On Stage – Tina
As the crowd around us chants, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss her!” I wonder how to begin this final part of our performance. The moment our lips meet and the cameras start recording pictures of us will fly out of here and begin their own fanciful journey.
Whether she’ll ever admit to it or not Bette has loved being in front of all these cameras and people slowly seducing me with her marriage proposal and waiting on me now to consummate it with a kiss. Her dark eyes just beyond the planes of diamonds are streaked with gold this afternoon as she lifts my ring to her lips and waits for me.
I want our magical interweaving to happen again. I want the feeling of being held tightly by her strong and confining arms to return. I am tired and so weary of flailing without her.
What I haven’t decided about is the way she eroticizes her need for possession of me – an agreement we made one night long ago born out of a jealousy that shook me so deeply when she took me there I knew she was the kind of lover I’d always wanted but had never found.
Possession had appeared within our first year of being together and soon I wanted those needs of hers that searched me tirelessly to do it with an unending intensity and finally with greater and greater explosions of love. It was stark and revealing and our ultimate dynamic interplay. And now that she knows my secret I’m unsure if I can be that lover with her anymore.
I must have allowed the seals to be finally broken. It was along the way of fighting to get her back after losing her to Jodie that made me remember those things about my sister and myself. And when I feel into the hidden places they are wary of touch and trust, and I worry about Bette’s searching for me one night and finding me there.
Before meeting her eleven years ago I would have never conceived of this moment. Driving past the gates of Paramount back then I would’ve never imagined that one day in the future, several miles away playing happily at a daycare, would be our child. Or that farther beyond where I’m standing on stage would be the sets to a movie I’m producing, much less a film about lesbians.
Was she always in the matrix of people I would meet? As those lines drew themselves darker the more I explored finding intimacy were all my possibilities inevitably leading to this deeply hued and scored place that has become our history together?
Since we joined Gloria Bette has played to her stage presence flawlessly. To my awe she reached out and immediately touched the crowd with her anticipation and desire. I’m the one who’s been nearly motionless on stage, encircled by winds of emotion and memory.
The endings and beginnings between lovers fill this moment between us. Our kiss waits before coming into existence. A crowd surrounding us chanting for the consummation that moves us from partner to fiancée and says in an electrifying leap: “Yes!” to becoming her wife. I know I must reach over to her and accept her love for me. Then kiss, and jump, and trust, and fall with her. Always the last strap to unleash has been mine before being encircled and possessed and loosened of everything that has kept her separate from me.
Can I do it again? Survive the intensity of a life with her? I wonder as her eyes begin to flash the question that lies between us: What do you want to do, Tina? What do you want to do?
”I want you to kiss me.” I say as I lean into her and we begin with a hint of the hunger for what we have, and for what we’ve always guarded, and for what we nearly destroyed.
Backstage – Tina
As I hold Bette’s hand and we wave one last goodbye to the crowd she leans over and whispers, “My mind is blown, Tina. Truly fucking blown. I thought I’d lost you for a minute there. You were really starting to frighten me.”
“You have a talent for this, Babe. I don’t know what happened to me. I froze up on stage.”
“Except at the very end.” Bette sends me a sly wink. “You were selling it at the end, T.”
I squeeze her hand to follow me as the stage manager parts the curtain to let us pass. “You know we’re not quite done yet though, don’t you?” I point to the Press waiting backstage with Claire.
“I see that now.” Bette’s voice tightens a bit.
“Just a little longer and then I can meet you at home.”
“Dinner?” She asks as Claire motions for us to join her near the bar.
“Babysitter?” I answer.
I hear Kit’s voice a little below a shout. “What in the world is going on with you two people?” She vents then breaks into a huge smile before she hugs us both. “I knew you two could do it.”
“We needed a good beacon at times.” I say with a sigh.
“All I know is there’s a mule somewhere to thank for kicking you both in the head.” Kit blusters as she holds out her hand to me. “Now, let me see this ring. Just like the rest of Lil Sis’ understatements at lunch it wasn’t described worth a damn to me either.” Kit shoots Bette a cross look.
I lift my ring up to show Kit who nods her head “Now this is what I’m talking about. I’m so proud of you.” Her disapproval vanishes as she smiles at Bette and asks, “When’s the wedding?”
“Oooff.” Bette exhales. “We don’t know. We keep getting asked that, too.” She looks over at me with a slightly worried look.
“We’re going to have to answer it again and again in a minute.” I nod toward Claire and the reporters. “We have to go, Kit.”
“Can you start without me? I want to talk to my sister for a minute more.” Bette says.
