The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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#3 Touch Tones: The Ringer

 

Claire_with The Ringer
Sunday Night – The Sunset Grill

As I walk into the grill on Sunset I brush off the last bits of dust still clinging to me from my trip to the storage unit with Shane. Phase One of Claire’s plan is in motion and I hope to God she knows what the fuck she’s doing.

Before she notices my entrance I lean backwards slightly to stretch my muscles. After fighting with my unwieldy mattress and its swaying back and forth between me and Shane my back all the way up to my neck feels achy and tight. Shane was helpful and her body is very long, but it definitely took all my muscle to wrangle my bed into the van and then back out again. The door behind me opens and I step aside and hear Tina’s voice.

”So, how did it go after I left?” Tina asks as she slips her arm through mine.

”I counted to thirty at the bottom of the pool and as I was dripping into the house I caught Jenny out of the corner of my eye at her window. They definitely heard us.”

”And to think we used to talk to each other that way every day.” Tina sighs as she leads me to the meet the clean cut young man sitting in the booth with Claire.

”Bette, this is Josh Stanley from E News,” Claire introduces the reason I’m not under the head of a shower right now. ”Josh is also a blogger for Gay WeHo and PrideLA.com. We’ve worked on a few special projects together.”

”Special projects.” I repeat back with a lilting wonder if that’s PR code for Gay and Lesbian.

A waiter appears at the table. Tina looks at the chalkboard specials on the wall. ”Bette, what are you having?”

”We’re going to be here that long?”

”Babe, I’m hungry. Do you want anything?”

”Okay, Linguini and a glass of Chianti, really good Chianti.” The waiter nods. As Claire and Josh place their orders I whisper to Tina, ”Who is this guy? Can we trust him? I thought we were keeping a very tight ring around this plan.”

”Bette, you can absolutely trust him.” Claire says I suppose hearing me with her third ear. ”And what’s more we don’t want to try this without his help.”


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#1 Touch Tones: After Midnight

Malibu Coastline_Night
 Malibu – After Midnight – Bette
 The moonlight casts a pale glow as it filters through the bedroom windows that overlook the Pacific.  I can count the beats of the tide as it steadily comes ashore.  My mind drifts out into the darkness of the dunes and then beyond them to feel between the waves.  Every moment a swell then a downward roll – my breath in sync with Tina’s, as she lies quietly on my shoulder.  I exhale a long sigh of relief.  An hour ago in front of the fire she had said she would marry me.

“Bette?” She stirs on my shoulder.

“Yes, right here.” I answer her the way I always do when I’ve flown off to the ceiling, and she gently calls me back.

Then, she catches my gaze with diamonds that flash. “I just opened my eyes, and there’s a beautiful ring from you on my finger.”

I hold her tighter to me for a moment.

“I can’t really believe it’s there.” Tina plays it back and forth on her finger.

“Baby, are you at all disappointed? I had planned to ask you to marry me so differently.  I don’t know what got into me.” I kiss the top of her head. “I just blurted it out in the middle of an orgasm.”

“Well, it wasn’t how I’d ever pictured you doing it. That I can promise you.”

“Do you want me to do it again?  Fly us somewhere? I’ll hold you in my arms, and ask you again on a mountain top?  I just can’t jump out of a plane.” I thread my hand through hers across my chest. “The dinner, the wine, the fire were all so perfect.”

Tina strokes my chest and settles back against my shoulder.  “Swept away?  But, in case you dream something else up, I’m keeping the ring. You’re not getting it back in the meantime.”
CartierRingStoryImage

Tina studies the ring on her finger.  “I was raised to want one of the these, you know, and for years I told myself I didn’t, but now I realize I’ve wanted to be married to you for a long time.”  Slowly, she kisses me.

Bette_Tina_in Bed_talking Story picture

“Really? Because it would be so embarrassing to return it.”

“Relax. You don’t have to.” Tina kisses my lips, again. “Did you have a date and a place in mind, Bette?”

“Hm.” I look in her eyes and wonder if I should know these answers. “I might.” I frown very slightly, as I try to think. “Why? T, do you?

“Not yet, mind if I think about it?”

“Be my guest.” I kiss her with a loving sense of my relief buried inside it.

Tina_Bette In bed Tina kissing Bette

Her leg slides between mine. “I’ve missed kissing you,” Tina says as she settles on top of me.

“You have no idea.” I moan, wanting her again.

“Have you given any thought to telling our friends?”

“Hm.” I kiss her longer and halfway think about our announcement. “Maybe. What thoughts do you have about it?”

“I see. This is another one of your big picture moves. One you’ll sort out the details of later?”

“Would that be so bad?” I ask and hope to God it’s not.

Tina stares at me for a second. “Bette, do not explode.” She places her finger across my lips. “Would you mind if I asked the advice of a PR consultant? I mentioned it at dinner. The hungry gossip writers are gnawing at the edges of Les Girls for anything that will drop out, and that means something like this.”

“Even if we have Alice abducted?” I offer.

Tina smiles at me. “Even with Alice abducted people are going to see this.”  She wiggles her ring in front of my eyes. “This is your timing after all.”

“Stories about us…hmm, will they help that fruitcake Jenny’s movie? Probably will, won’t they?”

Tina lets out a sigh. “It’s my movie, too. Everyone seems to forget that until it’s time to yell at someone. The best way to manage the press is to have someone get ahead of it, and craft a message about our engagement that is interesting to a point, but respects our privacy.

“Tina, if a media consultant will get the nauseating confusion of Bev and Nina away from us then, of course, I trust you to make the right call.”

A flash of aggravation sweeps across Tina’s face. “And frankly, that’s giving Jenny too much credit! She just journaled our lives and absorbed our most dismal moments like a nasty little black sponge that sat in a kitchen window next door to us.”

“I know you’re being paid to turn the most pathetic moments of our lives into a movie, but I can’t pretend to be happy about it.”

“Please don’t get pissed off.” She strokes the sides of my face.  “You’ve created such a beautiful evening for us.”  Her kiss rolls slowly across my lips, and up I float to the ceiling with the blue tones of midnight, wondering if we’ll make love again.

heart-shaped pancakes

Beach House – Saturday morning – Tina

As I lie back in bed with the coffee Bette and Angelica brought me a few minutes ago, I listen to a conversation between them occurring down the hall.

“You know I’ve brought you breakfast in bed many a morning, Angelica, and now we’re almost ready to take this tray into your Momma T for her turn.”

I hear more pans rattling, and finally the clink of china, and very soon Bette appears in the doorway with two red lacquered Chinese breakfast trays. Angelica runs from beside her, and climbs steadily up into the bed to sit with me.

“From us!”

I sprinkle the heart-shaped pancakes with blueberries and pour maple syrup over them, as Bette stretches her long body, and yawns contently next to me.

I’ve tried to block out so many regrets, and try not to think about the missing years, but one thought lingers with me this morning.  Is this the first time we’ve ever done this since our baby, now a small child was born?  Lazed around in bed on Saturday morning eating pancakes?

Bette leans in for a syrupy bite. “Very lucky finding the heart-shaped pancake maker in the kitchen. It determined everything.”

“I would’ve been just as happy with one of your famous omelets.”

“Baby, my Saturday morning omelets for you are about,” she lowers her voice to a whisper, “seduction. Hearts with syrup are from your family”  Bette points out the window to the seashore. “They mean we leave the bedroom today.”

“I’ll be ready for the beach, when you both are.” I make another baby pancake bite for Angelica.

“An article I read said when you make a list of things you want to do, and change don’t overload yourself with really hard things. With that advice I wrote, ‘Learn how to cook on my list’.”

“That I still am coming to grips with.”

“But you see how good I am it, don’t you?”  She smiles as she tastes a pancake. “You see, with cooking it’s planned out. It’s timing, it’s strategy. Oh, and most of all,” she points to the blueberry covered heart shaped pancakes, “it’s presentation. All things I’m very good at.”

“I’ve missed this, Babe.  Missed you.”

She takes a long sip of coffee but it doesn’t hide the emotion in her voice. “There were so many bad things happening.  So many things I had no idea how to stop.” Her eyes drift out over the ocean.

I reach over Angelica’s head and stroke the side of Bette’s cheek.  She turns back from gazing out at the sea and looks at me with so much love in her eyes.

Malibu_;iquor store

Four hours later – Bette

Tina shook me awake from my pleasant post luncheon nap, pushed me under the shower, pulled me out again, and sent me up the coast a mile to the liquor store. Apparently, we’re having a cocktail party in an hour. Jesus! I was only asleep for ninety minutes at most!  When did we decide to throw a party? We didn’t.

My cart squeaks along the vibrantly colored aisles of Malibu Mike’s Liquor Store, and Frank Sinatra croons a romantic tune through the speakers. Row after row of bottles, their sherbert colored labels next to the blood red waxed necks, make me feel woozy for a moment. I stop my cart in front of shelves of vodka, and stare across at the clear but mind-altering liquid, and contemplate: How quickly things change.

