The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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Whereabouts Unknown #22 Touch Tones

Bette Alarmed on Land Line Phone

Bette’s House – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tina Movie scripts

Shaolin Studio – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

“I take your point.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about it?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

Shane good portrait Green background

Soundstage – Shane

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

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

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

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

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

The beginning of a plan. I keep thinking.

Kit_listening

The Planet – Kit

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

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

“Not yet.  Have we met?”

Penny verticle black jacket

“Kit! You don’t remember me? Do you?”

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

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

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

“So, that was you!”

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

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

hands bound by rope

Somewhere the fuck –

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

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

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

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

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

penelope cruz Dr Perez

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Tina in conference room

Shaolin Conference Room – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyce her office

Joyce’s Office – Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

strange tattooed woman

Whereabouts Unknown – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

“No.  I just like hitting you.”

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

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

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

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

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

Tina verticle arguing Brazil

Bette and Tina’s House – Tina

Six hours later –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two hours later –

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

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

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

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

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

“Alice wants to talk to you.”

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

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

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

“Tina?” Alice hears my hysteria.

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

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

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

_________________________

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

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

 

Blackbird


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Shanghaied! –Touch Tones #11

Shane_reading paper serious look

The Planet – Shane

As I stare at the unknown number on the screen of my cell phone, Tina and Alice’s attention drifts back to discussing Molly Kroll’s unexpected appearance outside The Planet a few minutes ago, but more astonishingly, why she drove away with Bette.

The phone vibrates in my hand once more. It’s a Dallas area code, but my Mother never calls me this early.

First, a southern sounding woman’s voice, soft but direct asks, “May I speak with Shane McCutcheon?”

“I’m Shane.” I sip my expresso. Dammit, how quickly it grows cold.

“Ms. McCutcheon, I’m Dr. Matthews from St. Francis’ Hospital in Dallas. I’m calling about your mother. Is this a good time to talk?”

I wave my hands for Alice and Tina to look at me as I mouth the words, ‘hospital’ and ‘mother’, and we all wait as I hear the news: My mother, the on and then off again drug addict, needs a liver transplant, or she’ll die.

Alice breaks our frozen silence, “Wait a minute! Do they even know how dangerous that is?”

Tina comforts me, “It’s not dangerous for you, Shane. Painful to give the necessary tissue, sure. It’s surgery after all, but not dangerous per se.”

“Thank you, Meredith Grey,” Alice snaps. “but I was talking about for Shane’s mother. I mean, would you want Shane’s kidney?”

“Liver.” I correct.

For a second too long my best friends look doubtful. Quickly, Tina leans over and kisses my cheek. “Guys, I’ve got to get going. Shane, find me on set later if you want to talk.”

Stunned, I walk out of The Planet, and as I climb the hill back to my house my mind feels adrift and buzzy, when it should be clear and planning and my fingers tapping around online for a cheap plane ticket to Texas, but instead I listen the incessant humming in my head. A thousand bees circling again and again – a disturbed hive of thoughts.

Bette_PowerSuite.2king down

California University – Phyllis’ Office – Bette

After Molly Kroll’s unexpected ride to work with me, I had hoped to dash past James, and straight into my office, but Phyllis ‘Shanghaied’ me in the parking lot.  At this point, I’ve given up and settled in with her and Molly, and a morning tea tray for what I suspect will be an annoying conversion that will touch upon, “being a lesbian, being a mother”, and most dreaded of all: “What do I think about it?”

But instead, she wants to talk about the boots I’m wearing.

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

Suddenly, she grabs me by the tip of my slightly squared toe and fixes me with a stare of undeniable envy. “Bette, you both frustrate and fascinate me.” Followed by a long sigh I’m not sure I like the sound of coming from her.

Over the rim of my china cup, I stare back at Phyllis, and burn the holy crap out of my lip on the too hot tea. She pouts a little which is unnerving, and Molly, with lips of asbestos, takes a deep swallow, rolls her eyes, and stares up at the ceiling.

Like a pin prick into my forming blister, I suddenly spill out the whole story of my recent night in the moonlit canyons of New Mexico shooting off my mother’s Colt six-shooters at big fat rattlesnakes.

Phyllis - pink suit

For once in her life, Phyllis is speechless.

TinaSmilingPortriat

Beverly Hills Rooftop Pool & Bar – Late Afternoon – Tina

It was inevitable that sooner or later I was going to run into the director, Kate Arden, again. I’d had to fire her, after Jenny’s massive sucking up to William made it clear – an opinionated director like Kate was never going to work on Jenny’s story, Jenny’s story, Jenny’s story – I only wish.

Kate motions to me in that too cool way of hers. “So, how’s the picture coming?”

“We’re just starting principle. Any big news with you?” I breeze back at her.

“My big news? Hmm, I’m headed to Ireland in a few days to start a movie, but I think yours is probably more interesting.” Kate cocks her head, and stares at me from under her hipster cap.

“Mine?” I feel a dry patch starting at the back of my throat and creeping over my tongue. Industry people are horrible gossips, and William and Aaron have been slipping away everyday at lunchtime. I had guessed seeking more investors, but the way Kate says it unnerves me.

A pregnant pause, as she lights a cigarette. “I guess you could say, I was surprised when someone sent me a YouTube link of you and Bette and Gloria Steinem.”

“Oh, that.” I look around me for other possible ambushes.

Kate presses on, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were an actress.” A smoke ring exits her lips. “It was great theater, your surprise when she showed you the ring. And I mean that in best of possible ways.”

“Of course you do.” I lift it up for Kate, and we watch as it sparkles in the California sun.

CU Tina's ring

“Interesting, when you think about,” she rolls my ring finger between hers.”because two months ago you had a thing for me.”

Four Days Later –

flight attendants

Los Angeles to Dallas Flight – Alice

It didn’t take us long to make friends with the flight attendants, a Dallas based crew who were on their way home after flying God knows where all day long.  Frankly, I don’t know how they do it. Smile and smile and say the same things over and over, but drawl on they did, and I’ve never heard directions about seat beats and tray tables sound so sexy, but then again, I was in a rare mood.  It had felt good, very good, in fact, to send Tasha an email saying I was off to Dallas on business for a few days.  Really.  Screw her.

Shane, however, was not so brimming with cheer, and it was with some relief when I watched her across the aisle sprawl in her seat, take out her earphones, and close her eyes to the world.

Tina’s final words were, “Thank God, Nikki Stevens sprained her stupid ankle,” before she fell asleep on Bette’s shoulder, which made us look only slightly less like complete alcoholics, when we ordered a double vodka tonic for her, along with two for ourselves.

With our tray tables awash with cocktails and peanuts, and barely enough room for a game of gin rummy, I’m suddenly beginning to remember, Bette is very good at playing.

Competition.

I like to know it all. Bette likes to be absolutely right about everything, and Tina gets difficult when pushed too far, but today – with the control of our lives handed over for the next two and half hours to the pilot, and his lovely flight crew – we’ve given ourselves over to the inebriating effects of vodka, and matching wits at playing cards.

“I don’t know if I’d do it.” I blurt, and Bette flashes her eyes at me.

“What!?” I cry, causing Tina to stir.

“Dammit,” she hisses, “Are you looking at my cards, again, Alice?”

“Give my mother my kidney.” I set the record straight.

“Liver, Alice. Liver.” Bette corrects me as she snaps a card into her hand before laying down another fucking rummy. “Damn, I wish we were playing for money,” she smiles at me. “You shuffle, I can’t do it with her asleep on me like this.

“What’s up with her?” I nod toward Tina.

“Sleep deprived, I think.” Bette says as she cuts the cards.

“Newlyweds! Well, soon anyway.” I smile as I fan out my hand, and see that I have a fighting chance with this one. “Bette, drink up. The cart’s rolling back this way.”

“Not my fault,” Bette smirks in a rare form of sexual disclosure. “This time.”  Followed by a tender kiss on top of Tina’s head. “All week they’ve been shooting at night. Stupid movie. She’s exhausted.”

“It’s the redheaded flight attendant, again.” I lay down my discard. “I wouldn’t mind another round, you?”

“I’ll play you for it.”

“Okay,” I nod.

“Gin!” Bette announces, as she lifts up the Queen of Hearts I just discarded.

“God dammit! How do you keep doing that!”

“Skill. Sheer skill, Alice.” Bette pushes the cards at me to shuffle.

Tina’s hand drops into Bette’s lap, and begins to rub her thigh. “Babe, are you and Alice getting drunk?” Tina whispers into her neck.

“I think so. Is that okay with you?” Bette winks at me.

“I’m not driving.” Tina sighs.

“Okay, but right now we’re flying – so, we’re good.”

“Who’s winning?” Tina asks drowsily.

“As if you need to ask,” Bette drops a six of clubs on the table. “Eight to nothing. My favor.”

Eyeball sculpture Dallas hotel

Dallas, Texas – Outside the Hotel – Alice

Leave it to Bette to choose a hotel where a giant modern eye ball sculpture peers constantly into our windows. Awash with airplane vodka, I’m finding it particularly unnerving. That and the fact that Shane keeps visiting it, as she is doing now, and stroking the red vessels that crawl up its sides. But, we’ve got a silent, and as yet unbroken mantra going while we’re in Dallas. Let it Be. Let it Be. Let it Be.

So far, so good.

Tina pushes through the glass doors from the lobby. “We’re very close to St. Francis.” Tina says as the valet appears with our rental car, and she hands Shane the driving directions. “Are you sure you’re okay to drive?”

“Are you guys sure you want to come?” Shane looks at us one by one. “I can do this alone. They’re not sticking me with anything tonight. I’m just visiting her.”

“Unless you don’t want us to, I think we should all be there.” Bette says resolutely.

“I agree,” Tina adds, as Shane falls in line with us at the curb.

“Shotgun.” Bette calls as she opens the sedan’s back door for Tina.

Shane looks around the car before she turns into the early evening traffic. “Thanks, guys. I really mean it.”

“Dallas, Texas,” Tina muses from the back seat.  “Last time my father called me, an Easter or two ago, he said my sister lived here now.”

And I watch as Bette’s knuckles turn white as she grips the dashboard in front of her.

hospital logo Dallas

Outside the Hospital – Shane

I stare at the signage out front, “Presence? What the fuck does that even mean?”

“I wouldn’t think about it too much.” Bette offers, and then clears her throat, as Alice skips up beside me.

