I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 17: Quandary
By S X Meagher
Ryan hung up the phone on Sunday morning, looking at Jamie plaintively. "I love having my family here, and it's great to have your mom and Jennie and Mia and Jordan. But everybody looks to me to arrange everything." She sighed heavily. "How am I supposed to know where all of us can eat breakfast? Every time I've been to Fresno I've been on a team bus. I'm not a travel agent."
Jamie was fresh from the shower, and she sat down next to Ryan on the bed while rubbing her head with a towel to get some of the water out of her hair. " I know. It's a mixed blessing, isn't it?"
"It is. But I hate that it is," she said earnestly. "I want to enjoy having them here, but it adds more pressure."
" You've got a lot on your mind. I should've taken over from the start. You go take a shower and then hang out with your teammates. You need to be in a good mental space to play today, and wrangling this crowd isn't going to help you."
Ryan looked like a guilty child. "Could I really do that?"
" You can. Now get going." She leaned over and kissed Ryan quickly. " You have been resolved up all responsibilities… other than playing like a star."
Ryan kissed her back and gave her a firm hug. " It's great to be in a relationship," she said, giving Jamie such a happy smile that it warned her heart for hours.
After Ryan left Jamie got the phone book out and found that the only place they could all have breakfast was an IHOP just down the freeway. She called everyone and they agreed to meet in the lobby in 15 minutes. Jordan was the first to show up, and she signaled Jamie to join her in a darkened conference room. "We're supposed to go back this afternoon, but if Ryan wins the first game I want Mia to stay. Will you help me work on her?"
" Does she want to stay?"
" Yeah. A lot. But we planned on going home together and she hates to abandon me. Her term," Jordan added, smiling wryly. "She says she needs to go home and get ready to go to Amsterdam."
" Right," Jamie nodded, having forgotten the trip. " She's going with her mom, right?"
" Yeah. I leave Friday and she and her mom are coming over on the 29th."
"When is that? I hardly remember what month it is."
"A week from tomorrow. Knowing Mia, she'll throw some things in a bag while the cab is outside honking."
" Yeah, it is hard to imagine her spending a week getting ready for anything."
" She's extemporaneous," Jordan said, smiling the way she often did when she spoke of Mia.
The early afternoon game produced much more tension than it did runs. Florida looked far sharper than they had during their first game against Cal. They were tied at one for much of the game, but Cal squeezed out a run in the fourth inning that they managed to make stand up, winning the emotional game 2-1.
The final out had barely shown on the scoreboard when Jordan started to work on Mia. To her relief it didn't take much persuasion. Mia simply looked at Jamie and said, "Would Ryan like it if I stayed?"
" Yeah, she would," Jamie said honestly. She looked at Jordan. "She'd like it if you could stay, too. But I know you don't have any flexibility."
"If I listened to the gossip in Colorado I shouldn't have been here this long." Her eyes grew wide when she realized what she had said and she hurriedly added, "But I don't listen to it. It's all bull. Everything is cool."
Mia looked at her, anxiously scanning her features. "Are you sure?"
"Completely." She put her arms around her and hugged her, making a face at Jamie that looked like a little girl that had just escaped a lecture.
Between games, Jamie and Mia sat in the stands and watched Ryan and Jordan chatting on the field. "Aren't they cute together?" Mia asked. "Not cute like girlfriends. Just cute."
Jamie knew that Ryan was tense. The game against Fresno State was the most important one of her career. If they won, the team went to the College World Series. If they lost, they went home. But it wasn't just going home for Ryan. It was her last game as a collegiate. And no matter what she did for fun for the rest of her life, nothing would have the same panache as playing on a college team.
But as they watched Jordan and Ryan leaning on a fence while they chatted, no one could have guessed that she was anxious. There was a way the two athletes had of interacting that made both of them look both casual and very sure of themselves. Even at the beginning of their friendship, when Jamie wasn't sure whether she liked Jordan or not, she'd always thought that Jordan brought out some indescribable quality in Ryan. But even though she couldn't clearly state what it was, Jamie loved it. And she had a feeling that Mia was referring to just that quality when she said they were cute together.
Fresno State was taking batting practice and Ryan and Jordan stood near a short fence, watching them. They looked a little like a pair of cowboys picking out a horse at auction. If one had to guess, they would've been picked as the people in charge, even though they weren't. It wasn't just that they were taller than everyone else, either. They both had a maturity about the way they moved that made both of them seemed older than their years. There was also a cockiness that both of them had in excess. Jordan's usually only came out when she was playing a sport, but Ryan's was a near constant.
