Disclaimers: see part 1
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.
Robin raced into her apartment from the carport when she heard the phone ringing. "Hello?" she said, breathing hard from her mad dash.
"Hi Robbie. You sound like you just ran a marathon. Did I catch you at a bad time?"
"Oh, hi Capi! No, I got tied up at work grading papers, and I just got home when I heard the phone ringing. Whats up?"
"I wondered if you wanted me to pick you up for the softball game tonight. I was thinking that wed probably go out afterwards, and I remember what happened last time when you had your own car."
"Thanks for reminding me, friend," Robin said sarcastically. "Ill be ready in about 15 minutes, can you wait that long?"
"Sure, no problem. Ill see you then."
Robin hung up the phone and made her way into the bedroom to change. I hope I remembered to wash my softball shirt after the last game. And where are my favorite black shorts? I hope I didnt leave them at school. God, look at my hair! I must have forgotten to comb it after the gym today. Suddenly Robin stopped and looked at herself in the mirror. OK, why am I obsessing about how I look for a softball game? As if I dont know. Robin knew that it made no sense to lie to herself about her feelings. She was already nervous about playing Jesss team that night. In fact, if she was honest, shed been nervous about it for the last two days. Not only was she worried about getting beaten badly by a team that was much better than hers, but she was also worried about how Jess had left so abruptly from their last meeting at the Java Connection. I hope I get a chance to talk to her. Maybe she was just having a bad day or something, and we can just pretend that it never happened.
Robin found her shirt, which was clean and neatly folded, and her favorite black shorts, which were in her gym bag, and quickly changed for the game. She then raced into the kitchen to wolf down a power bar and a soda before Capi arrived. She grabbed her softball bag out of the trunk of her car, and climbed into Capis SUV, throwing the bag in the back seat.
"Well, do you think we have a chance tonight?" Robin asked. "Theyre kind of loaded with all those coaches playing for them."
"Yeah, but weve got experience and wisdom on our side," Capi said grinning.
"You mean were old and slow," Robin said dryly. "Speak for yourself!"
"Well, you do tend to bring the average age of our team down. It might be in the mid-thirties now. But unfortunately, you can only play one position at a time, and they do make the rest of us bat. So, to answer your original question no, I dont think we have much of a chance."
"Well, youre just going to have to believe in miracles, then, because I think were going to win," Robin said triumphantly.
But when they got to the field and saw the other team warming up, Robin found her optimism waning. Well, at least they have a mercy rule, so maybe well only have to play five innings.
Robin looked over at the other bench and saw Jess changing her shoes. Just then, Jess looked up and their eyes met. Robin immediately broke into a smile, and although Jess hesitated for an instant, she smiled back and nodded. Robins heart rate seemed to pick up a few beats, and she had newfound energy as she sprinted out to the field for the first inning.
The game went pretty much as expected. Robins team usually went three and out, while Jesss team managed to score at least one run in every inning. Robin did make some nice plays at third base, including snaring a line drive of Jesss that would have gone for a double. It was hit so hard that Robin really didnt even have time to think about it, but just stuck her glove up and there it was. Jess had just grinned at Robin and yelled, "happy birthday!"
The only thing that really detracted from the game was the constant, obnoxious banter that was coming from one of the Woodstocks fans. Robin was appalled when she finally looked closer in the third inning and saw that the perpetrator was none other than John. Oh God, what does Jess see in that guy. Hes such a a man! Robin knew that was completely unfair to half the population, but John just seemed to have what she thought of as all the negative male traits. Obviously he cant be all bad, or Jess wouldnt be going out with him. Would she?
Robin managed to tune John out for the remainder of the game, but couldnt help but gag a little when he greeted Jess after one inning with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
After the game, there were no hard feelings. The players on Jesss team were gracious winners, and Robins team took the loss good-naturedly. They all agreed to meet at Woodstocks for a few beers, and made their way to the parking lot.
"Well, Robbie, you did all you could tonight," Capi said sympathetically as they climbed back into the SUV and headed for Woodstocks. "Its hard when you have to carry the rest of us."
"Oh, dont talk like that. Everyone did great. Theyre just stronger, faster, and better than us. Its just city league, anyway. Its not like it really matters whether we win or not."
"Yeah, right. Like youre not one of the most competitive people I
know!" Capi said teasingly. "I think youre going to need that
competitiveness if youre going to try to sway one tall, dark, and beautiful away
from one tall, dark, and handsome. They looked like quite the couple tonight."
Robin felt her gut tighten at the thought of Jess and John together, but tried to maintain a nonchalant face for Capi. "Im not sure theres much chance of doing that, but you never know, Capi. Maybe Jess has just never really thought about being with a woman before, so shes just settling for some guy who happens to be available," Robin said hopefully.
