The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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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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The New Mothers of Invention – Touch Tones #12

Bette Close Up profile anticipation

Dallas, Texas – In a Hospital Corridor Near a Stairwell – Bette

I should’ve known better, but when has that old adage ever saved any fool from themselves? So now, here I am hanging out in the hallway being Alice and Shane’s lookout.

Tina has disappeared for the moment, wanting nothing at all to do with this plan, and as she walked away over her shoulder she threw back a look that was meant to wilt my resolve, but her heart wasn’t really it in, and I can take a lot, lot worse.

It’s always amazed me how life can appear to be moving in one direction, as certain as an ice floe, and then slide off a cliff you never saw coming. I wonder if that’s how Jodie feels, three weeks away from me?

And who was she in the mystifying game of cat and mouse Tina and I played with relish against each other? Strange as it sounds, because she truly hates my guts right now, Jodie was both the curse and the cure that changed my Fate. As I was disappearing over the horizon line, Tina woke up from the sleepwalking state of believing that dating around West Hollywood was the way to the Well of Happiness.

A folly of hangovers ten thousand before her had tried.

Bette_Tina_looking ahead, Powersuit

Art saved me.

There was a painting that hung in The Provocations show, and I had walked by it everyday for months, but when I call it up now – the image of The Wraith of Temptations’ canvas – I can see her face of duality.  Half vixen and the other half, not chaste, but one of serene delight – I finally have a whole picture of myself, in a way I’ve never had before.

I am both bliss and the hungry complications of human nature.

I know this deeply when Tina is sleeping next me.  Lying on my back, staring up at the ceiling I’ve edged right up to the duality of myself.  When the night outside is especially windy, and the chaotic reflections from my pool flash wildly across my ceiling, they entrance me.  The lavender scent of our sheets, her sometimes still sticky on my fingers, leads me to imagine myself as healed and golden, and not quite real.  In these transcendent moments, Tina has a body of quicksilver, and I can’t tear my eyes away from her beauty and nakedness.

I feel it as deeply as my own skeleton of interlocking bones.  Something terrible has been swept away from us, and Hell has been avoided.

SheBarKiss

As much as I detest Dawn Denbo, and to a lesser degree, My Girlfriend Cindy, I will always have reverence for the magic that happened in the SheBar, even though it was mostly my tongue that led me all the way Home.

It’s a well known fact, I had realized after Alice made me sit down, and read all the comments about me on her blog, that Tina and I are an Internet “kissing sensation”.

WITH FOLLOWERS.

“Is this one from the SheBar’s security cameras? This is unbelievable to me! Who the fuck posts all these things?” I had nearly spilled my beer all over the computer when the long tortured video of me, bereft of even a single word, had shown me desperately rolling my lips with Tina’s until finally my mind had broken.

It was then she had whispered, “Don’t, Babe. Please don’t cry anymore.” But still I hadn’t stopped, or maybe it was that I didn’t really believe her until she’d answered all my hows and whys with the only words I’d needed to hear, “Because I love you.”

Only then, did my breath return to my lungs, and my heart to its rightful place inside my chest, and finally her hand over its too fast beating, she had whispered in my ear, “Take me home, Bette. I’m ready to go.”

I feel it. The way the pieces that shattered have come back smooth and knowing their place, and how there’s a profound kind of peace in that.

In New Mexico, I’d seen it again most recently, when something old, and very fierce, had burned through my Mother, and her friend, Mary Windhorse’s eyes. When rape and attempted murder didn’t defeat them, they became Mothers of Re-Invention. It’s what we do.

Women transform.

Bette_Tina CU Atlanta Kiss

“How did this one get out on the Internet?  Jenny has cameras in my house! I’ve sworn to Tina they’re in here.”

Alice had convinced me Jenny was not to blame for this one, but Dana’s bizarre selection of wife material, the marketing girl with the thick thighs, Tonya-what’s-her-name, had probably snapped this one night when she was over.

What it all stacks up to, the Internet revelry about us when we kiss, is that we make women’s knees go weak when we get lost in each other.  And infamous or not, I’m just like every other lost and confused lovesick idiot, but perhaps with better shoes, and a permanent tan.  My thanks always to my black ancestors, who kindly tinted me so nicely.

Fourteen days and five hours later, after Gloria deftly coaxed us all the way across the studio stage to the delights of a cheering crowd, I’d have to be blind and dumb not to see that my soon-to-be-wife of forever is not pleased with me at the moment. Her aggravated arrival puts the sudden brakes on my windmill of thoughts.

Tina verticle arguing Brazil

“My guess is this is so illegal. Have you even considered we might all end up in jail?” Tina stomps up to me.

“I’m innocent!” I throw my hands up to show — I’m clean of most recently committed crimes. “I was standing there one minute, same as you, and it all happened, so fast.”

“But you didn’t try to stop it.” Tina points out as she blows away a piece of hair that has fallen across her eyes.

“What would you’ve had me do? Stick my leg out, and trip the old lady as she made for the door?” I consider walking away toward the elevator, but wisely I stay put. “What if she has osteoporosis? Then, what? We all pitch in tomorrow with our bone marrow?

Tina puts her hand on her hip to tell me: The Game’s Up. “Look me in the eyes, and swear to me – poor bone density was why you didn’t stop her.”

I paste a thoughtful, compassionate look on my face, but Tina sees right through me. “T, bone marrow harvesting hurts like a sonuvabitch, Baby. You really don’t want any part of that.”  I lean over and kiss her lightly on the lips, and then another kiss, and then we’re fine.

“I honestly don’t know sometimes why I put up with you,” but Tina squeezes my hand, as she says it.

I press the elevator button down for the Lobby. “I’m thinking whiskey first, then a ribeye, you?”

dallas steakhouse cowboy bar

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Alice

Real Girls with big hair, I’m not accustomed to.  Drag Queens, check.  But thirtysomething women, who actually teased their hair way up high before driving over here to drink all night – not so much.  Take Miss Laredo over there, who’s throwing her head back in peals of laughter, as if the brunette next to her has just told her the funniest joke in the world. I want some of that, shellacked finishes and all.

Life has been too sad, and far too weird lately with Tasha, who likes things regimented and marching forward with nice, neat squared off edges. I’m an oval person, and I’ve never met a hard angle that didn’t upset and later, offend me. I blame it all on Shane’s dying mother, who’s looking more and more slightly green around the gills, as the one who ignited my heroic sense of carpe diem – Texas style.

