The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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Feeling Bound – Tina Kennard

TinaFABulousPortrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As if…

So, why am I still in the closet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was comfortable living behind my mask of vanilla.

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

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

I, on the other hand, had miscarried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was neither.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It smells good, doesn’t it?”

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

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

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

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

“More cake, please,” she’d said.

“Okay, are you finished with me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You realize you made my point?”

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

“Huh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Please.”

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

I’d laughed.

“Why’d you chose me?”

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

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

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

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

“No, just you.”

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

“Have you ever tied a woman up?”

“Yes, is that what you’d like?”

“So I’m face down.”

“You want a blindfold to go with that?”

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

“You have no idea.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’d gone too far.

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

“Did you like that?”

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

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


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#4 Touch Tones: Kryptonite

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Soundstage – Kit – 3PM

As I hurry behind the taillights of a limousine I’m nearly out of breath by the time I finally get inside the party. I do a quick 360 to look around me. Good Lord, when Bette came to see me earlier with news she was marrying Tina, and at three o’clock they were telling everybody, she didn’t describe anything like the size of this place. Not a word was mentioned about the scale of this venue, the movie stars I see standing by the side of the stage, or the hundreds of people all waving rainbow flags at one another. Little announcement, my ass. Sometimes I need a lie detector and a seatbelt to roll with these people.

Their sudden rises in altitude followed by their equally dramatic falls is what my sister and her friends do best. That or resemble a mangled freight train burning up at the crossroads. And unless I’ve just snapped out of a three-year coma, Bette and Tina act most days like they hate each other.

You blink and you can miss a year around here.

Coma or not, and daily it remains debatable if I’m losing my mind, I do know that my sister and Tina are crazy about their child, and as parents they’ll always be loving and unconventional. And every bit of that is good news to me. You just never know how some folks are going to be with their kids.

Just look at us. The human race is so fucked up. Eon after eon dumbass folk keep doing the same stupid things. And I’m plenty self-destructive. I’ll cop to that. Once, if you played me a real good sad song I’d finish the bottle with you. Fuck, who said anything about tomorrow?

When Bette was still young I had hit the road for the R&B Clubs between Kansas City, Detroit and Chicago. It was selfish of me, I admit it. But I swear to God I couldn’t take another second of Daddy’s stodginess. So, I left Bette motherless to grow up with the Methodists, and The Ten Commandments, and our overbearing father. I know it was complicated for her still brokenhearted over losing her mom. I saw it with my own eyes whenever I did drift back home.

And then for better or worse it became just how she was. Bette approached every one of her romantic relationships saddled with our Daddy’s wandering eye. Like the gallery owner she became she acquired the next one and then the next – each woman more interesting than the one before.

And that went on for years when finally after going through women like popcorn at a movie Tina had miraculously stayed. And it wasn’t too long after that I began to notice something: Tina was Bette’s Kryptonite.

At first I thought it was amusing as hell, and I had hidden behind faked fits of coughing just to cover over my trails. After a screed of over amped righteousness Bette would begin to feel the whammy of Tina’s Kryptonite. It was a switch only Tina had, and thank God, she wasn’t afraid to use it.

They’d exchange a look and something I never found the words for would pass between them. Then, they’d kiss each other like nobody’s business – whether anybody else was around them or not.

Someone really should sell tickets to this shit.

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Limousine – Tina – 3 PM

I take another swallow of the brandy Claire poured me a moment ago. I know she hopes it will ease the gnawing uneasiness I can’t seem to shake. A nervousness that feels old, and clingy, and just won’t go away.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t had to manage Bette’s nerves that I’m feeling aware of my own so fragile and jangled. Until we drove inside the soundstage, and Bette got a look at the so-called, “wedding announcement” surprise Claire had in store for her, Bette had been uncommonly calm.

This staged event, in what I hope is not an overreaching of Claire’s, is brilliant from a PR point of view. My movie, our wedding announcement, historic gay marriage legislation, and the feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, all rolled into one. If I can get my shit together Bette and I will look nothing like the spoofs and impersonations of us in the movie. But now, even though I’m the one who started it, I’m finding it practically impossible to leave the bubble of this limousine.

