I Found My Heart In San Francisco

Book 13 Monogamy

By: S X Meagher


Part 7

Jamie and Catherine were the only family members to make it to the game – the rest of the crowd promising to keep Jamie in their thoughts as they continued the celebration. They arrived as the teams were changing sides at the top of the fifth inning, and immediately spotted Jennie, speaking non-stop to a sweetly indulgent Ashley. "Hi!" she called out loudly when she spotted the latecomers. "We saved you seats!"

Jamie and Catherine both smiled at the enthusiasm the young woman conveyed for the smallest of acts, and gingerly climbed the stairs. Jamie had changed into jeans and a sweater, but Catherine had not and was now the clear winner in the best-dressed attendee of a softball game in the history of the sport. Mother and daughter split up, with Jamie taking the seat on Ashley’s left, Catherine settling down on Jennie’s right.

The youngster had been in school for about a month, and Catherine was anxious to hear a full report on her progress. "So, Jennie," she began, "tell me how things are going at Sacred Heart?"

"Good, Mrs. Evans. Very good."

Catherine patted her knee and asked, "Tell me all about it. Have you made any friends?"

"Yeah," she said thoughtfully. "I have two friends so far – and a bunch of girls I talk to."

"Tell me about your friends."

Her face grew more animated as she expounded. "Dani lives in an apartment pretty close to school. She’s originally from France, though. She’s been here since she was five, I think, so she hardly has any accent, or anything. Her dad works for some French company here. And Latisha is a scholarship student, who lives near Union Square. We all get along really well – which is kinda funny, ‘cause we’re all so different." Her high-wattage grin was beaming up at Catherine, and the older woman couldn’t help but return a smile with the same intensity.

"Have you considered taking on any extra-curricular sports or clubs yet?"

"No." She furrowed her brow as she revealed, "It’s hard for me to keep up. I have to get home as soon as possible to get to my tutoring sessions."

"How is the tutoring going? I see that you and Ashley have bonded nicely."

"Yeah," she said, raising her eyebrows unevenly, in a gesture that was a poor, but adorable attempt at imitating Ryan. "Ashley and Heather are the best. They took me out for pizza last night, and we didn’t even talk about school!"

"That’s wonderful," Catherine enthused, sparing a look at Ashley, who was chatting companionably with Jamie. "Ashley is a lovely young woman."

"Hey!" Jennie jumped to her feet, turning from the field to her companions repeatedly. "Heather’s gonna pitch!"

All eyes turned to the dugout, watching the tall brunette leave the warm-up area and head out to the mound. As she crossed in front of the dugout, every player slapped some part of her anatomy for good luck, with Ryan getting in a good swat to her seat with her enormous first-baseman’s mitt. "This is her first time in a game!" Jennie cried, her enthusiasm attracting the attention of all of the other spectators near them.

Heather looked rather fierce as she took her warm-up pitches. Everyone on the bench was calling out supportive messages, and Jennie was soon joining in with them. "COME ON, HEATHER! YOU CAN DO IT!"

Catherine tried to ignore the ringing in her ear as the determined-looking freshman stood on the mound, a look of complete concentration on her face. She went into her wind-up and fired the first pitch in for a called strike, which Jennie celebrated with a scream.

Being a quick study, Catherine stood, reasoning that her hearing would survive better if her ear was slightly higher than Jennie’s mouth. The batter popped the ball up high above Heather’s head, and the tall woman grasped it firmly in her glove for the first out. The yelling continued unabated, and to Catherine’s gratitude, the next two players grounded out after only two pitches each, bringing a blessed moment of peace.

Jennie reached across Jamie to slap at Ashley’s thigh. "Wasn’t she great?"

"Awesome, Jennie," the blonde said. "She was awesome – just like we told her she’d be."

Jennie quieted down a bit after the first rush of enthusiasm. Heather continued her mastery of the plate, mowing down all three batters in the sixth and seventh innings as well. The game was still tied at one to one, but since it was only an exhibition, it would end after the bottom of the seventh, no matter the score.

