Authors: Susan X Meagher
Tags: #Lesbian, #Romance
From expensive haircuts to expensive cars, Jamie's money--and what it can buy--continues to be a problem that she and Ryan struggle with. But, when Jim Evans, already in denial over his daughter's declared preference of a mate, receives a report from the bank that Jamie has given Ryan access to her checking account, he becomes more convinced than ever that the money is the only reason that Ryan has latched onto Jamie.
Ryan O’Flaherty sat in the kitchen of her family home just after dawn on the 4
of July, sipping a cup of coffee while she thoughtfully surveyed the foodstuffs laid out in front of her. Her shoulder-length black hair was a little mussed from sleep, the long bangs that poked out from the more ordered strands giving her a slightly childlike appearance. Her father entered the room and placed a hand on her shoulder, giving it a slight squeeze. "I’m telling you, Darlin’, it doesn’t matter how many ways you slice it–we can’t get this all prepared in this kitchen by one o’clock. I know you’re a whiz with the math, but you can’t make these numbers work for you."
She scratched her head lightly, the gesture causing the few well-behaved hairs to tumble across her forehead. Her father looked at her fondly, fluffing the long strands with his hand as he chuckled at the expression on her face. "I swear I’ve never seen anyone’s hair get longer after a haircut," he teased.
"I don’t know what that guy was trying to accomplish, but he sure as heck didn’t do a darned thing to these bangs! I guess I’ll have to do it myself," she grumbled.
A few minutes later, Jamie Evans poked her head into the kitchen, expecting to find breakfast preparation well under way. She squawked sharply when she spotted her lover sitting on a tall kitchen stool, a dishtowel draped across her shoulders, with her father brandishing a pair of scissors and a comb. "What are you two doing?" She scampered across the floor, placing a restraining hand on Martin’s arm just as he was about to make the first cut.
"The lass wants her bangs cut. I cut her hair until she was in high school, I’ll have you know," he explained reasonably, showing Jamie that he had credentials in the field.
"I can hardly see, Jamie," Ryan complained, her crystal clear blue eyes peeking up through the glossy black hair.
Jamie took a breath, the images of Ryan from early photographs assaulting her brain. Her partner had always had fairly long hair, but Jamie had noticed in nearly every childhood picture that her bangs were perpetually off-kilter. She tried to be as diplomatic as she could, knowing that both O’Flahertys--pére et fils--were a bit thin-skinned. "Um…Honey," she soothed, quickly removing the towel from her partner’s shoulders, "Giancarlo left them like that intentionally."
Ryan cocked her head slightly, her brow furrowing in puzzlement. She met her father’s equally puzzled glance, and they turned to gaze at Jamie with identical looks on their remarkably similar faces. "Why would he do that?" Both dark heads tilted, waiting for an answer.
If Duffy comes in here and assumes that same expression, I’m gonna lose it!
Willing the smile to remain off her face, Jamie explained. "He thinks the bangs detract from your features. He thinks you have a lovely forehead, and that you shouldn’t hide it." Waiting a beat, Jamie added, "He’s absolutely right on that point, by the way." She brushed the hair from said feature and placed a gentle kiss there. Grasping Ryan’s chin with her fingers she tilted her head up, displaying her face to Martin’s gaze. "Don’t you agree, Martin?"
His eyes narrowed a bit, and Jamie could see that he was giving the question his full attention. "She’s a lovely girl, that’s true," he commented thoughtfully, "but if she wants the bangs cut that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?"
get Duffy to come in here. He’ll vote on my side, for sure. I know he’d appreciate more exposed skin on his mommy’s face.
"Okay, Hon, let’s back into this. Do you like the way Giancarlo cut your hair overall?"
"Yeah, I already told you…"
"Bear with me, Sweetie. Do you want him to cut it again?"
"Yeah, I said that I did…"
"Okay!" She placed her hands on her hips, pleased that her argument had carried the day. "Then you can’t cut your bangs!"
"Huh? Why the heck not?" Ryan was more confused than ever now, and Martin looked even more so.
"Because," Jamie explained patiently, "once you cheat on him, he’ll never take you back." This all seemed perfectly reasonable to Jamie, and it puzzled her a bit that the O’Flahertys did not immediately grasp the logic of it.
