The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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Feeling Bound – Tina Kennard

TinaFABulousPortrait

I was raised to want a ring on my finger and to keep it there. It’s unheard of in my family of Virginia and North Carolina cousins for anyone to ever get divorced.  As proof, family marriages have survived a spouse losing all the tobacco crop money in a poker game at the club.  And I do mean all of it.

Does this make my family one of incredibly forgiving people, or is it solely their aversion to the shame they associate with divorce?  I wonder, more than I’d like to, what deep roots and archaic traditions of my upbringing are still buried way, way in the back of my mind.

I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing whenever I go home to North Carolina, where no one suspects me of being anything other than their happy cousin, living all the way out here in California.  Where I’ve told them I have a job I love.

It’s a tale I’ve spun gladly. I date and go to the beach and from 9 to 5 everyday I work to save the environment, from all kinds of horrible people threatening the food we eat, the very air we breath.

It was so natural, as if running the scales on a piano, how I went from straight to bi to falling in love with Bette.

Is that why I’m still uncomfortable, all these days later, when the topic of bisexuals had entered our conversation with Shane?

“What Tina?  Your wool’s not completely dyed, yet?” Bette had asked, before moving onto another ridiculous topic.  Alice dating vampires.

As if…

So, why am I still in the closet?

I’d like a drink, but it’s too early and I’m riding my bike, getting much needed exercise.  Unsteadily, I turn into the parking lot of a coffee shop.  While locking my bike, I consider calling my cousin Susan or Meredith or my cousin Sam and saying – after the hellos and how’s the crop this year – Guess what?  Ten days ago I had a biracial baby with my lesbian biracial lover.

Then I imagine the line going dead or them taking the first Delta flight out of Raleigh to give me a good old fashioned talking to.  Or worse, trying some kind of Protestant intervention.

All I could withstand, but we’d never speak to each other again.

I push open the door to the cafe and the barista, with rings in her nose and a spike in her tongue – a being so foreign my family would turn heel, run and never order – pours me an iced mocha with a shot of espresso.  Am I hiding out in the land of ’anything goes,’  because for me, it’s more comfortable?

To her credit, Bette has never asked much about them.  Suspecting I guess, they’d be just as awful to her as her father had been to me, and when, she’d finally accepted the fact – that he really was dying – she’d made certain he was going to do it right in front of her.

Taking his last breaths, he’d said his final words, surprisingly to me, “Take care of my baby, Tina.  Take care of her.”  And then he was gone.

Leaving me to wonder how strange it was, living in the gayest part of West Hollywood, that we had these kinds of skeletons in our closet.

I take my phone out, daring myself to call North Carolina, but instead I pay for my coffee and slip my phone back into my purse and lean against a lamp post to people watch.

I know I didn’t come to California to hide who I was, did she?

Arriving here I was a twenty-something blond, who blended in with the millions of others my same age with similar looks.  I had an interest in the environment, as seen by my resume of working for NGOs.  I was single. I paid my taxes on time and I’d never been arrested.  Period.

I was comfortable living behind my mask of vanilla.

Bette, on the other hand, while I was pregnant with our first baby, had been pushed a mile too far down the road by the bigot-in-chief, Faye what’s her name.  It had unspooled itself – their final showdown – in a very public manner, with what felt like loaded pistols pointed at each other’s brains.

Bette’s final punch and the humiliation Faye had shot back, all captured by the glaring lights of television.  Afterwards, she never was the same.  It must feel very differently when the enemy’s blade is right against your throat, but Bette hadn’t choked.

I, on the other hand, had miscarried.

Her heart had broken too that night.  I’d felt it break with mine, while I’d lost my mind on the floor of our bedroom.  Where my howling grief had never caused her to flinch or loosen her hold on me one inch.

She’s changed since Faye tried but failed to do her in.  And after we lost the baby that horrible night, and now, last week when, my God, it felt too close. My life…so faint, as if I were no longer there.  I’m not going to push her to suit up and go back to work. No, not yet, I want her home with me, watching over us.

I’ve loved so many sides of her and now this gentle new one, who paints me and the baby as the most cherished beings on earth.  I want her again,  like that tonight…watching me carefully, waiting to see if I want the tingling feel of my milk flow while she kisses my lips and stirs me into wanting…and I do, slowing my bike, I bounce into our driveway.

I do want hers as the wedding ring on my finger and I want it soon.

Long ago, and I’ve not forgotten the lesson that was imprinted on me forever in a very, very private moment.  After I’d been dating her for six months, she’d invited me on a trip to New York.

My answer had been breezy, while inside I’d set off fireworks.  I’d told her I’d  check with the staff of people I worked with, but taking a few days off…I didn’t think it would be a problem.

That had been a Monday and by Wednesday I was opening the door of a hired town car and we’d whisked off to the airport.

On the way I’d imagined what flying with Bette would be like.  Either she’d be a great adventure planner,  the New Yorker and the Times spread out on our seat trays to decide what we were seeing on Broadway.

Or she might be one of those a too long-legged passengers who bitch and complain about  absolutely everything.

She was neither.

Two First Class seats had solved the leg room issue.  Then champagne that had bubbled somewhere over Utah and she’d threaded her fingers through mine and had announced she was going to close her eyes…for a minute, if that was okay?

Hours later in rough air over Pennsylvania, she’d bounced awake.

Looking over my paperback I’d welcomed her back with a smile.  A moment later, she’d stretched and to my surprise had unbuckled my seat belt.

“Bette! You’ve got to be kidding!” I distinctly remember saying crammed into the small toilet space with her near the front of the airplane.  “I won’t have sex here.”

“Any issues you have with these tight quarters, our suite at the Peninsula will make up for.”  One hand had unsnapped my shirt and the other had  tried to disappear my underwear.

“Or the smell,” I’d said just before she’d kicked closed the airline toilet seat.  Sitting on it she’d pulled me to her.

“I just had the sexiest dream about you, Baby and I have to have a taste.”

It had been rough sounding and I’d resisted, but my mistake had been not leaving.  That move had felt dicey to me, at the beginning of our first trip away.

She’d looked puzzled for about a split second, before the four inches she has on me, make that nearly seven when she’s in heels, which she was that day. She’d stood above me, taking my head in both her hands.

The closeness of her kissing me hard against the bathroom door.  The awareness that this was really happening.  The roaring of the jet engines I’d hoped would hide any sounds of us against the door, almost toppling into sink.

There she’d bent me over and I’d watched myself coming and coming in the mirror.

I may have had boundaries two thousand miles and some six hours ago, but they were becoming a memory, replaced by my first acting lesson in New York.  Pretending nothing was going on under the dinner table.  I’d sipped my wine and I had smiled to myself, especially when she’d whispered, “Move your hand down here and feel me taking you.”

Up in our suite the room service waiter had pushed in a cart with a double-sized piece of chocolate cake and together they’d conferred over a bottle of red wine, before uncorking it.  I’d excused myself to the shower, where she’d joined me with hands that had been soapy and we’d washed and touched each other in anticipation.

We’d stretched out on a couch,  our view overlooking the city.

“You ordered an enormous piece of cake, may I get you some?”  I’d asked.

“It smells good, doesn’t it?”

Returning with the cake,  I’d sliced off a piece and brought it up to her lips, where it had disappeared in an instant.  She’d licked her lips and our eyes had locked.

“Not yet, you and I have more cake to eat.” I remember saying, as I’d fed her another bite to keep her occupied.

“This is nice, Tina.  I’m glad you came.”

“Are you different out of town?  What is going on?”

“More cake, please,” she’d said.

“Okay, are you finished with me?”

“What do you mean?”  she had looked shocked.

“I just…ah, crazy thought,”  I’d stumbled, “that maybe this business of having sex with me in airplanes and under tables in restaurants is some kind  of last thrill fucking trip, because in your mind we’re over.”

“Put the cake away.  We need to talk.”  She’d sat up on the couch.

If I’d learned one thing in the six months I’d been dating her it was during her sensual moods, talking has very little interest to her yet, riled she’d prevailed.

“Why on earth would you think that?  Am I not being a good host to you in New York?”

I’d gone over to the tray with the wine and poured myself half a glass, keeping my back to her.

“Tina, bring me one, too, please and on the way over – do answer me.”

“You’re always going to be like this, aren’t you?  Highly sexed, always waiting to pounce, you can’t be that one dimensional.”

She’d laughed and had taken her wine. “You’re about to talk yourself out of something really fantastic later.”

“You realize you made my point?”

“Do you realize I have no intention of arguing with you?  About what?  That I’m crazy about you and brought you to New York to…well, I was going to wait until fucking later, but…” her voice had grown agitated, “do you want to live with me?”

“Huh?”

“Goddammit!  You’ve got me mad now.”  She’d started pacing the suite, her bathrobe flying open at times, showing me her shaved black patch that went straight down in a perfect black line.

I’d taken a huge swallow of wine realizing it was amazing and probably had cost a small fortune and maybe this suite, the First Class tickets, the entry into the Mile High Club, all were the staging for some kind of proposal.

“Bette the wine is delicious and I’m two things, really stupid and really sorry.”

By then she’d stopped in front of the cake and was fingering the icing, disappearing her long index finger into her mouth.  “Hmm, sorry.  You know Tina, that’s a very underused word between people. I rarely hear anyone ever say it.  Thank you.”

“I am sorry. Bette.  This room is beautiful, dinner with you was,” and I’d begun to laugh,  “fucking  unbelievable. Quite literally.”

A sly smile had flickered, as more chocolate icing had disappeared from the tip of her finger.  Sucking it off she’d looked at me. ”That wasn’t on the menu, but I’m glad you liked it.”

I’d walked past her and into the bedroom of the suite.

She’d followed. “Tina, I’m very high on wine and cake and completely yours for the evening.  To do with me whatever you’d like…I presume you have ideas of your own?”

I’d pulled back the sheets on the bed and tossing my robe away I’d motioned for her to come.  “Bring the wine.”

With two glasses she’d walked to the bed and handed me mine and had fluffed up the pillows.  Lying on her side of the bed, her robe belted closed,  she’d leaned back against the pillows and had taken a long sip.

“God that is fucking good,”  she’d said with a light smack of her lips.

I’d left mine on the bedside table and nude I’d tucked myself under her arm and settled against her.

“A story?” she’d asked, before taking another sip.

“Please.”

“First, a question, so I’ll know my audience.”

I’d laughed.

“Why’d you chose me?”

“How do you figure?  You’re the most unstoppable pursuer.”  I’d untied the knot on her robe and rubbed her belly in the way I knew would make her slowly growl.

The growl had come along with a series of deep sighs.  “I’ve satisfied two of my fantasies today, tell me yours?  I’m your sex slave for the night, let’s say.”

“Oh, hmm, pretend you’re the woman who sat next to me on the plane.  She’s a stranger, but I’ve brought her up to my room.”

“Daring of you.  Do you pick up a lot of strangers?”

“No, just you.”

“I hardly believe you.  But I’m here only for the night and then, I’m gone.”

“Have you ever tied a woman up?”

“Yes, is that what you’d like?”

“So I’m face down.”

“You want a blindfold to go with that?”

“Asked the stranger,”  I’d added, rolling onto my stomach.

Nearby suitcases had unzipped and coming back to bed, I’d felt her hands spread my legs out to each corner of the bed followed by scarves and belts that had held me fast.

“Tight enough?”  She’d asked checking the binding on my ankles and then running her tongue all the way up the inside of my leg.   “Is this your first time?” She’d asked tying my wrists to the bed.

“Yes.”

She’d kneeled behind me and with one arm under my waist she’d raised my hips off the bed and held my wetness against her.  “You’re so ready.”  She rubbed us together.

“You have no idea.”

Her hands had parted me and much more of her than I’d ever felt had come inside.

I’d cried and pulled against the scarves she’d bound around my wrists.

“You can’t get loose.  You wanted it this way.”  Her hand had gripped the back of my neck holding me down, but  inside she’d slowed and my knees had steadied.

“I’m not going to hurt you again, unless you ask for it.”

Raw is how I remember feeling, as I’d braced for being pierced to the other side.  “Not so hard this time.”

Spreading out inside me her knuckles had ribbed against me in growing friction.

“Touch yourself while you fuck me,” I’d said to the stranger.

She’d moaned as her pressure inside me had rolled back and forth and in and out and I’d begun to catch fire and burn.

”Jesus! Fuck!”  My whole body had vibrated and she’d knocked my legs out from under me and lying on top of my back, she’d bitten into my shoulder and fucked me with deep strokes.   A burning like I’d never felt consumed me.  I’d pulled tighter and tighter against the restraints.

”Take yourself there. Quit fighting what you want,” she’d said,  holding me down, as I’d struggled against the thing coiled inside me.  Crying, being leashed to it for so long.  Forever…finally it had snapped and freed itself and had come galloping out of me, taking part of me along with it.