“When was the last time you saw your mother? I’ve known you for eight years and I don’t remember you ever going anywhere, except up to the vineyards in Ojai.”

“And that’s not far.” Tina adds.

“Today was the first time I’ve ever been in plane.”

“What?” We all shout at once from under the glowing Presence sign.

“Do you think the nuns who ran the foster homes I lived in had money for plane tickets? It was bus rides to the county fair, and only if the tickets were free.”

“Did you like flying?” Tina asks me.

“It was fast.”

Bette stands at the elevator in her cowboy boots as several couples walk past admiring them.

“Hey! We’re in Texas.” Alice spurts cheerfully as a family in ten gallon hats saunters past.

I press the button for the transplant floor, and as the elevator whooshes us upwards, I feel my liver, along with my stomach, staying somewhere two floors behind.

Shane's mother looking out windowThe Hospital Room – Bette

When Sue Ellen McCutcheon turns away from her wistful stare out the window, I feel a hammer of ache hit my chest when I think of all those missing years without my mother.  She opens her arms to her daughter, and for a moment our friend disappears as we watch tears stream down their cheeks. I begin to back out of the room, but Tina’s firm hand stops me. She whispers, “This is going to be okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Keep walking.” Tina nudges me again, but I still feel trapped in something like a dream, as she gently pushes me farther inside.

“Lord, I must look nearly one foot in the grave.” Sue Ellen brushes her hands over her face. “Thank God, I put on my lips to meet you all.”

We all beam our best smiles back at her, as Shane begins to introduce us,

Tina’s the first to take Mrs. McCutcheon’s thin frail hand, and finally, it’s my turn.

“Bette Porter, nice to meet you.” I feel the papery texture of her skin.

“Bette?” She looks at her daughter, “The swimming pool, right?”

Shane nods as she looks out the window, and wipes the tears away with the back of her hand.

“Yes. The swimming pool.”

“There’s not too many places to sit.” Sue Ellen apologizes.

Alice drops down on the end of the hospital bed. “So, what’d she say about me? I’m her best friend.”

______

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

The site doesn’t send you to this story following story when you click —–> Next Post. So, to read in order –

12. The New Mothers of Invention – Bette opens this story with a long windmill of thoughts and musings that was incredibly fun for me to write and imagine. Being in her head amuses me completely. Then, the story kicks off into a speedy sequence of events as Tina finds Bette in the hospital corridor and off they go into the humidity of a Dallas, Texas night.   http://wp.me/p4AUvc-lB8

P.S. To catch the thread of this four part series again you may want to read the very amusing story preceding this one, Alice Surmises found here: http://bit.ly/AliceAmuses

Writer’s love comments, please drop one if you’d like.

Enjoy, Blackbird

@Blackbirdwrite and on Facebook, L Word Behind the Scenes. Thanks to Jacky at LesFan.com who also hosts these stories there.

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#10 Alice Surmises – Touch Tones – The L Word S07

Bette Tina with Alice

The Planet – Monday morning – Alice

When I look up from the Alice in Lesbo Land blog post I’m struggling to finish before nine I notice how surprised I am to see Bette and Tina walking through the doorway of The Planet on their way in for breakfast. This scene, on the one hand so familiar, and before the unpredictability of their Big Wars years, had happened like clockwork every Monday morning – usually on the nose of 8 am – today feels unusual.

It’s sad but true how their break up and ensuing battles decimated my morning coffee routine, and our poker night “set your watch to it” rituals. And that their “divorce” tore into everything I’d mistakenly thought of as “always and forever”.  I had guilelessly trusted Bette and Tina with the things that were the most important. The fucking wishes I had had. The ones I didn’t even know lived in my dreams – that we could be in love with each other for our whole lives, wear great shoes, and look fabulous doing it.

Add to that it was happening in LA. My hometown! Where I grew up too nervous, and bad at sports, and until I learned how to bang on a guitar I was THE terribly weird looking nerd-girl with glasses. So, yeah I resent that I’m an untreated co-dependent mess, and that their dynamite blew away so many special things for me. Didn’t they think for a minute what the fuck they were doing? To any of us, and to all of us?

For Shane though it was the holidays that left her the saddest. Without all of us seated around a long table, and the predictability that something would always burn up and catch on fire in Bette’s kitchen during Christmas dinner were especially hard on her.

But remarkably, as if back from Lourdes, or in a more exact geographical match: Santa Fe, yet, here they are, as if DEFCON 2 had never happened, and striding in like Lesbian versions of Lazarus fresh out of relationship triage.

I have to admit it: I’m cautiously optimistic about their chances.

After all two words: New Mexico, and another two: Lez Girls, and throw in that it was a trip I still know zero about, but more to the point: There’s nothing like the ongoing production of a movie written by a nutcase, and veiled in its depiction of your regurgitated love life that a weekend away might lead to something meaty, but poisoned that they could stew over while hiking around some godforsaken canyon.

Yet, here they are, the quasi-starring couple,  seemingly unfazed by the movie’s menacing gestalt. Maybe Claire’s strategy, and the part I expertly played in it, really has run Jenny into the ditch for a while. When she crawls back out of it I hope she’ll give us all a fucking break and get her own fucking life.

But lingering are the threats Kit got while Bette was away. Another ramp up in the territorial disputes let loose by those trashy girls from the SheBar.

Jenny smooching camera

You know, if I could figure out how to sic Schecter onto Denbo, which would insure me a ringside seat, the ensuing blog posts and traffic on my website would take off! The Steinem/Porter/Kennard clip soared past a hundred thousand hits last week. I know I could get really top notch sponsors with millions of hits. All I need is for Jenny, The Serpent, to coil around Dawn, The Lezzie Mobster’s neck, and Alice in Lesbo Land will chronicle the drama and hilarity of them killing each other.

While lacking merit in the classical sense, I think it has interesting possibilities.

But truthfully, it’s odd how those pre-Bette and Tina nuclear war days feel like their own special era now. A time when things felt more predictable, back when we all knew Iraq was total bullshit, and that with certainly someone high up in Bush’s Cabinet would go off to jail. And yet, we were mistaken.

Back when there were happier times, and we knew that Dana would win all her tennis matches, but in the meantime between tournaments keep us wildly amused with her sexual confusion, and her notoriously impotent GayDar. And on those mornings, too, just like clockwork, we could count on it: Shane coming in close to death until a triple expresso shocked away most of the roughness from her nights before.

Hand to God! I don’t know how we all survived much less remained friends. Their ongoing hostilities, all our disappointments, Dana’s death, Shane and Carmen, everyone’s lies, and the plentiful fuck you’s we vehemently traded with each other – they all seem gone now, forgotten, or miraculously healed.

Maybe we’re all chiseled together in some – as yet to be discovered – magical rock formation that’s mysteriously fated us all cosmically together. Or is it Jenny’s movie, aka Tina’s movie, aka Bette’s nightmare and ulcer that will enshrine us, and make us all legendary?

I’m just like everybody else in Tinseltown. I’m somebody waiting to be famous.

But Lez Girls might be a hit! The story has all the earmarks, signs, and red light signals of an eruption waiting to happen. The movie could go straight up like a rocket or fall into the Bermuda Triangle – never to be seen or heard from again.

Set actors Lez Girls

But I’d like it to succeed, and I also wouldn’t mind a walk-on part. But mostly, I need to find a way to sneak onto Tina’s closed sets so I can make damn sure Elise, my character, isn’t bombing as Alice.

Kit Vertical standing at window smile

Back up front I see that Kit has joined Bette and Tina now, and is making a fuss over missing Angelica for the two days she was away with her parents in Santa Fe. Kit takes her hand and they walk slowly behind the counter back to Kit’s office for a visit. Bette orders her and Tina’s breakfast – the likes of which she knows by heart – and Tina’s attention is taken up by a couple who have approached. Lawyers, I guess by their dark tailored suits.

Bette’s amperage begins, and I feel it as far away as my table. I wonder about my carping away at her for so many years. I did it with so little mercy. Prodded at her bear-like fury knowing soon the veins would pop out of her neck, and get up and dance with the scary blue curvy ones that pound at her temple.

Bette frustrated Hand on Chest color corrected

After all, to most everyone Bette Porter is kind of a legion, and they’d love to be her friend, swim in her pool, get drunk on her sex appeal, and laugh at her wit and sophisticated sarcasm.

No, better strike that – in her own field she’s too young to be legendary, but in the OurChart underground universe I can attest to the fact: She’s discussed. Tina, too, of course – they each have devoted fans.

For awhile the fact that they blindly ignored my fascinating new experiment into West Hollywood independent “Current Happenings” journalism used to irritate the crap out of me. It wasn’t until one of their semi-public flame-outs, and I stayed up half the night reading the hundreds of comments about them, that I knew other people had been hurt and confused, too. As once perfect symbols of something other gay women aspired to, I came to realize: Bette and Tina had disappointed far more than just me.

Somehow the details of their latest debacle would always get out, and almost to the word I knew if I were ever challenged I could blame all the leaks and mischief about them on Jenny, my god-gifted scapegoat. It helped me sleep at night anyway.

Jenny has, and no doubt will continue to be, very good for business. Not that Bette’s stopped her incessant ire long enough to think about it, but Jenny’s script turned into Tina’s movie will likely bring her well over a million dollars. That is if it doesn’t sink, but can swim. Or better yet – like the wild motherfucker “we” need it to be – takeoff and fly into the box office. Because if it does that we might all get rich.

I’m just saying.

It’s not my fault they make great copy, or that Tina used to sleep with a beguiling heiress named Helena, after her “to die for” Bette, to quote a frequent poster, had slipped off with the carpenter. That single, and I’m sure in Bette’s mind far from a class-oriented sexual decision, has ignited my blog with years and years of false hopes that Bette might once again lose her mind, and her morals, and slip down to lie again – amongst the lesbian proletariat.

At times I could have sworn I was more upset by their separation than they were, but I wasn’t dating a Peabody heiress, or a renown sculptor, or an Ad Man named Henry, or a carpenter known as Candace, who was sometimes referred to in code between me and Shane simply as Hell’s Beginnings.

I sigh sadly. It’s so true. The sight of them together again makes me miss the good old days. The ones I had no idea were even happening when my morning’s fleeting nostalgia suddenly dissipates, and I feel once more how incredibly pissed off I am at Tasha. Going on for three days now it’s unbelievable to me! Tasha and her over righteous, loftier than mine ethics can go fuck themselves in some faux ethical faux fuck-fucking place.

