The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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#9 Touch Tones: Radar Love

Tina sleeping

Santa Fe Guest Room – Bette

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

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

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

Rattlesnakes on the Grill

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then I pause.

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

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

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

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

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

Bette Garden thinking white sweater

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

Bette drinking outside alone

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

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

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

CU Bette's boots Blood Moon story

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

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

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

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

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

Bette Phyllis party story image

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

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

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

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

Tina bedroom Santa Fe

Ten minutes later – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette_Tina Season 5 06kiss

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

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

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

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

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

Bette_Lick_Tina's neck

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

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

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

Bette's Tongue.2 on top

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

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

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

“I know. I smell it, too.”

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

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

Maxine breakfast room

Mary Hardy’s Breakfast Room – Bette

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

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

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

Our Dinner Party. Theme was breakfast.

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

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

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

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

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

Maxine_Adoring w:Son

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

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

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

saints int santa fe church

Church – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The one that has the answers.”

Loretto Chapel santa fe staircase

Forty-five minutes later – Tina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

santa fe staircase spiral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sarah Wilson?”

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

Tia CU torquoise necklace

Sanctuary – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Most of it.” I laugh with Sarah.

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

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

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

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

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

Maxine Blue window

Mary Hardy’s Art Studio – Bette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maxine Painting RedWineBlueChairs

One hour later –

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

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

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

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

“Bette?”

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

Maxine self portrait.2 rear shot smoking

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

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

“Didn’t he try it with you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And you got shot.”

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

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

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

“I take it you couldn’t escape?”

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

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

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

Spooky GraveYard Gambino Family

“Survival springs to mind.”

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

“So the Inside Man literally called the FBI?”

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

“I imagine so!”

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

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

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

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

“And then you went away.”

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

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

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

____

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#4 Touch Tones: Kryptonite

Kit_Bette big smiles_ seated

Soundstage – Kit – 3PM

As I hurry behind the taillights of a limousine I’m nearly out of breath by the time I finally get inside the party. I do a quick 360 to look around me. Good Lord, when Bette came to see me earlier with news she was marrying Tina, and at three o’clock they were telling everybody, she didn’t describe anything like the size of this place. Not a word was mentioned about the scale of this venue, the movie stars I see standing by the side of the stage, or the hundreds of people all waving rainbow flags at one another. Little announcement, my ass. Sometimes I need a lie detector and a seatbelt to roll with these people.

Their sudden rises in altitude followed by their equally dramatic falls is what my sister and her friends do best. That or resemble a mangled freight train burning up at the crossroads. And unless I’ve just snapped out of a three-year coma, Bette and Tina act most days like they hate each other.

You blink and you can miss a year around here.

Coma or not, and daily it remains debatable if I’m losing my mind, I do know that my sister and Tina are crazy about their child, and as parents they’ll always be loving and unconventional. And every bit of that is good news to me. You just never know how some folks are going to be with their kids.

Just look at us. The human race is so fucked up. Eon after eon dumbass folk keep doing the same stupid things. And I’m plenty self-destructive. I’ll cop to that. Once, if you played me a real good sad song I’d finish the bottle with you. Fuck, who said anything about tomorrow?

When Bette was still young I had hit the road for the R&B Clubs between Kansas City, Detroit and Chicago. It was selfish of me, I admit it. But I swear to God I couldn’t take another second of Daddy’s stodginess. So, I left Bette motherless to grow up with the Methodists, and The Ten Commandments, and our overbearing father. I know it was complicated for her still brokenhearted over losing her mom. I saw it with my own eyes whenever I did drift back home.

And then for better or worse it became just how she was. Bette approached every one of her romantic relationships saddled with our Daddy’s wandering eye. Like the gallery owner she became she acquired the next one and then the next – each woman more interesting than the one before.

And that went on for years when finally after going through women like popcorn at a movie Tina had miraculously stayed. And it wasn’t too long after that I began to notice something: Tina was Bette’s Kryptonite.

At first I thought it was amusing as hell, and I had hidden behind faked fits of coughing just to cover over my trails. After a screed of over amped righteousness Bette would begin to feel the whammy of Tina’s Kryptonite. It was a switch only Tina had, and thank God, she wasn’t afraid to use it.

They’d exchange a look and something I never found the words for would pass between them. Then, they’d kiss each other like nobody’s business – whether anybody else was around them or not.

Someone really should sell tickets to this shit.

