I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 17: Quandary
By S X Meagher
Not long after Ryan jumped into the pool she felt a familiar hand on her shoulder. “Hey,” she said, turning to see Jamie for the first time in a while. “Where've you been keeping yourself?”
“I saw your father lecturing you about something, so I made myself scarce.”
Feigning outrage, Ryan held her by the shoulders and swiped her leg behind Jamie's knees, dunking her.
Sputtering a mouthful of water at Ryan, Jamie emerged, unrepentant. “I'm never going to volunteer for a Martin O'Flaherty lecture, so I'll just have to take the punishment.”
“How do you know the lecture would've included you?”
“Well, I wasn't sure, but it's not worth the risk. Where you the solo object, or did I do something wrong, too?”
“Some support!” Ryan splashed another handful of water right into Jamie's eyes.
“Stop it!” She grasped Ryan around the waist, catching her arms in the bargain.
“I'll behave. I don't want a third lecture tonight.”
“You're gonna get one from me if you don't tell me what he was talking to you about. Give!”
Ryan twitched her head in the direction of the deeper water, leaving her teammates and Jennie and Caitlin behind. They treaded water while she spoke. “He was reminding me of why my instinct was to be harsh with Jennie.”
“Oh-oh. I take it he didn't agree with me.”
“In a word, no. He didn't think she should have been able to come here, much less go to the World Series. He also thinks I've been butting in where I don't belong and undercutting Sandy, not to mention my alma mater.”
“Yeah, he was pretty blunt, but I can't argue with what he said. He cut me down pretty quickly when I said we might have to get custody of Jen.”
“Shh...” Ryan said, putting her finger to her lips. “I spoke before I thought.”
“Da's right. This is something Sandy should handle. I've mucked things up by getting too involved. I'll talk with Sandy and discuss the whole mess.”
“Are you going to talk to Sacred Heart too?”
“Mmm, I'm not sure.” She shook her head. “Sandy can decide if that's something Jen has to do. If Jen rats herself out I'll call to apologize for aiding and abetting a crime.” Rapping herself on the head, she said, “It's gonna take some conditioning to change my evil ways.”
Ryan and Jamie were at the buffet table, scrounging through the leftovers to fill Ryan's hearty appetite when Jim approached. “I bought you a little something to commemorate your victory,” he said.
Ryan put down her plate and said, “You didn't have to do that, Jim.”
“I know, but I was thinking about my college years and I recalled a incident that stuck with me.”
“What's that?” Ryan leaned on the edge of the sturdy table and smiled when Jamie sidled up next to her to listen.
“Stanford went to the Rose Bowl the year before I entered. The upper classmen had watches that they had engraved with the date of the game and the score. I wanted one of those so badly that I could taste it.”
He said this so intently that Ryan and Jamie had to laugh.
“I mean it. I was determined that we would go to a bowl game every year, but we never made it. Nonetheless, playing on that team was one of the highlights of my life, and I'd still rely on any of those guys if I needed a hand. I bet they all feel the same way. You'll remember this team and your win for the rest of your life.” He reached into his pocket and took out a black box, and handed it to Ryan. “This will help if you ever forget.”
Grinning, she opened the box to reveal a sturdy stainless-steel watch with a blue face and gold Roman numerals. Turning it over, she saw that it read, “Cal Bears, NCAA Champions, Softball 2000. “This is awesome,” she gushed. Ryan threw her arms around Jim's neck, ignoring his habit of pulling back when she hugged him. “This was very, very thoughtful of you.” She stood and handed the watch to Jamie. “How did you get this done in one day?”
“It's not hard,” he said. “I just had to go into the city to have it done. I had a meeting at my old firm and it was ready by the time I finished.”
“It's very nice, Daddy. And thoughtful, too.”
“Oh, I also arranged to have ESPN send you DVDs of the game--minus the commercials. They're sending enough for you to give one to everyone on the team.”
