The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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

Bette_Tina_in Bed_talking Story picture

Bette and Tina’s Dallas Hotel Room – Bette

It’s an unusual feeling: Being belly stabbed.

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

Ouroborous

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

bloody knife

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

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

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

rorschach test pattern Red

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

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

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

“Ah, ah…sure.”

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

banana split

Hotel Room – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

rorschach test pattern Red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reversed red rorschach test pattern Red copy

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

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

“Tomorrow?”

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

“What’s it about?”

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

“Lafitte was a famous pirate.”

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

side angle whipped cream

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

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

“That feels…” I drift – completely captured.

Tina Bette Lovemaking

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

Hotel Room – Bette

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

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

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

Bette_Tina Both Tongues

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

“What happened to you scared me.”

I push slowly back inside her.

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

___________________

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.

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

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

 


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#9 Touch Tones: Radar Love

Tina sleeping

Santa Fe Guest Room – Bette

The early morning light streams through the windows of my mother’s house, and as I stretch my lingering dreaminess disappears and I realize suddenly: Everyone missing has been found. My long lost mother is upstairs with Angelica and Tina is lying next to me. The inner searcher inside me with no place left to look, and no where else to go vibrates restlessly under my skin.

Then I wonder, was blasting away at rattlesnakes with my mother’s six-shooter an initiation of sorts? Was cutting their heads off with the Bowie knife I’d bought to stab into Henry the real threshold I had to cross to find peace instead of prison?

I wonder for a moment if it could possibly be true. I’d happily grill snake every day if I have to. Just point me to flames.

Rattlesnakes on the Grill

A semi-delectable transformative host, an unbelievably coincidental crossroads, or a strange mystical fact? I stare up at the ceiling in wonder and soon the rattlesnakes disappear, and the blankness mirrors back my father’s face as he had gripped my small shoulders and told me, “Bette, your mother has died.”

But she hadn’t, and this morning I playback the events over and over again in my mind. It had been just another day at school. Classroom lessons and a chill in the air at recess before the news that afternoon. Before I’d smelled the lies on him.

That must have been its origin. When the part of me that unconsciously believed had remained vigilant, but always anxious had split off and been born.

This is why I wake up first. This is why Tina always gets her coffee in bed. And this is who’s been sending out those endless radar pings that eventually melded into my mind.

And now that I’ve prevailed? Found my mother and won Tina back? I’ve no clue whatsoever how to turn this uneasy inner watcher inside me off.

“Un-fucking-believable.” I mutter under my breath, as Tina stirs next to me. Everything about my life would’ve been different. It all would’ve changed if only he’d told me the truth that day instead of lying.

And then I pause.

What if I had spent my whole life in WitSec with my mother? How likely is it that while hiding and on the run from the murderous Gambino Crime Family I would’ve ever ended up at Yale? Ergo, no exotic artistic lovers; ergo, no lust for the fairer sex; ergo, no women whatsoever. That last bit is impossible, isn’t it?

Well, almost certainly in this scenario I never made it to LA, so no Tina. And that thought depresses me. But wait a fucking second! If I’m in WitSec with my mother then there’s no Bette Porter. Because Bette Porter has disappeared.

I swallow hard and taste the dry panic in my mouth. I don’t ever recall wanting a drink quite so early in the morning, and I need to be very careful about what I wish for.

I rub my face and try to crawl down from the ledge and back into the sheets where it should feel safe but doesn’t. Other paths, alternative destinies, different fates. These words feel perilous to me and impossibly hard to define, and I’m not sure I really want to anymore.

After Tina had left me the second fucking time I’d tried to make sense of things. Hours I’d spent staring at the reflections in my pool, drinking old Scotch, and wondering why the woman I loved had left me.

Bette Garden thinking white sweater

In this tortured reverie I was a beautifully tragic vision of my self pity. Broken but incredibly talented with a sly charismatic look that could net anyone for awhile, yet I remained incurable and fatally flawed. And the more Scotch I drank on those nights the more my outcomes never changed, and I’d fall into bed pissed off and usually alone. Unless I wasn’t.

Bette drinking outside alone

That would the same bed Tina had insisted two weeks ago I throw out to further perpetuate our ruse with Jenny, when the truth was for both of us – it was an important symbol of our starting over.

I look away from the ceiling and out through the windows and think of soft new mattresses, and then the rough prickly landscapes of snakes and cactus plants that thrive outside my mother’s home.

Everything is different here and it all started with these boots. I swing them out from under the covers and knock them together a few times and wonder which do I prefer? Long leather sheaths of protection from this unpredictable environment, or my expertly tailored power suits that do the same things in a very different setting? And what could possibly be next?

