The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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Feeling Bound – Tina Kennard

TinaFABulousPortrait

I was raised to want a ring on my finger and to keep it there. It’s unheard of in my family of Virginia and North Carolina cousins for anyone to ever get divorced.  As proof, family marriages have survived a spouse losing all the tobacco crop money in a poker game at the club.  And I do mean all of it.

Does this make my family one of incredibly forgiving people, or is it solely their aversion to the shame they associate with divorce?  I wonder, more than I’d like to, what deep roots and archaic traditions of my upbringing are still buried way, way in the back of my mind.

I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing whenever I go home to North Carolina, where no one suspects me of being anything other than their happy cousin, living all the way out here in California.  Where I’ve told them I have a job I love.

It’s a tale I’ve spun gladly. I date and go to the beach and from 9 to 5 everyday I work to save the environment, from all kinds of horrible people threatening the food we eat, the very air we breath.

It was so natural, as if running the scales on a piano, how I went from straight to bi to falling in love with Bette.

Is that why I’m still uncomfortable, all these days later, when the topic of bisexuals had entered our conversation with Shane?

“What Tina?  Your wool’s not completely dyed, yet?” Bette had asked, before moving onto another ridiculous topic.  Alice dating vampires.

As if…

So, why am I still in the closet?

I’d like a drink, but it’s too early and I’m riding my bike, getting much needed exercise.  Unsteadily, I turn into the parking lot of a coffee shop.  While locking my bike, I consider calling my cousin Susan or Meredith or my cousin Sam and saying – after the hellos and how’s the crop this year – Guess what?  Ten days ago I had a biracial baby with my lesbian biracial lover.

Then I imagine the line going dead or them taking the first Delta flight out of Raleigh to give me a good old fashioned talking to.  Or worse, trying some kind of Protestant intervention.

All I could withstand, but we’d never speak to each other again.

I push open the door to the cafe and the barista, with rings in her nose and a spike in her tongue – a being so foreign my family would turn heel, run and never order – pours me an iced mocha with a shot of espresso.  Am I hiding out in the land of ’anything goes,’  because for me, it’s more comfortable?

To her credit, Bette has never asked much about them.  Suspecting I guess, they’d be just as awful to her as her father had been to me, and when, she’d finally accepted the fact – that he really was dying – she’d made certain he was going to do it right in front of her.

Taking his last breaths, he’d said his final words, surprisingly to me, “Take care of my baby, Tina.  Take care of her.”  And then he was gone.

Leaving me to wonder how strange it was, living in the gayest part of West Hollywood, that we had these kinds of skeletons in our closet.

I take my phone out, daring myself to call North Carolina, but instead I pay for my coffee and slip my phone back into my purse and lean against a lamp post to people watch.

I know I didn’t come to California to hide who I was, did she?

Arriving here I was a twenty-something blond, who blended in with the millions of others my same age with similar looks.  I had an interest in the environment, as seen by my resume of working for NGOs.  I was single. I paid my taxes on time and I’d never been arrested.  Period.

I was comfortable living behind my mask of vanilla.

Bette, on the other hand, while I was pregnant with our first baby, had been pushed a mile too far down the road by the bigot-in-chief, Faye what’s her name.  It had unspooled itself – their final showdown – in a very public manner, with what felt like loaded pistols pointed at each other’s brains.

Bette’s final punch and the humiliation Faye had shot back, all captured by the glaring lights of television.  Afterwards, she never was the same.  It must feel very differently when the enemy’s blade is right against your throat, but Bette hadn’t choked.

I, on the other hand, had miscarried.

Her heart had broken too that night.  I’d felt it break with mine, while I’d lost my mind on the floor of our bedroom.  Where my howling grief had never caused her to flinch or loosen her hold on me one inch.

She’s changed since Faye tried but failed to do her in.  And after we lost the baby that horrible night, and now, last week when, my God, it felt too close. My life…so faint, as if I were no longer there.  I’m not going to push her to suit up and go back to work. No, not yet, I want her home with me, watching over us.

I’ve loved so many sides of her and now this gentle new one, who paints me and the baby as the most cherished beings on earth.  I want her again,  like that tonight…watching me carefully, waiting to see if I want the tingling feel of my milk flow while she kisses my lips and stirs me into wanting…and I do, slowing my bike, I bounce into our driveway.

I do want hers as the wedding ring on my finger and I want it soon.

