I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 4: Disclosures

By S X Meagher



See Part 1

Part 12

As they stood on the 18th tee, waiting for the group ahead of them to clear the landing area, Jim Evans looked at his only child with obvious pride. When Jamie had told him the previous weekend of her plans to try out for the golf team, he was so excited she thought he might hyperventilate. Only her embarrassed pleas kept him from boasting about her during the entire round that they had played with the Christophers. Now that they were alone, however, he kept up a running commentary about his plans to aid her future development. "You like working with Chip down at the beach, don’t you?"

"Yes, he helped me a lot," she admitted, acknowledging that her game had improved significantly under his tutelage.

"Why don’t you spend your weekends down there? There is nothing to hold you in Berkeley. Actually, why not stay down there until school starts?" he suggested, the excitement showing in his voice. "You could hire Chip to work with you full-time. I’m sure the club would be happy to let him…"

"Daddy," she interrupted. "I don’t want to spend my summer in Pebble Beach."

"Why not, Honey? There’s nothing holding you in Berkeley, is there?" He looked puzzled by her refusal to accept his eminently logical suggestion.

"Just my life," she replied, a flicker of irritation showing on her face.

"What?" he asked, now even more puzzled.

"I live in Berkeley, Daddy. I have things I do, people I see. I don’t want to give that up."

"Well, of course you do, Jamie," he agreed with a small laugh. "I don’t think you live in an isolation tank. But you need to make some sacrifices to achieve a goal like this."

The determination in her eyes grew brighter as she insisted, "I know that, Daddy. I’m very willing to make sacrifices, but leaving my home is not one of them. I’m sure I can find someone in the San Francisco area who can help me out also."

"Oh, well, I didn’t know you felt that way," he said, the confusion continuing to grow on his face. He wasn’t used to Jamie having such firm convictions, but he shrugged it off and got back on track quickly. "Mark Griffin, here at Olympic, is very good. After the round, let’s have him take a look at your swing and see if he’d like to work with you. What’s your schedule like during the week?"

"I’ve decided to start running again, so I’ll do that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I lift weights on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I’ve played or practiced nearly every day since I set this goal, so my afternoons have been dedicated to golf. I guess afternoons would be the best time to work with Mark, if it works out."

"Great," he said, a broad smile now covering his face. "Maybe we should find someone to make sure your weight program is up to snuff."

Jamie’s eyes narrowed as she approached her ball. Unleashing some of her frustrations, she sent the innocent little white orb on a screaming flight right down the center of the fairway. "I have someone, Daddy," she informed him firmly.

"Oh," he said, nodding at the memory. "Is your friend…Ryan…still working with you?"

"Yes, she is," she said simply, not wishing to elaborate at this point.

"I’m sure she’s a great friend, Honey, but are you sure she’s competent? Anybody can call themselves a trainer, you know."

Swallowing her ire, she affixed a smile and said, "I’m certain that she’s competent. We work beautifully together, and I have no plans to switch."

She noticed the confused look he shot her way as he addressed his tee shot, but offered no further comment.

Walking back to the cart he said, "I don’t remember you being very interested in running. When did you start?"

"I’ve been running with the volleyball team. Ryan just made the team as a scholarship player, and I thought it would be a good motivator to keep me moving. I don’t want to look like a wimp in front of those real athletes!" She was still miffed about his attempts to direct her life, but she had to admit that he was only exercising his right of eminent domain, as he had since she was born. She knew that he would not stop without a good deal of work on her part, and she knew that the path would not be terribly smooth.

"That’s pretty impressive," he said. "She must be quite an athlete."

"She had her pick of soccer, volleyball or field hockey." Her obvious pride was impossible to hide, and she made no real attempt to do so. "She’s really unbelievable."

"Well, she certainly has the body of an athlete," he said appreciatively, a smile crossing his face that rankled Jamie to the core. She was about to snap off a sharp comment when he saved her by asking, "Did she play before?"

She shook her head to clear it, reminding herself that telling her father to keep his eyes off Ryan’s body was not the best way to start the conversation she knew they had to have. "Not at Cal. She’s a transfer from USF. She didn’t play last year because you have to sit out a year when you transfer. Plus, she worked so much she couldn’t possibly have managed a sport."

"What changed for her?" His question was innocent, almost offhanded, but Jamie knew the answer would be revealed soon enough.

"Um, her financial situation got a lot better this year," she said simply.

"That’s good," he said. "I got so much out of playing sports, I can imagine how happy that made her. It’s nice when a lack of money doesn’t stop someone from using their talents."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They finished up by 11:00 a.m. The pro that Jim wanted to speak to was busy giving a lesson, so Jim left a message for him to call Jamie when he was free. "Now I want you to try to make time to work with Mark," he instructed. "I’m sure the competition will be fierce for those spots."

"I know, Daddy," she said fondly. "Thanks for caring so much."

"I care a great deal, Cupcake," he said, sliding his arm around her shoulders. "You make me very proud, Honey," he said as he turned to face her and lock eyes. "I hear some of the other guys talking about their kids, and how much trouble they cause them, and I thank God that I have you."

She wrapped her arms around his waist and gave him a squeeze. "Thanks Daddy. I’m glad I have you, too." I just hope you still feel that way later today.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After they had showered and changed, they met in the lobby and decided to have lunch. As friends and colleagues passed by, Jim went out of his way to introduce Jamie and brag about her attempt to make the golf team at Cal. "Daddy, you’ve told everyone except the busboy," she finally said.

"I’m just really excited about this, Jamie. I never thought you wanted to go farther with your golf game, and it just makes me happy to boast about you."

When they had finished their lunch he remarked, "I guess I’ll see you next week?"

"Do you have plans for the rest of the day?" she asked, a part of her hoping that he did.

"Not really. I’ve got an appointment at four to see an Oldsmobile 442 that I’m thinking about buying, but that’s it. Why?"

"I think I’ll come down and wait for Mother to come home. She should be there about then, shouldn’t she?"

"She’d like that, Honey, and so would I." Giving her another fond smile he said, "Things like this are exactly what I mean when I say how proud I am of you, Jamie. Most kids your age would have no idea when their mother was due home from a trip. It’s really nice how much you care."