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

Then an answer springs forth. I’m definitely wearing these to faculty meetings. One look at me striding in with these on will definitely snap the infuriating and willowy-spined art professors in my department into submission, and then, uncontested my plans for the new building and my department can definitely unfold!

Or not, I realize grimly. As long as Jodie Lerner is in my department’s nearby studio space screwing society’s discarded debris into disquieting sculptures there’s an obstacle with very powerful friends on my faculty. And this is why I should never sleep with people at work! And yet, I knew this gem of wisdom at the time. Still, I did it anyway.

I look over at Tina sleeping next me and wonder if Phyllis is playing power games with me? Is it a control thing with her that she keeps Jodie on, or is it that Phyllis is simply a woman who adores her drama?

My mood had been so dark and desperate the night of her “Coming Out” party. When I had heard my name whispered along with the susurrant title of Jenny’s movie I had cringed and headed for the shadows. On my way to the edge a waitress had brushed past me carrying a tray of champagne and Phyllis’ black brassiere had begun to spin over her head where it became the quantum wings of the butterfly that caused the tsunami. An hour later my clothes were in a heap on the floor by Tina’s bed.

But what if Phyllis had never stripped off her blouse and flagrantly waved her brassiere over her head? What if she’d never stood half naked at the end of her diving board whooping and crying up to the stars for her freedom? What if I hadn’t caught Tina’s eye just as she’d turned away smiling from Phyllis’ amusing spectacle? And if I’d never had the chance to ask, “Do you want to get out of here?”

Bette Phyllis party story image

Thinking back on it – it was more of a plea really. And what if she’d said no?

I tiptoe in my boots from rug to rug toward the closet and my bathrobe, and then silently behind me I close the bedroom door.

Time had stopped for a moment when we’d made love that night after Phyllis’ party. For the second time that day – after months and years apart – we’d found each other, and desperately at times – we couldn’t get enough.

I pour her coffee and make my tea. For the love of God how quickly can I marry her and be with her forever?

Tina bedroom Santa Fe

Ten minutes later – Tina

“Oh, Bette, thank you for this,” I smile at her as we lean back against the rustic headboard and I take my first sip of coffee.

“It’s good isn’t it? I had a taste to be sure I was doing it right. They like it out here with the smoky flavor of roasted chocolate in it.”

“How’d you sleep, Babe? Did you stay up and watch more of the Blood Moon?”

“Not too much. Once the animals had quieted down outside, and you were asleep I drifted off.”

“I don’t hear our child. While you were up did you look in on her?”

“Peaked in. I wasn’t quite ready for them yet. In a few minutes I’ll send up a flare that we’re awake, if that’s what you want.” Bette’s voice drifts as she looks over at me.

I smile before I blow on my coffee and take another sip. “I could say good morning to you if you’d like.” I lean into her kiss.

“I might. It’s awfully hard to turn down vacation sex, don’t you think?”

Bette_Tina Season 5 06kiss

“And you’ve barely debriefed me. How’s reuniting with your mother been?”

“Fine. No more than fine. And she obviously likes you, whereas, I obviously love you.”

I place my cup carefully on the bedside table when I feel her hands begin to search me. Her head disappears under the sheet and rolling over my nipples I feel her tongue. I hold behind her neck as more and more pleasure comes from her mouth and then another long lick deepens my burning for her.

“You are so good at this,” I sigh and lie back.

She comes up from the sheet and rolls me on my side. Her tongue slides along my ear and she whispers, “I love you, Tina and I really want to marry you. Let’s do it soon.”

Bette_Lick_Tina's neck

“You woke up hungry and stared at the ceiling for a long time, didn’t you?”

“It’s true. I’ve been all over the map this morning.”

I slide under her. “Obviously someplace interesting.” I manage before she opens my mouth to her again.

Bette's Tongue.2 on top

“I can’t live without you. Being away from you unravels me, and drives me a little crazy. You came back to me at the perfect time, and just before I lost my mind.”

“Babe, I was miserable, too.” I hold her close to me as we make love.

“Are we in heaven?” Bette asks after several minutes.

“I know. I smell it, too.”

“Bacon,” she says before she disappears again below the sheet.

“Babe, I don’t mind if you want to make it fast. It wouldn’t bother me at all if you did.” And without words she begins to answer me.

Maxine breakfast room

Mary Hardy’s Breakfast Room – Bette

“Mother, we’d like another ride out in the desert before we go to the airport this afternoon. Do we have time to drive up in the canyon and see your art studio?”

“After church we’ll go. It’s not far but dusty out there. And it doesn’t matter what we wear to church.” She turns away and opens her oven. “Put on whatever you want.”