I’d gone too far.

Minutes had passed, as I’d laid bare and spent on the bed, until I’d felt the silk untied from my wrists and the belts loosened around my ankles.

“Did you like that?”

“I don’t think we should do it again.”

“I agree.  I like you better this way, with your arms around me.”  She’d brushed my forehead with her lips. “So, I guess…is this moment to ask? Are you moving in with me?”


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Malibu

Malibu_sunset

Malibu – 8:20 pm

I rustle inside the grocery sacks from my raid through Whole Food for our spur of the moment beach weekend. Finally, I locate the bag that holds the wine. Just outside the door on the deck Tina holds Angelica in her lap and brushes the coarse sand off her feet.

“Tina, do you want to put her to bed while I cook the salmon?”

“You’re cooking?” She looks curiously at me.

“Oh, you’re getting a much improved version in our relationship redux. I cook now. And your salmon fillet is with tomatoes and shallots and something else that will come to me in a minute.” I look up as I drop an armful of vegetables on the counter.

“Astonishing.” Tina closes the door with Angelica in her arms. “Kiss your daughter, then by all means, please cook.” I bury my face in Tina’s neck for a moment, and then cradle Angelica’s chin in my hand, and kiss her good night.

“I’d like to start with a red wine, and then switch to white with the fish. But a nice glass of something red and wonderful when I get back?”

“So ordered.” I lift up several bottles of reds to choose from as I hear them moving down the hallway.

 

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Malibu – 9pm

“Nice fire and you selected an excellent wine. Other pluses to add to your growing list of improvements.” Tina joins me on the couch with a tray of red grapes and cheeses. She puts a square of soft cheese on a cracker and pops it into my mouth. I chew. Delicious. We smile.

I’m in one of those moods where I could talk all night, or I could be happily mute and listen to the ocean surf outside the window, the fire snapping in front of me, and whatever Tina wants to say. I take a long sip of wine, and watch her as she settles into the cushions. She’s beautiful and I’m completely in love with her. We smile again.

“Are you being strange tonight, Bette? Or am I just completely exhausted from not much sleep and movie people all day long?”

“I have two years of things to say, or I have nothing but a blank slate with the next moment on it for you.” I lean in for another bite of cheese and cracker, and I make one for Tina.

“So, you are being weird.” Tina cocks her head at me.

“A little but not intentionally. But weird in a very, very friendly way.” I look seductively at her, and she smiles, and folds back into my arms. We stretch out on the couch and watch the fire. We sip wine.

“Do you remember why you fell in love with me? Is it the same reason that you’re back? That you rented us this wonderful house in Malibu?” I whisper in Tina’s ear as she settles across my chest.

“Honestly, the main reason I asked you to come here? I think Jodie is a little crazy, Bette. I didn’t want to worry the minute I got into bed with you that she wouldn’t show up, and beat on the door, or stalk us in the garden over the weekend.”

“And fucking Jenny with her ear always out the window.”

“This is going to sound so LA creepy that you have to promise me you won’t blast off and hit the ceiling.”

“I can’t think what would rile me from my near love coma with you but try, I guess.” I laugh and kiss the top of her head. I pop a red grape into my mouth.

“We should hire a media strategist to announce our getting back together.” Tina says seriously.

“A fucking media strategist? We aren’t famous!” I vent. “I never have understood why people are so obsessed with us.”

“Bette, your hot oil wrestling clip on YouTube?”

“Oh God.”

“Before Joyce’s people finally got it blocked? In the two days it was live it had forty thousand hits – something insane like that.”

I groan.

“And Jodie’s podcast with Alice?” Tina reminds me.

“No! It, too?”

“You’re great looking, Babe. Women were all over you, weren’t they when you were single? Me? I could hardly get a date.”

“That I never understood. But really that little freak director with the hat? You were wasting your time, Tina. She was an idiot.” I add flatly.

“And Jenny’s script.”

“What about Jenny’s script?” I roll off the couch to put another log on the fire. “Or should I ask, what else has our personal, Dark Tormentress done?”

“Jenny has written a scene, and this is going to hurt you to remember, and I’m sorry, but it ties into the other thing I want to talk to you about.” Tina says from the couch.

“I’m going to start dinner. Keep going.” I walk into the kitchen and begin by flipping on the oven and prepping a skillet to saute the shallots.

“We need to trust each other. We need to quit lying to each other.” Tina’s tone is firm as she locks eyes with mine.

“Tina, I know lying is terrible. I hear myself do it all the time. But I agree between us,” I look back at her on the couch, “we should always tell each other the truth.”

“Bette, we have to.” Tina exhales emphatically. “Babe, if we believe we are strong enough to move forward, and have a family together then, we have to believe that our relationship can take the truth. If not, we shouldn’t do this. It’s just an affair.”

“That’s not what I want with you, Tina.” I lean against the counter and look at her, “Years ago, I did things to protect you. Lied. Kept things from you, but you’ve changed. Your naiveté, it’s gone. And that’s fine. You’ve grown up.”

“I found a picture of us the other day. It was between the pages of a book I was reading. I know what you mean.” Tina says wistfully from the couch. “I was very young back then.”

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“And very lovely, too. But Tina? A media strategist?”

“Bette, the movie starts shooting on Monday. They’ll be media buzz. Trust me. What if Jodie decides to get with Alice this weekend, and uses her unwittingly for a little revenge against you? I can’t imagine she’s very happy with you right about now.”

“Forty thousand hits? Goddammit! Who the fuck was there that day to shoot that? For the love of God! Hot oil wrestling! I paid so much money to get that video off the internet.” I splash tap water on my face to wash away the nightmare. “Joyce thought it was a fucking scream. I got over two hundred emails from women.” I shake my head sadly.

“I’ll pay for this weekend. Really, all along I have intended that this be my treat.”

“I accept. Trust me. I appreciate it. And we have some hefty tuition bill coming up soon, too, right?” I ask as I begin to prepare the salmon.

“An eight thousand dollar deposit. Yikes, I know.”

“God! Can we afford another child? Really!”

“We’re okay. I’m making lots of money. You’re fine. Yes, we can afford another baby.” Tina assures me.

“I really want one.” I look over at Tina, and give her a huge smile.

“Me, too. Right after the movie is finished in a month or two we can start planning.”

 

salmon

Dinner table – Bette

“Bette, this salmon is delicious. I’m very impressed.”

“I’m telling you, T, you are coming back at the right time. I’m much better – all around.” I accentuate.

“I can see that.” Tina smiles across the table at me.

“I was staring at the ceiling the other night thinking about you. I was alone up at Big Bear. Jodie was downstairs doing shots, or some shit with her friends, anyway, I was missing you terribly. And I thought of how I used to come home after work, and toss my briefcase down, and start yelling. Or worse charge out again after kissing you on the head, and treating you like a pet dog I’d put fresh food and water down for before I’d take off again to meet some museum director, or put out a fire somewhere.”

“I remember. I grew to resent it. But you know what?”

“No, wait! Really let me finish. That’s not who I am anymore. I will never do that to you again. You are the most important thing in my world. You and our daughter. But tonight, right now, I’m talking about you being the most important person in my world. I know that now.”

Tina leans slightly across the table, and threads her fingers through mine. She puts my hand up to her cheek. “You know what? I signed up for being with a person who thinks the world rotates around them, and bursts into a room like a comet.” She plays with my long curls as she speaks softly to me. “You think I want boring? I went there. It was very homogenized. I woke up and ran back to you.”

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“Well, it’s true I haven’t had a lobotomy, but I’ve re-calibrated somewhat, and especially there. I love you, and I know what you mean to me.”

Tina kisses my palm.

“And you were going to tell me about Jenny’s script?” I ask her.

“There was an argument we had when I told you that Henry and I were thinking of starting a family.”

I wipe my hands on my napkin, and look at Tina. “And you said you weren’t going to let me adopt Angelica.” I feel a mixture of fear edging around me, and the sizzle of anger flashing up my neck.

“There were a lot of explosions that happened that afternoon around the subject of me, and men, and family, and what my plans were with Henry.”

“Tina, that shit with Henry, and the bitter taste that it left was so negating of everything that we were after years and years of being together.” I stare at her, and can’t keep the emotion from my voice.

“Goddammit, I felt you cut my heart out,” I press my hands against my chest and look at her entreatingly, “and that some how you were buying into the whole line that Gay People Can’t Be Parents. It truly freaked me out.”

“Well, Jenny’s story is that Bev and Nina after years together suddenly fall apart because of the plumber. Nina secretly hides her pregnancy, has an affair with an heiress, dumps her and then you again. Then she goes off with a man, Harry, and then throws everything in Bev’s face.” Tina pauses, and rubs her hand across her forehead, “And this is the new part  that wasn’t in the New Yorker serialized editions – that she’s going to marry him, and take away Bev’s rights to their child because Nina realizes she’s not gay.”

“God, I fucking hate Jenny’s movie. And I swear to God, I hated my fucking life back then.” I exhale bitterly.

“The actress, Isabella, who plays Bev, she doesn’t have your range – trust me – but the line when I hear is you shouting, “Have you just been fucking brainwashed, Tina? How could you do this? Did nothing about the last eight years between us mean anything? Anything at all?”

“Baby, you have to answer that right now for me. You want a promise about lying. I raise my hand up and promise it to you. But you please, you have to look at me and tell me for the love of God, Tina, are you back? Are you in love with me? Is a family? Is a whole life with me what you want?”

 

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“Yes, and I want you right now.” Tina says as she lifts off her sweater, and throws it on the couch a few feet away. I lift her up in my arms and we waltz backwards to the fireside and lie down on a bear skin rug. I unbuckle her pants and pull them free. They disappear somewhere over my shoulder. She pulls my shirt over my head, and unzips my pants. I feel her find me immediately and we kiss deeply.

“Take them off.” She says as she unclasps my brassiere. “I want you right now.”

“I hear you!” I lean back and wiggle out of my clothes and lie back on top of her. “Better?”

“You’re very warm on top of me, and the fire feels so good.”

“Kiss me, Tina and listen to how loud the surf has become.” Our lips meet, and Tina slides my leg between hers, and bites my tongue a little at the end of our kiss.

“Baby, take care of me tonight. This is where I want you to do that for me.”

“I will, I want to.” I move inside her as we kiss some more.

“Bette, I’ve felt you in me all morning, and then all afternoon after I booked this beach house. I’ve wanted you for hours.”

“I know how you get, baby.” I take her in my mouth, and she runs her hands through my hair, and holds the back of my neck pressing me to her.

“It’s not just that you’re a good lover, you are. Or how beautiful you are, and sometimes how you go off and act crazy.”

I lift up from making love to her, “Baby, I can’t really talk right now, but I’m going to need your attention in a minute, and if you don’t give it to me, I’m going to take it.”

“You should take it. And yes, to all your questions. I want only you, and only our family, and only us.” She lies back and sighs as her hands pull through my hair.

“Tina, last night when we were making love after the club and I had that strange feeling in my chest.” I lie on top of her and we move together in a steady rhythm as we slowly make love.

She rubs her hand down the muscles of my back, and begins to scratch me slowly just below my waist.

“It’s back but it’s not scaring me tonight.” I whisper in her ear.

“Good, because you’ve carried me right up to the edge.”

“I just do know how to do that, don’t I?”

“Flawlessly,” Tina whispers and then rolls our lips together.

“Here touch me, I need you, too.”

We lie in front of the fire and race each other along the edges, and then pull away.

“It’s my heart bursting, that’s what it feels like. Baby, God, I want you to marry me. Do you want to marry me?”

“Jesus! Bette! You’re proposing on the edge of an orgasm?”

“Here, let’s see? Am I?” I put my hand behind her head and lift her into my lap.”

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“I really like fucking you this way. I like the way your thighs begin to shake when you can’t stop waiting anymore.” I bury my head in her neck as we make love. “Tina, I want babies, and trust with you, and a home. And I want to take care of you, and I want to stop, and slow down.”

“Baby, don’t stop now.” Tina cries softly into my ear.

“Sorry, I misspoke. I’ve got you. You feel it.”

“I definitely feel it.”

“Please marry me. It’s you I want for the rest of my life.”

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“I will. Please let us go.”

“Not yet. I bought your engagement ring this afternoon.”

“An engagement ring? You’re not serious.”

“Where are my pants?”

“Christ! Behind me I think.” Tina kisses me. “Bette, I’m this close.”

“I’ve seen you multitask. Lean back and open my pocket. There’s a box inside for you.” I smile as Tina wraps her legs around my waist and leans back for the jewelry box.

“Cartier? No, you didn’t!”

“I know you love Tiffany. But this didn’t feel like a little blue box moment. I wanted something deep and red and …” Tina opens up the box, and sees her ring.

