The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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Spotlight

It was late afternoon on board the yacht “My Surprise” when we’d both agreed, it’d been too long since we’d had a date together.  Dancing close,  our hands played and imagined with lover’s signals the many hidden places we’d felt content to stir and dream of finding later.

“I feel very lucky you were free tonight,” I say to my beautiful date, Tina.

“Your sister couldn’t wait for us to leave.”

“She was anxious.”

“We do have a very cute baby.”

“We do.”  I kiss Tina’s lips.  “Are you missing her already?”

“A little, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but I’m glad you’re here.  Alone.”

“Alone…?”  Tina repeats, as if trying to remember its very meaning.

“Hmm…they’ve been times.”

Tina dances closer to whisper.

Smiling at her suggestion, I whisper back,  “I do like you that way.”

She sighs and we dance.  “We’ll miss you if you take this job.”

“Should I turn it down?” I look into her eyes and then, past her.  Where the ocean beats relentlessly against the channel walls.

Before she can answer, Barry, our party’s host and owner of the yacht, “My Surprise”  appears at my elbow. “Bette, they’re calling for us to come below.  Tina included.”

“I’d love to, of course.”  Tina smiles back.

Barry, Tina and I weave through a boat deck of drinkers and dancers to take the four steps down into the yacht’s stateroom.  Waiting on us are three other couples,  the marriage equality campaign’s ring leaders.

Introductions are made and Tina and I meet Nancy and Isabelle, Laban and Todd and Barry’s partner, Carey.  All of whom, after introducing themselves, added the long official names of their elite law firms.

Sangria in sweating pitches of deep red wait for us. Everyone pours a drink.  Everyone is smiling.  It’s a beautiful day and Laban says, “Bette, we’re ready to make you an offer, but we have a few questions.”

“I’m ready when you are.”  Relaxing, with my arm around Tina, I lean back in my chair taking in the well appointed stateroom around me.

 

Laban continues, “We’re very interested in the fundraising work you’ve done.  It’s put you at the top of our list.”

Folding my hands on the table I lean in.  “Everything you sent me I read carefully.  Your polling numbers weren’t as high, as I know you would’ve liked them to be heading into Election Day,  but the relentless negative media campaign from your opposition killed your growth.”

Barry adds bitterly, “Twenty fucking million dollars the Church of Mormon SuperPac spent against us…in the last thirty days!”

Laban says very firmly, letting me know they’re all still in the fight, “Marriage equality is far from over,  but we can’t win against so many well-funded opponents.”

“I can rid you of Fay Buckley.  I know, she’s just one, but I came with a fundraising plan…” I reach for my purse, but Carey interjects.

“I, for one, can’t take the replays anymore!”

Barry releases a long defeated sigh.  “We’re still stinging from our failures, Bette.”

Then the table grows solemn, without another word mentioned about their nationally recognized defeat.

I’d come prepared with a strategy to bring them out of the ashes, but before I can offer even one, Nancy begins rustling papers.

She’s in her sixties, thin and strong like a Yogi, who’s let her long hair go white in braids down her back.  She looks at me with steely blue eyes of Icelandic ancestors and says, “So, we need to talk to you and Tina about your image.”

Tina sputters out a disbelieving laugh, “Okay…, I guess.”

I reach over for Tina’s hand and brace myself for what’s coming next.

Nancy continues, “All of us here, along with everyone else working with us in management, filed for our marriage licenses and made it through the brief window, before the opposition shut it down.”

Laban says, “They were heading for us anyway, but watching thousands of same sex couples getting married put Dobson and VoteYesMarriage on high alert and they got Prop 8 on the ballot.”

He looks back at Nancy, who’s reading through more papers Isabelle has handed her, “You’ve been together for…?” she asks me and Tina.

“Eight going on nine years.” Tina and I answer in unison.

“But you didn’t apply for marriage licenses?”

We shake our heads, no, to a growing sense of disbelief that crowds into the room.

My throat goes dry.

Nancy asks, “But you and Tina did register as domestic partners with the State?  Right? Before you had a baby together?”

Tina drops my hand as Nancy hits another raw nerve, “You filed for adoption, though? You…did…do that, right?”

Waiting for a shred of legal sense to come from me, six lawyer’s disbelieving eyes stare.

Laban adjusts his eye glasses and says, “Why didn’t you take your own and your family’s civil rights more seriously?”

Todd adds, “Bette, it’s not that we don’t like you, it’s just that this job we’re asking you to do….” but he stops as several around the table begin to shrug and shift, “…will put you in the spotlight of a very closely watched civil rights campaign.  This case is headed into the courts and after that, back on the ballot.”

“Which is why I’m here to talk about raising you money.”

Nancy’s already heard too much.  “She’s not ready.  Let’s move on.”

Planting both my hands on the table with a smack, I address the group, “If you’ll give me one minute, with the love of my life who should unquestionably be my wife,  we’ll be right back.”

On the deck, I try to put my arms around Tina, but she’s furious about what happened below.  “Bette! Goddamn you!  You were off with Candace,” her voice becoming shrill, “at the very moment we had the chance to get married!”

Desperately looking around the boat deck I see two options.  First, is the anchor line I could tie around my neck and leap off this boat, ending forever this stupid careless life I’ve been exposed as leading.

My second thought is to have a final shot of tequila before I die.

A waiter passes behind Tina, who’s breathing fast and pulsating with rage.  I snap up two shots, give her one.  They disappear in a flash.

“Bette, we should go…

Any second, I expect to see Tina spin around and break for the exit.

She continues, “…and talk about why?  Why we didn’t fucking care enough!”

I grab the hand of hers not firmly planted on her hip.  “We’re not going home right now, because you’ll never listen to me there.  So, I’m begging you once again,” I plead with her, “and you’ve got to hear me…Dear God!  Tina, you’ve got to hear me! Please.  Forgive.  Me!

But her fingers slide from my grasp. “Baby, don’t….” My voice shreds…unrecognizable.

“Tell me, then! What’s wrong with you?”

I grab the railing to hold fast before I jump.

Instead, I sag against it.  “Fucking so broken.  I can’t understand it.”

“And you think you’re alone?”  She sounds exasperated.

I spin around. ”Do mothers really vanish without a reason?  Do they? I never saw her, you know, my mother.  I was told she was very sick when I came home from school, but do you never see them, again?  Not even to say goodbye at a funeral?”

”Bette, you’ve never told me any of this past you coming home from school.”  Tina’s voice softer, comforting me.

”Did she leave me? Was she murdered? I can’t stand not knowing…”

”Bette!  That’s too far!”

“Arrrgg!”  I grip the railing with all my strength and shake it violently.  “He would sit there in a restaurant and erase you!  Frozen, I’d watch him do it!”

I feel myself about to vomit overboard and unable to stop I heave.

“Jesus Christ, Bette!  This is a job interview!”  Tina pats my back and tries to pull me upright.

I mutter, as I wipe my mouth with my handkerchief,  “He erased me every time he erased you. The woman I adored and wanted to marry.”

Out of my incoherent misery I hear Tina’s voice. “I knew we couldn’t, as long as he was alive.  Bette, I knew that.”

“Goddammit!  I’m not a fucking coward.  You know I’m not!”  And a feeling of steel shoots up my spine.  My eyes flash!  I pull her into my arms. “Be engaged to me!  Say yes!”

Her arms fold around my neck and we sway together at the railing.  “It may take years to get the final piece of paper.”

“Are you saying, yes?”

“I’m saying yes!”

“Thank God!” I smack my hand against the railing.  “I fucking swear to you, Tina, my heart couldn’t feel any more married to you.”

“Stay that way, Bette, and we’ll all be fine.”

“I will.” I slice my arm with finality.  “But I want revenge though.

My anger burns.

“For us, for everyone who’s ever been shamed and told their love was wrong.”

 

Tina walks ahead of me as we trot down the stairs back into the stateroom with six lawyers.  My eye catches a still life of figs on a beach.  I pause for a moment before turning around and saying, “Being humble in a business meeting, admitting how ineptly I’ve handled legalizing my life with Tina’s and our child, it’s true. I’ve been out of step, remiss and as I’ve said, inept.

