DISCLAIMER: In this story, there are scenes, bits of scenes, and dialogue taken from Season 2 and 3 of The L Word that both move the story along and explain events that unfolded. At the end of each chapter, I will identify what parts are directly from the television version. Dialogue from Season 3particularly one entire scene, references to Seasons 1, 2, and 3.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for The L Word Seasons 2 and 3.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Laid Up: Another Season 3
By Portia Richardson
A little less than an hour later, Boden turned onto Crescent in West Hollywood and pulled up to the front of 231. Boden was exiting the limo to open the door for Bette and Helena, when Bette popped out of the car, stormed up the walkway, and then up the steps. Helena took Boden's hand and he helped her out. The two looked at each other and Helena shrugged. "What is it that they said about Margo Channing in All About Eve when she was pissed and ready to get into a major row with someone?"
"It was something about 'fastening seat belts and bumpy nights,' Mademoiselle," Boden said in understanding.
"Spot on," Helena said while tapping the tip of her nose. She followed behind Bette, but looked over her shoulder and said, "Boden, this will no doubt take a while." He nodded.
The door was unlocked and Bette walked in to find Kit and Theresa sitting close on the sofa. Bette stared at her sister. "What is she doing here?" she asked while putting her purse on the nearby table.
"Bette," Kit started, "we don't know what's going on." She stood up so that she and her sister could be on equal footing. "I couldn't put Theresa out and not tell her why or what happened." Kit looked at Helena who had just entered the house. This was getting more and more bizarre.
Bette crossed her arms and glared at Theresa. She shook her head and sighed. "Where's Angelica?"
"She's in her crib. I just put her down two minutes ago. She just stopped gurgling, so I think she's asleep," Kit said.
Bette walked down the hall. She stood outside the guest room/nursery and took a deep breath. She told herself to hold it together, pull herself together, to keep all of the negativity out of her daughter's space. Helena watched Bette from down the hall. She saw how Bette struggled, but she suspected that going to her with an offer of support would be a gesture most unwelcome.
Bette turned the knob and walked into the room. Angelica was asleep on her back and looked like a little angel. Bette went to her, regarded the infant in the crib, and wanted to grab her up, pull her baby into her arms, hold her tight, inhale her sweet, new, and pristine baby smell, and feel her soft cheeks against her face. Instead, she stood over her watching her sleep. "I love you, Angie," Kit, Theresa, and Helena heard Bette's whispered voice through the baby monitor that was on the coffee table. "Mama B missed you so much. My little boo, my girl, my world."
"Helena, do you know why Bette is so upset?" Theresa asked.
Helena's gaze swept from one woman to the other, staying on Theresa. Suddenly this woman who had seemed so nice and easygoing reminded her of her own mothermanipulative, sneaky, getting her way at all costs. Her mother knew that Helena and Winnie didn't get along, but it was all about what was good for Peggy, so she had done a series of things that Helena found objectionable. Theresa Kennard wanted to control Tina, so she tricked Bette. Same maternal scheming. "No. Not that I can say."
Helena took a seat in the chair opposite the sofa. The three women sat and waited and waited for Bette. Several minutes passed and Kit got up. "I'll get Bette." She started down the hall and was halfway there when the guest room opened. Bette came out dragging Theresa's black Samsonite wheeled suitcase. Clothes had been tossed haphazardly into the suitcase and then zipped with outfits hanging out of the front. Kit's eyes widened. "B-Bette? What are you doing?"
"I packed for you. Take your shit and get out of my house, now," Bette said ignoring Kit and speaking directly to Theresa.
Theresa stood. She gazed at the suitcase and then up at Bette. "Honey, I don't know what's gotten into you, what you're thinkin', or what happened out there in Washin'ton, but you're actin' peculiar."
Bette wheeled the suitcase over to Theresa and dropped it at her feet. "I'm sick of your bullshit. I welcomed you here, confided in you, handed my most precious possession--my baby over to you. Were you and Stephanie planning this devious scheme of yours since day one?"
"Bette, I don't know what you're talkin' about."
"It's over. I've been served. I already know. Snake."
Bette walked to her purse, grabbed the 11 x 14 inch, manila envelope from it and returned to where she had been standing in front of Theresa. Bette smashed the envelope against Theresa's chest. "This should refresh your fucking memory."
Theresa grabbed the envelope before it fell to the floor. She held it in her hands. "What is this?"
Bette glanced over her shoulder at Helena and laughed. "Please."
Theresa looked at Kit who was staring at the envelope. Kit was curious about what was inside the envelope, but Theresa seemed frightened.
"I guess you don't have to open it, huh?" Bette's eyes pierced Theresa's and Theresa went cold. Bette had been nothing but courteous and civil. This side of Bette was scary. For a moment, Theresa sent up a prayer of gratitude that she wasn't facing Bette Porter alone.
Theresa lifted the flap of the envelope and pulled the contents out. She looked down at the pages. "Oh, my God."
"Imagine," Bette said in a monotone.
"Bette, this isn't what you think. . ."
"I think it's quite clear," Helena chimed in.
"What is it?" Kit said.
Theresa passed the papers to Kit who read the cover sheet. "Theresa, why'd you do somethin' like this?"
"I didn't," Theresa said softly.
"We're all fucking blind?" Bette's arms were crossed again and that was only to control the rage that she feared could get physical.
"May I explain?"
"Like Helena said, it's clear. I was gone for one day and in that day, you were able to get a judge to order me to cease and desist making decisions for my life partner. Stephanie played bad cop to your good cop? You pretended to care about us as a couple, care about me as your daughter's significant other and then you screw me to the wall?"
"Bette, I'll explain. Theresa's legs gave out on her and she dropped onto the sofa. Kit sat down, too and Theresa took the papers from her. She looked down at the papers. "I am so sorry this is happenin' to you. I will do everythin' I can to rectify this situation."
"Be my guest. You can explain and rectify and anything else your heart desires in Los Angeles, but you won't be doing it here."
Theresa continued to sit. "You don't understand," she said quietly. Theresa felt almost immobile, this strange inertia had set in and she could hear herself speaking in what sounded like slow-motion. She was appalled and if Bette felt betrayed, she felt it more.
Bette's voice was eerily calm when she spoke again. "Theresa. . .get out. Don't make me lift you off of my sofa and push you out. Just fucking leave, now."
Realization hit Theresa suddenly. Instead of asking Bette permission to offer an explanation, she'd best just tell her. Her face was grim. The laugh lines that were usually so faint were deep crevices now as she frowned, tears had formed in her eyes, and she stood. "Bette, Stephanie did this. Not me. Stephanie's legal name is Theresa Stephanie Kennard."
Bette's head tilted to the side as she listened. Helena's eyes widened in surprise. Kit's head snapped back as if she'd been punched. Theresa continued, "It was easier at home to call her by her middle name, so there'd be no confusion. She's been called Stephanie since she was a child, but every official document includin' this here shit has her name as Theresa Kennard or Theresa S. Kennard, or Theresa Stephanie Kennard. I'm sure she put only her first name for a reason. She wanted you to have this reaction. I'm Theresa Linda Kennard."
"You didn't do this?" Bette asked in a whisper.
"No, honey. I wouldn't ever. I feel like I should be offended, but I woulda made that same mistake. It hurts me that you'd think so badly of me, but the writin' was right here in black and white."
"So this is all Stephanie's maneuvering?" Helena entered the conversation.
"I'm afraid so. Stephanie has a bug up her ass. I don't know if it's her fiancé who is a Bible-thumper or this conservative politics she's wrapped up in back home or how she just wants to be makin' decisions for everyone. I don't know. I begged her not to pursue this. I thought she'd moved on and had forgotten about it."
"That's true," Kit said. "I talked to Theresa about it and she said she was trying to stop Stephanie before it got this far."
Bette turned to Kit. "You knew? You knew? You knew and didn't tell me?" Bette glowered at her.
Weakly, Kit shrugged. "Theresa asked me not to tell you. She was tryin' to work it out. Bette, she didn't think it would go this far."
"You could have warned me, Kit. You're always talking about wanting to be there for me. This was the time." Bette looked at her with unabashed disdain.
Kit lowered her eyes, feeling scolded and without a rational explanation for having held Theresa's confidence when she knew how Bette would react if she learned the truth.
"Fuck. Fuck." Bette dragged her body to the other chair and dropped down onto it. She wiped the back of her hand across her forehead. Bette sat up and peeled off her suit jacket and tossed it across the arm of the chair. "Well. . . ."
Tina was sitting in front of a portable computer table. A physical therapist, Bobby, who worked on hand-eye coordination, stood over her shoulder and together, they were guiding the computer mouse over the mouse pad.
"Two more, Tina and we'll be finished," he said in a lispy effeminate voice.
"It is hard."
"Hard is good." the man smiled down at her. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I meant, it's hard, but you're working to do it. Soon it'll be too easy. I don't want to bore you." He laughed. "Okay, here we go, this one is a circle. Let's go."
Tina moved the mouse to trace the outline of the circle. She started off well, but the bottom right part of the trace was severely crooked and looked more like a staircase than an arcing line.
"Got it wrong," Tina noted, but she worked on finishing the circle.
"Not too bad," Bobby said. "We'll finish up with a diamond. What girl. . . and boy, I might add doesn't like diamonds? Let's see how well we can trace this one." Bobby clicked the button on the mouse and the next shape appeared on the laptop monitor.
While Bobby and Tina were working on the shape, Stephanie entered Tina's room. She was carrying a large tote bag, and two smaller purses. She walked over to the table and looked to see what they were doing. "Wow, Tina. Good going." Tina jumped, startled to hear Stephanie's voice and so close to her at that.
