Disclaimers: See Part 1

Thanks again to my beta readers, Alina, Kimly, MyWarrior, and Wendy. Also thanks for all the nice feedback from readers!

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Take Time Out

Part 6

By RJ

cappaert@proaxis.com

December, 1999

No part of this text may be reproduced in whole, or in part, without the express consent of the author.

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Chapter 16

What am I waiting for? Of course I want to stay here. "Well, if you’re sure you don’t mind, I am pretty darn comfortable here," Robin said, smiling back at Jess.

"Great! Do you need anything else? Do you want to borrow a toothbrush?"

"Well, that probably depends on whether the toothbrush that I’m ‘borrowing’ is used or not," Robin laughed.

The laughter relieved the tension that both women could feel, and Jess finally relaxed a little, reclining back on the pillows.

"Well, I happen to have a new toothbrush in the bathroom that you could break in."

Robin got up and headed toward the bathroom, calling back over her shoulder, "As long as you promise not to offer it to someone else later…."

Jess watched the young woman disappear into the bathroom, her gaze lingering on Robin’s flannel-covered derriere much too long for a woman who thought she was straight. She blinked hard a few times and brought herself back to reality. "Hey, I think the toothbrush is in the right-hand drawer in there," Jess called out.

"Thanks," came the muffled reply from behind the door.

Minutes later, Robin returned, shut off the light, and settled underneath the blanket. Jess rolled onto her back and double-checked to make sure she was on her own side of the bed. God, why is this making me so nervous? Or is it excitement, not nervousness? Oh geez, that would be worse, wouldn’t it?

The two women laid there in silence for a few minutes before Robin turned on her side facing Jess. She propped herself up on her elbow, her head resting on her hand. "Hey Jess?" she said softly.

"Yeah?"

"Tonight was the best time I’ve had in weeks, and I just wanted to thank you for taking the initiative this afternoon." Robin took a deep breath and willed herself to continue. "I’m really sorry that I jeopardized our friendship by not coming to talk to you sooner."

Jess quickly turned on her side and mirrored Robin’s position. "Hey, you don’t have to apologize any more than I do. You don’t know how many times I wanted to just call you, or stop by your office to talk to you, to figure out what went wrong, but I never did." She tried to see Robin’s eyes in the dim moonlit room, but could only see shadows.

"Why didn’t you?"

Jess swallowed hard. I can’t tell her it was because I was jealous of her and Capi. And I can’t tell her it was because I was mad at her for not telling me she was gay, which I’m not even sure she is anymore. Well, I’d better say something! "Well, you know I did try to contact you for about a week, but you never returned my calls or messages. I guess I just figured that you didn’t want to talk to me, and I didn’t want to push it." Oh right, like you can take the high ground in this!

"You’re right, and I should have returned your calls and not just assumed that I was getting in the way with you and John. I’m really sorry, Jess."

Jess felt extremely guilty that she’d prompted Robin to apologize again, when in reality she knew she was as much to blame. "Don’t be. I shouldn’t have given up so easily. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m just glad that we figured out it was all a misunderstanding." Jess’s eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness, and she could see a relieved smile on Robin’s face.

"Yeah, me too." Robin reached over and put her hand on top of Jess’s. "I promise I’ll make a better effort to communicate in the future, and I won’t just make assumptions about what you’re feeling, OK?"

"OK, me too," Jess replied while turning her hand over and gently clasping Robin’s.

They stayed that way for a moment, smiling at each other in the dim light, until Robin started to worry about how Jess would react to prolonged physical contact between them. She gave Jess’s hand a squeeze before releasing it and turning over onto her back. Jess remained on her side, looking at Robin.

"Thanks," Jess said softly.

"What for?"

Jess paused. "Just thanks."

Robin wasn’t exactly sure what Jess meant, but knew it wasn’t something she should question.

"You’re welcome."

Jess smiled and turned onto her back and stared at the ceiling for awhile, thinking about the events of the last 6 hours. I am so glad we worked that out. I’ve missed her so much. She thought about whether she’d ever had a friend like Robin before, one that meant so much to her. I can never remember being so close to anyone like this…where it meant so much to see them happy…where I spend so much time thinking about them, and thinking about when I’ll get to see them again. And I know I’ve never felt this way about any of the guys I’ve dated…Is it possible that people are actually closer to their friends than their lovers? Or am I just kidding myself about what I really feel for Robin? Maybe this is what real love feels like, and I’ve just never experienced it before. At the thought of real love, Jess’s mind couldn’t help but go to the next logical step. She looked over at the attractive woman lying beside her and started to feel nervous again. I just don’t feel comfortable with the thought of having sex with a woman. I mean, we can share hugs, hold hands, and that kind of thing feels great, but lots of women friends do those things. Jess sighed deeply and closed her eyes. But it’s never felt like this with any other women friends I’ve had. Maybe I need to just stop analyzing everything and let whatever happens, happen. Satisfied with that strategy for the time being, Jess turned onto her side and allowed the happiness of the evening to wash over her and lull her into sleep.

