I Found My Heart in
By SX Meagher
Ryan was already home when Jamie and Catherine arrived bearing dinner. “Ooo … what do we have?” she asked when she answered the door. She played like she was only interested in the food, trying to get the bag from Catherine’s hand, but neither woman was fooled.
“Get your nose out of the food, O’Flaherty,” Jamie said. “Act like a human in front of my mother.”
“Oh! Your mother’s here!” She reached out and hugged Catherine, then took a look at Jamie’s arm. “Not much difference there, sport.”
“There’s a big difference,” Jamie said, following her mother into the house. “Dr. Maynard took off that wrapping under the splint. It’s in two pieces and he said I can take it off to shower. I can’t wait,” she said dramatically.
“Can we have dinner first? I’m faint with the hunger!”
“I suppose. Oh, before I forget, you have to dress me in the morning. I can’t hook my bra and I hate to wear a sports bra.”
“But we got her some nice tennis shoes that have Velcro on them,” Catherine said.
“The shopping twins are at it again. You know, I’m a little surprised the doc left you with the splint,” Ryan said. “I thought you’d have something fancy.”
“I will by tomorrow,” Jamie said, grinning. “He had a guy take an impression of my arm and he’s gonna make a custom, high-tech splint for me. I don’t think I’ll be able to get it autographed, though.”
“That’s the Evans women I know and love. A jury-rigged splint will never do!”
Ryan was lying in bed, watching her lover brush her teeth. Jamie was clearly thinking about something that was troubling her, and Ryan was struggling not to giggle. The more Jamie concentrated, the younger she looked, and Ryan got great pleasure from watching her partner regress in age as she thought. She knew Jamie would feel a little self-conscious if she told her, and she didn’t want to ruin her own pleasure, so she kept it to herself and hoped that Jamie never caught her grinning at her.
The electric toothbrush had cycled through its timer three times, and Ryan was about to remind Jamie that the enamel on her teeth wasn’t very thick when slightly slitted green eyes shifted and settled on her.
“My mother basically lied to me today.”
That brought Ryan up short. “Basically?”
“Yeah.” Jamie went into the bath and finished up, then came out and sat on the edge of the bed. “She tried to make me think she was in town this weekend, just doing a gallery stroll and having dinner with friends. But I got on the Internet and saw that the
Ryan scooted over so she could scratch Jamie’s back. “Maybe she’s just … uhm … working things out. Give her some time, babe.”
Jamie shot an annoyed look over her shoulder. “Working what out?”
“How she feels.” Ryan tossed her leg over Jamie and settled against her back. Jamie let out a sigh and leaned against her. “She’s probably not sure how she wants things to go. Maybe she’s unsure if she wants to keep seeing him.”
“She was sure before,” Jamie said acidly. “She made a big deal about how she deserved better.” She turned and looked at Ryan. “What happened? Why doesn’t she deserve better now?”
“I don’t know, honey.” Ryan hugged her, holding on and resting her head on Jamie’s shoulder. “But you’re gonna have to be patient with her. You can’t make her talk about it before she’s ready.”
“But she’s lying to me.”
Jamie sounded like a wounded child, and Ryan hugged her again, hoping to take away some of the pain. “I’m sure she didn’t feel good about doing that. Why don’t you give her a little space? Don’t ask her specific questions about what she’s doing and who she’s seeing for a while.”
“Great,” Jamie grumbled. “All of the progress we’ve made … phfft!”
“That’s not true. It’s just not. She’s working something out, baby. She’s lying because she’s uncomfortable. When she’s ready, she’ll talk to you about it.”
“She’s making changes, Ryan, and she doesn’t want me to be part of them. She doesn’t even want me to know about them!”
Jamie turned again and regarded her lover with a stern look. “She’s changing her name.”
“Huh? To what?”
“Back to her maiden name … kinda.”
“Kinda? How do you kinda change your name?”
“She’s changing it to Smith, but not for her father’s family. Her great-grandmother was a Smith, and that’s who she’d like to … I don’t know … imitate, or model her life after, or something.”
“Weird. Do you know this woman?”
“No. I don’t think she knew her!”
“What’s up with that? What was special about her?”
“I don’t know a lot about her, but she was a doctor. She was in one of the first graduating classes at Stanford.”
“Wow, that must have been a tough path. It must have been hard to be a woman in college back then, much less medical school.” Ryan looked thoughtful and said, “I think you told me about her a while ago. Maybe when we rode our bikes around Stanford that time.”
Jamie smiled brightly. “I might have. I remember giving you the grand tour.”
“I kinda had the impression you knew a lot about your mom’s family.”
Shaking her head, Jamie said, “No, not a lot. I mean, this woman was my great-great-grandmother. Like I said, I don’t think my mother ever met her. I just know a few things about her.”
“Well, she must have been cool for your mom to want to take her name.”
