The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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17 Reasons Why! Not – Bette Porter

silo_with_tree

Somewhere the fuck! – Upstate New York – Alice

I like the countryside, I do. I like to see cows in a field and a silo next to a well-cared for barn. I like the chirping sounds of crickets, as long as they stay over there and don’t jump on me. But I’m not happy at the moment. I have a little bit of a hangover still and I’ve still not seen any of my favorite black and white cows.

After picking up Bette’s grand gesture from LaGuardia’s American Airlines freight and cargo terminal this morning we’ve been driving northwest for about three hours. Shane and I fell for Bette’s all expenses paid trip to New York coercion to reassemble the fucking ’17 Reasons Why!’ sign. It sure sounded like a great idea two days ago, but now? As Bette’s anxiety coils tighter and tighter the closer she gets to seeing Jodie again, the more unsure I am that our coming here was actually a good idea at all.

“Are you serious? You actually have a joint with you? You smuggled this all the way here?” I turn around in my seat as marijuana smoke drifts past me.

Shane holds in her breath before she answers, “I just found it looking for Chapstick.”

As I lean behind me and take a hit from her, the van’s cargo door next to us groans open.

Bette looks stressed. “Here guys, Moosehead Ale is the best they had. Holy fuck!” She waves at the reefer smoke that floats in front of her face.

“And Little Debbie’s snack cakes!” Shane tears the cellophane with her teeth.

“I think smoking grass is actually legal here now, Bette, so don’t worry.”

“What? Are you serious?” She looks at me suspiciously.

“Well, I know they’re talking about it.” I add defensively as I apply Shane’s chapstick to my desiccating lips. “It’s freezing out there! Shut the door, please.”

“Oh, Christ!” Bette pushes inside with our beer, junk food, and other groceries. “Scoot over Shane so I can get this door closed because I think you’re full of shit, Alice.” She crawls past us and over to the driver’s seat.

“Well, they should. I mean it’s so dumb.” I take another affirming hit of pot and a snack cake from Shane.

“People don’t do a lot of things they should do, Alice.” Bette opens the lid to her steaming cup of tea.

“You’ll be back in plenty of time to help Tina with Angelica’s birthday party, Bette.” Shane adds.

“I know. I know I will. I just feel sometimes like I …” her voice drifts. Momentarily distracted, she takes a sip and burns her lips.

“Jesus Christ! That’s scalding hot!”

“Quick! Use this, Bette, or you’ll have a blister.” I hand over the chapstick.

Bette knits her forehead as she dabs on the scalded places along her lips. Sitting outside of Big Buddy’s Bait and Beer somewhere the fuck outside of Woodstock, New York I come to a conclusion – as I take another puff of marijuana – there are probably sixteen more reasons why our coming here is ill fated.

If they were so great together then why is this trip, this sign, this cargo van – really why is any of this necessary? Grand gestures are great! You gotta love ’em, but at the core of this nonsensical declaration that Bette knows ’17 reasons why!’ – or how she can mend her romantic relationships – leaves me with a definite “as if” feeling, and sixteen too many more questions.

Could Jodie and Bette’s communications misses be possibly any worse than Bette and Tina’s? Could anyone’s be that abysmal? Their dilemmas are a constant source of mystery to me because I’m a talker. I can’t keep anything inside. If they ever do get back together – either grouping of them – I’m not going to sit idly by or recommend therapy to them. Nope! I’m going to insist that Tina and Bette take Italian lessons and read poetry to each other. Maybe then they’ll see the tragic parts of themselves and understand their misaligned feelings for each other.

And if Jodie loves Bette, and vice versa, then please find some common ground in a subject other than art and give us all a break! I mean, really. Lisa the Lesbian had more self awareness than these three put together. And that is not a compliment.

As much as I’ve tried over the years to pry personal information out of Bette she can be a master of deflection. She’s both enigmatic and quixotic. The disassembled sign that has incessantly rattled and gotten on my nerves for the last three hours is certainly a result of that.

windmill

Tilting at Windmills

I suppose we would all be the poorer for it if we every once in a while we didn’t go off in mad pursuit of something we’d convinced ourselves it was impossible to live without. Take me and Dana. She was the greatest best friend, and I ruined my health trying to force her back to me as a lover. Or Shane, who despite all tendencies, odds, and a mountain of evidence to the contrary pursued marriage with Carmen to the very bitter end. Today, yesterday, and tomorrow I will seriously question the sanity of her upcoming move in with Paige. It’s as if we’re all blind to ourselves, our follies and fallacies. The jury is out whether to sentence us to more rock breaking repetitions. I understand their reasons. It’s true – we might never rehabilitate and learn our life lessons.

“You forgot to blow the steam off it first, Bette.” Shane hands her the joint. “Hey, we’ve all done it.”

 

Shane EXT CU

Outside Big Buddy’s Bait and Beer – Shane

Growing up the way I did as a ward of the State of Texas I never traveled much. Offer me a trip to most anywhere and I’m in. The only traveling I ever did was when the nuns would pile us into battered old buses and take us to the circus, or the county fair if the tickets were free. One thing we could always count on though was the Friday night rodeos. Whenever I hear the phrase, ‘a roll in the hay,’ my many assignations in rodeo horse trailers send buzzing memories shooting right through me.

I liked heavily tooled cowboy boots back then, too. The ones with stitching and snake skins, and I didn’t mind if they had a little bit of wear on ’em either. But my favorites by far were the turquoise tinted cowboy boots of Rhonda, my Rodeo Queen. Our timing was or wasn’t perfect – I’m fairly bad about gauging these things – but I’d met Rhonda shortly before I’d hitchhiked myself right out of the State of Texas.

People, who grow up with families and Sunday dinners and real Christmas stockings and a tree, have no idea what it meant for me to have my brother, Shay, here with me. No, I take that back. My family with Tina and Bette at the head, or the center, and now off to the side of it understood. But me have a clue about their problems? I admit, they confuse the fuck out of me.

The more grass I smoke in the enclosed space of this chilly cargo van the more I wonder why I go along on these descents into Hell with them? Loyalty is my only clue.

I put the joint out and try to imagine what’s going on inside Bette’s mind as we sit together sharing sugary snack cakes outside of Big Buddy’s.

I don’t think she’s really thought her “Hail Mary” thing with Jodie all the way through. If she had surely she would’ve flown ahead in her mind, as I have, and imagined the holidays with all of us ahead. Does Bette actually think she sees a day in the future when Jodie and Tom, and Tina and whoever she eventually ends up with sitting together around a holiday table for dinner?

Because I’ve imagined it! And in my mind there’s nothing about that Christmas dinner that seems festive to me. I want what Carmen’s family had in spades – something noisy and full of happy commotion. But the pictures in my mind of the holidays looming on the horizon of my future, strained by Bette and Tina’s tension, makes me want to follow all the Jews to the movie theater on Christmas Day instead.

And that kinda hurts me, and I see a mounting, growing list of inescapable problems ahead.

Maybe more than anybody I’ve watched Bette since it all came apart years ago. Living next door to her I probably “see” her more than anybody, and I’ve watched how her mind’s begun to eat itself alive the longer she lives alone.

And Tina used to take care of all that, and now Jodie really doesn’t.

And I like Jodie, I do. But she lives practicing broad jumps from place to place, and from what I’ve gathered so far – she’s had no bad falls. But deep down inside herself I don’t think Bette really trusts her. And the other really fucked up thing? The one that’s propelled us three thousand miles, and up into these pretty mountains and countryside, is Tina’s own fucking fault.

Tina, who’s now officially single, but possibly dating has her own unique hang ups. For awhile she fussed over keeping sprigs of grass alive in her apartment so she could squeeze them with a mashing pressing thing whenever she wanted into a dark green colored juice. So, I’ve seen her weirdness and how she gets way dug in, and is too intractable and especially stupid about “Bette” things.

She starts the van and checks her mirrors to see behind us. I wonder as I see her reflection: Do any of the women around me – who seem to get their eye shadow on right – actually ever really look at themselves while staring into mirrors? I mean really look and not turn away? Because one night I did for hours when I was high on Dilaudid and cocaine. That mirror shit was freaky and I quit doing drugs for awhile after that. I get the avoidance of it. But as we back up, and the huge metal sign behind me in the van’s cargo bay begins to rattle,  Bette flashes me a cheery look, also filled with trepidation look that I read as: For better or worse here we go.

Alice holds up her iPhone with GPS. “Looks like we’ll be there in twenty minutes, maybe less.”

Bette_stern_CU large

Route 28 – Bette

Twenty minutes later –

As the chilly air rushes in from the window I sense Alice fidgeting in the seat next to me, and whatever Shane’s last thought was has left her with a ragged sigh, and the need to go prone on the long seat behind me.

I think about turning back. I could pull into the farm road I see ahead and turn us all around by that lonesome looking silo then, driving straight back southeast we could be back in the city by six. New York is fun at night.

It’s fun anytime as long as you’ve got money you don’t mind literally disappearing from your hands every minute you’re there. Everything, everything, everything costs and the tab for this scheme of mine to get back Jodie is going to run me every bit of five thousand dollars and probably then some.

Transporting the sign alone was nearly three! But I pulled the pin on this and I’m going to fall on it as it drops, or explodes, and if it blows me into a million bits then, I’ll drown my sorrows tonight in a bar in Manhattan.

There’s no grey for me anymore and even if there were? I’ve been told I probably wouldn’t see it. And her with not so much as a, ‘Fuck you!’ leaving me like that. Then, I knew better, but I kept reaching for my phone to call her and then I’d remember: Jodie can’t hear, so that won’t work.

Every fucking miserable detail of my ridiculous wreck of a love life I’d first have to say to Tom, and then hear him repeat it all over again to her. It was bad enough hearing myself say it, much less his tone of voice interpreting me. So, imagining that ridiculous make up assisted scenario really just pissed me off even more. What choice did I have but to tell Jodie face to face? And with a five thousand dollar to be screwed together steel and aluminum gesture that I hope to God doesn’t fall flat?

