See part 1 for disclaimers.
As always, thanks to my beta readers Alina, Kimly, MyWarrior, and Wendy.
Take Time Out
© December, 1999
No part of this text may be reproduced in whole, or in part, without the express consent of the author.
Jess awoke the next morning with a feeling that something good had happened to her, but not yet conscious enough to remember what it was. As she blinked her eyes open, she saw Robins tousled blond head poking out from under the covers and it brought a smile to her face. God, I hope we can find a way to work this out. Im miserable without her yet after one evening together, I feel like Im alive again!
Jess crawled out of bed, showered, dressed, and made coffee before deciding that she needed to wake Robin so that the professor wouldnt be late for her first class. Jess couldnt help but laugh at Robins groggy appearance in her kitchen as she stumbled in for her first cup of coffee.
"I thought you said you were going to be fine without much sleep last night," Jess teased while leaning against the counter, sipping her own coffee.
"I lied," Robin growled, casting an evil glance at the grinning coach.
Jess raised her eyebrow with a smirk. "A little cranky when you dont get enough sleep, hmm?"
"You havent seen the beginning of cranky yet," Robin warned. "Wait till it gets to be 3 pm and some student is telling me he didnt get his homework done. There will be no sympathy from me today."
"Well, Ill make sure Im nowhere near you at the end of the day. Unless you manage to take a nap sometime beforehand."
"I think that would be a wise strategy on your part," Robin replied.
"But if you think youll still be civil at lunch time, we could meet after your workout and grab a bite to eat," Jess said hopefully.
"Sure, that sounds great. I could meet you at the rec center at one. Right now, Id better get my butt in gear and get ready for work. Can I wear these clothes home and get them back to you later?"
"No problem," Jess smiled.
Robin gulped down the rest of her coffee, gathered up her other clothes, and set off for home, relieved that they seemed to have been able to pick up their friendship where they had left off. Well, sort of where they had left off, if you didnt count that one night they spent together
Jess and Robin fell into a comfortable routine meeting for coffee, having lunch occasionally, and spending many evenings together. They avoided talking about their one night together and their different aspirations for their relationship, preferring to focus on less emotional topics that allowed them to reestablish their friendship. They both had more things they wanted to say, but neither could seem to find the right time or place to bring them up.
Jesss team had won its first three games against relatively easy preseason opponents, but the schedule was about to get tougher. And then the conference season would start in January, and things would be anything but easy then.
In mid-November, the weekend of the Wisconsin-Washington game arrived, and Robin looked forward to cashing in on her birthday present from Jess. Since the coach had a limited amount of time available, they decided to drive up to Seattle after Saturday mornings practice, stay overnight, and return in time for Sunday afternoons practice. It would be a quick trip, but it would also be the most uninterrupted time Robin would have with Jess since basketball practice had started.
Robin arrived at the NOU arena about a half hour before Saturday practice was over and took her usual seat in the upper stands. While the team was working on a shooting drill, Jess was on the sidelines talking to a Hispanic woman holding a notepad who was considerably shorter than the coach. She laughed at something Jess said, revealing a dazzling smile that was set off by her dark curly hair and dark eyes. Robin couldnt help but feel just a little twinge of jealousy as she watched Jess smile back at the attractive woman. The woman wrote a few things on her notepad, and then headed out of the arena.
Robins eyes were drawn back to the court, where Jess was setting up a rebounding drill for the team. As one of the assistant coaches shot the ball, the defensive team would work on boxing out, while the offensive team would work on their moves to get around the defenders. As often happens with these types of drills, the play got very physical as everyone scrambled to grab the rebound. Some of the players found this fun, laughing with their opponent as they grabbed and held each other, but others lost their temper at what they considered "cheating" by the other player. The thing about these types of drills, though, is that there is no such thing as "cheating" however the players can get the job done, they do it. Of course, the players wouldnt always get away with this in a game, but Jess thought it was good practice to have a few drills where no fouls would be called. There were plenty of times in a game where someone would blatantly grab a players jersey or hold a players arm down without getting a foul called, and Jess wanted her players to be able to handle those situations without always looking to the officials to make a call. In practice, however, she had to make sure that things didnt get out of control, resulting in a fight or, worse, an injury.
After a few rounds of the drill, Jess blew her whistle.
"Bennie, Tara has gotten around you the last three times," the coach called out. "Just because youre a point guard away from the basket, doesnt mean you dont have to box out. I want to see your butt in her stomach for at least 5 seconds after this next shot," Jess challenged. The other players were smiling and trying not to laugh at the coachs choice of words, knowing that they could easily be next to get singled out.
