Disclaimers: This an "alternative" uber story (although Im not sure what its alternative to), which means that if you dont want to read about two women who might fall in love, you should read something else.
This story takes place in a fictional location, and any similarities to real people or places is purely coincidental.
Thanks to my beta readers, MyWarrior, Kimly, Alina, and Wendy. Your encouragement is greatly appreciated.
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.
It was another rainy spring day, and Robin Grant was slogging through the puddles on her way across campus. Why arent I wearing sensible shoes on a day like today? Robin thought to herself.
A special meeting of the Athletic Advisory Committee had been called to introduce the new womens head basketball coach, and Robin was a faculty representative on the committee from the Economics Department. I wonder why I think I have to dress up for a committee meeting, anyway? Was it the hope that she would be named the new NCAA faculty representative when Frank Roberts finally retired that made her want to impress these people? She was sure that old Frank was delaying his retirement just to maintain that position, and had even given up a few offers of better jobs elsewhere. The annual trips to the convention, free seats in the Athletic Directors sky box, and a few free trips to away games made the position very desirable for anyone who loved sports. And Robin loved sports, having been a two-sport athlete herself in college.
So here she was, sacrificing dry feet for fashion, making her way to the Athletic Directors office to meet the new basketball coach, Jessica Peters. Robin was pleased that they had hired a woman coach, but was more than a little annoyed by the complete disregard for affirmative action policies when it came to hiring practices by the Athletic Department. It would have taken the Economics Department at least six months to jump through the hoops to make a new hire, but the Athletic Department had managed to find a new coach only two weeks after the previous coach announced he was leaving, amid speculation of recruiting violations and inappropriate relationships with a player. Yes, she understood it was recruiting season and the team would be at a huge disadvantage if it couldnt quickly name a new coach, but the double standard still irked her. It had not left her in a good mood to meet Jessica Peters, but she would try to keep her irritation with the Athletic Department separate from her assessment of the new coach. After all, everyone deserves a friendly welcome, right? Its bad enough that half the faculty thinks athletics is a complete waste of time and money Ill at least try to assure her that we dont all think that way.
Jessica Peters was coming to Northern Oregon University from Idaho, after having been the head coach at Idaho State for the past 5 years. She had taken that team from a perennial cellar dweller to an appearance in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, a feat that made her a hot commodity for a number of larger schools looking for coaches. Northern Oregon was just such a school, and had an inside track on the competition for Peters, given that she had been a star basketball player herself for NOU twelve years earlier, and "bled orange" as the alums liked to say.
Robin raised her eyes from under the dripping umbrella to see who was yelling at her from across the street.
"Hey Flaxen, how you doin?"
"You on your way to the gym? And why are you so dressed up?"
"No, Ive got a committee meeting, and Im not that dressed up! Geez, youd think I never wore anything but blue jeans and tennis shoes."
"You dont wear anything but blue jeans and tennis shoes, unless its summer and youre wearing shorts and tennis shoes."
"So call me fashion-challenged we cant all be as haute couture as you!"
"Aw, you know Im just teasing you. Youd look great in anything or nothing, for that matter." Flaxen wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and added, "The women in the locker room will miss you today. Even the straight women have been doing double-takes!"
Robin just groaned and said goodbye to her teasing friend.
It was true Robin Grant was very easy on the eyes. Although only about 55", she kept her athletic body in great shape by lifting weights, running, and playing whichever team sport happened to be in season basketball, volleyball, or softball. Add to that great body a sweet smile, sparkling green eyes, and blond hair carefully arranged to look completely windblown, and the result was simply stunning. Not that Robin really thought so, being a child of an overly critical mother who would have preferred a less athletic little girl, and who constantly criticized one thing or another about her. The adult consequence of this childhood was an interesting contrast of rebellion (blue jeans and tennis shoes) and conformation (dressing up for the big committee meeting). She had long since resigned herself to hearing her mothers voice in her head whenever she was trying to decide what to wear or how to behave in certain situations. She was only hoping that her response to the voice was becoming less predictable over time.
The Athletic Directors office was large, but the dark paneling on the walls gave it a depressing feeling, and the gray day coming through the windows added to the effect. Not exactly going to impress the new coach with these surroundings. I hope the basketball office at least has a little life to it. There were six others around the large conference table, and Robin greeted them warmly, having served on this committee for a couple of years now. Most of them were good old boys, representing the Booster Club, or the Alumni Association, and mostly trying to stay on the good side of the Athletic Director in hopes of getting better seats, free parking, or maybe the chance to rub elbows with the athletes and reminisce about their own playing days. Robin could only hope that she would age more gracefully, and would have better things to do in her life than live vicariously through young athletes.
The sound of the door opening brought the casual conversation to a standstill, and all eyes were drawn to the incredibly good-looking woman trailing after the Athletic Director, Butch Dockman. She was a good head taller than him, making him look rather comical as he craned his neck to talk to her. She smiled slightly at something he said, then turned to the table and revealed an even bigger smile, complemented by the most intense blue eyes that raked over everyone sitting there, obviously assessing each person in detail. Not waiting for Butch to introduce her, she quickly strode over to the table and held her hand out to the nearest person, saying "Hi, Im Jess Peters." An obviously impressed, if somewhat flustered committee member replied, "How do you do? Im Scott Reid, president of the Booster Club." She continued around the table, shaking each persons hand while looking them directly in the eye, and basically charming the pants off them before they even had a chance to think about it.