"I did ent hee-ah you."
"I know. Sorry. Go ahead." Stephanie watched while Bobby and Tina finished up the last point of the diamond.
"I don't think you need me." Bobby laughed. "Hey, could you pretend my services are necessary? I can't afford to lose my job right now."
Tina laughed, too.
Bobby always treated Tina with the utmost respect and discussed each aspect of her therapy with her whereas some of the other therapists talked down to her, patronizing her as if she were a toddler who needed help with each and every simple task. "I think we can try some more difficult art projects tomorrow. Are you ready to kick it up?"
"I can move on," Tina said with deliberation. Tina was eager to rush through her exercises, too. Now that she was awake and alert, she wanted to do what she had to do to get her life back. Tina knew she could do it all, it was just taking longer to do it.
Bobby shut down the laptop and placed it and the wireless mouse in his small black case. "You might be sorry. Well, I'll see you tomorrow, girlfriend." Bobby swished across the room and at the door, turned, and said, "Bye-bye. Have a nice day."
Once he was out of the room, Stephanie looked at Tina and laughed. She dropped down in the chair across from Tina's and said, "Can he get anymore queer? Instead of being Black, he should be rainbow-colored."
"Oh, Tina, I was kidding. He's okay with me. In fact, I like the entire staff here. They're really excellentespecially your doctor. Is he a hottie or what?"
"Yeah. Duh. Broad shoulders, strong, yet gentle. He's really more your type than mine. I mean, the type you used to go for."
Tina looked down at her folded hands in her lap.
"Tina, I didn't mean anything by that, either. It's just. . . ." Stephanie looked up at the ceiling, then down at the table, and finally faced Tina. "I have felt really out of my element here. Los Angeles is so different. And I really want to be honest with you. . . Tina, it's been hard for me seeing you in this condition. You were always healthy and athletic, the perfect older sister. It's been weird seeing you not perfect. You know?"
"You're mom's favorite. Grandma's favorite. I'll admit," Stephanie began confidentially, "I always felt like the outsider, that my opinions didn't matter much. You and mom think the same. I don't. And let me just say, I'm not ashamed of that. There's nothing wrong with being a. . . a compassionate conservative."
Tina looked at her in surprise.
"That's how I identify. Anyway, I came out here to be with you and I felt even more out of place with all these gay women coming in and out, Bette making all the decisions, and kind of acting like she owns the place . . . and you. It's bothered me."
"Bette is my pahtnuh." Tina took her time so that she was sure her words were understood.
"Well, I know that." Stephanie inhaled, blinked, opened her mouth, and then clamped it closed. "Look, you're probably going to hear some bad things about me soon. I'm sure Bette is going to come over here and freak out and tell you a bunch of lies about me."
"Because she wants to poison your mind against me."
"What is. . .this. . .about. . .Steph-an-nee?"
"Tina." Stephanie pulled her chair closer to Tina's and grasped her hands, wrapping her hands around them. "Tina, I think Bette has done a great job caring for you. She chose an excellent Center; Dr. McPherson is so good at what he does." Stephanie smiled to herself. "But here is your chance."
"Tina, Bette wants you to be like her, but you're not like her. If you can just get away and stay away, you can get back to who you really are."
"I don't. . . ."
Stephanie interrupted. "Don't you remember how we'd hang out in Raleigh? Remember when you finally gave in and slept with Barry McCaffrey? You told me in detail about it. You were totally into him and his body. And when you brought Eric home to meet usyou guys were on the beach in the Outer Banks screwing like bunnies. You can't go from that, to this. . ." Stephanie rolled her eyes as if they were bouncing wildly in the sockets. ". . .this long time companionship, commitment thing with Bette." Stephanie squeezed Tina's hands. "It doesn't make sense."
"We aah together for eight years."
"Yeah, and you only dated men before you met her. Your only experiences had been with men, Tina. You're a straight woman who at a vulnerable moment--I don't know. . ." Stephanie waved her hands around. "You were having problems with Eric, you were bored, you wanted to experiment, whatever, you fell for Bette's seduction."
"No. You aah wrong."
"Okay. Let's not argue about it. All I wanted to say is that I love you. Whatever I'm doing is because I really do love you and want to see you not just well, but living the life you were meant to live and the life God intended for you."
"I am happy with Beh-ette and with Angie. And what are you doing?"
"Tina, you've been in a coma and I hate to say it, but in a way, you've been out of it for years. You haven't been yourself."
"Whuh?" Tina looked at her sister in shock.
"You stopped coming home. We didn't see you for holidays, we didn't see you for birthdays. Once Bette came on the scene, you left the family." Stephanie shook her head.
"I did ent want Bette to feel bad. You aah ent always nice."
"Oh, thanks a lot for that." Stephanie was bruised. "That's just so like you, Tina. You and Mom say whatever you want and then say that you're just being honest. I'm not mean, I'm a realist. I knew she was wrong for you and manipulative and no, I wasn't going to hide it."
"I don't care that she's gay or lesbian or queer or whatever she calls herself. But Tina, I mean, really. . . You're not. I know you. You sent me emails a few months ago that you were dating Helena Peabody, but I could read between the lines. You liked that this rich girl was into you. You talked about her children and that she seemed liked a loving mother, but you talked a lot more about her influence and the people you met, and the night before that awards dinner, you went on and on about that $5,000.00 gown she bought you."
"I did not even want it." Tina said slowly.
"Yeah, but you accepted it and wrote about it. Stephanie changed her voice to mimic Tina's, making her sound sugary sweet and naïve, 'It was so extravagant. That dress would be my portion of a really good holiday in Europe,' you said. God, who wouldn't be fascinated by that much money? Everybody in the country knows about the Peabodys. They're like the Hearsts or the Vanderbilts, or the Pulitzers. Peabody says old money. You talked about her wealth, how she bought a multi-million dollar beach house without thinking about down payments or escrow or meeting a mortgage. There wasn't one ounce of passion or desire for her in your emails. You wrote that "she's nice," that "she is demanding," that she cared about children, but not once did you write anything that conveyed deep feelings for her. When I read them, I just shook my head and wondered what you were doing."
"No." Tina shook her head.
"Can you tell me, look me in the eyes and tell me that you were really that attracted to her? That there was something special there?"
Tina bent her head, eyed her hands entwined in her sister's. She said nothing.
"I knew it," she said triumphantly. "That's what I mean. I know you. You can try to fool yourself, but you're as straight as I am and I am two hundred percent heterosexual. You know what it's like to be with a man, to have a man who is strong and powerful. Remember how Eric grabbed you on the beach, carried you to the waves and threatened to dump you in? You were laughing so hard and were so happy. Bette can't do that. Helena can't do that."
Tina had been thinking of just that the other day. She had been having dreams and hazy, semi-wakeful fantasies about men. Twice she had had fantasies about Dr. McPherson, several dreams about the night orderly, and she was feeling more and more like Bette was more of a good friend than a lover. Still, she needed to protect the image of her relationship with her. "No. Beh-ette is my. . . ."
"All I'm asking is that you take a step back, Tina. There is no better time than right now to start completely over if you want to. Bette can't be angry with you. After comas, people change. If you need an excuse, this is it."
"No excuse. I am happy."
Stephanie shook her head. "Is it really possible that I know you better than you know yourself?" She sighed. "Okay, like I said, I don't want to argue with you about it." Stephanie looked around the room. This was the difficult part. She didn't know how Tina was going to take this next bit of news, but she was almost guaranteed that Tina wouldn't like it. "I was in the administration office here. I saw that you and Bette signed Medical Powers of Attorney for each other years ago. Tina, you guys had split up. I don't think after Bette cheated on you that you'd want her making decisions about your health. I'm contesting it on your behalf."
"What? No. No, Steph-an-nee. Doe ent do that."
Stephanie stood, litigating her case, pacing the room while explaining. "The wheels are in motion. We're having a hearing on Friday."
"No. No. No." Tina was shaking her head violently.
"Stop it." Stephanie rushed to Tina, bent, grabbed her by the shoulders and held her. "Stop it." Tina was crying.
"You can not do this."
"I'm doing it for you, Tina. Do you think I want to be in the middle of your personal life? I'd rather not. I want you to come back to North Carolina. You can get care there. Mom and I will be with you the whole time. I think. . ," Stephanie dropped back into the chair and looked at her sister. "I think Bette is dangerous. Okay. I said it. I think she will do any and everything she can to get her way and she will put you at risk to get it. She wants your baby and I promise you this, Bette will put you in a position where you're entirely reliant on her, so that she can have what she wants, and you will be without any choice."
"I'm not. Don't you realize she started this a long time ago? You live in her house..."
Tina interrupted. "Ah house. I am on the title."
Stephanie wasn't going to be deterred. "Your job at Alphaville paid almost as well if not just as well as Bette's museum job, but when the two of you decided to have children, who quit her job, who was no longer bringing in money, who was going to carry the baby?"
"My decisions, Steph-an-nee."
"And Bette readily agreed. You with no job, no money, and a baby. She knew she was going to control you. Bette was making sure you were dependent on her. If you wanted to buy something, you'd have to go through her. That's entrapment, Tina."
Tina's skin had turned a dark pink. She was positively furious. "Shut up."
"I'll drop it." Stephanie motioned with her hand that was both a dismissive wave and a gesture that she was stopping. "I know what's apparent. If you want to wear blinders and not face the truth, I can't do anything about that, but I can act in your best interest and I can prove that I'm the best one to do it."
"Please, no," Tina pleaded. "No, Steph-an-nee. No."
