I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 5: Entwined

By S X Meagher


See Part 1

Part 6

The clinic was winding down, and Coach Ratzinger spent quite a few minutes talking to individual girls and their parents. As the last of the kids drifted away, Ryan got to her feet and pulled Jamie up. Jamie grasped her hand and gazed into her still-fiery eyes as she said, "Do whatever you need to do, Honey. I support you completely."

The gentleness couldn’t stay hidden for long as Ryan’s mouth curled into a sweet smile, "Thank you, Baby. That means a lot."

She strode across the field with a mature, determined gait. Jamie held back a bit to let her get comfortable with the situation, and found herself stopping about 25 feet from Ryan to watch her approach the woman.

Ryan was nearly on top of the coach when she stopped and crossed her arms over her broad chest. The coach had been gathering up her supplies and was bent over at the waist when Ryan approached. She looked up and gasped when she saw the imposing woman looming over her. Everything she had been holding dropped to the ground, and Jamie could detect her fear from 20 feet away.

"H…H…Hello Ryan," she squeaked out as she stood at her full height and gazed up. Even viewed from a distance, Ryan looked imposing to Jamie; she could only imagine how the coach felt. Ryan was at least six inches taller than the coach, and a good 50 pounds heavier, but her size wasn’t where the menace came from. That was clearly from her cold blue steel eyes.

"I am on a quest, Coach Ratzinger," she stated, her eyes locked onto the older woman.

"A…a quest?" she replied, looking very confused.

"Yes, a quest," Ryan informed her. "Some things happened to me during my senior year than almost ruined my life. I believe that you either know who orchestrated those events, or that you personally participated in them."

"M…me?" she asked, wide-eyed. "Why would I do that?"

"Why indeed," Ryan said somberly. "I want to know what you know, Coach. And I want to know now."

"Now?" the coach asked slowly as she looked around, obviously hoping that someone could help her if Ryan attempted to break her in half.

Ryan didn’t reply. Instead, she stood up even taller and narrowed her eyes until they were like blue lasers.

Coach Ratzinger decided that playing dumb wasn’t going to carry the day, so she lowered her eyes to the ground and whispered, "I was afraid."

Jamie had been advancing on the pair slowly, and as she grew near she could see a glimmer of Ryan’s gentleness begin to reappear. Her arms dropped to her sides, and she leaned in toward the coach with a less imposing look on her face. "Afraid of what?" she asked.

As Jamie came closer still, she noted with amazement that Coach Ratzinger was at least 60 years old. From a distance, her trim body and obviously dyed hair made her appear 30 years younger, but her actual age was apparent from her sun-lined face. "I was afraid of losing my job," she said as her face colored in shame. She looked to be on the verge of tears, and it was obvious that Ryan couldn’t keep the pressure on.

"Let’s go over to the school and talk," Ryan suggested, bending to help pick up the dropped gear.

The older woman looked up at Ryan as she stood and said, "Thank you. I could use a chair."

Jamie covered the short distance that separated them, and Ryan slid her arm around her shoulders. "Coach, this is my partner, Jamie."

Jamie’s manners took over, and she extended her hand cordially. The coach’s weak grasp made even Jamie feel some sympathy for her, but it would take a lot more than a sob story to cause her to forgive the woman’s actions if they had been the cause of her partner’s pain.

They walked the two blocks together, the stilted silence putting everyone’s nerves on edge. Trying to ease the tension, Ryan gave the coach a brief update on her life, and informed her that she was finally playing for Cal this year. She also revealed that she had been offered a spot on the soccer team but had turned it down, not going into her reasons for doing so.

When they reached the building, the coach opened the stately doors with her key and led them to a cramped office in the basement. As Ryan and Jamie entered, the coach stood outside and scanned the hall to make sure no one else was present. After she locked the door she spoke in a voice so quiet that both women had to lean in to hear her. "I’m sure this doesn’t help, but I want you to know that I didn’t have a good night’s sleep for over three years for what I did to you, Ryan. I know there is no way to make it up to you, so I won’t even offer. I just want you to know that I thought you were a fine young woman. I…I…I hope you’re happy now in your…uhh…relationship."

"I am," Ryan said in a louder, but still circumspect voice. "I’m very happy with my life, Coach. But I want to know why you ruined my chances to go to Cal."

Her eyes grew wide and she tried to explain, "That wasn’t my intent, Ryan! I know you would have been a great addition to the program at Cal…"

"Coach," Ryan said softly, her gaze intent and unwavering, "the volleyball coach was led to believe that I was emotionally unstable. You told him that. I assume you told the other coaches roughly the same story."

