The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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#8 Blood Moon Rising

Tina_Phone sunglasses standing

Santa Fe – Saturday – Tina

It was luck really that Angelica and I had been sitting in the exact spot Nikki Stevens had walked past on her way to board a private jet to Santa Fe. She was hungover, her friends on board flying east with us were all hungover, and once the pilot had leveled off and pointed the nose of the plane due east as if on cue – all of its passengers had fallen into a deep slumber, including me.

It’s been a very long week.

When my eyes had opened hours earlier this morning the house around me had been quiet and still. I had fought off a nearly irresistible urge to roll over and fall back asleep again. But if I had closed my eyes for a second more I knew I would miss my flight to join Bette and meet her long lost mother. The horror of telling her that I had overslept and missed yet another plane had dragooned me to throw off the bedcovers and make haste for Santa Fe.

Now that I’m here I realize no distance was too far to have travelled to witness Bette rolling out from under Mary’s old Chevy with a wrench in her hand. For an instant, I had flashed on Kit’s former love interest, Ivan, scooting out from under one of his vintage trucks and squinting up at me. It had startled me and felt weird, but in a wonderful kind of way.

I pull out a breakfast room chair that has been set up all ready with a baby seat for us. I lean down and kiss Angelica. “I believe we’re going on an adventure with your Momma B and your new Grandmomma soon,” I say as she tugs on my hair. We smile at each other in love with the moment and the morning. “That was your first airplane ride, too. And you were such a good girl.”

The back door opens off the kitchen and Bette, free of her greasy coveralls, appears in jeans, a dark green shirt, and cowboy boots.

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

My eyes begin their drift up from the scuffed leather when I feel her hand on my shoulder.

“A proper welcome now,” she says reaching down and gently touching Angelica’s face before she folds her arms around me. Along the sides her neck I can smell traces of pinyon wood, sage and something else that reminds me of fire.

“What have you all been doing?” I ask Bette curiously as I hear her mother coming inside.

“Eating and drinking mostly.” Bette says as she pats her washboard stomach. “My Mother’s an interesting cook. But no worries! I have personally seen to lunch and we’re eating out tonight with Mary Windhorse – a bit of desert-styled potluck it sounds like. We’ll be fine.” She dismisses. “We are not required to eat the fried cactus.”

“Baby meals are un-spiky and very un-spicy. We’re all on the same page about that, right?” I ask.

“All reading from the same menu and prayer book. We are ready!” Bette reassures then claps her hands and picks up Angelica. They kiss each other playfully. “Now, do we need anything from this kitchen before I bring your suitcase back to our bedroom?”

Maxine guest room

Guest Room – Tina

“I do like a queen-size bed on vacation, don’t you, Bette?” I ask as we enter our quarters down a long hallway. I bounce the mattress and feel the wool of the old Indian blankets. “But where’s our daughter sleeping?”

“We have two options on that actually and they were Mother’s idea.” Bette says as Mary appears in our doorway.

“We set up a sweet little child’s bed in my room for tonight but we can take it down and put it right in here if you’d rather,” Mary says. “And I do appreciate you switching over to Mary and leaving Maxine in the past. Bette and I talked about it last night. It’s been nearly thirty years with the Feds and WitSec. I really am Mary Hardy now.”

”Without prying may I see it?” I ask from near the windows. “Where she’d be sleeping?”

”Tina, it’s very comfortable and I’ve been having a wonderful time.” Bette adds as she points to her new cowboy boots.

”Repairing old trucks and eating. I heard you.” I say as I study them for their familial resemblance.

“That, too, but we went out last night. And tonight there’s something called the Blood Moon we’re going to see.”

“A play in Santa Fe?” I ask.

“No, actually, The Moon.” She whirls her finger around in the air. “It turns really red tonight during a lunar eclipse.” Bette looks back to her mother who nods. “And Mother’s friend, Mary Windhorse, has a special place to watch eclipses apparently. Who knew? So, for dinner we’re going over there.”

“Whatever you both want to do – Blood Moons, Blue Moons – it’s fine with me,” I agree. “And Mary, this is your granddaughter, Angelica.” I walk them closer together, and Mary kneels and gently extends her hands.

“You have no idea how happy I am to meet you both.” Mary watches Angelica taking baby steps closer.  For a moment, Bette looks as if she might cry, but she smiles instead.

I put my arm around her waist. “A lot is happening.” Bette confesses, as Mary and Angelica’s voices drift up from the floor.

Bette close up. pensive look down

She takes a deep breath and points me toward another room. “We have a nice bath that’s through here. Come see.”

Maxine Home Bath

“The bathtub, and this view alone, makes me officially glad I came.” I lean back into her arms as we look out the window.

“But weren’t you always coming?” She asks suspiciously.

“Yes, I was always coming. But now I’m saying unequivocally – I’m now officially glad to be here.” I lean up and kiss her neck.

Her hands take mine around my waist. She whispers in my ear, “You know I’ve tried to rein myself back and not overload this weekend with expectation. Plus, we’ve had so much going on.” She lifts my engagement ring up to her lips. “I love you, T, and I’m so relieved, happy, and all of the above, that you’re both here.”

“Babe, I was always coming for the weekend you met your Mother.” I let her know.

“Back where you grew up, did you ever shoot beer cans off rocks or fence posts?”

I laugh softly as I sway gently with my back against her. “All the time with .22 rifles mostly. Why Bette?”

“We did it last night. Drank beer and shot cans off rocks with six-shooters. And we talked, of course, until pretty late.” She says as she walks over to the sink. She splashes water on her face and reaches for a towel. ”Completely could not have been further from how I ever would’ve pictured a reunion with my mother.” She pats her face dry and watches me for a reaction. ”I last saw her in Philly, remember?”

“Six-shooters? That sounds fun. Did you strap one on, Bette?”

“Absolutely, a big one, too. Very loud, just like I can be.” She smiles at our double entendre, and fires her finger pistols out the window. She looks back at me as she pretends to blow the smoke off the barrels.

“Bette, please don’t do that.”  I hook her fingers down. “You in those old cowboys boots, smelling like leather and wood smoke.”

She smiles slyly back at me. “I’ve missed you, too, Baby.  “She says before kissing me. “Mother has questions about our wedding that I can’t answer, but kiss me again first.”

Bette Tina Kiss Sepia.1

Ninety minutes later –

After lunch and a tour of Mary’s house and barns we slide into her old truck to drive to a pueblo nearby.

1957 Chevy Driver's side front

“You’ll enjoy this little community and the festival will be just locals and the tribe. ” Mary says as she and I slide across the seats of her truck with Angelica on her lap. Bette gets in behind the wheel and cranks the old Chevy to life.

1957 Interior

“Your boots match this great pick up truck, Bette,” I say as we bounce down a rural road through the desert.

“Honestly, I don’t ever want to take them off, ” she says as she smiles at her mother. “Phyllis had better get ready. There’s a new Dean Porter in the house.”

I laugh along with her. “Something happened, that’s for sure.” Then to her mother, “Mary, when you come to Los Angeles I’m sure you’ll meet, Phyllis, Bette’s boss. She’s off and on a real handful.”