She smiled back, not having any intention of telling him that Marta was the one he should be proud of.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It was nearly 1:30 when they arrived at the massive French provincial home. As she pulled into the long drive Jamie found herself staring at the huge edifice in a critical way for the first time in her life. The house was lovely, she had to admit, set as it was into the densely wooded site in a way that protected it from the stares of casual passersby. Not that there were many of those in Hillsborough, of course. By ordinance there were no sidewalks or streetlamps allowed, so not many braved the narrow, curving streets on foot.

It was not the look of the house that bothered Jamie today, though. It was the size. She shook her head and marveled at the fact that she had grown up in a home that could have accommodated all of the O’Flahertys, cousins included. One small family should not waste resources like this, she mused as she left the car in the drive and walked up to the front door.

She had not been home since her failed attempt at reconciliation with Jack, so she looked around the place for a while admiring the latest furnishings that her mother had purchased. Realizing that the time for delay was past, she steeled her nerves and turned to her father saying, "I need to talk to you about something important, Daddy."

"Sure, Cupcake, what is it?" He gave her an interested look as he sat down on one of the large sofas in the living room and patted the seat to indicate that she should join him.

It took her a moment to gather her courage, but now that she had broached the subject it was obviously too late to turn back. "I’ve changed a lot in the last year, Daddy. Or maybe I’ve just found my true self. Whatever it is, I’m not the same person that I was a year ago."

He smiled at this statement and silently acknowledged the truth of it as he gave her an encouraging smile. Jim had noticed quite a few changes in his daughter in the last year, and he was very happy with most of them. She seemed more confident and more determined, and she was definitely more athletic. In fact, the only change that he was unhappy with was her recent tendency to disagree with him about certain issues. Jamie had always been an eminently compliant child, and he had to admit that her previously acquiescent style was more to his liking. Nonetheless, he knew that he had very little to complain about, and he counted himself among the lucky few who had no major problems with their children.

She gazed at him with a determined look in her eyes and continued with her comments. "I’ve gotten stronger, both physically and emotionally, in the last year. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about myself. I’m really happy with the changes I’ve made, and I want to share them with you."

He sat up a little straighter when she uttered her last sentence. "Sure, Honey. I’m always interested in your life. You can tell me anything."

She smiled at him and continued. "One of the things that I really struggled with this year was my breakup with Jack. It was really difficult for me, and I actually started to see a therapist to try to work out my feelings."

He looked a bit shocked and said, "Jamie, why didn’t you tell us this was so hard for you? We could have talked to you about it. I mean…you just seemed to take it in stride."

"Daddy, we were engaged," she said patiently, amazed that he would assume she would not feel the aftereffects of a broken engagement. "Of course it was a big deal."

"I just wish I had known," he said as he pursed his lips and shook his head.

She patted his leg fondly, smiling at him in a reassuring way. "It’s okay, Daddy. This was something I had to work out on my own. I don’t think anyone could have done much to make it better."

He gave her a smile laced with regret over his inability to help her get over this pain. "So did this therapy help?"

"Yes, it helped a lot, actually. I learned that one of the biggest problems in our relationship was me," she said simply.

"You? That’s ridiculous, Jamie. I’m sure you would have been a wonderful wife." His incredulity was nearly as great as his outrage, and he was about to launch into a spirited defense of his daughter when she interrupted.

"No, Daddy, the problem was mostly mine. I learned in therapy that I wasn’t able to give myself completely to Jack. We had a lot of problems, Daddy, and I believe that most of them were because I withheld my true self. He didn’t really know me, because I didn’t know myself. But over the past four months I’ve come to know myself much better, and I’ve learned to accept and even embrace some parts of myself that I had been trying to hide for a long time. What I’m saying is that I’m learning to love myself completely for the first time in my adult life. I really feel good about that, and I want you to understand it and support me, if possible."

He was fidgeting nervously as he sat on the sofa. He knew his daughter was going to unleash some sort of bombshell by the tension she displayed, but he honestly had no idea what the news could be. "This sounds really positive and helpful, Jamie, but you’re being a little abstruse."

"I probably am," she admitted with a nervous laugh. Several deep breaths later, she gazed at him and got out the most important part of her message. "The bottom line is that once I came to know myself better, I was able to open up to others a lot more. And the wonderful thing is that I fell in love. For the first time, and hopefully the last, I am truly, deeply in love."

His face lit up in a delighted smile, relieved beyond measure that Jamie had such good news to share. "That’s great, Honey. Just great! When do we get to meet the lucky fellow? Or have I already met him?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

Jamie instantly realized where this path was leading. "You have met, but it’s not what you think," she warned, her eyes growing wide.

"Oh?" Now the confusion was back onto his face. "I thought it might be Ryan’s brother. They sure are a fine looking pair of siblings."

"No, Daddy. It’s not her brother. It’s Ryan. I’ve fallen in love with Ryan," she said confidently.

He opened his mouth at least three separate times trying to speak, but, for one of the few times in his life, no words would come. Giving her a completely helpless look he finally uttered, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, Daddy, I’m very sure. I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life." Now that the words were out, Jamie was, amazingly, the soul of composure. She looked much older than her 21 years, and Jim was suddenly struck with the thought that his little girl was truly no longer a child.

"D...d...does she know?" he stuttered.

"Yes, she knows," she said softly. "She feels the same for me."

"Have you....have you....been....together?" This last word was practically wrung from his mouth, and he looked a little ill as he articulated it.

She blushed deeply and debated with herself for just an instant. The details of their relationship were really not something she wished to share, but this was such a big issue, she decided to tell all. "Yes, Daddy, we have."

"And you’re still certain?" he asked, rather perplexed that his daughter could be with a woman in that way and still think she was in love.

"That’s what made me certain," she admitted despite her embarrassment. "I felt like I was finally home."

"But Honey," he said as his mind started to wake up, "Young women like you don’t just wake up one day and decide that they’re....that they’re....lesbians."

"My realization did not come in one day, Daddy," she assured him, putting aside the issue of whether she was, in fact, a lesbian or not. "When I look back on it now, I’ve had clues for years. It was never right for me with men. I didn’t connect with them, emotionally or sexually," she admitted.

Now he began to flush as he asked, "I know this is a private matter, Jamie, but how many men have you really been with?"