As the next shot went up, Bennie turned toward the basket and stuck her rear into Taras midsection so hard that the smaller player went sliding 5 feet backwards on her butt. Bennie looked over at Jess with a big grin on her face and the coach couldnt help but smile back, saying under her breath, "Well, I guess that works, too." Louder, she said, "Try to be just a little more subtle next time, OK?"
The team finished up practice with some sprints and free throws, as Robin made her way down to the sidelines. Jess gave her a big smile as she walked over and the professor couldnt help but grin back.
"Theyre looking better all the time," Robin commented.
"Do you think so? I see them every day, so sometimes its hard to notice the improvements," Jess replied.
"Oh yeah, I can see a lot of improvement from that first game, and it shows in the confidence they seem to have on the court."
"Well, theyre going to need it next weekend in the Thanksgiving tournament. Washington and Colorado State are going to be a far cry from what weve seen so far."
"At least youll get a chance to scout Washington tonight that should help," Robin said encouragingly.
"Yeah, I hope you dont mind that Ill be taking notes during the game instead of cheering on your beloved Badgers."
"Hey, Ill be enough of a fan for the both of us," Robin replied as she held open her jacket to reveal a red sweatshirt with white "WISCONSIN" emblazoned across the chest.
Jess grimaced. "Well, just dont wear that around here, because it really clashes with the orange."
"Oh, I have another complete wardrobe of NOU clothes," Robin warned, "although they lean more toward the black than the orange."
Just then, the small, dark woman that Jess had been talking to earlier appeared at her elbow, saying, "Sorry to interrupt Coach, but I need the probable starters for the next game to give to the newspaper."
Jess turned a charming smile on the woman, eliciting another twinge of jealousy in Robin, and replied, "LaTeishas got that information for you she probably just forgot to give it to you earlier today."
"OK, no problem!" the woman said, as she turned and sped off toward the assistant coach. Jess watched the small bundle of energy, and shook her head with a smile.
Robin couldnt stand it any longer she had to ask. "Who is she?"
Jess turned back to Robin with an open look on her face. "Her? Thats Carmen Ricardo, our sports information director, and let me tell you, shes very good at her job."
Robin didnt like the way "very good at her job" rolled off Jesss tongue. "She does seem to have lots of energy," Robin replied dryly.
Jess just looked at Robin questioningly, wondering what the tone of Robins voice meant, but then shook it off and changed the subject.
"Well, wed better get moving if were going to get there in time for the game. Let me run and get my bag from the office, then Ill meet you back here."
"OK," Robin replied, while Jess headed off the court. Robin went to sit on a chair along the sideline, watching a few players that were getting in some extra shooting practice. After a few minutes, Heather approached the economics professor.
"Hi, Dr. Grant!"
"Oh, hi Heather. Hows it going? You looked great in practice today."
"Thanks," she replied shyly. "Things are going really well."
"You did a really nice job on that rebounding drill you were about the only one who was consistently boxing out your opponent."
Heather looked a little surprised that Robin would notice something so subtle, and asked, "Do you play basketball?"
"Well, I try to play a few times a week, but I dont get to play as much as Id like."
"Did you play in college?"
"Yeah, I played at Wisconsin, but that was a long time ago."
"Really?" Heather asked, obviously impressed. "When was it?"
"Trying to embarrass me, huh?" Robin asked, chagrined. "I graduated 8 years ago."
"Thats not that long ago!" Heather admonished. "Wisconsin usually has a really good team."
"Well, I hope they have a good team this year, because were going up to Washington to watch them play the Huskies tonight, and Id sure like to see those dawgs get beat."
Heather looked surprised. "You and Coach Peters are going?"
"Yeah, she got me tickets for my birthday. Ill bet you didnt know she could be so nice, did you?" Robin said teasingly.
"I think Id better not answer that," Heather replied, blushing a little. "Well, I should get going. See you in class next week!"
Jess had entered the gym again and looked over to see Heather and Robin talking and smiling. She came to a stop, her first reaction one of fear that somehow her player was going to think that she and Robin were together. But she quickly shook those feelings off as paranoid, and found herself glad that one of her players seemed to like Robin. She saw Heather wave good-bye to Robin and come running off the floor in her direction. As she neared, Heather grinned and said, "Have a good time at the Washington game, Coach!" and quickly ran off to join her teammate Chris before Jess could reply.
Jess looked bewildered and watched as Chris and Heather put their heads together, talking excitedly and giggling. She shook her head as she turned back toward Robin, thinking Ill never understand 19-year olds.