“In more ways than one.” Bette sighs. “Mother, we have a host of characters for you to meet but I think we can all agree,  you’re rather offbeat and unusual yourself.” Bette smiles over at me. “She’ll fit right in, don’t you think, Tina?”

“Maybe Mary should come at Christmas time, Bette?” I ask as Angelica bounces happily in her grandmother’s lap. “I know our friends would love to have dinner at our house this year.”

“Let’s do it!”

“Will you come, Mary?” I smile at her.

“Wild horses could not keep me away!” She says before kissing the top of Angelica’s head.

CU Maxine

“So, you have these wedding planners who are friends of yours, Helena and Shane?” Mary asks.

“Shane?” Bette wonders suspiciously. “I thought it was Helena and Alice? How did Shane get in there? Don’t I have a vote?”

“She didn’t.” I pat Bette’s arm. “Mary, I threw a lot of names at you at lunch, I know.”

“I realize you’ve got to physically get married in Los Angeles County but couldn’t I have a party out here for you, too?”

Diablo Canyan Maxine studio

“That would be fun!” Bette says as she follows the arrow on a small dusty festival sign and turns off the highway and down a one lane dirt road.

“Tina, we can work out the details later and figure out how to house our friends without it getting extravagant.” She says then smacks her hand against the steering wheel. “Wait! I know! Those luxury RVs – they can sleep in there.”

“Are the marijuana laws strick here in New Mexico?” I ask Mary tentatively.

Mary rolls her window up as dust from the road blows in waves from under the tires. “Being in the position I’m in with WitSec I know a judge or two. In fact, I know three of them quite well. I’ll hire some great musicians and you smoke all the weed you want. Nobody’s going to jail.” She says confidently. “I’ll plan a BBQ and a party. We can do it in my big barn.”

Bette shifts the truck into fourth gear as the red dirt road evens out. She runs her hand along the wheel of the truck and then across the chevron on the dashboard before she says thoughtfully.”If anyone had said to me as recently as three weeks ago that I’d be speeding through a desert in an old truck with you, our daughter, and also my mother I would have said only in my dreams.”

1957 Chevy 3100 speedometer view

I touch the side of Bette’s face and stroke her cheek. “Well, Babe, you’ve got several things going for you if we have a party out here in Santa Fe.”

“That’s always good to hear.” She says and shoots me a sideways curious look. “Go on.”

“Well, of course, you’ll have me as your wife,” I stress, “plus the jump on everyone else with your cowgirl drag.”

“And I’m never taking these boots off.” Bette emphasizes as her mother looks out the window amused.

“Okay, I can’t keep it to myself any longer. What is it with you two wearing hunting knives on your belts out to this festival? Is there a competition you’re planning on entering? A Mother Daughter Deer Skinning contest or something?” I ask Mary as Bette makes a face.

“No contest. But you saw the knife she brought me as a present, didn’t you? With carved white wolves on it?” Mary asks.

“And I’ve seen this knife before.” I say as I tap the handle hilt of Bette’s Bowie knife. “I just brought a purse today, ladies.”

“And so did I.” Mary says.

“I have a knife, money and great sunglasses. That’s all I brought except my wonderful family.”

Mary stirs in her seat as we near the tribal festival grounds. “Tina, who in your family will I meet at your wedding?”

I stare ahead and feel the twinge of pain of saying probably none of them. Bette’s hand appears in my lap and I thread my fingers through hers. “I have two married brothers who are attorneys in the town we grew up in near the border of North Carolina and Virginia. They farm tobacco, too. Our family still has a lot of land and tobacco with the subsidies to grow it and sometimes not to plant it at all apparently both pay them pretty well.”

“Beautiful green country.” Maxine says, “I’ve been down there before. The people were very nice.”

“I might invite them. And then there is the sister I don’t speak to, my mother who’s deceased, and finally my father who I haven’t spoken to in ten years. He, my late mother, and my sister are definitely not coming.”

“He lives one state over. Right, T? In Yuma, Arizona?”

“I’ve been there, too.” Mary nods her head. “So, you don’t talk to him or your sister?” She asks as I shake my head, no.

“Changing the subject slightly.” I burst out with an idea. “I’m going to ask Shane to give me away, Bette!”

“No, no, no you don’t. Shane is my Best Man.”

“Have you discussed this with her?”

“Yes, we have an agreement.” Bette says absolutely.

“I’m not sure I think you’re really telling me the truth, Bette. And we made a promise about that very recently.” I chide her as Mary sighs next to me.

“Excuse me, Tina.” Mary says. “Bette park over there in that line with the other old, restored pick ups. The festival people make a nice row for those of us who have these sweet old horses.” Mary says as she pats her truck.

“And here’s a festival tip.” Mary continues, “They have a good apple-flavored cactus juice drink here that they add honey and a little desert root spice to. It’s very unusual and good. But stay away from all those melon and squash drinks and the dirt tasting teas they make. They are just dreadful.”

maxine festival canyon site

Ninety minutes later –

Enclosed by the tall stratified canyon walls the small Navajo festival has attracted several hundred Indian people and a sprinkling of white visitors from the nearby western towns. Families and couples drift in and out of the acre sized grounds that awhile ago we had walked around the tents and crafts stalls of before sitting around a ring to watch the Native American performers and their trickster, the Coyote, do his loping dance. A few young boys and girls who had gathered too close to the edge of the ring were good-naturedly chased away by him. We wait now for the Medicine Man and his dancers to appear.

I tap Bette’s arm and say, “Babe, it feels a little too hot in the sun for me. I’m going to walk back around back by the crafts. Okay?”

“We won’t be here much longer, I promise. But Mary says this Medicine Man has thirty-six, or something unreal like that, grandchildren and Angie will like them as his tiny Medicine Crows.” Bette shrugs her shoulders. “Look, it’s all new for me, too. I’m surprised Angelica’s not having bikini beach volleyball withdrawals because that’s what she sees on my weekends with her.”

I laugh at Bette. “Well, are you having bikini withdrawals, too?” I ask.

“I am, in fact.” She smiles. “And I want you to go into one of those tent over there and put yours on.” She winks at me. “Just saying.”

Then, she catches my wrist as I turn away. “T, I guess bring me back another one of those cactus drinks.  It’s not blistering hot but I know what you’re feeling – the sun does feel right on top of us.” She shields her eyes and stares up at the sky. “Since we’re going to be spending time in New Mexico I better get us all cowboy hats. Mother says she knows just where to go.”

“Of course, she does, Babe.” I say as I squeeze Bette’s hand before walking back toward the tents and the shade.

navajo rug design

It’s a question I’ll have to answer many more times I have no doubt. But who from my family will be coming to my wedding? I have an aunt and uncle and cousins. I have nephews and nieces. But inviting those people to my gay wedding? I give a resounding, “No” to that idea. If other people want to have a big Gay wedding with their big ole straight family looking at their big ole Gay one, then please do. I have my own quirks and neuroses that make me absolutely object to the thought. And no hopping into therapy between now and my wedding day I realize will release them from me. So why bother? I’ve resolved it in my mind: I’ll never be free of the weirdly defining things that shade me from the shadows.