 

Robin awoke feeling uncomfortably warm. She had already thrown the covers off of herself, and when she blinked her eyes open she saw that it was still dark. Not too dark to see the long body that she had somehow snuggled up against during the night, however. The same body that was now acting as a furnace. Robin slowly extricated herself from Jess’s side, relieved to see that the taller woman was still asleep. She took the opportunity to study Jess’s face for a moment, seeing the peacefulness of sleep etched in her features. Her stomach clenched painfully with the longing she had for this woman. Am I just torturing myself with this friendship? Robin shook her head, denying that thought. I just can’t give up on the hope that her feelings will change for me. I mean, there are already signs of affection. I just can’t tell if it’s the affection between friends, or something more. Maybe she doesn’t even know herself. Robin admonished herself to be patient, turned back over and closed her eyes again. In moments, she was back asleep, already inching her way unconsciously back toward Jess.

 

Robin awoke the next morning feeling rested and content, despite the fact that she was alone in the bed. She could smell the aroma of coffee coming from the kitchen, and she stretched her arms above her head, inhaling the welcome scent. Looking at her watch, she saw that it was already 10 am, and wondered how long Jess had been up. Standing up and working the kinks out of her body, Robin made her way into the kitchen.

"Hey sleepyhead! I thought maybe you were going to stay in bed till noon," Jess teased.

Robin rubbed her eyes and replied, "I probably would have if I hadn’t been enticed by the smell of coffee." She walked over to where Jess was sitting drinking her coffee and reading the paper. She leaned slightly against Jess’s chair while putting her hand on her shoulder. "Anything happen in the world yesterday that I need to know about?"

"Well if it did, it wouldn’t make the Comstock Gazette until tomorrow anyway," she joked. She looked up at Robin. "Let me get you a cup of coffee to open those eyelids a little more." She rose out of her chair, the nearness to Robin causing her to have a strong desire to lean down and give the smaller woman a soft kiss on the top of her head. She resisted the temptation, thinking, Sure, friends always feel like that, don’t they?

Robin dropped into a chair next to Jess’s, and looked around at the kitchen. It was clean and functional, but didn’t give the impression that it got a lot of use. Robin supposed that coaches spent a lot of evenings away from home, and that Jess had probably gotten in the habit of eating out.

"Just cream, right?" Jess called out from over at the counter.

"Right, lots of it, please."

"Here you go, one cream with a little coffee," Jess said, handing the mug to Robin. "How about some breakfast? I probably can’t make omelets as well as you, but I think I could handle some French toast."

"Mmmm, that would be great. But let me help. You don’t have to wait on me like I’m some guest, you know," Robin said, getting up out of her chair.

"But you are a guest," Jess pointed out with a little smile, even knowing what Robin meant.

Robin gave her a little push in the back and said, "You know what I mean...now get going and start heating up the pan, while I get the eggs and milk. I’m hungry!"

"Hmmm, why doesn’t that surprise me?" Jess asked sarcastically.

The two women happily worked together to prepare the French toast, occasionally running into each other in the small space, and smiling apologetically when it happened. Jess was once again struck by the contrast of this morning with Robin and her ill-fated morning with John. In fact, she couldn’t ever remember feeling so comfortable and happy in the morning.

As they sat down at the table to eat, Robin asked, "So what do you have on the calendar for today?"

"Nothing really. I usually spend some time in the office on Saturdays, but there’s nothing urgent that needs to get done. I do need to get to the gym sometime, though, especially after this big breakfast," she said while looking at her stack of three pieces of French toast. "What do you have planned?"

"Pretty much the same thing. If you want, I could meet you at the rec center later this afternoon," Robin said hopefully.

Jess thought for a moment before replying, "Sure, that sounds great. Usually I work out over at the arena, but the rec center shouldn’t be too crowded on a Saturday afternoon."

"Great! How about if we meet there at 3? That should give us enough time to digest this."

"Sounds good to me," Jess replied, as she finished off her breakfast and took her dishes to the sink.

The two women cleaned up the breakfast dishes, and put the mattress, blankets, and pillows away.

"Do you want to use the shower?" Jess asked.

"No, I’ll just wait till I get home. That is, if you don’t mind my keeping your clothes for a day or two till I get a chance to wash them."

"Keep them for as long as you’d like. It’s not like I don’t have drawers full of t-shirts and shorts."

Robin chuckled and replied, "Sounds a lot like my wardrobe."

She gathered up her things and Jess drove her back to her apartment. She spent the rest of the morning feeling decidedly happy, looking forward to seeing Jess again that afternoon.

 

Jess arrived at the rec center in her workout clothes, and was already warming up on a stationary bike when Robin arrived. After changing in the locker room, Robin jumped on a stairmaster next to Jess and started climbing.

"I should have asked you to meet me at 2 instead of 3," Robin said as she started to breath a little heavier. "I’ve been starving for the last hour, but I knew if I ate anything, I’d never be able to exercise without throwing up."

"Well, in that case, I’m really glad you waited," Jess replied dryly. "Tell your stomach it will only be another hour before you make it happy again."