Pushing up into my thoughts is my share of a sizable private preschool enrollment expense that comes up pretty soon. Oh my God, my credit cards! Christ! They’ll be the ruin of me.

I pull into a gravel road when Alice says, “Turn right here.”

silo_with_tree

“Wait! Go left. Didn’t you see me pointing left?” Alice snaps her hand toward me.

“I saw you waving your hand around, Alice, but you were saying turn right, so I did.” I sigh and stare up at the greying winter sky above the grain silo, and roll the window down.

Shane asks from the back. “Do you mind if I get out and stretch for a minute before you meet your fate in the field over there?”

“Oh, and I want to take a picture of this silo, too.” Alice opens her door and walks the short distance to the grey stones towering above us.

“Isn’t that Jodie way over there across the road in that field?” Shane points as she puts her hand above her eyes to shield the winter glare.

“Hey, guys! Look what I found. There’s a shed with a nice little tractor and trailer back here.” I hear Alice’s voice from behind the silo. “Bette, instead of you bumping up in a van with us smelling like beer and reefer and your grand gesture, ’17 Reasons Why!’ sign trussed up like a hostage in the back – I mean if you really want to make your point – we should assemble the thing together. Then, you drive it over there and see what happens.” Alice ends with emphasis and crosses her arms in what looks like a dare. “And Shane and I will wait here.”

I put my binoculars up to my eyes and slowly draw Jodie into focus as she walks with a group of men all dressed for high grasses and muddy terrain. I watch as Jodie looks towards the pasture’s boundary and treeline, and then up and over across the road toward the silo and me. She points up to the sky above the towering silo, and then down again. I can tell she’s thinking about something she’s not quite seeing yet, only imagining.

I shift my weight and wonder what to do. Steal the tractor to take the stolen sign? See if she’ll make up with me and kiss my blistering, fucked up lips?

Or not?

Jodie shifts in the frame of my field glasses. I follow her slowly across far hillside when she stops and does something that seems like a signal even though she hasn’t seen me.

Is it a sign to come over there? I press the binoculars together and give myself one single field of telescopic vision and watch Jodie as she lifts her hands to frame exactly where I’m standing on a hillside a thousand feet away. Her fingers squarely and exactly surround us. She looks through the box and I see it all very clearly.

I must go through this imaginary window between us because I must see what’s on the other side.

_______________

The next chapter is titled, “The Weather Report.”

http://wp.me/p4AUvc-bJ

Alice senses earthquake weather, and that anything could happen in this unusual environment when she witnesses a confrontation between Tina, Bette, Dawn Denbo and My Girlfriend Cindy.

 

 


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Bette’s Cooking Lesson

Kit_vertical shot

The Planet – Alice

Shane and I walk into The Planet for a mysterious “emergency” meeting called by Bette, I see something I’ve never seen before – Bette and Kit back in the kitchen. It’s appears they are cooking. This gives me pause.

“Lil Sister has brought a bushel basket of muddy ass kale up in here and dumped it all over my counters.” Kit fusses in that singing way she has, while giving me a look that says, “Help!”

I shy away from the piles of greens to be washed. “I don’t know. Where’d all the mud come from?”

Bette hooks a red apron around my neck and points me back to the sink.  “That’s how it grows, Alice, in the earth.”

“I don’t like kale, guys. It’s a fad. Okay? Just saying.” I tie back my apron. I haven’t worn one of these since that naughty role playing bit I did with Dana. She was the organic grower from the co-op farm . . .well, on second thought I could be convinced to like kale.
Shane Med shot Blue shirt

“Hey guys!” Shane saunters in and puts my beer on the shelf above the sink. My hands are submerged in darkening gritty water, and Bette continues to dump clump after muddy clump of greens into the sink. Looking over my shoulder at Shane I give her my best, ‘Run for your life!’ look but Bette’s too fast for me.

“You know how to cook?” Bette drops an apron over Shane’s neck and trusses her second hostage. Well, at least I’ll have company.

“Yes! Yes, I do know how to cook.” But I can tell she’s trying to think of what cooking really means in Bette’s current state of mind. Does it mean heating something up? Does it mean from scratch? Does it apply to Shane’s Alice B. Toklas Brownie Recipe?

Does Kit – God forbid – need us to actually cook something for the dinner menu tonight?

“Excellent!” Bette seems almost manic, as she finishes knotting Shane’s apron with a flair. Where’s Jodie? Supposedly, she’s an excellent cook.

Kit lifts up a checkered towel and rolled into a nice sized ball is fresh pizza dough. “Sis, the sourdough’s all done.”

Shaking off my hands I dry them on my apron. “Kale pizza?” I make a face.

Bette_Kitchen

“No, the kale is for green lemonade. Different subject, Alice.” Bette opens the lid to a deep red tomato sauce bubbling over a flame.

“This is all because of me. Lil Sis has got in her head ’cause the Doc told me I’ve got to watch my weight, and my cholesterol and what else?”

“Your blood sugar, Kit.” Bette says over her shoulder.

“Right, right. You know what?” Kit begins to hum a bluesy riff. “Blood sugar, umpf umpf. Blood sugar, my sugar umpf, yay-yay, umpf. I’m liking it. That would make a damn good tune.” She sways with her eyes closed lost to her musical reverie, and I notice for the moment that Bette lets her be.  I wish I knew how to sing.

Standing in the middle of the kitchen Bette takes a poll of her prisoners. “So, I don’t know how to cook; Kit doesn’t either. Alice?”

“Latkes? Do they count?” I offer hopefully, still not sure what Kit’s medical news has to do with kale.

“Chili. I can make Texas chili.” Shane pitches in her native dish.

Being in a kitchen hot or otherwise makes me thirsty. I swig down my beer. “Bette, what can you make? I’m getting the feeling here we’re all one note players.”

Bette tea ColorCorrected_nice muscles

“My specialty is actually breakfast.”

Shane nods her head, “I can see that. I bet you’re good at it. Flowers on the tray? A little sweet present inside a dish? A few more surprises to follow?”

“Okay, okay! We get the picture. Let’s move Bette’s morning along.” I wave at Shane to keep quiet while I try to figure out what’s going on in Bette’s mind.

“So, what I’m seeing here is you’ve got breakfast covered. Shane’s got chili. That could be lunch or dinner. I’ve got latkes so I’m of no help except during Jewish holy days. Sorry. But Kit’s improved our chances of survival with pizza.” I add it all up to something that makes no sense to me.

“The entire population of humans under thirty would be dead without pizza.” Shane looks around for agreement as to the pizza pie’s life saving qualities.

“Shane’s right. Without pizza the tech empire would crumble. No Internet!” I shout, suddenly alarmed at the thought.

“Doesn’t matter! We’re learning how to cook, so we can be healthier and live longer.”

“Wait! I thought that’s what sushi was for?” Shane says seriously.

“Eating fucking fishing bait. You realize you people are crazy?” Kit snorts.

Much later that night –

wolf_onRidge

Bette’s bedroom – Bette

In my dream it’s morning and an omelet is browning in a skillet. I rush in from the garden with cut flowers, and I turn off the gas flame and slide the perfectly browned cheesy egg dish onto a plate.

I hear Tina’s voice. “Babe, can you bring in a bowl of strawberries, too? And why won’t you let me get up? I feel like I should help.”

“You haven’t wiggled free of your ropes yet, have you?” I ask playfully walking into our bedroom with her breakfast tray.

Popping a strawberry into her mouth Tina says, “Like I’m ever letting you do that to me.”

I lean in to kiss her, but she’s involved in munching. Well, it’s the thought that counts.

“We’re splitting this, right? You’re having most of this omelet, Bette. This is huge.”

Lying down my robe falls open, and she runs her hands down to my belly and scratches me like a beast. I sigh contentedly.  “Nope, all yours. I’m just going to lie in your lap and watch you eat it.”

My view up to her face is through the foreground of her breasts. A beautiful view of the woman I’m in love with on this Sunday morning, as she lightly scratches parts of me awake.  I chew the berry she pops in my mouth, and sigh contentedly some more.

omelet-1egg

It’s very true that women appreciate breakfast in bed. They like it on a tray. They like it pretty and they like it hot. The heat shows effort I’ve come to understand, and it makes them happy. Because of this discovery of mine, over time I’ve become a master chef of omelets. No one can trump me. And as the old adage says, “It’s all in the wrist.” So true for breakfast food and hopefully what follows. That flexible joint is key.

“Bette, here open your mouth. This is too good.” Tina slides a bite past my lips. It’s gooey and warm. The cheese I selected, perfect. Everything on a Sunday morning like today is foreplay. I reach up and circle her nipple with my fingertips. All night her body was mine and for hours we’d played on the fiery edges of possession. I lean up and suck on her nipple, when she brings another bite of breakfast to my lips.

“Not so fast.” She presses under my chin.

“If I help you eat this, will you do something for me?” I take a sip of coffee.

“You have a habit of asking these open-ended questions, Bette, as if you think I’ll ever fall for them.”

“Did you ever read Zap comics, any stories about, the Checkered Demon?” I ask.

“A comic book? No, I don’t read comic books. Do you?”

“Okay, well you missed something crazy and pretty great. See there was this demon frog in the story, Tina. The Checkered Demon, and when he wasn’t killing bad guys he was this great stud fuck kind of a demon. It was either, Star-Eyed Stella or Ruby the Dyke, who taunted him when he was boasting about his fucking abilities and one ’em said, “I bet I could lay under you all day, eat fried chicken, and do my nails all at the same time.”

“I’m so confused.” Tina leans back with her coffee balanced on her chest. “So, you actually read comic books?”

“These were extraordinary comic books, Tina. But the point is, I’ll eat the rest of the omelet, and leave you half the toast, and all the strawberries, if after breakfast you’ll try to give yourself a manicure. Let’s see how far you get.”