Bette_GREAT Kiss_Handbehind her headKiss

Limousine – Tina – 3 PM

I take another swallow of the brandy Claire poured me a moment ago. I know she hopes it will ease the gnawing uneasiness I can’t seem to shake. A nervousness that feels old, and clingy, and just won’t go away.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t had to manage Bette’s nerves that I’m feeling aware of my own so fragile and jangled. Until we drove inside the soundstage, and Bette got a look at the so-called, “wedding announcement” surprise Claire had in store for her, Bette had been uncommonly calm.

This staged event, in what I hope is not an overreaching of Claire’s, is brilliant from a PR point of view. My movie, our wedding announcement, historic gay marriage legislation, and the feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, all rolled into one. If I can get my shit together Bette and I will look nothing like the spoofs and impersonations of us in the movie. But now, even though I’m the one who started it, I’m finding it practically impossible to leave the bubble of this limousine.

What if I go up on stage with Bette and take her beautiful ring? Then like having a baby, something that was life changing and forever with her, it makes me lose my mind all over again?

Until recently, my life saving grace has always been my extraordinary ability to compartmentalize. In a box way, way down was where I’d kept the memories of those nights with my sister. When the seal to my secrets had been broken I’d fainted and whacked my head against the side of The Fortune Teller’s table.

I remember the last card I had drawn and turned over to her.

 

TheChariot

 

The Chariot

“There will come a time very soon with you, and the one you love, when neither of you can look away anymore,” the Gypsy had said. “You’ll know it because you’ll feel a great tension and a hundred things will be swirling around you.” And then, she had looked across at me with a warning. “To go forward together this is the moment for your union, Tina, and you can’t miss it.”

I let out an audible sigh inside the limousine and finish the last of my drink.

 

Bette_sincere_studio w:brother

I tune back into the conversation going on around me and hear Claire employing a well-placed piece of leverage with Bette who’s been having her own version of, “Do I stay or do I go?”

I smile at her reaction to Gloria’s personal message. With her on the stage with us, and Bette’s father looking down from a wiser place, Melvyn will absolutely bless this union of ours.

“God! She is so fucking right!” Bette exclaims before kissing me and throwing open the limo door.

Camera flashes temporarily blind me. There’s so much more I want to say.

Alice_Lesbo Land

Engagement Announcement – Alice in Lesbo Land – 3:05 pm

“Hey everybody! Whew! You’ll have to excuse me while I catch my breath. I’ve been running because the press conference for Les Girls,” I stop and pant a little as I point off to camera right, “we just shot for you outside. Now, we’ve set up again in a completely different spot. We’re actually coming to you from inside the big soundstage where shooting for the lesbian themed feature movie, Les Girls, began today. That’s right! The producer, Tina Kennard, confirmed that with me earlier.”

I stop and take a quick sip of water. “And so the excitement continues people because just wait for what I’ve got for you next.”

A beat in time passes before I continue. “Is Gloria Steinem someone you might like to hear comments from? About gay rights and human rights, and California’s freedom to marry legislation?” I shake my fists in a cheer.

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Off camera Claire sends a signal for my attention. “Max is going to walk around with the camera and show you guys the movie sets and the crowd that’s gathered, and I’ll be back in a flash.” I unclip my mic and Claire whispers in my ear.

“I’ve been told they want to stop and talk to you before anyone else. As a thanks for what you did at Jenny’s yesterday, they insist that you are first.” Claire winks at me.

“Finally! And double friggin’ finally someone believes I can keep a secret.” I exhale with great relief.

“Okay, Alice. Bear in mind they have spent a considerable amount of money setting this into play, and the last thing they need is for this to go sideways.” Claire gives me her, “sexy but still plotting moves ahead” smile.

“But I’m still vetting you, Alice. What are your questions? Two minutes and two questions is what you get on their way to the stage.” Claire punctuates her fingers in a V for my two questions.

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Between the Limo and the Rope Line – Tina – 3:06 pm

“Babe, does my hand feel too sweaty for you?” I slow my pace and pull Bette back a little from walking toward the crowd.

“Warmer than usual more than anything, but I already know you’re nervous, T.” Bette whispers back through her unwavering smile.

“Do you remember how when I was trying to get pregnant? You would come home after work and sex me up?”

“Sex you up? Oh for the love of God, Tina, really? Are you fucking serious? You’re going to put that in my mind as we head into this thing.” She flashes me a stunned look.

“Well, it’s when we should’ve gotten married, Bette. I should’ve flown to Boston with you like you asked, and not been stubborn about it.”

“Maybe, but we’re doing it finally, and I hope really soon.”

I tug on her arm a little more to slow her down again. “Babe, I need to focus on something other than all these people looking at me. You stand in front of a classroom or a big lecture hall three times a week.”

“Trust me. This really couldn’t be more different.” Bette answers almost in a hiss.

