I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 17: Quandary
By S X Meagher
Because they'd been up late the night before, Jamie slept in the next morning. When she woke up, the space next to her was empty and cool. "Ryan?" she called out sleepily.
In seconds, Ryan appeared in the doorway. She braced her arms on the frame and rested most of her weight on one foot, a pose she often adopted. "G'morning."
"Why did you leave me?"
"I didn't leave you, I just moved a little." She twitched her head in the direction of her own bedroom. "I woke up at the usual time, so I thought I'd do some e-mail."
"Who's getting your attention this morning?"
Ryan sat on the side of the bed and Jamie immediately moved so her head was on Ryan's lap. Ryan started to gently massage her lover's head, saying, "You're very subtle. I never would have known that you might be amenable to a little head scratching."
Humming with pleasure, Jamie twitched around so Ryan could reach the back of her head and the nape of her neck. "You haven't told me who you were writing to."
"The usual: Aisling, Bryant, Aunt Moira, my grandparents."
"I didn't know your aunt had e-mail."
"She doesn't. I print off her letter and snail mail it to her. Same for my grandparents."
"You're a good correspondent." She put an arm around Ryan's back and snuggled close. "You're a good cuddler, too."
"I wish I could cuddle right now, but I've gotta get going. Would you like me to make you breakfast first?"
"I'm not in a rush. I think I'll wait until Mia gets up."
"How do you know she's not already up?"
"If she is, it's because she hasn't been to bed yet."
"Good point." She patted Jamie gently. "If you don't need me to cook I'm going to go over to school."
Jamie almost reminded Ryan that they didn't technically have a school any longer, but she thought better of it and just gave her another squeeze.
Ryan stood up and started for the door, but she stopped and turned back. "You don't have time to stop and see Jennie today do you?"
"See Jennie? Isn't this a school day?"
"Yeah, it is. She probably won't be back at your mom's until around four."
"I'll be over there around that time, but only to take Elizabeth to the airport. Why? What's on your mind?"
"It's probably nothing, but Marta said Jennie has been acting a little funny."
Jamie sat up and ran a hand through her mussed hair. "She has been little moody. If you think it's important, Elizabeth can wait a bit. She likes to be at the airport ridiculously early. I could probably spare twenty minutes without having Elizabeth totally freak out."
Ryan frowned, then shook her head. "I don't want to make her suffer. I keep kicking myself about not having more time for Jen, but softball takes up so many hours. As soon as this tournament is over, I'm going to rededicate myself to spending both quality and quantity time with her."
"Agreed. We both need to do a better job with that. Luckily, she can generally take care of herself."
Ryan sat back down, smiling gently when Jamie immediately put an arm around her. "I guess she can. But she's not much younger than I was when I started getting into trouble."
"You didn't get into trouble, honey. You were always a good kid."
"I'm not saying I wasn't a good kid, but I did get into trouble." She met Jamie's eyes. "The adults just didn't know."
"Oh." Jamie nodded solemnly. "You mean when you were sneaking out of the house at night."
"Exactly. I had adults who loved me, three brothers and dozens of other relatives and friends who were keeping an eye on me, and I still could have wound up at the bottom of the Bay."
Jamie tightened her hold, snuggling her face against Ryan's back. "Don't even talk like that. I can't stand to think of how lonely you were."
Ryan reached around and patted her. "Sorry. I'm probably being melodramatic." She stood up. "I think we're a long way from having kids of our own. The state would step in, given how little time we've spent parenting Jen."
"It's not that bad. We've got Marta on the case, and, if anything were seriously wrong, she would know."
"I guess you're right. Between Sandy, Marta, you, me, and your mom, Jennie shouldn't have an unsupervised thought."
After having dinner in San Francisco with Elizabeth, Jamie and Ryan drove home. Ryan had some Irish music playing, and the soft soothing tones were making Jamie sleepy. She yawned noisily and Ryan smiled at her when their eyes met. "You seem pretty sleepy for somebody who slept late."
"I think I had too much wine. I should have realized you would only have a little bit."
"It's not a crime to leave some in the bottle."
Chuckling, Jamie said, "At those prices it is. I would have had to ask for a doggy bag."
"I'd like to see the look that would have gotten. As it was, the waiter didn't believe you were twenty-one. Asking to take the bottle with you would have made him positive that your I.D. was fake."
"Why don't you ever get carded?"
"I didn't even get carded when I was seventeen. I clearly appear very mature." She made a funny face, making herself look like she was about seven. "See?"
"Yes, sweetheart, I can easily see how mature you are. You were quite adult tonight. Did you have fun anyway?"