"Let's just move on, okay?" Stephanie picked up the large tote bag she had brought into the room. "I went shopping last night. There is this great place in Studio City that sells. . ." She opened the bag and started pulling out the contents. "Wigs. Since you're blonde, I bought three different blonde wigs for you. Your hair is so fucked up and I know this will make you feel better. Your hair was always so beautiful. You can wear one of these until your hair grows back."
Tina grimaced at the three 'real human hair' wigs that her sister had placed on the table.
"What'd ya think?"
"Tina! Don't say that. At least try it." She walked over to Tina, stood behind her and grabbed the wig and placed it on Tina's head, tucking in the few long strands of hair that hadn't been shaved. "Okay, this one is called 'Adelle.' It sort of looks like your cut when you used to wear it long." Stephanie turned and walked over to Tina's nightstand and opened the drawer. She removed the hand mirror and brought it over to where Tina sat. She held the mirror in front of her sister. "Voila. It looks totally natural. You look beautiful, don't you?"
Tina smiled. It wasn't so much that she thought she looked beautiful, but that it sounded genuine coming from Stephanie. Since she'd been out of her coma, all of her friends had said with a degree of unease that she looked better, that she'd be back to her old self soon enough, that her smile was nice. Bette had told her that she loved her, but no one had said that she looked beautiful. It was something she needed to hear and it did wonders for her mood. "Thank you," Tina grinned into the mirror.
It was half past one and Sharon Fairbanks sat at a small table at The Planet waiting for her daughter. She had agreed to drive up to Los Angeles to see Dana since it was a favor that Dana was doing for her. She was drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea and had chosen a variety plate of tea sandwiches to munch on. The Planet wasn't a café she normally would have patronized, but she did like the color and whimsy of it. The clientele was predominantly women and most of those were lesbians. Sharon tried not to gawk, but she couldn't help noticing the lesbian couples who entered, holding hands, laughing together, so comfortable with each other and not in the least bit ashamed or embarrassed about being women loving women. Sharon was full of regret. She loved Irwin and the family she had created with him, but her heart was still filled with visions of Leslie, the first girl she had ever fallen in love with. There were times when she thought of trying to find her, see if she remembered her and the kiss they shared in the stables in 1968. Sharon had spent many a night making love with Irwin and thinking about loving Leslie, picturing her lips on hers, spreading Leslie's legs, and in each of these fantasies, Leslie wasn't appalled and she didn't say, 'Jesus! What are you doing?' Instead, she ran her fingers through Sharon's hair, pushed her down, opened her legs to her, and called for Jesus in a low, deep voice of pleasure. Sharon felt her ears warming. She shook her head, shaking away the secret images that were just as much a part of her life as her children were. She stared at the lesbians and when one would look her way, she'd smile to let them know she didn't have a problem with their lifestyle. She didn't. They weren't her daughter. Her daughter and this open lifestyle she had decided to share with the world via Subaru was not something she approved of or wanted to see. Sharon had spent her entire life fitting in, living up to expectations, doing what she had been bred to do. Dana, she thought should be doing the same. She checked her Charriol diamond watch and then picked up her cup of tea and took another sip.
Alice walked into The Planet wearing her sunglasses. She pushed them up on top of her head as she moseyed up to the counter and ordered a large mocha and pointed to Sharon's table. Alice moved across the room and when she was a few feet from Dana's mom, she called out to her. "Sharon. Hi."
Sharon pretended she hadn't seen Alice, but in fact she had appraised her fully. She didn't like Alice's choice of outfitit was a quirky coral jacket with puffy sleeves and shoulders and matching flared pants. She wore no top under the jacket that only had three buttons barely keeping it closed. The ensemble looked like something her fashion-deficient friends might have worn back in 1971. It was so hideous, it was almost cute. . .but not quite. Alice's hair was still short, but it looked like she had gotten it chopped off by a patient at an insane asylum, and there didn't seem to be a style to it at all. "Hi, Alice. So good to see you," Sharon said.
Alice bent and air kissed Sharon on one cheek and then the other. "You, too. How've you been?" Alice sat down across from her.
A woman walked by their table and smiled down at Alice. "Hey, Al. What's up? Your hair looks awesome. I love it."
"Thanks," Alice said and she touched it lightly. She didn't notice that Sharon was looking at the woman who had made the comment to see if she had a white cane or a pair of dark sunglasses. No one could possibly think Alice's hair looked awesome. Alice turned back to Sharon. "How've you been?"
"Very good. I do so enjoy coming to The Planet. I believe the last time I was here was the night of Dana and Tonya's engagement party."
Alice slightly smirked, but didn't respond.
"Were you there?" Sharon asked and then shook her head. "Oh, yes, you were. You gave that lovely toastsomething about not seeing what's right in front of your eyes, I believe."
"Yeah." Alice said. "Right."
Sharon chuckled knowingly. "I guess that toast had a lot more meaning than Tonya and Dana could have realized for you."
Alice wanted Sharon to know that she didn't steal Dana away from Tonya, but that Tonya couldn't have been more wrong for her. "Dana knew. She felt the same."
"Really? And she was still going through with that engagement?" Sharon leaned in, fascinated by Alice's take on her daughter's state of mind.
"She didn't want to marry Tonya she just couldn't figure out how to get out of it." Alice tried to explain, but it was frustrating trying to make sense out of Dana's motives. "Dana's sweet. She didn't want to hurt Tonya's feelings."
The waitress came over with Alice's mocha and a fresh pot of water for Sharon's tea.
"So, how do you know that she's sincere with you?" Sharon's question wasn't in the least bit bitchy or rude. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Dana isn't being open with you; I'm just wondering how you're so sure. I gave Tonya and Dana my blessing, but I felt that Tonya was too much for little Dana. She got lost in Tonya's shadow.
"Totally." Alice nodded her head several times. "I mean, Tonya wouldn't even let Dana order whatever coffee she wanted."
"You've always been a good friend to my daughter, but how can you be so certain that it really is more and not Dana being sweet and sparing your feelings? You'd say that Dana is easily guided, influenced by others?"
"Yeah, I think so." Alice put her elbows on the table and leaned in to speak with Sharon. She liked having this opportunity to talk to Sharon one-on-one and learn everything she could about the woman she loved. Dana was, after all, her favorite topic.
"So again, is Dana sincere or have you somehow convinced her that you're the right one? Was it your influence that brought you together?"
"No, Dana made the decision. We have something special, Sharon. We really do."
"Alice," Sharon said as she reached out and took her hand. "Aren't you worried? I love my daughter, but the past couple of years she's been all over the map with her personal relationships. Once she told us about herself, about the gay thing, she also told us about the chef, Lara. So we knew before Tonya there was that. Then Tonya, then you, and we know she broke up with you briefly to go back to Lara, and now she's with you. Honestly, dear, don't you have the least bit of concern?"
"I love her and she loves me. That's all that I know for sure. I hope it stays that way. Dana means everything to me." Alice frowned for a moment, trying to come up with a rationale for her lover's behavior. "Dana stayed in the closet for a long, long time. She's been gay since she was a teenager, but didn't want to deal with it, didn't want anyone to know. Now, she's out and she's famous. Suddenly, there are all these women who want to know her and know her well. It has to be hard for her to decide what she really wants. Right now, I know she wants me and loves me. It's the best we can do."
Sharon nodded. "I don't want to see you get hurt by her. Dana would never hurt a soul intentionally, but even if a pain isn't intentional it doesn't lessen the sting of it. Women can cause a lot of pain." Sharon seemed to be talking from experience.
"How do you know that? About women?" Alice knew her own mom had had at least one liaison with a woman, maybe Sharon Fairbanks had, too.
"Women are human beings. Humans hurt each other. It's what we do best," Sharon said with deep sadness. She opened the lid of the small teakettle and dropped in the Earl Grey teabag to let it steep. Alice watched with curiosity as Sharon moved slowly and deliberately as if she were trying to maintain her composure.
"Shane? Shane?" Carmen whispered. "Shane, I have to leave. I got a call from the studio."
Shane turned in bed and reached for Carmen. "C'mere."
"I've gotta go." Carmen was sitting on the edge of the bed, tying her high top Converse. "They need me to work in the Sound department today. The girl who replaced me was a no-show. I'll probably be there all day. Are you going to see Tina today?"
"Yeah," Shane's voice was thick with sleep.
"Tell her hi for me. Keep your cell on. I'll call you to let you know what's goin' on."
Carmen leaned in and kissed her on her lips. "Bye."
"Bye." Shane reached out and grabbed Carmen's arm. "Carm? Last night was. . ."
Shane yawned and stretched. In Carmen's eyes, Shane could see just how loved she was by her. She felt content for the first time in her life. "Bye."
Carmen smiled at her before leaving the bedroom. In the hallway, Carmen grinned when she heard Shane say, "I love you."
Carmen walked past 231 Crescent and saw Kit who was holding Angelica, Theresa, and Helena, standing beside a limousine. A tall, thin, elegantly dressed man was busily preparing the baby seat in the limo with Bette's help. Carmen wondered what was going on and why she and Shane hadn't been invited, but when she paused to look at their faces, she was relieved that she had been excluded from whatever they were doing. Each woman's lips were thin and pursed. Theresa's frown made her look several years older; Bette was yanking on the straps of the car seat like she wanted to wring someone's neck with it; Helena was shaking her head in distress; and Kit looked frightened.
The four women acknowledged Carmen, but barely which frightened the young DJ. "Is Tina okay?"
Helena, Kit, and Theresa nodded. Bette backed out of the limo and looked at Carmen. "She's fine."
Carmen nodded back and kept strolling down the street. Sometimes it was best to just stay out of other people's drama and the sidewalk in front of 231 reeked of it.