"Come on, Red! Play some defense! Front her! Yeah way to come from the weak side to help!" Robin stuffed another handful of popcorn in her mouth. "Thats an illegal pick!" she yelled, slightly muffled by the mouthful of popcorn. "Come on, ref, quit sucking on that thing and blow it!"
Jess was leaning back in her seat and looking on with amusement at Robins display of enthusiasm. The young professor had been yelling all night, one of the very few Wisconsin supporters in a sea of purple and gold. Since the Badgers were winning by about 10 points late in the game, the Husky faithful were none too happy with Robins vocal support of her team. This, of course, just made Robin yell all the louder. Jess was just hoping that theyd get out of there without a confrontation and was relieved when the horn finally sounded, the Badgers still up by 8. Robin stood up and yelled "Go Badgers!" a few times while turning around to the opposing fans.
Jess smiled and got up, taking Robin by the elbow and saying, "Come on, Bucky, lets get out of here before someone takes their frustration out on you."
"Hey, how did you know the Badger mascots name was Bucky?" Robin asked with an incredulous look at the coach.
"Lucky guess," Jess replied, grinning. "Come on, lets go."
They gathered up their things and walked out to the parking lot. Traffic was slow getting away from the arena, but eventually the two women made their way to a restaurant for dinner and were seated in a quiet table by the window. They were both tired from the long day and glad to just sit and relax for awhile. Jess ordered a bottle of pinot noir and they sipped their wine with a view of the lights reflecting off Lake Washington.
Jess leaned over the table and tilted her glass toward Robin. "Heres to the end of a very successful, and very drawn out birthday present," she offered. Robin brought her glass up to meet Jesss and looked into the coachs smiling eyes. She took a sip of the wine, raised her glass again and said, "And heres to friendship our friendship." Jess smiled in return and they found themselves staring into each others eyes for a long moment.
"Are you two ready to order?" the server interrupted them.
Jess quickly returned her eyes to the menu. "Uh, yeah lets see I think Im going to have the alder smoked salmon."
"Baked, whipped, au gratin, or French fried potatoes?"
"Salad or clam chowder?"
"French, Italian, bleu cheese, thousand island, "
"Bleu cheese," Jess interrupted before the server could get any further into her rote response.
"And for you?" the server turned toward Robin.
"That all sounds pretty good. Ill have the same thing, except for Italian dressing instead of bleu cheese." The server looked relieved at not having to recite the same litany of choices again, and took their menus and went off to place the order.
Both women grabbed their wine glasses and took a drink, thinking about the moment before the interruption, and not wanting things to be awkward.
I have to behave myself tonight, Robin admonished herself. I cant sit here and stare into her eyes with a lovesick expression on my face! Just lighten up and everything will be fine.
Across the table, Jess was also having a little talk with herself. Come on, I cant say I want to be just friends and then look at her like I want to undress her right here! Shes been so good about not pressuring me, so I cant start sending her mixed signals now. Jess looked up at Robin again, grateful to find the young woman looking out the window. She couldnt help but stare again. She is so beautiful how am I going to do this??
Robin turned back from the window and Jess looked away before she could get caught staring.
"So, how do you think youll match up with Washington next week?" Robin asked in an attempt to steer the conversation to lighter topics.
"Well, I think well be OK inside, but Im a little worried about our perimeter defense and our ability to handle their press. Sometimes Bennie thinks she can just do everything herself, and we end up using too much of the shot clock just to bring the ball up the court. But well work on those things in practice this week, and I think well have a real good chance against them."
"That would be a big win for you, wouldnt it?"
"Yeah, it sure would," Jess said wistfully. "Im a little nervous about it because its our first real test, and its on their home court. If we dont at least make it competitive, it could really have an effect on the players confidence."
"From what Ive seen, youve done an incredible job with their confidence in the short while youve been here," Robin complimented. "I dont think one loss will make too much of a dent in that."
"Thanks, I hope youre right. We sure work on that aspect of the game a lot, because I really believe that the mental aspect is at least as important as the physical skills that they have."
"Well, according to Heather, youre very good at preparing them mentally."
Jess blushed a little and replied modestly, "She probably just knows youre a friend of mine and she wanted to be sure to say the right thing. I have to admit that there were a couple of weeks there when I was a complete failure at building their confidence." She looked up sincerely at Robin. "I couldnt believe what an effect our separation had on my professional life. I was a total bitch, ask any of the players." Jess looked guilty at the admission. "Luckily I finally snapped out of it, and realized not only that I needed to change my attitude, but that I needed to somehow find a way to make our friendship work again. I cant tell you how happy I was that night when you finally called me."