Capi raised a disbelieving eyebrow at Robin. "How can anyone be in collegiate athletics and not have thought about the possibility of two women being together? Shes gotta be in her thirties, so its hard to believe that she wouldnt have found herself attracted to a woman by now if shes really gay. Unless, of course, shes homophobic and wont admit to ever being attracted to a woman."
"She doesnt seem like the type to be homophobic," Robin said defensively. "Maybe shes just never met the right woman."
"Right. And I suppose you know who the right woman is?" Capi challenged her with a grin.
"Alright, enough of this conversation. Theres Jess now, so try to pretend like we werent just talking about her," Robin admonished as they got out of the SUV in the Woodstocks parking lot.
"Hey, Jess, glad to see you could make it," Robin called out to her. The three of them made their way into the pizza parlor, and Robin was delighted to see that John didnt appear to be anywhere in sight. Leave it to Capi, of course, to bring the subject up.
"Wheres John tonight? Did he wear himself out yelling at the umpire?" Capi asked with a smirk.
Jess looked embarrassed, and said, "He was a little loud tonight, wasnt he? I think he gets into the game and forgets that its city league softball and not Pac-10 football. Anyway, he had to meet some other coaches to discuss a recruit, so it looks like its girls night out!"
For some of us, every night is girls night out, Capi thought wryly. "Ill order the pizza and beer, why dont you two go grab a few tables, OK?" Robin and Jess gave Capi some money for the order, and went to find some tables.
"You really played well tonight, Robin," Jess said. "Did you play softball at Wisconsin, too?"
"Yeah, but just for my junior and senior years. It was a new program, so we were kind of at a disadvantage in the Big 10. I got to play because they were just starting to recruit and had a lot of openings for walk-ons. Im sure Id never make the team now that they are fully funded and recruiting nationally," Robin said modestly.
"Oh, I wouldnt be so sure about that," Jess countered. "Theres always room for good infielders, and you sure played a great third base tonight."
Robin felt herself blushing again, and cursed her fair coloring for making her discomfort so obvious. Remembering what she had told Capi earlier about handling compliments, she just smiled and quietly said "Thanks." She really wanted to add but I really just got lucky on a few of those, but controlled her automatic urge to put herself down.
Capi and the rest of the players soon arrived with pitchers of beer, and the noise level rose considerably as everyone bantered back and forth about the game. Robin made sure to pace herself with the beer, not wanting a repeat of the week before. She was really enjoying the easy conversation around the table, especially the relaxing effect it seemed to have on Jess. There was no hint of the dark withdrawal that Jess had displayed at the Java Connection, and Robin decided that she must have just hit on some bad topic of conversation. What were we talking about that day when she abruptly got up and left? I think it was something about Montana, or Idaho. I wonder what happened there that she doesnt want to talk about?
Robin was abruptly pulled out of her musings when Capi said, "Hey Robin, Ive got an early morning meeting tomorrow, so I should probably get going. Are you about ready?"
Robin hesitated, because she was having a good time talking with Jess, and didnt want to miss this opportunity, but then said, "Uh, sure Capi, I can leave now if you need to."
Jess picked up on Robins reluctance, and quickly said, "Hey I can give you a ride home if youd like to stay a little longer, Robin."
Robin looked at Capi to see how disappointed shed be if she didnt go with her, but Capi only looked reassuringly back at Robin and raised her eyebrows questioningly.
"OK, that would be great, Jess, if youre sure you dont mind," Robin replied.
"Not at all. I dont have to be anywhere in the morning, so we can stay as late as you want."
Robin tried very hard not to think of all the possibilities that statement implied. She then got up to follow Capi to her car so that she could retrieve her bag.
"Well, it looks like this might be your big chance to see if your theories about the right woman are correct," Capi teased. "Try not to do anything too drastic, just in case youre wrong! And if it does happen to work out, you can thank me later for giving you this opportunity."
Robin narrowed her look at Capi and asked suspiciously, "Do you even have a meeting in the morning?"
"Youll never know! See you later, hotshot." And with that, Capi was off and Robin made her way back into Woodstocks, wondering how Capi could possibly be so gracious in what had to be a very difficult situation for her. It made her wonder again about why she wasnt falling in love with Capi, but quickly forgot about it when she saw Jess waiting for her at the table. Most of the other players had cleared out by then, and there were just a few of them left talking in groups of two or three.
"Everything ok with Capi?" Jess asked as Robin sat back down next to her. Robin nodded and Jess added, "She sure seems like a good friend. How long have you known her?"