Alice sipped her drink and looked around the café. "Dana should have been here by now."
"Perhaps she's doing some extra training because she'll be playing against Patty Schnyder in a few days."
"Right. She mentioned some videos that she wanted to go over with her coach--some strategy for the match."
"Patty's ranked in the top ten right now."
"Yeah." Alice had no idea.
"She's had one success after another lately. Dana's got her work cut out for her."
"Dana's in the zone," Alice answered defensively. Maybe Dana was right, Alice thought. She really didn't know much about Dana's career. Sharon Fairbanks lived in Orange County, wasn't sharing a home with her daughter, but was well aware of when she trained, how she did, and where she stood in comparison to other players, and knew how Dana's competitors were doing. Who the hell was Patty Schnyder?
"Yes, she's at the top of her game. She just has to keep working hard." Sharon said before raising her cup to her lips.
"She is. She's spending like ten to twelve hours a day on her game," Alice lied.
"That's good to hear. I was afraid she was taking too much time off, not concentrating the way she should."
"Oh, no," Alice said with a false surprise that Sharon would think that. "She works constantlythe running, the training, the weight lifting, the practice, watching the videos. I hardly see her." Then again, Alice thought, Dana probably doesn't know much about my career, where I've been freelancing, or that I'm a contender for a major Los Angeles award for outstanding writingthat is if my article gets submitted by LA Magazine to the jury. Dana knows nothing about my work and never asks. Just because Dana is a well-known athlete doesn't mean that her career is of more value than mine. Alice nodded, absently, uninvolved in the conversation she was having with Sharon. Another good rationalization, Al. She high-fived herself in her mind.
"Maybe this will be her year then. With Subaru and all of the sponsorships that Tonya had arranged for her, Dana's finally getting the recognition she's been working toward." Sharon's statement reminded Alice that even though she truly loved Dana for Dana, Tonya was more interested in Dana's success. Probably not for altruistic reasons, but still, Tonya came through for her. What had Alice done to assist her? Sharon continued, "Now, she has to have a run of wins. Let's see, she has the Proctor and Gamble coming up, Coca-Cola, Ricoh, Shape Magazine. . ." Sharon stopped speaking when she saw her daughter bounce into The Planet. Dana jogged across the room and didn't stop until she reached the table where her mother and lover sat. "Sorry, I'm late. Hi, Mom." Dana bent and kissed her mom hello. She looked at Alice and lovingly squeezed her shoulder as her only public display of affection before taking a seat.
"Did you run here from the club?"
"I sure did. Three point two miles."
"Don't overdo it, Dana."
"Yeah, sweetie. Don't stress your body that much." Alice said with a hint of naughtiness in her voice. "That's never good."
"I feel great," Dana said. The waitress returned to the table. "Hey, Carole. Could you get me a soy milk, citrus protein shake with ginseng, please? A large would be great."
"Sure." The waitress handed Dana a clean white cloth. "I brought you a towel." She winked at the sweaty athlete before turning away.
Alice shook her mop of a hairstyle and blinked repeatedly while smiling uncomfortably at Sharon and Dana. "Does she not see me?" Alice was bewildered. Carole knew that she and Dana were together.
Dana rolled her eyes as she wiped her face and the exposed skin on her arms and chest.
"Have you been to the Burbank Tennis Center, Dana?" Sharon questioned her daughter.
"I've scheduled time there everyday next week."
"Why aren't you just playing at your Club?" Alice asked. "What do you need to go to the Valley for?"
Both Sharon and Dana answered at the same time, "Clay courts."
"Dana needs some time on clay instead of hard courts. She's got to be prepared for play at the French Open. That's all clay courts."
"The French Open?"
"Yeah, I'm fairly sure that I'm high enough in the standing, but just by a whisker." Dana didn't make eye contact with Alice.
"You're going to France? Paris?"
"That's where the French Open is held, Alice," Sharon said. She noticed that there was a sudden tension jumping across the table between the two women.
Alice didn't acknowledge Sharon's statement. "Dana? You're going to Paris?"
"You-you knew that," Dana stammered. "The French Open."
"Dana," Alice started in a tone that was bound to lead to an argument, "You did not tell me that you were going to Paris."
"Then I guess I thought you knew because you're so involved with my career," Dana replied sarcastically.
"Where are you going to stay? Who are you staying with?"
"I'll be with all the other athletes, obviously."
Sharon's eyes shifted from her daughter to Alice and back.
"You're going to Paris. You're going to see Lara," Alice stated.
At the main door to the Center, Bette moved rapidly to get inside the building. Angelica was in her stroller that Bette pushed and behind them were Kit, then Helena, and tagging at the end was the very angry mother of Tina and Stephanie Kennard. Just as the automatic door slid open, Kit grabbed Bette by the arm. "Stephanie might be here. Keep your cool."
Bette's eyes narrowed as she glared at her sister, before continuing inside.
"Bette, Kit's right. We all heard what Whit said to you on speaker in the limo. He was quite clear about what you needed to do. She will try to bait you," Helena said. Helena knew all about baiting to infuriate. It was a game she had played often and well. Although it seemed she went through life doing whatever she fancied, her actions were always well-conceived and planned to get the result she most sought. More times than not, the plan was to destroy the self-esteem of her opponent, to keep him or her so off-kilter that they'd eventually collapse under the strain, and she'd be the victor. Stephanie was very much like her, but not nearly on the level Helena's wealth and intelligence positioned the Englishwoman. Helena knew from personal and recent experience that Bette was a tough adversary but she was also getting to know her enough to see that Bette was at her breaking point.
"I know my daughter and I can guarantee that she'll push every button she can think of to git ya to react."
"By rights I can and should react," Bette's mouth was still clenched as it had been since she was handed the envelope at the airport. She turned left to go down the corridor leading to Tina's room.
Helena moved beside her. "No, you can't. It will jeopardize your case. You've got to put your best foot forward right now. If you explode or throw a tantrum. . ."
Bette stopped dead in her tracks. She turned to look into Helena's eyes. "Don't you dare diminish what-what this means by saying my reaction is a tantrum as if I were a-a child. If I explode and I promise you that's a great possibility, it won't be a tantrum." Angelica cooed and Bette noticeably checked herself. She whispered, "Why. . .don't you all fucking leave?"
Kit took her sister by the elbow. "Come on, let's go down and see Tina."
Helena looked at Theresa, but neither woman said a word.
Bette pushed the stroller into Tina's room and was surprised to see a long-haired blonde woman seated in a motorized wheelchair at the table. The woman was working a concentration puzzle searching for matching pictures and then pulling the two drawings out of the tray of pieces. This woman was also wearing a pair of Tina's black athletic pants with a white stripe running down the side and a matching jacket. "Hello?" Bette said. She wondered if the woman had suffered some head trauma and had mistakenly found herself in Tina's private room.
The woman turned around and smiled at the group entering the room. "Hi." All four women gasped.
"Yeah-ah. How do you like my hai-ah?" She said slowly and nervously.
Bette pushed the stroller deeper into the room. "Umm, where'd you get that?"
"Steph-an-nee gave me. Othahs, too." Bette followed Tina's eyes across the table to see several wigs sticking out of the tote bag.
"Why?" Bette shook her head.
Stephanie walked out of Tina's bathroom and was for a brief moment taken aback to see the group there, but she covered quickly and politely. "Hi, Mom. Bette." She nodded at Kit and Helena.
"Don't you 'hi, Mom' me?"
"What? What now?" Stephanie walked to the table and sat down.
"We're all aware of what you've done. Filin' for an injunction is just beyond the pale, Stephanie. It sickens me."
Stephanie rolled her eyes and ignored her mother. Helena supposed that she had been given the same warning by her attorney. "So doesn't Tina look good in this wig? It's so much better than her having to look in the mirror at that hideous scalping they gave her. "
Helena was beside Bette in a second. She leaned in and softly said, "Please. I implore you to stay calm.
Bette gently lifted Angelica from the stroller. "That scalping, as you so crassly put it, saved your sister's life." Bette moved toward Tina who was already reaching out for the baby. "Here's Mama Tee, Angelica."
"Hi, little guu-ul," Tina held Angelica tight, relishing the warmth of the small package in her arms.
"And she should wear the scar and result of that for the world to see?" Stephanie asked as she moved around Bette to the seat she had been occupying.
"Don't sit down," Bette said firmly. "I want you to leave."
"Umm, that's not really your choice. Tina decides whom she wants visiting and whom she doesn't."
Bette turned to Tina who has lifted her jacket and was preparing to breast feed Angelica. Bette was stunned for a moment, and then she reacted. "Tee, no." She dropped to one knee and moved Angelica's mouth away from Tina's breast. "Baby, you can't feed her."
"I brought a bottle."
"Doe ent need it."
"You can't, Tee. I'm sorry." Bette placed her hand between Tina's breast and Angelica. "You're on this anti-seizure medication. That medicine will go right to the baby and she could have a bad reaction. I'm so sorry."
Tears fell from Tina's eyes instantly. She had been looking forward to feeding Angelica. She let her jacket fall back into place and looked at Bette. "Bottle?" she requested sadly, but there was a hint of moreperhaps anger or resentment.
Bette reached into the stroller and found the container holding the warmed bottle. "Here you go." She watched as Tina quickly wiped away her tears while balancing Angelica in one arm, then she began to feed their daughter. "Did you express already? Do you need to?" Bette could tell that Tina's breast was full and she was probably in some discomfort."
"What the point? To tho-oh away?" Tina understood that any milk coming from her was unusable.