“That's fantastic! Having a senator in the family is really paying off.” She grinned at him, hoping he understood she was teasing.
“Use me while you can. I'm a lame duck in November, and a dead duck in January.”
“You won't be a dead duck,” Jamie reminded him. “You'll just fly home to roost in California again.” She hugged him. “And I'll be glad to have you back.”
“I'm gonna go show Brendan and Maggie my cool watch,” Ryan said, scampering off.
“I think she liked it,” Jim said.
Laughing, Jamie said, “She loves presents, even though she tries not to.” She started to clean up the table, which looked as though hungry dogs had attacked it. “You sloughed it off, but I know it wasn't easy to find a watch and have it engraved in one day.”
“The engraving took some smooth-talking but the watch wasn't hard to find. I called my favorite jeweler and told him what kind of girl Ryan was.”
Jamie raised an eyebrow. “In what way?”
He looked puzzled, then laughed. “Just that she's very active. I was tempted to buy her something like a Rolex or a Patek Phillipe, which I knew would stand up to a lot of abuse, but then I considered who Ryan is. I knew she wouldn't be comfortable wearing a watch that cost that much.”
“Good job,” Jamie said, giving her father a dazzling smile. “You're absolutely right.”
“I don't think she'll be able to break the one I bought, but if she does, she won't have a fit.”
“Oh, she'd have a fit, but only because of the sentimental value. Nonetheless, I'm very pleased that you went out of your way for her. That means a lot to me, Dad.”
He smiled back at her. “You were right about her, of course. She's impossible not to like. I put as much thought into this watch as I did the farm bill. I really wanted to please her.”
Knowing he was probably telling the truth, Jamie just smiled, hoping the next junior senator from the State of California was more committed to the affairs of the state than her father was.
They'd been at the party for a couple of hours when Jim found Conor just getting out of the pool. He tossed him a towel and said, “I'm going over to get a beer. Would you like one?”
“I don't think I'd better, especially if I'm going to drive your car home.”
Jim smiled at him, then walked over and got a beer for himself. When he turned around Conor was standing close, drying his longish hair with a towel. “How about a cigar?” Jim asked.
“Sure. I'm always up for a good cigar, and yours are better than I've ever had.”
Jim removed a leather case from his shirt pocket, opened it and held it out to Conor.
“You should consider investing in a locker at a good cigar store. Storing a cigar at the right humidity and temperature can make even inferior tobacco taste pretty darned good.”
Conor let Jim trim the cigar, then put it into his mouth when Jim flicked his lighter. He inhaled in satisfaction. “That's too rich for my blood. Besides, I don't think I can taste the difference between an average and a good tobacco, although this does taste great.”
Jim nodded. “You have to train your palate. Over time, you can learn to appreciate craftsmanship.” He took a deep draught and blew it out reflectively. “Catherine's father got me started with cigars. That man really knew how to enjoy the finer things in life.”
“If you've got ‘em, I guess it's best to enjoy ‘em.”
“Oh, he had ‘em. I'm sure he didn't have as much money as Catherine has now, but it seemed like a lot more 20 years ago. They were fewer really wealthy people, and they stayed in a relatively small social circle-- at least around here. Now you've got all of the young high-tech millionaires who don't even own a suit. It's a whole different thing.”
“You can tell Catherine was brought up with a certain style.” Both men locked on her with their eyes while they contemplatively smoked their cigars.
A few minutes passed, with neither of them speaking. Finally, Jim said, “I wish it was as easy to have someone keep an eye on Catherine as it is to have someone keep his eye on my cars.”
Bristling, Conor said, “I don't think Catherine needs a babysitter.”
“She's certainly no baby, But I'm concerned about her. Worried, honestly.”
“Why? She seems fine to me.”
“Really?” Jim looked at her carefully while taking another puff. “She doesn't look well to me at all. Her color isn't good, and I'm worried that she's drinking again. To excess, I mean,” he added. “She's had almost a full drink in her hand every time I've seen her tonight.”
