The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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Ensnared by Guilt #24

Tina serious blue shirt med shot

Day Two

Before Work – Tina

There have been days when I would’ve given any amount of money to stay in bed and delay facing the world for a little while longer.  But today, opening my eyes to its king-sized emptiness, I could not escape its sheets and pillows fast enough.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve never told Bette that when living alone in my apartment I never slept well, or how nighttime sounds when sleeping next to her feel innocent because she was there. I’ve never shared with her my out of body experience when she slipped the engagement ring on my finger.  On stage with Gloria Steinem, the crowd had cheered and my heart had taken off like a bird across the water.  Standing inches away from me she’d moved her microphone and had whispered, “Tina, we’re giving ’em Gypsy Rose Lee.  You with me?”

From the front row Shane had whistled, and from the corner of the stage Alice had wept, while a zillion pixels had captured our kiss, and we’d left them wanting more.

Tina_blackjacket_seated_looking irritated

Later that morning –

Les Girls Soundstage – Tina

Minutes after arriving on set the LAPD had appeared, and the news that Bette’s been missing for twenty-four hours has travelled fast.  As the morning wears on, and more and more sympathetic looks from the crew begin to come my way, I’m sure by now the cops have heard.  Bette and I are the real life “inspirations” for this movie.

If I did not hate Jenny as much as Bette vehemently does, I absolutely do so now.  She was in line early to give the police her version of Bev and Nina’s stormy years, their monstrous behavior toward each other, and their twisted motivations.

Shane had followed trying to paint a different picture, but setting like concrete in the minds of the LAPD is their working theory: Bette’s not abducted, not kidnapped, not a victim of foul play, but missing because she wants to be, and I’m likely the number one cause for her leaving.

“Why can’t you understand!?!” My fury mounting, my voice hoarse from arguing. “She’s not on my soundstage! She’s out there!  Somewhere!”

“People lead double lives, Miss Kennard, it happens all the time.” The detective taps the Lez Girls script in his hand by way of illustration.

“We love each other! If she were here, she’d be standing right next to me, hating the movie business. . . hating this movie in particular. . .hating. . .”

“Hating what exactly, Miss Kennard?”  Cooly, the detective studies my face.  “Isn’t it possible, you never knew her at all.”

Tina Aaron his office

The last thing in my crumbling life that I did know for certain, before rushing out of here yesterday, was that Aaron and Jenny and I had agreed on the way to shoot Bev and Nina’s child custody scene. Now, we’re debating it again.

Aaron flips through his copy of today’s script pages and says to Jenny, “The way you’ve written this I don’t care if Bev and Nina’s relationship is over.  They’re meant to foreshadow what’s ahead for Jesse, who’s totally unaware cruelty’s waiting ahead at the hands of Karina.”

Aaron searches my face. “Tina? You with me?”

“Of course.  We blocked all this out yesterday. The scene with Nina marking on Alisa’s Chart is before this, so yes, we’ve established Bev’s wayward ways, and now she’s feeling the consequences.”

Aaron snaps the pages at me.  “Consequences? Nina’s threatening to take Bev’s child away!  In this scene, Bev loses everything.”

Jenny leans over his desk and points to a page in her script. “This line from Nina, “There’s nothing left between us.” And then, Bev says, “Don’t do this! Don’t do it.””

Holding her hands up, Jenny frames the camera’s point of view. “We freeze on Bette behind their closed bedroom door.”

Aaron says, “Bev’s alone, her voice becoming more and more desperate.”

Jenny nods, he’s getting it. “Don’t do this! Don’t do it!”  The sound of Nina’s tires growing fainter and fainter – Bev knows Nina’s driving away – but she keeps calling for her to stop.”

Aaron leans back in his chair with Jenny’s script pages in his lap. “I know what’s missing,” he finally says. “Nina’s action inside the car. Does she care that she’s devastated her longtime lover? Does she have a twinge of remorse showing on her face, or does she call Hank from the car and make dinner plans?”

He looks at me. “What’d you think Nina would do?”

Saying it I can barely breathe. “She called her boyfriend.”

warehouse blight exterior

Warehouse – Tina

After driving past row after row of blighted warehouses, my driver points to Mary and her security detail searching ahead in an overgrown lot.

She joins me at the curb.  “Bette’s car was found on the other side of that building. Call me morbid, but I had to come down here.”

Looking around the bleakness I feel desperate. “But would they’ve torched her car? Then hidden her nearby?”

“Depends. Were the kidnappers in a hurry to ditch it? Maybe Bette was putting up a fight? Maybe she was unconscious? Maybe someone else stole the car after she was taken? Dumped it here.”

“Oh God! Tell me we’re we going to find her.”  Tears slide down my cheeks. “Please!  Tell me you believe it’s true!”

She presses a handkerchief into my hand.  “Of course, we are.”

“This is the ninety-ninth time today I’ve completely lost it.” I pat at my tears. “Are the police even still looking for her?  They camped out at my work all morning.  Completely the wrong direction.”

“But digging into your past isn’t wrong. You realize, someone you know did this.”

“The police, now you! It’s not my fault Bette was taken! How can you stand there and say that to me?!” I storm away.

“Tina, come back here!” Mary catches my arm, and spins me around to face her.  “Number one, there’s been no ransom demand.  Number two, their play’s been psychological.  Number three, Bette’s still alive.”