People hang on to what deflects and distracts us from ourselves. I have masks I wear to work and I have different masks I put on sometimes to wear around Bette. And certainly, when we’re out as a family, and most definitely today in this ancient tribal setting where my walking any closer to her would have been taboo.

So, today it’s New Mexico, my soon to be mother-in-law, and lots and lots of cactus everywhere. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m sunburned from sitting around the ring with them. I forget what it feels like to leave the bubble of West Hollywood sometimes until I do.

I slip inside an animal skin tent to look at the leather bags, Indian rugs, and colorful blankets the young Navajo woman is selling.  A group of children run past the tent. Stopping for a moment to peer inside stands a tomboy girl. Our eyes meet for an instant, and then she’s gone. My head begins to ache as an uneasy feeling sweeps over me and the Navajo designs begin to cross and blend together.

Tina Tomboy memory

After going to the Fortune Teller and the unintended consequences of having my sexual memories unearthed about my sister I had finally decided, she had been very shrewd with me. The imaginary plays she staged where I’d been a knight with a sword we’d cut from a cardboard box and she’d covered with aluminum foil. And now, in the claustrophobic swelter that has become this tent, I remember the times she had dressed me as an Indian boy.

Maybe it would’ve never started if we had not found the small cave in the woods that even our brothers hadn’t discovered. So twisted, too, was that she’d had me turn it into our “Fort” against all who would invade. Soon the privacy inside the earth became the focus of our playing together.

Hurriedly, I push through another tent flap hoping for fresh air but instead a pungent smell of sweat and earth make me nauseous and my eyes strain to see into the much dimmer light. A few feet away an older girl leans over one of the Medicine Crows and carefully paints her before her dance. Around my nipples I feel the cool sticky paint and my sister circling and circling the dark tinctures into me.

Indian girl being Painted STORY image

I open my eyes to the face of an elderly Indian woman standing over me and toeing me with her boot. “You must be Tina. Mary Windhorse,” she says as she leans down next to me. “I saw them by the ring and Bette said you’d taken a walk. Some walk. What are doing on the ground outside the Medicine Man’s tent?”

Mary Windhorse pink shirt turquoise pin

“I’m just not sure.” I say brushing myself off from sand and straw as stand up. “I felt too hot and then dizzy for a moment.”

“Can’t be menopause. You’re much too young for that.” Mary says as we walk back toward the ring together. “Sometimes people feel something different when they come to our ceremonial grounds and tonight’s the full Blood Moon followed by an eclipse.”

“Well, those always do make me a little dizzy.” I laugh softly as Bette and Angelica wave at us from the ring.

Blood red clouds before Blood Moon

The desert air is cool finally and feels good against my skin. There’s been no time alone with Bette where I could lean into her and feel her body bringing me back from my upsetting memories with my sister. Since the festival there’s been one thing after another – a little last minute shopping in Santa Fe for Angelica, and the need for lotion for my skin that’s beginning to dry and change.

Soon, we’d stopped alongside the desert at a beautiful open spot and Bette had pulled off the road to watch the blood red clouds that were spreading out overhead. With a few too many looks between them Mary and Bette stayed close to the truck, not venturing off into the desert. I thought it odd after I’d taken a few steps with Angelica in my arms that Mary had quickly called me back and suggested we watch the sunset from the side of the road.

As the brilliant hues paint over the desert sky, the three of us sit along the rim of the truck bed as Angelica toddles back and forth between us.  “Incredible colors, Mother,” Bette sweeps her arm across the sky. “It must be so wonderful to paint out here.”

“It is. Within a half hour of my house the landscapes are all so different. The canyons, the open desert with brush and cactus, and always such incredible skies.” Mary catches Angelica, as she plops down against her boots then, crawls toward the closed tailgate.

Suddenly, I hear a rattle and watch as Bette twists around so quickly she slips off the side of the truck and skids in the loose gravel. She grabs the sides to fling herself back in, as we all look toward Angelica playing with the severed piece of a rattlesnake’s tail.

Rattle Close Up

“Oh my goodness!” Mary exclaims as Bette reaches slowly over to our daughter. “I thought I’d washed the truck out really good. My eyesight must really be going.”

“Apparently you need glasses.” Bette says to her mother, and then to Angelica. “You’ve found a little treasure there haven’t you?” She eases the snake’s rattle from our daughter’s hands.

Tina incredulous back up pick up truck Story Image

“Do I even want to know how that got in here?” I ask.

“The short answer is it must’ve fallen off a snake.” Mary summarizes.

“I’m going to have trouble with you, two. I can just feel it.” I shake my head. “As if your daughter weren’t enough.” I open my hand for Bette to hand over their secret.

Tina_Moon_silhouette

Mary Windhorse’s Ranch – Tina

Around a warm campfire behind Mary’s adobe house I sit in canvas chairs with the elder Marys as Bette makes a bed of quilts and Indian blankets for her and Angelica. She stretches out on the ground with our daughter and waves away the occasional spark that flies out from the burning sticks and flames. When I tune my ear to listen under the soft tones of the two older women talking I can hear Bette whispering to Angelica a children’s story we both know by heart.

“The Blood Moon must have a story I hope you’ll tell.” I say missing I suppose one of my own.

“Careful what you ask for, Tina.” Mary Hardy warns with humor. “All the Indian legends that have to do with blood are mostly gruesome and scary.”

“And that business with Jesus wasn’t?” Mary Windhorse barks a laugh.

“Of course it is. Nailing people up on crosses as punishment is barbaric and disgusting. And a few hundred miles from Jerusalem you can probably get your hand cut off tonight for stealing a piece of bread.” Mary Hardy vents.

“Or some fucker cuts your head off.” Bette says as she covers Angelica’s ears.

“As if that helps.” Mary shakes her head at Bette. “But she’s right it’s a story about murder,” Mary Windhorse admits. “Still want to hear it?”

“Tina, it’s very comfortable over here with all these blankets. Won’t you bring the wine and come over here with us?”

“Sure.” I pick up our wine bottle and kneel down next to Bette and Angelica lying by the fire.

Mary Windhorse begins. “Before the year 1900 Blood Moons were rare and our old calendars showed they hadn’t occurred in more than three hundred years. But when they did my people marked the legend of the White Painted Woman.”

Mary draws her calloused fingers down her own weathered cheeks and says, “She wore long red painted feathers like blood streaks down her face.” I close my eyes and imagine the White Painted Woman. Bette slides her arm across my waist and I rest my head on her shoulder as we watch the full moon rise.

1 white painted woman

“She was said to be an expert hunter, far better than any of her brothers and superior to the other hunters in the tribe. The men were jealous and envious of her skill and prowess. And said she was a shapeshifter and her hunting was no more than a trick and a dishonest lure.

“To these taunts and others she was said to have ignored them until one night when the party went out hunting, and time and time again her arrows were truer than theirs for the kill.

“Enraged and coming upon her alone one of the huntsmen had turned on her. Knocked her to the ground and tore at her clothes to rape her. All night she had fought fiercely and held him off. They had thrashed back and forth against each other as the full moon rose higher. Toward dawn his arm slicked with sweat he had finally slipped in her grip and his flint knife struck a cut deeply into her. Around her as she died slowly bleeding into the earth a perfect circle of blood had formed.” Mary says as she finishes her story.