"So you'll feel better." Bette answered. When Tina didn't answer, Bette added, "I can talk to Dr. McPherson and ask him about taking you off the medication."
"Tina can talk to him herself," Stephanie chimed in. "She only needs a Medical Power of Attorney when she's unable to handle her own affairs. She's quite capable."
Bette looked at Stephanie and then at the game Tina had been so diligently working ona game that a ten year old could have whipped through easily. With her eyes, she tried to tell Stephanie that Tina wasn't capable of making decisions at this stage.
"Stephanie!" Theresa shouted.
Stephanie ignored Bette's gaze and looked at Tina who was smiling down at Angelica. "She's trying to prevent you from having the most important bonding experience a new mother can have with her infant. Do you see what I mean now--how she's trying to control your life?"
Simultaneously, Tina looked up at Stephanie and Bette leapt from the floor and flew to Stephanie's chair. She grabbed the seated woman by the collar of her shirt and jerked her forward. Behind gritted teeth she said, "Get the fuck out of here right now." It happened in a split second, before Helena or Kit could jump in between.
Stephanie swatted Bette's hand away. "That was an assault. I'll make sure my lawyer knows."
"Bette!" Kit cried out.
"With your temper? Can I trust you with my sister? I think not."
Bette's voice was even, but threatening. "Get out. Get out. Get. . . out."
Stephanie stared blankly at Bette. Her expression was almost impassive, but behind the look was a trace of amusement she couldn't hide. She enjoyed putting Bette in this situation. She was finished for now.
"Steph-an-nee leave," Tina said in a normal tone, but it came as such a surprise that all eyes turned to her.
"I'll see you later, Tina. I'm meeting Henry for lunch." Stephanie picked up her smaller purse.
"I want to talk to you," Theresa said tightly.
"Lunch plans," Stephanie said a few feet from the door, "but I'll call you tonight." She looked at Helena and Kit. "Nice seeing the two of you." She turned to Bette. "I'll see you on Friday. Really looking forward to it."
Stephanie sashayed out of the room with Theresa on her heels.
Bette straightened and looked at Helena and her sister. She inhaled, lowered her head, then looked up at them again. "I need a half hour with Tina--alone. Could you give us some time?"
"Bette, I think it's best if you leave Tina out of all of this as much as possible. It won't help her recovery."
"She's the biggest part of this. We need to talk. Excuse us."
Bette ushered them to the door and closed it behind them. When she returned to the table where Tina sat with Angelica, she took the chair that was a bit off to the side and moved it as close to Tina's chair as she could. Exhaustion was on her face. It had been a long day that started on the East Coast and it wasn't even two in the afternoon yet. Her eyes ached and she rubbed them, her thumb on one eye, her forefinger on the other. Moving from the outer edges of each eye, she pressed down and across, rubbing away the tension, and bringing the thumb and finger together at the bridge of her nose.
"You okay?" Tina asked as she played with Angelica's fingers, bouncing them in her hand.
"No, actually, I'm not." She faced Tina, cocked her head, and seemed like she wanted to say something, but chose not to.
"You doe ent like this hair?"
"If you like it, Tina, it's fine."
Tina pushed the wig off and stretched over Angelica and put it on the table.
"Tina if that makes you feel better, then you should wear it."
"Steph-an-nee said I was beau-ti-ful."
"Right at this moment, looking-looking at you holding your daughter, miraculously able to talk to me after what you've been through, you've never been more beautiful. I'm sorry if I've been remiss in telling you that. You don't need the wig." Bette contemplated an alternative. "If you want, I can arrange for Shane to come by and give you a good cut." Bette laughed. "A crew cut, a buzz?"
"I bet it would feel good to run my fingers through it."
Tina grinned. "Beh-ette," Tina said with a teasing hint of embarrassment. "Do you hee-ah Mama B, An-ee?"
"I mean it, baby," Bette said softly. "Last night I had a dream about you. We were making love or rather, you were making love to me. It was amazing."
"You were ent with Bah ba rah Giirsham last night?"
"For a few hours. We shared a bottle of wine and conversation. I told her all about you and Angelica, and then I went back to the hotel, and went to bed. The dream was so real. I can't wait to have you back in our home. Do you still want that, Tina?"
Tina looked at Bette and Angelica. She didn't answer right away. Her mind had gone back to her own dream and she wondered if she'd ever truly trust Bette again.
"I need to hear it. These last two years have been hard for us, haven't they?" Bette didn't wait for an answer. "We somehow managed to pull through, but I've got to be honest, I must have done something so horrifically heinous and vile in a past life for everything to come tumbling down on top of me like it is."
"No," Tina said, thinking Bette was being ridiculous.
"So, we've been thrown another curve ball. I don't know if your sister has told you, but she's trying to deny my rights as your Medical Power of Attorney."
"I do ent think I need one. I talk to my doctor and e'ryone. I can decide."
"Okay," Bette looked dejected.
"Not to hur-urt you, Beh-ette." Tina peered at her sympathetically. "I can make decisions."
"I'm sorry. I should have asked you." The two women sat, watching Angelica who was slowly drifting off. Bette cleared her throat. "If something-if something were to happen to you, who would you want looking out for you, doing what they believed was best for you?" Bette lightly tapped the tips of her fingers against her lips nervously.
"Beh-ette," Tina said in exasperation.
"I need to know, Tee. I need to know if we're-we're still a partnership. If you still want to be in our home together, raise Angelica as co-parents, believe that I would never hurt you."
Bette had almost gotten Tina to say yes to everything, but that last statement made Tina hesitate and that hesitation was enough for Bette's heart to spin and plummet, shattering into pieces. "Well, I can't make you believe me and I guess I have no right to ask it. It's true." Bette's eyes flitted around the room. This had become her second home the past few weeks; a second home that left her feeling insecure, twisting in the wind; that could be as full of hope as it was dread. "I love you," she said looking at Tina. "I want to spend the rest of my life showing you and making love with you and watching Angelica grow into a woman with children of her own, but if you can't commit to that, I guess I'll have to cope. Maybe we were moving to fast and when you said that you were ready to move back in, maybe it was too early."
"We should get through Ffffi-day." Tina ended the conversation, by altering her gaze from Bette to Angelica.
Bette looked down at the baby, too. "Look, Angelica's fallen asleep. I'll put her back in her stroller." Bette stood and reached for Angelica. She carried the sleeping baby to the stroller that's seat was now flat to create a small, portable bed.
"Yeah, Tee." Bette's back was to her as she made Angelica comfortable.
"Could you help me eh-spress mah milk?"
"Yeah," Bette said quietly.
"So, you'll be there, Dana? Don't let us down." Sharon Fairbanks was signing the credit card receipt.
Dana was playing with the smoothie residue at the bottom of her glass with the big plastic straw she had been given to drink it. She scraped the straw against the bottom, making designs and smoothie art. "Mother, I said I'd be there."
"Could you arrange for a guy to win?" Alice asked.
"I don't want to be stuck with some guy. If you're going to put the fix in, Mom, make sure a woman wins."
"Why do you want to spend an evening with a woman other than me?"
"Alice, bathroom. Mom, could you excuse us?"
Alice lowered her eyes. "We'll be right back, Sharon," Alice said as she pushed her chair back and got up. If Dana hadn't stood, too she would have thought that Dana was sending her for a 'time out.'
Alice walked across the room with Dana pressing her hand into the middle of her back to move her along. "C'mon, Alice."
Alice glanced over her shoulder. "What?"
"Not in front of my mother. Not in the middle of The Planet."
At the restroom door, Dana pushed past Alice and swung the door open. She marched in and toward the stalls, bending to check for feet in each one. When she saw that they were alone, she walked back to the wash basins where Alice stood. "What is wrong with you? We're back together and I want that. You want that. But this jealousy stuff is getting old."
Alice frowned. She kicked the toe of her shoe on the floor and kept her eyes down, her lids partially closed when she said softly, "I can't help it. I'm so afraid of losing you and I love you so much."
"Don't you know that acting like this pushes me away? I don't want to be near you when you're behaving like this and I don't want to have to tell you every single time that you're acting like a jerk."
"Dana, it's really not fair that you get pissed off when I don't know what's going on in your life. I didn't know you were going to the French Open."
"How could you not, Al? I'm a tennis player. I'd like to think we have something more than sex going for us."
There was a sense of disbelief. She knew that the few days they had been apart, those days they were broken up, hurt Dana as much as it had hurt her. This fighting over nothing was ridiculous, but she was compelled to defend herself. "What story am I working on right now?"
Dana blinked. "What?"
"I'm a journalist. I work on stories for a living. Name one story I'm working on right now. Just one--I'm working on three, FYI."
"You can't compare the two."
"And why not?"
Shrugging, Dana smirked at Alice. "I don't know," she whined. "You just can't."
"Your career, my career." Alice held out both of her hands cupping them palm side up and moving them up and down as if it were a real scale. "Should yours be up here and mine down here?" She motioned.
"No, don't be stupid."
"Then what? I want to understand."
"Uh-uh, no you don't. You're just trying to trip me up."
"I'm so not doing that."
"Okay, okay. With my career, anybody in the world can go on the Internet and see my ranking, when I was born, my career history. There are webpages on the WTA site and practically every tournament I've been in with information."
"MySpace? Friendster? My blog? I've got stuff about recent work, work in progress, everything. A handful of sites at least."
Dana's eyes widened. "Really?"
"You have a blog?"
"And it's more than just 'the Chart,' too. I talk about politics, the environment, cultural shit, everything. Yesterday's entry was all about the Presidential penis."
"I didn't know you had a blog." Dana blinked her eyes and did a double take at Alice. "The Presidential penis."