“Church?” I ask as she places a tray of bacon wrapped poached eggs on the table in front of me. I look across at Tina who steadies Angelica’s cereal spoon.

Our Dinner Party. Theme was breakfast.

“Yes, it’s what I do on Sunday mornings. You don’t?”

“We’d love to,” Tina answers quickly. “How will you introduce us? Does your disguise after all these years include a family?”

“It does and Bette I need to tell you two things before you leave.”

I slice into my eggs. “Now or later? And this breakfast is delicious. Thank you so much.”

“First, I want to tell you about your brother.”

Maxine_Adoring w:Son

“My what?” I blurt and a few crumbs spew out of my mouth. I drag my napkin quickly across my lips and stare in disbelief at Tina and then my mother. Tina sends me a warning look as Angelica stops eating and begins to fidget.

“He’s a good boy, Bette. Well, he’s thirty years old now, and a journalist. He travels a lot. He was here just last month to see me.” My mother hands me a photograph.

“His name is Sam. Handsome, isn’t he?” My mother smiles at Tina as I hand her the picture to see. “I may have had a screwy, screwy life but God blessed me with beautiful children.”

saints int santa fe church

Church – Tina

As we enter the spacious church on the site of an old Spanish mission Bette’s mother stops inside the doors of the sanctuary and we take in the pinyon scented beauty of the place. “Thank you both for hurrying so we could get here early. There are friends of mine I want you to meet before we all sit down.”

“Take Angelica ahead, Mary. There’s a candle Bette and I want to light for someone first.” Then, I add in a whisper, “My first baby didn’t come to term. May we catch up with you?” I let loose of Angelica as Bette turns away.

Her mother’s face shows a stab of pain at my news. “I always sit in the seventh row on the left. Come find me when you’re ready.”

“We will.” I tap Bette’s arm and guide her toward the prayer candles by a shrine to the saints. “Babe, I appreciate the self control you showed after hearing you have a brother and not upsetting our daughter and your mother at breakfast.”

“Was she blasé about telling me this mind-altering news? Or was it my imagination that for her it was a “pass me the eggs and bacon, and by the way, you have a brother” kind of moment?”

“It was a soft bomb, Bette. No doubt about it. But I don’t think your mother has had much practice telling her secrets. She hasn’t been allowed to, don’t forget.”

“I’m in shock.” Bette shakes her head as she puts a wooden stick next to mine against the flame of a tall devotional candle.

“I know. I can see it on your face. And brace yourself, too, Babe, she apparently has another shoe to drop.” I fold up a dollar bill and slip it through the iron slit for our offering. “She said there were two things she wanted to talk to you about before we flew home.”

“Look, I’m not against the idea of having a brother. I mean it makes perfect sense that she had other children. She was your age when she left after all. Plenty of time to start another family.” But I hear a slight catch in Bette’s voice when she says it.

I slip my arm around her waist as we stare down at the rows of candles flickering up at the faces of saints. “Which candle should we light for the baby, Bette?”

“The one that has the answers.”

Loretto Chapel santa fe staircase

Forty-five minutes later – Tina

After the service Mary Windhorse walks me toward an incomparable spiral staircase where a number of women have gathered. “We have a group that meets here once a week. Knowing them and having a group when I needed one over the years has been helpful.”

“For so long, years really, I’ve barely thought about my sister. But now, the memories are coming back.”

“It happens for many reasons. We block things out and then, mysteriously something opens the door and it can be overwhelming. Knock you right off your horse because you never saw it coming.”

“Bette and I, we’ve been separated for a few years, and very recently we got back together.”

“And now, you’re getting married. Big changes stir up things. You’re old enough to know that.”

“I just don’t need disturbing, inner reflections right now. I’m in the middle of a movie, things are finally going so well with my family.” I stop and look in Mary’s wizened face. “I know that no one ever schedules themselves for prolonged periods of mental meltdowns, and I’m sure this denial is one of the great faults of modern society.”

“Do you feel unsteady still, Tina? Because yesterday I found you on the ground outside the Medicine Man’s tent and picked your ass up out of the dirt.”

“You’ve heard stories from the women in your group. You’ve been around women who remember, haven’t you? What happens to them when their memories start to rush back and return? Am I headed for something – I’m telling you in no uncertain terms – I don’t have time for?”

“How much of my help and advice do you want? I was all set to forget about it but you talked about your sex abuse last night around my campfire.” She stops and looks up the staircase. “You’re in Mary’s family now and she’s in mine.

santa fe staircase spiral

“I’m an old Indian woman who believes in the power of the memories and dreams. The Sweat Lodge, for example, it’s a very sacred special place to hear from the Spirits.”

“Yes, I’ll do that with you.” I find myself saying too quickly before my reasoning can catch up.

