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 . . .
. . . 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.”
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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