Last weekend I was in Big Bear being tossed into a freezing lake, and wishing I could take the nail gun, I saw in Michelangelo’s mudroom, to everyone – including myself. I cannot reconcile the vast dimensional shift, so I put two bottles of Absolut vodka in my cart instead.

Aside from the hangover I know I’ll have tomorrow, the thought of getting a little drunk tonight begins to amuse me as I drive back down the coast. I inhale the rich sea air. If Tina wants to announce our good news, and share part of our evening with our friends, I should be happy about it, and then suddenly I am.

Charlie's Angels spoof

“Where’s Tina? I felt summoned, man.”  Shane looks around the beach house.  “And I have plans at ten, but I’m cool for a few hours. What’s up?” She leans into the refrigerator in search of a beer.

I open my mouth to speak, but Alice cuts in, “There’s no broken furniture, no bruises, no one’s crying –  I’m curious, too.” Alice shoots me a quizzical look.

“Helena is anyone – I don’t know – maybe like the Feds looking for you? What are you out on bail, an escapee?”

She smiles obliquely.  “There was money exchanged, and I’m somewhat reformed.”

I laugh to myself and sip my martini.  Before she got sent away Helena was a very good spy for me with news of Tina visiting a Gypsy Fortune Teller, or buying a vibrator in my absence, and speak of the devil.

Tina sweeps into the room, picks up the martini I made for her, and leans into me for a kiss.

Bette_Tina_Happy_at restaurant

Alice stops talking, Helena turns away from a Warhol print on the wall, and Shane looks up from stoking the fire, when they see us so happily back together. Then, with a lovely sense of fanfare, Tina holds out her left hand, and shows off her engagement ring.

“I have literally dreamed of this night! I know that sounds stalkery and crazy.” Alice picks up the martini shaker, and gives herself one last good splash.

“Congratulations, guys.” Shane puts her arm across my shoulder as Helena joins us to admire Tina’s ring.

“It is so beautiful, Tina.” Helena shoots me a sly smile.

“I’m marrying her as soon as I can.”

“Whoa, wait a minute!” Alice looks at Tina. “Not as soon as you can.” Then, back to me again. “Bette, there are plans to be made.”

Shane and I walk over to the fireplace together, and lean against the mantel. “This is right for both of you, especially you.”

“You saw too many of my close calls.” Shane nods her head and looks away into the fire.  “I am so ready.” I look behind at Tina smiling at me over Alice’s shoulder as they embrace.

The doorbell rings, and Shane leaves to let our next guest in.  “You’re expecting Kit, right?”

PR consultant for Tina

“Hi. Tina called me.”  A blonde woman standing in the doorway smiles at Shane and past her into the room where she catches my eye. “I was on my way out to a party, but Tina begged me to stop by. Something about she’d make it worth my while, and you’d uncork my favorite champagne?”

“So not Kit.” Shane walks backwards away from the door. “Come in, and I can definitely help you with that drink. I’m Shane, by the way.”

“Tina?” I look at her for answers.

“Everybody, this is Claire Reilly, and she’s here to help us.” Tina raises up two fingers to count them off. “First, she’s going to blaze a clear trail from one side of our wedding announcement, all the way to the other. And two,” Tina points her second finger toward me, “Claire’s being given whatever access I can provide to keep an eye on Jenny Schecter should she try to leak anything and steal our moment.”

Alice looks skeptical. “The press conference announcing the first day of shooting is Monday, right? That’s two days from now.”

Claire takes a flute of champagne from Shane. “My father did press relations for the Clinton’s when I was young, and I started out handling rock musicians.”

Leaning against the mantel, I begin to form a picture of what’s ahead.  “Well, just wait until you meet, Jenny Schecter.” .

_________________

Stay tuned for more of my L Word inspired vision of Season 7.
The story collection preceding this one, _WeHo: Behind the Scenes_, has the chapter, “Malibu” that this story, “After Midnight” comes immediately after. “Touch Tones” picks up immediately after I finished the last chapter in WeHo.

@ModernLWord is a very amusing Twitter Feed. I mean laugh out loud funny.

@thelword_FPAGE is another site for photos, news and other amusements.


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Objects in Motion

Helena_HairBackHeadTilt

Lobby Bar – The Beverly Wilshire Hotel – Tina

I’m not sure what actually motivates Helena to be punctual, but right at 7 pm in she walks inside the lobby and waves.

Several weeks have gone by since I met Jodi Lerner, and as much as I may hate to admit it – she’s turned Bette’s head. I’m not sure what I want to do about it much less how or when. Bette and I exchange our child and go over Angelica’s schedule. We compare notes on this or that, and as the weeks have passed since I went to the Gypsy and quite suddenly, she began seeing Jodi, Kit’s been a welcome depot for our exchanges.

But I worry. The longer this passing in the night goes on I can’t stop myself from worrying. Did I already miss the fucking crossroads the Gypsy had warned me about – not missing?

My heart had sank, and then bounced miserably around my feet, when Angelica had started communicating in sign language. With that fear and panic, I’d called Helena.

Helena kisses both my cheeks before she takes a seat. “You look lovely, as always,” she says looking around the grand lobby filled with sophisticated, interesting looking people. “I do like taking cocktails in lobbies.”

“I’ve always loved this hotel.”

“I believe I may have shagged in all the nice ones, have you?” Helena’s eyes flash at me then, she catches the attentioin of a waiter. “Absolut martini please, mine dry with olives and Tina?”

“A French 75 for me, please.”

“I’d forgotten you love those. They’re delicious mini brain hammers. Make two of those. I change my order.”

The waiter takes leave.

“Are you really living in this hotel with Catherine Rothberg?”

“A wee step up from Alice’s couch, and yes.”

“As long as you know what you’re doing.” My voice sings up an octave. The waiter returns with our drinks.

“I’m trying to return to my former lifestyle.” Helena takes a sip.  “At the moment, Catherine’s providing that.”

“With some negotiation?”

“Predictably, yes.  You?”

“Lots of people around the studio lot, but no one really.”

“So, may we all breath a sigh of relief, and hope,  you’re back batting for the right team?”

The tiny brain hammers of my strong French 75 begin to take effect. “No more men.”

Helena sends a “two more” signal to the waiter.

“Mummy always said, “Try to get at least two good ones in before dinner. Sometimes it can save your life. Especially if the dinner wine is bad.”

“I haven’t been going out much,” I confess.

“Is that good for you?” Helena fixes me with one of her inquisitive, but arrogant looking stares.

“Fine, just very different.”

“Hmm. Bette and Jodi have coffee most mornings with us. I guess, you know that?”

“Miles out of my way to go there for coffee before work.”

“We’re plagued daily by Jenny. You’ve created a monster.”

“Me? I don’t delight in it!  A painful part of my job is her, but I will at The Planet tomorrow to meet her.”

“One more before dinner, don’t you think?” Helena motions discreetly for two more. “Did you end up finding the psychic you were looking for?”

“Yes! I went a few weeks ago.”

lobby beverly wilshire

I start on my third French 75 and the room seems very shimmery and bright, and seeping into me are the strains of music from the jazz quintet. I look across at Helena’s beautiful inquisitive face, and feel the boozy-buzz taking me over.

Being in bed with her creeps into my mind. “Confidentially? I need to make a decision about, Bette,” I say instead.

“But you’re not considering? Are you? Hmm, . . . interesting.”

“Well, . . . what’d you think?” I try very hard not to slur my words.

Helena looks at me flabbergasted. “Tina, to me she’s a bit of a monster, you know? I mean she’s gorgeous and smart, but I despise the way she lords it over me. I fucking hate her, you know that, and you know why.”

“If it’s any consolation, your Mother just happens to like her.  She didn’t chase after Peggy, but I do wonder how she’s doing at a university filled with faux intellectuals?”

“Having her pick of the scantily clad and very waxed students . . . would be my guess.” Helena sniffs.  Her air of superiority having returned. “If I were you I’d worry about them.” She emphasizes.

“Aren’t there rules against. . .?” But Helena’s reality check stare stops me cold.

“Tina, if you were to come upstairs with me. . .”

“What? You’re kidding!” I look at her wondering if it’s so.

Helena shrugs – not such a terrible idea. “We did have our moments, Tina.”  She twinkles her eyes at me. “Certainly you haven’t forgotten.”

Bette’s House – Midnight

Bette_Back

If I had a big drooling dog this is absolutely the moment I would not think twice about unleashing it on the fucking idiot who just jumped into my pool. Wait! Another splash! Okay, that’s got to be Shane and a woman. But still! Fucking slide in if you going to invade my garden to swim in the middle-of-the-fucking night.

Are you kidding me? Canon balls! That does it. Then, I hear Helena’s voice mixed with Shane’s, as they yell simultaneously, “Bette! Get your ass out here.”