"I hope you don’t expect me to stay on this stairmaster for an hour!"

"No," Jess laughed. "I thought we could lift some weights for about 20 minutes or so when we’re finished here."

"Whew! You had me worried there for a minute," Robin said with a big smile in Jess’s direction.

The two women increased their level of intensity on the exercise machines, and soon they were too short of breath to continue conversation. Thirty minutes later, they were both drenched in sweat and leaving the exercise room.

"Hey, what do you say we shoot a few baskets? There shouldn’t be anybody in the gym at this time of day," Robin said hopefully. "I’ll take you on in a game of H.O.R.S.E." she challenged.

Jess grinned and said, "You’ll be sorry. Want to bet dinner on it?"

"Oh, pretty confident, are we?" Robin taunted. "I’ll bet dinner AND a movie on it."

"You’re on! I’ll even let you go first."

They checked out a basketball and found the gym empty, as predicted. Robin dribbled over to the nearest basket and made an easy lay-up.

"Is that the best you can do for your first shot?" Jess taunted.

"That was just a warm-up shot, smart aleck," Robin retorted. "Here, you can have one, too," she said as she passed the ball crisply to Jess.

Jess dribbled the length of the court, made a left-handed lay-up, then dribbled back and made a reverse lay-up.

"Show-off! That was two warm-up shots," Robin said with a grin.

Jess passed the ball back to Robin and said, "Go ahead, take your best shot."

Robin decided she would start slow and get her range before trying anything too difficult. She walked over to the free-throw line, took three dribbles, and swished a high arcing shot.

Jess retrieved the ball, walked over to the free-throw line, and calmly repeated Robin’s feat, raising her eyebrow slightly and smirking at Robin.

Robin gave her a mock glare in return, and sank a 12-footer from the baseline. Jess smiled and did the same.

Robin then backed up and drained a three-point shot from the top of the key. Jess calmly walked over and effortlessly sank hers.

"Oh geez, I should have known she’d have ice-water in her veins, Robin thought ruefully. Why didn’t I think about the fact that this woman spends her life on a basketball court?

Robin decided it was time to get fancy. She started at the top of the key, took one dribble, wound the ball around her waist once on her way to the hoop, and laid it softly off the glass.

Jess scowled at her. "I don’t let my players do that kind of trash on the court."

"Oh come on! This is a game of H.O.R.S.E., not the NCAA championships," Robin admonished her with a smile.

Jess reluctantly took the ball and repeated the maneuver to perfection.

"Oh, like you’ve never done that before!" Robin said indignantly.

"I never said I’d never done it, I just said I don’t let my players do it."

"OK, fine. Let’s see how good you are with your left hand."

Robin started from the left side of the basket, drove underneath it and attempted the reverse lay-up with her left hand. Unfortunately, she missed.

Jess smiled with the look of a predator about to enjoy its dinner. "You want to see how good I am with my left hand?"

Oh, Robin, don’t even go there, she admonished herself as her mind took off with Jess’s question.

Jess took the ball near the basket on the right side, took one dribble across the key, and neatly made a left-handed hook shot.

"Of course you’d use a post move," Robin said as though Jess was cheating.

"Oh, and what about your three pointer?" Jess shot back playfully. "I didn’t have a lot of occasion to shoot those in my playing days."

Robin just grumbled and picked up the ball, flailing badly on her attempt to make a left-handed hook shot.

"That would be H," Jess said triumphantly. She proceeded to run out O, R, S, and E without too much more difficulty, once she had figured out Robin’s weaknesses.

"Double or nothing on a game of one-on-one to eleven," Robin challenged quickly.

"Don’t know when to quit, do you?" Jess replied with a big grin. "OK, you’re on!"

She tossed Robin the ball at the top of the key, and jumped in close enough to keep her from getting a shot off. Before she had barely come to a stop in front of Robin, the smaller woman was by her on the left and in for an easy lay-up.

"A little slow in your old age?" Robin said over her shoulder, walking back to the top of the key. She tossed the ball to Jess who immediately started backing her down to the low post. Robin did her best to use her body to keep Jess from getting position in front of the basket, but she couldn’t stop her from doing an easy drop step for a lay-up.

The play continued in this fashion, Jess leaving more room to try to stop Robin’s drives, and Robin getting increasingly more physical to try to stop Jess’s post-up moves, but neither being very successful. In reality, both women were enjoying the physical nature of the play, taking every opportunity to push, shove, grab, and hold each other. Had there been a referee present, both would have fouled out before they got to seven points.

In the end, as is often the case in basketball, size won out and Robin graciously accepted defeat.

"What do you say we skip the weight room and go directly to dinner?" Robin asked hopefully.

Jess just laughed and said, "You’re so predictable, but I love it!"

"How about if I go take a shower and then I’ll pick you up at your place for dinner?" Robin offered.

"Give me about a half-hour and I should be ready."

