I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 17: Quandary
By S X Meagher
After they arrived at SFO, the extended family wasted a good deal of time deciding who would ride with whom. Ashley had gone back with the team, so that left ten people to transport. But there were only two cars—Maeve's small sedan and Conor's big truck. As usual in situations like this all eyes went to Martin. He looked adorably confused, his eyes narrowed as he counted heads and tried to make the math work.
Catherine and Maeve shared a look as each tried not to giggle. Finally, Catherine spoke up. "I think I'm going to finally be able to give some business to my poor, abandoned limo service.”
"No, no," Martin said, looking both distracted and determined. "We'll figure this out." His pointed gaze went to Conor. "If you took only the smallest women how many could you fit in your truck?"
"Da,” Ryan said, "Jamie and I and Jennie and Mia can all take a limo to Catherine's. Then you can all go back to the city just the way you came."
"I want to go to Berkeley," Mia said. "There's a party I want to hit before I leave town, but I can take SuperShuttle."
Ryan's eyes widened and she was shaking her head before she could speak. "No! We'll figure something out."
Now Jamie joined Catherine and Maeve as they all looked from Ryan to Martin trying to figure out which of them was more wedded to the idea of the family transportation system.
"I'm starving," Conor said, "and I'd love one of those pizzas you guys always get. So we can take you to Berkeley."
"Mmm, Zachary's,” Mia said. "They're the best.”
"I could go for pizza," Rory agreed.
“I get to go for pizza too, don't I?" Mia asked.
"Absolutely," Brendan said. "We're all set. Does that work for you, Da?”
Admitting defeat, Martin said, "I suppose so, but I don't like it."
Ryan put her arm around her father and gave him a squeeze. "The only solution is to buy a bus, and that's when my desire to be together is outweighed by my guilt over wasting gas. It's bad enough that Conor has to take his gas hog every time the boys want to go anywhere together.”
"Lecture me later," Conor said. "Pizza is calling."
Catherine had her favorite limo company on her speed dial and as they stood at the curb waiting for the car she said, "I suppose this is the only way I'll be able to use a car service in the future. I'll just have to make sure you two travel with me."
Ryan put her arm around Jennie's shoulders. "Jen and I don't want to get too spoiled. We're not used to your high living.”
“I don't mind," Jennie said to Catherine, sneaking a look up at Ryan to gauge her reaction.
Ryan grasped a handful of Jennie's short blonde hair and tugged on it. "You give me up that easily?”
"It's fun hanging out with Mrs. Ev…Miss Smith,” she said, correcting herself. "I don't need to ride in the nice cars and stuff, but that's part of the deal.”
Catherine playfully took Jennie's hand and pulled her over to stand next to her. "That is, in fact, part of the deal. I hate to admit how ridiculously spoiled I am, but I miss my bed.” She paused a second with three sets of eyes expectantly watching her. “Alright," she admitted. "I miss my cook, and my pool, and my car, and my bathroom and my furniture. Actually, I miss my weather, too.” She laughed, not seeming to mind that everyone was laughing along with her. “I'm the human equivalent of an orchid. The conditions have to be just right or I'll wilt.”
The ride home was consumed with discussions about the party. Catherine was in favor of calling a local caterer and having the whole thing taken care of off site. But Ryan was insistent. She had long been eyeing the elaborate grill that Jim had set up, and she wanted to cook. Jamie didn't have a strong opinion either way, and since Catherine guessed that Marta would love the chance to cook for such a large group, she gave her assent.
Everyone was tired when they got home, but Ryan got right to work. She called Marta, who was still at Catherine's house in San Francisco, and got her shopping list. Then Ryan and Jennie went to a big box discount store to buy everything.
After they left, Jamie unpacked and walked through the kitchen on her way to the laundry room. "I'm not allowed to do laundry, but I had to get these clothes out of my room. I swear that Ryan never smells bad to me, but when her softball stuff has been in a bag for a couple of days it's a whole different issue.”
"I'd think so," Catherine said. She'd been looking through the refrigerator, but had to admit defeat. "All we have in here are condiments. What should we do?"
"Let's order take out.”
Catherine looked at her blankly. "From where?"
“There are lots of places in San Mateo. When in doubt I always get Italian for Ryan. Would that be okay with you?"
"Of course. Just get me something light, like a small salad.”
"The kinds of places Ryan likes don't have much light food. I think I'll stop at the grocery store and buy some things to make us a couple of good salads. I'm vegetable deprived.”
Conor had been home from Zachary's for just a few minutes when his cell phone rang. He picked it up and heard, “Mr. O'Flaherty?”
“Please hold for Senator Evans.”
He checked his watch and saw that it was eight o'clock. That's 11 o'clock in Washington. I hope his poor secretary gets overtime.