"About three years ever since I got here, but we really didnt start hanging out together until last year. Shes my best fishing buddy, and just a great friend to talk to. She has this way of always making me feel better, no matter how bad things might get," Robin said with a wistful look on her face. Jess wondered why Robin seemed kind of sad about that, but decided not to pursue it.
"Well, everybody needs a best friend, so Id say youre pretty lucky to have found one here."
"How about you? Is John your best friend?" Robin said, even though she couldnt imagine Jess confiding in John the way she confided in Capi.
"I guess I dont really think of him as a best friend," Jess said thoughtfully. "I dont really know him that well yet, but Im trying to give this relationship a chance without messing it up like I have all the other relationships in my life."
"What do you mean, messing them up?" Robin asked. "How do you know the other person didnt mess them up, or maybe they were never meant to be?"
Jess noted the use of other person instead of guy or man, and wondered if Robin was making assumptions about her sexuality just like everyone else. Well, just to be sure "All the other men were really nice guys not like there were that many of them but I just always had something else in my life that was more important than them. Usually basketball. I dont blame them for looking for someone who would put them first in their life."
"Well, if they really liked you, they would have found a way to make what was important in your life, important in theirs, too," Robin replied earnestly. At least thats what Id do, she added to herself.
"Well, thanks for the support, but I think it needs to go both ways. And I guess I havent really been that interested in their lives." Jess then gave a laugh, and said, "Listen to me talk like Ive had tons of boyfriends in my past. Really, were only talking about a few casual, very short-term, relationships. In fact, the thought of really getting serious with John is pretty scary to me, but it seems like its time to give it a chance. Maybe it wont work, but I dont want it to be for lack of trying."
Robin thought Jesss whole approach to the relationship with John sounded a little analytical, and predicted spectacular failure in the near future. Of course, she didnt share that thought with Jess, and only smiled and nodded instead.
"But hey, enough about me. How can someone as smart, fun, and attractive as you still be single? Dont tell me youre bad at relationships, too?" Jess said with a smile toward Robin.
"Well, Ive had a couple of relationships that have lasted for a few years, but then it seems like I move away and the other person doesnt want to come along with me. First it was moving from Wisconsin to Minnesota for grad school, and then it was moving out here for this job. I suppose I could have decided that the relationships were more important than the moves, but I think I was hoping that they would follow me after a year or two. At least thats what we talked about," Robin said with a far-away look in her eyes. "But it seemed that it didnt take long for them to forget about me once I had left, because they both went onto other relationships and I was left to start over." Robin had a wry smile on her face, and she added, "But I believe things happen for a reason, and Im sure that Im going to find someone else that is perfect for me, and Ill wonder what I ever saw in those people!" Robin looked up at Jess and raised her glass to toast her optimism. Jess grinned back and said, "Heres to the future and perfection! May we both find it!"
Oh, if only you were thinking about me when you said that, Robin wished.
They continued to talk for another hour, trading stories about playing basketball in college, going to grad school, and dealing with the psyches of college students. Before they knew it, they were the only ones left at the table, and midnight was fast approaching.
"Oh, look at how late it is," Jess gave Robin a worried look. "Do you have an 8 oclock class tomorrow?"
"No, its finals week, and I gave my last final yesterday. So I just have to grade about 200 exams before next Monday. But I dont need to be in the office at any particular time, so I can sleep in if I need to. What about you?"
"Things are really flexible for me right now. So getting in late isnt a problem. But we should probably be going before they kick us out of here," Jess said with a smile.
"Yeah, youre right. I really appreciate you giving me a ride home. I hope its not too much out of your way," Robin said as they made their way out to the parking lot.
"Well, unless you live in another town, nothing in Comstock can be too much out of the way," Jess joked. "I think I can drive from one end of town to the other in about 10 minutes."
Jess stopped at a late model Toyota Camry with dealers plates on it and unlocked the door for Robin.
"I hope you dont mind riding in my family car. Its not exactly what I would choose to drive, but all the coaches get complimentary cars from the local dealers, and we have to agree to drive them around town. I find it hard to believe that anyone is going to go buy a Toyota just because they see me driving this around," Jess laughed while shaking her head, "but I suppose the dealers get to write it off as an advertising expense, and they get lots of free tickets to all the athletic events for their donation."
"Well, at least they do it for both the mens and womens sports now. It sure didnt used to be that way," Robin replied.
"So where to?" Jess asked for directions as she left the parking lot.
"Go right and head up to Elm Street. I live in those townhouses that are just up the hill from the shopping center."
"Hey, those look nice. They were all full when I moved here, so I ended up over on College Hill. Its a little too full of students for me, so Im looking for something else. I think I might try to buy something small, but I want to wait until I learn the area a little more."