And just like a fool I’d bought into it! Nodded yes that her “core values” were so much better than mine. Then, it hits me. Tasha’s a Republican. She’s going to “earnestly” fuck me over.

God! I feel my eyes burning and then, they suddenly water and relax because here are Tina and Bette ordering breakfast, and I realize I’m dying to hear all about their mysterious weekend in Santa Fe. My gloomy depression immediately lifts.

“Alice!” Bette starts toward me before Tina catches her attention, again.

“Babe, Lis and Marilyn saw us on stage with Gloria, and have decided to get married, too. They’ve been together twenty years.”

And of course, up comes Tina’s hand so they can all admire her enormous engagement ring, and Bette beams another thousand watt smile at their new friends. It’s then that I realize – she’s either a masterful or very lucky sailor who’s managed to swing their bow back around, and once again, skillfully catch the sails with the wind.

Bette Laughing with2 woman

I find myself in awe as Tina’s ring flashes, and I witness their complete transformation from a month ago. I am mystified. How does anyone make any relationship work? I was certain they were done for.

CU Tina's ring

Finally, Tina makes her way over to me as the “order ready” bell dings, and Bette goes back to the counter to pick up their breakfast. “Alice! You look great this morning.” Tina smiles and looks incredibly relaxed.

Tina_small_picture CU

“Thanks! And you’re good after your weekend in Santa Fe? I love Santa Fe. I mean I really love Santa Fe. Maybe next time when you …” I drift when I realize I’m being too needy.

“Oh! They’ll definitely be a next time. We’re having a wedding party in a barn at the place we stayed. Bette took pictures.”

“A barn?!” I start off cross. “But Helena and I are planning your party!”

“Different party, Alice. At this one, you don’t have to do a thing. Just come and have a good time. Bette’s getting everyone Winnebagos to stay in – something like the movie trailers.”

“Winnebagos? Seriously? And here I imagined you all weekend in a great posada. Getting spa treatments or whatever.”

Tina calls over her shoulder, “Bette, come tell Alice about the barn and show her the pictures you took.”

Maxine's barn wedding party - before

“Hey, Bette.” I smile at her, take her iPhone, and begin to flip through pictures of a decrepit barn.

Tina leans into my shoulder and points, “Along the wall that you can’t see are nailed up rattlesnake skins – that I don’t even want to think about – and we’re definitely throwing a big piece of drapery over that whole area.”

“Okay, I’ve seen enough. This won’t work.”

“No, it will, Alice,” Bette takes her phone back, “as long as it’s not raining. There are a few pretty big holes in the roof of my mother’s barn, but in the desert they get maybe a thimble full of rainfall a year, if that.”

“We’re having a party in a barn.” Tina agrees.

“Thimbles of rain, huh? Sounds like a bad song title, but that’s not the only problem.” Resolute I look over my coffee cup and try to stare them down. Then, I frown. “Wait. Who’s barn did you say that was? And what were you two doing in Santa Fe, anyway?”

“Alice, something unexpected has happened.” Bette manages between wolfing big bites of her spinach omelet. I honestly don’t know how she does it and stays so slim.

“Like what?” I ask skeptically, unsure if I can take any more big surprises.

“We had to check it out first, Alice. Before we told anyone.” Bette cautions.

“Oh God! No! You’re moving away to Santa Fe, aren’t you?” I cry back at them, “Tasha dumped me – I know you called it – the third wheel thingy with Jamie. Fuck it, fuck it!”

“Jesus Christ! Alice! Calm down, I’m sorry about you and Tasha. I liked her.” Bette looks at Tina for her read, “We liked her, didn’t we?”

“Yes, the until recently reconvened “We” did.” Tina assures her. “Alice, I’m sorry. When did this happen?”

“Friday night that bled into a very fucked up Saturday.” I feel Bette studying me while she eats, and I look away from them for a moment. I know they wanted to institutionalize me the last time I had a nasty break-up. I realize I was saved from being tied to a bed and shot up with blue-colored drugs because with a new baby they simply didn’t have the time to commit me.

But they have time now. Unless, of course, they’re moving to Santa Fe. Dammit, I would really hate that, but I really don’t want to go into the psych hospital either.

“Well, I take back all my liking of Tasha. She’s persona non grata to me now.” Bette slices her hand to show me: Tasha’s toast.

“Babe, Alice is probably still in love with her.” Tina shakes her head at Bette, and then with a probing look to me. “But Alice, are you, okay? You look fine, but are you?”

“I’ll be fine. I’m fine today. Actually, when you came in I became fine. How long can you stay? God, I hate it that you’re moving to New Mexico.”

“Moving?” Bette looks quizzically at me before finishing off her bagel. “I’m lost.”

“Alice, are you mixing anxiety and depression-type pills again?” Tina looks down inside my purse, but doesn’t reach for it.

“I took a sleeping pill last night. I’m not the problem! Who came up with the idea of this barn Hoedown, anyway?”

Bette_Planet Jpeg

“Alice, don’t be negative. And I can’t talk to you about this if you’re on the verge of going crazy.” Bette looks away from me and locks eyes with Tina, “Too risky.”

“Don’t shut me out! Wait! What?” I object as Bette gets up from the table.

She tucks a five-dollar bill under her plate. “Alice, I’ll check in on you later. I’m headed to work.” She leans into kiss Tina. “T, I’m going back to Kit’s office. Time to pry her away from our daughter, who I know I’m taking her to daycare, but are you picking her up, or am I?”

“You’re picking her up because I’ve got a long shoot day. We could wrap by six, but then again.”

“No problem. I don’t even want to think about it.” She walks away then turns back to Tina, “But I know you’ll do a great job, and I want you to enjoy making your movie. I really do.”

Tina winking Bette color corrected

They share a look before Tina focuses back to me. “Alice, we’re not moving anywhere. You jumped the gun on that, as well as the barn. With some festive attention it’s going to be a cool place for a party. And a word of advice?”

“Go ahead.” I drop my chin and stare into my lap.

“On the topics of Santa Fe and Winnebagoes, Hoedowns and Barbecues, remain positive or expect trouble.” Tina jerks her head toward Bette turning the corner that leads back to Kit’s office.

“Okay. I got it.” I nod as Tina’s frown softens.

I lean in closer to her. “Forget all that though – what’s the story with Bette’s boots?”

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

Exterior – The Planet – Bette

As Angelica and I amble to my car I hear a woman’s voice calling my name. It sounds far enough away that if I’m quick about buckling Angelica into her carseat I can probably speed away before another morning entanglement begins. My need to get to work – to a place where the thoughts of my unusual weekend with my mother will run quieter in the background of my mind – is beginning to enter the Red Zone.

It was an incredible weekend. One that I’m beginning to pick apart for more and more hidden meanings and this can only mean one thing. I’m heading into obsession. Never a good place for me.

“Bette!” The woman’s voice is now much closer. I turn around to see Phyllis’ daughter, Molly Kroll, nearly on top of me. God, she’s nearly as tall as I am.

“Molly!” I fake my enthusiasm. “What finds you in this part of town, or even in town? Why aren’t you in school?”

“Something my Dad asked me to go to with him is later tonight. Normally, Mother would go.” Molly says dismissively. “I was hoping to ask you a question. Your sister owns the place across the street, right?”

“Kit does, yes.” Relieved mine was such an easy answer. “Glad I could clear that up. Now, I’m on my way to work.”

“Mind if I ride with you?”

“With me? To the university?”

“Yes, I mean if you don’t mind. I should probably see my mother while I’m in town.”

“Hop in.” I say as steady as I can. “I drop Angelica off near campus.”

Shane_reading paper serious look

The Planet – Tina

Shane slides into an empty seat at the table with me and Alice, and opens her paper. “How was Santa Fe? You and Bette have a good time?”

“Did you think we were moving to Santa Fe?” I ask.

“No, why? Are you moving to Santa Fe? That’s kind of sudden, isn’t it?”

“Not moving to Santa Fe. Alice said something. I’m just taking a poll.”

“Poll away, I guess. Any other questions?” Shane drifts back to her paper.

“Why would Phyllis’ daughter be getting into Bette’s car?”

“Molly?” Shane looks up. “Is outside?”

“Was. Now they’re gone. What’s she doing way over here in West Hollywood at eight-thirty in the morning? Did you sleep with her last night?”

“Ha! Now, that’s funny.” Shane dips her paper down to peer at me.

“Maybe not sleeping with, but spying on Shane is my guess,” Alice suggests. “And you really should not encourage her, Shane, or you’ll get a very mean phone call from Bette like I did when I “dated” Phyllis.

“Or from Phyllis – no make that both of them,” I add my warning.

“Or both them and Joyce,” Alice emphasizes with a scary tone.

“Honestly, guys I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve barely talked to the girl. She’s a college student, right?”

“A straight Graduate student to be exact.” I nod at Alice, and we look expectantly over at Shane.

She shrugs nonchalantly. “Look, I’ve just seen her around the set with you guys. No biggie.”

La Cienega Boulevard – Bette

Molly looking seductive

“Angie, are you alright back there?”

“Momma B, go fast again to school!”

“Ah,” I stammer and look over at Molly. “We don’t ever go over the speed limit.”

She smiles. “Mother’s completely not expecting me. I’m in no rush.”

“And we’re in no rush.” I stress as I look back at Angelica who’s innocently gazing out the window now.

Molly clears her throat as I pull into traffic. “So, I saw somewhere that you’re getting married, but not to Jodie Lerner I take it.”

“No, definitely not to Jodie, but to Tina. You met her on the movie set a few weeks ago.”

“I did. She seemed nice. How long have you known her? I take it longer than a few weeks.”

“A respectable length of time. Trust me.” I think how much more to tell her. “Angelica is our baby. We were together back … well, Angelica’s almost three, and for years before she was born.”

“So, Jodie was what? An intermission? Mother talked like you two were serious.”

“Oh, Molly. I really can’t talk about that. It’s over. Pick another topic.”

“Okay, here’s one. Tell me about Shane. She’s working on the picture that’s apparently about you, and I’m putting it together now, you and Tina?”

I can’t stop an exasperated sigh before it escapes for Molly’s amusement.

“So, I’m right.”