This is obviously someone who knows how to work a crowd I guess it goes with the territory of being a public figure. I wonder whats behind the persona? Robins skeptical thoughts were interrupted when the dazzling blue eyes locked onto her green ones, and the large, warm hand grasped hers firmly. "You must be Robin Grant. You played at Wisconsin a few years ago, right?" Wow, she really did her homework! It wouldnt be hard to figure out Im the only recent college athlete at the table, but she obviously had looked into the committee members backgrounds before the meeting shes either really sharp or really paranoid!
"Yes, yes I did" Robin managed to get out after staring dumbly for what seemed like minutes but must have only been seconds. Recovering quickly, she added "On behalf of the faculty, let me welcome you to Northern Oregon. Were really looking forward to the next season."
"Well, thats good to hear. I hope I dont disappoint you."
Somehow I dont think "disappointment" happens very much around you. How does somebody get looks, intelligence, charm, and athletic ability all wrapped up in one package? Ill bet NOU will be lucky to keep her a couple of years before shes off to even bigger and better things. Robin found herself wondering why that thought left her feeling so empty, but quickly forgot about it as Butch started going over Jessica Peters resume for the committee. Robin had read it all before in the newspaper, and so spent the time looking more closely at the new coach, hoping she wouldnt get caught staring. Jessica Peters had long dark hair, partly pulled back from her face, setting off the high cheekbones and dark eyebrows that periodically rose into the dark bangs at something Butch would say. She was dressed in a pair of tailored black slacks, and a brilliant white shirt under a black vest with subtle orange trim. My god, she can even make the school colors of orange and black look tasteful. Thats reason enough to hire her! Robin looked at her own chinos and cotton shirt and decided that "dressing up" was, indeed, relative. I guess its a good thing I decided to become a professor instead of a coach, because I could never pull off the wardrobe. Its one thing to have a bunch of half-asleep twenty year-olds looking at me in front of the class, but Id never make it in front of 5,000 fans!
Butch finished up the obligatory adulation for the new coach, and asked if anyone had questions. Will Cox, president of the faculty senate, raised his hand.
"What is your philosophy regarding the academic careers of your athletes, and how will you ensure that academic standards are met?"
Robin rolled her eyes in her mind. The faculty senate saw themselves as the watchdog for all things academic, and thought that athletics was a big waste of money that could be better spent on academics.
Jessica Peters didnt flinch. She gave a small smile and replied, "Well, Im glad you asked that Will, because I really believe in the term student-athlete. Professional athletic careers for women are very rare, and while I would certainly encourage a gifted athlete to pursue such a career, I will also demand that all my athletes take advantage of this tremendous opportunity they are being given to earn a college degree."
Bingo! Right answer. Jessica went on to elaborate about mandatory study hall and other programs, but it really didnt matter she had already won them all over. The faculty members and boosters alike were left wondering why this woman had been stuck at Idaho State, and why she was now sitting at Northern Oregon instead of UCLA or Georgia. Not that NOU didnt have a proud basketball tradition, but the small budget and small town atmosphere usually didnt attract the best of the best.
Maybe shes got some skeletons in her closet. Or maybe she just doesnt like the rat race that goes along with big-time programs. Or maybe shes like me, and the quality of life offered by Oregons natural resources more than offsets the lower pay and smaller markets. She doesnt really look like a mountain biker or fly fisher, though.
The meeting broke up and Jessica Peters took the opportunity to shake everyones hand once again before they left, making sure to pin each of them with those incredible blue eyes in a way that would make her unforgettable. As Robin smiled and reached for her hand, she once again found herself at a loss for words. How is it that I can speak regularly to hundreds of people, yet be such an idiot when it comes to talking to this woman?
Jessica noted the slight blush in Robins face and quickly filled in the silence. "I hope Ill be seeing you around campus, Robin. Do you get the chance to play ball anymore?"
"Well, I try to play at the recreation center a few times a week, and I play in the city league, but its not as much as Id like to." Wow, I think that was a complete sentence! Id better get out of here while I still sound mildly intelligent. "It was nice to get a chance to meet you, and I hope you have a great season," Robin said quickly and dropped her eyes while heading for the door. She breathed a long sigh of relief as she walked back out into the rain, and headed straight for the gym where she hoped she could run the extra heat out of her body. If not, there was always the cold shower option.
Well, that went pretty well, Jess thought to herself. They certainly didnt ask anything I wasnt expecting, and nobody even mentioned my early career. Maybe I can finally leave that part of my past behind me. I can hope, anyway.
"Are you ready to meet your team, Coach?" Butchs question abruptly brought Jess back to the present.
"Im looking forward to it!"
In truth, this was the part of the day she was most worried about meeting the group of women athletes that would ultimately determine her fate: success or failure as a coach. Because regardless of what people said about "building character" or "producing high graduation rates," in big-time college athletics only one thing really mattered: winning. And a coach could only do so much to inspire her athletes to play beyond their abilities at some point it came down to who had the most talented, self-motivated athletes. As a new coach, she had to take what was already at NOU, had to accept the previous coachs recruiting successes or failures. Oh, she might be able to pull in one or two junior college prospects at this late date in the recruiting season, but for all intents and purposes, she was about to meet the players that would make up the first team in the Jess Peters era of NOU basketball.
