Malibu – 8:20 pm
I rustle inside the grocery sacks from my raid through Whole Food for our spur of the moment beach weekend. Finally, I locate the bag that holds the wine. Just outside the door on the deck Tina holds Angelica in her lap and brushes the coarse sand off her feet.
“Tina, do you want to put her to bed while I cook the salmon?”
“You’re cooking?” She looks curiously at me.
“Oh, you’re getting a much improved version in our relationship redux. I cook now. And your salmon fillet is with tomatoes and shallots and something else that will come to me in a minute.” I look up as I drop an armful of vegetables on the counter.
“Astonishing.” Tina closes the door with Angelica in her arms. “Kiss your daughter, then by all means, please cook.” I bury my face in Tina’s neck for a moment, and then cradle Angelica’s chin in my hand, and kiss her good night.
“I’d like to start with a red wine, and then switch to white with the fish. But a nice glass of something red and wonderful when I get back?”
“So ordered.” I lift up several bottles of reds to choose from as I hear them moving down the hallway.
Malibu – 9pm
“Nice fire and you selected an excellent wine. Other pluses to add to your growing list of improvements.” Tina joins me on the couch with a tray of red grapes and cheeses. She puts a square of soft cheese on a cracker and pops it into my mouth. I chew. Delicious. We smile.
I’m in one of those moods where I could talk all night, or I could be happily mute and listen to the ocean surf outside the window, the fire snapping in front of me, and whatever Tina wants to say. I take a long sip of wine, and watch her as she settles into the cushions. She’s beautiful and I’m completely in love with her. We smile again.
“Are you being strange tonight, Bette? Or am I just completely exhausted from not much sleep and movie people all day long?”
“I have two years of things to say, or I have nothing but a blank slate with the next moment on it for you.” I lean in for another bite of cheese and cracker, and I make one for Tina.
“So, you are being weird.” Tina cocks her head at me.
“A little but not intentionally. But weird in a very, very friendly way.” I look seductively at her, and she smiles, and folds back into my arms. We stretch out on the couch and watch the fire. We sip wine.
“Do you remember why you fell in love with me? Is it the same reason that you’re back? That you rented us this wonderful house in Malibu?” I whisper in Tina’s ear as she settles across my chest.
“Honestly, the main reason I asked you to come here? I think Jodie is a little crazy, Bette. I didn’t want to worry the minute I got into bed with you that she wouldn’t show up, and beat on the door, or stalk us in the garden over the weekend.”
“And fucking Jenny with her ear always out the window.”
“This is going to sound so LA creepy that you have to promise me you won’t blast off and hit the ceiling.”
“I can’t think what would rile me from my near love coma with you but try, I guess.” I laugh and kiss the top of her head. I pop a red grape into my mouth.
“We should hire a media strategist to announce our getting back together.” Tina says seriously.
“A fucking media strategist? We aren’t famous!” I vent. “I never have understood why people are so obsessed with us.”
“Bette, your hot oil wrestling clip on YouTube?”
“Before Joyce’s people finally got it blocked? In the two days it was live it had forty thousand hits – something insane like that.”
“And Jodie’s podcast with Alice?” Tina reminds me.
“No! It, too?”
“You’re great looking, Babe. Women were all over you, weren’t they when you were single? Me? I could hardly get a date.”
“That I never understood. But really that little freak director with the hat? You were wasting your time, Tina. She was an idiot.” I add flatly.
“And Jenny’s script.”
“What about Jenny’s script?” I roll off the couch to put another log on the fire. “Or should I ask, what else has our personal, Dark Tormentress done?”
“Jenny has written a scene, and this is going to hurt you to remember, and I’m sorry, but it ties into the other thing I want to talk to you about.” Tina says from the couch.
“I’m going to start dinner. Keep going.” I walk into the kitchen and begin by flipping on the oven and prepping a skillet to saute the shallots.
“We need to trust each other. We need to quit lying to each other.” Tina’s tone is firm as she locks eyes with mine.
“Tina, I know lying is terrible. I hear myself do it all the time. But I agree between us,” I look back at her on the couch, “we should always tell each other the truth.”
“Bette, we have to.” Tina exhales emphatically. “Babe, if we believe we are strong enough to move forward, and have a family together then, we have to believe that our relationship can take the truth. If not, we shouldn’t do this. It’s just an affair.”
“That’s not what I want with you, Tina.” I lean against the counter and look at her, “Years ago, I did things to protect you. Lied. Kept things from you, but you’ve changed. Your naiveté, it’s gone. And that’s fine. You’ve grown up.”
