See part 1 for disclaimers.

As always, thanks to my beta readers Alina, Kimly, MyWarrior, and Wendy.

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Take Time Out

Part 12

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 36

"Robbie," Jess said softly, giving the sleeping woman’s shoulder a little nudge, but getting no response.

"Robin!" Louder this time, with a stronger shake, and sleepy green eyes blinked halfway open. Jess was leaning over the bed, having already dressed.

"Hmmm? What time is it? It’s still dark out!"

"Shhhh, you can go back to sleep, but I need to get home so I can get into the office early today. I just wanted to say goodbye." Jess leaned over and gave Robin a tender kiss on her forehead.

Robin sat halfway up and blinked her eyes in at attempt to awaken her senses. She looked over at the clock and her eyes widened. "Jess, it’s only 4 am!"

"I know," Jess said, "but I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I might as well get a head start on the day."

"But..." Robin sat up even further. "Can I at least make you some coffee before you go?"

"Nooo," Jess said soothingly, pushing Robin gently back down onto the bed and climbing up to lay beside her. She gently pushed the hair back from Robin’s face, while kissing her softly on the cheek. "Just go back to sleep. I’ll call you later in the morning and we can have lunch together, OK?"

"Mmmmm." Robin closed her eyes again and relaxed into the gentle touch of Jess’s fingers in her hair. In less than a minute, she was back asleep.

Jess quietly got off the bed and left the room, gathering her bags from the living room where she’d left them the night before. She silently let herself out of the apartment and headed for her car. She looked around at the parking lot and the other apartments, glad to see that everything was dark and quiet. At least chances are pretty good that no one would have seen my car here between late last night and this morning.

When Jess got back to her own apartment and unpacked her bags, the lack of sleep suddenly hit her. She and Robin had made love late into the night, but her nervousness about staying overnight at Robin’s had kept her from sleeping well and led to her early departure. She decided that she would just lie down for a few minutes to rest her eyes, but before long she was sleeping soundly. She didn’t wake again until 9 am.

Oh Damn! Jess cried to herself as she looked at the clock. How did this happen? I was just going to rest for a few minutes…

She quickly headed for the shower and managed to get herself ready for work in 20 minutes. When she arrived in her office, she already had a voice-mail message from Robin, and she called her back right away.

"Robin Grant," the professor answered her phone.

"Hi, it’s me. Sorry I wasn’t here when you called."

"Hey, that’s OK. Did you have a meeting or something?"

"Uh…no…actually, I fell asleep when I got back home this morning and I just got in," Jess said sheepishly.

"Oh…well, I hope whatever you needed to get there early for was able to wait for you," Robin said, somewhat disappointed that Jess could sleep at home but not at her apartment.

"Yeah, that’s not a problem. Say, are you still interested in lunch?" Jess said in an attempt to deflect the conversation from her morning’s hasty retreat from Robin’s.

"Sure, but can we go at one so I can play basketball at noon?"

"OK, how about if I come by the rec center and pick you up?"

"OK, see you at one…And Jess?"

"Yeah?"

"I missed you this morning when I woke up," Robin said softly.

Jess could feel herself blush, even though she was alone in her office. "Yeah, me too," she replied self-consciously.

There was a long silence, and Robin finally said, "I guess I’ll see you later."

"OK, bye."

How can everything be so easy when we’re alone together, and so hard as soon as I’m back in the real world? Jess thought to herself. Even now, when I’m sitting alone in my office, I feel like the eyes and ears of the whole Athletic Department are on me. And I feel guilty – like I’m doing something wrong. Am I? I guess that’s the big question, isn’t it?

 

A few days later, the NOU team was gearing up for another non-conference game. Jess’s team had two more games at home before they would take a short break over Christmas. Classes were over for Fall term, and players could spend more time in the gym without distractions. The team was just finishing up a short practice in the late morning before their game, when Robin showed up at the arena. Sensitive to Jess’s desire to be "discreet" she hadn’t been coming to practices lately, and this time she stayed well up in the bleachers until the practice was over and the team had left the floor. She then headed off to Jess’s office to find her.

"Hey there," Robin said cheerfully, standing in the doorway to Jess’s office.

Jess looked up, startled to see Robin there, but quickly broke into a smile. "Hi, what are you doing way over here? Come on in," she said, waving Robin into one of the chairs in front of her desk.

