The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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

Bette_Tina_in Bed_talking Story picture

Bette and Tina’s Dallas Hotel Room – Bette

It’s an unusual feeling: Being belly stabbed.

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

Ouroborous

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

bloody knife

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

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

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

rorschach test pattern Red

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

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

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

“Ah, ah…sure.”

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

banana split

Hotel Room – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

rorschach test pattern Red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reversed red rorschach test pattern Red copy

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

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

“Tomorrow?”

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

“What’s it about?”

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

“Lafitte was a famous pirate.”

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

side angle whipped cream

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

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

“That feels…” I drift – completely captured.

Tina Bette Lovemaking

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

Hotel Room – Bette

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

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

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

Bette_Tina Both Tongues

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

“What happened to you scared me.”

I push slowly back inside her.

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

___________________

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

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

 


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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?”

 

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“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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Objects in Motion

Helena_HairBackHeadTilt

Lobby Bar – The Beverly Wilshire Hotel – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve always loved this hotel.”

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

“A French 75 for me, please.”

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

The waiter takes leave.

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

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

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

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

“With some negotiation?”

“Predictably, yes.  You?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fine, just very different.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes! I went a few weeks ago.”

lobby beverly wilshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette’s House – Midnight

Bette_Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane dives down underwater and swims towards the deep end.

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

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

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

“Take one for the team, you know.”

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

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

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

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

I frown at her.

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

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

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

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

“Maybe Mummy should fill you in.”

“Fill me in about what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette PowerSuit looking down

Shaolin Studio – Tina’s office – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I gave it to you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You go first.” Bette smiles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tina_SunglassesCameraLeft

Studio Lot – Bette

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

TEXT from Phyllis –

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

PK

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

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

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

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

“Concepts? Really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________

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

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


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Sanctuary – Bette Porter Tina Kennard L Word

 

Tina Chin Crinkle emotion

Sanctuary

Bette’s House – Monday Morning – Tina

It feels odd having my coffee out here alone on the deck. But I don’t think it’s right for me to crawl back in bed next to her as if nothing has happened. No one in this house has amnesia. We may have other illnesses like a fucking sexually transmitted one, but amnesia we don’t have but possibly should.

A hummingbird hovers a few feet from me. She dips in and around the Hibiscus bush full of red blossoms as big as grapefruit. Bette loves these flowers even though they have no scent and attract hundreds of insects. She appreciates them she told me in the same way she loves older women who wear enormous broaches to High Tea at The Peninsula Hotel. I used to see us growing old together. Now, I don’t know. I hear her high heels come into the kitchen.

“How’d you sleep?” She asks through the door as she makes a bowl of fruit and yogurt.

“Fine. It was probably my imagination.” I answer back dismissively.

I don’t know which one of us opened our eyes first this morning to the waking light of reality that I had slept next to her all night long. I wish for a moment that the clock once again would read: 6:58 and I could have those two minutes back of warmth with her asleep and our breathing together.

My nights after work feel empty and unsettling. For the first time in years and years I’m not in a relationship. When I lived here I kept our calendar and it was always busy. The hummingbird hovers right in front of me then zooms away.

I see Bette through the open French doors. The back of her dress is partially unzipped. She does that sometimes, just forgets her mind suddenly on another thing in the morning.

I walk into the kitchen laughing. “Bette, do you want me to zip you up? You don’t want to go into work like this!”

She turns away from me and tries to do it herself but not before I see her scratches.

“I should wear a jacket today.” She walks away eating her yogurt.

“What happened to you? Those look bad and red, Bette.”


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A Taste for Politics Bette Porter L Word

BettePortrait_FAB and backlite

A Taste for Politics

As I walk through the parking lot my thoughts are far above me on a rooftop just past the trees off to my right, and a lifetime ago in a shed filled with sea breezes and the taste of salt on Tina’s neck. My tongue I realize is lonely. Its urges unnerving to me.

People talk about the wholeness and peace gained in mindfulness as a person moves toward integration with The Self. That knowing all of the parts of ourselves is somehow a more evolved state of mind. Let me say this to them: If I were to spend any more time in my looking glass of memories in the basement of my mind I would shatter completely and it would not be pretty.

It would not be a break or the mental snap that led me to murderous thoughts with a Bowie knife after Tina and Henry threatened to take my child away. It would not be like the disassembling meltdown that left my throat sore for hours after I screamed her name when she left me the first fucking time. It would be closer to the devastating strike on 9/11 in Manhattan as the spines of the towers collapsed into clouds of toxic screaming rubble.

I feel a sickness inside me. I was in New York that morning. I remember the chaos and unearthly panic as the hot smelling dust of them blew up Broadway and chalked us all white. It left me inches away from insanity, an experience impossible to wash away.

No, I would find a crooked Zen moment and walk in front of a bus. Wholeness would break me. I know too much already.

Fuck! I’m lonely and pissed off. It’s cruel that on this important night of my life Tina is nowhere to be found. So fucking typical of everything, including this impossible unraveling.

But my tongue, my most valuable antenna, is impossibly devious and largely unruly by nature, and now I must deal with its dangerous thirsts for Coeds. What else can it hunger for? And what at the party – within ten minutes of getting my there – can I possibly find to slake its thirst?

I’m roused from my lascivious self-pity when I see Arnold’s long black limo and security entourage – guarding him front and back – drive through campus toward me. But wait, those aren’t the golden bear flags of the State of California. I stop walking. The limo pulls along side me. The window slides down with a whoosh.


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The Ant Farm Bette Porter L Word Tina Kennard

Baby Angelica in Bette's arms

“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.” Wm Faulkner – Light in August

Bette’s Garden – Tina

As I finish my jarring story, Bette looks at me with the most unusual expression. “What Gypsy? Where’d she come from?”

“Can you whistle, Bette?”

“A tune?”

“No. Can you whistle with your fingers, like for a cab or a dog?” I explain.

She puts two fingers in her mouth and sends out an alert in two beats. “Like this?”

From inside the house I hear Shane call out, “Yo!”

“What? You can’t do that?” Bette asks me in disbelief that mighty whistles are all that unique.

“No. I can’t do that.” I shake my head.

“It’s a tongue thing, really.” Bette says nonchalantly.

“It always is with you.”

Shane greets us back inside, “Hey! Stay and hang out with us, Tina. Alice has pizza warming in the oven.”

“Caesar salad, too.” Alice appears from Bette’s bedroom with a white jasmine scented candle. One I’d bought last spring and never lit. Alice places it next to Dana’s remains, and nods the bottle of wine at me. I should stay. I need to stay. They want me here.

Bette pours Merlot into the goblet we shared as I went back in time twenty years. “For you, T. It would be good if you stayed with us.” She reaches high up to the top cabinet’s latches. The ones I always had to get the stool for unless she was nearby to help. I look sadly at the soiled Starbucks cup that sits on the counter containing Dana’s ashes we stole earlier.

“Alice, I think I have a few nice jars and porcelain we can sort through for Dana. How many do you want? Four, three, six? What?”

It was uncomfortable going through all those emotions again. Feel drained, feeling disoriented by reliving them. I can almost feel the long, long arms of the Gypsy’s catching hold of me.

I remember the sawdust flying up as my feet dug in to run away. But the woman had held onto me and said, “You’ve been really hurt, child,” and the blood on my hand as I’d touched my back had confirmed a growing patch of wetness. She had told me not to worry, like her I would always have a Gypsy scar.