Jamie tilted her head and spent a moment chewing on her lip. “It doesn’t feel like she’s honoring her; it feels like she’s trying to erase my father from her life. It feels really sucky to have her change her name. It’s … distancing.”
Ryan started to rub Jamie’s back, keeping her touch light and gentle. “Makes you feel …?”
“We’re not in the same family any more. She’s a Smith and I’m an Evans.”
“Ooo … does that feel really bad?”
Jamie looked at her again and Ryan recognized the look as one that meant “You’d better not only agree with me, you’d better know why I’m upset.” “I understand,” Ryan said, even though she didn’t see why this was so upsetting. “Does it make you feel like she’s giving up on your family?”
“Yes! Haven’t you been listening?”
“Yes, of course I have.” Since her verbal support wasn’t going over very well, Ryan chose physical support, hugging her tight and rocking her a bit. “I’m really sorry this is hard for you, babe. Really sorry.”
“I’ll get over it. I know I’m being a baby about the whole thing, it’s just that she sprang this on me when I was still steamed over her lying to me. It was too much.”
“It would have been for me too,” Ryan said, seeing how the incidents could build on one another. “But it’s kinda cool that she wants to make a new start. That must mean she’s feeling less down.”
Jamie gazed at her for a moment, then smiled briefly. “Yeah, I think she is. Probably because of Giacomo,” she added, making the name sound like a curse.
“Well, whatever it is, I know you want her to feel better. If this is a step in that direction, I know you’ll support her.”
“Of course I will.” Jamie stood up and stretched. “That’s not in question.” She got into bed and pushed against Ryan to get her to move to her rightful space. “But I don’t have to like it.”
It took her a day to decide, but once Mia had made up her mind, she told Jordan. Even though it was just 5:30 in the morning and Jordan was barely awake, she scooted over to her, closing the gap that had grown between them during the night. Jordan’s hair was loose and it lay haphazardly across her pillow. Mia swept a handful of it from Jordan’s shoulder and pressed her lips to her lover’s ear, kissing it tenderly.
“I’m not going to
Turning and swiping at the hair tickling her eyes, Jordan tried to see Mia’s face, but she was facing the wall and didn’t have enough room to turn over. Blindly, she reached out and patted Mia’s hip, their signal for more space. Mia moved just enough for Jordan to be able to roll over and face her. “Are you sure?” Jordan asked. Her expression gave nothing away. They could have been talking about what to have for breakfast.
“Yeah, I am.”
Jordan was searching Mia’s face—her cool, blue eyes darting from her eyes to her lips. “Wanna tell me why?”
“Sure.” Mia put her hand on the small of her lover’s back and pulled her closer. “Jamie helped me think it through. Even though she might not know it.” One blonde eyebrow lifted. “I talked to her on Sunday when you were working out. I told her that I didn’t really want to be alone when you were playing, and I didn’t have the money to go on a good tour.”
“We have enough—”
“Shh,” Mia said, gently pressing her finger to Jordan’s lips. “I know you would have paid for me to go anywhere I wanted to go, honey, but I felt guilty about using our money for myself.” Jordan started to speak again, but Mia stroked her cheek and said, “Let me finish, babe.”
“Do I ever get to talk?”
“Yes.” Mia smiled at her. “You can say anything you want.”
“Uhm … I wanna know how Jamie helped you.”
Kissing her quickly, Mia said, “That’s what I was getting to. I know what’s on that little mind.” She tapped Jordan’s forehead, then kissed it. “Jamie arranged for me to use the tour guide she and her family used when they went to
“Damn!” Jordan blinked, then her smile faltered. “You were gonna let her pay for you?”
“Yeah. I was. I know that’s not my usual reaction, but if I thought you needed me to go, I was going to let her pay for me to really experience
Jordan’s forehead was wrinkled in confusion. “But … that made you decide not to go.”
“Yeah. Once I didn’t have the excuse of not having the money to see stuff, I had to look at what made the most sense. And I decided that we’d both be better off if I didn’t go this time.”
“Okay.” Jordan still looked puzzled, but she was nodding thoughtfully.
“I spent some time actually talking to our roommates on Saturday,” Mia said. “Don’t look so shocked!”
“I am! Have you ever talked to any of ’em when I’m not around?”
“No, but that’s partly because they’re not here if you’re not here. Anyway, I talked to Jill and Toni about what it’s like to play in a tournament like that. Toni said that her husband went to a few international tournaments with her when she was on her first team, but he stopped pretty quickly.”
“Too much pressure. Toni said that she was so focused that she completely ignored him and his feelings were hurt the whole time they were traveling. They convinced me that you’d be a nervous wreck playing in your first big tournament and that being around the other players would be better for you than hanging out with me.”
Scowling, Jordan said, “I’d always rather be with you.”
“I know, honey, but I think they have a good point. You can bond with your teammates better if you’re not rushing to get back to me. And I can go to
Jordan wasn’t smiling, but her face was relaxed and she looked untroubled. “That sounds good. Not what I really want, but I think you’re right.”