“Bette, I’ll buy the first round if you’ll come with me to the bar. Help me carry back our cocktails.” Her knee high cowboy boots, and sly smile are the perfect commodities I need to obliterate my urban footwear, Jewish ancestry, and catch me a much-needed date for the evening.

“Single malt or bourbon?” Bette calls back to Tina, as I lead her away.

Shane_Med_bluegreen bckgrd

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Shane

It’s true. I haven’t thought this whole thing through in all the ways I should have with my mother.

I forgave her leaving me for months with our neighbors, who finally put me into foster care, saving me from their teenage son, who looked like he was going to hop on me, and not get off.  Wrestling, he liked to call it.

I’m strangely bent when it comes to sex.  Turning hand job tricks on Sunset Blvd was my first chosen source of income when I blew into town. That, I realize, says something about me. Words like gender bender, and the hard rubber cocks I strapped on and slid down the tight legs of my jeans were things I never knew existed before I stuck my hand out, and hitchhiked myself as far away as I could get from the Great State of Texas. And now, I’m home.

My mother, who looks like she might be in need of a plastic bucket to vomit in, is reaching in her purse and taking out medicine and I hope not bad pills. Whatever they are, she’s washing them down with Coca-Cola, and Tina’s watching, too, as the pills disappear by the handful.

Tina’s eyes meet mine for a moment, as she sips her drink, and leans closer into Bette. They love each, it’s so obvious, and my mother looks beautiful, but dying – ever so slowly.

“Shane, should you be drinking tonight?” Tina looks at me with a warning. “Aren’t they taking tissue from your liver tomorrow to test for a good match?”

“What does testing my DNA, and something called gene panels, have to do with alcohol?” I punctuate with a swig of my Lone Star beer.

Alice barks a laugh, “You may be the only person in LA who’s never been to a 12 step meeting.

“I haven’t,” Bette offers proudly, “Although Kit’s invited me plenty of times.”

“Do what you want, I say,” my mother chimes in with what I can see on Tina’s face is registering as the kind of guardian she might have been had she stayed around, had a thousand things gone differently, had she not been a drug addict all my life.

“So, let me get you all straight, because my daughter’s postcards are usually just a few lines scrawled. You’re the ones she has breakfast with every morning? What does that make you? A book club, a coffee klatch, some kind of women’s group?”

Alice cocks her head up and stares into the antler chandelier above our table. “This is hardly the 50’s. Do you know anything about Shane’s, uh-mm, life?”

Antler Chandelier - Dallas

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Tina

“Bette,” I whisper, as the waitress hands around menus that are printed on the backs of Wild West Wanted Dead or Alive posters.

“They had the greatest outlaw names,” Bette says admiring the old photo of “Deadeye” Rick Malloy. “Look at this guy, damn! He’d scare me to death if he walked in here right now.”

“Most of them had syphilis, and the spirochetes had corkscrewed through them.” Alice taps the side of her head. “Swiss cheese. Gooey, mushy brains, if you can imagine.”

Sue Ellen looks a bit more ill, then a shiver jumps up her shoulders.

“Bette,” I repeat again, digging into her with my elbow.

“What, Baby? What?”

I whisper in a low voice very near her ear.  “Do you remember the Xanax and Valium pills I keep for whenever we have an earthquake?”

“Ah, ah, of course I do, but I certainly don’t have any.  What’s wrong? Are you suddenly nervous?”

“I’m not nervous, at all, but they’re both blue, but Valium can also be yellow.”

“And grass is green.  All good to know, but did you get a look at the size of that Porterhouse that just went by?!”

“You probably can’t eat, can you Mom?” Shane peers over her Wanted Dead or Alive poster.

Alice offers her medical advice. “My mother, who has the maternal instincts of a spider, would prescribe you Chicken Soup. It’s the Jewish cure all for anything.”

“But not Hitler,” says Sue Ellen, “Do you all really believe there was a holocaust?”

“What!?” Bette shouts way too forcefully.

Sue Ellen stares back at Bette. “Pee-ah-zec-ee, that ain’t Irish, sweetheart. I know from whence I speak.”

Alice, to her credit is taking none of this seriously, and she begins to smile, “Does everyone in your family have a double name, Sue Ellen? And how’d you escape Virginia and North Carolina without one, Tina?”

Shane leans across the table to Bette. “Guys, I can’t eat a whole one of these monster steaks, maybe, I am a little worried about the tests tomorrow.”

Alice comforts her, “Drink some milk, Shane, that will coat your stomach.”

“She can make up her own mind what to eat. I think that should be plenty obvious.” Sue Ellen snorts, and lolls her head back against the soft red leather banquette. “What do you know about it, anyway? Milk.”

“Pasteurized, or unpasteurized, or straight out of the teets? I freelanced for one of the farm co-ops back when everybody was on about making their own yogurt. You can’t stump me when it comes to dairy.”

”Right.” Shane says quickly. ”Mother, let’s go back to your room.”

Sue Ellen waves a Wanted Dead or Alive poster back at her daughter. ”Don’t-cha mean, Death Row? And here you are, after twenty years back in Texas, taking me to dinner with your LA friends, hiding their unnatural attraction for each other with lipstick and fake wedding rings.”  She looks disgusted as she stares at Alice, avoiding Bette’s and my eyes. ”You must think I’m blind. Trust me, I’m not.”

With a dead-eye lock into Shane’s, Bette tosses back her whiskey in one long disappearing swallow. “This is fucking ridiculous, and this has got to stop.”

“Tourette’s, maybe?” Shane looks oddly hopeful.

I shake my head, “Well, I’m just stunned she didn’t know.”

“Know what?” Sue Ellen leans in on her elbows.

“Something very hard to write on a postcard.” Shane defends herself.

Then, the waitress arrives. Thank God.

dead or alive poster

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Bette

The ample chested blonde waitress leans so far down, and comes so close to my face, that I can’t help myself so, I smile.

“I know what I want,” Alice begins.

As I lean in closer to Tina, I hold up the menu to hide my face. “We don’t have to sit through this bullshit, Baby. Just say the word, and I’ll take you out of here.”

“She’s hopped up on something. Remember when I was asking you about blue pills?”

“I just know about Heroin, Kit’s drug of choice, if you don’t count Tequila, Rum, Gin, Vodka…”

“I get it, Bette, but something’s very wrong with her.”

“She’s a bigot, that’s mostly what’s wrong with her!” My attention flips back to the D cup waitress. “I’m going straight to the beef, no salad, no spinach, just a baked potato and straight to business with the steak, but I am definitely ordering another drink. What are you doing, T?”