"Well, real estate is pretty expensive here, but I suppose a basketball coach makes a whole lot more than an assistant professor," Robin said with what she hoped wasnt too much sarcasm in her voice. "But Im an economist, so I know how the laws of supply and demand work, and its perfectly clear that basketball coaches are in much more demand than economics professors! And apparently football coaches are in much more demand than university presidents, since our football coach makes about three times what the president makes."
"Yeah, it does seem like weve lost some perspective when it comes to athletics, but as a coach, I have to play with the rules that are given to me. If we want to be successful at NOU, we have to be able to compete with the other programs."
Jess thought she was sounding a little defensive, and Robin was feeling bad for bringing the subject up. They both turned and looked at each other with apologetic expressions, and said "Sorry I " at the same time. Which caused them both to laugh and relax again.
"Maybe there are just some topics we should avoid, huh?" Jess offered.
"No, I agree completely with what youre saying, Jess. I think I was just feeling envious, or something. You know, I always wanted to be coach when I was younger, but I thought it wasnt a proper career. Of course, that was really my mother thinking for me, but Ive always had some regrets that I didnt follow my heart. Not that I dont like what Im doing, because I do, but Im not sure that I could say with a straight face that I have a passion for economics!" Robin laughed.
"Ill bet youre passionate when you teach, though, arent you?" Jess asked with a knowing grin.
Robin blushed and said, "Its definitely the part of my job I like best."
"Its the part of my job that I like best, too," Jess replied. "Unfortunately, in collegiate athletics today, theres more emphasis on recruiting than teaching."
"Well, Im sure you have an advantage in that department, too," Robin said with a smile. "You certainly do make a good first impression. I remember that day I first met you in Butch Dockmans office, you had the whole committee eating from your hand!"
Now it was Jesss turn to blush, and she noted with relief that they had arrived at Robins apartment complex and she could change the subject by asking for directions to Robins apartment.
Robin didnt want the evening with Jess to end, and debated with herself about inviting Jess in for another beer or some coffee, but decided that she shouldnt push her luck.
"Jess, thanks so much for the ride home," Robin said while turning toward Jess in the seat. "I was really glad that I could stay longer to talk to you tonight."
"Yeah, me too. I feel like were already old friends," Jess said with a laugh.
"You know, if youre not doing anything at noon tomorrow, you should come by the recreation center," Robin offered. "We could show the boys a thing or two on the basketball court!"
"Well, maybe you could show them a thing or two, but Ive been spending a lot more time coaching than playing in recent years. Id hate to embarrass myself! Besides, everyone loves to get the opportunity to "beat the coach," and that often leads to a bunch of wannabe basketball players trying to win at any cost, and I end up taking the brunt of it," Jess lamented.
"Yeah, I suppose thats true. Ive never really thought about what it would be like to have everyone on campus know who you are," Robin said understandingly.
Jess laughed and said, "Well I sure wouldnt go that far! Im sure there are plenty of people on campus that dont even know we have a womens basketball team, let alone know who the coach is."
"Well, speaking from experience, once they met you, theyd never forget you," Robin said sincerely. God, I hope I didnt just go too far. I dont want to scare her away now. But Jess just smiled and their eyes met for a long time, before Robin looked down and said, "Well, I guess Id better get going. I dont want to keep you up any later. Thanks again for the ride." Robin reached out and gave Jesss hand a squeeze before climbing out of the car and shutting the door.
Jess sat there for a long moment, looking at her hand and wondering why such a casual gesture had felt so significant. I guess its been awhile since Ive had a good friend. Someone I can talk to and feel comfortable with. In fact, I cant remember the last time I let someone get that close. Closeness also means being vulnerable, though, and Im not sure Im ready for that. Ironically, Jess had never had any of these thoughts about John, but that fact did not seem to register with her.
Robin made it into work by 10 am the next morning, having spent a leisurely morning drinking coffee and grading papers. Most of the students had already left campus for the summer, and things were very quiet around the department. As much as she loved teaching, it felt like such a relief when the students were gone. No more lines at Starbucks, plenty of parking spaces, and an uncrowded gym were just a few of the benefits.
Robin fired up her e-mail and found only five new messages waiting for her. I guess even e-mail knows that summer break is here. The first one was from Capi, and Robin opened it quickly, wondering what type of teasing she was going to have to endure from her good friend.
Hey Robbie How did it go last night??? If youre reading this before noon, its a bad sign. Does she still need help in figuring out who the "right woman" is? Want me to call her? I could give a great testimonial to your wit and charm. I could also tell her that there are plenty of women waiting in line if she doesnt have enough sense to know a good thing when she sees it.