“We appreciate the few minutes you gave us to talk privately about where we were back then…surrounding circumstances….the reasons why we didn’t act, when you and so many others did.”

I cross my arms across my chest, beseeching them, “Please understand me. I do care about the wounds inflicted by prejudice.  They’re in me, too and I’ll use the passion I have to raise your money.  I can help you.  I know how to raise money for this.”

The mood in room makes a slight shift.

Tina motions me to the empty seat at the table.

Laban says, as a nearby printer begins churning out legal documents.  “While you and Tina were up top, we put together some material from the State.   You both should read these.”

I hold out my hands, incredibly grateful.

He shrugs it off good-naturedly,  “Bette, I’m mean there are six lawyers in this room for Christ sake, what’d you think we’re going to do with our spare time?  Print out contracts, of course!”

Tapping them together he scoots one stack over to me and one to Tina.

Todd explains as we read, “The top one is for domestic partnerships and then,  you file Bette’s adoption papers, after you get your confirmation back from Sacramento that you’re registered as domestic partners.”

Tina says, “So, you’re saying wait on the adoption papers?”

Nodding Todd says,  “First, you submit to the State of California that you’d like it to recognize you as domestic partners.  Then they write back with their acceptance of you and Bette as a ‘special class of persons’ under their domestic partnership laws.  To them you are stating:  You are two women, agreeing to commingle your lives, money and assets and you are asking that the State recognize you that way.”

Tina takes a fountain pen out of her purse. Looking at me she asks,  “Right?”

I motion for a pen.

An elegant gold writing instrument, light years past a pen, rolls down the table to me.

I look up and see it’s from Isabelle.

Carey taps the table in front of Tina. “Give them to me with the filing fee of thirty-three dollars and I’ll deliver them to the Secretary of State’s Office.”

“Thank you,” Tina says continuing to write.

Reading down the form, I mutter, “I’m sure we could mail them….”

“You could, Bette…”

I stop reading and look across the table at him.

“…but I work for the Secretary of State so, I’ll hand deliver them for you.”

I know I’m good hands.  “Thank you so much, all of you.  When would you like me to start?”

 

Later that night, Tina puts my arm around her waist and draws me tight against her back.

“You’re an exhausting woman, Bette.”

I take that as my cue to distract her.  Rolling my tongue around her ear, I whisper, “Earlier, a piece of me turned into a smoldering pile of ash, if that’s any consolation.”

“I saw it,” Tina says, rolling over.

“On a yacht, where I got a very nice job, and we got engaged.”

“Exhausting sometimes was my point.  Were you considering jumping overboard? I saw a crazy look in your eye.”

“I really did. Wrapping the anchor around me, too.”

“Oh Babe.”  She hugs me. “We all have horrible ghosts, but they’re never real.”

“Ghosts.”  I stare up at the ceiling.

Tina’s fingers play up and down my belly.  “Not real, Babe.”

I bury my face in Tina’s neck. “I’m so lucky to have you.”

_________

TBC

 

 

 

 

 


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The Messenger

 

Stowing my bike in the garden shed I notice how quiet it is at the back of my house.   The goldfish in the pond circle in the dark water. Overlooking them is the the statue of Kwan Yin I gave Bette for her birthday two years ago.  In the distance, a jet plane gains altitude before veering south, leaving a long vapor trail behind it.

Where is everyone?

I peer around the corner of bamboo and see Bette’s arm dangling loose over the side of the hammock.  On her chest, Angelica makes baby blubbering sounds, soft enough not to stir Bette from her sleep.  There’s a conversation I want to have with her, but immediately after waking up is never a good time to ask Bette life-changing questions.

I consider my approach.

Her objection to marrying in another state, saying it just didn’t feel right somehow, since we’d always live in California and we’d felt sure it would be legal soon, had been fine with me at time.   Now, it’s not.  I feel differently with a baby.  If I were to die tomorrow would she have any legal rights to our child whatsoever?  That thought stuns me and I wonder why I’d never thought of it before.

Perhaps, because getting pregnant, especially on the west coast, where LA’s very sexy culture had led me to believe – if I’d ever wanted sperm it would rain down from everywhere and I’d call a number and get pregnant.

That turned out not to be case when you have a very picky partner and I hadn’t help matters much either.  There’d been a very definite ‘ick-factor’ about it, and I’m not just talking about the sperm, which, thank God, I’d never seen.

Bette, on the other hand, had developed an obsession with the millions of ‘thems’  she’d affectionately named, while writing out her check, her surrogate swimmers.

Swimmers for short.

“Swimmers is a good name for them,” she’d said one night during her preparations for our candlelit encounter.  One of several she’d designed for my fertility process.  Adjusting her magnifying glass, she’d marveled, “Tina, I think these guys are going to do the trick.”

“Bette, please don’t ask me to look at them again.” I’d shielded my eyes, knowing I needed to get into the mood for their ‘insertion’ if this were going to be at all pleasurable and not just plain weird.

“I won’t.”  She’d laid the sperm-loaded vial on the bedside table.  “You look beautiful.  Come here.  I like your nightgown.  It’s new?”

“I don’t know why I bought it.  If this works…”

“Tee, I’m telling you, what’s in that vial is ready.” She’d pointed proudly back to the much heralded sperm.  “Are you?”

“…I’ll get too big for this.  That was my point.”

“Point taken, as they say in bridge or wherever.”  Then she’d gotten up from the bed, poured us both a glass of wine and while sipping hers,  she’d stared deep in thought out the window at the pool.

Around the room she’d already lit large candles and as she’d walked by me I’d noticed the scent of her favorite perfume.  A fragrance that had married tones of violet, iris, and Bulgarian rose.  It had been designed for Grace Kelly by the Prince of Monaco.

“I’m catching myself wanting everything to be perfect.”

“Babe, I know you have a whole thing about the swi…”

She’d spun around.  “Swimmers!  Still! You just don’t get it!  I don’t want to carry the baby, but I want to be a part of making it and….”  She’d grown more exasperated, finally begging me to understand, “I know I can’t make sperm, Tina, so, work with me here.”

“And do what?”

“Fuck!” She’d thrown up her hands.  “This shouldn’t be about me!”

“Funny how that happens…sometimes.”  I’d sat on the bed and drummed my fingers on the quilt.  “Bette, what’s wrong?”

 

 

“I have to talk to the sperm again, because we’re partners in this.”

“Okay…they’re swimming around right over there, but I’m going to the kitchen while you do that.  Need anything?”

She’d hopped very fast across the room and had caught me.  “No!  We need you with us.”

“Oh please, no.”

“Tina,” she’d said, kissing my lips softly, “they have the most amazing tails.  I’m very impressed with this group.”

“You talk to them, then.”

Turning off the bedside light she’d sat me down on the bed.  The room had flickered with candles and blue-toned reflections from the pool.  She’d lifted my nightgown in a whoosh over my head.  “Come under the covers,” she’d said, while kicking off her pants but leaving on her tank top.

“Why are you half dressed?”

“I just am.  I’m concentrating on down here.”  She’d stared at herself.  “It’s a mindfuck, I know.  I’m very aware that I don’t have a penis, but inside you tonight…you need to think so.”

I’d nodded very seriously. Whenever Bette gets very abstract like this it’s the worse time for me to laugh.

She’d continued, with slow waves of her hands conjuring up invisible power from her loins.  “My mojo tonight is about mating,” she’d said very passionately, “…with you.”

“Hmm, so that’s what we’re doing?”

“God yes!  What do you think we’re doing?”

“Alright.  This is quickly becoming more about your mood than mine.  If we’re going with mating you need to wear something else.”

“Oh?”  She’d looked surprised.  “Like what?”

A few minutes later, I’d dressed her in a sexy black brassiere with her buttons opened halfway down the front of a long-sleeved and collared white shirt.  I’d rubbed the soft cotton on her back, and under it I’d felt her sculpted muscles.

“Have you seen what I’m feeling?”

“The mirror’s always foggy when I get out of the shower.”

“I don’t think you’re telling me the truth.”

“You like them?”