What if I go up on stage with Bette and take her beautiful ring? Then like having a baby, something that was life changing and forever with her, it makes me lose my mind all over again?

Until recently, my life saving grace has always been my extraordinary ability to compartmentalize. In a box way, way down was where I’d kept the memories of those nights with my sister. When the seal to my secrets had been broken I’d fainted and whacked my head against the side of The Fortune Teller’s table.

I remember the last card I had drawn and turned over to her.

 

TheChariot

 

The Chariot

“There will come a time very soon with you, and the one you love, when neither of you can look away anymore,” the Gypsy had said. “You’ll know it because you’ll feel a great tension and a hundred things will be swirling around you.” And then, she had looked across at me with a warning. “To go forward together this is the moment for your union, Tina, and you can’t miss it.”

I let out an audible sigh inside the limousine and finish the last of my drink.

 

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I tune back into the conversation going on around me and hear Claire employing a well-placed piece of leverage with Bette who’s been having her own version of, “Do I stay or do I go?”

I smile at her reaction to Gloria’s personal message. With her on the stage with us, and Bette’s father looking down from a wiser place, Melvyn will absolutely bless this union of ours.

“God! She is so fucking right!” Bette exclaims before kissing me and throwing open the limo door.

Camera flashes temporarily blind me. There’s so much more I want to say.

Alice_Lesbo Land

Engagement Announcement – Alice in Lesbo Land – 3:05 pm

“Hey everybody! Whew! You’ll have to excuse me while I catch my breath. I’ve been running because the press conference for Les Girls,” I stop and pant a little as I point off to camera right, “we just shot for you outside. Now, we’ve set up again in a completely different spot. We’re actually coming to you from inside the big soundstage where shooting for the lesbian themed feature movie, Les Girls, began today. That’s right! The producer, Tina Kennard, confirmed that with me earlier.”

I stop and take a quick sip of water. “And so the excitement continues people because just wait for what I’ve got for you next.”

A beat in time passes before I continue. “Is Gloria Steinem someone you might like to hear comments from? About gay rights and human rights, and California’s freedom to marry legislation?” I shake my fists in a cheer.

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Off camera Claire sends a signal for my attention. “Max is going to walk around with the camera and show you guys the movie sets and the crowd that’s gathered, and I’ll be back in a flash.” I unclip my mic and Claire whispers in my ear.

“I’ve been told they want to stop and talk to you before anyone else. As a thanks for what you did at Jenny’s yesterday, they insist that you are first.” Claire winks at me.

“Finally! And double friggin’ finally someone believes I can keep a secret.” I exhale with great relief.

“Okay, Alice. Bear in mind they have spent a considerable amount of money setting this into play, and the last thing they need is for this to go sideways.” Claire gives me her, “sexy but still plotting moves ahead” smile.

“But I’m still vetting you, Alice. What are your questions? Two minutes and two questions is what you get on their way to the stage.” Claire punctuates her fingers in a V for my two questions.

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Between the Limo and the Rope Line – Tina – 3:06 pm

“Babe, does my hand feel too sweaty for you?” I slow my pace and pull Bette back a little from walking toward the crowd.

“Warmer than usual more than anything, but I already know you’re nervous, T.” Bette whispers back through her unwavering smile.

“Do you remember how when I was trying to get pregnant? You would come home after work and sex me up?”

“Sex you up? Oh for the love of God, Tina, really? Are you fucking serious? You’re going to put that in my mind as we head into this thing.” She flashes me a stunned look.

“Well, it’s when we should’ve gotten married, Bette. I should’ve flown to Boston with you like you asked, and not been stubborn about it.”

“Maybe, but we’re doing it finally, and I hope really soon.”

I tug on her arm a little more to slow her down again. “Babe, I need to focus on something other than all these people looking at me. You stand in front of a classroom or a big lecture hall three times a week.”

“Trust me. This really couldn’t be more different.” Bette answers almost in a hiss.

“You have to kiss me like you would on those afternoons, Bette, because I can’t take another step without you.” I squeeze her hand and put her arm around me. “I love you so much, and also I’m a little afraid.”

Bette_Tina Early KIss for flashback

“About marrying me?” Bette asks with an anxiety that creeps in at the corners of her eyes.