The fire crackles back to life as Bette’s mother tosses on another log. Lying with my back against Bette I pull her arm closer around me. She lightly kisses my neck and whispers, “I love you.”

“I feel lucky I was never raped.” Mary Hardy points back and forth to her friend and shakes her head sadly, “We hear too many stories of rape and abuse from the women on the Res.”

“Well, for God’s sake, Mary, isn’t being shot up and nearly tossed in a mass grave enough torture for you in one lifetime?”

“Wait? What?” Bette had gasped behind me.

“Not now, Bette.” Her mother had warned.

“I was raped at the missionary boarding school back when I was a girl. During World War 2 a practice of moving us off the desert near Los Alamos began and I was sent away from my family to a mission school in Montana.”

“How long did it go on? Or was it just once?” I ask and feel Bette’s whole body tense behind me.

“Too long is, of course, the short answer, but for months when I was twelve the older son of the farmer who minded the sheep and milk cows for the nuns would stalk me when I was out on the farm doing my chores.

“Did you ever forget about it?” I ask. “Because for years and years I didn’t remember my abuse.”

“Of course, I did. Hell, I’m nearly ninety years old. I’ve forgotten a lot of things!”

“I had a vivid memory come back to me today at the fair.” I lean back and look into Bette’s eyes. “I remembered a role playing game with my sister. She used to dress me up as an Indian boy to have sex with me.”

“And you were always the boy to her girl?” Mary Hardy asks.

“Yes.”

“But that’s not how we do it.” Bette confides to her mother.

“Babe?” I ask not believing my ears as the older women’s laughter overtakes them.

“Well, what should I have said?” She asks before her kiss overtakes my lips.

Three Blood Moons Maxine

Guestroom – Tina

The air in the house had felt chilly when we’d put Angelica to bed in Bette’s mother’s room.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a baby sleep so close to me.” Mary had said as we stood around Angelica’s bed and I had adjusted her Indian baby blankets one final time.

“Mary, we didn’t give you much time at all to get ready for your granddaughter’s visit and yet, you’ve found all the things needed to make her comfortable.” I had said before Bette and I had walked down the stairs after saying a warm good night to her mother.

In bed now with Bette, I feel her hands against my back as I kiss her.

CU Bette Tina Kiss.T on top

“I feel incredibly happy and to be finally in bed alone with you. But how are you?” Bette asks.

“In some ways this day has felt like a year.” I say before kissing her again. “Touch me when I tell you to.” I kiss down her neck and inhale the lingering smoky scents from the fire.

“Okay.” She says tentatively before I kiss her again and close my lips around her tongue that slides against mine.

Her hand cradles my head as my leg moves between hers. The heat coming from her feels warm against my thigh before it spreads and then burns a place inside me.

“I need to feel just you and not any place else tonight.” I whisper to her as I rub her clitoris and feel it harden.

“Baby, I love you.” Her quickens, and my tongue circles around her.

Bette_passion in bed. Story image

I feel a fierceness rushing through me and my need to push inside her, and back and forth we rock harder and harder together.

The ranch bed creaks louder as she calls out to me. “Jesus Christ! We need to come to New Mexico more often. For the love of God, Tina, fuck me right there!”

Lunar eclipse

Guestroom – Bette

Outside the window the lunar eclipse is underway and far off in the desert come the unsettling cries and yelps of coyotes and the wind and noises in the trees outside our bedroom window rustle with movement and sounds. The shapes and cries of hawks and other night birds swing through sky.

I stroke Tina’s back as she lies on my shoulder. “I know you feel it, too. It’s strange here.”

“It is but I like the idea of Mary Hardy as my mother-in-law, and perhaps Mary Windhorse as Angelica’s godmother.” Tina says.

“Yes, or something akin to that name she would like.” I agree. “How are you? Aside from what just happened,” I ask as I kiss her forehead.

“It’s been a long, very different kind of day.” Tina says. “I had a moment of something that felt suffocating when I went into a tent at the festival. It caught me off guard. I don’t know when to expect them but the memories seem to be returning to me.”

“I have zero experience with this. What should I do?”

“I do have a request.” Tina says rising up slightly.

“Anything, Baby.” I kiss her slowly. “Just ask. Please just ask.”

“I get it that you love your cowboy boots, Bette.”

“I know they are pretty great aren’t they?” I say as I knock them together at the foot of the mattress.

“But when we get back to LA, Babe, you can’t wear them in bed.”

antler candles bedside Story Image

_____

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#7 Touch Tones: Flexibility

Bette_leather Jacket Smiling

Maxine’s House – Bette 7:15 PM

“Are you about ready to go, Bette?” My mother calls down the hallway as I pull on my leather jacket.

Five minutes earlier we had no sooner sat down in her comfortable living room for a drink by the fire than my mother had popped up out of her chair and announced that we should drive east into the desert to watch the moon rise over a canyon. This has required a wardrobe change on my part, a packed picnic basket on hers, and now we are just about ready to leave.

“Close, I’m lacing my boots now,” I rejoin loudly from the guest room. I honestly can’t ever recall driving somewhere to watch a moonrise but lately I’ve been practicing the art of flexibility with Tina, with myself, and I’m working up to everybody else – so tonight with no argument from me – moonrises are in.

I stand up and pat my pockets to see what’s in this jacket I haven’t worn since last Fall. I wonder if I should give her the present I brought her now or when we get back from our lunar gazing? Once again Mary Windhorse had been helpful and steered me away from mistakenly bringing Maxine objets d’art from LA that would have had no coherence in her beautiful New Mexico home.

“Tell me a little about her, Mary. Surely, you can do that.” I had coaxed a few days ago during one of our Skype calls.

“Well, what comes to mind because I just helped her child proof her place this morning, and had to move several dozen of them, are knives. Your mother has a large knife collection and pistols, too, but those were already up high.”

“That sounds promising,” I had perked up. “I have an interest in them, too. Did for awhile any way.” I had smiled up at the ceiling and imagined for a moment finding my mother a unique bone or antler handled knife as a gift.

I feel her presence at my door before she says. “You can’t wear those out to the desert, Bette.” She leans against the wall of my room but points toward the guest room closet.

“Why not? I wear these in the canyons all the time. That’s what they’re for. Hiking.” I point down to the ankle high leather boots I’d just finished double knotting.

“Out here we wear high boots out in the desert and I put a pair in the closet for you.” She opens the door to show me. “A present for you if you like them. I hope you do.” She smiles back at me.

I peer around where she’s standing and see the vintage pair of cowboy boots she’s offering.

Maxine's loaner pair cowboy boots

Surprised a tremendous smile breaks across my face. “Those are for me? And they look like the right size, too. I’ll definitely put them on! Are you kidding?”

Back at my suitcase I find her wrapped gift box down inside my leather overnight bag. I lean in to kiss her cheek as she unwraps the package and I slip my Bowie knife through my belt. “I hope you like it. I saw the carver’s work featured in the Smithsonian Cultural Arts catalogue not too long ago. Fortunately, I was able to get this for you in time.”