Robin put the ball under her left arm and put her right around Jess’s waist as they left the gym. She leaned in close to Jess’s ear. "You know, I only let you win because I didn’t want you to feel bad." Before Jess could react, Robin bolted for the locker room, throwing a big smile back over her shoulder. Jess just shook her head and headed for her car.

 

Chapter 17

Jess was sitting in her office, daydreaming about how great her weekend had been. She and Robin had gone to dinner and a movie Saturday night, and Jess had talked Robin into coming back to her apartment afterward for a drink. As it got late, Jess again asked Robin if she wanted to stay, and this time, Robin didn’t even try to think of reasons not to. They got up Sunday and spent a leisurely morning together before Robin returned to her own apartment. All in all, Jess couldn’t think of a weekend she had enjoyed more. Her pleasant reminiscing was interrupted when LaTeisha knocked on her door.

"Hey, what’s up?" Jess asked as her assistant coach came into the office.

"Well, we may have a little problem with Bennie." Benita Gonzales was a sophomore point guard who had more than her share of attitude. While she and Jess hadn’t had any run-ins yet, she clearly had a chip on her shoulder and wasn’t about to give the new coach an ounce of respect that she didn’t earn.

Jess just raised her eyebrow, encouraging LaTeisha to continue.

"I’ve heard from some of the other players that she’s skipping a lot of her classes. It’s early enough in the term yet to not be that much of a problem, but she’s got to realize that our league season doesn’t start till January, and she has to pass all her classes this term to stay eligible. Now I know she’s a lot smarter than she lets on, but she’s going to have a hard time doing that unless she goes to class."

Jess just sat there, thinking for a moment. "Do you have a copy of her class schedule?"

"Sure, I already pulled it out," LaTeisha said, handing over the piece of paper to Jess.

Jess studied the schedule for a few seconds, then a small smile crossed her lips. "I think I just might have to pay a visit to one of her classes and see for myself."

 

Later that afternoon, Jess was wandering through the halls of the Social Science Building, looking for the main auditorium. When she found it, she slipped in one of the back doors and took a seat on the edge of the last row where she could see everyone in front of her, as well as anyone coming in. She was five minutes early for the start of class, and the auditorium was about a quarter full. Bennie was nowhere in sight.

About two minutes later, the door in the front of the auditorium opened, and Jess saw the young economics professor stride quickly over to the podium, arms laden with books and notes. Robin was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a neatly pressed short-sleeved shirt. The bright auditorium lights were focused on the front of the room, and they highlighted the sun-lightened streaks in Robin’s hair. Jess thought she looked fantastic.

Robin started the class right on the hour, and Bennie still had not arrived. Jess decided she’s stay for a few more minutes in case the student was running late. In no time, she was mesmerized by Robin’s engaging voice and enthusiastic approach to her class. She almost missed Bennie when she wandered in 10 minutes late. She looked up as the young woman passed her seat and Bennie looked back at her. The athlete’s eyes widened in shock, and she quickly moved ahead a few rows to take a seat. She grabbed her notebook and began to furiously take notes. Jess couldn’t help but smile a little.

"So Dr. Grant, are you saying that economics assumes that all people are greedy?" one of the students toward the front of the class asked.

"No, I’m saying that all people are motivated by utility maximization. While some people may maximize utility by consuming as many material goods as possible, others may maximize utility by actually giving money away, to charities, for example. All I’m saying is that we assume people act rationally, and they make choices that they believe are in their best interests."

"That seems ridiculous to assume that people act rationally all the time," the student retorted.

"That may be true," Robin smiled easily, not taking offense at the tone of the student’s statement. "But it depends on what your definition of ‘rational’ is. Suppose I give you 10 dollars and tell you that you can share part of it with the person sitting next to you, but if you don’t share any of it, you have to give it back. How much money would you offer to your neighbor?" The neighbor turned with renewed interest to her classmate, wondering how generous he would be. The student thought for a moment and said, "I’d probably give her a couple of bucks."

"Now some people would say that isn’t very rational," Robin replied. "After all, you could give her one cent and you could keep the other $9.99. What made you decide to give her two bucks?"

"I don’t know, it just seemed like I should share a little, and I still get to keep a lot more than I’m giving her."

"So what you’re saying is that you would receive some utility from sharing, and that utility outweighed the utility you would have gotten from keeping the extra $1.99, right?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"So you did act rationally, even though you didn’t act greedily."

"Hey, he could have given me five!" the neighbor complained.

Robin laughed. "OK, so maybe he was a little greedy. But this demonstrates that economic theory is compatible with people doing things for altruistic reasons, or religious reasons, or even for love. We just have to put it into the framework of utility maximization."

Jess was still sitting in the back of the room, appreciating Robin’s rapport with the students and her uncanny ability to explain things in a way they would understand. I’m going to have to think a little bit more about this idea of love being related to utility maximization, though...

When the class ended, Bennie fiddled around with her notebook, clearly not wanting to have to get up and face the head coach. Jess just waited patiently until Bennie could no longer hold out. She slowly got up and walked back toward the door, keeping her head down.