And deciding what to say to these athletes is much more difficult than going through the motions with the athletic department staff, boosters, faculty, or any other adults, for that matter. Most of these women are still teenagers, and most have been through a high school career where they walked on water. Follow that up with an intense period of recruiting, where coaches of major college programs are calling them more often than their boyfriends, and telling them repeatedly how great they are, and you have a recipe for a bunch of head cases for their college coach. Not to mention their resentment over the firing of their previous coach, who had been popular with the players. Maybe a little too popular with one, Jess thought ruefully.
Jess followed Butch through the door to the team locker room and was visually assaulted by the orange and black décor. I dont remember it being this awful when I played here, Jess thought as she tried not to wince.
Twelve women were sitting around on the benches in front of the lockers, each of which had a fighting bobcat logo and a players name prominently displayed. There were at least three pairs of high-top shoes in each locker, along with practice clothes and personal items. Most of the players were sitting back, looking skeptically at the imposing new coach, but a few were leaning forward with eager, welcoming looks on their faces. Must be the walk-ons, Jess thought, referring to the non-scholarship athletes who were hoping to make the team just to spend the next year working their butts off in practice and maybe getting a few mop-up minutes at the end of some blow-out games. Everybody has a role to play as long as they accept that role. Jess knew that it wouldnt be the walk-ons that would complain about lack of playing time it would be the scholarship player who had never sat on the bench before that now found herself behind someone bigger, faster, and better. It would be Jesss job to carefully massage their egos, kick their butts when necessary, and get them to accept their roles so that when they did go in to relieve the starters, they were ready to play and not pout on the court.
Jess looked around the room at the group of athletes, trying to make eye contact with each of them, striving for that look somewhere between intimidation (Im the new boss) and camaraderie (Im not the enemy were all on the same team here). Judging by the looks she got back, she thought she was successful. Butch then asked the women to introduce themselves, and Jess took that opportunity to scrutinize each of them in more detail. She already knew most of them, of course, having watched hours of film when deciding whether or not to take this job. Well, at least she knew their playing abilities she knew little of what was going on behind each pair of eyes. And that would be her challenge in the next few months; to find out what made each player tick, how to get that last ounce of effort out of each one of them, and then get a little bit more.
"Ill turn it over to you now, Coach," Butch said. "Ill be back to pick you up in 15 minutes for the meeting with the President." Jess nodded, and Butch left the locker room. Jess turned to see all the eyes looking at her expectantly again. She took the opportunity to walk slowly around the room, getting into each players personal space while laying out her coaching philosophy for them.
"I want you to know that theres no history with me each of you are starting with a clean slate. That also means that each of you have to earn your spot on this team. I dont care how many points per game you scored last year, or how many records you broke in high school. If you come into this gym everyday and bust your butt in practice, youll all have a chance to contribute to this team." Jesss look was definitely leaning toward intimidation at this point, and now she tried to soften it a little toward camaraderie.
"I expect you all to be motivated to give 110 percent all the time. I want you to play hard for yourselves not for me, not for your school, not for some external reward. Those things arent always going to be around to push you in life, and if you can learn to push yourself for your own pride and satisfaction, I guarantee youll be successful in whatever you choose to do. I believe in respect and dignity for everyone on this team, players and coaches alike." Jess watched their expressions change from skepticism to something that looked like hope and anticipation. She knew that the previous coach had been something of a screamer, and she wanted to make sure they understood that wasnt her style. It would be hard, though, to take players that were used to being yelled at, who were used to having an adversarial relationship with their coach, and get them to internalize their motivation. Jess had been through it before, though, and was confident in her abilities.
There was a long pause, as each player waited for another to put a toe into these seemingly dangerous waters.
Finally, Natalia Schmidt, a 6-5 post player from Germany, who probably didnt have as many social phobias as the American players, said in a thick German accent, "What offense will we run?"
"I like the 1-4 motion offense, but I need to see where our relative strengths are before deciding." Jess saw Natalia smile slightly, and knew that any good post would be pleased about running a post-oriented offense. "But Id like to get as much offense as possible off our defense. Good defense will result in steals and fast breaks, and that means our post players are going to have to be in shape to run the floor." At that, the smile faded slightly, and Jess knew she had made her point. Natalia looked like she could lose a few pounds and still be quite effective in the low post.
Jess fielded a few more questions about the game and her expectations, and then Butch was back for their next meeting. She looked around at the players, trying to decide if it would work, and then told them to huddle up, putting her hand out in front for the others to join.
"Team, on three. One, two three TEAM!" Yeah, she knew it was corny, but she wanted them to know that she was now one of them they were in this together.
"See you all in the weight room next week." Jess smiled warmly at them and then followed Butch out the door, feeling the admiring looks at her back.
"Come on Robbie! Theres two RBIs out there for you!" Capi was yelling from her spot in the coachs box along the third base line. "Just watch it all the way in hit the middle of it!"
Robin stepped to the plate, glancing at the runners on second and third, and knowing that a base hit would score them both and end the game. Shed been in this position before, and had a very real fear of failure. Damn my mother! She thought angrily about her lack of self-confidence and decided it was time to change things. She narrowed her eyes and focused on the slow-pitch coming at her. Middle of the ball, middle of the ball and proceeded to slap it right back over the pitchers head and into center field, scoring both runs.
"Yeah, way to go, Robbie!!" Capi yelled, while Robin gave her teammates high fives on the way back to the dugout. "I knew you could do it. You just have to believe in yourself!"
"Thanks, Capi. Ill try to remember that in the future," Robin said with a big grin.
Id be happy to remind you daily, Capi thought, as she looked longingly after her friend who was making her way through the line of handshakes with the other team.