“Hi, Jim. What's up?”
“I wanted to offer my congratulations on Ryan's big victory. I got to watch parts of it this afternoon.”
“Uhm...thanks. It was a good series.” He was too polite to ask why Jim was calling him rather than his sister.
“I talked to Jamie briefly and she said there's going to be a big party at my... Catherine's house. I was thinking about sneaking out of town tonight and coming home for the celebration.”
“Isn't it awfully late to come home?”
“Oh, that's not a problem. I have access to a plane. I can be in the air in an hour.”
It better not be one I'm paying taxes on , Conor thought.
“I assume you're going to work tomorrow, and I'll probably stop by my office for a meeting or two. Why not ride down with me?”
“Okay. What time do you want to go?”
“I can be available whenever you're ready.”
“I can knock off around four. Is that good?”
“Sure, that's fine. I'll swing by and pick you up. Say...4:30?”
Still puzzled, Conor agreed. When he hung up he thought, You know this country is screwed up when a carpenter has a harder time taking the afternoon off than a senator does.
After dinner Jamie and Catherine stayed inside to clean up after dinner, allowing Ryan and Jennie to go swim. After her mother went to bed Jamie went outside to find Ryan sitting by the pool talking with Marta on the phone. It was only 11 o'clock but Jennie looked as though she could barely keep her eyes open.
“My mom's already gone to bed, and it looks like you should head on up, too,” Jamie said to her.
“I'm tired,” Jennie admitted. “I hardly slept at all last night. I was so excited.”
"I don't think Ryan did either, to tell you the truth.” She took a quick look at her partner who was shaking her head, dissenting. “She doesn't like to admit that she gets nervous about things.”
They both looked at Ryan who was protesting more determinedly. “Ryan doesn't get nervous," Jennie said. "She kicks butt.” Now a pleased looking Ryan nodded her head, giving Jennie a thumb's up sign.
Jamie handed the girl a big towel and they started to walk inside together. “Don't let her fool you, Jen. She has the same emotions everybody else has. She just tries not to acknowledge a lot of them.”
After showing Jennie to her room, Jamie got ready for bed. She was fairly certain Ryan couldn't be on the phone this long so she went downstairs to check on her. Ryan was lying on one of the lounge chairs, curled up as small as she could get, sound asleep and obviously cold. Jamie was tempted to leave her there to teach her a lesson, but she knew it wouldn't do any good. So she gently rubbed her shoulder and Ryan's eyes popped open.
"Time for bed?" she asked, rubbing her fists against her eyes.
“Long past.” Jamie held out her hand and took Ryan's chilled hand in hers. "Let's get you inside before you turn into a popsicle.”
"It didn't get cold like this at night in Oklahoma City.”
“No, it didn't. But it does here, and you should have thought of that before you fell asleep." She gave Ryan a sharp smack on the seat. "Sorry. I know that won't change your behavior, but it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Ryan said agreeably, trying to stifle a yawn. “I don't mind a bit.”
After brushing her teeth, Ryan got into bed. Jamie turned off the bedside lamp and snuggled up behind Ryan, rhythmically stroking her side. After a minute or two Jamie said, "You seem like you're wide awake.”
"I am. I guess coming into the house woke me up." She turned onto her back and poked Jamie a couple of times with her finger. "You should've left me outside.”
"I hate to admit how seriously I thought about that." She stretched to kiss Ryan's cheek. “I always think I can make you behave the way I want if I punish you." Ryan extended an arm and Jamie tucked her head under it, then cuddling up against Ryan's side. "It's a stupid instinct, and I'm not sure where I got it."
"Let's blame Elizabeth. She's farthest away."
"That would be convenient, but I don't think it's accurate. I think I just have some inner programming to be a martinet.”
Ryan didn't immediately react, so Jamie said, "A military dictator, or something like that.”
"Good." Ryan smiled at her and Jamie noted how white her teeth looked in the moonlight. "I thought it had something to do with puppets, but I don't know where a dictionary is.”
"No puppets. Just me being a scold.”
"You are not a scold. You just care about me and want me to take care of myself.”
"True, but wouldn't it be more effective to just remind you of that? Leaving you out in the cold or swatting you don't really convey my love."
Ryan shook her shoulders, gently nudging Jamie. "You know I don't mind being swatted. Actually, you know I like it.”
"Yeah, well, it's still not a good habit. I don't want to be the parent. That's not good for us.”
"I know, but sometimes I act like a child.”
“You do, but it's still not good for me to be parental with you. I don't like it when you do it to me, so I shouldn't do it to you.” She hadn't been planning on bringing this topic up, but the time seemed right and now that it was in her head she knew it would bother her if she didn't mention it. "Do you remember when we were in the Bahamas and Mia and I ate that brownie?”