“Oh, for the love of God!” I throw the sheets back, and pull on my yoga pants and a tank top. As my hand hits the back door knob I hear Shane calling to me.

“Hey!  Bring a lighter. I think mine got wet.”

I roll my eyes and find a box of matches from The Polo Club.

“Hey! I’ve got to be at a faculty breakfast in less than seven hours.”

“Seven hours. That should give you plenty of time, don’t you think, Helena?” Shane answers before she dips down to smooth the hair back from her face.

“Do you even own a bathing suit?” Helena asks her although nude herself.

“Helena, what are you doing in my pool the middle of the fucking night?”

“Well, I’m a bit drunk, but you’ll like this – I spent the evening with Tina.”

Shane dives down underwater and swims towards the deep end.

“Whisper!” I jerk my head towards Jenny’s house.

“Even tried to pick her up but she was having none of it,” Helena whispers her confession.

“Well, thanks for that at least. I guess.” I roll my eyes at her logic.

“Take one for the team, you know.”

“Helena. Go easy.” I say almost in a growl.

“Is this bit you’ve got going with Jodie serious? I’m starting to wonder.”

“Might be. Everything we talk about – art, her design work for three dimensional space – it couldn’t be further from what I’m used to debating and arguing about.”

“And you sign all this?” Helena asks incredulously.

I frown at her.

“And sculpture and such is getting you off then, is it?”

“Fuck off. I’m going back to bed. You guys keep it down.”

“Bette, I guess I should have told you.”

“What? What!” I lean back down to her. “Imagine my mood tomorrow after five hours of sleep. That’s if you leave soon.”

“Maybe Mummy should fill you in.”

“Fill me in about what?”

“Not just the Peabody Foundation, but other donors’ve had problems with Jodi Lerner’s grants over the years.”

“That’s not how this is going to happen. We’re not going to call your Mother, Helena. You’re going to get out of my fucking pool right now, and tell me everything. Every last detail you know.”

“May I at least have a towel? Please?”

“Sorry! Let me get my midnight cabana service ramped up.” I dig in a cedar chest under the umbrella. “Here, a nice fluffy one.”

She pushes up out of the pool and drips naked next to me with probably fifty thousand dollars worth of jewelry on her.

Wrapping the towel around herself, she says, “This is going to sound insensitive to her disability and I don’t mean it that way at all, but whether you sign it, or write it, or say it to her face – Jodi Lerner doesn’t know how to listen. She does what she wants, and everybody best bloody well get on board with it.”

“I’ve come up against it. In fact, I’ve got to get up at 0-dark thirty tomorrow morning for an emergency departmental breakfast meeting about her, and one of her students. Phyllis’ hands are around my neck to do something about it.”

“Have you tried giving Jodie one of your withering looks.” Helena shivers a bit, as she wraps the towel around her.

“Would that have any effect?” I ask curiously.

“In my experience, when she’s being told something she doesn’t want to hear or doesn’t agree with, Tom says some version of ‘fuck you,’ and she packs her bags and leaves.”

“We’ll see,” I say, but without conviction.

Bette PowerSuit looking down

Shaolin Studio – Tina’s office – Tina

Opening my office door I search desperately for my missing secretary.  “I’m sorry, Bette, just hold your thought for another minute.  Mickey? Has anybody seen her?” I ask a room of busy people. Everyone shakes their head, ‘No’.

“Bette take a walk out on the lot. That way we can get away from this phone that won’t stop interrupting.” Picking up my purse I open the door for her.

“James would never leave me in such a fucking mess. What’s going on around here?”

“We’re making a lesbian movie that’s what’s going on.” I lean over my secretary’s desk to write her a note, and sense my busy production office slowing down and suddenly become still. Dozens of people have stopped talking, texting, typing, walking and working to look at us.

Finishing my note, I leave it on my missing secretary’s desk.  “By the way, you look really great in that suit.” I tell her.

“Like my little lavender handkerchief?” She flicks it and smiles at me.

“I gave it to you.”

“So strange. . .you gave me two of them, right? One was a white linen, and I can’t find it anywhere.”

“I’ll look, Bette, I promise I will.” I reach inside my purse for my sunglasses and pretend to search for her.

As we walk out into the daylight, I feel the Gypsy’s charm inside an inner pocket of my handbag.

“I have my own version of work Hell. A student of Jodi’s – doing a performance piece freaked everyone out – when he put a gun he’d carved out of soap to his head.”

“You would not believe the things done with the props around here.”

“I work in a weird bubble. Fumes catch fire unusually fast. People lack perspective.”

“If we go right up here we’ll be on a film set doing a nineteenth century piece. Except for the horses it’s pretty quiet. Look, turn here.”  As we walk down the dusty facade of an abandoned main street I wonder where to start.

“I feel…” We both say at the same time.

“You go first.” Bette smiles.

“I haven’t talked to you in a while.” I look at her quickly.

“School, end of the semester, and Phyllis! Absolutely driving me crazy now that she’s a lesbian.”

“Trust me, I’ve got you beat. There’s an all out lesbian drama going on around me.”

“And Kate Arden?” Her tone has a catch of aggression.

We approach the catering truck. “The picture’s director?” I tap my studio credit card. “I’m having a mocha frappe.”

“I can’t get enough ice cream lately. I’ll have a strawberry cone.”

“I’m putting this on my studio card. Anything else?”

She takes her ice cream and begins to lick. “This is delicious.”

“You want a taste of this? It’s pretty great, too.” I hand my frozen chocolate drink to her.

“Sure.” She sips, then offers me a taste of strawberries.

Tina_SunglassesCameraLeft

Studio Lot – Bette

Early this morning, as my hand had reached for the snooze button – a third time – I’d heard a text alert on my phone.

TEXT from Phyllis –

“Due to a scheduling conflict with Professor Lerner be advised our meeting will not take place at 7 am.”

PK

Two thoughts had sprung to mind as I had read it: Unbelievable and Thank God. Actually, three: Turn off your fucking ringer, and I’d put the pillow back over my head and gone back to sleep.

When the meeting had finally convened, the circular logic and ludicrous rhetoric I’d heard had irritated the fucking hell out of me, and I’d chewed into the discussion with an articulate chainsaw, and Phyllis had called a recess.

“What were you doing to me in there?” Jodi had caught me in the hallway.

“What do you mean – to you? I don’t sense you’re really grasping the concepts I’ve been trying to drive home to you.  Your students, their actions in classes with you, the work they do under your instruction – you’re accountable for that, Jodi. For them!”

“Concepts? Really?”

“Reality, Jodie. Really the concept of Reality! Try to fucking grasp where the rest of us live. Try to cast your mind back to when we first met.” I press my hands beseechingly against my chest to implore her understanding. “I needed that man’s donation. I needed his money and it’s my job to get his money to finance this department. And what did you do?”

My finger has left trying to sign anything to her, and is now pointing menacingly. “You intentionally positioned a sculpture of George Bush’s mother with a vacuum cleaner’s hose for a vagina right where he’d come across it.”

I had felt one of my withering looks forming. “For what? Your principles! Damn what I may have needed!”

Jodi’s face turns stormy, but with a full wind behind me I don’t stop. “Inconceivably, you seem oblivious to the fucking political climate around guns in schools. Bottom line is this. You seem oblivious to the problems you’re causing this department, me professionally, and me personally.”  I had glared at her.  “Any of this registering, at all?”

“You’ve lost yourself. The power – you think you have – has gone to your head.” Jodi had smacked the side of her head, disgusted with me, and had walked away.

I’d caught her arm and signed, and said, as firmly as I could, “When you’re ready to listen, I’ll be in my office.”

Six hours later, still no sign of her, and apparently free from the annoyances of work – and with no plans whatsoever to get together with her tonight – I’d called Tina from the car on my way home.

Now, as she leans in to taste the ice cream, I catch a scent of something hard to describe. Is it on her skin or in her hair?  I pull on the straw of her frozen coffee drink, and my tongue freezes a little and aches. I look at her earrings, and then down her neck, and past her shirt collar. I remember how her skin tastes salty along her throat in the summertime, and how she always feels warm, when suddenly my lips crave her kiss.

Not the kind she’d give me to say goodbye, but the kind that begins and sometimes takes hours for us to finish. I want one of those kisses, her matching my desire because now it’s turning deeper between us.

“Something’s different about you. I can’t put my finger on it.” I finally say to break the spell on me.

“Not really.” She hands me back my ice cream.

“No, you’re kind of glowing or something. Are you having a secret love affair that no one knows about?”

“And why would that matter? Aren’t you with someone?”

I bark a laugh at her nonsense. “Oh, it would matter plenty, Tina. Absolutely everything about that would matter.”

____________

The next chapter is titled, The Cooking Lesson. http://wp.me/p4AUvc-7w 

Bette is anxious as Jodi’s return is fraught with tension, and Tina’s love charm has its effect.