Bette's present to Maxine Wolf Knife

Pensively with a curious smile she examines the carvings on the hunting knife and runs her finger lightly down the edge of the blade testing its sharpness. “White wolf. This is extraordinary, Bette.” She returns a light, warm kiss on my cheek. “Thank you.”

“It’s beautifully carved, isn’t it?” I pull on my cowboy boots and watch her testing the balance of the knife as she grips it. “And I hope it’s the biggest hint in the world that after a few drinks you’ll tell me exactly how you got your WitSec code name, White Wolf.” I wink at her and she smiles knowingly as she flips the blade back and forth in her hand to examine the wolf engravings.

“I have a pistol collection, too. Did Mary tell you?”

“She did and that they’ve all been child proofed.” I look closely at her for confirmation. She nods they have.

My cowboy boots strike against the hardwood floor as I follow her down the hallway toward her kitchen.
Maxine kitchen

She calls over her shoulder, “We should load up a couple of my favorite pistols in case we want to shoot tonight.” And with that California disappears into the distance.

“Shoot? Tonight?” I finger the grip of the pistol she straps around my waist. Then another gun drops inside our picnic basket, and she tosses the keys to her truck toward me.
CU Maxine

“You know how to drive with a clutch, right?”

“Of course.” I open the back door for her. “What kind of pistol did you say this was? And you know I have very little idea how to shoot it, right?”

“The truck’s name is Queenie, and she likes it if you talk to her if she begins to act up. And the first lesson of pistols is this,” my mother begins as we walk out to her truck. “Whatever is beyond the sights and that barrel is getting a big hole put in it when you pull the trigger. If you don’t want to shoot that then move the barrel to what you do want to hit, and don’t ever squeeze your shot off ’til you see exactly what you want to kill,” she emphasizes.

“In a nutshell.” I look down at my gun again.

“Yes, in a nutshell.” She points to her old truck. “Queenie’s waiting. Let’s go.”

1957 Chevy Driver's side front

The Drive to the Desert – Bette

“So, tell me if you were at home in California tonight what would you and Tina be doing?”

“Hm.” I drum my fingers against the steering wheel. “Maxine, I admit that should be a simple question to answer.”
Bette Tina couch Close up color corrected
“Or not.” She pans and she pushes in the cigarette lighter. “Seriously though, I don’t know what to do about you calling me, Maxine.”

I shift up to third and turn onto a two lane highway that heads east out into the darkening desert. “You’d like me to call you, Mother, right?”

“Whatever you feel comfortable with, Bette, but I haven’t been Maxine in a long time.”

I register the reality. “What is your name, now?”

“Mary Hardy.”

“That’s very English and to the point, isn’t it?”

“Simple, too. I’ve really grown to like it over the years. Everyone can spell it. It fits on a name tag. Mary Windhorse and I are on committees and things so we’re always in the name tag business when organizing events for some cause or other.”

“I did a little research online. Your paintings are wonderful.”

She lights a cigarette and rolls the window down. “Did you pursue it or let it drop?”

“Once I left college, I began to sell art more than I made art.”

“I have a nice little studio.” She pats the dashboard of her 1957 Chevy truck. “It’s a very short hop in Queenie.”

“Love your truck, Mother. I’m game for a ride out in the desert, shoot pistols, and look at the moon.  And I’m really ready for a drink.”

“I’m dying for one actually.” She nods in agreement. “Bette, drive past those rocks and down into the canyon.”

Art. The Black Mesa Ceremony

Canyon Fireside – Bette

The dry desert tree limbs catch quickly and around a very old, perhaps ancient firepit my mother and I spread out blankets and our dinner picnic basket. The cool evening air begins to sink lower into the canyon as the moon my mother wanted us to watch crests at the eastern tip of the cliff. I have to agree, it is beautiful out here.

“This part of the desert is my favorite. Something feels comfortable to me here. Do you feel it?”

“Comfortable, very.” I add from my side of the campfire as I stretch out on the blanket. “This beer tastes fantastic. You’re here. I’m crazy about my new boots, and I’m strapped with weaponry.” I take a long swallow of cold Mexican beer. “What’s not to love?”

“How far along are you along on finishing that can?”

“Why? I was just starting to relax.”

“For target practice, Bette.” My mother hands me her can. “Put them on top of those rocks about twenty feet over there, and watch out for snakes when you get too far away from the fire.”

“Oh?” I stop dead in my tracks. “They don’t like fire?”

“Rattlesnakes have heat sensing pits above their eyes to track their warm blooded prey. They’ll sense this fire as a very large foe, and they won’t come too near it.”

I watch my step around the boulders and brush grass before placing our beer cans waist high on a rock.

My mother pats the blanket near her. “We’re going to shoot those cans off that rock. You watch me and then you go next.”

She takes a tissue out of her pocket, tears it in two, and motions for me into stuff it in my ears.

I pop open the beer and lean back so I can watch how she aims. “I understand the principle of the thing. You line up the sights and pull the trigger.”

“Aiming is very easy, Bette, once you get the hang of it. The other important thing is remembering the safety on the gun. You always have it on.” She flips a notch on the side of her long barrelled pistol to show me how she can’t pull the trigger now. Then, she slides the safety off, and shows me the little red marker that means the gun is hot.

“Now, my safety is On and now I’m flipping it Off because I’m ready to aim and shoot.”  A loud report echoes for a second or two around the canyon after she fires.

Past the curling grey muzzle smoke only one beer can remains.  “Jesus Christ! Mother! I don’t even know if I can hit that can at all.” I rise up from the blanket and shuffle my boots around in the gritty sand to get a balanced footing.

“Just take your time, sweetheart. If you miss on your first attempt, don’t worry about it. You’ll see what you did wrong. Just correct it the second time around.”

“Second chances. If you only knew how close to home all this sounds.” I close my left eye to concentrate my aim.

“So, I’m curious about so many things. I know you are, too, Bette but what’s with the hunting knife?” My mother asks without sarcasm.

“Have you ever felt a murderous rage?”

“Being the target of Mob hitmen most of my life, what do you think?” She laughs at herself. “That’s why I have so many knives and pistols. I don’t have one for every time I had the urge. That would be rather sick, wouldn’t it?”

I flash on Helena and back to Henry. I should have a switchblade with me, too. “Tina and I have had some problems over the years. I was in a very dark mood one day. I desperately needed a sippy cup for Angelica, and I went into a Wal Mart – if you can believe it – and came out with baby supplies and this huge skinning knife.” I sight back down the barrel of the gun.

My mother sighs with a laugh. “America is commercially diverse in the most uncanny of ways, isn’t it? Your safety is on, right?”

“Check.”  I close my left eye and sight squarely down the barrel. “I wanted to kill the man she left me for. I really did.” I pull the trigger and the can zings up into the air before falling back to earth.

“Just as I thought.” My mother says proudly. “You’re one of those rare people who can focus on new things with confidence.”

I holster my pistol and I walk back into the shadows to set the targets up again.

Maxine Bette Campfire

Twenty minutes later –

I lazily knock my pair of cowboy boots together, and stare into the flames. After drinking more beer and shooting more cans off rocks my mother and I grew quieter a few minutes ago.