A sharp gasp escapes me. “I have to believe it!”

Mary’s hand brushes along my shoulder comforting me.  “Come on. I brought you down here for a reason.”

Maggie Q as Jake

From the shadows of a warehouse doorway a woman in black emerges. “Hello, Tina.  Joyce sent me.” Her eyes lock onto mine. “I’m Simone.  I find people.”

“Oh, thank God!” I grab her hand.

Mary peeks past us inside the warehouse. “Los Angeles, I suspect, has no shortage of these?”

“Joyce pulled the zoning records.” Simone lifts a folded envelope from her waistband. “They’re seven hundred thousand active warehouses in LA County.  Two hundred thousand dormant, but taxes paid, and sixty-one thousand the city lists as blighted and abandoned.”

My heart sinks. “That sounds like fifty square miles.”

Simone looks at me, as if I’d guessed the exact number of jelly beans inside a jar. “She’s right. Finding her that way is impossible.” Then to Mary. “But your guy at Justice traced Bette’s text. Phone belongs to Darwen Goodbee.”

“You’ve found him?” Excited, I turn to leave. “Then, let’s go.”

But as I say it, the door to the old warehouse creaks open and Mary and Simone disappear inside.

Jake questioning photographer

Warehouse Interior – Tina

Darwen Goodbee sits on the dusty floor of the warehouse chained to a column.  Being a co-conspirator in his kidnapping feels uncomfortable – for about a second – and then, I’m all in.  “We’re exchanging him for Bette?”

Our prisoner, fortyish, thin, pasty white and hooked-nose mean, Goodbee thrashes in his chains and spits at us menacingly. “You’ve got the wrong guy!”

Arms crossed over her chest, Mary scowls down at him. Simone twists his wrist in an unnatural angle.

Screaming he cries, “You’ve no idea what that painted freak would do to me!”

“Where do we find her?” Simone twists again.

Another cry of pain. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with! She’ll cut me into pieces, then fry my fingers like sausage links.”

“Oh God! Are they doing that to Bette?!” I feel the room spinning.  “I’m going to vomit.”

Mary rescues me with her arm around my waist. “Stop this! Tina, you must be strong!”

“Gimme a name!” Simone’s back to wrenching his hand from his arm. “Or I go to something that leaves scars.”  She flashes a hunting knife at him.

“Your friend. . . ” He moans in agony. “She calls her the SheBeast!”

hands bound by rope

Whereabouts Unknown – Bette

Intentional or not, the windows in my locked room have not been papered over, and it’s late afternoon on my second sunny day with these assholes, who’ve fed me one meal of Mexican take out, and kept me constantly thirsty.

The piss bucket in the corner, always a rare pleasure, is empty, and the regular beatings before my photograph was taken have stopped, but my views on capital punishment have changed. I’m now for it.

With time on my hands, and hating every minute of it, I’ve developed a rotation.  On the count of three I grit my teeth and struggle to loosen the knots, until I can’t take the pain anymore. My count is at four thousand, four hundred and seventy-four, and I’m obsessed with how many more times can I stand it. My goal is ten thousand, or less, and getting free.

One, two, three. . .

Absolute agony! “Fucking Goddamn motherfuckers!” I thrash in my chair, because it’s not going well.

SheBeast tattooed woman

The door’s kicked open and The SheBeast enters.

“Good! Untie me, and I’ll be home by dinner.”

“There’s no news concerning you, so get comfortable.”

“Comfortable?” I struggle against my ropes. “Tina doesn’t tie me up.  I don’t tie her up.  It’s an agreement we have.”

“I’m not getting kinky with you today, if that’s what you’re offering.”

“Oh! Good one! But I can’t figure you out.  Sadist? You fucking act like one.  But maybe, masochist. . .with all the spikes and metal punched in your face.”

Her breath’s bad, as she leans in closer to examine what I know must be a black and blue slit.  “Can you even see outa that eye?”

“How ’bout you chew on a fucking breath mint, and bring me some goddamn water?” When suddenly – off come my cowboy boots!  “Goddammit!”  I kick at her. “Goddammit! Gimme those back!”

She unties my hands.  “You’ve been waiting for a go at me. Come on!”

Throwing my bindings to the floor I charge at her.

My first two punches she blocks, but my third connects with the metal rings above her brow. Blood pours into her eye, as the rings rip away.  She knocks me backwards with a punch, and crashing into the table, I roll before she swings at me again.

Ducking her left hook, my fists raised in front of me, my knuckles bleeding, I hardly feel a thing.

We circle each other and the room spins by behind her. The chair I’ve been tied to for days. The piss bucket in the corner. The SheBeast in front of me, a deep feral growl fills the space between us. A patch of sweat slicks down my back. The wild mean sound I realize. . . is coming from me.

My fist slams into her nose, it gives.  Snap!

I swing again, but miss.

Raising her hands her fingers are claws.  Her lips roll back in an unearthly bark.  Her teeth sharp like fangs. She pounces!

One hour later –

Faye Dunaway

Faye Dunaway’s Taping – 6 o’clock – Tina

Rushing out of the elevator I collide with Alice in the lobby of the PBS studio.  “Alice! God!  The freeway was a nightmare!”