“I found a picture of us the other day. It was between the pages of a book I was reading. I know what you mean.” Tina says wistfully from the couch. “I was very young back then.”
“And very lovely, too. But Tina? A media strategist?”
“Bette, the movie starts shooting on Monday. They’ll be media buzz. Trust me. What if Jodie decides to get with Alice this weekend, and uses her unwittingly for a little revenge against you? I can’t imagine she’s very happy with you right about now.”
“Forty thousand hits? Goddammit! Who the fuck was there that day to shoot that? For the love of God! Hot oil wrestling! I paid so much money to get that video off the internet.” I splash tap water on my face to wash away the nightmare. “Joyce thought it was a fucking scream. I got over two hundred emails from women.” I shake my head sadly.
“I’ll pay for this weekend. Really, all along I have intended that this be my treat.”
“I accept. Trust me. I appreciate it. And we have some hefty tuition bill coming up soon, too, right?” I ask as I begin to prepare the salmon.
“An eight thousand dollar deposit. Yikes, I know.”
“God! Can we afford another child? Really!”
“We’re okay. I’m making lots of money. You’re fine. Yes, we can afford another baby.” Tina assures me.
“I really want one.” I look over at Tina, and give her a huge smile.
“Me, too. Right after the movie is finished in a month or two we can start planning.”
Dinner table – Bette
“Bette, this salmon is delicious. I’m very impressed.”
“I’m telling you, T, you are coming back at the right time. I’m much better – all around.” I accentuate.
“I can see that.” Tina smiles across the table at me.
“I was staring at the ceiling the other night thinking about you. I was alone up at Big Bear. Jodie was downstairs doing shots, or some shit with her friends, anyway, I was missing you terribly. And I thought of how I used to come home after work, and toss my briefcase down, and start yelling. Or worse charge out again after kissing you on the head, and treating you like a pet dog I’d put fresh food and water down for before I’d take off again to meet some museum director, or put out a fire somewhere.”
“I remember. I grew to resent it. But you know what?”
“No, wait! Really let me finish. That’s not who I am anymore. I will never do that to you again. You are the most important thing in my world. You and our daughter. But tonight, right now, I’m talking about you being the most important person in my world. I know that now.”
Tina leans slightly across the table, and threads her fingers through mine. She puts my hand up to her cheek. “You know what? I signed up for being with a person who thinks the world rotates around them, and bursts into a room like a comet.” She plays with my long curls as she speaks softly to me. “You think I want boring? I went there. It was very homogenized. I woke up and ran back to you.”
“Well, it’s true I haven’t had a lobotomy, but I’ve re-calibrated somewhat, and especially there. I love you, and I know what you mean to me.”
Tina kisses my palm.
“And you were going to tell me about Jenny’s script?” I ask her.
“There was an argument we had when I told you that Henry and I were thinking of starting a family.”
I wipe my hands on my napkin, and look at Tina. “And you said you weren’t going to let me adopt Angelica.” I feel a mixture of fear edging around me, and the sizzle of anger flashing up my neck.
“There were a lot of explosions that happened that afternoon around the subject of me, and men, and family, and what my plans were with Henry.”
“Tina, that shit with Henry, and the bitter taste that it left was so negating of everything that we were after years and years of being together.” I stare at her, and can’t keep the emotion from my voice.
“Goddammit, I felt you cut my heart out,” I press my hands against my chest and look at her entreatingly, “and that some how you were buying into the whole line that Gay People Can’t Be Parents. It truly freaked me out.”
“Well, Jenny’s story is that Bev and Nina after years together suddenly fall apart because of the plumber. Nina secretly hides her pregnancy, has an affair with an heiress, dumps her and then you again. Then she goes off with a man, Harry, and then throws everything in Bev’s face.” Tina pauses, and rubs her hand across her forehead, “And this is the new part that wasn’t in the New Yorker serialized editions – that she’s going to marry him, and take away Bev’s rights to their child because Nina realizes she’s not gay.”
“God, I fucking hate Jenny’s movie. And I swear to God, I hated my fucking life back then.” I exhale bitterly.
“The actress, Isabella, who plays Bev, she doesn’t have your range – trust me – but the line when I hear is you shouting, “Have you just been fucking brainwashed, Tina? How could you do this? Did nothing about the last eight years between us mean anything? Anything at all?”
“Baby, you have to answer that right now for me. You want a promise about lying. I raise my hand up and promise it to you. But you please, you have to look at me and tell me for the love of God, Tina, are you back? Are you in love with me? Is a family? Is a whole life with me what you want?”