“Sure. I’ll begin with the movie and Kit, thank you for coming, and thank you for all you do for Angelica.”
“Lemme just say I’m glad you’re back, and anytime about Baby Girl, you know that.” Kit sends me off with a big smile.
Bette catches my arm as I walk away. “Should we make up a date? I mean is it that important?” She looks worried.
“Eventually it’s important, but for now I can answer it for the reporters. I’ll tell them we’re setting the date in a week or two and it’s definitely after the movie finishes shooting.”
“Got it.” Bette nods and turns back to Kit.
Backstage – Bette
“Daddy always held out the hope you’d get married. That man wanted to walk you down an aisle,” Kit says.
“And same sex marriage was not what he had in mind.” I stress as we sit down.
“You felt you had to wait, didn’t you?” Kit asks putting it together.
I tilt my head toward Tina. “I told myself I didn’t care what he thought when we planned for the baby but she said let’s wait on California, and on and on. But by the end of Daddy’s last visit before he got sick he was making her mentally disappear even while she was still in the room.” I wipe my hand in front of my eyes to illustrate his magic trick. “Maddening! And it was going to be very difficult to marry her until he changed.”
“Tell me you’ve seen Mt. Rushmore and The Pyramids and tell me they’ve changed much over time.” Kit shakes her head in wonder at my unreal perspective.
“No, you’re right. I know, I know. She barely tolerated him not tolerating her. It would have been too much to throw Daddy as a log on the fire of why I never brought it up again. Then she left me, so the point was really moot after that.”
“Moot? That’s a little far south of what you got yourselves into but I see it now.” Kit adds thoughtfully, “And it had to be her. We all knew that.”
I smile as we watch Tina talking to the Press and Claire standing watchfully by her. “Gloria said something so interesting to me a few minutes ago.” I whisper to Kit as a friend from my days at the CAC approaches. “That Daddy’s in a different place about me and Tina now.”
“You can dream.” Kit says and shoots me a skeptical look.
“Listen, before this old friend of mine gets here I wanted to tell you more at lunch. I got a call from a woman in New Mexico late last Friday afternoon, Mary Windhorse was – is her name. She said my mother came to Daddy’s memorial,” I say to Kit’s utter astonishment. “And that she’s been in WitSec this whole time.”
“Hold on, hold on, hold on!” Kit waves her hand to slow me down.
“That and I need a babysitter and then I have to leave.” I finish in a rush before I bite my lip and wince that I’m sorry.
“Uh-huh. Tell you what, I got Baby Girl for tonight, but you and me?” Kit wags her finger between us. “We’re going to have a serious talk real soon. You can bet on that.”
Bette’s House – Bette
I did enjoy the brief after party backstage. I didn’t mind being the brunt of a few well-placed, “Bette Porter marrying” jokes coming from friends of mine who, frankly I was astonished to see there. But then on more than one occasion I had to mentally remind myself – the people who came did so because of Gloria’s politics and if not disastrously handled – the politics that should be in the movie.
I mean really, how can you separate the two? Any exploration into a tightly knit community’s sexual escapades becomes on the one hand, political and apparently on the other, dysfunctional and insane if Jenny’s telling it. But her bi-sexual awakenings and Tina’s counterpoint descent back into them were about power and status, and maneuvering and manipulation, and adding my own worst to their pile of sins – madness and blood thirst. Ergo: Politics.
After a few jokes at my expense and other subtle reminders from Tina I was able to keep in mind that my friends and hundreds of others had come today to honor the signing into law of “our” statewide freedom to marry. It had been a worrisome campaign all the way up to the final vote and that is no doubt is why so many people were there – to let off steam and cheer on something that had been a battle hard to win.
California really should have been the beachhead for the whole country and yet, we had such rocky and spasmodic beginnings. For all those reasons when I finally got my head around the big picture it began to sink in why Claire had created the rally and how truly brilliant it was to have us on stage.
Now, if everyone would just forget about my three minutes of fame I’d like my life to get back to normal where I can be happy with my family and perhaps find myself whistling again. As I steady the groceries in my arms and unlock my front door I realize how little conception I have of what normal for me and Tina really looks like.
I turn the water on in the sink and dump the vegetables from the market in to wash them. The red and yellow peppers bob back up at me, dinner at home with my soon to be wife would be normal.
“Wife,” I say out loud.
I’m not sure I’m the wife, too, though. I need to think about that. There’s something about two wives unless you’re Mormon that feels strange to me, but partner I had liked. I get we are moving away from that, but “partners” had a jostling feeling to it and a, “you and me against the world” kind of vibe. I’d always liked it and it had felt right – a duo, a united front, our relationship that was outside the law. Now things have changed.
