Malibu – Cocktail party – Bette
As Claire joins our impromptu announcement party, Helena and Shane do a slow orbit and rearrange themselves around her. Shane becomes a cool, attentive bartender while Helena finds the artwork nearest to the bar to feign interest in. Alice, always the extrovert, shakes Claire’s hand, and patters on about celebrities, and publicity as Claire nods and sips her champagne. The moment Alice stops to take a breath Claire’s attention drifts over to me. She extends her hand.
“So, this is who all the fuss is about. You.” Claire shoots me a look, letting me know she’s heard I can be the capital “T” in Trouble.
“Claire, Bette and I got engaged last night.” Tina beams at me again, then back to Claire.
“Bette Porter.” I shake Claire’s hand with something slightly warmer than my Dean Porter grip. “So happy you could join us, on such short notice.” I recall my delicious, but interrupted afternoon nap.
“Congratulations, to both of you.” Claire smiles genuinely. Then, straight to business. “But I gather some people might see this announcement as a time to burn you to the ground?”
I frown at the thought.
She looks at me. “Or is that too strongly phrased for you, Bette?”
“The situation is this,” Tina takes over. “The writer of the movie I’m producing for Shaolin Studios – that used to be Helena’s studio – well, that’s a long story. But parts of the movie – for your ears only – resemble parts of all of our lives.” Tina sweeps her hand to include everyone in the room. “And Bette and I are Jenny’s neighbors.”
I look down into my glass. “And we fought sometimes.”
“Did you hit each other?”
“That’s good to know, but there must be something you’re adamant about keeping buried.”
“It can’t be that daunting, can it?” I shout. “To give two people back their fucking privacy!” I throw my hands up in the air. “That’s all I want! Things back the way they were.”
Tina sends me a disbelieving stare.
Quickly, I try to course correct. “No! I take that back. Not the way they were.”
Claire looks confused.
Alice, sensing her moment, motions Claire over to a seating area. “You’re looking for a plan, right?”
“Go on.” Claire sits across the couch from Alice and focuses on Shane. “Help me get the lay of the land. What’d you think about your roommate? Do Bette and Tina have a problem with Jenny?”
“Well, there was that thing she did with Sounder, he died.” Shane offers.
Puzzled, Tina looks at me. “Died? Next door?”
I shrug. News to me. Then, I get furious. “How can Jenny know everything about us, and we remain clueless about even the smallest things?”
“He wasn’t small,” Shane adds.
I point my finger at Tina, “See! Now she’s back to men. Again! What do we know?! Nothing!”
Shane finishes her beer. “The dog, whatshisname, Jenny buried him in the flower bed.”
Tina’s mouth drops open slightly. All I can do is shake my head.
Alice rolls her eyes impatiently. “Aren’t we getting off topic? Maybe just a teeny bit?”
“Very far off.” Tina takes back the floor. “Claire, I’m the film’s producer and our studio PR people …”
“I know them, Byron and Sally.”
Tina presses her hands against her chest, and looks completely earnest. “And I like them both, I do. I’m just not getting good advice, or support from them. I think they know the press are after any gossip or tidbits surrounding the cast or creators of Hollywood’s first big budget, lesbian movie, but I don’t get the feeling they’re working at all to protect me — only the stars, mainly Nikki Stephens.”
Claire adds it up. “And you got this very beautiful engagement ring last night, the press are showing up en masse on Monday afternoon. I get the timetable on all that completely, but what I’m missing is – what you two did, that you’re so embarrassed about?”
Alice butts in. “I suggest you start with how much fucking around you both did, and end with Angelica’s full blown custody battle.”
And with that outed, my eyes sail up to the ceiling.
“Anyone need a drink?” Shane pops up from the couch.
But I look straight back into Claire’s eyes.” I had an affair – for like four days – and then Tina went off with her for awhile.” I point accusingly at Helena, who’s hovering by the bar. “Then Tina left her, thank God! Came to her senses, came home to me. Then, we had the baby we’d had planned for years.” I motion behind me down the hall. “She’s sleeping now, big day at the beach. Our daughter’s almost three.”
“I’m her Earth Mother.” Alice adds proudly and shows Claire a picture of Angelica. Claire flips through Alice’s phone.
Tina bites her lip. “Then, under the delusions of postpartum I had the crazy idea – I would be happier with a man, instead of Bette.”
Hearing Tina say it, still makes me mad. “And at that point I went to WalMart, bought a six inch Bowie knife, and planned out — to the last detail — exactly how I was going to murder the guy.”
Claire studies me carefully. “Is that in the movie?”
