“Bette?” She stirs on my shoulder.
“Yes, right here.” I answer her the way I always do when I’ve flown off to the ceiling, and she gently calls me back.
Then, she catches my gaze with diamonds that flash. “I just opened my eyes, and there’s a beautiful ring from you on my finger.”
I hold her tighter to me for a moment.
“I can’t really believe it’s there.” Tina plays it back and forth on her finger.
“Baby, are you at all disappointed? I had planned to ask you to marry me so differently. I don’t know what got into me.” I kiss the top of her head. “I just blurted it out in the middle of an orgasm.”
“Well, it wasn’t how I’d ever pictured you doing it. That I can promise you.”
“Do you want me to do it again? Fly us somewhere? I’ll hold you in my arms, and ask you again on a mountain top? I just can’t jump out of a plane.” I thread my hand through hers across my chest. “The dinner, the wine, the fire were all so perfect.”
Tina studies the ring on her finger. “I was raised to want one of the these, you know, and for years I told myself I didn’t, but now I realize I’ve wanted to be married to you for a long time.” Slowly, she kisses me.
“Really? Because it would be so embarrassing to return it.”
“Relax. You don’t have to.” Tina kisses my lips, again. “Did you have a date and a place in mind, Bette?”
“Hm.” I look in her eyes and wonder if I should know these answers. “I might.” I frown very slightly, as I try to think. “Why? T, do you?
“Not yet, mind if I think about it?”
“Be my guest.” I kiss her with a loving sense of my relief buried inside it.
Her leg slides between mine. “I’ve missed kissing you,” Tina says as she settles on top of me.
“You have no idea.” I moan, wanting her again.
“Have you given any thought to telling our friends?”
“Hm.” I kiss her longer and halfway think about our announcement. “Maybe. What thoughts do you have about it?”
“I see. This is another one of your big picture moves. One you’ll sort out the details of later?”
“Would that be so bad?” I ask and hope to God it’s not.
Tina stares at me for a second. “Bette, do not explode.” She places her finger across my lips. “Would you mind if I asked the advice of a PR consultant? I mentioned it at dinner. The hungry gossip writers are gnawing at the edges of Les Girls for anything that will drop out, and that means something like this.”
“Even if we have Alice abducted?” I offer.
Tina smiles at me. “Even with Alice abducted people are going to see this.” She wiggles her ring in front of my eyes. “This is your timing after all.”
“Stories about us…hmm, will they help that fruitcake Jenny’s movie? Probably will, won’t they?”
Tina lets out a sigh. “It’s my movie, too. Everyone seems to forget that until it’s time to yell at someone. The best way to manage the press is to have someone get ahead of it, and craft a message about our engagement that is interesting to a point, but respects our privacy.
“Tina, if a media consultant will get the nauseating confusion of Bev and Nina away from us then, of course, I trust you to make the right call.”
A flash of aggravation sweeps across Tina’s face. “And frankly, that’s giving Jenny too much credit! She just journaled our lives and absorbed our most dismal moments like a nasty little black sponge that sat in a kitchen window next door to us.”
“I know you’re being paid to turn the most pathetic moments of our lives into a movie, but I can’t pretend to be happy about it.”
“Please don’t get pissed off.” She strokes the sides of my face. “You’ve created such a beautiful evening for us.” Her kiss rolls slowly across my lips, and up I float to the ceiling with the blue tones of midnight, wondering if we’ll make love again.
Beach House – Saturday morning – Tina
As I lie back in bed with the coffee Bette and Angelica brought me a few minutes ago, I listen to a conversation between them occurring down the hall.
“You know I’ve brought you breakfast in bed many a morning, Angelica, and now we’re almost ready to take this tray into your Momma T for her turn.”
I hear more pans rattling, and finally the clink of china, and very soon Bette appears in the doorway with two red lacquered Chinese breakfast trays. Angelica runs from beside her, and climbs steadily up into the bed to sit with me.
I sprinkle the heart-shaped pancakes with blueberries and pour maple syrup over them, as Bette stretches her long body, and yawns contently next to me.
I’ve tried to block out so many regrets, and try not to think about the missing years, but one thought lingers with me this morning. Is this the first time we’ve ever done this since our baby, now a small child was born? Lazed around in bed on Saturday morning eating pancakes?
Bette leans in for a syrupy bite. “Very lucky finding the heart-shaped pancake maker in the kitchen. It determined everything.”
“I would’ve been just as happy with one of your famous omelets.”
“Baby, my Saturday morning omelets for you are about,” she lowers her voice to a whisper, “seduction. Hearts with syrup are from your family” Bette points out the window to the seashore. “They mean we leave the bedroom today.”
“I’ll be ready for the beach, when you both are.” I make another baby pancake bite for Angelica.
“An article I read said when you make a list of things you want to do, and change don’t overload yourself with really hard things. With that advice I wrote, ‘Learn how to cook on my list’.”
“That I still am coming to grips with.”