“You have to kiss me like you would on those afternoons, Bette, because I can’t take another step without you.” I squeeze her hand and put her arm around me. “I love you so much, and also I’m a little afraid.”

Bette_Tina Early KIss for flashback

“About marrying me?” Bette asks with an anxiety that creeps in at the corners of her eyes.

“We are going to do it, aren’t we? I mean nothing is going to stop us. Is there?” I ask her.

“No, Baby, nothing is going to stop us,” she whispers before our lips meet and we fly back through the years.

Bette_Laughing studio brother

Engagement Announcement – Alice – 3:06 PM

We all have Rock star fantasies I realize as I watch Bette and Tina step out of their limousine and wave to the crowd. As camera flashes flicker on their faces I know I’d like to be exiting a limo right about now, and taking the stage with Gloria Steinem and her lovely smile. As I push Max with our camera toward Bette and Tina making their turn for the stage, I can absolutely picture it.

“You guys! What’s happening? I was out there at the press conference stage with the camera waiting for you.”

“Change of plans. Claire texted you and all the Press,” Tina answers as the crowd pushes closer. “Everything is moving a little fast for us right now, Alice.”

“Well, I can see that!”

“Hey, Max, are you guys rolling?” Bette asks and he nods that we are.

She turns up the wattage of her smile and holds Tina even closer. “Hello! Everybody we’re joining Alice in Lesbo Land inside the soundstage of Les Girls. I’m Bette Porter, Dean of Arts at California University, and this is Tina Kennard, the movie’s producer. I’m sure you’ve heard about her and the movie, Les Girls, from Alice.” Bette smiles as she looks at Tina.

“Tina’s my fiancée! And we’ve been invited by Alice to make a little Lesbo Land history and announce our wedding engagement to you before anyone else knows about it.” Bette shoots the camera an intriguing look.

Bette turns to Tina again. “Tina’s surprised me with a special guest. The pretty amazing Gloria Steinem is here!”

“Because I know how much you like surprises.” Tina beams back convincingly. “Gloria’s waiting for us, Babe.”

“Alice, no time for questions right now, but come on stage with us.” Bette reaches over and hugs me.

I honestly don’t know what to say to them at this moment so I stammer finally, “I really love you guys.”

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Stage – Bette – 3:08 PM

As Tina and I wait in the wings by the stairs Gloria begins her speech.

“You know we may feel sometimes that good things take too long in coming. That we wait all too often and far too long for the meaningful changes we work so hard for. That’s so true, isn’t it? We do get weary of waiting, don’t we?” Gloria asks a crowd that responds with whoops and whistles.

She continues, “And yet we can never lose sight of days and moments like this one when we can all come together in celebration of something that’s so right! Legalizing same sex marriages in the State of California!” Gloria’s voice rises as the crowd rejoices and cheers.

“How many couples here this afternoon will get married now that you can?” Gloria asks as the crowd’s noise begins to die down. Then, a unifying cheer comes up as fifty couples raise their hands clasped together. Gloria turns to me and Tina and opens her arms in a warm welcome.

“Bette Porter and Tina Kennard, everyone!” Gloria signals our introductions. “Really great to see you both, and what an exciting day for you, Tina. Your movie sounds like a winner and now you can marry your longtime partner, Bette.” Gloria shakes Tina’s hand and then puts her arm around my waist.

“Bette’s father and I met during the Civil Rights Movement. We did some good behind the scenes work together back then.” Gloria nods at me.

“Daddy was very fond of you, Gloria.” I say not having the slightest idea if it’s true.

“Thank you for having us on stage with you.” I continue. “I was at Tina’s press conference, and I’m so excited for her. And now here you are!” I throw out my hands to present Gloria again to the crowd.

A wave of applause comes back to me. “They tell me that while you’re in town this afternoon you’ve volunteered to help me with something.” I intro our segue.

“As an old friend of your father’s, I’ll do anything I can to help you.” Gloria smiles at me and Tina.

I reach into my jacket pocket and take out the red leather Cartier box with Tina’s engagement ring. I crack it open so only Gloria and the people closest behind her can get a peek inside. She raises her eyebrows and mimes her approval. A collective swell of anticipation sweeps back to us as Tina acts her part – shielding her eyes from the ring, and playfully looking away.

“Tina,” I say seriously to draw her attention back to me while I hide the ring behind my back. “I know as Les Girls’ producer this is a wonderful day for you and the talented cast and crew of people you’ve assembled. And I want to say to you, and Gloria, and everyone out there that I’m so proud of you, and all you’ve done, and will do with your life, and your talent.”

Tina looks shy for a moment and the room grows quieter and much more still. I flash the ring in its box out at the audience again and they cheer me on. Taking a step closer to Tina I show her the ring inside.