Instantly, Ryan's body grew stiff and her voice no longer had the soft gentle tone that it had previously carried. "Yeah. Why?"
The change in Ryan's affect made Jamie's heart start to beat faster, but she kept going, wanting to finish what she'd started. “Did you prohibit me from smoking grass, or just tell me you didn't like it?”
“I've never prohibited you from doing anything." Ryan sounded cold and distant and she pulled her arm away when she sat up, dumping Jamie onto the bed. She shook her head and threaded her hands through her hair, pulling it back, twisting it to contain it and then draping it over her shoulder. “I'm not the kind of person to do that."
"Why do you sound so pissed off? I just asked a question.”
"And I just answered. You're free to do whatever you want.”
“Why the attitude?” Jamie sat up and faced her, trying to figure out what was going on in her head.
"I don't like to be accused of something I would never do. You can smoke grass, shoot heroin, have sex with strangers, you name it.”
“Ryan! What in the hell are you talking about?”
“I said what I'm talking about. I've never prohibited you from doing anything, and I never will. It insults me to even imply that I would.”
Jamie started to put her hand out but before it got to Ryan she could see that her touch wouldn't be appreciated. So she let her hand drop limply at her side. "I apologize. I certainly didn't mean to accuse you of anything. I just thought I recalled you telling me that you didn't want me to smoke grass anymore.”
“I don't. I don't want anyone to smoke grass. I think it's a dangerous substance."
She was in this far, so she had to go all the way. “Well, I smoked a little at the party the other night. I wasn't going to bring it up, but I don't like to hide things from you."
Ryan got out of bed and walked over to her suitcase. Opening it, she was reminded that all of her things were in the laundry room. "Couldn't you have left me a T-shirt?"
"Everything was dirty."
Ryan took the light blanket from the foot of the bed and put it around her shoulders. Then she went over to the window and sat on the sill, turning so she could look out the window. "You told me you didn't want to smoke grass anymore."
“I didn't think I did. But I was in the mood to the other night.”
Showing a very perturbed expression, Ryan said, "There's a grass smoking mood? What's that like?”
“Is that a genuine question, or are you being sarcastic?”
“Sarcastic.” She tucked the blanket more carefully around herself, continuing to stare out the window. Jamie didn't say a word. She knew Ryan would eventually want more information, but she couldn't guess what she'd want to know.
After a few tense minutes of silence, Ryan said, "I've made it clear that I don't like drug use, and I think it'd be better for us if you kept incidents like this private."
"Fine. I will." Jamie waited for Ryan to say or do something, but nothing happened. Finally she asked, "Are you coming back to bed?”
"I'm not tired right now.”
“Do you want to talk anymore?” Jamie tried to say this in as welcoming a manner as she could.
“No. Thanks, but no." Ryan voice was cold and very distant. Now Jamie was irritated. Not by Ryan's views, but by her coldness. After sitting in the dark and staring at Ryan for another minute or two she lay down and tried to stop herself from replaying the previous few minutes over and over in her head. She must have been successful because she dropped off to sleep long before Ryan returned to bed.
For a change, Jamie woke up before Ryan did. She tried to stay still so that Ryan would remain asleep. She knew that Ryan was running on empty and that was probably part of the reason she'd been so curt the night before. Even though things hadn't gone well with their discussion, she wasn't angry. She knew they'd talk it through and come to an agreement. She wasn't particularly looking forward to that, but she'd come to learn that was the only way.
Jamie could just make out enough of the clock on Ryan's bedside table to see that it was 10 minutes before an hour. The house seemed quiet, but it was bright outside and she guessed it was almost 8. She was going to try to sneak out of bed, but before she got the sheet off one leg Ryan was awake. "What time is it?" her sleepy voice asked.
Jamie leaned over her and looked at the clock, placing a kiss on Ryan's cheek when she sat up. “Almost 8.”
“Damn, that's late for me.”
"How long did you stay up?”
“Long enough to work some things out in my head.” She reached out with both hands and pulled Jamie back down. “I'm sorry I reacted so badly.”
Jamie touched her forehead, slipping the hair away from it so she could see Ryan's eyes. "It's okay. We need to work this out, but we don't have to do it all at once.”
“I think I know what I need.”
Jamie started to pull away. “I need to pee. I'll be right back.”
When she returned, Ryan was right where she left her. Sliding into bed beside her, Jamie said, "Tell me what you need.”
"I think my first instinct was right. If you're going to smoke grass, I'd rather not know about it. I'm never going to like it, and I doubt you'll do it in front of me, so I think I'm better off not knowing.”
"All right. That sounds reasonable." She leaned in and kissed Ryan lightly. “Anything else?"