She grabs me for a frantic hug. “I haven’t found Bette or Faye – yet.”

Simone pulls Mary aside. “In Chinatown, the part when Nicholson keeps slapping her — she’s my daughter, my sister, my daughter. . .”

Startled, Alice interrupts, “You brought a movie fan? Are you fucking kidding me?!”

Simone and Alice

Unblinking, Simone stares Alice back up against the wall.

Mary intervenes. “Joyce sent her.  She finds people.”

“Or scares them to death. Either way, I love the whole evil beauty thing you’ve got going-on.”

Simone steps back a pace, still staring at Alice.  “So, what do you do?”

“Strategy. . .sometimes Take Out.”

The red light above the studio door blinks on, and we’re locked outside. “No! Fuck no!  They’ve started taping.” I spin around to Mary.

“We’ll watch it on the monitor.” Alice points back toward the lobby.

Simone whispers, “Good time to search the dressing rooms.”

Mary nods.  “Lead the way. I doubt Bette’s sitting in the audience.”

“Exactly.” Skulking past doorways and down hallways, Simone leads us to the back of the building.

Rounding a corner, Alice says in a loud whisper, “You don’t look like hostage negotiator.”

“Who said anything about negotiating?” Simone sneaks us past the control room.

control room B

Down another hallway, interns and backstage managers flick in and out of production offices.  Mary points to Faye’s name taped to the door of a dressing room, and Alice puts her hand on the knob, when Simone pulls her back.

“I go in first.” Simone says.

Alice looks sideways at her.  “Is that a gun in your pants?”

Simone clamps her hand over Alice’s mouth and presses her against the wall. Shaking her head frantically, Alice cries, “I did it again. I wet my pants a little.”

Group_Pink_Orchids w:gold

Dressing Room – Tina

Gifts of flowers for the beloved actress, Faye Dunaway, line every surface inside the star’s dressing room.  Picking through the gifts and messages, Simone looks inside blue boxes from Tiffany. “I hate kidnappers who send riddles.”

“I hate kidnappers period. What possible relationship to taking Bette does all this have?” Mary asks.

Surveying the room, Simone leans back against the dressing table. “The last clue was about a show being cancelled and a man killed because he was a lousy host.  Tina, is your movie in trouble?”

“Maybe.  Our studio chief has massive gambling debts.  The cops are onto that now. Aaron’s time’s nearly up.”

Alice sticks her head inside the door from standing guard. “Captain? Permission to speak?”

Simone doesn’t look up. “What do you want?”

“I have to, have to, have to use the bathroom.” Alice shuts herself inside Faye’s private lavatory.  Then, we hear her scream!

Fearing she’s stumbled on Bette dead body, I freeze.  A vase of flowers drops from my hands.  Petals, water, and crystal fly everywhere.

Mary’s face is tight – holding back her emotions – waiting for Alice, who throws open the door waving one of Bette’s boots in her hand.  Simone pulls out a sheet of paper signed with a bloody handprint.

She reads the kidnapper’s note.

Bloody hand Kidnappers Note

Looking at it, I scream. “I hate these fucking people!”

Mary tucks the boot from the pair she gave Bette under her arm, and pushes me toward the door. “Tina, we’re going home, and for Angelica’s sake we’re going to keep it together.”

rope Day Two

Whereabouts Unknown – Bette

Coming to, I see the rope that has rubbed me raw lying on the floor. Two, that I’m barefoot, and three that I’m handcuffed to the chair.  Half standing next to the table, I lie across its surface and flip backwards, trying to crack the chair into pieces.

A few unavoidable head injuries later, after two tries the chair’s back snaps off.  I search the floor for the pen I stole from the photographer to pick the lock on my handcuffs.

Thirty minutes later –

I take another deep breath, focus my one good eye back on the handcuff lock, and it finally clicks open! Snatching up my one remaining boot left standing by the door, I push the table under the windows, break the glass with the chair leg, and crawl down to freedom.

warehouse night lost

Hopping on one foot over broken glass I make it to the street and take off running into the shadows.

Zigzagging through a desolate part of Los Angeles, I slow my pace after ten blocks and hide inside the doorway of an abandoned warehouse.  I hear a squeaking sound, and for an instant worry that it’s rat, when a shopping cart pushed by a homeless woman appears.

Friend or foe? I listen for others.

She’s alone with bottles of water on board. I can’t stand my thirst a second longer.  “Hi there,” I call from the shadows.

Surprised, she leaps in the air and brandishing a metal pipe she cries, “Get away from me. Down here, we don’t do that after dark.”

On one boot, I hop a little more out of the shadows. “I had to wait until night to escape.”

“Sweet Jesus! Another one from the hospital!” Hurriedly, she pushes her cart away from me. “You’re one of d’em without brains.”

“Wait! Stop, stop! I have plenty of brains.” I hop into the light. “But please, let me have some water.”

She recoils at the moonlit sight of me, and points inside her cart to a Minnie Mouse hand mirror from Disneyland  “You ain’t gonna make it. Infections out here kill you.”

Holding the child’s pink mirror in my hand, my face stares back. “Ooohhhh God, that hurts.” I touch the swollen slit of my right eye,  then down to my busted lip, and running my hands through my wild looking hair, it refuses and remains terrorized.

