The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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Secrets I Keep – #TheLWord – (19) Touch Tones

Tina_Phone_ArmLifted_MovietrailersStudio City — Tina

Being neurotic in broad daylight takes energy and resolve and a certain focus to keep moving in order to hide it. Falling into a heap – which I’m teetering on doing now, and continually reminding myself to breathe to keep from freaking – means I’m done, means I never was worthy, means I never got my turn to go for The Brass Ring. Means I never make it to the top of . . .

Hollywood sign - clouds

Hollywood.

I pray that’s not me. A washed out one-race-streaker, who’s let horse’s asses – like Jenny, Aaron, and William – fuck me at the starting gate.

I bite my lip, a facial tic I know I have that betrays my lack of confidence. I need more days to maneuver before Aaron gets his knees broken – one by one – by a giant scary man, The Enforcer for The Bookie, who I hear is coming by on Friday.

On my end of grabbing onto Aaron’s woes, I’d like to catch my Studio Chief sneaking money for himself out of the free-flowing catering accounts, or from transpo, or locations. All places I’ve flagged and know to watch . . . but I want someone to ride shotgun with me. A partner to test my strategies, and run my five-steps-ahead-of-the-game theories by.

I need someone borderline crazy, and evilly smart. I need Bette, but I know she’ll never agree.

Helena_HairBackHeadTilt

It might be Helena.

Recently out of Federal custody, and away from exotic fruit plantations, and Dusty, her jailhouse lover — Helena’s very possibly a wise casting choice for my Hollywood Mobster drama.

My mind dials three lovers back, and Helena’s fuck-out-of-doors, in the most barely hidden, and unusual kinds of places, returns to me in a body memory, I blush at remembering.

Leaving Peggy’s hotel suite in San Francisco one night, instead of the spacious rooftop garden – where I thought we were headed – Helena took me to the edges of the bay, then into a park where a labyrinth was glowing threaded through the trees.

labyrinth - Secrets story

In the maze under the cliffs, at first I’d thought I’d be chilled by the breezes coming off the water. The lights surrounding us had flickered and seemed to swim out in all directions.  My dress had disappeared over my head, and my eyes had closed to the possibilities of hidden onlookers, and I’d given myself over to the rolling spasms of my rawest desires.

Those were the months I’d seen Bette as the most perplexed. Her hating me, but fighting for me anyway, had sent Helena into overdrive, and anything I could dream up – even things I didn’t want – were mine, regardless of the hour.

Maybe Bette and I had gotten what we came for, out of the bloodsport of trying to conquer each other willfully, and as painful as it was, living alone now I had sometimes wondered, if the consuming chaos of Helena, and my elliptical trip to another land with Henry, weren’t spotlights on how my loneliness had replaced our intimacy?  How dinnertime had become TV, how bestsellers by my bedside had replaced sex, and that I’d had about all that I could take, when I’d seen the cracks first appearing between her and Jodi.

First, I’d glossed over any offhanded mentions or any gripes that things weren’t going well between them. Next, I’d gathered intel, and Alice had plotted Jodi’s relationships on The Chart, so we could see the names of her exes fanned out around her own.  Those we’d interviewed for clues.

After a few emails, Alice had compiled our notes, and a picture had emerged, along with a timetable that I knew I could exploit.  Jodi’s, set your clock to it wanderlust – always about six months in – had been confirmed by the many women she’d left behind.  By my calculations, the suggestion to keep their relationship open would be ‘Coming Soon’ to a volcano near me, and I’d laughed out loud all the way home — just thinking about it.

Bette Power suit unhappy NEW image

To have been a fly on Bette’s wall, as Jodi’s sign language and hand gestures had insinuated . . . that her necessary infidelities were coming soon . . . and to have seen Bette’s face, as it had dawned on her that Jodi – the also Alpha-lover – by way of signing with her fingers and otherwise,  intended to fuck someone else . . . to this day, I’m still sorry that I missed.

Yet, I’d worried anyway that maybe they did have great chemistry in bed, or that unbeknownst to me Bette had somehow changed, and possessiveness wasn’t her ‘go to’ leach any longer for control. Maybe, they’d get into threesomes to liven things up, and that image had unnerved me.

They were an interesting couple to be sure. They could’ve certainly pulled it off, and drawn in lots of takers for the sex, and the nude skinny dipping in what I’d still thought of – as my and Angelica’s swimming pool.  Their ménage à trois could’ve gone on for years, with Bette having the time of her life, with her tongue that I had wanted back with me.

Nighttime sky spiral

In my own fog of possessiveness, I’d returned to doubting how the many women, coming and going and coming again – but mostly her sharing them all with Jodi – was really possible in the closed universe of her being The Star, and the only one who could ring her lovers far out past the farthest moons of Saturn, before bringing them shivering back to Earth again.

When my haze had lifted, I was able to see this scenario as never working, and I’d consoled myself that she’d never endanger her sexual prowess, but I’d gone to the Gypsy’s house in Hancock Park, and I’d left there with a Love Charm — just to be sure.

It’s not that I wanted Bette returned to me twisted off and wracked with pain and confusion, but that she would be miserable was step four, and step five would be her home with me.  My plotting – alongside her swings from certain to uncertain behavior – had made me trust in my readings with the Gypsy more and more.

Gypsy's Love Charm Spell

When the spell had been cast, and a piece of silk had been wound around the magical ingredients and tightened, to draw in the magnetism I’d been assured still existed, but was yet to come; I’d secreted the Love Charm behind a zipper in her luggage packed for Big Bear, and had waved so-long with utter confidence, as she drove away.

Since then, I’ve wondered more than a few times, if I should tell her about the Gypsy. Let her know – in words – that I’d wanted her back, just as much as she did in the end? Or if I should let it be, and let it go, and let us roll on with my secret kept for a little while longer?

As I walk myself back through my treacherous steps, and how I’d waited for the right combinations of things to appear in my love life, I’m convinced I have the same cunningness for the movie business. My takeover of Shaolin feels imminent, and I need Joyce for a new contract, and me, and everybody else? Needs to have a little faith.