“We are going to do it, aren’t we? I mean nothing is going to stop us. Is there?” I ask her.

“No, Baby, nothing is going to stop us,” she whispers before our lips meet and we fly back through the years.

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Engagement Announcement – Alice – 3:06 PM

We all have Rock star fantasies I realize as I watch Bette and Tina step out of their limousine and wave to the crowd. As camera flashes flicker on their faces I know I’d like to be exiting a limo right about now, and taking the stage with Gloria Steinem and her lovely smile. As I push Max with our camera toward Bette and Tina making their turn for the stage, I can absolutely picture it.

“You guys! What’s happening? I was out there at the press conference stage with the camera waiting for you.”

“Change of plans. Claire texted you and all the Press,” Tina answers as the crowd pushes closer. “Everything is moving a little fast for us right now, Alice.”

“Well, I can see that!”

“Hey, Max, are you guys rolling?” Bette asks and he nods that we are.

She turns up the wattage of her smile and holds Tina even closer. “Hello! Everybody we’re joining Alice in Lesbo Land inside the soundstage of Les Girls. I’m Bette Porter, Dean of Arts at California University, and this is Tina Kennard, the movie’s producer. I’m sure you’ve heard about her and the movie, Les Girls, from Alice.” Bette smiles as she looks at Tina.

“Tina’s my fiancée! And we’ve been invited by Alice to make a little Lesbo Land history and announce our wedding engagement to you before anyone else knows about it.” Bette shoots the camera an intriguing look.

Bette turns to Tina again. “Tina’s surprised me with a special guest. The pretty amazing Gloria Steinem is here!”

“Because I know how much you like surprises.” Tina beams back convincingly. “Gloria’s waiting for us, Babe.”

“Alice, no time for questions right now, but come on stage with us.” Bette reaches over and hugs me.

I honestly don’t know what to say to them at this moment so I stammer finally, “I really love you guys.”

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Stage – Bette – 3:08 PM

As Tina and I wait in the wings by the stairs Gloria begins her speech.

“You know we may feel sometimes that good things take too long in coming. That we wait all too often and far too long for the meaningful changes we work so hard for. That’s so true, isn’t it? We do get weary of waiting, don’t we?” Gloria asks a crowd that responds with whoops and whistles.

She continues, “And yet we can never lose sight of days and moments like this one when we can all come together in celebration of something that’s so right! Legalizing same sex marriages in the State of California!” Gloria’s voice rises as the crowd rejoices and cheers.

“How many couples here this afternoon will get married now that you can?” Gloria asks as the crowd’s noise begins to die down. Then, a unifying cheer comes up as fifty couples raise their hands clasped together. Gloria turns to me and Tina and opens her arms in a warm welcome.

“Bette Porter and Tina Kennard, everyone!” Gloria signals our introductions. “Really great to see you both, and what an exciting day for you, Tina. Your movie sounds like a winner and now you can marry your longtime partner, Bette.” Gloria shakes Tina’s hand and then puts her arm around my waist.

“Bette’s father and I met during the Civil Rights Movement. We did some good behind the scenes work together back then.” Gloria nods at me.

“Daddy was very fond of you, Gloria.” I say not having the slightest idea if it’s true.

“Thank you for having us on stage with you.” I continue. “I was at Tina’s press conference, and I’m so excited for her. And now here you are!” I throw out my hands to present Gloria again to the crowd.

A wave of applause comes back to me. “They tell me that while you’re in town this afternoon you’ve volunteered to help me with something.” I intro our segue.

“As an old friend of your father’s, I’ll do anything I can to help you.” Gloria smiles at me and Tina.

I reach into my jacket pocket and take out the red leather Cartier box with Tina’s engagement ring. I crack it open so only Gloria and the people closest behind her can get a peek inside. She raises her eyebrows and mimes her approval. A collective swell of anticipation sweeps back to us as Tina acts her part – shielding her eyes from the ring, and playfully looking away.

“Tina,” I say seriously to draw her attention back to me while I hide the ring behind my back. “I know as Les Girls’ producer this is a wonderful day for you and the talented cast and crew of people you’ve assembled. And I want to say to you, and Gloria, and everyone out there that I’m so proud of you, and all you’ve done, and will do with your life, and your talent.”