It was that cockiness that Jamie found so adorable in both her partner and their friend. She was sure it wasn't just happenstance that had Jordan wearing her USA volleyball T-shirt today. She was proud of herself and her accomplishments, and Jamie found that enviable.
Ryan often talked with her hands. But Jamie noted she didn't do that very often when she was with Jordan. Instead, she made subtle gestures with her head. A nod here, a slight incline there. It was as though they were both too cool to have to do anything too histrionic.
Jamie assumed they were talking about the upcoming game and Jordan's trip. But it was impossible to tell by looking them. They just looked like the supervisors who were out to make sure all the employees were working at full speed.
Ryan reached into her back pocket and pulled out a packet of pumpkin seeds. She pressed on the outside edges of the pack, opening and then extending it in Jordan's direction. "Want some?"
Jordan shook her head. "I'm not sure those are on my list. Besides, I've never played an outdoor sport, other than track, so I never learned how to spit the seed shells out."
"It's a skill," Ryan agreed. She tilted her head in the direction of third base. "That's her."
"No. She's a player. I'm talking about the coach."
"Really?" Jordan was quiet for a few seconds, then said, "I never would've guessed."
"Why? She was a lot of fun."
"Not to make an obvious point, but she looks like she's a whole lot of fun. She's a very big woman."
"She's stocky." Ryan narrowed her eyes, looking at the woman more carefully. "She's in better shape now than she was when I slept with her."
"She could easily stand to lose 30 pounds."
"Eh. That never mattered to me."
"Really? It matters to me. Not just because of looks, even though that's part of it. I just couldn't be with anybody who wasn't in shape."
Ryan smirked and uttered a low laugh. "Let's hope Mia never has an accident. You'd look like a real jerk for dropping her because she was in a wheelchair."
Jordan flicked Ryan's head with a finger. "Mia is grandfathered in. But I wouldn't like it if she stopped exercising voluntarily."
"It wouldn't bother me too much if Jamie stopped. I think she looks hotter with some extra weight, which she gains easily because she eats real meals now, but she doesn't like it."
"I don't know what Mia would look like if she stopped exercising, so maybe I'd better reserve judgment."
"She wasn't doing a thing when I first met her. I mean nothing." Ryan chuckled. "The first time we worked out together she was whining at doing reps with 2 pound weights."
Jordan smiled, looking very amused. "That's my girl. Was she chubby?"
Ryan shook her head forcefully. "No, not at all. She was way too skinny. So was Jamie. They were both skinny fat."
Jordan was quiet for almost a minute. Ryan continued to watch the pitcher very carefully. "Why didn't you ever hook up with Mia?" Jordan asked, her voice betraying no emotion.
A few pumpkin this seeds flew from Ryan's mouth, and she coughed a couple of times. "Damn, that came out of left field."
"Mia told me she asked you that, and that you evaded the question." She laughed softly, then a little louder when she got a look at Ryan's face. "She's interested," she said, shrugging.
"What about you? Are you interested? Mia tells me you don't ever ask her personal questions."
"I'm not interested in general, but it has crossed my mind. I think you two would have been drawn to each other, and I've wondered why it didn't happen."
Ryan put the bag up to her lips and tapped on the end of it making a few seeds fall into her mouth. Then she spent a few seconds neatly folding the bag up and putting it back in her pocket. She bit on a seed then spit a shell a good 5 feet. "I don't think I'd better answer that question."
Jordan poked Ryan with one of her sharp elbows, catching her right under her ribs. "Is my girlfriend the only woman you weren't attracted to?" She sounded a little upset, and it took Ryan a few seconds to answer.
"Why did this come up in the first place? And why did Mia tell you she asked me?"
"I'm not sure why she wants to know. Things just occur to her and she wants answers."
"Why did she tell you about it? Doesn't that make you jealous?"
Jordan's expression betrayed her puzzlement. "Why would something that happened before I knew either of you make me jealous?"
Shrugging, Ryan said, "I dunno. But Jamie wouldn't like it if I told her I was hot for Mia."
"So were you?" Jordan lightly punched Ryan in the shoulder. "Tell me."
"Look. Here's how it is. Jamie get jealous pretty easily. I've gotten in trouble already, and I don't want to repeat it."
"I'm certainly not going to tell Jamie. You and I have a lot of things we keep private."
Ryan nodded. "It's not that. I know I can trust you." She gave Jordan a half smile. "But I can't trust your girlfriend. She has no filter."