Long ago, and I’ve not forgotten the lesson that was imprinted on me forever in a very, very private moment.  After I’d been dating her for six months, she’d invited me on a trip to New York.

My answer had been breezy, while inside I’d set off fireworks.  I’d told her I’d  check with the staff of people I worked with, but taking a few days off…I didn’t think it would be a problem.

That had been a Monday and by Wednesday I was opening the door of a hired town car and we’d whisked off to the airport.

On the way I’d imagined what flying with Bette would be like.  Either she’d be a great adventure planner,  the New Yorker and the Times spread out on our seat trays to decide what we were seeing on Broadway.

Or she might be one of those a too long-legged passengers who bitch and complain about  absolutely everything.

She was neither.

Two First Class seats had solved the leg room issue.  Then champagne that had bubbled somewhere over Utah and she’d threaded her fingers through mine and had announced she was going to close her eyes…for a minute, if that was okay?

Hours later in rough air over Pennsylvania, she’d bounced awake.

Looking over my paperback I’d welcomed her back with a smile.  A moment later, she’d stretched and to my surprise had unbuckled my seat belt.

“Bette! You’ve got to be kidding!” I distinctly remember saying crammed into the small toilet space with her near the front of the airplane.  “I won’t have sex here.”

“Any issues you have with these tight quarters, our suite at the Peninsula will make up for.”  One hand had unsnapped my shirt and the other had  tried to disappear my underwear.

“Or the smell,” I’d said just before she’d kicked closed the airline toilet seat.  Sitting on it she’d pulled me to her.

“I just had the sexiest dream about you, Baby and I have to have a taste.”

It had been rough sounding and I’d resisted, but my mistake had been not leaving.  That move had felt dicey to me, at the beginning of our first trip away.

She’d looked puzzled for about a split second, before the four inches she has on me, make that nearly seven when she’s in heels, which she was that day. She’d stood above me, taking my head in both her hands.

The closeness of her kissing me hard against the bathroom door.  The awareness that this was really happening.  The roaring of the jet engines I’d hoped would hide any sounds of us against the door, almost toppling into sink.

There she’d bent me over and I’d watched myself coming and coming in the mirror.

I may have had boundaries two thousand miles and some six hours ago, but they were becoming a memory, replaced by my first acting lesson in New York.  Pretending nothing was going on under the dinner table.  I’d sipped my wine and I had smiled to myself, especially when she’d whispered, “Move your hand down here and feel me taking you.”

Up in our suite the room service waiter had pushed in a cart with a double-sized piece of chocolate cake and together they’d conferred over a bottle of red wine, before uncorking it.  I’d excused myself to the shower, where she’d joined me with hands that had been soapy and we’d washed and touched each other in anticipation.

We’d stretched out on a couch,  our view overlooking the city.

“You ordered an enormous piece of cake, may I get you some?”  I’d asked.

“It smells good, doesn’t it?”

Returning with the cake,  I’d sliced off a piece and brought it up to her lips, where it had disappeared in an instant.  She’d licked her lips and our eyes had locked.

“Not yet, you and I have more cake to eat.” I remember saying, as I’d fed her another bite to keep her occupied.

“This is nice, Tina.  I’m glad you came.”

“Are you different out of town?  What is going on?”

“More cake, please,” she’d said.

“Okay, are you finished with me?”

“What do you mean?”  she had looked shocked.

“I just…ah, crazy thought,”  I’d stumbled, “that maybe this business of having sex with me in airplanes and under tables in restaurants is some kind  of last thrill fucking trip, because in your mind we’re over.”

“Put the cake away.  We need to talk.”  She’d sat up on the couch.

If I’d learned one thing in the six months I’d been dating her it was during her sensual moods, talking has very little interest to her yet, riled she’d prevailed.

“Why on earth would you think that?  Am I not being a good host to you in New York?”

I’d gone over to the tray with the wine and poured myself half a glass, keeping my back to her.

“Tina, bring me one, too, please and on the way over – do answer me.”

“You’re always going to be like this, aren’t you?  Highly sexed, always waiting to pounce, you can’t be that one dimensional.”

She’d laughed and had taken her wine. “You’re about to talk yourself out of something really fantastic later.”

“You realize you made my point?”

“Do you realize I have no intention of arguing with you?  About what?  That I’m crazy about you and brought you to New York to…well, I was going to wait until fucking later, but…” her voice had grown agitated, “do you want to live with me?”

“Huh?”