“Maybe she's just carrying it around.” Now Conor was looking at her as carefully as Jim was. “I can't tell what she's drinking.”
“It looks like a gin and tonic to me. That's her favorite summer drink.”
“It could be sparkling water and lime.”
“Yes, I suppose it could be. And she could just be tired. Traveling takes a lot out of her, which is odd, given how much of it she does.”
“I know they've all had a rough couple of weeks. As soon as she got back from Europe she went down to Fresno and then to Oklahoma. She hasn't had many nights in her own bed.”
Fondly, Jim said, “She loves her own bed. She's a real trooper, but she's quite attached to her little luxuries.”
“Well, I don't think you have to worry about Catherine. I've seen a very positive change in her in the past year.” Conor almost regretted his sentence, but it was baldly true that Catherine was a better person with Jim out of her life.
“That may be true,” Jim said slowly, “And I know everyone in your family thinks she's better off without me.” Conor knew the polite thing would be to disabuse him of that notion, but he wasn't able to. After an uncomfortable pause, Jim continued, “I'm just worried she's going from the frying pan into the fire. That guy she's seeing in Italy is nothing but trouble.”
Without meaning to, Conor found himself saying, “You'll get no argument from me. I'm not sure what he wants from her, but I'm sure it's something. Are you sure he really has his own money?”
“Well,” Jim said, his voice taking on a purr that colored it when he was proud of himself. “I've done a little more research, and it seems that much of his money comes from his wife. He has family money, too, but I don't think he's gotten any of it. His people are industrialists, and he chose not to go into the family business. it looks to me like he's keeping Catherine in reserve in case his wife leaves him to be with her girlfriend.”
“Girlfriend?” Conor almost choked on the smoke. “She's gay?”
“So it seems. Why she needs a husband is beyond me.” He chuckled evilly. “Maybe that's what Giacomo asks himself.”
“That's very strange.”
“It is. Now, don't get me wrong. I know that Catherine wants to start a new life, and I think it would be good for her if she had that chance. I don't even think it's a bad idea to be with a younger man. I just can't see the sense of her being with a married man who lives a continent away. I hate to think of her moving there if he becomes single. I know that would break Jamie's heart.”
“I'm sure it would,” Conor agreed, his brow furrowed as he gazed across the yard, staring at Catherine.
On one of her frequent tours of the yard, Jamie stopped by Martin and Maeve, who were poolside, keeping their eyes on Caitlin and her many pool-mates. “How's it going?” she asked, putting her hand on the back of Martin's chair and leaning against it. “Do you need anything?”
“Not a thing.” Martin reached up and put his arm around her, encouraging her to sit on the wide arm of the chair. “How's my darling daughter?”
Maeve jumped in when Jamie appeared to be a little puzzled. “Martin thinks he may have been too harsh with Siobhan earlier.”
“I never intend to lecture her,” he said, his expression contrite. “But when she tells me some of the things she's done or that she's planning...” He met Jamie's eyes. “You must know what I mean.”
“Oh, I do,” she agreed, laughing. “She can drive you mad. You didn't hurt her feelings tonight Martin. She knows she's made some mistakes with Jennie.”
“She's such a good person,” Martin said, “that you feel like an ass for chiding her. But if you don't you're afraid she'll do something completely batty.”
“Believe me, Martin, if she tried to get custody of Jennie I'd send her back to your house. She can talk me into a lot, but we're not ready to have a 15-year-old child.”
“She doesn't know her own limits,” Maeve observed.
“She never has. No matter what the issue, she thinks she can, and should, do more. She's been like that since she was a baby.”
“It took all of us to keep her busy,” Maeve said. “And I do mean all of us. We thought Conor was bad, but Siobhan was in a different league. Fionuala would sometimes call me, begging for relief. And Siobhan was just a tiny thing...two or three years old. It would have been impossible for one person to keep her out of trouble.”
