no doubt know, Jamie is the only grandchild. She is entitled to income distributions, but only on a discretionary basis. The only items that the trust will pay for without question are educational expenses. That includes tuition, books, fees and supplies for any legitimate educational purpose. Jim and Catherine are both trustees, and they make all decisions regarding discretionary distributions."

Ryan scrunched up her nose and cocked her head at the little man, asking, "How does that work? Does that mean their decision must be unanimous?"

"Yes," he said, pursing his thin lips at her.

Ryan nodded, and Tuck continued, "The trust distributes 25% at age 21, 25% at 25, and the remainder at 30 or upon marriage, although that will likely not occur now," he observed dryly.

"Are the distributions automatic?" Ryan asked, aware that Jamie had not received her distribution.

"The first two are not," he said clearly, a decided brusqueness to his tone. "The trustees can defer either of the first two until age 30. I believe in your case you chose not to ask for your distribution at your 21st birthday, correct?" he asked Jamie.

"That’s correct," she agreed.

Ryan followed up, "If she changes her mind is there any problem with taking it now?"

"No," he said carefully as he glared at Ryan. "If her trustees agree, she may take that distribution at any time."

"What if the trustees do not agree," Ryan asked, her mouth asking the question before her brain could override it. "Does she have any way to force them to make the payment?"

"No, Miss O’Flaherty," he said with his eyes narrowing. "She does not."

His attitude had begun to irritate Ryan several minutes earlier, and it was getting worse by the moment. "What if they are being unreasonable?"

"The standard of reasonableness rests solely with the trustees. Of course, you could waste hundreds of thousands of dollars of Miss Evans’ trust on a court fight, but I’m confident you would not win." His eyes had turned into little blue steel ball bearings in his tiny head, and Ryan again wished that she had not accompanied her lover on this little excursion.

"These questions are rhetorical, Mr. Gray," Ryan said evenly. "Jamie asked me to help her understand the trust more fully. That is my only concern."

Jamie considered jumping in, but Ryan was doing a good job of telling the pompous little man off, so she let her roll.

"Of course," Mr. Gray agreed with a thin smile. "I implied nothing more."

"Does Jamie have the ability to make investment decisions?" Ryan asked, determined to get through the questions that had been troubling her no matter how irritating Mr. Gray was.

"No, she does not. The trustees have no discretion either. Mr. Smith trusted our very capable investment department to handle all aspects of the financial decisions."

"Do you have a list of what her current assets are?"

"Yes, but Miss Evans gets a full report every quarter. That is how often we print that report."

"I keep all of those, Ryan," Jamie informed her. "They’re at home."

"Let me make sure I understand one thing," Ryan said carefully. "Your investment department has full authority over all of the assets in Jamie’s trust."

"Correct," he said.

"I assume that one person is really in charge of her portfolio?"

"Yes, generally that’s true."

"How many accounts does that one person manage, if you have any idea?" Ryan asked in a neutral tone.

He looked a little uncomfortable but he answered. "Probably about 400 or so."

"Is his or her salary based on their performance or is it straight salary?"

"Our money managers are paid very well, young lady. They are some of the best in the business, I’ll have you know!" he declared, with his ire starting to show.

"Did you answer my question?" Ryan asked pointedly, batting her big blue eyes.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, obviously trying to control his temper. "There are people in the investment group who study the market carefully and make recommendations on buys and sells. They are compensated according to their performance. However, the individual investment manager for Jamie’s account is paid a very generous salary. We structure it that way so that they are not under the same pressure that an employee of a brokerage firm would be. It’s not in their best interests to buy and sell stocks frequently just to move things around."

Ryan nodded her dark head, deep in thought. Finally the blue eyes peeked out through her bangs as she said, "But it doesn’t reward outstanding performance either, does it?"

"It is a delicate balance," he admitted. "The investment world is a very complex one, Miss O’Flaherty. It is impossible to maximize return while providing safety. Mr. Smith was very happy with our philosophy and our performance. I think we have provided ample evidence that his choice was a good one."