Maxine, aka, Mary Hardy certainly is a very easy person to hang out with, but what would’ve happened if I’d been the hyper-citified type who wouldn’t leave the pickup truck for fear of … what I wonder exactly?

The dark?

Which is everything.

Darkness, I’ve finally realized is something that is inescapable. There’s no point in berating yourself when you flame out on the track. Endless inner recriminations are a waste of time. When the twisted paths that inevitably follow disappointment appear, and you get lost down those for awhile the wise thing is to roll with it.

I wince at the grimace, and grimace at the wince. Inner wisdom like this is so hard for me to practice. Bad Luck is. Carelessness is. Being blind to what’s right in front of me is, and happens far too often to me. It’s unstoppable.

I look up at the infinity of the stars, and think about ceaselessness. If I could figure out how to see far enough ahead to know when a calamity is just about to befall me I could change the world.

Foresight would be amazing. I wish I had more of it.

Across the campfire my mother stares into the flames. “Maxine? What was it like for you to become Mary? I’ve tried to imagine what it must’ve been like to lose your identity, to be one person one day, and then the next in a flash everything familiar is gone. That would freak me out.”

“My guess is it would. Are you getting hungry over there?”

Extreme CU BETTE fireside NM

“I could eat. Whatcha got?” I move around the fire to her blanket as she opens the picnic basket. “And if you don’t want to get into it I’ve waited nearly thirty years – another hour or day isn’t going to kill me.”

“I’ll fix you a plate, and while you eat I’ll tell you what I can. I might be up for all of it but it’s a horribly long story filled with such a load of assholes.” She laughs sardonically as she puts plates and silverware out on the blanket in front of me.

“Let’s start with the identity business, Bette. Who would you be tomorrow if you woke up all alone in WitSec? Your name wouldn’t be Bette any longer.” She whisks her hand between us. “Your name is gone and becomes a sound you’ll never hear anyone ever calling you again. But you’re corporeal. You have your thoughts, and you have your body, and you wake up alone in a strange bed only with those next day. So, what goes through your mind?”

“You don’t make things easy, do you?” I pick up a fork and bob it between my fingers.

“Fine. We’ll talk about me then.” Maxine brushes away my question as she looks down into the basket. “You’d understand better how it felt if you’d use your imagination and try to experience it with me.”

“No, wait! I understand. You’re not deflecting, then?”

With a steady gaze she looks back at me. “I wasn’t, no.”

I stare up at the stars then, close my eyes as I take a deep breath in and begin to imagine myself waking up in a place far, far away from my life and family.

There’s daylight behind the shades so I sense I’m in an open place, not closed in by other buildings or a forest of trees. I describe how I feel. “My eyes open and I notice how I want to look to my right, the side of the bed where Tina sleeps.”

My frown grows deeper as I continue. “She’s not there and next I realize my daughter is not down the hallway of this – wherever I am place – either, and I wonder: What’s the point of getting up? Nothing I know or love is outside that bedroom door, is there?”

“No, there isn’t. It’s unbelievably depressing. You cannot know how much I missed you. It crushed me.” My mother begins to cry softly, and I catch a tear and then another of my own. I wipe them away, again and again.

Finally she says, “As it turns out, identity is a very interesting thing, and to rebuild it I finally looked to my preference for things – opinions, likes, and dislikes.” Her silver bracelets jingle down her arm as she emphasizes this point of her journey. “Some of those I took with me. I had to. I had to have something familiar.

“As an example, I’ve always identified – and this drove your father crazy, by the way – with anyone who didn’t want to stomp the ever loving sparks out of life and consequently, of course, art.”

Her face searches mine for recognition and finds it. “So, one piece of my identity that I decided to cross over with was pretty much anything that appeared strange to everybody else I was for it one hundred percent. I felt so off, you see.” She laughs at herself. “If it was unusual, I was game.”

“Believe me when I say, I’ve been through that gauntlet quite a few times.”

“You mean several years ago? Bringing the Provocations show to your museum? Now, Bette that was very unsettling and bizarre. I saw the catalogue. Much of it made me cringe, and of course, that was the point.” She shudders as she drops little mounds of green salad onto my plate. “And I was so proud of you!”

“You were?” I spear a mound of lettuce with my fork. “But personally, too, Mother – I have a bad history of walking into traffic.” I feel my throat tighten. “You might not be so proud of me there.”

She laughs with me and then her tone grows serious. “But back to my leaving you and joining WitSec – there’s this nakedness that creeps over you when everything’s been stripped away. It’s a very painful feeling, Bette.” She dashes away a quick tear. “When it begins to dawn on you that your heart and all your guts have been removed.”

Maxine night canyon

“I walked around with an emptiness – from my throat down to my waist – for probably a decade after the Feds kind of captured me, I guess. They gave me so little choice in the matter – as in none really.” She says pensively then looks straight back into my eyes.

“The mob would have killed us, Sweetheart. We would have all died. Our throats cut or bullets to the head. I became very convinced of that.” She finishes with a regrettable sigh. “And for awhile, ten years or more, losing my identity as Maxine and your mother, as Mary Hardy I also lost a sense of time I once had.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.” I confess as the dry wood I put on the fire catches and crackles. A twisting swirl of orange sparks lifts up from the rising flames.

“You’ll understand this the longer you’re a mother. There’s another way of pegging time. For me, it started right around that the period between September and February. That was when you started school, and included Halloween, then Thanksgiving, followed by your birthday, then Christmas. And thinking farther ahead every year I’d wonder after the New Year celebrations were over – what does Bette need to start up school?

“When I didn’t have that to do in reality, make a list and take you to the department store, I did it anyway. Over and over again in my head, year after year as you grew up so far away from me, I’d count off the things I’d looked forward to doing with you – like carving pumpkins every Fall.”

“You were very good at that as I remember.” I take her hand with long fingers like mine. “To lose the connection to your family – it sounds shattering to me. Truly. What I’ve been through lately sounds similar, and it was horrible, and mostly self-inflicted.”

I sigh and she smiles at me through our veils of sadness. “You turned out so beautifully. Do you know that about yourself? That you have a real warmth that radiates out from you?”

“Yes, I most definitely feel it. Sometimes it zooms away from me, too.”

I look at her curiously when she nods at me with complete understanding. “The wild horses inside? I know, I was the same way.

“To boil it down though, Bette, I guess identity isn’t what you think it is until you don’t have it anymore. Then your imagination – finally when you’ll let it – begins to fill in the gaps slowly and you create something else. Mary Hardy, for example, a painter and community activist who lives outside of Santa Fe.” My mother picks up her pistol and aims out into the dark open canyon.

“The imagination’s patchwork role is no doubt some kind of last-ditch-before-the-cliff coping strategy. After years of thinking about it that’s all I’ve come up with anyway.”
gun blast story image
She fires a single shot into the canyon. “Do you know who you are?”

With my ears still ringing a bit I lean back and look back up at the sky. “I know myself more lately in contrasts. I’m on a self-improvement kick these days.” I laugh out loud.

“My life Mother was a catastrophic mess until a month ago. You probably won’t have even liked me – I don’t know – as recently as two years ago, maybe?”