She did not like this line of questioning, but since she had started down it, she felt that she had to finish it. "That is private, but I want to help you to understand this, so I’ll answer. I was only with Jack, Daddy. And I didn’t sleep with him until last summer."

His hands dropped to the cushion as his mouth fell open. "I just....I just assumed that some of the boys in high school had convinced..."

"No, no one convinced me of anything. Not then and not now."

The confident, determined look that covered her face spoke volumes about her resolve, and he felt just a flash of respect for her well-thought-out position. But his protective, parental voice quickly reasserted itself. "But why did you wait so long? I thought girls were having sex in grammar school now. Did something happen to you when you were younger?" he asked, grasping at straws.

"No! Of course not! No one ever touched me. I waited because I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t really interested with Jack either, but I knew I couldn’t make him hold out forever. I’m amazed he waited for two years," she admitted with a sardonic shake of her head.

He dropped his head into his hands and sat very still for a long while. He finally lifted his head and asked, "And you are… interested… in that way… with Ryan?"

She slowly nodded her head as she closed her eyes momentarily. "Very," she replied. "Completely."

His body had nearly been in shock, and now that the reality of the situation started to hit, he felt the familiar clenching in his stomach and worried briefly that he was going to be sick. His hands were clasped loosely together, hanging between his spread knees, and his drooping head mirrored them. "I just don’t know what to say, Jamie. This is the very last thing I ever expected from you." He looked up at her with a mixture of fear and sadness. "I’m really at a loss."

She had never seen such a lost, haunted look on her father’s face, and it suddenly hit her how difficult it was for him to hear this news. Not that she thought being gay was a bad thing, of course. But she had a sudden insight into her grandfather’s warning that the worst thing for her parents would be the realization that their plans for her would not come to fruition. Her voice grew gentle, and she reached out to lightly grasp his linked hands. "Did you understand what I said at the beginning of this conversation, Daddy? This makes me very happy."

He looked up at her and gazed deeply into her eyes for a moment. He saw the determined, confident expression that covered her face, but it just made no sense to him. "How can it?" The question lay at her feet like an unexploded grenade. She fought the urge to lob it back at him with a smart remark, focusing instead on the gap that she had to try to bridge.

Maintaining his gaze, she spoke the simple truth that filled her soul. "It’s true because being with her has allowed me to be the best ‘me’ that I have ever been. She completes me, Daddy." A soft, bemused laugh escaped her lips and she explained, "I used to think people were speaking a foreign language when they spoke of the kind of love I feel for her. I never thought it was possible to feel like this about another person, Daddy, but now that I know, I swear that I will never give it up. I will never give her up."

Her sincerity affected him deeply, and he let her words rumble around in his mind for a moment. His gaze lingered on the earnest, self-possessed young woman who looked back at him, thinking how much she reminded him of himself at her age. He opened his arms and bit back a tear as she collapsed into his embrace. Placing several light kisses upon the top of her head, he patted her back lovingly, giving her a final squeeze as he said, "I need some time to think about this, Jamie. This is an awful lot for me to get my mind around."

"That’s okay, Daddy," she murmured, sitting up once again. She ran a hand through her hair and he smiled when he realized that gesture was identical to one he had seen Catherine use hundreds of times. "I tried to hide the truth from myself for years. It’s okay if it takes you a while to be comfortable with it."

He shook his head a little more forcefully. "I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with this, Honey. But I’ll try to understand."

"That’s all that I ask of you," she said, meaning every word.

A glance at the clock on the mantel alerted him to his appointment and he excused himself as he stood. "I need to call the fellow who was going to show me that car to tell him I can’t make it."

He had only traveled a couple of feet when she said, "Why don’t you go ahead and go. I’d like to talk to Mother alone, if you don’t mind."

His eyes opened very wide as he commented, "I don’t know that this is a very good way to be welcomed home, Jamie. Couldn’t you wait a bit?"

She shook her head firmly. "I’d really prefer to do it today, Daddy. I don’t think it’s fair to Mother to hide this from her any longer."

Sighing heavily, he offered a small smile to his determined daughter. "As you wish, Jamie. Tell your mother I’ll be home for dinner." He started for the front door, pausing briefly as he entered the foyer. He looked as though he were about to offer some bit of advice. Instead, he gave her a somber look and said, "Good luck."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As soon as he walked out the door, Jamie pulled her cell phone from her belt and paged Ryan. In moments, the call was returned, her partner sounding rather breathless. "Hi, Sweetheart," Jamie said softly.

"Are you okay?" Ryan asked simultaneously.

"Sure…of course, Baby. I spoke with Daddy, and it went better than I thought it would."

She could hear the relieved breath that whistled through the receiver. "God, that’s good news."

"Yeah. It wasn’t a cause for celebration or anything–but he didn’t go ballistic."

"I’m very, very happy to hear that, Honey," Ryan murmured, her voice breaking up a little because of the poor connection.

"Mother should be home soon, Babe. I’ll call you after round two."

"You take care of yourself, Jamie." Ryan’s voice was serious, and Jamie could just picture her earnest face.

"I will, Love. I’ll call you when I can."

"I love you, Jamie," Ryan soothed. "No matter how it goes today, you will always be loved–by me and your O’Flaherty family."

A calming, warm sense of relief washed over her, and she could actually feel some of the tension leave her body. Her voice dropped an octave, and she softly replied, "That means everything to me, Ryan. Absolutely everything."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Marta?" Jamie called as she walked into the kitchen in search of the Evans family cook.

Jamie had been so focused on starting the conversation with her father that she hadn't taken the time to seek out her old friend when they first arrived at the house. She had always considered Marta a member of the family, but she knew that Marta did not exactly share that feeling. It wasn’t that Marta did not care for the members of the Evans family, she did–quite a lot, in fact. Rather, it was that she had never mistaken the pleasant, friendly way that Jim and Catherine treated her for anything other than well-mannered people being good employers.

Jamie, however, was another matter. She felt a deep bond with her–a bond that had begun even before her birth, when Marta would make special meals to encourage Catherine to eat a balanced diet during her pregnancy.

Nonetheless, Marta would never come into the living areas to welcome Jamie home. She would remain in the kitchen, or in her large, well-appointed room, waiting for the familiar light knock that always brought a smile to her face.