“If Alice’s ever left California, and landed in a flyover state, she’s heard it all before, but I didn’t see this coming,”

“And Shane’s not, Out?” I begin to laugh. “Absolutely, so ridiculous.”

“Babe, have you forgotten that you didn’t exactly get on so well when this happened with your father?” That stops her laughter, and I wish I could take it back. Then, my phone rings.

“Hey, sweetheart, it’s Momma T. Are you all tucked in?”

“Who’s that calling during dinnertime?” Sue Ellen starts up again.

Alice flips through our family pictures on her iPhone, and  leans over to Sue Ellen, “Oh, and the fake straight women? They have a baby girl together. A cute little brown one. Wanna see?”

_____________

Part Three of this tale I hope you’re enjoying will post soon.

Love to hear from you, if you’d like to drop a comment.

Blackbird

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#8 Blood Moon Rising

Tina_Phone sunglasses standing

Santa Fe – Saturday – Tina

It was luck really that Angelica and I had been sitting in the exact spot Nikki Stevens had walked past on her way to board a private jet to Santa Fe. She was hungover, her friends on board flying east with us were all hungover, and once the pilot had leveled off and pointed the nose of the plane due east as if on cue – all of its passengers had fallen into a deep slumber, including me.

It’s been a very long week.

When my eyes had opened hours earlier this morning the house around me had been quiet and still. I had fought off a nearly irresistible urge to roll over and fall back asleep again. But if I had closed my eyes for a second more I knew I would miss my flight to join Bette and meet her long lost mother. The horror of telling her that I had overslept and missed yet another plane had dragooned me to throw off the bedcovers and make haste for Santa Fe.

Now that I’m here I realize no distance was too far to have travelled to witness Bette rolling out from under Mary’s old Chevy with a wrench in her hand. For an instant, I had flashed on Kit’s former love interest, Ivan, scooting out from under one of his vintage trucks and squinting up at me. It had startled me and felt weird, but in a wonderful kind of way.

I pull out a breakfast room chair that has been set up all ready with a baby seat for us. I lean down and kiss Angelica. “I believe we’re going on an adventure with your Momma B and your new Grandmomma soon,” I say as she tugs on my hair. We smile at each other in love with the moment and the morning. “That was your first airplane ride, too. And you were such a good girl.”

The back door opens off the kitchen and Bette, free of her greasy coveralls, appears in jeans, a dark green shirt, and cowboy boots.

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

My eyes begin their drift up from the scuffed leather when I feel her hand on my shoulder.

“A proper welcome now,” she says reaching down and gently touching Angelica’s face before she folds her arms around me. Along the sides her neck I can smell traces of pinyon wood, sage and something else that reminds me of fire.

“What have you all been doing?” I ask Bette curiously as I hear her mother coming inside.

“Eating and drinking mostly.” Bette says as she pats her washboard stomach. “My Mother’s an interesting cook. But no worries! I have personally seen to lunch and we’re eating out tonight with Mary Windhorse – a bit of desert-styled potluck it sounds like. We’ll be fine.” She dismisses. “We are not required to eat the fried cactus.”

“Baby meals are un-spiky and very un-spicy. We’re all on the same page about that, right?” I ask.

“All reading from the same menu and prayer book. We are ready!” Bette reassures then claps her hands and picks up Angelica. They kiss each other playfully. “Now, do we need anything from this kitchen before I bring your suitcase back to our bedroom?”

Maxine guest room

Guest Room – Tina

“I do like a queen-size bed on vacation, don’t you, Bette?” I ask as we enter our quarters down a long hallway. I bounce the mattress and feel the wool of the old Indian blankets. “But where’s our daughter sleeping?”

“We have two options on that actually and they were Mother’s idea.” Bette says as Mary appears in our doorway.

“We set up a sweet little child’s bed in my room for tonight but we can take it down and put it right in here if you’d rather,” Mary says. “And I do appreciate you switching over to Mary and leaving Maxine in the past. Bette and I talked about it last night. It’s been nearly thirty years with the Feds and WitSec. I really am Mary Hardy now.”

”Without prying may I see it?” I ask from near the windows. “Where she’d be sleeping?”

”Tina, it’s very comfortable and I’ve been having a wonderful time.” Bette adds as she points to her new cowboy boots.

”Repairing old trucks and eating. I heard you.” I say as I study them for their familial resemblance.

“That, too, but we went out last night. And tonight there’s something called the Blood Moon we’re going to see.”

“A play in Santa Fe?” I ask.

“No, actually, The Moon.” She whirls her finger around in the air. “It turns really red tonight during a lunar eclipse.” Bette looks back to her mother who nods. “And Mother’s friend, Mary Windhorse, has a special place to watch eclipses apparently. Who knew? So, for dinner we’re going over there.”

“Whatever you both want to do – Blood Moons, Blue Moons – it’s fine with me,” I agree. “And Mary, this is your granddaughter, Angelica.” I walk them closer together, and Mary kneels and gently extends her hands.

“You have no idea how happy I am to meet you both.” Mary watches Angelica taking baby steps closer.  For a moment, Bette looks as if she might cry, but she smiles instead.

I put my arm around her waist. “A lot is happening.” Bette confesses, as Mary and Angelica’s voices drift up from the floor.

Bette close up. pensive look down

She takes a deep breath and points me toward another room. “We have a nice bath that’s through here. Come see.”

Maxine Home Bath

“The bathtub, and this view alone, makes me officially glad I came.” I lean back into her arms as we look out the window.

“But weren’t you always coming?” She asks suspiciously.

“Yes, I was always coming. But now I’m saying unequivocally – I’m now officially glad to be here.” I lean up and kiss her neck.

Her hands take mine around my waist. She whispers in my ear, “You know I’ve tried to rein myself back and not overload this weekend with expectation. Plus, we’ve had so much going on.” She lifts my engagement ring up to her lips. “I love you, T, and I’m so relieved, happy, and all of the above, that you’re both here.”

“Babe, I was always coming for the weekend you met your Mother.” I let her know.

“Back where you grew up, did you ever shoot beer cans off rocks or fence posts?”

I laugh softly as I sway gently with my back against her. “All the time with .22 rifles mostly. Why Bette?”

“We did it last night. Drank beer and shot cans off rocks with six-shooters. And we talked, of course, until pretty late.” She says as she walks over to the sink. She splashes water on her face and reaches for a towel. ”Completely could not have been further from how I ever would’ve pictured a reunion with my mother.” She pats her face dry and watches me for a reaction. ”I last saw her in Philly, remember?”

“Six-shooters? That sounds fun. Did you strap one on, Bette?”