The older woman dropped her head into her hands, rubbing them briskly against her face. "I had to tell them something, Ryan," she mumbled. "Every coach at Cal called me to ask why you had dropped off the team. I tried to protect you…I thought I was doing the right thing."

"You thought you were protecting me by telling them that I was emotionally unstable?" Her voice was rising in pitch, and the volume was increasing proportionately.

"I…I…I didn’t want to tell them that you were…gay." She whispered the last word, saying it so quietly that the women had to read her lips. "I didn’t want to ruin your life." She looked so absolutely pathetic that Jamie felt a little sorry for her–but not sorry enough to forgive her.

"You thought," Ryan said carefully, "that revealing that I was gay was a worse thing than telling them that I was emotionally unstable?!" Her breath was coming faster, and she looked like she was about to lose it. Jamie placed her hand on the small of her back, gently stroking her to remind her of her support.

"Once that gets out you can never--ever--get past that, Ryan," she said, earnestly trying to make Ryan see how damaging it could be to have her sexual orientation revealed.

"Coach," Ryan said, her eyes wide in amazement, "I’m out to everyone…and I do mean everyone. I tell everyone in my life, and I have since I was 18. It’s never been a problem for me."

"You do?" the obviously stunned woman mouthed, the words too quiet to be heard.

"Yes. I do. I always have, and I always will." Ryan was quiet for a moment, gazing at the older woman with a strangely compassionate look. "You haven’t ever been able to tell anyone, have you?"

Her tone was so gentle, so accepting, that the shaken woman found her head shaking despite her fear. "No…no one knows," she whispered. As the words left her lips she seemed to almost collapse into herself, and seconds later she was curled into a ball, sobbing roughly.

Before Jamie knew what had happened, Ryan was on her knees in front of the older woman, folding her into her arms. The coach struggled for a moment, then locked her arms around Ryan’s neck and cried like a child.

I will never understand her capacity for forgiveness, Jamie thought, trying to control her own tears, but it is one of the most wonderful things about her.

Ryan comforted the older woman as best she could, but it was obvious that her tears had been building for many years and were not going to be whisked away easily. Ryan patted her back gently for a few minutes, then uttered a deep sigh as she slumped back into her chair. Ryan looked very tired–exhausted really, and Jamie realized how very hard this was for her. She made eye contact with her partner and raised an eyebrow, cocking her head towards the door. But Ryan wasn’t finished. She had come to learn the entire story–and she was not going to leave until she did so.

She sat in her chair, looking tired but calm, waiting for the coach to be able to speak again.

After a long while the older woman looked up through her red rimmed eyes, almost surprised that there were two women in her office. She cocked her head slightly, silently asking Ryan what else she wanted of her.

"I think I understand what happened with the coaches at Cal," she began, "but I still don’t understand why you didn’t support me when the other girls came to you. That was such a betrayal, Coach," she said softly, her eyes filling with tears. "Why did you do that to me?"

"I tried, Ryan," she mumbled, shaking her head slowly. "I swear I tried." She looked up at Ryan with a helpless shrug. She was obviously hoping that weak explanation would suffice, but Ryan’s unblinking eyes never left her face. After a long tense moment, she sighed heavily and tried to offer an explanation.

"Tammy Anderson came to me and told me that she and the other girls wanted you kicked off the team. She said that they knew you ‘did something’ to Sara, and they were afraid that you would try something with one of them."

"And…? This is where you tried to help?" Ryan was not giving an inch, obviously not willing to back off.

"Yes," she insisted. "I told Tammy that she was being ridiculous, and that even if what she heard about you and Sara was true, it didn’t have any bearing on the team!"

"Uhh-huh," Ryan murmured, crossing her arms over her chest, a very skeptical look settling on her face. "Then what?"

"Tammy wouldn’t let it drop," she said, looking down at the floor. "She and Cathy Bennett went to see Mother Superior, still demanding that you be thrown off the team."

"Sister Mary Magdalene was behind this?" Ryan’s brow furrowed, finding it hard to believe that the sister who was always so supportive would betray her.

