The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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(20) Analogous to What? #TheLWord Bette Porter

Bette_Kitchen

Kitchen – Bette – 7:45pm

Waving my potholders at the columns of steam rising from the large pots of boiling water, I warn Joyce. “We need to be careful with this.”

“Already stumped? I knew you were all bluster!” Joyce laughs at me.

“Ah hah! You wish.” I slide a playful sneer in her direction. “Just keep your hundred ready for when you lose, and keep your eyes open for my three-year old.”

Joyce nods, that she’ll be on the lookout for scalded children, then returns to concentrating on perfectly dicing, into pyramidal piles, the cloves of garlic and flat-shaped onions.

She stops her knife in mid air.  “When you’re finished letting all the steam escape, Bette put the lids back on the pots, and come over here, and I’ll teach you a thing or two.”

I clank around a little more than necessary, then I lean against the counter.

From hunched over the chopping board, Joyce peers up at me. “You don’t strike me as a cooking class type, who taught you?”

“Self taught, actually. Try feeding a child, and then eating what they ask for. I think Tina must’ve let Ang eat dried raspberry roll-ups, and macaroni and cheese for dinner.” I throw up my hands, exasperated at the thought.  “Leaving that trap unsprung – on who’s a better Mother – I bought the best illustrated cookbook I could find.” I emphasize so she’ll think I’m a dummy who needs meal plans and pictures.

Joyce takes the bait. “Self taught. Is that a fact? Just so you know, I’m winning this cookoff. You are so going down.” Joyce smirks her sense of certain victory.

Walking over to the bar to refill my glass, I taunt her back. “You talkin’ kitchen smack at me, Joyce?” We laugh. “Just so you know, Chef Wischnia, I’m getting ahead of you over here on the wine.”

“What’s the reason for it?” Joyce looks across the counter at me, as I set her refill down.

She takes a sip, we both do. It’s perfectly delicious. Soon, we need another. Fetching the bottle, I pour us some more.

“I’m a tiny little bit drunk, Joyce. The reason for it?  Reason as analogous to what?”

We leave the hot kitchen for the garden, and standing on my deck, I flashback to my hours in the car to Santa Barbara, and the sound of the fountain in my garden, illuminated by bluer toned lights in the evening, catches my attention.

I remember an enormous splashing water display in the courtyard outside our hotel in Madrid. On the third floor, with a wall of tall windows open, the sudden winds had blown in the curtains, and they’d flown around us like old Spanish ghosts.

Tina had shivered a little in my arms, as we had danced to a tune I’d never heard before, but had instantly loved.

“Should we close them?” Tina had asked about the windows. There was a coming rain in the air. But I’d pressed my mouth against hers and we’d lost ourselves again in an impossible to stop kiss.

Dance kiss Spainish hotel

Her hips against mine – a slow building burn – her arms around me stroking my neck, then down my back, where she’d stop and scratch me every third time. I’d said, but only barely, because I couldn’t stop my lips from hers, “I want you tonight. Do you feel how much?” And I’d lifted her dress up her thigh, and had slipped my fingers past the strip of elastic that couldn’t hold me back.

“You’re so wet.” I’d panted as I felt inside her, then back around her clitoris again — that made her moan.

“I’ll go anywhere with you, doing this to me.”

I’d felt her tongue slide along mine, as she’d wrapped her leg around me. Sliding my fingers all the way inside, her breath had caught in a moan.

“Oooohhh . . . there you are.”

I’d backed out of her, a thing I knew that drove her crazy, and she’d ground against me. Rolling her lips with mine, in a harder kiss, I’d rimmed the edges of her with my fingers – making her beg me back inside.

She’d moaned again for me, and that was our rhythm.  Three beats, three times and then, she’d moved my lips from hers, and opened up her dress giving me her nipple to suck. Her head tilted back, lost in arousal, she’d rocked me back inside her, and had whispered, “Stay. You know how much I want you.”

On my knees, pushing up her dress, I’d thrown her panties over my shoulder, and holding me to her, her legs opening more, I’d licked her in circles, and slipped my tongue inside her licking her deeper — I’d wanted everything.

“God, I can’t stand up any more . . . with what you’re doing to me.”

Falling back on the nearby bed, she’d left herself open and on the edge for me. I’d sucked her clitoris, until it had felt like a hard pearl in my mouth. She had breathed harder, and scratched me behind my neck, as I’d pushed my tongue inside her . . . and had heard another gasp.

She had cried a lovely moan. “I’ll lose my mind with you tonight. You know that.”

Rolling her over on her stomach, we’d made love, as fiercely as animals, letting something wild out.  I’d moaned, “God, I love you!” and had pressed my hips, again and again, into her buttocks until she’d screamed, and released rolling orgasms, throbbing against me deep inside.

Finished now, she had stretched out under me, and had whispered, “I love you,” and taking my hands away from her, she’d drawn my arms over her head. Licking down to my hands, still sticky with her sex. “God, Bette, what you do to me.”

We’d looked into each other’s eyes. Hers with flecks of gold, but watery tonight, as if she were on the edge of tears. “I love you, T. So much.” I had said, then kissed her.

“Bette, you should see your eyes, still hunting for something? I’ve given you everything.”

“For the moment.” I had laid my body on top of hers, and licked deep inside her mouth. “We’ll see.”

Her hand had slipped down my belly and found my needing for her.  She’d opened her legs to me again, and with no more teasing, I’d slid back inside her.  She had let me know with a bite on my neck —  take her again.

“Mmmm,” we had said together.

A slick patch of heat and sweat had appeared across our bellies, and moving me up toward her shoulders she’d rolled me over and taken control.  “Spread your legs wider,” she’d whispered to me, not letting me answer, I’d felt her probing kiss.

The band downstairs had started up another tune, and the plaintive notes had floated up, as Tina had loved me and fucked me right up to the edge. It was then I’d heard –  as I was about to let everything go – the singer’s sad wanting in her song. Tina had coiled around me, and moving back and forth inside me, at that very moment she had made me come with her.

The singer’s wailing need for passion had grown louder, and fast behind my storm of nearly feral need . . .  finally . . . gasping at the soaring end of it — a tremendous wave of final release, we’d held each other, and the lover’s song had ended.

The wind had billowed in the curtains, and lying on my shoulder, as I drifted with the coming rain, Tina had told me stories of witches that she knew had lived in the ancestral woods behind her house, when she was very young.

I exhale a long deep breath that releases me from my memory, and walking closer to the water trickling down the granite rocks from la Costa de España, I think one last sweet, sexy thought about España.

“Spain. Such a beautiful country.” I say to Joyce, and she nods – that Spain was indeed very nice. A jet flew overhead, and Shane called from over my fence, “Hey! Bette are you home?”

“Come over.”

In her cool drag, ripped jeans, draped with necklaces and a vintage rock and roll t-shirt, Shane appeared out of the shadows. “I didn’t know you had company.”

Joyce drinks her last swallow of wine. “I may be company tonight, but I’m their lawyer.”

“We’re out here having a drink. Tina’s gone to the store.”

Shane looks contrite.  “Ah . . . ah, I don’t how to say this, and not interrupt your dinner, but my fucking mother just died.”

“She did what?!”

Shane lets out a long complicated exhale of what, I can only guess, is tinged with more than a little relief.  I quickly hand my glass off to Joyce, and give Shane a hug.