Are you going to the gym later? Maybe Ill see you there.
Your not-so-secret-admirer, Capi.
Robin smiled and hit the reply icon.
Capi, you are so thoughtful - willing to act on my behalf in this matter. I hope you wont be offended if I respectfully decline your offer of assistance. Im sure Ill be able to mess it up just fine on my own, without any help from you.
We did have a good time last night. We talked at Woodstocks until about midnight, and then she drove me home. I dont think she has a lot of close friends, but she seemed pretty comfortable talking to me. Im certainly not going to push for anything more at this point. Besides, she made a few comments that made it pretty clear that shes straight. Or at least she thinks shes straight! So I dont want to go scaring her away before weve gotten a chance to know each other better. I dont know how Im going to handle the John thing, though. She seems pretty intent on having a relationship with him. When I think about the two of them being intimate, it makes me want to throw up!
Well, Ill probably see you at the gym Im going over around noon.
Jess was sitting in her office, looking at yet another tape sent in by a high school player looking for a scholarship. She had already started the tape twice, found herself daydreaming each time, and stopped to rewind it. What is wrong with me this morning? Maybe I didnt get enough sleep last night. What she really couldnt figure out, though, was why her mind kept transposing Robin into the basketball player on the tape. Yes, they were both small, blond, guard-types, but shed never even seen Robin play before. In her mornings fantasy, however, Robin was a dazzling point guard, flashing down the court and delivering no-look passes to a cutting power forward. Jess looked at her watch and saw that it was almost twelve-thirty. Maybe I should just take a break and go see what the real thing looks like on the court. Jess turned off the video unit and headed for the recreation center.
The gym at the rec center was on the lower level, but had large openings all around the main level so that spectators could look down on the courts. Jess ordered a smoothie from the food vendor on the main level, and headed over to one of the openings. Two of the three courts had games going on, and Jess quickly spotted Robin playing on the court nearer to her. She was the only woman playing, and definitely the smallest player on the court. She was being guarded by a much older man, probably in his fifties, and was clearly way too quick for him to keep up with. As a result, he often resorted to grabbing and holding Robin as she blew by him. Jess could tell that Robin was getting frustrated, as she threw her arm out to try and disengage herself from him. The next time down the court, Robin faked one way, and quickly reversed directions for a back door pass. As she was about to leave her defender for a wide open lay-up, he reached out desperately to grab her again. Robin took the ball and slammed it down on the court.
"Goddamnit, Glenn!! If you grab my breast one more time Im gonna kick you in the balls so hard they come out your ears!" she screamed for the world to hear.
Everything went very quiet for a long moment, and then the other guys started snickering at Glenns obvious discomfort.
"Well, that would make me stop," one of them said with a wry grin at his teammate.
"Hey, Glenn, why dont we switch you take Bill and Ill take Robin," one of Glenns teammates offered in an obvious attempt to smooth things over.
Robin let out a deep breath and looked up to the ceiling, obviously trying to calm herself down. It was then that she saw Jess up at the opening. Oh my God, why today? Its not like Glenn hasnt been doing this for weeks now. Why did I have to choose today to lose my temper? Robin put both her hands over her face, and looked at Jess through her fingers. Jess was smiling broadly, not only at Robins embarrassment at being "caught," but at the feistiness she had displayed with Glenn. She gave Robin a thumbs up sign, and went back to drinking her smoothie.
Robin continued with the game, now being guarded by a much more skilled, and therefore cleaner, player. The next time she looked up at the opening, Jess was gone. Robin realized that she had lost interest in playing anymore, and decided to quit after the game was over, even though her team had won the right to stay on the court for the next game. She noticed that all of the guys made a point to come over and slap her hand, saying "nice game, Robin," and "he deserved it, Robin." Glenn apparently had enough sense to realize that his actions were completely unacceptable, even to the other guys, and had disappeared quickly after the game.
Robin slowly made her way towards the locker room, only to run into Jess coming out of the weight room.
"Hey, slugger, does Glenn still have all his private parts?" Jess asked with a big grin on her face.
Robin just groaned and said, "Why do all the slimy guys have to guard me? Just because Im the girl they think the oldest, slowest guy out there can guard me."
"Well, if its any consolation, it was pretty clear that he couldnt guard you," Jess said sympathetically.
"Thanks. I just hope he never shows up again, although I suppose thats not likely," Robin replied. "Were you lifting weights?" Robin asked, nodding her head toward the weight room that Jess had come out of.