No, Tina shakes her head.
Claire appears to calculate our sins so far. There’s cheating, but no slapping each other around. Well, there was that one time. There’s homicidal thoughts, at least on my end. There’s a hard to conceive baby that finally came, and a mostly dried up ocean of bitter feelings about who would’ve been a better parent to Angelica. The Court’s choice being: a sometimes bi-leaning toward gay film producer, or an outspoken, dyed in the wool, lesbian university dean.
And all of it sounds so stupid, and yet, if layered with sexy-sounding twists and turns, we could run for weeks — even months — as movie magazine headlines.
Suddenly, I feel sad and guilty, but mostly, ashamed all over again.
Alice wags her finger at me and Tina, “But the way they armed themselves for their child custody battle, you’d have thought oil royalties and Beverly Hills real estate was at stake.”
“Joyce Wishnia sanely talked us down from that ledge,” I add.
Claire looks at me and Tina. “And why is all this is in the movie?”
“Excellent question!” I look at Tina. “Is it? Is Angelica’s custody battle in there, too? And weren’t you trying to get Bev and Nina renamed?”
“Those are her character’s names?” Claire looks astonished.
Tina answers, “It’s almost like….”
“She did it on purpose!” I fume. “Are you kidding!”
“Why would a writer do such a thing? On so many levels, it just seems wrong.” Claire looks at Shane and Alice for answers. Finding only shrugs she looks back at me. “What’d you think, Bette?”
“Me?” I leave the couch for the martini shaker. “She’s obsessed with us. Her life’s a constant wreck of ‘straight girl turning gay’ experimentation, and she’s miserable. She can’t find love, and never will find love because she’s still at the stage of thinking: Fucking a lot means Love.” I down half my drink and refill it. “She doesn’t have the first clue what it means to be with somebody.”
Then, I feel a gear, deep inside me shift, and I articulate much more calmly. “Jenny knows I deeply love, Tina. She knows we’ve always been in love with each other. She saw, apparently through her fucking windows, how torn apart we were for years.”
Then, Tina begins to cry.
“Would you excuse us for a moment?” I pick up two glasses, crook the neck of a champagne bottle between my fingers, and open the French doors to the deck. “T, put on a sweater and walk outside with me for a minute.”
“Excuse us, please, just for a second.” Tina follows me out to the deck.
The Beach – Saturday night – Bette
As I open the French doors nearest the ocean, Tina pulls her sweater tightly around her. Silently we walk down the steps to the beach. The sounds of the surf and the cool breezes coming off the sea revive me momentarily.
“I need to talk to you.” We simultaneously admit the same urgency.
Tina loops her arm around my waist and we walk closer to the water. “I’ll go first if that’s okay?” I nod in agreement as she continues. “I know I emotionally left you at least twice, and during some really, really shitty times for you, Bette.”
“It doesn’t excuse what I did though.”
“No, but I understand it, now. When I went temporarily nuts after the baby came, I didn’t come to you, either. I thought I needed someone else.”
“How could we have been so stupid?”
“Over and over.” Tina shakes her head.
“You know what?” I ask.
“We have to get Jenny, and her dreadful characters away from us. I mean, for Christ sake we’ve spent enough time in hell, haven’t we?” I pour us each a glass of champagne. “I want to marry you, and be happy. That’s all I want. And I know we can make that happen.” I clink glasses with hers and take a delicious, long cold swallow.
Tina turns toward the ocean and leans back against me. I wrap my arms around her. “I love you so much right this minute,” Tina says. “Please promise me that if I ever go insane again you’ll be just as crazy? And lose your mind, and fight for me to come home? Will you promise me that?”
“A pledge to go bat shit? I can manage that.” I laugh with her. “I think you can count me in, T.”
“What should we do, Babe? You’ve just heard the recounting of what fucking assholes we can be.”
“But you know, Tina, it’s Jenny’s version that makes me want to eat broken glass. The way her story reads we sound so pathetic. Bev and Nina lack that heart wrenching pathos we had going.” I pull at my chest, and speak louder so the wind can’t whip my words away so quickly.
“I mean, that’s what made me so fucking miserable. So much so, that even though you were the cause of it,” I kiss her neck. “All I wanted was to be back in your arms.”
“Like the Ouroborous.”
“Exactly, the Ouroborous.” I kiss her neck some more, and wrap my arms around her. “There was an inescapable nature to it. But I’ll never do it again.”
“Me either. Dating alone was enough of a penalty for being such a bitch to you.”