"Not behind it, Ryan," she said. "But she had the entire school to think about. Even though she was very fond of you…"

Ryan jumped to her feet, startling Coach Ratzinger as well as Jamie. The blood was rushing to her face, and Jamie could see a vein in her temple throbbing angrily. "It didn’t matter that she was fond of me! It didn’t matter that you knew I wasn’t a threat to anyone! It didn’t matter that I didn’t do ONE FUCKING THING that I’m ashamed of! All, I repeat, ALL that mattered was keeping the peace…placating the little assholes that would have caused a stink! TELL ME I’M WRONG!" she thundered, her voice so loud that Jamie’s ears hurt. She flopped back down into the padded metal chair, all of the fire extinguished. "Tell me I’m wrong," she murmured weakly, a fragile, wounded look on her face.

As Ryan collapsed, Jamie’s immediate instinct was to continue to rail at the coach, but she knew that this was Ryan’s issue so she tried to control her raging emotions, difficult though it was.

Coach Ratzinger locked eyes with the defeated woman, holding her gaze for a moment. "You’re right, Ryan. It sickens me to admit it, but you’re right." Jamie felt her anger start to swell, but still she held her tongue. The coach muttered, "It’s hard to keep everyone happy, Ryan, but I did the best I could."

That ridiculous excuse finally pushed Jamie over the edge. "HOW COULD YOU???!!" Jamie jumped to her feet, looking like she was going to grab the older woman and shake her senseless. "You nearly destroyed her life just to avoid a little gossip…a little controversy? HOW CAN YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF?" Jamie was shaking with anger, heat radiating off her body so profusely that the small room became uncomfortably warm almost immediately.

Ryan slipped her fingers into the back pocket of Jamie’s jeans, gently pulling her back toward her chair. Jamie struggled against her hold, and Ryan was worried that she would have to sit on her to keep her from assaulting the older woman. Seeing Jamie so upset allowed Ryan to calm down a little and she broke the tension by asking, "Did that fact that you were a lesbian have anything to do with this?"

Another heavy sigh preceded the coach’s answer. "Yes…I guess I have to say it did. No one here knows about me, Ryan. No one. But Sister is a perceptive woman, and I think she’s always suspected. She came to me and asked if I could stand having a bright light fall on the program if these girls continued their protest." She shook her head slowly, unable to face either woman. "I was 58 years old, Ryan. I had never made more than $38,000 a year, and my whole future depended on the pension that I would receive. I know that what I did was wrong, but I didn’t know what else to do! If the parents of those girls got involved, there was no way I could stand up to the scrutiny!"

"So you traded Ryan’s future for your own," Jamie snarled, still so angry she was nauseous.

"I didn’t think it would hurt her that badly," the older woman groaned. "Ryan had so much going for her, I just assumed she’d go on to college and put this behind her. I’m still amazed that none of the other schools offered you a scholarship. I didn’t have any idea…"

"I had other offers," Ryan admitted. "I was just too depressed to even think about going anywhere else."

"I had no idea," Coach Ratzinger muttered. "You always seemed so self-confident."

"I was 17," Ryan reminded her. "No one has unshakable confidence at 17."

"I was selfish and afraid," the coach admitted. "I hope that I would have more guts if this were to happen today." She looked down at the ground and added, "But I doubt that I would."

Ryan stood and regarded the woman for a few moments. She nodded to Jamie to indicate she was ready to leave. "It’s over now," she said. "I appreciate that you were honest with me, Coach."

"As ashamed as I am, I’m really glad you came to see me, Ryan. It’s more reassuring than you’ll ever know for me to see what a fine young woman you’ve become. I…I’m proud to have known you," she said as she broke into sobs again.

Ryan didn’t try to comfort the coach this time. She gave her one final look, grasped her shaking shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze as she said, "Good luck this season, Coach."

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

On the way out of the building, Jamie had to stop to gather herself before she could even think of driving. She found that they were standing in front of a gleaming trophy case. There were loving cups and medallions and plaques of all shapes and sizes, a few of them with her lover’s name prominently featured. A large plaque read "Student-Athlete of the Year" and she noticed that Ryan’s name was listed as the winner in 1990, 1991, and 1992. Another large trophy in the shape of a gold soccer ball was engraved with "California State Champions 1992." A faded 12 x 15 photograph lying next to the trophy showed the entire squad from the winning team. It featured a grinning Ryan sitting on the ground with a ball nestled in her lap. An equally happy Sara was standing directly behind her, the tips of her fingers resting lightly on Ryan’s shoulders.

Jamie fought to keep the tears from her eyes, but she was completely unsuccessful. She heard the choked voice behind her whisper, "I went out the back door all during senior year just so I didn’t have to look at this picture."

"I’m so sorry, Baby," she cried as she flung her arms around Ryan’s shaking body.