"LOOK!" Jennie cried once again. All three women, turned in the direction she was pointing to watch Ryan snug on a pair of batting gloves. "Ryan’s gonna get to bat!"

The foursome watched the imposingly tall woman grab an aluminum bat and perform an intricate series of stretches to warm up her muscles – now cold after seven innings on the bench. She looked calm, focused and confident, as she squatted a few times, trying to stretch her legs out. As she bent over, her hands splayed along either end of the bat, Jamie watched with interest as she let her torso hang, again just trying to limber up. Good thing she wears her underwear with that uniform, the blonde chuckled to herself. You can see right through those pants when she does that.

"Who the hell is that?" an older man behind Jennie asked. "She’s playing the wrong sport! How’s the weather up there, stretch? Haas Pavilion is behind you."

Jennie whirled and froze him with a glower from her intense blue eyes. "That’s my friend, Ryan O’Flaherty. just ‘cause she’s tall doesn’t mean she can’t play softball, too!"

Not looking embarrassed in the least, the man said, "I didn’t mean anything by that, kid. I just think she ought to be playing basketball." His expression grew puzzled, and he asked, "Did you say Ryan O’Flaherty?"

"Yeah," she growled.

"Hey! Did hanging off that car make you that tall?"

"Jerk," Jennie mumbled under her breath.

"It’s okay, Jen," Jamie soothed. "Ryan’s had a lifetime of tall jokes. It doesn’t bother her a bit."

"Bothers me," she grumbled, as she once again focused on her friend. Ryan stepped to the plate, calmly knocking the dirt from her cleats with the end of the bat. She stood at the plate, one foot out of the batter’s box, while she spent a moment adjusting her gloves, then her helmet, then once again tapping her shoes with the bat. Now ready, she took her stance, and watched patiently as the first ball zinged right by her for a called strike.

The man called out once more, "C’mon, Kareem! Take the bat off your shoulder!"

Jamie was sure that Jennie didn’t know that the loudmouth was referring to a well-known basketball player who stood about 7 foot 4, but she was also sure that the young woman was going to snap off another retort to him. Trying to forestall her, Jamie tapped her on the leg and said, "Ryan likes to concentrate on a pitch or two to get a good feel for the pitcher."

Jennie nodded, letting that information sink it. Turning her face only halfway towards the man, she said loudly, "Some people think before they act!"

Catherine and Jamie rolled their eyes at each other as Ryan got settled for the next pitch. This one was high, and Jamie shook her shoulders out, feeling the tension knotting there. It’s an exhibition game, Jamie, she reminded herself. Chill!

Another pitch – another ball, and still the bat had not left Ryan’s shoulder. Jamie knew this was exactly the way her partner would be – patient and analytical at the plate – trying to learn as much as she possibly could from the signals that the pitcher was giving her. The next pitch was a little low, and a few inches inside, but Ryan swung at it, sending the ball skittering foul.

Letting out a breath, Jamie gave Ashley a sheepish grin and removed her hand from her leg. "Sorry about that. Hope you don’t bruise," she said.

Ashley patted her back and said, "No problem. It’s so much harder to watch than it is to play! I’m never tense when I play, but my stomach’s in knots watching these guys!"

The next ball was right where Ryan wanted it, but the pitcher had disguised her motion to make it look like her usual fastball. In actuality, it wasn’t a fastball at all, as she cut the ball just a hair by holding it with her fingers across the seams. Ryan swung, but didn’t get all of it. The ball dribbled through the infield, right past the pitcher. The shortstop grabbed it and flung it, but Ryan’s surprising speed allowed her to beat the throw by a complete stride of her long legs. As she motored past the bag, the man behind Jennie laughed and said, "She shouldn’t be on the basketball team, she should be on the track team!"