“Mmmmm….”  I’d kissed her again, as she’d opened my legs and her mouth had consumed me.

Later that night, I’d rolled over and seen her staring out the window again.  Not her usual contemplative spot, looking up at the ceiling, or as she dismissively likes to call it, ‘doing nothing at all’.

I’d felt the power in what we’d just done.  It’d been passionate and intimate and I’d been so ready, when she’d drawn me into her lap, had brought me one more time to orgasm and filled me full of sperm.

On many more nights, after we’d known for sure that our evening together had made a baby, I’d seen her at the window holding a piece of amber up to moon.

As gently as I can, so as not to wake Bette, I lift Angelica off her chest and tiptoe inside.

In the nursery I rock and feed Angelica while calling Helena.

Instead of saying hello, she answers my call with, “Are you nearby?”

“Helena, we’re talking on the phone.  I have no idea where you are.”

“Right.  Good point.  You’ve been entombed with Bette and your new baby.”

“And…your point?”

“None, you rang me, remember?”

“From my tomb, according to you.  So listen, I need to know something and I can’t use Bette’s computer.”

“Shoot.”

“Do you know anyone who’s gotten married in Massachusetts?”

She sniffs officiously at my question. “I’ve been a guest at many of the Kennedy’s and Shriver’s weddings.”

“Fuck!  I mean recently! Since they made it legal for gay people.”

“Oh that!” Helena says. “Hang on a minute, Tina, I’ve got two shopping bags, my purse and Alice is handing me a coffee.”

“No. No. No.  Don’t say anything.”

“Hi Tina!”  Alice’s voice comes on the line at the moment I catch my reflection in the nursery mirror with a huge ‘Oh Fuck!’ look on my face.

“We’re at the Bev Center a few minutes away.  We could come over and see the baby.  Have you seen the baby yet, Helena?” Alice asks, dripping with innuendo.

“Don’t come here.  I’ll meet you.”

 

 

Thirty minutes later –

Threading my way through the crowds of shoppers at the Beverly Center I search for Helena and Alice on the second tier.  I know Alice can’t keep a secret and soon this marrying in Massachusetts idea of mine will get out. I do want to talk to Bette about it.  First, I need background and intel.

Once they’re in my sights we wave and head straight into the Apple Store.

Side by side we line up in front of the latest wizardry from Apple and begin to type in the search words  “gay marriage Massachusetts” to see what we find.  The website for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pops up and the first link I click is, Apply for Marriage Licenses.  When the page loads with their state flag waving next to a rainbow one I sigh with tremendous relief.

Alice says, “I’m ahead of you searching for wedding reception venues, just promise me not the Boston aquarium.  Lots of slimy fish, zero sex appeal.”

Helena adds,  while tapping her screen, “You could marry on the Cape and honeymoon in P’town for a few days.”

Alice warms to the idea of ruining my honeymoon. “Helena, look at renting one of those big summer houses on the Cape.”

“Not so fast.”  I point to my screen. ” This is not looking good.”

They abandon their searches for “vacation rentals in Provincetown” and crowd around me.  I shake my head as I read aloud, “Says here you have to be either a resident of Massachusetts or from a state that hasn’t explicitly written into its laws that same sex marriage is illegal.”

“Fucking Prop 8,” Alice cries, “just did that!”

“Oh! Goddammit!  We can’t do it there.”

Helena says, “Tina search for when the next balloting is.”

Alice, seeing me near tears, comforts me, “Bad news, I know. What she’s saying is, when’s the next time we vote on it?”

I brush my tears away. “Let’s see. Okay, here’s Lambda Legal’s site.  They’re all over it.”  I scroll through the articles with flashing rainbow donation buttons on every page.

Holding my head in both hands, I groan at more bad news. “Not until next year!” I say, sinking down on both elbows.

Helena counts off on her fingers, while Alice rescues Angelica from crawling off the edge of the computer table. “Well, technically two thousand and ten begins in four months.”

“She’s right,” Alice agrees bouncing with the baby.  “I’ve seen GLAAD headquarters and the Lambda Center both, right on Main Street in Santa Monica.”

“There’s one on Sunset, too, nearer to us.”

“Okay, I’m feeling better.”  I say, reading through the site. “Look at the size of their rallies.”

“And the size of those…” Helena turns my screen to get a better look at a beach volley ball line up of women in bikinis.

“Forget the Cape, Tina!” Alice says, as her eyes widen and we look at more and more pictures of parties.  “These look like the die hard Happy Hour organizing types.”

Helena looks at her Cartier tank watch. “Well, it is almost five.”

One hour later –

At six o’clock I send Bette, what probably comes across as a drunk text, my photo and “Join us!” with the address.

Around me, Angelica is having the time of her life, being passed around the GLAAD headquarters, as the cutest mascot – ever – for the same sex marriage cause.

At six thirty, wearing a long-tailed denim shirt smeared with watercolor paint over jeans, Bette appears in the doorway of the bar I’d migrated to, along with twenty of my newest friends.

She settles across the table from Helena.  They eye each other warily.  The waiter appears with more Rolling Rocks and Bette takes a swallow, before turning her attention to me.  “So, it’s Tuesday night and now, it’s a party.  What’d I miss while I closed my eyes for ten minutes?”

A man in a bright orange shirt with a matching mohawk delivers Angelica back to our table.

“Thank you!” Bette says, examining her for rainbow markings and unauthorized tattoos.

“Bette,” Helena begins tentatively, “your baby is lovely and I’m truly happy for you.”

“We’re a little behind on Thank You notes, especially for the gift you and Peggy sent.”

“You can’t go wrong at Tiffany’s.”

“No, you can’t.”  Bette turns her attention to Alice and asks,  “Are you doing a story about…” she looks around the crowded bar, “whatever this is?”

Alice sweeps her arms to encompass the boisterous room. “Welcome to the front lines of California’s next fight for gay marriage.”

“It is?”  Bette says suddenly taking an interest.

I lead her out of the bar and down the street.  Standing outside the GLAAD headquarters we peer inside at the chaos. “I could organize the hell out of this campaign. I wonder who’s in charge?”

A harried thirty-something man, his arms overburdened with paper, walks outside, nearly spilling a stack of leaflets on the sidewalk.

“Whoa! Let me help with that,” Bette says, stopping the leaflets from falling.

Pushing his glasses back up his nose he recognizes her, shouting,  “Fay Buckley!”

“Fuck no!”

“I’m…I’m so sorry,” he stammers, “I meant we all watched you skewer her on TV.”

“Oh, that.”  Bette’s shoulders sag a little and she turns to walk away.

He calls to her, “She’s on us, now, Fay Buckley is. I’m sure you’ve seen her all over the news, campaigning hard against us.”

Bette peers back through the windows of GLAAD’s headquarters.  “Do you guys have any money?  I don’t come cheap, but I’ll fucking destroy Fay Buckley for you.  I’ve given it quite a bit of thought.”

 

_________________

 

TBC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#6 Touch Tones: Meeting Maxine

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“Good morning, Baby.” I awaken Tina as I settle her coffee mug on the bedside table. She rubs the sleep from her eyes and smiles up at me.

“Hm, smells so good.” She scoots up on the headboard and lifts the cup to her lips. “What time is it, Bette? Did you let me oversleep?”

“Is eight oversleeping? How’s your head this morning?”

“I’ll be okay.” Tina smiles. “A few pinches here and there behind my eyes I’m noticing,” She shakes out two aspirin and then swallows them with her coffee.

I settle back into bed next to her. “But no throbbing?”

“No, you took care of all my throbbing last night.” Tina winks at me.

I smile. “There were a few but nothing I couldn’t handle.” I laugh softly and then stretch out next to her and yawn.

“So, we like the new bed, do we?” I ask hoping our christening has made it so.

“My foggy memories tell me we liked everything about it.” Tina agrees before closing her eyes again and wincing slightly.

I lift my arm so she’ll slide across next to me. “Come closer, T, I have something I need to talk to you about.”

“Babe, I promise you we can live our lives now. Claire did her job, Josh did his by spearing Jenny between the eyes, and you did yours masterfully.” Tina lists then leans against my shoulder. “I think we’ve done all we can do for the moment.”