"Uh-huh. It's pretty funny stuff."
"How could I not know that you have a blog? And you're right, Al. I don't know what stories you're working on." Dana's shoulders fell and she leaned against the wall next to the towel dispenser. She glanced at herself in the mirror then back at Alice. "So what do we have? You know nothing about my career and I know even less about yours. Should we not be together?"
The thought of that was more than Alice could bear. "No. No, no, no, no. You know what makes me happy, right?"
"I thought so. I think so."
"Tell me something that makes me happy?"
"Spending time with our friends."
"When someone comes up to you and praises you on a story you've written."
"And what else?"
"California Rolls with wasabi makes you happy."
"What makes me happy?" Alice's eyes fixed on Dana's.
"When I whisper, 'Don't stop.'"
Moving closer, Alice asked again, "What makes me happy?"
"When I touch you gently on the back of your neck when we're kissing."
"Umm, that does. What else, Dane?"
"Those nights I open the drawer of the nightstand and bring out Mr. Agassi. By the way, Al, I hate that name for it."
"Okay, we'll think of another one.
"Don't even suggest Mr. Federer or I'll toss my cookies right here. No kidding."
"No, Federer." Alice bit her lower lip. "But you're right, that makes me happy. With or without it, I'm happy Dana. What makes me happy?"
Dana took in Alice's face. She thought about how her forehead sometimes wrinkled when she was upset or angry. Alice's large mouth was sensuous and beckoning. That mouth could love her like no other, could make her smile just by smiling at her, and could have Dana rolling in fits of laughter from some of the crazy things that were spoken from it. Dana looked at her lips and marveled at how they would get a deeper pink when she was aroused, and how her eyelids closed just a tiny bit when she gave her the come-hither look that always worked. She loved Alice's WASPy nose and she adored the tender-skinned neck that would flush with excitement when Dana touched her.
"Dana? What makes me happy?"
"When I tell you you're my best friend and lover and I can't imagine going through life without you."
"Oh, honey. That's what I wanted to hear." Alice and Dana were sharing about an inch of air between them. Dana reached out, her hand slid up to Alice's jaw, around her head, and rested on her neck only so she could close the slight gap between them. Alice's mouth opened and she hungrily sucked on Dana's tongue. Weak-kneed, Dana was grateful for the wall to hold her up when Alice grabbed hold of Dana's hair and ran her fingers through it. When she finally took a breath and allowed Dana to gulp down air, Alice's eyes bore into Dana's.
Teasingly she said, "I know what makes you happy?"
"What makes me happy, Al?"
"First and foremost, winning a tennis match."
Dana's hand ran up and down Alice's arm while they stood face-to-face. "Not first, but it's up there, for sure. What else makes me happy?"
"Being your so gay self and checking out every piece of fresh meat that walks into The Planet."
"That is fun. What else?"
"What really makes you happy is when you're not training and you can eat nachos and burritos and enchiladas. . ."
"Totally. With salsa verde. So good. What else makes me happy?"
"When you and Roger Ebert agree on a movie."
"Al, of course. The man is a film God. Duh."
"You are so happy when I take your bottom lip between my teeth and then suck on it. Every time I do that, you moan."
Alice leaned in and demonstrated and she felt Dana turn to putty in seconds. She pushed back and said, "I think you kind of get happy when we make fun of you. You enjoy being the butt of our jokes."
Dana tilted her head left and right. "Umm, I'll give you that. It makes me feel wanted by you guys."
"You are wanted." Alice licked her lips.
"Is that it? Is that all that makes me happy?"
"You like that you can let go with me. You're happy being the shy, geeky girl in the streets, but you're really happy when you get all wild and you're all over me." Alice's eyes bore into Dana's and she said low and husky, "I love that so much, Dane. You know how much I love that."
"Patty Schnyder had better watch out cause when you take charge, you don't let go until you reach your goal. I love being your goal, baby." Alice pushed Dana against the wall again and kissed her.
"Your kisses make me happy. Without question, you're the best kisser on the planet."
"In The Planet?"
"No, on the planet. You're the best kisser on Earth."
Alice laughed and lowered her head, looking up at Dana from the corner of her eyes. "No, I'm not. You are."
"No, you are," Dana corrected.
"No, you are," Alice lobbed back.
"You are," Dana said before pulling her in for another kiss, and when she broke away, she said breathlessly. "Al, you definitely are."
"So are you still ticked with me?"
"I'm unhappy when you're jealous, Alice. It drives me bonkers. You don't have any reason to feel that way."
"I can't help it. We've been friends for years and I was kind of always in love with you, but you never noticed, and when I came over and kissed you, and asked you not to marry Tonya, you went on with those plans. You totally knew I was in love and your kiss that night told me you felt more for me than best friends. Every second the two of you were together killed me, just tore me apart." Alice thumped her chest, over her heart with her fingers. "No kidding. I was so jealous and my-my heart hurt so much."
Alice teared up, but didn't cry. "Then, when we were getting your shower goodie bags together and we made love, I thought you'd call it off with her, but you still didn't. That night was the best night of my life. Hands down, no shit."
"Yeah," Dana said nostalgically. "It was fantastic, Al."
"And I felt stupid 'cause I kept waiting and it was getting harder and harder to even be near you, but I couldn't stay away. And Tonya! Tonya was so completely wrong for you. Dana, I love you and I know that I'm good for you, but you flirt and let other women flirt with you, and you dumped me for Lara, and I'm not blind, I-I can see that you guys have this chemistry. So, I felt like I could sort of relax when she left LA the other day for Paris and then today, you tell me that you're going there. Man, Dana. Man. You have no idea what that does to mehearing that. You breaking up with me came rushing back and I freaked. I don't want to lose you again."
Dana caressed Alice's face with her hand. Her touch was tender and heartfelt. "You aren't going to lose me. I'm here. Sweetheart, I'm here and happy to be here. I love being with you."
"I'm happy, too."
"Okay, so we're done in here, right? I'll get rid of my mom and we'll go home, okay?"
Alice nodded. "I want to go home and be with you."
"Yeah, but what I want to do when we get there is see your blog and your MySpace page."
Alice grinned. "Okay."
As they exited the restroom, Dana said, "How come you didn't ask me to join your Friendster?"
"No, you didn't."
"I so did, Dana."
"I would have joined, Al."
"Check your email. I'm telling you I definitely invited you."
"So, do you mention me in your blog?"
"A line here and there. Maybe a paragraph now and then. A couple or three daily entries are devoted to you. Not really, not much. You know, a little bit."
About twenty-five minutes had passed when Bette opened Tina's room at the Center and pushed Angelica out. Angelica was still sleeping. Kit and Helena were standing in the hall drinking coffee from Starbuck's cups.
"How'd it go?" Kit walked over to Bette and pulled her into a one-armed hug. Bette looked worn out.
"It was less than I hoped. It's hard to reach her. I don't know if Tina is being stubborn because she's trying to prove how strong and independent she is or if she really doesn't want to be bothered with me."
"Bette, the latter statement is absurd. Trust me, I would know. Tina is quite keen on you," Helena said.
Bette's only answer was to simply raise her shoulders discounting Helena's comment. She stared at the two women. "You know what I'd love to do right now? Crawl into bed and forget this day. I've got nothing else to give."
Helena was just about to speak when the women noticed Theresa walking down the hall. They waited for her to arrive at the door.
"Did you talk to her?" Kit asked directly.
Theresa stepped up and spoke to Bette. "She's gone off with Tina's doctor. She'll be back, though. Stephanie left her rental here in the lot. I'll have some choice words for her when she gets back." She looked down at Angelica. "Bette, are you getting' ready to leave already? I haven't spent a moment with Tina today."
"Uh. . ."
"We were leavin', Theresa. My baby sister's exhausted."
"Oh-okay." Theresa stood in the hall looking disappointed and as if she were trying to make a decision. "Bette, if it's not a problem, I'll stay here and visit with Tina and wait for Stephanie. You can go on home. I'll get Stephanie drop me off."
Bette turned to her. "That's fine. Stephanie's not welcome in my home. Regardless of whether you are able to get through to her, she is persona non grata." Bette held Theresa's gaze in warning.
"I understand completely, Bette. Well, I'll see ya tonight. Bye."
Theresa left them and walked into Tina's room.
"All right, then. Kit, are you going back to Bette's?" Helena asked.
"Nah, I need to get to The Planet."
"Bette, instead of returning to your place, why not come to my house? You can really escape for a while."
"No, thank you."
"Bette, you shouldn't be alone. That bitch, Stephanie is wacked. She's gettin' you all crazy, girl. Either go with Helena or come with me to the Planet."
"Angelica's car seat is still in the limo."
"What you gonna do at home? Go through the mail, feel guilty about you and Tina, try to solve the problem like you did with Daddy? Don't figure it out today. Get some rest."
"All right. Okay." She started down the hall with Angelica, followed by Kit and Helena. Bette stopped, turned, and spoke to Helena. "Wait. I don't have everything Angelica needs. Some more onesies, her shampoo, lotion, and we have this portable changing table that. . ."
"Don't fret. I have a baby nursery at my house."
Bette's eyebrows furrowed. "You have a nursery? Wh-why?" Before Helena could answer, Bette nodded. "You were with Tina. You expected that she'd move in with you?"
Kit watched the two of them, wondering if this was going to lead to another confrontation between the two.
"I doubt she would have moved in with me, but if she were to have spent the night, I wanted her to feel comfortable about having her baby with us there.
