I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 17: Quandary
By S X Meagher
Ryan finally woke at 10 a.m. on Monday morning. She was groggy and felt like there was grit in her eyes. Stumbling to the bathroom, she soaked her eyes with a warm cloth, then heard a loud noise coming from the kitchen. She went to the stairs and called out, “Is everything okay?”
Jamie's voice replied, “I think so. Don't worry.”
Ryan went back to the bathroom and heard another hissing noise that sounded like a radiator being bled. She rolled her eyes, figuring that Jamie was up to something unique. She took a long shower to get some of the stiffness out of her body, then put on shorts and a T-shirt then went downstairs to investigate.
Jamie and Mia were sitting on either side of a large stainless steel espresso machine. Jamie looked up. “Isn't it cool? My mom bought it for us in Milan.”
Ryan guardedly surveyed the machine. ”It looks complicated.”
“I think it is,” Mia agreed. “We thought you could figure it out,” she said smiling brightly at Ryan.
Nodding with interest, Ryan said, “Fine, fine. You two get out of the way and let the master work.” She picked up the large instruction manual and started trying to read it. “Who wrote this?”
“I think it would be easier if I read the Italian,” Jamie said. “Want me to translate for you?”
“It'd be a heck of a lot easier than trying to read this gibberish. What does it mean when it says to ‘turn the dial towards the sun'?”
“Clockwise, I think.”
“Oh, boy. You'd better translate—if you can.”
They sent Mia out for a pound of espresso beans while Jamie and Ryan worked together to figure the machine out.
“This does look like a lot of work doesn't it?” Jamie asked.
“Yeah, but we spend way too much buying espresso. This is a good investment.” She grinned mischievously. “Especially since we didn't pay anything for it.”
Mia returned with the beans and they used the matching grinder that Catherine had supplied. The two machines took up a third of their available counter space, but Jamie was very pleased with them. They made six test shots, and finally got the grind to the point where they all liked it. When they finally figured out how to steam the milk they succeeded in making a latte that wasn't quite as good as the ones that they bought, but was darned close.
Ryan was finally awake although a little disgruntled that it was eleven o'clock. She slapped both hands on the kitchen table and said, “Dammit! I promised myself I'd call Sandy the minute I got up!”
She went into the living room to use the phone. About five minutes later she came back into the kitchen, looking like she was about to burst. ”Something is up with Jen. Someone from school called and asked when she was going to make up her final exams. I had to listen to a long lecture from Sandy about how it's not a good idea to let Jenny skip exams and if I don't keep a hand on her she's not going to let her stay overnight anymore.” The fire in her eyes extinguished itself almost immediately and she sat down at the kitchen table running her hands through her hair several times. “What am I gonna do with that girl?”
“Do you think anyone is at school today?” Jamie asked.
“Umm, it's Monday. Even though finals are over I'm sure people are there.”
Ryan got up and went into the living room, with Jamie and Mia following close behind. She dialed and after a few transfers, Ryan was finally connected with her old friend, the principal. ”Hi, Sister. It's Ryan O'Flaherty.”
“Hello, Ryan. I was thinking about calling you.”
“Were you?” Ryan rolled her eyes knowing the axe was about to fall.
“I was. I understand that Jenny was sick for her last two finals. I was concerned though about how the situation was handled.”
Ryan was tempted to rat Jenny out, but she couldn't make herself do it. Instead, she said, “What exactly are you referring to?”
“This type of thing comes up frequently, especially for girls whose parents are divorced. Jenny's case is a little more difficult since we have to deal with not only her legal guardian, but with you and Jamie and also Jamie's mother. That's fine, on one level. But on another, we need to have one person who knows the full story. Mrs. Evans left a message on our machine early in the morning to tell us Jennie was ill, but when I called Sandy to verify, she wasn't aware that Jennie was even ill. The number Mrs. Evans left didn't seem to work, which is often a sign of trouble. I didn't worry too much, since I know all of you are working together to make sure Jennie is well supervised, but we still have to maintain our standards.”
“I can well imagine. I'm very sorry that happened, Sister. I was in Fresno, playing softball, and Catherine took over for a few days. I don't know what happened about the number. Let me give you her correct cell phone number for your records.”