“Tina, before you go to work today will you do something for me?”

“Anything but the pool,” she says as we both look out our bedroom windows to the garden and the water’s surface beyond. “I can never remember the right combinations for those tablets, Bette. I might turn it green again like last time.” She warns.

“It’s not the pool, Baby.” I kiss the top of her head. “I’d like for you to be here when I call Mary Windhorse this morning. Any questions you have let’s ask them together.”

“Okay,” Tina answers with a thoughtful tone. “When do you want to call her, Bette?”

“Soon.”

 

Mary Windhorse Home Ext

Home of Mary Windhorse

Skype Call – Bette

Tina’s morning routine has been the same as long as I’ve known her. While she has upon occasion caught me still sleeping and been the one to bring our first cup of coffee back to bed the rest of her movements between that cup and the breakfast table on any given weekday morning my guess are still the same.

Unlike me who showers and then goes into my closet still wet and dripping to figure out what to wear that day Tina does exactly the opposite. Before she baths she has in her mind exactly what she’s putting on. As I dial the Skype call I can tell by the sounds coming from our bedroom very nearly to the minute how long it’ll be before she appears behind me dressed for work. I don’t have long.

“Mary,” I say as the older Indian woman appears on screen. “Good morning, I hope it’s not too early to call.”

“Not at all, Bette. I have roosters,” she smiles when she sees my expression. “Don’t worry, your mother has much more sense than I do – no roosters at her place. You’ll sleep fine.” She laughs.

“About that.”

“Roosters?”

“Not unless that’s code for the Mafia.”

“Ah, so you know, then.”

“I know some. I couldn’t sleep last night and looked on the web. There was nothing the week Maxine disappeared, but the week before and after there were plenty of strange goings-on in Philadelphia.”

I continue. “First, a significant art heist from The Isadora Museum’s Rare Masters Collection followed six days later by the Feds raiding a farm owned by a Gambino Family Captain, Anthony Coccioni, south of Philly. Then nothing else in the papers. That was it.” I look into the screen for answers. “No more mentions of the FBI raid at the Gambino compound or the Fed’s ongoing search for the rare paintings either.”

“Bette, your mother wants to be the one to tell you her story.”

“Trust me when I tell you I want to hear every word of it, too, but I have a fiancée and we have a child. She needs to hear where the bad guys are now, and why you and my mother think it’s safe to poke your heads out now.”

I hear Tina coming down the hallway. “Tina are you ready? I have Mary Windhorse on the Skype call.”

 

Tina_redVneck_inKitchen listening

“I can hear you both from the kitchen.” Tina says as she slices peaches for breakfast. “Good morning, Mary, this is Tina.” She calls from behind the counter.

“I was telling Bette the new rooster woke me up earlier.”

“You live on a farm?” Tina asks.

“Ranches we call ‘em in the desert.” Mary corrects and then breezes on. “We have you flagged on Google and your names came up this morning. Your mother and I were just talking about you earlier.”

“So, she gets up with the birds, too?” I ask.

“It’s nearly ten here. We’re mountain time.” She points behind her out a window where a clear desert morning is in progress. “I talked to her a half hour ago. She was on her way out to the desert to paint.”

“Mountain time.” I acknowledge. “Yesterday was a long day.” I rub my forehead and reconnect my thoughts to the events at the soundstage. I look toward Tina busy in the kitchen. “I haven’t even looked at what eventually came out about us in the Press.”

“Your mother’s words were that you and Tina make a very attractive couple, and of course, she knew Gloria years ago.” Mary adjusts her seat and presses forward for a moment and elongates into the screen. “Another long story.”

“I’m pleased we’re favored, then. That’s a relief I hadn’t had the time frankly to be anxious about.” I look quickly up to the ceiling before focusing back to Mary with a big smile. “And I’m excited, really tell Maxine this please, that Angelica has a grandmother!” I finish in a hurry.

“Good! When are you coming?” Mary adjusts her long grey braid back over her shoulder and looks eagerly into the camera.

“We’d like to come on Friday, this Friday. But we have some questions, first,” I say as I look over at Tina who regards me with a curious look. I mouth silently at her, “It’s been thirty years.” She shrugs her shoulders and nods she gets it.

I focus back to Mary. “So, I searched the web for the rest of the year that Maxine disappeared but by then it was 2 AM and my brain was fried from pictures of mobsters I saw while searching for Gambinos and Philly’s major crimes in 1979.”

“I know the feeling.” Mary replies with a doleful expression. “For years the marshal’s kept a board in your mother’s home and updated it with the most dangerous ones still at large.”

Gambino Org Chart Maxine's trial

“A constant frightening reminder,” I add grimly, as I watch Tina walking toward me. “The crux of our question, because it’s getting on toward 9 AM here, and we both have jobs,” I glance at my watch “is our family’s exposure to any danger.”

I feel Tina walk up behind me and rest her hand on my shoulder. “Mary, are they all dead? Or in prison? The men who wanted to kill Bette’s mother?”

“The captains were all older men at the time of the art theft, and that as you may have guessed led the Feds to raid that old farm you mentioned, Bette. That’s where they found your mother.”

“As what? An unwitting dinner guest at a mafia don’s shoot out?” I ask baffled.

“The specifics are for her to say. I can’t go into them. But she was an “unwilling guest” which matches the tone of your question.” Mary sighs heavily before she continues. “She got tangled up in all this at the liquor store.

“Out of the twenty-five that were very dangerous back then while in control of The Family there are only three left living. And they are very old men now locked up in a high max prison outside Lexington, Kentucky.”

I feel Tina squeeze my shoulder as she leans back down to the camera. “Mary, we have a two year old nearing three. She’s a very sweet girl but does four days give you all time to prepare and kid proof the coffee tables and low shelves before we come in for the weekend?”

Mary stares back at us seriously and crosses her arms. I nervously clear my throat as she transforms into a stern Native American elder. “I suppose I could convince your mother to remove the peyote buttons and pistols from her coffee tables.” She finally says and doesn’t blink.

Tina’s hand grips my shoulder as she whispers, “What the fuck?” into my ear.

Mary begins to laugh. “We’re a couple of old grandmothers. We know what to do. And I was kidding about your mother. Sort of.” Her voice trails mysteriously at the end.

“We live in the western desert now ladies. We have guns cause we have rattlesnakes and rabid coyote and wild dogs. Any number of dangerous things can run up on you out here.”

Tina rolls her eyes up to the ceiling as I continue, “Before we fly to …” I pause to hear our destination and know Tina is listening, too, with the ears of a mother.

We both exhale in relief when Mary finally says, “Santa Fe.”

I feel a tightness dropping from my face. “I’d like to run the remaining names of the mob by our attorney and if it all checks out to our satisfaction then we’ll be there in four days.”

“Write these four names down, Bette. Are you ready?” Mary asks. “Salvador Galliano, “Sammy the Bull” they called him. Anthony Cagionetti, “Tony The Cage”, and Lou Bangeleo, “The Hammer,” and the place your mother was when she got caught up in all this?”

“The farm, right?”

“No. Not at the beginning.”

“No?” I ask.

“She had gone to the corner liquor store to pick up a bottle of chianti when it got robbed. The place was called, Little Tony’s, who by the way was shot that night, and one last thing.”

I look up from my pad as Mary finishes. “We think the fourth Gambino captain is in WitSec but we’ve never been 100% sure.”

“Little Tony? You mean “dead” like Mother was dead?”

“No, I don’t mean Little Tony, at all. I mean the fourth one that the trial notes and the marshals never say anything about. The fourth main Capodecina, Jimmy the Stone. The Feds claim he was killed at the farm raid that saved your mother’s life.”

“Okay, shoot.” I wince. “Bad choice of words. What’s his full name? I’ll put Jimmy the Stone down, and then Joyce will run these four names on her end. Tina and I will talk about this tonight and I’ll call you by tomorrow, no later than the evening. It might be from the car though. What’s your cell phone number?”

“Service out here is off and on terrible, so be warned. And I don’t need or want a Sat phone so don’t even recommend it,” Mary says. “My number is, 505-799-0444 and your mother’s is, 505-799-8313.”