With a scowl on her face Jennie turned and said, "She could be if she wanted to be!" then folded her arms across her chest as she turned back to the action.

Jamie leaned her head close to Ashley and said, "I think we’d better sit in the car and listen to the games on the radio from now on. Jennie’s gonna get punched if she keeps this up!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan reached second base on a fielder’s choice, and with one out, she stood on second base, looking down at the very short second baseman. The next batter worked the count to 2-2, and blistered a low line-drive into right field. The fielder didn’t hesitate, firing the ball in with such force that her feet left the ground. Ryan was sprinting around the bases, catching the inner corner of the base as she rounded third, heading for home. She arrived at nearly the same time that the ball did, resulting in a fierce and noisy collision of 6 foot 3 inches of lean muscle barreling into a short, squat, muscular catcher. The crowd held its breath as the dust settled, with the umpire decisively calling, "SAFE!"

The team streamed out of the dugout, with Heather and Jackie spending a long moment untangling the catcher from Ryan’s long limbs. The various members of the winning squad clapped their hands onto Ryan’s back and head, congratulating her to the point of abuse, while Jamie, Ashley, Jennie, and a more subdued Catherine cheered in the stands. Jennie, of course, had to turn to the man behind her and gloat. "Told ya she could play!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

By the time the players had exited the locker room, it was five thirty, and the Alumni/Team dinner was due to start in an hour. "I’m barely going to have time to go home, shower and dress," Ryan worried, looking at her watch.

Catherine volunteered, "Let me take Jennie home, Ryan. Actually, I think this is a perfect night for the two of us to have dinner together. What do you say, Jen?"

"I’d love to," she said. "But I have to call Sandy first. She likes to know where I am."

"Use my phone," Jamie said, handing her the little device.

Jennie looked at Catherine as she dialed and said, "I have to be home by nine. That’s my curfew."

Catherine smiled at her earnest face and said, "I think three and a half hours is plenty of time to have a nice dinner. How do you feel about French food, Jennie?"

"Umm …" she hesitated, trying to get the answer right. "I like french fries," she offered tentatively.

"I know just the place," Catherine said as she draped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Late that night, walking home from the team dinner, Jamie tucked her hand into Ryan’s, enjoying the crisp, cool, evening. "I can see why you like your new teammates," she said. "They seem like a lot of fun."

"Yeah, they are," Ryan agreed. "It … uhm … wasn’t too boring for you, was it?"

"No, not at all, honey. Everyone was really friendly. Admittedly, the whole purpose of the dinner was to talk softball, and I don’t know a heck of a lot about it, but it was fun to watch you charm everyone."

Giving her partner an adorably embarrassed grin, Ryan said, "I tend to talk a lot when I’m with people I don’t know. It makes me feel more comfortable."

"Face it, honey, you’re a charmer. You can’t help it."

"As long as I charm you, I’m a happy girl."

When they reached the house, they were both pleased to find a note from Mia that said she had gone out with friends for the evening. "That’s a relief!" Jamie sighed. "She’s abandoned her entire support system. I gave her a pep talk today, encouraging her to reach out to her friends."

"She has seemed down lately," Ryan said. "This is the dark side of a new relationship."

"It can be dark," Jamie nodded. "She was in a very bad place this afternoon." She considered the note, saying, "I hope she’s out with her friend Aaron. He’s always been good for her."

"I don’t think I’ve met him."

"He’s been a good buddy of hers since we were freshmen," Jamie informed her. "He’s a little wild – but he’s a very sweet guy."

Ryan’s eyes bugged out. "He’s wilder than Mia?"

Laughing gently, Jamie said, "No – I’d say they’re about equals in the wild department. He’s a lot like she is, really. Very open, always willing to try something new, but also a good friend. You’d like him."

"Well, maybe I’ll get to meet him if she abandons her self-imposed isolation."

"I sure hope she does. Mia is a very social creature – she doesn’t do well when she’s alone too much."