Mary nods her head and looks at me, “It’s a way in and I will do it with you, be as much of a guide for you in the beginning as I can.”

“There’s another favor I want to ask of you.”

“Go ahead, I can see you’re on a roll.” She smiles at me before her wrinkled face returns to its usual sternness.

“We’ll be spending a lot more time here; I can see how much Angelica is over the moon with her new grandmother, and we’ve given her zero spiritual training or insight. We think it’s time, and yesterday I asked Bette if we should ask you to be our daughter’s Godmother, or whatever your elder term of stature is for what I’m asking you to consider. What is the word I’m looking for? I honestly don’t know, but we’d like to extend this to you as a honored person in our daughter’s life, in our lives, too.”

“She’s a beautiful little soul, isn’t she?” Mary Windhorse and I look across the church at Angelica. Bette holds her in her arms and from here, I can see their playful love for each other as something makes them both laugh.

Mary Windhorse turns back to me. “Godmother is fine. I know what you’re asking and I’ll do it, and I take this seriously even though you haven’t thought it all out. I see what’s needed. Now, come meet my friends. You don’t have to say or explain anything. Just say, Hello, and then, I think you’re headed out for the art studio.”

“We are and then we’re flying …” I’m interrupted when a woman’s voice calls from across the church, “Bette Porter is that you?” I turn to see Bette’s expression of utter surprise as she spins around toward an attractive woman walking swiftly toward her.

“Sarah Wilson?”

“Yes! Sarah MacPherson now, but yeah, it’s me! What on earth are you doing here? And is this your child?” She reaches up to Angelica. “Wow! I would have never imagined.” Sarah looks quizzically at Bette.

Tia CU torquoise necklace

Sanctuary – Bette

My mother’s eye catches mine before I answer my old friend from Yale. “Vacation with my daughter and my fiancée, Tina. She’s walking over there by the staircase.” Sarah and I wave at Tina.

“Pretty, but of course, she would be.” Sarah smiles as Tina waves back. “I’m in DC now. Part of my job is dealing with tribal land rights and the bureaucracy in our “overly happy to study the matter further” government.”

“Hmm.” I mummer as I wonder what land mines await as she encounters my mother and Mary Windhorse some where down the line on this issue. “Have you been doing this for years? Do you come out here often?”

“My second trip. It’s a new job and my first tribe was the Crow and sometimes the Apache came to the table. North and west of here but God, it feels nice to able to fly into a nice little city and stay in a good hotel for a change. But what about you? Where are you living?”

“LA. I’m a dean at CU and Tina’s making a movie. We’re busy, and you remember my sister, Kit?”

“Impossible to forget. And that the night we had? When we took the train up to Boston, and Kit was on stage in a cherry red dress.”

“Most of it.” I laugh with Sarah.

“I have no idea how I got out of college.”

“Funny you mention it. I was just thinking about Yale this morning.” I look up into the arches of the church ceiling before I continue, “I’m getting married soon. I should be thinking more about the future, I suppose.”

“My work on the land rights – all those old claims with the territories and the tribes – it’s all about the past. Who said what, and when, and what they traded it for. Sometimes, you have to go all the way back before you can take the right way forward.” Then she laughs. “In theory, anyway.”

“Exactly. Well, look give me your card, do you have one on you?” I pat my pockets as I balance Angelica in my arms. “I don’t have mine with me today, but LA, Bette Porter, CU – Google that and you’ll find me.”

“Here, I have one. Let’s email or something and when, or if, you come back to Santa Fe in the next six months please look me up. That’s how long I expect to be in and out of here.”

Maxine Blue window

Mary Hardy’s Art Studio – Bette

On the drive out into the desert I notice that Tina is unusually quiet. She doesn’t seem upset just pensive, and as I steer my mother’s old truck up through the canyon I wonder what she’s thinking about. I feel a twinge of sadness, too, that I’ll be leaving New Mexico soon, and rejoining my somewhat erratic life in LA.

“Mother, after our little picnic at your studio is there a place we can put Angelica down for her nap? I want her to sleep on the plane, but we should talk a little before I leave.”

“We should. It’s been on my mind for awhile how to tell you the story about what happened.”

“The medium long version is all I need. Or really, whatever you want to tell me is fine.”

“Any questions about your brother? I know I sprung that on you.”

“You spring a lot of things, Mother. Most of my first night here I was hyperventilating.” I laugh as I look across the bouncing truck seat at her. “But I haven’t formulated my thoughts on the bombshell that I have a brother.”

“Well, think about it, and I need to some more, as well. When you’re ready to meet him I need to break it to him, too.”

“He has no idea about me, either?” I asked shocked.