“Tina, Baby? Do you have anything else for Mary?” I turn my head and kiss her hand that still rests on my shoulder. She bites her lip but smiles it away. She shakes her head, “No” as she rubs my shoulder.

“Bette, I know you’re anxious to talk to your mother. You and Tina do what you’d like. Phone her, too, if you want to now that you have her number, but I know she’ll begin to plan it all out in her mind the second I tell her you’ll be here on Friday.”

Bette Dark blouse LOOKING down

“Let her know I’m thinking about her, too.” I say softly.

Mary continues, “Think about letting her surprise you, then. Call me back with the details about your flight. Maybe don’t call her just yet.”

I smile back at the screen before I sign off. “I understand but her number feels good to have. I’ll leave it at that.” I tuck the paper into the pocket of my jacket.

The screen changes back to the Skype logo as the call ends. Behind me Tina says, “I loved The Godfather films, and you know how we all were when The Sopranos were on HBO.”

I twist my chair around to face her. She rests her hands on both my shoulders. “And the poker games afterwards?” I add with a smile.

“But to hear those men’s street names just now, Sammy the Bull and Jimmy the Stone, creeped me out, Bette.” Tina puts her arms around me as I stand up to hold her.

“Baby, I agree. They’re monsters. Let me assure you, I know that.” I whisper to her.

“See what Joyce finds out, Bette. This is huge for you. I get that.”

I look down at my watch again. “I’ve got my next ninety minutes planned, Tina. I hope you’re nearly ready.” I point toward the front door.

“First, we go to The Planet and get our baby, then I drive you to work, and take Angelica to daycare at school where finally I’ll sit down at my desk just in time to get up again and attend a tedious Faculty Luncheon I stupidly scheduled the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.”

“Does that mean you’ll see Jodie?”

“And Tom. Don’t forget about him. I’ll get double-daggered glares from them today, unless they do their other move.”

Tina laughs at me. “Which is?”

“Ignore me completely like I’m an uninteresting piece of stone.”

”She’s a sculptor, Bette, she probably has some kind of diamond-bladed rock saw for that.”

“Actually, the Art Department just bought her a laser for those stages of shaping but your point is taken. I’ll watch my back.” I lean in and we share a lovely kiss in the kitchen. “I love you and I’m so glad you’re here. Home with me.”

I hear the soft buzz of a hummingbird’s wings as Tina and I begin the last kiss before starting a very busy day. I open my eyes to see the tiny green bird hovering a few feet inside my kitchen door. He dips down a few inches then quickly rises higher before turning and zooming away.

Bette_Agent Porter AIRPLANE seat

Four days later –

Burbank Airport – Friday 6 PM – Bette

“What do you mean you’re not coming with me?” I ask astonished into my phone while pacing back and forth at the gate of the commuter airline that jumps from LA to Santa Fe every morning and afternoon.

Tina’s voice sounds tense at the other end of the line. “I can’t make it tonight and your head would explode if I told you why so don’t ask me. There’s a flight tomorrow morning at nine o’clock and Angie and I promise to be on it.” I hear as I continue to stare disbelieving into my phone.

When no words for my confused state of mind come to me Tina finally says. “Call me later, Bette. You know I’m sorry.” And then she hangs up.

Once on board I settle back into my seat and try to adjust myself mentally to the significant alteration of my evening’s plans. Arguably a key night, a peak experience in my life is now happening without her.

Unsuccessful at feeling remotely good about Tina staying tonight in Los Angeles while I fly eight hundred miles over a mountain range the dossiers of the four Mafia Captains begin to take over my thoughts, and the menacing pictures of them float across my mind.

Gambino Color Photo Mobsters Handcuffs

 

Gambino Hit_deadmobster

It was true just as Mary had said. All but three of the once formidable mobsters were all dead and those who remained were the old men locked away in Kentucky. I had been assured over and over again: They would die there as the Devil and the Feds had intended.

The fourth man neither the Devil nor Joyce or I ever could get a good run down on. He was the missing and presumably defanged, Jimmy the Stone. There had been no mention of him during the Grand Jury hearings or any of the dozens of racketeering and murder trials the Feds had rolled out over the next ten years.

Between the four of us we had discussed the possibilities during Wednesday’s lunchtime call. “But his whereabouts aren’t nailed down one hundred percent.” I had said before Mary and Joyce had thrown out their theories as Tina and I had listened.

“He could’ve been scooped up by the Feds and put far, far away like Maxine was. Hidden in WitSec after the FBI turned him as an informant.” Mary had suggested.

Joyce had wondered, too, if the Feds hadn’t kept him as their secret weapon in case anything happened to my mother. If her cover had been blown and the Mob had silenced her Jimmy the Stone would rise up to be the key witness against his former family.

“It’d take some wrangling with the Federal Court Judge,” Joyce had assured us, “but at least their cases wouldn’t have completely fallen apart if they had The Stone on ice somewhere to back up your mother’s testimony.”

“How long did these trials go on for, Mary?” I had asked.

“Over ten years if you count their requests for new trials. Maxine always had those hanging over her head, too, until the last of the old Gambino guard was locked away for good.”

“And Jimmy the Stone is Mother’s age, seventy-three,” I had concluded. “If he’s still alive he’s had thirty years to find her and he hasn’t yet.”

The coast Joyce, Mary and more importantly, Tina and I, had all agreed looked clear. Now I was on airplane flying to New Mexico without her.

 

Gambino Art Vermeer heist

 

To everyone’s aggravation and now that I know about it certainly to mine, The Isadora Museum’s rare masters art heist has remained a mystery.

Reading between the lines of the Grand Jury’s transcripts Joyce, Tina and I had surmised the Attorney General’s office and the FBI had tried “behind legal curtains” any tactics they could to turn key witnesses into mob informants. But no one could or would disclose the missing hiding places of the paintings. Incredible pieces painted by Vermeer and Rembrandt for Christ sake! Gone! I shake my head in dismay.

The newspapers had hinted that the Gambinos, with their connections to the wharves and docks, were likely hired only as the thieves and smugglers. And that behind them, and who they ultimately did their bidding for, was the unseen hand of the caper’s mastermind. The hope of any trail leading to him or her had vaporized a long time ago.

I worry about mobsters as I look out the window and watch the clouds that stream up here miles above the earth. I sip the green tea the flight attendant brought me a few minutes ago. The heist’s unanswered questions pester me. Very likely at their final destination taking possession of the treasured artworks had been as simple as paying off a corrupt Custom’s Agent in a foreign seaport thousands of miles away.

In the end, the RICO Task Force, started years before by Director J. Edgar Hoover, had rounded up the most dangerous and sadistic captains and lieutenants that ran the numbers, the docks, and heroin in and out of South Philly. Losing hope of ever tying the museum job to the Gambino’s the Feds had gotten lucky in other ways.

Over a remarkable ten year winning streak, and with the help of my mother, the government had made their cases stick against all of the Gambino’s for crimes that included their style of vicious gangland murder.

The Lucchesi Family became the beneficiaries of the weakened Gambino’s disassembly, and organized crime did continue but it was quieter and less bloody, and seemed to everyone’s satisfaction tolerable, and much more tame. But before things had quieted down whatever had happened that night inside Little Tony’s Liquor Store my mother had been the sole and only survivor.

Bette_tinapix_Headset

Earlier in the week Joyce had called me to share an odd snippet of news. “Bette, you know how paramilitary guys all love nicknames?” Joyce had asked.

“Okay, I follow you. Desert Storm or Operation Freedom’s Hammer, something like that?”

“No, those are mission names and are mostly propaganda. Look it up.” Joyce had admonished me slightly. “Anyway, the Marshal Service, the Secret Service, and the FBI all have code names for the people they protect.” Joyce had paused waiting for me to catch on. “You know Bette like, POTUS.”

“Oh! I get it. What was Maxine’s code name?”

“White Wolf.”

“White Wolf?” I had asked puzzled. “How’d you find that out? My mother had beautiful blonde, straw-colored hair by the way.”