"I did. Once Elizabeth warms up, she's really very entertaining."
"You know, she is. I was really worried. I thought it was gonna be a dreadful visit."
"Me too. At the graduation party it took me a long while to figure out she was here only to see you and talk about you. Once I showed I was really interested in how things were when you were a kid, listening to her stories was great."
"She's not good at small talk, but she's interesting if you get her talking about books. She loves reading."
"Luckily I didn't get trapped into that," Ryan said, winking. "But she really perked up tonight when you started talking about...what was that prize?"
"The Man Booker. It's like the Pulitzer."
"Yeah. Novels published in the British Commonwealth and Ireland."
Ryan shot her a quick look. "Ireland? My Ireland?"
"Yes, your Ireland. What other Ireland is there?"
"The English one. Why's the Republic involved with a British prize?"
"I don't know the politics, honey, only that Elizabeth loves to read as many books as possible on the long list. Now that I have time, I'm going to read my share so we have something to correspond about. I'm going to do my best to be as good a correspondent as you are."
"That's a pretty high bar," Ryan said, grinning.
"It is." Jamie was quiet for a few moments, then said, "It's been nice seeing Elizabeth, but I'm glad she's leaving tomorrow to meet up with her sister and their friends."
"Before tonight, I didn't know about that part of her trip. I thought she was just here for your graduation."
"No, my mom arranged for a whole big thing. That's probably how she talked Elizabeth into coming. They're going to see the Grand Canyon, then they have a couple of days in Boston and a couple in Washington DC. They'll get to see the country a little bit without having any of their flights be too long."
"It was really nice of your mom to do all of that. She's a good egg."
"Yeah, she is. I wish she'd been here, but sending Elizabeth shows me how much she tried to make my graduation memorable. I need to focus on things like that and remind myself that I'm a lucky girl."
"If you're not too tired, you can get even luckier. Wanna go for two nights in a row?" Ryan wiggled her eyebrows rakishly. "I'm leaving for Fresno in the morning, so this is your last chance."
"I'm never too tired for you, slugger. Never ever."
The next day Jamie helped Ryan get ready for her trip. "Are you sure you don't mind going to my math graduation for me?" Ryan asked. "I know it's kind of stupid, but it would really mean something to me."
Jamie put an arm around Ryan's waist, and cupped her chin to raise it. She looked at the hooded blue eyes and couldn't help smiling at her. "I don't mind a bit. Maeve's gonna go with me." At Ryan's surprised expression, Jamie added, "Your father tried to get off work early, but he couldn't do it. He really wanted to be there to hear them mention your name and all of your accomplishments, but duty calls for both him and you, so Maeve and I are gonna represent."
"You sound like Mia," Ryan said, tweaking Jamie's nose.
"You know what I mean. The O'Flaherty brand has to show up."
"I appreciate it. You know that it slays me to have worked this hard and then not be able attend either of my graduations. And I'm gonna miss this one by like…" her face scrunched up like a child's, "…an hour!"
"I'm really disappointed, too." Jamie tickled under her lover's chin, drawing a reluctant smile. "We had a party planned."
Smirking, Ryan said, "An O'Flaherty party is just an excuse to barbeque and drink beer. But it was gonna be my party. I haven't had one in months."
"We can have one when the tournament's over. It won't spoil it if it's late, will it?"
"Nah. I guess that's one of the prices you pay for participating in sports. I've missed more than my share of things I wanted to do because of one game or another."
"You don't regret it, do you?"
"No, not a bit. I mean, you play a sport so that you can excel at it, right? I'm really excited about getting to play in a regional; it's sort of the capstone of my college athletic career. Even if we don't go very far, and everyone is saying we won't," she commented with disgust, "I'm excited."
""I''m really sorry you have to miss your graduations, though. It just doesn''t seem fair."" "I don't know who told you that life is fair," Ryan said, smirking, "but they were lying."
The softball team traveled to Fresno via their usual bus. The majority of the players liked to sit next to one another, but Ryan and Jackie, befitting their status as seniors, usually stretched out across both seats in a row and spent the trip talking to one another over a seat back. This time, Ryan was in the front pair, and she reclined one of the seats so she could talk to Jackie through the opening between the seats. Jackie had both of her seats reclined, and she rested against the window, patiently listening to Ryan who was too worked up to relax.
"Why don't these kids realize that half of the battle is confidence?" Ryan whispered hotly. "A lot of them seem satisfied to have reached the playoffs. That's bullshit!" Her eyes had taken on the color of polished aluminum, and they glittered in the late afternoon sunlight.