Failing to find the cook in the kitchen, Jamie poked her head out the back door, pleased to find Marta sitting under an umbrella, enjoying a tall glass of lemonade. As Jamie drew closer she smiled when she spied another glass, waiting just for her. "Madrina," she said affectionately as she bent to kiss Marta’s cheek.

"Mi hija," Marta replied with a wide smile, in her standard fashion. For as long as Jamie could remember, she and Marta had referred to each other as "Godmother" and "My daughter". The term was not of a proprietary nature. Marta never considered that it was her place to act as Jamie’s mother. It was more a sign of the deep affection that the two had always had for each other.

"I’m sorry I didn’t come to find you earlier," Jamie said, as Marta poured the lemonade for her. "I needed to speak to my father for a few minutes."

"It’s quite all right, Jamie," Marta said, her grin crinkling the corners of her eyes. "I am always happy to see you, whether I am the first or the last to be greeted."

There was no sting in her words–she was merely expressing the reality of their situation. She had always attempted to show Jamie that there was a dividing line between her, an employee, and Jim and Catherine. It was a hard lesson for the child to learn, especially because she spent more time with Elizabeth and Marta than she did with her parents. But Marta knew that unemployment was just around the door for the person who tried to breach that invisible, but impenetrable, barrier.

"Are you preparing a special meal for Mother’s homecoming?" It was an old joke between the pair. Catherine ate slightly less than Caitlin, and 22 years of trying had still not revealed the secret to getting the elder Evans woman to clean her plate.

"I believe I have finally given up that quest," Marta replied with a small smile. "But if you will be here for dinner, I will pull out all of the stops."

"I hadn’t planned on it, Marta," she said, sparing a glance at her watch, "but it might be a good idea, after all. I need to speak with Mother, and it wouldn't be polite to run out as soon as I’m finished."

Marta gave her young friend a long, interested look. She would not intrude by asking Jamie the nature of her business this afternoon, but she was more than willing to lend an ear if it was needed.

Jamie understood the slight gesture perfectly, having grown very proficient at reading the older woman’s body language, but she did not feel comfortable sharing her news with Marta before she spoke to her mother. She also did not relish the thought of coming out to three people in one day. As much as she cared for Marta, she was not at all sure how the older woman would react. Marta was a staunch Catholic, and she took a very active role as a volunteer at her church. Jamie didn’t know a lot about Catholic dogma, but she was certain that the church did not approve of homosexual pairings. She assumed that even if Marta disapproved of her relationship with Ryan, she would not say so, but she still didn't want to take the risk.

Marta cocked her head slightly, her features stilling as she listened intently. "Your mother is home," she said softly.

Jamie visibly tensed, a reaction not lost on the older woman. "It will be fine, Jamie. Your mother loves you."

Getting to her feet, Jamie leaned over once again and placed a grateful kiss on Marta’s cheek, smiling to herself as she detected her calming, lilac scent. "I know, Marta. This is just going to be a tough day for all of us. Thanks for caring."

"I do care, mi hija. Never forget that."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

By the time Jamie entered the foyer, the limo driver had made three trips to unload the seven massive suitcases that Catherine had taken to Italy. "Jamie," she said with a delighted smile when her daughter appeared. "What a lovely surprise!"

"Hi Mother," she said, matching her smile. They exchanged light kisses on both cheeks, somehow managing to keep the majority of their bodies from touching. "I thought I would come down to welcome you home."

Catherine did a quick double take at that bit of news, truly surprised to see her daughter–and even more so to be the reason for her visit. The driver had finished, and he lingered at the door, waiting for his payment. Catherine gave him a very generous tip, thanking him for his help in unloading all of her bags.

She turned back to Jamie as she closed the door and asked, "Is your father at home?"

"No. We played golf this morning, but he had an appointment to see someone about a car. He said to tell you that he’d be home for dinner."

"That’s nice, Dear," she said, giving Jamie another pleased smile. She looked in the gilt-framed mirror in the foyer and fussed with her hair for a moment. "Oh my, I’m afraid I look as exhausted as I feel."

"You probably want to take a nap before dinner," Jamie realized. "I can come down another time to see you."

"No, no, don’t be silly. It’s not even five o’clock, Jamie. I think I’ll have a little something for dinner and turn in early. I’ve got to get my clock back on west coast time."

"Are you certain?" Jamie suddenly felt very selfish for springing this news on her mother when she was obviously tired. Italy was nine hours ahead of San Francisco, and she knew that her mother had a hard time sleeping on planes. But she was in too deep to turn back now, and she was certain that Laura Martin would not hold her tongue for long.

As if on cue, the telephone rang and Catherine walked into the living room to pick it up. "Hello, Laura," she said graciously after her friend had identified herself.

Her fear becoming fact so suddenly, Jamie nearly fainted dead away. She found her way into the living room, and fell gracelessly onto one of the enormous couches in the massive room. Her stomach clenched violently, and for one fleeting moment she considered jumping up to wrestle the phone from her mother’s hands, but she decided to allow the inevitable to occur.

"No, I didn’t get your message, Laura. To be honest, I just walked into the house. I was very pleased to find my lovely daughter waiting for me." She turned to give Jamie a fond smile, and was startled to see her daughter’s face resembling that of someone being led to execution.

"Pardon?" she said, focusing her attention back onto her friend. "What did you say, Laura?"

"No, she’s alone…why do you ask?"

Jamie leaned over abruptly, dropping her head into her hands. Catherine could see how upset she was, and it was obvious that Jamie already knew what Laura was trying to convey.

Moments later, all of the color drained from Catherine’s face. She blindly felt for and grasped an elegant little carved writing chair and lowered her body into it. "No, I didn’t know that Jamie referred to herself that way," she said in a wavering voice. Jamie felt like impaling herself on the fireplace tools when she heard the tone in her mother’s voice. It was the most emotion she had ever heard from the woman, and she realized how tremendously hard it must be for her to hear this news from outside the family.

To her amazement, her mother’s cool resurfaced almost before she registered its loss. "I’m sure that was a little joke, Laura. Jamie is not Mrs. Ryan O’Flaherty. I can assure you of that." Catherine turned to lock her gaze onto her daughter’s–and saw the guilt reflected in the moss green eyes.