“So you’re going for beating the record of a frog demon? You want me to play Star-Eyed Stella, or what was the other one?”

“Well, you have actually have three to chose from. I neglected to mention, Lady Coozette and then there’s, Ruby the Dyke.”

“I’m Lady Coozette.”

“So perfect.” I smile as Tina gets sold on the idea.

“Anything else I should know?”  She hands me a glass of water from her nightstand.  “Jesus, Bette, don’t eat so fast.”

“Well, there is the matter of the length of this demon’s tongue.”

“Hmm. Lady Coozette is ready.”  She opens the drawer and takes out her nail polish, “I bet I can get a whole hand done, maybe more.”

“I’ll bet you three fingers, tops.”

“Bette, you have crumbs on your face.”

“Sorry,” I brush my chin, as I move away the breakfast tray. “Not for long.” I lie between her legs and hear her shaking the polish.

I begin to a lovely tempo as a lusty verse from D. H. Lawrence’s fig poem floats through my mind.

Folded upon itself, enclosed like any Mohammedan woman,
Its nakedness all within-walls, its flowering forever unseen,
One small way of access only, and this close-curtained from
the light;

Tina breaks into the verse of the poem running through my mind. “Oh, dear God.” But I keep my tongue to its focus, moving deeper into her concentration, and now, she’s opening just for me.

“Bette, you have to stop. You never make love to me so fast. I’m not sure I like it.”

“No.” I shake my head, as I take a deep breath.

Fig, fruit of the female mystery, covert and inward,
Mediterranean fruit, with your covert nakedness,

“Sweet Jesus. I don’t know what you’re doing.” Tina takes my curls in her hands and grabs the back of my neck. She pushes herself deeper up the length of my tongue. I can only smile inside, my lips and mouth are otherwise engaged.

Where everything happens invisible, flowering and fertilization, and fruiting.

I replay a circular licking tempo over and over. It’s one of her favorites, and when, I feel she’s there, I slowly slip my fingers out from her.

In the inwardness of your you, that eye will never see
Till it’s finished, and you’re over-ripe, and you burst to give
up your ghost.

“Oh, for Christsake! Please come up here and fuck me. I give up. I promise you, I give up.”

“So, the Checkered Demon wins?” I ask lying on top of her.

Bette's Tongue.2 on top

“Bette, God, you’re insane and I love you. Yes, the Checkered Demon wins!”

“I love you to, Baby. Is this what you want?”

“I didn’t even get past one finger!” She holds me as we kiss. “This is a rigged game the way you play, isn’t it?”

“How can you say that? Everybody, absolutely everybody wins.” I sigh as she slides down deeper onto my fingers. She looks at me while we make love. In her eyes I see myself in a tiny reflection before each one of her blinks.

My dream changes.

white wolf growl moonlight

Running through a field with each sprint I have wolf paws that claw into the earth. But who’s chasing me? I feel my breathing, now so ragged, as I crest a hill and try to break through a thicket of thorns. They wrap themselves around my legs and scratch into me as fight them for freedom.

A massive tangle of iron and parts of houses and cars, and the broken detritus of people’s lives swing from cables in a massive sculpture that hangs between the forest trees. I leap onto a platform inside the sculpture and spin fast around to see what’s following me.

On a slow spinning cylinder of shiny metal I see words and curious symbols engraved into it. What does it say? Stop spinning! What does it say? I stretch my neck up to see and out from my throat comes a wolf’s howling that sounds like a cry that awakens me drenched in sweat.

I lie in bed and rub my chest to steady and calm my breath.

My house is too quiet and my panting unnerves me.  I remember bad dreams after my mother left. I had them for years and searching for her all night long became what I did. Over and over again it happened. When I closed my eyes at night I hunted for her.

Goddammit! Why does this keep fucking happening to me? I think I give them everything they want but they still leave. This one’s not doing that. She’s not leaving me without a fucking word as to why. She can’t. Jodi, you can’t. I love you and I’m going to find you and make you come back. If Tina won’t come home then, you sure as hell will.

I roll over and push the pillows around. I’m tired of all this abandoning bullshit. This rotating door in my heart is ridiculous and painful and I’m about fucking finished with letting this happen to me again. I was happy with Jodi. Yes, she was a pain in the ass, but she was here and she’d started to be mine.

And punch the pillows again, I’m going to find her – wherever she is – and bring her back to me.

____________

TheChariot
28. A Drink with the Gypsy     http://wp.me/p4AUvc-7W

Tina panics and returns to the Gypsy for more insight, and she leaves with a powerful plan.

The L Word, Bette Porter, Tina Kennard, The L Word, Bette Porter, Tina Kennard, The L Word, Bette Porter, Tina Kennard, The L Word, Bette Porter, Tina Kennard, The L Word, Bette Porter, Tina Kennard,


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Objects in Motion

Helena_HairBackHeadTilt

Lobby Bar – The Beverly Wilshire Hotel – Tina

I’m not sure what actually motivates Helena to be punctual, but right at 7 pm in she walks inside the lobby and waves.

Several weeks have gone by since I met Jodi Lerner, and as much as I may hate to admit it – she’s turned Bette’s head. I’m not sure what I want to do about it much less how or when. Bette and I exchange our child and go over Angelica’s schedule. We compare notes on this or that, and as the weeks have passed since I went to the Gypsy and quite suddenly, she began seeing Jodi, Kit’s been a welcome depot for our exchanges.

But I worry. The longer this passing in the night goes on I can’t stop myself from worrying. Did I already miss the fucking crossroads the Gypsy had warned me about – not missing?

My heart had sank, and then bounced miserably around my feet, when Angelica had started communicating in sign language. With that fear and panic, I’d called Helena.

Helena kisses both my cheeks before she takes a seat. “You look lovely, as always,” she says looking around the grand lobby filled with sophisticated, interesting looking people. “I do like taking cocktails in lobbies.”

“I’ve always loved this hotel.”

“I believe I may have shagged in all the nice ones, have you?” Helena’s eyes flash at me then, she catches the attentioin of a waiter. “Absolut martini please, mine dry with olives and Tina?”

“A French 75 for me, please.”

“I’d forgotten you love those. They’re delicious mini brain hammers. Make two of those. I change my order.”

The waiter takes leave.

“Are you really living in this hotel with Catherine Rothberg?”

“A wee step up from Alice’s couch, and yes.”

“As long as you know what you’re doing.” My voice sings up an octave. The waiter returns with our drinks.

“I’m trying to return to my former lifestyle.” Helena takes a sip.  “At the moment, Catherine’s providing that.”

“With some negotiation?”

“Predictably, yes.  You?”

“Lots of people around the studio lot, but no one really.”

“So, may we all breath a sigh of relief, and hope,  you’re back batting for the right team?”

The tiny brain hammers of my strong French 75 begin to take effect. “No more men.”

Helena sends a “two more” signal to the waiter.

“Mummy always said, “Try to get at least two good ones in before dinner. Sometimes it can save your life. Especially if the dinner wine is bad.”

“I haven’t been going out much,” I confess.

“Is that good for you?” Helena fixes me with one of her inquisitive, but arrogant looking stares.

“Fine, just very different.”

“Hmm. Bette and Jodi have coffee most mornings with us. I guess, you know that?”

“Miles out of my way to go there for coffee before work.”

“We’re plagued daily by Jenny. You’ve created a monster.”

“Me? I don’t delight in it!  A painful part of my job is her, but I will at The Planet tomorrow to meet her.”

“One more before dinner, don’t you think?” Helena motions discreetly for two more. “Did you end up finding the psychic you were looking for?”

“Yes! I went a few weeks ago.”

lobby beverly wilshire

I start on my third French 75 and the room seems very shimmery and bright, and seeping into me are the strains of music from the jazz quintet. I look across at Helena’s beautiful inquisitive face, and feel the boozy-buzz taking me over.

Being in bed with her creeps into my mind. “Confidentially? I need to make a decision about, Bette,” I say instead.

“But you’re not considering? Are you? Hmm, . . . interesting.”

“Well, . . . what’d you think?” I try very hard not to slur my words.

Helena looks at me flabbergasted. “Tina, to me she’s a bit of a monster, you know? I mean she’s gorgeous and smart, but I despise the way she lords it over me. I fucking hate her, you know that, and you know why.”

“If it’s any consolation, your Mother just happens to like her.  She didn’t chase after Peggy, but I do wonder how she’s doing at a university filled with faux intellectuals?”

“Having her pick of the scantily clad and very waxed students . . . would be my guess.” Helena sniffs.  Her air of superiority having returned. “If I were you I’d worry about them.” She emphasizes.

“Aren’t there rules against. . .?” But Helena’s reality check stare stops me cold.

“Tina, if you were to come upstairs with me. . .”

“What? You’re kidding!” I look at her wondering if it’s so.

Helena shrugs – not such a terrible idea. “We did have our moments, Tina.”  She twinkles her eyes at me. “Certainly you haven’t forgotten.”

Bette’s House – Midnight

Bette_Back

If I had a big drooling dog this is absolutely the moment I would not think twice about unleashing it on the fucking idiot who just jumped into my pool. Wait! Another splash! Okay, that’s got to be Shane and a woman. But still! Fucking slide in if you going to invade my garden to swim in the middle-of-the-fucking night.

Are you kidding me? Canon balls! That does it. Then, I hear Helena’s voice mixed with Shane’s, as they yell simultaneously, “Bette! Get your ass out here.”

“Oh, for the love of God!” I throw the sheets back, and pull on my yoga pants and a tank top. As my hand hits the back door knob I hear Shane calling to me.

“Hey!  Bring a lighter. I think mine got wet.”

I roll my eyes and find a box of matches from The Polo Club.

“Hey! I’ve got to be at a faculty breakfast in less than seven hours.”