Tina looks shy for a moment and the room grows quieter and much more still. I flash the ring in its box out at the audience again and they cheer me on. Taking a step closer to Tina I show her the ring inside.

“I bought this engagement ring for you, Baby. You do know that I love you with all my heart, don’t you?” I ask with the first catch of tightness and emotion in my voice.

Tina nods her head. I see the love she has for me in her eyes. “Then will you say, “Yes,” that you’ll marry me?” I take her left hand and I slip the ring on her finger. Her chin begins to quiver.

Gloria steps closer to us. “So beautiful, both of you,” she says softly. “And where your father is now, Bette, I’m sure is a place of greater wisdom, and that he’s happy for you both. Especially so for you, Bette.”

“I believe you. I think, I can even feel it.” I whisper back to her then raise my voice. “But Gloria and everybody wait! Tina hasn’t answered me yet.”

I look out at the hundreds of people who now begin to hold their collective breath. Max pans his camera slowly over the crowd. Me, them, Alice, Gloria, the mice that I’m sure live in here somewhere – we all take a deep breath and wait for Tina.

Her chin quivers a second or two more before she lifts up her ring to the crowd and says to me, “Yes, Bette Porter! I absolutely will!”

I send out a big smile of relief, and the crowd celebrates with me. “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss her!” They begin to chant and Gloria nods that she agrees. It just has to be.

I hold Tina close and whisper in her ear. “Baby, you start. Whatever kind of kiss you want I’ll follow. But for the love of God, don’t show them how much we both want a babysitter and to get the hell out of here.”

 

Chapter 5 of TOUCH TONES, the L Word inspired Season 7 will follow shortly. Thank you for reading and let me know how you liked this story.

Thanks always to Jacky at LesFan who hosts us there! You can follow them @LesFan.

@ModernLWord  has a hilarious Twitter feed.

@thelword_FPAGE & @foreverthelword each have great pics, links and amusing thoughts.
You can follow me @Blackbird_Write


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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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#2 Touch Tones: The Handler

PR consultant for Tina

Malibu – Cocktail party – Bette

As Claire joins our impromptu announcement party, Helena and Shane do a slow orbit and rearrange themselves around her. Shane becomes a cool, attentive bartender while Helena finds the artwork nearest to the bar to feign interest in. Alice, always the extrovert, shakes Claire’s hand, and patters on about celebrities, and publicity as Claire nods and sips her champagne. The moment Alice stops to take a breath Claire’s attention drifts over to me. She extends her hand.
Bette_Tina_Happy_at restaurant

“So, this is who all the fuss is about. You.” Claire shoots me a look, letting me know she’s heard I can be the capital “T” in Trouble.

“Claire, Bette and I got engaged last night.” Tina beams at me again, then back to Claire.

“Bette Porter.” I shake Claire’s hand with something slightly warmer than my Dean Porter grip. “So happy you could join us, on such short notice.” I recall my delicious, but interrupted afternoon nap.

“Congratulations, to both of you.” Claire smiles genuinely. Then, straight to business. “But I gather some people might see this announcement as a time to burn you to the ground?”

I frown at the thought.

She looks at me. “Or is that too strongly phrased for you, Bette?”

“The situation is this,” Tina takes over. “The writer of the movie I’m producing for Shaolin Studios – that used to be Helena’s studio – well, that’s a long story. But parts of the movie – for your ears only – resemble parts of all of our lives.” Tina sweeps her hand to include everyone in the room. “And Bette and I are Jenny’s neighbors.”

I look down into my glass. “And we fought sometimes.”

“Did you hit each other?”

“God no!”

“That’s good to know, but there must be something you’re adamant about keeping buried.”

“It can’t be that daunting, can it?” I shout. “To give two people back their fucking privacy!” I throw my hands up in the air. “That’s all I want! Things back the way they were.”

Tina sends me a disbelieving stare.

Quickly, I try to course correct. “No! I take that back. Not the way they were.”

Claire looks confused.

Alice, sensing her moment, motions Claire over to a seating area. “You’re looking for a plan, right?”