Mia reached up and slid her thumb across Jordan’s forehead. “If you need me to go with you, I will. You don’t have to ask twice.”
“No, no, I think Jill and Toni know what they’re talking about. I’m glad you asked ’em. I should have thought of that.”
Squeezing Jordan’s bicep, Mia said, “You’re the brawn. I’m the brains in this operation.”
Jordan wrapped Mia in a bear hug and rolled onto her back. Nose to nose, she said, “We’re in big, big trouble!”
Tuesday morning, Ryan nodded at Ellen when she opened the door. Just as Ellen started to give her a questioning look, the outside door opened and Barb rushed in, breathing heavily. “Slow bus,” she said.
“You’re right on time,” Ellen said. They went in and got settled, then Ellen said, “Since Barb has to catch her breath, why don’t you start, Ryan? Anything to report?”
“Yeah.” Ryan fidgeted a little. “This is gonna sound strange, but I had a good weekend, partially because my lover broke her arm.” She glanced quickly at Barb and Ellen, but neither reacted very strongly.
“Go on,” Ellen said. “I’m sure there’s more.”
Ryan laughed. “Yeah, there’s more. I hated to see her get hurt, of course. She’s never had a major injury before and it’s really hard for her. I think she’s having a hard time realizing her body’s not as impervious as she thought it was.”
Ellen nodded, looking interested but saying nothing.
“But even though I’m upset for her, I’m not upset about her.” She looked at both women. “Know what I mean?”
“I think I do, but tell us how that’s different for you,” Ellen said.
“I’m not … worried or anxious about her. I was afraid that I’d be freaked out if she broke a nail, but this shows it’s not that way at all.” She was smiling brightly, her energy level so high that she was practically hovering above the sofa. “I’m not worried about everything, just the thought of someone hurting her.”
“That must feel really good,” Barb said. “But I bet you can’t tell her,” she added, chuckling.
She laughed, looking more relaxed than she ever had in the room. “No, I don’t have the guts to tell her that I’m happy I’m not more upset about her breaking her elbow. I’ve learned something in the past year.”
“I’m happy for you, Ryan,” Ellen said. “And I can see why it’s a relief to feel that your anxiety is more limited than you’d thought.”
“Yeah, yeah. I feel like it’s not such a big battle now, like there’s a chance I can get over this if it’s limited to worrying about violence.”
“I’m sure you can get over it,” Barb said. “You don’t seem like the type who gives up easily.”
“Not so far,” Ryan said smiling.
After Jamie enjoyed her morning rituals, she went into the house and called her father’s office. It took a few minutes, but his secretary got him on the phone. “Hi, cupcake,” he said, sounding a little breathless.
“Bad time, Dad?”
“No, not at all. I was in the hallway talking to one of my esteemed colleagues.” He chuckled softly. “But since we were talking about golf, I think it can wait. How are you?”
“Pretty good. But I had an accident on Friday night and broke my elbow.”
His voice was so loud, Jamie was sure his secretary had heard him.
“Were you driving?”
“No. I wasn’t in a car. I fell … off a sidewalk.”
There was a pause and he started to laugh, obviously trying not to. “How much had you had to drink?”
“I wasn’t drinking,” she said, starting to laugh as well. “That’s what makes it worse. Falling off a sidewalk is bad enough, but to do it when you’re stone cold sober just makes you sound like a klutz.”
“I’m sorry for laughing, honey; the image just struck me. But there’s nothing funny about your being in pain. How exactly did it happen?”
“We were at a tournament in
“Ow! That sounds awful! Was she hurt?”
Not as badly as I wish she’d been. “Not really. Bruised her tailbone a little, but she can play.”
He made a whistling sound, then said, “Your season …”
“Over,” she confirmed. “The break isn’t bad. I chipped off the end of the bone that sticks out when you flex your arm. Luckily it didn’t affect the joint or anything. But it’s in a splint and will be for at least six weeks.”
“Have you seen a good specialist? I can help—”
“Mom already called in her chits,” she said, laughing softly. “I saw the best orthopedist in the city yesterday. I’m gonna go later today to get a nifty splint that Mom insisted they custom make for me.”
“It sounds like she’s taking good care of you,” he said, sounding a little wistful.
“She and Ryan both. The doctor said I could wear the splint they made for me in
“I … didn’t really know that about her until this last year.”
Jamie blinked, stunned that her father had revealed something so intimate … so embarrassing for a man who’d been married for over twenty years to admit. “Maybe she wasn’t always so forthright, but she is now,” she said, feeling a wellspring of pride in her mother’s growth over the past year.
“I screwed up my marriage by not knowing your mother as well as I should have,” Jim said. “I don’t want to make that mistake with you. Why don’t I come home this weekend and spend a little time with you?”