"I’m not disputing that, Mr. Gray. I’m just asking questions to help Jamie understand this more fully."

He stood to his full five feet and said, "I just hope that your influence leads Miss Evans to draw the correct conclusions about our performance. Now I must leave to meet a client. My secretary will bring you a copy of the agreement if you can wait a few moments." He indicated an elderly woman sitting at the desk just in front of his own. "It was a pleasure to see you again, Jamie." Turning to Ryan he extended a hand and said, "I assume we’ll meet again, Miss O’Flaherty."

With that terse signoff, he was gone.

"Do I just have a knack for pissing people off, or what?" Ryan muttered as she stared after his departing form.

"You must, although I don’t understand it for the life of me," Jamie mused. "I think you’re terribly charming, and you’ve yet to piss me off."

Ryan turned and caught the dancing green eyes gazing up at her. "I guess that’s the only opinion I should care about, huh?"

"You betcha, Baby," she agreed wholeheartedly.

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

As soon as they arrived home Ryan gathered the statements that Jamie had brought from their house and started to pore over them. She didn’t hear the cell phone ring, nor did she notice when Jamie left the room for quite some time. A pair of warm lips upon her neck eventually startled her out of her concentration. "Yipes!" the dark haired woman cried. "How did you come in without my hearing you?"

"You are so intent there, Tiger, that I don’t think you’d notice if I was chopping wood!"

Ryan laughed at this exaggeration but she had to concede, "I get kinda focused."

"Kinda indeed!" she scoffed. She started to strip off her golf clothes to slip into one of Ryan’s big T-shirts, her normal lounging attire. "Mother says ‘hi’," she commented as she sat down on the bed.

"When did you talk to her?" Ryan was certain that Jamie had not used the phone located right next to her computer, so she was puzzled by the comment.

"She called just a few minutes after we got home, Hon. I went outside and played with your poor dog while I talked to her."

Scratching her head in puzzlement, Ryan commented, "I thought my hearing was really good. Maybe I should have it checked."

"Your hearing is excellent, Babe. You just get so into things that you are absolutely oblivious."

Playfully sparkling blue eyes regarded her as Ryan said, "You normally don’t mind that I throw myself into whatever task is at hand…so to speak."

"I’m not complaining about your powers of concentration in the least, Love. It’s all good."

"I thought your mom would be in transit now. Did she call you from the plane?"

"Nope. My uncle David came down with a touch of the flu, so the rest of the family decided to postpone the trip for a few days. She’ll probably go next Friday."

"Cool," Ryan said. "She seemed kinda bummed that she wasn’t going to get to see your father before she left. Maybe they can spend some time together before she has to leave."

"Yeah. I hope so too. So, what did you find out about the state of my finances, Babe?"

"Well, the performance has been less than overwhelming," Ryan admitted. "I spoke with Brendan, and he explained that corporate trust departments were often chosen back in the days when a return of three or four percent was acceptable. Your grandfather wanted to make sure that principal was maintained, and he obviously thought that was more important than growth. If you still feel that way, you may as well leave your distribution where it is."

"But doesn’t that seem silly in this wild stock market? God, Mother has doubled her portfolio in the last four years!"

"Obviously you could make a lot more money, but you have to realize that you’d be putting your principal at risk."

"I think we could strike a more moderate balance, Honey. I’d like to improve the performance while still being relatively conservative, and it doesn’t sound like I can do that where my money is now."

"Well, it’s clear that you have no ability to influence their decisions. If you want more control you do need to take your distribution."

"I think we should do it," Jamie declared.

Ryan stood and stretched, unkinking her back after a long period of inactivity. "Why don’t you wait until you have some idea of how you want to invest it first, Babe. Get your ducks in a row, and that will prove to your father than you’re competent to handle the money."

"As usual, you’re the smart one," Jamie said sweetly, kissing her enthusiastically.

"Smart enough to have picked you," Ryan agreed, puckering up for the kiss that she knew her compliment would merit.

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

Concluded in Part 15

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