Alice and Shane sitting livingroom

“Go on.” Claire sits across the couch from Alice and focuses on Shane. “Help me get the lay of the land.  What’d you think about your roommate? Do Bette and Tina have a problem with Jenny?”

“Well, there was that thing she did with Sounder, he died.” Shane offers.

Puzzled, Tina looks at me. “Died? Next door?”

I shrug. News to me. Then, I get furious. “How can Jenny know everything about us, and we remain clueless about even the smallest things?”

“He wasn’t small,” Shane adds.

I point my finger at Tina, “See! Now she’s back to men. Again! What do we know?! Nothing!”

Shane finishes her beer. “The dog, whatshisname, Jenny buried him in the flower bed.”

Tina’s mouth drops open slightly. All I can do is shake my head.

Alice rolls her eyes impatiently. “Aren’t we getting off topic? Maybe just a teeny bit?”

“Very far off.” Tina takes back the floor. “Claire, I’m the film’s producer and our studio PR people …”

“I know them, Byron and Sally.”

Tina presses her hands against her chest, and looks completely earnest. “And I like them both, I do. I’m just not getting good advice, or support from them.  I think they know the press are after any gossip or tidbits surrounding the cast or creators of Hollywood’s first big budget, lesbian movie, but I don’t get the feeling they’re working at all to protect me — only the stars, mainly Nikki Stephens.”

Claire adds it up. “And you got this very beautiful engagement ring last night, the press are showing up en masse on Monday afternoon. I get the timetable on all that completely, but what I’m missing is – what you two did, that you’re so embarrassed about?”

Alice butts in. “I suggest you start with how much fucking around you both did, and end with Angelica’s full blown custody battle.”

And with that outed, my eyes sail up to the ceiling.

“Anyone need a drink?” Shane pops up from the couch.

“God! Yes!” Helena answers for us all, and leaps to her feet.
Helena_HairLong_headcocked

But I look straight back into Claire’s eyes.” I had an affair – for like four days – and then Tina went off with her for awhile.” I point accusingly at Helena, who’s hovering by the bar. “Then Tina left her, thank God! Came to her senses, came home to me. Then, we had the baby we’d had planned for years.” I motion behind me down the hall. “She’s sleeping now, big day at the beach. Our daughter’s almost three.”

“I’m her Earth Mother.” Alice adds proudly and shows Claire a picture of Angelica. Claire flips through Alice’s phone.

Tina bites her lip. “Then, under the delusions of postpartum I had the crazy idea – I would be happier with a man, instead of Bette.”

Hearing Tina say it, still makes me mad.  “And at that point I went to WalMart, bought a six inch Bowie knife, and planned out — to the last detail — exactly how I was going to murder the guy.”

Claire studies me carefully. “Is that in the movie?”

No, Tina shakes her head.

Claire appears to calculate our sins so far. There’s cheating, but no slapping each other around. Well, there was that one time. There’s homicidal thoughts, at least on my end. There’s a hard to conceive baby that finally came, and a mostly dried up ocean of bitter feelings about who would’ve been a better parent to Angelica. The Court’s choice being: a sometimes bi-leaning toward gay film producer, or an outspoken, dyed in the wool, lesbian university dean.

And all of it sounds so stupid, and yet, if layered with sexy-sounding twists and turns, we could run for weeks — even months — as movie magazine headlines.

Suddenly, I feel sad and guilty, but mostly, ashamed all over again.

Alice wags her finger at me and Tina, “But the way they armed themselves for their child custody battle, you’d have thought oil royalties and Beverly Hills real estate was at stake.”

Joyce

“Joyce Wishnia sanely talked us down from that ledge,” I add.

Claire looks at me and Tina. “And why is all this is in the movie?”

“Excellent question!” I look at Tina. “Is it? Is Angelica’s custody battle in there, too? And weren’t you trying to get Bev and Nina renamed?”

“Those are her character’s names?” Claire looks astonished.

Tina answers, “It’s almost like….”

“She did it on purpose!” I fume.  “Are you kidding!”

“Why would a writer do such a thing?  On so many levels, it just seems wrong.” Claire looks at Shane and Alice for answers. Finding only shrugs she looks back at me. “What’d you think, Bette?”