“Here. Take some water.” Our eyes finally meet in the dim light.  She’s late forties, wearing a second hand dress as a tunic over dark pants.  Her cheekbones wide, her blonde hair misshapen by a do it yourself haircut, she seems less wary.

I gulp down half the bottle of water before coming up for air. “You don’t happen to have a cell phone on you?”

“Oh sure.” She opens one of her bags to show me a dozen out-of-date models.  “Batteries all dead though, but I got nobody to call. Take one, but it’s time for you to start sharing back.”  She stares down at my one remaining boot.

I back away a step.  She’s not getting that.  “Some assholes nabbed me a couple of days ago.  Crashed into my car, knocked me out.”  I point behind me. “Pretty soon they’re going to figure out, I’m missing.”

She stares at my raw wrists, then squints up into my bruised face.  “You’re tellin’ me the truth, aren’t you?”

I nod while finishing off the water. “What’s your story?”

She takes back the empty bottle. “That’s worth a penny at the shelter.  Cans and glass bring more, so pick ’em up.” She pushes her squeaking cart down the street.

“Wait! Where are you going?”

“To the bridge where it’s safe. Come on then, we’d better hide you.”

_________

If you enjoyed this story, please give me a little tip here at paypal.me/blackbirdwrites.  For $3.00 you’ll be buying me a cup of coffee, $7 is a cold drink I’ll enjoy and $10 and up is dinner.  A comment back from you I’d love, too.

Just joining the story? It began with #21 “Bette Meets the Gypsy”  http://bit.ly/BetteGypsyTale, followed by, #22 “Whereabouts Unknown” http://bit.ly/WhereaboutsUnknown  then to #23 “Hotel California” Hotel California  and #24 “Ensnared by Guilt” Ensnared by Guilt  the story you just read.

Hope you enjoyed your time here! Blackbird


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Whereabouts Unknown #22 Touch Tones

Bette Alarmed on Land Line Phone

Bette’s House – Bette

It wasn’t that I physically could not get out of bed this morning – when my alarm first went off at seven – it was more that Tina was babying me after yesterday. Letting me know – I’d done a lot of heavy emotional lifting lately, and if I’d wanted an extra half hour to sleep, by all means — take it.

With that tactic encouragement, I’d smacked the top of my alarm clock to not bother me again, dug myself down into a well of soft pillows, and fallen back to sleep.

The phone’s ringing had awakened me, and reaching for it I see the time. What?!  Nine- the-fuck-o’clock!  Now, I’m late for everything.  My hand knocks the landline from its cradle – a clattering of everything against itself on my bedside table begins.

Diving down onto the floor for the ringing phone, I wonder why on earth Tina left without telling me?  Aggravated, I snap at the caller. “Yes! Hello?! Bette Porter speaking.”

A Hispanic woman’s voice, rough but sexy says, “This is Doctor Sophia Perez. Your daughter, Angelica’s in my infirmary.”

“I’m on my way. I can be there in thirty minutes. Is she alright? Is she hurt? What happened?” All the while leaping around my bedroom for clothes to put on.

“Mostly, Ms. Porter, she just needs her mother. Her wrist’s had a bad sprain, and she should come home for the day.”

“Of course!” Backing out of my driveway, I realize I’m talking to the school on my landline. Shit! Should I stop? Go back inside?  “Dr. Perez, I’m going to lose reception any minute.”  Frantically, I paw through my purse. Don’t tell me I left my cell phone. . .

“Angelica’s arm will need to elevated. We’ll go over the. . .” Then, the line goes dead.

Tina Movie scripts

Shaolin Studio – Tina

My meeting with Claire, my hired gun PR whiz and her network of not so above board spies, is going well.  Aaron’s demise is certain, her sources say he’s ruined – as well as being kneecapped by the Bookie’s Enforcer – come this Friday.

Claire drops a stack of dossiers on my desk she’s put together for me. “How’s your rock ’em sock ’em management proposal coming?  You’ll be ready to pounce, won’t you?”

“Good. It’s getting solid. I’ll work on it more tonight. Way too busy today.” I slide behind my desk.

“You know, I almost didn’t go into Crisis Management with my father. My big dream in school?  Was cleaning up the oceans.”

I flip through the dossiers of the studio execs far above me in the Food Chain, and draw her back to our task at hand. “LA’s swimming with big nasty fish, you should feel right at home.”

“I take your point.”

“You’re a Fixer, Claire, and a very good one. If I didn’t have ten important calls to make before eleven, I’d lock myself in an empty production trailer, and devour these dossiers like M&Ms.”

“I won’t spoil your fun, then.  If pressure needs to be applied –  the dirt’s in there.”

Engrossed in dirty secrets, I barely look up.  “I prefer the word: Innuendo.”

“Innuendo, leverage . . .persuasion, pressure, I believe you’ll get promoted without them.”

“The first rule of winning? And I learned this from my father during his days in southern politics – never go into battle without great intel.”

“Smart man.” Claire stands up to leave.  “One last thing.  Friday night.”

“What about it?” I ask.

“Don’t appear too overly happy, after poor Aaron’s dragged away.”

“I suppose you’re right. We’ll do something at home.  You’ll come?”

“Let me plan a small party. Hors d’oeuvres, drinks, some place nice to toast you in as new chief.”

“But with low visibility, sounds perfect! Bette and I would love something like that.”