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Spell On You – Tina Kennard L Word

Tarot_PrincessofDicks

Gypsy’s House – Tina

Alone in the Gypsy’s guestroom bath I look in the mirror at the welt on my forehead. It’s about the size of my thumb, and very red. God, I had pushed those memories about my sister so far down, and yet, the Gypsy had plucked them out from me immediately.

I moisten my hands and tap around my face, and catch the edgy expression in my eyes.  An old sadness rises up inside me. Given air and brought into the light, after all these years my memories of those nights are going to take some getting used to.

I lean closer into the mirror and examine my lump. There’s nothing to be done to cover it up. If anyone asks I’ll think of something.

In some form or another – throughout my entire reading – Bette was either nuanced, which is hardly like her, or straight up as a woman bearing a sword, or in her case, a Bowie knife. She was everywhere, but in my area of work, and even there the chances were high she’d attempt to influence me with Jenny’s movie’s, so close to production on the horizon.

Then the Gypsy had turned over the last card.

TheChariot

The Chariot

I’d stared down at the circular ring of images that no longer appeared random to me. The symbolic part of my mind that holds their cipher had begun to understand.

”Hmm, this card complicates things.” The Gypsy taps as she’d studied it.

”What do you see?”

She hands me The Chariot card with the charging horses. ”When this appears, if you don’t make a decision fast, someone else makes it for you.”

”Who? Is this a warning about the movie I’m making?” I ask warily.

”No, this is someone close to your home. She may want to wait for you, but staying in stasis while you make up your mind puts her in opposition to her basic nature. She’s driven.  Towards something or someone new. Her nature is restless – whether she likes it or not.”

”Oh, she likes it plenty.” And we share a laugh.

”Who’s she seeing romantically these days?”

This question I realize I have no answer for – at some point there will be someone.


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The Fortune Teller Tina Kennard The L Word

FortuneTeller Neon sign

Studio City – Tina

I hate rushing. It makes me nervous and forgetful, and the long list of things I don’t need are the ones banging about foremost in my mind.  I close the door to my car and sit still for a moment. I need to calmly look in my purse and check for money, cell phone, sunglasses and keys. I could get from here to anywhere with just those few things. Yes, all present and accounted for.

I start the engine.

Where I’m going today is a secret and that secret is making me anxious. Over and over again all morning, I had almost reached for the phone to call someone, bleed off a little steam, let loose some of this uncomfortable pressure, but my decision somehow remained firm. The Fortune Teller and I are a secret.

Helena’s psychic had been the one I’d finally had the sense to turn to when Googling “Gypsy fortune tellers LA CA” had led me to clowns, then porn sites and finally – and maybe the worst – Internet poker. Where do people find the time?  I’d caught Helena’s eye long enough to impress upon her, “Not a word about this to, Alice.” Absolutely, Helena had sworn, and she’d locked her lips and thrown away the tiny key.

“A Gypsy fortune-teller near Hancock Park is my best recollection of who Bette’s artist friend had sworn by,” is what I’d told Helena’s reader. She’d laughed and wondered, if all lesbians knew each other as well? I’d almost mentioned Alice’s chart, but quickly decided against it. Some things lead to conversations you soon realize you’d rather not be having – at all.

But like The Chart proves we’re all just a kiss or a bacterial infection away from each other.  Predictably, she knew the name of the Gypsy in Hancock Park, and before I’d lost my nerve my appointment had been made.

Tina_Headshot BeamingSmile

I like to be early to things. It’s just a habit of mine.  It’s one thing about me that drives Bette crazy, but as a traveling companion she’s wonderful – unless we’re catching a train, a plane or a ferry – but once arrived she’s game for nearly anything. Which is how we ended up at the bullfights.

It wasn’t something I would have chosen to do while we were in Madrid, but the night before on the Plaza de Cibeles we’d caught the attention of two toreros who were not chauvinistic about their sport. This led, I never will forget, to the very next day with Bette at the bullfights.

It wasn’t what I expected, and it grew more interesting by the hour when we met, by chance, the world’s most famous matadora, Cristina Sanchez.

Cristina_SanchezBullfighter

She was beautiful, but very deadly, very quick in for the kill.  Late that afternoon, Cristina had taught us – until we’d finally gotten it right – how to dance the graceful moves of the matadora, and it wasn’t at all what I’d thought it would be. In the bullring, one misstep among the dozens in this long luring dance and the bull takes your life.

After returning to our hotel, and a wonderful dinner, we’d returned to our room and tried to remember all the moves of matadora dance.

Bette_veryGood_goldenKiss

Vacation sex.

I feel her in my arms suddenly at the traffic light, as if she’s found me – just for a moment – to send me a message.  I close my eyes, and the luring moves of the matadora come back to me.

Driving slowly through Hancock Park, my breath catches, as I see the numbers match on the house to my right. I keep the car in idle. I can turn around now and never know. I turn the engine off and rest the keys in my lap,  As I watch the everyday movements of the neighborhood, my exhaustion comes to me. How do I push through these things I’ve created? How do I find love again, or do I ever? Jenny’s book is stirring up too much.

Fortune teller? Fuck, yes. What was I thinking?

As I ring the bell and hear footsteps closing our distance, there is one question I must have the answer to: How do Bette and I raise a child and not make her crazy?

Gypsy

In LA gypsy’s are fashionable! I realize as an attractive woman in her 60’s tosses back her long dark mane and opens the door to me. Yes, there’s a scarf, but it’s Hermes and her pant suit is tailored and a dark chocolate brown.  As she smiles, at the edge of her dark eyes there are the soft wrinkles of her lifetime of laughter.

A few minutes later –

“Have you ever had a reading before, Tina?” She asks as she shuffles cards.

“No, I’ve thought of it many times though.”

“How about some tea and you tell me what you’d most like to know?”

She reappears in a moment with a tea tray, and begins a preparation of the tea unknown to me, and her Romanian accent is threads through her words. “This Kluntje is the stick of white rock sugar that melts slowly as the Black Assam tea is poured over it. Next, we bring in the Wölkje, a heavy cream or as the gypsies call it, the cloud, the Wölkje.  And this is added to the tea water and mixes with the sugar and brings us back to the beginning. Do you see?” She passes me a delicate and very old china cup and saucer.

“Try it now. It’s served unstirred and first you will taste the sweetness of the cream as the cloud, then the tea, the active life, your life, and finally at the bottom your taste comes to the sweetness, the rock sugar and that is the Kluntje, the land upon which you walk.” She takes her seat across from me.

“Yes,” she sips her tea, pleased with it.  “Now, tell me Tina, as you drink this tea in this room where your future, present and past meet, what has brought you here?”

She reaches over to take my hand.  “Concentrate for a moment more, while you drink your tea then, put your cup in my hand.”

I take a deep breath, and I hand over my cup. The Gypsy begins to read my tea leaves.

“Ah, congratulations on solving your money problems.  In the West you are bred to fear the lack of it, in the East we’ve known hardship for centuries, even thousands of years. Wars. We’ve had so many wars.”

She sends me a look you might give a naive older child. “You will be fine. There is work for you in movies, and other support for you is nearby.” She nods her head, “Just don’t worry and get bad wrinkles thinking about it, that is not your true issue in this life.”

“In this life?”

 

“I’ll make a recording for you?”

“Yes, please.”

“Okay, Tina close your eyes and concentrate on your child. You have a question about her and she has a message for you.”

“Her name is also, Angelica.”

“So she says. Angelica, the messenger.”

“I’m separated from her other parent, her other mother, and I worry. . . she loves us both – so much.” My voice catches. “We’re a very beautiful, but very fucked up family.” Tears sting my eyes. “I apologize. On the other side of Melrose we talk this way.”

“Think nothing of it.” She brushes my curse away. “How’s your broken heart? You’ve had a few, haven’t you?”

“Better? I guess. I just don’t know what to do with it. Where to go with it? Do I just wait and let the days and weeks pass? Or do I try to date?”

“You’re pretty. Dating for you would be no problem, but who is the person you truly want to see you? Is it your child one day when she’s older? Or someone you haven’t yet met? Or someone you already know?”

“Yes, I would like to know. Please.”

“This person has a reckless, passionate side that runs away from her. Definitely a her. But I don’t think she’ll hurt you again like you suspect. . . but she could hurt others though.” She looks up at me, “Is this the one you love? This passionate, dangerous one?”

“For a long time, yes.” I say softly, and her eyes wrinkle at their edges.

She pushes a deck of Tarot cards toward me.  “Let’s get to the bottom of this, shall we? Shuffle to your heart’s content, and then cut them into three stacks and place them back into one.”

The old worn edges of the deck feel soft and the cards in my hands feel uncommonly warm.  My mouth feels dry, as she fans them out on the table face down in front of me.

“Pick twelve. No, today you pick thirteen.”

From around the fan shape I collect thirteen cards, and place them in front of her. “Very good.” She closes her eyes, and when she opens them again – they are brighter, more golden than brown.