We sway for a few moments, and I feel how very skinny she is. Her bones are sharp along her back. “I know. It’s hard.”

Into my neck she finally says, “I feel so guilty.”

“But you went through all those tests, and were going to do it! That’s crazy.”

“Oh . . . you have no fucking idea how many times I almost dialed that transplant number to say, I wasn’t coming.”

“How many times today, for example?”

Shane looks very guilty.

I nod my head. “It’ll be different going back for her funeral, I promise.” And as I say this, Shane has a frightened look.

Behind me in the house, I hear Tina coming in the door. “One more bag, Bette! Can you get it?”

Jogging inside I tap Shane’s arm. “Sorry about your mother. Stay for dinner, we need another judge.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Joyce putting her arm around my friend’s shoulders, and speaking quietly to her, as they follow me inside.

clam linguineMy clam linguine! In a word: Perfect!

Joyce and I realized that we were a pretty good match-up, and her forcing Tina and Shane to judge the tastings of our culinary prowess, has disappeared.

Tina seems happy there’s a larger, heading toward drunker, impromptu dinner party, but she’s slightly distracted, and I sense her waiting for the right moment to jump in so, I open the door.

“What’s your day been, T? Lots of actors, you know. . . acting?”

It’s then we hear the long strange story of Aaron and his enormous gambling debts and vengeful bookies. “Bette. I’ll lose my job, without a plan. The movie’s a fucking mess with Jenny as the director, and Aaron has lost his mind.”

“Someone has lost their mind.” I arch my eyebrow at her. “Let’s hear it, but first, why not just kill the miserable fucking movie, and be done with it?!”

Joyce clears her throat and pats Tina’s forearm, the lawyer in her. I remember her pats on Tina, when she was brain-washed, and convinced sueing me was some kind of answer. Truly, in my lifetime, who would’ve ever thought gay people would be seeking alimony?

Joyce lays a final pat on Tina. “This could make you both a lot of money.”

“What? Last time we talked – you were waxing on about pre-nups!” I shout back at Joyce.

“Bette!” Tina raises her voice, too. “Who the fuck said anything about pre-nups? I’m talking about taking over Shaolin. It’s my career, we’re discussing!”

I look at Joyce. “You know how much I hate this fucking movie.”

She leans into me. “Tina stands to make a whole lot than more than you, that’s if you stay in the state’s university system.”

That stings. I squint my eyes at them both. Shane leans back in her chair and stretches out her whole length, as if bracing for something.

“Don’t be mad, but Bette we’ll need to wait on the baby . . . just until I’ve gone into distribution . . . maybe a few months after that.”

“So, you’re not really sure?”

“I’m just guessing.”

Joyce slides in. “If the movie does well, I’ll make sure she’s covered.”

“It’s maybe one year, Bette.”

“It’s maybe a few million.”  Joyce drums her fingers a few times, waiting on me.  “Maybe more, if she’s made Studio Chief, and rights the ship.”

“Shane, lips sealed about my plan.” Tina twists at hers, and throws away a tiny imaginary key.

I press Tina back on the ropes. “Can’t you do anything at all? You say the movie’s a fucking mess. What about changes to the story?”

“A rewrite?”

“Yes! And change their fucking names! Tomorrow!”

“Are those your terms?” Tina asks.

I shoot a quick look at Joyce, who in a micro-flash tells me – Press On!

“Do you even know what you look like after watching the dailies?”

Tina cradles her head in her hands. “Like I could puke?”

“Baby, do you really want this job?”

Tina nods her head, yes.

“And you can’t just kill the movie, and be done with it?”

“The movie IS the job, Bette. No movie, no paycheck, no half of Angelica’s tuition . . .”

“Wait! Now, what was that?” I’m really frowning.

Shane slides her arms across to me, and raps her knuckles on the table. “Let her do it, Bette.  Remember when you were out of work, and in your pajamas?”

“I’d like to forget.” I get up from the table, in need of a drink. “I’m opening another bottle, anyone?” Everyone raises their hand.

Shane claps hers down and catches Tina’s attention. “Speaking of jobs . . . my mom died an hour ago. Anyway I can get mine back?”

“Ooof, that’s sad. Are you alright? I mean, you’re here. You’re fine?”

“Shane’s relieved.” I speak for her, now that I’m back at the table with a third bottle. “Also, we have fresh cantaloupe for dessert.” I wave over to the crate from Penny’s estate.

“That’s right. You went up to Santa Barbara today.” Tina picks up the plates to clear the table.

“I did! And I completely forgot!” I jump up , and opening the refrigerator for a bottle of champagne, I shout, “My announcement is . . .” I pop the cork on the bottle. “I picked up a check for twenty million dollars for the Art School’s building fund!”

“You did!” Tina hops into my arms. “Bette! That’s fantastic.”

“Holy Mother of God! Who is this person?” Joyce calls to me from the table.

Reaching up, I take down the champagne flutes. “I’m going to have a fucking hangover tomorrow,  and I don’t even care!”

“You say that now, Bette.” Tina pours herself only half a glass. “But in the morning, you’re going to roll over with a big bad headache, and ask me, ‘why didn’t you stop me?'”

I hand off the bottle to Shane to pour, and pick up my phone. “I’m texting Phyllis right now, and telling her she’s not seeing me until noon.”

“You’re determined to get drunk, aren’t you?”

“I haven’t forgotten your decision. But did you hear me?”

TEXT to Phyllis:

P – Drinking champagne toasts to the 20 Mil. Not coming in early.  -BP

“Put your phone down, Bette, I get it. Now, we’ll toast you. I’ll start.” Tina clears her throat and lifts her glass to me.

“To the most beautiful woman in my life. You are incredible at everything you try and take on.  Anyone would be lucky to have you behind them, like I am, Baby.” She kisses me and strokes my cheek.

I know she’s pleased for me. Then, I begin to wonder – why did she buy those extremely expensive bottles of wine? And  I certainly didn’t invite Joyce over. Tonight – it dawns on me – was about Tina’s announcement.

Our glasses clink in merry tones of crystal, and the champagne slipping down my throat is crisp, cold, and delicious. I hold my glass up for my toast, and I scan past their faces.  Joyce always with a tie at work, a killer attitude, and a mean streak when it comes to law.

Shane, what a great friend to have – even though she’s periodically in terrible trouble with women – blowing up her shit, or ending up half naked on Sunset Blvd billboards.  Yet, as dangerous as she lets things get, and as unwrung and unspooling as her stability can be, I’d want her in my lifeboat. That’s a fact.

Then, there’s my girlfriend.  Always pretty and with a smile for people. You meet her, and you feel the sweetness of her personality.  I did.  I was struck by how open she always felt to me. That, and a willingness to open even more.

“I have a toast,” I announce, and once again our circle lifts their glasses. “To my soon to be wife, I love you.  I know I should support you, be one hundred percent behind anything you ask of me, because we’re always going to do that for each other, am I right, T?”

Tina nods her head, and whispers, “Yes.”

“If what you want is this new job, and without a doubt you’ll be great at it, then, you should go for it.”

“I should? I really should, shouldn’t I?”

I put my arm around her and draw her close. “That’s a lot of shoulds. Do you want it or not? You made it all sound so, ‘do or die’ a minute ago.”