I feel the sides of my neck growing warmer then hotter. “No! You’re not right!” I vent. “A foolish neighbor of ours wrote it. The script is about a couple. Yes!” I make a checkmark in the air between us. “Who live in West Hollywood – like tens of thousands of others gay women do – and the couple is trying to have a baby. That’s it for similarities.” I dash my hand toward Molly.

Then I guide my tone of voice down off the ledge. “The story is about a young straight woman who gets seduced by an older European woman, and she breaks up with her midwestern boyfriend…”

Molly interrupts, “That I can understand.”

When we stop at a traffic light I continue, “…thinking she’s found her Great Love in the alternate universe of gay West Hollywood. That’s absolutely not my story. I would have never done such a thing.”

“But it’s set in The Planet that your sister owns. You go there all the time, and it’s Shane’s roommate’s script? And they live next door to you.”

“What is this? Lesbian GPS? Look, I told you already. It’s a story about Jenny.” I press my hands earnestly against my chest to emphasize. “That’s what I’m explaining.”

“But Shane’s in it?”

“Molly, listen to me. Shane’s not an actress. Shane’s working on the movie.”

“The movie Tina is producing. Yeah, I got that much. So you and Shane and Tina are not in this movie?”

“Correct. Don’t believe everything you hear, Molly.  Especially at CU, but especially CU. It’s is an  fetid little place for rumors, and …” I stop myself suddenly.

“Gossip about my mother?”

“Molly, probably. Yes. People are probably talking about your mother – now that she’s come out.”

“Is that typically what lesbians do Bette, when you guys come out? I mean, Mother throws a big party, and her guests respond by taking off their bras in a conga line around our pool. Is that normal? I mean is that coming out?”

“Molly, I was only there a short time.” I flashback to my grateful reunion with Tina, and how we sped away from Phyllis’ fireworks for some long awaited ones of our own.

Molly jars me back to the present. “Well, obfuscate all you want, Bette. I’m certain you’ve seen plenty of women come out.”

I sigh feeling cornered. “It’s painful mostly. But unavoidable if you don’t want to go insane.”

“Full disclosure for this line of questioning – I’m rethinking my mother’s coming out. That’s all. We left it … actually, I left things very raw between us.”

“I’m sure Phyllis will welcome a calmer discussion about it.”

“Hopefully, there will be no more yelling.” Molly raps her knuckles against the window and gazes outside. “Mother has a high flashpoint.”

“That I’ve noticed, too.” We smile in agreement. The mood in the car lifts.

Then, out of the blue Molly says, “Bette, I’m interested in Shane. Tell me about her.”

“What?! Oh, God, you can’t be serious! Your boyfriend’s in law school, like you are, too. Right?”

“A boring boyfriend who’s going into corporate law with his father in Maryland. They just bought a massive golf course. Think about that for a second.”

“I am.” We ride along for a few more minutes. Molly shifts in her seat. I prepare myself for more probing.

“Shane’s a friend of yours, an old friend, right?”

I pull over in front of Angelica’s daycare, “Molly, let me think of how to say this as clearly as I can, because I’ve already read between the lines of what you are insinuating.”

The car jolts as I throw it into park. “Do not pursue this. It’s a very bad idea. Shane is categorically not a beginner’s Starter Kit.”

I open the door to fetch Angelica out of her car seat. “In fact, for a nice girl like you, she’d be a catastrophe.” And then with horror I watch as a sly smile creeps across Molly’s face.

___________

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#6 Touch Tones: Meeting Maxine

Bette tea ColorCorrected_nice muscles

“Good morning, Baby.” I awaken Tina as I settle her coffee mug on the bedside table. She rubs the sleep from her eyes and smiles up at me.

“Hm, smells so good.” She scoots up on the headboard and lifts the cup to her lips. “What time is it, Bette? Did you let me oversleep?”

“Is eight oversleeping? How’s your head this morning?”

“I’ll be okay.” Tina smiles. “A few pinches here and there behind my eyes I’m noticing,” She shakes out two aspirin and then swallows them with her coffee.

I settle back into bed next to her. “But no throbbing?”

“No, you took care of all my throbbing last night.” Tina winks at me.

I smile. “There were a few but nothing I couldn’t handle.” I laugh softly and then stretch out next to her and yawn.

“So, we like the new bed, do we?” I ask hoping our christening has made it so.

“My foggy memories tell me we liked everything about it.” Tina agrees before closing her eyes again and wincing slightly.

I lift my arm so she’ll slide across next to me. “Come closer, T, I have something I need to talk to you about.”

“Babe, I promise you we can live our lives now. Claire did her job, Josh did his by spearing Jenny between the eyes, and you did yours masterfully.” Tina lists then leans against my shoulder. “I think we’ve done all we can do for the moment.”

“Tina, before you go to work today will you do something for me?”

“Anything but the pool,” she says as we both look out our bedroom windows to the garden and the water’s surface beyond. “I can never remember the right combinations for those tablets, Bette. I might turn it green again like last time.” She warns.

“It’s not the pool, Baby.” I kiss the top of her head. “I’d like for you to be here when I call Mary Windhorse this morning. Any questions you have let’s ask them together.”

“Okay,” Tina answers with a thoughtful tone. “When do you want to call her, Bette?”

“Soon.”

 

Mary Windhorse Home Ext

Home of Mary Windhorse

Skype Call – Bette

Tina’s morning routine has been the same as long as I’ve known her. While she has upon occasion caught me still sleeping and been the one to bring our first cup of coffee back to bed the rest of her movements between that cup and the breakfast table on any given weekday morning my guess are still the same.

Unlike me who showers and then goes into my closet still wet and dripping to figure out what to wear that day Tina does exactly the opposite. Before she baths she has in her mind exactly what she’s putting on. As I dial the Skype call I can tell by the sounds coming from our bedroom very nearly to the minute how long it’ll be before she appears behind me dressed for work. I don’t have long.

“Mary,” I say as the older Indian woman appears on screen. “Good morning, I hope it’s not too early to call.”

“Not at all, Bette. I have roosters,” she smiles when she sees my expression. “Don’t worry, your mother has much more sense than I do – no roosters at her place. You’ll sleep fine.” She laughs.

“About that.”

“Roosters?”

“Not unless that’s code for the Mafia.”

“Ah, so you know, then.”

“I know some. I couldn’t sleep last night and looked on the web. There was nothing the week Maxine disappeared, but the week before and after there were plenty of strange goings-on in Philadelphia.”

I continue. “First, a significant art heist from The Isadora Museum’s Rare Masters Collection followed six days later by the Feds raiding a farm owned by a Gambino Family Captain, Anthony Coccioni, south of Philly. Then nothing else in the papers. That was it.” I look into the screen for answers. “No more mentions of the FBI raid at the Gambino compound or the Fed’s ongoing search for the rare paintings either.”

“Bette, your mother wants to be the one to tell you her story.”

“Trust me when I tell you I want to hear every word of it, too, but I have a fiancée and we have a child. She needs to hear where the bad guys are now, and why you and my mother think it’s safe to poke your heads out now.”

I hear Tina coming down the hallway. “Tina are you ready? I have Mary Windhorse on the Skype call.”

 

Tina_redVneck_inKitchen listening

“I can hear you both from the kitchen.” Tina says as she slices peaches for breakfast. “Good morning, Mary, this is Tina.” She calls from behind the counter.

“I was telling Bette the new rooster woke me up earlier.”

“You live on a farm?” Tina asks.

“Ranches we call ‘em in the desert.” Mary corrects and then breezes on. “We have you flagged on Google and your names came up this morning. Your mother and I were just talking about you earlier.”

“So, she gets up with the birds, too?” I ask.

“It’s nearly ten here. We’re mountain time.” She points behind her out a window where a clear desert morning is in progress. “I talked to her a half hour ago. She was on her way out to the desert to paint.”

“Mountain time.” I acknowledge. “Yesterday was a long day.” I rub my forehead and reconnect my thoughts to the events at the soundstage. I look toward Tina busy in the kitchen. “I haven’t even looked at what eventually came out about us in the Press.”

“Your mother’s words were that you and Tina make a very attractive couple, and of course, she knew Gloria years ago.” Mary adjusts her seat and presses forward for a moment and elongates into the screen. “Another long story.”

“I’m pleased we’re favored, then. That’s a relief I hadn’t had the time frankly to be anxious about.” I look quickly up to the ceiling before focusing back to Mary with a big smile. “And I’m excited, really tell Maxine this please, that Angelica has a grandmother!” I finish in a hurry.

“Good! When are you coming?” Mary adjusts her long grey braid back over her shoulder and looks eagerly into the camera.

“We’d like to come on Friday, this Friday. But we have some questions, first,” I say as I look over at Tina who regards me with a curious look. I mouth silently at her, “It’s been thirty years.” She shrugs her shoulders and nods she gets it.

I focus back to Mary. “So, I searched the web for the rest of the year that Maxine disappeared but by then it was 2 AM and my brain was fried from pictures of mobsters I saw while searching for Gambinos and Philly’s major crimes in 1979.”

“I know the feeling.” Mary replies with a doleful expression. “For years the marshal’s kept a board in your mother’s home and updated it with the most dangerous ones still at large.”

Gambino Org Chart Maxine's trial

“A constant frightening reminder,” I add grimly, as I watch Tina walking toward me. “The crux of our question, because it’s getting on toward 9 AM here, and we both have jobs,” I glance at my watch “is our family’s exposure to any danger.”

I feel Tina walk up behind me and rest her hand on my shoulder. “Mary, are they all dead? Or in prison? The men who wanted to kill Bette’s mother?”

“The captains were all older men at the time of the art theft, and that as you may have guessed led the Feds to raid that old farm you mentioned, Bette. That’s where they found your mother.”

“As what? An unwitting dinner guest at a mafia don’s shoot out?” I ask baffled.

“The specifics are for her to say. I can’t go into them. But she was an “unwilling guest” which matches the tone of your question.” Mary sighs heavily before she continues. “She got tangled up in all this at the liquor store.

“Out of the twenty-five that were very dangerous back then while in control of The Family there are only three left living. And they are very old men now locked up in a high max prison outside Lexington, Kentucky.”

I feel Tina squeeze my shoulder as she leans back down to the camera. “Mary, we have a two year old nearing three. She’s a very sweet girl but does four days give you all time to prepare and kid proof the coffee tables and low shelves before we come in for the weekend?”

Mary stares back at us seriously and crosses her arms. I nervously clear my throat as she transforms into a stern Native American elder. “I suppose I could convince your mother to remove the peyote buttons and pistols from her coffee tables.” She finally says and doesn’t blink.