“Well, what she saw go down at Lil’ Tony’s turned her hair completely white,” Joyce had said. “Earning her the code name, White Wolf.”

“Jesus, Joyce.” I had exhaled into the phone. “Really? I’m getting on the plane with my family in two days.” Or so I had thought at the time.

Art. Maxine_redcliffs

 

Santa Fe – 6:14 PM

As the plane lowers taking us in for our high desert landing I look out the window at the brilliantly hued wilderness landscape. So much like a painting its beauty shocking and almost unreal to me. I do a quick inventory of my suitcase. I’ve got the right stuff to hang around a ranch for the weekend. A leather jacket, boots, a warm sweater for the desert at night – I’ll be fine.

What I don’t have with me is my fiancée. A name for her and myself I had liked the sound of saying over and over all week to people who had asked me about my engagement to Tina.

Phyllis had sent me flowers and an amusing card, and James, in particular, had seemed overly relieved to see me each day. Another blessing had been no uncongenial visits from Jodie.

Beginning late last Friday night in Malibu I had sensed myself flying through the air, a feeling similar to the flight of this airplane now as it lowers me closer and closer to the red desert racing below. I imagine the wind again on my face and arms as I lean back and close my eyes and spread my mind out to the wings of the plane.

I had felt during those nights at the beach that I had been sailing a hundred miles an hour over the ocean before circling back above the red tail lights of cars on the PCH. The dark canyon walls, the mighty Pacific Ocean, the shadowy cliff landscapes I had felt them all whistling by me.

Years ago someone at Berkeley might have suggested I’d astrally projected. Maybe I had. The astral plane as far as I can feel into it has just got bigger and weirder the older I’ve gotten. And sometimes while making love to Tina I do find myself out there in its wild wind streams.

I focus out my airplane window where the cliffs and sands are red and blood orange. So different from the sensations on Saturday night that had rolled over me with the blues of the ocean and deeper tones of midnight.

I know a part of me has set up a listening post inside this lovely mind bubble of mine. A place where feelings of gratitude sting my eyes sometimes no matter what I’m doing. But outside of it I’ve had to dually cope with the repeating and unanswerable daydreams of my childhood. They cycle back through my mind hour after hour to haunt me and now, as we descend to Earth, the mysterious answers to the only two prayers I may have ever honestly said are unfolding between me and Tina and soon with me and my mother.

The jet’s tires chirp to a stop on the tarmac in Santa Fe. My heart beats faster as the pilot stalls the left engine outside my window and the ailerons lift along the wing’s surface turning me toward a reunion I’d always dreamed of.

 

Maxine Blue window

 

Maxine’s House – 6:45 PM

The long Pueblo style home has a baked scent of sage around it I notice as I inhale deeply and walk with Mary up a dusty crushed rock path. I drop my bag in front of a weathered wooden door.

“We don’t lock up ‘til we go to bed. Knock on it hard and then push it open.” Mary says behind me.

No text back from Tina acknowledging my arrival or whereabouts I sigh as I knock and wish to God she were here with me at this moment. I mean, isn’t it part of the reason people bond together in relationships? So that at the moments our hearts beat to near explosion our partners, or lovers, or wives or whatever the right word is, may be here to touch us in that one way that always calms us down. For the love of God I know I’d beg her for it if she were only here with me.

As I push open the blue wooden door I hear her voice. “There you are, Bette.” My mother says as I step inside and see her waving at me.

Maxine_waving Interior

“Oh my God, I remember your eyes.” I say astonished, as I drop my bags for the second time in as many minutes.

“Please let me hug you close. And I’m so glad you turned out so tall.” She says as the smoke from her cigarette curls in the air as we embrace.

“And I keep waiting on Tina to walk in. Is she out by the barn looking at the early moon?” Maxine looks behind me.

“No, the movie business is haywire. She couldn’t leave early on Friday afternoon as it turns out, but she and the baby’ll be here by lunchtime tomorrow.”

“I had run a scenario such as this.” My mother smiles at me and motions to my bags. “Mary, won’t you come in and wash the day down with a drink?”

“Oh, thank God.” I blurt.

“Any other night but tonight I’d take you up on it.” Mary waves goodbye, as I turn around to thank her.

“Thank you for everything.” I drop my bags again and give her a big hug, too. “You’ve been my sure and steady guide through all this. I’m so grateful.”

Turning back to my mother “Maxine, you have the luck of a wonderful friend. I’m blessed that way, too. Most of the time.” I laugh softly as I pick up my bags and hear Mary closing the door behind me.

 

Maxine Home Interior fireplace

“This is my home and I want you to think of it as yours, Bette.” My mother and I stop at the entrance to a long hallway leading away from the living room. “Your bedroom is the third door and the bath connects. Wasn’t always so but over the years I’ve modernized this old place. I hope you like it.”

“Very much but I would’ve been happy meeting you in a trailer park.”

“Oh, what a relief!” She says to my surprise. “This house belongs to one of my wealthy art students and my old truck’s out back. Come on, let’s go to my little shack out from Taos.” My mother motions for me to follow her past the fireplace towards the side door.

“Wait! What?” I ask stunned.

“I’m kidding you, sweetheart.” My mother’s eyes flash a mischievous look I remember from years ago.

“What are you drinking?” She asks but ­her eyes tell me to get ready for an adventure. “Get settled, then come back, and we’ll sit by the fire.”

My perplexed look vanishes into a smile. I lift my suitcases and walk down the long hall toward my mother’s guest room.

Maxine guest room

 

______

 

The next chapter to the L Word inspired Season 7, Touch Tones, will post shortly. Thank you for reading and commenting.

You can find our links on Twitter @Blackbird_Write

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Thanks always to Jacky at LesFan who hosts us there.


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#5 Touch Tones: The Kiss – Tina Kennard L Word

Bette_Tina Season 5 06kiss

On Stage – Tina

As the crowd around us chants, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss her!” I wonder how to begin this final part of our performance. The moment our lips meet and the cameras start recording pictures of us will fly out of here and begin their own fanciful journey.

Whether she’ll ever admit to it or not Bette has loved being in front of all these cameras and people slowly seducing me with her marriage proposal and waiting on me now to consummate it with a kiss. Her dark eyes just beyond the planes of diamonds are streaked with gold this afternoon as she lifts my ring to her lips and waits for me.

I want our magical interweaving to happen again. I want the feeling of being held tightly by her strong and confining arms to return. I am tired and so weary of flailing without her.

Possession

What I haven’t decided about is the way she eroticizes her need for possession of me – an agreement we made one night long ago born out of a jealousy that shook me so deeply when she took me there I knew she was the kind of lover I’d always wanted but had never found.

Possession had appeared within our first year of being together and soon I wanted those needs of hers that searched me tirelessly to do it with an unending intensity and finally with greater and greater explosions of love. It was stark and revealing and our ultimate dynamic interplay. And now that she knows my secret I’m unsure if I can be that lover with her anymore.

I must have allowed the seals to be finally broken. It was along the way of fighting to get her back after losing her to Jodie that made me remember those things about my sister and myself. And when I feel into the hidden places they are wary of touch and trust, and I worry about Bette’s searching for me one night and finding me there.

Before meeting her eleven years ago I would have never conceived of this moment. Driving past the gates of Paramount back then I would’ve never imagined that one day in the future, several miles away playing happily at a daycare, would be our child. Or that farther beyond where I’m standing on stage would be the sets to a movie I’m producing, much less a film about lesbians.

Was she always in the matrix of people I would meet? As those lines drew themselves darker the more I explored finding intimacy were all my possibilities inevitably leading to this deeply hued and scored place that has become our history together?

Negotiation

Since we joined Gloria Bette has played to her stage presence flawlessly. To my awe she reached out and immediately touched the crowd with her anticipation and desire. I’m the one who’s been nearly motionless on stage, encircled by winds of emotion and memory.

The endings and beginnings between lovers fill this moment between us. Our kiss waits before coming into existence. A crowd surrounding us chanting for the consummation that moves us from partner to fiancée and says in an electrifying leap: “Yes!” to becoming her wife. I know I must reach over to her and accept her love for me. Then kiss, and jump, and trust, and fall with her. Always the last strap to unleash has been mine before being encircled and possessed and loosened of everything that has kept her separate from me.