“Ooo … this isn’t the best weekend, Dad. We have a three-day tournament at Stanford, and even though I’m not gonna play, I told my coach I’d ride around in the cart and help him keep track of things. How about … the week after that? Ryan’s in a softball tournament at Stanford and we’ll be staying with Mom.”
“I … could … sure,” he said, his indecision momentary. “I’ll stay at my apartment in the city, get a little work done at my local office.”
“Great. Just don’t make plans for Saturday. I’d like you to go to the game with me.”
“I’d like that too.”
“Oh … uhm … Mom usually goes. Will that make you uncomfortable?”
“No, honey.” His voice sounded so sad that Jamie’s heart clenched in sympathy. “Your mother doesn’t make me uncomfortable at all. But you’d better ask her the same thing. If she doesn’t want me there, I’ll just see you another time.”
“Okay, Dad,” she said. “I’ll mention it to her, but I’m sure she won’t mind. She didn’t mind your bringing Kayla to my birthday party, so why would she mind now?”
“I won’t bring Kayla this time,” he said. “I want to spend time with you.”
“Oh … okay. That’ll be nice. Would you like to me come get you at the airport? Oh, wait, I can’t drive my car.”
“Don’t even think of it, Jamie. It’s nice of you to offer, but I can take a limo or have someone from my office come get me. It’s a nice way to have a meeting while stuck in traffic.”
“Okay. But you’ll call me when you get in, right?”
“Absolutely. I’m looking forward to seeing you, honey.”
“Me too, Dad. See you in … a week or so.”
After Ryan had shared her news about Jamie the trio resumed talking about the same topic they’d started at the previous session. “We spent most of last time talking about Ryan,” Ellen said, “and I think we did a pretty thorough job of giving her our impressions of her. Ready for your time in the hot seat, Barb?”
“No, but I never am,” she said grimly. “Hit me.”
As Barb had done the previous week, Ryan composed her thoughts, faced Barb and said, “I’ve been thinking about what you told me one of the first weeks I was here. You said that you were going to quit the police force because you didn’t think you could stand to do the job again.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said.”
“Do you still feel that way?”
“I think so. I can go back if the police psychologist clears me, or I can go on permanent disability. But I don’t wanna go through all of the stuff I’d have to do to get disability. I’d probably just quit.”
“How many years do you have in?” Ryan asked.
“Seven. Lucky seven.”
“And how long were you and … Phil?”
“Yeah, Phil,” Barb said, her face taking on the mask of pain it always carried when she talked about her partner on the force.
“How long were you partners?”
“Two years. My first partner retired. They try to put rookies with an older cop if possible. Phil and I were peers. He was just two years older than me.”
“I think,” Ryan said, her eyes narrowing a little, “that you hold yourself to a higher standard than the rest of the world does.”
“Mmm … the world’s standards aren’t very high in my book,” Barb said.
“No, but the police department’s are. And if they determined you weren’t negligent in your partner’s death—I believe them. They go over things like that more carefully than anything they do. And if they thought you did anything … anything …wrong, you would have been called on it. True?” she asked, staring at Barb.
“Yeah, that’s mostly true. Nobody would want to partner with someone who they thought had been given a pass.”
“Do you think anyone would want to partner with you?”
Barb squirmed in her seat. “Yeah. Everybody I’ve talked to said it wasn’t my fault. A couple of people have said they’d like to pair up with me if I go back.”
“But you don’t trust them?”
“Hell, yeah, I trust ’em! That’s not it.”
“You don’t trust yourself,” Ryan said, and Barb nodded. “I know what that’s like, I really do. But I don’t know what it’s like to accidentally kill someone I cared about.”
“Nobody does,” Barb said. “Well, most people don’t. The lucky ones don’t.”
“No matter what you do, you’re always gonna struggle with Phil’s death. But other cops know what it’s like to shoot someone. They know what it’s like to make the kind of decision you made the day Phil died. If you go into some job where people don’t understand the stress—you’re gonna feel even more alone—more cut off.”
“Not many people have shot their partners,” she mumbled.
“Probably true. But it could happen to anyone at any time. Other cops know that. They don’t wanna think about it, but they all know it. They’ll have more empathy for you than anybody else, Barb. They’re your best support group. Going back to work and getting on with your career is the best thing you could do for yourself.”
“I just don’t think I can face anyone,” Barb said, her jaw starting to tremble. “I haven’t seen anyone from the force since the funeral.”
“That’ll be hard,” Ryan said. “But there’s someone you have to face every minute … and that’s yourself. You’ve said that I’m not a quitter … well, you’re not either. No woman who goes through the police academy is a quitter. I worry about you because I think you’re gonna hate yourself if you quit. If you give up now, you’ll always feel like you ran away. I hate to say it this way, but you will have run away. And that’s something that I think you’ll always be ashamed of.”
“That’s what stops me from quitting,” Barb said. “I hate quitters. I’ve wanted to put a slug through my head a dozen times, but that would be the easy way out.” Her jaw stuck out in defiance, and she looked more self-confident than Ryan had ever seen her. “That’s what a coward would do.”