Now it was Robins turn to blush. "Im just sorry I waited so long, because I was pretty miserable, too. I think I just needed a little time to be sure that I could adjust to being friends again, without pushing you for something you cant give me." She looked up with a worried expression on her face, afraid that she was going to make Jess feel guilty by her last statement, but was relieved to find only understanding in the coachs eyes.
"I know it must have been really hard for you, and Im so sorry that I put you through all of this," Jess said sympathetically. "I should have known myself well enough before I ever let our relationship go that far. That was so unfair to you."
"I would never regret that night we spent together, Jess, no matter how things turned out," Robin said with complete sincerity. "Please dont think of that as a bad thing that happened between us."
"I dont," Jess said emphatically. "I just thought that it made things more difficult for you and I felt badly about that."
"I suppose that if Id never gotten to experience it, I wouldnt be able to miss it, but that seems like a bad argument to use for depriving yourself of all the pleasures in life," Robin said with a half smile.
Jess smiled back, thinking it amazing that Robin could always make her feel better, even when she had done something to hurt the young woman.
Their food arrived and they used the opportunity to take a break from the serious discussion and enjoy their meal. When the server returned later with a dessert tray, Jess put her hand over her stomach and said, "Not for me Im stuffed."
Robins eyes lit up at the array of tempting dishes on the tray. She pointed at a tall glass cup of chocolate mousse covered with whipped cream and said, "Ill have one of those, please."
"Any coffee for either of you?" the server asked.
"Decaf, please," Robin replied.
"Me, too," added Jess.
Minutes later the server came back with the coffee and dessert, and Robin eagerly plunged into the chocolate mousse. A look of pure bliss crossed her face as she closed her eyes and savored the mouthful of chocolate and whipped cream. Jess couldnt help but smile at the sight. She reached over with one finger and wiped off a bit of whipped cream that was lingering on Robins lower lip. Robin opened her eyes in time to see Jess licking the whipped cream off of her finger, and she felt her heart beat pick up. She took another spoonful of the dessert and moved it toward Jesss mouth, her eyes silently asking if the coach wanted to share. Jesss eyes were locked on Robins as she opened her mouth to accept the spoon. As Robin slowly withdrew the spoon, she saw Jesss eyes mirror her own earlier look of bliss. Robin smiled and said, "Can you think of anything more decadent?"
"Mmmm, maybe one thing," Jess replied sensually.
Robin blushed and looked away. What is she trying to do to me?! She took a deep breath and felt her cheeks return to their normal color. I can do this keep it casual, she admonished herself.
"More coffee?" the server interrupted, then refilled both their cups.
This womans timing is impeccable, thought Robin, grateful for the distraction. She finished the rest of her dessert, Jess declining any further offerings, and the server brought the bill. Robin reached for it, but Jess clamped her hand over Robins wrist, saying, "Oh no you dont. This is part of your birthday present, remember?"
"The tickets were the birthday present, if I recall, and it seems only fair that I should pay for dinner."
"The tickets are just part of the whole package, and theres no way Im letting you pay for part of your own birthday present," Jess said firmly.
Robin didnt want to argue, so she acquiesced with a smile and a sweet thank you. "I hope you realize youre setting a pretty high standard for when your birthday comes around," she warned.
"Well, I dont believe in standards or expectations for presents," Jess replied. "The only thing that matters is that someone wants to get you something, no matter how big or small it is. And besides, doing something for you on your birthday made you so happy that I feel like I got the present just to be able to watch you."
Robin smiled back at Jess. "Youre way too nice to me. Come on, lets get out of here before you make me cry."
Jess laughed and the two women gathered their coats and left the restaurant. It was raining, making the underground parking at the hotel a welcome relief. They checked in and took the elevator to the 15th floor, where they found a spectacular view of the Space Needle from the window of their room. Jess closed the door behind her but didnt turn the lights on right away, and instead moved over to the window where Robin was looking out at the lights from the city.
"Its beautiful, isnt it?" Robin asked, looking over her shoulder at Jess.
"It sure is," the tall coach replied, never taking her eyes off of Robin.
Robin turned back to the view and leaned into the taller woman behind her. Jess put her hands on Robins shoulders and softly kneaded the muscles there, eliciting a soft moan from the younger woman. Jess found the scent of Robins hair and the feel of her body intoxicating, but her mind was sending a warning signal. Careful how far you take this! You cant afford to lose control again, and you definitely dont want to hurt Robin again.
Jess decided to be safe, and asked, "Is this OK?" giving a little squeeze of her fingers to let Robin know what she was talking about.
Robin turned slightly to look at Jess. "It feels wonderful, and I promise that I wont get any false expectations from it. Im not going to push you, Jess I promise."
"I know, and I appreciate that, I really do," Jess replied sincerely.