"Your team looks like they’re ready for the game tonight," Robin said.

"Did you watch practice?" Jess asked, surprised. "I didn’t see you there."

"That was the idea," Robin said sarcastically. "If you didn’t see me that means nobody else would have either." She knew her sarcasm was harsh, and she instantly regretted it when she saw the hurt look on the coach’s face.

"I’m sorry, Jess. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded."

"Sure you did," Jess replied despondently. "I know you don’t understand why I’m having such a hard time with this, and I don’t seem to be able to explain it to you very well."

"No, that’s not true, I do understand." Robin looked down guiltily at her hands. "I guess I’m just not used to it and it’s frustrating to have to hide something that means so much to me," she said sincerely, looking up to meet the coach’s eyes.

Jess looked over Robin’s shoulder at the open door, wondering whether their conversation could be heard outside of the office. She lowered her voice and said, "It’s hard for me, too, you know."

"I know. Look, Jess, I didn’t come over here to make you feel bad, and I’m really sorry I brought it up. Can we change the subject?" she asked with a pleading smile.

"Sure," the coach said easily, returning the smile.

"I…uh…I was wondering if you had plans for the Christmas break."

Jess had a moment of panic. She’s not going to ask me to go home with her and meet her family, is she??

"Uh…no, I guess I don’t. Christmas usually isn’t a very big deal for me. And we never have much time off between games and practices at this time of year, so I was planning on just hanging around here and catching up on a few things."

"Well…um…do you think you might like to get away for a little while…with me?" Robin asked hesitantly.

Jess couldn’t help but smile reassuringly at Robin. "I could maybe get away for a couple of days. But I thought you’d go home for Christmas. Won’t your family miss you?"

Robin looked chagrined. "My mom is always trying to guilt me into coming home for Christmas, but the last couple of years I’ve just told her that I don’t want to fly to the midwest during the winter, and especially not over Christmas. She seems to accept that, but then she expects me to come home twice during the summer!"

Jess laughed. "Well, their loss is my gain. Where were you thinking of going?"

"Well, I rented a house in Sunriver and thought maybe we could go skiing. Mt. Bachelor isn’t very crowded until after Christmas, so I thought we could cross country ski on Christmas Eve and downhill ski on Christmas Day."

"Can you promise I won’t break my leg and be on crutches for the rest of the season?" Jess teased.

"No, but I can promise to wait on you hand and foot if that happens," Robin smiled.

"Hmmmm, that might be worth it. I think I’ll try out some of the black diamond runs."

A knock on the door jamb interrupted them. Jess looked up to see LaTeisha standing there and tried to put a more serious expression on her face.

"Sorry to interrupt, Coach…Oh, hi Robin! How are you doing?"

"Good, thanks. How are things going with you?" Robin said with a friendly smile in return.

"Well, Coach here is keeping me so busy I can’t even get into any trouble," she said with mock regret.

Robin laughed easily, but Jess cut in and asked LaTeisha what she needed.

"Eastern’s here for their shoot-around a little early. I was wondering if you knew when the men were going to be in the gym today."

"Hey, I’ll get out of your way and let you get some work done," Robin said apologetically, rising out of the chair and heading for the door. "I’ll talk to you later, OK?" she called back to Jess.

Jess had a look between frustration and disappointment on her face, but she called out an OK in return and Robin was gone.

"She’s really nice – I like her," LaTeisha said approvingly, looking at Jess.

Jess found she couldn’t hold the gaze without blushing and looked out her window while mumbling, "Yeah, I think so, too."

The assistant coach lowered her voice and said, "You could do a lot worse, you know."

Jess’s jaw dropped and she stared at LaTeisha, unable to respond.

"What?? You think I’m blind or something?"

"I think you’re out of line," Jess said seriously.

"Well, maybe I am, but I’m going to tell you what I think anyway. I’ve seen the ups and downs you’ve gone through this fall, and I think you could use somebody to talk to every once in awhile. Maybe that’s not me, because I work for you, but I’m offering just the same."

Jess looked coldly at her assistant coach for a long while before responding. "Tell Eastern they can have the gym until two o’clock," she said, returning her eyes to her desk and picking up some paperwork, clearly dismissing the assistant coach.