CU Cartier

 

“You can’t be serious.” Her eyes open wide in amazement as she puts the ring on her finger. It catches the fire light and flashes.

“I will never, ever take this off.”

“Put your hand on my heart. Do you feel how strange it’s beating?”

Tina puts her hand with her ring over my heart, and kisses me deeply. “Your heart feels just like mine. Exploding.”

I take her in my arms, and in a moment we connect again. Through the west-facing windows I hear the beating ocean surf, and on my skin her breath coming harder and harder against my neck. My own heart, mixed with the sound of the rising tide, is loud and pounding in my ears. Inside her I focus on that one place I know she’s waiting for – that last pulse and ring of fire we always do together that pushes us over the edge.

“There’s only us.” I whisper to her as we let go in each other’s arms.

_________________

Click here for the L Word inspired Season 7 book’s first chapter, _Touch Tones: After Midnight 

“Touch Tones’s” chapter one picks up an hour after this story, “Malibu’s” conclusion. “After Midnight” begins as the couple begins to envision their life together post engagement. Tina senses trouble ahead as the film, Les Girls, begins production and Jenny’s vindictive and unpredictable nature lurks.

Writers love comments. Drop one if you are so inclined.

Blackbird

 


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Coming Home

DreamSequence_Garden

Bette’s House – Tina

As I drift up from my dream I hear the co-mingling of familiar sounds from my past: The garden fountain’s pattering and splashing in the distance, the soft whirr of the pool pump as it kicks on, and Bette’s strong, steady breath as she sleeps next to me. The last thing I want to do is go to work today.

I disable my 6:15 alarm and push the creeping thoughts of Jenny’s revealing new script rewrites and the romantic calamities of Bev and Nina from my mind. Dissuaded they circle me unhurried from dismissal.

Bette stirs and wraps me in her arms. I wonder does she know she’s holding me?

“How’d you sleep?”

I sigh and feel like a fool.

“I’m listening.” She sweeps my hair back and watches me intently.

“Babe, I’ve missed you. There’s no other lover like you anywhere in the world. I’d bet millions on it.” I smile, and she begins to laugh softly with me.

“You know everything about me, don’t you?” Bette asks.

“Hardly, you’re too complicated.” I caress her face and slowly we kiss our good morning.

“I’m not really. I have beliefs and when challenged I. . .things get complicated.”

“Let’s leave it at predictable.” A little ache rises up inside me, as we kiss again.

“I’m so glad you’re home, Tina.”

The sheet travels down my body and the feelings of her mouth and hands spread over me and we come in slow waves together and hold each other until the clock forces us apart.

Ten minutes later –

Focused on coffee and Angelica in that order, I pad down the hallway barefoot toward the kitchen picking up the clothing Bette and I dropped last night in a straight line from the front door into the bedroom.

The sweet scents from the garden drift in through the open French doors  before the morning smog begins, and as our morning coffee brews I rinse a bowl of blueberries and slice peaches for our breakfast.

In Angelica’s room now, leaning over to kiss our child awake – another part of morning  our small family has so rarely had together. Bette’s shower cuts off, and before my mind can grasp at who’s to blame for so few of these ever before being enjoyed, I stop myself. This may be the most perfect morning.

peaches_blueberries

Bette walks into the kitchen wearing her blue pin striped power suit and pours her coffee.

“Tina, I want you to move back home tonight. Will you come back home right now?” She fixes me with an intensity across the breakfast table.

“I have an unreal day ahead of me with Lez Girls but I’ll come over later with a big suitcase. How’s that?”

“How about two big suitcases? I’ll carry both of them inside.” She challenges me and smiles as Angelica pops blueberry after blueberry into her mouth and grins back.

“Bette, what makes you think that Jodie won’t come over here and that you can just invite me back to live here while you’re in a relationship with her?”

“It’s my house the last time I checked and I intend to be very cold when I break up with her later.” She says as she begins to eat her peaches. “I’m aiming for sub-zero.”

“And your inflammatory nature?”

She begins to laugh. “There are very complicated emotional thermodynamics involved in all this, Tina, I realize that. But here’s the best I can do to explain it to you.”

She points her finger at me and says, “You are “hot” feelings for me.” Then she makes a quick slice across her throat, “She equals “cold” feelings for me.” And she ends with a mouthful of fruit.

“I’ve seen you be cold before, Bette.” I shake my head and cut smaller bites of peaches for Angie.

“No, you haven’t. You’ve seen me steely, but trust me I’ve never felt this way before.”

 

caution tape

Bette’s Office – 9:30 am

Before I left home to drop off Angelica at CU’s day care and begin my complicated moves for extraction I packed every little piece of Jodie Lerner I could find into a medium sized cardboard box and tied it closed with yellow Caution tape. I stare at it on the floor under my office printer.

What was I? Fucking desperate? I wonder as my power suit boosts my laser focus and I begin to feel incredibly pissed off the longer I stare at the box. I fucking tolerated so much shit from that woman. Jesus! I’ve been so lost and for so damn long. I put my head in my hands and think about rebound sex and how the inevitable happened: I remembered love and knew it was somewhere else entirely.

I open my desk drawer and take out a framed photograph of Tina that Shane gave me so long ago. It’s been out in every office I’ve had but this one and I recall very clearly why I shoved it in the back of this drawer when I moved in – Tina was with Henry.

Tina_wooden bench behind her

I walk to my office door with Tina’s photograph in my hand and catch James’ attention.

“James, give me about ten minutes without interruption.” I smile to put him at ease. Poor man, I periodically beat the shit out of us both. “I’m closing my door. Ten minutes.” I hold up a little inch with my fingers.

One day I might change and not feel weird moods like this but I tend to doubt it. I look at the photograph of Tina and lean solidly back against my door until hear it catch. I thought for sure I had lost everything.

Shaolin Studios – Tina

Every time a delivery courier’s scooter appears in the window of my office trailer I wonder if Bette will send me flowers this morning. Then I wonder what kind, and then my phone interrupts me before I can fantasize anymore about her romantic floral signatures.

“Alice, hi.” I say finally after she calls my cell phone three times.

“Well, so you really are starting Jenny’s crazy movie about us, huh?” Alice begins. “Shooting in two days? Right?”

“Alice, really for your own good, for the good of all of us please talk about this movie as a work of fiction. Nothing is real.”

“Tina, I can’t get metaphysical with you before one or two in the morning but, yeah, I hear what you’re saying. And I need a press pass to the set while you’re shooting, okay?”

“Alice, I can’t give you an all access anything. This is a closed set. I’ll ask you on days when we’re outside or you know when I can Alice, but we’re not making press passes to the set.”

“Okay, I get it – lesbians, movie secrecy and all that.” I roll my eyes as I hear Alice begin her interpretations.

“Marketing and mystique. Good thinking. So, I’m dropping it for now, but remember me.”

“You’re unforgettable.” I watch as another courier gets off his scooter without bringing me flowers. I turn back to my desk and bring up my daily meeting calendar.

“I think Shane broke her “sex fast” last night at the SheBar.” Alice laughs into the phone conspiratorially.

“That business had a very short half life. But it was amusing to watch while it lasted.” I acknowledge.

“It was, wasn’t it? So, the movie biz and all – surely you see someone interesting out your window if not two or three. Right?”

“Alice, I’ll invite you to the set as soon as I can but I have to go.” I say as I look up to into the face of a wrinkled Asian man who hands me a bouquet of my favorite roses mixed with Stargazer lilies.

We watch as a lady bug crawls out of the petals, cocks its spotted back and flies away.

Pink_Yellow Roses

 

“Those mean good luck and for women fertility, too.” He smiles and bows at me as he waits for me to sign for my delivery. I slip one rose out of the vase and smell its sweet scent. As I walk to my ten o’clock meeting I call Carol Goldman’s leasing agency in Malibu.

“Hi, this is Tina Kennard, is Carol in? Sure, I’ll hold.”

“Tina, back in the movie biz, I hear. I’m so happy you called!” Carol says as I hear her printer churning out documents in the background.

“Please tell me you have a pretty beach house for this weekend? I’d love to come out there tonight, listen to the ocean and leave late Sunday.”

Bette’s office – 3 pm

I take out a sheet of my personal blue linen stationary, uncap my fountain pen and with the unbroken concentration of a calligrapher I exhale slowly and write:

Dear Jodie,

I know I promised you I would not do this but by breaking that promise to you I’m able to keep so many more. It’s complicated and it’s not. I’ve always loved Tina and she’s come home to me.

Bette

I soften the focus of my single-pointedness as I lift up my pen. I read the three sentences over, fold the paper twice and drop it into the cardboard box.

“James, I’m going to the security office to go over the details for the media center. I’ve got my phone.” I close my office door and walk down the hallway with the box for Jodie.

I unlock the door to the faculty mailboxes and leave Jodie’s box on the mail room table.  I lock the door behind me.

Text to Tom from Bette,

“Tom, Please tell Jodie I’ve put a box with all her things from my house in the faculty mail room, and a note inside that explains why. Bette”

Without hesitation I hit send, and let out a tremendous sigh, as I open the door to the security office, and walk into the room filled with the campus’ video camera displays. I note above me, and slightly to my left are the two I’m interested in watching. The guard and the tech guy I’m there to meet tear their eyes away from a shiny metal box with lots of colored wires curling out of it.

“Hi, guys this won’t take long.” I say as I watch the hallway camera feed outside the door to the faculty mail room.

“Those three dark screens at the end of the video array are for the new cameras for the media center and theater?” I ask reminding them of the purpose of my three o’clock visit.

“Yes,” says the tech guy, “they’ll come online when we’re finished wiring the place for AV.”

“My two cents, you guys made a mistake not putting a camera backstage.” The guard offers as he looks up at me.

“You can’t do that to actors. They are so spooky already.” I say as I see Tom and Jodie walking quickly down the hallway toward the mail room. Her face is not very clear in the black and white image, but her stamping pace and arm gestures leave me no doubt to how she’s feeling. I point to the box of circuits and wires the men were engrossed in moments before I arrived.

“What piece of equipment were you geniuses working on when I interrupted you?” I distract them from the scene I anticipate unfolding in moments. They take the bait, and the tech guy hands the mystery box to the guard who begins to take it apart with a tiny green screwdriver.

I watch the monitor and see the mail room door fly open and Tom stand with his hands on his hips as Jodie peels the tape off her box. She quickly fishes out my note, and after a very short read she turns the page over to see it’s blank.

She signs to Tom. “I should never have trusted her.” She pitches the note back inside the box, puts her hands against her temples, and rubs them furiously. Then she begins to sign some more.

“After all that monogamy crap she gave me about Amy, and other women – she’s gone back to Tina. How long have they been seeing each other behind my back?” I watch Tom shrug, and shake his head quickly.

Jodie points to the side of her head and wheels her fingers around by her ear. I feel twinges of lousiness, and the pain of a liar, as she carries her box back toward the artist’s studios, and away from the corridor that would lead to my office.

“Okay, guys. Call me when the theater cameras come in.”

As I walk down the hallway I text James.

Text from Bette to James:

“Anything?”

Text from James to Bette:

“There’s a Skype call that keeps trying to connect to your computer.”

Text from Bette to James:

“3 mins.”

I stop at the coffee stand between the buildings for a late afternoon latte as a group of students with brass instruments pour out of the Music Department. A riff of notes between the sax and the rippling clarinet drift by. My phone buzzes with a text. I juggle the coffee and read.

Text from Tina to Bette:

“B, Flowers r wonderful. You shouldn’t have. 😉 Crazy day so far. Pls say, “Yes,” you’ll come to Malibu with me tonight, and stay the weekend.”

Text from Bette to Tina:

“Yes! In 30 minutes can U talk then?”

Text from Tina to Bette:

“I’ll try. But def c u around 6. Love you, T.”

I’m grinning when I walk up to James’ desk.

“Okay, I’ll see about the Skype call, now. And James stay if you want to, but it’s four, and I’m going to Malibu for the weekend with Tina so, you can …” I stop, and look at James’ expression of shock. Hm, I begin to realize I’m going to get this a lot for the next few weeks .

“Long story, James, too long for four on Friday. I’m making this call then, I’m going home to pack.” I point my trigger finger at him, “Have a good weekend.” I close my door and flip the lock. Jodie is unpredictable.

I click the option for Skype to redial the last call in and in a few seconds an elderly Native American woman’s face fills my screen. Her hair is braided, and snow white, and she wears a blue denim shirt with a cherry red kerchief around her neck. I frown slightly because I have no idea who she is.

“I could have left a video message I realize but what I need to tell you is best interactive.” She leans slightly into the camera as she adjusts in her seat. I catch glimpses of a well stocked bookcase, and squash colored walls behind her.