“You’re no coward,” Ryan said. “The people who investigated the accident know that, your fellow cops know that, and I know you know that. You just have to make yourself believe it.”
“Easier said …”
“I know that. People have been telling me to forgive myself ever since the day of our carjacking, but I’m my toughest critic. I think that’s true for you, too.”
“Yeah, it is. Phil’s girlfriend and his mother keep telling me that it wasn’t my fault, but that makes me feel worse. It’s hard for me to face either one of them, and seeing them upset about me just makes me … wanna scream. They shouldn’t waste their time thinking about me.”
“They care about you,” Ryan said softly. “And if they held you responsible … even a little … they probably wouldn’t be able to face you.”
“Maybe.” She shrugged and looked away. “I don’t know.”
There was a pause and Ellen said, “I think Barb has a pretty good idea of how you see her situation, Ryan. Do you have any questions for Ryan, Barb?”
“No, but I’m gonna think about what you said about the cops being a good support group. Maybe I’ll be able to make up my mind about going back if I start to talk to one or two of the people I used to hang out with. Get a feel for how they think it’d go for me if I went back.”
“It couldn’t hurt,” Ryan said. “I know a lot of cops, and they’re usually good at giving it to you straight.”
Barb gave her a half smile. “Without a doubt.”
Ryan was just getting on her bike to ride home when her cell phone rang. “Ryan?”
“Hi, Professor. What’s up?”
“Professor Skadden just got the results for the Putnam Competition. He’s going to announce them at 10:00 in the Common Room in Evans Hall. I thought you might like to be there.”
“Mmm … I was gonna work on my project today. I hate to waste the time.”
“Aw, come on. I’m calling all of the people I know who took it. Surely you’re curious.”
“Sure. I wanna know how I did, but I could have my girlfriend go by and check. She’s on campus today.”
The professor laughed. “You’re the most incurious woman I know!”
“No, not really. But since I wasn’t on the team …”
“No, but you know some of the people on the team, don’t you? You should come and support them.”
“Okay, okay,” Ryan said, laughing. “You guilt-tripped me into it.”
“Good. Now that that’s settled, I’d like to postpone our meeting for this afternoon, if possible. My husband lucked into a pair of tickets for the Giants’ opening day, and I can’t pass that up.”
“Now I know why you called,” Ryan joked. “You had an ulterior motive.”
“I always do. See you at 10:00.”
Ryan reached Jamie when her partner was half-dozing through a lecture on supply-side economics. “Hi,” Jamie whispered. “Thanks for making my pants vibrate. Most excitement I’ve had in an hour.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Macro economics is, quite possibly, the dullest course offered at this fine university. Luckily, a zillion people take it, so I can sit in the back row and pray for the clock to move. What’s up?”
“Are you free at 10:00?”
“Yeah, but I have class at 10:30.”
“I know that,” Ryan said, feigning offense. “I know your schedule. I just didn’t know if you had anything else going on.”
“No, no secret trysts today. I was just gonna go over my notes while they’re still pooled in a lifeless mass in my head.”
“Wanna meet me in your hall? They’re announcing the results of the Putnam.”
“It’s not my hall,” Jamie said, giggling at Ryan’s insistence that the math building, named Evans Hall, had been named for her. “God, it’s been forever! Did they have one guy grading ’em?”
“No, but almost three thousand people took it, and they have to grade them by hand.”
“They should do it the easy way and make it multiple choice.”
“I’ll put that in the suggestion box. See you a little bit before 10:00. It’s in the common room on the tenth floor. Save me a seat if you get there first.”
“Unless someone cuter comes in before you do.”
“Honey, I hate to sound like I’m full of myself, but this is the math department. Get real!”
Ryan slid into a seat next to Jamie in the large room overlooking the Bay. “No one cuter got here first, huh?”
Jamie leaned over and kissed her. “No, but I’m sure I could give some of these guys their first contact with a woman.” She surreptitiously looked around. “We might be the only non-virgins here.”
Ryan giggled and poked her partner with her elbow. “You’re very naughty today. I like it when you’re naughty.”
“I’m in a strangely good mood,” Jamie said. “It’s such a nice day for April. The sun makes me wanna do something … silly.”
“Hmm … silly, huh? Maybe we can think of something later.” She turned her head and nodded at the man in the front of the room. “That’s the esteemed Professor Skadden.”
“He’s the jerk who wouldn’t put you on the team, right?”
“He’s your man. Come to think of it, you might be able to give him his first contact with a woman.”
“Ugh! He dissed my baby. No nookie for him.”
Ryan turned and stared at her. “What’s gotten into you today?”
Grinning, Jamie shrugged. “Don’t know. I just feel playful.”
Ryan put her arm around her and said, “Shh … the great man is about to speak.”