"No, I just saw a couple of my players in there and came down to talk to them. Its good to show up unexpectedly every once in awhile so they think Im keeping track of them," Jess said with a conspiratorial look. "Well, I should let you get to your shower, and I should get back to work."
"Hey, you know its Friday, and its the last day of finals week, how would you like to go out for a celebratory drink after work today?" Robin ventured. "Most of the students should be gone, so things wont be crowded."
Jess thought for a moment and then said, "Yeah, I think I can do that. Where do you want to go?"
"Well, Miguels is just across the street from my office, and theres plenty of parking nearby."
"Robin, theres plenty of parking everywhere in Comstock," Jess replied with a smirk. "That would be great see you there around 5?"
"Sounds good see you then!" Robin waved a hand at Jess as she turned and made her way to the locker room. She had only gone a few paces when her friend Flaxen appeared at her side.
"Whoa Robin, who is that gorgeous woman you were talking to," Flaxen said in a low voice while leaning into Robin.
Robin gave her a playful shove and said, "Back off, Flaxen. Shes straight." But then she leaned close to Flaxen once again and whispered, "But Im hoping to change that."
"Well, if anyone can, Im sure you can. Is she new around here?"
"Shes the new womens basketball coach. I cant believe you havent seen her before now."
"Well, Ive read about her, but believe me, her picture in the paper doesnt do her justice. I suppose its hard to pack six feet of presence into a newspaper mug shot. How do you know shes straight?" Flaxen asked.
"Shes going out with this goon from the football coaching staff," Robin said while rolling her eyes. "Oh, I shouldnt be so harsh. Hes actually a very good-looking guy, who just has a little too much macho in him for my taste. I suppose hes a nice enough guy, though, and she seems to like him."
"Well, if my gaydar is in working order, Id say hes in for a heartbreak," Flaxen replied.
"We can hope, cant we?" Robin answered with a smile, and they headed off to the showers together.
At 4:45 that afternoon, Robin was just starting to shut down her computer when there was a knock at her door.
"Come on in," she called.
Jess opened the door and stuck her head in. "Hi, I was walking over to Miguels and thought Id stop and pick you up since its on my way. She looked around the small office and said, "So this is how professors live."
"Well, its how fairly new assistant professors live, anyway," Robin laughed. "There are actually some pretty nice offices in this old building, but you have to build up seniority before you get one of those."
Robins office was long and narrow with a window at the end, making it difficult to arrange the desk, computer table, and filing cabinets in the room. Nevertheless, she had done a good job of making the office seem warm and comfortable. She had a number of posters with seascapes and mountain scenes from Oregon, as well as several posters of the mens and womens basketball teams from years past. Prominently displayed above the computer table was the poster of next years team, which just happened to feature a big picture of Jess in the middle. Jess blushed when she noticed it, saying "Geez, couldnt you find some better artwork for your office?"
Robin smiled back at her and said teasingly, "Ah, the price one must pay for being famous." She felt a little self-conscious about having the poster so prominently displayed over her computer where she spent most of her time, but hoped Jess didnt notice the significance of the location.
"Boy, the titles of these books are enough to make my head spin," Jess said while looking over Robins bookshelves. "Microeconomic Theory, Econometric Theory and Applications, Welfare Economics its a far cry from John Woodens They Call Me Coach."
"Believe me, Id much rather be reading John Woodens book than those. Most of those are from my grad school days, but they cost so much that I cant bear to get rid of them. Occasionally, I actually even use one," Robin laughed. "Are you ready to head out? Im getting hungry!"
Having seen Robin polish off five pieces of pizza at one sitting, Jess figured that Robin didnt lack for appetite. She couldnt help but also notice that Robins body didnt show any ill effects from her diet. I guess she must work out enough to burn off all those calories. I just cant believe she doesnt have a long line of men waiting to go out with her shes incredibly attractive, and a nice person, besides! Jess felt something weird in her stomach in response to her thoughts, but her mind couldnt quite put a name to what she was feeling. She decided shed have to think about it more later, and said, "OK, lets go before you waste away from lack of food."
They quickly made their way across the street and found a table in the back room of Miguels. Miguels was a popular Mexican restaurant, and had a great selection of microbrews. A server came over after a few minutes to take their order.
"Have you tried any of the brews from Deschutes Brewery?" Robin asked. "I really like their Bachelor Bitter, and they have some great seasonals, too."
"No, I havent tried them, but if you recommend it, Ill have a Bachelor Bitter," Jess said with a smile toward Robin. After the server left, she added, "Why would someone name a beer after a grumpy unmarried man?"
Robin laughed and said, "Its named after Mt. Bachelor, the ski resort. Didnt you ever go there when you were a student here?"