"No. I guess that's it."
"Okay. We'd better get up. We've got a big party to prepare for.” She got up and went to the window and was able to hear noise from the kitchen. She turned to Ryan. “I think Marta's here.”
Ryan looked at her almost blankly. “So, is that it?”
“What?” Jamie looked blank as well.
"Aren't you going to say you don't think you'll smoke grass very often or…”
"It doesn't work that way, honey. If you don't want to know, we should just let it die. But if you do want to know, we should discuss it more thoroughly.”
"No. I don't want to know. Let's just get ready.” She headed for the bathroom, then stopped in her tracks. "I have no clothes.”
"Whoops. I'll find you something until you do your laundry.”
"That'd be nice,” Ryan said, sounding like her politeness was an effort.
Jamie found one of her father's older dress shirts and a pair of silk boxers that Catherine had just bought for him in Milan. "I don't know why I'm still doing that," Catherine said when Jamie asked her about borrowing the item. "I guess it's just a habit.”
"It's thoughtful of you," Jamie said. "There's nothing wrong with being thoughtful.”
“I suppose not. But I bought six pair, so I can now be thoughtful with just five."
Jamie delivered the clothes to Ryan, who still looked perturbed, but was obviously fighting it. The smile she gave encompassed only her mouth, but Jamie appreciated the effort. "I'll see you downstairs." When she left the room and closed the door she leaned against it for a moment, hoping that Ryan didn't draw this out through the whole day.
They were all as busy as bees, but even though they had planned carefully a few things were missing. Jamie went out to the garage and found her father's Acura NSX sitting alone in the big space, gathering dust. She went to the cabinet on the wall, keyed in her birthday and took the keys. It took a few seconds for the car to thrum to life, but when it did it demanded attention. She eased it down the long driveway, and smiled to herself when she caught sight of Ryan in her big shirt and boxer shorts, standing with her hands on her hips as though questioning why Jamie was in the cool car alone.
It had been awhile since Jamie had driven any of her father's high performance cars, and she had to admit that this one made her a little nervous. It was a little like riding an unfamiliar, high-spirited horse. So she drove around her neighborhood for awhile, until she felt competent to take it onto El Camino Real.
Things were in control at the house, so she decided to go a little further than she had planned. An hour and a half later she returned, delivering the few things that Marta needed, and handing a puzzled Ryan a bag.
"You haven't done your laundry." She waited a beat, watching Ryan's eyes dart toward the laundry room, then turn back.
Ryan pulled out a new outfit, underwear included, then somewhat begrudgingly mumbled her thanks. Jamie decided to ignore the lukewarm reception her gift received then watched in amusement as Ryan nearly ran for the laundry room to get busy.
The guests were due to begin arriving at two, so everyone assumed Martin and Maeve would be there by one. At 12:30 Jamie reminded Ryan of this near fact.
"Darn it," Ryan said. "Your washer takes so long…” She trailed off, and Jamie could almost hear the end of the unspoken sentence.
"I didn't buy you much. Just a shirt and a pair of shorts.”
Ryan's shoulders sagged and she started to walk into the house to get dressed. Jamie followed her, grabbing a small scissors from the kitchen to cut off the tags. When they got upstairs she handed Ryan the new bra and panties, smiling lasciviously as Ryan slithered into them. "Those looked fine," Jamie said, trying not to sound like she was objectifying her beautiful partner.
Ryan was clearly not on the same wavelength. She still hadn't given Jamie a proper smile all day, and she looked quite perturbed. "You know I don't like you spending money on clothes for me. I don't say anything when you buy things for yourself, but I just don't need this stuff."
Not rising to the bait, Jamie stayed calm. She sat down on the bed and watched Ryan put on the pastel colored Madras shorts and the tailored white sleeveless blouse. "All of your clothes were not only dirty, they stunk. I saw that you hadn't started your laundry yet, and I knew you wouldn't have time to finish a load." She batted her eyes and put on a false smile. "I know it's inconsiderate of me to try to prevent you from embarrassing yourself, but I hope you can forgive me.”
Ryan didn't reply. She stood in front of the mirror, tucking in her shirt and slipping a navy blue web belt through the loops. She fussed with her hair for a moment, then Jamie said, "It's going to be hot today. Why not put it up in a ponytail?" Ryan nodded, and went to her travel bag to get a band. She started to brush her hair, lightly biting her lower lip as she often did when she fixed it.
"I appreciate your thoughtfulness," Ryan said, putting the finishing touches on her ponytail. "I just hate to waste money on clothes when I have plenty of them."
"I've told you I buy clothes as much for me as for you."
Ryan met her partner's eyes in the mirror. "I know that, but you know it makes me uncomfortable."