Robin turned back to the window and put her hands over Jesss on her shoulders. They stayed like that for a few minutes, before Robin gave a big yawn, prompting Jess to release her and suggest they get ready for bed.
The room had two queen size beds, and Jess pulled the covers back on the one facing the TV and sat down to wait for Robin to finish in the bathroom. When Robin came out, Jess grabbed her bag and took her turn in the bathroom. She reentered the room to find Robin in the other bed watching the TV she had left on. A wave of disappointment rolled over the taller woman as she slipped back into her bed. She turned off the light and asked Robin if she wanted the remote control for the TV.
"No, you can turn it off. Im really tired, anyway."
Jess clicked off the TV, sending the room into darkness, lit only by the glow from the city lights. She turned on her side facing the other bed, but could only make out Robins silhouette.
"Goodnight," Jess said softly.
"Sweet dreams," Robin replied.
But Jesss eyes didnt close for a long time. She looked over at Robin and tried to sort out her feelings, which were becoming more confused with every day she spent in the young womans company. Am I just kidding myself that we can be friends? Is it OK for friends to hug like we do? Is it OK for friends to sleep together? Friends kiss each other sometimes, but I know if I felt those soft lips on mine again, it wouldnt feel like I was kissing just a friend. How am I going to draw the line here? Jess thought with frustration. And why am I so intent on drawing that line in the first place? I thought I knew exactly what I wanted three weeks ago, and now Im not so sure anymore.
Jess sighed loudly and turned over to her other side. She continued to wrestle with her thoughts, and her body took its cue from her mind and refused to settle down. After tossing and turning for an hour, Jess got up to get a glass of water from the bathroom and then felt her way back to the bed in the dark.
"Hey," Robin said softly. "Cant sleep?"
"Oh, sorry. I didnt mean to wake you."
"You didnt. I couldnt sleep either. Ive been listening to you turn somersaults over there for the last hour."
"Sorry," Jess repeated. "I should have tried to be more quiet." She had worked her way around the bed and was standing next to Robin. She could just barely make out the green eyes in the dim light.
Robin extended her hand toward Jess. "Join me? Maybe I can help you get to sleep."
Jess worried for all of a second that she was getting close to that line she didnt want to cross again, and then took Robins hand and slid in between the sheets as the smaller woman moved over to make room for her. Jess settled onto her back and Robin snuggled in close to her side. Robins hand was gently caressing Jesss arm, shoulder and neck, but instead of putting her to sleep, it was rapidly arousing her senses. She self-consciously turned over, her back to Robin, and took a few deep breaths to try to slow her heart rate down. Robin continued to stroke Jesss back, kneading the tight muscles she found there, and eventually the taller woman relaxed. Soon she was breathing deeply in sleep, and Robin joined her moments later, her hand still resting on the coachs back.
Sometime in the night, Jess returned to her back and she awoke in the morning with Robin snuggled up against her side, sleeping soundly. A sense of peace came over her as she looked at the smaller woman, feeling like everything was as it should be.
The following weekend was Thanksgiving, Robin had 4 days off and Jesss team was playing in a preseason tournament in Seattle. Robin talked Capi into going to watch, and on Friday, the two women embarked on a road trip. They stopped at Starbucks for coffee and cinnamon rolls before heading up I-5.
"So it seems like things are going pretty well for you and Jess," Capi remarked.
Robin couldnt stop the smile that crossed her lips at the mention of the coach. "Yeah, its been great."
"Has it been hard to just be friends when youd really like to be more than that?"
"Sometimes, I guess. There are times when she smiles at me, or looks at me a certain way, that my heart nearly does flips in my chest, but I do my best not to look completely lovesick."
"Well, you show remarkable restraint, if you ask me. Do you still think theres a chance that shell come around and realize what a mistake shes made?"
"I cant help but believe that," Robin said emphatically. "I know the feelings are there, its just a matter of her working through a few issues that shes got. One of which is the fear of losing her job. I just dont know how to convince her that its possible to be a gay woman and be a successful basketball coach. Hell, Ill bet more than half the woman basketball coaches are gay!"
"Do you think she knows that? It seems hard to believe she wouldnt know it," Capi said thoughtfully.
"I think shes made it a point to keep a certain distance from other coaches, so Im not sure she really knows much about their personal lives. And shes definitely not the type to speculate, given that she doesnt want people speculating about her."
"Hmmm, I suppose thats true. Its too bad you dont know any of those coaches maybe you could talk to them about how they handle it."