"Hey, Bennie," Jess said softly as she approached her seat. Bennie looked up reluctantly. "Have a seat here for a minute." Jess motioned to the seat in front of her and Bennie sat down, turning half-way towards Jess. "That was a pretty good lecture, didn’t you think?"

Bennie shrugged her shoulders and mumbled, "Yeah, she’s cool," without looking at Jess.

"Don’t you think it shows a little disrespect to show up late for class?"

"I don’t know. Lot’s of people come late," Bennie replied defensively.

"Yeah, but you’re not lots of people. You’re a scholarship athlete who’s getting an all-expenses paid college education." Bennie still wouldn’t look at Jess.

"And besides that, you’re an athlete on my team, and my athletes are going to go to class, because I think it’s just as important that you get an education as it is for you to excel on the basketball court." Bennie looked at Jess as if she was trying to figure out whether the coach was really serious about that. After all, athletes hear that kind of talk all the time, but when it really comes down to it, a lot of coaches let the academics slip if it means keeping an athlete happy and productive. Jess looked intently back at Bennie, not blinking an eye, letting her know she was completely serious.

"The next time you skip a class, Bennie, you’re going to pay for it with a week of 6 am workouts with me, OK?" Bennie nodded reluctantly.

"Oh, and one more thing. That professor happens to be a friend of mine, so I’d appreciate it if you’d show her the respect of showing up on time."

Bennie looked startled, like she couldn’t imagine the coach actually having a friend, but quickly nodded.

"In fact, I want you to show up to all of your classes on time."

Jess got up to leave and put a hand on Bennie’s shoulder. She gave her a smile and said, "Maybe you’ll find out you even like economics. Stranger things have happened." And with that, she left the young athlete to ponder her future actions.

 

 

 

Chapter 18

"Student Affairs, this is Capi Morgan." It was a busy day in the Office of Student Affairs, and Capi was answering her phone for the tenth time since lunch.

"Hi Capi, this is Jess Peters."

"Oh, hi Jess. How are things going over in athletics?"

"Fine. Don’t worry, I’m not calling you because one of my athletes has been arrested."

Capi laughed. "So what can I do for you?"

"Well, remember when I asked you when Robin’s birthday was?"

"Yeah, it’s coming up this weekend."

"Well, I wanted to do something nice for her, and I was thinking about taking her on a fishing trip. The problem is, I don’t know too much about the fishing opportunities around here."

"Oh, I think we can fix that problem," Capi said conspiratorially. The two women spent the next half hour scheming about the weekend trip.

 

"When am I going to get to find out where we’re going?" Robin asked from the front seat of Jess’s car. Jess had told her to pack for two and a half days, all casual clothes for fall weather, and had picked her up from her office on Friday afternoon. Capi had taken Jess over to Robin’s apartment earlier in the day, using the extra key that Robin had given her good friend months ago, and packed up the fishing gear that Robin would need. Jess had borrowed Capi’s gear for herself, promising that she wouldn’t use anything without Robin’s instruction before hand.

"You’ll find out when we get there. It’s supposed to be a surprise," Jess admonished. "Now just sit back and relax for a couple of hours, and try not to ask me if we’re there yet every ten minutes."

"Couple of hours, huh? And we’re heading east, so that narrows it down to somewhere in the mountains. Do you have camping gear in the trunk?"

Jess sighed with exasperation. "You’re not going to give up are you? Aren’t you supposed to be more gracious when somebody is doing something nice for you for your birthday?"

"Well, when you put it like that…" Robin said with a little pout, resigning herself to being more patient. "You know, you really didn’t have to go out of your way for my birthday. I know this is a busy time of year for you."

"I know I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. Practices will start in a couple of weeks, and then I’ll never get a chance to go away for a weekend. Believe me, this is going to be as much fun for me as it is for you," Jess said while giving Robin a warm smile.

Jess turned south on I-5, then headed west again out of Salem towards the Santiam Pass. When they continued beyond the pass, Robin really started getting curious about their final destination. Jess could see her squirming in her seat, dying to ask about it, and had to smile at the younger woman’s distress. About twenty minutes later, Jess slowed down and turned north off the highway. Robin’s eyes immediately lit up.

"Are we going to the Metolius River?" she asked excitedly. The Metolius was not only an excellent fly fishing river, it was also one of the most beautiful rivers in Oregon. The water was a unique aquamarine color, and the river flowed swiftly through magnificent Ponderosa pine stands. Although it was used heavily in the summer months, the last weekend of September would give the two women a good chance of finding some solitude along the river.

Jess turned onto a dirt road, and wound around to a cabin perched within a couple hundred feet of the river. She pulled to a stop and the two women jumped out of the car and walked toward the river in the twilight.

"Well, how do you like it?" Jess asked with a big smile.

"Are you kidding? I love it!" Robin looked at Jess and couldn’t stop herself from throwing her arms around the taller woman in a big hug. Jess just laughed and hugged her back, glad she could do something to make Robin so happy.

"I can’t believe you got a cabin right on the river!" Robin said. These are all private – how did you manage to rent one?"