Robin had known Capi for the three years shed been at NOU, but it was only since joining her softball team last year that theyd become friends. Capi was the kind of person that always made you feel good about yourself, and she had a great sense of humor, too. Robin found herself spending more and more time with Capi, going for long walks and talking for hours. She thought that Capi might have a crush on her, and she was not averse to thinking about that possibility. But Robin definitely wasnt falling head over heels, and she was trying to figure out why not. Capi was tall and good-looking, intelligent, loved sports and the outdoors, and was basically everything that Robin thought she was looking for. But something seemed to be missing, and Robin was going to take her time before getting involved in anything that she wasnt sure about.
"Hey Robin nice game-winning hit!" The low, smooth voice came from behind Robin, and she quickly turned around to see whom it belonged to. "Way to come through when the pressures on. Maybe you could teach my players a little bit about mental toughness!" Jess Peters was smiling broadly at Robin, and those blue eyes were sparkling with warmth. Robin thought she might melt on the spot. THATS whats missing with Capi! she thought, and it suddenly became crystal clear why Robin wasnt jumping into a relationship with her good friend. It had been awhile since shed been a relationship that set her heart on fire, but she remembered what it was like and promised herself that she wouldnt settle for anything less.
"Thanks, but mental toughness is not one of my greatest assets. I think I just got lucky this time." Robin looked Jess over and saw that she was wearing a Woodstocks Pizza Parlor t-shirt, which meant that she was playing in the next game. "I didnt know you were playing in the league, Jess. Hows your team doing?"
"Oh, Im not much of a softball player, but some other coaches had a team and asked if Id play. Its a good way to get to know people, not to mention a good excuse to get out for a few beers after the game." Robin smiled and nodded in agreement. "Well, Id better go warm up. Ill see you next week I think we play your team," Jess said with a big smile and just a hint of a wink.
"Hey, that will be fun! See you then," Robin said while giving a quick wave. Robin lingered around the field, gathering her equipment and changing out of her spikes. Of course, she was really stalling so that she could watch Jess warm up. Will you look at those legs flying across the outfield! It would take me two strides for every one of hers ... Not much of a softball player, huh? She looks pretty damn good to me. And pretty good at softball, too.
"Robbie, you want to go out for a beer?" Capi called out to her from behind the backstop. "Were going to Woodstocks."
"Sure! Ill meet you there in a few minutes." Even though they often went out to Woodstocks after the game, it now took on a whole new significance. I hope the Woodstocks team patronizes their sponsor after the game!
Robins softball team had made their way to Woodstocks, commandeered a few tables, and were now relaxed in front of strewn pizza crusts and mostly empty pitchers of beer. Robin was sitting next to Capi, reliving the game for the tenth time that night.
"I cant believe she gave me that flat pitch right down the middle. She should have known that I cant hit anything high and inside; shed thrown me enough of those earlier in the game that I popped up," Robin said with just the beginnings of a slight slur to her speech.
"She was probably trying to make you look good, hoping youd ask her out after the game," Capi teased. "You should have seen her looking at you when she was on third and you were standing in front of her. Or should I say leering at you." They both laughed and leaned their shoulders against each other for support.
Robins smile suddenly got wider as she saw the Woodstocks team coming in the door, led by six feet of dark and beautiful. Robins team waved them over and brought a couple more tables together to make room. After theyd placed their order at the counter, Jess made her way over to the empty chair next to Robin, noticing the slightly glassy-eyed look in Robins eyes.
"Robin, Id like you to meet my friend John," Jess said while gesturing to a handsome, equally dark, man trailing behind her. John gave Robin a dazzling smile while holding out his hand. Geez, he looks like hes off the cover of GQ, Robin thought. In fact the two of them look like they could be starring in some sizzling Hollywood romance. Suddenly Robin didnt feel so good, but she smiled gamely and shook Johns hand.
"This is my friend Capi Morgan. Shes the Vice-Provost for Student Affairs at NOU, so youll probably be hearing from her the next time one of your athletes ends up in trouble," Robin said teasingly. "Capi, this is Jess Peters, the new womens basketball coach."
"Nice to meet you," Capi said politely while giving Jess the once-over. Shed seen the look Robin had given Jess when they had first approached the table, and Capi sensed that her friend was more than a little interested in the new coach. But whats with Mr. Macho there? Surely Robin wouldnt fall for a straight woman, would she? I guess I should hope shes straight if I want to have a chance with Robin.
"So howd the game go, Jess? You guys win?" Robin asked while pouring a beer for Jess and John.
"Yeah, the other team wasnt very strong, so we won pretty easily."
"You hit any over the fence? Throw anyone out at the plate?" Robin teased.
"Nah, our team has so many good players they wouldnt even miss me if I wasnt there," Jess said somewhat shyly.
"Oh, youre way too modest! What about that double you stretched to a triple, and the line drive you snagged on its way to the fence?" John was nudging Jess with his elbow to emphasize his points, and looking at her with something that reminded Robin of a puppy dog, although she usually didnt want to slap puppy dogs. Jess looked a little uncomfortable, and excused herself to go to the restroom.
"So John, what do you do for a living?" Capi asked while directing a sweet smile toward him, having seen the daggers Robin had sent earlier.
"Im an assistant football coach. I coach the linebackers. I was a linebacker for Southern Cal, and I spent a few years in the NFL with Buffalo. I came to NOU to get some coaching experience so I can move up into the pro ranks after a few years."