“You're still playing softball? Isn't there an age limit?” Sister teased.
“There probably is, but no one has complained yet, so I'm gonna keep going.”
“Seriously Ryan, I don't have to stress to you that Jenny needs guidance. I've been very pleased with her academic progress this year. And she's fit in better socially than I thought she would. But, as she matures I think we all need to be careful that she stays on the good path.”
“I agree, Sister. I think were going to have to all get together and make sure that Jen isn't tossed around from house to house. I agree that's not good for her.”
“Very well. I just wanted to make sure we were all thinking the same way on this. When can she come in for her makeup tests?”
Ryan wanted to say she would be there in fifteen minutes but she checked herself and said, “Can I call you back later? I want to make sure of everyone's schedule.”
“Of course. Let me know, Ryan.”
Ryan hung up the phone and walked over to the sofa, draping herself along its length dramatically while she moaned, “I'm too young to have a teenager.”
“She ditched school. I assume she went to Fresno and hid like a rat so I didn't see her. After we explicitly told her she wasn't allowed to go.”
“Ooo,” Mia said. “That's big time trouble.”
“Yep. Now she can't go to the World Series, and I have to be the ogre to break her heart.”
“What?” Jane squawked. “Ryan, you can't do that to her. She would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Ryan sat up, her expression unforgiving. ”She should have thought of that before. You can't ditch school.” She sat stock still for a few seconds. “How in the fuck did she get to Fresno?” She dropped her head in her hands. “Jenny, Jenny, Jenny.”
Even though it was the last thing she wanted to do, Ryan got on her motorcycle and rode to San Francisco. Jamie was tired, and Ryan eagerly let her off the hook. She wanted to think and being alone on her bike let her do that more than just about anything else.
When she reached Catherine's, Jenny and Catherine were just starting their lunch. Marta, as usual, took the opportunity to try to force some food on Ryan, who, for a change, accepted.
They were sitting there eating when Ryan said casually, “How did you get to Fresno on Thursday, Jen?”
Jenny's fork dropped from her frozen hand and all of the color leeched out of her face, ”What?”
“You understood the question. I'd like an answer.”
Catherine said. “Jenny wasn't in Fresno,” she looked at the girl, “were you?”
“Yeah, I was,” Jenny admitted, looking down guiltily.
“How did you get there?” Ryan looked like a judge right before she delivers a death sentence.
Nodding, Ryan said, “How about Friday?”
Ryan put her fork down and composed herself, staring at Jenny until she met her eyes. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
Surprisingly, Jenny started to cry. It was almost impossible to understand her, but Ryan picked out something about the fact that she wouldn't allow her to go and how much it meant to her.
“I understand that. I've had to give up some important things too, and I know it can be hard. But what you did is really, really bad. You lied about something very important. You forged Catherine's signature on your excuse slip, and you risked your life hitch-hiking.” Her voice grew quieter but intense, almost like a laser. “After all you've been through, you hitchhiked again.” She shook her head slowly. “That stuns me. It truly stuns me.”
“I didn't have any other way…”
Ryan gazed at her for another minute. “If I let myself, I could get very mad at you very fast. I think I need to take a time out.” She balled up her napkin and tossed it on the table, looking at Catherine when she said, “I'm sorry to be so rude, but I need to be alone for a while. I'll be back.”
She walked away with both Catherine and Jenny staring at her, both too stunned to speak.
She surprised herself by driving back to Berkeley. She found Jamie sitting in the back yard and sat down next to her. “It's all bad,” she said. “Not only am I going to prohibit her from going to the World Series, I have to think of something massively important to take away from her. I'm just not sure what that should be. Can you help me?”
“What happened?” Jamie asked.
“She lied, she hitchhiked, she skipped school, she skipped exams. How much else is there?”
Jamie squeezed her eyes shut. “She hitchhiked down there?”
“Yep. She was almost raped the last time she did that, and she did it again. I have to think of some way to get through her thick head that's unacceptable in any circumstance.”
“I agree, honey, but I can't see that stopping her from going to the World Series is the right way to do that.”
Ryan stood up. “She's gonna wish that was the only thing I did.” She turned and walked back into the house, leaving Jamie staring after her.