LaTeisha let out a sigh and slowly turned and walked out of the office. That went well, she thought ruefully.

Jess stared at the papers in her hand, looking right through them. She was angry at her assistant coach for bringing up her personal life at work, for implying that she needed someone to talk to, and for making her think again about how difficult this all was for her. But finally she had to admit that she was really angry at herself for her reaction to LaTeisha’s comments and the way she treated her assistant coach. Like you’ve got so many friends that you can afford to lose any! Just last week you were wishing you had someone you could talk to, and now someone offers and you freak out! What’s the matter with you?

Jess was unable to concentrate on her work, and decided to go home for a run before coming back in for pre-game preparations. She gathered up her things and walked out of the office without talking to any of her assistants, not yet ready to confront LaTeisha again.

 

Chapter 37

Robin and Capi were seated about four rows behind the home team bench for the game with Eastern. Since the students were off-campus for the holiday break, the crowd was relatively small on a weeknight. The seats behind the home team bench were packed, however, mostly with family and friends of players and coaches.

Robin noticed that Jess came out of the locker room with an "all-business" look on her face, and maintained a little scowl throughout the pregame warm-ups. She kept to herself, standing off to the side and not interacting with her assistants. I hope nothing went wrong since I saw her this afternoon. Robin looked around at the players. It doesn’t look like anyone’s injured or anything. I wonder what she’s upset about?

The warm-ups finished, the players were introduced, and the game got underway. NOU quickly jumped out to a 10-point lead over the undersized Eastern team. Robin was cheering enthusiastically from her seat, and at the first time out, the woman seated next to her gave her a little smile as she sat back down.

"You seem like a loyal fan," she said warmly. "Do you come to most of the games?"

"I try to come to all of them," Robin replied. "I’d go to all the away games, too, if I could. I love basketball!"

"You sure seem to know a lot about the game. Are you related to one of the players?"

"Oh, no. Why do you ask?"

"I just thought that most of these seats were reserved for the players’ families and friends," the woman replied.

"Well, actually, the coach is a good friend of mine, so she gave us the tickets."

"Really? Which coach?"

"The head coach, Coach Peters," Robin said with a little proud smile.

The woman looked a little surprised, but recovered quickly. "Well, we’re Heather Martin’s parents – number 22 out there. I’m Patti and this is my husband Jim," she said, nudging her husband to get his attention.

"Glad to meet you," Robin replied, shaking both of their hands. "I’m Robin Grant, and Heather is actually in one of my classes – economics. And she’s doing very well."

"You must be quite a good teacher then," Patti replied, "because math was never one of Heather’s strong suits."

Robin laughed and said, "Well, there’s actually more logic than math at this level of economics."

Capi leaned over at this point and interjected, "But she is a very good teacher – she’s just too modest to admit it."

Robin blushed and introduced Capi to the Martins. The time-out ended and everyone’s focus returned to the game. The Bobcats picked up the pace even further, and by half-time they had a 15 point lead. As they left the court, despite the good play and big lead, Jess was still scowling.

In the locker room at half time, Jess let the players sit and rest for a few minutes. She sat away from the team, looking over the stat sheets from the first half. The assistants were standing on the other side of the room, waiting for Jess to come over and discuss the second half strategy.

"What do you think she’s so upset about?" Pam whispered to LaTeisha. "The game couldn’t be going any better."

LaTeisha looked a little guilty. "I’m afraid she’s mad at me, and the rest of you are suffering through association."

Pam looked at her with surprise. "What did you do?"

"I asked her something a little too personal this afternoon, and she took offense…Told me I was out of line and hasn’t spoken to me since."

"Ouch!" Pam said sympathetically. "What did you ask her?"

LaTeisha rolled her eyes. "You think I’m going to tell you that when I’m already in trouble? Shhhh! Here she comes," she whispered as Jess got up and walked toward them.

The head coach looked at Pam and Jeff and asked, "Anything you think we need to do differently in the second half?"

"No, things look great coach," Jeff replied, and Pam nodded. LaTeisha just kept her mouth shut and waited. Finally Jess turned toward her and raised an eyebrow in question. The assistant coach just shook her head no, and looked down at the floor.

"OK then, we’ll keep things the way they are. I may want to try some different defenses later in the game if we stay ahead by a comfortable margin. Help me make sure everybody gets some playing time tonight, OK?"