Yuck! How many times can a person say "I" in ten seconds of conversation! Robin knew she wasnt being fair to John, but she wasnt exactly thinking clearly at the moment. In fact, she couldnt quite figure out why she was feeling so upset, and decided that maybe she had drunk more than she should have.
"So, you guys done talking about me?" Jess laughed while she slid back in between Robin and John.
"Oh, dont flatter yourself," Robin shot back with a grin. "John was just telling us about his football career. It sounds like a very exciting, interesting life." Jess and Capi caught the sarcasm, but John just beamed back at her. At that point, another of Jesss teammates caught Johns attention, and Capi turned to talk to someone else, leaving Robin and Jess a moment to themselves.
They both spoke at once:
"So, hows your new team looking?"
"So, are you winding down your term?"
"Go ahead, you first," Jess smiled.
"Well, finals are next week and Ive got about 50 term papers to grade before then. This is the time of year when I hate being on the quarter system. We should be enjoying the beginning of summer instead of finishing the school year. And I definitely shouldnt be out drinking beer on a school night! They shouldnt be allowed to start the softball season before school is out," Robin said indignantly, drawing a warm smile from Jess. "So how are things going with your team?"
"Pretty well. We can only work in the weight room at this time of year, although the players can get together themselves for scrimmages. And of course, I can always find some reason to have to walk through the gym a few times during those scrimmages, and Ive been pretty pleased with what Ive seen. I think theyre all working real hard. Im also pretty busy with the recruiting end of things. Thats going to take a lot of travel over the summer." Jess felt like she was running on about things that Robin probably wasnt really interested in, and couldnt help but notice how easy she found it to talk to Robin. She glanced up to see Robins eyes looking intently at her, and gave her a shy smile in return.
"Hey Jess! Isnt true that I beat all the linebackers in the 40 this year? You were there tell these guys that its true!" John was looking pleadingly at Jess, who politely confirmed his story for his admirers. When she turned back to Robin, she found Capi gripping Robins elbow and looking with concern at Robins face that had turned an unnatural shade of green.
"Hey, Robbie, how about I drive you home?" Capi asked gently.
"Is there anything I can do?" Jess asked while feeling like she had somehow missed an opportunity while responding to John, although she wasnt sure just what kind of opportunity it was.
"No thanks, Jess. Ill just take Robin home and she can pick up her car tomorrow." Both women got to their feet to help guide Robin to the door, and Jess gave Robin an encouraging smile before saying goodnight.
Water Ive got to have some water! Why am I so thirsty? Robin tried to slowly open her eyes to see if by some miracle a glass of water might be sitting on her nightstand. No miracles today. That meant she had to somehow lift her head and get her body to the bathroom. As she slowly rolled over in the bed, her eyes flew open at the sight of another body curled up next to hers. Oh God, what did I do last night? She recognized the dark hair and innocent face of her friend Capi, and was relieved to see that they were both relatively clothed. She gently slid out of the bed and made her way to the bathroom, where she proceeded to drink directly from the faucet. She fumbled around in the drawer until she found the aspirin, and drank the equivalent of another glass of water with three aspirin. She checked her watch and was grateful to see that it was only 4 am. If I can get back to sleep, maybe the water and aspirin will have kicked in by 6 when I have to get up.
"Hey, howre you feeling," Capi said gently to Robin as she returned to the bed. "Anything I can get for you?"
"Other than a new head? Preferably one with enough sense to know when to quit drinking beer," Robin replied ruefully. "Uh, we didnt last night you know "
"Relax," Capi grinned at her. "I would never take advantage of you when youre not in control of your faculties," she said with mock seriousness. "At least not if I thought you would remember in the morning."
Robin smiled back and reached over to give Capi a hug. "What would I do without you? Thanks for taking care of me." Capi pulled Robin in closer, rolling over to her back so that Robin could nestle her head on Capis shoulder. Capi gave a tender kiss to the top of Robins head, and soon they were both back asleep.
"Dr. Grant, could you give us the formula for price elasticity of demand again?"
Oh, why wont my head stop spinning, Robin thought to herself. She was using the last class period of the term for a review session, and still suffering from the effects of the previous nights indulgences. Remind me again why I wanted to schedule my class at 8 am?
"Sure, Gary, but Id much rather that you understand the concept instead of just memorize the formula. Think of it like this. Elasticity is like responsiveness," Robin said while pulling her hands apart in front of her like she had a big rubber band between them. "We want to know how responsive the change in demand is when price changes. Lets use an example that you can relate to. Suppose the price of beer went up by 50%." Robins stomach lurched at the thought of beer, but she tried to keep her mind on the class. "Would you decrease your beer consumption by 50%?"
Gary thought about it for all of a half second and said, "No way!"
"Well, how much less beer do you think youd drink, in percentage terms?"
"I dont know, maybe 10% less. Id give up something else instead."
"OK, so your demand response, 10%, is less than the price increase, 50%, so your demand for beer is price inelastic. That means you think of beer as somewhat of a necessity instead of a luxury." A round of laughter came from Garys classmates, even though most of them would probably agree.
"So Gary, if youre the local tavern owner, and you know that the demand for
beer is price inelastic, do you raise or lower price to increase revenues?"
"Raise price," Gary said confidently.
"Great! Now do you still need that elasticity formula?"
Many heads nodded vigorously, and Robin sighed to herself. "Percentage change in quantity divided by percentage change in price."
Robin glanced at the clock and saw that time had run out. "See you all at the final next Tuesday at 8 am!" She had somehow made it through the 50 minute class without throwing up or passing out. She vowed never to let this happen to her again, and made her way back to her office.