“T, you want to know what mine was?” I laugh as we turn to walk back to the beach house and our guests.
“Come clean, Bette. It’s only fair, don’t you think?”
“Jodie Lerner kissed like a Labrador retriever.” I laugh sadly. “I kid you not. Kissing her was unbelievably bad.”
“Babe, I find that astonishing.” Tina shakes her head. “How could anyone fuck up a kiss with you? You’re like The Kissing Grail.”
“Oh, well, that’s kind of you. But it must be us, and not just me, because I swear to God it was like slurping from a dog’s water bowl.”
“Okay, I’ve heard enough explanation! I honestly only halfway liked her, and she’s wasn’t into Angelica at all, was she?”
“Tiny bit. But she’s very hung up on herself. Very preachy, too.”
“Well, that was doomed not to work then.” Tina smiles at me as I push open the door.
“Oh, good. You guys are back. It’s time for a toast.” Alice says as she pops open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
Sunday – 6 pm – Alice
As I pull up to the curb in front of Bette’s house. I hope that after a day or two – and hopefully while the movie is still hot and on everyone’s mind – that Bette will to do a podcast with me, and that both of them will answer my growing list of burning questions. Well, I am their wedding planner after all! But that interesting bit of news is still under wraps until Claire says, “Go.”
I see Bette out in front of her house wrestling with a long garden hose. “I know we’re suppose to be digging up our gardens and putting in freaky looking rocks that resemble meteorites instead of wasting water on plants, but I can’t stand it any longer. Everything is dying.” Bette turns on the nozzle spray and a halo of small rainbows appear as she waters her roses. Jenny comes into view for a moment next door in her window.
“Did you come to swim?”
“Sure, if that’s okay but I wanted to ask you about scheduling a podcast with me. How about tomorrow, Wednesday at the latest.” I follow Bette around the side of her house where we see more withering roses that need watering. Next door, I hear a window slide open. “Are you alone?” I ask.
“Tina’s not dropped Angelica off, yet.” Bette jerks her head toward Jenny’s. “But she’s home. No idea where Shane is.”
“Special offer. I’ll buy you lunch at The Planet, and you do a quick podcast with me for my new blog.”
“Alice! How many times do I have to tell you! I’m not doing a fucking podcast with you, and talking about me and Tina and Jenny’s fucking movie. I’m furious about all of it. So, absolutely, no!”
Bette points her finger toward Jenny’s living room. “She can go fuck herself. And you,” she says as her finger suddenly stabs me back a step, then two, “and you are about to cross the line with me, Alice.”
“Well, Jesus! We’re friends for God’s sake! And it’s a movie kinda about all of us.” I raise my voice, and argue back with Bette. “You know that I’m trying to make Our Chart and Lesbo Land into something great and “Alice in Lesbo Land” is in need of a lot of hits. Please.” I plead my case.
“Is Jenny doing an interview with you tomorrow? Are you actually promoting that poorly conceived bullshit of hers?” Bette fumes at me. “That really pisses me off, Alice. Don’t give that bitch an audience for her hack job on all of us.”
Bette drums a jet stream against the glass of one of Jenny’s windows. “Have you lost your fucking mind, Alice? I think you should come back another time to swim. Just give me a break. Tina is coming over with Angelica at any moment. I’m tired. I have a headache, and a child to feed. Just go. Go somewhere else.”
Jenny’s House – Alice
After a few knocks I pace back and forth on Jenny’s small porch, and I wait for her to open the door. “Where’s Shane, Jenny? I really need to talk to her. And do you have a glass of water?” I push past her inside, and head for the kitchen. Through Jenny’s open windows I can see Bette continuing to water her garden.
“What’s wrong, Alice?” Jenny hands me a cold bottle from the fridge. “You’re hyperventilating.”
“What’s wrong is fucking Bette Porter. That’s what’s wrong.” I fume at Jenny. “I mean, I think everyone in your movie should be in a podcast with me. Why not try to make it fun? I mean it’s a movie for crying out loud! Entertainment! Hello?”
“She hates me doesn’t she? I think they both do.” Jenny rises up on her tip toes, and looks past me to Bette in her garden. “Tina tries to fake it with me at work, but I think she hates me, too.” Jenny pouts a little.
“Tina just pulled up.” I tell Jenny, as I hear a car door slam. We watch Tina walk into Bette’s living room. Geez, from here you really can see nearly everything that goes on over there.
“Don’t tell me you left her at The Planet again.” I hear Bette complaining to Tina.
“I had some shopping to do, and Kit was glad to see her.”