“Me?” I leave the couch for the martini shaker. “She’s obsessed with us. Her life’s a constant wreck of ‘straight girl turning gay’ experimentation,  and she’s miserable. She can’t find love, and never will find love because she’s still at the stage of thinking: Fucking a lot means Love.”  I down half my drink and refill it. “She doesn’t have the first clue what it means to be with somebody.”

Then, I feel a gear, deep inside me shift, and I articulate much more calmly. “Jenny knows I deeply love, Tina. She knows we’ve always been in love with each other. She saw, apparently through her fucking windows, how torn apart we were for years.”

Then, Tina begins to cry.

“Would you excuse us for a moment?” I pick up two glasses, crook the neck of a champagne bottle between my fingers, and open the French doors to the deck. “T, put on a sweater and walk outside with me for a minute.”

“Excuse us, please, just for a second.” Tina follows me out to the deck.

Malibu Waves Night

The Beach – Saturday night – Bette

As I open the French doors nearest the ocean, Tina pulls her sweater tightly around her. Silently we walk down the steps to the beach. The sounds of the surf and the cool breezes coming off the sea revive me momentarily.

“I need to talk to you.” We simultaneously admit the same urgency.

Tina loops her arm around my waist and we walk closer to the water. “I’ll go first if that’s okay?” I nod in agreement as she continues. “I know I emotionally left you at least twice, and during some really, really shitty times for you, Bette.”

“It doesn’t excuse what I did though.”

“No, but I understand it, now. When I went temporarily nuts after the baby came, I didn’t come to you, either. I thought I needed someone else.”

“How could we have been so stupid?”

“Over and over.” Tina shakes her head.

“You know what?” I ask.

“What?”

“We have to get Jenny, and her dreadful characters away from us. I mean, for Christ sake we’ve spent enough time in hell, haven’t we?” I pour us each a glass of champagne. “I want to marry you, and be happy. That’s all I want. And I know we can make that happen.” I clink glasses with hers and take a delicious, long cold swallow.

Tina turns toward the ocean and leans back against me. I wrap my arms around her. “I love you so much right this minute,” Tina says. “Please promise me that if I ever go insane again you’ll be just as crazy? And lose your mind, and fight for me to come home? Will you promise me that?”

“A pledge to go bat shit? I can manage that.” I laugh with her. “I think you can count me in, T.”

“What should we do, Babe? You’ve just heard the recounting of what fucking assholes we can be.”

“But you know, Tina, it’s Jenny’s version that makes me want to eat broken glass. The way her story reads we sound so pathetic. Bev and Nina lack that heart wrenching pathos we had going.” I pull at my chest, and speak louder so the wind can’t whip my words away so quickly.

“I mean, that’s what made me so fucking miserable. So much so, that even though you were the cause of it,” I kiss her neck. “All I wanted was to be back in your arms.”

Ouroborous

“Like the Ouroborous.”

“Exactly, the Ouroborous.” I kiss her neck some more, and wrap my arms around her. “There was an inescapable nature to it. But I’ll never do it again.”

“Me either. Dating alone was enough of a penalty for being such a bitch to you.”

“T, you want to know what mine was?” I laugh as we turn to walk back to the beach house and our guests.

“Come clean, Bette. It’s only fair, don’t you think?”

“Jodie Lerner kissed like a Labrador retriever.” I laugh sadly. “I kid you not. Kissing her was unbelievably bad.”

“Babe, I find that astonishing.” Tina shakes her head. “How could anyone fuck up a kiss with you? You’re like The Kissing Grail.”

“Oh, well, that’s kind of you. But it must be us, and not just me, because I swear to God it was like slurping from a dog’s water bowl.”

“Okay, I’ve heard enough explanation! I honestly only halfway liked her, and she’s wasn’t into Angelica at all, was she?”

“Tiny bit. But she’s very hung up on herself. Very preachy, too.”

“Well, that was doomed not to work then.” Tina smiles at me as I push open the door.