Robins eyes lit up. "Hey, I do know one! Sara Graebel was an assistant my first year here and was going out with my roommate, Ellen, at the time. Since my roommate was a little flaky, Sara and I spent many long nights talking about how she could get Ellen to be more serious about her. I think Sara and I ended up being closer than Sara and Ellen," Robin laughed.
"So where is she coaching now?" Capi asked.
"Shes at Cal State Monterey as the head coach. Its not Division I, but Im sure the same issues about recruiting and job security would be there. Im going to give her a call." She turned and gave Capi a big grin and a high five. "Way to go, partner! This just might help!"
"Whoa, hang on a second," Capi warned. "If youre going to tell Sara about Jess, are you sure you can trust her not to tell anyone else?"
Robin thought about that for a minute, because the last thing she wanted to do was violate Jesss trust. "Youre right, but I know I can trust Sara. Not only would she respect my confidence because of our history, but shes also a professional with a lot of integrity. Theres no way shed go spreading rumors about another coach."
"OK, I just didnt want you making a mistake youd regret later," Capi replied.
Robin smiled and said, "Always looking out for me, arent you?"
"I try, but its a pretty hard job sometimes."
Robin got out her cell phone and address book, and dialed the coachs number in California. She was somewhat surprised to actually reach Sara, thinking that she would have either Thanksgiving weekend plans, or coaching responsibilities over the holiday.
"No, I gave the team two days off to see their families," Sara explained. "Most of my kids are from around here, so they can drive home and still be back for Saturday practice. How are things going with you? Its been awhile since Ive talked to you."
"Things are great," Robin replied. "My classes are going well, and Im still finding time to play basketball, so I cant complain. How is your team doing?"
"Oh, were rebuilding a little bit this year. I lost my two senior post players, so were having to adjust to a different style of play. But I think well do OK, and Ive got a couple of new recruits that are coming along faster than I thought they would. So we might surprise a few people."
"Well, Im sure youll find a way to make them play above their potential you were always really good at finding ways to motivate your players."
Sara laughed modestly. "Thanks I guess that degree in sports psychology has paid some dividends. So are you still living by yourself or have you found that perfect woman youve been waiting for?"
"Im still single, thank you very much, and theres nothing wrong with being picky," Robin said indignantly.
"Well, its not like theres lots of opportunities in Comstock, so you cant be too picky," Sara laughed.
"Actually there is a new opportunity, as you put it, that Im interested in, but its not going as well as Id like. In fact, thats why Im calling you I need a little advice."
"What kind of advice would you need from me? Youve seen how successful my relationships have been Im not exactly a role model, you know."
"Yeah, but this is a coach, so I thought you might be able to relate."
"Oh really," Sara said with interest. "What kind of coach?"
"This has to be completely confidential Sara, OK?" Robin asked seriously.
"Hey, you know me better than that. You dont even have to ask - my lips are sealed."
"Well, Ive been spending a lot of time with the head basketball coach "
"Whoa!" Sara interrupted. "Jess Peters is gay?! Youve got to be kidding me the way she keeps her distance from everybody I didnt think she even had feelings."
"Oh, come on. Shes really nice," Robin protested.
"Not around other coaches shes not," Sara replied. "Its not like shes mean or anything, she just ignores everybody else never socializes."
"Well, she seems to have some issues about whether its possible to be gay and be a successful coach, and thats what I wanted to talk to you about. How do you handle the whole recruiting thing if people know youre gay?"
"I dont think that many people do know Im gay. Its not like I advertise it, you know. It just hasnt been an issue to my knowledge."
"But you always hear about how opposing coaches will use it against you in recruiting. Doesnt that happen?"
"Yeah, Ive heard that, but Ive never actually seen it happen. I suppose there are a few severely homophobic parents out there that would respond to that kind of thing, but most athletes want to play for the best team they can get on, and are going to look at the coachs credentials, not some rumor about their sexuality."
"Well, what do you do if someone comes right out and asks you?"
"It depends on who it is," Sara replied thoughtfully. "I wont lie about it, but if it were a parent of a recruit, I would probably say that my private life was private, and that I hoped they would help their daughter make a decision based on the integrity and quality of the program. If that made somebody choose not to go to my school, then I wouldnt want them in my program anyway. But if my athletic director asked me, I would tell him the truth, because I really believe hed support me. But the reality is, it just doesnt come up, Robin. As long as a coach is discreet and doesnt get involved with her players, its just a non-issue."
Robin sighed heavily. "I wish you could tell Jess that," she said ruefully. "How am I ever going to convince her?"
"Id say that Jess Peters is crazy if shes turning down a chance to be with you because shes worried about her job," Sara said emphatically. "Doesnt she know that every lesbian in Comstock would have given their right arm to go out with you?"