"No, I was really kind of a gym rat back in those days. My weekends were spent looking for pick-up games. Besides, our coach would have killed us if wed injured ourselves skiing during the basketball season." The server returned with the beers, and after taking an appreciative swallow, Jess asked, "Do you ski?"
"I love skiing, but I probably do more cross-country than downhill. Its such a great workout, and you can really get into some spectacular backcountry in a couple of hours."
Jess was wondering just how much energy Robin had to burn in any given day. "How do you find time for all your hobbies, anyway? I feel lucky to find the time to take in a movie every once in awhile."
"Well, Id say you need to do something about that," Robin said with mock seriousness. "Its all a matter of priorities. I want to enjoy things like skiing and fishing and basketball while Im still young and full of energy. Besides, who knows if Ill even make it to retirement age?" Robin finished off her beer and looked sternly at Jess. "I can see were going to have to do something about your workaholic tendencies."
"I think it goes with the job. I dont think theres an hour of the day that you could go into the athletic offices and not find some coach watching films or working with athletes. Theres just no nine-to-five about being a coach. I think thats why its so hard to build good relationships and marriages. A lot of the men have wives and kids that they hardly see during the season. Somehow, I dont think husbands would be as understanding. At least boyfriends havent been in the past," Jess said with chagrin.
Robin looked intently at Jess for a few moments, before saying, "Is being in a relationship something thats pretty important to you?"
Jess seemed startled by the question. "Well yeah, I guess so." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Maybe Ive just always assumed that I wanted to be in a relationship because it seems like everyone else is. The truth is that Ive almost always been on my own, and it can get kind of lonely. Unfortunately, the few times Ive made attempts at relationships have never turned out to be the way I envisioned them in my head."
"How do you envision them in your head?" Robin asked gently, hoping that she wasnt pushing Jess too hard for personal details.
"I dont know," Jess stalled for time. "I guess I think of them as being equal partnerships, with lots of respect for each other, common interests, and, of course, a lot of passion." Jess smiled shyly at the last part, and Robins heart nearly skipped a beat. Jess returned the question to Robin. "How do you envision the perfect relationship?"
"Well, Im pretty sure I havent experienced it yet," Robin laughed. "But I agree with all those things you said. Ive never understood the couples that dont seem to have anything in common and basically only see each other in bed every night. They must be having some kind of great sex to make them stay together!" Robin laughed.
"Yeah, well I wouldnt know about that either," Jess said, looking down at the table. "Ive been unwilling to jump into bed with someone that Im not really serious about, and I havent ever gotten really serious about anyone yet. I know a lot of people appreciate good sex without any strings attached, but Ive never been able to feel comfortable about that. I just dont see how sex can be that good if you dont have a close, trusting relationship with someone." Jess looked up at Robin and blushed. "I cant believe Im sitting here talking to you about sex. I never talk to anyone about this stuff!"
"Well, I think I probably brought it up," Robin said, smiling apologetically at Jess. "You can just tell me if Im getting too personal. I know I have a tendency to just blurt out whatevers on my mind."
"Yeah, I kind of noticed that today at the gym," Jess teased.
"Oh God, that was so embarrassing," Robin said while the color rose on her cheeks. They both laughed lightly, and the somewhat uncomfortable moment before was quickly forgotten. "Whats funny about it is that I hardly ever stick up for myself like that. Im much more likely to just assume that somehow its my fault and meekly let it go on. Yet another trait I attribute to my mother," Robin laughed. "Isnt it great to become an adult and be able to blame all your shortcomings on your mother? I wonder why fathers get off the hook so easily?"
"Well, I think theyd have to be around more in their kids lives if they were going to have as much influence as mothers do. I can hardly remember my dad interacting with us as kids. Hed come home from work, eat, and disappear into his den for the evening. I always wondered what he had in that den that was so much more interesting than his family. I guess Ill never know," Jess said wistfully.
"Dont you see your dad anymore?" Robin asked, hoping again that she wasnt prying too much into Jesss personal life.
"Both my parents are dead. My mom died pretty young I was just 16. Then my dad went into a major depression and basically drank himself to death ten years later. My brother and I tried everything to get him some help, but he just wouldnt accept it. I think maybe he felt bad about not being a better husband and father while my mom was alive, and the guilt just drove him to his death."
"Im really sorry to hear that, Jess. It must get really lonely for you without your parents. Is your brother nearby?" Robin worried a little that she might be treading dangerously close to whatever topic set Jess off at the Java Connection a week ago, but Jess didnt seem to be withdrawing.