Shane good portrait Green background

Soundstage – Shane

Nikki, the star of the movie, has been cruising me all morning, and I’m so not going there. I’ve got other girl trouble, a stalker I’ve picked up called, Molly.

I screw around on my phone for a while looking up what the real name Molly’s a nickname for. I’m stalling really. I need to call the morgue back in Dallas, and tell them what to do with my mother’s body. Yesterday, I didn’t know the answer, and I don’t know the answer today.

Do I cremate her and bring her back to sit in a box on the floor of my closet to feel uneasy about whenever I’m reaching in for my shoes? Or do I bury her in a graveyard by a church near where she grew up, out on the west Texas plains?

I’m barely thirty, and I’m fucked.  For the little money I make, I’m overspent.  What I need is a sugar mamma. Someone’s gold card to pay for my mom’s funeral, but that’s not what sugar mammas like to buy me.

A gaffer walks by and looks too sniffly for the dry weather we’ve been having. Cocaine? Now, that has a certain irony to it. Me selling drugs to pay for my drug addicted mother’s funeral.

The beginning of a plan. I keep thinking.

Kit_listening

The Planet – Kit

Lunchtime in this place is always a mad house, no less chaos than a Friday night, but still lots of fussy people to feed, and no matter how many times I say it – Goat cheese stinks. I don’t know why you want that shit on your salads – eat some Feta, and get over it. I’m not putting that crap on the menu.

A striking East Indian woman walks over to me. “Hello, Kit. I’m meeting Bette here for lunch. Have you seen her?”

“Not yet.  Have we met?”

Penny verticle black jacket

“Kit! You don’t remember me? Do you?”

“Wait a minute. Step back and let me get a better look.”

Penny steps a pace back, and patiently waits. “You came up to hear me sing one time in Boston with her, didn’t you?”

“That’s me!  We were just remembering those days when I saw her in Santa Barbara recently.”

“So, that was you!”

“Now, here in the flesh, where is she? I’ve been calling her phone.” Penny dials Bette’s number again, and it rings and rings.  “See no answer. Goes straight to voicemail.”

“Eating, I promise you, is something she hates to miss.  Let me get a friend of hers on the line, see what’s going on.”

hands bound by rope

Somewhere the fuck –

The back of my head hurts, pounds really, and it feels like my skull’s been cracked open. I know I’ve been bleeding, maybe still am. I struggle with the ropes that have bound my hands behind me. No luck there. I twist my neck to look around the gloomy room where I’m somebody’s prisoner, and drops of blood splatter on the scarred wooden floor.

“Ackcht!” I try to spit out the bitter taste in my mouth. Drugged. That’s how they must’ve taken me, but why? I’m not someone you kidnap for money. Goddammit! I’m not someone you kidnap, period!

“Hey! Motherfucker! I know someone’s watching me! If you’ve got my daughter, if you’ve done anything to her I will fucking kill you!” I scream at the walls. “I will fucking kill you! I will fucking kill you! I will fucking kill you!”

A key turns in a lock, and a rough looking Hispanic man circles me tied to a chair.  “No one’s dying today, señorita. Not me, not you.” Then, he leers at me, “Well, maybe you, so shut the fuck up.”

“What’d you want from me? There’s no ransom for a fucking college dean! And goddammit, where’s my child?”

penelope cruz Dr Perez

A woman enters the room. “Do I look like a doctor?” It’s the same voice from earlier.

Squinting my eyes at her suspiciously, I make up my mind – at least on that point – she’s telling me truth. “Your call was a ruse? You were never at her school?”

The woman blows out a long stream of smoke, and says nothing – further infuriating me.  I struggle mightly against my ropes. “I don’t suppose you’d prove that to me?”

“Twist in the wind and rub your wrists raw.  You’re not going anywhere, any time soon.”  Her power over me complete, she turns to leave.

The ugly man grins at me, his gold tooth incisor glistens with saliva.  The woman beats against a metal door and shouts, “Llevar agua para la mujer prisionera!”

I glare at her with the full force of my hatred. “Wait a minute! Don’t you fucking leave me in here!”  But they lock the door behind them without saying another word.

Jenny Tina in conference room

Shaolin Conference Room – Tina

Jenny is losing her mind, and very nearly hysterical over the changes I’m suggesting we make for tomorrow’s shooting script. Aaron, who either knows I know, or is so preoccupied with his own misery he’s siding with Jenny just so her shrillness will die down, ramps up again, and I put my ideas back on the table, as The Plan.

Next to my elbow my phone keeps flashing calls coming in from Kit. After the sixth one, and with my key points all agreed to – I duck out of the conference room.

“What’s up? And can it possibly wait?”

“My sister’s missing her lunch date, with the big donor. You know where she is?”

“Oh God! I left her asleep.” I glance at my watch. “But Kit, there’s no way she’d still be out.”

“You mind if I go over there? After this lunch crowd thins out, I think I’ll go over there.”

“She was getting Angelica at three, taking her back to CU with her, and then over to the park.”

“I’ll cover, if need be, Tina.  I betcha she’s in the pool, and forgot all about lunch with her friend.”

But both of us know – that doesn’t sound right at all.