"You know… I didn't know that. You've always been pretty laid back about accepting things I buy you. In fact, you've been quite gracious." She tapped her chin with her index finger. "I wondered what could be making you grouchy about it today?"
"I'm sorry. I'm still trying to figure some things out." Ryan went into the bathroom and started to brush her teeth. She came out while still in the process and said, "Are you going to start buying marijuana?"
Her patience almost at an end, Jamie said, "You're being ridiculous. I smoke a tiny bit of grass...one time...and you think I'm going to start dealing."
"The brownie incident was January the first, so you've done it twice this year." Ryan went back into the bathroom to finish brushing, and Jamie thanked her lucky stars that her target had left the room. She put heavy wooden hairbrush down and swore she would not throw it, no matter what Ryan said.
When Ryan emerged, Jamie said, "Can we declare a truce on this until the party's over? I don't want to have this tension between us today."
"There's no tension. I shouldn't have asked that question. It's closed." She a fixed a plastic smile.
"Fine. I don't see why this is such a big deal, but it clearly is. I can drop it if you can."
"I've already dropped it." Ryan opened the bedroom door and Jamie got up to pass in front of her. Clearly unable to resist getting in one more dig, Ryan said, "As long as you don't ever do it with our kids in the house, I won't bring it up again."
Grabbing Ryan's belt with one hand, and the door handle with the of her, Jamie pulled her partner back into the room and closed the door. Poking her in the chest with her finger, she said, "You're making me nuts! We are not leaving here until we finish this."
Ryan held up her hands in defeat. "We're finished. I just want to make sure you understand that I don't have any tolerance for doing drugs around kids."
Grabbing Ryan by both shoulders Jamie shook her gently. "What in the hell is wrong with you? What have I ever done to make you think I would expose any child, not just my own, to drugs?"
"In January you told me you weren't going to do them at all. I'm just trying to keep up with a changing landscape."
Jamie closed her eyes, squeezing them tight. Her hands were balled into fists at her sides. "Sometimes I have to physically restrain myself from strangling you."
"I'm sorry, but I don't understand you. I can't imagine why you'd want to do something that's not only illegal, no one knows what it does to your brain.”
Seething, Jamie said, "I'm sure no one has studied the long-term effects of about 20 hits of grass over a lifetime.”
"That's up until now," Ryan reminded her. "Neither of us knows how much you'll do in the future.”
"Yes, we do. I'm never ever going to do it again. I will not forget this discussion, so there will be no doubt in my mind about how you feel about the topic.” She put her thumb and index finger on to Ryan's chin and held it steady while she looked into her eyes. "Now we're done.”
As she started for the door a Ryan intercepted her by stepping in front. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice finally sounding sincere. "I really don't want to tell you what to do. That's not the way to have a healthy relationship."
"I agree. But it's also not healthy to nitpick and be so god-awful superior about things. I'm not going to become a drug addict, and if you don't know that we've got a bigger problem."
Ryan tried to put her arms around Jamie but her attempt was shrugged off. Jamie went to the far side of the room and sat down on a chair. "You're going to get exactly what you want. You know I won't smoke grass again just to avoid another fight. And you can convince yourself that it was my choice, so your hands are clean. That's your modus operandi.”
Ryan sat on the bed and idly traced the squares of fabric in her new shorts. "I don't want you to stop because of me."
"No, you want me to stop because I agree with you. But I don't. You can't have it both ways."
"I know, I know." She tried to make eye contact, but Jamie's gaze was elusive. "Please don't let me guilt trip you into doing what I want. That's not good for us."
Jamie took in a breath and let it out slowly. "Fine. I seriously doubt that I will ever smoke grass again, but if I do, I'm going to tell you about it. So you don't have to worry that I'm doing it behind your back. I'm promising nothing other than to be honest with you about something that I know you disapprove of. Now ," she said dramatically, "we're done."
As expected, Martin and Maeve arrived a good hour before the invitation specified. They had brought Caitlin with them, as both of her parents were at work. Ryan was anxious to get things organized, but schedules never functioned well when the baby was involved. As soon as Caitlin entered the house she demanded access to the pool, and she wanted Catherine to accompany her. Catherine was all too happy to change into her suit immediately, but Martin urged her not to. "If you were going to get into the pool now, by all means go right ahead. But if you weren't, don't let the little one convince you otherwise. She has to start learning that the entire world doesn't revolve around her."
Catherine looked down at the bright green eyes that gazed up at her and said, "I can't say no to her, Martin." She bent over and picked up the baby, who cuddled up against her, babbling away. "I know she has me wrapped around her little finger, but I'm powerless."
"There's nothing wrong with you giving in to her if you want to. But I don't want her to upset your plans for the day."