The coaches nodded again, and Jess turned to address the team.

 

 

Back in the bleachers, Robin had returned from the concession stand with a hot dog, popcorn, soda, and M&M’s. Capi just smiled at the young woman’s appetite and got up to let Robin into her seat. In between bites, Robin continued her conversation with Patti and Jim Martin. By the end of half time, Robin knew where they lived, where they grew up, how many kids they had, where they both worked, and whether or not they would be at the next game.

As the teams came out of the locker room, Robin met Jess’s eye as she walked back onto the court. The head coach quickly looked away, the serious expression still on her face that had been there since the beginning of the game. Robin was starting to get worried that something bad had happened, and that somehow it involved her or her relationship with Jess. Just when it seems like we’re making a little progress, something happens to set us back again. I wonder what it is this time…

The game progressed as expected, and the Bobcats won easily. Everyone got plenty of playing time, and Jess was able to experiment with different defensive schemes in a game situation. All in all, the game was a huge success, but the head coach couldn’t have looked less pleased as she shook the opposing coaches’ hands and stalked off the court.

Jess talked very briefly to her team in the locker room, answered a few reporters’ questions, and escaped to her office as soon as possible. Once there, she sank wearily into her chair and closed her eyes. She asked herself what it was about the encounter with LaTeisha that afternoon that made her so upset.

I know that I’m not used to sharing my personal life with my colleagues, but it has to be more than that. I guess what upsets me the most is that if LaTeisha knew about Robin and me, maybe everyone knows. Jess shook her head. No, not everyone sees me every day like my assistant coaches do, so that’s probably an irrational fear. And it’s not like she thought there was anything wrong with it – my God, she was practically congratulating me! Come on, admit it! You just over-reacted like you always do.

Jess heard the outer office door open, and the assistants came in. She could hear them dropping off their things and closing down their offices for the night, and then she heard the outer door open and close as they left. She sighed deeply and pushed herself out of her chair, turned out the light and left her office. As she walked by LaTeisha’s office, she was surprised to see the light on and the assistant coach sitting at her desk, staring out the window. I need to clear this up right now, Jess thought.

She knocked on the open door and LaTeisha swiveled around in her chair.

"Can I come in?"

"Oh…yeah…sure!" LaTeisha motioned to the empty chair in front of her desk.

They sat in silence for a moment before LaTeisha cleared her throat and said, "Look, Coach, I’m really sorry…"

"No!" Jess interrupted. "Don’t apologize…please. I…just let me say this, OK?" Jess paused and took a deep breath. "I appreciate what you were trying to say to me this afternoon, and I shouldn’t have gotten so mad about it. But I…I’m not in the habit of talking about my personal life, and I don’t think I want to change that now."

LaTeisha looked down at her hands and remained quiet.

"I guess what I’m saying is that I think we have a really good working relationship, and I’d like to keep it that way. Do you think that’s possible?"

The assistant coach raised her head and looked Jess in the eye. She saw the steel curtain that the head coach had drawn across her emotions, and knew that she was not going to be the one to get past it. She nodded her head once and replied, "Yes, I think it’s possible, and I’d like it very much if we could just take up where we left off before I opened my big mouth this afternoon."

Jess smiled just a little, and said, "I think that would be great." She rose out of her chair and extended her hand to LaTeisha, who gripped it firmly. Jess held on for a long moment, her eyes relaying her gratitude for the assistant coach’s understanding. "I’ll see you tomorrow, OK?"

"OK," LaTeisha managed to smile in return, relieved that things might possibly be better the next day.

 

Robin had waited for Jess to return to the court after the game, but after the players emerged and another 20 minutes had gone by, she decided to leave. She went looking for Capi, and found her at the press table talking to Carmen.

"Hey, didn’t you find Jess?" Capi asked, noticing the glum look on Robin’s face.

"No, I think she must want to be by herself tonight. She seems to have disappeared."

Capi looked concerned, but said, "Well, maybe she just got tied up with something. Why don’t you come out with us for a beer, and then you can call her later?"

"Oh, I don’t know…I think I’d just as soon head home. But thanks for the invitation."

"Are you sure? Come on – it’ll cheer you up!" Capi said, giving Robin a reassuring pat on the back.

"No, really. You go ahead. I just don’t feel like staying up that late. Have a good time, OK?"