“Absolutely, a big one, too. Very loud, just like I can be.” She smiles at our double entendre, and fires her finger pistols out the window. She looks back at me as she pretends to blow the smoke off the barrels.

“Bette, please don’t do that.”  I hook her fingers down. “You in those old cowboys boots, smelling like leather and wood smoke.”

She smiles slyly back at me. “I’ve missed you, too, Baby.  “She says before kissing me. “Mother has questions about our wedding that I can’t answer, but kiss me again first.”

Bette Tina Kiss Sepia.1

Ninety minutes later –

After lunch and a tour of Mary’s house and barns we slide into her old truck to drive to a pueblo nearby.

1957 Chevy Driver's side front

“You’ll enjoy this little community and the festival will be just locals and the tribe. ” Mary says as she and I slide across the seats of her truck with Angelica on her lap. Bette gets in behind the wheel and cranks the old Chevy to life.

1957 Interior

“Your boots match this great pick up truck, Bette,” I say as we bounce down a rural road through the desert.

“Honestly, I don’t ever want to take them off, ” she says as she smiles at her mother. “Phyllis had better get ready. There’s a new Dean Porter in the house.”

I laugh along with her. “Something happened, that’s for sure.” Then to her mother, “Mary, when you come to Los Angeles I’m sure you’ll meet, Phyllis, Bette’s boss. She’s off and on a real handful.”

“In more ways than one.” Bette sighs. “Mother, we have a host of characters for you to meet but I think we can all agree,  you’re rather offbeat and unusual yourself.” Bette smiles over at me. “She’ll fit right in, don’t you think, Tina?”

“Maybe Mary should come at Christmas time, Bette?” I ask as Angelica bounces happily in her grandmother’s lap. “I know our friends would love to have dinner at our house this year.”

“Let’s do it!”

“Will you come, Mary?” I smile at her.

“Wild horses could not keep me away!” She says before kissing the top of Angelica’s head.

CU Maxine

“So, you have these wedding planners who are friends of yours, Helena and Shane?” Mary asks.

“Shane?” Bette wonders suspiciously. “I thought it was Helena and Alice? How did Shane get in there? Don’t I have a vote?”

“She didn’t.” I pat Bette’s arm. “Mary, I threw a lot of names at you at lunch, I know.”

“I realize you’ve got to physically get married in Los Angeles County but couldn’t I have a party out here for you, too?”

Diablo Canyan Maxine studio

“That would be fun!” Bette says as she follows the arrow on a small dusty festival sign and turns off the highway and down a one lane dirt road.

“Tina, we can work out the details later and figure out how to house our friends without it getting extravagant.” She says then smacks her hand against the steering wheel. “Wait! I know! Those luxury RVs – they can sleep in there.”

“Are the marijuana laws strick here in New Mexico?” I ask Mary tentatively.

Mary rolls her window up as dust from the road blows in waves from under the tires. “Being in the position I’m in with WitSec I know a judge or two. In fact, I know three of them quite well. I’ll hire some great musicians and you smoke all the weed you want. Nobody’s going to jail.” She says confidently. “I’ll plan a BBQ and a party. We can do it in my big barn.”

Bette shifts the truck into fourth gear as the red dirt road evens out. She runs her hand along the wheel of the truck and then across the chevron on the dashboard before she says thoughtfully.”If anyone had said to me as recently as three weeks ago that I’d be speeding through a desert in an old truck with you, our daughter, and also my mother I would have said only in my dreams.”

1957 Chevy 3100 speedometer view

I touch the side of Bette’s face and stroke her cheek. “Well, Babe, you’ve got several things going for you if we have a party out here in Santa Fe.”

“That’s always good to hear.” She says and shoots me a sideways curious look. “Go on.”

“Well, of course, you’ll have me as your wife,” I stress, “plus the jump on everyone else with your cowgirl drag.”

“And I’m never taking these boots off.” Bette emphasizes as her mother looks out the window amused.

“Okay, I can’t keep it to myself any longer. What is it with you two wearing hunting knives on your belts out to this festival? Is there a competition you’re planning on entering? A Mother Daughter Deer Skinning contest or something?” I ask Mary as Bette makes a face.

“No contest. But you saw the knife she brought me as a present, didn’t you? With carved white wolves on it?” Mary asks.

“And I’ve seen this knife before.” I say as I tap the handle hilt of Bette’s Bowie knife. “I just brought a purse today, ladies.”

“And so did I.” Mary says.

“I have a knife, money and great sunglasses. That’s all I brought except my wonderful family.”

Mary stirs in her seat as we near the tribal festival grounds. “Tina, who in your family will I meet at your wedding?”

I stare ahead and feel the twinge of pain of saying probably none of them. Bette’s hand appears in my lap and I thread my fingers through hers. “I have two married brothers who are attorneys in the town we grew up in near the border of North Carolina and Virginia. They farm tobacco, too. Our family still has a lot of land and tobacco with the subsidies to grow it and sometimes not to plant it at all apparently both pay them pretty well.”

“Beautiful green country.” Maxine says, “I’ve been down there before. The people were very nice.”

“I might invite them. And then there is the sister I don’t speak to, my mother who’s deceased, and finally my father who I haven’t spoken to in ten years. He, my late mother, and my sister are definitely not coming.”

“He lives one state over. Right, T? In Yuma, Arizona?”

“I’ve been there, too.” Mary nods her head. “So, you don’t talk to him or your sister?” She asks as I shake my head, no.

“Changing the subject slightly.” I burst out with an idea. “I’m going to ask Shane to give me away, Bette!”

“No, no, no you don’t. Shane is my Best Man.”

“Have you discussed this with her?”

“Yes, we have an agreement.” Bette says absolutely.

“I’m not sure I think you’re really telling me the truth, Bette. And we made a promise about that very recently.” I chide her as Mary sighs next to me.

“Excuse me, Tina.” Mary says. “Bette park over there in that line with the other old, restored pick ups. The festival people make a nice row for those of us who have these sweet old horses.” Mary says as she pats her truck.

“And here’s a festival tip.” Mary continues, “They have a good apple-flavored cactus juice drink here that they add honey and a little desert root spice to. It’s very unusual and good. But stay away from all those melon and squash drinks and the dirt tasting teas they make. They are just dreadful.”

maxine festival canyon site

Ninety minutes later –

Enclosed by the tall stratified canyon walls the small Navajo festival has attracted several hundred Indian people and a sprinkling of white visitors from the nearby western towns. Families and couples drift in and out of the acre sized grounds that awhile ago we had walked around the tents and crafts stalls of before sitting around a ring to watch the Native American performers and their trickster, the Coyote, do his loping dance. A few young boys and girls who had gathered too close to the edge of the ring were good-naturedly chased away by him. We wait now for the Medicine Man and his dancers to appear.