Robin laughed. "You mean all three of them? Come on, its not like they were lining up at my door."
"Youre way too modest. I would have asked you out in a heartbeat, but your roommate would have killed me."
"Ah, so its Ellens fault that Im still single. I didnt realize that she was acting as the gatekeeper all that time."
"Well, theres no excuse now, so I think youd better turn those considerable charms of yours on that basketball coach and see if you cant get her to lighten up a little."
"OK, Ill see what I can do. Youve given me a few things that I can talk to her about, so maybe things will get better."
"Im sure they will. Keep me informed, OK?"
"OK, I promise. It was great talking to you. Keep in touch."
The two women hung up, both deep in thought about what theyd learned.
Capi, who had been patiently listening to one side of the long conversation while driving, couldnt remain quiet any longer. "Come on, Im dying here! What did she say?"
Robin was startled out of her thoughts, and smiled over at Capis frustration.
"She said Jess is a fool not to marry me tomorrow," Robin teased.
"Well, you could have saved a long distance cell phone charge - I could have told you that!" More seriously, she asked, "What did she say about the coaching issues?"
Robin proceeded to relate the other side of the conversation.
"Well, that sounds pretty positive, dont you think?" Capi replied.
"Yeah, but now I have to convince Jess," Robin said somewhat despondently. "And then theres another related issue that I havent even told you about yet."
"Well, I cant give you the details, but basically Jess had one of her high school players fall in love with her many years ago and it didnt turn out well. She feels responsible for what happened, and she associates all that guilt with being a gay coach. I think she knows in her head that what happened had nothing to do with whether she was gay or not, but she hasnt learned to get over her negative gut reaction to the thought of being gay." Robin put her head in her hands. "God, this is complicated!"
"No kidding," Capi replied sympathetically. "But it sounds like maybe youre making some progress if shes talking to you about these things. Thats a sign that shes at least willing to deal with the issues, rather than just shut you out."
"Yeah, thats true," Robin said hopefully. "I know its probably going to take a while, but I swear she feels the same way about me that I do about her. You should see the way she looks at me sometimes its everything I can do not to throw myself at her on the spot."
Capi laughed. "Well, if talking doesnt work, maybe you should try that next."
Robin smiled back at her good friend, wondering again why she couldnt have fallen in love with some less complicated someone like Capi.
The two friends arrived at the arena a good hour before game time. Jesss team was scheduled to play Colorado State in the tournament opener, and then Washington would play Montana State in the prime seven oclock spot. The tournament organizers expected Colorado State and Washington to advance to the championship game the following night, which would be a good draw for the fans. Jesss team had other ideas, though.
The arena was practically empty, most fans not arriving until a half hour or less before game time, and most Husky fans not arriving until the second game. Jesss team was shooting around, getting used to the lights and the court, while the coach was standing off to the side talking to Carmen Ricardo again.
"Whos that with Jess?" Capi asked as they found their seats behind the visitors bench.
Robins face clouded as she replied, "Thats the sports information director, Carmen something or other, and every time I see her shes making eyes at Jess."
Capi looked over at Robin with surprise. "Shes hardly making eyes at her theyre just looking at a piece of paper!" Capi looked over at the two women again. "And besides, shes really cute she can make eyes at me any time she wants."
"You think so?" Robin asked skeptically. "Shes a little short for my taste."
"Well, I happen to like them short. I guess I dont have to tell you that. Lets walk down there, maybe well get introduced."
Robin rolled her eyes, but got up and headed over toward Jess. In truth, she was dying to talk to the coach, and if Capi could divert the SIDs attention for a few minutes, all the better.
Jess saw them coming and gave Robin a big smile, which immediately warmed the smaller womans heart and made her forget all about Carmen whats-her-name.
"Hi Capi, did you guys have a good ride up here?" Jess asked.
"Yeah, Robin entertained me with stories of all the hearts shes broken, so the time went fast."
Robin blushed and swatted Capi on the arm. "Do you think you could tell the truth just once in your life?" she admonished her friend.
Jess noticed Carmen smiling at the banter between the two good friends and realized that her manners were lacking.
"Carmen, this is Robin Grant, an economics professor at NOU, and this is Capi Morgan, the Vice Provost for Student Affairs." She turned back to Carmen. "And this is Carmen Ricardo, our new Sports Information Director."
The women shook hands, and Robin noticed Capi holding hers just a little longer than necessary while smiling engagingly at Carmen.
"Ah, youre someone Ill probably be dealing with in the future," Carmen said, smiling back at Capi. "Theres always some athlete getting into trouble and ending up in your office, and some coach wanting me to control what gets said in the local papers. In fact, Im surprised I havent met you before now."