“I bought this engagement ring for you, Baby. You do know that I love you with all my heart, don’t you?” I ask with the first catch of tightness and emotion in my voice.

Tina nods her head. I see the love she has for me in her eyes. “Then will you say, “Yes,” that you’ll marry me?” I take her left hand and I slip the ring on her finger. Her chin begins to quiver.

Gloria steps closer to us. “So beautiful, both of you,” she says softly. “And where your father is now, Bette, I’m sure is a place of greater wisdom, and that he’s happy for you both. Especially so for you, Bette.”

“I believe you. I think, I can even feel it.” I whisper back to her then raise my voice. “But Gloria and everybody wait! Tina hasn’t answered me yet.”

I look out at the hundreds of people who now begin to hold their collective breath. Max pans his camera slowly over the crowd. Me, them, Alice, Gloria, the mice that I’m sure live in here somewhere – we all take a deep breath and wait for Tina.

Her chin quivers a second or two more before she lifts up her ring to the crowd and says to me, “Yes, Bette Porter! I absolutely will!”

I send out a big smile of relief, and the crowd celebrates with me. “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss her!” They begin to chant and Gloria nods that she agrees. It just has to be.

I hold Tina close and whisper in her ear. “Baby, you start. Whatever kind of kiss you want I’ll follow. But for the love of God, don’t show them how much we both want a babysitter and to get the hell out of here.”

 

Chapter 5 of TOUCH TONES, the L Word inspired Season 7 will follow shortly. Thank you for reading and let me know how you liked this story.

Thanks always to Jacky at LesFan who hosts us there! You can follow them @LesFan.

@ModernLWord  has a hilarious Twitter feed.

@thelword_FPAGE & @foreverthelword each have great pics, links and amusing thoughts.
You can follow me @Blackbird_Write


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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.”

Tina_and_BetteGallery

“And very lovely, too. But Tina? A media strategist?”

“Bette, the movie starts shooting on Monday. They’ll be media buzz. Trust me. What if Jodie decides to get with Alice this weekend, and uses her unwittingly for a little revenge against you? I can’t imagine she’s very happy with you right about now.”

“Forty thousand hits? Goddammit! Who the fuck was there that day to shoot that? For the love of God! Hot oil wrestling! I paid so much money to get that video off the internet.” I splash tap water on my face to wash away the nightmare. “Joyce thought it was a fucking scream. I got over two hundred emails from women.” I shake my head sadly.

“I’ll pay for this weekend. Really, all along I have intended that this be my treat.”

“I accept. Trust me. I appreciate it. And we have some hefty tuition bill coming up soon, too, right?” I ask as I begin to prepare the salmon.

“An eight thousand dollar deposit. Yikes, I know.”

“God! Can we afford another child? Really!”

“We’re okay. I’m making lots of money. You’re fine. Yes, we can afford another baby.” Tina assures me.

“I really want one.” I look over at Tina, and give her a huge smile.

“Me, too. Right after the movie is finished in a month or two we can start planning.”

 

salmon

Dinner table – Bette

“Bette, this salmon is delicious. I’m very impressed.”

“I’m telling you, T, you are coming back at the right time. I’m much better – all around.” I accentuate.

“I can see that.” Tina smiles across the table at me.

“I was staring at the ceiling the other night thinking about you. I was alone up at Big Bear. Jodie was downstairs doing shots, or some shit with her friends, anyway, I was missing you terribly. And I thought of how I used to come home after work, and toss my briefcase down, and start yelling. Or worse charge out again after kissing you on the head, and treating you like a pet dog I’d put fresh food and water down for before I’d take off again to meet some museum director, or put out a fire somewhere.”

“I remember. I grew to resent it. But you know what?”

“No, wait! Really let me finish. That’s not who I am anymore. I will never do that to you again. You are the most important thing in my world. You and our daughter. But tonight, right now, I’m talking about you being the most important person in my world. I know that now.”

Tina leans slightly across the table, and threads her fingers through mine. She puts my hand up to her cheek. “You know what? I signed up for being with a person who thinks the world rotates around them, and bursts into a room like a comet.” She plays with my long curls as she speaks softly to me. “You think I want boring? I went there. It was very homogenized. I woke up and ran back to you.”

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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.”

Tina_passion_sitting on Top

“I really like fucking you this way. I like the way your thighs begin to shake when you can’t stop waiting anymore.” I bury my head in her neck as we make love. “Tina, I want babies, and trust with you, and a home. And I want to take care of you, and I want to stop, and slow down.”

“Baby, don’t stop now.” Tina cries softly into my ear.