I tap Bette’s arm and say, “Babe, it feels a little too hot in the sun for me. I’m going to walk back around back by the crafts. Okay?”

“We won’t be here much longer, I promise. But Mary says this Medicine Man has thirty-six, or something unreal like that, grandchildren and Angie will like them as his tiny Medicine Crows.” Bette shrugs her shoulders. “Look, it’s all new for me, too. I’m surprised Angelica’s not having bikini beach volleyball withdrawals because that’s what she sees on my weekends with her.”

I laugh at Bette. “Well, are you having bikini withdrawals, too?” I ask.

“I am, in fact.” She smiles. “And I want you to go into one of those tent over there and put yours on.” She winks at me. “Just saying.”

Then, she catches my wrist as I turn away. “T, I guess bring me back another one of those cactus drinks.  It’s not blistering hot but I know what you’re feeling – the sun does feel right on top of us.” She shields her eyes and stares up at the sky. “Since we’re going to be spending time in New Mexico I better get us all cowboy hats. Mother says she knows just where to go.”

“Of course, she does, Babe.” I say as I squeeze Bette’s hand before walking back toward the tents and the shade.

navajo rug design

It’s a question I’ll have to answer many more times I have no doubt. But who from my family will be coming to my wedding? I have an aunt and uncle and cousins. I have nephews and nieces. But inviting those people to my gay wedding? I give a resounding, “No” to that idea. If other people want to have a big Gay wedding with their big ole straight family looking at their big ole Gay one, then please do. I have my own quirks and neuroses that make me absolutely object to the thought. And no hopping into therapy between now and my wedding day I realize will release them from me. So why bother? I’ve resolved it in my mind: I’ll never be free of the weirdly defining things that shade me from the shadows.

People hang on to what deflects and distracts us from ourselves. I have masks I wear to work and I have different masks I put on sometimes to wear around Bette. And certainly, when we’re out as a family, and most definitely today in this ancient tribal setting where my walking any closer to her would have been taboo.

So, today it’s New Mexico, my soon to be mother-in-law, and lots and lots of cactus everywhere. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m sunburned from sitting around the ring with them. I forget what it feels like to leave the bubble of West Hollywood sometimes until I do.

I slip inside an animal skin tent to look at the leather bags, Indian rugs, and colorful blankets the young Navajo woman is selling.  A group of children run past the tent. Stopping for a moment to peer inside stands a tomboy girl. Our eyes meet for an instant, and then she’s gone. My head begins to ache as an uneasy feeling sweeps over me and the Navajo designs begin to cross and blend together.

Tina Tomboy memory

After going to the Fortune Teller and the unintended consequences of having my sexual memories unearthed about my sister I had finally decided, she had been very shrewd with me. The imaginary plays she staged where I’d been a knight with a sword we’d cut from a cardboard box and she’d covered with aluminum foil. And now, in the claustrophobic swelter that has become this tent, I remember the times she had dressed me as an Indian boy.

Maybe it would’ve never started if we had not found the small cave in the woods that even our brothers hadn’t discovered. So twisted, too, was that she’d had me turn it into our “Fort” against all who would invade. Soon the privacy inside the earth became the focus of our playing together.

Hurriedly, I push through another tent flap hoping for fresh air but instead a pungent smell of sweat and earth make me nauseous and my eyes strain to see into the much dimmer light. A few feet away an older girl leans over one of the Medicine Crows and carefully paints her before her dance. Around my nipples I feel the cool sticky paint and my sister circling and circling the dark tinctures into me.

Indian girl being Painted STORY image

I open my eyes to the face of an elderly Indian woman standing over me and toeing me with her boot. “You must be Tina. Mary Windhorse,” she says as she leans down next to me. “I saw them by the ring and Bette said you’d taken a walk. Some walk. What are doing on the ground outside the Medicine Man’s tent?”

Mary Windhorse pink shirt turquoise pin

“I’m just not sure.” I say brushing myself off from sand and straw as stand up. “I felt too hot and then dizzy for a moment.”

“Can’t be menopause. You’re much too young for that.” Mary says as we walk back toward the ring together. “Sometimes people feel something different when they come to our ceremonial grounds and tonight’s the full Blood Moon followed by an eclipse.”

“Well, those always do make me a little dizzy.” I laugh softly as Bette and Angelica wave at us from the ring.

Blood red clouds before Blood Moon

The desert air is cool finally and feels good against my skin. There’s been no time alone with Bette where I could lean into her and feel her body bringing me back from my upsetting memories with my sister. Since the festival there’s been one thing after another – a little last minute shopping in Santa Fe for Angelica, and the need for lotion for my skin that’s beginning to dry and change.

Soon, we’d stopped alongside the desert at a beautiful open spot and Bette had pulled off the road to watch the blood red clouds that were spreading out overhead. With a few too many looks between them Mary and Bette stayed close to the truck, not venturing off into the desert. I thought it odd after I’d taken a few steps with Angelica in my arms that Mary had quickly called me back and suggested we watch the sunset from the side of the road.

As the brilliant hues paint over the desert sky, the three of us sit along the rim of the truck bed as Angelica toddles back and forth between us.  “Incredible colors, Mother,” Bette sweeps her arm across the sky. “It must be so wonderful to paint out here.”

“It is. Within a half hour of my house the landscapes are all so different. The canyons, the open desert with brush and cactus, and always such incredible skies.” Mary catches Angelica, as she plops down against her boots then, crawls toward the closed tailgate.

Suddenly, I hear a rattle and watch as Bette twists around so quickly she slips off the side of the truck and skids in the loose gravel. She grabs the sides to fling herself back in, as we all look toward Angelica playing with the severed piece of a rattlesnake’s tail.

Rattle Close Up

“Oh my goodness!” Mary exclaims as Bette reaches slowly over to our daughter. “I thought I’d washed the truck out really good. My eyesight must really be going.”

“Apparently you need glasses.” Bette says to her mother, and then to Angelica. “You’ve found a little treasure there haven’t you?” She eases the snake’s rattle from our daughter’s hands.

Tina incredulous back up pick up truck Story Image

“Do I even want to know how that got in here?” I ask.

“The short answer is it must’ve fallen off a snake.” Mary summarizes.