“Seven hours. That should give you plenty of time, don’t you think, Helena?” Shane answers before she dips down to smooth the hair back from her face.

“Do you even own a bathing suit?” Helena asks her although nude herself.

“Helena, what are you doing in my pool the middle of the fucking night?”

“Well, I’m a bit drunk, but you’ll like this – I spent the evening with Tina.”

Shane dives down underwater and swims towards the deep end.

“Whisper!” I jerk my head towards Jenny’s house.

“Even tried to pick her up but she was having none of it,” Helena whispers her confession.

“Well, thanks for that at least. I guess.” I roll my eyes at her logic.

“Take one for the team, you know.”

“Helena. Go easy.” I say almost in a growl.

“Is this bit you’ve got going with Jodie serious? I’m starting to wonder.”

“Might be. Everything we talk about – art, her design work for three dimensional space – it couldn’t be further from what I’m used to debating and arguing about.”

“And you sign all this?” Helena asks incredulously.

I frown at her.

“And sculpture and such is getting you off then, is it?”

“Fuck off. I’m going back to bed. You guys keep it down.”

“Bette, I guess I should have told you.”

“What? What!” I lean back down to her. “Imagine my mood tomorrow after five hours of sleep. That’s if you leave soon.”

“Maybe Mummy should fill you in.”

“Fill me in about what?”

“Not just the Peabody Foundation, but other donors’ve had problems with Jodi Lerner’s grants over the years.”

“That’s not how this is going to happen. We’re not going to call your Mother, Helena. You’re going to get out of my fucking pool right now, and tell me everything. Every last detail you know.”

“May I at least have a towel? Please?”

“Sorry! Let me get my midnight cabana service ramped up.” I dig in a cedar chest under the umbrella. “Here, a nice fluffy one.”

She pushes up out of the pool and drips naked next to me with probably fifty thousand dollars worth of jewelry on her.

Wrapping the towel around herself, she says, “This is going to sound insensitive to her disability and I don’t mean it that way at all, but whether you sign it, or write it, or say it to her face – Jodi Lerner doesn’t know how to listen. She does what she wants, and everybody best bloody well get on board with it.”

“I’ve come up against it. In fact, I’ve got to get up at 0-dark thirty tomorrow morning for an emergency departmental breakfast meeting about her, and one of her students. Phyllis’ hands are around my neck to do something about it.”

“Have you tried giving Jodie one of your withering looks.” Helena shivers a bit, as she wraps the towel around her.

“Would that have any effect?” I ask curiously.

“In my experience, when she’s being told something she doesn’t want to hear or doesn’t agree with, Tom says some version of ‘fuck you,’ and she packs her bags and leaves.”

“We’ll see,” I say, but without conviction.

Bette PowerSuit looking down

Shaolin Studio – Tina’s office – Tina

Opening my office door I search desperately for my missing secretary.  “I’m sorry, Bette, just hold your thought for another minute.  Mickey? Has anybody seen her?” I ask a room of busy people. Everyone shakes their head, ‘No’.

“Bette take a walk out on the lot. That way we can get away from this phone that won’t stop interrupting.” Picking up my purse I open the door for her.

“James would never leave me in such a fucking mess. What’s going on around here?”

“We’re making a lesbian movie that’s what’s going on.” I lean over my secretary’s desk to write her a note, and sense my busy production office slowing down and suddenly become still. Dozens of people have stopped talking, texting, typing, walking and working to look at us.

Finishing my note, I leave it on my missing secretary’s desk.  “By the way, you look really great in that suit.” I tell her.

“Like my little lavender handkerchief?” She flicks it and smiles at me.

“I gave it to you.”

“So strange. . .you gave me two of them, right? One was a white linen, and I can’t find it anywhere.”

“I’ll look, Bette, I promise I will.” I reach inside my purse for my sunglasses and pretend to search for her.

As we walk out into the daylight, I feel the Gypsy’s charm inside an inner pocket of my handbag.

“I have my own version of work Hell. A student of Jodi’s – doing a performance piece freaked everyone out – when he put a gun he’d carved out of soap to his head.”

“You would not believe the things done with the props around here.”

“I work in a weird bubble. Fumes catch fire unusually fast. People lack perspective.”

“If we go right up here we’ll be on a film set doing a nineteenth century piece. Except for the horses it’s pretty quiet. Look, turn here.”  As we walk down the dusty facade of an abandoned main street I wonder where to start.

“I feel…” We both say at the same time.

“You go first.” Bette smiles.

“I haven’t talked to you in a while.” I look at her quickly.

“School, end of the semester, and Phyllis! Absolutely driving me crazy now that she’s a lesbian.”

“Trust me, I’ve got you beat. There’s an all out lesbian drama going on around me.”

“And Kate Arden?” Her tone has a catch of aggression.

We approach the catering truck. “The picture’s director?” I tap my studio credit card. “I’m having a mocha frappe.”

“I can’t get enough ice cream lately. I’ll have a strawberry cone.”

“I’m putting this on my studio card. Anything else?”

She takes her ice cream and begins to lick. “This is delicious.”

“You want a taste of this? It’s pretty great, too.” I hand my frozen chocolate drink to her.

“Sure.” She sips, then offers me a taste of strawberries.

Tina_SunglassesCameraLeft

Studio Lot – Bette

Early this morning, as my hand had reached for the snooze button – a third time – I’d heard a text alert on my phone.

TEXT from Phyllis –

“Due to a scheduling conflict with Professor Lerner be advised our meeting will not take place at 7 am.”

PK

Two thoughts had sprung to mind as I had read it: Unbelievable and Thank God. Actually, three: Turn off your fucking ringer, and I’d put the pillow back over my head and gone back to sleep.

When the meeting had finally convened, the circular logic and ludicrous rhetoric I’d heard had irritated the fucking hell out of me, and I’d chewed into the discussion with an articulate chainsaw, and Phyllis had called a recess.

“What were you doing to me in there?” Jodi had caught me in the hallway.

“What do you mean – to you? I don’t sense you’re really grasping the concepts I’ve been trying to drive home to you.  Your students, their actions in classes with you, the work they do under your instruction – you’re accountable for that, Jodi. For them!”

“Concepts? Really?”

“Reality, Jodie. Really the concept of Reality! Try to fucking grasp where the rest of us live. Try to cast your mind back to when we first met.” I press my hands beseechingly against my chest to implore her understanding. “I needed that man’s donation. I needed his money and it’s my job to get his money to finance this department. And what did you do?”

My finger has left trying to sign anything to her, and is now pointing menacingly. “You intentionally positioned a sculpture of George Bush’s mother with a vacuum cleaner’s hose for a vagina right where he’d come across it.”

I had felt one of my withering looks forming. “For what? Your principles! Damn what I may have needed!”

Jodi’s face turns stormy, but with a full wind behind me I don’t stop. “Inconceivably, you seem oblivious to the fucking political climate around guns in schools. Bottom line is this. You seem oblivious to the problems you’re causing this department, me professionally, and me personally.”  I had glared at her.  “Any of this registering, at all?”

“You’ve lost yourself. The power – you think you have – has gone to your head.” Jodi had smacked the side of her head, disgusted with me, and had walked away.

I’d caught her arm and signed, and said, as firmly as I could, “When you’re ready to listen, I’ll be in my office.”

Six hours later, still no sign of her, and apparently free from the annoyances of work – and with no plans whatsoever to get together with her tonight – I’d called Tina from the car on my way home.

Now, as she leans in to taste the ice cream, I catch a scent of something hard to describe. Is it on her skin or in her hair?  I pull on the straw of her frozen coffee drink, and my tongue freezes a little and aches. I look at her earrings, and then down her neck, and past her shirt collar. I remember how her skin tastes salty along her throat in the summertime, and how she always feels warm, when suddenly my lips crave her kiss.

Not the kind she’d give me to say goodbye, but the kind that begins and sometimes takes hours for us to finish. I want one of those kisses, her matching my desire because now it’s turning deeper between us.

“Something’s different about you. I can’t put my finger on it.” I finally say to break the spell on me.

“Not really.” She hands me back my ice cream.

“No, you’re kind of glowing or something. Are you having a secret love affair that no one knows about?”

“And why would that matter? Aren’t you with someone?”

I bark a laugh at her nonsense. “Oh, it would matter plenty, Tina. Absolutely everything about that would matter.”

____________

The next chapter is titled, The Cooking Lesson. http://wp.me/p4AUvc-7w 

Bette is anxious as Jodi’s return is fraught with tension, and Tina’s love charm has its effect.


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Spell On You – Tina Kennard L Word

Tarot_PrincessofDicks

Gypsy’s House – Tina

Alone in the Gypsy’s guestroom bath I look in the mirror at the welt on my forehead. It’s about the size of my thumb, and very red. God, I had pushed those memories about my sister so far down, and yet, the Gypsy had plucked them out from me immediately.

I moisten my hands and tap around my face, and catch the edgy expression in my eyes.  An old sadness rises up inside me. Given air and brought into the light, after all these years my memories of those nights are going to take some getting used to.

I lean closer into the mirror and examine my lump. There’s nothing to be done to cover it up. If anyone asks I’ll think of something.

In some form or another – throughout my entire reading – Bette was either nuanced, which is hardly like her, or straight up as a woman bearing a sword, or in her case, a Bowie knife. She was everywhere, but in my area of work, and even there the chances were high she’d attempt to influence me with Jenny’s movie’s, so close to production on the horizon.

Then the Gypsy had turned over the last card.

TheChariot

The Chariot

I’d stared down at the circular ring of images that no longer appeared random to me. The symbolic part of my mind that holds their cipher had begun to understand.

”Hmm, this card complicates things.” The Gypsy taps as she’d studied it.

”What do you see?”

She hands me The Chariot card with the charging horses. ”When this appears, if you don’t make a decision fast, someone else makes it for you.”

”Who? Is this a warning about the movie I’m making?” I ask warily.