“Sorry, I misspoke. I’ve got you. You feel it.”

“I definitely feel it.”

“Please marry me. It’s you I want for the rest of my life.”

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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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Coming Home

DreamSequence_Garden

Bette’s House – Tina

As I drift up from my dream I hear the co-mingling of familiar sounds from my past: The garden fountain’s pattering and splashing in the distance, the soft whirr of the pool pump as it kicks on, and Bette’s strong, steady breath as she sleeps next to me. The last thing I want to do is go to work today.

I disable my 6:15 alarm and push the creeping thoughts of Jenny’s revealing new script rewrites and the romantic calamities of Bev and Nina from my mind. Dissuaded they circle me unhurried from dismissal.

Bette stirs and wraps me in her arms. I wonder does she know she’s holding me?

“How’d you sleep?”

I sigh and feel like a fool.

“I’m listening.” She sweeps my hair back and watches me intently.

“Babe, I’ve missed you. There’s no other lover like you anywhere in the world. I’d bet millions on it.” I smile, and she begins to laugh softly with me.

“You know everything about me, don’t you?” Bette asks.

“Hardly, you’re too complicated.” I caress her face and slowly we kiss our good morning.

“I’m not really. I have beliefs and when challenged I. . .things get complicated.”

“Let’s leave it at predictable.” A little ache rises up inside me, as we kiss again.

“I’m so glad you’re home, Tina.”

The sheet travels down my body and the feelings of her mouth and hands spread over me and we come in slow waves together and hold each other until the clock forces us apart.

Ten minutes later –

Focused on coffee and Angelica in that order, I pad down the hallway barefoot toward the kitchen picking up the clothing Bette and I dropped last night in a straight line from the front door into the bedroom.

The sweet scents from the garden drift in through the open French doors  before the morning smog begins, and as our morning coffee brews I rinse a bowl of blueberries and slice peaches for our breakfast.

In Angelica’s room now, leaning over to kiss our child awake – another part of morning  our small family has so rarely had together. Bette’s shower cuts off, and before my mind can grasp at who’s to blame for so few of these ever before being enjoyed, I stop myself. This may be the most perfect morning.

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Bette walks into the kitchen wearing her blue pin striped power suit and pours her coffee.

“Tina, I want you to move back home tonight. Will you come back home right now?” She fixes me with an intensity across the breakfast table.

“I have an unreal day ahead of me with Lez Girls but I’ll come over later with a big suitcase. How’s that?”

“How about two big suitcases? I’ll carry both of them inside.” She challenges me and smiles as Angelica pops blueberry after blueberry into her mouth and grins back.

“Bette, what makes you think that Jodie won’t come over here and that you can just invite me back to live here while you’re in a relationship with her?”

“It’s my house the last time I checked and I intend to be very cold when I break up with her later.” She says as she begins to eat her peaches. “I’m aiming for sub-zero.”

“And your inflammatory nature?”

She begins to laugh. “There are very complicated emotional thermodynamics involved in all this, Tina, I realize that. But here’s the best I can do to explain it to you.”

She points her finger at me and says, “You are “hot” feelings for me.” Then she makes a quick slice across her throat, “She equals “cold” feelings for me.” And she ends with a mouthful of fruit.

“I’ve seen you be cold before, Bette.” I shake my head and cut smaller bites of peaches for Angie.

“No, you haven’t. You’ve seen me steely, but trust me I’ve never felt this way before.”

 

caution tape

Bette’s Office – 9:30 am

Before I left home to drop off Angelica at CU’s day care and begin my complicated moves for extraction I packed every little piece of Jodie Lerner I could find into a medium sized cardboard box and tied it closed with yellow Caution tape. I stare at it on the floor under my office printer.

What was I? Fucking desperate? I wonder as my power suit boosts my laser focus and I begin to feel incredibly pissed off the longer I stare at the box. I fucking tolerated so much shit from that woman. Jesus! I’ve been so lost and for so damn long. I put my head in my hands and think about rebound sex and how the inevitable happened: I remembered love and knew it was somewhere else entirely.

I open my desk drawer and take out a framed photograph of Tina that Shane gave me so long ago. It’s been out in every office I’ve had but this one and I recall very clearly why I shoved it in the back of this drawer when I moved in – Tina was with Henry.

Tina_wooden bench behind her

I walk to my office door with Tina’s photograph in my hand and catch James’ attention.

“James, give me about ten minutes without interruption.” I smile to put him at ease. Poor man, I periodically beat the shit out of us both. “I’m closing my door. Ten minutes.” I hold up a little inch with my fingers.

One day I might change and not feel weird moods like this but I tend to doubt it. I look at the photograph of Tina and lean solidly back against my door until hear it catch. I thought for sure I had lost everything.