I stop by the studio canteen for an iced latte, and taking a deep breath I call James. When seven had been inked into Bette’s calendar, Joyce’s battle-hardened gatekeeper, Jean, was my next call.

“Joyce Wischnia’s office, Jean Rawlins speaking.”

“Ms. Rawlins, Tina Kennard calling. It’s last minute I know, but is Joyce free for dinner tonight?”

“Oh, let’s see Tina. She doesn’t tell me everything.” I hear Jean tapping keys, and I have a hard time believing she’s in the dark – for even one minute – when it comes to Joyce’s billable time. “What did you have in mind?”

“Joyce loves which red wine again?”

“Oof! Tina that stuff’s hard to find, and very expensive,” Jean emphasizes.

“Consider me warned. What’s her favorite though?”

“They’re two of them actually. From consecutive years, 1968 and 69.”

Joyce's favorite wine

“Any clue who carries it?”

“At two hundred and fifty dollars a bottle? The Wine Shoppe on Beverly.”

“I’m on it. I have an account there. Can you get her to my house by seven?”

“Yours and Bette’s place, right?”

“God, yes! I’m back home!” I realize I’m shouting. ”Can she come? At seven?”

Jean’s voice sounds amused. “She’s nodding her head, yes, Tina.  So, looks like she’ll see you then.”

Joyce garden - dinner party

Bette and Tina’s House – 7:15 pm – Tina

The closer to three hundred dollar bottle of wine is breathing, Bette is late, and Joyce and I are touring the garden with Angelica. ”Did you know I have a house in Santa Fe?” Joyce asks.

”Did I? No.”

”I was there last month, and I gotta ask you . . . what was Bette’s mother like?  I can’t imagine.”

”Lovely, really. A very talented, interesting woman with, as you know, a very unusual story.”

”No signs of shadowy gangsters disguised as Indians?” Joyce smiles down at Angelica who spins streams of bubbles out of a wand.

Soap bubble - Secrets story

Then one lands inches from me, and I stare into it amazed and whisper, ”Bette’s mother’s an older lady painting in the desert, and friendly with the Native Americans. She fits in.”

”A perfect camouflage!” Joyce booms, which makes Angelica rush up to her, and the bubble bursts.

”Alligator!”

”I don’t know about that.” Joyce laughs. ”Can’t you think of something scarier?”

”Alley-ga-tor! Alley gator took a bite out of Mommy.” Angelica pats her stomach three times.

Inside the house Bette throws open the front door, and Joyce looks at me puzzled. ”That sounds impossible,” Joyce muses, “even for her.”

I wave away my daughter’s indiscretions. ”Should we try the wine?”

”I’m home! God! I’m so sorry I’m late!” Bette calls from somewhere inside.

”Let’s go in.” I motion Joyce toward the French doors that lead into the kitchen.

”The wine’s not the only reason I came tonight.” Joyce lifts up her goblet for a sip.  ”But this is very nice of you. I’m curious what’s up? Wasn’t that her coming in?”

”Actually, I need to talk to you both about . . .”

Bette_Tina CU Atlanta Kiss

From around the corner, Bette zooms into the kitchen with a vase full of flowers for me, and placing them on the counter, after a warm hello to Joyce, she sweeps me into a kiss.

”How are you?! I had the most incredible day! I got a Building Fund check for so much money! ”  Then, she lets me loose, and over her shoulder calls, ”Hang on, there’s more, but wait!  There’s a crate of cantaloupes in the car.”

”Why a crate?” My voice sails out after her.

Leaning against my kitchen counter, with a look of amusement on her face, Joyce asks, ”What’s for dinner? I don’t smell anything cooking.”

Bette kicks back open the front door, and sure enough, she’s hauling in a crate of cantaloupes. ”Joyce, please take some home.” Then to me, ”Baby, I’m thirsty, and I’m starved. What’s for dinner?”

Joyce pours her a glass of wine, and then winks toward the label. ”Take it slow, not your speed I know, but try to savor it.”

Bette blows back a lock of hair from her face, then locks her eyes onto Joyce. ”You do not need to lecture me about how to drink wine.”

”We’re ordering in from Puccini’s. I hope that’s alright.” I fetch the menus from the drawer.

”Puccini’s?”  Joyce opens the refrigerator, and sticks her head inside. ”Do you mind if I see what you’ve got in here? I’m a great cook.”

”Actually, so am I.” Bette opens the door wider, and standing side by side, I can sense between them a developing competition. Joyce tosses a package of uncooked pasta onto the counter, while Bette unloads produce from the drawer.

”What are you thinking Porter?”

”Hmm.” Bette takes a sip of wine. ”I challenge you to a linguine. You can make any kind you want, but mine is clams. What’s yours?”

”I’ll run get whatever you guys want,” I offer.

”You’re on, and you’re going down.” Joyce rolls up her sleeves. ”Tina, one second before you go.  I’ve got a few things for your list.”

________

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My Favorite Topping — #14 — Touch Tones S07 The L Word

Bette_Tina_in Bed_talking Story picture

Bette and Tina’s Dallas Hotel Room – Bette

It’s an unusual feeling: Being belly stabbed.

A crowd of people had gathered after Tina’s sister, Janet, had shoved Alice’s steak knife into me.  And a dozen had stayed, after the glass of whiskey Tina had given me was nearly gone and Miss Laredo had sterilized a needle from the bar’s First Aid kit and had begun to stitch me up.

Ouroborous

While Tina rubs against me, hidden underneath my bandage, an ancient feeling of pain between us begins to bleed.

bloody knife

A strange thought begins to circle and won’t go away.  Had that knife always been headed straight for me?

Tina breaks our kiss, and reaches for the phone. “I’m ordering room service, Babe. Do you want anything?”

“We have a mini bar,” I offer offhandedly, while taking a quick peek down at my bandage that’s become a Rorschach test pattern.

rorschach test pattern Red

“But will I find a banana split in there?”