"All right, if you’re sure…"

"Yeah, g’wan! I’ll talk to you tomorrow."

Robin waved goodbye to Carmen and walked dejectedly out of the arena.

 

Jess left the office feeling much better than she had all night, and headed back to the court to see if she could find Robin. By the time she got there, only the clean-up crew was left, and Jess’s mood deteriorated once again. I can only imagine what she’s thinking – I stomp around all night like a moody bitch, and then I disappear without even talking to her. God, why does she always have to bear the brunt of my problems? And how long will she be willing to do that before she just gives up on me? I have to figure out some way to reconcile my personal and professional lives before I mess everything up and end up with nothing!

Jess got in her car and decided to drive past Robin’s to see if she might be home and still up. Unfortunately, there were no lights on in the apartment when she got there, so she continued to her own apartment. She tossed her briefcase on the couch and was heading for the kitchen when the phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Hey, you’re home."

"Yeah, I just walked in. Where are you?"

"I’m at home…where did you think I was?"

"Well, I just drove by there and there weren’t any lights on so I didn’t stop."

"Really? You were just here? You should have knocked. I just crawled into bed about 10 minutes ago."

"Well, I didn’t want to wake you up…"

"Jess, how many times do I need to tell you that you can call or come by anytime you want? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I like to talk to you." Robin lowered her voice and added, "And I like seeing you on my doorstep even more."

Jess smiled and felt a warmth spread throughout her body. "You have no idea how good that makes me feel right now."

"Hey, did something happen today? You sure didn’t look very happy at the game."

Jess sighed. "I was just my typical insensitive self and overreacted to something LaTeisha said this afternoon."

Robin waited for a moment, but when it appeared that the coach wasn’t going to elaborate, she prodded, "What did she say?"

"She said she liked you – thought you were nice."

Robin was confused. "And that made you mad? Thanks a lot!"

Jess laughed, relieving a little of her tension. "And then she told me I could do a lot worse."

"Oh…Why…How would she know about us?" The pieces were starting to fit together for Robin, and she knew the coach would probably not react well to someone assuming she was gay.

"That’s what I’d like to know. Here I thought we were being discreet and someone I’m not even that close to personally knows about us."

"But Jess, you work with her everyday. I’m sure she sees things you’re not even aware of."

"Yeah, but that’s exactly my point! Maybe it’s just not possible to keep these things discreet." Jess took a breath to calm down. "I just don’t know yet what this is going to mean for my job."

"So what did you say to LaTeisha?" Robin was almost afraid to ask.

"Oh, in my very mature way I told her that she was out of line and I didn’t speak to her for the rest of the day."

"Oh Jess…."

"But I finally came to my senses and talked to her after the game, and I think we got things straightened out. I told her that I’d like to keep my personal life personal, but that I was sorry for the way I acted. I think we’re OK now."

Robin could understand why Jess had reacted the way she did, but certainly didn’t agree with it. Nevertheless, she felt bad for the head coach, and wished there was something she could do to make things easier for her. Unfortunately, she couldn’t think of a single thing – it seemed that Jess was going to have to figure this out for herself…if that was possible.

"Robbie?"

"Hmmm?" Robin was drawn out of her musings.

"How would you feel about seeing me on your doorstep right now?"

"Mmmm, that would be a very nice surprise," Robin drawled in a low voice.

"That’s what I was hoping you’d say," Jess said, smiling once again. "I’ll be right there."

"I can’t wait."

They hung up and Jess didn’t even bother to change out of her work clothes. In five minutes she was knocking on Robin’s door, and smiling as a bare arm snaked out to grab her and pull her into the apartment. Robin was wearing a form-fitting tank top and boxer shorts, and she led the tall woman into the bedroom by the hand. Once there, Robin turned and put her arms around Jess’s neck, pulling her down for a soft kiss.

All of Jess’s fears and frustrations drained out of her at the touch of Robin’s lips. This was the feeling she couldn’t deny, no matter how much thoughts of her job tried to interfere. She belonged in this woman’s arms, and she would find a way to keep Robin in her life, because she could no longer live without her.

Jess wrapped her arms around Robin and pushed her back toward the bed, never breaking the kiss.