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie came downstairs the next morning, Ryan was standing at the kitchen sink, her attention sharply focused on something in the back yard. "What’s up?" the blonde asked, startling her partner.

"Oh," Ryan said, her attention still riveted, "I was just wondering if I’d be into penises if I were straight."

"Huh? Why are you wondering that?"

" ‘Cause there’s a pair of guys playing with each other in the back yard," she said casually. "I was wondering if I could get into it." Before her last sentence was out of her mouth, Jamie was pushing her aside to get a look.

"Jesus!" the smaller woman cried. "I’ve never … Jesus!"

"They do look like they’re having fun," Ryan said. "But they’re investigating each other like they’re in slow motion. Kinda weird."

She was obviously trying to understand the dynamic, but Jamie was a bit more focused on figuring out why there were two men in their backyard in the first place, regardless of their state of undress. "You don’t happen to know those guys, do you?" Jamie asked.

"Of course not!" Ryan gaped at her. "You mean, you don’t?"

"No! Jesus! Maybe they’re strangers who wandered into the yard!"

"Oh, great! What do we do? I mean, should we let them finish?" She took a long look and said, "The darker skinned guy doesn’t look like he could walk with that chubby."

Jamie took a glance and agreed. "It is odd, the way they’re caressing each other. One of them looks like a pro, but the other doesn’t appear to have ever done this before. He looks very amateurish." She started to turn away, but whirled back to the window and ordered, "Don’t you two drip anything on my lawn furniture!"

Ryan chuckled at her outrage, but stayed right where she was, watching the men intently. "Ryan!" Jamie demanded, pulling her away from the window. "You can’t stand there and watch!"

"Why not? They’re in my yard! I’ve always wondered what it looks like when a guy gets wood, and this is probably my only chance to find out." After a few seconds a grin creased her face as she said, "It’s kinda hot. That one guy looks like he’s having a fabulous time."

"Come on, you little voyeur. If you’re not going to roust them, let them have their fun."

"Oh, I’ll roust them, all right," Ryan said. "But first I’m going to go figure out if they’re invited guests. I think our roommate holds the key to that puzzle."

Striding up the stairs, Ryan reached Mia’s room and cracked open the door. Jamie was right behind her, and she nearly stumbled when Ryan backed away, paling noticeably. "What’s wrong?" the blonde whispered.

Eyes wide, Ryan jerked her head in the direction of their bedroom. Jamie led the way and resumed her questioning. "Honey, you look like you’ve seen a ghost! What’s wrong?" she repeated insistently.

"Mia’s in bed … with a guy." She looked like she was torn between punching something and crying, and Jamie grasped at her arm, holding on tight.

"In bed with a guy? Are you sure?"

Shooting her a perturbed look, Ryan nodded quickly. "I might not sleep with them, but I recognize them, Jamie. There was a nice looking, sweet-faced guy in her bed. She was cuddled up behind him, with her arm draped over his hip." Sitting down heavily on the bed she muttered, "I thought she was serious about Jordan. Jesus! She’s gonna be devastated!"

Jamie’s concerned look lightened a bit as she asked, "Did he have curly hair?"

"Yeah. Curly, blonde hair, pink cheeks. He coulda passed for sixteen."

"That’s Aaron!" Jamie cried, now looking massively relieved. "He and Mia don’t have sex! He’s as gay as you are."

Ryan blinked at her for a moment as she absorbed what Jamie had said, then asked, "I thought you were gay, too?"

"I am," Jamie said, placing a kiss on her cheek. "I’m just not as gay as you are."

Shaking her head, Ryan mumbled, "Whatever. All I know is that I wouldn’t be happy about you being sprawled all over a guy – no matter how gay either of you were."

"I’ll go talk to her and ask if the guys in the yard are her friends. Be right back."