“Finding one would be unusual.” Then, I wake up to what’s going on next to me.  “Wait! Tina, are you pregnant?”

Deep into negotiations about cherries, she shoots me a disbelieving look. “Do we want extra whipped cream?” She raises one eyebrow at me. “The man on the other end of the phone wants to know.”

“Ah, ah…sure.”

“Yes, please. Room 1250, that’s right. Thank you.”

banana split

Hotel Room – Tina

Sorting out aggression is sometimes harder for me than I would like.  I was raised by people who were masterful at hiding it, especially on my father’s campaign trail, or after a blistering account of politicians, him included, had appeared in the statewide paper. We had smiled and sailed on, with the certain knowledge that something else would be tomorrow’s headlines.

Bette slips out of bed and goes for the mini bar.  “What does one drink with a banana split at nearly midnight?” She calls over her shoulder.

“How are you feeling?” I ask, as she rifles through the liquor inside.

Splashing two tiny bottles of cognac into her glass, she takes a long swallow. “This will help.”

“Let’s hope so, but your blood pattern, Bette,  have you noticed it?”

rorschach test pattern Red

Bette threads her fingers tightly through mine, and plays with my engagement ring,  “Do you have any idea, how badly I want to marry you?”

Then, her iPhone rings, and simultaneously Room Services knocks on our door.

“Damn, interruptions!” She snatches up her cell, before dashing into the bathroom to hide. “Alice, you better not be telling anyone about this.” Then, over the clattering of spoons and dishes, her muffled voice through the lavatory door, “Mother?”

“Coast is clear,” I call out to her after the room service waiter leaves, and I spoon chocolate ice cream her way.

She stretches out her long naked body at the foot of our bed. “Oh, so Tina texted you?” Bette frowns at me. “And sent you a picture?”

She holds her hand over the phone. “What is it with you and everybody else about sharing pictures of me everywhere!” She glares at me. “When do you all have the time?”

Back to her mother — “In the picture? That was Miss Laredo. Lucky, right?” Bette frowns again. “I meant, Mother that she was a nurse.”

As she takes the phone away from her ear, I can hear Mary still talking. “Mother wants to talk to you.”

I take the phone. “Right. Dallas. Did you get our thank you note about how much we enjoyed our weekend?”

Bette commandeers my banana split and begins to make it her own. But, trapped now, I continue listening to her mother. “It all happened really fast, Mary, none of us saw the knife coming. No, she’ll be all right, it’s not that deep.”

“You shouldn’t have texted her,” Bette whispers to me. “Are you out of your mind?”

“Pain? I’d think quite a bit.” I lean over, and Bette puts a spoonful of ice cream in my mouth. “Yes, if she’s there, I would like to talk to Mary Windhorse.”

“You feel better now?” The old Indian woman asks me. “Spilling blood, while not recommended for city people, is usually the end of it.”

“It was Bette’s, not mine, I guess you’ve heard.”

“Heard all about it from her mother. Doesn’t matter.”  Windhorse pauses for a moment, then continues, “If you don’t believe me, look around you for a sign, but I’d say it’s done now, and it’s over.”

Bette’s mother chimes in. The feistiness of her voice – undeniable. “And you should thank, my daughter for that! Put her back on the phone with me, will you, Tina?”

“Bette, give me my damn banana split back right now, and finish talking to your mother.”  I exchange the dessert bowl for the phone.

Lying back across the foot of the bed, her blood stained bandage upside down now, it very much resembles a face.

Reversed red rorschach test pattern Red copy

I stare into it as she listens intently to her mother.  “Yes, I promise. Sure. Yes, if you need me to, I can fly into New Orleans and meet you.”

Ending the call, she tosses her phone aside. “Looks, like I have to leave tomorrow. Mother has a favor she needs me to do down there.”

“Tomorrow?”

“Which I can’t deal with yet!” She collapses back on the bed. “This has been the longest fucking day of my life!”

“What’s it about?”

“The trip? No idea. Something about a swamp, an old lady with a broken arm, and a place called, Barataria Bay, near Lafitte.”

“Lafitte was a famous pirate.”

“And, as usual, you know much more than I do.” She leans in for a kiss, her voice becoming much softer. “Now, what did you have mind for all this leftover whipped cream?” She dips her fingers into the bowl.  “I had some thoughts about it, T. Lie very still. I want to do this perfectly.”

side angle whipped cream

Just breath between us now. And her, as she coats my nipples with cream, before back between my legs, and a long inhale of me.

A revving race car driver look, that burns down my whole body. ”Baby,” she whispers, ”you did this to yourself.”  Her tongue makes a clean stripe through the foam, and slides melting cream all around my clitoris.

“That feels…” I drift – completely captured.

Tina Bette Lovemaking

“God! I don’t know how you do that.” Then, truly – I can’t make any more words, only sounds she can decipher.

Hotel Room – Bette

I’d like to do this on my honeymoon. Licking Tina for hours dislocates my brain, and my tongue takes over. There’s a sparking at the tip of it  – so, now I slide over there.

My captive begins to beg me. “Babe, fuck me. Fuck me now, and don’t stop.”

“Not yet.” I play for awhile longer, licking cream in and out of her, when her hands grab into my hair at the back of my neck.

Bette_Tina Both Tongues

“You want something?” I lie down on top of her. “I’m not going to let you go just yet. Not even if you beg me.”

“What happened to you scared me.”

I push slowly back inside her.

“There. Right there.”  Tina rocks with me, “You always know exactly where.”

___________________

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Next story finds Bette in New Orleans on an adventure with her Mother.

Stay tuned, and drop a comment if you’d like.

 


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Countdown – #13

Exterior – The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Tina

With my cellphone pressed up to my ear, I move my lips silently along with Kit’s, as she reads Angelica her favorite bedtime story. Putting the book away Kit asks, “How’re you and my Baby Sis getting along in Texas?”

I struggle to find the answer.