Tina’s hand grips my shoulder as she whispers, “What the fuck?” into my ear.

Mary begins to laugh. “We’re a couple of old grandmothers. We know what to do. And I was kidding about your mother. Sort of.” Her voice trails mysteriously at the end.

“We live in the western desert now ladies. We have guns cause we have rattlesnakes and rabid coyote and wild dogs. Any number of dangerous things can run up on you out here.”

Tina rolls her eyes up to the ceiling as I continue, “Before we fly to …” I pause to hear our destination and know Tina is listening, too, with the ears of a mother.

We both exhale in relief when Mary finally says, “Santa Fe.”

I feel a tightness dropping from my face. “I’d like to run the remaining names of the mob by our attorney and if it all checks out to our satisfaction then we’ll be there in four days.”

“Write these four names down, Bette. Are you ready?” Mary asks. “Salvador Galliano, “Sammy the Bull” they called him. Anthony Cagionetti, “Tony The Cage”, and Lou Bangeleo, “The Hammer,” and the place your mother was when she got caught up in all this?”

“The farm, right?”

“No. Not at the beginning.”

“No?” I ask.

“She had gone to the corner liquor store to pick up a bottle of chianti when it got robbed. The place was called, Little Tony’s, who by the way was shot that night, and one last thing.”

I look up from my pad as Mary finishes. “We think the fourth Gambino captain is in WitSec but we’ve never been 100% sure.”

“Little Tony? You mean “dead” like Mother was dead?”

“No, I don’t mean Little Tony, at all. I mean the fourth one that the trial notes and the marshals never say anything about. The fourth main Capodecina, Jimmy the Stone. The Feds claim he was killed at the farm raid that saved your mother’s life.”

“Okay, shoot.” I wince. “Bad choice of words. What’s his full name? I’ll put Jimmy the Stone down, and then Joyce will run these four names on her end. Tina and I will talk about this tonight and I’ll call you by tomorrow, no later than the evening. It might be from the car though. What’s your cell phone number?”

“Service out here is off and on terrible, so be warned. And I don’t need or want a Sat phone so don’t even recommend it,” Mary says. “My number is, 505-799-0444 and your mother’s is, 505-799-8313.”

“Tina, Baby? Do you have anything else for Mary?” I turn my head and kiss her hand that still rests on my shoulder. She bites her lip but smiles it away. She shakes her head, “No” as she rubs my shoulder.

“Bette, I know you’re anxious to talk to your mother. You and Tina do what you’d like. Phone her, too, if you want to now that you have her number, but I know she’ll begin to plan it all out in her mind the second I tell her you’ll be here on Friday.”

Bette Dark blouse LOOKING down

“Let her know I’m thinking about her, too.” I say softly.

Mary continues, “Think about letting her surprise you, then. Call me back with the details about your flight. Maybe don’t call her just yet.”

I smile back at the screen before I sign off. “I understand but her number feels good to have. I’ll leave it at that.” I tuck the paper into the pocket of my jacket.

The screen changes back to the Skype logo as the call ends. Behind me Tina says, “I loved The Godfather films, and you know how we all were when The Sopranos were on HBO.”

I twist my chair around to face her. She rests her hands on both my shoulders. “And the poker games afterwards?” I add with a smile.

“But to hear those men’s street names just now, Sammy the Bull and Jimmy the Stone, creeped me out, Bette.” Tina puts her arms around me as I stand up to hold her.

“Baby, I agree. They’re monsters. Let me assure you, I know that.” I whisper to her.

“See what Joyce finds out, Bette. This is huge for you. I get that.”

I look down at my watch again. “I’ve got my next ninety minutes planned, Tina. I hope you’re nearly ready.” I point toward the front door.

“First, we go to The Planet and get our baby, then I drive you to work, and take Angelica to daycare at school where finally I’ll sit down at my desk just in time to get up again and attend a tedious Faculty Luncheon I stupidly scheduled the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.”

“Does that mean you’ll see Jodie?”

“And Tom. Don’t forget about him. I’ll get double-daggered glares from them today, unless they do their other move.”

Tina laughs at me. “Which is?”

“Ignore me completely like I’m an uninteresting piece of stone.”

”She’s a sculptor, Bette, she probably has some kind of diamond-bladed rock saw for that.”

“Actually, the Art Department just bought her a laser for those stages of shaping but your point is taken. I’ll watch my back.” I lean in and we share a lovely kiss in the kitchen. “I love you and I’m so glad you’re here. Home with me.”

I hear the soft buzz of a hummingbird’s wings as Tina and I begin the last kiss before starting a very busy day. I open my eyes to see the tiny green bird hovering a few feet inside my kitchen door. He dips down a few inches then quickly rises higher before turning and zooming away.

Bette_Agent Porter AIRPLANE seat

Four days later –

Burbank Airport – Friday 6 PM – Bette

“What do you mean you’re not coming with me?” I ask astonished into my phone while pacing back and forth at the gate of the commuter airline that jumps from LA to Santa Fe every morning and afternoon.

Tina’s voice sounds tense at the other end of the line. “I can’t make it tonight and your head would explode if I told you why so don’t ask me. There’s a flight tomorrow morning at nine o’clock and Angie and I promise to be on it.” I hear as I continue to stare disbelieving into my phone.

When no words for my confused state of mind come to me Tina finally says. “Call me later, Bette. You know I’m sorry.” And then she hangs up.

Once on board I settle back into my seat and try to adjust myself mentally to the significant alteration of my evening’s plans. Arguably a key night, a peak experience in my life is now happening without her.

Unsuccessful at feeling remotely good about Tina staying tonight in Los Angeles while I fly eight hundred miles over a mountain range the dossiers of the four Mafia Captains begin to take over my thoughts, and the menacing pictures of them float across my mind.

Gambino Color Photo Mobsters Handcuffs

 

Gambino Hit_deadmobster

It was true just as Mary had said. All but three of the once formidable mobsters were all dead and those who remained were the old men locked away in Kentucky. I had been assured over and over again: They would die there as the Devil and the Feds had intended.

The fourth man neither the Devil nor Joyce or I ever could get a good run down on. He was the missing and presumably defanged, Jimmy the Stone. There had been no mention of him during the Grand Jury hearings or any of the dozens of racketeering and murder trials the Feds had rolled out over the next ten years.

Between the four of us we had discussed the possibilities during Wednesday’s lunchtime call. “But his whereabouts aren’t nailed down one hundred percent.” I had said before Mary and Joyce had thrown out their theories as Tina and I had listened.

“He could’ve been scooped up by the Feds and put far, far away like Maxine was. Hidden in WitSec after the FBI turned him as an informant.” Mary had suggested.

Joyce had wondered, too, if the Feds hadn’t kept him as their secret weapon in case anything happened to my mother. If her cover had been blown and the Mob had silenced her Jimmy the Stone would rise up to be the key witness against his former family.

“It’d take some wrangling with the Federal Court Judge,” Joyce had assured us, “but at least their cases wouldn’t have completely fallen apart if they had The Stone on ice somewhere to back up your mother’s testimony.”

“How long did these trials go on for, Mary?” I had asked.

“Over ten years if you count their requests for new trials. Maxine always had those hanging over her head, too, until the last of the old Gambino guard was locked away for good.”

“And Jimmy the Stone is Mother’s age, seventy-three,” I had concluded. “If he’s still alive he’s had thirty years to find her and he hasn’t yet.”

The coast Joyce, Mary and more importantly, Tina and I, had all agreed looked clear. Now I was on airplane flying to New Mexico without her.

 

Gambino Art Vermeer heist

 

To everyone’s aggravation and now that I know about it certainly to mine, The Isadora Museum’s rare masters art heist has remained a mystery.

Reading between the lines of the Grand Jury’s transcripts Joyce, Tina and I had surmised the Attorney General’s office and the FBI had tried “behind legal curtains” any tactics they could to turn key witnesses into mob informants. But no one could or would disclose the missing hiding places of the paintings. Incredible pieces painted by Vermeer and Rembrandt for Christ sake! Gone! I shake my head in dismay.

The newspapers had hinted that the Gambinos, with their connections to the wharves and docks, were likely hired only as the thieves and smugglers. And that behind them, and who they ultimately did their bidding for, was the unseen hand of the caper’s mastermind. The hope of any trail leading to him or her had vaporized a long time ago.

I worry about mobsters as I look out the window and watch the clouds that stream up here miles above the earth. I sip the green tea the flight attendant brought me a few minutes ago. The heist’s unanswered questions pester me. Very likely at their final destination taking possession of the treasured artworks had been as simple as paying off a corrupt Custom’s Agent in a foreign seaport thousands of miles away.

In the end, the RICO Task Force, started years before by Director J. Edgar Hoover, had rounded up the most dangerous and sadistic captains and lieutenants that ran the numbers, the docks, and heroin in and out of South Philly. Losing hope of ever tying the museum job to the Gambino’s the Feds had gotten lucky in other ways.

Over a remarkable ten year winning streak, and with the help of my mother, the government had made their cases stick against all of the Gambino’s for crimes that included their style of vicious gangland murder.

The Lucchesi Family became the beneficiaries of the weakened Gambino’s disassembly, and organized crime did continue but it was quieter and less bloody, and seemed to everyone’s satisfaction tolerable, and much more tame. But before things had quieted down whatever had happened that night inside Little Tony’s Liquor Store my mother had been the sole and only survivor.

Bette_tinapix_Headset

Earlier in the week Joyce had called me to share an odd snippet of news. “Bette, you know how paramilitary guys all love nicknames?” Joyce had asked.

“Okay, I follow you. Desert Storm or Operation Freedom’s Hammer, something like that?”

“No, those are mission names and are mostly propaganda. Look it up.” Joyce had admonished me slightly. “Anyway, the Marshal Service, the Secret Service, and the FBI all have code names for the people they protect.” Joyce had paused waiting for me to catch on. “You know Bette like, POTUS.”

“Oh! I get it. What was Maxine’s code name?”

“White Wolf.”

“White Wolf?” I had asked puzzled. “How’d you find that out? My mother had beautiful blonde, straw-colored hair by the way.”

“Well, what she saw go down at Lil’ Tony’s turned her hair completely white,” Joyce had said. “Earning her the code name, White Wolf.”

“Jesus, Joyce.” I had exhaled into the phone. “Really? I’m getting on the plane with my family in two days.” Or so I had thought at the time.