"No, he lives on the east coast. Hes six years older than me, so we were never very close. I probably talk to him twice a year, and I havent seen him in about four years." Jess felt like everything she had to say was kind of depressing and was hoping to lighten the conversation a little. She looked up at Robin and asked, "What about you? Id guess you were probably the youngest of three children, and you were so cute that you always got your way."
Robin laughed and said, "Not even close! I was in the middle of five kids and I cant remember ever getting my way. My two older brothers got whatever they wanted because they were older and they were boys, and my two younger sisters were everything my mom wanted in little girls, and could do no wrong. I pretty much tried to remain invisible, since there was no way I could please my mom anyway. Being in the middle of a big family did make me appreciate food, though, because it never seemed like I could get enough. Which reminds me that Im really hungry! How about if we order some nachos and get another round of drinks?"
Jess laughed at Robins appetite and said, "Sure, sounds good. Do you want chicken, beef, or vegetarian?"
"I like veggie, but Ill eat anything, so why dont we get what you want?" Robin said while motioning the server over.
"Well, I probably would order beef, but I can live with veggie," Jess replied.
"I dont want you to just live with it, I want you to enjoy it!" Robin grinned back at Jess. She turned to the server and said, "Can we get an order of beef nachos and another couple of beers?"
They continued to talk as they made their way through the order of nachos and another round of beers, and then Jess said that she should probably be going.
"Dont tell me you have to work tomorrow its Saturday," Robin said sternly.
"No, its just that I told John that Id be home tonight so hell probably be looking for me. I hope he wasnt planning on going somewhere for dinner or drinks, because I think Ive had enough of both!"
"Yeah, me too." Robin tried not to show her disappointment, but she was having a hard time accepting Jesss relationship with John, especially after having such a good time talking with her for the past two hours. "Well, I suppose you shouldnt keep him waiting. After all, you are trying to change your ways about relationships, right?" Robin hoped her smile didnt look as fake as it felt.
Jess thought Robin sounded a little sarcastic, but couldnt think of a reason for Robin to feel that way so she dismissed the thought. "Did you park near your office? I can walk you back that way since its on the way to where Im parked," Jess offered as they left the restaurant.
"I think Ill just go back to my office for a little while. I probably shouldnt drive right now anyway. I can spend some time surfing the internet and sobering up. Are you sure youre OK to drive?"
"Yeah, I dont think three beers over two hours is enough to put me over the limit. Ive probably got an extra forty pounds over you, too, so it doesnt affect me as much," Jess said with a chuckle.
"Well, I dont see any fat on that frame of yours, but you are a lot taller, Robin said, looking up more than a half foot into Jesss eyes. She got lost there for a few moments and realized that she was staring when Jess gently took her arm and said, "Watch your step over this curb." Jess smiled when she saw Robin blush and look quickly away. Maybe shes more drunk than I thought. She looks a little glassy-eyed. Maybe I shouldnt leave her alone. Jess felt a little sense of elation at the thought of staying longer with Robin, but then remembered her commitment to John. Her mind clouded with irritation at that thought, and she wondered, what is going on with me lately? Ive got all these feelings I cant explain. She decided that she needed to spend some time alone in the near future to try and sort out what was happening in her life.
They arrived at Robins building, and Jess asked, "Are you sure youll be OK? I could drive you home if youd like."
"No, no, Ill be fine," Robin reassured. "I spend lots of evenings working in my office, and I feel perfectly safe there."
"And you call me a workaholic!" Jess retorted.
"Yeah, well it takes one to know one," Robin replied with a grin. She reached for the door and said, "Thanks for joining me tonight. I really had a great time. Maybe we can make it a regular Friday event."
"Id like that," Jess said sincerely. "Ill see you around, OK?"
"OK, drive carefully tonight."
"I will. You too."
"I will. See you."
The lingering good-bye left both of them with a profound sense of regret, but only one of them knew why. Robin slowly made her way up to her third floor office and sank into the chair in front of her computer. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the poster with Jesss picture prominently featured in the center. Why am I so attracted to you? Do I want you so badly because I know I cant have you? Is this just some kind of big, competitive challenge for me? Robin didnt believe that was true, but she had never felt so obsessed about anyone before, especially anyone that she had known for such a short time. Why dont I just quit torturing myself by doing things with her? Shes made it perfectly clear that she wants to be with John. The more I hang around with her, the worse Im going to get hurt. But Robin knew she couldnt give up that easily, no matter how bad the heartbreak might be in the future. She sighed deeply and reached for the computer mouse. There must be something on the internet that can take my mind off of this. She then gave a chuckle and thought, Its a good thing that I dont dare access any lesbian erotica sites from my work computer although Im not sure that would really take my mind off of it. More like feed my fantasy!
continued in part 3