How can I describe my evening with a drug-addled bigot, and not press every one of Kit’s 12 Step buttons? Sue Ellen, and this glimpse into Shane’s past, has convinced me all over again that even though Bette’s mother wasn’t there for much of her childhood, my mother was in the beginning, mostly there for me, and we must do better for our daughter. We have to.

wolf_onRidge

When we lived in the old house with the high cliffs behind it, I remember her reading, “Wind in the Willows” to me at night. There was an orchard I played in to the east, a creek I explored to the south, and to the west a gentle curve of cliffs topped by very tall trees that threw shadows over the whole house at sunset.

There were wolves back there, too, and one in particular who watched over me, but by then, it was too late. My sister had already found me.

The front door of the bar swings open, and Bette waves to me. “Odd as it may be, our family pictures are a hit. The dial is way down on her.  I think it’s safe, you can come back inside.”

I hold the phone up to her ear, “Say goodnight to the baby.”

“Goodnight sweet baby, I miss you!”

Shane's baby picture

“Shane, if you can believe it, was once chubby!” Alice greets our return. “Sue Ellen is telling me baby Shane stories.

“I was just asking, if she remembered that old pink blanket of hers?” Sue Ellen leans into Shane, “I couldn’t pry it away from you. It’s like you thought it was your own mother.”

“See. Lots better,” Bette whispers sarcastically in my ear.

“I remember, Blankie.”

Then, Alice just can’t leave well enough alone. “Sue Ellen, where’d you grow up?”

And Bette says, “Fuck,” under her breath. “Memory Lane with Sue Ellen.”

Rabbit skinning Texas

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Bette

“Shane knows this. My coming up wasn’t easy.” Across the table, Sue Ellen shifts in her seat, hesitating whether to go on.

Then, with a deep inhale she begins, “My daddy was a circuit judge, any of you gals know what that is?”

But we all stay silent, should a wrong answer cause another outburst.

“Someone who covers a goodly piece of Texas territory, and decides whether or not to hang a man. That was my daddy,” Sue Ellen answers.

“A Hanging Judge?” Alice cries out. “You had a hanging judge for a father? Shane did you ever meet him?”

Shane shakes her head, as Sue Ellen laughs mostly to herself, “Oh, how he hated that name, too.”

Now, I find myself curious, “And did he actually hang people?”

“He sure did. Hung lots of people. Rustlers, murders, Mexicans…you name it.”

Behind her hand, Tina whispers to me, “Do not argue with her about capital punishment, Bette.  Just let it be.”

Then, our steaks arrive, and sure enough, Sue Ellen had given in and ordered a cup of the healing chicken noodle soup Alice had recommended.

Dipping in her spoon, Sue Ellen continues. “But it meant he was gone a lot. You ever hear of laudanum?”

Cutting into our bloody steaks, we all shake our heads. No.

“The housewives back in my day got hooked on it. Hell, I don’t even know if there was an FDA back then, but out west we still had those roaming Medicine Men, and Indian cures that would pull up in wagons. Amplify a valium a thousand times, but with dreams, and that’s opium. That’s laudanum.”

Sue Ellen licks her lips, I guess at the memory of the taste of it. “A cure for being lonely, and my mother was hooked on it.”

“What’d my grandfather do about it?” Shane asks.

“Nothing. Kept on hanging people, I guess.”

“Now, I’m starting to worry about you.” Alice eyes Shane, who’s sipping away on her beer, the night before she’s to give liver tissue samples to save her dying mother’s diseased one.

Shane gives Alice her best, ‘Get Lost’ look, and continues chewing all the way down a long french fry.

“Still, I hope you take my point.” Alice warns her.

Tina looks over at me, suddenly very serious. “I don’t need a Mother’s Little Helper to care for our baby, do you?”

I look into Tina’s eyes, “You don’t think everything’s fine?”

“No, everything’s fine.”

I lift up her hand and kiss the engagement ring I gave her, “Now, that you’re back, my life is perfect. Everything’s fine.”

“Everything’s perfect. Absolutely everything,” she agrees, but I watch Tina for a moment more, just to make sure.

Hang Man's Rope

“And we used to keep a cooking fire going all the time, even in the summer.” Sue Ellen starts up again with her memories, and then, with a brittle sadness, “And I had one dolly, and I had an older sister, who’d lost hers.”

At that last line, Tina’s complete concentration on her dinner breaks, and lowering my fork, I begin to hope, with all my heart, that the moral of Sue Ellen’s story is about sisterhood and sharing.

“She’s dead, now – mean as she was, just like a snake – fitting it were them’s that got her.” Sue Ellen holds a momentarily satisfied look. “Rattlers. Different times back then, I can assure you.”

“Sounds like it.” Alice nods, very convinced she’d never survive.

“Bette, our Santa Fe party?”

“Mother says there’s a powder they can ring around the whole barn that keeps them away.”

“Oh, Jesus.” Tina’s head sinks into her hands.

I motion to Tina’s half-eaten ribeye. “The sooner you eat it, the faster we can get out of here.”

“Angry, I suppose for me taking what little attention came from our mother, once the dickens got into my sister real bad, and she threw my Dolly into the fire.”

Sue Ellen lifts up her right leg, and pulls off her boot. “I was just a small child, with a mother way off in LaLa Land, not a soul to stop me from crawling into the fire after it.”

burning baby doll

At the sight of once melted toes, and a leg with a long goose leathered scar, Alice jumps up from the table crying, ”Holy fuck!”

Sue Ellen rocks her deformed leg back and forth on the seat next to me. ”Unlike you,” she stares at me, ”this is why I wear cowboy boots.”

“Jesus, Al, I’m sorry! She told it way too much like a ghost story tonight.”

Alice whimpers, “I think I peed a little on myself.”  Shane throws a look over her shoulder back at me, as she walks with Alice to the Ladies Room.

Sue Ellen smiles with a queer satisfaction, and slides her boot back on. “So, what’s your story?”

I think Tina may still be speechless, so I begin. “I only recently reunited with my mother. She spent most of my life in federal custody.”

”I know it’s hard on kids when their parents get locked up. Don’t think too much about it, Bette. I was in jail a few times, when Shane was little.”