The back of Robin’s knees hit the edge of the bed, and as the young woman lowered herself onto the bed, her lips trailed down Jess’s neck. She reached for the buttons of the coach’s shirt, and was soon pushing the garment off of Jess’s shoulders, unhooking her bra, and kissing the soft swell of her breast.

Jess tangled her fingers in Robin’s hair, pulling her tighter to her arching body.

Robin fumbled with the zipper to Jess’s pants, but soon had them off as well. She pulled the tall, and now very naked, woman down on top of her as she reclined back on the bed. Jess’s breasts were poised just above Robin’s face, and the young woman proceeded to lose herself in sensations she could no longer control. Hours went by as the two women repeatedly explored each other’s most intimate places, desperate to feel the total release and acceptance that only they could give to each other. Finally exhausted, they fell asleep with legs and arms still tangled together.

 

Jess sat in her office the next day, trying to keep her eyes open when all she really wanted to do was take a nap. She’d gotten up early that morning and returned home to shower and change, after maybe 4 hours of sleep.

She was trying to concentrate on some scouting reports for her upcoming game, but her mind kept wandering to thoughts of Robin. After the previous night, the coach was more determined than ever to figure out a way to reconcile her job with her personal life. Jess’s computer chimed with the notice of a new mail message. She clicked on the icon and saw an address she didn’t recognize.

Jess –

How are things in Comstock? I read about your most recent win in the paper. It sounds like your nonconference season is going well.

I wanted to let you know about a high school player I saw the other night. Her name is Michelle Starling and she’s from Carson City. She is definitely Division I material, but she’s at a small school so no one is giving her much attention. I tried to recruit her to Monterey, but she has her heart set on Division I, so I told her I’d make a few contacts for her. If Division I doesn’t work out for her, hopefully she’ll think of me first when she starts looking at Division II schools.

It was sure nice talking to you last week. Say hi to Robin for me, OK?

Sara Graebel

 

Jess called Pam into her office and asked her to look into Michelle Starling. After the assistant coach left her office, Jess sat back in her chair and thought about how much she had enjoyed her earlier conversation with Sara. I sure wish I had someone like her around to talk to more often. Jess’s eyes widened as she realized there was no reason she couldn’t talk to Sara more often. While she didn’t feel comfortable talking to someone like LaTeisha about her personal life, maybe someone hundreds of miles away that understood what she was going through would be the perfect solution. In a moment of extreme courage, Jess did something completely out of character and hit "reply" on her screen and started typing.

 

 

 

 

Sara –

Thanks for the tip! I’ll check Michelle out. It’s hard to hear about all the good kids in small schools, so I really appreciate your willingness to share that information.

Hey, I feel a little weird about asking this, but I was wondering if I could ask your advice about something kind of personal. (You can say no and delete this right now.) I’ve never really had to think about how my personal life and my professional life go together – I guess because I’ve never really had much of a personal life! Anyway, what I’m wondering is how you handle your job without giving up your personal life, and how you handle your personal life without losing your job. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing this with me, I understand. Believe me, I don’t feel comfortable discussing it with other people either! But I found it really easy to talk to you when I was in California, and you’re a long ways away so you can’t see just how uncomfortable I am!

Thanks again for recruiting tip! I look forward to hearing from you.

Jess

 

The coach hit "send" and sat back in her chair and tried to slow her racing heartbeat. Her palms were sweaty and she was already wishing she could take back the message. Her phone rang and she almost jumped out of her chair in surprise. Dealing with the routine demands of her job turned out to be a good diversion for her, though, and ten minutes later she was surprised to see the notice of a return message from Sara on her computer screen.

Jess –

I’d be happy to talk to you about the challenges of blending a coaching job with a personal life. And I’m going to assume that we’re talking about a personal life that involves two women, OK? (If not, you can delete this right now. <g>) Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but this just hasn’t been an issue during my career. I certainly don’t go out of my way to tell people about me and Charmaine, but I don’t hide it either, and I think most people figure it out on their own. I suppose there are athletic directors who would have a problem with this, but it’s hard to believe that there’s an athletic director in a major program today that hasn’t had some gay coaches on his or her staff.

The other issue is recruiting, and we’ve all heard the horror stories of opposing coaches supposedly using the "gay label" against an unmarried woman coach. But I think there’s more rumor than truth to that, and I think it’s becoming more of a non-issue every day. I suppose there are still some homophobic parents out there, but I don’t think most athletes even think about things like that when choosing a school and a coach. Maybe I’m incredibly nave, but that’s been my experience.