They hugged tightly for many minutes until Ryan finally lifted her head and said, "You can’t have everything, Jamie. If every single bit of this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been at Cal last year. No matter what else has happened, not being with you would have been the real tragedy."

"Thanks, Baby," Jamie whispered as she kissed her softly.

Ryan looked down on her with a shy little smirk on her tear-streaked face. "Will you indulge one girlish fantasy for me?"

"Anything," Jamie said confidently, knowing that at this moment there was no request from her partner that she would refuse.

Ryan took her by the hand and led her to the grand entrance of the school. She pushed open the door and left Jamie on the first polished marble step while she stood on the next one down. She wrapped her arms around her lover and gave her a melancholy smile. "Kiss me like you don’t believe it’s a sin," she asked softly.

Looking at her partner with every ounce of love she possessed, Jamie voiced her true belief. "It’s not a sin–it’s a sacrament," she whispered as she dipped her head and kissed her partner with every tender emotion she could muster.

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

Since no one was home for dinner, they stopped to get carryouts from one of Ryan’s favorite Mexican restaurants. Jamie wasn’t as enthusiastic as Ryan was about the merits of the neighborhood restaurants, but her lover got such pleasure from eating ethnic junk food that she willingly went along with her choice. As they cleaned up their mess Jamie asked, "Can I see some more videos?"

"Uhh, sure," she replied. "What are you interested in?"

"I want to see you close up. Do you have any of you just talking?"

"Yeah, I think I can find one," she said as she walked back into Martin’s room.

Moments later Ryan popped in a tape labeled, "Conor’s graduation. 1989". "I like this one because my Aunt Moira is in it." As the tape began to roll, Jamie sat on the bed and watched a large number of black robed people receive their high school diplomas. It was hard to tell who was who, but when it was time for Conor to receive his diploma Martin had obviously gone to the front of the stage, because a grinning Conor came into focus. He looked so young and innocent Jamie almost got tears in her eyes, seeing his callow features. Ryan fast-forwarded the tape, passing up the speakers and the procession of graduates. She started it again when the party began at the O’Flaherty home. The camera panned to a very young Ryan, the gangly 14-year-old coming into focus holding a small baby. "That’s my cousin Brenna," she said affectionately. "Isn’t she a doll?"

Jamie had to admit that she was a doll, but she was referring to the baby sitter more than the baby, even though both were adorable. Seconds later a small-boned auburn-haired woman came into the picture, sitting next to Ryan and posing for the camera for a few moments. Jamie looked at the framed picture of Ryan’s mother on the dresser and marveled at the similarities. "Wow," she mused, "she looks just like your mom."

"Yeah," Ryan said with a trace of sadness in her voice. "I was always crazy for my Aunt Moira. I wonder if it’s because she reminds me so much of Mama." The woman in the tape seemed equally fond of young Ryan. She wrapped her arm around her and kissed her cheek as they grinned together into the camera.

"She looks like she’s pretty crazy for you too," Jamie said.

"Yeah, she loves me a lot," she agreed. "I really want you to meet her, Jamie. I know you’d love her, and she’d be over the moon for you."

"Then let’s go," she said simply.

"Just like that?" Ryan asked in amazement.

"Yeah, just like that. We can go before school starts if you want to. We’ve got enough miles to go first class."

"Ohh, I’d have to think about it," she said warily. "I…I…let’s talk about it later."

"Okay, Baby. But if you want to go, we’ll go."

This offer was far too much for Ryan to process, so she pushed it to the back of her mind and turned her attention back to the screen. Moira took Brenna back, but the camera stayed focused on Ryan for a few minutes. She looked into the camera and said in a voice that was a good octave higher than her adult tone, "Happy Graduation, Conor. You’re my favorite second oldest brother!" She collapsed in a fit of giggles at her lame joke, and it was all Jamie could do not to go up to the TV and kiss her sweet childlike face. Young Ryan got to her feet and stood and stretched for a moment, the camera still focused on her, but no longer aware that she was the object of attention. She shifted her weight onto one leg and put her arm around Conor who now stood right next to her. The camera captured her burgeoning womanhood as she batted her bright blue eyes at her big brother. She was obviously not trying to look sexy, but there was something so appealing about this girl on the verge of womanhood that Jamie found herself being totally aroused by her.

"Ryan, I swear I’ve never said these words before, and I swear I’ll never say them again, but I’m getting hot looking at a 14-year-old girl!"