”No, this is someone close to your home. She may want to wait for you, but staying in stasis while you make up your mind puts her in opposition to her basic nature. She’s driven.  Towards something or someone new. Her nature is restless – whether she likes it or not.”

”Oh, she likes it plenty.” And we share a laugh.

”Who’s she seeing romantically these days?”

This question I realize I have no answer for – at some point there will be someone.


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The Fortune Teller Tina Kennard The L Word

FortuneTeller Neon sign

Studio City – Tina

I hate rushing. It makes me nervous and forgetful, and the long list of things I don’t need are the ones banging about foremost in my mind.  I close the door to my car and sit still for a moment. I need to calmly look in my purse and check for money, cell phone, sunglasses and keys. I could get from here to anywhere with just those few things. Yes, all present and accounted for.

I start the engine.

Where I’m going today is a secret and that secret is making me anxious. Over and over again all morning, I had almost reached for the phone to call someone, bleed off a little steam, let loose some of this uncomfortable pressure, but my decision somehow remained firm. The Fortune Teller and I are a secret.

Helena’s psychic had been the one I’d finally had the sense to turn to when Googling “Gypsy fortune tellers LA CA” had led me to clowns, then porn sites and finally – and maybe the worst – Internet poker. Where do people find the time?  I’d caught Helena’s eye long enough to impress upon her, “Not a word about this to, Alice.” Absolutely, Helena had sworn, and she’d locked her lips and thrown away the tiny key.

“A Gypsy fortune-teller near Hancock Park is my best recollection of who Bette’s artist friend had sworn by,” is what I’d told Helena’s reader. She’d laughed and wondered, if all lesbians knew each other as well? I’d almost mentioned Alice’s chart, but quickly decided against it. Some things lead to conversations you soon realize you’d rather not be having – at all.

But like The Chart proves we’re all just a kiss or a bacterial infection away from each other.  Predictably, she knew the name of the Gypsy in Hancock Park, and before I’d lost my nerve my appointment had been made.

Tina_Headshot BeamingSmile

I like to be early to things. It’s just a habit of mine.  It’s one thing about me that drives Bette crazy, but as a traveling companion she’s wonderful – unless we’re catching a train, a plane or a ferry – but once arrived she’s game for nearly anything. Which is how we ended up at the bullfights.

It wasn’t something I would have chosen to do while we were in Madrid, but the night before on the Plaza de Cibeles we’d caught the attention of two toreros who were not chauvinistic about their sport. This led, I never will forget, to the very next day with Bette at the bullfights.

It wasn’t what I expected, and it grew more interesting by the hour when we met, by chance, the world’s most famous matadora, Cristina Sanchez.

Cristina_SanchezBullfighter

She was beautiful, but very deadly, very quick in for the kill.  Late that afternoon, Cristina had taught us – until we’d finally gotten it right – how to dance the graceful moves of the matadora, and it wasn’t at all what I’d thought it would be. In the bullring, one misstep among the dozens in this long luring dance and the bull takes your life.

After returning to our hotel, and a wonderful dinner, we’d returned to our room and tried to remember all the moves of matadora dance.

Bette_veryGood_goldenKiss

Vacation sex.

I feel her in my arms suddenly at the traffic light, as if she’s found me – just for a moment – to send me a message.  I close my eyes, and the luring moves of the matadora come back to me.

Driving slowly through Hancock Park, my breath catches, as I see the numbers match on the house to my right. I keep the car in idle. I can turn around now and never know. I turn the engine off and rest the keys in my lap,  As I watch the everyday movements of the neighborhood, my exhaustion comes to me. How do I push through these things I’ve created? How do I find love again, or do I ever? Jenny’s book is stirring up too much.

Fortune teller? Fuck, yes. What was I thinking?

As I ring the bell and hear footsteps closing our distance, there is one question I must have the answer to: How do Bette and I raise a child and not make her crazy?

Gypsy

In LA gypsy’s are fashionable! I realize as an attractive woman in her 60’s tosses back her long dark mane and opens the door to me. Yes, there’s a scarf, but it’s Hermes and her pant suit is tailored and a dark chocolate brown.  As she smiles, at the edge of her dark eyes there are the soft wrinkles of her lifetime of laughter.

A few minutes later –

“Have you ever had a reading before, Tina?” She asks as she shuffles cards.

“No, I’ve thought of it many times though.”

“How about some tea and you tell me what you’d most like to know?”

She reappears in a moment with a tea tray, and begins a preparation of the tea unknown to me, and her Romanian accent is threads through her words. “This Kluntje is the stick of white rock sugar that melts slowly as the Black Assam tea is poured over it. Next, we bring in the Wölkje, a heavy cream or as the gypsies call it, the cloud, the Wölkje.  And this is added to the tea water and mixes with the sugar and brings us back to the beginning. Do you see?” She passes me a delicate and very old china cup and saucer.

“Try it now. It’s served unstirred and first you will taste the sweetness of the cream as the cloud, then the tea, the active life, your life, and finally at the bottom your taste comes to the sweetness, the rock sugar and that is the Kluntje, the land upon which you walk.” She takes her seat across from me.

“Yes,” she sips her tea, pleased with it.  “Now, tell me Tina, as you drink this tea in this room where your future, present and past meet, what has brought you here?”

She reaches over to take my hand.  “Concentrate for a moment more, while you drink your tea then, put your cup in my hand.”

I take a deep breath, and I hand over my cup. The Gypsy begins to read my tea leaves.

“Ah, congratulations on solving your money problems.  In the West you are bred to fear the lack of it, in the East we’ve known hardship for centuries, even thousands of years. Wars. We’ve had so many wars.”

She sends me a look you might give a naive older child. “You will be fine. There is work for you in movies, and other support for you is nearby.” She nods her head, “Just don’t worry and get bad wrinkles thinking about it, that is not your true issue in this life.”

“In this life?”

 

“I’ll make a recording for you?”

“Yes, please.”

“Okay, Tina close your eyes and concentrate on your child. You have a question about her and she has a message for you.”

“Her name is also, Angelica.”

“So she says. Angelica, the messenger.”

“I’m separated from her other parent, her other mother, and I worry. . . she loves us both – so much.” My voice catches. “We’re a very beautiful, but very fucked up family.” Tears sting my eyes. “I apologize. On the other side of Melrose we talk this way.”

“Think nothing of it.” She brushes my curse away. “How’s your broken heart? You’ve had a few, haven’t you?”

“Better? I guess. I just don’t know what to do with it. Where to go with it? Do I just wait and let the days and weeks pass? Or do I try to date?”

“You’re pretty. Dating for you would be no problem, but who is the person you truly want to see you? Is it your child one day when she’s older? Or someone you haven’t yet met? Or someone you already know?”

“Yes, I would like to know. Please.”

“This person has a reckless, passionate side that runs away from her. Definitely a her. But I don’t think she’ll hurt you again like you suspect. . . but she could hurt others though.” She looks up at me, “Is this the one you love? This passionate, dangerous one?”

“For a long time, yes.” I say softly, and her eyes wrinkle at their edges.

She pushes a deck of Tarot cards toward me.  “Let’s get to the bottom of this, shall we? Shuffle to your heart’s content, and then cut them into three stacks and place them back into one.”

The old worn edges of the deck feel soft and the cards in my hands feel uncommonly warm.  My mouth feels dry, as she fans them out on the table face down in front of me.

“Pick twelve. No, today you pick thirteen.”

From around the fan shape I collect thirteen cards, and place them in front of her. “Very good.” She closes her eyes, and when she opens them again – they are brighter, more golden than brown.

I watch as she makes a circular design that fills the table between us. In the middle she places the last two cards face down.  “Just relax. You don’t need to be afraid.” She reveals the first card in the center. The Princess of Disks.

“This is you, Tina, in the middle of your world that the cards will reveal around you.”

 

I lean in to get a better look. The card in the middle shows a nude maiden, the Princess of Disks, her hair long and golden and her belly a swollen pregnant disk.

“So beautiful, isn’t she?” The fortune-teller places a chilled glass of water in front of me. “So, you’ve looked at the card that’s you. How does it feel?”
Tarot_PrincessofDicks

“Relieved! I’m thankful to say.”

“Good, hold onto that thought because at the bottom of the circle, at the feet and foundation of your card’s place is the past.” She flips over a card that has wands blocking the way and fields going to waste in the background. The next card has flowers that look like cups but they are spoiled and putrid with a scene that shows wine that could be blood spilled across a checkered floor.

“Do you want me to do a reading about your sexual abuse?”

A warm cloth is over my eyes and there’s a rooty, earthy scent. My eyes flutter open and I’m in a darkened room lined with volumes of books and candles burning and more musky curious scents come me.

“Where am I?” I try to raise up, but her hand on my shoulder presses me back.

“You’re okay, but you hit your head. Sore?” She adjusts the cloth on my forehead and under it I do feel a rising lump.

“Ouch! What’d I hit?” I try to remember.

“The side of the table, but not too bad.” She dabs another deeply earthy smelling balm on my welt and places the warm cloth back across my forehead.

“Tell me what happened. Nothing can hurt you here.”

The corners of my eyes drip with tears. “I didn’t know it was wrong.” I manage to say very evenly. “It was my older sister, my only sister really. We were practicing her kissing with boys.”

“This scent, do you like it?” And a fragrance unlike anything I’ve ever smelled envelopes me. My nose says not peaches, or Tupelo honey but sweet with the turned earth of fields and a warmth of the sun. My mind calms, my shoulders, then my arms and finally, my fingers relax.

“See how you can lie down on this patch of warm sunny earth?” Her hands smooth a warm blanket over me. “Breathe now like you would as a child who’s spun down onto the ground to watch the clouds roll by.”

I drift and follow the smells of summer and find my breath.

“And when you were with her were you laughing? Was it playing?”

“It was a game. She liked this boy, Danny. I played him and like she wanted him to, I kissed her.”