“None.” She shakes her head. “To keep my sanity I had to become very good at compartmentalizing, but everyday I thought about you.” She lifts her hand up to my cheek. “I really want you to know that.”

“Likewise,” I nod my head. “I can say the same.”

Maxine Painting RedWineBlueChairs

One hour later –

As Tina packs up the picnic basket from lunch and my mother talks softly with Angelica who’s fighting a little with falling asleep, I look through more of my mother’s paintings stacked against a wall. “This one I like, too, Mother. When did you do this?”

“Last spring it stayed cold, too cold for my hands, and I hate to say it, my arthritis, to paint much outdoors. So, I started some still lifes. Quasi-still lifes, anyway. That’s the only one left from that series, and I definitely could’ve sold it.”

“I can take a walk if you’d like me to, Mary.” Tina says as she snaps the picnic basket shut.

“No, you’re to hear this, too. If you want to that is, I’m not forcing this story on anyone.”

“Bette?”

“Of course, I want you here with me.” I slide down on the leather couch and hold my hand out for Tina’s.

Maxine self portrait.2 rear shot smoking

“Of all the things I had to bury that afternoon how much your father irritated me has never been one I successfully put to rest.” She adds with a deep sigh, “You did know your father and I didn’t always get along, or did you know that?”

“I think I did, but I’ve papered over a lot. After knowing you a few days I can only imagine he must’ve been attracted to your free spirit and then tried to crush it.”

“Didn’t he try it with you?”

“Repeatedly, but I got better at it as I got older.” I glance at Tina when she clears her throat. “Well, maybe I didn’t after all.” I admit as my mother and Tina laugh with me.

“I had a great friend, Wendy was her name, and she had a place down by the river with a great big chaotic kitchen where we’d make dinners, and then later drink wine, bitch about our husbands, and try to beat the crap out of each other at Gin Rummy. She was a great card player and she never cheated.”

“Commendable but that should go without saying, don’t you think?”

Tina leans forward. “True, but you know how it gets sometimes with our poker group?”

“No, you’re right. You hate to think your good friends are cheating.”

“Well, mine didn’t and that was one of the reasons I really liked her. So, I was on my way there and I stopped in this liquor store, and it got robbed.”

“And you got shot.”

“And I got shot along with everyone else. I was the only one who survived and I did because I played dead.”

“What was the mob doing robbing a liquor store? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

“It was the younger son of a Capitano who was high up in the family. The kid was trying to prove himself, so, he robbed the place, and then started shooting everybody. It all went to hell real fast! One minute they were yelling about money, and the next minute he flipped, and starting gunning everyone down. Wine bottles were breaking all around me and a bullet zipped into my shoulder.” She points up to her right and her thin fingers pat her old wound, “Just up here.”

“I take it you couldn’t escape?”

“Word travelled very fast about what this kid had done and within minutes some very serious men came in to clean up his mess. And that meant, of course, dispose of our bodies. I hid under this poor man who wasn’t so lucky. I let the red wine that had spilled along with the blood all over the floor sink into my clothes, and I crawled under a dead man. Then, I smeared his blood and a lot of mine all over me, and they dumped me in the back of a laundry truck with the four dead bodies. We drove around for what seemed like hours. I was sure I was done for.”

“Jesus Christ! How long were you in that truck with them? Bleeding the whole time?”

“No, definitely not bleeding the whole time. When they slammed the door shut I took the belt off the man who’d been behind the register and made a tourniquet for myself, and then I didn’t know what I was going to do when the doors opened again.”

Spooky GraveYard Gambino Family

“Survival springs to mind.”

“That was definitely on the list. Luckily for me, the FBI had a man inside the family. When we got out to their farm where the plans were to bury us – he decided when a laundry van full of dead bodies showed up – it was time to break his cover.”

“So the Inside Man literally called the FBI?”

“He did and I don’t know how much longer I could’ve lasted. They were going to bury me, and I was very much alive. I kinda panicked about that.”

“I imagine so!”

“But this inside man, I think he knew I was still breathing. I must’ve looked different to him when he opened the door.”

“As in not turning grey, I’m sure.” I put my head in my hands. “All this I can’t imagine, but what was so important about your testimony? It was some kid, right?”

“And that’s called leverage. The Feds got his father to flip and inform on the Family for a few productive years while the Feds built an even bigger case. But they knew pretty quick they needed me, if they were going to twist him.

“Maybe I could’ve escaped into the arms of the Feds unnoticed, but when the Coroner came, and I was discovered still alive – it wasn’t handled so well. The Gambinos knew I was still kicking after lots of shouting from the Coroner’s staff, “We’ve got a live one here!” And then, an ambulance came. By then everyone had seen me.”