Bette gnashed her teeth. She hated that Tina had been with another woman. Tina, once while they were making love, had whispered to Bette, 'You're my first, last, and forever,' and Alice had told her that Tina had referred to Bette in the same way when the group had gone to Palm Springs without her. Helena would always be the dalliance that brought an end to Tina's special declaration of love and commitment. Not only that, but it seemed that Tina's love affair with Helena came up in every conversation Bette had with Helena. "Right." Bette continued down the hall. Just as they passed a patient's room, the door opened and Angus walked out, his guitar strap was slung over his shoulder, and the guitar hung at his side.
"Hey, Kit," he practically cooed.
"Hi, Angus. I didn't know you were here."
Bette watched her sister who was suddenly flustered and shyly looking at the man who was a good fifteen years younger give or take. Bette shook her head. Kit was setting herself up to get hurt or do something incredibly stupid again. Angus was a nice guy, but he didn't seem to have much going for hima so-called music therapist, a member of a struggling band, and something about him told Bette that he probably spent most of his money on CDs and at iTunes downloading the latest alternative rock songs. Kit was a successful entrepreneur now. Most restaurants failed the first year, but Kit's was going strong. It was best that she not risk all that she had achieved for some casual hook up with a man who was still searching for his sense of self. But Bette didn't have the energy to step in as the voice of reason. She was just too tired for that.
"Where're you goin'?"
"Back to work. I was with Bette and Tina's mom all morning. I really need to get back to the café."
"How are you getting there?"
"Helena's going to give me a lift."
"Stay with me for ten minutes. I've got my bike and an extra helmet. I'll give you a ride."
Kit loved the hum of the motorcycle under her and she adored holding onto Angus as he maneuvered through the streets of LA. She warmed thinking of it. Kit giggled and looked at Bette.
"Do what you want, Kit." Bette shook her head in that judgmental way that she had, but Kit was too smitten to care.
""Angus will take me. I'll call you later, sis. Bye, Helena."
"See you, Kit," Helena said with a smile.
Kit walked to the side of the stroller and bent down to kiss Angelica. "Bye, my little Foxy Brown. I'll see you later, my little niece."
"Bye," Bette said. Helena and Bette walked down the hall leaving Kit and Angus.
Once they were out in the smoggy Los Angeles air, Bette looked over at Helena. "I-I have to make two phone calls. Do you mind?" They stood at the limo. Boden had opened the door, and was now lifting the sleeping baby and placing her in the car seat that he worked with practiced ease.
"No, not at all."
Bette divided her attention between Boden and her mobile phone. She punched in the first number. She waited and listened. "Oh, good, her voicemail." She continued to wait and then said, "Hi Julia, it's Bette. I'm just checking in. Everything went well and Barbara Grisham assured me that we can count on a change of heart from Congress. No worries. I'm beat, so I'll give you a call tomorrow. Bye."
Bette disconnected the call as Boden stood, held out his hand to Helena and helped her into the car and then assisted Bette. Once they were seated, sitting across from Angelica, Bette gave Helena a sidelong glance. She couldn't figure her out. Dealing with Helena in the past month was 180 degrees away from the obstructionist who seemed to be in every aspect of her life months earlier.
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
Bette shook her head. "Sorry."
"What's on your mind?"
"I don't get it. Did you have some sort of-sort of epiphany? Are you dying and trying to make up for past misdeeds?" Bette spoke with her hands, waving them around as she asked, "Have you concocted some wild scheme that will be my final undoing and you're-you're trying to lull me into a false sense of security?"
"Nothing like that. Well, I suppose there was an epiphany, though that's not what I'd call it."
"What would you call it?"
Helena inhaled preparing to tell Bette some of her innermost thoughts. Helena probably saw Alice more often than Bette, but she and Bette had the deeper conversations. When she talked to Bette, she told her things she normally wouldn't share. Bette was the first person she had met who was on her level. Granted, Bette wasn't born into the wealth of her family; Bette lived in a nice, but modest home, compared to her estate in Malibu, her penthouse in New York, her flat in London, or the family villa in Tuscany, she was beautiful, elegant, stylish, brilliant, had great taste, and a sensuality that seeped out of every pore. Helena had fallen hard for Dylan Moreland, she was arse over tit for that filmmaker, so she didn't think of Bette Porter as someone who could be more than a potential friend. It was when she had gone toe-to-toe with Bette during the last months of her tenure at the CAC that she noted the tough backbone and the natural charisma. The more she fought with her, the more she actually liked her. Not too long ago she had decided that in spite of all of the bad blood between them, Bette might very well be the perfect friend to cultivate. "I suppose, dealing with Tina, and my ex, Winnie, and even my mother changed me. Certainly, knowing you has made me look at my world differently."
Bette shook her head. "How so?"
"I've always been, I suppose, somewhat spoiled."
"No?" Bette laughed.
Helena smiled and nodded. "I know. I'm stating the obvious, yeah? I always thought things had to go my way and I'd do everything to make certain they did. It was seldom I achieved precisely what I wanted. Winnie fights me at every turn and neither one of us will budge. The same with my mother; with you; with Tina. I start by cajoling, then I try intellect, then financial persuasion, I'll move on to demand, and finally, I make a threat. It never goes my way or at least not in the dramatic way I'd hoped. Albert Einstein calls it the definition of insanity. Insanity: doing the. . ."
Bette finished the quote in unison with Helena, "same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
"Ah, you know it."
"I've lived it."
"I had to change."
"But it makes you hesitate around me?"
"I'm not used to you like thisfriendly, accommodating, selfless, warm."
"I know your past perception of me. 'I'm not sure I actually want to hear it verbalized."
Bette stole a glimpse at the baby whose head was down and tilted off to the side as she slept. "I wouldn't think you would."
"But your assessment of my behavior is true."
"Helena, maybe that's what bothers me about youwe're-we're two peas in a pod, twins separated at birth, more similar than not. It's not uncommon to dislike the one who is most like you."
"I don't know if I should be flattered or pissed off."
"Maybe that's why Tina was attracted to both of us," Helena hypothesized.
Bette chewed on the inside of her cheek. Helena was insistent on reminding her that she had had Tina. Bette needed to remember that they were separated and not only had Bette been with Candace for just over two months, but she had picked up a little bar trade in New York, and had tried to get something going with the artist, Leigh Ostin (another attraction that she and Helena shared). She wasn't as celibate as she wanted others to believe. "Maybe."
The women sat quietly in the limo for several minutes before Bette spoke again. "I have one more call to make."
Alice had stopped at the apartment's bank of mailboxes and collected a few credit card bills, the latest Vanity Fair with Nicole Kidman on the cover, and some junk mail, all of which she dropped into her purse. Alice and Dana walked down the hallway leading to her apartment with their arms around each other's waists. "Dane? I don't mind that you are going to auction yourself for the cancer foundation. That's cool. I don't have the kind of money they're asking for, but I will write your mom a check. I want to support that cause."
Just before arriving at the door, Alice reluctantly separated herself from Dana's side. She reached into her purse and fished around for her apartment key. Beside her, Dana noticed a blue, oversized, rectangular envelope sticking out of Alice's purse. She lifted it. "What's this?"
"Uh, I don't know."
Dana hefted it in her hand. "Feels like a CD."
"Hmmph." Alice removed it from Dana's hand and tried to slip it back in her purse, but Dana took it out again as they walked inside. Alice closed the door behind them and moved around Dana to try once more to take it from her.
"What is it?"
"I don't know. Junk mail, probably."
Dana turned it over. "What's sugardvd.com?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's one of those online candy ordering servicesyou know pecan logs, fudge lollipops, retro candies like Clark bars and Baby Ruths."
"It looks like a Netflix envelope except it's blue, not red."
"Yeah, funny that." Alice reached for it again.
"Alice. . ." Dana started as if to say that she knew Alice was up to something. "Alice, what is it?"
"This CD, I mean DVD?"
"Like I said, it's candy, sweets, dried fruit. You know sugary products."
"I don't think it is." Dana put the envelope behind her back. "Tell me the truth."
Alice turned around and headed to the bedroom. "Hey, don't you want me to show you my blog and stuff?"
"Let's start with the stuffthis DVD to be exact." Dana grinned, following Alice to the bedroom and tossing the blue envelope on the bed. Alice slid out of her sandals.
Alice pulled her laptop out of her pack and turned it on. "Okay, so my blog. . . I started it about eight months ago. I was kind of bemoaning you being with Tonya, so the first few entries are about that."
"The first few! You said you wrote a tiny bit about me."
"Don't worry, I refer to you as 'The Big D.'"
"Alice, everyone who has ever listened to The Chart knows that I'm your girlfriend."
"Most of my hits come from other parts of the country. You're safe."
"You don't go into any detail about what I like or what I do, you know, in the bedroom, do you?"
"No, absolutely not. Not much."
"Alice," she warned. Now, Dana was worried. "Okay, I want to see it. Now."
Alice smiled. Her ploy had worked. Dana had forgotten about the blue envelope she had dropped on the bed spread. Alice sat the laptop in the middle of the bed and then sat down on one side. She patted the space next to her and while Dana unlaced her running shoes, Alice tossed the blue envelope on the floor next to her side of the bed.
"Okay, let's see the Pieszecki blog." Dana's shoulder leaned on Alice's. She placed her hand on Alice's chin and turned her face to her and kissed her. "Ewww. Did you have a mocha. You taste like coffee."
"I'll brush. Sorry."
"It's not bad. That's okay," Dana said, but she was making a disgusted face.
"No, no. I'm brushing. Be right back."