"You've got a good point. So I won't tell her. Now spill it."
"Okay." Ryan sighed. "Just between us, right?"
Ryan started to tick her points off on her fingers. "One—I had no idea she was into women. Two—she had a steady boyfriend. Three—she was a client more than a friend. Four—I didn't realize it at the time, but there was only one woman in the house I was focused on."
"I don't believe you didn't realize that at the time, but whatever. You still didn't answer my question. Were you attracted to her?"
Ryan turned and regarded Jordan for a moment, a smirk firmly affixed to her face. "Have you looked at your girlfriend recently? I'm not going to do it, but I could start at the top and work my way down, pointing out all of the highlights."
"She's wonderful, isn't she?" Jordan asked, sounding as lovestruck as Ryan had ever heard her.
"Yeah, she is. I don't think either of us would have been interested in the other for a long-term girlfriend, but you'd have to be crazy not to be attracted to Mia. And I'm not crazy."
"Great. That makes sense."
Puzzled, Ryan said, "You look happy that I thought your girlfriend was hot."
"I am. You slept with almost every vaguely bisexual woman at Cal. It seemed like you thought Mia wasn't good enough for you."
Ryan laughed, shaking her head. "Mia was more than good enough for me. I just didn't let myself think of her in those terms. She was always off limits."
"Cool. That's settled." Jordan concentrated on the players again, and a few minutes passed in silence.
"Actually," Ryan said, reflectively. "I'm glad I didn't know Mia was into women because I'm sure I never would've had a shot at Jamie if I'd hit on her best friend. I'm not sure how I know this, but Jamie never would have forgiven me."
"Thank God I don't have that problem. I wouldn't know how to deal with jealously."
"I don't know how to, either. It's all trial and error, and I've made too many errors already."
Once Cal took the field for warm-ups, Jamie winced in sympathy when she saw her partner go down into a squat for the first time. She saw the slight hitch when Ryan tried to get up quickly and knew she must be in pain. When Ryan had woken up that morning Jamie could see how sore her thighs and hamstrings were. Ryan had grumbled a little about not having prepared properly, but Jamie didn't even bother to try to dissuade her from that ridiculous notion.
Jamie was quite sure Ryan had never squatted behind home plate before she was called in the other day. There was only so much preparation one woman could do, and Jamie was confident Ryan had gone far beyond what most of the other players did. But she knew that had almost no relevance for Ryan. She was the third string catcher and she should have been ready to catch at a moment's notice. That was her belief, and there was no convincing her otherwise. Luckily, by the time the game started she had worked the stiffness out and was moving fluidly and easily.
It was impossible to say why some games seemed preordained. But from the first pitch Jamie was confident that Cal was going to win. She hoped Ryan felt the same way, and she reminded herself to ask her later if that had been true. It must have been a vibe that was strong because Brendan also mentioned it, and Conor and Rory agreed. Only Martin reserved judgment, since he was, at heart, a pessimist.
It seemed as though Jennie took after him. She worried over every ball and every throw. Even though Cal scored two runs early and Fresno looked frustrated, as though they were pressing, Jennie was still sure that every base runner meant certain doom. At the end of the game, which Cal won two to nothing, Jennie looked as surprised as anyone in the stadium, including the highly ranked Fresno State Bulldogs.
"We won," she said, looking completely stunned then, louder, "We won!" She started jumping up and down, and before Jamie could stop her she ran down the aisle, shimmied over the fence and started running for the players, joyously jumping up and down around the pitcher's mound. Ryan caught sight of her and the security guard who was hot on her heels. She took off running, and pulled Jennie toward her, then turned to face the guard and tell him that Jennie was allowed on the field. Jamie and Catherine watched the whole scene, mouths agape.
"I don't think I could have stopped her if I'd tried," Catherine said.
"I know they're not related, but that's just the kind of thing Ryan would do. I guess that's why they're buddies." she beamed at her mother. "We're going to Omaha!"
"Oklahoma City," Brendan said. "Different state."
Even though Ryan wanted to drive home with Jamie, she knew that Jennie would get a charge out of riding on the team bus. So she kissed everyone goodbye and convinced Coach Roberts to let her young friend accompany her.
Ryan didn't walk in the front door until two a.m., finding Jamie asleep in the living room, a novel open on her belly. She crossed the room to wake her and was struck with the thought. Damn it! I didn't call Sandy today to ask if Jen could stay with Catherine for a while. Another promise broken!
Continued in Part 8
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