Joyce her office

Joyce’s Office – Kit

“It’s an annoying habit of your family’s to come in here repeatedly trying to stump me.”  Joyce wags her finger at me, before taking another perfect shot with her ping pong ball at the ovary fabric art on her wall.

“How’d you do that? Glue on them, or something?”

Joyce ignores me.  “Everyone of you confuses my powers with the police. I can’t lock up the SheBar’s owners up, and keep them from harassing you!”

“Trust me, this ain’t no police thing.”

“Okay, then, how’s it escalating? I’m listening. That I can do.”

“Saturday night my power kept getting cut off.  Try live music with that kinda shit going on.”

“Right, we know it’s harassment.  What else?”

“Same kind of stuff.  All my garbage bins are jammed full of crap that ain’t mine, and ‘course, they’re trying to run me outa business, and killing me with sumthin’ called – Internet Banner Ads.”

“So business was good, now it’s not. That’s gotta be tough, but do eyewitnesses tell you most of your business has gone down the street?”

“Joyce, you know I’ve got loyal customers!  I’m not losing all them to a pinked-up new place like the SheBar, but it’s Wednesday and Friday and Saturday nights – that’s when they’re killing me! Hot Oil wrestling contests and gimmicks like – ‘Drink for Free All Night! If your name is Heather.”

“Oh God!  The rise of The Heathers!  Seeded during years of drug addled wife-swapping orgies!”  Joyce begins to laugh. “Not an auspicious start, but nevertheless, the origins of the Beverly Hills blonde plague known as, The Heathers.”

I’m not sure what being fucked on coke twenty years ago has to do with my SheBar problems right now, but having neared the end of my rope, I pick up a paper sack from the floor next to my feet.

Dropping the crumpled brown bag on her desk, I give her my last bit of news. “This’s all I’ve got. I did what you asked. Sent my dishwasher going through their trash for whatever he could find. It’s all in there.”

“I’ll make sure my PI gets it.” Joyce presses her intercom.  “Is Simone still here?  If she is, tell her to see me before my four o’clock.”

“Look, I gotta go get my niece from preschool.  Bette’s AWOL today. No one can find her.”

“You want me to call Phyllis?  She can be hard to get on the line during the day, but I can insist.  They’ll put me through.”

“You know I’m sure Tina’s tried calling James.  I don’t want to get Bette in trouble.”

“Are you kidding? You heard about the big donation she just reeled in, right?  Twenty million dollars!”

“Go on, I guess, but I don’t think she ever made it into the office.”

strange tattooed woman

Whereabouts Unknown – Bette

The room I’m held captive in suddenly turns a blazing white, and gratingly loud metal music blares from speakers I’d never noticed above me. I squeeze my eyes shut and wish they were my ears, when a hard black leather boot belonging to a freakish looking tattooed woman kicks me.

“What the fuck do you want?” I snarl at the strange she-beast, looking every bit of muscle as strong as me.

She slaps me hard across my face.  No, she’s real, they haven’t drugged me again – yet.  “Good someone else to talk some sense into. So, I’m telling you – like I told the others – show me my daughter, un-fucking-tie me, and let me go!”

“You keep thinking this is a negotiation.”  She smacks me with the back of her hand, but not as hard.

I spit blood out of my mouth, and wish for a gun that I don’t own.  “You seem to want to fight.  Untie me then, and let’s do it!”

“No.  I just like hitting you.”

“What is that you want?”  I scream over the music that continues to blast.  “My fucking PIN number? Ever since I got here, it’s just been one fucking asshole after the . . .”

She draws her hand back poised to slap me. “You were saying?”

“. . . but you strike me as someone different.” But she hits me again.  A smarting whack that proves me wrong.

The longer she beats me, the more my jaw aches and my nose bleeds and my last blurry thoughts – before she knocks me unconscious.

Will I ever see them?  Ever, ever, ever again?

Tina verticle arguing Brazil

Bette and Tina’s House – Tina

Six hours later –

Kit and Angelica had come home right after school, and since that time we’ve turned my house upside down looking for clues. Bette’s cell phone we’d found on her bedside table, and the calls she’s received were from James, over and over, then Penny and Kit, and finally the hundred – growing more and more frantic – ones from me.

I’d made Angelica a bowl of cereal for dinner, and Kit and I are picking at a plate of cheese and crackers, but I can’t tell you what it tastes like.

My desire is for the strong taste of Scotch, and for the door to fly open suddenly, and Bette – perfectly fine –  spilling out a wild story, and everything turning out alright; but as the hours wear on and on, nothing like that seems very likely to happen.

A hard lump in my throat, makes it impossible for me to swallow.  I will forgive you for being late for the rest of your life, if you’ll just burst through that door!

Turning away from my daughter and Kit at the table, I put the milk back in the refrigerator and stare blankly inside it. Wanting nothing but answers, wanting her to come back home.

Wanting. . .my cell phone rings jarring me back. “The police,” I mouth to Kit. “They’ve found Bette’s car.” Then, I hear strange, unsettling news. It’s been wrecked and set on fire in East L A.

Kit’s face falls at the news, but her eyes stays glued to me for anything more. Writing the address of a crime riddled part of LA I push the paper over for her to read. “No signs of her – anywhere.” I’d written below the scribbled location.

The officer drones on about police procedure, and crime scene teams examining the car for evidence – once the flames have died down.