CU Bette slySmile

“It was a long stretch,” I play along with her thinking my mother was in prison. “I only recently caught up with her again.”

Tina pokes at her baked potato. “Babe, I’ve been thinking some more about the rattlesnakes.” Then, her face freezes in shock.

“Look! At this nearly identical twin of yours we met in the Ladies Room!” Alice waves her arm by way of an elaborate introduction.

Shane notices Tina’s reactions, and begins tugging on Alice’s arm. “Ah, Alice…”

Dead. Without feeling, “Tina,” is all the sister says.

“Janet,” Tina says very cooly.

“Who’s this cause of such a stir?” Pipes in Sue Ellen.

Tina scoots her chair back from the table, and walks toward her sister, “Our father said you lived here.”

“How is the old man?”

“No idea. He calls occasionally – on holidays.”

“Says he’s the Mayor of Yuma, Arizona, unless he’s lying.”

“That was more your thing, Janet.” Tina steps even closer to her.

“Or your imagination.”  Janet doesn’t budge.

“So like you to twist things.” Tina spits back.

I point at Alice, “We should get the check. Go get the waitress, Alice.”

“And miss this?” Alice refuses to move.

“What are they going on about?” Sue Ellen wonders.

“I’ll do it.” Shane offers. “Come with me, Mom. Let’s get the bill.”

“Well, I don’t have any money.” Sue Ellen shouts, and stays put at the table.

“Nice company you keep,” Janet smirks.

Then, I step in and jab my finger in Janet’s face. “You know, what? Fuck you! You owe your sister, at-the-very-least, an apology.”

“Who’s this?” Janet looks me up and down degradingly. “I told her, it was you all along, and Mother should’ve punished you! Not me.”

Then, Tina slaps the shit out of Janet. Smack!

Followed by Janet’s strike back. Whack!

Now, we have the whole restaurant’s attention.

The reddish mark of Janet’s handprint appears on Tina’s face, and back again, I step between them. “Look, just apologize to her, and get the fuck out of here, or else.”

Sue Ellen claps her hands together. “Sounds like a dare, to me!”

“You! Keep your unclean hands off me.”  Janet swats my finger away, but I point it right back into her face.

“But I insist. I said apologize to Tina. Now, do it!”

Tina tries to move me aside. “Bette, I can handle this.”

“Well, your girlfriend, I guess is who this is? She ought to thank me.” Janet stabs her finger right under my nose. “You should thank me!”

Alice looks at Shane.  “I have no idea what’s going on. You?”

I supply them my answer, “This pretender is getting off her high holy horse, and apologizing. That’s what’s happening.”

Enraged Janet screams at me. “Okay! Here’s the Truth! She liked it! So, now you know! Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Alice disapproving

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Alice

And fast as you can say, “You just pissed off the wrong person.” Bette’s hands are around Janet’s neck, and she’s squeezing the fucking life out of her.

“You crazy, miserable piece of human shit!” Bette hisses, as she clutches Janet by the throat.

“Bette! Stop it!” Tina shouts, “I’ll beat up my own sister, if I want to.”

Bette shakes her head, “No!” as Janet flails and gurgles. “I’m not fucking letting her go, until she says she’s sorry.”

“Hey! You gals need to take this outside!” Miss Laredo calls from the bar. Then, to her friends, “Come on!”

Shane sends her mother a warning look. “Mom, don’t bet against my friends.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it! Hand over your billfold, sweetheart, I’m betting whatever you’ve got, on the tall one.”

And then, just as quick, Bette lets out an, “Ooof!”

bloody knife

And my steak knife is sticking out of Bette’s stomach!

“God!” Tina cries at her sister, “What’d you just do?”

Miss Laredo shouts that she’s a nurse, and Bette staggers backwards in pain. Tina’s hands close around hers to stop Bette from pulling out the knife. “Don’t! You’ll bleed to death!”

Bette goes for her steak knife on the table. “Goddammit! This shit just got serious.”

Then…

“Ugh. Wait a minute, Baby. This really hurts.” She drops down on one knee.

“Oh God, Bette!” Tina lunges at the table, and I have just enough time to grab my ribeye off my plate before Tina zings it into Janet’s forehead.

Conk!

“You’ve always been crazy. You’ve always been such a liar!” Tina screams as she throws platters and dishes and ketchup bottles at her sister. Everything’s flying through the air, when overhead I see a wine bottle in Janet’s hand heading straight down for Tina.

“Look out!” I shout, and Bette springs up, and grabs Janet’s arm, holding it in mid air.

Nose to nose, they strain against each other. With my steak knife sticking out of Bette’s guts, she forces Janet’s hand back and back, looking like any minute she’s going to snap the woman’s wrist, and Tina, finally seeing only salt and pepper shakers left to throw, kicks Janet’s in the back of the knee.

And down Janet goes.

A cheer erupts!

Sinking into a chair, Bette shoots the crowd a thumbs-up, and with a grimace looks down at the stream of blood leaking out of her abdomen.

“I’m starting to understand you gals a whole lot better.” Sue Ellen looks at us with true appreciation.

With Tina hovering, Miss Laredo cleans Bette’s wound with whiskey.

bottle of whiskey pouring

“Ouch! Ouch! Give me some of that to drink if you’re going to do that to me.”

“Where’d Janet go?” I ask Tina, but she seems to have forgotten her lifelong foe completely. She strokes Bette’s face, and whispers to her. But I can hear things people say a mile away.

“You’re coming out of this with a scar, Bette, on that hard stomach of yours, you’re so vain about.”

Torso Sheba story picture

Miss Laredo, with a sweet wink to Bette. “You’d be a tough one to cut through, Honey.”

Tina rolls her eyes, as she hands Bette a whiskey for her pain.

By now, a small crowd has gathered, and Miss Laredo offers her friends a peek at Bette’s enviable abs. “Meet Bette, Ladies, and her soon to be wife, Tina.”

Bette shoots Tina a sly smile. “Miss Laredo, can you stitch Tina’s name on me, like a tattoo?”