Shaolin Studios – Tina

Every time a delivery courier’s scooter appears in the window of my office trailer I wonder if Bette will send me flowers this morning. Then I wonder what kind, and then my phone interrupts me before I can fantasize anymore about her romantic floral signatures.

“Alice, hi.” I say finally after she calls my cell phone three times.

“Well, so you really are starting Jenny’s crazy movie about us, huh?” Alice begins. “Shooting in two days? Right?”

“Alice, really for your own good, for the good of all of us please talk about this movie as a work of fiction. Nothing is real.”

“Tina, I can’t get metaphysical with you before one or two in the morning but, yeah, I hear what you’re saying. And I need a press pass to the set while you’re shooting, okay?”

“Alice, I can’t give you an all access anything. This is a closed set. I’ll ask you on days when we’re outside or you know when I can Alice, but we’re not making press passes to the set.”

“Okay, I get it – lesbians, movie secrecy and all that.” I roll my eyes as I hear Alice begin her interpretations.

“Marketing and mystique. Good thinking. So, I’m dropping it for now, but remember me.”

“You’re unforgettable.” I watch as another courier gets off his scooter without bringing me flowers. I turn back to my desk and bring up my daily meeting calendar.

“I think Shane broke her “sex fast” last night at the SheBar.” Alice laughs into the phone conspiratorially.

“That business had a very short half life. But it was amusing to watch while it lasted.” I acknowledge.

“It was, wasn’t it? So, the movie biz and all – surely you see someone interesting out your window if not two or three. Right?”

“Alice, I’ll invite you to the set as soon as I can but I have to go.” I say as I look up to into the face of a wrinkled Asian man who hands me a bouquet of my favorite roses mixed with Stargazer lilies.

We watch as a lady bug crawls out of the petals, cocks its spotted back and flies away.

Pink_Yellow Roses

 

“Those mean good luck and for women fertility, too.” He smiles and bows at me as he waits for me to sign for my delivery. I slip one rose out of the vase and smell its sweet scent. As I walk to my ten o’clock meeting I call Carol Goldman’s leasing agency in Malibu.

“Hi, this is Tina Kennard, is Carol in? Sure, I’ll hold.”

“Tina, back in the movie biz, I hear. I’m so happy you called!” Carol says as I hear her printer churning out documents in the background.

“Please tell me you have a pretty beach house for this weekend? I’d love to come out there tonight, listen to the ocean and leave late Sunday.”

Bette’s office – 3 pm

I take out a sheet of my personal blue linen stationary, uncap my fountain pen and with the unbroken concentration of a calligrapher I exhale slowly and write:

Dear Jodie,

I know I promised you I would not do this but by breaking that promise to you I’m able to keep so many more. It’s complicated and it’s not. I’ve always loved Tina and she’s come home to me.

Bette

I soften the focus of my single-pointedness as I lift up my pen. I read the three sentences over, fold the paper twice and drop it into the cardboard box.

“James, I’m going to the security office to go over the details for the media center. I’ve got my phone.” I close my office door and walk down the hallway with the box for Jodie.

I unlock the door to the faculty mailboxes and leave Jodie’s box on the mail room table.  I lock the door behind me.

Text to Tom from Bette,

“Tom, Please tell Jodie I’ve put a box with all her things from my house in the faculty mail room, and a note inside that explains why. Bette”

Without hesitation I hit send, and let out a tremendous sigh, as I open the door to the security office, and walk into the room filled with the campus’ video camera displays. I note above me, and slightly to my left are the two I’m interested in watching. The guard and the tech guy I’m there to meet tear their eyes away from a shiny metal box with lots of colored wires curling out of it.

“Hi, guys this won’t take long.” I say as I watch the hallway camera feed outside the door to the faculty mail room.

“Those three dark screens at the end of the video array are for the new cameras for the media center and theater?” I ask reminding them of the purpose of my three o’clock visit.

“Yes,” says the tech guy, “they’ll come online when we’re finished wiring the place for AV.”

“My two cents, you guys made a mistake not putting a camera backstage.” The guard offers as he looks up at me.

“You can’t do that to actors. They are so spooky already.” I say as I see Tom and Jodie walking quickly down the hallway toward the mail room. Her face is not very clear in the black and white image, but her stamping pace and arm gestures leave me no doubt to how she’s feeling. I point to the box of circuits and wires the men were engrossed in moments before I arrived.

“What piece of equipment were you geniuses working on when I interrupted you?” I distract them from the scene I anticipate unfolding in moments. They take the bait, and the tech guy hands the mystery box to the guard who begins to take it apart with a tiny green screwdriver.