“Goddammit!  You’ve got me mad now.”  She’d started pacing the suite, her bathrobe flying open at times, showing me her shaved black patch that went straight down in a perfect black line.

I’d taken a huge swallow of wine realizing it was amazing and probably had cost a small fortune and maybe this suite, the First Class tickets, the entry into the Mile High Club, all were the staging for some kind of proposal.

“Bette the wine is delicious and I’m two things, really stupid and really sorry.”

By then she’d stopped in front of the cake and was fingering the icing, disappearing her long index finger into her mouth.  “Hmm, sorry.  You know Tina, that’s a very underused word between people. I rarely hear anyone ever say it.  Thank you.”

“I am sorry. Bette.  This room is beautiful, dinner with you was,” and I’d begun to laugh,  “fucking  unbelievable. Quite literally.”

A sly smile had flickered, as more chocolate icing had disappeared from the tip of her finger.  Sucking it off she’d looked at me. ”That wasn’t on the menu, but I’m glad you liked it.”

I’d walked past her and into the bedroom of the suite.

She’d followed. “Tina, I’m very high on wine and cake and completely yours for the evening.  To do with me whatever you’d like…I presume you have ideas of your own?”

I’d pulled back the sheets on the bed and tossing my robe away I’d motioned for her to come.  “Bring the wine.”

With two glasses she’d walked to the bed and handed me mine and had fluffed up the pillows.  Lying on her side of the bed, her robe belted closed,  she’d leaned back against the pillows and had taken a long sip.

“God that is fucking good,”  she’d said with a light smack of her lips.

I’d left mine on the bedside table and nude I’d tucked myself under her arm and settled against her.

“A story?” she’d asked, before taking another sip.

“Please.”

“First, a question, so I’ll know my audience.”

I’d laughed.

“Why’d you chose me?”

“How do you figure?  You’re the most unstoppable pursuer.”  I’d untied the knot on her robe and rubbed her belly in the way I knew would make her slowly growl.

The growl had come along with a series of deep sighs.  “I’ve satisfied two of my fantasies today, tell me yours?  I’m your sex slave for the night, let’s say.”

“Oh, hmm, pretend you’re the woman who sat next to me on the plane.  She’s a stranger, but I’ve brought her up to my room.”

“Daring of you.  Do you pick up a lot of strangers?”

“No, just you.”

“I hardly believe you.  But I’m here only for the night and then, I’m gone.”

“Have you ever tied a woman up?”

“Yes, is that what you’d like?”

“So I’m face down.”

“You want a blindfold to go with that?”

“Asked the stranger,”  I’d added, rolling onto my stomach.

Nearby suitcases had unzipped and coming back to bed, I’d felt her hands spread my legs out to each corner of the bed followed by scarves and belts that had held me fast.

“Tight enough?”  She’d asked checking the binding on my ankles and then running her tongue all the way up the inside of my leg.   “Is this your first time?” She’d asked tying my wrists to the bed.

“Yes.”

She’d kneeled behind me and with one arm under my waist she’d raised my hips off the bed and held my wetness against her.  “You’re so ready.”  She rubbed us together.

“You have no idea.”

Her hands had parted me and much more of her than I’d ever felt had come inside.

I’d cried and pulled against the scarves she’d bound around my wrists.

“You can’t get loose.  You wanted it this way.”  Her hand had gripped the back of my neck holding me down, but  inside she’d slowed and my knees had steadied.

“I’m not going to hurt you again, unless you ask for it.”

Raw is how I remember feeling, as I’d braced for being pierced to the other side.  “Not so hard this time.”

Spreading out inside me her knuckles had ribbed against me in growing friction.

“Touch yourself while you fuck me,” I’d said to the stranger.

She’d moaned as her pressure inside me had rolled back and forth and in and out and I’d begun to catch fire and burn.

”Jesus! Fuck!”  My whole body had vibrated and she’d knocked my legs out from under me and lying on top of my back, she’d bitten into my shoulder and fucked me with deep strokes.   A burning like I’d never felt consumed me.  I’d pulled tighter and tighter against the restraints.

”Take yourself there. Quit fighting what you want,” she’d said,  holding me down, as I’d struggled against the thing coiled inside me.  Crying, being leashed to it for so long.  Forever…finally it had snapped and freed itself and had come galloping out of me, taking part of me along with it.

I’d gone too far.

Minutes had passed, as I’d laid bare and spent on the bed, until I’d felt the silk untied from my wrists and the belts loosened around my ankles.

“Did you like that?”