Tina threads her fingers through Bette’s. “You need to quit telling everybody what to do. When we’re alone, I’ll talk to you about this.”

“Guys, we’re going right to a hospital with my mother. Anybody thought of that?”

Miss Laredo calls out, “Okay, the wound’s lookin’ good, but stitching you back together is going to hurt. You up for this?”

Bette ignores Shane’s saner idea. “Are you really a nurse?”

“Yes.”

“Is there any chance you’re operating on me sober?”

“Not a chance.”

“Is your name really, Miss Laredo?”

“Yes.”

“Then, I say do it.”

And when the perfect look of pleasure and pain settles onto Bette’s face, I can’t help myself. I just have to take a picture.

Bette Tina Kiss New One

Two hours later –

Bette and Tina’s Dallas Hotel Room – Bette

Whatever there’s left to talk about, Tina has decided it’s going to happen tomorrow, because once we hit the door of our hotel room, down I go on the bed.  I can’t ask her if she’s glad she got to smack the shit out of her sister, or if she’s sorry the whole thing happened. I’ll never know the answer until whatever is happening between us plays itself out on this bed, and that’s fine with me.

I slip my tongue back and forth in her mouth, and she sucks on me, and rubs painfully on top of my bandage. I know she’s doing it on purpose – a lesson in here somewhere I’ll have to sort out later.

She moves my hand from her breast down between her legs. “Come inside me.” Is all I hear.

I roll her over, and begin to make love to her. Her legs wrap around me, and she rocks back against me, and blue shots of pain start to streak through my mind.

Down my back she digs into me with her fingernails, and I cover her mouth and her body with mine, and we blend like ocean waves, far out to sea, that don’t break, only rise and fall – over and over and over with each other.

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I lift her up to hold her against me, and taste only the whiskey and want of sex in her mouth.

She begins to shake. “I’m so close, right on the edge.” And her muscles close tight on my fingers, and trembling more, she begins to come.

Bette_Tina CU golden toned KISS

And for long, long moments, we’re falling over the edge of orgasm, and moaning, with our tongues sliding together, as a slick sweat breaks between our bodies, and…………we fall back into each other’s arms, the waves break slower and slower, and we breath together, and look again into each other’s eyes, and kiss softly.

Tina runs her fingers down my body, making little curves in my sweat between my breasts. “This is Texas, I do realize, but take a guess. Since we landed this morning, how many laws have you broken?

“Two, maybe?” I begin to laugh.

“Try ten.” She licks up my neck. “You’re very salty tonight.”

“You like it?”

“Hmm,” she settles against my chest, and plays her fingers around my long white bandage. “I like you.”

I rise up a little to look in her eyes. “I’d hold out as long as could, before I took a prison wife. I want you to know that.”

“And I want to believe you. I really do.” She licks me a few times inside my legs.

“Marry me, soon, won’t you? Why we do have to wait?” But her mouth on me is causing me to lose focus. “All the parties, can’t they come after we’re married?”

But no answer back is forthcoming, and soon, she’s taken all my concentration.

And then, I let myself go.

_________________

I hope you enjoyed the story!

Blackbird

//


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17 Reasons Why! Not – Bette Porter

silo_with_tree

Somewhere the fuck! – Upstate New York – Alice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus Christ! That’s scalding hot!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

windmill

Tilting at Windmills

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

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

 

Shane EXT CU

Outside Big Buddy’s Bait and Beer – Shane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette_stern_CU large

Route 28 – Bette

Twenty minutes later –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

silo_with_tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or not?

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

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

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

_______________

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

http://wp.me/p4AUvc-bJ

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

 

 


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Objects in Motion

Helena_HairBackHeadTilt

Lobby Bar – The Beverly Wilshire Hotel – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve always loved this hotel.”

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

“A French 75 for me, please.”

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

The waiter takes leave.

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

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

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

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

“With some negotiation?”

“Predictably, yes.  You?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fine, just very different.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes! I went a few weeks ago.”

lobby beverly wilshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette’s House – Midnight

Bette_Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane dives down underwater and swims towards the deep end.

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

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

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

“Take one for the team, you know.”

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

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

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

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

I frown at her.

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

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

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

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

“Maybe Mummy should fill you in.”

“Fill me in about what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette PowerSuit looking down

Shaolin Studio – Tina’s office – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I gave it to you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You go first.” Bette smiles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tina_SunglassesCameraLeft

Studio Lot – Bette

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

TEXT from Phyllis –

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

PK

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

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

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

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

“Concepts? Really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________

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

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


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The Thirteenth Floor – Bette Porter The L Word

 

Bette_TankTop,EyesClosed.Thinking

The Thirteenth Floor

 

Bette’s Bedroom

It takes logic to survive. I’m convinced of that. The world is far too complicated a place to make it solely on my tongue’s instincts, my good looks or my innate luck. The vital middle ground is reason, logic, valid conclusions reached by deduction or inductive arguments. That is now my proving ground because far to the right of me and off to the left I’m noticing truths unraveling when examined.

Take my life, for example. A perfect subject apparently for the mentally impaired freak of a fuck of a neighbor of mine, Jenny Schecter. I suppose if I were to drop LSD right this minute and read Jenny’s book chapters again perhaps I could freakishly associate with some part her fallacious depictions of me. Maybe while tripping my brains out I laugh at the misery and disquietude of the couple, Bev and Nina, and think it’s hilarious everyone knows it’s me and Tina that Jenny’s spoofing.

I look down at Jenny’s book in my lap. I sip red wine and think. I don’t need to remember every detail of Aristotle’s thirteen sophistical refutations to have my own very long list of logical proofs and critiques of Jenny’s tortured logic. What I read tonight is a lunatic’s mangled ravings. Jenny’s not mine. Or fucking Bev’s or Tina, who comes across completely unfuckable. Another proof that everything in this book is utter bullshit! Because believe me, Jenny. That is not the case and you’re an idiot if you think so.

I push Tina out of my mind but quickly she comes back. I should call her before I go next door and kill Jenny. But then it might appear Tina was my co-conspirator. I put the phone down and glare at Les Girls. I feel fucked and I never saw it coming.