“Technology. Amazing. Have we met?” I ask as I sip my latte.

“Briefly. I was just about to introduce you to someone who had come a long way that day to see you when we watched you get fired from your job and your friends…,” she puts her hand up to her mouth as she laughs softly, “well, they had to subdue you and drag you out of your father’s wake.”

I pinch in between my eyebrows as I remember fucking Franklin and Leo. Then I focus on her Skype ID, Mary_WindHorse. Who is this lady who is recalling one of the worst days of my life on arguably what may be one of my best?

I clear my throat from the feeling of strangulation at the bad memory, “Mary Windhorse. Mary, I can’t remember, and you were there for Melvyn’s wake? Thank you for coming. I’m sorry, I don’t remember. And you came with another friend of my father’s?”

“Bette,  I was there with your Mother.”

“You what?” I yell into the screen. “That’s impossible! My mother’s dead. She died when I was a child.”

“She left one day, and never came home again, am I right?”

“Yes,” I exhale hotly.

“She’s been in Witness Protection for twenty-six years because of a terrible gang murder she saw that afternoon.”

“Murders? Wait! Is that even possible? That she could go missing without my father ever knowing?”

“Bette, you need to think about that for a bit. Do you want to call me back?”

“He knew?” I blow out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

“Oh, of course, he knew. She pleaded with him to let you come with her into protection, and grow up as her daughter. But he refused to come in with her, or to let you go.”

“Oh my fucking God! I can’t … excuse me, I shouldn’t have said that out loud.” I wince into the screen, and watch the old Indian woman’s eyes wrinkle in a smile.

“She’s my neighbor out here in the desert.”

“Which desert?”

“Good question. She does want to meet you, very much.”

“It’s been two, nearly three years since Melvyn died. And she came to LA and then disappeared again? I don’t know. Can I trust this?” I pinch my arm to make sure I’m awake. It hurts. I am.

“She had a heart attack, Bette when we got back home. But her friends have been taking good care of her, and for the last year she’s been back out in the canyons painting again.”

I tally up my mother’s age again for the tenth time in my head. If lucky we have a good ten years left before she falls into the more critical margins. Mary’s voice snaps me back.

“Stay just like that for a second more. I told your mother I’d take a screenshot for her.”

“For an old lady you know a lot about technology. Is there a story behind that, Mary?”

“One very long story and best told over dinner. Call me back when you’ve decided to come out here. We’re not far away. Just a state or two over, but too far to walk.” She laughs. “And they’re rattlesnakes.”

I feel my eyes shoot up to the ceiling. “Okay, too far to walk. I can take a plane.” My eyes drift back down to the screen. “And tell my mother for me will you? She has a beautiful, beautiful grand daughter.”

I see the elderly woman’s eyebrows rise slightly then settle back down. “It’s a long story, also best told over dinner. I’ll figure out when I can come see you, two, soon.”

 

Malibu_sunset

Malibu – Bette – 8 pm

I stand on the deck and feel the rapidly cooling wind whip off the Pacific Ocean as the colors from the sky turn an amazing purple before they begin to fade. I feel Tina’s arm slip around me as she leans her head against my shoulder. I reach down for Angelica and lift her to watch the brilliant sky change.

“A purple ocean is very rare, Angelica, my wonderful baby girl. You need to get an eye on this.” I point her fist out to the sea. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before, have you, Tina?”

“Never. I’ll take a picture.” Tina clicks one with her iPhone, and slips it back in her pocket.

“Let’s go back to the water’s edge one more time before it’s dark.” I wag Angelica’s arm toward the beach.

“You can’t get enough of those sand crabs can you? Why do you love them so much do you think?”

“Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an animal? Just for a day?” I ask Tina as we walk across the sand and I carry Angelica in my arms. Her head bobs sleepily against my neck as the waves lull and crash with the tide.

“I think of flying sometimes when I watch birds.” Tina says.

“Flying does seem nice.” I agree.

“But you probably want something with teeth and a big tail, too.” Tina laughs at me.

I kneel down and watch a half dozen crabs scoot sideways, and run along the lines of foam.

“I don’t see you as one of those little crabs, Bette, although you do zigzag sometimes very dramatically.”

“A close friend of my mother’s called me today. Skype’d me actually. An old Indian lady. Just out of the blue.”

“Could today get any odder?” Tina asks.

“Oh, yes. Very.”

“Are you upset? You don’t seem upset though.” Tina stops me and holds my arms as the light grows a deeper purple around us.

“She’s not dead, Tina. She’s been in Wit Sec for twenty-six years, and was at Melvyn’s wake!”

“What the fuck?” Tina asks as she stares over at me.

I begin to laugh and then I can’t stop. I hand the baby to Tina.

“Bette, what’s wrong with you. You’re scaring me a little.”

A wind gust picks up, and I hold Tina against me as I try to calm my gasps of laughter. “All day long I’ve wondered if waking up with you was a mirage, and perhaps I’d orbited into another sphere entirely. Just snapped, you know? Then the Mother Phone Call.”

“Is that why you sent me flowers?”

“No! Don’t be crazy! I sent you flowers because I love you.”

“But if I’d texted you, “WTF,” instead of inviting you to Malibu?” Tina asks.

“I was going to call the ambulance. Sad for you though, you’re still my emergency contact.” I laugh at myself before I kiss Tina’s lips.

“Dear God. What about your mother?”

“I want you with me when I go to meet her. Will you come?” I ask.

“When? Jesus! Yes, of course, I will. But the timing of everything…”

“It couldn’t be stranger.” I put my arm around her as we walk back to the beach house.

“I’m not sure where she lives, more will be revealed. She’s in witness protection so there are secrets to be aware of.”

“So, someone wants to kill her still?” Tina presses.

“That much we can guess, or did anyway. She must feel the threat is over, or she wouldn’t be calling, or have her emissary call me.” I surmise.

“Bette, you have to look into this before we get too involved.” Tina warns as she looks at me, and then Angelica asleep in her arms.

“I know. I will. We’ll be careful.” I walk up the steps to the deck of the house. “Let’s say we’re starting dinner so at least we can open the wine.”

“And to think, yesterday I had such an uncomplicated life, and was dating a heart surgeon.” Tina smiles at me and shakes her head.

 

__________

The next chapter is titled, Malibu. The couple arrive at the beach house. Bette surprises Tina with an unusual request.

After Malibu this book that I hope you have enjoyed will conclude and a new book, my version of The L Word Season 7, a long awaited return of the characters will begin. It is titled, Touch Tones. I will post chapters here shortly.

@Blackbird_Write has my story twitter feed.

Writers love comments. Please leave one! Thanks for reading! Blackbird

 

 

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The Lucky Ones

California lodge

Big Bear – Bette

I can’t keep up and I don’t want to anymore. I can’t sign fast enough. I can’t understand theirs quick enough and I can’t sit here with a smile frozen on my face one moment longer. I’m literally cracking up. I need air and I need freedom.  Quickly, I find my coat and scarf,  sign to Jodie that I’m going for a hike – alone – and I throw open the  backdoor.  I’ve had nightmares I’ve enjoyed more than this weekend.

Outside now, I hear Michelangelo’s ax split through a log. I wait and listen. His ax falls again. Good, the nosy bastard’s not following me. Cautiously, I slip into the cover of the tree line, and quietly as I can, I move farther and farther away.

All weekend long, none of my remedies to keep myself from climbing the walls have helped. I tried marijuana, then a nap. I tried reading by the lake to disastrous results.  Some how, some day, and somewhere someone will pay for that! A stealthy exit is what I need to get the fuck away from here, but I’d take a noisy beating helicopter if one appeared and dropped down a rope for my rescue. With luck I’d manage to hang on until I smelled the rusty smoggy air of Los Angeles. Then, I’d release my grip, splash into my pool, only to discover this has all been a terrible, terrible dream.

But at what point would I wish to wake up? Where could I have stanched the bleeding, stopped the destruction, and saved us all? I have no idea, and that’s my problem.

Forlorn, I lean against a tree. The mossy bark is cool and pleasantly spongy against my cheek. My arms instinctively encircle its trunk, as if I’m holding onto another species for dear life. The ground below me – or is it my mind that feels slippery and quaky and so unsure – or is the earth really shaking?

My face tigthens in a grimace: Michelangelo, I’m certain in a move to humiliation me, made all of his guests at Big Bear watch Jodie and Alice’s embarrassing podcast after lunch. Smirking at me while he translating Jodi’s sexually revealing answered has finished me.

Nauseasous at the memory, I cling to the tree and consider the pallative effects of vomiting.

Surrounded by Jodie’s band of babbling idiots is not the time to end this. No, “someone” would throw me back in the lake, and I’d have to hit him with the car, or beat him with an ax to escape. It all sounds like too much trouble, and I’m far too depressed. I just want to wake up at home with Tina and Angie, as if I’ve just gotten out of the pool from a very splashy swim.

For the fucking love of everything that’s Holy? What part of “Please don’t discuss my personal life – ever,” could have been unclear to Jodie?  Tina and I were together for years! Even blind drunk and tripping on mescaline would Tina have ever said, “Oh, by the way this morning Bette gave up being The Top and wanted me to fuck her?”

The answer is goddamn never. Just goddamn never.

I let loose of the tree and watch a lone hawk flying overhead. The house Tina and I love is just over the ridge, where the ground I know would feel solid again.

Can I ever get back to that fireside, to the even sounds of Tina’s breathing, until our lovemaking had made them change? Or is it too late? I’ve got to see her again and try to explain.

But first, who the fuck is Brenda?  I take out my cell phone.

Text to Shane:

“Who the fuck is Brenda?”

Text from Shane:

“No idea. Brenda?”

Text to Shane:

“Tina seeing her. Busty Brenda, ring a bell?”

Text from Shane:

“Alice says ❤ Dr 2 nice 2 happy tho.”

Text to Shane:

“Could I take her?”

Text from Shane:

“Hot oil wrestling? We think in a ❤ beat 😉 get it?”

Text to Shane:

:~)

Text from Shane:

“Thght ur writing abt Kit getting robbed. 😦 ”

Text to Shane:

“WTF?”

Text from Shane:

“Ck Ur messages. Kit OK n tried to call U.”

Tina_Raft_Halfnaked

Bette’s Garden – Tina

When news of Kit being robbed and shaken up had reached her that was all it took for Bette to zoom back home from Big Bear to see for herself. And while I’d hoped for a quiet afternoon with no drama – just to float and think slower and slower thoughts – she’s surprisingly quiet, but anxious. I never can figure her out when she gets moody like this.  God knows, I’ve tried.

But there’s a list of things that could be eating at her. Possibly, the news of Jodie’s podcast, that I’m sure didn’t go over too well, and Kit’s robbery is disturbing. Those, along with something pretty bad that must have happened up at the lake, have put her into an odd, uncharacteristically quiet mood.

And then, there’s the matter of the Love Charm I grew impatient with holding onto.  Once she announced she needed me to take care of Angelica, while she and Jodie went off for a weekend in Big Bear, I’d stowed the charm deep inside a pocket in her luggage. Now, after having retrieved it from her baggage, it sits a few feet away from her chaise in my straw beach bag. I float on my raft and wait. It’s been working on her for days.

I hear the sound of a blender from her kitchen.

Bette’s poolside – Bette

I’ve heard of people poking themselves in the nose with drink umbrellas, but straws I realize can be quite painful, too. Tina floating a few feet away from me has blown out my attention. I’d sat down to “read” a magazine, but behind my sunglasses I’ve been trying to figure out the right opener for a conversation that I know must take place. All she did was unclasp her strap to knock me clear into a place that requires polarized lens and lots of lotion. I buzz and I drink my rum and want her.

I feel anxious and overly sexed and confused. Don’t I need to talk to her first? Or can I just jump in the pool now like it’s my fantastic splash down? I know rum’s been known to make me see red, and do crazy things, and be horny – but this?

I flip through the pages of Vanity Fair. God! The women in this magazine are all stunningly beautiful. The models and the ads sexier than Playboy fold-outs. But maybe that’s just me. I like to imagine the breast especially now that you’ve shown me most of it. I can take it a dozen ways beneath the silk. I telescope in on Tina’s body. I know exactly how salty she tastes. I remember the Yucatan.

It’d been cold in Los Angeles, and warm and sunny there so, we’d flown down one February. Thank God, for sex on boats and steady breezes to blow the mosquitoes away. It was a small skiff and an isolated island key, but you never know sometimes with vacation sex, it can just inadvertently happen. I tie it all back to my machete skills with the coconuts for warm but interesting drinks as we explored the little beaches. But still I was a bit surprised when she took the boat’s anchor line away from me and said, “Let’s stay a little longer.” The picture in my mind instead of what’s on the magazine page is her swimming suit falling on the deck, and then her saying, “Oops,” to  me.