The professor stood at the podium and adjusted his glasses, then he spoke in a flat, nasal voice. “I have the results from the 1999 Putnam Competition. The committee reports that twenty-nine hundred people sat for the test, and teams represented three hundred and forty-six schools.”
“I don’t know,” Jamie said. “He doesn’t look like he knows how to build suspense.”
“The top five teams are as follows,” he said. “The University of Waterloo, Harvard University, Duke University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago.”
Everyone in the room let out a disappointed sigh. People shifted around in their seats, and a few people started to get up.
“Some people from our department performed very well,” he said. People stopped moving and paid attention again. “We aren’t given team results lower than the top five, but Gabriel Dominguez placed third in the entire competition.”
Ryan let out a whoop and everyone in the auditorium applauded. “That’s Gabe,” Ryan said, pointing to a man who stood up and waved. “We’ve been in a lot of classes together. He’s real smart,” she added, wrinkling up her nose.
Professor Skadden continued, “Hiroshi Matsuhita, also on our team, placed ninetieth.
Ryan pointed out Hiroshi when he stood. “I don’t know him. I think he’s a freshman.”
“And lastly, Siobhán O’Flaherty …” Jamie grabbed Ryan’s arm and squeezed it hard. “…placed twenty-fifth and has been awarded the Elizabeth Lowell Putnam prize for particularly meritorious performance by a woman.”
Jamie kissed Ryan on the lips, squeezing her tight while the entire room looked on in stunned silence. Ryan broke away and stood, and, after a pause, the crowd applauded vigorously.
“Congratulations to all of you,” Professor Skadden said. “You should all be proud of your efforts.” He walked over to Gabe and shook his hand, and Hiroshi walked over to him to be congratulated, too.
“That’s so cool!” Jamie squealed. She put her good arm around Ryan and patted her hard on the back. “And you’re the best women! I could have told ’em that!” Ryan looked happy, but not as happy as Jamie expected. “What’s up? You’re not jazzed.”
Distracted, Ryan gave her a quick glance. “Oh, I am.” Jamie followed her eyes and saw her staring at Professor Skadden. “He should have mentioned me after Gabe. I came in twenty-fifth and Hiroshi came in ninetieth.”
“Oh … right!” Jamie glared at the elderly man.
Professor Berkowitz walked over and threw her arms around Ryan. “Glad you came?”
Ryan smiled at her. “You knew, didn’t you!”
“Yeah. I knew that you won the ELP, but I didn’t know how well you did. Damn, twenty-fifth place is awesome, Ryan.”
Sheepishly, Ryan nodded. “I’m happy, really happy. Especially because of how I had to take it.”
“I’d hate to see how you’d do if you hadn’t been on a bus all day after playing a basketball game!”
“Who knows? That might have relaxed me. I have an odd metabolism.”
“I’m really happy for you,” the professor said again. “I never cracked the magic one-fifty when I took it, and I took it four times!”
“Just goes to show it doesn’t mean much,” Ryan said, grinning at her.
“I’ve gotta go, but I’m really glad you two could make it. Good job!” She smiled at both of them, then was immediately approached by a student as she turned to go.
“She’s nice,” Jamie said.
“Yep. She’s nice and smart. My favorite combo.”
“You gonna go talk to your friend?”
“Yeah, as soon as Skadden takes off. He probably thinks there was a mistake in the grading.”
Jamie gazed at the back of Ryan’s head as her partner leaned forward, watching the professor chat with a few students. It wasn’t like Ryan to get upset about someone not noticing her or not giving her the respect she deserved, and it puzzled her. She put her hand on her back and said, “I think he’s leaving. Let’s go.”
Ryan grabbed her backpack and reached Gabe and Hiroshi as they were about to leave. “Hey, guys, good job,” she said, awkwardly hugging each man.
“You kicked some serious tail, O’Flaherty,” Gabe said, laughing. “Twenty-fifth is righteous!”
Hiroshi, whose English skills didn’t match his mathematical abilities, nodded politely and mumbled something like, “Good job. Nice.”
“You guys did great,” Ryan said. “But I didn’t hear Serban’s score.”
Gabe shrugged. “I’ll go check out the announcement when Skadden has his secretary post it. I think they list the top hundred and fifty.”
“Yeah,” Ryan said. “I think they do.” She smiled and shook each man’s hand and took Jamie by the hand to lead her out.
“Who’s this Serban … is that right?”
“He’s the third guy on the team. He got the spot I should’ve gotten … if Skadden wasn’t a sexist.”
“Well, I hope he’s learned his lesson. You did great, honey! And you beat all of the other women!”
Ryan made a face. “That doesn’t impress me. I think it sucks that they even give that award out. It’s like the ‘We know women can’t beat the men, so we have a special little prize for them’ award.”
“Ooo … that’s why you didn’t look happy.”
“Partly,” Ryan said, checking her watch. “Time for you to leave for class, punkin.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I thought I’d go home and work on my project. Same as always.”