“I’m going to have trouble with you, two. I can just feel it.” I shake my head. “As if your daughter weren’t enough.” I open my hand for Bette to hand over their secret.

Tina_Moon_silhouette

Mary Windhorse’s Ranch – Tina

Around a warm campfire behind Mary’s adobe house I sit in canvas chairs with the elder Marys as Bette makes a bed of quilts and Indian blankets for her and Angelica. She stretches out on the ground with our daughter and waves away the occasional spark that flies out from the burning sticks and flames. When I tune my ear to listen under the soft tones of the two older women talking I can hear Bette whispering to Angelica a children’s story we both know by heart.

“The Blood Moon must have a story I hope you’ll tell.” I say missing I suppose one of my own.

“Careful what you ask for, Tina.” Mary Hardy warns with humor. “All the Indian legends that have to do with blood are mostly gruesome and scary.”

“And that business with Jesus wasn’t?” Mary Windhorse barks a laugh.

“Of course it is. Nailing people up on crosses as punishment is barbaric and disgusting. And a few hundred miles from Jerusalem you can probably get your hand cut off tonight for stealing a piece of bread.” Mary Hardy vents.

“Or some fucker cuts your head off.” Bette says as she covers Angelica’s ears.

“As if that helps.” Mary shakes her head at Bette. “But she’s right it’s a story about murder,” Mary Windhorse admits. “Still want to hear it?”

“Tina, it’s very comfortable over here with all these blankets. Won’t you bring the wine and come over here with us?”

“Sure.” I pick up our wine bottle and kneel down next to Bette and Angelica lying by the fire.

Mary Windhorse begins. “Before the year 1900 Blood Moons were rare and our old calendars showed they hadn’t occurred in more than three hundred years. But when they did my people marked the legend of the White Painted Woman.”

Mary draws her calloused fingers down her own weathered cheeks and says, “She wore long red painted feathers like blood streaks down her face.” I close my eyes and imagine the White Painted Woman. Bette slides her arm across my waist and I rest my head on her shoulder as we watch the full moon rise.

1 white painted woman

“She was said to be an expert hunter, far better than any of her brothers and superior to the other hunters in the tribe. The men were jealous and envious of her skill and prowess. And said she was a shapeshifter and her hunting was no more than a trick and a dishonest lure.

“To these taunts and others she was said to have ignored them until one night when the party went out hunting, and time and time again her arrows were truer than theirs for the kill.

“Enraged and coming upon her alone one of the huntsmen had turned on her. Knocked her to the ground and tore at her clothes to rape her. All night she had fought fiercely and held him off. They had thrashed back and forth against each other as the full moon rose higher. Toward dawn his arm slicked with sweat he had finally slipped in her grip and his flint knife struck a cut deeply into her. Around her as she died slowly bleeding into the earth a perfect circle of blood had formed.” Mary says as she finishes her story.

The fire crackles back to life as Bette’s mother tosses on another log. Lying with my back against Bette I pull her arm closer around me. She lightly kisses my neck and whispers, “I love you.”

“I feel lucky I was never raped.” Mary Hardy points back and forth to her friend and shakes her head sadly, “We hear too many stories of rape and abuse from the women on the Res.”

“Well, for God’s sake, Mary, isn’t being shot up and nearly tossed in a mass grave enough torture for you in one lifetime?”

“Wait? What?” Bette had gasped behind me.

“Not now, Bette.” Her mother had warned.

“I was raped at the missionary boarding school back when I was a girl. During World War 2 a practice of moving us off the desert near Los Alamos began and I was sent away from my family to a mission school in Montana.”

“How long did it go on? Or was it just once?” I ask and feel Bette’s whole body tense behind me.

“Too long is, of course, the short answer, but for months when I was twelve the older son of the farmer who minded the sheep and milk cows for the nuns would stalk me when I was out on the farm doing my chores.

“Did you ever forget about it?” I ask. “Because for years and years I didn’t remember my abuse.”

“Of course, I did. Hell, I’m nearly ninety years old. I’ve forgotten a lot of things!”

“I had a vivid memory come back to me today at the fair.” I lean back and look into Bette’s eyes. “I remembered a role playing game with my sister. She used to dress me up as an Indian boy to have sex with me.”

“And you were always the boy to her girl?” Mary Hardy asks.

“Yes.”

“But that’s not how we do it.” Bette confides to her mother.

“Babe?” I ask not believing my ears as the older women’s laughter overtakes them.

“Well, what should I have said?” She asks before her kiss overtakes my lips.

Three Blood Moons Maxine

Guestroom – Tina

The air in the house had felt chilly when we’d put Angelica to bed in Bette’s mother’s room.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a baby sleep so close to me.” Mary had said as we stood around Angelica’s bed and I had adjusted her Indian baby blankets one final time.

“Mary, we didn’t give you much time at all to get ready for your granddaughter’s visit and yet, you’ve found all the things needed to make her comfortable.” I had said before Bette and I had walked down the stairs after saying a warm good night to her mother.

In bed now with Bette, I feel her hands against my back as I kiss her.

CU Bette Tina Kiss.T on top

“I feel incredibly happy and to be finally in bed alone with you. But how are you?” Bette asks.

“In some ways this day has felt like a year.” I say before kissing her again. “Touch me when I tell you to.” I kiss down her neck and inhale the lingering smoky scents from the fire.

“Okay.” She says tentatively before I kiss her again and close my lips around her tongue that slides against mine.

Her hand cradles my head as my leg moves between hers. The heat coming from her feels warm against my thigh before it spreads and then burns a place inside me.

“I need to feel just you and not any place else tonight.” I whisper to her as I rub her clitoris and feel it harden.

“Baby, I love you.” Her quickens, and my tongue circles around her.

Bette_passion in bed. Story image

I feel a fierceness rushing through me and my need to push inside her, and back and forth we rock harder and harder together.

The ranch bed creaks louder as she calls out to me. “Jesus Christ! We need to come to New Mexico more often. For the love of God, Tina, fuck me right there!”

Lunar eclipse

Guestroom – Bette

Outside the window the lunar eclipse is underway and far off in the desert come the unsettling cries and yelps of coyotes and the wind and noises in the trees outside our bedroom window rustle with movement and sounds. The shapes and cries of hawks and other night birds swing through sky.

I stroke Tina’s back as she lies on my shoulder. “I know you feel it, too. It’s strange here.”

“It is but I like the idea of Mary Hardy as my mother-in-law, and perhaps Mary Windhorse as Angelica’s godmother.” Tina says.

“Yes, or something akin to that name she would like.” I agree. “How are you? Aside from what just happened,” I ask as I kiss her forehead.