"Getting my bangs cut is cheating?" Ryan gaped.
"Honey, I’ve seen him ban somebody from the shop because she parted her hair in an unapproved fashion. He’s not very forgiving."
Ryan shook her head and stood up, removing the scissors and comb from her father’s hands. "Hard to believe Italy is so darned close to Ireland, isn’t it?" she mused.
"I’ve always thought so," he agreed completely.
After Jamie poured a cup of coffee for herself and replenished her partner’s, she came to stand behind her and look over her shoulder at the figures and boxes she was drawing. "You look like you’re preparing for the invasion of Normandy," she whispered, causing the tiny hairs at the nape of Ryan’s neck to flutter while a shiver chased down her spine.
Martin was busy preparing omelets for them both, so he was distracted enough that Ryan felt comfortable engaging in some sexually charged banter. "If you keep blowing on my neck like that, you’re going to be preparing for the O’Flaherty invasion," she promised, blue eyes flashing in the early morning light.
"I was ready to surrender last night, Hot Stuff, but the allied commander fell asleep on duty." Jamie leaned over even farther and took a nibble from Ryan’s neck, sniffing at her always-alluring, earthy scent.
"Mmmm," Ryan’s deep morning-voice rumbled. "I’m on duty now, and I’m itching to see some action."
It became apparent that their banter had grown a little too loud and a little too obvious, as Martin started to hum a tune, the volume rising until their voices were obliterated.
The young lovers were so focused on each other that it took a moment for them to recognize Martin’s evasive tactic. When they did so, their blushes fought for supremacy, with Jamie’s winning out in the end. Giggling like schoolgirls, they retreated from the kitchen to the relative safety of the dining room to continue their play while awaiting breakfast.
"Is this really the best idea, Ryan?" Jamie wondered aloud, struggling with the two grocery bags filled with mayonnaise, mustard, celery, eggs, parsley and onions.
"Do you actually think I WANT to carry a 50-pound sack of potatoes all the way to my aunt’s house?" Ryan replied, giving her partner an aggrieved look.
Knowing Ryan, the chore might just be one of her little fitness tortures, so Jamie was aware that her complaints were mostly teasing. Her eyes were twinkling with mirth, acknowledging that there were less cumbersome items on the list of foods to be prepared. "I guess I shouldn’t have volunteered us for the potato salad, huh?"
"I’ve been getting by for years with making deviled eggs," Ryan remarked. "Next time, don’t volunteer for anything unless you check with me first, Hon. I’ve learned where all the landmines lie in this family." She was actually a little out of breath, unaccustomed to toting such an ungainly load.
"It’s a deal, Buffy," Jamie agreed. "From here on in, you make all the decisions."
At Ryan’s bemused smirk, Jamie amended her statement slightly. "About family picnics, that is."
"I suspected that blanket concession went a little farther than you intended." Ryan’s grin showed that she did not mind acceding to many, if not most, of her partner’s wishes.
They sat in Maeve’s sunny kitchen, peeling potatoes for what seemed like hours. "Are you sure this isn’t going to be way too much food, Honey?" Jamie asked, as she dropped yet another spud into a kettle of cold water.
"I doubt it," Ryan mused. "We almost always run out of potato salad, and we usually use a 50-pound bag of potatoes. This looks like the bare minimum to me."
Jamie had never heard of a group that could eat two pounds of potato salad each, so she politely asked, "Are a few other people coming, Honey?"
Ryan tossed her head back and laughed heartily, the vibrations echoing off the walls of the small room. "Did you think this was just for us? Oh, Jamie, that’s rich!"
"Well…you didn’t say who was coming…"
"My bad, Sweetie, my bad. All of my aunt’s people come to this, a bunch of Driscolls come, a raft of people from the neighborhood, some people from church. Last year we had about 85, and this year I’ll be surprised if we don’t top 100."
Jamie rolled her eyes and shared in Ryan’s amusement. "That makes a little more sense! But, why will there be 15 more people this year?"
"Because of you," she smiled, offering no further explanation.
Jamie pointed her index finger and twirled her hand quickly, giving Ryan the usual sign for "Go on."