My tongue twitches with the memory of the salty taste of her breasts, then it stings. I drink more rum and feel it change to a throb and a want. Goddammit! No entreating, opening words of wisdom come to me, just the tastes of sex and salt, and the smacking sounds of water against a boat rock me deeper into the predicament of what I need to say. My mind hijacked with thoughts of fucking instead of knowing the gestalt of everything – the second, third and fourth poignancies that shade my future, but swim elusive like dark schools of fish that hold the meanings to everything.

It’s undeniable. What’s fogging my insights are the riddles and masquerades of Alphas. I’m ready to beg her for it, and then marry her for it, and never let her go again to keep it. This paradox between us . . .Love. . . I look up to the smoggy LA sky for answers.

Tina sighs and dips her arms in the water to cool them. If I didn’t think I’d fall face first into the pool, I’d lean down and capture her raft and make a long firm lick all the way down her back, and into her suit.

Joyce got me drunk last week and after a lot of Scotch we had solved it: There’s nothing to us but pretty gestures and seductive lines, if the women of our affections aren’t playing. It’s true. There’s no magic in my life without her. I sense that what awaits me is a piece of music I can’t quite hear, but must entrain, or all this goes away.

I lean back and pretend to study my magazine as Tina sprinkles water along her back. Does sex make any sense? Or is all of it is just a head trip since we fuck each other in our minds, as much as with our bodies? And if I could think of the right words, the “lightning words,”  instead of nipples and what she  says into my ear sometimes when she gets close. I shiver and flip the page. This business of my tongue kidnapping my brain is seriously sidelining me.

“Bette, I’ve got to leave. Thank you for the quiet. I really needed it, but in two hours we’re supposed to be at the grand opening of the SheBar. I’ve got a date tonight, so I really can’t miss it.”

“But would you like to?”

“Maybe a little but I’m going with Brenda, and you’ve got a babysitter all lined up for you and Jodie. If it sucks, I’ll leave after an hour.”

“Oh, it’ll suck alright.”

“We have to go. Our mission is to snoop for Kit.” Tina gets out of the pool, and drops her bathing suit top by her towel. “So, you’ll get Angie up from her nap, and feed her before you go out? Or I’ll do it. I don’t mind.”

“I’ll be right in. Do you want to shower here? We can all sit down together for dinner. Her sitter comes at seven.”

“Sounds nice. I’ll be a minute. Rinse the salt off.”

“Take all the time you need. I’ve got lamb chops and asparagus.” But what I don’t admit is how I could use some time alone.

SheBar – Tina

The room is filled with hundreds of dancing women, and by staying in the shadows – even the hint of seeking anonymity – has caused everyone’s gaze to land on her. Unbeknownst to Bette the word is out: The SheBar Wrestler’s in the House.

I’d almost given up, but after an hour of dodging and searching and pacing she finally finds me. She parts the curtain and sees that I’m alone.

For Bette who can range from argumentative pragmatism to outlandish whimsy with consequences be damned Luck is Magic to her, and years ago she’d sold me completely – the two were ours and no one else’s.

Tonight, I finally say the word that has that special fire with her, “You’re lucky to be with Jodie, Bette.” And that’s when she pulls me to her.

SheBarKiss_1

Why I thought when the moment the Gypsy prepared me for came Bette would have words she needed to say to me, and that her pent-up feelings would find phrases, and that those would have meanings, and perhaps some of them we’d even talked about before – I have no idea. But as she takes me like the wind into her arms I realize she’s given up any hope of language.  She shows me everything with her kiss.

I open my mouth, and feel her stroke my neck as her lips ask me: ‘Did I want to remember her?’ And at first that kiss surprises me. Then, her insistent, ‘You must remember us,’ kiss has a desperate edge.

‘Are we too far gone? Am I too fucking broken?’ and her longing for me finally breaks her, and she shatters in my arms.

“Baby, I’m here. It’s okay. We can do this.” I tell her when she finally lets me speak.

“I love you so much. I’ve been so fucking lost. Tina, you have no idea.”

SheBarKISS_Story

Bette’s House – Thursday Night 10pm – Tina

As Bette shuts the front door after paying the babysitter, I walk up behind her.

“Babe, I’ve got something I want to talk to you about.” Her eyes search me for a sign. “It’s nothing to do with us. It’s something else.” I lean in and kiss her.

“Can it wait a minute? I’ve really missed this.” She presses against me and opens my mouth wider. I lift up her blouse and in a whoosh it’s over her head. She gives me her best “come on” look, and I see the burn coming into her eyes.

“I’m glad you keep the curtains down now at night.”

“Fucking Jenny Schecter! But please, God! Let’s not talk about her.” She unzips my dress.  It falls to the floor.

“Definitely not.”  I step out of it and reach into her curls, pulling her to me. As we kiss, I hear a vibration coming out of her chest. “On second thought, everything I want to say can wait.” I unsnap her bra, “I’m taking you to bed.”

“Oh!” Her eyes flash at me. “You’re taking me to bed?” She unfastens my bra, and lays it across her shoulder, as we back up toward our target – the bedroom.

Pulling mine down from my legs, she asks at the doorway, “Do you remember the night I had your panties in my pocket and accidentally tried to use them for a handkerchief?”

“Actually, you’ve done that more than once, Bette. Now, hand yours over for the night.”

She smiles and a lacy chocolate colored pair flies through the air, as we fall back on the bed.

“God, I’ve missed your body.” I lean in and slowly suck her breast. Her hands on my back scratch me slowly.

“Baby, I’ve missed everything about you,” she sighs. “Where I’ve been is a terrible story.  I swear to you I will never repeat.”

Bette_Tina_in Bed_talking Story picture

“What was wrong with you this afternoon? Didn’t you realize I was trying to seduce you?” I kiss her, and wait for her answer.

“I got so tangled up in the Yucatan.”

“What?” I laugh.

“I. . . I’ve been a coward.” She rubs her face. “Honestly, I’ve been trying not to… you know?”

“The irony of me being the “other woman” in your bed is not lost on me.”

“Not to break the mood, but just for the fucking record – Candace was never in this bed – I went over there. For like four days! A fucking long weekend! Years ago!”

“I know you’ll never do it again.” We take off on long kiss and somewhere in it we come to forgiveness. Bette lightly traces her tongue down my neck. The muscles of her stomach tighten, as I circle my fingers over and over on her clitoris.  A long moan and another wave between us begins.

Grt Kiss Tina on Top

“Your body’s changed, Bette. I could see it in the wrestling ring.”

“Me? You were still milky and recently pregnant!”

“But Baby, your muscles.” I kiss down her stomach and patches of squares appear under my lips.

“I am. I’m showing off.” She leans up and makes them pop even more. It’s torture keeping them.” Then, she pulls me up to her.

“Sit in my lap. I’ve really missed you.”  Wrapping my legs around her, she strokes inside my thighs. I feel her kiss, and her fingers pressing into me. For long moments, it’s only the feelings of her tongue, and the aching she makes happen inside me, and then everything syncs and beats into a vibration.

Bette_veryGood_goldenKiss

I scratch lighter then harder across her lower back, and watch as her eyes change, becoming darker. Her hand holds the back of my neck, and inside me I feel more pulsing.

“Are you here tomorrow and then the next week and the next?” She demands and kisses me hard, then breaks away. “What are you doing? I love you, and I want you back, Tina.”

“Coming home.” I grip my hands behind her back, and the electric rings inside me grow.

Bette’s Bedroom – Bette

Somewhere between her breath on my face and the smell of her, I disappeared into mists and waves of pleasure. She twitches her muscles against my fingers inside her, and my heart takes off.

Bette_Tina CU golden toned KISS

I close my eyes and feel Tina fall against my shoulder, and twist my nipple. Then again harder.

I flash open my eyes. “Christ! My attention! You have it.”

“Where do you keep going?” Tina asks into my ear.

“My heart, it feels so tight, and it feels very fast.” My breath comes out hot against Tina’s neck. “Something’s happening. I might be dying.”

Tina widens her eyes in disbelief. “Bette, you’re too young for a heart attack.”

“It would be so cruel to fall dead during make up sex.” I hold my lips so they barely touch hers. “But let’s say I am.” I pull out of her as she tries to kiss me. I circle round and round on her clitoris, and feel the heat from her in my hand. Her thighs around my waist begin to shake. I lick inside her mouth, and I push back inside her. Tina cries out, and sucks my tongue.

“Baby, wait, it’s almost too much, but just right.” She moves slowly up and down in my lap. The tops of her legs continue to shake, then her hand slips between my legs, and rubs me. The pleasure spins around and around in my brain, then burns into the place I know I am inside her, where she throbs against my fingertips. I just need…

She flares a long scratch across my back. “God! That hurts!” I burst against her neck, and with her own cry she begins to shake against me.  My orgasm releases like a whip, and I’m there in the waves with her.

Later – Bette’s Bedroom – Tina

Our breath slower, our sweat slick and warm against my skin, I kiss her slowly, as I open my legs, and feel Bette’s thigh rub against an ache I can’t believe I still have. I touch the wet place I’m leaving on her leg, and she rubs against my fingers and moans. I kiss her lips one by one and tease her tongue.

“I love you.” Bette says, as she kisses my breasts, and her tongue leaves a moist trail down my belly. I close my eyes and feel her lick inside me, as she makes love to me – again.

“Bette, I don’t know. I might be done.”

I open my eyes and see her shoulders rise, and feel her lift me off the bed, as she licks deep inside me. After wrapping ourselves together minutes ago in passion the feeling of her back again so quickly – it feels nearly too much.

As the twisting of her tongue slides inside me, I fight with my emotions. Everything about her need to find and toy with and then, take all the last parts of me overwhelms me.

“You did this with her? Thinking that you did our thing with your tongue – it’s making me crazy.”

She lifts up from me. “Never. Just us, only us.”

Her fingers come back inside me, and connect again all the wanting, waiting places. My body in waves again runs along the currents with hers. She sucks me harder, and then teases me lighter and lighter, and then, I’m back in her mouth. Holding her to me, I beg her not to stop.

Bette’s Bedroom – Midnight – Bette

Tina lies against my shoulder.  “Scotch or wine?” I ask.

“If we drink Scotch, will you sleep? Because you can’t have me anymore.” Tina says.

“What the fuck?” I rise up on my elbows.

“Anymore tonight. I’ll get the Scotch and aspirin and going to sleep. Right?” Tina slips on my blue silk bathrobe that’s too big for her.

“Yes. Absolutely right.” I salute her from the bed, and fall backwards.

When Tina returns she hands me my drink, and lying back in bed her robe falls open. I drink a long swallow of Scotch and lie in her lap to enjoy our post coital hum

“I should have told you this a long time ago, Bette. And you promised me we’d drink this and go to sleep. Right?”

I stir around in her lap. “Is this going to irritate me? I can’t fall asleep pissed off.”

She puts her hand against my chest and rubs me.  “Baby, please this isn’t about you, but I’ve held it in because it’s something that hurt me. So, please listen to me, and don’t jump up, or go for your Bowie knife.”

“That bad?” I laugh at what I’m sure is an exaggeration. “Okay. I’m listening.” I settle back in her lap, and drink my Scotch as proof of contentment.

“A long time ago when I was young my sister and I at night in her bedroom…”

I watch Tina’s lips quiver.

“The abuse was bad. It went on for years.” Her eyes become cloudy, and unmistakably sad.

“Baby, what can I do? You said stay here and listen. That’s proving hard for me. I want to book a flight for wherever the fuck she is.” Then, Tina touches my face, as she begins to cry.

I hold her chin in my hand, slowly kiss her lips, and lie back down to wait with her, as she sobs. When she quiets, I put our glasses away, and take her into in my arms.

“There’s nothing to do about it.” She rest her cheek against my neck, and holds my hand across her heart, and releases a shaky sigh.

I stare angrily at the ceiling. “I could strangle her.”

“Don’t please. It’s part of why I don’t tell you things.”

“Things?” I ask suspiciously.

“Part of coming back to you is that I wanted you to know. And there are no other things. Like that anyway.”

“Okay.” I sigh. “But wait. . .not okay. Come closer to me.”

Tina puts her leg across me, and I feel her soft strip of hair against my thigh. I’m pissed off and tired and starting to want her again, but it’s getting so late, and yet, I wonder: Should I tell her?

“T, are you still awake?”

“Yes.”

“In college I was pregnant and had a miscarriage.”

“You what?” Tina pops up on her elbow next to me.

“It was with Coleman. We were just amusing ourselves. I never told him I was pregnant. I never told anyone, but I’m telling you.” I stop, as Tina watches me closely.

I struggle to find the words. ”When it happened to you, I felt like I knew how you felt.” I rub my forehead, and look at her in confusion. ”Then I cried and knew I didn’t know.” I wipe away my tears.