Art. Maxine_redcliffs

 

Santa Fe – 6:14 PM

As the plane lowers taking us in for our high desert landing I look out the window at the brilliantly hued wilderness landscape. So much like a painting its beauty shocking and almost unreal to me. I do a quick inventory of my suitcase. I’ve got the right stuff to hang around a ranch for the weekend. A leather jacket, boots, a warm sweater for the desert at night – I’ll be fine.

What I don’t have with me is my fiancée. A name for her and myself I had liked the sound of saying over and over all week to people who had asked me about my engagement to Tina.

Phyllis had sent me flowers and an amusing card, and James, in particular, had seemed overly relieved to see me each day. Another blessing had been no uncongenial visits from Jodie.

Beginning late last Friday night in Malibu I had sensed myself flying through the air, a feeling similar to the flight of this airplane now as it lowers me closer and closer to the red desert racing below. I imagine the wind again on my face and arms as I lean back and close my eyes and spread my mind out to the wings of the plane.

I had felt during those nights at the beach that I had been sailing a hundred miles an hour over the ocean before circling back above the red tail lights of cars on the PCH. The dark canyon walls, the mighty Pacific Ocean, the shadowy cliff landscapes I had felt them all whistling by me.

Years ago someone at Berkeley might have suggested I’d astrally projected. Maybe I had. The astral plane as far as I can feel into it has just got bigger and weirder the older I’ve gotten. And sometimes while making love to Tina I do find myself out there in its wild wind streams.

I focus out my airplane window where the cliffs and sands are red and blood orange. So different from the sensations on Saturday night that had rolled over me with the blues of the ocean and deeper tones of midnight.

I know a part of me has set up a listening post inside this lovely mind bubble of mine. A place where feelings of gratitude sting my eyes sometimes no matter what I’m doing. But outside of it I’ve had to dually cope with the repeating and unanswerable daydreams of my childhood. They cycle back through my mind hour after hour to haunt me and now, as we descend to Earth, the mysterious answers to the only two prayers I may have ever honestly said are unfolding between me and Tina and soon with me and my mother.

The jet’s tires chirp to a stop on the tarmac in Santa Fe. My heart beats faster as the pilot stalls the left engine outside my window and the ailerons lift along the wing’s surface turning me toward a reunion I’d always dreamed of.

 

Maxine Blue window

 

Maxine’s House – 6:45 PM

The long Pueblo style home has a baked scent of sage around it I notice as I inhale deeply and walk with Mary up a dusty crushed rock path. I drop my bag in front of a weathered wooden door.

“We don’t lock up ‘til we go to bed. Knock on it hard and then push it open.” Mary says behind me.

No text back from Tina acknowledging my arrival or whereabouts I sigh as I knock and wish to God she were here with me at this moment. I mean, isn’t it part of the reason people bond together in relationships? So that at the moments our hearts beat to near explosion our partners, or lovers, or wives or whatever the right word is, may be here to touch us in that one way that always calms us down. For the love of God I know I’d beg her for it if she were only here with me.

As I push open the blue wooden door I hear her voice. “There you are, Bette.” My mother says as I step inside and see her waving at me.

Maxine_waving Interior

“Oh my God, I remember your eyes.” I say astonished, as I drop my bags for the second time in as many minutes.

“Please let me hug you close. And I’m so glad you turned out so tall.” She says as the smoke from her cigarette curls in the air as we embrace.

“And I keep waiting on Tina to walk in. Is she out by the barn looking at the early moon?” Maxine looks behind me.

“No, the movie business is haywire. She couldn’t leave early on Friday afternoon as it turns out, but she and the baby’ll be here by lunchtime tomorrow.”

“I had run a scenario such as this.” My mother smiles at me and motions to my bags. “Mary, won’t you come in and wash the day down with a drink?”

“Oh, thank God.” I blurt.

“Any other night but tonight I’d take you up on it.” Mary waves goodbye, as I turn around to thank her.

“Thank you for everything.” I drop my bags again and give her a big hug, too. “You’ve been my sure and steady guide through all this. I’m so grateful.”

Turning back to my mother “Maxine, you have the luck of a wonderful friend. I’m blessed that way, too. Most of the time.” I laugh softly as I pick up my bags and hear Mary closing the door behind me.

 

Maxine Home Interior fireplace

“This is my home and I want you to think of it as yours, Bette.” My mother and I stop at the entrance to a long hallway leading away from the living room. “Your bedroom is the third door and the bath connects. Wasn’t always so but over the years I’ve modernized this old place. I hope you like it.”

“Very much but I would’ve been happy meeting you in a trailer park.”

“Oh, what a relief!” She says to my surprise. “This house belongs to one of my wealthy art students and my old truck’s out back. Come on, let’s go to my little shack out from Taos.” My mother motions for me to follow her past the fireplace towards the side door.

“Wait! What?” I ask stunned.

“I’m kidding you, sweetheart.” My mother’s eyes flash a mischievous look I remember from years ago.

“What are you drinking?” She asks but ­her eyes tell me to get ready for an adventure. “Get settled, then come back, and we’ll sit by the fire.”

My perplexed look vanishes into a smile. I lift my suitcases and walk down the long hall toward my mother’s guest room.

Maxine guest room

 

______

 

The next chapter to the L Word inspired Season 7, Touch Tones, will post shortly. Thank you for reading and commenting.

You can find our links on Twitter @Blackbird_Write

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@thelword_FPAGE & @foreverthelword each have great pics, links and amusing thoughts.

Thanks always to Jacky at LesFan who hosts us there.


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#3 Touch Tones: The Ringer

 

Claire_with The Ringer
Sunday Night – The Sunset Grill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”We’re going to be here that long?”

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

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

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


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Malibu

Malibu_sunset

Malibu – 8:20 pm

I rustle inside the grocery sacks from my raid through Whole Food for our spur of the moment beach weekend. Finally, I locate the bag that holds the wine. Just outside the door on the deck Tina holds Angelica in her lap and brushes the coarse sand off her feet.

“Tina, do you want to put her to bed while I cook the salmon?”

“You’re cooking?” She looks curiously at me.

“Oh, you’re getting a much improved version in our relationship redux. I cook now. And your salmon fillet is with tomatoes and shallots and something else that will come to me in a minute.” I look up as I drop an armful of vegetables on the counter.

“Astonishing.” Tina closes the door with Angelica in her arms. “Kiss your daughter, then by all means, please cook.” I bury my face in Tina’s neck for a moment, and then cradle Angelica’s chin in my hand, and kiss her good night.

“I’d like to start with a red wine, and then switch to white with the fish. But a nice glass of something red and wonderful when I get back?”

“So ordered.” I lift up several bottles of reds to choose from as I hear them moving down the hallway.

 

Fireplace StoryImage

Malibu – 9pm

“Nice fire and you selected an excellent wine. Other pluses to add to your growing list of improvements.” Tina joins me on the couch with a tray of red grapes and cheeses. She puts a square of soft cheese on a cracker and pops it into my mouth. I chew. Delicious. We smile.

I’m in one of those moods where I could talk all night, or I could be happily mute and listen to the ocean surf outside the window, the fire snapping in front of me, and whatever Tina wants to say. I take a long sip of wine, and watch her as she settles into the cushions. She’s beautiful and I’m completely in love with her. We smile again.

“Are you being strange tonight, Bette? Or am I just completely exhausted from not much sleep and movie people all day long?”

“I have two years of things to say, or I have nothing but a blank slate with the next moment on it for you.” I lean in for another bite of cheese and cracker, and I make one for Tina.

“So, you are being weird.” Tina cocks her head at me.

“A little but not intentionally. But weird in a very, very friendly way.” I look seductively at her, and she smiles, and folds back into my arms. We stretch out on the couch and watch the fire. We sip wine.

“Do you remember why you fell in love with me? Is it the same reason that you’re back? That you rented us this wonderful house in Malibu?” I whisper in Tina’s ear as she settles across my chest.

“Honestly, the main reason I asked you to come here? I think Jodie is a little crazy, Bette. I didn’t want to worry the minute I got into bed with you that she wouldn’t show up, and beat on the door, or stalk us in the garden over the weekend.”

“And fucking Jenny with her ear always out the window.”

“This is going to sound so LA creepy that you have to promise me you won’t blast off and hit the ceiling.”

“I can’t think what would rile me from my near love coma with you but try, I guess.” I laugh and kiss the top of her head. I pop a red grape into my mouth.

“We should hire a media strategist to announce our getting back together.” Tina says seriously.

“A fucking media strategist? We aren’t famous!” I vent. “I never have understood why people are so obsessed with us.”

“Bette, your hot oil wrestling clip on YouTube?”

“Oh God.”

“Before Joyce’s people finally got it blocked? In the two days it was live it had forty thousand hits – something insane like that.”

I groan.

“And Jodie’s podcast with Alice?” Tina reminds me.

“No! It, too?”

“You’re great looking, Babe. Women were all over you, weren’t they when you were single? Me? I could hardly get a date.”

“That I never understood. But really that little freak director with the hat? You were wasting your time, Tina. She was an idiot.” I add flatly.

“And Jenny’s script.”

“What about Jenny’s script?” I roll off the couch to put another log on the fire. “Or should I ask, what else has our personal, Dark Tormentress done?”

“Jenny has written a scene, and this is going to hurt you to remember, and I’m sorry, but it ties into the other thing I want to talk to you about.” Tina says from the couch.

“I’m going to start dinner. Keep going.” I walk into the kitchen and begin by flipping on the oven and prepping a skillet to saute the shallots.

“We need to trust each other. We need to quit lying to each other.” Tina’s tone is firm as she locks eyes with mine.

“Tina, I know lying is terrible. I hear myself do it all the time. But I agree between us,” I look back at her on the couch, “we should always tell each other the truth.”

“Bette, we have to.” Tina exhales emphatically. “Babe, if we believe we are strong enough to move forward, and have a family together then, we have to believe that our relationship can take the truth. If not, we shouldn’t do this. It’s just an affair.”

“That’s not what I want with you, Tina.” I lean against the counter and look at her, “Years ago, I did things to protect you. Lied. Kept things from you, but you’ve changed. Your naiveté, it’s gone. And that’s fine. You’ve grown up.”

“I found a picture of us the other day. It was between the pages of a book I was reading. I know what you mean.” Tina says wistfully from the couch. “I was very young back then.”