“A few things need to happen fast.”

“Any allies over there in management?”

Joyce clears her throat, and draws up to her full height. “I know Linda Zurnich very well.”

Tina’s eyes light up. “Bette, Linda is way at the top of Shaolin Studio Partners, basically, Aaron’s bosses, our Overlords,”

“I get it. She’s important. Do you want Joyce to put in a call?”

“Joyce?” Tina asks, “What would you say to Linda?”

Joyce rubs her chin a few times before she answers. “I’d tell her that you’re willing to step in and fix this mess, so her people and their people will make money. That you know the project, inside and out . . .,” Joyce pauses for my moaning.

“. . . and you have a very sound production plan, and when can she meet with you?” Joyce finishes and looks pleased with her recitation. “And, if you need to meet out of sight, you can use my office. How’s that for tying it up in a bow!”

“Very generous of you, Joyce.”

“Do you want her to do it? I’m not taking this dilemma into the bedroom, or figuring it out with a slamming headache tomorrow. T, ‘the deciding hour’ is upon us.”

Tina bites her lip, but for just an instant. “Bette, I think I want it. Yes, Joyce, please call her.”

Tina leans into me again, and I kiss the top of her head, and hope I don’t regret saying, “It’ll all be fine. We’ll make it work.”

__________________

If you enjoyed this story, please give me a little tip here at paypal.me/blackbirdwrites.  For $3.00 you’ll be buying me a cup of coffee, $7 is a cold drink I’ll enjoy and $10 and up is dinner.  A comment back from you I’d love, too.Blackbird

_____________

Hope you enjoyed the sexy tale!

All for now, Blackbird


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Secrets I Keep – #TheLWord – (19) Touch Tones

Tina_Phone_ArmLifted_MovietrailersStudio City — Tina

Being neurotic in broad daylight takes energy and resolve and a certain focus to keep moving in order to hide it. Falling into a heap – which I’m teetering on doing now, and continually reminding myself to breathe to keep from freaking – means I’m done, means I never was worthy, means I never got my turn to go for The Brass Ring. Means I never make it to the top of . . .

Hollywood sign - clouds

Hollywood.

I pray that’s not me. A washed out one-race-streaker, who’s let horse’s asses – like Jenny, Aaron, and William – fuck me at the starting gate.

I bite my lip, a facial tic I know I have that betrays my lack of confidence. I need more days to maneuver before Aaron gets his knees broken – one by one – by a giant scary man, The Enforcer for The Bookie, who I hear is coming by on Friday.

On my end of grabbing onto Aaron’s woes, I’d like to catch my Studio Chief sneaking money for himself out of the free-flowing catering accounts, or from transpo, or locations. All places I’ve flagged and know to watch . . . but I want someone to ride shotgun with me. A partner to test my strategies, and run my five-steps-ahead-of-the-game theories by.

I need someone borderline crazy, and evilly smart. I need Bette, but I know she’ll never agree.

Helena_HairBackHeadTilt

It might be Helena.

Recently out of Federal custody, and away from exotic fruit plantations, and Dusty, her jailhouse lover — Helena’s very possibly a wise casting choice for my Hollywood Mobster drama.

My mind dials three lovers back, and Helena’s fuck-out-of-doors, in the most barely hidden, and unusual kinds of places, returns to me in a body memory, I blush at remembering.

Leaving Peggy’s hotel suite in San Francisco one night, instead of the spacious rooftop garden – where I thought we were headed – Helena took me to the edges of the bay, then into a park where a labyrinth was glowing threaded through the trees.

labyrinth - Secrets story

In the maze under the cliffs, at first I’d thought I’d be chilled by the breezes coming off the water. The lights surrounding us had flickered and seemed to swim out in all directions.  My dress had disappeared over my head, and my eyes had closed to the possibilities of hidden onlookers, and I’d given myself over to the rolling spasms of my rawest desires.

Those were the months I’d seen Bette as the most perplexed. Her hating me, but fighting for me anyway, had sent Helena into overdrive, and anything I could dream up – even things I didn’t want – were mine, regardless of the hour.

Maybe Bette and I had gotten what we came for, out of the bloodsport of trying to conquer each other willfully, and as painful as it was, living alone now I had sometimes wondered, if the consuming chaos of Helena, and my elliptical trip to another land with Henry, weren’t spotlights on how my loneliness had replaced our intimacy?  How dinnertime had become TV, how bestsellers by my bedside had replaced sex, and that I’d had about all that I could take, when I’d seen the cracks first appearing between her and Jodi.

First, I’d glossed over any offhanded mentions or any gripes that things weren’t going well between them. Next, I’d gathered intel, and Alice had plotted Jodi’s relationships on The Chart, so we could see the names of her exes fanned out around her own.  Those we’d interviewed for clues.

After a few emails, Alice had compiled our notes, and a picture had emerged, along with a timetable that I knew I could exploit.  Jodi’s, set your clock to it wanderlust – always about six months in – had been confirmed by the many women she’d left behind.  By my calculations, the suggestion to keep their relationship open would be ‘Coming Soon’ to a volcano near me, and I’d laughed out loud all the way home — just thinking about it.

Bette Power suit unhappy NEW image

To have been a fly on Bette’s wall, as Jodi’s sign language and hand gestures had insinuated . . . that her necessary infidelities were coming soon . . . and to have seen Bette’s face, as it had dawned on her that Jodi – the also Alpha-lover – by way of signing with her fingers and otherwise,  intended to fuck someone else . . . to this day, I’m still sorry that I missed.

Yet, I’d worried anyway that maybe they did have great chemistry in bed, or that unbeknownst to me Bette had somehow changed, and possessiveness wasn’t her ‘go to’ leach any longer for control. Maybe, they’d get into threesomes to liven things up, and that image had unnerved me.

They were an interesting couple to be sure. They could’ve certainly pulled it off, and drawn in lots of takers for the sex, and the nude skinny dipping in what I’d still thought of – as my and Angelica’s swimming pool.  Their ménage à trois could’ve gone on for years, with Bette having the time of her life, with her tongue that I had wanted back with me.

Nighttime sky spiral

In my own fog of possessiveness, I’d returned to doubting how the many women, coming and going and coming again – but mostly her sharing them all with Jodi – was really possible in the closed universe of her being The Star, and the only one who could ring her lovers far out past the farthest moons of Saturn, before bringing them shivering back to Earth again.

When my haze had lifted, I was able to see this scenario as never working, and I’d consoled myself that she’d never endanger her sexual prowess, but I’d gone to the Gypsy’s house in Hancock Park, and I’d left there with a Love Charm — just to be sure.

It’s not that I wanted Bette returned to me twisted off and wracked with pain and confusion, but that she would be miserable was step four, and step five would be her home with me.  My plotting – alongside her swings from certain to uncertain behavior – had made me trust in my readings with the Gypsy more and more.

Gypsy's Love Charm Spell

When the spell had been cast, and a piece of silk had been wound around the magical ingredients and tightened, to draw in the magnetism I’d been assured still existed, but was yet to come; I’d secreted the Love Charm behind a zipper in her luggage packed for Big Bear, and had waved so-long with utter confidence, as she drove away.

Since then, I’ve wondered more than a few times, if I should tell her about the Gypsy. Let her know – in words – that I’d wanted her back, just as much as she did in the end? Or if I should let it be, and let it go, and let us roll on with my secret kept for a little while longer?