“And then you went away.”

“Yes, and then I went away. And I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry I had to do that to you, Bette, and that I’ve missed so much of your life.”

“I know. I know you are.” I take my mother’s thin hands and we cry together for a minute before she wipes away my tears. “And I’ve missed you everyday since, Bette. And you and Tina, along with this little one that you’ve brought into my life, I can’t tell you what it means to me.”

I lean back on the couch and look over at Tina. “I have some idea. There’s a grace to starting over, and this is ours.”

____

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The Weather Report

Alice_with Paperwork

The Planet – Alice

Even though every once in awhile I’m proven wrong I can honestly say without fear of argument: Today, the news around me is not good. Helena’s in jail! Shane’s business is toast! Those SheBar freaks? Miami coconut-oiled mobsters! And that’s just my list of pending financial crimes!

However, the many relationship fronts around me are unusually and eerily calm and that naturally means an eruption at any moment. It’s earthquake weather in California and anything can happen.

For weeks now since our trip to New York I’ve watched a battle weary Bette as she waits for Jodie’s certain return. And while she waits I’ve clocked the overly friendly amounts of time she spends with the ever present, always a phone call away, co-Mom of Angelica’s, Tina, who in her free time away from her new bff, Bette, is dating a heart doctor named Brenda, a blonde who is always happy. It’s only a matter of time before Brenda’s verve wears thin on all of us.

While Tina is mostly a balanced person she longs to be needed and is completely unaccustomed to being around cheerful, uncomplicated women who lack the craving for lots and lots of fawning attention. That’s my opinion anyway. Over the years I’ve seen it over and over between her and Bette. As smart as Tina is as a movie executive she completely misreads her romantic situations.

Take now as an example. If Tina had sent Bette signals that weren’t obtuse and riddled with double meanings and escape hatches and tunnels that lead safely to the sea Bette would’ve stopped Tina dead in her tracks, and backwards they would’ve bent in their forever tango, and set themselves on fire again. But she didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t and while smoldering may be fun for some – it gets very, very old very, very fast for me.

And for Bette it appears to have burned straight through and into her spleen. And for Tina, who’s just now starting to miss Bette all over again, I fear she has an endless supply of patience for it, however; she was unusually cross and snappy with me when I got home from my trip with Bette and Shane. And as their High Noon approaches, for whatever Goddamn reasons, Tina can’t or won’t send the final necessary signals, and I’m confused and undecided as Jodie’s arrival date approaches as to why.

What is the reason? I look around The Planet and drink my afternoon coffee and tap my favorite green pen and wonder if I shouldn’t just bag the whole caffeine thing and give my body and mind what it truly craves: Liquor. As I decide whether I want rum or vodka in this hotter than usual early summertime weather I wonder about people’s addictions.

Helena’s are for money and Peggy’s love. Shane’s are complicated but at her core it’s about connection. Bette’s are about being right and never failing her family again. And mine I admit are for attention, which leaves Tina.

Tina and Alice looking at computer

I think I know her so well sometimes I can say the words and think her thoughts before she does. But then they are the other times Shane has to nudge me to close my mouth from its astonished gaping.

Tina’s a southern woman, cultured and well educated who escaped without the confinements and baggage of debuts, and endless family weddings or Christenings that normally she’d fly home to attend. Something must have happened before she joined our cabal that made her feel so distant from her family and the South. To my knowledge none of us have ever asked and Tina’s never volunteered, an early sign she kept secrets about herself. Bette must know, but like so many confidences and private moments they hold between them they’ll never share, and none of us will ever be the wiser. And that has nagged at me, too, I admit.

When Tina first appeared in our lives ten years ago she’d fit right in. And next came their chemistry that everyone could feel. It was palpable, dynamic,  unmistakable, and it annoyed the crap out of me until I finally realized how stupid I was being. I thought I’d let all of my jealousy go -it’d been years after all -but there it was as a hot lash to whip Bette with when she went off with Candace, the carpenter.

She may never fully forgive me for blistering her the way I did. But as the years have passed and especially recently, every time I add more connections to Our Chart and see the names and dashes grow between Bette and Tina, I wish Tina would ask me and Shane to do something for her before Jodie gets back. Because by then I’m afraid it’ll be too late.

The longer I sit here dreaming of rum or vodka and getting drunk by three the more this whole day feels odd, suspended in time and very much like earthquake weather. I’m sure of it now. I have a sense the ground is just about to shake.

My iPhone signals a text from Tina.

“Need an eyewitness. U free?”

I text back, “Sure! What’s up?”

Text from Tina, “Can U meet me @SheBar in 10?”

“Eww. Okay. I’ll bring garlic.” I motion to the waiter.