Tina_and_BetteGallery

“And very lovely, too. But Tina? A media strategist?”

“Bette, the movie starts shooting on Monday. They’ll be media buzz. Trust me. What if Jodie decides to get with Alice this weekend, and uses her unwittingly for a little revenge against you? I can’t imagine she’s very happy with you right about now.”

“Forty thousand hits? Goddammit! Who the fuck was there that day to shoot that? For the love of God! Hot oil wrestling! I paid so much money to get that video off the internet.” I splash tap water on my face to wash away the nightmare. “Joyce thought it was a fucking scream. I got over two hundred emails from women.” I shake my head sadly.

“I’ll pay for this weekend. Really, all along I have intended that this be my treat.”

“I accept. Trust me. I appreciate it. And we have some hefty tuition bill coming up soon, too, right?” I ask as I begin to prepare the salmon.

“An eight thousand dollar deposit. Yikes, I know.”

“God! Can we afford another child? Really!”

“We’re okay. I’m making lots of money. You’re fine. Yes, we can afford another baby.” Tina assures me.

“I really want one.” I look over at Tina, and give her a huge smile.

“Me, too. Right after the movie is finished in a month or two we can start planning.”

 

salmon

Dinner table – Bette

“Bette, this salmon is delicious. I’m very impressed.”

“I’m telling you, T, you are coming back at the right time. I’m much better – all around.” I accentuate.

“I can see that.” Tina smiles across the table at me.

“I was staring at the ceiling the other night thinking about you. I was alone up at Big Bear. Jodie was downstairs doing shots, or some shit with her friends, anyway, I was missing you terribly. And I thought of how I used to come home after work, and toss my briefcase down, and start yelling. Or worse charge out again after kissing you on the head, and treating you like a pet dog I’d put fresh food and water down for before I’d take off again to meet some museum director, or put out a fire somewhere.”

“I remember. I grew to resent it. But you know what?”

“No, wait! Really let me finish. That’s not who I am anymore. I will never do that to you again. You are the most important thing in my world. You and our daughter. But tonight, right now, I’m talking about you being the most important person in my world. I know that now.”

Tina leans slightly across the table, and threads her fingers through mine. She puts my hand up to her cheek. “You know what? I signed up for being with a person who thinks the world rotates around them, and bursts into a room like a comet.” She plays with my long curls as she speaks softly to me. “You think I want boring? I went there. It was very homogenized. I woke up and ran back to you.”

Bette_Headshot_redstraps

“Well, it’s true I haven’t had a lobotomy, but I’ve re-calibrated somewhat, and especially there. I love you, and I know what you mean to me.”

Tina kisses my palm.

“And you were going to tell me about Jenny’s script?” I ask her.

“There was an argument we had when I told you that Henry and I were thinking of starting a family.”

I wipe my hands on my napkin, and look at Tina. “And you said you weren’t going to let me adopt Angelica.” I feel a mixture of fear edging around me, and the sizzle of anger flashing up my neck.

“There were a lot of explosions that happened that afternoon around the subject of me, and men, and family, and what my plans were with Henry.”

“Tina, that shit with Henry, and the bitter taste that it left was so negating of everything that we were after years and years of being together.” I stare at her, and can’t keep the emotion from my voice.

“Goddammit, I felt you cut my heart out,” I press my hands against my chest and look at her entreatingly, “and that some how you were buying into the whole line that Gay People Can’t Be Parents. It truly freaked me out.”

“Well, Jenny’s story is that Bev and Nina after years together suddenly fall apart because of the plumber. Nina secretly hides her pregnancy, has an affair with an heiress, dumps her and then you again. Then she goes off with a man, Harry, and then throws everything in Bev’s face.” Tina pauses, and rubs her hand across her forehead, “And this is the new part  that wasn’t in the New Yorker serialized editions – that she’s going to marry him, and take away Bev’s rights to their child because Nina realizes she’s not gay.”

“God, I fucking hate Jenny’s movie. And I swear to God, I hated my fucking life back then.” I exhale bitterly.

“The actress, Isabella, who plays Bev, she doesn’t have your range – trust me – but the line when I hear is you shouting, “Have you just been fucking brainwashed, Tina? How could you do this? Did nothing about the last eight years between us mean anything? Anything at all?”

“Baby, you have to answer that right now for me. You want a promise about lying. I raise my hand up and promise it to you. But you please, you have to look at me and tell me for the love of God, Tina, are you back? Are you in love with me? Is a family? Is a whole life with me what you want?”

 

Kiss_silhouette

“Yes, and I want you right now.” Tina says as she lifts off her sweater, and throws it on the couch a few feet away. I lift her up in my arms and we waltz backwards to the fireside and lie down on a bear skin rug. I unbuckle her pants and pull them free. They disappear somewhere over my shoulder. She pulls my shirt over my head, and unzips my pants. I feel her find me immediately and we kiss deeply.

“Take them off.” She says as she unclasps my brassiere. “I want you right now.”

“I hear you!” I lean back and wiggle out of my clothes and lie back on top of her. “Better?”

“You’re very warm on top of me, and the fire feels so good.”

“Kiss me, Tina and listen to how loud the surf has become.” Our lips meet, and Tina slides my leg between hers, and bites my tongue a little at the end of our kiss.

“Baby, take care of me tonight. This is where I want you to do that for me.”

“I will, I want to.” I move inside her as we kiss some more.

“Bette, I’ve felt you in me all morning, and then all afternoon after I booked this beach house. I’ve wanted you for hours.”

“I know how you get, baby.” I take her in my mouth, and she runs her hands through my hair, and holds the back of my neck pressing me to her.

“It’s not just that you’re a good lover, you are. Or how beautiful you are, and sometimes how you go off and act crazy.”

I lift up from making love to her, “Baby, I can’t really talk right now, but I’m going to need your attention in a minute, and if you don’t give it to me, I’m going to take it.”

“You should take it. And yes, to all your questions. I want only you, and only our family, and only us.” She lies back and sighs as her hands pull through my hair.

“Tina, last night when we were making love after the club and I had that strange feeling in my chest.” I lie on top of her and we move together in a steady rhythm as we slowly make love.

She rubs her hand down the muscles of my back, and begins to scratch me slowly just below my waist.

“It’s back but it’s not scaring me tonight.” I whisper in her ear.

“Good, because you’ve carried me right up to the edge.”

“I just do know how to do that, don’t I?”

“Flawlessly,” Tina whispers and then rolls our lips together.

“Here touch me, I need you, too.”

We lie in front of the fire and race each other along the edges, and then pull away.

“It’s my heart bursting, that’s what it feels like. Baby, God, I want you to marry me. Do you want to marry me?”

“Jesus! Bette! You’re proposing on the edge of an orgasm?”

“Here, let’s see? Am I?” I put my hand behind her head and lift her into my lap.”

Tina_passion_sitting on Top

“I really like fucking you this way. I like the way your thighs begin to shake when you can’t stop waiting anymore.” I bury my head in her neck as we make love. “Tina, I want babies, and trust with you, and a home. And I want to take care of you, and I want to stop, and slow down.”

“Baby, don’t stop now.” Tina cries softly into my ear.

“Sorry, I misspoke. I’ve got you. You feel it.”

“I definitely feel it.”

“Please marry me. It’s you I want for the rest of my life.”

Bette_Kiss_goldtoned Bette_Tina CU golden toned KISS

“I will. Please let us go.”

“Not yet. I bought your engagement ring this afternoon.”

“An engagement ring? You’re not serious.”

“Where are my pants?”

“Christ! Behind me I think.” Tina kisses me. “Bette, I’m this close.”

“I’ve seen you multitask. Lean back and open my pocket. There’s a box inside for you.” I smile as Tina wraps her legs around my waist and leans back for the jewelry box.

“Cartier? No, you didn’t!”

“I know you love Tiffany. But this didn’t feel like a little blue box moment. I wanted something deep and red and …” Tina opens up the box, and sees her ring.

CU Cartier

 

“You can’t be serious.” Her eyes open wide in amazement as she puts the ring on her finger. It catches the fire light and flashes.

“I will never, ever take this off.”

“Put your hand on my heart. Do you feel how strange it’s beating?”

Tina puts her hand with her ring over my heart, and kisses me deeply. “Your heart feels just like mine. Exploding.”

I take her in my arms, and in a moment we connect again. Through the west-facing windows I hear the beating ocean surf, and on my skin her breath coming harder and harder against my neck. My own heart, mixed with the sound of the rising tide, is loud and pounding in my ears. Inside her I focus on that one place I know she’s waiting for – that last pulse and ring of fire we always do together that pushes us over the edge.

“There’s only us.” I whisper to her as we let go in each other’s arms.

_________________

Click here for the L Word inspired Season 7 book’s first chapter, _Touch Tones: After Midnight 

“Touch Tones’s” chapter one picks up an hour after this story, “Malibu’s” conclusion. “After Midnight” begins as the couple begins to envision their life together post engagement. Tina senses trouble ahead as the film, Les Girls, begins production and Jenny’s vindictive and unpredictable nature lurks.

Writers love comments. Drop one if you are so inclined.

Blackbird

 


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Bette’s Cooking Lesson

Kit_vertical shot

The Planet – Alice

Shane and I walk into The Planet for a mysterious “emergency” meeting called by Bette, I see something I’ve never seen before – Bette and Kit back in the kitchen. It’s appears they are cooking. This gives me pause.

“Lil Sister has brought a bushel basket of muddy ass kale up in here and dumped it all over my counters.” Kit fusses in that singing way she has, while giving me a look that says, “Help!”

I shy away from the piles of greens to be washed. “I don’t know. Where’d all the mud come from?”

Bette hooks a red apron around my neck and points me back to the sink.  “That’s how it grows, Alice, in the earth.”

“I don’t like kale, guys. It’s a fad. Okay? Just saying.” I tie back my apron. I haven’t worn one of these since that naughty role playing bit I did with Dana. She was the organic grower from the co-op farm . . .well, on second thought I could be convinced to like kale.
Shane Med shot Blue shirt

“Hey guys!” Shane saunters in and puts my beer on the shelf above the sink. My hands are submerged in darkening gritty water, and Bette continues to dump clump after muddy clump of greens into the sink. Looking over my shoulder at Shane I give her my best, ‘Run for your life!’ look but Bette’s too fast for me.

“You know how to cook?” Bette drops an apron over Shane’s neck and trusses her second hostage. Well, at least I’ll have company.