“And then you began to sleep with her in her room or yours?”

“That was after the party,” I say drowsily. “When we drank all the leftovers from all the drinks that came back to the kitchen on trays after my parent’s party.”

“Then?”

“A long white taper from the candelabra she handed me to. . .”

“And at night you became the young boy?”

“Yes, at night I became, Danny.” I can’t stop a surge of panic, and I begin to cry. “I was . . . too young to feel those things.”

“Yes, for anyone so young.” She takes my hands and in her eyes I see endless compassion. “And you’ve never told your dangerous one, have you?”

“And mostly for those reasons.”

“What are you most afraid of? That she’d do something dangerous to your sister?”

“Oh, she wouldn’t stop with my sister. She’d burn everyone’s fucking house down.”

_________________

The next story is titled, “A Spell on You” http://wp.me/p4AUvc-5U

The Gypsy’s love spell in action, and in surprising ways.

The L Word, Bette Porter, Tina Kennard, #thelword, #betteporter, #tinakennard, The L Word,


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The Pussy Club – The L Word fan fiction

Bette_BlackJacket_ Looking R

Phyllis’ garden – Founder’s Party – Bette

As I take the pipe from Jodie and lean into Tom’s lighter flame I try to imagine as I inhale the sweet marijuana what it would be like to be deaf. I would see but not hear Tom’s lighter flick, feel but not hear Jodi’s exhale that comes across me now as a warm smoky breath against my cheek. I watch her laugh as the THC begins to lighten everything around us. In me, too, everything is becoming softer. I should do this more often, it feels so nice.

I hold my breath for a long time. Jodi and Tom laugh again. Oh! It’s me they find amusing. I cock my head to ask, “Why?” Lung capacity and why am I wearing a ring on my left hand if I’m not married? Word is: I’m single. I hold my breath a bit longer.  I need time to think before I answer them. I spin my rings. I never take them off although I’ve noticed Tina with hers missing from time to time. That aggravates me.

Certainly while she was with Henry the ones she always wore from me disappeared. That had hurt and been maddening, and frustrating, and fraught with dismay, and sadness. And those had been the good days!

Next to my shoulder a shiny red and black beetle walks very deliberately across a leaf. I watch fascinated as its antennae rotate toward me and waves around for signals and tastes of me in the air. I open my mouth to expose my tongue and then blow the last bit of marijuana smoke its way. I laugh as I finally exhale. I’m starting to get the feeling that what I’m smoking out here in the bushes by Phyllis’ pool is some of that whammy pot from Humboldt County. Be cool little beetle. Whew! I am buzzed. I fiddle again with my rings.

Lately Tina’s are back on and while she changes them around sometimes they’re always ones I gave her. Signals. Maybe? But are they? Or have they just become habits? Or God forbid to match a sweater’s color! All of it! All of it, all of it! Everything can be read as a signal. Whoa! Here’s one.

Jodi’s mouth opens close to me and a steady stream of smoke curls from her lips past mine. I inhale the reefer smoke.  I hear a door slam that she doesn’t. I hear Phyllis and Alice shouting. But she can’t. Alice says terrible things. Phyllis cries. Would never hearing those words again be less painful? I look at Jodie curiously. I am very high and I can’t help but wonder: Would she be easier?

As Alice stomps by we fold back deeper into our leafy cover.  Soon, I’ll have to find a breath mint and go back in there, baked now I realize, and try to talk in whatever ape language the donors are speaking in tonight. Another thing Jodie doesn’t have to hear.

Does she ever talk on the phone? Of course, not. God, how does that work? I’d be, well, I’d be lonely if Tina and I didn’t talk nearly every night before Angie goes to sleep. I don’t think texts would work for me. It’s her voice and how she’s feeling under her words that I always want to hear. Signals, imaginary or real? But to never again hear anything? It’s something to wonder about certainly.

We walk away from our hiding place and back into the party. Jodi’s very independent. She smiles at me, waves goodbye and into the crowd she’s gone. I look up and see Helena with a strained look on her face. She catches my eye.

“Could I talk to you?” Helena asks as she waves me through to a back corridor.

“What’s up?” I lean against the wall paper and suppress a giggle. I hate Helena, her misery my joy.

“Would you give me a ride home? Actually, I’m not sure if I should go back to Alice’s tonight, though.” Helena bites her lip in worry. “There’s been a bit of a falling out between her and Phyllis.”

“You want me to drop you at a… where? A hotel, maybe?”

“Actually. You wouldn’t. . . I mean I can’t ask you really, but I guess I could sleep in my car. Oh, God.” Helena whimpers. “I’m supremely, massively broke now.”

“You’re the caterer, right? Can you feed me something because I’m fucking starving all of a sudden.”

“How’s your eyesight? They’re might be glass in it.” Helena looks at me doubtfully, but I go for it.

“Lead the way. I can probably eat broken glass, in fact, with Tina I chew and swallow it quite regularly.” Helena laughs, as she opens the kitchen door to show me.

“Jesus! Helena!” I gasp at hundreds of hors d’oeuvres with the remains of broken champagne flutes scattered on top of them. “Okay, this is fucked up. What happened?” I lean over and begin to eat the salmon biscuits and stuffed mushrooms between the pieces of shards and stems of crystal.

“You want some wine? Or some water?” Helena watches me with interest.

“Both. Yes, both would be great.” I move around to the shrimp skewers. I dip one into the dark creamy peanut sauce. It glistens. I look at it closely.

“Helena, do you see any glass on this shrimp? I don’t see any at all.” The shrimp disappears into my mouth and out comes a naked stick. I stir another shrimp in the spicy, peanut dipping sauce. “Your mother, Peggy, would think this is fucking hilarious.” I snap a picture with my phone.

I wave Helena into the frame. Click. Click.

“Okay! Enough. Here’s your wine.” Helena reaches across the food chaos. “Believe me, Bette, you have to know, you’re the last fucking person I want to ask.”

“One night, Helena.” I knock a piece of glass off the watercress and crab meat sandwiches. “But then what are you going to do?” I go for another sandwich.

“I’ve no idea. It’s quite pitiful really.” Helena pours herself a drink. “I can read and write in Latin and Greek. Know anyone who needs letters written in dead languages?”

“God, that is so fucked up. What were the English thinking?”

“About the past, really. We spend a massive amount of time thinking about it.”

“We need some pot. Thoughts on that?” I polish off the last of the salmon.

Helena laughs at me I think putting it all together. “Right! Of course. Hang on, let me find that clumsy busboy. He really fucking owes me.”

Bette’s Car – Sunset Blvd. – Bette

“This sounds crass I know, and I apologize, but how much money do you have? I have forty dollars.” Helena takes the joint out of her purse. She lights it and inhales.

“You mean like net worth?” I take the joint, and holding my breath I say, “I’m not fucking telling you that. No way.”

“No, Bette, on you. Although, the place I’m thinking about takes plastic.”

“What place?”

“Are you higher than you are drunk?”

“Damn, you are so fucking weird. Higher, I guess.”

“You know I lost every pence I was supposed to make tonight and then some.” Helena crosses her arms and shakes her head. “Mind if I put down the window?”

“Go ahead. Are you going to be sick?”

“No, it’s not that. Thinking about money – I get these feelings sometimes that hands are closing around my throat. The wind makes them blow away.”

“I’ve got three hundred dollars cash. What’d you need it for?”

“I say we go to The Pussy Club just up here past the steakhouse on Sunset.” She grins mischievously and looks across at me. “I’ve got forty bucks to buy you a fabulous lap dance. It’s just up here. Yeah? Take the next left.”

Helena drinks wine

 

The Pussy Club – Bette

I wonder if those tweedy lesbians back east have ever gotten over themselves? I suspect now that they can all charge off to the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts and get married they’ve come around to the relaxing virtues of lap dances for their Bachelorette parties. Helena and I take a table away from the stage. We’re not interested in the pole dancing performers although they’re interesting to look at. I believe we are in agreement. We are looking tonight for a more personalized service.

A  beautiful girl wearing about a handkerchief over her crotch leans in to take our orders.

“Do you have a type, Bette? I really can’t decide about you.” We settle ourselves in for an hour or so.

There’s the thing about places like this, no one expects you to look into their eyes. In fact, no one in here wants to look into yours either. No, this place, these women, all these dollars none of it is about eyes. I lean back and take in the beautifully formed breasts on the woman in front of me. Sequins glisten over her nipples.

“Helena, what are you drinking?”

“Honestly? A red wine and a tall glass of water, I think. Yes. That’s what I’ll have.”

“This is going to sound crazy I know, but do you have any root beer and vanilla ice cream?” I look up and down the dancer’s body.

“What?” Helena exclaims her attention snapping over to me.

“A root beer float. That’s what you want?” The dark-haired lovely asks.

“Yes. I want sugar and something cold in my mouth and I want you to come back and dance for me.”

The waitress’ breasts bob at my eye level. “You ladies know the rules for the dances?”

Helena barks a laugh. “God, we just left the most stuffed shirt party to come here to get our jollies and you’re going to talk to us about rules?”

“Where’re you from? Australia?” The waitress asks and I stifle a laugh. The accents couldn’t be more different.

“Sussex. Look, I think we got it. No touching and what? Twenty five a dance plus tip?” Helena claps and unclasps her Chanel bag that I know is empty.

“We get it and I’m dying of thirst suddenly. Could you bring me my root beer?”

“Coming up.” She leans between us. “If we go in the back of the club you can touch yourself.”

Helena says, “Come back and bring a friend. A pretty blonde around here someplace?”

The music is loud and the dancer on the stage strips off dark silky sheer veils as she threads up and down the pole. Her moves seductive and erotic. But would any of this be if I were hearing absolutely no sound? A chill comes against my temples. The volume mutes for an instant. Without the din I can’t see how this nearly naked colorful chaos makes much sense at all.

The maddening out of sorts superior lift and sniff with her nose is gone these days. Now, she just looks hungry.