"My secretary knows someone who owns one, and when she heard that I was looking for a place to go fishing for a weekend, she called them up and arranged it."

"This is so wonderful," Robin sighed, looking around. "Let’s get unpacked so we’re ready to go fishing first thing in the morning."

The two women quickly unpacked the car and got settled in the cabin, which was rustic but very charming. The fact that the place only had one bedroom was just an additional bonus as far as Robin was concerned. I can’t believe I have her all to myself for a whole weekend! And it was her idea!

Indeed, things had been very good between them over the last couple of weeks, and they had grown closer and closer. Robin was trying not to get her hopes up too high, but as their relationship grew, they spent more evenings together, found themselves touching each other more often – a quick hug, a clasp of the hand, a back rub or leg massage – and Jess seemed to be fine with all of it. Robin couldn’t be happier.

The two women decided to turn in early after the long day, and were up and ready to go by 7 the next morning. Robin helped Jess get her equipment sorted out, and they found that Capi’s waders were a perfect fit. They donned their fishing vests over a couple of layers of clothes, knowing that the temperature would heat up as the day wore on.

They walked down to the river by the cabin and took a look at the water.

"It doesn’t look like there’s much happening in the way of a hatch right now," Robin said while looking up and down the banks. "But there will be plenty of fish feeding on nymphs. In fact, look! Right over there behind that boulder," she said pointing upstream and across the river, "there are 3 or 4 fish hanging out."

Jess strained her eyes to see what Robin was pointing at, but saw only rocks under the water. Just then, one of the rocks moved about a foot, and Jess’s eyes widened. "Yeah, I see them!" she said excitedly.

"I can’t tell if they’re rainbows or whitefish, but either way, they’ll give us some good action," Robin said, referring to the healthy population of mountain whitefish in the river. While no self-respecting fly angler would admit to fishing for whitefish, since they were in the river with the rainbows you were bound to catch a few of them. And most anglers couldn’t tell the difference between playing a rainbow or a whitefish. Once the fish was identified, however, the angler would scowl and mutter some oath about "damn whitefish." Robin, on the other hand, accepted the whitefish as a good opportunity to practice her technique.

"OK, let’s get your rod set up for nymphing," she said as she took Jess’s flyrod from her.

"Set up for what?" Jess asked skeptically.

"Nymphing. And no, it’s not related to nymphomania. Get your mind out of the gutter – we’re fishing!" Robin said with mock seriousness.

Robin held the fly line out in front of her. "We’re going to use what they call a dropper system." Jess watched as Robin tied an additional piece of tippet onto the end of the leader, leaving a little tag of about 5 inches coming off the old leader. She tied a small hare’s ear nymph to the tag, and a large, weighted stone fly nymph to the end of the tippet. She held the finished product out away from her and looked it over. "Casting this won’t be pretty, but it’s the results that count, right?"

"Whatever you say, maestro," Jess replied while watching Robin intently.

Once both rods were set, Robin stepped off the bank and into the current, turning around to offer Jess a hand.

"Why don’t you just hang onto my arm until you feel comfortable in this current," Robin offered, while making her way out into the stream.

Jess had a death grip on Robin’s forearm until she figured out not to fight the current. Eventually she found her balance and released Robin’s arm. They walked to within about ten feet of the fish they had seen earlier.

"Aren’t we going to scare them away?" Jess asked.

"Not unless you fall in the river and thrash around," Robin joked. "We’re downstream of them, so they shouldn’t notice us. Even if we do spook them, if we stand here long enough, they’ll be back."

Robin positioned herself just behind Jess on the upstream side and told her to let a little line out. "Just let it float downstream with the current until you get about fifteen feet out."

Jess complied with Robin’s instructions, and then Robin put her right arm around Jess and gripped the rod over Jess’s hand. "Do you mind?" she asked, not wanting Jess to feel uncomfortable about such a close position.

"No, of course not," Jess replied while smiling back over her shoulder at Robin.

"OK, now we’re going to lift the tip of the rod as high as we can, and then sling the line directly upstream, like this!" The two flies went soaring overhead and slapped the water upstream from them. "Now keep your rod tip up and gather in the slack line as the flies float back down to us. You want to be able to feel a hit, but still have the drift look natural." The weighted fly bounced along the bottom of the river, the lighter fly floating above it in the water. Jess and Robin were watching the line intently when the downstream motion stopped and Robin jerked their hands back, almost sending Jess into the water.

"Sorry about that," Robin said, grinning at Jess who was looking accusingly back at her. "It was only a rock. But you never know, so anytime the line stops, you have to set the hook."

"I just can’t believe we’re going to catch any fish this close to our feet," Jess said.

"You’d be surprised," Robin replied, "but as you get better at casting - if you can call slinging this line ‘casting’ - you’ll be able to fish farther away from you. There’s really no need to, though. The water is fast enough that you can stand pretty close to the fish without a problem."

Robin helped Jess with a couple more casts, and then stood back to let Jess try it herself. The tall woman had no problem getting the rod high enough to make the short cast easily. As the line came back downstream, Robin saw it stop and yelled, "NOW!" Jess jumped at Robin’s exclamation and set the hook way too late. She turned and scowled at Robin again for scaring her.