I watch as she makes a circular design that fills the table between us. In the middle she places the last two cards face down.  “Just relax. You don’t need to be afraid.” She reveals the first card in the center. The Princess of Disks.

“This is you, Tina, in the middle of your world that the cards will reveal around you.”

 

I lean in to get a better look. The card in the middle shows a nude maiden, the Princess of Disks, her hair long and golden and her belly a swollen pregnant disk.

“So beautiful, isn’t she?” The fortune-teller places a chilled glass of water in front of me. “So, you’ve looked at the card that’s you. How does it feel?”
Tarot_PrincessofDicks

“Relieved! I’m thankful to say.”

“Good, hold onto that thought because at the bottom of the circle, at the feet and foundation of your card’s place is the past.” She flips over a card that has wands blocking the way and fields going to waste in the background. The next card has flowers that look like cups but they are spoiled and putrid with a scene that shows wine that could be blood spilled across a checkered floor.

“Do you want me to do a reading about your sexual abuse?”

A warm cloth is over my eyes and there’s a rooty, earthy scent. My eyes flutter open and I’m in a darkened room lined with volumes of books and candles burning and more musky curious scents come me.

“Where am I?” I try to raise up, but her hand on my shoulder presses me back.

“You’re okay, but you hit your head. Sore?” She adjusts the cloth on my forehead and under it I do feel a rising lump.

“Ouch! What’d I hit?” I try to remember.

“The side of the table, but not too bad.” She dabs another deeply earthy smelling balm on my welt and places the warm cloth back across my forehead.

“Tell me what happened. Nothing can hurt you here.”

The corners of my eyes drip with tears. “I didn’t know it was wrong.” I manage to say very evenly. “It was my older sister, my only sister really. We were practicing her kissing with boys.”

“This scent, do you like it?” And a fragrance unlike anything I’ve ever smelled envelopes me. My nose says not peaches, or Tupelo honey but sweet with the turned earth of fields and a warmth of the sun. My mind calms, my shoulders, then my arms and finally, my fingers relax.

“See how you can lie down on this patch of warm sunny earth?” Her hands smooth a warm blanket over me. “Breathe now like you would as a child who’s spun down onto the ground to watch the clouds roll by.”

I drift and follow the smells of summer and find my breath.

“And when you were with her were you laughing? Was it playing?”

“It was a game. She liked this boy, Danny. I played him and like she wanted him to, I kissed her.”

“And then you began to sleep with her in her room or yours?”

“That was after the party,” I say drowsily. “When we drank all the leftovers from all the drinks that came back to the kitchen on trays after my parent’s party.”

“Then?”

“A long white taper from the candelabra she handed me to. . .”

“And at night you became the young boy?”

“Yes, at night I became, Danny.” I can’t stop a surge of panic, and I begin to cry. “I was . . . too young to feel those things.”

“Yes, for anyone so young.” She takes my hands and in her eyes I see endless compassion. “And you’ve never told your dangerous one, have you?”

“And mostly for those reasons.”

“What are you most afraid of? That she’d do something dangerous to your sister?”

“Oh, she wouldn’t stop with my sister. She’d burn everyone’s fucking house down.”

_________________

The next story is titled, “A Spell on You” http://wp.me/p4AUvc-5U

The Gypsy’s love spell in action, and in surprising ways.

The L Word, Bette Porter, Tina Kennard, #thelword, #betteporter, #tinakennard, The L Word,


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The Pussy Club – The L Word fan fiction

Bette_BlackJacket_ Looking R

Phyllis’ garden – Founder’s Party – Bette

As I take the pipe from Jodie and lean into Tom’s lighter flame I try to imagine as I inhale the sweet marijuana what it would be like to be deaf. I would see but not hear Tom’s lighter flick, feel but not hear Jodi’s exhale that comes across me now as a warm smoky breath against my cheek. I watch her laugh as the THC begins to lighten everything around us. In me, too, everything is becoming softer. I should do this more often, it feels so nice.

I hold my breath for a long time. Jodi and Tom laugh again. Oh! It’s me they find amusing. I cock my head to ask, “Why?” Lung capacity and why am I wearing a ring on my left hand if I’m not married? Word is: I’m single. I hold my breath a bit longer.  I need time to think before I answer them. I spin my rings. I never take them off although I’ve noticed Tina with hers missing from time to time. That aggravates me.

Certainly while she was with Henry the ones she always wore from me disappeared. That had hurt and been maddening, and frustrating, and fraught with dismay, and sadness. And those had been the good days!

Next to my shoulder a shiny red and black beetle walks very deliberately across a leaf. I watch fascinated as its antennae rotate toward me and waves around for signals and tastes of me in the air. I open my mouth to expose my tongue and then blow the last bit of marijuana smoke its way. I laugh as I finally exhale. I’m starting to get the feeling that what I’m smoking out here in the bushes by Phyllis’ pool is some of that whammy pot from Humboldt County. Be cool little beetle. Whew! I am buzzed. I fiddle again with my rings.

Lately Tina’s are back on and while she changes them around sometimes they’re always ones I gave her. Signals. Maybe? But are they? Or have they just become habits? Or God forbid to match a sweater’s color! All of it! All of it, all of it! Everything can be read as a signal. Whoa! Here’s one.

Jodi’s mouth opens close to me and a steady stream of smoke curls from her lips past mine. I inhale the reefer smoke.  I hear a door slam that she doesn’t. I hear Phyllis and Alice shouting. But she can’t. Alice says terrible things. Phyllis cries. Would never hearing those words again be less painful? I look at Jodie curiously. I am very high and I can’t help but wonder: Would she be easier?

As Alice stomps by we fold back deeper into our leafy cover.  Soon, I’ll have to find a breath mint and go back in there, baked now I realize, and try to talk in whatever ape language the donors are speaking in tonight. Another thing Jodie doesn’t have to hear.

Does she ever talk on the phone? Of course, not. God, how does that work? I’d be, well, I’d be lonely if Tina and I didn’t talk nearly every night before Angie goes to sleep. I don’t think texts would work for me. It’s her voice and how she’s feeling under her words that I always want to hear. Signals, imaginary or real? But to never again hear anything? It’s something to wonder about certainly.

We walk away from our hiding place and back into the party. Jodi’s very independent. She smiles at me, waves goodbye and into the crowd she’s gone. I look up and see Helena with a strained look on her face. She catches my eye.

“Could I talk to you?” Helena asks as she waves me through to a back corridor.

“What’s up?” I lean against the wall paper and suppress a giggle. I hate Helena, her misery my joy.

“Would you give me a ride home? Actually, I’m not sure if I should go back to Alice’s tonight, though.” Helena bites her lip in worry. “There’s been a bit of a falling out between her and Phyllis.”

“You want me to drop you at a… where? A hotel, maybe?”

“Actually. You wouldn’t. . . I mean I can’t ask you really, but I guess I could sleep in my car. Oh, God.” Helena whimpers. “I’m supremely, massively broke now.”

“You’re the caterer, right? Can you feed me something because I’m fucking starving all of a sudden.”

“How’s your eyesight? They’re might be glass in it.” Helena looks at me doubtfully, but I go for it.

“Lead the way. I can probably eat broken glass, in fact, with Tina I chew and swallow it quite regularly.” Helena laughs, as she opens the kitchen door to show me.

“Jesus! Helena!” I gasp at hundreds of hors d’oeuvres with the remains of broken champagne flutes scattered on top of them. “Okay, this is fucked up. What happened?” I lean over and begin to eat the salmon biscuits and stuffed mushrooms between the pieces of shards and stems of crystal.

“You want some wine? Or some water?” Helena watches me with interest.

“Both. Yes, both would be great.” I move around to the shrimp skewers. I dip one into the dark creamy peanut sauce. It glistens. I look at it closely.

“Helena, do you see any glass on this shrimp? I don’t see any at all.” The shrimp disappears into my mouth and out comes a naked stick. I stir another shrimp in the spicy, peanut dipping sauce. “Your mother, Peggy, would think this is fucking hilarious.” I snap a picture with my phone.

I wave Helena into the frame. Click. Click.

“Okay! Enough. Here’s your wine.” Helena reaches across the food chaos. “Believe me, Bette, you have to know, you’re the last fucking person I want to ask.”

“One night, Helena.” I knock a piece of glass off the watercress and crab meat sandwiches. “But then what are you going to do?” I go for another sandwich.

“I’ve no idea. It’s quite pitiful really.” Helena pours herself a drink. “I can read and write in Latin and Greek. Know anyone who needs letters written in dead languages?”

“God, that is so fucked up. What were the English thinking?”

“About the past, really. We spend a massive amount of time thinking about it.”

“We need some pot. Thoughts on that?” I polish off the last of the salmon.

Helena laughs at me I think putting it all together. “Right! Of course. Hang on, let me find that clumsy busboy. He really fucking owes me.”