As she walked away, Ryan mused, I think poor Jordan might have been right to worry about Mia’s ability to remain monogamous. No matter what Jamie says, that scene didn’t look right. And as Jennie learned the hard way, you can get into plenty of trouble playing around – no matter what your sexual orientation is.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie slipped into the dim bedroom and stood quietly for a minute, letting her eyes adjust as she decided how to awaken her friend. She was relieved to see the tiny strap that drooped low on Mia’s shoulder – indicating that she was wearing some form of clothing.

Approaching her friend from behind, Jamie placed her hand on Mia’s shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. That attempt received no response, so she increased the pressure and gave her a shake. Again – nothing. She finally had to resort to tapping her cheek with her open hand – continuing the annoying contact until Mia finally lifted her hand from Aaron’s hip and weakly swiped at her. Knowing that she almost had her, Jamie leaned over until her lips were near Mia’s ear. "Come on, wake up. I need to talk to you."

A low, tortured groan was the curly-haired woman’s reply, but Jamie kept it up – entreating her again and again until Mia stopped fighting and allowed herself to wake. "What?" she husked out when she realized Jamie was leaning over her.

"Are the two guys out in the backyard your friends?" Jamie whispered.

"Oh, fuck!" With an unhappy growl, the brunette tossed the covers from herself and got to her feet. "Just what I fucking need! Try to do somebody a favor …" Grumbling under her breath, she paced in front of Jamie, heading for the stairs.

The blonde gently grasped the waistband of her thin cotton pajama bottoms, urging, "Hold on a sec, Mia. What’s going on?"

She accepted the detour that Jamie was indicating, and shuffled into the bedroom to flop down next to Ryan. Running her hands through her hair, she muttered, "Maybe I’m better off not seeing my friends, huh?"

Mia’s brow was furrowed, and her eyes had yet to fully open. From her posture and grumpy mood, Ryan deduced that she was either hung over or currently drunk, and she decided that a wake-up massage was in order. Gently, Ryan urged her over onto her stomach and started to massage her neck and shoulders.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Mia murmured, letting out several deep groans as Ryan loosened her up.

"I assume you know the boys in the yard," Ryan said.

"Not really," Mia replied, her speech a little thick and distorted. "But Aaron does. He used to date Bobby. The other guy is Mike, or Mark, or something with an ‘m’." She groaned loudly and rolled away from Ryan’s soothing hands. "I’m very sorry they’re in the yard, but they were too fucked up to let them loose on the streets."

"Where were you?" Jamie asked. "At a party?"

"Yeah. A rave," Mia revealed.

Suddenly, Jamie’s expression sharpened. "Mia," she said in a low, threatening tone, "you didn’t …"

Giving her a scowl, the curly-haired woman said, "Of course not! I made a promise, Jamie. My parents would never forgive me if they knew I was into that again."

"But the guys in the yard …?"

"Oh yeah," she said. "They both took another hit right before the party broke up. I don’t know what happened to the woman Mike or Mark, or whatever his name is, was with. We lost her at some point."

"Are you implying that he’s straight?" Ryan asked dubiously.

"Oh, yeah. He was trying to hit on me all night. I was about to deck him!" She shook her head and said, "Maybe that’s why his girlfriend disappeared. I woulda ditched him, too."

"If he’s straight, he’s obviously a member of the Open-minded Straight Guys’ Society," Ryan said, getting to her feet and going to the window. "Take a peek." Mia got up with some difficulty and walked over to stand next to Ryan, peering down into the yard.

"Oh! That is open-minded, isn’t it? Jeez, Bobby could give lessons on how to give a hummer. Great technique!" She turned to Ryan, wrinkling up her nose as she asked, "Do I really have to stop ‘em now?"

"No, don’t bother," Ryan said. "But don’t leave them there all day. Even though it’s February, they could still get sunburned if they’re outside too long. That’s some virgin skin there."

"Shit, I hope Mike or Mark doesn’t freak out when he comes down. That could get ugly."

"What are they on?" Ryan asked, turning to observe the men again. "Acid?"