Dropping unceremoniously into her chair, Robin double-clicked on her mail icon and was chagrined to see 32 new messages waiting for her. I wonder how much more time people spend on getting through their e-mail than they ever spent on snail mail. She quickly deleted the messages that were announcing various seminars on campus, and then her eye was drawn to a familiar name: Jessica.Peters@nou.edu. Robin quickly double-clicked on the message.
I hope youre feeling better this morning. I just wanted to check to make sure that you made it home OK last night, although it looked like you were in good hands with Capi.
See you at the game next week
"Ughhh, how embarrassing," Robin groaned out loud. She vaguely remembered being rather rude to Jesss boyfriend the night before Boyfriend? Could that testosterone-laden airhead have really been her boyfriend? Robin decided she really didnt want to think about that possibility, and decided she should write Jess back to thank her for her concern.
Im doing much better this morning, thank you. Im really kind of embarrassed about the whole thing. I dont usually drink that much, but I guess I just got carried away after the big victory. Sorry I couldnt stay longer to talk to you and John.
Hey, you know I could really use some caffeine. If youve got a few minutes this morning, I could meet you at the Java Connection in the Union for a cup of coffee. I know youre probably busy, but if not this morning, how about tomorrow?
Robin felt a tightening in her stomach as she sent the message off and wondered why this woman made her so nervous. She really wanted Jess to like her, and she was afraid that her immature behavior of the night before wasnt going to help. And why do I want her to like me so badly? There were some pretty good indications last night that shes straight But Im so incredibly attracted to her! Would that happen if she really was straight? I dont think Ive ever fallen for a straight woman before. My gaydar has always been better than that.
Robins attention was drawn to the box that flashed up on her screen:
"New mail has arrived. Would you like to read it now?"
Robin clicked yes, and was delighted to see that it had come from Jess.
Its a pretty slow morning over here, so Id be happy to join you for a cup of coffee. Ill meet you at the Java Connection in ten minutes, unless I hear from you otherwise.
Robin quickly shot back an affirmative reply, and glanced down at her attire that she couldnt even remember picking out that morning. Blue jeans and a cotton shirt what did I expect? I wonder what basketball coaches get to wear to work?
Robin grabbed her wallet and headed for the Union. She rarely went to the Java Connection for coffee, since Starbucks was much closer to her office, but the Java Connection was half way between her and the athletic department. She found that the fresh spring air and blooming rhododendrons helped to clear her head, and she actually felt pretty good by the time she got to the Union. She ordered a tall cup of coffee, put lots of cream in it, and found a table by the windows. A few minutes later, her face lit up as she saw Jess walk in the door, dressed in a very sleek, black, warm-up jacket and pants. I guess that answers that question. I wonder if theres anything that doesnt look good on her. Robin was inordinately pleased at Jesss broad smile when she spotted her sitting by the windows. Jess ordered her coffee and joined Robin at the table.
"Hey, you look pretty good for someone who was nearly green the last time I saw her," Jess said teasingly. "Still young enough to recover quickly, I suppose."
Robin felt her face flush, and wondered if her face looked better in red or green. "Not quickly enough for my eight oclock class. Im not sure how I managed to get through it. Did you and John stay late at Woodstocks?" Robin asked, not really wanting to know where they might have gone afterward.
"No, we left shortly after you did. John had a recruiting trip this morning so I dropped him off at his place pretty early last night." Robin felt a sense of relief that she knew was out of proportion with the situation.
"So how long have you known John?" What am I, some kind of masochist? Why do I want to know about the two of them?
"Well, I met him shortly after I moved here, but weve only been going out for a couple of weeks. Were both so busy with work that we really dont get a chance to see each other very much. Im not sure I have the type of lifestyle thats conducive to a serious relationship, though. At least its never worked out in the past." Jess looked away wistfully, and then turned back to Robin. "What about you? Are you seeing anyone?"
Oh boy, now what do I say? Robin was certainly not in the closet, but she didnt go around advertising that she was gay, either. She wasnt sure she was ready to come out to Jess, especially since it appeared that Jess was quite straight. What if shes homophobic? Wouldnt that be just my luck? Robin decided to play it safe.
"Oh, I go out every once in awhile, but Im not seeing anyone seriously." She felt a twinge of guilt when she thought about Capi, but decided she really hadnt lied. "Comstock isnt exactly the best place to live if youre looking for romance. Everyone says its a great place to raise a family, but if you dont have a family, it can get kind of lonely. I sure have lots of great friends, though, so I cant complain."
"Yeah, your friend Capi seemed really nice. She must be a good friend to be willing to drive you home when there was a good chance you were going to be sick in her car," Jess said with a wry grin on her face.
"Well, shes got leather interior so it cleans up easily," Robin shot back. They both laughed, and then Robin decided that the thought of vomiting might still be too real for her stomach to handle and she quickly changed the subject. "Speaking of small towns, Pocatello, Idaho cant be much different. Where did you live before you moved there?"
A dark look seemed to come over Jesss face and she looked out the window while replying quietly, "I lived in a small town in Western Montana for a few years." Turning back toward Robin, Jess forced a small smile onto her face and said, "Im afraid I need to be getting back to my office. Im expecting a phone call from a recruit. Thanks for inviting me for coffee," she said as she was already standing up to leave.
Wow, what did I say? Should I apologize? Robin was flustered as she quickly stood and said, "Sure, anytime Jess. Ill see you next week at the game." Robin watched Jesss back as she left the coffee shop and slowly sat back down trying to figure out how the conversation got derailed so quickly.