“But you see how good I am it, don’t you?” She smiles as she tastes a pancake. “You see, with cooking it’s planned out. It’s timing, it’s strategy. Oh, and most of all,” she points to the blueberry covered heart shaped pancakes, “it’s presentation. All things I’m very good at.”
“I’ve missed this, Babe. Missed you.”
She takes a long sip of coffee but it doesn’t hide the emotion in her voice. “There were so many bad things happening. So many things I had no idea how to stop.” Her eyes drift out over the ocean.
I reach over Angelica’s head and stroke the side of Bette’s cheek. She turns back from gazing out at the sea and looks at me with so much love in her eyes.
Four hours later – Bette
Tina shook me awake from my pleasant post luncheon nap, pushed me under the shower, pulled me out again, and sent me up the coast a mile to the liquor store. Apparently, we’re having a cocktail party in an hour. Jesus! I was only asleep for ninety minutes at most! When did we decide to throw a party? We didn’t.
My cart squeaks along the vibrantly colored aisles of Malibu Mike’s Liquor Store, and Frank Sinatra croons a romantic tune through the speakers. Row after row of bottles, their sherbert colored labels next to the blood red waxed necks, make me feel woozy for a moment. I stop my cart in front of shelves of vodka, and stare across at the clear but mind-altering liquid, and contemplate: How quickly things change.
Last weekend I was in Big Bear being tossed into a freezing lake, and wishing I could take the nail gun, I saw in Michelangelo’s mudroom, to everyone – including myself. I cannot reconcile the vast dimensional shift, so I put two bottles of Absolut vodka in my cart instead.
Aside from the hangover I know I’ll have tomorrow, the thought of getting a little drunk tonight begins to amuse me as I drive back down the coast. I inhale the rich sea air. If Tina wants to announce our good news, and share part of our evening with our friends, I should be happy about it, and then suddenly I am.
“Where’s Tina? I felt summoned, man.” Shane looks around the beach house. “And I have plans at ten, but I’m cool for a few hours. What’s up?” She leans into the refrigerator in search of a beer.
I open my mouth to speak, but Alice cuts in, “There’s no broken furniture, no bruises, no one’s crying – I’m curious, too.” Alice shoots me a quizzical look.
“Helena is anyone – I don’t know – maybe like the Feds looking for you? What are you out on bail, an escapee?”
She smiles obliquely. “There was money exchanged, and I’m somewhat reformed.”
I laugh to myself and sip my martini. Before she got sent away Helena was a very good spy for me with news of Tina visiting a Gypsy Fortune Teller, or buying a vibrator in my absence, and speak of the devil.
Tina sweeps into the room, picks up the martini I made for her, and leans into me for a kiss.
Alice stops talking, Helena turns away from a Warhol print on the wall, and Shane looks up from stoking the fire, when they see us so happily back together. Then, with a lovely sense of fanfare, Tina holds out her left hand, and shows off her engagement ring.
“I have literally dreamed of this night! I know that sounds stalkery and crazy.” Alice picks up the martini shaker, and gives herself one last good splash.
“Congratulations, guys.” Shane puts her arm across my shoulder as Helena joins us to admire Tina’s ring.
“It is so beautiful, Tina.” Helena shoots me a sly smile.
“I’m marrying her as soon as I can.”
“Whoa, wait a minute!” Alice looks at Tina. “Not as soon as you can.” Then, back to me again. “Bette, there are plans to be made.”
Shane and I walk over to the fireplace together, and lean against the mantel. “This is right for both of you, especially you.”
“You saw too many of my close calls.” Shane nods her head and looks away into the fire. “I am so ready.” I look behind at Tina smiling at me over Alice’s shoulder as they embrace.
The doorbell rings, and Shane leaves to let our next guest in. “You’re expecting Kit, right?”
“Hi. Tina called me.” A blonde woman standing in the doorway smiles at Shane and past her into the room where she catches my eye. “I was on my way out to a party, but Tina begged me to stop by. Something about she’d make it worth my while, and you’d uncork my favorite champagne?”
“So not Kit.” Shane walks backwards away from the door. “Come in, and I can definitely help you with that drink. I’m Shane, by the way.”
“Tina?” I look at her for answers.
“Everybody, this is Claire Reilly, and she’s here to help us.” Tina raises up two fingers to count them off. “First, she’s going to blaze a clear trail from one side of our wedding announcement, all the way to the other. And two,” Tina points her second finger toward me, “Claire’s being given whatever access I can provide to keep an eye on Jenny Schecter should she try to leak anything and steal our moment.”
Alice looks skeptical. “The press conference announcing the first day of shooting is Monday, right? That’s two days from now.”
Claire takes a flute of champagne from Shane. “My father did press relations for the Clinton’s when I was young, and I started out handling rock musicians.”
Leaning against the mantel, I begin to form a picture of what’s ahead. “Well, just wait until you meet, Jenny Schecter.” .
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