Have you had some specific problems there at NOU? I always thought the athletic staff there were pretty progressive.

Well, I hope I’ve been at least a little bit helpful. Do you mind if I ask whether your personal life involves Robin? If so, you’re one lucky woman!

Sara

 

Jess let out the breath she’d been holding while reading Sara’s letter. She smiled at the reference to Robin, knowing that she felt very lucky indeed.

Is it really possible that this is all just a non-issue? That I’ve been killing myself over something that no one else even cares about? I find that really hard to believe! I suppose the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Jess sat deep in thought for a long time, before finally deciding that she needed to take a walk and clear her head.

Over the next couple of days, she and Sara wrote back and forth, discussing the specifics that were on Jess’s mind. Although she wasn’t completely convinced that she didn’t need to be paranoid about her relationship with Robin, Jess was at least starting to feel better about things, and was especially happy to have someone to talk to about her personal life. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Sara was many miles away and Jess was not likely to run into her any time soon.

 

Chapter 38

"Wow, look at that view! It’s like a winter wonderland!" Robin exclaimed. The trees were laden with snow from last night’s storm, and they sparkled in the sun like a million diamonds. She and Jess had been cross-country skiing up the side of a ridge all morning, and now they were overlooking a tree-covered basin flanked by Broken Top, a jagged peak in the Cascades.

Jess caught up to Robin, breathing heavily from the climb. She was not as experienced on cross-country skis, but she could almost make up for it with her natural athletic ability and her long strides. Nevertheless, the thin air at 6,000 feet was taking its toll.

"That’s incredible," Jess managed between breaths. They couldn’t have asked for a better day. The temperature was around 35F, and they had been peeling layers of clothing off all morning. Robin was now clad in only a thin polypropylene undershirt and thermal tights, and Jess couldn’t help but admire the part of the view that included the young woman.

"You like what you see?" Robin asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I like the view from here just fine," Jess replied with a seductive smile. She moved up behind Robin, straddling the shorter woman’s skis, and wrapped her arms around her waist. She leaned over and softly kissed an exposed earlobe before resting her chin on Robin’s shoulder. "It’s beautiful," she whispered, "and so are you."

Robin turned her head to meet the taller woman’s lips, and she lost herself in a soft, but passionate kiss. Her knees were threatening to buckle when she finally broke it off, breathing as heavily as she had been while climbing the ridge.

"I can’t believe what you can do to me with just a kiss," she breathed.

"That was not ‘just a kiss,’" Jess replied, equally breathless. "I didn’t know it could be so warm standing in the snow in the middle of winter."

Robin leaned her head back on Jess’s shoulder, thinking that life couldn’t possibly get any better. However, her stomach chose that moment to growl loudly, and Jess chuckled as she felt the vibrations under her hands.

"I guess that means it’s time to stop for lunch, huh?"

"Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt the mood. I guess I don’t have any control over my appetite."

"As if we didn’t already know that," Jess teased.

They found a fallen log to use as a seat, and unpacked the lunch of cheese, crackers, fruit, and chocolate. Robin made a little sandwich of cheese and apple between two crackers and offered it to Jess. The coach took it between her lips, capturing a few fingers along the way.

"Hey, don’t be starting anything you can’t finish," Robin warned.

"Who says I can’t finish it," Jess replied with a raised eyebrow.

Robin smiled. "You think you could keep me warm enough not to get hypothermia from bare skin on snow?"

"Oooh, a little challenge," Jess said while leaning over to capture Robin’s lips. Without breaking the kiss, she put her arms around the smaller woman and pulled them both backwards until they slipped off the log into the soft snow behind them.

"Yikes! You got snow down my back!" Robin shrieked.

Jess laughed and pulled the young woman on top of her, brushing the snow off her back. They were nose to nose as they smiled at each other, glad beyond words that they could have this time together away from the pressures and problems of their everyday lives.

Robin snuggled her head into Jess’s neck and hugged the tall woman tightly. She could feel the heat radiating between their bodies, but the rest of her was starting to get chilled. She shivered once, and Jess rubbed her back briskly, trying to warm her up.