"Well, the football season did seem a little too quiet this fall. Are you sure you guys havent been hiding some things over there in Athletics that I should know about?" Capi replied teasingly.
"Ill never tell," Carmen said with a wink.
"Hey, Ive gotta get back to the locker room for last minute preparations," Jess interrupted. She turned to Robin with a hopeful look on her face. "Are you staying for the next game? I have to scout both teams for tomorrow night and I could use some help if youre going to be around."
"Id love to," Robin replied immediately, and then remembered that she was there with Capi and quickly turned to her friend to see if it would be alright with her.
"Yeah, sure, well stay," Capi replied easily.
"Great! See you after the game," Jess said as she headed off to the locker room.
"Good luck!" Robin called after her, which earned her another smile over Jesss shoulder.
"Well, Ive got to go make sure things are all set up at the press table," Carmen said. "It was very nice to meet you both, and I hope we get another chance to talk soon." This last part was definitely directed at Capi, who had a silly grin on her face as she watched the small woman walk away.
"God, youre easy!" Robin said with mock disgust as she grabbed Capi by the arm and dragged her back to their seats.
"Whaaat?! I was just being polite," Capi protested.
"Sure you were."
Thirty minutes later, both teams took the floor for their pre-game warm-ups. Jess strode onto the floor behind her team, looking stunning in a black suit with a white silk shirt underneath. Her loafers had a slight heel, making her stand out above most of her players. Robin found herself mesmerized by the sight, until Capi elbowed her and said, "Hey, snap out of it! Its not like you dont see her every day."
"Not like that, I dont," Robin said reverently. "God Capi, what would she want with me? Look at her she could have anybody she wanted, male or female."
"Stop that right now! How am I ever going to convince you that you are just as attractive as her or anyone else? And besides, she doesnt want anybody else, she wants you."
Robin sighed. "I want to believe that, really I do, but its just so hard for me."
"Well, Im going to keep telling you that until you do believe it, so youd better get used to it."
Robin smiled gratefully at Capi. "OK, Ill do my best."
The game started at a furious pace, both teams pushing the ball up the court after a steal or a rebound, and by the first official timeout at the 16-minute mark, the players were sucking wind as they ran over to the bench.
"OK, listen up," Jess shouted over the noise of the band. "The defense looks great and were getting some good shots off the break. But weve got to cut down on the turnovers. I want to see a ball fake before you try to pass it into the post. The posts are working hard to maintain their position, so they cant always move to your pass - make sure you give it to them where theyre calling for it, OK?" Heads nodded as Jess looked around the huddle. She then proceeded to diagram a defensive adjustment to counteract a screen that was being set on the baseline, and the time-out was over.
Robin looked up from the huddle that she had been watching to see Capi looking across the court. She followed her gaze to the press table and saw Carmen smiling back at the administrator. Geez, what is this love at first sight? Robin felt that irrational sense of jealousy that one gets when something is being lost, even though that something wasnt really wanted in the first place. But she quickly scolded herself for wanting anything but happiness for her friend that had always been there for her.
She leaned over and whispered in Capis ear, "You know, youre right she is pretty cute."
Capi blushed furiously and returned her attention to the action on the court.
The NOU team cut down their turnovers and continued to play relentless defense, leading to a 6-point half-time lead. After the break, the Bobcats came out even more determined to prove the oddsmakers wrong, and ended up cruising to an eleven-point victory. The players from the bench ran onto the court to congratulate their teammates as Jess walked down to shake hands with the opposing coaches. Jess was able to maintain her professional decorum until that formality was taken care of, and then she sprinted onto the court with her players and joined in the celebration.
Robin was grinning from ear to ear while she watched Jess let down her guard as she congratulated her players, giving them big hugs and high fives. This was Jesss first big win against a top-ranked opponent, and Robin couldnt be happier for her. She and Capi made their way down to the floor and stood by the corner where the teams would leave the floor. The two teams for the next game were waiting patiently for the celebration to end before taking the court for warm-ups. Soon, Jesss team came running off the court, still shouting and laughing as they headed for the locker room. The coaches were trailing behind, and when Jess saw Robin standing there, her smile got even bigger.
Robin couldnt stop herself she reached up and gave Jess a big hug, and to her surprise, the coach returned it without pulling immediately away.
Robin took the opportunity to whisper in Jesss ear, "You guys were great! Im so proud of you."
"Thanks," Jess whispered back into the ear that was dangerously close to her mouth. "And thanks for being here to share it with me."
Robin released her hold and smiled back at the coach. "Always," she said aloud.
Continued in part 10
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