Jackie shrugged, not looking very concerned. "I think they know that, but they tend to forget it. It's like when you go from high school to college. Logically, you know it's just a step up, and that you'll be able to handle it. But I think most people get scared that they won't be able to cut it. You forget how competent you are, and you focus on how much you don't know."
Clearly irritated, Ryan said, "What kind of crap is that?" Jackie laughed, and Ryan's voice grew louder. "I mean it. When I was in kindergarten I was itching so badly to get into grade school that they almost had to lock the door so I wouldn't leave and try to sneak into the second grade room."
"Why not first grade?"
"My brother was in second grade, and I wanted to show that I could keep up with him. That's what competition is all about."
"What? Jumping ahead?"
"No!" Ryan looked like she was about to spit. "Doing your best. Always wanting to be challenged."
"Most people aren't like you, Rof. Most people assume they can't do something until they see evidence that they can."
"That's not true!" Ryan's expression softened and a look of uncertainty flashed across her face. "Is it?"
Laughing again, Jackie said, "I think it is, dude."
Glum, Ryan leaned her head against the seatback and was quiet for a few minutes. When she spoke again, she used her normal voice, not the half whisper she had been relying on to keep their conversation between the two of them. Most of the other women had been talking softly, if at all, and Ryan's voice sounded unusually loud. "Did I tell you about my dream last night?"
"No, and I'm not sure I want to hear about it now. Knowing you, it probably involves Jamie and things I don't like to think of her doing."
Jackie's chuckle made Ryan laugh. "You don't mind thinking about me doing those things?"
"Nah. You're like some kind of wild animal—you can't help yourself. But Jamie seems kinda…delicate or refined or something."
"She's something, all right, but I didn't dream about her. I dreamt about being at bat in Oklahoma City in the championship game, facing Arizona."
"Was that a dream, or a nightmare?"
"It was a dream. A great dream." Her voice grew louder still, and most of the other conversations stopped. "It was the fifth inning and we were scoreless. No outs, man on first. I worked the count to three and one and knew the next pitch was gonna be a good one. The pitcher certainly didn't want to walk me with no outs and you coming up after me."
"Cool. It's nice to know I'm a threat even in your dreams."
Ryan allowed her a quick smile and continued. "I didn't get all of it, but I got enough to send that ball right back at the pitcher. She couldn't get her glove up in time and it hit her on the thigh." She smiled, looking almost serene. "The feel of the ball coming off my bat gives me chills even now, just thinking about it."
"You didn't go deep in your dream? What kind of dream is that?"
"My favorite kind. The kind where I dream about making the most of a situation. The pitch wasn't in my wheelhouse and I knew I couldn't drive it, but I could get my bat on it and hit it hard. Then you came up and drove in two runs."
Jackie smiled brightly. "Cool. I'm the hero, even in your dreams."
They both heard a smattering of quiet laughter. "You were a hero, but only because you did your job. Because there were two men on and no outs, the infielders were playing in. You were able to squeeze a single in the hole where the second baseman should have been. You would've been an easy out if we hadn't been on base, so we were all heroes."
"But I'm the one with two RBIs," Jackie said proudly.
"True. But I wouldn't have gotten as good a pitch if Lupe hadn't been on first." She tried not to smile when she heard the young woman in question whimper. "Those are my favorite kind of dreams. The ones where I really enjoy the beauty of a team sport."
"What is the beauty of a team sport, you eloquent devil?"
"You know damn well what it is. It's relying on each other when you're in a slump, and helping your teammates out of a jam when they need it. It's as close to a family as you can get without being related."
Smiling contentedly, Jackie said, "That's true. I've always played team sports mostly because there aren't many individual sports that cater to a woman of my impressive size. I don't know what it would be like to be all alone out there."
"I ran track in high school, but I much prefer team sports. For me, it's more rewarding to have a bunch of people to share the good times and the bad."
Jackie was talking as loudly as Ryan was, and the rest of the players were completely silent. "I'm really glad you joined the team, O, and I'm glad you don't resent my big butt keeping you out of the lineup. We both know you're a better all-around player than I am."
"We don't know that," Ryan said dismissively. "This lineup got us to the NCAAs. I'd rather every one of us got to play every day, but that'd be cheating. Besides, you and I wouldn't both fit on the first-base bag. I'm happy to play my role."
"I've been wondering about that. What is your role, anyway?" Jackie asked, grinning at her friend.
"My role is the same as everybody else's—to do what's asked of me."
"You know, if I were Florida, I'd be scared shitless to play a team that can afford to keep you on the bench."