”Everything about what we had, that we were starting a family, and back then I was in college – so young! And with Coleman, of all people as it turned out! But it happened, and then in two months it was over, and it was just my secret, Tina.” I sigh and look at her.

“Secrets. They just happen like that and then, years pass.  I know.” She kisses my forehead.

“And I was sad and relieved – I didn’t want to end up with men.”  A sigh of sadness escapes me, and then one filled with relief. “I was twenty, Tina, and after that I was through with men. I was done.”

“Bette, you could’ve said something to me.”

“And when we go to the church sometimes to light the candle – it’s about the lost one, ours. And when I leave, and drive away the one I had – those thoughts will come back to me, but they’re only vaguely haunting now. It’s easier, when not another soul knows.”

“Is it?” Tina asks.

I cry softly to myself, and then wipe my last tear. “T, do we want more children?”

“I do, don’t you?”

“At least one more, don’t you think?” I smile at Tina, and reach behind her head and kiss her.

“Bette, that would make me really happy. After the movie’s finished, I’ll try again. Unless you. . .?”

“Me? God no! My abs, Tina, I’m much too vain about them.”

“Bette?”

“I can’t talk about what to do about Jodie tonight, T. I need to do it where there are not expensive objects, or power tools, or microphones, or people.”

“The desert?” Tina laughs.

“Oh, Jesus. It never ends. If she pushes me into a huge cactus, that will really hurt.”

“Thankfully, she’s your problem. I’m going to sleep.”

I lean over to kiss her good night. “I’ll turn the lights off around the house, and then I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere.”

I hear Tina laugh but I worry about things anyway.

__________________

Click here for the next story.

33. “Coming Home”  http://bit.ly/comingHome
I noticed if you click Next Post -> it takes you to the first chapter of our espionage series, WET WORK. Please click this link to read the lovely story, “Coming Home” in this WeHo behind the scenes series. http://bit.ly/comingHome 

1. In part of this series, there’s a story about Bette’s tongue’s radar, _Tongue Tales_ at this link on this site.

2. There is also a long love story called, _I Remember Rivers_ that has the reference to Samuel Clemens quote about lightning words versus lightning bugs here on this site.

Hope you enjoyed the story and drop a comment if you do!

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Fit for Battle – Bette Porter and Tina Kennard

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Bette’s Office – Bette

“Tina, I need a goddamn name.” I pace back and forth behind my desk and shout into my cell phone. “Tell your publicity people I’m coming over there and ripping every goddamn tattoo I see off their fucking arms until they help me get those pictures off the Internet.”

I hear James’ voice on the intercom. “Bette, it’s that reporter again from the gay press in Austin.”

“Why don’t your PR people care? Gossip bloggers are framing Lez Girls as a lesbian wrestling movie with me as its star!” I vent in disbelief.

I slap the button on my desk phone. “James! For tenth Goddamn time tell him to fuck off!”

I continue my tirade with Tina. “Just because you’re unrecognizable face down in that woman’s crotch you and your movie aren’t exposed? That’s actually Shaolin’s position?” I ask incredulously.

“At least you had your shirt on.” Tina says over the phone.

“What? As if that matters!” I stop dead in my tracks and look at the phone in disbelief. “Tina, okay, sorry I’m shouting. You just cannot believe the looks I’m getting around here! First, it was the fucking snickers and leers when Jenny’s book came out. Now this! So much worse,” I say inconsolably, “much, much worse.”

“I know it looks bad for a dean, for you. I don’t know what to say.”

Outside my office the phone rings again.  James engages our intercom. I beat him to the punch. “James, if it’s that She Beast bottom feeder from TMZ calling back tell her I’m on my over there with the lawyer who ruined her fucking father!”

“Bette, it’s Joyce Wishnia. She says she put Phyllis on the plane to Chicago. Do you want me to take a message?” James asks.

“God! No! James, find when and where I can meet her today, tonight, anywhere, anytime. Just get me a meeting with Joyce!”

“Bette, what are you doing with Joyce?” Tina asks with a note of suspicion in her tone. Little wonder, Joyce was either our hammer or the nails into each other before we came to our senses.

“What do you mean? Of course, I’m paying her to get the photos of me off the internet! Tina, are you not aware that I’m smack in the middle of a major fundraising campaign? The timing couldn’t be worse. It just couldn’t be worse.” I sigh wretchedly .

“I didn’t see anyone else at the club, did you?” Tina asks.

“I saw no one else while we were there except, Alice.” I stop pacing as a clammy chill creeps up my spine. “Tina,” I ask deadly serious, “Alice wouldn’t, would she?”

“Noooo! I can’t imagine it, Bette. And don’t call her up and accuse her, or even ask. There’s something called metadata linked to everything posted. Ask Joyce’s forensic guys. They’ll know what it is and how to understand it.”

“Well, I know what it means in Latin. It means “beyond the facts” and if it can lead me straight to the little motherfucker that’s doing this then it’ll be supra-data.” I lean over my desk and make a note, “metadata” and then stash it in my purse.

“Bette, I’m walking into a meeting, the first Table Read with the cast, and of course, Jenny’s here.”

“Does Kate come to things like that?” Bette asks forgetting her other concerns for the moment.

“Kate’s not here.”

“Good. Goddamn this mess. Okay, okay, bye.”

Tina_Phone_ArmLifted_Movietrailers

 

Shaolin Studio Back Lot – Tina

As I hang up the phone with Bette I see how many text messages and emails I’ve got to answer. Things are starting to pile up on me and it worries me that Angelica has had nothing but stressed out Moms for the last few days. Oh, I’m so fucking kidding myself. It’s been for her whole short life! It never stops and for the next thirty-three days of production I can’t see myself being chilled out anytime soon. Maybe when Bette goes to Big Bear with Jodie. Maybe then I’ll have a day with Angelica and can swim and lie out by the pool. Even two hours would be welcome. Just two hours of not being around nearly hysterical, overly stressed, head-tripping women. Jenny has taken me over and beyond my limit.

I see one of my texts is from her new assistant, Adele, who’ll be worth her weight in gold if she’ll keep Jenny from disrupting my life even more.

“Pls U be there in 15 with Jenny. C U South Lot conference room.” I text Adele as I walk down the long line of production trailers and nod and wave good morning to the growing numbers in our movie crew. I think about Bette taking off soon for Big Bear. A weekend trip I do and don’t want her to take.

I couldn’t believe my luck when she told me over the phone yesterday that she was staying in a house built by Jodie’s best friend, Michelangelo, whose sobriquet had gotten on Bette’s nerves already. And it should because – and I didn’t tell her – but I’ve met the apish grinning, Michelangelo before. There can’t be two of them, even in Los Angeles.

It was years ago when I lived in Santa Monica and he used to bounce into the arts center off Michigan Ave when he was in town. His facile friendly way and cheesy anti-urbane manner of speaking Bette will see through and hate on sight. And if he’s still not bathing regularly that wind will waft unpleasantly around her, too. I laugh to myself. Bette has a nightmare weekend ahead of her and just when she could use some clean mountain air and a few good long walks along with all the other things we used to do whenever we went up there. Nope, instead she’s got Michelangelo and Jodie.

I hop up the three short steps into an unassigned production trailer and kneel down to check the small fridge for cold water. It’s unseasonably hot and it feels like earthquake weather. Even thinking that makes me nervous. I push the thoughts of tremors and wanting a Xanax from my mind.

big bear

I take a long sip of cool water and scroll through my messages. In Big Bear we always stayed in log houses with incredible views from the master suite’s bedroom windows. I shake my head and smile at the memory. It was late one afternoon way up a mountain pass, miles away from easy restaurant take out, when I first realized Bette had no idea how to cook.

We’d been lazing by the fire drinking wine when my stomach had growled.

“Did you like the omelet I made you for breakfast? Say the word and I’ll make you another one for dinner.” It was then I realized: If I didn’t want more eggs I was done for.

I sit down on the couch inside the empty trailer and put my head in my hands. How many times can I fall in love with her? Two, three, or four times? And which one is this? Two or three? Or is it the same one and now my head is clearer? Or is it?

The sharp edges of the trailer’s counter tops catch my attention and my Gypsy scar itches. I rub it against the cushions behind me. Going in and out of trailers all day long I can’t help myself. I think about Allsweld. And wouldn’t you know it? Nikki Stevens, the film’s star? A dead fucking ringer for my long dead cousin, Lucy. It’s just right in my face again and again all day long. But I had to cast Nikki. There was no way around it. Every time I look at her I control my urge to vomit. I let out a jagged sigh. Bette doesn’t know about Nikki either.

I remember a time during a winter holiday that I had lied to Bette about my jagged scar. We were by the fire on quilts and Indian blankets in that incredible big log house up on Big Bear. And it’s not that she hadn’t mentioned it as she’d licked past before, but I’d always been quick to deflect the need for an answer with a sigh or a lick of my own, but that afternoon – with the stillness around us, the quiet mountain air outside dampened by the snowfall, the long stream of delicious red wine she had poured into crystal goblets – she had lulled and enraptured me. I’d hesitated when she’d asked.

I remember deeply loving her, and the fire, and her body everywhere all over me and so warm against my skin. I’d almost told her the truth but that horrible story – it would have completely broken our beautiful moment. That’s what that cursed scar does. It kidnaps me.

I’d distracted her and fed her grapes and told her I loved her until I’d put the bowl away and had shown her instead.

Bette_passion in bed. Story image

 

I don’t mind a good blow-by-blow recap after a particularly great night in bed. Maybe finish off the wine and get in the mood all over again. And she’s absolutely used it with great effect to do exactly that. But every once in awhile she’ll become obsessed with talking about orgasms. I don’t know what the fuck gets into her. But more than once I’ve had to blow out the candles and put the pillow over my head and yell, “Quit! I can’t talk about this anymore. You’re wearing my fucking mind out!”

And now, in my first movie in a long time I’ve got Nikki Stevens who’ll forever remind me of Lucy’s death and now, Bette knows almost everything.

I wonder if I know all her secrets? Oh God, I don’t want to hear anything else, swallow anything I can’t take. It’s as if this next time with her if we ever do try again feels mined with dynamite and front loaded with angst and what’s beneath it all – the dark potential has dawned on her, too. I see it in her eyes all the time now: The fear that if we ever fail each other again how could we continue on as a family?

Devastation.

I’ve been there. I know how it feels when we hate each other. One of us would have to move and far, far away and that would be a disaster for Angelica. A snow globe image suddenly pops into my head of us frozen in time. My mind shakes it and a blizzard swirls around us. For just a few minutes more I want to remember the snowfall at Big Bear, the snaps and fizz of the fire, and her body all over me.

Joyce’s Office – Bette

I sit across from her polished wooden desk. “Are those little red T Rex dinosaurs on your tie, Joyce? That’s a little aggressive even for you, don’t you think?”

“T Rex? No, I don’t think so. Kangaroos, little tiny kangaroos I think Phyllis said. She just gave it to me earlier before she flew off to Chicago.” Joyce flips the yellow gold tie back down to her chest. “And she knows about the hot oil wrestling pictures, Bette.” Joyce shakes her head, sad for me.

“And what have you thought of? How can we stop this?”

Her voice gets cautious and serious. “Well, I made some calls on the way back from the airport and there’s the long way, that’s the legal way -all the ‘i’s’ dotted and all the rest to end up in court and sue them for lots of money – that’s if they have any.”

“And?”

“And there’s an article in this magazine you might want to read to yourself while I pour us a drink.”

I open the Tech Today magazine and see a note, “Hacker. Very fast. $6000 everything wiped clean” and a phone number. I let out a lilting whistle at the price. I don’t have time for a second job! Christ! My expenses are endless stairs to a roof I can eventually jump off as a broken woman!

“If you want to read the magazine Bette take it with you and here’s a phone. Only use it to call. If you don’t want to “read” the magazine put it back on my desk and I’ll explain our route through the courts. Meanwhile your picture stays up.”

“This is your best Scotch, Joyce. What other fees aren’t you telling me?”

“Bette, we’re just having a drink together. I’m in love. Your constant missteps for some reason this afternoon amuse the hell out of me, and I want you to kick your heels off and tell me how lucky I am to be madly in love with your boss, Vice-Chancellor Phyllis Kroll.” Joyce leans back in her leather chair and drinks deeply.

“I can do that for you, Joyce.”

 

Bette_hairBackSmilingAtCamera

“Thanks, Bette, and you’re coming to my party for Phyllis tomorrow night, I hope?”

“Yes, Kit’s planned a beautiful party. Great big flower arrangements, all of Phyllis’ favorites and we’re all coming – even Alice.”

“That’s no surprise. Alice, I take it, hates to be left out. But I gotta hand it to her, I heard how she handled Phyllis’ whimpering, crying husband.”