Ryan was behind her like a shot. She wrapped her arms around her and murmured into her ear, "What makes you hot, Baby?"

"I don’t know," she said as the camera continued to focus on the young Ryan. "You’re just so pure and virginal looking–like a statue of a young Greek goddess. There’s something so completely sexy looking about you at this age–it just boggles my mind."

"This is about when Conor’s friends started treating me nicer," Ryan said with a smirk. "I thought they had finally realized that I was cool, but in retrospect I think they wanted more than just to hang out with me."

"Conor would have killed them if they had made a move on you!"

"He wouldn’t have been able to. After Da got done with them there wouldn’t be enough left to make a stain on the carpet!"

"Well, lucky for me, I get to have the adult version of that hot little girl," Jamie said as she leaned back against her lover.

Ryan flipped her over onto her back and was kissing her senseless when Conor started to enter the room a few moments later, unnoticed by the passionate partners. His voice nearly sent Jamie to the ceiling when he said, "Oh, darn, I thought maybe you had porn on!"

He came into the room, and saw the image of his young sister on the TV. He gave Jamie a smirk and said, "You have no idea how many of my friends wanted to do just what you’re doing to her!"

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

They went to bed very early that night, the emotion of the day hitting both of them as soon as they lay down.

Both were well rested on Saturday morning, and Ryan actually felt better than she had in quite a while. Even though her talk with her former coach had been upsetting, it was just so satisfying to finally get some answers that she was quite upbeat.

Deciding to play a round of golf, they struggled for a good 15 minutes to figure out a way to get Jamie’s golf clubs into the Boxster. "This is ridiculous," Ryan muttered as Jamie finally had to hold the bag between her legs. The top had to be lowered to accommodate the height of the bag, and the cool, foggy morning was not ideal weather to go topless.

"I think we need to bite the bullet," Jamie said over the sound of the wind whistling through the clubs.

"What bullet is that?" Ryan shouted.

"We need a real car, and we need it now!"

"Oh God," Ryan moaned, knowing that the determined look on her partner’s face meant that the decision had already been made.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan came up with so many suggestions for ways to avoid buying a new car that Jamie could hardly concentrate on her golf game. "Honey, why does this bother you so much?" she finally asked after she had shot down every one of Ryan’s concerns.

"It’s so much money!" she cried. "And it just seems ridiculous to have a big car in Berkeley."

"I doubt that we’ll use it that much in Berkeley, Honey," Jamie guessed. "I think we’ll take it to San Francisco on the weekends, and when we play golf."

Ryan stopped dead in her tracks and stared at her partner for a moment. "You plan on keeping the Boxster?"

"Well…yeah. I like the Boxster, and it was a gift from Daddy. I’d like to keep it for a long time."

"Two cars? Two cars in Berkeley? Oh, Jamie…that’s just ridiculous." She was shaking her head somberly, looking like Jamie had asked if she could have a pony.


"It’s a waste, Honey. Most people our age don’t have one car–we certainly don’t need two."

Jamie climbed into the golf cart, composing her thoughts before she presented her case. "Okay," she finally said. "If you’re certain that you don’t feel comfortable with more than one vehicle, I’ll sell or trade in the Boxster."

Ryan shot her a broad smile, amazed at winning the argument so easily. "I’m glad you are willing to see my point," she said as the cart lurched forward.

"So, when should we put the ads in the paper?" Jamie asked casually.


"Yeah. I’m sure we’ll have to sell your Harley ourselves. Car dealers won’t take it in trade."

The cart stopped so violently that it skidded a bit on the gravel path. "Sell my Harley? You’ve got to be kidding!" Her blue eyes were so wide it was almost comical.

"You want one vehicle…Isn’t the bike a vehicle?" Her green eyes gave the appearance of total innocence, but Ryan knew that was a lie.

"But my bike is important to me, Jamie. It’s…like a member of the family." Her voice took on a pathetic, pleading tone.

"The Boxster is important to me, too, Ryan. It’s not very practical, but it can at least be driven in the rain…" Her implication was clear, and Ryan wondered once again why her partner wasn’t interested in going to law school, since she was obviously gifted as an advocate for her own position.

"Have I ever told you that I absolutely hate how your mind works?" Her smile extended to her eyes, but Jamie knew there was a shred of honesty in her words.

"I really don’t want to bulldoze you, Ryan, but I would buy another car even if we weren't together, so why can’t I do it now? It really makes me uncomfortable to feel like I have to ask your permission to spend money. I’ve never liked to have anyone supervise my spending habits, and I don’t think that’s gonna change in the near future."