“She has more than her share of energy,” Jamie agreed. “I just wish she didn't get so down on herself. She acts like everything that goes wrong is her fault.”
“Yes, she does,” Martin said. “She takes on too much and then berates herself when she can't handle it all. I wish she could just take on less, but I've tried and failed to convince her to change.” He shrugged. “Maybe she can't.”
“It's not easy,” Jamie said. “I don't want to supervise her, since I hate it when she does that to me, but I can't let her do everything she wants.” She shivered from the mere thought of the mayhem that would ensue. “I just can't.”
“I don't have much advice,” Martin said. “But I'd like it if you'd remind her how much her father loves her. She's the light of my life.” He gave Jamie such a warm, full smile that she impulsively leaned over and kissed his cheek.
When she sat up she winked at Maeve. “We're lucky women, aren't we?”
“You'll get no argument from me. I couldn't be happier.” Maeve reached over and took Martin's hand, squeezing it tenderly.
It was almost nine when Charlie approached Jamie. “I think I'm going to call it a night, honey. ”
“Did you have fun, Poppa?”
“Of course I did. I always have fun at your parties.”
“I saw you talking to a lot of Ryan's teammates parents. They're a good bunch, aren't they?”
“They are. A group of us spent a long time talking about the election. I was surprised to hear that a lot of them are leaning towards voting for Bush. I don't hear that perspective very often in the city.” He chuckled. “I had to restrain myself from trying to sway them towards Gore.” He reached up and tapped at his clerical collar. “I should have come in mufti tonight. I can get away with being more opinionated.”
“I assume people will realize how good things are and want to keep them going. But...” She trailed off. “Having Monica Lewinsky muddy the whole scene doesn't help.”
“Gore had nothing to do with that, thank goodness. But it hasn't helped his image, I'll grant you that.”
“I'm tired of politics, to be honest. I'm paying much more attention since my father has been involved and it's enervating. I'll be glad when he gets home and I can go back to my former ways of barely paying attention.” She grinned mischievously.
“I'm glad your dad was able to come. I saw the watch he gave Ryan. That's just like him,” he said, smiling. “He's always been a very generous man.”
“Yep. He puts a lot of thought into gifts.” She turned to make sure no one was near them. “I noticed Kayla's absence. Did he say anything to you about her?”
“No, not a word. I hope she breaks up with him and gets on with her life. She's a lovely girl and I hate to see her wasting her time with Jim. I hate to have to say this, but he's not the kind of man a bright young woman should be with.”
“I wish I didn't agree, but I do. I just hope she doesn't hurt him too much when she leaves him.”
Charlie put his arm around Jamie's shoulders and hugged her tenderly. “You have a good heart. I love how much you care for your dad.”
“I do care for him. I know he's a great guy beneath all of the...” She waved her hand in the air. “Whatever all of that stuff is that he gets caught up in.”
“I'm not sure I have a name for it, either. But I agree that he's a good man underneath it all.”
Mia found Ryan standing on the pool deck trying to talk Caitlin into getting out of the pool. “Good luck” she said, putting her arm around Ryan's waist.
Turning to her, Ryan rolled her eyes. “I could just drag her out but I think I'll wait until my teammates leave. The kid shrieks like she's being beaten.”
“Let her stay in. She's got plenty of supervision.”
“I know, but she hasn't eaten. She gets cranky when she's hungry.”
Mia leaned against Ryan and jostled her a few times. “Sounds like you.”
“It does, doesn't it? We're about the same...overly focused and whiny.”
“You're not so bad. I think I'm gonna take off.”
“Where are you going? Berkeley? I'll find you a ride.”
“No, thanks. I'm gonna walk home. I want to have a serious discussion with my father.”
Ryan's brows hiked up. “Really?”
“Yeah. It's almost impossible to get him alone. But since my mother's gone he won't be able to hide behind her.”