I watch the monitor and see the mail room door fly open and Tom stand with his hands on his hips as Jodie peels the tape off her box. She quickly fishes out my note, and after a very short read she turns the page over to see it’s blank.

She signs to Tom. “I should never have trusted her.” She pitches the note back inside the box, puts her hands against her temples, and rubs them furiously. Then she begins to sign some more.

“After all that monogamy crap she gave me about Amy, and other women – she’s gone back to Tina. How long have they been seeing each other behind my back?” I watch Tom shrug, and shake his head quickly.

Jodie points to the side of her head and wheels her fingers around by her ear. I feel twinges of lousiness, and the pain of a liar, as she carries her box back toward the artist’s studios, and away from the corridor that would lead to my office.

“Okay, guys. Call me when the theater cameras come in.”

As I walk down the hallway I text James.

Text from Bette to James:

“Anything?”

Text from James to Bette:

“There’s a Skype call that keeps trying to connect to your computer.”

Text from Bette to James:

“3 mins.”

I stop at the coffee stand between the buildings for a late afternoon latte as a group of students with brass instruments pour out of the Music Department. A riff of notes between the sax and the rippling clarinet drift by. My phone buzzes with a text. I juggle the coffee and read.

Text from Tina to Bette:

“B, Flowers r wonderful. You shouldn’t have. 😉 Crazy day so far. Pls say, “Yes,” you’ll come to Malibu with me tonight, and stay the weekend.”

Text from Bette to Tina:

“Yes! In 30 minutes can U talk then?”

Text from Tina to Bette:

“I’ll try. But def c u around 6. Love you, T.”

I’m grinning when I walk up to James’ desk.

“Okay, I’ll see about the Skype call, now. And James stay if you want to, but it’s four, and I’m going to Malibu for the weekend with Tina so, you can …” I stop, and look at James’ expression of shock. Hm, I begin to realize I’m going to get this a lot for the next few weeks .

“Long story, James, too long for four on Friday. I’m making this call then, I’m going home to pack.” I point my trigger finger at him, “Have a good weekend.” I close my door and flip the lock. Jodie is unpredictable.

I click the option for Skype to redial the last call in and in a few seconds an elderly Native American woman’s face fills my screen. Her hair is braided, and snow white, and she wears a blue denim shirt with a cherry red kerchief around her neck. I frown slightly because I have no idea who she is.

“I could have left a video message I realize but what I need to tell you is best interactive.” She leans slightly into the camera as she adjusts in her seat. I catch glimpses of a well stocked bookcase, and squash colored walls behind her.

“Technology. Amazing. Have we met?” I ask as I sip my latte.

“Briefly. I was just about to introduce you to someone who had come a long way that day to see you when we watched you get fired from your job and your friends…,” she puts her hand up to her mouth as she laughs softly, “well, they had to subdue you and drag you out of your father’s wake.”

I pinch in between my eyebrows as I remember fucking Franklin and Leo. Then I focus on her Skype ID, Mary_WindHorse. Who is this lady who is recalling one of the worst days of my life on arguably what may be one of my best?

I clear my throat from the feeling of strangulation at the bad memory, “Mary Windhorse. Mary, I can’t remember, and you were there for Melvyn’s wake? Thank you for coming. I’m sorry, I don’t remember. And you came with another friend of my father’s?”

“Bette,  I was there with your Mother.”

“You what?” I yell into the screen. “That’s impossible! My mother’s dead. She died when I was a child.”

“She left one day, and never came home again, am I right?”

“Yes,” I exhale hotly.

“She’s been in Witness Protection for twenty-six years because of a terrible gang murder she saw that afternoon.”

“Murders? Wait! Is that even possible? That she could go missing without my father ever knowing?”

“Bette, you need to think about that for a bit. Do you want to call me back?”

“He knew?” I blow out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

“Oh, of course, he knew. She pleaded with him to let you come with her into protection, and grow up as her daughter. But he refused to come in with her, or to let you go.”

“Oh my fucking God! I can’t … excuse me, I shouldn’t have said that out loud.” I wince into the screen, and watch the old Indian woman’s eyes wrinkle in a smile.

“She’s my neighbor out here in the desert.”

“Which desert?”

“Good question. She does want to meet you, very much.”

“It’s been two, nearly three years since Melvyn died. And she came to LA and then disappeared again? I don’t know. Can I trust this?” I pinch my arm to make sure I’m awake. It hurts. I am.

“She had a heart attack, Bette when we got back home. But her friends have been taking good care of her, and for the last year she’s been back out in the canyons painting again.”