Ryan nodded, realizing that Jamie had probably never had to justify her spending to anyone. "I don’t want you to feel like that, Babe. It’s your money, and you can do whatever you want with it."

Jamie took her hand and gave it a small kiss, blowing the fine coating of sand from it as she smiled up at her partner. "One correction. It’s our money–and I want to work together so we both feel comfortable spending it."

Ryan tossed an arm over her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. "If you truly want me to be comfortable, we’ll work together to not spend it."

Jamie gave her a playful bump with her hip, deciding, "I guess it won’t kill me if you’re not comfortable."

* * * * * * * * * * *

When they returned home, Conor joined in the car debate, which raged on for quite a while. Conor had very strong opinions on SUV’s, being strongly in favor of big, muscular V-8’s powerful enough for pulling a ton of passengers and cargo. Jamie wanted the smallest vehicle that would serve their needs, but she wanted a nice, comfortable ride. Ryan wanted the least expensive, sturdiest SUV available so long as it had four-wheel-drive. After ruling out most of the cars in the class they were left with four: Jamie’s choices, the Lexus RX 300 and the Mercedes ML 320, and Ryan’s favorites, the Ford Explorer, and the Nissan Xterra. Conor was still pulling for the Chevy Suburban but when he realized that neither woman favored his choice, he sided with Jamie’s pick of the Lexus. He argued that the Lexus was much more comfortable than the Explorer and that it had a good sized engine that would be able to power them up the Sierra Nevada for skiing in the winter.

"How about I pick which of yours I want, and you pick which of mine you want?" Ryan proposed.

"Okay," Jamie agreed. "I pick the Explorer. The Xterra is cute, but it doesn’t look very sturdy."

"I pick the Lexus," Ryan decided.

"How come?" Jamie asked.

"No good reason," Ryan revealed. "I just don’t feel old enough to buy a Mercedes."

Jamie laughed at her reasoning, reminding her, "There’s no age requirement, Honey. I checked."

"That’s my choice, and I’m sticking with it," Ryan insisted, dashing downstairs to her computer to do a little research on the two remaining choices. She logged onto the Internet and did a few searches, obtaining the list price for each basic vehicle and the price of every possible option. She also found out that Ford was offering a rebate on the base model Explorer which brightened her day significantly.

When her research did not sway Jamie’s vote, they decided to go test-drive both cars. But just as they were getting ready to leave, Tommy called and asked if they could watch the baby. They conferred and decided that she wouldn’t be too much trouble, so they piled into Conor’s truck and went to pick her up.

Since Ryan called dibs, they went to the Ford dealer first. Their feet had barely hit the ground outside of the Boxster before an eager salesman descended upon them. "Hi folks," he beamed. "Lovely day to buy a new car, isn’t it?"

Jamie took the lead, telling him that she and her friend, pointing to Ryan, wanted to look at an Explorer. He seemed to hear her, since he led them over to the huge selection of Explorers in every color and with every option. Ryan said she was only interested in the four-wheel-drive base model, and that’s when she lost the salesman’s interest. She was bouncing Caitlin on her hip and the salesman kept telling her how cute the little darling was, but she noticed that they did not make their way towards the cars that she had indicated.

The salesman, Jay, kept chatting with Conor about the Explorer, trying to get Conor to declare his preferences. After allowing him to rattle on for a few minutes, Jamie pleasantly interrupted him. "Ah, Jay, my friend said she wanted to see the four-wheel-drive base model. Can you show us that?"

"Sure, sure," he said expansively. "I just was telling your husband that the next step up is well worth the price."

"He’s not my husband," she said, "and he’s not buying the car. We are," she said as she pointed again at Ryan.

"Oh, well, that’s fine. No problem," he said with a smile. He led them to a car that seemed to fit Ryan’s description, but he once again directed his comments to Conor, completely ignoring Ryan.

Jamie had finally had enough. "Jay,’ she said sweetly, "Ryan here is the one who is interested in this car. Why don’t you answer her questions?"

He turned to Conor and laughed a bit. Looking back at Jamie he said, "Your boyfriend and your baby would be a lot more comfortable in the Limited Edition. Why don’t we look at that first?"

Jamie stared at her shoes for a moment, then looked up at Jay with a deadly smile. "He’s not my boyfriend. He’s not my husband. That’s not my baby. But she is my girlfriend and she’s the one who wants to look at this stupid car. If she wants it, I’m buying it for her. So the only two people that you should be addressing are her and me!"