"Here, give me your line and I’ll put a strike indicator on it," Robin said, digging a bright orange piece of foam out of her vest. She attached the adhesive-backed foam about 6 feet up Jess’s line and told her to try it again. This time Jess could easily see when the line stopped moving in the current and quickly set the hook. Her line took off across the river and Jess’s face lit up.

"You’ve got one!" Robin yelled. "Way to go, Jess! Keep the tension on the line and just let it run for a few minutes."

The fish was about 12 inches, and Jess was able to bring it in quickly. Robin netted it for her and efficiently got the hook out while keeping the fish in the water.

"Do you want me to take your picture with it?" Robin asked.

"No, that thing’s just a baby," Jess protested.

Robin laughed and released the lively fish back into the current. She looked up and saw Jess’s blue eyes smiling back at her. She gave Jess a big smile in return, and said, "I think you’re a natural! That’s more fish than Capi catches in a month. And now she won’t be able to say it’s her equipment that’s the problem."

"Yeah, well maybe I was an expert in a past life," Jess said with a wry grin.

"I suppose we can’t rule out that possibility, can we?" Robin replied. She looked around for other good places to fish, and said, "Think you can handle it here by yourself for awhile? I’m going to head upstream aways."

"Sure, just don’t go too far in case I catch that lunker and need my picture taken," Jess joked.

"I’m sure I’ll hear the scream," Robin replied as she waded up through the current.

The two women leapfrogged their way upstream for a couple of hours, then took a break before fishing their way back down to the cabin for lunch. They each caught a number of whitefish and a few rainbows, all around 10 to 14 inches.

After a leisurely lunch eaten along the bank of the river, Jess asked Robin if she’d like to go into the town of Sisters to look around. There were some nice shops along with the usual tourist traps, and Robin readily agreed. In truth, Jess needed to stop at the bakery and pick up a birthday cake she had ordered. She was able to get away from Robin for a few minutes, under the guise of needing to go look for a bathroom, and hid the cake in the trunk of the car. When they got back to the cabin, Robin suggested they fish for a little while before making a late dinner.

"Maybe there will be an evening hatch and we can try some dry fly fishing," she said hopefully.

"That sounds good, but you know, I’m a little tired from this morning. Why don’t you go fish, and I’ll just hang out on the deck and relax for awhile. I can start dinner in about an hour and then everything will be ready when you get back."

"Are you sure you don’t mind? I can help with dinner…"

"No, no, you go fish. It’s your birthday, remember?" Jess said, smiling at Robin.

"Well, actually my birthday is tomorrow, but since you insist…"

"Think of it as your ‘birthday weekend’ and you get to celebrate both days," Jess insisted.

Robin donned her fishing gear and headed down to the river, while Jess grabbed a book and headed for the recliner on the deck. The book was ignored for a good half hour, as Jess couldn’t take her eyes off Robin fishing just downstream. Robin was effortlessly casting across the river, the line snaking out behind her, then shooting forward to land feather-light on the water. The sight was mesmerizing and Jess could feel a distinct pull at the center of her being toward the young woman standing in the fading sunlight.

Jess finally shook herself out of her reverie, and went back into the cabin to start dinner.

 

 

 

Chapter 19

"Wow, it smells great in here!" Robin exclaimed as she returned to the cabin from fishing. "What are you making?" she asked as she wandered over to the stove and poked her head around Jess’s shoulder to see what she was stirring. Her eyes widened in surprise and she looked at Jess incredulously. "Are those the glazed onions that go with marinated pork tenderloin? How did you find out about that?"

Jess smiled at Robin’s reaction. "An informant told me you had a fondness for one of the dinners in there," she said, nodding at the cookbook sitting next to the stove. "Said you’d first had it while at a fishing lodge on the Umpqua River, and the lodge had a cookbook, so....since this is a fishing weekend, I thought it was only appropriate!"

Robin still had her mouth hanging slightly open in surprise, and Jess reached over and gave her a one-armed hug. "This is just the first of many birthday surprises I have for you," she said mischievously.

Robin returned the hug with both arms and buried her face in Jess’s shoulder. "You’re incredible, you know that?"

Jess laughed and said, "Hey, watch it!" as Robin got between her and the stove. "You’re going to end up with glazed onions on you if you’re not careful."

Robin looked up at Jess. "I thought you said you couldn’t cook."

"Well anybody can follow a recipe, can’t they? I hope so, anyway, but maybe you should hold your praise till we taste it."

Robin finally released Jess so she could return her attention to the stove. "How about if I set the table and open a bottle of wine?"

"I’m afraid I already beat you to the wine," Jess said with a guilty look on her face. "You didn’t expect me to cook without something to relieve the stress, did you? Besides, the recipe calls for a little wine, so I had to open it anyway."

"Hey, quit rationalizing it and pour me a glass," Robin said with mock indignation.

"Coming right up!"