“Hi, this is my wife, Bette Porter.” I say out loud and then decide I need a drink.
I take down the Scotch and pour a short glass. The sounds of this new re-phrasing I can’t quite tune my ear to. I roll the warm Scotch around in my mouth before I swallow it.
“Hello. I’m Bette Porter, Tina Kennard’s spouse.” I try out a husky, whiskey laced greeting on the floating bell peppers.
I like the sound of that. Sexually very neutral but attached. And why for the love of God am I having gender confusion about Tina, again? That business with two mothers for the baby when Tina was so clearly the breastfeeding all important one drove me to such turmoil only a steady diet of breast milk could set me right most nights.
I pour another finger of Scotch in my glass and think about those sweet milky days. I don’t know. Does one wife suck the other wife’s breast while she’s nursing? For the life of me that sounds like something only lovers do. I swallow more whiskey and wince as it burns me.
Okay, so wife’s more of a public name that happens with marriage vows and everything else stays the same, or does it? I look around the house and realize it could use fresh flowers. I walk out into the garden in the early evening light to find my clippers.
Outside Bette’s House – Tina
“What are you searching for?” Shane asks me as we pull up in front of Bette’s house and she sees me digging through my purse again.
“My keys. I have to unlock the front door. We’re here and thank you so much for the ride.”
“I have your keys, remember?” Shane takes them out of her pocket and dangles them in front of my face.
“No, you were right to take them away. Note to self: No tequila shots on an empty stomach before 8 PM.”
“Forget about that. You had a lot to celebrate and then some. I’d be smashed, too, if I didn’t have a headache from the smog out where I had to work all day.”
“We’ll get you on set soon enough. Ooops! I’ve lost my keys again.” I say as I bend over and search the floor to find them. I hear Shane’s door opening and then her walking to mine.
“Turn on your phone and use it like a flashlight. There they are.” Shane says as she leans into her car and picks up my keys for me. “You’re a mess. Put your arm around my neck so I can get you home.”
“Home.” I say as I look over Shane’s shoulder to the front of Bette’s house. “I live here again now. Back next door to you.”
“And I welcome you back to the neighborhood.” Shane laughs and puts her arm around my waist. “Okay, step one, two, three and nice going. All good?” She asks as she presses the doorbell and I fumble more with my keys.
“You liked Jodie, didn’t you?” I ask as I lean against the door to wait for Bette. “Are you pissed at me at all?”
“You’re kidding, right?” Shane rubs her face in wonder.
“No, I wasn’t.”
“You realize that for years and years I looked at you guys as the head of our family. We had holidays together and birthdays together and when you broke up?” Shane looks away and squints her eyes as she thinks. “It took away from me – and God knows what it did to you – but it took away from me a foundation and it made me sometimes really sad.”
I put my hand on her shoulder. “You told me once how it made you feel at Christmastime and a little about your stays in foster homes.”
“I’m not alone in that. Most foster kids don’t talk about how weird holidays were with hand me down gifts no one else wanted that were wrapped up anonymously for you.” Shane takes out a cigarette. “In a word: It sucked.”
“Do you ever hear from your mother?” I ask.
“Occasionally a postcard from Texas.” Shane exhales some smoke and smiles. “Always something she knows I’d like. You know, an old timey cowgirl picture postcard, or a joke with a giant jackrabbit with horns. We grow ‘em big in Texas type of thing.” Shane laughs.
“I don’t know where she is. Trust me. She’s expecting me.” I say as I press the doorbell again.
“I’m just glad Bette didn’t hang herself a year ago. I was such a fucked up friend. Carmen and all.” Shane ends with a few concentrated smoke rings that drift away slowly. “I wasn’t around to help much.”
“I don’t know what I’m thinking. Here, you can see to do the key or should I just call her?” I dig back into my purse before dropping my phone with a clatter.
“Clumsy. I get clumsy when I drink, thus the good idea not to let me drive.” I lean down to pick up my phone and my head whooshes as the blood rushes to it. I put my hand on Shane’s leg to steady my balance.
“Hey, let’s sit on the steps for a minute.” She says as she guides me down next to her. “Is everything, okay? Or did you just get carried away after the party moved to Nikki’s penthouse and the shots came out?”
“I should never do shots on an empty stomach, Shane.” I reiterate my dilemma.
“I find them very hard to avoid but whatever works for you. I’m just glad you’re back, shitfaced or not. You know?” Shane puts her arm around me and looks me steadily in the eyes.
I roll my head back toward the house. “You know I insisted we redecorate the bedroom. I mean, fuck it, Shane. God knows how many women have been in that bed since I left.”