Bette’s Car – Sunset Blvd. – Bette

“This sounds crass I know, and I apologize, but how much money do you have? I have forty dollars.” Helena takes the joint out of her purse. She lights it and inhales.

“You mean like net worth?” I take the joint, and holding my breath I say, “I’m not fucking telling you that. No way.”

“No, Bette, on you. Although, the place I’m thinking about takes plastic.”

“What place?”

“Are you higher than you are drunk?”

“Damn, you are so fucking weird. Higher, I guess.”

“You know I lost every pence I was supposed to make tonight and then some.” Helena crosses her arms and shakes her head. “Mind if I put down the window?”

“Go ahead. Are you going to be sick?”

“No, it’s not that. Thinking about money – I get these feelings sometimes that hands are closing around my throat. The wind makes them blow away.”

“I’ve got three hundred dollars cash. What’d you need it for?”

“I say we go to The Pussy Club just up here past the steakhouse on Sunset.” She grins mischievously and looks across at me. “I’ve got forty bucks to buy you a fabulous lap dance. It’s just up here. Yeah? Take the next left.”

Helena drinks wine

 

The Pussy Club – Bette

I wonder if those tweedy lesbians back east have ever gotten over themselves? I suspect now that they can all charge off to the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts and get married they’ve come around to the relaxing virtues of lap dances for their Bachelorette parties. Helena and I take a table away from the stage. We’re not interested in the pole dancing performers although they’re interesting to look at. I believe we are in agreement. We are looking tonight for a more personalized service.

A  beautiful girl wearing about a handkerchief over her crotch leans in to take our orders.

“Do you have a type, Bette? I really can’t decide about you.” We settle ourselves in for an hour or so.

There’s the thing about places like this, no one expects you to look into their eyes. In fact, no one in here wants to look into yours either. No, this place, these women, all these dollars none of it is about eyes. I lean back and take in the beautifully formed breasts on the woman in front of me. Sequins glisten over her nipples.

“Helena, what are you drinking?”

“Honestly? A red wine and a tall glass of water, I think. Yes. That’s what I’ll have.”

“This is going to sound crazy I know, but do you have any root beer and vanilla ice cream?” I look up and down the dancer’s body.

“What?” Helena exclaims her attention snapping over to me.

“A root beer float. That’s what you want?” The dark-haired lovely asks.

“Yes. I want sugar and something cold in my mouth and I want you to come back and dance for me.”

The waitress’ breasts bob at my eye level. “You ladies know the rules for the dances?”

Helena barks a laugh. “God, we just left the most stuffed shirt party to come here to get our jollies and you’re going to talk to us about rules?”

“Where’re you from? Australia?” The waitress asks and I stifle a laugh. The accents couldn’t be more different.

“Sussex. Look, I think we got it. No touching and what? Twenty five a dance plus tip?” Helena claps and unclasps her Chanel bag that I know is empty.

“We get it and I’m dying of thirst suddenly. Could you bring me my root beer?”

“Coming up.” She leans between us. “If we go in the back of the club you can touch yourself.”

Helena says, “Come back and bring a friend. A pretty blonde around here someplace?”

The music is loud and the dancer on the stage strips off dark silky sheer veils as she threads up and down the pole. Her moves seductive and erotic. But would any of this be if I were hearing absolutely no sound? A chill comes against my temples. The volume mutes for an instant. Without the din I can’t see how this nearly naked colorful chaos makes much sense at all.

The maddening out of sorts superior lift and sniff with her nose is gone these days. Now, she just looks hungry.

Here comes my root beer float brought to me by the very pretty dark haired young woman, who’s proving to be so much fun to watch.

Helena’s voluptuous blonde dancer wiggles and churns inches away from her lap. Mine runs her hands through her dark hair. She blows against my ear and cheek. Her eyes I think I remember are brown.

Alice let it slip, or did it on purpose, either way she let me know: Tina went to The Pleasure Palace. And tonight, Tina’s need for a vibrator amuses me. The sugar, the reefer, and the rich ice cream blend in my mind, and the much, much more than a handful of a the dancer’s breast flows over her hands, as she leans into me for a perfect tease.

The name of the game at The Pussy Club.

“Bette, what are you? Breasts your thing or a great looking ass?”

“Seriously?”  Helena orders another glass of wine. I clock that we are definitely leaving here before she tries to have three. “Don’t get shit faced, Helena. It will make me hate you again. . .  and quickly.”

“Last one I promise. But you didn’t answer me. Tits or ass, Bette?”

“You know every once in awhile your mother will knock off the 24 carats from her manners and deliver some crack like that.” I lean back as the dancer shimmies in front of me. She keeps her breasts barely an inch from lips. I inhale her. Nice. I follow the glitter traces down into her folds.

“Slow down a little.” I tell her and I imagine moving my hands all over her. She leans in so close to my lips. “Some people like to pay me to dance for them while they think about fucking me.”

“So, you’ve said.” I laugh at her bluntness, but here on Sunset Blvd – as the clock edges closer to midnight – time and pussy definitely mean money.

“What kind of dance?” I ask.

We watch our dancer’s bodies begin to rub against each other,  then fit and slide and slide together. We nod our heads in agreement.

“Bette, if I may? I have one quick question?”

“Jesus! What does it matter? Breasts, of course! Breasts! Haven’t you noticed how fucking oral I am?”

“Right! No, actually my question was for Sunny and what? Your name is Bahama? Okay! Sunny and Bahama! In the back,” Helena tilts her head toward the Ultimate Gentleman’s Club party rooms as illuminated by a neon sign. “Do we get costume changes? More things on that we get you to take off?”

I lift my eyebrows. Good thinking Helena. “Four shots of tequila. Then we’ll go.” I nod my head toward the curtains.

“Oh, Wait! Bahama. Do you have a great pair of trousers and a long sleeved man’s shirt. And a tie? You know with really hot panties under all of it.”

“You, Bette?”

“A flight attendant who blows my mind.”

“Commercial air or charter?” Sunny asks.

Our tequila arrives. “Surprise me.”

Bette smiling tank top Story

Bette’s House – Bette

Helena and I have shed our evening wear for yoga outfits, and we lean back on the couch and finish off another joint together. I’ve made us ice cream sundaes in the middle of the night – the drawbacks of pot and my need for lots of sit-ups tomorrow are beginning to dawn on me.

“A nice top off to a dismal evening.” Helena rests her sundae just under chin and spoons deliciousness into her mouth.

I squirt chocolate syrup on my chocolate ice cream. “Why don’t you borrow against your inheritance and buy a strip club? I bet you’d enjoy that. I’d go.”

“But wouldn’t it get to be too much? Maybe I’d never want it again?” She looks at me doubtfully.

“No, you’d want it still! Are you kidding?” I laugh at her ridiculousness.

“You think?”

“I know so. Look what you did! You spent your last twenty dollars on dancing pussy, Helena!”

“You’re one to talk. What was our bill?”

“Forget about it. Better yet, never tell, Alice.”

“Or Tina?”

“No, for sure, tell, Tina. She’ll be amused.” I insist.

“I don’t think so, Bette.” Helena laughs skeptically.

“Maybe amused is the wrong word.” I fall back rubbing my stomach. My whole body feels wavy and warm, and then inside my throat is still cold. I lick my lips.

“Why’d you fuck her? You are such an asshole, Helena.”

“I was rich and she was beautiful. I was used to getting what I wanted.”

“I had wonderful dreams of killing you. Ever eat Fugu?”

Helena laughs. “That would have been brilliant!”

“You made such an ass of yourself in the end. But I’m no better. Tina causes me massive mind fucks. I’ll end up in jail if she dates anyone else.” I lean up on my elbows, “But, damn! I bought the coolest knife to kill Henry with. Wanna to see it?”

“What?” She asks not following.

“Forget it. I was planning on poisoning you.”

“But how can’t she not date? I mean, she’s pretty and hot, you know?”

“Just don’t you say it.” I look at Helena crossly. “But yes, fucking soon someone will be after her.” I put my face in my hands and rub my eyes.

“I want her back after Henry.”

“Alice said the STD is gone by now.. Takes about a month from what I hear.”

“Oh God! Alice!” I stare up at the ceiling.

“But that’s not why, really is it?”

“Why what?”

“Why she’s not here anymore?”

“Don’t think I don’t ask myself daily the same question.” I put my feet up on the table.

“You’re both special people, Bette. It’s too bad really.”

“And you’re one of the fucking idiots who had a hand in it!” I glare at her.

“Mummy loves you, you know that right?”

“Helena! Really? Peggy and I respect one another. But you know why people hate you? Because you’re such a petulant, bad-tempered child.”

“I take your point. If it means anything, anything at all, I’m sorry.”

“You want to settle our score? Really?” I gauge her reaction. “Because I have a job for you.”

She perks up, as expected, and I tap her arm to follow me outside to the pool.

“You’re pretty devious aren’t you? At times, almost without a conscience is my guess.”