“Isn't he kind of a big wig in lawyer circles?”
“You wouldn't know it from the way he is at home, but, yeah. He's one of those guys who chose a bossy woman on purpose. He likes to let her be in charge at home. Saves him from having to do anything or make any decisions once he leaves the office.” She shrugged. “Wouldn't work for me, but he seems happy.”
“Aren't you going back to Colorado tomorrow?”
“Yep. I'll have my dad drop me off at the airport on his way to work.”
“Is that convenient? If not, I'll come get you and take you any time you need to go...”
Mia pinched Ryan's lips together. “It's fine. Stop trying to make sure the whole world is happy.”
Looking a little sheepish, Ryan said, “Not the whole world. Just the people I love.”
Mia put her head on Ryan's chest and snuggled into the hug that automatically enveloped her, “I love you, too. And I'm really, really glad I got to see you win. I knew I'd bring you good luck.”
“You were the key.” Ryan squeezed her tightly. “I appreciate how much trouble you had to go to to stay. And you kept my girlfriend busy, which was also a big help.”
“I had a great time. You missed out on the good food, though. That stadium had some awesome shit!”
“Really? Jamie didn't mention that.”
“She doesn't like the same stuff I like. I was hooked on that corn on the cob with flavored salt. Jen and I made ourselves sick on it.”
“Mmm.” Ryan smiled, just thinking about corn on the cob, one of her favorite foods.
“And they had good bar-b-que, too. Sitting in the stands there was great. Much better than being in a gym in Amsterdam. With my mother.” She made a face, then grasped her own throat with her hands, acting as though she were being strangled.
“I'm sorry that got screwed up. I know you wanted to go.”
Mia looked at her, showing an expression that Ryan had just recently started to see. It was a thoughtful, serious look, one Ryan really appreciated. “I didn't, really. I was going for Jordan, and I thought it would be nice to have some time with my mom. But I was wrong. My mom's not reliable enough emotionally to plan a trip with. If things don't go her way she has a tantrum. That sucks and I'm not gonna get pulled into that trap again.”
Ryan hugged her again, holding on for a full minute. “I'm sorry,” she said, having nothing to add to take the sting away.
At ten o'clock, Coach Roberts loudly announced, “We're taking off at 10:30! If you're not on the bus, you're gonna have to walk.”
Without complaint, the players started to leave the pool, many of them wrinkled from being in for hours. Jennie started to get out, too, but when Jackie handed Caitlin off to her she stood, undecided, one foot on the stairs. Cait leaned over as far as she could and started splashing water into the air while she looked at Jennie.
Maeve, who was still poolside, said, “If you want to get out, don't let her change your mind. She won't like it, but she has to learn she's not a fish.”
“I guess...” Jennie looked at the players headed for the poolhouse, where they'd changed into their swimsuits. “I guess I'm not in a hurry.” She looked almost disconsolate, gazing after her idols.
“Have you ever played a sport?” Maeve asked.
“No.” Jen shook her head rapidly. “I'm a dork.”
“I doubt that! Why don't you investigate some things this summer. I bet there's a sport you could love. Just ask Ryan. She's played all of them, you know.”
“I bet she has. She'd be on the Giants if she was a guy.”
“I don't know about that, but I'll agree that she's quite an athlete.”
“I've never done anything athletic,” Jen admitted. “I can barely do any of the tests we have in gym. I came in last in the mile run.” She looked away, clearly embarrassed.
“Do you ever run for fun?”
“No.” She shook her head. “Not really.”
“You have to work up to doing well at that long a distance, honey. Talk to Ryan about this. She can help you.”
“I know I should do stuff but I haven't had much time. I've really had to work to keep my grades up.” She made a sour face. “And now I have to go to summer school.”
“Maybe you need some motivation.” Maeve smiled when the girl met her eyes. “Why don't you consider joining us in the 3 Day walk we're doing to raise money to fight breast cancer?”