Mia went into the kitchen, and saw Ryan sitting there mumbling to herself. “What happened with the kid?”
“I'm trying to decide if I should kill her or torture her before I kill her.”
“Oh, you sound like my mother.”
Ryan leaned back in her chair and looked at Mia for a moment. “If you did something really bad and you knew you were going to get in trouble for it, why would you do it again?”
Mia sat down, grinning at her, “Is that a serious question?”
“Of course it is.”
“The answer just seems so obvious. You do it again because what you get out of doing it gives you more pleasure than the pain from the punishment. At my house I just got yelled at, and since my mom yelled at me every day, it didn't really matter.”
“Why did you ever do what you were supposed to do?”
“I had my own set of rules. I decided if something was right or wrong for me, given the situation. I didn't let my parents' opinions influence me much, though there were times I wish I had listened to them.”
“Do you have any idea how I can reach Jenny?”
“Oh, sure, she's easy.”
Ryan stared at her, waiting for the answer. “Today!” She slapped her hands on the table.
“Sorry, I didn't know you were in a rush. All you have to do with Jenny is tell her how disappointed you are in her.”
“Yeah. Nothing else would have much impact.”
“I'd like to beat her,” Ryan grumbled.
“From what she's told me, her mom used to beat the hell out of her, and that didn't seem to do much good. I think she's the kind of kid who will be much more upset to think that you're not gonna want to see her any more.
“I'd never do that,” Ryan scoffed. “I might want to kill her, but I'd never stop seeing her.” She looked at Mia quizically. “You really don't think that stopping her from going to the world series is an appropriate punishment?”
Mia shrugged. “It might make you feel better. But it won't stop her from doing the same thing in the future.”
“How do you know that? It just seems to go against anything I've ever learned to reward a kid for bad behavior.”
“I was grounded constantly. My parents took things away from me all the time. Important things. Once, I was supposed to go to Europe with Jamie and her parents, and my parents wouldn't let me go because I'd done something bad. I cried for days, when I wasn't sneaking out through my window to do exactly what I wanted.”
She smiled evilly, and Ryan counted her blessings that Jenny wasn't nearly as tough a specimen as Mia had been.
“She idolizes you. Being part of your life means everything to her. Anyone can see that. If she really understands how much she's worried you and how disappointed you are, it might make an impact.”
“But why won't it work to show her how disappointed I am in her and stop her from going to the series?”
“It might. My parents were never rational with me so I'm not the best judge of that.” She got up and went to the refrigerator and took out the soda that she'd come to the kitchen for originally. She patted Ryan on the shoulder as she exited. “Good luck.”
Ryan went back outside and found Jamie still sitting in her chair, but now her book was lying across one leg. “What are you thinking about?” Ryan asked.
Jamie turned a little in her chair and put her feet up under herself. “I'm thinking about Jen, obviously.”
Ryan sat down and waited for her partner to continue.
“Here's what I think. We've been on the periphery of Jen's life this whole year. We step in once in a while, then we step back out. Sandy has most of the day to day responsibilities. Every once in a while my mom gets involved. But there hasn't been one person giving Jenny realistic guidelines. She's never had that. I think you're looking at her behavior and comparing it to your own.”
Ryan interrupted, “No, I'm not. I'm asking for the bare minimum here.”
Jamie said, “You have to be using yourself as the standard. That's all you have to go on. When I compare her to how I was - she's like another life form. I would never have done a tenth of the things that Jenny has done in her life. But she did what she did and she got punished in a variety of ways, none of them effective. Until we can make sure she's getting a consistent message it seems unfair to take away something so important.” She looked at Ryan. “Does that make sense?”
Ryan thought about her points for several minutes, trying to let them sink in while she tried to open her senses and just feel the early summer sun and the quiet sounds of the neighborhood. She finally said, “I think that Jenny should have to stay home. I also think she should have a full-time job this summer.”
“What? She's only 14.”
“She's almost 15. That's plenty old enough. She's old enough to hitchhike to Fresno, she's old enough to work.”
“How will that help her?”
“She might learn how to be responsible.”
“I don't think that's a good idea. I think she should be able to go to the World Series and then you should talk to her and figure out an appropriate punishment.”