Aristotle’s Thirteen. A number that makes me wary. Something about it has always felt fucking spooky to me. I can’t explain it anymore than I can explain what makes lightning bugs glow green, or why burnt marshmallows with chocolate washed down by beer or tequila is actually delicious. But thirteen, the number has always looked mean to me in elevators and with relief  I’ve always sailed past that floor. I’ve caught myself imagining how the rooms in there would feel cloying, the air too dangerous to even breath.

I shake my head. My whole life I’ve avoided the thirteenth floor of every building. Until now! I am so fucking mad the more I think about it! I see it in stark detail: Inside the interior of my Thirteenth Floor sits the insane, Jenny Schecter, a pen and paper in her hand.

Jenny Best White backgrdI throw off the covers and pace down the hallway in my pajamas. I glare at the house next door because like a fucking idiot I leave my curtains open. I snatch at the cords and down they go. Privacy. It’s a privilege and without it I’ll pay a price. One by one I lower all the curtains in my rooms and walk out to the garden by the pool. I hear a faint strain of music coming from Jenny’s house. It’s mostly dark over there. Likely no one’s home. But who am I kidding? Jenny the Bat could well be hanging from the rafters in her attic already back and roosting for the night. I should go over there. What fucking time is it anyway? Nine o’clock. Kit stays sober on the nights I let her keep Angelica. I call her quickly to make sure.

Back inside I put on my jogging pants and sweatshirt. I open my gym bag and take out my boxing gloves. I think about how to sneak up on Jenny as she comes home. I close the door behind me and begin to lace up and velcro at my wrists. I punch the air a few times to get a rhythm. Pow! Pow! Pow pow!

I run down the street to think. After this block I’ll circle back and do a recon of her side of the house. That’s easy I know just the spot in that neighbor’s driveway to get a peek. I run past a party that has spilled out onto a porch. The evening’s cool and beginning to take on a chill. I run up the next hill faster and faster. The chapter on our relationship tearing apart eats at my breath.  My side catches in pain. I break into a sweat. Bev’s version of why she slept with the plumber! So insulting, so unfathomable. I punch again and again at the air. My side spasms horribly. Good! I like it. Stab me again and again. Goddamnit! That hurts like hell. Pow! Pow! Pow pow!

“God!” I cry out in agony. I must slow my pace. I begin to pant and hold my side. “For the fucking record, Jenny after I knock you unconscious and while I consider how to fuck you up further I’ll tell you why I slept with Candace.”

I duck into the bushes that line our neighbor’s driveway. I slow my breath to control my movements and thoughts. I look through the fence gaps into Jenny’s windows. She’s stretched out on her bed painting her toe nails. There’s a plaintive jazz tune coming through her windows. I watch her apply a blue nail polish. So odd to me that people now paint themselves these unearthly and death like colors. Trust me. On the day they find me dead is the day my nails look blue.

I put my gloves against the top of the fence and get my footing on the boards to push against it. In a hoarse whisper as I climb, “First, you superficial dilettante as you wallow in faddish bad taste, try to imagine this: A night of darkness that won’t end.”

My feet hit the ground in her backyard. I creep below her windows. Any tiny rustles I make are covered by the baleful tunes that float by around me. I watch her from the shadows. Her dark hair stark against the white sheets, her creamy skin, pink and soft. No match. I unlace my boxing gloves with my teeth, biting at the laces, one by one.

“Imagine your lover inconsolable, Jenny. Not weeping and then drying her tears, but never stopping for hours. You don’t have the depth to feel what that was like. Our loss.” I feel my hatred spit out the words in an icy whisper. I throw one boxing glove to the ground by the bushes. I pull at the laces of my other glove with my teeth.

“I felt all of it from her. It beat against me all night long, Jenny,” I pull the final laces free. I spit out threads of cotton.

“I needed to feel her fists against me like that. Her cries in my ears! Can you understand that? No!” I throw my last glove onto the ground. It lies in the dust. Its laces completely undone.

“Then Tina stopped, Jenny. That’s what you should’ve written. Tina stopped and against my neck I felt her final ragged sigh for us. Not just her! But for us. And I prayed to a God I don’t believe really listens. But I begged and bartered with him anyway.”

I lift into the tree branches outside her bedroom window. I pull my hood over my head and settle into my camouflage in the dark. I need to think through how to hurt you, Jenny.

I hear Shane and her brother, Shay before I see them. In a moment they step onto the back porch about twenty feet from my tree perch. Shane unlocks the door and then comes back outside with a beer and a smoke. She seems to have worries these days. So unlike her.

Was it the right choice? Was it the right choice to never let you see my need to unravel -even for a moment? But for the love of God! How could I? I watched you submerge and float away from me, T.  It felt so done by then.

I look through the leaves over to my pool. It glows blue in the darkness. We love and we drown over there, I suppose. Looking back on it now, I would. I would do it all differently. I would change everything if I could. I have no fucking sense sometimes and it worries the fuck out of me. I should’ve taken my mask off and let you see my pain.

I drop down into the yard and Shane startles but laughs when she sees me. I pick up my boxing gloves and pat them to knock off the dirt.

“Out for a run. Decided to do some chin ups in your tree.”

“Sure, Man. Have at it.” Shane motions to me, “You want to come in? How about a beer?”

“No, I need some water, actually, and then a bath.” I tie the gloves’ laces so they fall over my shoulder. “But thanks. Yeah. I’ll see you soon, though.” I walk down the drive toward my gate. “Shane, do you keep a spare key outside for Shay? A good hiding place so he can come and go?”

“Yeah, his idea.” Shane shows me where inside a carved wooden horse head is the place she hides the spare key.

Bette’s House – 9:30 pm

As I walk into my bedroom I take long swallows from a cool glass of water. My phone alerts me to a text. Christ! How many since I went to run? Jesus! I scroll through them to catch their headlines. Some are stupid but mostly funny comments from East Coast friends encouraging me to hurry up and find a new girlfriend before the book takes off. Theory being: You can always explain how it’s all bullshit later.