"Mmm … I’m not sure. They took ‘E’ when Aaron did, but that was hours and hours ago. Either they took more, or they scored some acid. There was a lot of it floating around last night. It was quite a scene. We were out all night – just got to bed at 5:30. What time is it, anyway?"

"6:15," Jamie said, casting a glance at her watch. "Ryan, for the last time, get away from the window!"

"No wonder I’m tired!" Mia complained. She started to head back to bed, but Ryan put a hand on her shoulder.

"How would you feel if Jordan slept with a guy – even if he were gay?"

She thought about that for a second, then rolled her eyes and climbed into their bed, pulling the covers up under her chin. "Don’t tell her, okay?" she asked tentatively.

"Of course I won’t," Ryan said, scowling a bit. "But you should."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"What was that about?" Ryan asked when they returned to the kitchen. "You looked like you were ready to jump down Mia’s throat."

Jamie rolled her eyes and said, "She promised her parents that she’d never do Ecstasy again. I was worried that being depressed and going to a rave would be a combination of circumstances where it would be too tempting for her to resist."

"What’s with the promise? Did she have a drug problem?"

Jamie sipped at the juice that Ryan had poured for her. "Yeah … well … I’m not sure it was a problem, but she made it into a problem."

‘Explain, please."

Jamie nodded, took another sip of juice, and said, "When we were sophomores, she did Ecstasy every weekend for months. It didn’t bother her at first, but she started having these hangover kinda things. Then she started taking Xanax along with the Ecstasy. I think she called that parachuting, or something like that. She said it made the Ecstasy last longer, and made the hangover less severe. She got caught trying to fill a fake prescription for Xanax." Jamie rolled her eyes and said, "The goofball created prescription forms on her computer, and used her real doctor’s name on it. There was some problem with the form, probably because she wrote the prescription directions in English, rather than that weird Latin they use. So, the pharmacy called the doctor and he said he’d never prescribed Xanax for her. When she went to the pharmacy to pick it up, the Hillsborough police were waiting for her. I don’t know how she thought she wasn’t gonna get caught – but you know Mia. Thankfully, her dad talked the police out of charging her. Good thing he has connections."

"That must have been fun," Ryan said. "Given what you’ve said about her mom, I’m surprised she didn’t kill her."

"It was close," Jamie admitted. "But Mia made a solemn promise that she’d never do Ecstasy again – and when Mia makes a promise, she keeps it."

"Maybe we shouldn’t have kids," Ryan sighed, letting out a deep breath. "I’ll be worried sick about all of the trouble they can get into!"

Jamie smiled over at her and reminded her, "At least we have enough money to have them followed 24/7."

Ryan nodded, sparing a smile for her partner as she thought, Yeah, and your dad has just the guy.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The comment Jamie had made about their ability to have their children followed stuck with Ryan as she got ready for her day. Idly mulling over the implication, she made a phone call during her lunch break that surprised her, even as she dialed the phone. "Hi, Jim, it’s Ryan," she said when she reached her father-in-law on his cell phone.

"Hi, Ryan. Is everything all right?"

"Oh, sure. I wanted to ask your opinion on something. Is now a good time?"

"Sure. What is it?"

"Well, I feel a little odd even asking the question, but what I’d like is some advice on how to exact revenge against someone."

There was a significant silence, then he said quietly, "I suppose I can understand why you’d think I’d be an expert on the issue … but it still smarts to have you think that."

"I’m sorry if that hurt your feelings, Jim, really I am. But, I know that you’ve worked with a private investigator before, and I thought you might be able to tell me if hiring one would be a waste of my money."

"My feelings are a little hurt, Ryan," he said surprising himself with his honesty, "but I made that particular bed, so I can’t be upset with your assuming I lie in it. Now, who would you like to have investigated, and what do you want to find out?"

"Cassie Martin is the person, and I want anything I can use to wipe the nasty, smug smile off her face."