Helena blanches at my description, “Okay, at my very, very worst.”

I point toward the darkened house next door. “At some point we may have to do something about, Jenny.”

Bette’s Bedroom – Later

God, it feels good to lie down and hear no sounds. But that actually isn’t true. There are plenty of them. The crickets outside, the jet far overhead in the distance, a motorcycle whining by. Quiet but not silence.

Jodi’s interesting. I don’t know, I can’t really see it.

I roll over onto my stomach, and feel how pleasantly full of ice cream I am. My arms stretch out like wings across the sheets. I liked that the dancer couldn’t touch me. It’s so much better that way.

Bette_Back

 

My right hand moves down to find myself mostly out of comfort not thinking one way or another, just looking for pleasure and finding it right there.  I do like lying on top of women spread eagle like this. Holding them down, their backs against my stomach. So far, no escapes. The thought makes me happy. I slip my fingers inside myself. That feels nice.

Finally, Barbara had gotten over her need to be taken down a notch or two along her sexual power trip with me. My mind brings her back. When her antics were nearly over early that Saturday morning I’d pushed her down on her on stomach and fucked her like a panther. I can definitely go somewhere thinking about that. . .

____

The next story is #24. The Fortune Teller       http://wp.me/p4AUvc-5l

 

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Tongue Tales – Bette Porter The L Word

GRT CU Bette

 

Tongue Tales

James brought me a Caesar salad before he left for a few hours to take his mother to her doctor’s appointment. James is a dutiful son and I’d been so fucking lost without him. My office door is closed and our phones James transferred over to voice mail. I hear only a few people in the hallway. In the middle of the day I’ve noticed everything slows down in my building. I like it. A time to relax.

Every morning I realize more and more how much I enjoy coming to work here. I like the research I do at night to prepare for my lectures. I like the students for the most part. I had a long, hard talk with my tongue late last night. I believe we are in accord and have sworn off Co Eds, as cute and firm bodied as most of them are. My plan to carve out a little alone time during lunch today is a welcome repast.

The unhealed scratches on my back itch. I rub against my chair, enjoy my salad, and look over a few art journals. In particular, the reviews of Jodie Lerner’s latest work I’m interested in. She arrives soon as a new star in my art department. I want to know everything there is to know about her. I certainly would want the same courtesy.

I open the folder James prepared for me. She has a gift for placing her found objects to create an unsettling visual tension for the observer. I look more closely at a series of photographs of her welding and screwing together these massive metal works. Welding. That looks like something I would enjoy.

“Hello, Phyllis.” I snap my head from my reverie, as she marches in unannounced.

“Hello, Bette. Do you have a minute? Of course, you do. I’m the Vice Chancellor and you’re my Dean. I need to talk to you.” Phyllis settles in for what looks to be a long conversation. One I wish would happen another day, another time, another place than this one. I’m trapped.

“So, I had Lesbian Sushi with Alice.” She winks at me. I choke a little on my food. I drink a long sip of iced tea.

“Phyllis, excuse me, I thought you wanted to talk about work.”

“No, this is lunchtime, Bette. Take a break.” Phyllis insists. “You work too hard.” She nods approvingly at me. I sigh. I take another bite of my Caesar that’s beginning to lose its tangy taste.

Phyllis leans across my desk, and in a serious tone says, “Bette, I need to know everything. How do you give a woman multiple orgasms?”

I blink several times at her then, I begin to laugh. “This sexual counseling you’re after is not, absolutely NOT, in my job description.” I wave my fork at her, “We’re not having this conversation.” I flip through the pages of the Smithsonian Art Journal Quarterly.

Phyllis digs in, “Bette, this is really unkind and unexpected coming from you. I thought you’d be welcoming me into, The Sisterhood, or whatever you all call it.”

“I don’t know if we call “It” anything, Phyllis,” I dismiss her. “But I’m glad you had a good time.”

“See, I knew you’d come around. That’s just it! I did have a good time, but tonight I want to have an even better one!” Phyllis leans back in her chair and waits for my directions on how to pull off multiple orgasms. I should tell her it’s all in the jaw, but I won’t.

“Seriously? Phyllis? No. I refuse.”

She fixes me with an unnerving stare. “Listen, Bette, I don’t have anyone else to talk to and Alice told me so much about you.” Phyllis emphasizes her last few words insinuating the nature of their pillow talk.

I feel my temperature rise, a throb begins in my neck. Alice is absolutely a Kiss and Tell. She’s seen me there. Goddammit! What time is it? One fifteen. I could get across to the east side, kill Alice, and be back in time for my three o’clock Modernism lecture. I’m distracted from my plotting, when Phyllis’ voice bites through.

“Bette, quit holding out on me. Tell me how you’d give a woman multiple orgasms. I’ve never had an orgasm in my whole life that went on so long, and then started all over again.” Phyllis looks swept away suddenly by the memory. She shivers with delight. I sigh deeply, I remember this place. I stir my salad around stalling.

“Phyllis, maybe if you left for an hour and then came back, maybe in a week or two, I’d have time to think about it.”

“Bette, I don’t have weeks! I’ve got to know, now!” Phyllis insists and then sighs, “I’m seeing Alice again tonight.”

Why isn’t my phone ringing? Are all the world’s plaguing interruptions suddenly on a fucking lunch break? I shake my head, my eyes back on my salad again.

“Bette, being tongue tied is so not the way Alice describes you.” Phyllis crosses her arms satisfied. “She says you’re an expert tongue twister, and can do anything. So! Illuminate me!”

I ignore her. I’m furious with Alice. Furious with Alice!

“Bette? Why don’t you like sex toys? Alice says that’s probably the reason you two broke up.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose, and look up at the ceiling hoping for a sudden escape. There’s no emergency ladder descending. No rope dropping down from the skies that I could strangle Phyllis with and then hang myself. I squint my eyes shut as I hear pencils and pens rattle as Phyllis disturbs them on my desk. Her fidgeting I hope a prelude to her timely exit. My eyes fly open as I feel my ruler press against my hand.

“That’s it! You don’t need any. Look how long your fingers are.” She stares at me in wonderment.

I glare at her incensed and swat Phyllis and my ruler away. “Phyllis! Goddammit! How would you like it if I measured parts of you?”

“Put credit where credit is due, I always say.” Phyllis sets my ruler back into the cup. She studies my face. “Bette, don’t go all Third Wave post modern on me.”

She points to my lips and brushes against her own.

“What?” I wipe my mouth with my napkin for any salad leaves if that’s what she’s talking about.

“Just up front there, a tiny bit on your tooth.” She points at her own. I take a sip of green tea and hope that washes whatever it is away. For the love of God when is Phyllis going to leave my office?

“Nope still there. Look.” Phyllis take her tongue and sweeps it back and forth across her teeth. Like an idiot, I mimic her, and as I do she peers at me carefully.

“Just as Alice described it. Your tongue, it’s huge, isn’t it?”

“Phyllis!” I stand up and in two steps I’m holding open my door. “Go online for Christ sake! I’m sure there’s something up there. YouTube “lesbians” or something! But not in here.”

“I’m really impressed, but also astonished, Bette.” Phyllis looks me up and down. “Who knew my known universe of Higher Ed could be so lacking in sex education?”

I shut the door behind her and lean against it. Alice is dead. So, fucking dead.

I look in my compact mirror to see if there really is any salad remaining, or if that were all a ruse I fell for. I run my tongue along my teeth. It does come to a very fine point at its end, if I contract it just so.

I flop it out of my mouth and look at it in the mirror. It’s true. My tongue is uncommonly large and well muscled. I must keep it fit. With training it probably would have made me a good singer. It can create a good strong whistle, it assists me in lambasting stupid, incompetent people, and sometimes those I love. It has a discerning taste for the peculiarities and differences of olives for example, or aged cheeses and oaky wines.  And yes, it could have told Phyllis everything there is to know about a woman, but I’m not about to.

Bette_sideways look

My first teacher,  Dannika, flashes across my mind. I haven’t thought of her in years and years. In bed I had called her, Danny. It fit. She was the lover who taught me how a tongue could dance, and made me realize I was a natural. I really do like to lick. I’ve always been this way.

Some people want to look at things first. Size them up and walk around them in as tight or as wide a circle as they can. I do that, absolutely. But my first inclination is for a scent and a taste and by the time I’ve walked around a problem or a thing I’ve gotten a taste of the air and more of its whole picture. But with a lover the dance is what it’s all about for me. And that, Danny taught me, is where my tongue comes in.

I’m not overly orchestrated lover.  I roll my tongue out again for another look. It’s a big fat muscle in my mouth, isn’t it? That picks up and sends signals. I wonder how the Senator’s doing?

I put down the mirror and take a sip of tea to wet my tongue after lolling it around in the breeze. I should text her. I stare at my iPhone. A bad, a very bad idea. And what? Send her a Selfie? No, Barbara was fun. She came, she went, she came about a hundred times more and then she kissed me on the lips, closed the door to her limo, and was gone.