Hearing that grim description, I hand the phone to Kit, who’s now a permanent fixture at my kitchen table, worrying about Bette just as much as I am.   “Kit, listen to the rest of it.”  I pick up my keys and head for the door.  “I’ve got to go look for her.”

Two hours later –

This is the third Emergency Room I’ve searched, and still no sign. I’m exhausted and edging toward desperation.

Helena calls. “We’ve finished the Doc in the Boxes over this way.  Any news on your end?”

“I’m waiting on the detectives possibly sharing street camera footage with me.  Any news from them, takes incredibly long!”

“I have zero cred with the police to speed things up.” Helena confesses.

“Kit’s got some people she knows on the force. She’s been reaching out to them. No word, yet.”

“Alice wants to talk to you.”

Sneaking one more look behind another ER patient’s curtain, in a part of the hospital I’m certain I’m not supposed to be in – my heart starts its sinking feeling again.  I’m completely out of ideas.

Alice comes on the call. “What happened to her yesterday that made her so upset? The thing you guys wouldn’t talk about at dinner?” Alice demands.

“Nothing to do with this.”  My voice rises in a frantic pitch, and flies out of control. “Alice, where is she?” I plead.

“Tina?” Alice hears my hysteria.

“I just want to know where she is, Alice.” I begin to cry. “I just really, really need to find her.”

“I know you do.  Let’s keep looking. None of us can sleep. Where should we search next?  Tell us, and we’ll go.”

Rushing out of the doors of the hospital – gulping for air – I pace in front of the idling ambulances. “But she’s not shown up anywhere for help, Alice!  She’s just gone.”

_________________________

If you enjoyed this story, please give me a little tip here at paypal.me/blackbirdwrites.  For $3.00 you’ll be buying me a cup of coffee, $7 is a cold drink I’ll enjoy and $10 and up is dinner.  A comment back from you I’d love, too.

This order of the stories in the unfolding mystery are  #22 “Whereabouts Unknown” http://bit.ly/WhereaboutsUnknown  then to #23 “Hotel California” Hotel California  and #24 “Ensnared by Guilt” Ensnared by Guilt

 

Blackbird


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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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Low Hanging Fruit – Bette Porter Tina Kennard L Word

Bette_thoughtful Looking down

Tina’s Apartment – Alice

I pretty much told Bette and Tina both – a few days after we returned from Canada and Shane’s botched wedding, Bette’s botched kidnapping, and Helena’s frozen bank accounts – that I was waving my “friend’s with both of them” white flag, and to please stop shouting around me. My parents yelled for years and years, and Bette and Tina are starting to resemble them. And those aren’t good memories for me.

When I had unfortunately run into them at The Planet during a baby exchanging exercise fraught with unnecessary tension I had raised my voice at them. “What do you guys do? Stew overnight? Make up more shit to yell at each other about the next morning?

“Think about it! Why do you show up here every day for coffee if you fucking hate each other so much? Just a thought, but really: Get a clue.”

In character Bette had stormed off. Tina had done this new ‘I just give up’ move of hers. Something she must have picked up out in the suburban wilds. She had tossed both her hands up only to smack them down on top of her thighs. And then, The Look, as if I were not already convinced she was clueless.

Man, they are getting on my nerves. Long ago I had guessed their numbers, and I’m about there – at the end of my dirt road of patience with them both.

Bette and I used to date for about five minutes – she thinks, but for me I was smitten, and trying not to show it because clearly she wasn’t with me. We had fun. We went out to a lot of great parties. She was and still is a great dinner companion because she isn’t fussy about food.

Dating someone who’s picky about their dinners, and turns their nose up and orders everything, “on the side” can be it’s own horrible limo ride and entourage to hell and back. And in an overindulged, pamper queen town like this – my money is on waiters being huge abusers of Xanax – an educated guess – but in a number of unexpected ways Bette can be uncomplicated.

One example: When our waiter would materialize Bette would ask about the chef’s special, and unless it was Brussels Sprouts or some indecipherable puree – she would order it without ever looking at the menu. On those evenings she gave me a feeling that there were so many more interesting things to do with her time at the table with me than, and I quote, “Try to interpret the silly ways nouveau cuisine was attempting to explain itself this week.”

And sex with her was – I’m going to have to come back to that because I’m actually blushing standing in Tina’s kitchen thinking about a certain night with her ex-lover before they ever knew each other.

TinaTakesEarring

And I introduced them! Well, sort of. I think what I did more than anything was cause my own bit of mischief at the dinner party. Then Tina had looked down the table at us. I remember Bette throwing back her head to laugh at something clever I’d said, and then when the joke was over she’d glanced down the table to see how her guests were fairing. That was the moment their eyes had locked and something interesting and not invisible between them had happened.

In my mind their game is long from over. They love each other too much, and now they hate each other too much, and while I’m thinking about it two days ago they had given me a fucking headache by 9 am. So, I had yelled at them, and since then they’ve been quieter around me.

But at the moment Tina is definitely stuck on stupid again. She slams her kitchen cabinets after hanging up the phone with Bette. I gather today’s meltdown is already beginning. What restraint! It’s ten fifteen. They waited an hour.

“So, I guess she told you about her big event tonight with Arnold, The Governator, he’s coming down here to give her some big arty award.” I say to mollify Tina that Bette does have other things to do today than make her life a living hell.