“I don’t think we should do it again.”

“I agree.  I like you better this way, with your arms around me.”  She’d brushed my forehead with her lips. “So, I guess…is this moment to ask? Are you moving in with me?”


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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.

 

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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.”

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“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.”

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

Tina kisses my palm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Here touch me, I need you, too.”

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

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

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

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

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“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.”

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“I will. Please let us go.”

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

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

“Where are my pants?”

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

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

“Cartier? No, you didn’t!”

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

CU Cartier

 

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

“I will never, ever take this off.”

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

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

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

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

_________________

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

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

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

Blackbird

 


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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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Objects in Motion

Helena_HairBackHeadTilt

Lobby Bar – The Beverly Wilshire Hotel – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve always loved this hotel.”

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

“A French 75 for me, please.”

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

The waiter takes leave.

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

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

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

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

“With some negotiation?”

“Predictably, yes.  You?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fine, just very different.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes! I went a few weeks ago.”

lobby beverly wilshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette’s House – Midnight

Bette_Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane dives down underwater and swims towards the deep end.

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

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

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

“Take one for the team, you know.”

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

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

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

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

I frown at her.

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

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

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

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

“Maybe Mummy should fill you in.”

“Fill me in about what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette PowerSuit looking down

Shaolin Studio – Tina’s office – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I gave it to you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You go first.” Bette smiles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tina_SunglassesCameraLeft

Studio Lot – Bette

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

TEXT from Phyllis –

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

PK

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

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

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

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

“Concepts? Really?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________

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

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


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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.


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Tongue Tales – Bette Porter The L Word

GRT CU Bette

 

Tongue Tales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Seriously? Phyllis? No. I refuse.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She points to my lips and brushes against her own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette_sideways look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jodie makes a peculiar face and shrugs her shoulders.

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

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

Shane_Sweatshirt_talking.Alice_silohoutte

The Planet – 6:30 pm – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette_Planet Jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Have you read it?” Tina asks me.

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

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

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

 

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

Writer’s like comments. Drop one if you have a thought for me.

Laurel Holloman, Tina Kennard L Word, Jennifer Beals, Bette Porter L Word, L Word Tina Kennard Bette Porter, L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard

 


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Sleeping Rough – Bette Porter L Word

BetteSternLarge file

Sleeping Rough – Bette Porter L Word

Somewhere near the border of the United States and Canada –

I’m not usually impetuous. I can see its value. I have watched its serendipity. I’m a bit more of a plotter. It’s what makes me a good art critic, because I can see starting points and artist’s inspiration. I can tune in and feel the artist’s overall strategy for the creation in front of me. Where they began and where they hoped to end up, and between there and where is the place the magic in art can happen.

Only with artists and intellectuals I know very well do I ever admit after rivers of wine and hours of heady debate that when the artist and the mind, and the brush and the color come together, Art can only be described sometimes as Magic.

Not God, or human skillful execution. Not dumb luck – although that does happen – but magic, and that word spoken leaves a room almost quiet for a moment because every artist there has felt ‘It’. And as artists we don’t really know what IT is so, the smartest ones of us just shut the fuck up, until the moment passes. A silent acknowledgement to – The Mystery.

But tonight I have been impetuous, and my rashness has drawn me far away from the hotel, and far down this dark road. My headlights pan across the tree trunks in the old forest as the rural country road winds south. I slide the rental car’s window down a crack.

Fresh air hits my face.

The wind is icy.

Behind me Angelica is strapped in her baby seat. She makes a sputtering baby cry. “Mama B and Angie had to take a little ride, sweetheart,” I console her, as if my not having the faintest clue helps either of us at all.

walMart interior Sleeping Rough

WalMart – North Washington State – Bette

Holy Mother of God! What the fuck is this place? It’s a hideously fluorescent main street with a drug store, an Optometrist’s eye wear shop, a bank, a McDonalds, and then we eventually get to the store’s interior.
Major Retailers Begin Black Friday Sales Thanksgiving Night

Is this one of the places people lose their minds to get into on Black Fridays after Thanksgiving? I bet it is. But why?

I roll my cart with Angelica held in my arms past rows and aisles of things I cannot imagine ever wanting to possess. until I finally arrive at the WalMart Baby Section. Gods of Retail! Make me a better Mother! My eyes seize upon sippy cups, and a very sweet little blanket with blue sheep leaping over tiny rainbows. Hmm, WalMart is not so bad.