"Of course we know of Ryan, Laura," she said blithely, her face an expressionless mask. "It’s just not possible for women to marry in California. Don’t you have any gay friends, Dear?"

Jamie’s brow furrowed as she tried to get her mind around her mother’s words. It suddenly became obvious that Laura Martin was not going to get the satisfaction that she wished from this interchange. It was all Jamie could do not to shout, "Go Mother!"

"Yes, of course, we know of their relationship. Jamie just hasn’t been ready to share it with the world at large yet." Her large, warm brown eyes softened as she saw the gratitude that emanated from her daughter. "That does, of course, beg the question of why you thought it your place to bring this to my attention, Laura. You obviously thought this was news to me."

A stonily determined look had now replaced the warmth in her eyes, and Catherine looked away from her daughter, staring out the windows of the living room as she said, "Jamie has never given us one moment of trouble, Laura. She is the most wonderful child I could hope to be blessed with, and her sexual orientation doesn’t change that in the least. This is an intensely private issue for Jamie, and I should think that you would respect her privacy."

Catherine smirked, going in for the kill. "No, we are truly not concerned about her. I’m intensely proud of my daughter, and I’m happy to say that she’s generous, kind, and thoughtful to a fault. She’s never hurt anyone intentionally, Laura, and those traits are far more important than who she sleeps with."

As her expression reverted to one of warmth, she turned and shared a small smile with her daughter. "Oh, I’m sure that was your intention, Laura," she murmured with obviously false sincerity. "Of course I’m gratified that you are so concerned about her. I’ll relay your good wishes. Yes, of course I’ll be at the board meeting on Monday. I’ll see you then."

After Catherine replaced the receiver onto the cradle, she sat absolutely still for a few minutes. She got to her feet and turned to a still-shaken Jamie and said, "I’ve just one question, Dear. Will you join me for a drink?"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A long silence passed between them as they sat in the same chairs Jamie and Marta had occupied earlier. The robotic pool cleaner was making quick work of the few leaves that had the temerity to spoil the pristine aqua waters of the large, deep pool, and Jamie spent a few minutes watching it, glad to have something to occupy her mind.

Marta had prepared a large tray that held decanters of vodka, gin, and scotch, sweet and plain soda, vermouth, and Campari. Jamie decided on Campari and soda, and Catherine echoed her choice, mentally extending the feeling of Italy when she took a sip.

"I had a Campari every afternoon at around this time during my trip," she said softly, a wistful look in her eyes.

"I bet part of you wishes you were still there," Jamie offered, deciding to break the ice.

Her mother turned and looked at her closely for a minute, then said, "Not in the least, Dear. It was a lovely surprise to see you when I walked in–I haven’t changed my mind."

Jamie was a bit nonplussed by the tone in her mother’s voice. For the first time in her life, her mother sounded…tired. There was some quality of resignation–almost of defeat–but the words themselves were gentle, welcoming.

"Are you…all right with this?" she asked, unsure of how to approach the topic.

"All right?" she said slowly, trying to decide what her reaction should be. "I don’t think that term would convey my feelings, no."

"What would, Mother?"

Catherine took another sip of her drink and set the glass on the table. "That’s difficult to say, Jamie. I would suppose that I could best sum up my feelings by saying that I’m far from surprised--and I’m deeply wounded."

"Wounded?" she asked in puzzlement, thinking that was an odd choice of words.

"Yes, Dear, I’m wounded. I tried to get you to be honest with me when I came to your house. It was clear to me then that something was going on, since I found Cassie’s original story too believable to be dismissed. I truly wish that you had told me then. It hurts to know that you lied to me, especially since I made it clear how important it was to me that you tell me the truth." The look on her face was still calm and her voice was cool and even. But Jamie could see a deep hurt reflected in those velvety eyes, and she knew that she was responsible for it.

She hung her head, unable to face her mother. She had never knowingly lied to her before that incident, and it still bothered her despite Ryan and her grandfather's reassurance that she was just protecting herself. "I’m sorry, Mother, I really am," she insisted. "But I couldn’t tell you then because I was in the midst of figuring it out for myself."

Catherine tilted her head to stare at her daughter for a moment. "Tell me more," she said softly.

The sun was obscured by a very large bank of clouds, and Jamie began to shiver, both from the cold and from her trepidation about revealing the intimate details of the journey of her sexual awakening.

"Let’s go inside," Catherine suggested. "You look chilled."

"Okay," Jamie agreed, glad for the break. She carried the tray into the house, deciding to take it into the living room for the inevitable refills.

Once they were settled, she began to speak. "I’ve had some notion that something was amiss in the way I felt about men for a very long time."

Her mother tilted her head in question, but did not comment.

"I didn’t tell you this, but last fall I took a class called, The Lesbian Experience. Jack and I had been engaged three months at the time, but I was so unsatisfied." She glanced at her mother’s concerned face and added, "Physically as well as emotionally."

Catherine nodded, encouraging Jamie to continue. She leaned over and refilled her glass, this time adding vodka to the mix.

"I met Ryan on the first day of class, and what started out as a friendship grew to be more and more. The day after Jack broke up with me, I realized that I was in love with her." Even though this was a hard thing to discuss, Jamie could not help but smile when she said these words. Her mother caught the look and reflected it, her smile erasing years from her face.

"That was a very, very hard time for me, Mother. I was so devastated by all of my conflicting emotions that I decided to get into therapy. My therapist and I worked on this issue non-stop through April, and it was only then that I revealed my feelings to Ryan. We decided to take things slowly–very slowly–so that I could get used to the way I felt. We waited until just three weeks ago to be together physically."

Catherine performed the simple math and recognized that her daughter had used the house in Pebble Beach as more than just a small vacation getaway. She knew it was small-minded, but a part of her was angry with Jamie for using their family retreat as a place to tryst. She tried to dismiss the thought, but her mind was assailed by images of her daughter in another woman’s arms.

Jamie did not notice her look of consternation, since she continued, "I was unwilling to tell anyone until I was absolutely sure that this was right for me, Mother. When you asked me if I was involved with Ryan, I just couldn’t be honest with you."

"Well, technically, you could have been," Catherine corrected, "but you obviously did not feel that I would be supportive. I must bear the responsibility for that." Her eyes were dark, and she suddenly looked every one of her 41 years. "I have a question about all of this, Jamie. I know you’re justifiably angry with her, but I should tell you that Cassie told Laura about your attempts to get back with Jack. How does that fit into this equation?"