“It’s been a long, very different kind of day.” Tina says. “I had a moment of something that felt suffocating when I went into a tent at the festival. It caught me off guard. I don’t know when to expect them but the memories seem to be returning to me.”

“I have zero experience with this. What should I do?”

“I do have a request.” Tina says rising up slightly.

“Anything, Baby.” I kiss her slowly. “Just ask. Please just ask.”

“I get it that you love your cowboy boots, Bette.”

“I know they are pretty great aren’t they?” I say as I knock them together at the foot of the mattress.

“But when we get back to LA, Babe, you can’t wear them in bed.”

antler candles bedside Story Image

_____

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#3 Touch Tones: The Ringer

 

Claire_with The Ringer
Sunday Night – The Sunset Grill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”We’re going to be here that long?”

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

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

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


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#2 Touch Tones: The Handler

PR consultant for Tina

Malibu – Cocktail party – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

I frown at the thought.

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

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

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

“Did you hit each other?”

“God no!”

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

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

Tina sends me a disbelieving stare.

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

Claire looks confused.

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

Alice and Shane sitting livingroom

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

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

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

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

“He wasn’t small,” Shane adds.

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

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

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

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

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

“I know them, Byron and Sally.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, Tina shakes her head.

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

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

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

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

Joyce

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

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

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

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

Tina answers, “It’s almost like….”

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

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

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

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

Then, Tina begins to cry.

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

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

Malibu Waves Night

The Beach – Saturday night – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

“How could we have been so stupid?”

“Over and over.” Tina shakes her head.

“You know what?” I ask.

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ouroborous

“Like the Ouroborous.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alice_Lesbo Land

Sunday – 6 pm – Alice

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

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

“Did you come to swim?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Best White backgrd

Jenny’s House – Alice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text from Shane to Alice:
“Burbank.”

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

Text from Shane to Alice:
“Long story.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________

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

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

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

 

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


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#1 Touch Tones: After Midnight

Malibu Coastline_Night
 Malibu – After Midnight – Bette
 The moonlight casts a pale glow as it filters through the bedroom windows that overlook the Pacific.  I can count the beats of the tide as it steadily comes ashore.  My mind drifts out into the darkness of the dunes and then beyond them to feel between the waves.  Every moment a swell then a downward roll – my breath in sync with Tina’s, as she lies quietly on my shoulder.  I exhale a long sigh of relief.  An hour ago in front of the fire she had said she would marry me.

“Bette?” She stirs on my shoulder.

“Yes, right here.” I answer her the way I always do when I’ve flown off to the ceiling, and she gently calls me back.

Then, she catches my gaze with diamonds that flash. “I just opened my eyes, and there’s a beautiful ring from you on my finger.”

I hold her tighter to me for a moment.

“I can’t really believe it’s there.” Tina plays it back and forth on her finger.

“Baby, are you at all disappointed? I had planned to ask you to marry me so differently.  I don’t know what got into me.” I kiss the top of her head. “I just blurted it out in the middle of an orgasm.”

“Well, it wasn’t how I’d ever pictured you doing it. That I can promise you.”

“Do you want me to do it again?  Fly us somewhere? I’ll hold you in my arms, and ask you again on a mountain top?  I just can’t jump out of a plane.” I thread my hand through hers across my chest. “The dinner, the wine, the fire were all so perfect.”

Tina strokes my chest and settles back against my shoulder.  “Swept away?  But, in case you dream something else up, I’m keeping the ring. You’re not getting it back in the meantime.”
CartierRingStoryImage

Tina studies the ring on her finger.  “I was raised to want one of the these, you know, and for years I told myself I didn’t, but now I realize I’ve wanted to be married to you for a long time.”  Slowly, she kisses me.

Bette_Tina_in Bed_talking Story picture

“Really? Because it would be so embarrassing to return it.”

“Relax. You don’t have to.” Tina kisses my lips, again. “Did you have a date and a place in mind, Bette?”

“Hm.” I look in her eyes and wonder if I should know these answers. “I might.” I frown very slightly, as I try to think. “Why? T, do you?

“Not yet, mind if I think about it?”

“Be my guest.” I kiss her with a loving sense of my relief buried inside it.

Tina_Bette In bed Tina kissing Bette

Her leg slides between mine. “I’ve missed kissing you,” Tina says as she settles on top of me.

“You have no idea.” I moan, wanting her again.

“Have you given any thought to telling our friends?”

“Hm.” I kiss her longer and halfway think about our announcement. “Maybe. What thoughts do you have about it?”

“I see. This is another one of your big picture moves. One you’ll sort out the details of later?”

“Would that be so bad?” I ask and hope to God it’s not.

Tina stares at me for a second. “Bette, do not explode.” She places her finger across my lips. “Would you mind if I asked the advice of a PR consultant? I mentioned it at dinner. The hungry gossip writers are gnawing at the edges of Les Girls for anything that will drop out, and that means something like this.”

“Even if we have Alice abducted?” I offer.

Tina smiles at me. “Even with Alice abducted people are going to see this.”  She wiggles her ring in front of my eyes. “This is your timing after all.”

“Stories about us…hmm, will they help that fruitcake Jenny’s movie? Probably will, won’t they?”

Tina lets out a sigh. “It’s my movie, too. Everyone seems to forget that until it’s time to yell at someone. The best way to manage the press is to have someone get ahead of it, and craft a message about our engagement that is interesting to a point, but respects our privacy.

“Tina, if a media consultant will get the nauseating confusion of Bev and Nina away from us then, of course, I trust you to make the right call.”

A flash of aggravation sweeps across Tina’s face. “And frankly, that’s giving Jenny too much credit! She just journaled our lives and absorbed our most dismal moments like a nasty little black sponge that sat in a kitchen window next door to us.”

“I know you’re being paid to turn the most pathetic moments of our lives into a movie, but I can’t pretend to be happy about it.”

“Please don’t get pissed off.” She strokes the sides of my face.  “You’ve created such a beautiful evening for us.”  Her kiss rolls slowly across my lips, and up I float to the ceiling with the blue tones of midnight, wondering if we’ll make love again.

heart-shaped pancakes

Beach House – Saturday morning – Tina

As I lie back in bed with the coffee Bette and Angelica brought me a few minutes ago, I listen to a conversation between them occurring down the hall.

“You know I’ve brought you breakfast in bed many a morning, Angelica, and now we’re almost ready to take this tray into your Momma T for her turn.”