I think of how that could even be possible? To be amusing, to answer all their questions, and then undress them and hope the conversations about Tina are over. I delete as I read. Nothing comes close to bringing me any real levity. Then the last three catch my eye. Phone numbers I don’t recognize. I click on the full messages. One after another I see interview requests for my comment on the upcoming movie feature of Les Girls. A book by Jenny Schecter and the movie produced by Shaolin Studios and Tina Kennard. Maybe Tina and I could do our interviews together, a reporter wonders?

Goddammit! I pick up my phone to call her. The book back in my lap. My anger returns in force. I snap the pages through the chapters of my destruction. My side catches again with a fiery spasm. If you’d listen I’d tell you what I should’ve said years ago. If he ever saw a tear on my face after my mother left, Tina…

My chin falls to my chest.  It took a monster like Faye Buckley to drag one out of me. And fuck yes! The rest was madness and it should have been your arms and your passion I turned to. But like my tears, I was never able to find it.

Goddammit! I press in her number. She answers.

“Tina, I’m reading Les Girls. Just tell me. What the fuck?” I demand.

“What the fuck, what exactly, Bette?”

“I guess your studio publicist is fielding all your interview requests so you haven’t seen them?”

“No, I’ve been away from my phone.”

“I see.” My eyes fly up to the ceiling. I control my tone. This is not her fault.

“Well, our identities are in the wind. I’m getting media requests for interviews.” I say with a calmness I don’t feel.

“Just say, No Comment, Bette and look I’m thinking about how to change the names and other things in the script. But we haven’t even signed her yet. This really is a false leak about me doing Jenny’s movie.” Tina says.

“But you might?” I press her.

“Yes, I fucking might, but I certainly don’t want to!” I hear Tina getting exasperated.

“God! How does she know some of this shit about us? Are there microphones in here?” I get up from the bed and begin to pace around the room.

“Gossip? I don’t know. Alice’s big mouth? Tanya’s maybe when she was around with Dana?”

“Did you even know she was writing a book? This is all out of the blue for me. I hate being blindsided.”

“I know you do. You hate it worse than anyone.” Tina says softly to me. I miss her so much sometimes.

“I want to kill her worse than Henry and in a different way. I’m thinking with my bare hands.”

Tina laughs at me, “Bette don’t go over there. Watch a movie or something. Put the book away for Christ sake!”

“Tina, before you hang up.”

“Yes. But I wasn’t hanging up.”

“Okay. Look, Tina, sometime okay let’s talk about all this – about what Jenny wrote.” I hear paper rustling over the phone on Tina’s end.

“I was looking at the watercolors you did of me and Angie about an hour ago. They’re so beautiful.”

I take my eyes down from the ceiling and try to catch the meaning and tone of her voice for replay later.

“Those were sweet times.” I say.

“You should paint again, Bette, you’re very good at it.”

“Maybe one day when you’re here with Angelica, swimming or something. I’ll see.”

“Okay. We’ll talk about Jenny’s book then.” Tina says.

I feel myself smile. “Thanks. Good. Okay, T, then goodnight.”

“Get some rest. Please tell Kit I love her for me.”

“I can’t even go there but I’ll tell her. Bye.”

TinaEXTclose up

Tina’s Apartment

I settle back in my bed with a cup of camomile tea.

“Those were sweet times.” She says over the phone.

I look at her paintings and put them away as we wind up our call and wish each other goodnight. All she wanted to do was stay home with me and the baby. It was a once in a lifetime experience. And Jesus! She put up with me when I was tired and so prone to flipping out. Those weren’t the sweet times she was thinking about though.

I laugh dourly at the thought. Bette’s like a lighthouse that can take a helluva beating. Maybe that’s why I wail against her so much sometimes. I admit I see her that way.

I do know how she looks at things. I know most of the quirky steps in the spiral stairs that lead up to her thoughts. But she still surprises me. The Bowie knife, her latest, that surprised me. I laugh and hope it wasn’t even close.

But she was brooding and moody I could tell on the phone tonight. She may have the imagination of a psychopath but it’s just a game with her, I think. No, it is. She has that very dark Scorpio moon an astrologer who came to one of our parties years ago told her about one night.

“Passionate in bed.” The reader had said and I had taken Bette’s hand and kissed her wrist knowingly, “Watchful and vigilant at night.” I remember my ears had perked up because I had felt this, too. “Secretive and dangerous.” And she had looked up at Bette as she had said it.

“They shouldn’t hear you coming!” Bette had looked at us for understanding.

Bette_Tina Looking Right by Pool

I remember we had walked away arm in arm out to the bar by the pool to join more of our guests. “I’ve always thought it would be fun to have my fortune told, you?” I had asked her.

“No, I think I’m okay, but you go ahead. An artist I know lives next to an old Romanian lady somewhere in Hancock Park. You should go.” She had kissed my forehead. “And have I told you enough how fabulous you look tonight?”

I had laughed at her, “Bette, I’m wearing a cotton blouse you bought me in India, it’s nice but…”

“It’s something else entirely I’m talking about.” And she had taken me in her arms and kissed me.

I turn off the light and hold one of my pillows close to my chest. You know, I never went that fortune teller. I wonder, what would that be like?

 

Entertaining you next is our next story:

23. The Pussy Club          http://wp.me/p4AUvc-4x 

Bette and Helena strike an interesting alliance and visit a strip club for a lap dance after Phyllis’ party and Helena’s disastrous catering fiasco. Amusing, how they play each other.

Drop a comment if you enjoyed the story.

 

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Tongue Tales – Bette Porter The L Word

GRT CU Bette

 

Tongue Tales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Seriously? Phyllis? No. I refuse.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She points to my lips and brushes against her own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette_sideways look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jodie makes a peculiar face and shrugs her shoulders.

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

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

Shane_Sweatshirt_talking.Alice_silohoutte

The Planet – 6:30 pm – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette_Planet Jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Have you read it?” Tina asks me.

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

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

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

 

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

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