"I guess we’d better think about getting started again before you get too cold, huh?" Jess asked.

"Mmmm, I suppose so, but it’s hard to leave this spot," Robin mumbled from where her lips were softly kissing Jess’s neck.

Jess chuckled and replied, "Well, I’ll bet we could remember where we left off once we get home and are sitting in front of a nice fire."

"Oh, that does sound good," Robin said, shivering again and lifting herself off the taller woman.

They quickly ate the remaining lunch, gathered up their things, and got back on the trail. Robin set a brisk pace in an effort to get her blood moving again, and soon they were making their way back down the ridge. It only took them about half the time to get back to the car as it took them to climb the ridge, and they easily made it back home in time to prepare a nice dinner. Afterward, they settled in front of a roaring fire, sipping a glass of wine and appreciating the feel of tired muscles after a long day of skiing.

Robin leaned her head on Jess’s shoulder, staring into the fire. Her hand was tracing an idle pattern on the coach’s thigh.

"Jess?"

"Hmmm?"

"You wouldn’t be mad at me if I got you a Christmas present, would you?"

Jess turned and smiled at Robin. "Well, that might depend on what you got me, I suppose."

Robin smiled back. "Well, then I guess I’ll have to give it to you in order to find out, huh? Wait here." She got up and walked to the bedroom, returning with two packages, one small and square, and one long and round. She handed her the small, square one and said, "Open this one first."

Jess smiled and took the package, then pulled Robin down to sit next to her again. She leaned over and gave the young woman a soft kiss on the lips and whispered, "Thank you."

"But you haven’t even opened it yet," Robin protested.

"It doesn’t matter what it is…the fact that it’s from you, and you’re here giving it to me, is all the Christmas present I could want."

Robin blushed and took the coach’s face into her hands, kissing her soundly. "I’m afraid the present isn’t nearly as romantic as you are."

Jess chuckled and pulled away to open her present. Inside the box she found a pair of black flannel boxers with "NOU Bobcats" written on the waistband, and a white t-shirt with the fighting Bobcat logo.

"Pajamas," Robin explained.

Jess grinned and replied, "Does this mean you want me to wear more clothes to bed?"

"Well, I do enjoy taking them off," Robin retorted, "but I really got them for when you’re traveling. I didn’t think you should still be wearing those Idaho State clothes."

"I’m sure my team would appreciate your efforts…unfortunately, they never see me in my pajamas."

"Hey, you never know when there’s going to be a fire in the hotel and you’re going to have to go running out in your PJ’s."

Jess laughed and hugged the small woman, thanking her once again.

"Here, now open this one," Robin said while handing over the long, round package.

Jess unwrapped it to reveal a beautiful graphite fly rod. Her eyes widened in surprise and she looked up at Robin.

"I built it for you," Robin said somewhat shyly.

Jess looked back at the rod and said, "You’re kidding. How did you do that?"

"Well, if you buy the blanks at the fly shop, they let you use their equipment to add all the hardware."

"So you put on the guides, and the handle, and the reel attachment?" Jess looked more closely at the careful application of thread covered with epoxy to hold the guides in place.

"I was going to use orange and black thread, but I thought it would be too tacky." Robin looked down self-consciously. "So I decided to try to match the blue of your eyes instead."

"It’s beautiful," Jess exclaimed, looking up again at Robin. "I don’t know what to say…Thank you." She set the rod down and gathered the young woman into her arms, hugging her tightly. She pulled away slightly and reached into her pocket for an envelope. She handed it to Robin and said, "Merry Christmas."

Robin took the envelope and opened it, finding a card with Santa spinning a basketball on his finger. Inside, Jess had written:

Robbie –

The end of my season won’t be complete if you’re not there with me. When (not if!) we make it to the first round of the NCAA’s, will you come along? All expenses paid, of course. Please say yes!

Love, Jess

 

Robin looked disbelievingly into the coach’s eyes. It was only a few weeks ago that they had argued over whether it was OK for Robin to go to an away game, and now Jess was inviting her to the post-season tournament. What could have caused you to change your mind so quickly? Not that I’m complaining….

"Well?" Jess asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh…" Robin realized there was a question she had neglected to answer. "Yes! Absolutely yes!" And she threw her arms around the coach’s neck, pulling her in for a kiss to emphasize the point.

 

Continued in part 13

 


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