As I walk myself back through my treacherous steps, and how I’d waited for the right combinations of things to appear in my love life, I’m convinced I have the same cunningness for the movie business. My takeover of Shaolin feels imminent, and I need Joyce for a new contract, and me, and everybody else? Needs to have a little faith.

I stop by the studio canteen for an iced latte, and taking a deep breath I call James. When seven had been inked into Bette’s calendar, Joyce’s battle-hardened gatekeeper, Jean, was my next call.

“Joyce Wischnia’s office, Jean Rawlins speaking.”

“Ms. Rawlins, Tina Kennard calling. It’s last minute I know, but is Joyce free for dinner tonight?”

“Oh, let’s see Tina. She doesn’t tell me everything.” I hear Jean tapping keys, and I have a hard time believing she’s in the dark – for even one minute – when it comes to Joyce’s billable time. “What did you have in mind?”

“Joyce loves which red wine again?”

“Oof! Tina that stuff’s hard to find, and very expensive,” Jean emphasizes.

“Consider me warned. What’s her favorite though?”

“They’re two of them actually. From consecutive years, 1968 and 69.”

Joyce's favorite wine

“Any clue who carries it?”

“At two hundred and fifty dollars a bottle? The Wine Shoppe on Beverly.”

“I’m on it. I have an account there. Can you get her to my house by seven?”

“Yours and Bette’s place, right?”

“God, yes! I’m back home!” I realize I’m shouting. ”Can she come? At seven?”

Jean’s voice sounds amused. “She’s nodding her head, yes, Tina.  So, looks like she’ll see you then.”

Joyce garden - dinner party

Bette and Tina’s House – 7:15 pm – Tina

The closer to three hundred dollar bottle of wine is breathing, Bette is late, and Joyce and I are touring the garden with Angelica. ”Did you know I have a house in Santa Fe?” Joyce asks.

”Did I? No.”

”I was there last month, and I gotta ask you . . . what was Bette’s mother like?  I can’t imagine.”

”Lovely, really. A very talented, interesting woman with, as you know, a very unusual story.”

”No signs of shadowy gangsters disguised as Indians?” Joyce smiles down at Angelica who spins streams of bubbles out of a wand.

Soap bubble - Secrets story

Then one lands inches from me, and I stare into it amazed and whisper, ”Bette’s mother’s an older lady painting in the desert, and friendly with the Native Americans. She fits in.”

”A perfect camouflage!” Joyce booms, which makes Angelica rush up to her, and the bubble bursts.

”Alligator!”

”I don’t know about that.” Joyce laughs. ”Can’t you think of something scarier?”

”Alley-ga-tor! Alley gator took a bite out of Mommy.” Angelica pats her stomach three times.

Inside the house Bette throws open the front door, and Joyce looks at me puzzled. ”That sounds impossible,” Joyce muses, “even for her.”

I wave away my daughter’s indiscretions. ”Should we try the wine?”

”I’m home! God! I’m so sorry I’m late!” Bette calls from somewhere inside.

”Let’s go in.” I motion Joyce toward the French doors that lead into the kitchen.

”The wine’s not the only reason I came tonight.” Joyce lifts up her goblet for a sip.  ”But this is very nice of you. I’m curious what’s up? Wasn’t that her coming in?”

”Actually, I need to talk to you both about . . .”

Bette_Tina CU Atlanta Kiss

From around the corner, Bette zooms into the kitchen with a vase full of flowers for me, and placing them on the counter, after a warm hello to Joyce, she sweeps me into a kiss.

”How are you?! I had the most incredible day! I got a Building Fund check for so much money! ”  Then, she lets me loose, and over her shoulder calls, ”Hang on, there’s more, but wait!  There’s a crate of cantaloupes in the car.”

”Why a crate?” My voice sails out after her.

Leaning against my kitchen counter, with a look of amusement on her face, Joyce asks, ”What’s for dinner? I don’t smell anything cooking.”

Bette kicks back open the front door, and sure enough, she’s hauling in a crate of cantaloupes. ”Joyce, please take some home.” Then to me, ”Baby, I’m thirsty, and I’m starved. What’s for dinner?”

Joyce pours her a glass of wine, and then winks toward the label. ”Take it slow, not your speed I know, but try to savor it.”

Bette blows back a lock of hair from her face, then locks her eyes onto Joyce. ”You do not need to lecture me about how to drink wine.”

”We’re ordering in from Puccini’s. I hope that’s alright.” I fetch the menus from the drawer.

”Puccini’s?”  Joyce opens the refrigerator, and sticks her head inside. ”Do you mind if I see what you’ve got in here? I’m a great cook.”

”Actually, so am I.” Bette opens the door wider, and standing side by side, I can sense between them a developing competition. Joyce tosses a package of uncooked pasta onto the counter, while Bette unloads produce from the drawer.

”What are you thinking Porter?”

”Hmm.” Bette takes a sip of wine. ”I challenge you to a linguine. You can make any kind you want, but mine is clams. What’s yours?”

”I’ll run get whatever you guys want,” I offer.

”You’re on, and you’re going down.” Joyce rolls up her sleeves. ”Tina, one second before you go.  I’ve got a few things for your list.”

________

If you enjoyed this story, please give me a little tip here at paypal.me/blackbirdwrites.  For $3.00 you’ll be buying me a cup of coffee, $7 is a cold drink I’ll enjoy and $10 and up is dinner.  A comment back from you I’d love, too.

Bye for now,

Blackbird


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My New Vodka – 18 – Touch Tones #TheLWord

Kit seated suspcious, not pleased

The Planet – Kit

Backstage one night at The Blue Rose in Detroit, I remember looking out at the audience, a mostly union working class crowd, and thinking how musicians – all coked up, and smacked out on stage – we’re not even the same kinds of people, as those cleaned-up folk who plow through snow and traffic, and suffer God knows what else to work for The Man.

They’re safe, we’re not, but who’s happy?

I mean, who the fuck is happy? I’ve got Miami’s oiled-up white trash so far up my ass. . . meanwhile, across the table from me, Bette steers the drilling I was giving her ’bout getting gut-stabbed by Tina’s psycho sister, to how indignant she is there’s a betting pool on her.

As if I hadn’t put a twenty on that one, a long time ago!

The irritated resident of the planet called, In My Own World, Bette blows out a long, exhausted sounding sigh, and then her phone rings.

Bette_Agent Porter Unhappy on Phone

Betting on them, back in their getting-to-be-besties again stage, was a no-brainer. When Jodi had scooted outa here for New York, and Bette and Tina were exchanging Baby Girl, back and forth across my doorway, I’d watched them hit a smooth gear – and on their best behavior – they’d slid right back into each other.

Yet, there was — that ticking time bomb Bette had gone and lit.

time bomb

Called Jodi Lerner.

It’s as if we’re all impatient to bring about our next crisis and demise, and I for one, have had more than enough of the treachery of it, and how like a madman it’ll take your life.

But continuing on toward stranger and stranger shit, that just happens around here, comes Jenny’s movie that everyone knows is this place. Followed immediately by those two skanky bitches from Miami, just when my liquor sales were startin’ to skyrocket and it was fun goin’ to the bank on Mondays.

high wire cocktail The Planet

Alice had said it, showing off her new bruises from that ill fated adventure with Bette and the fucking sign, “We need something to ride this out, a new drink . . . something with a mindfuck kick . . .  something with vodka.”  And an hour later we’d named it, Altitude Disorder, after Bette and Tina’s highwire act, and I’d sold about eight hundred of them.