“Listen, my phone blew up an hour ago with interview requests about your fucking movie. I thought you were taking care of all that.” Bette walks out by her pool with a container of fertilizer. “Alice was just over here, too. Wanting a podcast! Listen! Tell everybody to leave me alone!”
“Ignore the calls. Just do what you always do.”
“Oh? And what’s that exactly?” Bette looks up at Tina as she measures plant food for her flowers.
“I know you have a problem with what I do for a living, and more specifically with Jenny’s fucking movie, but it’s my job, Bette. And it’s paying half of Angelica’s pre-K tuition at that place you insisted on in Beverly Hills – that costs a fucking fortune.”
“Oh, please, Tina. Not the money thing again.” Bette walks away from her. “So bourgeois, so bourgeois.”
“Bette, don’t talk to me like that.” Tina warns. “And listen, after the press conference at five I’m having drinks with a group from WME. The new VPs from Endeavor are flying into town. So, I need you to watch Angelica.
“Sounds tedious. All those William Morris types do is sell flesh. It’s repulsive to me.”
“Bette, can you be more fucking elitist? Jenny should have captured more of this snarky side of your personality instead of …” Tina stops as Bette dumps a gallon of fertilizer on her garden and falls backwards into her pool. Waves and bubbles break the surface above her and the red bucket bobs, and then begins to sink in the pool.
Tina waits for a ten seconds, then some more as Bette sits on the bottom.
“Jesus!” Tina exclaims and then storms back inside the house.
Jenny rolls her eyes up and says, “Ooops. But seriously, nothing new.”
“I’m texting Shane, now. I really need someone to drink with me tonight. Tasha is on some weekend long scrimmage training, or something or other.”
Jenny and I watch as Tina drives away, and slowly Bette walks across her patio dripping wet and then disappears inside her house.
Text from Alice to Shane:
“Where R U? I’m thirsty.”
Text from Shane to Alice:
Text from Alice to Shane:
Text from Shane to Alice:
Text from Alice to Shane:
“K. Call later.”
I jerk my head up when I hear a crash coming from inside Bette’s house. Jenny and I look at each other as Bette yells, “Fuck!”
“Yeah, right. Well, Alice about my interview with you tomorrow.” Jenny skips into her front room, and drapes herself dramatically across the couch. “My agents will have this special area roped off for me after the studio’s presser is over, so, can we do ours maybe, after they all leave?”
“You mean me last?” I squint at her ever so slightly. “How many are you doing tomorrow?”
“Maybe four maybe eight, not sure.” Jenny says as she twirls her hair.
“Uh huh.” I peer out to the garden apartment where Max lives. “I guess I can talk to Max, and see how long he can hang out with the camera. So, we’ll shoot your statements from the stage and then cut in your interview.”
“I’m not speaking on the stage. It’s a studio event and just Aaron and Tina are giving remarks. You know how studios are about writers. They treat us like shit, Alice.”
“Uh huh. Shitty enough so you bought a Porsche.” I walk over to the window. “Okay, finally! Wait. What? Shane’s pulling up in some kind of moving van?” I watch as Shane trots up to Bette’s front door.
“What the fuck! I’m dying for alcohol over here.”
Jenny motions to the refrigerator, “There’s some wine in there, and a bottle of rum on top of the refrigerator. It’s Max’s, but go ahead.”
I take down the rum and put ice cubes and lime in a glass. “What the hell are they doing?” I ask as Jenny and I watch Bette and Shane struggle to push her king sized mattress and box springs into a moving van. With a mighty heave from Bette her bed finally slides into the truck. They disappear back inside.
“God, I never thought of that.” Jenny says as she goes over to her computer, and begins to type. I sip my drink and wait for the next phase of the unfolding show next door. Absorbed, Jenny taps away on her keyboard.
I hear a second crash and then more glass breaking as Bette throws the pieces of her bedside lamps into the trash bin, winks up at me, and walks back inside.
Text from Alice to Shane:
“WTF is going on? I’m @ur house watching Bette destroy her bedroom. What r u doing over there?”
“Tell Alice to mind her own Goddamn business.” I hear Bette calling through the windows, as she drops her blinds one by one around her living room. And before the last one falls she glares through the glass at me and says, “It’s called redecorating, Alice.”
“Wow.” Jenny looks up at me, her eyes somewhat glassy. “Their love nest is really no more. I know it’s a cliche but I have to make it a U-Haul.”
“Of course, you do.” I say before I swallow the rest of my drink and head for the door.
Following very soon will be Chapter 3 of _TOUCH TONES_ The L Word inspired Season 7.
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