The SheBar – Alice

Walking up the steps to the SheBar I drink deeply from the smuggled vodka and grapefruit juice cocktail I sneakily poured into my travel mug before I left The Planet. Man, am I glad I told the bartender to make it a double, I hate these tacky lesbians from Miami.

Now that I’m inside I hear the shrillness of Tina’s voice as it begins its dangerous rise into higher altitudes. This makes me smile. Thank God! Something interesting! Wasn’t I just lamenting that it was all too quiet? I smile to myself as I hurry down the hallway toward the commotion. When Tina gets unnerved like this someone always leaves the plane without their parachute. Oh Good! I think until I open the final door.

What the fuck is that thing? And then a poster on the wall tells all: Lesbian Hot Oil Wrestling! Every Thursday Night at LA’s Hottest New Girl Club – The SheBar. My eyes blink three times real fast then I hear Tina.

“What I’m fucking telling you is that you need to quit interfering with my movie! But you don’t seem to hear me because you’re either too stupid, or too idiotically self destructive to listen to me.” Tina stabs her finger toward Denbo who remarkably keeps her cool. My Girlfriend Cindy walks from the back toward the wrestling ring.

Please a gold bikini? So Miami Beach! But damn she looks good in it. I push salacious thoughts of My Girlfriend Cindy’s bikini from my mind.

But still…

Then Tina’s voice snaps me out of my fantasy.

“One last time, Denbo and you, too – whatever the fuck your name is – I’m warning you. Stay away from our locations! Stay away from my set, leave my employees alone, and fuck off! Fuck way off from my movie! Do you hear me?” Tina yells furiously at them both.

Denbo smirks as she walks toward her. “Listen! I’ve got a Grand Opening to plan and this ring for our weekly wrestling contests to put together. You’re interfering with my business and standing right where I need to tie off the last cable. Do you mind?” Denbo leans to pick up the rope laying at Tina’s feet and the next thing I know Tina’s flying through the air and across the hot oil wrestling ring. Then Denbo gives a whistle and My Girlfriend Cindy pounces.

Cindy_SheBar

I take a picture just before Cindy splashes full force into Tina who goes down with an, ompft! It’s time for back-up. I send a text to Bette.

“Stop What Ur doin come 2 SheBar ASAP!”

Text from Bette, “At Gym. Fucking hate them, fucking hate bars. No Thx.”

I duck behind a post and attach the photo in a text to Bette. “This fucking idiot on top of Tina in wrestling ring! And Now??!!” I hear the whoosh sound of it fly away to wreak havoc in Bette’s mind as I take stock around me.

Oh! Nice move! I watch as Tina strips off her shirt and flips My Girlfriend Cindy over and attempts to tie up her arms. Denbo watches ringside as the tables turn. I wonder where Tina got this trussing skill? The foothills of the Smokey Mountains?

Five minutes later I check my watch and then look around the room for a good seat. Three, Two, One!

The door flies open and nearly off its hinges.

CU_Bette_Surprised

A string of Bette’s belongings begin to drop to the floor as she tugs off her gym bag, then her warm up jacket in a hurry toward the ring.

“Tina! Goddammit!” She cries out as Tina gets flipped and quickly scissor locked by My Girlfriend Cindy. Damn, Tina’s losing valuable ground. I have a dawning suspicion that Denbo and My Girlfriend Cindy have done this routine before.

“Just what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Bette yells at everyone but mostly at Denbo as she kicks off her shoes by me. I take a satisfying swallow of vodka as a new match up begins and Bette, in her white tank top and dark gym shorts, jumps onto the platform and ducks inside the ropes by Tina.

“I fucking got this, Bette.” Tina in only a black brassiere and green shorts chokes out between Cindy’s tanned thighs.

“Are you out of your fucking mind, Tina? What are you doing in here?” Bette grabs Cindy by the wrists and slipping slightly in the oil drags her along with Tina making gagging sounds across the mat.

“You! Let go of her! Or I swear to God!” Bette snarls.

“Hey! No fair, Porter! No, two against one!” Denbo cries out as she edges closer to the action inside the ring.

“Tina, Goddammit! Grab her little toe! Twist it to the side really hard. Do it now!” Bette yells as she watches Denbo’s approach.

“Okay! I give!” Cindy releases Tina’s head from her scissor lock but Bette keeps her grip.

“If you try any shit like this again I’m going to break your wrists.” She twists Cindy’s backwards far enough to make her cry out, “And I won’t hesitate.” She drops her captive’s arms as Denbo slips into the ring.

“So, now that our girls have had their fun, and by the ways ladies, you were really great to watch.” Denbo bows toward Tina who wipes oil off her face and glares back deeply pissed.