The new vodka, Bette and Tina falling back in love, everybody crazy about their sweet baby, and Alice seeding the speculation about the odds of betting this way or that — everybody losing weight but me, and Jenny’s movie and movie stars in here every weekend — we had all held our breath and waited, for the final countdown of Jodi being home. To see who would fall from the heights and into the sawdust of the circus tent, our never ending carnival — the place we insanely refer to as, Home.

The waiter slides a plate of cantaloupe in front of Bette, who’s still arguing over the phone with Phyllis, when I realize something else about my sister.

cantaloupe serving The Planet

She’s one of the fortunate folk. She can turn heads and get speeding tickets and run fast along the edges of whatever she pleases, always with a slightly fuck-off quality about her.

“You want me to drive up to Santa Barbara this morning?” She says into the phone, obviously not too keen on the idea. “Phyllis, are you listening to me?  I vet my funding contacts carefully – who to approach as major donors for the plum spots –  especially for the naming right’s on the art school.”

Phyllis argues back, vigorously.  Then, Bette stabs her fork right into the cantaloupe, and it sticks straight up with a twang, and she shouts, “I need to know a whole lot more than you had a lovely conversation with someone on your flight back from Sacramento!”

With a dramatic roll of her eyes, Bette holds out her phone for me to listen to Phyllis’ answer, which leads me to the other half of her being so fortunate, but so fucking stupid. Who else, on a sunny Monday morning, would argue about riding up the coast, and being entertained by rich people?

Someone from the planet of In My Own World, and a city called, So Not My Idea.

She ends her call abruptly, and the cantaloup begins to disappear. Between bites she says, “Honestly, I know all about the East Indian woman, Penelope de Souza, Phyllis is going on and fucking on about. She’s loaded, she’s generous, she’s gorgeous.”

Then, Bette stops chewing for a moment, and her eyes go into a softer, out-of-focus look.  “Before I met Tina, Penny and I dated for awhile.”

“Who is she?”

“Nothing short of amazing.”

“How’d it end?”

“Not badly. She had to leave for the Far East.  We had an amazing goodbye dinner, and she left.” Bette brushes her hands together.  “Done!”

“Use that.”

A sly smile. “I think I will.”

She leans down and kisses my cheek. “And did I tell you? We want to have another baby. Have I told you that?”

“You thinkin’ ’bout doing it this time?”

“God no! I’ve got my part down pat.”

I frown for a moment, not unhappy about a new baby, but from the memory of Tina’s undertow of postpartum depression.

“I thought you’d be happy with the news.” Bette stares down at me, her purse tucked under her arm, she’s all power suited up and raring for a tangle. “What’s wrong?”

“I told you five minutes ago! I’ve got bad white trash trouble, but I’ll deal with it. You go on.”

“I’ll be back on the road by three. Call you then?”

“Yeah, call me from the road. Now, you go on and get outa here. I’ll think of something.”

Penny profile golden hued background

Santa Barbara – the de Souza Estate – Bette

“You look well. It’s been awhile.” Penny presses the button for the elevator.

“Are we going up, down?”

“This elevator takes us down into my offices. Sensitive stuff, private matters.  Upstairs, we entertain here a lot.”

“I remember.”

“Of course, you do.”

She leads me into warren of rooms, far below the main estate’s mansion. Penny turns to look back at me. “You should’ve come seen me in Hong Kong, Bette. I had this amazing flat that overlooked the bay.”

“I probably should have . . .” my voice trails off as we walk into her office, and I see a very familiar painting from my past.

Penny's office

“You bought it?”

“I did. I sent for it later.” She reaches up and straightens the frame on the nude, that wasn’t hanging crooked at all. “That was such a romantic time.”

“It was.”

Penny leans against the edge of her desk, and motions me to a chair. “It’s ten-thirty, kind of an in between time, don’t you think? Should we have coffee, should we have tea? Should we start on Bloody Marys? Although, I have a lot of work to do today.”

“Did you enjoy living in Asia?”

“Are you asking, if I’m sorry I left you?”

“No, that wasn’t . . .”

But she doesn’t let me finish. Into her phone she orders our tea tray and lifting her eyebrow to me. “Fruit?  Biscuits?”

“Cantaloupe, if you’ve got it.”

“We grow thousands of them here. You must take some.” Penny hangs up the phone. “Where is home now, Bette?”

“This will surprise you!” I hand her my iPhone to see my family’s pictures. “Home is with my fiancée and daughter.”

She sends me a delightful smile.  “Yours?”

“Funny, how that keeps coming up today. No, Tina gave birth to her. I do all the other parts, as best I can.”

“I know what you mean.” Penny flips through more pictures. “I have children. A boy and a girl. Five and three.  He’s like a small tiger.  She’s quiet, with big dark eyes.  They’re both intense.”

“Mine is still blissfully playful.”

“Children change you.”

“Immensely.  Did you ever marry?”

“Two times.” Penny looks sheepishly at me. “It would’ve been three, but I came to my senses, and just walked away –  moved to another country – and that was that.”

“Very much your MO, as I recall.”

“I’m sorry, if I hurt you.”

“I’ve thought of you over the years, wondered how you’ve been.”

“Making money.” She moves around her desk and opens a drawer. “Let’s take the sting out of how we left it.” She flips open her checkbook.  Her pen poised, she sends me a quizzical look. “How bad was it?”

I look up at the nude painting of me hanging on her wall, and send her a sad, but sexy smile. “Oh, very.”

Bette_Painted nails red blouse

____________________

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The Good Sister – #17 – Touch Tones — #TheLWord Bette Porter

Bette - the good sister story image

Outside LAX – Bette

Inching toward the luxury car leasing window, I consider for a moment that no one is here to greet me, how I’m a lone traveler arriving, and that they’re over, over, over all the times when Tina would, without question, be outside waiting for me. I throw up my hands in surrender. “I get it. You’re busy being torn into a million pieces by shooting schedules, and assholes. And yes, that all sounds like it hurts like hell, and is quite miserable, but what if I needed you at the airport?”

That’s what I’d like say if I could get her on the phone, or write above our house by hiring a plane to smoke out my message in the sky.

Please look up from your stupid movie, and  . . .

Cloud women rising

. . . and notice that I’m home.

When we first met, it was her Pontiac that would faithfully appear, and the story of how she came to have it, given to her by a friend in Chicago, who had handed over his keys one night while shouting, “I get it. Go out west! Take my car.”

Strange to think how we really got here.  Sometimes, so strange . . . I dismiss the thought.

Year number two was our trip to France, and if there’s anything better than their delicious food followed by starry nights drinking French wine I’ve yet to discover a more velveteen mixture, so perfectly tuned to falling in love.

As my Lincoln Town car pulls up to the curb, I catch my reflection in its windows. Even after a sordid excursion through Louisiana and Texas I still look fabulous.  I tell the driver my address, point to my luggage, and slide into the back seat. Finally, a person who will do exactly what I ask, and take me exactly where I want to go.