"Oh," he said, the light starting to come on. "Oh! Okay, so this is for just you two! Jeez," he laughed, finding the situation quite humorous. "Honest mistake. You can just never tell in San Francisco can you?" he said with a weak chuckle. "You girls just don’t look like…"

"Like what?!" Jamie asked, with fire in her green eyes.

"Uhh, like…uhh…like you are old enough to buy a car like this," he said with a weak smile on his sweating face.

Conor walked over to Ryan, picked up the baby, turned on his heel and began to walk away, calling over his shoulder, "I still say the Lexus is the better car, but I’ll leave you kids to your fun."

Jay was stuck with the now steaming Jamie and the less perturbed, but still miffed, Ryan. "Heh, heh," he chuckled nervously. "So…who wants to drive?"

Ryan decided to conduct the test drive. But she was thwarted once again by having to follow a prescribed route around the block--once. This tiny track didn’t allow her to take it over potholes or railroad tracks or any of the other normal hazards of city driving. The heavy traffic did not allow her to go over 30 mph, so she had no idea how the car accelerated. All in all, it was a frustrating experience that was exacerbated by Jay’s constant rambling from the back seat. Ryan’s head was throbbing by the time they returned to the lot. She tossed the keys over her shoulder, nearly hitting Jay in the head as she muttered, "We’ll let you know." Jamie trotted behind her, catching up as they reached Conor and the baby who were waiting by the truck. Jamie heard her mutter "fuck-head" as she got into the passenger seat, meeting Conor’s wide-eyed expression with a warning shake of her head. For a change, he didn’t try to make the situation worse, and they rode in silence to the Lexus dealer.

When they arrived, Jamie launched into her business mode immediately. She strode into the dealership and asked to speak to the floor manager. An attractive woman came out and Jamie introduced herself. "Hi, I’m Jamie Evans. This is my lover, Ryan O’Flaherty. We’re interested in buying an RX 300. We’d like to speak to someone who doesn’t mind working with women and who isn’t shocked by lesbianism. Do you have anyone who can help us?"

The woman laughed and extended her hand. "I’m Sandra Fletcher. I rather like working with women, and I’ve known a few lesbians in my life. I’ve yet to be shocked by them, unless they were purposely going for that reaction, so I can probably help you."

"Great," Jamie said. "We haven’t seen the car yet, so we want to see what you have, what options are available, and then we want to take a test drive. Ryan is quite the car buff, and she’s only interested in buying if we can go on a real test drive with a route of our own choosing. Can you arrange that too?"

"Sure," she said easily. "We trust our customers to take the cars wherever they wish. No problem at all."

Conor poked his head out from around the corner and asked, "Is it safe?"

Jamie laughed and motioned him over. "Sandra, this is Ryan’s brother and her baby cousin. He’s a little nervous about being treated like the brains in this organization, so feel free to ignore him."

"I bet you’re not ignored very often," Sandra said with a wink.

"I like this place lots better than the last," Conor said happily as they walked toward the lot.

The cars were remarkably similar, with very few options available. Every car on the lot came with leather seating and all had CD players installed, so the only choice to be made was color. "Which one do you want to drive?" Sandra asked.

"I like burgundy," Jamie said. Ryan had no objection, so Sandra went in to the office and came back with the keys. She handed them to Jamie and said, "Have a nice ride."

"You’re not coming with us?" Ryan asked.

"Nope. I just needed to copy your driver’s licenses for our insurance. We trust you."

"I’ll stay as your security deposit," Conor offered, giving Sandra a little grin.

She smiled back at him and said, "If they don’t come back, can I keep you?"

"You can keep me even if they do come back," he answered happily.

"Let’s go, Honey," Ryan said as she rolled her eyes. "This is getting painful."

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

Much to her regret, Ryan thoroughly enjoyed driving the vehicle. It rode very much like a car, but it had all of the beneficial attributes of an SUV. Jamie loved the ride and the numerous appointments that came standard, and she played with the moon roof and the CD player until she nearly drove Ryan to distraction. "Honey, can you leave the little buttons alone for just a minute?" she asked patiently.

"I like the buttons," Jamie replied. "That’s the best part of car shopping."

"You really like this car, don’t you?" Ryan asked.

"Yes, I do. Don’t you?"

"Yeah, it’s really nice, but I just feel funny spending this much for a car. We could get by so much cheaper."

"That’s true, but why not get what we want if we can afford it?"

"I don’t know. It just seems so extravagant."