"Hmm … Jamie’s told me that you’re having a tough time getting over your anger at that creature. I’m so angry with her myself that I’d be willing to pay for the investigation, Ryan. What she did was unconscionable."

"I agree, Jim, and I’ll admit that most of my anger is because of what she said about Jamie. I can’t stand to see someone I love hurt."

"What’s your plan, Ryan? What do you think you might be able to use?"

"I’m not sure. I’m working on something to embarrass her, but even while I’m doing it, I know that it’s incredibly immature. I feel like a 9-year-old, but I can’t stop myself. I get a great deal of satisfaction from working on this little project – dreaming about the look on her face when she sees it."

"Tell me about your project, Ryan. Maybe there’s something we can come up with to make it work for us."

She shrugged her shoulders and confided everything to Jim, and at the end of the discussion he said, "I think your focus is misdirected. If I were you, I’d make this a two-pronged approach. I’d not only want to humiliate her – I’d want to take a pound of flesh."

"Hmm … sounds pretty harsh." She paused for a moment, and let the evil smile that was begging to get out settle upon her face. "I’m in."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jordan sat in her room, trying to keep her eyes open long enough to call Mia. They tried to keep their nightly calls brief, and they’d taken to making them right before bed, but that time was getting earlier and earlier. Finally deciding she couldn’t wait any longer, Jordan dialed Mia’s number and waited for her always-perky voice to answer. To her surprise, the always-perky voice was a little subdued, and she quizzed, "Hi. Did I catch you at a bad time?"

"Oh, no," Mia said unconvincingly. "I’m just a little tired tonight."

"Did you go out last night?" Jordan asked.

"Yeah. We had Jamie’s party yesterday, remember?"

"Uh-huh. I remember. But I also remember that it was over in the early afternoon. You didn’t call me last night, and it was your turn. I called you right before I went to bed, but you didn’t answer." Even though she had only a slight feeling that Mia was dissembling, her stomach was in her throat and her heart beat heavily in her chest. There was a short pause, then Jordan asked, "Is something going on, Mia?"

The fifteen seconds that it took for Mia to compose her answer felt like an eternity to the blonde. Jordan knew that something was amiss, and as she often did, she catastrophized the possibilities; running through a list that covered everything from fatal illnesses to outright betrayal. "Uhm … I did something last night that, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have done," Mia began. As she spoke, Jordan had to lie down, the blood rushing to her extremities so quickly that she felt faint. "It’s no big deal, but Ryan pointed out that you might not like it …"

"For God’s sake, Mia, what is it?"

"Honey … honey … calm down," she soothed. "It’s nothing horrible."

"Then tell me," Jordan got out through gritted teeth.

"Okay." Mia took a breath and tried to put her actions in the best possible light. "You’ve met my friend Aaron, remember?"

"Yes," she said tightly. "I met him on campus one day."

"Right. Well, he and I went out last night – to a rave," she added tentatively.

"Mia, you didn’t …" Jordan began, but Mia stopped her immediately.

"No, I didn’t do anything crazy, Jordy. I got drunk, and so did Aaron. He had a couple of friends there, and they had done a lot of E, so we all came back to my house."

"What happened?" Jordan snapped, her patience ebbing.

"Uhm … Aaron and I slept in the same bed." Mia said this very quietly, stunned by how bad it sounded, compared to how innocent it had been.

She could hear Jordan swallow, and then a full minute ticked by before she heard her quiet voice ask. "Why?"

Mia’s words came out in a rush. "We always have! It didn’t even cross my mind. We were both drunk, and we stumbled into bed like we always do. Aaron’s like a brother to me, Jordy, and he’s the gayest man alive. Neither of us has ever touched each other sexually, and neither of us would ever want to. I swear!" she finished plaintively.

A tired-sounding sigh left Jordan’s lips and she said, "I believe you, Mia, but it still hurts my feelings."

"But why?"