The two women finished the preparations and soon were sitting down to an elegant spread of marinated pork tenderloin over glazed onions, three-pepper stir fry, salad, and bread. Robin dove in like she hadn’t eaten in weeks, and Jess just looked on in amusement. I can’t believe how making her happy makes me so happy! I’ve never been so focused on someone else’s feelings before.

The women finished their dinner over casual conversation, and Jess cleared away the dinner dishes. "I hope you left room for dessert," she said.

"You’re kidding! How could you have had time to make dessert?"

"Oh, I have my ways," Jess replied as she opened a cupboard. "Close your eyes for a minute." She looked over her shoulder to make sure Robin complied, then brought the cake out onto the counter. She had already put the candles in, and she lit them quickly.

"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...." Robin opened her eyes as Jess walked over with the cake, singing with perfect pitch in a rich alto voice. Robin couldn’t decide whether to stare at the cake or the stunningly beautiful woman carrying it. Her eyes chose the latter, and she found herself drowning in pools of blue. Robin felt her emotions rise to the surface, and thought Jess could see into her soul if she only looked hard enough. The thought made her blink her eyes self-consciously and look back at the cake.

She took a deep breath to steady her emotions. "Well, at least you didn’t try to put 30 candles on it. We wouldn’t want to set off the smoke alarm," she joked in an effort to relieve her inner tension.

"Well, you’d better make a wish before they burn out," Jess warned.

Robin closed her eyes. Oh God, do I dare wish for what I’m afraid I can’t have? Why not - isn’t that why they’re called ‘wishes?’ She opened her eyes, took a deep breath, and blew out the candles.

Jess looked at her with a warm smile. "I hope it comes true," she said sincerely.

"Me too." You don’t know how much...

Robin proceeded to cut a couple of pieces off the cake, and the two women took their dessert into the living room and settled onto the couch.

"How about if I make a fire?" Jess offered. "It’s going to get a little cold tonight."

"That would be great! I’ll go get some wood off the porch if you want to get it started."

Jess found some old newspapers and some kindling, and soon had a good start to the fire going. Robin came in with an armload of wood, and added a couple of smaller logs to the fire. In no time, they had a roaring blaze going in the fireplace, and they sat back on the couch, watching the flames.

"Hey, how about a nice shoulder massage to round out your birthday presents for today?" Jess offered.

"You’re going to spoil me, you know that, right?"

"That’s the whole point! Come on, sit down on the floor in front of me here and I’ll see if I can’t put you to sleep."

"Mmmmm, you don’t have to ask twice," Robin said gratefully. She slid off the couch to the floor and scooted over between Jess’s legs. Jess leaned forward and started kneading the muscles between Robin’s shoulder blades. As she worked her way over the tops of her shoulders, Robin sucked in a breath.

"Is that too hard?" Jess asked worriedly.

"No, it’s good, I think I’m just sore there from all that casting today."

Jess focused her effort on Robin’s right shoulder and arm for a few minutes, eliciting a long string of groans from the sore woman. As she worked her way back to the center of Robin’s upper back, she found the straps from Robin’s sports bra getting in the way. "You know, I could do this a little better if you’d take this off," she said, pulling on one of the shoulder straps under the t-shirt.

Robin quickly turned her head to see if Jess was serious, and just got a smile and raised eyebrow in return. She turned back around, and quickly pulled her t-shirt and bra over her head. As she started to put the t-shirt back on, Jess put her hand on Robin’s arm and said, "Leave it off – it will be easier this way."

Robin slowly lowered the shirt back down, her arms still partially through the armholes, and brought the t-shirt to her chest, leaving her back and shoulders exposed. Oh God, give me strength! Robin thought, as Jess’s hands touched her bare skin. Jess moved her hands across Robin’s back in a soft caress, slowly increasing the pressure with each pass. She worked her way over the tops of the shoulders, her fingers dipping down into the hollow below the collarbone. Robin’s head tilted back, eyes closed, and she leaned against Jess’s legs, still holding the t-shirt across her breasts. Jess continued to massage the front of Robin’s shoulders and arms that were exposed, watching the blissful expression on the young woman’s face. Jess’s fingers gently made their way up the sides of Robin’s neck, into the hairline behind her ears, and forward to her temples. She made small circling motions around Robin’s temples and across her forehead, watching the facial muscles relax under her fingers. She traced two fingers gently between her eyebrows, then across the strong cheekbones and down to the jaw line.

Jess found her own eyelids half closed as she looked at Robin’s full lips that were slightly parted. What would they feel like? Are they as soft as they look? She resisted the temptation to run her fingers over them, and instead moved her hands back into Robin’s tousled hair. She took a deep breath and continued the soft head massage until she noticed that Robin’s breathing had changed and the young woman was fast asleep. Mission accomplished! Jess lightened her touch and continued to run her fingers softly through Robin’s hair, enjoying the chance to just sit and appreciate how attractive the young woman was. Oh Jess, what are you going to do? There’s no denying what you’re feeling anymore. There’s only trying to figure out what to do about it.

 

Continued in part 7


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