"They should be afraid," Ryan said, her expression so intense as to be frightening. "They should be very, very afraid."
On Wednesday afternoon, Jamie drove to Pacific Heights to pick up Elizabeth. She was feeling anxious, even though she knew it was childish. She doubted that she'd ever feel like a real adult around Elizabeth, even though she'd been a miniature adult for most of her life. But as much as she cared for her former nanny, they would always have a power imbalance. Since Elizabeth had been the disciplinarian in Jamie's life, she, even more than Catherine or Jim, was the one that Jamie felt she had to impress. Not in terms of achievement—Jim and Catherine were the objects in that department—but in terms of behavior. And even though Elizabeth had been perfectly polite toward Ryan, Jamie knew that a lecture was imminent.
She hadn't talked to Ryan about it. She assumed that Ryan thought the battle was over once she had worked her charms on Elizabeth. But Jamie knew better. Elizabeth would never, ever chide her about something in public, even if only Marta was present. And even though this was her fourth day in town, Jamie and Elizabeth hadn't been alone yet. Now that she was faced with the prospect of just the two of them, Jamie could feel herself tensing up the closer she got to the house.
It took quite a while to find a parking space in Pacific Heights at the best of times, but Jamie was distracted and missed two perfectly good spots which were, as would be expected, snapped up immediately. She finally found a space and had to jog to get to her mother's house on time.
Elizabeth opened the front door before Jamie had reached the first step. In a mildly annoyed tone, Elizabeth said, "I've already said my goodbyes to Marta. We'd better be off or we'll be late."
Jamie knew they had plenty of time, but she also knew that Elizabeth was hyper-punctual, and she didn't want to make her trip stressful. "I don't want you to have to walk all the way to the car, so I'll take your bags down to the curb and then come by and pick you up."
"All right, if you're sure that's the best idea."
"It is. I'll be back in a few minutes." As Jamie took off running, she realized that having a little physical activity was good for her. By the time she reached the car she was less anxious than she had been earlier, and she felt more lighthearted when she pulled up to fetch the luggage.
The bags were heavy, and Ryan's car was much higher than her own. She found herself favoring her recently broken arm and she started to giggle when Elizabeth stood behind her and offered only rousing verbal support. There was something funny about an elderly woman exhorting her in a refined British accent while Jamie did everything but kick the suitcases to get them into Ryan's car. By the time she finally succeeded, she was panting and wiping the sweat from her brow.
"Everything is so difficult in this city," Elizabeth said. "It's as bad as London. I can't imagine why your mother spends most of her time here. Hillsboro is so much lovelier."
"I suppose it is," Jamie agreed, "but I think we'll both wind up here. Mom really seems to enjoy it, and Ryan's family lives nearby."
"Yes, I suppose they do."
Jamie was quiet for a few moments, but she could tell Elizabeth had something to say. They had spent far too many years together for her to miss the clear signs. Finally she heard the unmistakable throat clearing.
"I was quite surprised when your mother invited me here."
"Yes. I'd assumed that you'd cut ties with me," Elizabeth said with typical directness.
Startled, Jamie said, "I would never do that. What made you think…" She snuck a quick look when she heard what sounded like sniffling. "Elizabeth," she said soothingly, seeing that Elizabeth had removed a handkerchief from her purse and was dabbing her eyes. "What's wrong?"
"I've always felt very maternal towards you. I was fully aware of my place, but my feelings for you were deep and genuine. I've always wanted only the best for you."
"I know that. And I feel very close to you, too."
"It certainly hasn't seemed so. Ever since I wrote to you after your traumatic experience, I haven't heard a word. I assumed you thought I was meddling where I didn't belong."
"No, no, that's not true. You've earned the right to say anything to me, Elizabeth, anything at all. It's just that that was such a tumultuous time…"
"I can hardly imagine," she said, her voice breaking again. "At least twenty times I've sat down and written you again, but I've never been sure of what to say. I know it was insensitive of me to express my feelings about your…attachment right after you'd been through so much, but I was so shocked. Astounded, really. I sent that letter before I had time to think it through more thoroughly."
"Honestly, you have nothing to apologize for. Like I said, it was a very difficult time for all of us, particularly Ryan, and I've spent much of the last few months trying to help her get back to normal. It's not that I haven't thought about you, but it's been hard for me to figure out exactly how to respond."
"You're not angry?"
Seeing how troubled and upset Elizabeth was made Jamie feel like an utter heel. "No, I'm not. I was certain you wouldn't approve of my relationship with Ryan, so I wasn't surprised to hear you express that sentiment."