Ryan shot her a grin and revealed, "The boys hate the fact that I’ve got a girl now. I’ll be the most surprised woman in Golden Gate Park if every one of the rascals doesn’t show up with a date–all trying to win the contest."
"Oh yeah," Ryan nodded. "Whenever there’s an event like this, the fellas all compete to see who brings the best looking woman. But just to be fair, I’m going to opt out of the game. It’ll hurt morale to have me win, time and again and ag…"
Her comments were cut off by a pair of coral tinted lips that latched onto her mouth firmly. When Jamie pulled away she promised, "You are gonna get soooooo lucky tonight, Buffy."
When the Boxster was loaded with as much beer and soda as would fit, they took off for Golden Gate Park. Finding a convenient parking spot was beyond fanciful, so when Jamie spotted the poster board signs that indicated the gathering was up ahead, she double-parked so they could unload before she took off again.
Martin and his three brothers were already on the job, five full-sized Weber kettles smoking away. A tall, cylindrical smoker had been called into service also, and the acrid aroma of mesquite hit Jamie as soon as she exited the Porsche. "Wow! I’m hungry already," she proclaimed, even though it was only ten a.m. They worked together to unload the car, then Jamie fluttered a wave at the O’Flaherty brothers and took off in search of a parking spot.
By the time she returned, Ryan had carted all of the beverages over to the plastic tubs that held bags of ice waiting to chill the drinks. Jamie stood next to Martin while Ryan organized all of the cans and bottles. She had been in the company of the senior O’Flahertys several times, and all of the men had been cordial to her, but without the noise and the clamor of the rest of the family, she realized that she felt slightly uncomfortable. It wasn’t that they treated her any differently than they did Ryan or any of the cousins–actually, her discomfort came from being treated just like one of the family. And where the brothers were concerned, it wasn't necessary to keep up a conversation just for the sake of politeness with family members.
Each brother tended his own grill, with Frank being in charge of the smoker and Martin having two kettles of his own. The grills were set in a circle with the men standing on the perimeter, arms crossed over their chests or hands in their pockets. No one said a word, since nothing was occurring that required speech. Martin slung an arm around Jamie’s shoulder, looking perfectly content. She shot him a smile and stood in silence, watching the chunks of mesquite begin to turn an ash-covered white.
Since the grills had been lit at the same time, they all reached a simultaneous state of readiness. All at once, the brothers became verbal, arguing briefly about who was to do what, and when each item should be put onto each grill. Jamie stood smirking at the group, while Ryan came up behind her and snuck her arms around her waist. "Oooh, decision time," she mused, placing a light kiss on her partner’s cheek. "The most vital part of the day."
Jamie turned and said quietly, "Nobody said a word for the longest time. Are they angry with each other?"
Ryan considered the question for a moment, seeing the men from Jamie’s perspective, and acknowledging that they were indeed a pretty quiet bunch. "The happier they are, the quieter they are," she informed her partner. "They talk when they need to, but they’re not into small talk. You’ll know you’re part of the family when they don’t even acknowledge your arrival," she said with a wry chuckle.
Jamie laughed in reply. "Then I’m clearly a member of the family. I didn’t even get a grunt!"
Ryan gave her a gentle hug, holding on for just a minute longer than discretion called for. "I knew they’d love you," she whispered, genuinely pleased by her uncles ignoring her partner.
By eleven o’clock most of Ryan’s generation was in attendance, and as correctly predicted, every cousin was in the company of a woman. In fact, Brendan was the only holdout, and Jamie commented on this to Ryan. "Does Brendan date?" she asked, having never seen him with anyone, nor having heard of him speak of a romantic entanglement.
Ryan chuckled at the way the question was framed and told Jamie all that she knew. "I don’t think he’s gay, and I don’t think he’s a hermit, but to be honest, you only know what Brendan wants to tell you–and that’s not much!"
This puzzled Jamie completely. "Are you serious, Honey? You really have not met any of his girlfriends?"
"Nope." Ryan shook her dark head, letting her hair bounce briskly around her shoulders. "I honestly have never seen him with a woman. Bren has always valued his privacy much more than any of the rest of us. I’m not sure why, but you’ll notice that he’s the only one the aunts don’t tease. His personal life has always been personal–and everybody knows it."