Damn, I just panicked at the first mention of my past. It was a perfectly innocent question, and now Ive just drawn attention to it. I hope Robin doesnt think I was brushing her off. I really like her shes so easy to talk to. Its almost like weve been friends for years. Jess was making her way back to her office, and decided that an hour or so in the weight room might improve her mood a little. It was unlikely to be crowded at this time of day, and she should be able to get through her routine pretty quickly.
Jess warmed up for a few minutes on a stationary bike and then worked her way through the weights for a good 50 minutes. She found herself thinking about Robin and wondering how someone like her would have ended up as an economics professor. Do I know anything about economics? Supply and demand, right? Well, if she wants to talk about economics, Im just going to have to admit to being a dumb jock.
"Hi Jess, Ive been looking for you," Butch Dockman called out from the door to the weight room. "Do you have a few minutes?"
"Sure, whats up?" Jess said as she dropped the weights she had been lifting back onto the rack.
"Well, if youre done here, maybe we could talk in your office," Butch said with a questioning look on his face.
"OK, I was about to head back there soon anyway. I can catch a shower later." Jess tried not to show her worry on her face as she smiled at Butch and followed him out of the room. OK, dont be paranoid. Im sure theres a perfectly innocent reason for him to want to talk to me in private.
By the time they got to Jesss office, she was so nervous she had to put her hands in her pockets so Butch wouldnt see them trembling. She shut the door behind them and gestured to a seat for Butch while she went around to sit behind the desk. Her office was spacious, and decorated in the requisite orange and black, although in a subtle, tasteful way. A large TV and VCR dominated one corner of the office, where recruiting and scouting tapes could be watched. There were numerous glossy pictures of past NOU basketball players in action adorning the walls. There had been one of her in the office when she arrived, but she thought that was highly immodest and quickly had it moved out to one of the hallways.
Jess looked expectantly at Butch, who looked a little nervous himself.
"I had a phone call this morning from the mother of one of your recruits." He paused and shifted in his seat. "I guess its best to just be direct, here. She asked me what I knew about your sexual preferences." He looked up to see what effect that had on Jess, but Jess only looked back steadily with a slight tightening to her jaw, so he quickly went on. "I assured her that that was absolutely none of my business, and I told her that I had complete confidence in your integrity and ethics."
Jesss expression softened slightly and she said, "Thank you, Butch. I appreciate that."
"Well, I could understand her concern as a mother, but it seems pretty unfair to assume that about you just because youre not married," Butch said indignantly, obviously never considering that a woman as beautiful and graceful as Jess could be gay.
Yeah, of course you can understand her concern, Jess thought bitterly, so why arent you athletic directors ever concerned when you hire straight men to coach women athletes? But she kept her sarcasm buried and asked, "Which recruit was it?"
"Angie Tomlinson, from Lake Oswego. Her mother said that the Oregon coach was hinting around that her daughter might be exposed to undesirable lifestyles if she came to NOU. Isnt that just what youd expect from that from Coach Runyon? If I were that mother, Id be more concerned about exposing my daughter to that poison personality at UO!"
At that, Jess had to laugh out loud, which helped relieve some of the tension. It was no secret that many coaches would try to influence the recruiting game by spreading rumors about opposing coaches. And one of the most effective rumors to use was that a female coach was gay. Even if the coach were married, some recruiters would suggest that the marriage was just for show. It never made sense to Jess that parents were completely secure in sending their daughters off to be coached by men, but would die before sending their daughter to be coached by a known lesbian. She knew of many examples of men coaches having inappropriate relationships with players, one right here at NOU, and more often than not, they were protected by the male athletic directors instead of being fired.
But regardless of the injustice toward lesbians, In this case, it just isnt true! Jess fumed. Why does everyone think that all single women in athletics are gay? Oh, she knew that a lot of them were, having had plenty of teammates through the years that were out, and even a few that had come on to her, but she had never had an attraction to a woman. She had nothing against gays, and considered herself very open-minded about the subject. But having had people assume that she was gay on numerous occasions in the past had made Jess somewhat defensive about the whole issue. So while she didnt want to say anything to Butch that would imply that she thought being gay was wrong, she also wanted to say something to let him know that she wasnt.
"Well, Butch, I can assure you that this wont be an issue in my program. I cant stop the lies that opposing coaches want to spread, but you wont have to worry about the integrity of my program. I will always maintain appropriate, respectful, relationships with my players."
"I wasnt doubting you, Jess. We only heard good things about your experience at Idaho State, and your athletes here are already showing how much they respect you. I just wanted to let you know what I had heard, so you didnt hear it from someone else." With that, Butch got up and smiled at Jess before leaving the office.
Oh God, not again. Maybe I should just get out of coaching. Or maybe I should just take the time to develop a real relationship that might actually last. If I was married, at least some of this would have to go away.
Jess thought about the guys shed dated over the years, and wondered why they all seemed more like good friends, or brothers, instead of potential partners. Well, maybe if youd made any of them a priority in your life, instead of coming after everything else, one of them would still be around. But her teams and her career had always come first. It didnt take too many nights of watching film, or weekends of watching recruits, before her boyfriends had found someone else who appreciated them more. Maybe I can do it right this time with John. I know he doesnt seem like a great match for me, but hes a nice guy and we really seem to have a good time together. God, Im sounding desperate!