“Let’s do something silly,” Jamie said. “Just you and me.”
“You’re gonna skip class?”
“Yep. I haven’t missed this one except for one golf match. I’m due.” She kissed Ryan again. “And you’re due a little celebration!”
“You also gave a lot of the guys in the room a bonus,” Ryan said, chuckling. “Seeing two girls kiss probably shorted out some circuits in those tidy little brains. They may not have to resort to animé porn tonight.”
“Ack!” Jamie threw her hand over her mouth. “I kissed you! I mean, I really kissed you!”
“Sure did. I liked it,” Ryan said, linking her arm through Jamie’s.
When they were standing in the bright, warm sunshine, Jamie took out her cell phone and called her mother. “Hi, Mom,” she said. “Do you mind if we go get my splint tomorrow?”
“No, that’s fine. I thought you’d be in a hurry to get it, since it will fit so much better than the one you have.”
“I am,” she admitted. “But my sweetheart just found out she placed twenty-fifth out of almost six thousand people who took that big math test last fall. I think she deserves a treat!”
“Twenty-fifth! Goodness, that’s wonderful! She really is gifted, isn’t she?”
“Oh, she’s the most gifted little pixie in the world.” She stuck her tongue out at Ryan, reeling it back in just as it was nearly grabbed.
“She’s with you, isn’t she?” Catherine asked. “I can always tell. Your voice takes on the happiest tone.”
“That’s because she makes me happy. Always.” She blew Ryan a kiss.
“Can I speak with her?”
“Sure. Mom wants to say hi,” Jamie said.
Ryan took the phone. “Hi!”
“Hello to you! Congratulations on doing so well in that test. That’s quite an accomplishment.”
“Thanks. I was pleased.”
“So self-effacing,” Catherine said, gently chiding her. “Would you like to go out for a nice dinner tonight? Or do you two have plans?”
“No, we don’t have plans for tonight, do we, Jamie?” Jamie shook her head. “We’re free. But I have softball practice until six.”
“I’ll make reservations for seven,” Catherine said. “You don’t have to get too dressed up.”
Ryan smiled. “Thanks for that. You know I’d prefer not to wear shoes if I didn’t have to.”
“Any place I pick will probably require shoes, but I’ll try to keep it casual.”
“Thanks, Catherine. We’ll see you later.” She clicked off and smiled at Jamie. “Now what?”
“Hmm … what would you do if you could do anything this afternoon?”
“That’s easy. I’d go to opening day at
Jamie slapped at her gently. “Why don’t you tell me things like this? You know I could have easily gotten us tickets!”
“I know, I know. But I couldn’t have, and I hate to take advantage of your contacts and your money for things like that.” She shrugged, looking a little guilty. “I know you don’t like it, but I still feel that way.”
Jamie hugged her, then rubbed her back. “No, I don’t like it, but I like you, so I guess I have to live with all of your awful habits.”
“You bear it well,” Ryan said. She bent slightly and kissed the top of Jamie’s head.
Eyes lighting up, Jamie said, “I’ve got a brilliant idea. It won’t cost much and I can guarantee some fast driving and a unique experience.”
“Duh,” Ryan said, making a face. “When have I ever refused that combo?”
When they got home, Jamie made a few phone calls without allowing Ryan to hear any of them. At 11:00, she went into Ryan’s room and said, “Dress warmly, but in layers. And bring a jacket.” She paused, eyes narrowed in thought. “And an extra set of clothes.”
Ryan leaned back in her desk chair and gazed contemplatively at her partner. “Ooh, I love a mystery. Where could we be going that I might have to change? Hmm …” She scratched her head and said, “I hope it’s because you’re going to rip my clothes off me.”
“Maybe, if you play your cards right. Now get ready! We’ll barely make it as it is!”
Even though she didn’t know where they were going, Ryan drove Jamie’s car. She assumed they were going across the
“No, we’re not,” Jamie said. “But you’re warm.”
Ryan looked at her, her face showing puzzlement. “Uhm … I like to guess, but I have a feeling I’m missing some of the variables. It’s hard to solve an equation when you’re missing too many.”
“I barely passed Algebra I, so you’re wasting your breath making math analogies,” Jamie said, smirking. “But you won’t have to guess for long. Park anywhere in here.”
Ryan did and got out, spending a few seconds stretching. “Now where?”
“Pick up our bag?” Jamie held up her splint, looking pathetic. “I’m injured.”
Ryan draped an arm around her and hefted the bag with her other hand. “I know you are,” she said, speaking as she would to Caitlin. “And I think it’s just awful and terrible.”
“Thank you.” Jamie smiled up at her and led her to the harbormaster’s office.
“This looks like it’s gonna cost —”
“Nope. It’s not. Really.” They went inside and Jamie smiled at the young man behind the desk. “Hi. I’d like the keys to slip number sixteen.”