Jamie stood and walked around the elegantly decorated room for a few minutes. She picked up various items and examined them as she considered the question. A picture of the three of them caught her eye and she held it so that her mother could see it. "I was afraid," she said quietly. "I was afraid that I couldn’t have this if I admitted who I really was."

Catherine got up and stood next to her daughter. She placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and asked, "I don’t understand your point, Jamie. What were you afraid of?"

Jamie blew out a breath and said, "It’s so much easier to be straight, Mother! I was ready to jump into a relationship with Ryan, but I pulled back at the last minute. I thought I would be willing to have a relationship with a man even if it wasn’t what I really wanted, because it would be so much easier!"

"But you couldn’t do it?" she asked carefully.

"No, I couldn’t. When Jack made love to me I could only see Ryan’s face, and once I acknowledged that, I just couldn’t go on with the charade."

"I’m sorry, Jamie," Catherine said softly. "And I’m sorry this has been so hard for you."

"But it’s not now!" she said with genuine enthusiasm. "Once I made the decision it’s been so freeing! I’m amazed at how marvelous I really feel, Mother. I swear I’ve never felt this wonderful in my whole life!"

"I’m happy for that," Catherine said with a small smile as she walked back to the sofa. "I just...I just wish that you felt that you could work out your issues with us, rather than just inform us of them."

Jamie had a very strong suspicion that her mother’s wish was rather fanciful, so she asked, "Is that really what you want, Mother? Would you really want me to tell you I was attracted to Ryan if it was just a passing interest?"

Catherine considered this scenario for a moment, pursing her lips as she tried to determine how she felt. "I’m not sure, Jamie. There is a part of me that would like to help you figure things out, but I will admit that it might be difficult for me to help you struggle through your sexual feelings. I suppose that talking to a professional was the best choice."

"I just didn’t think that people who loved me could be objective about this," Jamie said, trying to convince her mother that she was not trying to shut her out.

"Even though I admit that I’m not objective, I would hope that I could listen to you without trying to influence you too strongly. I would really love it if you would at least try to talk to me before you make any major life choices, Jamie."

"Maybe I will be able to in the future," she offered "I would be happy to try to be more open with you about things in my life, if you would really like me to."

"I would, dear. As I told you at your home, I wish that we were closer. I just feel like you’re slipping away from us, Honey, and it scares me." Tears began to slide down Catherine’s patrician features, and Jamie stared at her for a moment, paralyzed with indecision. She had never seen her mother cry, and she was confused as to how she should react. She decided to just go with her feelings, so she moved closer and put her arms around her mother and held her close. Catherine was tense at first, but she soon loosened up and gratefully returned the hug. She clung to her daughter tightly, her head on her shoulder, just letting the tears come.

After a long while, she sat up and looked for a tissue. Jamie got up and brought the box over to her, watching as Catherine took a few, wiped her eyes, blew her nose, then looked up at Jamie and said with a small smile, "That felt strangely good."

"I’ve cried more this past year than I did all of my previous years put together," she conceded. "And you’re right, it does feel strangely good."

Catherine placed her hand on her daughter’s cheek and trailed her fingers down her face in a loving way. "Why have you cried so much?" she asked softly.

Jamie considered the question for just a moment. "Partly because of my breakup with Jack," she revealed, "but mostly because I feel so much with Ryan. Everything is more vivid, Mother. When I’m sad, I’m really sad. When I’m upset, I’m terrifically upset. Yet, I’m happier than I’ve ever been, Mother," she insisted. "No matter what the emotion is, it’s indescribably intense!"

"It sounds like opera," she said softly.

Jamie had to laugh at this characterization, but she also had to admit that it was accurate. "I guess you’re right," she admitted. "Everything is brighter and louder and more emotion filled."

"That’s because you’re really in love," Catherine said softly. "That’s what every opera is about."

Jamie leaned against her mother and let her wrap her arms around her. "You understand," she said as her tears began to flow. "You really understand."

"I’ve been in love myself," she whispered into her ear.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They sat that way for a long time, holding each other for the first time in years. The feeling was strange for Catherine, who felt rather exposed emotionally. But she fought with herself to stay connected to her daughter, and after a few minutes she actually felt some portion of her emotional self-protection diminish as she opened her heart to her only child. Jamie finally sat up and drained the rest of her drink. Her mother did the same and mixed two more. Jamie laughed wryly and observed, "We’ll be drunk when Daddy gets home."

Catherine gave her a surprisingly rakish grin and laughed. "He can get drunk on his own time. This is for women only."

Hearing her mother’s usually hidden sense of humor surface gave Jamie much more confidence. Somewhere deep in her soul she had the calming thought that everything would eventually be all right with her mother–perhaps even better than things had been before.

After they sat for a few more minutes, she asked, "Don't you have any questions for me?"

"Thousands," Catherine laughed softly, shaking her head a bit. "But I’ll let your father run through his list first. You did tell him earlier, didn’t you?"

"Yes. I wanted to tell you separately so that you could each have your own reaction."

With a slight tilt of her head, Catherine asked, "Did it go all right?"

Jamie’s brow furrowed a bit and she considered the question for just a minute. "Yes, I suppose it did. Daddy started to act like I was on the witness stand," she observed. "But he calmed down and seemed okay by the time he left."

A sardonic smile crossed Catherine’s face. "He’s a man and he’s a lawyer. That’s a tough combination when you’re talking about feelings."

"I suppose," Jamie agreed. "You don’t have to let him ask all the questions, though, Mother. I’d be happy to tell you anything that you wish to know."

"I do have questions, Jamie, but none that can’t wait. I would like to finally meet the woman who has captured my daughter’s heart, but other than that, there’s no rush."

"Are you really okay with the fact that I’m with a woman? I thought it would be harder for you."

Catherine gave that a moment’s thought. Shaking her head softly she admitted, "I would not say that I’m ‘okay’ with it, no. It’s not what I would choose for you, Dear, but I’m coming to realize that my vote doesn’t carry much weight any longer."

Jamie started to interrupt, but her mother placed a hand on her arm and continued. "You’re an adult now, Dear. What little influence I had on forming your personality and character is in the past now. You need to follow your own heart."