"Is this you talking or something else?" she asked suspiciously.

"It’s partly me and partly my upbringing. It’s frowned upon to show how much money you have. The ‘poor mouth’ was invented in Ireland, you know," she added with a small chuckle. "If you win the Sweepstakes and someone asks how you’re doing you should say, 'Oh just barely making the ends meet. It’s a struggle every day.'"

Jamie laughed at her adorable brogue, but showed her understanding by saying, "If you really feel uncomfortable, we can buy something much less expensive. But your family will soon know that I’ve got money, so I don’t think it will be a shock for them if we have a nice car."

"Okay, let me think about it. You really are leaving the decision up to me?"

"Yeah. I choose this, but I don’t want to do anything that you don’t feel good about. You’re the one that will be driving it most of the time, so you need to get what you want."

When they got back to the dealership they went into Sandra’s office. Conor was already there, entertaining his captive audience. He was a hit, as usual, with Caitlin, but Sandra seemed to be enjoying herself also. "So, how did you enjoy the test drive?" Sandra asked as Ryan set the keys on the desk.

"We both liked it," Ryan admitted, "but I need to think about it for a few minutes. Conor, can I talk to you?"

"Sure," he said as he hopped up and handed Jamie the baby. "Hang on to this for me, will you?" he joked as he followed her out.

"What’s up?" he asked as they walked around the showroom.

"Jamie really likes this one and I do too, but I’m uncomfortable spending this much money on a car. What do you think the rest of the family will think if we start spending money on things like this?"

"Are you really worried about that?" he asked, somewhat surprised.

"Yeah, I am," she admitted. "I don’t want to look like we’re lording it over everyone else."

"I think everyone is very fond of Jamie, and I think they know she has bucks. I mean it’s kind of obvious after you’ve been around her for a while. She just looks rich," he said with a smile. "I don’t think they’d want you to live like everyone else if you’ve really got it. That’s almost insulting. It’s like you’re saying, ‘We’ve got money, but we act like we’re poor because we know you’ll be jealous.’ I don’t think that would go over well, Sis."

She slid her arms around his waist and gave him a firm hug, "Thanks, Conor. That helped a lot."

As they entered the office Jamie piped up, "Did you know this and the Mercedes are the only two SUV’s that have side impact protection systems? Caitlin would be much safer...."

Ryan sighed, still feeling a little sick to her stomach. "You don’t have to sell me on the car, Jamie," she said. "I like it…I really do. It’s just so much money…"

Now Sandra jumped into the discussion. "Jamie tells me that you were also interested in the Explorer. Would you feel more comfortable if I could sell you a Lexus for around the same price?"

"Uhhh…that would be nice," Ryan drawled. "Would we get a title with it, or is it hot?"

"It’s not hot, of course," she assured her. "And it’s already been broken in."

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

An hour later the twosome was cruising home in their gently-used, one-year-old sand-colored Lexus, both happy with the outcome of the negotiations. "Don’t you love this?" Jamie asked excitedly as she once again punched every available button.

Ryan gave her an indulgent smile and admitted, "It’s absolutely marvelous. I’m as excited as I was when I bought my Harley."

"Remind me to call my trust officer and ask him to make an income distribution to cover this, will you, Hon?"

"How did you pay for it?" Ryan asked with a frown, unaware of the financial negotiations since she'd been changing Caitlin’s diaper during much of them.

"I charged it, of course," she said happily.

"You charged it!"

"Yep. I charge everything for the airline miles, Honey. This little baby," she said fondly as she patted the dash, "just got us a free trip to Europe!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

The rest of Saturday was spent giving Ryan’s uncles rides in the car, and much to Jamie’s amazement, each cousin was allowed to take it for a test drive. She had assumed that Ryan would be protective of her first car, and would not let another driver within ten feet of it, and she was pleased to see that her partner was more concerned with her cousins' feelings than she was for her car. When the last of the test drives was completed it was a little after nine o’clock, and minutes after getting horizontal Ryan was sound asleep, the owner's manual for the Lexus spread open on her chest like a tiny blanket.

This is so cute, Jamie giggled softly upon emerging from the bath. She’s just like a kid with a cherished new toy. I bet that manual is memorized by tomorrow night! She gently removed the book from her chest, turning off the bedside lamp as she did so. Ryan murmured something unintelligible, and made an uncoordinated attempt to hold on to the manual, but Jamie tenderly patted her and assured her, "Don’t worry, Love, your little book will be right here in the morning, just waiting to be devoured."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 7

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