Here comes my root beer float brought to me by the very pretty dark haired young woman, who’s proving to be so much fun to watch.

Helena’s voluptuous blonde dancer wiggles and churns inches away from her lap. Mine runs her hands through her dark hair. She blows against my ear and cheek. Her eyes I think I remember are brown.

Alice let it slip, or did it on purpose, either way she let me know: Tina went to The Pleasure Palace. And tonight, Tina’s need for a vibrator amuses me. The sugar, the reefer, and the rich ice cream blend in my mind, and the much, much more than a handful of a the dancer’s breast flows over her hands, as she leans into me for a perfect tease.

The name of the game at The Pussy Club.

“Bette, what are you? Breasts your thing or a great looking ass?”

“Seriously?”  Helena orders another glass of wine. I clock that we are definitely leaving here before she tries to have three. “Don’t get shit faced, Helena. It will make me hate you again. . .  and quickly.”

“Last one I promise. But you didn’t answer me. Tits or ass, Bette?”

“You know every once in awhile your mother will knock off the 24 carats from her manners and deliver some crack like that.” I lean back as the dancer shimmies in front of me. She keeps her breasts barely an inch from lips. I inhale her. Nice. I follow the glitter traces down into her folds.

“Slow down a little.” I tell her and I imagine moving my hands all over her. She leans in so close to my lips. “Some people like to pay me to dance for them while they think about fucking me.”

“So, you’ve said.” I laugh at her bluntness, but here on Sunset Blvd – as the clock edges closer to midnight – time and pussy definitely mean money.

“What kind of dance?” I ask.

We watch our dancer’s bodies begin to rub against each other,  then fit and slide and slide together. We nod our heads in agreement.

“Bette, if I may? I have one quick question?”

“Jesus! What does it matter? Breasts, of course! Breasts! Haven’t you noticed how fucking oral I am?”

“Right! No, actually my question was for Sunny and what? Your name is Bahama? Okay! Sunny and Bahama! In the back,” Helena tilts her head toward the Ultimate Gentleman’s Club party rooms as illuminated by a neon sign. “Do we get costume changes? More things on that we get you to take off?”

I lift my eyebrows. Good thinking Helena. “Four shots of tequila. Then we’ll go.” I nod my head toward the curtains.

“Oh, Wait! Bahama. Do you have a great pair of trousers and a long sleeved man’s shirt. And a tie? You know with really hot panties under all of it.”

“You, Bette?”

“A flight attendant who blows my mind.”

“Commercial air or charter?” Sunny asks.

Our tequila arrives. “Surprise me.”

Bette smiling tank top Story

Bette’s House – Bette

Helena and I have shed our evening wear for yoga outfits, and we lean back on the couch and finish off another joint together. I’ve made us ice cream sundaes in the middle of the night – the drawbacks of pot and my need for lots of sit-ups tomorrow are beginning to dawn on me.

“A nice top off to a dismal evening.” Helena rests her sundae just under chin and spoons deliciousness into her mouth.

I squirt chocolate syrup on my chocolate ice cream. “Why don’t you borrow against your inheritance and buy a strip club? I bet you’d enjoy that. I’d go.”

“But wouldn’t it get to be too much? Maybe I’d never want it again?” She looks at me doubtfully.

“No, you’d want it still! Are you kidding?” I laugh at her ridiculousness.

“You think?”

“I know so. Look what you did! You spent your last twenty dollars on dancing pussy, Helena!”

“You’re one to talk. What was our bill?”

“Forget about it. Better yet, never tell, Alice.”

“Or Tina?”

“No, for sure, tell, Tina. She’ll be amused.” I insist.

“I don’t think so, Bette.” Helena laughs skeptically.

“Maybe amused is the wrong word.” I fall back rubbing my stomach. My whole body feels wavy and warm, and then inside my throat is still cold. I lick my lips.

“Why’d you fuck her? You are such an asshole, Helena.”

“I was rich and she was beautiful. I was used to getting what I wanted.”

“I had wonderful dreams of killing you. Ever eat Fugu?”

Helena laughs. “That would have been brilliant!”

“You made such an ass of yourself in the end. But I’m no better. Tina causes me massive mind fucks. I’ll end up in jail if she dates anyone else.” I lean up on my elbows, “But, damn! I bought the coolest knife to kill Henry with. Wanna to see it?”

“What?” She asks not following.

“Forget it. I was planning on poisoning you.”

“But how can’t she not date? I mean, she’s pretty and hot, you know?”

“Just don’t you say it.” I look at Helena crossly. “But yes, fucking soon someone will be after her.” I put my face in my hands and rub my eyes.

“I want her back after Henry.”

“Alice said the STD is gone by now.. Takes about a month from what I hear.”

“Oh God! Alice!” I stare up at the ceiling.

“But that’s not why, really is it?”

“Why what?”

“Why she’s not here anymore?”

“Don’t think I don’t ask myself daily the same question.” I put my feet up on the table.

“You’re both special people, Bette. It’s too bad really.”

“And you’re one of the fucking idiots who had a hand in it!” I glare at her.

“Mummy loves you, you know that right?”

“Helena! Really? Peggy and I respect one another. But you know why people hate you? Because you’re such a petulant, bad-tempered child.”

“I take your point. If it means anything, anything at all, I’m sorry.”

“You want to settle our score? Really?” I gauge her reaction. “Because I have a job for you.”

She perks up, as expected, and I tap her arm to follow me outside to the pool.

“You’re pretty devious aren’t you? At times, almost without a conscience is my guess.”

Helena blanches at my description, “Okay, at my very, very worst.”

I point toward the darkened house next door. “At some point we may have to do something about, Jenny.”

Bette’s Bedroom – Later

God, it feels good to lie down and hear no sounds. But that actually isn’t true. There are plenty of them. The crickets outside, the jet far overhead in the distance, a motorcycle whining by. Quiet but not silence.

Jodi’s interesting. I don’t know, I can’t really see it.

I roll over onto my stomach, and feel how pleasantly full of ice cream I am. My arms stretch out like wings across the sheets. I liked that the dancer couldn’t touch me. It’s so much better that way.

Bette_Back

 

My right hand moves down to find myself mostly out of comfort not thinking one way or another, just looking for pleasure and finding it right there.  I do like lying on top of women spread eagle like this. Holding them down, their backs against my stomach. So far, no escapes. The thought makes me happy. I slip my fingers inside myself. That feels nice.

Finally, Barbara had gotten over her need to be taken down a notch or two along her sexual power trip with me. My mind brings her back. When her antics were nearly over early that Saturday morning I’d pushed her down on her on stomach and fucked her like a panther. I can definitely go somewhere thinking about that. . .

____

The next story is #24. The Fortune Teller       http://wp.me/p4AUvc-5l

 

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The Thirteenth Floor – Bette Porter The L Word

 

Bette_TankTop,EyesClosed.Thinking

The Thirteenth Floor

 

Bette’s Bedroom

It takes logic to survive. I’m convinced of that. The world is far too complicated a place to make it solely on my tongue’s instincts, my good looks or my innate luck. The vital middle ground is reason, logic, valid conclusions reached by deduction or inductive arguments. That is now my proving ground because far to the right of me and off to the left I’m noticing truths unraveling when examined.

Take my life, for example. A perfect subject apparently for the mentally impaired freak of a fuck of a neighbor of mine, Jenny Schecter. I suppose if I were to drop LSD right this minute and read Jenny’s book chapters again perhaps I could freakishly associate with some part her fallacious depictions of me. Maybe while tripping my brains out I laugh at the misery and disquietude of the couple, Bev and Nina, and think it’s hilarious everyone knows it’s me and Tina that Jenny’s spoofing.

I look down at Jenny’s book in my lap. I sip red wine and think. I don’t need to remember every detail of Aristotle’s thirteen sophistical refutations to have my own very long list of logical proofs and critiques of Jenny’s tortured logic. What I read tonight is a lunatic’s mangled ravings. Jenny’s not mine. Or fucking Bev’s or Tina, who comes across completely unfuckable. Another proof that everything in this book is utter bullshit! Because believe me, Jenny. That is not the case and you’re an idiot if you think so.

I push Tina out of my mind but quickly she comes back. I should call her before I go next door and kill Jenny. But then it might appear Tina was my co-conspirator. I put the phone down and glare at Les Girls. I feel fucked and I never saw it coming.

Aristotle’s Thirteen. A number that makes me wary. Something about it has always felt fucking spooky to me. I can’t explain it anymore than I can explain what makes lightning bugs glow green, or why burnt marshmallows with chocolate washed down by beer or tequila is actually delicious. But thirteen, the number has always looked mean to me in elevators and with relief  I’ve always sailed past that floor. I’ve caught myself imagining how the rooms in there would feel cloying, the air too dangerous to even breath.

I shake my head. My whole life I’ve avoided the thirteenth floor of every building. Until now! I am so fucking mad the more I think about it! I see it in stark detail: Inside the interior of my Thirteenth Floor sits the insane, Jenny Schecter, a pen and paper in her hand.

Jenny Best White backgrdI throw off the covers and pace down the hallway in my pajamas. I glare at the house next door because like a fucking idiot I leave my curtains open. I snatch at the cords and down they go. Privacy. It’s a privilege and without it I’ll pay a price. One by one I lower all the curtains in my rooms and walk out to the garden by the pool. I hear a faint strain of music coming from Jenny’s house. It’s mostly dark over there. Likely no one’s home. But who am I kidding? Jenny the Bat could well be hanging from the rafters in her attic already back and roosting for the night. I should go over there. What fucking time is it anyway? Nine o’clock. Kit stays sober on the nights I let her keep Angelica. I call her quickly to make sure.

Back inside I put on my jogging pants and sweatshirt. I open my gym bag and take out my boxing gloves. I think about how to sneak up on Jenny as she comes home. I close the door behind me and begin to lace up and velcro at my wrists. I punch the air a few times to get a rhythm. Pow! Pow! Pow pow!