Which is fucking home.

vineyard - grape harvest

Wine country . . . I should take there her again, back to that Inn she loves, and book the suite upstairs that overlooks the fields that go on and on until you can’t make them out anymore.  Back to where we had played along the edges of a burning that seemed to slow dance and sway and brush against itself for two wet and beautiful blow my mind hours, when I had felt it.

One long sustaining note of music had lifted up off its page, and held us together in a kiss that lasted so long — it had finally shot through me like a lightning bolt.

Bette On top tongue kiss

And I was deeply in love.

“God!” A shiver of the memory of it zaps me in the back seat of the Lincoln. I begin a text to James, “Get in touch with that inn in St Helena, and . . . ” but my phone rings and interrupts my orders.

“Shane. I heard you’d made it out alive.”

“Yeah, you too, you know?”

“I do know.”

“So, I gotta fly back in two days, maybe three tops.”

“You’re going through with it?  I think you’re brave. Tina and I both do.”

“It’s the right thing . . . but you guys don’t have to come back next time, okay? It’ll be safer that way.”

A burst of laughter escapes me, and Shane, too.  “So absurd, but I know what you mean.”

The Lincoln glides into my street, and I see her up ahead, pacing back and forth in front of our houses.  I pass the driver a hundred dollars, and he pops open the trunk.

Getting out of the car, a yawn escapes me. “Where is everybody?”

“She went to pick up dinner.”

“Grab a beer, while I change into something that doesn’t smell like alligators and the ass end of airplanes.”

Bette & Tina's Remodeled bedroom

My bags drop at the sight of my own bed, and I fall across my mattress. “I don’t think I can ever leave you again.” I hug at my pillows. Then, I remember the vineyard trip with Tina, and roll over to send my text to James.

Whoosh! Off it goes. “Ah,” I sigh, so relieved, and fall back into the pillows.

Tina and Angelica’s voices are at the front door, and a second later my daughter comes running into the bedroom.  “Momma B saw alligators!”

Then, Tina calls, “Bette? Are you home?” Quickly, followed by her eyeing me from the doorway. “Okay, what was our agreement about boots in the bed?” But smiling she falls down next to me, anyway.

“Angie, what’s for dinner?” I ask over the soft clapping of our quick round of pattycake.

“Cur-ray and I’m having cheese.” She says hugging her soft rabbit stuffed animal.

“You’re having more than cheese, don’t be silly.” Tina gives me a sweet welcome home kiss. “Tonight’s bedtime story for her, not me, must be about alligators. It’s all she’ll talk about.”

I turn to my daughter. “Oh, I saw them alright. They’re very big, with very big teeth!” And I make a scary face. “Are you sure, little rabbit should hear?”

At the bedroom door Shane snaps a picture. “You guys are too cute.”

“Take your jacket off.”  Tina pulls it from my shoulders, and with a surprise from my other end, Shane beginning tugging off my boots.

“Wait!” I begin to flail. “You guys slow down!”

The commotion makes Angelica hop around us on the bed singing, “Alley gators. alley gators, coming to my house!”

I reach out to catch her jumping legs.  “You’re calling them here! What are you doing?”

Tina starts for the kitchen.  “Shane, stay for dinner. It’s curry.”  Angelica hops off the bed, and follows her, still singing.

I pick up my boots on the way to the shower. “With cheese. I hear it’s a popular combination.”

“Okay, I will. Things are weird at my house.”

Inside the bathroom, I begin to pull off my clothes.  “This you’ve just noticed?”

“No, I mean fucking weird.”

“Meet at the pool in ten. Bring beer.”

“Done.”

Shane_Bck_criminal sweater

By the pool – Bette

Shane appears unusually serious. “I keep finding this girl, Adele, snooping around my house. If part of my kidney wasn’t about to go missing, I’d swear she’d try to take that, too.”

“Liver,” I correct.

“Right. Is that worse?”

“No idea. Who’s Adele?”

“An intern who’s wrapped around Jenny, very tight.”

I lie back on my chaise and watch jet trails overhead, so glad not to still be up there. “You would not believe the types of intern trouble I’ve had.”

Shane gives me a slow grin. “Types?”

I lean in closer, and in a low voice I whisper, “The ‘coiled around you’ part, I can relate to.  Let’s just leave it at that.”

We drink beer in silence, and Shane stares over at her house, and frowns. “Pretty sure Tina has to fire me from the movie, right?”

“I would imagine so.”

“Yeah, I’m going to tell her later — I know what’s coming.”

“That’d make it easier on her.”

“Okay, but there’s something else, Bette, I think you need a heads-up about.”

Suddenly, the jet trails overhead start to look more appealing.  “Do I?”

“Yeah, maybe.” Shane balances, as she walks along the edge of the pool. “Kit heard about Tina’s sister, and what went down with you.”

“Alice?”

“Would Tina tell her?”

“Hmm.” I drink some more beer. “What happened, exactly?”

“It got loud when she went to get Angelica.”

I see Tina busy in the kitchen. “I know how my sister gets!” I start to ease up out of my chaise. “So, again we haven’t talked about your job, but what’re you going to do about money?”

“Turn to crime, I guess.”

“Good plan, Shane.” But I wonder, if she isn’t serious.

Tina Chin Crinkle emotion

Ten minutes later –

Tina uncovers the steaming curry and asks me, “Did Shane tell you?”

I sense the many ways this could be a loaded question. “T, would this bottle be good with curry?”

“Aaron has serious gambling debts, Bette. Alice starting getting bits and pieces about it while we were still in Texas, but when I got home, I did my own digging.”

“You call our Inside Man,  Claire’s friend? Wasn’t he once a bookie?”

Tina’s hands rest on her hips. She stares at me.  “Why do I think you never pay attention to things?”

By now, I’m seated at the table, my fork frozen inches above my plate.  “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Forget it. He investigated.  Aaron’s into one bookie for a hundred thousand dollars.”

Shane calls over her shoulder from the stove, “You guys know there’s a betting pool on you. Right?”

“No, there isn’t!” I snap a look over at Tina. “There can’t be! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

Tina close up looking UP

“Probably hosted somewhere on Alice’s blog.” Then, changing the subject.  “Bette, things have gone to shit with your sister.  We may a need another babysitter.”

My eyes widen for an instant, concerned about my vineyard plans. “Shane’ll need a job, won’t you? After you recover from surgery?”

“About that Tina . . .”  Shane begins, and Tina squeezes her hand.

“You know I hate all of this for you.”

Kit seated suspcious, not pleased

The next morning – Bette

Kit’s run up from down and out singer, to queen of her corner of West Hollywood, I played no small part in helping her achieve, but that doesn’t stop her from giving me another you’re-so-busted look, and letting me know — she’s close to done with me.

“You know what you’re problem is?” But she doesn’t wait for my defense. “It’s that you’re always thinking you’re right, you’re the smartest, and it never dawns on you . . . crazy people don’t care!”

“Everyone knows the mentally challenged can be unpredictable.”

“See! There you go again! You’re doing it to me, and I want to stab you.” She glares at me.

“Quit looking at me like that, okay?” I send her back my own menacing stare.

“You’re stupid is all, but I kinda like the sound of your mother.  Seems like she’s got a collar on you.”

“Listen, I was bailing you outta jail, Kit, and pulling you off rooftops before you bought this place.”