“Me?” Jennie acted as though Maeve was proposing that they jump across the bay.
“Yes, of course. Catherine and I and Jamie and Ryan are doing it. We'd love to have you join us, but you'd have to train.”
Her eyes grew bright and she nodded enthusiastically. “I could do that! I really could!”
“Brilliant! We'll talk to the girls and figure out a training schedule. Maybe we'll take Caitlin along with us.”
Jennie shot a quick look at the demanding baby. “No offense, Mrs. O'Flaherty, but I think she'd be too much trouble.”
“I can see that you already have a better head on your shoulders than some of us do, dear,” Maeve said, glad that Ryan hadn't heard her ridiculous idea.
Once the team members were dressed they all thanked Catherine then went out to the front to wait for the buses. There were about 50 people in all; players, coaches, parents and a few siblings.
Jackie called for their attention and said, “This is probably the last time we'll all be together guys. Let's do our spirit yell one more time.”
They all gathered in a circle, 15 of them, and started to sing “Big C” as they did after every game.
On our rugged Eastern foothills,
Stands our symbol clear and bold,
Big "C" means to fight and strive
And win for blue and Gold.
Golden Bear is ever watching;
Day by day he prowls,
And when he hears the tread
Of lowly Stanfurd(sic) red,
From his Lair he fiercely growls.
What's he say? He says:
Grrrr, Rrrr, Rrrrrah!
We are Sons of California,
Fighting for the Gold and Blue.
Palms of glory we will win
for Alma Mater true.
Stanfurd's men will soon be routed
By our dazzling "C",
And when we serpentine,
Their red will turn to green,
In our hour of victory!
What's he say? He says:
Grrrr, Rrrr, Rrrrrah!
As with all college songs from long-standing universities, this one bore lyrics that were, at best, weak, not to mention the fact that they were intended for the men's sports teams. But none of the players minded that. What mattered was that they were a team representing a university that most of them loved, and they were proud to sing the traditional lyrics.
When they finished a little off-key and out of tempo, someone said, “Chant!”
Their arms still around one another's shoulders, the dim lights that lit the plants shining on their happy faces, they jumped up and down, yelling out a series of chants and calls they used when they had a man on base or were trying to get a rally going. They words were few and repetitive; but the intensity of their voices made most of the other guests follow the sound. By the time the team finished all of the other guests were standing on the driveway, clapping enthusiastically. The teammates broke apart, only to dash from one to the next, hugging and kissing each other, even though almost all of them were going to get on a bus together.
As the first bus flung its door open Ryan stood by, hugging each woman in turn. The buses filled quickly, and Coach Roberts was the last one in line. He looked at Ryan and wrapped an arm around her neck, thumping her on the head with the fingers of his other hand. “You're one lucky son of a bitch, O'Flaherty. And you can play ball with anyone I've ever coached.”
He let her go and she stood up, grinning at him. “I've had a great time being on your team, Coach. You really rock.”
“If you ever want to get into coaching, pick softball. I'd love to have you.”
“That's very nice of you. That could be fun.”
He took another look at what could only be called a mansion. “You're the perfect candidate for college coaching. There's no money it in, but you don't need another dime!”
After the bus left only family members remained, so Jamie and Ryan got busy cleaning up, no longer having to maintain their hostess roles. They refused all offers of help, even from Marta, Catherine and Jennie. Soon they were alone, the family unable to remain if they couldn't help. “We just have to get it clean enough so that the coyotes don't come down,” Jamie said.
Eyes wide, Ryan said, “You're kidding, right?”
“No, I'm serious. We can't leave any food out.”
Ryan gave her a playful pat on the butt. “I meant about the coyotes.”
“I know. That's why we can't leave food out.”
“Argggh! Will you answer the question? Are there really coyotes around here?”