“Yes, and I want you right now.” Tina says as she lifts off her sweater, and throws it on the couch a few feet away. I lift her up in my arms and we waltz backwards to the fireside and lie down on a bear skin rug. I unbuckle her pants and pull them free. They disappear somewhere over my shoulder. She pulls my shirt over my head, and unzips my pants. I feel her find me immediately and we kiss deeply.
“Take them off.” She says as she unclasps my brassiere. “I want you right now.”
“I hear you!” I lean back and wiggle out of my clothes and lie back on top of her. “Better?”
“You’re very warm on top of me, and the fire feels so good.”
“Kiss me, Tina and listen to how loud the surf has become.” Our lips meet, and Tina slides my leg between hers, and bites my tongue a little at the end of our kiss.
“Baby, take care of me tonight. This is where I want you to do that for me.”
“I will, I want to.” I move inside her as we kiss some more.
“Bette, I’ve felt you in me all morning, and then all afternoon after I booked this beach house. I’ve wanted you for hours.”
“I know how you get, baby.” I take her in my mouth, and she runs her hands through my hair, and holds the back of my neck pressing me to her.
“It’s not just that you’re a good lover, you are. Or how beautiful you are, and sometimes how you go off and act crazy.”
I lift up from making love to her, “Baby, I can’t really talk right now, but I’m going to need your attention in a minute, and if you don’t give it to me, I’m going to take it.”
“You should take it. And yes, to all your questions. I want only you, and only our family, and only us.” She lies back and sighs as her hands pull through my hair.
“Tina, last night when we were making love after the club and I had that strange feeling in my chest.” I lie on top of her and we move together in a steady rhythm as we slowly make love.
She rubs her hand down the muscles of my back, and begins to scratch me slowly just below my waist.
“It’s back but it’s not scaring me tonight.” I whisper in her ear.
“Good, because you’ve carried me right up to the edge.”
“I just do know how to do that, don’t I?”
“Flawlessly,” Tina whispers and then rolls our lips together.
“Here touch me, I need you, too.”
We lie in front of the fire and race each other along the edges, and then pull away.
“It’s my heart bursting, that’s what it feels like. Baby, God, I want you to marry me. Do you want to marry me?”
“Jesus! Bette! You’re proposing on the edge of an orgasm?”
“Here, let’s see? Am I?” I put my hand behind her head and lift her into my lap.”
“I really like fucking you this way. I like the way your thighs begin to shake when you can’t stop waiting anymore.” I bury my head in her neck as we make love. “Tina, I want babies, and trust with you, and a home. And I want to take care of you, and I want to stop, and slow down.”
“Baby, don’t stop now.” Tina cries softly into my ear.
“Sorry, I misspoke. I’ve got you. You feel it.”
“I definitely feel it.”
“Please marry me. It’s you I want for the rest of my life.”
“I will. Please let us go.”
“Not yet. I bought your engagement ring this afternoon.”
“An engagement ring? You’re not serious.”
“Where are my pants?”
“Christ! Behind me I think.” Tina kisses me. “Bette, I’m this close.”
“I’ve seen you multitask. Lean back and open my pocket. There’s a box inside for you.” I smile as Tina wraps her legs around my waist and leans back for the jewelry box.
“Cartier? No, you didn’t!”
“I know you love Tiffany. But this didn’t feel like a little blue box moment. I wanted something deep and red and …” Tina opens up the box, and sees her ring.
“You can’t be serious.” Her eyes open wide in amazement as she puts the ring on her finger. It catches the fire light and flashes.
“I will never, ever take this off.”
“Put your hand on my heart. Do you feel how strange it’s beating?”
Tina puts her hand with her ring over my heart, and kisses me deeply. “Your heart feels just like mine. Exploding.”
I take her in my arms, and in a moment we connect again. Through the west-facing windows I hear the beating ocean surf, and on my skin her breath coming harder and harder against my neck. My own heart, mixed with the sound of the rising tide, is loud and pounding in my ears. Inside her I focus on that one place I know she’s waiting for – that last pulse and ring of fire we always do together that pushes us over the edge.
“There’s only us.” I whisper to her as we let go in each other’s arms.
Click here for the L Word inspired Season 7 book’s first chapter, _Touch Tones: After Midnight bit.ly/betteporter
“Touch Tones’s” chapter one picks up an hour after this story, “Malibu’s” conclusion. “After Midnight” begins as the couple begins to envision their life together post engagement. Tina senses trouble ahead as the film, Les Girls, begins production and Jenny’s vindictive and unpredictable nature lurks.
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