“Ha!  That’s your story!  Tell me you’re hearing yourself?” Kit puffs back up again, then quickly deflates. “Speaking of your history of bar fights, those pieces of Miami white trash are all up in my shit again.”

“I’m here to help. You know that.”

“Maybe, I’ll have to send you in to stop me from killin’ ’em.” Then, she adds sadly, “Lately, I worry about you, Sis. You were raised to be the good sister.  Forget that, and we’re all in trouble.”

_______________

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Trust No One – #16 – Touch Tones – Bette Porter #TheLWord

bayou sunset

Bayou Sunset – Bette

As part of my unspoken, but instantaneous demotion from captain to lowly deckhand, I’ve been left with closing up for the night, and the promise of a cold drink when I’m finished. Trust me, I’d like to be finished.

“Where are the rest of the fucking people who work around here?” I ask aloud to no one in earshot, and certainly not my mother or Nellie. They wandered off with the tourists ten minutes ago.

I stick my neck under the cold stream of water spurting out of cooler number three,  that had I dragged off the boat a minute ago. “Oh my God, finally.” My temperature begins to drop, and lying prone on the pier, with rivulets of cold water running over me, I feel the X in relax.

birds bayou sunset

Peeling back my bandage, my slightly crusty stab wound is throbbing at the moment from all my lifting and twisting, and the thought of a pain pill I don’t have slides across my mind. Even with the concern on Tina’s face, while Miss Laredo poured a single malt Scotch over my bleeding gash to sterilize it, there was a silent agreement between us – opting for under the radar barroom surgery meant no police report, and that was the only way to go.

My ears suddenly tune to the sound — somewhere inside this creaking boathouse — of an old refrigerator coming alive.

“If there’s a God, there’s cold beer in it.” And with that hope, wincing as I rise up from the dock, I begin to hunt it down.

bayou boat house latch

“I have the same bad habit,” says the crisp British accent of a blonde headed woman, who appears around the corner of the boathouse.

She nods at my stab wound.  “Of making enemies.”

Startled, I drop my shirt and frown at her suspiciously. “Any beer in the fridge?”

She unlatches the ancient door. “Two vastly different choices, PBR or Banks’s ale from England.”

english ale bayou story

“Banks. Never had one.”

We lean against the boathouse and watch the sun going down.  Finally, she breaks the silence and leans over to shake my hand, “Call me, Savoy.”

“Bette Porter.” I notice her warm strong grip.  “Nellie walked off, calling something back about battening down for the night.  I improvised.”

She drops her captain’s cap back on the steering wheel where I’d left it. “And Mary’s your mum? A lovely lady.”

Savoy door bayou story close up

“I didn’t catch your name,  it was unusual.”

“Savoy.  Every hundred years someone in my family takes a turn at getting tagged with it. I was held upside down, spanked at 2 am one morning, and it was mine.”

Nellie calls to us from the porch.  “Savoy? Bette? Sazeracs?”

Bette_leather Jacket Smiling

An hour later –

After a hot shower,  a much needed Percoset from Nellie,  followed by a cryptic chat with my mother, I’ve entered Nellie’s impromptu dinner party on a mission: Listen carefully and trust no one.

It’s so like my mother, I’ve begun to realize.

Back in our guestroom, she had whispered, “There’s a lot of money here and there in this family, Bette.”

“But surely, Mother, no one’s coming over here to steal it — tonight.” I had emphasized.

“Very astute of you to be thinking that way.  I’m sure you’re right, Nellie would have a safe.”

“Hold on, Mother.  Are you really serious?”  Then, I had pawed some more in my suitcase — specifically packed for Dallas — so not here.

“Bonds, titles to property…oil leases.  Surely, she’d have stowed those papers safely at the bank.”

My blood stained blouse, with the sliced through knife hole, had ended up in my hand.  “Exactly, what’d you think’s going on here?”

“If she didn’t have on nail polish, my guess is we’d see discoloration, and the traces of arsenic poisoning under her nails.”

“You can’t be serious!” I had shouted too loud.

Mother had glared at me. “Lower your voice, and listen to me, if I’d thought you were an idiot, I wouldn’t’ve brought you.”

I had replied in a hoarse whisper, “I’m not a fucking idiot, and change your tone with me.”

We had locked eyes for a moment, until hers had softened, and she had kissed me on the cheek before walking away. “Of course, I don’t think that.”

Nellie seated at cocktails - bayou

Holding court from her couch, Nellie entertains her parlor full of guests. The Mayor, I’ve gathered is her late husband, the Congressman’s political protégé, and his wife, a rotund and mischievously smiling woman, whose eyes dart frequently in my direction, and the quieter, less well-groomed couple, Gator and his wife, Louanne.

In an elegantly upholstered wing chair, Savoy flips through British motorcar magazines, and appears to ignore everyone, including me.

Nellie’s cousin, Evangeline, the mayor’s wife, leans against the bar.

evangeline close up

“What can I get you?”  I ask.

Evangeline laughs conspiratorially. “So, you’d fly to New Orleans without your husband?”

Savoy gives her lips a slight pursing twitch, that quickly disappears.

I hold up a stainless steel cocktail shaker.  “How about a Rob Roy, a Sazerac, a martini, perhaps?”

Across the room, Mother is deep in conversation with Nellie and The Mayor.  Louanne and Gator hang back near the French doors that open onto the porch, as if readying for an escape.

Evangeline calls back to her husband, “Martinis Bud, watch me now!”

His attention peels away for a moment to her, then quickly back to Nellie. “Some days, like the one I had today, I wish you’d run again.” He ends with a sad, then growing sadder laugh.

“What’s the problem, Bud?” Nellie takes his arm, as he joins her on the couch.

“A dirty martini, the dirtier the better,” Evangeline finally decides. “So, what’d you think of our little town?”

“Town?” I shake her martini, then drop in an olive.

“Honey, there’s civilization a few miles from here!  Over where I live.”

Bud’s voice booms from the couch. ”Believe it or not, we need a public decency ordinance to stop, if you can believe it, people from showing off their backsides in public.”

“As if that weren’t apparent.”  Nellie sadly shakes her head.

“As if you’d draw the line at that.” My mother adds.

“As if anybody listens.” finishes The Mayor.

“There went your tiny civilization.”  Savoy cracks in her British accent to Evangeline.

“You are such a snob,” Evangeline sneers before she stomps off.

Savoy slides a look over at me. “Conceit is the foundation of culture, don’t you think, Bette?”

From across the room, Nellie sends Savoy a silent signal — Gator and Louanne need attending.

Then, Mother appears at my elbow.

Maxine bayou story smoking standing blue

“What’ve you gotten, so far?”

“Me? Drink orders. Mother get me a crossword puzzle, or a racing form, or something.”

“How about a bar stool?” She looks around hopefully, but finding none. “The Mayor and Nellie go way back.”

“To where the skeletons are buried?”  I play along.

“Most definitely,” she whispers, “I have a plan for him. So, you turn those special charms of yours on Savoy.”

I rinse out the mixer and fiddle with the liquor bottles,  a deepening frown clouds my face.  Mother taps me firmly on the arm. “Did you not think I meant, now?”

Eyeball sculpture Dallas hotel

Dallas Bistro – Tina

Alice slides into the booth across from me, continuing to talk, as if she’d never left. “This just in. A very interesting piece of news.” Alice looks at me expectantly, and wags her iPhone.