Jennie was sitting at the kitchen table and she piped up, "I've got my suit on under my clothes, Mr. O'Flaherty. I could take her swimming.”
"That's a fine idea. We'll come out with you." He winked at Catherine. "That's why I wanted a large family. If you have enough children one of them is always young enough to do your bidding.”
Ryan went outside to try to figure out Jim's massive barbecue set up. She had no more than opened the lid to the grill before her father was at her side. "Gas only?" he said, his disappointment obvious. "Why would you spend this much money to make inferior food?"
"It looks sweet to me. It's got this cool rotisserie thing," she said, pointing to an accessory.
"I'd like the separate gas burner for keeping things warm, and the griddle looks good, but I'd never choose to barbecue with gas. You might as well barbecue in the house.”
"Well, I don't think Catherine has a charcoal grill, although if I mentioned that I wanted one I assume one would be here in a matter of moments.”
"You say that like it's a cross you have to bear. If you're looking for sympathy you've come to the wrong place."
Ryan busied herself with looking at all of the dials and timers and switches, but she pondered what her father had said. She didn't reply to his comment, but the more she thought about it the more ashamed she felt. She wasn't certain when she'd started feeling justified in complaining about Jamie's generosity, but she knew it was a bad habit. That coupled with the chiding she'd given her partner made her want to go find her and try to make amends. But they were expecting 50 people in less than an hour, and she had to figure out how to cook for all of them.
"You look distracted, Siobhan. What's on your mind?"
She looked at him for a second, and told the truth. "Jamie and I aren't meshing well today. I want to spend a few minutes together and see if we can straighten things out.”
“Want to talk about it?”
A little advice wasn't a bad idea, but she certainly didn't want to bring up the marijuana issue. So she mentioned what she considered a side issue. “She bought me these new clothes.” She plucked at the white shirt, pulling it away from her body. “But I have too much stuff already. It was all dirty, but I could have gotten it washed before the party.” She fiddled with one of the knobs on the grill, clearly still aggravated. “I hate that she spends money so casually.”
“Is this money you've given her?” Martin asked, acting like he was intently inspecting the grill.
“No, of course not. I don't have any money.”
“Oh. So it's her own money, you say?”
“Yes, Da,” Ryan replied, seeing where he was going and wishing he'd just get there.
“And you have what right to control her spending of her own money?”
“I don't have any right, and I know that. But I don't like for her to buy me things that I don't need.”
He stood up and looked her straight in the eye. “I don't know when you acquired the idea that it's acceptable to be impolite when someone gives you a gift, darlin' but it's a very bad one. Jamie's not using your nest egg to spend you into the poorhouse, is she?”
“Of course not. Something like this is spare change for her...but not for me!” Her voice rose again, reflecting just how seriously the issue bothered her.
Martin put his hands on his shoulders and held her gaze. “She's not your child. She's your spouse. Don't waste your time trying to make her stop doing something she enjoys. You'll only manage to take pleasure away from her and you'll feel like her keeper. Do you want that?”
“No, I don't.”
“If you want to have a good relationship you'll let her have her pleasures...even if they're not yours. I didn't see her complaining when you were gallivanting around the country playing every sport they allow women to compete in.”
Slowly, Ryan nodded. “I have to apologize. You're right. I'm trying to control her, and that's dumb.”
"Go find your girl. What are you planning on cooking?"
"We got a couple of tri-tips, and some chicken breasts and some pork steaks. I was going to start cooking everything now and then slice it all up for people to make tacos.”
"Fine. I'll start the grill and take over until you're finished making amends. Bring out the tri-tips."
"Just them? I was going to start everything at the same time."
"Bring out the tri-tips," he said patiently, "then you can bring me things as I need them. I'm taking over, since you clearly don't know what you're doing if you planning on putting chicken on at the same time as beef and pork." He bent over to fire it up and turned his head to see his daughter still standing there. "Get on with you. When you have time I'll try to teach you something so you don't embarrass yourself next time.”
After doing her father's bidding, Ryan found Jamie, Mia and Rory neatly folding napkins around sets of utensils. Ryan greeted the newcomers and asked if Jamie could spare a moment. "I think Rory and I can handle this on our own," Mia said. "She's yours."
Ryan took Jamie by the hand and led her past the pool where they saw Maeve chatting with Jennie who was playing exactly as Caitlin ordered. The door to the pool house was unlocked, and Ryan opened it for her partner. After they both entered she closed it quietly and leaned up against it, feeling a little hesitant. "It's what Mia said true?"
"Yeah, I think she and Rory can put napkins around forks."
With a slight smile, Ryan said, "No, not that part. The part about you being mine. Is that still true?” She tentatively extended her hand and Jamie took it, brought it to her lips and kissed it.