Her sharp mind clearly undiminished, Elizabeth turned to her and asked, "Did you read the letter?"
"No, to be honest, I didn't."
"But you know what I said."
"Only in general terms. My mom went through all of the mail and she removed anything that she thought might upset me. So she just gave me a brief summary of the notes from most of my relatives and you." She snuck a glance when traffic allowed and was surprised to see Elizabeth smiling at her.
"That's a very good thing. Your mother has developed some excellent instincts." Her smile grew brighter. "I can tell how much closer you two have become." She reached across the car and patted Jamie's leg. "I think that's lovely. Simply lovely."
"You do?" Jamie turned quickly to see Elizabeth almost beaming at her.
"There's nothing I want more. Even though you're an adult, you still need protection from the outside world. It thrills me that your mother is giving that to you. I can rest easily now."
"Do you want to talk about my relationship with Ryan?"
"I think not."
"You can say anything you want to. I'm in a good space now."
Mildly perturbed, Elizabeth said, "Whatever does that mean? Is that some Americanism?"
"I suppose so," Jamie admitted, nodding. "I just mean that I'm feeling good. I don't feel as vulnerable as I did then."
Elizabeth was quiet for a few moments, then she said, "Is there anything I could say that would convince you to change?"
"Change my sexuality?"
She could hear Elizabeth wimper softly.
"Yes, I suppose that's how you'd put it."
"No. There's nothing you, or anyone else could say to make me stop loving Ryan. There have been times in the last year when I thought my relationship with my father might end because of my choices, but that wouldn't have changed my mind, either."
Elizabeth let out a startled gasp. "Your father? He doesn't approve?"
"No, he doesn't, but he's trying to come to terms with it. It's been a bumpy road."
"I can't imagine you distancing yourself from your father."
Jamie's voice took on the calm, assured tone that it often did when she was speaking of something that meant a great deal to her. "You know how much I love my father. I would have severed that connection to protect my relationship with Ryan. That's how much she means to me."
"I can see that; I can hear it in your voice. And if there's one thing I know about you, it's that you don't back down once you've made a decision."
"I can be pretty intractable," Jamie admitted, smiling at her.
"Intractability isn't a vice when it's in the service of something that's truly important." She took in a breath and added, "Your relationship is clearly that."
"Thank you," Jamie said. "Thanks for acknowledging that."
"Your grandfather seemed part of the crowd," Elizabeth said, changing the subject.
Jamie detected a bit of disapproval in her tone. "He is. He's very fond of Ryan and her family."
"I suppose he's supportive of your...attachment."
"He is. The Episcopal Church in San Francisco performs gay marriages, you know. He's going to marry Ryan and me this August."
"Well, well." A heavy sigh accompanied her words. "This underscores why the Anglican communion is in such disarray."
Jamie had been following the serious problems the church was having in keeping all of her churches held together, and her beliefs clearly followed those of the more liberal churches. But Elizabeth had always been a "high church" adherent, and Jamie was fairly sure her affiliation hadn't changed. "It's always hard when a large organization is in a state of flux. I'm confident there will be an eventual agreement."
"I'm not so certain. Sometimes I think I should excuse myself from the whole mess and become Roman Catholic."
Trying not to laugh, Jamie mused for a few seconds about seeing Ryan and Elizabeth passing one another as they each drifted into the other's church based on their theological differences. "I've been going to Ryan's church, which is Catholic, more often than I've been to Poppa's. I'm not sure where we'll end up, but we'll decide prior to having children."
"Children?" Elizabeth asked weakly. "You're planning on having children?"
"Yes." Jamie didn't add anything, allowing the older woman to deal with the concept on her own.
It took a while, but traffic was slow so Elizabeth had plenty of time to mull things over. "I have to remind myself that things are different for you in many ways. Your wealth, your name, and even this city allow you to do things that wouldn't have been considered, much less tolerated, when I was a girl."
"I'm sure that's so. It's a different world."
"It is," Elizabeth agreed, sounding surprised. "It's an entirely different world here." She was quiet for another few minutes, then said, "This isn't the life I want for you, but you seem to be clearheaded about the whole thing. And Ryan's a lovely girl."
"She is. I think she's the loveliest girl in the world."
Elizabeth patted her again. "The sparkle in your eyes when you talk about her says a great deal. I just wish it could be directed at one of her brothers."
She let out the soft, almost melodic laugh that Jamie had heard so many times in her life. She felt herself misting up at the sound, and she reached over and took Elizabeth's hand, which she held for the duration of the trip.
Continued in Part 4
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