“That’s the first crazy thing you’ve said,” my mother shakes her head as she rises up from the blanket. “I’m going behind those rocks over there for a little privacy.”

I lean over and pick up a paper napkin. “I never thought about the origins of that, but you’re right – nature calls.”

I turn back to her as I’m walking away. “Mother are we planning on going back to your place and having dinner or should I eat more cheese and salad out here?”

“No, we’ve got a nice Mexican-styled stew for when we get home.”

I walk a few feet more looking up at the moon and stars, and then I hear a loud rattling sound. I look down to see the snake before I step on it.

CU rattlesnake

The feeling of needing to pee suddenly floods into my brain as I watch the big snake coiling to face me. It lifts its tail and rattles at me menacingly. God, I hope sound waves don’t set these things off more than those heat sensing pits of theirs. “Mother! Mary! Maxine! Dear God! There’s a big fucking snake over here.”

“Sweetheart, you’re catching me in kind of a mid-stream situation. I’ll be there in a minute. Just don’t move but if it strikes at you – you jump the instant it does. Okay?”

“Got it. Jump. But stay still.”

“Something like that. Damn, it’s hard to pee and worry about you at the same time.”

“Should I apologize?” I look up at the sky with a grimace of desperation and then fast back down to the snake still rattling at me.

“Okay, I’m coming. How many bullets do you have left?”

“You’re serious?” I glance behind me to see her picking up her pistol from the blanket.

“Can’t I just hop backwards and then take off running?”

“I tell you what I’d do if I had your Bowie knife and I was standing that close.”

“Arrgg.” I strangle out a breath of frustration as I unsheath my hunting knife. “This feels a bit more real to me Mother than my speculatively plotting to kill Tina’s boyfriend with it. Although I was convinced of its necessity at the time.” I add as I pat the knife against my palm and eye the snake rattling in front of me.

“That’s funny, Bette, but you should see yourself. Damn fine pair of my boots on, my favorite Colt six-shooter – all you need is a cowboy hat, kiddo, and we’re getting you one tomorrow.”

I roll my eyes up to the heavens and ignore her description. “Can’t you see well enough to shoot it from there? Please? Mom, Mary, Maxine? I’ll call you whatever you want. Better yet, all three of you come over here and take your best shots at this snake, or I’m jumping and hoping.”

“You’d risk all the pain that goes along with getting snake bit to spare its life?”

“How much pain are we talking about?” I begin to reconsider as the snake rattles furiously.

“I lost part of my right foot to snakebite about eight years ago. Toes just necrotized, died, and then, fell off. Well, were cut off but you get my point.”

“You’re convincing me.” I sheath my knife and take my pistol out of its holster. I pop open the chamber. “Not good news on this end, Mother. Only got one bullet left.” I bite my lip.

“One shot should do it, but I’ll throw you a few more bullets. It’s your job now to make sure it’s really dead. Got that?”

“I still don’t understand why you’re not so trigger happy anymore.” I try one last ploy. “Shooting cans can’t be as much fun as killing the cousin of the rattler that bit your toes off, can it?”

“How about you feel how it wants to sink it’s fangs into you now?”

“You have a very curious habit of always answering a question with another one. I remember this tactic of yours – imprinting curiosity on a young, impressionable child, but not now, Mother. Tell me you get the difference.”

“Behind you – between us and by that boulder – there’s another one, not as big as the one in front of you, but big, and it would hurt.”

I look between us as she points to the rocks nearby. “I didn’t want to alarm you, Bette, but we have to shoot at the same time. I’ll take care of the one by me and you do the same with yours. We can’t leave one of them wounded, unpredictable, and dangerous.  Here, catch these bullets. I’m throwing you three, one at a time. Then, we have to kill these rattlers and get the hell out of here.”

“I’m convinced. It’s been fun but…” my voice trails as I look away from the rattlesnake and back to Maxine for her pitch.

“Okay, sweetheart here comes a bullet. Now hand to eye coordination is key and you gotta be quick about loading up, too. I’m throwing right to the center of your chest. You won’t have to put your hands too far out to catch and alarm the snake.

“Go. I’m ready. I never peed by the way.” I look at her with a desperate expression. “And now, it’s killing me. Throw me the ammo.”

bowie knife rattlesnake

A minute later after the smoke clears, but the ringing in my ears hasn’t my mother says, “I’m really proud of you, Sweetheart.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I lift the lifeless rattlesnake a few inches off the ground with the toe of my boot. “Like you said, squeeze the trigger and on the other end of the barrel big holes appear in things. Looks like I hit it every time, too.”

“You’ve never killed anything before, have you?” She walks over to where I’m toeing my dead snake.

“No, I haven’t, but I’m not torn up about it. Believe me. These things are ugly, aren’t they?”

“Agreed. Rattlers are not pretty snakes at all. Now, we cut their heads off, and take them back home for our stew. You have to eat the meat of your first kill, Bette. It’s unlucky not to.”

“You think so? Why is that?” I insist not buying her idea. “And another thing – don’t suggest we stop and scoop up any road kill on the way back home to your place tonight, either.”

“First kill. It’s a ritual. A rule. You must do it.” She shrugs her shoulders that it’s a given. “I’m not saying you have to eat the whole damn snake, Bette, but definitely a bite or two.”

With a long stick she hands me I lift the bloody snake off the ground between us. “Mother, have you eaten one of these before?”

“People lie when they say it tastes like chicken but I smother rattlesnake meat with onions and chilis and other things. If you didn’t know better you’d think it was chicken, probably.” She explains, “I guess what I’m saying is – I could fool you into eating that snake for dinner tonight, but I’m not. It’s your choice, I’m simply strongly advising.”

“I couldn’t be more relieved, really for the lessons on the customs of the land.” I shoot her a look as I throw the dead rattler into the bed of her pick up truck. It lands with a lifeless thud. “Mother, an idea just came to me. Let’s get whatever “going native” initiations I seem to be having over with tonight. Tomorrow when my future wife gets here we can’t be having this kind of fun around her and the baby. If I eat part of this fucking snake, we can agree on that, right?”

“When she gets here tomorrow at noon we’ll act as right as rain.”

“And in a desert that sounds unusual, but fortuitous.” I side step to give her room. She drops her dead snake in the truck next to mine.

“Here’s what I’m thinking. Tina is a much more relaxed person than I am. She’s lovely and people adore her, but you’ve already spooked her with WitSec and the Gambinos.”

I continue as I lean against the truck, “Here’s my vision – an evening at home tomorrow night with no guns or knives to speak of, and no snake meat snuck into our tacos.” I look across at my mother for a promise. “What’d you say? I’d like for you to get to know my family, and I promise you we can’t do that if Tina gets rattled, so to speak.”

“I’m looking forward to being a grandmother tomorrow, Bette, and meeting Tina very much. Follow me. We have to put out the fire, and needless to say, both of us need to watch our step.”

Santa Fe mystery dinner

Rattlesnake Dreams

After dinner we had pulled off our boots and had sat by the fire sipping whiskey. My eyes had begun to feel heavy, and finally I had tossed back the remaining swallow, and had kissed my mother goodnight.