Can I do it again? Survive the intensity of a life with her? I wonder as her eyes begin to flash the question that lies between us: What do you want to do, Tina? What do you want to do?

”I want you to kiss me.” I say as I lean into her and we begin with a hint of the hunger for what we have, and for what we’ve always guarded, and for what we nearly destroyed.

 

Backstage – Tina

As I hold Bette’s hand and we wave one last goodbye to the crowd she leans over and whispers, “My mind is blown, Tina. Truly fucking blown. I thought I’d lost you for a minute there. You were really starting to frighten me.”

“You have a talent for this, Babe. I don’t know what happened to me. I froze up on stage.”

“Except at the very end.” Bette sends me a sly wink. “You were selling it at the end, T.”

I squeeze her hand to follow me as the stage manager parts the curtain to let us pass. “You know we’re not quite done yet though, don’t you?” I point to the Press waiting backstage with Claire.

“I see that now.” Bette’s voice tightens a bit.

“Just a little longer and then I can meet you at home.”

“Dinner?” She asks as Claire motions for us to join her near the bar.

“Babysitter?” I answer.

I hear Kit’s voice a little below a shout. “What in the world is going on with you two people?” She vents then breaks into a huge smile before she hugs us both. “I knew you two could do it.”

“We needed a good beacon at times.” I say with a sigh.

“All I know is there’s a mule somewhere to thank for kicking you both in the head.” Kit blusters as she holds out her hand to me. “Now, let me see this ring. Just like the rest of Lil Sis’ understatements at lunch it wasn’t described worth a damn to me either.” Kit shoots Bette a cross look.

I lift my ring up to show Kit who nods her head “Now this is what I’m talking about. I’m so proud of you.” Her disapproval vanishes as she smiles at Bette and asks, “When’s the wedding?”

“Oooff.” Bette exhales. “We don’t know. We keep getting asked that, too.” She looks over at me with a slightly worried look.

“We’re going to have to answer it again and again in a minute.” I nod toward Claire and the reporters. “We have to go, Kit.”

“Can you start without me? I want to talk to my sister for a minute more.” Bette says.

“Sure. I’ll begin with the movie and Kit, thank you for coming, and thank you for all you do for Angelica.”

“Lemme just say I’m glad you’re back, and anytime about Baby Girl, you know that.” Kit sends me off with a big smile.

Bette catches my arm as I walk away. “Should we make up a date? I mean is it that important?” She looks worried.

“Eventually it’s important, but for now I can answer it for the reporters. I’ll tell them we’re setting the date in a week or two and it’s definitely after the movie finishes shooting.”

“Got it.” Bette nods and turns back to Kit.

Kit_Bette big smiles_ seated

Backstage – Bette

“Daddy always held out the hope you’d get married. That man wanted to walk you down an aisle,” Kit says.

“And same sex marriage was not what he had in mind.” I stress as we sit down.

“You felt you had to wait, didn’t you?” Kit asks putting it together.

I tilt my head toward Tina. “I told myself I didn’t care what he thought when we planned for the baby but she said let’s wait on California, and on and on. But by the end of Daddy’s last visit before he got sick he was making her mentally disappear even while she was still in the room.” I wipe my hand in front of my eyes to illustrate his magic trick. “Maddening! And it was going to be very difficult to marry her until he changed.”

“Tell me you’ve seen Mt. Rushmore and The Pyramids and tell me they’ve changed much over time.” Kit shakes her head in wonder at my unreal perspective.

“No, you’re right. I know, I know. She barely tolerated him not tolerating her. It would have been too much to throw Daddy as a log on the fire of why I never brought it up again. Then she left me, so the point was really moot after that.”

“Moot? That’s a little far south of what you got yourselves into but I see it now.” Kit adds thoughtfully, “And it had to be her. We all knew that.”

I smile as we watch Tina talking to the Press and Claire standing watchfully by her. “Gloria said something so interesting to me a few minutes ago.” I whisper to Kit as a friend from my days at the CAC approaches. “That Daddy’s in a different place about me and Tina now.”

“You can dream.” Kit says and shoots me a skeptical look.

“Listen, before this old friend of mine gets here I wanted to tell you more at lunch. I got a call from a woman in New Mexico late last Friday afternoon, Mary Windhorse was – is her name. She said my mother came to Daddy’s memorial,” I say to Kit’s utter astonishment. “And that she’s been in WitSec this whole time.”

“Hold on, hold on, hold on!” Kit waves her hand to slow me down.

“That and I need a babysitter and then I have to leave.” I finish in a rush before I bite my lip and wince that I’m sorry.

“Uh-huh. Tell you what, I got Baby Girl for tonight, but you and me?” Kit wags her finger between us. “We’re going to have a serious talk real soon. You can bet on that.”

Bette_Agent Porter Laughing at Table

 

Bette’s House – Bette

 

I did enjoy the brief after party backstage. I didn’t mind being the brunt of a few well-placed, “Bette Porter marrying” jokes coming from friends of mine who, frankly I was astonished to see there. But then on more than one occasion I had to mentally remind myself – the people who came did so because of Gloria’s politics and if not disastrously handled – the politics that should be in the movie.

I mean really, how can you separate the two? Any exploration into a tightly knit community’s sexual escapades becomes on the one hand, political and apparently on the other, dysfunctional and insane if Jenny’s telling it. But her bi-sexual awakenings and Tina’s counterpoint descent back into them were about power and status, and maneuvering and manipulation, and adding my own worst to their pile of sins – madness and blood thirst. Ergo: Politics.

After a few jokes at my expense and other subtle reminders from Tina I was able to keep in mind that my friends and hundreds of others had come today to honor the signing into law of “our” statewide freedom to marry. It had been a worrisome campaign all the way up to the final vote and that is no doubt is why so many people were there – to let off steam and cheer on something that had been a battle hard to win.

California really should have been the beachhead for the whole country and yet, we had such rocky and spasmodic beginnings. For all those reasons when I finally got my head around the big picture it began to sink in why Claire had created the rally and how truly brilliant it was to have us on stage.

Now, if everyone would just forget about my three minutes of fame I’d like my life to get back to normal where I can be happy with my family and perhaps find myself whistling again. As I steady the groceries in my arms and unlock my front door I realize how little conception I have of what normal for me and Tina really looks like.

I turn the water on in the sink and dump the vegetables from the market in to wash them. The red and yellow peppers bob back up at me, dinner at home with my soon to be wife would be normal.

“Wife,” I say out loud.

I’m not sure I’m the wife, too, though. I need to think about that. There’s something about two wives unless you’re Mormon that feels strange to me, but partner I had liked. I get we are moving away from that, but “partners” had a jostling feeling to it and a, “you and me against the world” kind of vibe. I’d always liked it and it had felt right – a duo, a united front, our relationship that was outside the law. Now things have changed.

“Hi, this is my wife, Bette Porter.” I say out loud and then decide I need a drink.

I take down the Scotch and pour a short glass. The sounds of this new re-phrasing I can’t quite tune my ear to. I roll the warm Scotch around in my mouth before I swallow it.

“Hello. I’m Bette Porter, Tina Kennard’s spouse.” I try out a husky, whiskey laced greeting on the floating bell peppers.

I like the sound of that. Sexually very neutral but attached. And why for the love of God am I having gender confusion about Tina, again? That business with two mothers for the baby when Tina was so clearly the breastfeeding all important one drove me to such turmoil only a steady diet of breast milk could set me right most nights.

I pour another finger of Scotch in my glass and think about those sweet milky days. I don’t know. Does one wife suck the other wife’s breast while she’s nursing? For the life of me that sounds like something only lovers do. I swallow more whiskey and wince as it burns me.

Okay, so wife’s more of a public name that happens with marriage vows and everything else stays the same, or does it? I look around the house and realize it could use fresh flowers. I walk out into the garden in the early evening light to find my clippers.

 

Post Press conference shot, Tina,Shane, Jenny

Outside Bette’s House – Tina

“What are you searching for?” Shane asks me as we pull up in front of Bette’s house and she sees me digging through my purse again.