Shane laughs and says, “You’d be surprised. They’re weren’t that many.”
“Well, anyway she agreed without blinking that she’d throw the bed out and that led to a very good prop we could use in that business with Jenny.” I nod toward their house. “So, gratefully all that happened in a hurry and quickly became less about who all’s been in there.”
“I don’t think the hot Senator ever even saw this place.” Shane says as she looks behind us to Bette’s front door.
“Surely she had enough sense to not bring the co-eds here.” I add with a slight snort.
“Bette, Bette, Bette.” Shane shakes her head.
“You see why we had to burn the mattress. We’re getting married for Christ sake!”
“Got it. You needed a new bed. I hope when they delivered it this afternoon they brought lamps, too, because Bette flew into some kind of “chewing the scenery” rage in there for awhile with her remodeling.” Shane laughs at her recent memory.
“My hope is she lights candles everywhere tonight.” I nudge Shane a little. “I mean look at the ring she gave me.” I hold out my hand. “And maybe they’re already lit and she’s waiting on me.”
Shane and I look back at the door as Bette opens it. Holding a vase of red and dark blue flowers she smiles down at us. “I thought I heard voices. Don’t you want to come in?”
I stand up and steady myself on the handrail as a frown flashes across Bette’s face. “Oh,” she says as she quickly hands the flowers to Shane and scoops me up. “I see the party continued after I left.” She smiles at me.
“And may it continue longer.” Shane says as she puts the vase down and waves goodbye from the porch.
Bedroom – Tina
The new soft sheets she peels back from the bed have the scent of lavender and it settles around me as she presses me deeper into the mattress.
There are candles, there are flowers and there is a very intense feeling of her kissing me now. The room isn’t spinning too much I realize as I let go and feel her long lick up my neck before she kisses me again.
“I want you before dinner. Is that crazy?” Bette asks an inch from my lips.
“Not tonight it isn’t.” I say as she teases my breast with her tongue.
“I remembered your milk earlier.” She says twisting my nipple. A look of lust rises between us and I feel my head rush.
“You want it tonight, don’t you?”
She closes her eyes and sucks my breast and doesn’t answer me for a long time.
“I just went back there. Very beautiful, very nice.” Bette looks up from my breast finally. “How are you feeling, Baby?” She asks.
“Would you laugh at me if I told you, dreamy?”
She smiles as she kisses me down my belly. “Maybe a little.”
I sigh when I feel her tongue hard then soft circling around me.
She pushes open my legs and I wrap them around her back.
Not known for ever accomplishing a “quickie” she surprises me at how intensely she drives me toward that edge. I feel her amplifying all the right places and staying there just long enough to make me ache for her to return.
I know this one. She sets out an array of pulses and then joins them all together in one nice long ending that turns afterwards into a much longer, pleasurable plateau where I can begin again. I will never tire of this I realize as her incredible tongue begins to lick inside me.
After bringing Tina her dinner on a tray and then rubbing her back with the lotion we love so much from Wales we had agreed – the new bed and its fresh, soft sheets were perfect. Tina lies across my chest now and barely traces her hand along my arm as I read a short love poem of Rumi’s I found.
“You look so different in glasses, Bette.” Tina says as I finish the last verse.
“Just wait. You’re younger than I am. It’ll happen to you.”
“The poem was beautiful. Rumi’s images spin around so much sometimes though. But I’m sobering up now.” Tina laughs at herself.
“Well, Sufis love their swirling dervishes as you know.” I answer as I turn the pages of the book.
“Whirling dervishes, Bette.”
“That’s what I said.” I look over the rim of my glasses at Tina.
“My mistake.” Tina smiles as she hugs me to her. “Babe, I’m closing my eyes, okay. Read on. Read out loud to me if you’d like but I’m drifting.”
One hour later –
While Tina drifted into sleep next to me I had stared up at the ceiling and relived my last several days of intense recalibrations. Over and over again my mind had drifted pleasurably from Tina and Angelica in Malibu, to the kiss on stage, and then back again to the phone call about my mother.
My mind had succumbed to a tangled dream fraught with desperate hunting and I had awakened watchful with a taste of the wind in my mouth. I had slipped out of bed and in the dining room opened my computer.
For the last half-hour I’ve searched the Internet for major crimes in Philadelphia that occurred the week my mother disappeared from my life completely.
When I found the Gambino’s I knew I had found the mafia.
I hope you enjoyed Chapter Five, The Kiss. Chapter Six of Touch Tones, The L Word inspired Season 7 will post shortly.
Thank you for reading and let me know if you enjoyed the story.
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