A tear slid down Jamie’s cheek and she struggled with her emotions. She was so overwhelmingly grateful for this simple acknowledgment that she wanted to throw her arms around her mother and hug her. But even though they had done just moments before, she felt reluctant to do it again. She honestly thought that they had pushed their boundaries far enough for one day, so she merely patted her mother’s hand. "Thank you, Mother," she whispered. "I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. It’s okay with me that you don’t embrace this part of me immediately. It’s just nice that you aren’t put off by it."

"I have so many gay friends and acquaintances that homosexuality really doesn’t have much of a negative connotation for me any more," Catherine admitted. "The gay men that I know seem just as happy about their sexual orientation as I do about mine. This is a tough world, Jamie. If you can find someone to help you hold the darkness at bay, you have my blessing."

Unable to contain her natural exuberance for another minute, Jamie grasped her mother’s hand and squeezed it gently. "That’s such a perfect way to put it, Mother. That’s just what it’s like with Ryan! I feel safe! I feel like things can’t hurt me when we’re together. Does that make any sense?"

"Perfect," she agreed, sharing a smile with her beaming daughter.

Just then the front door opened and Jim strode through the door. He was every inch the confident, high-powered attorney now, and Jamie immediately recognized that this meant nothing but trouble. "I’ve figured out what was wrong with this whole thing," he stated proudly.

"What’s that, dear?" Catherine asked absently as she drained her drink. Jamie was shocked beyond words that neither of her parents even bothered to greet each other. They had been apart for three weeks now, but they acted as though Jim had just stepped out to get the mail. She was also nonplussed to see that her mother’s usual cool demeanor had descended like a shroud, and wondered if it was only her father’s return that had caused it.

"I’m talking to my daughter as though she were to be married. She’s talking about everlasting love, and commitment, and I haven’t really even spoken to this person. You would never do that with a man, Jamie. You’re trying to get the sanction of our approval, but you don't even have the gumption to bring this woman here to face us. How are we supposed to react?"

"This is more about me than it is about Ryan," she said defensively.

"So tell me," he said as he went for the kill, "if you were not in love with Ryan, would you be actively searching for another woman? Are you a lesbian?"

I hate it when you’re right, Poppa. "I’m not comfortable answering that question," she said shakily.

He sensed her weakness and continued his line of questioning. "Jamie, this is a major change in your life and your identity. It is important for us to know the ramifications of this. Are you a lesbian, or just in love with Ryan?"

She swallowed hard and answered, "I can only say that I’m in love with Ryan."

"Then how can you say this isn’t about her?" he crowed. "This is primarily about her!"

"I disagree, Daddy, but I can see that you don’t want to give in on that point. So let’s say that it is; what do you want to do about it?"

"I want her to come down here and answer my questions. I want to know who this woman is, Jamie. I can’t give you my approval until I’ve spent time with her."

Jamie knew that bringing Ryan down here would be like throwing a lamb into a den of wolves, so she tried to talk her way out of it. "I’m sure that Ryan would like to come down to spend some time with you, but I think we should work out some of our issues first."

"Jamie," he said firmly, "I have only one issue at this point. I want to sit down with Ryan and get to know her a little bit. If you’re unwilling to have her come today, have her come tomorrow, or even to my office on Monday."

None of those options sounded much better, and she reasoned that Ryan would probably rather get it over with. "I’ll call her and see if she can come down," she said as she rose to go to her room for a little privacy.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan answered the page in less than three minutes. "Hi, Baby," Jamie said rather lethargically.

"Are you okay?" the anxious voice responded, her panting indicating that she was a bit winded.

"Yeah, it’s been hard with my father, but incredibly easy with mother. You were right again--it’s never what you think it’s going to be."

"So are you coming home?"

Jamie had a hard time hearing her over the din. "Where are you?"

"I’m playing basketball with Conor and Brendan and Kevin and Donal and Niall. We’ve been playing three on three for hours. We’re killing ‘em," she laughed as Jamie heard the ball bouncing nearly inside the phone. "They miss you," she said with another laugh, pushing Conor away from the pay phone she was using.

"I miss them too," she said wistfully, wishing that she could be there to see their game. I don’t really want to do this to her, but it will have to happen sooner or later. Jamie took a deep breath, then tentatively made her request. "I know this is asking a lot," she rushed the rest of the sentence before she lost her nerve, "but would you be willing to come down here? My father wants to talk to you."

Damn, what’s going on down there? "Sure, I can come right away."

No hesitation or questions, just love and support. No wonder I love this woman! "Ryan," she said softly, "it won’t be fun. He’ll cross-examine you, and I promise he’ll have you so mixed up you won’t know if you’re coming or going."

"If you want me to come, I’m there," she said firmly, tossing the basketball to her brother when he tried to distract her by tossing it to her.

"Okay," Jamie said as she breathed a sigh of relief. "Can you take down directions?"

"I’ll just look it up on Mapquest. I’ve got their address from when I sent them a thank-you note after Pebble Beach. I’ll be there as quick as I can."

Before Ryan could disconnect, Jamie spoke again. "Um, Ryan?"

"Yes, Honey?"

"Don’t take this the wrong way, but take a shower first, okay?"

She laughed long and hard at that. "I would take a shower before I took out the trash given how I look right now! And I’ll dress like a girl. Don’t worry, Babe, I won’t embarrass you."

Damn. "That’s not what I meant, Honey. I just know that you get focused, and I could see you grabbing Conor’s keys and taking off before you had a chance to think. I could never be embarrassed by you, Ryan."

"Okay, Baby, I love you," Jamie could hear a chorus of deep male voices parroting her ‘I love you’ in the background. "Knock it off, boys," Ryan shouted. "I’ll be there as soon as I can," she said, adding another soft, "I love you."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

40 minutes later, Ryan and Brendan were cruising down the freeway in Brendan’s black Dodge Dakota. He had offered Ryan the use of the truck, but when he learned that Jamie had driven herself he decided to drop her off, ostensibly so that she could ride home with Jamie, but she suspected that he wanted to have a little talk on the way.

"I’d be happy to stay down on the Peninsula if you’d feel better to have me close by," he offered.