“Oh, good. You guys are back. It’s time for a toast.” Alice says as she pops open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

Alice_Lesbo Land

Sunday – 6 pm – Alice

As I pull up to the curb in front of Bette’s house. I hope that after a day or two – and hopefully while the movie is still hot and on everyone’s mind – that Bette will to do a podcast with me, and that both of them will answer my growing list of burning questions.  Well, I am their wedding planner after all! But that interesting bit of news is still under wraps until Claire says, “Go.”

I see Bette out in front of her house wrestling with a long garden hose. “I know we’re suppose to be digging up our gardens and putting in freaky looking rocks that resemble meteorites instead of wasting water on plants, but I can’t stand it any longer. Everything is dying.” Bette turns on the nozzle spray and a halo of small rainbows appear as she waters her roses. Jenny comes into view for a moment next door in her window.

“Did you come to swim?”

“Sure, if that’s okay but I wanted to ask you about scheduling a podcast with me. How about tomorrow, Wednesday at the latest.” I follow Bette around the side of her house where we see more withering roses that need watering.  Next door, I hear a window slide open. “Are you alone?” I ask.

“Tina’s not dropped Angelica off, yet.” Bette jerks her head toward Jenny’s. “But she’s home. No idea where Shane is.”

“Special offer. I’ll buy you lunch at The Planet, and you do a quick podcast with me for my new blog.”

“Alice! How many times do I have to tell you! I’m not doing a fucking podcast with you, and talking about me and Tina and Jenny’s fucking movie. I’m furious about all of it. So, absolutely, no!”

Bette points her finger toward Jenny’s living room. “She can go fuck herself. And you,” she says as her finger suddenly stabs me back a step, then two, “and you are about to cross the line with me, Alice.”

“Well, Jesus! We’re friends for God’s sake! And it’s a movie kinda about all of us.” I raise my voice, and argue back with Bette. “You know that I’m trying to make Our Chart and Lesbo Land into something great and “Alice in Lesbo Land” is in need of a lot of hits. Please.” I plead my case.

“Is Jenny doing an interview with you tomorrow? Are you actually promoting that poorly conceived bullshit of hers?” Bette fumes at me. “That really pisses me off, Alice. Don’t give that bitch an audience for her hack job on all of us.”

Bette drums a jet stream against the glass of one of Jenny’s windows. “Have you lost your fucking mind, Alice? I think you should come back another time to swim. Just give me a break. Tina is coming over with Angelica at any moment. I’m tired. I have a headache, and a child to feed. Just go. Go somewhere else.”

Jenny Best White backgrd

Jenny’s House – Alice

After a few knocks I pace back and forth on Jenny’s small porch, and I wait for her to open the door. “Where’s Shane, Jenny? I really need to talk to her. And do you have a glass of water?” I push past her inside, and head for the kitchen. Through Jenny’s open windows I can see Bette continuing to water her garden.

“What’s wrong, Alice?” Jenny hands me a cold bottle from the fridge. “You’re hyperventilating.”

“What’s wrong is fucking Bette Porter. That’s what’s wrong.” I fume at Jenny. “I mean, I think everyone in your movie should be in a podcast with me. Why not try to make it fun? I mean it’s a movie for crying out loud! Entertainment! Hello?”

“She hates me doesn’t she? I think they both do.” Jenny rises up on her tip toes, and looks past me to Bette in her garden. “Tina tries to fake it with me at work, but I think she hates me, too.” Jenny pouts a little.

“Tina just pulled up.” I tell Jenny, as I hear a car door slam. We watch Tina walk into Bette’s living room. Geez, from here you really can see nearly everything that goes on over there.

“Don’t tell me you left her at The Planet again.” I hear Bette complaining to Tina.

“I had some shopping to do, and Kit was glad to see her.”

“Listen, my phone blew up an hour ago with interview requests about your fucking movie. I thought you were taking care of all that.” Bette walks out by her pool with a container of fertilizer. “Alice was just over here, too. Wanting a podcast! Listen! Tell everybody to leave me alone!”

“Ignore the calls. Just do what you always do.”

“Oh? And what’s that exactly?” Bette looks up at Tina as she measures plant food for her flowers.

“I know you have a problem with what I do for a living, and more specifically with Jenny’s fucking movie, but it’s my job, Bette. And it’s paying half of Angelica’s pre-K tuition at that place you insisted on in Beverly Hills – that costs a fucking fortune.”