“The one you were suing for her but now you’re not?”

“That’s the one! And all because of you, Bette. Never took you for a matchmaker, though. Don’t know why. Well, actually I do.”

“What do you mean?”

“Take a long end of the dusty trail drink with me, Bette.” Joyce winks and waits as I lift my glass. I swallow a burning stream of Scotch and feel the tingle and buzz along little arcs of nerves under my eyes.

“What you and Tina had was a match, Bette. You saw it, but it was my job to break you into a million pieces and take the money from your bank. You should have hired me first!”

“Between my recent trip to New York and Angelica’s tuition, now these pictures of me all over the web! I’m looking at a second mortgage all of a sudden.”

“If you were single? Bette, I know you want them down but…” Joyce looks at me with amazement and then whistles, “Has your phone been ringing off the hook all day?”

“Journalists or the barest definition of the word. I’m not answering any numbers I don’t recognize.” I look at my phone and see forty-three missed calls and way over fifty percentage from LA area codes.

“I’ll bet you a thousand dollars right this minute if you play your voice messages that over half of them are going to be women with all kinds of other questions and trouble for you.” She tops off our drinks and winks at me as she spins around her computer screen with a picture of me leaning over an oil slicked blonde in a gold bikini taking pleasure in twisting her wrists back in pain.

Joyce slaps an affirming smack against her desk. “As I said, Bette, you amuse the hell of me this afternoon. Everyone of those women who called you.” Joyce lets out a huge and boisterous laugh. “They want you and will fucking beg you tie them up. Thank God for you Bette! I’m in such a fantastic mood!”

_____________________

The next chapter is titled, The Lucky Ones. Bette goes to Big Bear with Jodie and dreams of escaping. Kit is robbed at The Planet and Bette arrives home. At the SheBar opening she and Tina have a powerful reuniting moment.

 

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The Weather Report

Alice_with Paperwork

The Planet – Alice

Even though every once in awhile I’m proven wrong I can honestly say without fear of argument: Today, the news around me is not good. Helena’s in jail! Shane’s business is toast! Those SheBar freaks? Miami coconut-oiled mobsters! And that’s just my list of pending financial crimes!

However, the many relationship fronts around me are unusually and eerily calm and that naturally means an eruption at any moment. It’s earthquake weather in California and anything can happen.

For weeks now since our trip to New York I’ve watched a battle weary Bette as she waits for Jodie’s certain return. And while she waits I’ve clocked the overly friendly amounts of time she spends with the ever present, always a phone call away, co-Mom of Angelica’s, Tina, who in her free time away from her new bff, Bette, is dating a heart doctor named Brenda, a blonde who is always happy. It’s only a matter of time before Brenda’s verve wears thin on all of us.

While Tina is mostly a balanced person she longs to be needed and is completely unaccustomed to being around cheerful, uncomplicated women who lack the craving for lots and lots of fawning attention. That’s my opinion anyway. Over the years I’ve seen it over and over between her and Bette. As smart as Tina is as a movie executive she completely misreads her romantic situations.

Take now as an example. If Tina had sent Bette signals that weren’t obtuse and riddled with double meanings and escape hatches and tunnels that lead safely to the sea Bette would’ve stopped Tina dead in her tracks, and backwards they would’ve bent in their forever tango, and set themselves on fire again. But she didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t and while smoldering may be fun for some – it gets very, very old very, very fast for me.

And for Bette it appears to have burned straight through and into her spleen. And for Tina, who’s just now starting to miss Bette all over again, I fear she has an endless supply of patience for it, however; she was unusually cross and snappy with me when I got home from my trip with Bette and Shane. And as their High Noon approaches, for whatever Goddamn reasons, Tina can’t or won’t send the final necessary signals, and I’m confused and undecided as Jodie’s arrival date approaches as to why.

What is the reason? I look around The Planet and drink my afternoon coffee and tap my favorite green pen and wonder if I shouldn’t just bag the whole caffeine thing and give my body and mind what it truly craves: Liquor. As I decide whether I want rum or vodka in this hotter than usual early summertime weather I wonder about people’s addictions.

Helena’s are for money and Peggy’s love. Shane’s are complicated but at her core it’s about connection. Bette’s are about being right and never failing her family again. And mine I admit are for attention, which leaves Tina.

Tina and Alice looking at computer

I think I know her so well sometimes I can say the words and think her thoughts before she does. But then they are the other times Shane has to nudge me to close my mouth from its astonished gaping.

Tina’s a southern woman, cultured and well educated who escaped without the confinements and baggage of debuts, and endless family weddings or Christenings that normally she’d fly home to attend. Something must have happened before she joined our cabal that made her feel so distant from her family and the South. To my knowledge none of us have ever asked and Tina’s never volunteered, an early sign she kept secrets about herself. Bette must know, but like so many confidences and private moments they hold between them they’ll never share, and none of us will ever be the wiser. And that has nagged at me, too, I admit.

When Tina first appeared in our lives ten years ago she’d fit right in. And next came their chemistry that everyone could feel. It was palpable, dynamic,  unmistakable, and it annoyed the crap out of me until I finally realized how stupid I was being. I thought I’d let all of my jealousy go -it’d been years after all -but there it was as a hot lash to whip Bette with when she went off with Candace, the carpenter.

She may never fully forgive me for blistering her the way I did. But as the years have passed and especially recently, every time I add more connections to Our Chart and see the names and dashes grow between Bette and Tina, I wish Tina would ask me and Shane to do something for her before Jodie gets back. Because by then I’m afraid it’ll be too late.

The longer I sit here dreaming of rum or vodka and getting drunk by three the more this whole day feels odd, suspended in time and very much like earthquake weather. I’m sure of it now. I have a sense the ground is just about to shake.

My iPhone signals a text from Tina.

“Need an eyewitness. U free?”

I text back, “Sure! What’s up?”

Text from Tina, “Can U meet me @SheBar in 10?”

“Eww. Okay. I’ll bring garlic.” I motion to the waiter.

The SheBar – Alice

Walking up the steps to the SheBar I drink deeply from the smuggled vodka and grapefruit juice cocktail I sneakily poured into my travel mug before I left The Planet. Man, am I glad I told the bartender to make it a double, I hate these tacky lesbians from Miami.

Now that I’m inside I hear the shrillness of Tina’s voice as it begins its dangerous rise into higher altitudes. This makes me smile. Thank God! Something interesting! Wasn’t I just lamenting that it was all too quiet? I smile to myself as I hurry down the hallway toward the commotion. When Tina gets unnerved like this someone always leaves the plane without their parachute. Oh Good! I think until I open the final door.

What the fuck is that thing? And then a poster on the wall tells all: Lesbian Hot Oil Wrestling! Every Thursday Night at LA’s Hottest New Girl Club – The SheBar. My eyes blink three times real fast then I hear Tina.

“What I’m fucking telling you is that you need to quit interfering with my movie! But you don’t seem to hear me because you’re either too stupid, or too idiotically self destructive to listen to me.” Tina stabs her finger toward Denbo who remarkably keeps her cool. My Girlfriend Cindy walks from the back toward the wrestling ring.

Please a gold bikini? So Miami Beach! But damn she looks good in it. I push salacious thoughts of My Girlfriend Cindy’s bikini from my mind.

But still…

Then Tina’s voice snaps me out of my fantasy.

“One last time, Denbo and you, too – whatever the fuck your name is – I’m warning you. Stay away from our locations! Stay away from my set, leave my employees alone, and fuck off! Fuck way off from my movie! Do you hear me?” Tina yells furiously at them both.

Denbo smirks as she walks toward her. “Listen! I’ve got a Grand Opening to plan and this ring for our weekly wrestling contests to put together. You’re interfering with my business and standing right where I need to tie off the last cable. Do you mind?” Denbo leans to pick up the rope laying at Tina’s feet and the next thing I know Tina’s flying through the air and across the hot oil wrestling ring. Then Denbo gives a whistle and My Girlfriend Cindy pounces.

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I take a picture just before Cindy splashes full force into Tina who goes down with an, ompft! It’s time for back-up. I send a text to Bette.

“Stop What Ur doin come 2 SheBar ASAP!”

Text from Bette, “At Gym. Fucking hate them, fucking hate bars. No Thx.”

I duck behind a post and attach the photo in a text to Bette. “This fucking idiot on top of Tina in wrestling ring! And Now??!!” I hear the whoosh sound of it fly away to wreak havoc in Bette’s mind as I take stock around me.

Oh! Nice move! I watch as Tina strips off her shirt and flips My Girlfriend Cindy over and attempts to tie up her arms. Denbo watches ringside as the tables turn. I wonder where Tina got this trussing skill? The foothills of the Smokey Mountains?

Five minutes later I check my watch and then look around the room for a good seat. Three, Two, One!

The door flies open and nearly off its hinges.

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A string of Bette’s belongings begin to drop to the floor as she tugs off her gym bag, then her warm up jacket in a hurry toward the ring.

“Tina! Goddammit!” She cries out as Tina gets flipped and quickly scissor locked by My Girlfriend Cindy. Damn, Tina’s losing valuable ground. I have a dawning suspicion that Denbo and My Girlfriend Cindy have done this routine before.

“Just what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Bette yells at everyone but mostly at Denbo as she kicks off her shoes by me. I take a satisfying swallow of vodka as a new match up begins and Bette, in her white tank top and dark gym shorts, jumps onto the platform and ducks inside the ropes by Tina.

“I fucking got this, Bette.” Tina in only a black brassiere and green shorts chokes out between Cindy’s tanned thighs.

“Are you out of your fucking mind, Tina? What are you doing in here?” Bette grabs Cindy by the wrists and slipping slightly in the oil drags her along with Tina making gagging sounds across the mat.

“You! Let go of her! Or I swear to God!” Bette snarls.

“Hey! No fair, Porter! No, two against one!” Denbo cries out as she edges closer to the action inside the ring.

“Tina, Goddammit! Grab her little toe! Twist it to the side really hard. Do it now!” Bette yells as she watches Denbo’s approach.

“Okay! I give!” Cindy releases Tina’s head from her scissor lock but Bette keeps her grip.

“If you try any shit like this again I’m going to break your wrists.” She twists Cindy’s backwards far enough to make her cry out, “And I won’t hesitate.” She drops her captive’s arms as Denbo slips into the ring.

“So, now that our girls have had their fun, and by the ways ladies, you were really great to watch.” Denbo bows toward Tina who wipes oil off her face and glares back deeply pissed.

“Tina, where the fuck’s your shirt? For Christ sake!” Bette holds her hand up for Denbo to stop as all eyes watch Tina panting angrily a few feet away.

“Pretty hot one, Porter. Or should I say hot one you had. And yeah, I was real fucking sorry to hear all about your cheating ways when I asked around about you two. Sad, sad story about how you fucked all that up.” Denbo sneers at Bette.

From my ringside seat I’m not sure if it’s real or if my overly active imagination and the perfect amount of vodka have blended but I’m pretty sure Bette’s boxing muscles -the ones I see every other day at the gym -have changed into pumped up knots along her arms. Denbo, to her credit takes notice and backs up a few steps, too. Okay! Whew, I thought I was hallucinating for a minute.

“Tina, really are you okay?” Bette looks quickly at her before pointing her finger back at Denbo. “And you, I can’t even box with because all I’d have is some little bitch to slap around. Now, get out of our way because this is over and we’re leaving.”

Denbo stands her ground, “This isn’t over, Porter. Tell your sister I’m coming for her next and I’m not through with your stupid, little lesbian movie either.” She spits at Tina.

“As much as I’d like to see you get your ass kicked I have to get back to the production office.” A much calmer Tina adjusts her brassiere and puts her arm around Bette.

I lift my camera to take their picture but Bette and Tina send a, ‘don’t you dare’ look at me. I imprint them in my mind as they walk across the ring together. Tina shining with oil and clingy in all the right places and Bette, finally smiling now as they hold the ropes for each other to exit the ring. She looks like any other over adrenalized fighter who only got to halfway kick some ass while a woman in her lingerie looked on.

I imagine them for a moment forgetting about any of us around them, or where they are, and that they don’t sleep together any more. I see them coming together in one of their minutes too long if you’re waiting on them to go somewhere rolling into each other kisses.

But instead Bette hands Tina a towel from her gym bag. “It’s hardly been used. I didn’t get a shower before I came over here. Use it to wipe the goo off your arms and your face.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.” Tina lifts the towel up to her nose and breathes in as she looks around for her clothes and shoes.

“Baby, you’ve got to get dressed. Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Bette puts her warm up jacket around Tina.

“Alice, please look around for her shirt.”

“You looked scary in there, Bette.” Tina laughs as she wipes her hair and arms then hands Bette back the towel.