Ryan looked like she wanted to disagree, but she got up and said, “Will you go with me? I know you're tired, but I think you have a perspective that needs to be heard.”
Jamie smiled at her, got up and took her hand. “There's no place I'd rather be than with you.”
By the time they got back to Catherine's Jenny was in quite a state. She was in her room and it was clear she'd been crying much of the time they'd been gone. Ryan and Jamie went in together and Jenny looked up, fear in her eyes. When Ryan saw that emotion flash across her face she felt bad for the way she'd reacted earlier. There were so few people who had been constant in Jenny's life, and she wanted to be one of the people that the girl could always rely upon. She didn't need to be her best friend, but she didn't like seeing fear in her eyes.
Jamie spoke first. “ We've been talking about what happened, and what your punishment should be. What do you think?”
Jenny stared at her. ”What do I think?” she asked, her voice thin and almost breaking.
“Yes. What do you think your punishment should be?”
“I don't know. I guess you could whip me.”
“No,” Jamie whispered, trying to hold back tears. ”Nobody is ever going to hit you again.”
“If I have to go back to my mom…” she trailed off, looking like a puppy who'd been kicked.
“That's not going to happen,” Ryan said firmly. “Unless you want to go back.”
Jenny looked at her as if she were mad.
“You know how disappointed we are in you, don't you?” She held the girl's gaze, her heart almost breaking when she saw the deep shame in Jenny's eyes.
“We've been so proud of the progress you've made in school, and how hard you've worked. And doing something like this just…” Ryan took in a big breath and as she let it out she started to softly cry. “I don't know how to reach you. I love you, and it would kill me if anything happened to you while you were doing something so dangerous. You've promised me that you wouldn't do it again, but you did. How do I make an impression on you? How do I get you to listen to me?”
“I don't know,” Jenny said softly. “I'm just a bad kid.”
“No, you're not,” Jamie said fervently.
“You are not bad,” Ryan agreed. “But what you did is bad. There's a big difference. Do you get that?”
“I guess.” Jenny was looking at anything but Ryan's piercing blue eyes.
“If you were me, what would you make your punishment be?”
“I don't know. I just don't know.”
“What do you have planned for the summer?” Ryan asked. “Have you and Sandy talked about this?”
“Not much. I'm not old enough to get a work permit. Pebbles and I are the only two who don't have any plans. I guess I'm just supposed to hang out with her.”
“What was the hardest course for you this year?”
“Algebra. I'm no good at math.”
“Okay,” Ryan said, looking resolved. “How about this for your punishment. I think you have two sessions for summer school, right?”
Looking a little ill, Jenny nodded.
“Okay, in the first session you'll take algebra II and whatever else you want. Two classes should keep you busy, since they meet every day. In the second section you'll take another math course, and another class of your choice to keep busy. I'll help you with both of your math classes.”
It struck Ryan like a blow when Jenny gave her a very dubious look. “I mean it,” Ryan insisted. “I'm out of school, and I'm not going to be playing a sport. I'll make time for you, and I will make it my priority. I promise.”
“That's a pretty bad punishment,” Jenny said. “None of my friends are going to summer school.”
“Well, none of your friends are going to the College World Series, either.”
Ryan smiled at the delight that infused Jenny's face. The girl flung herself at Ryan and hugged her while babbling through her tears. “Thank you. You don't know what this means.”
But Ryan thought she did, and she shared a wan smile with Jamie as Jennie continued to weep.
After Jenny had finally calmed down, Ryan and Jamie went to find Catherine. She was in a second floor bedroom she was using as a library, symphonic music playing in the background while she stared out through the large windows. Ryan paused at the door, both to be polite and to spend a moment looking at Catherine's fantastic view of the bay.
Jamie walked in and put her hand on her mother's shoulder. "I think we're all squared away."
"How is Jenny?"
"She's fine. Actually, she's bouncing off the walls because we relented and are going to let her go to Omaha. Oklahoma City. Wherever the darned thing is.” She smiled as her mother's face filled with delight.
"I'm so glad you're going to let her go. I know she needs to learn how to be more mature, but the poor girl has been through so much."