"Do you really think I'd drop you because you're sad about softball being over and this probably being your last time hanging out with your buddies?" She put her arm around Ryan and pulled her close, resting her head against her warm skin.
Ryan took in a big breath and let it out slowly. "Is that what this is?"
"I think so. You've been irritable ever since we got home."
Leaning against Jamie's body, Ryan try to soak up the affection that was so generously offered. "Why am I such a dope?"
"I don't know, but sometimes you are pretty dopey." She pulled away to show the smile that would reassure Ryan that she was teasing. "But I love everything about you, including your dopieness.”
"I doubt that, but it's nice that you say it."
Jamie focused on the top button of Ryan's blouse, playing with it with her finger. "You love me even though you're fairly sure I'm going to start selling crack to school kids, don't you?"
"Yes," Ryan said, chuckling. "I know you'll run a first-class organization, with health-care benefits and profit sharing for your employees."
"Let's try to start the day over, okay?"
"Let's try to end yesterday over. That's when the trouble began." Ryan stood up straight and took a breath. "That's interesting that you smoked some grass the other night. You know that I have negative views on that, so that's probably something we shouldn't discuss, since you don't want to be lectured and I don't think I'll change how I feel. You should probably just keep me out of the loop."
“Will you assume I'm getting high every time you leave the house for more than five minutes?” She poked Ryan in the belly a few times, teasingly.
“I don't think I will. And if I do, I'll try to keep my mouth shut and work it out on my own.”
Impishly, Jamie looked at her. "This will kinda be like the agreement we have about masturbation."
Ryan looked puzzled for a few seconds, then smiled and nodded. "If you need to smoke grass as infrequently as I need to masturbate, we've got nothing to worry about.”
Jamie pulled her down for a soft, lingering kiss. When they broke apart she whispered, "We've got nothing to worry about."
Jamie was in the kitchen helping Marta make all of the garnishes and side dishes for the tacos when she saw a Ryan trying to negotiate the door while holding a platter of chicken. "Let me get that for you.”
As Ryan passed by, Jamie made sure no one was watching then grabbed a handful of her ass. Ryan jerked to a halt and looked at her partner in surprise. "You almost made me drop dinner."
Taking advantage of how defenseless she was, Jamie pulled Ryan's head close and whispered into her ear, “You look fantastic in those shorts.”
Putting on some of her false modesty, Ryan batted her eyes and said, "Do I?”
"You do. And before this day is over I'm going to have my mouth on every one of your erogenous zones.”
Ryan's eyes lit up and her eyebrows rose. "Every one?”
Jamie kissed her cheek and gave her a gentle pat on the butt. "Every one on my list, not yours.”
At 4:30, Conor, who was sitting on the front steps of his house, saw Jim slowly drive by and give a short honk. Conor jogged down the stairs and got into the Range Rover. Smiling at Jim, he patted the dashboard. “I haven't seen this one in a while. How ya doing, Jim?”
“I'm well, thanks. How about you?”
“Good. I was surprised you wanted to drive down to Hillsborough with me. Was I on your way?”
“Not really, but I wanted to talk to you about cars.”
“Yeah. I have too many of them, but I don't want to sell any of them since I'll be home in a few months. Would you help me out by babysitting one of them? I thought you could take one home tonight.”
Dubious, Conor gave him a sidelong glance. “Why don't you have Jamie do that?”
“She doesn't have room for them in Berkeley. I've got one stashed at Catherine's, but she's admitted that she never even turns it on. I don't think I have to tell you that a well-made car doesn't like to sit idle for too long.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Well, I have the NSX, the BMW and this one. Pick one of them and drive it around for me. Or, I could give you the keys to all of them and you can drive which ever one suits you. I just need for them to get a little exercise.”
Now even more suspicious, Conor said, “I thought you had somebody to take care of your cars.”
“Oh, I do. But that's for my cars in Pebble Beach. I guess I could take them all down there, but that's a big time investment.” His eyes narrowed as if he were considering something. “But that's not a bad idea. Maybe you and your brothers or cousins could take all of them down there for me. Stay at the house for the weekend, play a couple of rounds at the club...”
“I certainly don't mind driving any of your cars, but I wouldn't feel comfortable keeping them on the street in the neighborhood. I guess I could go to your condo...”
“No, no, I think your idea about sending them all to Pebble Beach is a good one. Would you be interested in that?”
Conor wasn't sure what angle Jim was working, but a weekend in Pebble Beach and a couple of rounds of golf was far too much for him to resist. “I'm sure I could get a couple of volunteers to go with me.”
“I know you guys like to pal around together. You can take the whole bunch of them if you want to. Just let my secretary know when you're going and how many of you there are and she'll take care of getting your tee times. And, by all means, use the bars and the restaurants. I have to pay a minimum every month and I haven't been near the place.”