The clerk smiled back, his gaze lingering a little longer than Ryan liked. “Name?”
“Evans. Jamie Evans.”
“Could I see some I.D?” She showed him her driver’s license and he nodded, looked through a registration book, and then turned it around. “Sign right on the X, next to the slip number.”
She complied, then gave Ryan a smile while the young man retrieved a set of keys. As he handed them over, he said, “She hasn’t been out this year, but we’ve been starting her every week. If you have any trouble, just let me know and I’ll come out and get ’er going for you, Jamie.”
The combination of his familiar use of her name and the smile he gave Jamie, made Ryan want to rearrange his face.
Oblivious, Jamie said, “Thanks,” waving goodbye in her typically friendly way that inevitably made men want to follow her around like puppies.
As soon as they got outside, Ryan tucked her arm around Jamie possessively. “Jag-off can look all he wants, but I get to take you home.”
Jamie looked up at her, puzzled by her attitude. “Did I miss something?”
“Nah.” Ryan shook her head. “You never seem to notice how guys look at you. Bugs me sometimes.”
“I bug you or the guys bug you?”
“The guys.” Ryan grinned. “You can’t help being gorgeous.”
“Yeah. That’s me. Since Jordan’s been unavailable, Ralph Lauren keeps calling.”
“Go ahead, make fun. But I, and most of the men in the Bay Area, think you’re prime eye-candy.”
Jamie reached out and squeezed Ryan’s hand. “I love every delusional thought in that pretty head.”
Quickly over her disgruntlement, Ryan glanced around the docks, then back at Jamie. “Right now my head’s wondering what’s in slip sixteen.”
“Go down this aisle and you’ll find out.”
They turned and walked past a few boats, then Ryan stopped beside Jamie in front of a power boat. “Do you own this?”
Jamie shrugged. “Kinda. One Saturday when we were tailgating at a Stanford football game, my dad and some of his friends from college decided to buy a boat. I think they’d all had too many Bloody Marys,” she said, laughing. “They’ve had it for a long time … maybe ten years. I don’t think we’ve been on it more than ten times. Why my father wanted another boat when he spent almost every weekend down in
Ryan walked down the dock, coolly appraising the boat. “It looks … kinda small. I’d have pictured your father going in for something like…” she pointed at a bright red Cigarette boat berthed just a few slips away, “…that.” The sleek boat looked fast and dangerous, even just sitting placidly in the water.
“No. He’s not really into power-boating. They bought this one for skiing. We took it up to
“I am,” Ryan said, eyes dancing. “Or wake boarding. That’s what I’d really like to try.”
“I’ll drive for you anytime, baby, but I am not getting into the bay without a full wetsuit, and I don’t own one.”
“I own something you don’t?” Ryan clutched dramatically at her heart.
With a wry grin, Jamie said, “Yes, you do. Probably a lot of things judging from the stuff I’ve seen in your closet. I’ve never yearned to open my own sporting goods store.”
Ryan looked appraisingly out at the other crafts already out on the water. “I’d love to ski out here. You never see anyone doing it.”
Jamie cocked her head and gazed at her partner for a long moment. “Does it ever occur to you that there’s a reason other people don’t do it?”
“Nope.” Ryan gave her a happy smile. “I just figure I’m the first one who’s thought of it.”
“Delusional, but gorgeous; that’s my girl. Now, help me take off the cockpit cover and we can rock.”
Not wanting Jamie anywhere near the deck of the boat with her broken elbow, Ryan performed the task on her own. She stowed the cover as instructed and then held out a hand to help Jamie board safely. “I’ll cast off,” she said, jumping back out onto the dock.
Watching Ryan’s child-like exuberance, Jamie smiled. “Okay. I’ll start ’er up.” She sat down in the white contoured bucket seat on the right-hand side, and adjusted it to her liking. When she turned the key, Ryan’s eyes grew wide.
“Crap! How big are those engines?”
Jamie cupped her hand over her ear. “What?”
Realizing that her partner wouldn’t be able to hear her without a megaphone, Ryan made the hand signal for “Never mind.” Jamie let the boat idle for a while, then signaled Ryan, who released the docking lines and jumped aboard. “How big are the engines?” she asked, right into Jamie’s ear.
“Engine. Just one. An inboard diesel 350,” Jamie said. “Small boat, big engine. You do the math.”
“Physics,” Ryan said, grinning toothily. “Water displacement, weight, force, thrust … that’s physics.”
“That’s nice, honey. Now shut up, sit down, and hold on.”
Ryan’s eyes bugged out, but she did as she was told, settling herself in the seat next to Jamie. A few moments later, she was grateful for the instruction—except for the shut up part—when Jamie smoothly guided the small boat out of the slip and put it into gear. Though they were moving relatively slowly, Ryan could feel the force of the powerful engine, and was almost drooling at the thought of being able to open it up once they were free of the marina.
Continued in Part 6
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