Jamie blinked slowly. “Of course there are. They're all over the hills.” She turned and looked at the dark mounds. “We have to share the space. They were here first, you know.”
Ryan's eyes had narrowed and she slowly scanned the hills behind the pool. “Are they dangerous?”
“Not unless you're a cat or a small dog. We're dangerous to them when we leave food out. They get too bold and then people freak out and call the cops.” She was busy throwing paper plates into a trash bag, but she stopped and gave Ryan curious look. “Haven't you ever seen a coyote?”
“Hell, no!” She was clearly agitated, and her voice was a little high. “Where would I see a coyote? Market Street?”
Jamie giggled. “I thought everyone in California had seen them. They're all over the place.”
Taking a quick look at the mostly cleared tables, Ryan grabbed the bag from Jamie's hand and led the way into the kitchen. “That's good enough. We'll get the rest in the morning.”
Secretly charmed by Ryan's fear of wildlife, Jaime followed her into the house, determined not to snicker. Then she kissed her cheek and said, “Go brush your teeth. I'll lock up.”
It was clear that Jamie was fibbing, and Ryan looked like she wanted to argue, but she overcame her hesitation and scampered up stairs, leaving her partner to fight the wildlife by herself.
It only took her a few more minutes to properly pick up all of the edible refuse. Jamie was just about to go inside when she looked up and saw Ryan leaning on the windowsill, her eyes deeply focused on the hills. She's watching out for me from afar, Jamie thought, resolved not to tease Ryan about something that would probably embarrass her--even though she desperately wanted to.
Jamie entered room to find Ryan lying on the bed, her hands laced together behind her head, looking as though she'd been right there the entire time. “Is everything good?”
“Yep.” She checked her watch and said, “This is pretty early for an O'Flaherty party to break up.”
“Yeah, it was. Not enough cousins, I guess. The boyos are always the last ones to leave.”
“I guess the girls went home early because there weren't enough boys here.”
“I think everyone had fun. I know I did. How about you?”
“Absolutely. Your teammates are great bunch of girls. It was really nice to have Jennie keep an eye on Caitlin, too. I love being in the pool with her, but it's hard to be a good hostess when most of your guests aren't swimming.”
“Someone is going to have to lay down the law. I just hope it's not me.” She put her fingers in her ears. “That kid really has a set of lungs.”
“She's not too spoiled. It's only the pool that she's obsessed with.”
“True. But I'm sure there will be more and more things as she gets older. It only gets harder.”
“That's one more reason I'm glad we can't get pregnant just by having sex. The thought of having a baby at this point in our lives scares me, but it doesn't scare me enough to always be careful. We'd probably both be pregnant by now.” She looked down at herself. “Speaking of sex, why am I fully dressed? Why has no one rushed to undress me?”
Ryan jumped up and headed for her, fingers twitching. Jamie got under one of her partner's outstretched arms and danced around to the other side of the bed. “It's no fun if I have to beg.”
Ryan knelt on the bed, her arms still extended. “It's lots of fun if you do it right. I promise.” Jamie started to walk towards the bed and Ryan reached for her, grasping empty air. “Oh, you're as quick as a cat.”
Giggling, she flew to the other side of the room followed by Ryan, who quickly had her pinned against a wall. There was a quiet knock on the door, and Ryan muttered, “I'll murder whoever that is.”
Jamie patted her cheek and went to answer. “Hi, Jen,” she said when she opened the door. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah. It just sounded like you guys were doing something fun. The noise woke me up.”
“Oh, I'm sorry.” Jamie exited and put her arm around Jennie's shoulder and led her back to her room, which was, unfortunately, right next door. “We were just about to go to bed ourselves. We'll be quieter.”
“I can stay up,” she said, turning to look at the closed door. “We could play poker or something.”
“There's plenty of time to play tomorrow. Tonight you need to sleep.” She stood in the doorway, waiting for Jennie to get back into bed. “Sleep well. We'll see you tomorrow.”