Ryan found the gesture terribly touching, even though she insisted that there was nothing to worry about. "He’s not a shotgun wielding lunatic," she teased. "He’s a big time lawyer."

"That’s the worst kind," Brendan said sagely. "He’s used to getting what he wants, and if he wants to split you up, he won’t play fair."

"Jeez, Bren, he doesn’t have the power to do that, even if he wants to. Jamie just said he had some questions for me."

"Yeah, like what country would you like to be deported to?"

She blew out a breath, trying to remind herself that Brendan harbored a deep distrust of corporate lawyers. "Let’s say you’re right," she conceded. "How can you help if he tries to do that?"

"I might just have to show some O’Flaherty muscle," he said, a fierce glower darkening his eyes. Brendan rarely made a physical threat against anyone, and Ryan knew that he was genuinely worried to do so now.

"I appreciate your offer, Bren, but I don’t think we can strong-arm him into accepting us. I didn’t get the impression that he was being unreasonable, just that he was giving her a hard time. I’m sure it will be okay in the end. They’ve had a very good relationship up ‘til now, and I can’t imagine this would make him forget that. I think he really loves her."

"You don’t get to be managing partner of a firm like that by giving in, Ryan. I think you should be prepared for him to really put pressure on you," Brendan cautioned.

"I’m as prepared as I can be," she said, anxiously tapping her foot against the dashboard. "Do I look okay?" she asked as she turned in her seat to face her brother.

A big smile lit up Brendan’s face. "I don’t think you’ve ever asked that before in your life," he said affectionately. "Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this nervous before. This really means a lot to you, doesn’t it?"

"Jamie wants to build a better relationship with her parents. It means a lot to me to be supportive of that," she admitted.

"Well, I think you look lovely. Did you do something different to your hair?"

"Uh, yeah," she said with a tone that implied it should be obvious. "Didn’t you notice?"

"Um, did you change the color?" he asked.

She laughed wryly and shook her head. "Keep guessing, pal."

"Hmm…it looks like you did something to make it curly or something," he suggested, scrunching up his eyes to get a better look.

"Excellent powers of observation," she said exasperatedly. "I got almost nine inches cut off!"

"Well, how was I supposed to know that?" Brendan asked helplessly. "You never get a haircut, how could I know to even guess that?"

"Um...if you looked at me once in a while, you wouldn’t have to guess," she suggested.

"Aw, Ryan, you know we don’t look at you like you’re a girl," he explained patiently.

"Well, that makes me feel a lot better," she responded facetiously. "I’m going down to meet my girlfriend’s parents and try to convince them that I’m not some big predatory dyke, and my own family doesn’t think I’m a girl!"

"That’s not what I meant and you know it," Brendan complained. "We just think of you as our sister, not like a real woman."

"Oh, that’s much better," she said through her thin smile.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"I’ve never really been down here," Ryan admitted as they entered the Village of Hillsborough. "I’ve been to Palo Alto a couple of times for games, but other than riding my bike down El Camino Real one time, I don’t think I’ve even been past Hillsborough."

"Why would you have a need to be?" Brendan asked. "People like us cater to people like this," he said derisively. "We can work on these houses, and teach their kids, and guard their neighborhoods, but we wouldn’t be invited in for dinner. Like right now, for example. Even if they see me drop you off, I guarantee they don’t ask me in. But if her parents dropped Jamie off at our house, Da would be hurt if they didn’t come in and let him fix them a little something."

"You may be right," Ryan said. "But I have to say that Mr. Evans has been very generous with me so far. He knows Jamie took me to Pebble Beach, and he was happy that she takes me to play golf at the club. He seems very gracious."

"And how many times have they invited you to their home for dinner?" he asked, knowing the answer. "By the time you had mentioned Jamie’s name twice, Da was begging you to have her over."

"You’re right, Brendan, but they don’t have the kind of traditions that we do. Jamie says that she has never tasted a thing that her mother made. She didn’t even make her cocoa when she was sick!"

"No cocoa!" he shouted in outrage.

"Nope. She had a nanny and a cook who took care of her. When she skinned her knee, the nanny put a Band Aid on it. And she was a real piece of work. She told Jamie that sick children should not be coddled, so she didn’t even make a fuss over her when she was ill."

"She sure doesn’t seem as screwed up as she should be," Brendan marveled. "How did that happen?"

"She does have a marvelous grandfather whom she really cares for. He’s a great guy. He’s an Episcopal priest over on Nob Hill. I want to have him over for dinner some Sunday. I know Da would love him."

"I guess it’s true that even one loving person can change a child’s life for the better," Brendan said. He considered his own statement for a moment. "Gosh, what will that make Caitlin?" he mused. "She’s got at least 20 loving people in her life!"

"I don’t know how Caitlin will turn out, but I know she’ll never doubt that she was loved," Ryan said thoughtfully. "Just like I haven’t," she added as she turned to smile at her brother.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The Evans' home was bigger and more imposing than any Ryan had ever seen, making even the Pebble Beach house pale in comparison. It was a French provincial style, and even though it was mostly shielded from the street, they could easily see the tops of the turrets before they drove onto the property. As they pulled into the circular drive they got a much better feeling for the grand scale of the place, and both siblings turned silent. Brendan finally spoke. "There must be 30 rooms in that place."

Ryan shook her head as she said sadly, "I just have this image of a tiny little Jamie, all alone in that huge place with no one to play with."

"That’s right," he said. "She’s an only child, isn’t she?"

"Yeah," Ryan said, "just her and the old English nanny rambling around that place."

As Ryan put her hand on the door, she looked a little nervous. Brendan patted her leg and reminded her, "Now, do you promise to call home before you leave here?"

"Yes, I promise," she replied with a smile. "I appreciate your concern, Bren, and I know Jamie will too."

As she got out of the truck, she went to his window to kiss and hug her protective oldest brother. "Thanks again, Bren. This means a lot to me."

As he watched her climb the front stairs, Brendan mused. I don’t think Ryan has any idea what she’s gotten herself into with this guy. He’s got a well-deserved reputation as a lethal trial attorney. People I’ve talked to say he’s ruthless when he really wants something. I’m sure he won’t hesitate to do whatever he thinks he has to do to get what he wants–or in this case–what he doesn’t want.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Concluded in Part 13

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