I run down the street to think. After this block I’ll circle back and do a recon of her side of the house. That’s easy I know just the spot in that neighbor’s driveway to get a peek. I run past a party that has spilled out onto a porch. The evening’s cool and beginning to take on a chill. I run up the next hill faster and faster. The chapter on our relationship tearing apart eats at my breath.  My side catches in pain. I break into a sweat. Bev’s version of why she slept with the plumber! So insulting, so unfathomable. I punch again and again at the air. My side spasms horribly. Good! I like it. Stab me again and again. Goddamnit! That hurts like hell. Pow! Pow! Pow pow!

“God!” I cry out in agony. I must slow my pace. I begin to pant and hold my side. “For the fucking record, Jenny after I knock you unconscious and while I consider how to fuck you up further I’ll tell you why I slept with Candace.”

I duck into the bushes that line our neighbor’s driveway. I slow my breath to control my movements and thoughts. I look through the fence gaps into Jenny’s windows. She’s stretched out on her bed painting her toe nails. There’s a plaintive jazz tune coming through her windows. I watch her apply a blue nail polish. So odd to me that people now paint themselves these unearthly and death like colors. Trust me. On the day they find me dead is the day my nails look blue.

I put my gloves against the top of the fence and get my footing on the boards to push against it. In a hoarse whisper as I climb, “First, you superficial dilettante as you wallow in faddish bad taste, try to imagine this: A night of darkness that won’t end.”

My feet hit the ground in her backyard. I creep below her windows. Any tiny rustles I make are covered by the baleful tunes that float by around me. I watch her from the shadows. Her dark hair stark against the white sheets, her creamy skin, pink and soft. No match. I unlace my boxing gloves with my teeth, biting at the laces, one by one.

“Imagine your lover inconsolable, Jenny. Not weeping and then drying her tears, but never stopping for hours. You don’t have the depth to feel what that was like. Our loss.” I feel my hatred spit out the words in an icy whisper. I throw one boxing glove to the ground by the bushes. I pull at the laces of my other glove with my teeth.

“I felt all of it from her. It beat against me all night long, Jenny,” I pull the final laces free. I spit out threads of cotton.

“I needed to feel her fists against me like that. Her cries in my ears! Can you understand that? No!” I throw my last glove onto the ground. It lies in the dust. Its laces completely undone.

“Then Tina stopped, Jenny. That’s what you should’ve written. Tina stopped and against my neck I felt her final ragged sigh for us. Not just her! But for us. And I prayed to a God I don’t believe really listens. But I begged and bartered with him anyway.”

I lift into the tree branches outside her bedroom window. I pull my hood over my head and settle into my camouflage in the dark. I need to think through how to hurt you, Jenny.

I hear Shane and her brother, Shay before I see them. In a moment they step onto the back porch about twenty feet from my tree perch. Shane unlocks the door and then comes back outside with a beer and a smoke. She seems to have worries these days. So unlike her.

Was it the right choice? Was it the right choice to never let you see my need to unravel -even for a moment? But for the love of God! How could I? I watched you submerge and float away from me, T.  It felt so done by then.

I look through the leaves over to my pool. It glows blue in the darkness. We love and we drown over there, I suppose. Looking back on it now, I would. I would do it all differently. I would change everything if I could. I have no fucking sense sometimes and it worries the fuck out of me. I should’ve taken my mask off and let you see my pain.

I drop down into the yard and Shane startles but laughs when she sees me. I pick up my boxing gloves and pat them to knock off the dirt.

“Out for a run. Decided to do some chin ups in your tree.”

“Sure, Man. Have at it.” Shane motions to me, “You want to come in? How about a beer?”

“No, I need some water, actually, and then a bath.” I tie the gloves’ laces so they fall over my shoulder. “But thanks. Yeah. I’ll see you soon, though.” I walk down the drive toward my gate. “Shane, do you keep a spare key outside for Shay? A good hiding place so he can come and go?”

“Yeah, his idea.” Shane shows me where inside a carved wooden horse head is the place she hides the spare key.

Bette’s House – 9:30 pm

As I walk into my bedroom I take long swallows from a cool glass of water. My phone alerts me to a text. Christ! How many since I went to run? Jesus! I scroll through them to catch their headlines. Some are stupid but mostly funny comments from East Coast friends encouraging me to hurry up and find a new girlfriend before the book takes off. Theory being: You can always explain how it’s all bullshit later.

I think of how that could even be possible? To be amusing, to answer all their questions, and then undress them and hope the conversations about Tina are over. I delete as I read. Nothing comes close to bringing me any real levity. Then the last three catch my eye. Phone numbers I don’t recognize. I click on the full messages. One after another I see interview requests for my comment on the upcoming movie feature of Les Girls. A book by Jenny Schecter and the movie produced by Shaolin Studios and Tina Kennard. Maybe Tina and I could do our interviews together, a reporter wonders?

Goddammit! I pick up my phone to call her. The book back in my lap. My anger returns in force. I snap the pages through the chapters of my destruction. My side catches again with a fiery spasm. If you’d listen I’d tell you what I should’ve said years ago. If he ever saw a tear on my face after my mother left, Tina…

My chin falls to my chest.  It took a monster like Faye Buckley to drag one out of me. And fuck yes! The rest was madness and it should have been your arms and your passion I turned to. But like my tears, I was never able to find it.

Goddammit! I press in her number. She answers.

“Tina, I’m reading Les Girls. Just tell me. What the fuck?” I demand.

“What the fuck, what exactly, Bette?”

“I guess your studio publicist is fielding all your interview requests so you haven’t seen them?”

“No, I’ve been away from my phone.”

“I see.” My eyes fly up to the ceiling. I control my tone. This is not her fault.

“Well, our identities are in the wind. I’m getting media requests for interviews.” I say with a calmness I don’t feel.

“Just say, No Comment, Bette and look I’m thinking about how to change the names and other things in the script. But we haven’t even signed her yet. This really is a false leak about me doing Jenny’s movie.” Tina says.

“But you might?” I press her.

“Yes, I fucking might, but I certainly don’t want to!” I hear Tina getting exasperated.

“God! How does she know some of this shit about us? Are there microphones in here?” I get up from the bed and begin to pace around the room.

“Gossip? I don’t know. Alice’s big mouth? Tanya’s maybe when she was around with Dana?”

“Did you even know she was writing a book? This is all out of the blue for me. I hate being blindsided.”

“I know you do. You hate it worse than anyone.” Tina says softly to me. I miss her so much sometimes.

“I want to kill her worse than Henry and in a different way. I’m thinking with my bare hands.”

Tina laughs at me, “Bette don’t go over there. Watch a movie or something. Put the book away for Christ sake!”

“Tina, before you hang up.”

“Yes. But I wasn’t hanging up.”

“Okay. Look, Tina, sometime okay let’s talk about all this – about what Jenny wrote.” I hear paper rustling over the phone on Tina’s end.

“I was looking at the watercolors you did of me and Angie about an hour ago. They’re so beautiful.”

I take my eyes down from the ceiling and try to catch the meaning and tone of her voice for replay later.

“Those were sweet times.” I say.

“You should paint again, Bette, you’re very good at it.”

“Maybe one day when you’re here with Angelica, swimming or something. I’ll see.”

“Okay. We’ll talk about Jenny’s book then.” Tina says.

I feel myself smile. “Thanks. Good. Okay, T, then goodnight.”

“Get some rest. Please tell Kit I love her for me.”

“I can’t even go there but I’ll tell her. Bye.”

TinaEXTclose up

Tina’s Apartment

I settle back in my bed with a cup of camomile tea.

“Those were sweet times.” She says over the phone.

I look at her paintings and put them away as we wind up our call and wish each other goodnight. All she wanted to do was stay home with me and the baby. It was a once in a lifetime experience. And Jesus! She put up with me when I was tired and so prone to flipping out. Those weren’t the sweet times she was thinking about though.

I laugh dourly at the thought. Bette’s like a lighthouse that can take a helluva beating. Maybe that’s why I wail against her so much sometimes. I admit I see her that way.

I do know how she looks at things. I know most of the quirky steps in the spiral stairs that lead up to her thoughts. But she still surprises me. The Bowie knife, her latest, that surprised me. I laugh and hope it wasn’t even close.

But she was brooding and moody I could tell on the phone tonight. She may have the imagination of a psychopath but it’s just a game with her, I think. No, it is. She has that very dark Scorpio moon an astrologer who came to one of our parties years ago told her about one night.

“Passionate in bed.” The reader had said and I had taken Bette’s hand and kissed her wrist knowingly, “Watchful and vigilant at night.” I remember my ears had perked up because I had felt this, too. “Secretive and dangerous.” And she had looked up at Bette as she had said it.

“They shouldn’t hear you coming!” Bette had looked at us for understanding.

Bette_Tina Looking Right by Pool

I remember we had walked away arm in arm out to the bar by the pool to join more of our guests. “I’ve always thought it would be fun to have my fortune told, you?” I had asked her.

“No, I think I’m okay, but you go ahead. An artist I know lives next to an old Romanian lady somewhere in Hancock Park. You should go.” She had kissed my forehead. “And have I told you enough how fabulous you look tonight?”

I had laughed at her, “Bette, I’m wearing a cotton blouse you bought me in India, it’s nice but…”

“It’s something else entirely I’m talking about.” And she had taken me in her arms and kissed me.

I turn off the light and hold one of my pillows close to my chest. You know, I never went that fortune teller. I wonder, what would that be like?

 

Entertaining you next is our next story:

23. The Pussy Club          http://wp.me/p4AUvc-4x 

Bette and Helena strike an interesting alliance and visit a strip club for a lap dance after Phyllis’ party and Helena’s disastrous catering fiasco. Amusing, how they play each other.

Drop a comment if you enjoyed the story.

 

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