“Okay. G'night, Jamie. The party was great.”
“I'm glad you had a good time. We did too.”
She leaned against the door after she closed it, breathing a sigh of relief that they hadn't been much further along in their plans. Going back into her own room, she whispered, “One more good reason not to have kids.”
Ryan walked over to her and wrapped her in her arms. “Oh, we're having kids. Lots and lots of kids. We'll just make sure we have a sound proof room.”
“And a big lock.”
“We'll negotiate on that.” Ryan leaned over and started to nuzzle her neck. “For now, we'll just keep trying to have a baby the hard way.”
Jamie gently pushed her away. “I can't relax knowing that Jennie can hear us.”
“Then let's move to another room. Or we could go to the pool house.” Just then they heard a long howl, then another that sounded as though it were a little further away. “What in the holy hell was that?”
“Uhm, a dog?” Jamie said, smiling ingenuously.
“Forget the pool house. I'm not going out there without a rifle.”
“You're so silly.” Jamie kissed her and then led her to the loveseat. “The other room is next to my mother's, and I'm not crazy about having her hear us either. We can chat for a few minutes while Jennie falls back to sleep.”
“Okay.” Ryan slid her arm behind Jamie's shoulders and pulled her close. “We can kiss while we wait.” She leaned in and delicately nibbled on a tempting ear.
“Uhm.” Jamie gently pushed Ryan back a few inches. “I have something I want to talk to you about.”
“Talk?” As she often did when Jamie suggested they have a serious talk, Ryan looked as though she were waiting for a beating. “Is this a good talk or a bad talk?”
She tapped her chin with her finger. “Mmm...any sane person would think it was a good talk. You? I'm not so sure.”
“Hmm.” Ryan scrunched her eyes almost closed. “What could it be?”
“Let me tell you and you don't have to guess.”
“True. But where's the game in that?”
“No game. But I want to get to the lovemaking quickly. It's easier if I just spill it.”
“But less fun,” Ryan said, pouting.
“Maybe for you, but I haven't had an orgasm tonight...or in the last week, you neglectful spouse. So my priorities are different than yours.”
“Point taken. Is this worse than the marijuana talk?”
“You might think so.” She got up and went to her desk, taking a few papers from it before she returned to sit next to Ryan. She took a deep breath and began, “Remember our stock game?”
“Well, after it became clear that we had a good track record, I thought it might be a good idea to...”
Ryan looked as though she might squeal. Her eyes were wide when she said, “You didn't use real money. Tell me you didn't use real money.”
“I kinda did.” Jamie grinned sheepishly. “Actually, I totally did.”
“That was just a game! We don't know jack about investing!”
“Yes, we do. We did 20 times better than my trust funds did.”
“That's because that money is supposed to be safe. We were gambling!”
“Honey, I have enough money to gamble with some of it. And in this case, the bet paid off.” She handed the papers to Ryan with a flourish, watching as her eyes tried to focus on the numbers.
“Holy crap.” she mumbled. “ I can't believe you did this, but I can't argue with the numbers.” She smiled as she handed the papers back. “I want to be there when you show this to your investment guys.”
“I won't show them that,” Jamie said, handing the papers back. “That's your money. I funded both of our portfolios, but I kept them separate.”
Blanching, Ryan looked at the top of the first page. There, in black and white, was her own name--alone. “What? Why? How did you...?”
“I'm tired of you thinking of our money as mine. Since I can't break you of the habit, I thought it might be better if you had your own. That's your money, sparky. All yours. To do with as you will.”
Ryan looked like a cartoon character whose head moves to and fro so frequently that it becomes a blur. She finally settled her gaze on Jamie who repeated, “It's your money. You earned it.”
A few seconds passed and Jamie watched the color drain from her partner's face. She grasped Ryan's shoulder right before all of tension left her body and she slid to the floor with the softest of “thumps,” passed out cold.
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