The long red marks the Senator left on me recently begin to itch. I scratch my back against my chair again. Kissing. Lots of kissing. That was a completely different teacher. My kissing instructor was Stephanie, a very sexy, very bossy New York girl who really, dammit, she did break my heart! That was so long ago. But she had lips that could tell spellbinding stories for hours. She’s the one who taught me “the mind takes flight” lip rolling kiss that Tina is just so fucking perfect at doing with me. My tongue twitches and wants. I give it some tea. Unsatisfying. She hasn’t called me yet today. Maybe this is how we begin to be nicer – hardly talking.

A few nights ago when she stayed ostensibly on the couch, but came to bed I suspect around midnight. I had felt my desire for her. But there was nothing to be done about it. There was no sweet rolling over into her arms and kissing to stir her to lovemaking. There wasn’t a chance in hell either of us were in the mood for a reuniting fuck. No, that night and I guess for the foreseeable future we’re Co-Moms and friends. I’ll get used to it, I guess. Just thinking about her makes me pissed off and horny. Fucking Tina.

I put my mirror and compact away. There was never any romaine lettuce, Phyllis. I look back through the art journals on my desk. As a lover I was pretty good right out of the gate. I needed some on-the-track training. I needed grooming and got it from my lusty trainers but the one who had a tongue nearly as big as mine was an Australian woman I met on a flight to Chicago. Problem was we never got there.

O’Hare’s VFR was dangerously socked in from bad weather and after a bottle of decent airplane wine and a long conversation I was grateful for I began to pick up little signals from her as our pilot announced we were making our way down to St. Louis for the night instead.

I’ve had my share of one night stands. I don’t think there’s a damn thing wrong with them and I’ll argue that point with anyone. They serve a very important purpose other than wiling away time during a layover. They get you out of your comfort zone and make you dare a little. Or a lot. And the Australian, what was her name? Damn, I’m bad with names today. Maybe I should eat more protein. Christine! That was her name. I had no idea what I was in for as we rose up in the groaning brass elevator cage to our room.  She unlocked a door to a suite, and out came her fantastic tongue.

Everyone I suppose has a best feature. It may be they have beautiful eyes. Take Liz Taylor. Hers were purple which just tells me she didn’t have a chance at being normal. It could be a fantastic smile they have that can break apart any foul mood and nearly any sadness. Or in Christine’s and mine’s case – it could be our tongues.

I’ve only had about six, maybe seven women that really didn’t like as much licking as I’m in the mood for. If there’s no clock on me and it’s a languid, lazy fuck all afternoon type of feeling ahead of me my tongue can occupy itself for hours. But Christine had showed me something very interesting. How wine can be tasted the same as a woman but better still: How to fuck with my tongue. Yeah, I miss that. Someone who annoys me a lot lately used to love it, too.

I think of how to phrase it in a text to Tina to snap her out of her insolence. The display screen remains blank. It’s impossible, indescribable what I really want. I put my phone away and snap my salad container shut. I’m even hungrier now. I hear James return back to his desk. My watch reads 2:20. My intercom beeps. I hear James’s voice. “Bette, Jodie Lerner and Tom, her interpreter, are here to see you.”

I walk around my desk and extend my hand as they walk in the door. Jodie takes my hand first. Hers is calloused and strong. Tom’s hand is next, softer. I motion for them to sit.

“Please come in. It’s so nice to meet you.” I smile genuinely at her.

“I’m Tom. Just talk directly to her. She wants to read your lips and I’ll sign.

“I nod at him and say to them both, “I understand.” I walk back toward my desk. “I was just looking at the photos of your work. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you’ll be doing here in your studio. Perhaps, I can come by soon?” I say and hear Tom repeat my words exactly.

Jodie speaks and Tom signs for her. “Come by in a few days I might have something to show you. But I warn you, I don’t like interruptions.”

My laugh is uncomfortable. Good, she can’t hear it. “I’ll do my best to temper my inquisitive nature. Will you sit down?”

“No, I need to be outside in the sun today. I’ll work tonight when the moon’s out, I think.” She looks at Tom and shrugs, “Maybe.”

“Well, okay.” I exhale at her time table’s relationship to my work day. “Thank you so much for coming by.” I sit back down at my desk. “I’ll see you later in the week then.”

Tom says, “Aren’t you coming to Chancellor Kroll’s party in a few days?” Jodie and I look at him puzzled. James scoots back from his desk and appears inside my doorway.

“Bette, the Founder’s event? The cocktail party on Thursday? It’s on your calendar.” James adds.

Jodie makes a peculiar face and shrugs her shoulders.

Both James and Tom say, “You both have to go.”

“Well, I’ll see you then, I suppose.” I walk across the room to shake her hand. Again the callouses and this time a feeling that her ring finger is crooked and once was probably broken.

Shane_Sweatshirt_talking.Alice_silohoutte

The Planet – 6:30 pm – Bette

Kit confirmed with me ten minutes ago that Alice was here having a drink with Shane. Tina is supposed to exchange Angelica with me around 7 pm and The Planet seemed like as a good neutral ground as any, plus I’ve remained hungry since lunch, and I have to murder Alice. I see her at a table showing Shane something on her phone. They laugh. Alice sees me. She waves. Like hell you will, Alice.

Alice and I have been friends for many years now. Yes, we dated for a little while. No, it wasn’t a break up over sex toys. But because of Alice’s propensities toward some really outrageous stuff it all felt silly to me. If I’d wanted something more, something more emotional with her the stuff she’d pull out of her bedside table kept me and the places I like to go at a distance. I’m not a prude. People can scramble omelets on top of each other if that’s what they want to do. Just give me an hour, hold the eggs and nipple clamps, and I’ll be fine.

“Alice.” I bear my stare down on her. “This business with Phyllis has got to stop! What on earth did you tell her about me?”

“Oh my God! She’s so inquisitive and she’ll try anything!”

“Alice, do you understand that I work with Phyllis? That she put me personally in charge of a huge responsibility? To create and fund a whole university department? A whole school within a school?”

“And it would appear you’re doing very well at it, too, Dean Porter. The Governator was here giving you an award. And so was a certain very sexy, Senator. Word has it you two have become close?”

“Bette’s single, Alice. Cut her a break.” Shane defends me.

“And Shane makes my point! I’m single, Phyllis is single. What’s the problem?” Alice brushes me off and returns to her phone and drink.

“Alice, Phyllis is not single! Her husband lives up north at Stanford.”

“Bette, he seems like a has-been husband. And for years.”

Bette_Planet Jpeg

“Goddammit! Alice that is not the fucking point. Where Leonard Kroll lives, or even if he dies tomorrow is not the point!” I shout at her and several people near us turn to look and then look away as I glare back at them to mind their own fucking business.

I lower my voice to a poisonous whisper, “Alice, listen to me and listen closely. Phyllis came into my office today and wanted sex tips on multiple orgasms. Then, when I refused she snuck up on me and measured my fingers for Christ sake!”

“Oh, that sounds bad, but I admit, kinda good for you, Alice.” Shane says. Then when I glare at her, she adds, “But maybe not so much the fucking finger measuring thing.” Shane shakes her head sadly at me.

“Over the line!” I tap my fingers on the table for Alice’s attention again. “Alice, I realize that after your spin down about Dana on the radio, after your yapping about and outing famous people here and there that you think all this is comical, and that you think you live in some kind of a “Sexual Salad Bar” world, so you feel free to dish up endless quantities of chopped up people’s lives and feed on them. But it’s a fucking sickness of yours, Alice!” I smack my hand down on the table. She jumps.

“And don’t you ever Goddamn do it to me again!”

“Okay, okay, okay! I got it, no more ‘tongue tales’ about Bette.” Alices agrees, as I groan and close my eyes in pain. Shane laughs a little. I open one eye and stare at her. She looks away and back at Alice.

Tina arrives with the baby. “What’s going on?” Tina asks confused at our odd demeanor.
Tina_Angelica_Story image

“Long day. How was yours?” I ask Tina as I take the sleepy baby.

“She had a late nap today. Sorry.” Tina hands me Bunny.

Alice brightens as a change of subject hits her. “I heard a rumor that Jenny’s book, Les Girls, is getting some attention around town. Maybe a film in development deal?”

“Wow, Jenny would love that!” Shane leans in to hear more.

“Have you read it?” Tina asks me.

“Where would I read such a thing?” I ask shocked.

“The New Yorker magazine is serializing it.” Tina answers.

“Guys. I hate to tell you, but the whole fucking thing is about us.” Alice shakes her head as she delivers the news.

 

The next chapter is titled, A Date with Myself –http://wp.me/p4AUvc-3G. Tina accustomed to a busy social life with Bette feels lonely and stressed when her friends are engaged with other pursuits and she finds herself restless as she spends another evening alone in her apartment.

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