I tally up my mother’s age again for the tenth time in my head. If lucky we have a good ten years left before she falls into the more critical margins. Mary’s voice snaps me back.

“Stay just like that for a second more. I told your mother I’d take a screenshot for her.”

“For an old lady you know a lot about technology. Is there a story behind that, Mary?”

“One very long story and best told over dinner. Call me back when you’ve decided to come out here. We’re not far away. Just a state or two over, but too far to walk.” She laughs. “And they’re rattlesnakes.”

I feel my eyes shoot up to the ceiling. “Okay, too far to walk. I can take a plane.” My eyes drift back down to the screen. “And tell my mother for me will you? She has a beautiful, beautiful grand daughter.”

I see the elderly woman’s eyebrows rise slightly then settle back down. “It’s a long story, also best told over dinner. I’ll figure out when I can come see you, two, soon.”

 

Malibu_sunset

Malibu – Bette – 8 pm

I stand on the deck and feel the rapidly cooling wind whip off the Pacific Ocean as the colors from the sky turn an amazing purple before they begin to fade. I feel Tina’s arm slip around me as she leans her head against my shoulder. I reach down for Angelica and lift her to watch the brilliant sky change.

“A purple ocean is very rare, Angelica, my wonderful baby girl. You need to get an eye on this.” I point her fist out to the sea. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before, have you, Tina?”

“Never. I’ll take a picture.” Tina clicks one with her iPhone, and slips it back in her pocket.

“Let’s go back to the water’s edge one more time before it’s dark.” I wag Angelica’s arm toward the beach.

“You can’t get enough of those sand crabs can you? Why do you love them so much do you think?”

“Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an animal? Just for a day?” I ask Tina as we walk across the sand and I carry Angelica in my arms. Her head bobs sleepily against my neck as the waves lull and crash with the tide.

“I think of flying sometimes when I watch birds.” Tina says.

“Flying does seem nice.” I agree.

“But you probably want something with teeth and a big tail, too.” Tina laughs at me.

I kneel down and watch a half dozen crabs scoot sideways, and run along the lines of foam.

“I don’t see you as one of those little crabs, Bette, although you do zigzag sometimes very dramatically.”

“A close friend of my mother’s called me today. Skype’d me actually. An old Indian lady. Just out of the blue.”

“Could today get any odder?” Tina asks.

“Oh, yes. Very.”

“Are you upset? You don’t seem upset though.” Tina stops me and holds my arms as the light grows a deeper purple around us.

“She’s not dead, Tina. She’s been in Wit Sec for twenty-six years, and was at Melvyn’s wake!”

“What the fuck?” Tina asks as she stares over at me.

I begin to laugh and then I can’t stop. I hand the baby to Tina.

“Bette, what’s wrong with you. You’re scaring me a little.”

A wind gust picks up, and I hold Tina against me as I try to calm my gasps of laughter. “All day long I’ve wondered if waking up with you was a mirage, and perhaps I’d orbited into another sphere entirely. Just snapped, you know? Then the Mother Phone Call.”

“Is that why you sent me flowers?”

“No! Don’t be crazy! I sent you flowers because I love you.”

“But if I’d texted you, “WTF,” instead of inviting you to Malibu?” Tina asks.

“I was going to call the ambulance. Sad for you though, you’re still my emergency contact.” I laugh at myself before I kiss Tina’s lips.

“Dear God. What about your mother?”

“I want you with me when I go to meet her. Will you come?” I ask.

“When? Jesus! Yes, of course, I will. But the timing of everything…”

“It couldn’t be stranger.” I put my arm around her as we walk back to the beach house.

“I’m not sure where she lives, more will be revealed. She’s in witness protection so there are secrets to be aware of.”

“So, someone wants to kill her still?” Tina presses.

“That much we can guess, or did anyway. She must feel the threat is over, or she wouldn’t be calling, or have her emissary call me.” I surmise.

“Bette, you have to look into this before we get too involved.” Tina warns as she looks at me, and then Angelica asleep in her arms.

“I know. I will. We’ll be careful.” I walk up the steps to the deck of the house. “Let’s say we’re starting dinner so at least we can open the wine.”

“And to think, yesterday I had such an uncomplicated life, and was dating a heart surgeon.” Tina smiles at me and shakes her head.

 

__________

The next chapter is titled, Malibu. The couple arrive at the beach house. Bette surprises Tina with an unusual request.

After Malibu this book that I hope you have enjoyed will conclude and a new book, my version of The L Word Season 7, a long awaited return of the characters will begin. It is titled, Touch Tones. I will post chapters here shortly.

@Blackbird_Write has my story twitter feed.

Writers love comments. Please leave one! Thanks for reading! Blackbird

 

 

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