“My keys. I have to unlock the front door. We’re here and thank you so much for the ride.”

“I have your keys, remember?” Shane takes them out of her pocket and dangles them in front of my face.

“No, you were right to take them away. Note to self: No tequila shots on an empty stomach before 8 PM.”

“Forget about that. You had a lot to celebrate and then some. I’d be smashed, too, if I didn’t have a headache from the smog out where I had to work all day.”

“We’ll get you on set soon enough. Ooops! I’ve lost my keys again.” I say as I bend over and search the floor to find them. I hear Shane’s door opening and then her walking to mine.

“Turn on your phone and use it like a flashlight. There they are.” Shane says as she leans into her car and picks up my keys for me. “You’re a mess. Put your arm around my neck so I can get you home.”

“Home.” I say as I look over Shane’s shoulder to the front of Bette’s house. “I live here again now. Back next door to you.”

“And I welcome you back to the neighborhood.” Shane laughs and puts her arm around my waist. “Okay, step one, two, three and nice going. All good?” She asks as she presses the doorbell and I fumble more with my keys.

“You liked Jodie, didn’t you?” I ask as I lean against the door to wait for Bette. “Are you pissed at me at all?”

“You’re kidding, right?” Shane rubs her face in wonder.

“No, I wasn’t.”

“You realize that for years and years I looked at you guys as the head of our family. We had holidays together and birthdays together and when you broke up?” Shane looks away and squints her eyes as she thinks. “It took away from me – and God knows what it did to you – but it took away from me a foundation and it made me sometimes really sad.”

I put my hand on her shoulder. “You told me once how it made you feel at Christmastime and a little about your stays in foster homes.”

“I’m not alone in that. Most foster kids don’t talk about how weird holidays were with hand me down gifts no one else wanted that were wrapped up anonymously for you.” Shane takes out a cigarette. “In a word: It sucked.”

“Do you ever hear from your mother?” I ask.

“Occasionally a postcard from Texas.” Shane exhales some smoke and smiles. “Always something she knows I’d like. You know, an old timey cowgirl picture postcard, or a joke with a giant jackrabbit with horns. We grow ‘em big in Texas type of thing.” Shane laughs.

“I don’t know where she is. Trust me. She’s expecting me.” I say as I press the doorbell again.

“I’m just glad Bette didn’t hang herself a year ago. I was such a fucked up friend. Carmen and all.” Shane ends with a few concentrated smoke rings that drift away slowly. “I wasn’t around to help much.”

“I don’t know what I’m thinking. Here, you can see to do the key or should I just call her?” I dig back into my purse before dropping my phone with a clatter.

“Clumsy. I get clumsy when I drink, thus the good idea not to let me drive.” I lean down to pick up my phone and my head whooshes as the blood rushes to it. I put my hand on Shane’s leg to steady my balance.

“Hey, let’s sit on the steps for a minute.” She says as she guides me down next to her. “Is everything, okay? Or did you just get carried away after the party moved to Nikki’s penthouse and the shots came out?”

“I should never do shots on an empty stomach, Shane.” I reiterate my dilemma.

“I find them very hard to avoid but whatever works for you. I’m just glad you’re back, shitfaced or not. You know?” Shane puts her arm around me and looks me steadily in the eyes.

I roll my head back toward the house. “You know I insisted we redecorate the bedroom. I mean, fuck it, Shane. God knows how many women have been in that bed since I left.”

Shane laughs and says, “You’d be surprised. They’re weren’t that many.”

“Well, anyway she agreed without blinking that she’d throw the bed out and that led to a very good prop we could use in that business with Jenny.” I nod toward their house. “So, gratefully all that happened in a hurry and quickly became less about who all’s been in there.”

“I don’t think the hot Senator ever even saw this place.” Shane says as she looks behind us to Bette’s front door.

“Surely she had enough sense to not bring the co-eds here.” I add with a slight snort.

“Bette, Bette, Bette.” Shane shakes her head.

“You see why we had to burn the mattress. We’re getting married for Christ sake!”

“Got it. You needed a new bed. I hope when they delivered it this afternoon they brought lamps, too, because Bette flew into some kind of “chewing the scenery” rage in there for awhile with her remodeling.” Shane laughs at her recent memory.

“My hope is she lights candles everywhere tonight.” I nudge Shane a little. “I mean look at the ring she gave me.” I hold out my hand. “And maybe they’re already lit and she’s waiting on me.”

Shane and I look back at the door as Bette opens it. Holding a vase of red and dark blue flowers she smiles down at us. “I thought I heard voices. Don’t you want to come in?”

I stand up and steady myself on the handrail as a frown flashes across Bette’s face. “Oh,” she says as she quickly hands the flowers to Shane and scoops me up. “I see the party continued after I left.” She smiles at me.

“And may it continue longer.” Shane says as she puts the vase down and waves goodbye from the porch.

 

 

Bette On top tongue kiss

Bedroom – Tina

The new soft sheets she peels back from the bed have the scent of lavender and it settles around me as she presses me deeper into the mattress.

There are candles, there are flowers and there is a very intense feeling of her kissing me now. The room isn’t spinning too much I realize as I let go and feel her long lick up my neck before she kisses me again.

“I want you before dinner. Is that crazy?” Bette asks an inch from my lips.

“Not tonight it isn’t.” I say as she teases my breast with her tongue.

“I remembered your milk earlier.” She says twisting my nipple. A look of lust rises between us and I feel my head rush.

“You want it tonight, don’t you?”

She closes her eyes and sucks my breast and doesn’t answer me for a long time.

“I just went back there. Very beautiful, very nice.” Bette looks up from my breast finally. “How are you feeling, Baby?” She asks.

“Would you laugh at me if I told you, dreamy?”

She smiles as she kisses me down my belly. “Maybe a little.”

I sigh when I feel her tongue hard then soft circling around me.

She pushes open my legs and I wrap them around her back.

Not known for ever accomplishing a “quickie” she surprises me at how intensely she drives me toward that edge. I feel her amplifying all the right places and staying there just long enough to make me ache for her to return.

I know this one. She sets out an array of pulses and then joins them all together in one nice long ending that turns afterwards into a much longer, pleasurable plateau where I can begin again. I will never tire of this I realize as her incredible tongue begins to lick inside me.

 

wolf_onRidge

Instincts

After bringing Tina her dinner on a tray and then rubbing her back with the lotion we love so much from Wales we had agreed – the new bed and its fresh, soft sheets were perfect. Tina lies across my chest now and barely traces her hand along my arm as I read a short love poem of Rumi’s I found.

“You look so different in glasses, Bette.” Tina says as I finish the last verse.

“Just wait. You’re younger than I am. It’ll happen to you.”

“The poem was beautiful. Rumi’s images spin around so much sometimes though. But I’m sobering up now.” Tina laughs at herself.

“Well, Sufis love their swirling dervishes as you know.” I answer as I turn the pages of the book.

“Whirling dervishes, Bette.”

“That’s what I said.” I look over the rim of my glasses at Tina.

“My mistake.” Tina smiles as she hugs me to her. “Babe, I’m closing my eyes, okay. Read on. Read out loud to me if you’d like but I’m drifting.”

One hour later –

While Tina drifted into sleep next to me I had stared up at the ceiling and relived my last several days of intense recalibrations. Over and over again my mind had drifted pleasurably from Tina and Angelica in Malibu, to the kiss on stage, and then back again to the phone call about my mother.

My mind had succumbed to a tangled dream fraught with desperate hunting and I had awakened watchful with a taste of the wind in my mouth. I had slipped out of bed and in the dining room opened my computer.

For the last half-hour I’ve searched the Internet for major crimes in Philadelphia that occurred the week my mother disappeared from my life completely.

When I found the Gambino’s I knew I had found the mafia.

Gambino FoggySt Hit

 

 

_____________

I hope you enjoyed Chapter Five, The Kiss. Chapter Six of Touch Tones, The L Word inspired Season 7 will post shortly.

Thank you for reading and let me know if you enjoyed the story.

 

Blackbird

 

 

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