“Tina, where the fuck’s your shirt? For Christ sake!” Bette holds her hand up for Denbo to stop as all eyes watch Tina panting angrily a few feet away.

“Pretty hot one, Porter. Or should I say hot one you had. And yeah, I was real fucking sorry to hear all about your cheating ways when I asked around about you two. Sad, sad story about how you fucked all that up.” Denbo sneers at Bette.

From my ringside seat I’m not sure if it’s real or if my overly active imagination and the perfect amount of vodka have blended but I’m pretty sure Bette’s boxing muscles -the ones I see every other day at the gym -have changed into pumped up knots along her arms. Denbo, to her credit takes notice and backs up a few steps, too. Okay! Whew, I thought I was hallucinating for a minute.

“Tina, really are you okay?” Bette looks quickly at her before pointing her finger back at Denbo. “And you, I can’t even box with because all I’d have is some little bitch to slap around. Now, get out of our way because this is over and we’re leaving.”

Denbo stands her ground, “This isn’t over, Porter. Tell your sister I’m coming for her next and I’m not through with your stupid, little lesbian movie either.” She spits at Tina.

“As much as I’d like to see you get your ass kicked I have to get back to the production office.” A much calmer Tina adjusts her brassiere and puts her arm around Bette.

I lift my camera to take their picture but Bette and Tina send a, ‘don’t you dare’ look at me. I imprint them in my mind as they walk across the ring together. Tina shining with oil and clingy in all the right places and Bette, finally smiling now as they hold the ropes for each other to exit the ring. She looks like any other over adrenalized fighter who only got to halfway kick some ass while a woman in her lingerie looked on.

I imagine them for a moment forgetting about any of us around them, or where they are, and that they don’t sleep together any more. I see them coming together in one of their minutes too long if you’re waiting on them to go somewhere rolling into each other kisses.

But instead Bette hands Tina a towel from her gym bag. “It’s hardly been used. I didn’t get a shower before I came over here. Use it to wipe the goo off your arms and your face.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.” Tina lifts the towel up to her nose and breathes in as she looks around for her clothes and shoes.

“Baby, you’ve got to get dressed. Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Bette puts her warm up jacket around Tina.

“Alice, please look around for her shirt.”

“You looked scary in there, Bette.” Tina laughs as she wipes her hair and arms then hands Bette back the towel.

“I’ve been in a mood lately.” Bette zips it into a side bag as Tina takes her shirt from me and wrings out a long stream of oil.

“Those girls…there’s something very off about them.” Bette looks up as golden droplets splash between us.

Tina bites her lip, “And from the looks of it they’re not going away anytime soon, either.”

 

 

The next chapter is titled, Fit for Battle. Bette and Tina draw closer to rekindling the romance.

has a great twitter feed with pictures and clips of our favorite characters.

@ModernLWord  is a hilarious feed that has imaginative ideas about what our favorite characters would be saying or doing in present day.

 

 


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Spell On You – Tina Kennard L Word

Tarot_PrincessofDicks

Gypsy’s House – Tina

Alone in the Gypsy’s guestroom bath I look in the mirror at the welt on my forehead. It’s about the size of my thumb, and very red. God, I had pushed those memories about my sister so far down, and yet, the Gypsy had plucked them out from me immediately.

I moisten my hands and tap around my face, and catch the edgy expression in my eyes.  An old sadness rises up inside me. Given air and brought into the light, after all these years my memories of those nights are going to take some getting used to.

I lean closer into the mirror and examine my lump. There’s nothing to be done to cover it up. If anyone asks I’ll think of something.

In some form or another – throughout my entire reading – Bette was either nuanced, which is hardly like her, or straight up as a woman bearing a sword, or in her case, a Bowie knife. She was everywhere, but in my area of work, and even there the chances were high she’d attempt to influence me with Jenny’s movie’s, so close to production on the horizon.

Then the Gypsy had turned over the last card.

TheChariot

The Chariot

I’d stared down at the circular ring of images that no longer appeared random to me. The symbolic part of my mind that holds their cipher had begun to understand.

”Hmm, this card complicates things.” The Gypsy taps as she’d studied it.

”What do you see?”

She hands me The Chariot card with the charging horses. ”When this appears, if you don’t make a decision fast, someone else makes it for you.”

”Who? Is this a warning about the movie I’m making?” I ask warily.

”No, this is someone close to your home. She may want to wait for you, but staying in stasis while you make up your mind puts her in opposition to her basic nature. She’s driven.  Towards something or someone new. Her nature is restless – whether she likes it or not.”

”Oh, she likes it plenty.” And we share a laugh.

”Who’s she seeing romantically these days?”

This question I realize I have no answer for – at some point there will be someone.