Jordan wasn’t sure what hurt worse. The fact that Mia had slept with Aaron, or that she didn’t understand why it bothered her. "That’s an intimacy that we should keep for each other," she finally said, her voice very thin. "Did you touch him or cuddle up to him?"

"Yes," she said. "It’s very, very fraternal, Jordy, but we did cuddle a little."

"Would you mind if I did that with one of my straight roommates?"

"I get your point," Mia sighed. "I’m sorry."

She sounded very contrite, but Jordan cursed their distance once again. Not being able to see Mia’s face made this so hard, and she knew they’d get past this quickly if they could hold each other again. "I know," she said. "I know you didn’t mean to hurt me."

"That’s the furthest thing from my mind, Jordy. You’re my girl."

"I am," she whispered, and Mia could hear the tears in her voice. "I’m gonna go now. Sleep well, Mia. I love you."

Mia wanted to beg her to stay on the line until she was sure they were okay, but Jordan sounded so tired that she didn’t have the heart to do so. "I love you too, Jordan. I’m so sorry that I hurt you – I’ll never do something like that again."

"I know you won’t," she said, relieved that she was confident Mia would honor her promise. "G’night."

"Night." As she placed the phone back in the cradle, Mia flopped to the bed and stared up at the ceiling in frustration. Nice job, she chided herself. You hurt Jordan’s feelings and made Ryan think you’re an asshole. Not bad for a day’s work.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie got into bed that night, Ryan was lying prone, her hands laced behind her head. Her eyes were fixed on the ceiling, and she gave a start when her partner crawled in with her. "What’s going on behind those baby blues?"

"Oh." Ryan rolled onto her side and braced her head on her hand, "I was thinking about double standards."

"Is that a math thingy?"

Ryan chuckled and shook her head. "Huh-uh. I was thinking about how you must have felt when I told you that Jordan and I slept together on road trips."

Jamie lay down on her back and snaked an arm around her partner, pulling her onto her chest. When Ryan’s head was comfortably pillowed on her breast, she began to stroke her hair, and said, "It wasn’t my favorite thing, but I was so new at being a lesbian that I thought it might be a common occurrence with your kind." She chuckled mildly to show that she didn’t harbor any ill feelings about the incident. "I knew you weren’t doing anything that I should be suspicious of – so I forced myself to swallow my unease."

"I’m sorry for that, Jamie," Ryan murmured.

"It’s okay, babe. I slept with Mia when you and Jordan were on that one road trip. Did that bother you?"

"No," Ryan said thoughtfully. "I know you’ve never been attracted to each other, and you’ve been friends for so long that you seem very much like sisters. Jordan and I didn’t have that kind of history, though, and I think it was quite obvious that she was pretty flirty when we first met."

"All an act," Jamie said, having seen through the aloof-looking woman’s facade.

"Yeah, but it still doesn’t feel the same to me. Even if you didn’t mind, I should have at least asked you first."

"Do you want me to ask you first if I ever sleep with Mia again? I might want to sometime when you’re on a road trip."

"No, it doesn’t bother me at all. If you’re feeling lonely, I want you to get comfort." She looked thoughtful again and said, "I don’t have anyone in my life that seems like a sister, Jamie, and it doesn’t seem right to me to share my bed with another woman." Nodding to herself, she looked at her partner and said, "It’s taken me a while to begin to understand what it means to be monogamous. I’ll never do that again."

"It’s okay," Jamie said. "If you ever did, I know it would be because the person really needed some comforting. It’s your nature to soothe someone who’s hurting. I don’t want you to stop being who you are."

"I think it’s best to limit it to warming someone who has hypothermia," she said. "Knowing me – that’s not outside the realm of possibilities."

"It’s a deal. Next time you’re climbing Everest, you have my permission to share a sleeping bag."

"If I ever climb Everest, I want you right by my side," Ryan insisted.

"Then that’s one place to knock off your list of possibilities," Jamie said. "You’re the tallest mountain I want to climb."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 8

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