Lying in bed now I have visions of the stars, and the canyon behind my eyes. I feel the twisting, digesting snake inside me, too. It had been alive slithering in its canyon when I had landed in New Mexico earlier today.

Then, my mind drifts off into a dream that soon finds a doorway that lures me through it.

Maxine_painted Door way HOME

The clouds around me are rhythmic and scarlet, and sailing closer to earth I skim above a red desert, and I hear my mother’s voice reminding me how I was warm by the fire, and sleepy from adventure.  She had read aloud the Navajo legend, The Tale of Two Trees Twisted Together.

The air high up here in the Grandmother Wisdom Tree is sweet and warm and singing birds join me in the branches as I float into one of the leafy crowns and rest in the limbs where I dream on about journeys that take a lifetime to go from one place to the next, and what to do when you finally arrive.

Art. Grandparent Trees

A Dream Within a Dream

I slide down one of the rough and weathered trunks of the trees in my mother’s painting, and feel the depth of its root’s, and the strength Life requires of us.

A low desert wind brushes across my bare back as my dream settles me face down against the warm rocks and sand at the base of the Two Twisted Trees.

Bette_Back_in Bed

I see the snake that’s becoming a little part of me. It lies flat, warming its belly like me against the earth. Then past the one rattlesnake appear many more and we all stretch out and elongate and the rattlesnakes’ length of spine becomes mine. I feel bones.

A tongue flicks out of my mouth to taste the air and comes back with sensations that are familiar. I slide to the left and then back to the right, and feel the coarseness of the earth as it rubs back and forth against my new skin.

Ouroborous

Eight hours later –

Maxine’s House – Morning – Bette

“How’d you sleep?” My mother asks as she pours my tea.

“Grandmother Trees? I think I remember that much, plus I feel like I walked a great distance yesterday but that’s impossible.”I arch and crack a vertebra or two in my back. “Dreams.” I shake my head.

“Do you like to eat in the morning?” My mother asks.

CU Bette tank top JPEG

“I can eat but only something normal, Mother. I’m remembering. I had snake dreams last night. Remember, we’re not bringing up snakes again, okay?”

“If you can forget about it, then I can forget about it. It’s our secret. Fine.” My mother nods as she begins separating eggs into bowls.

“Do you need me to chop anything? Do anything?”

“After breakfast I have some chores around the place. Doing those with me would help.”

“Yes, count me in and I’m pretty good at anything up high, too.” I smile.

“And you don’t have to eat it but I’m frying some more rattlesnake with the bacon this morning. It’d be good for you to eat it once more.” She nods at me, as I smile guardedly across the stove at her. “Make you strong, like milk used to.”

Maxine HOME

Maxine’s House – Tina

I hear the muffled tunes of a Country and Western song coming from beyond the wall as my taxi stops in front of the address Bette gave me a half hour ago when I called her from the airport. I call her name as I push open the gate, and look off to the side where I see a beautifully restored 1957 Chevy truck, and hear her voice.

Before our commercial flight Angelica and I had been biding our time people watching in the Burbank airport when out of blue Nikki Stevens had walked up and offered us a lift to Santa Fe.

As we walk toward the rear of the house, I hold Angelica’s hand and breath in the heat baked scents of desert sage that wafts around me

Tina_Maxine Story Picture

Bette had seemed happy on the phone. All had been forgotten about my delayed arrival. “Bette. We’re here.” I call again, as I near the old truck and more plainly hear the radio.

1957 Chevy Driver's side front

In a moment out from under it rolls Bette and Maxine zipped into faded khaki shop coveralls. Bette holds a wrench in her hand and smiles up at me. “Takes two people to bleed a brake line, Tina. Did you know that?” She pulls off her greasy gloves and gets up off the ground.

“Tina, I’m Mary Hardy, not Maxine anymore, if that’s okay?” Bette’s mother says with a wave. “And I’m dying to meet you, too, Angelica, just as soon as I clean up.”

Bette knocks a wrench against her thigh. “We thought we’d be through before you got here. Great you got an earlier flight.” She takes Angelica’s other hand. “I’ve missed you.” She kisses me quickly on the lips. “And now! It’s perfect that you’re here.”

“How greasy are you? I know you want to pick up your daughter.”

“Tina? Are you two hungry? How was your flight?” Mary calls from back under the truck.

“Aren’t we through? We aren’t? Are we?” Bette kneels down next to the big front wheel where Mary is working.

“Tina, excuse us. This is the worst welcome! I have the best lunch prepared, and a great afternoon planned, but we’re going nowhere unless I get my daughter back under Queenie for another minute or two.”

I sit down on the driveway with Angelica in my lap. We watch Bette and her mother scoot around on their sleds under the big blue truck.

“I guess it was dumb of me to attempt this little brake job the day we needed the truck. You’re probably thinking that, aren’t you?” Mary asks.

“Not really. I admit to being a little thunder struck seeing Bette repair a car. Mary, our toolbox in Los Angeles is the telephone.”

She laughs. “She understands she’s not to try this at home.”

“Trust me!” Bette calls back.

“We’re going to walk around a little.” I get up and let loose of Angelica’s hand to explore around me.

“Okay! We’re done.” Bette’s mother exclaims as they both roll out from under the truck. “Meet us there in the breakfast room. She’ll get your bags. And I’m sorry! We have a sink we wash up in out here in the barn.”

“Inside this door is the breakfast room?” I ask as Mary nods. “See you inside. And Babe?” I say to Bette who turns back, and flashes me a great big smile. “You look really good in that mechanic’s suit.” I give her a wink. “And I’ve missed you, too.”

Maxine breakfast room

Stay tuned for Chapter 8 of Touch Tones, The L Word inspired Season 7. It will post shortly.

Thank you for reading and commenting if you enjoyed the story.

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Thanks always to Jacky at LesFan who hosts us there.


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

Bette_Tina Season 5 06kiss

On Stage – Tina

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

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

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

Possession

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

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

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

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

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

Negotiation

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

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

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

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

 

Backstage – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Babysitter?” I answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kit_Bette big smiles_ seated

Backstage – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette_Agent Porter Laughing at Table

 

Bette’s House – Bette

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wife,” I say out loud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Post Press conference shot, Tina,Shane, Jenny

Outside Bette’s House – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I wasn’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Bette On top tongue kiss

Bedroom – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

“You want it tonight, don’t you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

wolf_onRidge

Instincts

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

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

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

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

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

“Whirling dervishes, Bette.”

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

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

One hour later –

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

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

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

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

Gambino FoggySt Hit

 

 

_____________

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

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

 

Blackbird

 

 

Bette Porter Tina Kennard love scene, Bette Porter Tina Kennard love scene, Bette Porter Tina Kennard love scene, Bette Porter Tina Kennard love scene, Bette Porter Tina Kennard love scene,

 

 

 

 


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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.

 

Fireplace StoryImage

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.”

Tina_and_BetteGallery

“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.”

Bette_Headshot_redstraps

“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?”

 

Kiss_silhouette

“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.”

Tina_passion_sitting on Top

“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.”

Bette_Kiss_goldtoned Bette_Tina CU golden toned KISS

“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!

Blackbird

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Fit for Battle – Bette Porter and Tina Kennard

Bette_XtrmCU_B&W

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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