“Oh, please, Tina. Not the money thing again.” Bette walks away from her. “So bourgeois, so bourgeois.”

“Bette, don’t talk to me like that.” Tina warns. “And listen, after the press conference at five I’m having drinks with a group from WME. The new VPs from Endeavor are flying into town. So, I need you to watch Angelica.

“Sounds tedious. All those William Morris types do is sell flesh. It’s repulsive to me.”

“Bette, can you be more fucking elitist? Jenny should have captured more of this snarky side of your personality instead of …” Tina stops as Bette dumps a gallon of fertilizer on her garden and falls backwards into her pool. Waves and bubbles break the surface above her and the red bucket bobs, and then begins to sink in the pool.

Tina waits for a ten seconds, then some more as Bette sits on the bottom.

“Jesus!” Tina exclaims and then storms back inside the house.

Jenny rolls her eyes up and says, “Ooops. But seriously, nothing new.”

“I’m texting Shane, now. I really need someone to drink with me tonight. Tasha is on some weekend long scrimmage training, or something or other.”

Jenny and I watch as Tina drives away, and slowly Bette walks across her patio dripping wet and then disappears inside her house.

Text from Alice to Shane:
“Where R U? I’m thirsty.”

Text from Shane to Alice:
“Burbank.”

Text from Alice to Shane:
“Why? Nvrmind.”

Text from Shane to Alice:
“Long story.”

Text from Alice to Shane:
“K. Call later.”

I jerk my head up when I hear a crash coming from inside Bette’s house. Jenny and I look at each other as Bette yells, “Fuck!”

“Yeah, right. Well, Alice about my interview with you tomorrow.” Jenny skips into her front room, and drapes herself dramatically across the couch. “My agents will have this special area roped off for me after the studio’s presser is over, so, can we do ours maybe, after they all leave?”

“You mean me last?” I squint at her ever so slightly. “How many are you doing tomorrow?”

“Maybe four maybe eight, not sure.” Jenny says as she twirls her hair.

“Uh huh.” I peer out to the garden apartment where Max lives. “I guess I can talk to Max, and see how long he can hang out with the camera. So, we’ll shoot your statements from the stage and then cut in your interview.”

“I’m not speaking on the stage. It’s a studio event and just Aaron and Tina are giving remarks. You know how studios are about writers. They treat us like shit, Alice.”

“Uh huh. Shitty enough so you bought a Porsche.” I walk over to the window. “Okay, finally!  Wait. What? Shane’s pulling up in some kind of moving van?” I watch as Shane trots up to Bette’s front door.

“What the fuck! I’m dying for alcohol over here.”

Jenny motions to the refrigerator, “There’s some wine in there, and a bottle of rum on top of the refrigerator. It’s Max’s, but go ahead.”

I take down the rum and put ice cubes and lime in a glass. “What the hell are they doing?” I ask as Jenny and I watch Bette and Shane struggle to push her king sized mattress and box springs into a moving van. With a mighty heave from Bette her bed finally slides into the truck. They disappear back inside.

“God, I never thought of that.” Jenny says as she goes over to her computer, and begins to type. I sip my drink and wait for the next phase of the unfolding show next door. Absorbed, Jenny taps away on her keyboard.

I hear a second crash and then more glass breaking as Bette throws the pieces of her bedside lamps into the trash bin, winks up at me, and walks back inside.

Text from Alice to Shane:
“WTF is going on? I’m @ur house watching Bette destroy her bedroom. What r u doing over there?”

“Tell Alice to mind her own Goddamn business.” I hear Bette calling through the windows, as she drops her blinds one by one around her living room. And before the last one falls she glares through the glass at me and says, “It’s called redecorating, Alice.”

“Wow.” Jenny looks up at me, her eyes somewhat glassy. “Their love nest is really no more. I know it’s a cliche but I have to make it a U-Haul.”

“Of course, you do.” I say before I swallow the rest of my drink and head for the door.

__________

Following very soon will be Chapter 3 of _TOUCH TONES_ The L Word inspired Season 7.

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

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

 

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


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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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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.

Writer’s like comments. Drop one if you have a thought for me.

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