Conor knew he shouldn't let Jim's money color his opinion, but he had to acknowledge that using his golf membership made up for a lot of Jim's unpleasant character defects. “I don't think I'd have any trouble getting a group of the boys to go with me. When would you like me to do it?”
“Any time. And I'm being serious when I say that I'd like you to go down to Pebble Beach and play the course. You should go every month. My minimum charge is enough for six or eight of you to go down and really enjoy yourselves. If you don't use it, I'm literally throwing that money away.”
With a mercenary gleam in his eye, Conor said, “Well, I'd hate to have you throwing good money away.”
“Excellent. You're really helping me out. I can give you the keys for the Range Rover today, and you can pick up the BMW from Catherine. Actually, if you want to, you could take the NSX home tonight. It wouldn't hurt it to sit on the street for a couple of days.”
Conor's mouth was almost watering and he felt himself nodding his happy agreement.
Maeve walked up behind Catherine and whispered into her ear, “If you don't come sit down for a while I'm going to throw you into the pool.”
Catherine turned and laughed at the playful scowl her friend was wearing. “I think everyone has gotten fed so I guess I can relax a little. I was just going to refresh my drink. What can I get for you?”
“Absolutely nothing. I had some of the sangria that Marta made. It was fantastic.”
“Marta can make anything. Truly anything. She should have been a chef rather than a cook.”
They walked over to one of the tables that Ryan had spent the morning arranging for. Once they were seated, Catherine said, “I don't look as tired as I feel, do I?”
Maeve's reply was just a second too long in coming. “No, of course not. You look wonderful.”
Catherine reached up and arranged her hair. “ I appreciate the lie.”
Deftly getting around the issue, Maeve said, “Has trailing around after the girls finally gotten to you?”
“To be honest, I don't think I'm tired. I've actually been getting more sleep than usual. I suppose I'm depressed.” She sat up a little straighter and put on a smile that was completely fake but remarkably effective. “In my family speaking about such things wasn't done.” She put her hand behind her ear and cocked her head. “ I'm not sure which of my parents I can hear rolling over in their graves. Maybe both.”
Maeve covered Catherine's hand with her own and gave her an empathetic look. “Tell me how you're feeling.”
“It's silly, really.”
“There's nothing silly about being depressed. I struggled with it for years after Michael died.”
“I didn't know,” Catherine said, her gaze as empathic as Maeve's had been. She shook her head, her lips pursed. “But I should have guessed. I don't know how a parent gets through such devastation.”
“I got through it by talking to people I trusted. I hope you know that anything you ever tell me is between us. You can trust me.”
Catherine's smile was now warm and genuine. “I do know that,” she said patting Maeve's hand. “I'm just not sure what I have to say. I have what I can only rationalize as a schoolgirl crush on Giacomo. I think about him all day long, something I didn't do even when I was a schoolgirl. If he were single, I'd move to Italy just to be near him.” Her eyes welled up with tears as she said this.
Maeve looked around and saw how little privacy they had. “Lets go into the house for a minute.”
Nodding, Catherine got up and led the way. She didn't want to go through the kitchen, since everyone had to go through there to use the bathrooms, so she went along the side of the house, until they reached the driveway. There was a wrought iron bench in front of a stand of camellias, and she headed for it. “How is this?”
“It's lovely. The flowers here are so beautiful.”
“They were prettier on Capri.” Catherine sighed heavily, then rolled her eyes. “See what I mean? I'm too old to have a crush... especially on a boy from another school who's going steady.”
“Don't make light of this. Just because this isn't the ideal situation doesn't mean your feelings aren't real. Being in love with someone who isn't available is heartbreaking.”
“Yes, it is. That's exactly how I'd put it.” She struggled for a few moments then gave up the fight and rested her head on Maeve's shoulder while she wept.
Maeve didn't say a word. She merely patted Catherine's back, silently encouraging her to let her feelings out. Catherine sat up after a few seconds, looking disgusted with herself. “I've got to get myself together. It's ridiculous to carry on like this.”
“No, it's not,” Maeve said forcefully. “There's nothing wrong with having feelings, Catherine. I think it's very healthy for you to express them.”
“I try to.” Catherine tried to dry her tears with her fingertips, finding them ineffective. “I'm going to have to go find a tissue.” Lights broke the darkness as a car rolled down the drive. “Is that a Range Rover?” she asked.
“I have no idea. It's a big car...”
“I think that's Jim.” Catherine stood and started to walk quickly towards the front door, saying, “He's the last person I want to see me cry.” She turned and smiled wanly. “Thank you for listening.”
Continued in Part 13
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