Ten oclock, pause two oclock, pause ten oclock, pause two oclock, pause Wait for the loop to form there! Now forward Perfect! Mend the line watch watch watch
"YESSS! I got one! Capi! Bring the camera!"
Robin slowly tried to maneuver her way out of the current and back toward shore, all the while keeping the tension on her line. The rocks on the bottom of the river were covered with moss, and Robin was glad she was wearing her wading cleats as she slipped and skidded her way backward. Capi was making her way upstream, having reeled in her line after hearing Robins call to her. She was grinning broadly at Robin, who was obviously thoroughly enjoying her battle with the big fish. She loved to see Robin like this looking like a kid at Christmas. The stress and fatigue of work was completely absent, and Capi thought Robin never looked more appealing.
"Well probably have every angler within 10 miles here after that shriek of yours," Capi teased. "Youd think youd never caught a fish before."
"I did not shriek!" Robin said indignantly.
"Here, let me net it for you. Bring it in just a little closer there, got it! Wow, thats a nice one, Robbie. Look at that red stripe down the side. I guess thats why they call these rainbows McKenzie River redsides, huh?"
Robin took the net from Capi and worked the fly free, knowing that Capi didnt particularly like touching the fish. They had a running joke about whether Capi used fish repellant on her flies so that she wouldnt have to actually catch any fish.
"OK, quick, get the picture so I can get it back in the water." Robin gave Capi her best full-toothed smile while holding the fish in front of her, and then gently set the fish back in the water, slowly moving it back and forth until it quickly swam away. "Wow, that was a great fish. Well, thats five to none in my favor, Capi. I guess some things never change. What do you say we break for lunch?"
"Yeah, Im sure the fish will appreciate a break from your incomparable cunning and skill," Capi replied sarcastically. Robin threw her arm around Capis shoulders with a laugh, and they made their way to the grassy bank and the daypacks they had left there.
"What a day, huh? We should do this more often on weekends," Robin said wistfully while leaning back and looking at the few, small clouds in an otherwise bright blue sky.
"That could be arranged," Capi said with a wry grin on her face. "You just have to decide that you dont need to work every weekend."
"Yeah, well you dont have to worry about getting tenure," Robin said with a worried look.
"As if you have to worry! Youve only won the teacher of the year award in your college for the past two years, and I know youve got some impressive research projects going, too. I wish you thought as highly of yourself as everyone else does, " Capi admonished.
"Yeah, I do too, but you didnt grow up with my mother," Robin said disdainfully. "I think Im getting better though. Did you notice how Im trying to just politely say "thank you" when you give me compliments?" Robin grinned. "If I hang around you too long, you might start thinking Im conceited!"
"Yeah, right. I dont think we have to worry about that no matter how long I hang around." Capi looked at Robin with a serious expression on her face, and Robin was afraid that the conversation was going to go in a direction that she wasnt ready for.
"Hey Capi, what did you think of that guy that was with Jess Peters at Woodstocks the other night?" Robin asked in an attempt to change the subject and to change it to a subject she was particularly interested in.
"You mean John? He seemed like your typical macho jock, but a very good-looking macho jock." Capi looked intently at Robin. "You didnt seem to like him too much, judging by the way you were shooting daggers at him."
"I was not! At least I dont remember doing that," Robin replied sheepishly, realizing she might not remember everything that happened that night. "I guess I didnt think that he seemed very much like Jesss type."
"What you really mean, is that you were hoping Jesss type might come with different anatomy, right? And that maybe her tastes would run toward short, cute, blondes?" Capi grinned at the blush that was creeping up Robins neck. "Oh, come on, Robbie, I saw how your face lit up when Jess walked in the room. But dont you think theres a real good chance that shes actually straight?"
"I hardly even know her," Robin protested. "So I dont know if I think shes straight, and Im NOT scamming on her!"
"Ah, what is that saying about protesting too much?" Capi smiled gently at Robin and said, "Its OK if you have a crush on her, Robbie. God knows shes gorgeous enough. Ill bet she wont go fishing with you, though, and if she did, she wouldnt let you catch more fish than her."
"Oh right, like you let me catch more fish than you," Robin rolled her eyes. "It wouldnt matter anyway, Capi, youll always be my best fishing buddy. Its good for my ego!" At that, Capi lunged for Robin and they both went rolling over the grass in a half-hearted wrestling match. They ended up with their faces inches apart from each other, looking intently into each others eyes. Robin could see the silent request from Capi for something that she knew she couldnt give to her right now. So she turned her head slightly and gave Capi a quick kiss on the cheek and a big hug, just for being Capi. Capi seemed to understand that the hug was some kind of consolation prize, and she ruefully recognized that she was going to have to accept Robins friendship for what it was: friendship only.
Robin felt profound regret for not being able to give Capi what she wanted. I do love her, but its a different kind of love than she wants from me. Why cant I feel more for her? Shes so nice to me, and we have such a great time together, why cant I fall in love with someone who is so compatible with me? Obviously love had not learned what the rules were, or had chosen to ignore them. Instead of taking the easy option and falling for Capi, she found herself increasingly thinking about a dark-haired basketball coach that was very likely straight, and didnt even seem that comfortable talking to her. Well, it wouldnt be the first time that Robin had chosen to do things the hard way, and it probably wouldnt be the last.
"Hey, I think I hear a fish calling my name," Robin said as she released Capi and stood up, offering her a hand. She didnt release Capis hand as they walked back to the river, feeling very grateful that Capi seemed to be willing to accept their current relationship for what it was.
continued in part 2
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