“I’ve been in a mood lately.” Bette zips it into a side bag as Tina takes her shirt from me and wrings out a long stream of oil.

“Those girls…there’s something very off about them.” Bette looks up as golden droplets splash between us.

Tina bites her lip, “And from the looks of it they’re not going away anytime soon, either.”

 

 

The next chapter is titled, Fit for Battle. Bette and Tina draw closer to rekindling the romance.

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17 Reasons Why! Not – Bette Porter

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Somewhere the fuck! – Upstate New York – Alice

I like the countryside, I do. I like to see cows in a field and a silo next to a well-cared for barn. I like the chirping sounds of crickets, as long as they stay over there and don’t jump on me. But I’m not happy at the moment. I have a little bit of a hangover still and I’ve still not seen any of my favorite black and white cows.

After picking up Bette’s grand gesture from LaGuardia’s American Airlines freight and cargo terminal this morning we’ve been driving northwest for about three hours. Shane and I fell for Bette’s all expenses paid trip to New York coercion to reassemble the fucking ’17 Reasons Why!’ sign. It sure sounded like a great idea two days ago, but now? As Bette’s anxiety coils tighter and tighter the closer she gets to seeing Jodie again, the more unsure I am that our coming here was actually a good idea at all.

“Are you serious? You actually have a joint with you? You smuggled this all the way here?” I turn around in my seat as marijuana smoke drifts past me.

Shane holds in her breath before she answers, “I just found it looking for Chapstick.”

As I lean behind me and take a hit from her, the van’s cargo door next to us groans open.

Bette looks stressed. “Here guys, Moosehead Ale is the best they had. Holy fuck!” She waves at the reefer smoke that floats in front of her face.

“And Little Debbie’s snack cakes!” Shane tears the cellophane with her teeth.

“I think smoking grass is actually legal here now, Bette, so don’t worry.”

“What? Are you serious?” She looks at me suspiciously.

“Well, I know they’re talking about it.” I add defensively as I apply Shane’s chapstick to my desiccating lips. “It’s freezing out there! Shut the door, please.”

“Oh, Christ!” Bette pushes inside with our beer, junk food, and other groceries. “Scoot over Shane so I can get this door closed because I think you’re full of shit, Alice.” She crawls past us and over to the driver’s seat.

“Well, they should. I mean it’s so dumb.” I take another affirming hit of pot and a snack cake from Shane.

“People don’t do a lot of things they should do, Alice.” Bette opens the lid to her steaming cup of tea.

“You’ll be back in plenty of time to help Tina with Angelica’s birthday party, Bette.” Shane adds.

“I know. I know I will. I just feel sometimes like I …” her voice drifts. Momentarily distracted, she takes a sip and burns her lips.

“Jesus Christ! That’s scalding hot!”

“Quick! Use this, Bette, or you’ll have a blister.” I hand over the chapstick.

Bette knits her forehead as she dabs on the scalded places along her lips. Sitting outside of Big Buddy’s Bait and Beer somewhere the fuck outside of Woodstock, New York I come to a conclusion – as I take another puff of marijuana – there are probably sixteen more reasons why our coming here is ill fated.

If they were so great together then why is this trip, this sign, this cargo van – really why is any of this necessary? Grand gestures are great! You gotta love ’em, but at the core of this nonsensical declaration that Bette knows ’17 reasons why!’ – or how she can mend her romantic relationships – leaves me with a definite “as if” feeling, and sixteen too many more questions.

Could Jodie and Bette’s communications misses be possibly any worse than Bette and Tina’s? Could anyone’s be that abysmal? Their dilemmas are a constant source of mystery to me because I’m a talker. I can’t keep anything inside. If they ever do get back together – either grouping of them – I’m not going to sit idly by or recommend therapy to them. Nope! I’m going to insist that Tina and Bette take Italian lessons and read poetry to each other. Maybe then they’ll see the tragic parts of themselves and understand their misaligned feelings for each other.

And if Jodie loves Bette, and vice versa, then please find some common ground in a subject other than art and give us all a break! I mean, really. Lisa the Lesbian had more self awareness than these three put together. And that is not a compliment.

As much as I’ve tried over the years to pry personal information out of Bette she can be a master of deflection. She’s both enigmatic and quixotic. The disassembled sign that has incessantly rattled and gotten on my nerves for the last three hours is certainly a result of that.

windmill

Tilting at Windmills

I suppose we would all be the poorer for it if we every once in a while we didn’t go off in mad pursuit of something we’d convinced ourselves it was impossible to live without. Take me and Dana. She was the greatest best friend, and I ruined my health trying to force her back to me as a lover. Or Shane, who despite all tendencies, odds, and a mountain of evidence to the contrary pursued marriage with Carmen to the very bitter end. Today, yesterday, and tomorrow I will seriously question the sanity of her upcoming move in with Paige. It’s as if we’re all blind to ourselves, our follies and fallacies. The jury is out whether to sentence us to more rock breaking repetitions. I understand their reasons. It’s true – we might never rehabilitate and learn our life lessons.

“You forgot to blow the steam off it first, Bette.” Shane hands her the joint. “Hey, we’ve all done it.”

 

Shane EXT CU

Outside Big Buddy’s Bait and Beer – Shane

Growing up the way I did as a ward of the State of Texas I never traveled much. Offer me a trip to most anywhere and I’m in. The only traveling I ever did was when the nuns would pile us into battered old buses and take us to the circus, or the county fair if the tickets were free. One thing we could always count on though was the Friday night rodeos. Whenever I hear the phrase, ‘a roll in the hay,’ my many assignations in rodeo horse trailers send buzzing memories shooting right through me.

I liked heavily tooled cowboy boots back then, too. The ones with stitching and snake skins, and I didn’t mind if they had a little bit of wear on ’em either. But my favorites by far were the turquoise tinted cowboy boots of Rhonda, my Rodeo Queen. Our timing was or wasn’t perfect – I’m fairly bad about gauging these things – but I’d met Rhonda shortly before I’d hitchhiked myself right out of the State of Texas.

People, who grow up with families and Sunday dinners and real Christmas stockings and a tree, have no idea what it meant for me to have my brother, Shay, here with me. No, I take that back. My family with Tina and Bette at the head, or the center, and now off to the side of it understood. But me have a clue about their problems? I admit, they confuse the fuck out of me.

The more grass I smoke in the enclosed space of this chilly cargo van the more I wonder why I go along on these descents into Hell with them? Loyalty is my only clue.

I put the joint out and try to imagine what’s going on inside Bette’s mind as we sit together sharing sugary snack cakes outside of Big Buddy’s.

I don’t think she’s really thought her “Hail Mary” thing with Jodie all the way through. If she had surely she would’ve flown ahead in her mind, as I have, and imagined the holidays with all of us ahead. Does Bette actually think she sees a day in the future when Jodie and Tom, and Tina and whoever she eventually ends up with sitting together around a holiday table for dinner?

Because I’ve imagined it! And in my mind there’s nothing about that Christmas dinner that seems festive to me. I want what Carmen’s family had in spades – something noisy and full of happy commotion. But the pictures in my mind of the holidays looming on the horizon of my future, strained by Bette and Tina’s tension, makes me want to follow all the Jews to the movie theater on Christmas Day instead.

And that kinda hurts me, and I see a mounting, growing list of inescapable problems ahead.

Maybe more than anybody I’ve watched Bette since it all came apart years ago. Living next door to her I probably “see” her more than anybody, and I’ve watched how her mind’s begun to eat itself alive the longer she lives alone.

And Tina used to take care of all that, and now Jodie really doesn’t.

And I like Jodie, I do. But she lives practicing broad jumps from place to place, and from what I’ve gathered so far – she’s had no bad falls. But deep down inside herself I don’t think Bette really trusts her. And the other really fucked up thing? The one that’s propelled us three thousand miles, and up into these pretty mountains and countryside, is Tina’s own fucking fault.

Tina, who’s now officially single, but possibly dating has her own unique hang ups. For awhile she fussed over keeping sprigs of grass alive in her apartment so she could squeeze them with a mashing pressing thing whenever she wanted into a dark green colored juice. So, I’ve seen her weirdness and how she gets way dug in, and is too intractable and especially stupid about “Bette” things.

She starts the van and checks her mirrors to see behind us. I wonder as I see her reflection: Do any of the women around me – who seem to get their eye shadow on right – actually ever really look at themselves while staring into mirrors? I mean really look and not turn away? Because one night I did for hours when I was high on Dilaudid and cocaine. That mirror shit was freaky and I quit doing drugs for awhile after that. I get the avoidance of it. But as we back up, and the huge metal sign behind me in the van’s cargo bay begins to rattle,  Bette flashes me a cheery look, also filled with trepidation look that I read as: For better or worse here we go.

Alice holds up her iPhone with GPS. “Looks like we’ll be there in twenty minutes, maybe less.”

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Route 28 – Bette

Twenty minutes later –

As the chilly air rushes in from the window I sense Alice fidgeting in the seat next to me, and whatever Shane’s last thought was has left her with a ragged sigh, and the need to go prone on the long seat behind me.

I think about turning back. I could pull into the farm road I see ahead and turn us all around by that lonesome looking silo then, driving straight back southeast we could be back in the city by six. New York is fun at night.

It’s fun anytime as long as you’ve got money you don’t mind literally disappearing from your hands every minute you’re there. Everything, everything, everything costs and the tab for this scheme of mine to get back Jodie is going to run me every bit of five thousand dollars and probably then some.

Transporting the sign alone was nearly three! But I pulled the pin on this and I’m going to fall on it as it drops, or explodes, and if it blows me into a million bits then, I’ll drown my sorrows tonight in a bar in Manhattan.

There’s no grey for me anymore and even if there were? I’ve been told I probably wouldn’t see it. And her with not so much as a, ‘Fuck you!’ leaving me like that. Then, I knew better, but I kept reaching for my phone to call her and then I’d remember: Jodie can’t hear, so that won’t work.

Every fucking miserable detail of my ridiculous wreck of a love life I’d first have to say to Tom, and then hear him repeat it all over again to her. It was bad enough hearing myself say it, much less his tone of voice interpreting me. So, imagining that ridiculous make up assisted scenario really just pissed me off even more. What choice did I have but to tell Jodie face to face? And with a five thousand dollar to be screwed together steel and aluminum gesture that I hope to God doesn’t fall flat?

Pushing up into my thoughts is my share of a sizable private preschool enrollment expense that comes up pretty soon. Oh my God, my credit cards! Christ! They’ll be the ruin of me.

I pull into a gravel road when Alice says, “Turn right here.”

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“Wait! Go left. Didn’t you see me pointing left?” Alice snaps her hand toward me.

“I saw you waving your hand around, Alice, but you were saying turn right, so I did.” I sigh and stare up at the greying winter sky above the grain silo, and roll the window down.

Shane asks from the back. “Do you mind if I get out and stretch for a minute before you meet your fate in the field over there?”

“Oh, and I want to take a picture of this silo, too.” Alice opens her door and walks the short distance to the grey stones towering above us.

“Isn’t that Jodie way over there across the road in that field?” Shane points as she puts her hand above her eyes to shield the winter glare.

“Hey, guys! Look what I found. There’s a shed with a nice little tractor and trailer back here.” I hear Alice’s voice from behind the silo. “Bette, instead of you bumping up in a van with us smelling like beer and reefer and your grand gesture, ’17 Reasons Why!’ sign trussed up like a hostage in the back – I mean if you really want to make your point – we should assemble the thing together. Then, you drive it over there and see what happens.” Alice ends with emphasis and crosses her arms in what looks like a dare. “And Shane and I will wait here.”

I put my binoculars up to my eyes and slowly draw Jodie into focus as she walks with a group of men all dressed for high grasses and muddy terrain. I watch as Jodie looks towards the pasture’s boundary and treeline, and then up and over across the road toward the silo and me. She points up to the sky above the towering silo, and then down again. I can tell she’s thinking about something she’s not quite seeing yet, only imagining.

I shift my weight and wonder what to do. Steal the tractor to take the stolen sign? See if she’ll make up with me and kiss my blistering, fucked up lips?

Or not?

Jodie shifts in the frame of my field glasses. I follow her slowly across far hillside when she stops and does something that seems like a signal even though she hasn’t seen me.

Is it a sign to come over there? I press the binoculars together and give myself one single field of telescopic vision and watch Jodie as she lifts her hands to frame exactly where I’m standing on a hillside a thousand feet away. Her fingers squarely and exactly surround us. She looks through the box and I see it all very clearly.

I must go through this imaginary window between us because I must see what’s on the other side.

_______________

The next chapter is titled, “The Weather Report.”

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Alice senses earthquake weather, and that anything could happen in this unusual environment when she witnesses a confrontation between Tina, Bette, Dawn Denbo and My Girlfriend Cindy.