I hear more pans rattling, and finally the clink of china, and very soon Bette appears in the doorway with two red lacquered Chinese breakfast trays. Angelica runs from beside her, and climbs steadily up into the bed to sit with me.

“From us!”

I sprinkle the heart-shaped pancakes with blueberries and pour maple syrup over them, as Bette stretches her long body, and yawns contently next to me.

I’ve tried to block out so many regrets, and try not to think about the missing years, but one thought lingers with me this morning.  Is this the first time we’ve ever done this since our baby, now a small child was born?  Lazed around in bed on Saturday morning eating pancakes?

Bette leans in for a syrupy bite. “Very lucky finding the heart-shaped pancake maker in the kitchen. It determined everything.”

“I would’ve been just as happy with one of your famous omelets.”

“Baby, my Saturday morning omelets for you are about,” she lowers her voice to a whisper, “seduction. Hearts with syrup are from your family”  Bette points out the window to the seashore. “They mean we leave the bedroom today.”

“I’ll be ready for the beach, when you both are.” I make another baby pancake bite for Angelica.

“An article I read said when you make a list of things you want to do, and change don’t overload yourself with really hard things. With that advice I wrote, ‘Learn how to cook on my list’.”

“That I still am coming to grips with.”

“But you see how good I am it, don’t you?”  She smiles as she tastes a pancake. “You see, with cooking it’s planned out. It’s timing, it’s strategy. Oh, and most of all,” she points to the blueberry covered heart shaped pancakes, “it’s presentation. All things I’m very good at.”

“I’ve missed this, Babe.  Missed you.”

She takes a long sip of coffee but it doesn’t hide the emotion in her voice. “There were so many bad things happening.  So many things I had no idea how to stop.” Her eyes drift out over the ocean.

I reach over Angelica’s head and stroke the side of Bette’s cheek.  She turns back from gazing out at the sea and looks at me with so much love in her eyes.

Malibu_;iquor store

Four hours later – Bette

Tina shook me awake from my pleasant post luncheon nap, pushed me under the shower, pulled me out again, and sent me up the coast a mile to the liquor store. Apparently, we’re having a cocktail party in an hour. Jesus! I was only asleep for ninety minutes at most!  When did we decide to throw a party? We didn’t.

My cart squeaks along the vibrantly colored aisles of Malibu Mike’s Liquor Store, and Frank Sinatra croons a romantic tune through the speakers. Row after row of bottles, their sherbert colored labels next to the blood red waxed necks, make me feel woozy for a moment. I stop my cart in front of shelves of vodka, and stare across at the clear but mind-altering liquid, and contemplate: How quickly things change.

Last weekend I was in Big Bear being tossed into a freezing lake, and wishing I could take the nail gun, I saw in Michelangelo’s mudroom, to everyone – including myself. I cannot reconcile the vast dimensional shift, so I put two bottles of Absolut vodka in my cart instead.

Aside from the hangover I know I’ll have tomorrow, the thought of getting a little drunk tonight begins to amuse me as I drive back down the coast. I inhale the rich sea air. If Tina wants to announce our good news, and share part of our evening with our friends, I should be happy about it, and then suddenly I am.

Charlie's Angels spoof

“Where’s Tina? I felt summoned, man.”  Shane looks around the beach house.  “And I have plans at ten, but I’m cool for a few hours. What’s up?” She leans into the refrigerator in search of a beer.

I open my mouth to speak, but Alice cuts in, “There’s no broken furniture, no bruises, no one’s crying –  I’m curious, too.” Alice shoots me a quizzical look.

“Helena is anyone – I don’t know – maybe like the Feds looking for you? What are you out on bail, an escapee?”

She smiles obliquely.  “There was money exchanged, and I’m somewhat reformed.”

I laugh to myself and sip my martini.  Before she got sent away Helena was a very good spy for me with news of Tina visiting a Gypsy Fortune Teller, or buying a vibrator in my absence, and speak of the devil.

Tina sweeps into the room, picks up the martini I made for her, and leans into me for a kiss.

Bette_Tina_Happy_at restaurant

Alice stops talking, Helena turns away from a Warhol print on the wall, and Shane looks up from stoking the fire, when they see us so happily back together. Then, with a lovely sense of fanfare, Tina holds out her left hand, and shows off her engagement ring.

“I have literally dreamed of this night! I know that sounds stalkery and crazy.” Alice picks up the martini shaker, and gives herself one last good splash.

“Congratulations, guys.” Shane puts her arm across my shoulder as Helena joins us to admire Tina’s ring.

“It is so beautiful, Tina.” Helena shoots me a sly smile.

“I’m marrying her as soon as I can.”

“Whoa, wait a minute!” Alice looks at Tina. “Not as soon as you can.” Then, back to me again. “Bette, there are plans to be made.”

Shane and I walk over to the fireplace together, and lean against the mantel. “This is right for both of you, especially you.”

“You saw too many of my close calls.” Shane nods her head and looks away into the fire.  “I am so ready.” I look behind at Tina smiling at me over Alice’s shoulder as they embrace.

The doorbell rings, and Shane leaves to let our next guest in.  “You’re expecting Kit, right?”

PR consultant for Tina

“Hi. Tina called me.”  A blonde woman standing in the doorway smiles at Shane and past her into the room where she catches my eye. “I was on my way out to a party, but Tina begged me to stop by. Something about she’d make it worth my while, and you’d uncork my favorite champagne?”

“So not Kit.” Shane walks backwards away from the door. “Come in, and I can definitely help you with that drink. I’m Shane, by the way.”

“Tina?” I look at her for answers.

“Everybody, this is Claire Reilly, and she’s here to help us.” Tina raises up two fingers to count them off. “First, she’s going to blaze a clear trail from one side of our wedding announcement, all the way to the other. And two,” Tina points her second finger toward me, “Claire’s being given whatever access I can provide to keep an eye on Jenny Schecter should she try to leak anything and steal our moment.”

Alice looks skeptical. “The press conference announcing the first day of shooting is Monday, right? That’s two days from now.”

Claire takes a flute of champagne from Shane. “My father did press relations for the Clinton’s when I was young, and I started out handling rock musicians.”

Leaning against the mantel, I begin to form a picture of what’s ahead.  “Well, just wait until you meet, Jenny Schecter.” .

_________________

Stay tuned for more of my L Word inspired vision of Season 7.
The story collection preceding this one, _WeHo: Behind the Scenes_, has the chapter, “Malibu” that this story, “After Midnight” comes immediately after. “Touch Tones” picks up immediately after I finished the last chapter in WeHo.

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

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


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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.

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