Ryan walked into the room and sank down into one of Catherine's sumptuously comfortable armchairs. Her brow was furrowed, and she looked like she was going to make a comment, but first she shifted her weight around, making the down filled back conform to her body. Jamie could tell by the look on her face that whatever she was going to say had been replaced by the comfort she was now experiencing. She'd learned early on that Ryan was easily distracted by anything that gave her pleasure, and she'd used that weakness to her advantage many times.
"It wasn't an easy decision, Mom. I'm still not sure Ryan is convinced it's the right thing to do.”
The light seemed to go off over Ryan's head and she nodded vigorously. "I'm almost positive it was the wrong decision, but I decided to listen to Jamie and Mia."
Jamie looked at her quizzically. "What did you learn from Mia?"
"She said she didn't think that any kind of punishment would work well with Jenny."
"Is Mia really the best person to ask for child-rearing advice?" Jamie asked, smirking.
"Yeah. Really.” Ryan grew thoughtful and said, "I actually think she's a good person to go to for advice about teenagers. She knows every one of their tricks.”
"If I had known Mia as well then as I do now I never would have let her come over to play with Jamie," Catherine said, laughing.
"You had nothing to worry about, Mom. I think we were both attracted to each other because we were so different. She rarely tried to get me to do any of the crazy stuff she did, and I had no success in convincing her to spend the afternoon sitting in the sun and reading."
"You struck out with me there, too," Ryan said, smiling toothily.
"I'm still going to work on you. I'm sure there will be a time where you're too tired to do anything more laborious than read with me."
"I guess you could be right, but it hasn't happened.”
"That's just because you've been too busy."
"No, that's because I don't like to read."
“What! But... but I've seen you reading a thousand times!” Jamie looked like she was about to faint.
"I read what I have to read. I read for information. I just don't read for pleasure." She shrugged her shoulders. "Never have. Doesn't appeal to me."
"Well, this is a fine time to tell me that!” Jamie's face was flushed and she shot an annoyed look at her mother who was giggling at her. "I'm going to marry this woman.”
"It hasn't hurt you thus far," Catherine reminded her. "It doesn't surprise me a bit that Ryan doesn't like to read for pleasure. When they invent books that you can read while running or swimming she might take it up."
"How can I be partnered with someone who doesn't like to do the thing that I like to do more than anything?" Jamie moaned.
"Reading is a solitary thing. While you're doing your solitary thing, I'll do mine."
"You'd better confess to any other glaring deficiencies you possess. Not liking to read is huge, and it amazes me I don't know that about you."
"I'll tell you all of my deficiencies when you tell me all of yours," Ryan said, sparing a sly glance at her mother-in-law who was laughing once again.
"I don't have any," Jamie said primly. "Now let's get off this depressing topic and figure out our travel plans. Ryan is going to…somewhere that begins with an ‘O' tomorrow, Mom, but she doesn't play her first game until Thursday. I think I'll go on Thursday morning. I'm going to call Martin and see if he and Maeve want to go with me.”
"What about Jenny?" Catherine asked.
Ryan spoke up. "I could pay to have her go on the plane with us tomorrow, but I don't want her to be unsupervised. I guess she'll have to wait and go with you guys."
Jamie's eyes lit up with an idea. "I know! See if you can get two seats on the plane and we can send Ashley along with Jenny. I know she'd love to see you guys play, and I bet she wouldn't mind babysitting a little bit for a free trip."
"Thursday is fine for me," Catherine said. "Shall I have my travel agent make our reservations?"
"Let me get a head count," Jamie said. "I'll call you later tonight, Mom.”
"When will we return?"
"The championship game is Monday, so I guess Tuesday," Jamie said brightly.
"You might want to leave your return the open-ended unless you want to have to spend a couple of days in Oklahoma City watching people you don't know play softball," Ryan said, grinning. "I'm an optimist but..."
"I have every confidence in you, Ryan," Catherine said, “but I almost always leave my return open-ended. I'm addicted to flexibility."
"I've got to get going," Ryan said, standing up but looking longingly at the chair she was forced to abandon. "We're having a strategy meeting late this afternoon."
Catherine and Jamie exchanged looks, but only Jamie had the nerve to say, "There's strategy in softball?"
Continued in Part 9
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