“Yes! Yes, I do know how to cook.” But I can tell she’s trying to think of what cooking really means in Bette’s current state of mind. Does it mean heating something up? Does it mean from scratch? Does it apply to Shane’s Alice B. Toklas Brownie Recipe?

Does Kit – God forbid – need us to actually cook something for the dinner menu tonight?

“Excellent!” Bette seems almost manic, as she finishes knotting Shane’s apron with a flair. Where’s Jodie? Supposedly, she’s an excellent cook.

Kit lifts up a checkered towel and rolled into a nice sized ball is fresh pizza dough. “Sis, the sourdough’s all done.”

Shaking off my hands I dry them on my apron. “Kale pizza?” I make a face.

Bette_Kitchen

“No, the kale is for green lemonade. Different subject, Alice.” Bette opens the lid to a deep red tomato sauce bubbling over a flame.

“This is all because of me. Lil Sis has got in her head ’cause the Doc told me I’ve got to watch my weight, and my cholesterol and what else?”

“Your blood sugar, Kit.” Bette says over her shoulder.

“Right, right. You know what?” Kit begins to hum a bluesy riff. “Blood sugar, umpf umpf. Blood sugar, my sugar umpf, yay-yay, umpf. I’m liking it. That would make a damn good tune.” She sways with her eyes closed lost to her musical reverie, and I notice for the moment that Bette lets her be.  I wish I knew how to sing.

Standing in the middle of the kitchen Bette takes a poll of her prisoners. “So, I don’t know how to cook; Kit doesn’t either. Alice?”

“Latkes? Do they count?” I offer hopefully, still not sure what Kit’s medical news has to do with kale.

“Chili. I can make Texas chili.” Shane pitches in her native dish.

Being in a kitchen hot or otherwise makes me thirsty. I swig down my beer. “Bette, what can you make? I’m getting the feeling here we’re all one note players.”

Bette tea ColorCorrected_nice muscles

“My specialty is actually breakfast.”

Shane nods her head, “I can see that. I bet you’re good at it. Flowers on the tray? A little sweet present inside a dish? A few more surprises to follow?”

“Okay, okay! We get the picture. Let’s move Bette’s morning along.” I wave at Shane to keep quiet while I try to figure out what’s going on in Bette’s mind.

“So, what I’m seeing here is you’ve got breakfast covered. Shane’s got chili. That could be lunch or dinner. I’ve got latkes so I’m of no help except during Jewish holy days. Sorry. But Kit’s improved our chances of survival with pizza.” I add it all up to something that makes no sense to me.

“The entire population of humans under thirty would be dead without pizza.” Shane looks around for agreement as to the pizza pie’s life saving qualities.

“Shane’s right. Without pizza the tech empire would crumble. No Internet!” I shout, suddenly alarmed at the thought.

“Doesn’t matter! We’re learning how to cook, so we can be healthier and live longer.”

“Wait! I thought that’s what sushi was for?” Shane says seriously.

“Eating fucking fishing bait. You realize you people are crazy?” Kit snorts.

Much later that night –

wolf_onRidge

Bette’s bedroom – Bette

In my dream it’s morning and an omelet is browning in a skillet. I rush in from the garden with cut flowers, and I turn off the gas flame and slide the perfectly browned cheesy egg dish onto a plate.

I hear Tina’s voice. “Babe, can you bring in a bowl of strawberries, too? And why won’t you let me get up? I feel like I should help.”

“You haven’t wiggled free of your ropes yet, have you?” I ask playfully walking into our bedroom with her breakfast tray.

Popping a strawberry into her mouth Tina says, “Like I’m ever letting you do that to me.”

I lean in to kiss her, but she’s involved in munching. Well, it’s the thought that counts.

“We’re splitting this, right? You’re having most of this omelet, Bette. This is huge.”

Lying down my robe falls open, and she runs her hands down to my belly and scratches me like a beast. I sigh contentedly.  “Nope, all yours. I’m just going to lie in your lap and watch you eat it.”

My view up to her face is through the foreground of her breasts. A beautiful view of the woman I’m in love with on this Sunday morning, as she lightly scratches parts of me awake.  I chew the berry she pops in my mouth, and sigh contentedly some more.

omelet-1egg

It’s very true that women appreciate breakfast in bed. They like it on a tray. They like it pretty and they like it hot. The heat shows effort I’ve come to understand, and it makes them happy. Because of this discovery of mine, over time I’ve become a master chef of omelets. No one can trump me. And as the old adage says, “It’s all in the wrist.” So true for breakfast food and hopefully what follows. That flexible joint is key.

“Bette, here open your mouth. This is too good.” Tina slides a bite past my lips. It’s gooey and warm. The cheese I selected, perfect. Everything on a Sunday morning like today is foreplay. I reach up and circle her nipple with my fingertips. All night her body was mine and for hours we’d played on the fiery edges of possession. I lean up and suck on her nipple, when she brings another bite of breakfast to my lips.

“Not so fast.” She presses under my chin.

“If I help you eat this, will you do something for me?” I take a sip of coffee.

“You have a habit of asking these open-ended questions, Bette, as if you think I’ll ever fall for them.”

“Did you ever read Zap comics, any stories about, the Checkered Demon?” I ask.

“A comic book? No, I don’t read comic books. Do you?”

“Okay, well you missed something crazy and pretty great. See there was this demon frog in the story, Tina. The Checkered Demon, and when he wasn’t killing bad guys he was this great stud fuck kind of a demon. It was either, Star-Eyed Stella or Ruby the Dyke, who taunted him when he was boasting about his fucking abilities and one ’em said, “I bet I could lay under you all day, eat fried chicken, and do my nails all at the same time.”

“I’m so confused.” Tina leans back with her coffee balanced on her chest. “So, you actually read comic books?”

“These were extraordinary comic books, Tina. But the point is, I’ll eat the rest of the omelet, and leave you half the toast, and all the strawberries, if after breakfast you’ll try to give yourself a manicure. Let’s see how far you get.”

“So you’re going for beating the record of a frog demon? You want me to play Star-Eyed Stella, or what was the other one?”

“Well, you have actually have three to chose from. I neglected to mention, Lady Coozette and then there’s, Ruby the Dyke.”

“I’m Lady Coozette.”

“So perfect.” I smile as Tina gets sold on the idea.

“Anything else I should know?”  She hands me a glass of water from her nightstand.  “Jesus, Bette, don’t eat so fast.”

“Well, there is the matter of the length of this demon’s tongue.”

“Hmm. Lady Coozette is ready.”  She opens the drawer and takes out her nail polish, “I bet I can get a whole hand done, maybe more.”

“I’ll bet you three fingers, tops.”

“Bette, you have crumbs on your face.”

“Sorry,” I brush my chin, as I move away the breakfast tray. “Not for long.” I lie between her legs and hear her shaking the polish.

I begin to a lovely tempo as a lusty verse from D. H. Lawrence’s fig poem floats through my mind.

Folded upon itself, enclosed like any Mohammedan woman,
Its nakedness all within-walls, its flowering forever unseen,
One small way of access only, and this close-curtained from
the light;

Tina breaks into the verse of the poem running through my mind. “Oh, dear God.” But I keep my tongue to its focus, moving deeper into her concentration, and now, she’s opening just for me.

“Bette, you have to stop. You never make love to me so fast. I’m not sure I like it.”

“No.” I shake my head, as I take a deep breath.

Fig, fruit of the female mystery, covert and inward,
Mediterranean fruit, with your covert nakedness,

“Sweet Jesus. I don’t know what you’re doing.” Tina takes my curls in her hands and grabs the back of my neck. She pushes herself deeper up the length of my tongue. I can only smile inside, my lips and mouth are otherwise engaged.

Where everything happens invisible, flowering and fertilization, and fruiting.

I replay a circular licking tempo over and over. It’s one of her favorites, and when, I feel she’s there, I slowly slip my fingers out from her.

In the inwardness of your you, that eye will never see
Till it’s finished, and you’re over-ripe, and you burst to give
up your ghost.

“Oh, for Christsake! Please come up here and fuck me. I give up. I promise you, I give up.”

“So, the Checkered Demon wins?” I ask lying on top of her.

Bette's Tongue.2 on top

“Bette, God, you’re insane and I love you. Yes, the Checkered Demon wins!”

“I love you to, Baby. Is this what you want?”

“I didn’t even get past one finger!” She holds me as we kiss. “This is a rigged game the way you play, isn’t it?”

“How can you say that? Everybody, absolutely everybody wins.” I sigh as she slides down deeper onto my fingers. She looks at me while we make love. In her eyes I see myself in a tiny reflection before each one of her blinks.

My dream changes.

white wolf growl moonlight

Running through a field with each sprint I have wolf paws that claw into the earth. But who’s chasing me? I feel my breathing, now so ragged, as I crest a hill and try to break through a thicket of thorns. They wrap themselves around my legs and scratch into me as fight them for freedom.

A massive tangle of iron and parts of houses and cars, and the broken detritus of people’s lives swing from cables in a massive sculpture that hangs between the forest trees. I leap onto a platform inside the sculpture and spin fast around to see what’s following me.

On a slow spinning cylinder of shiny metal I see words and curious symbols engraved into it. What does it say? Stop spinning! What does it say? I stretch my neck up to see and out from my throat comes a wolf’s howling that sounds like a cry that awakens me drenched in sweat.

I lie in bed and rub my chest to steady and calm my breath.

My house is too quiet and my panting unnerves me.  I remember bad dreams after my mother left. I had them for years and searching for her all night long became what I did. Over and over again it happened. When I closed my eyes at night I hunted for her.

Goddammit! Why does this keep fucking happening to me? I think I give them everything they want but they still leave. This one’s not doing that. She’s not leaving me without a fucking word as to why. She can’t. Jodi, you can’t. I love you and I’m going to find you and make you come back. If Tina won’t come home then, you sure as hell will.

I roll over and push the pillows around. I’m tired of all this abandoning bullshit. This rotating door in my heart is ridiculous and painful and I’m about fucking finished with letting this happen to me again. I was happy with Jodi. Yes, she was a pain in the ass, but she was here and she’d started to be mine.

And punch the pillows again, I’m going to find her – wherever she is – and bring her back to me.

____________

TheChariot
28. A Drink with the Gypsy     http://wp.me/p4AUvc-7W

Tina panics and returns to the Gypsy for more insight, and she leaves with a powerful plan.

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