“No, but that must be why she wanted to switch Angelica’s night with me.” Tina fusses with the tea bags and cups. “What award?”

“So, you haven’t seen today’s LA Times?”

“Just tell me, Alice. I’ve been up for hours, but not pouring over the newspaper. I can’t sleep well all of a sudden. Angelica didn’t want to go to daycare. She wanted to go riding in the car with Mama B.” Tina blows her hair back from her face. “So, no. I’ve not read today’s Art Section.”

“Well, she’s on the front page actually, so it’s impressive. Nice picture of Bette, naturally. Some big idea and program she’d convinced Phyllis and the Board of Governors to fund, and it just so happens to be a pet project of Governor Schwarzenegger’s. So, it’s a big deal for her, and there’s a cocktail reception tonight. Then, the article says Bette’s having dinner with the Governor.”

“Hm.” Is all I hear Tina say in return. Phyllis has filled me in completely on anything I want to know about the workings of her university.

“Hey, while you make the tea I’m just going to slip in your lavatory for a sec, okay?”

“Of course, Alice, I’m just furious right now with her, and I know you don’t want to hear about it.”

“Well, maybe for a second, but I’ve got something in my contact lens.”

Inside the bathroom I dig around in my purse. If I found last week’s turkey and avocado sandwich I would not be surprised it’s such a wreck inside my handbag. I’ve got a stack of letters to send to Dana’s parents that have come unclasped. Now they’re everywhere like leaves in my way to finding my contacts and eye solution.

Fuck it! I dump everything on the floor. My eye solution rolls away from the pile. NO! It’s empty!

Maybe Tina has saline. I open her medicine cabinet. No eye drops but a fresh prescription bottle of… I squint my right eye to focus my left, Doxycycline. The label reads: Take three a day with meals for treatment of vaginal infection. Dr. Judith Wilson, MD/OBGYN.

Oh my God! Tina has Chlamydia! I’d bet anything! This is exactly the antibiotic Dr. Wilson gave me while I was being a dumbass bisexual last year. No fucking wonder Tina’s being crankier than usual! Those Chlamydia bugs can hurt, and make you moody and crazy.

Or should I say, moodier and crazier? “Yuck and ewww.” I slam the door to the medicine cabinet shut. “Henry, you asshole.”

If I tell Shane my morsel of gossip she’ll likely say, “Well, what’d you expect? The guy’s had like fourteen wives or something you told me? Right?” Then she’d wildly rub her face.

Shane is particularly dismissive about anything that has to do with that weekend. In fact, we are all geographically challenged now that neither country to the north, Canada or south of us, Mexico, where Carmen was from can be mentioned without her face showing symptoms of what I hope is not really Tourette’s Syndrome. But I’m seriously starting to worry.

But what if I were to tell, Bette. Now, that’s someone who would find this information very interesting and infuriating. Hmm, well, maybe I won’t tell her then because when her switch has gotten flipped on lately about Henry and Tina, well, volcanic about covers it.

Who can blame her though? But they’re both being stupid bitches and that’s all there is to it.


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Sleeping Rough – Bette Porter L Word

BetteSternLarge file

Sleeping Rough – Bette Porter L Word

Somewhere near the border of the United States and Canada –

I’m not usually impetuous. I can see its value. I have watched its serendipity. I’m a bit more of a plotter. It’s what makes me a good art critic, because I can see starting points and artist’s inspiration. I can tune in and feel the artist’s overall strategy for the creation in front of me. Where they began and where they hoped to end up, and between there and where is the place the magic in art can happen.

Only with artists and intellectuals I know very well do I ever admit after rivers of wine and hours of heady debate that when the artist and the mind, and the brush and the color come together, Art can only be described sometimes as Magic.

Not God, or human skillful execution. Not dumb luck – although that does happen – but magic, and that word spoken leaves a room almost quiet for a moment because every artist there has felt ‘It’. And as artists we don’t really know what IT is so, the smartest ones of us just shut the fuck up, until the moment passes. A silent acknowledgement to – The Mystery.

But tonight I have been impetuous, and my rashness has drawn me far away from the hotel, and far down this dark road. My headlights pan across the tree trunks in the old forest as the rural country road winds south. I slide the rental car’s window down a crack.

Fresh air hits my face.

The wind is icy.

Behind me Angelica is strapped in her baby seat. She makes a sputtering baby cry. “Mama B and Angie had to take a little ride, sweetheart,” I console her, as if my not having the faintest clue helps either of us at all.

walMart interior Sleeping Rough

WalMart – North Washington State – Bette

Holy Mother of God! What the fuck is this place? It’s a hideously fluorescent main street with a drug store, an Optometrist’s eye wear shop, a bank, a McDonalds, and then we eventually get to the store’s interior.
Major Retailers Begin Black Friday Sales Thanksgiving Night

Is this one of the places people lose their minds to get into on Black Fridays after Thanksgiving? I bet it is. But why?

I roll my cart with Angelica held in my arms past rows and aisles of things I cannot imagine ever wanting to possess. until I finally arrive at the WalMart Baby Section. Gods of Retail! Make me a better Mother! My eyes seize upon sippy cups, and a very sweet little blanket with blue sheep leaping over tiny rainbows. Hmm, WalMart is not so bad.