“And…?” I answer her with a slight singing tone — to get on with it.

“Word is: Your guy, Aaron at Shaolin, has a gambling problem.”

“Medium or big?” I think back to his overly long lunches of late.

“Big, or people wouldn’t be talking about it.”

“You, an infamous gossip monger, know better than that.”

“I’ve never liked that word.”

“Two words, Alice.”  I point at her. “Gossip monger.”

“No thanks you’s necessary. Did you hear me? Your picture could be in trouble.”

My stomach descends a few feet to the floor. As much as I cannot say it — ever, ever, ever out loud — career wise, I need this movie.  “I heard you,” I finally admit.

The waitress delivers our wine.

half glass red wine

After a sip, Alice continues. “On the hospital front, sounds like the tests didn’t kill either of them. Shane’s taking a cab to meet us – so ready to get away from her mother.”

“So needed a break from Sue Ellen.”

“By the way, I’m seeing Miss Laredo later.  I’d ask you to come, but…Trouble seems to follow you.”

“No, that’s okay, Alice, but let’s set the record straight. Since I’ve known you  – let’s see – you’ve been flat broke, then had a show on TV — outing people. You’ve been hired, fired, and nearly jailed after your pill head self-destruction.  Most ridiculous though, was when you became a Yoga freak.” I shake my head at her in disbelief.

“Seriously? That Yoga business was all Helena.” Then, her eyes narrow. “But hey, Tina, anytime you’re ready to talk about it — I’ve got a few dozen questions after meeting your sister.”

Bette radar story image CU

Outside Nellie’s House – Bette

I slip out onto the balcony and down fourteen steps, and I’m in the shadows of Nellie’s house.  Mother can’t seriously think I’m going to hit on Savoy for intel?  My mother, the artist, is imagining things. I’m sure of it.

At the bottom of the steps I find a large flashlight, and flipping on its beam, I explore the property.

swamp at night dead white tree

Then, I hear Gator and Savoy’s voices. “How’d it go in New Orleans?” Gator’s cajun accent asks first.

“The lawyer says the BP twats aren’t leaving me alone. No joy there.”

“You know she needs you.”

“I’m not leaving.  They’ve blackballed me in London, anyway.”

“Out there the fishing’s still off. Half my catch’s got oil in their bladders.  Nobody should be selling that.”

“We’re okay, tonight. I shopped in New Orleans on my way here.”

“It’s bad it’s this way.” Gator’s voice fades.

I creep farther back into the shadows, tiptoe up the steps and back into the party.

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

The Dinner Party

As the Mayor scoots Mother’s chair out, she shoots me a look to slip in next to Savoy.

“Nellie’s and Augustine’s dinners,” Savoy says smiling up at the light cocoa colored woman who’s carrying a soup terinne of steaming seafood gumbo, “are always delicious. No restaurant in New Orleans can match them.”

Augustine taps Evangeline’s arm as she reaches for the loaf of hot French bread. “Don’t eat too much, you hear me?”

Evangeline shrinks away, and looks guilty.

Augustine announces the rest of her menu, “After this, there’ll be trout almondine with crabmeat, puffed potatoes and steamed asparagus with hollandaise sauce.”

Nellie ceremoniously taking her first bite, and in seconds, we all dig in.

“Mary,” begins The Mayor after several moments, “you never met The Congressman, did you? He was quite a man.”

“Bud’s entrée into politics.” Nellie explains.

“Me and Charlie, we both came in on his coattails.” The Mayor says.

Savoy whispers to me, “Charles is her son. He served in the State Senate.”

“You must be proud of him.” I inadvertently put my foot right in it.

“Oh! Not hardly?” Evangeline sings out.

Nellie braces her emotions.  “There was a bridge and some missing money and Charles is doing five to ten.”

My mother stares down the table at me, as if I, too, were a convict.  “So sad, to have a felon in the family.”

Evangeline continues my faux pas.  “When is Charles getting out?”

“Bud, you’re taking me. When’s his next parole hearing?”

“Coming up real soon, I think.” The mayor says.

“Don’t forget now, Bud, you’re center stage during The Shrimp and Petroleum Festival.”

I whisper to Savoy, “Not possible. It can’t be named that.”

“Things are very counterintuitive down here.”

Louellen hands her empty bowl to Augustine, who replaces it with trout loaded with crabmeat. “Will you be singing the National Anthem again, Evangeline?”

“Ninth year in a row, I’m proud to say, yes I am!”

Savoy’s eyes sail up to the ceiling.  “Only when I imagine myself with a severe head injury does it begin to make any sense.”

Bette Dark blouse LOOKING down

On Nellie’s front porch –

At nearly midnight, with the old ladies all safely down in bed, Savoy and I share a bottle of cognac.

She lets out a long stream of blue smoke.  “Bette, I looked you up, both you and your mother.”

“I’m happy to say, we’re not after you.”

She blows out a smoke ring.  “Lucky for you.”

“In more ways than you can imagine, but seriously, are you in some kind of trouble?”

“A fucking mess, alright.”

“My mother won’t leave, if she thinks her friend’s not okay with you.”

“She’s not harboring a fugitive, at least not anymore.”

“Go on.” I wait patiently and sip my cognac. The night outside is surprisingly cool with the breezes off the water, and the sky, a deep space jet black and sprayed with a thousand stars.

I stifle a yawn. In an hour, I’ll go to sleep, but not until I hear Savoy’s story.

BP well underwater gushing oil

“For a long time my company lied every chance it could get about the real number of barrels per minute that were gushing out down there.”

“By how much?”

“Tens of thousands and then millions!” She shouts.  “There was fucking oil everywhere. Absolutely, everywhere! I went off my head and called The Guardian, and it wasn’t too much later they started printing BP’s real oil flow, in bpm’s.  That’s barrels per million.”

Then, a long silence.

“That caused a massive shit storm, and I had to run.” Her leg nervously jiggles. “I guess blowing up my life was worth it? Right?”

“Only you know the answer.”

Painfully, she sighs. “Whales and thousands of oiled dolphins and birds still died.”

“Maybe not as many, if you’d kept silent?”

“Fuck, I hope so!”

“I think what you did was brave.” I lift up out of my chair about to announce that I’m off to sleep, when she stops me cold.

“I Googled you. I think I said that.” Savoy begins to laugh, and finally catching her breath, she says, “You are so gay. The stuff I read about you on the Internet! You’re hilarious.”  She wipes her eyes of tears. “I hope you’ll stay longer.”

“I get that a lot, especially from my lawyer. You want my headlines, instead Savoy? You can have them!”

“She’s pretty though, your fiancée.”

“Very.” I smile, satisfied at the thought. “You seeing anyone?”

“Me? No, I’m keeping my head down driving swamp boat tours hoping things will blow over soon.”

“Will Charles get out of prison early?”

“Good Lord! You can’t think I’m interested in him!”

“No, no, forget that!  But is he a good son?”

“Hang on, I’m not too drunk. What was Shakespeare’s line for Othello?”

“I’d embarrass myself, if I even tried.”

“I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains. That’s how I feel about Charles coming home, but I’ll be long gone by then.”

_________

For more of Bette’s continuing adventures in the bayou, stayed tuned for the next post #17 coming soon.

Bye, Blackbird