Alice jumped up from the bed and jogged into the bathroom. As soon as Dana heard Alice's electric toothbrush go on, she stretched across the bed, felt around on the floor until she found her target. She picked up the blue envelope and unsealed it the same way she opened up every Netflix DVD that came in the mail. The DVD simply said, "Ashley's Amorous Adventures." Dana pushed the button on the CD/DVD drive of the laptop and dropped the disc in. Alice opened the bathroom door just as Dana picked up the envelope and began to read the description. The toothbrush was in Alice's mouth and foamy white paste covered her lips. She looked out at Dana and gasped when she saw the blue envelope in her hands.
"Uh-uh-oh. Dana. Wait. Let me explain," Alice mumbled through her toothpaste filled mouth. She ran back into the bathroom and spit out the toothpaste and quickly rinsed her mouth. Dana waited. She wasn't going to invade Alice's privacy more than she had. She was teasing her.
Alice slowly walked back in. "Okay. All right. It's porn, okay? It's porn."
"Blue movies, blue envelope."
"You're renting porn?"
Alice sat on the bed. "Well, you've got tournaments coming up and I can't go to most of them and Dane, c'mon, I get lonely without you."
"So you watch pornography? I didn't even know you could rent this stuff."
"Oh, yeah. It works exactly like Netflix."
Dana eyeballed Alice like she didn't know her. "www.sugardvd.com? Have you always watched porn?"
"Well, not when I was in middle school, but by high school I was something of a connoisseur."
"Wow. I saw a porno once a few years ago. Some other WTA players gave Stefi Graf a belated wedding shower back in 2001. They rented a bunch of videos, but I wasn't really paying attention. They were all het vids. So, what's this one?" Dana scrunched up her face. "Some kind of bisexual thing?"
"It's all girl-on-girl action."
Alice looked at Dana. Her response was unexpected and she wondered how far Dana might go with the idea. "Do you wanna watch it?"
"Yeah, okay. Just to see what you're in to."
Alice grinned, then leaned against the headboard of the bed. "Come up here and watch this with me. For the record, I'm really into you."
Dana jumped up and closed the drapes, darkening the room. "I don't want people seeing us."
"Oh, yeah." Alice lowered her voice to sound like a male tennis commentator. "Dana Fairbanks, is having the match of her life today. When asked what inspired her, Dana admitted that her obsessive viewing of pornography gave her that extra lift in her game."
"Get over here."
Dana returned to the bed and moved close to Alice. Half of the laptop was on Alice's thigh and the other half on Dana's. Alice clicked on play. "Okay, here we go Lezzies Gone Wild."
Theresa sat across from Tina at the table. She shuffled the pictures and then laid them out and watched as Tina found matching drawings. Tina grew bored with the game shortly and sighed.
"I am not sure."
"I hope you're not taking anythin' Stephanie says seriously. She's just too full of herself."
"It is not just Steph-an-nee. It's Beh-ette."
"Why, honey? Bette is so involved with your care. She worries so much about you. What about her?"
Tina frowned. "I doe ent know if she loves me."
"That's ridiculous, dear. She loves you so much."
"I mean like she used to. Like. . ." Tina turned red. "Like a lovah."
"Tina, you've been ill. What are you expecting from her?"
"Beh-ette feels guilty. I know huuh. She feels bad about affai-uh."
"She does. Of course, she does, but. . .Tina do you think she's taking care of you and trying to do all the right things by you because of her guilt?"
Theresa shook her head. "Not true. Not true, at all."
"Beh-ette cannot fuh-get affai-uh. She feels bad, so she is hee-ah."
"I don't even know how to respond to this, Tina. I don't understand where this talk is comin' from."
"When I was in the coma, she talked to me. I could hea-uh huuh."
"What did you hear?"
"She blames huuhself. She said that it is huuh fault I am sick. She said she had to make it up to me."
"Guilt is a powerful emotion." Theresa began. "Guilt makes a person re-think their actions. Bette is doing what most people do. She is tryin' to understand how this happened to you. It doesn't make sense to her and she needs for it to make sense. Call it karma or the universe balancin' itself, but Bette believes that some act on her part has brought you this misfortune as punishment. She's hurtin' so much because you're sick and there's no one to cast blame upon, so she takes it on as her own."
"I doe ent want huuh heah if it is just guilt."
"She loves you. What can I say that will make you believe it? What can she do?"
"I don't know."
"Have you forgiven her? Are you jealous?"
"No, that is not it. I doe ent mind if Bette looks, but knowing she could. . ."
"I hear what you're sayin,' and I have some thoughts. I would never dream of underminin' the relationship you and your sister have with your Dad, so I never said anything."
"Whuh relationship? He is nev-ah around," Tina said slowly. She was having a very difficult time saying words with the "r" sound, but she tried and succeeded. She cheered herself, noticing immediately that she had accomplished it and strove to continue pronouncing the difficult letter.
"Yes, I know," she said sadly. Her husband and their father had done them all a disservice. By watching the way their mother had behaved with their father, both of her daughters had deciphered the code for creating happy relationshipsdo the opposite of what their parents had done. It was unfortunate that neither learned that there was not one code, but many to unlock the door to happiness. Theresa had yelled and screamed at Bill, other times she'd give him the silent treatment, but more often than not, she wept, sobbed, and cried her evenings away. Tina was never assertive enough when she needed to be in her personal life. She didn't raise her voice, never questioned when she should have. When she worked at Alphaville, her strength poured from her, so Theresa knew she had it in her. Stephanie, on the other hand, had always tried to win men over with her coquettish charm that only males fell for. "Tina, marriage is hard--whether it is gay or heterosexual. It's the toughest job a person could have cause it's about trust, control, compromise--two individuals each knowin' what's best and wantin' their way. That's hard."
"I un-der-stand that."
"If one of you is feelin' vulnerable or uncertain or even unloved, they might reach out to somethin' or someone else."
"Dad did. I know. It was not a secret. I knew in june-ya high school. Dad and Mrs. Billings, my seven g-rade teach-ah."
"Oh, I didn't know you knew."
"And moah women in high school befor-ah you left him."
"Yes, many more. I'd had enough. I saw that no matter what I did or stopped doin', he wasn't goin' to change."
"That's what I think 'bout Bette." She was able to say Bette's name as one syllable when she took her time. "What if she can not stop?"
"Tina, you and Bette were apart for several months. You were the one who dated. I didn't hear that from Bette, but from your friends and from Helena. Bette spent the last six months tryin' to win you back and make amends."
"But she cheated once. She could again." Bette was exactly the kind of person Tina had been looking forhonest, intelligent, fun, sexy, and confident. She'd never been with a woman, but one thing she believed, a woman wouldn't step out on her; a woman wouldn't make her feel insecure and unworthy; a woman wouldn't repeatedly lie to her and make her feel the fool. Bette had done all of that.
"One infidelity doesn't make a pattern, honey."
"So I wait to see?"
"No, live for today; don't look back unless you need to. You keep askin' me if I think she loves you. . .Here's my question: Do you love her?"
"Like a lover?"
"I think so. I have not felt. . . Mom, when she kisses me, it is only my cheek. She pecks my lips and my fo-ah-head. She duh-ent want me."
"Tina," Theresa smiled at her and shook her head. "Tina, Tina, Tina, my darling child. You've just had a baby and you've been so ill. What kind of pervert do you think Bette is that she'd try to French kiss you when you're in a coma or in recovery?" Theresa laughed so hard she teared up when Tina looked at her with befuddlement and embarrassment.
"Uh. . . no."
"Give your spouse a chance before you write her off, all right? And for goodness' sake don't listen to your crazy sister."
Tina was pensive. After a while her mother asked, "What is it?"
"There is moah, Mom. I do not know if I want to be with a woman."
Theresa was stunned by this. When Tina had first come out to her, she wasn't in the least bit surprised. With men, Tina always seemed like she was acting, never quite comfortable, never completely open, but the first time she saw Tina with Bette, she knew that Tina had spent years hiding herself. Tina wasn't heterosexual and she wasn't bisexual. She was an obvious lesbian. She fell into her new life easily and up until this very conversation, as far as Theresa knew had never had second thoughts. "What's made you re-think this?" Theresa asked cautiously.
"I have been dreaming 'bout men and being with them. Bette was the only woman I felt anything for-ah."
"What about Helena?"
"Steph-an-nee said it was because Hel-na was rich and she liked me. Steph said I did ent like Hel-na. Hel-e-na."
"Stephanie! That's a lie, Tina. Let's say you no longer had feelin's for Bette when you met Helena. Would you still be with her?"
"I don't know."
"Did you sleep with Helena?"
Tina's coloring turned pink. Her mother never had a problem discussing sex with her children, but Tina was always embarrassed by it. Sex was natural, but she didn't like discussing it outside of the bedroom. Theresa was just the opposite. She could talk about sex like she talked about the conflict in the Middle East. "Yes."
"Did you enjoy your private times with her?"
"But you felt nothin' for her? Only Bette?"
Tina thought that perhaps part of her attraction to Helena was because Bette hated her so.
Theresa continued when Tina didn't answer. "If you wanted a man, when you and Bette broke up why didn't you go find you one? I bet you coulda had any man you wanted."
"You sound like you want me to be gay. Most parents doe ent."
"I think parents want their children to be happy. The only time I've ever seen you happy were the few scant times I saw you with Bette." Theresa was quiet, lost in her own thoughts for a moment or two. "Those who make us happiest can also make us feel sadder than we've ever felt in our lives. I know how that is."
"But my dreams."
"I'm not a dream interpreter, but maybe there has been somethin' triggerin' those types of dreams. Maybe one of the men who comes in here, like that boy, Angus has been very kind to you. In your dreams, that kindness becomes love or lust. It's not unusual. Tina. Heterosexuals have gay dreams, gays and lesbians dream about the opposite sex. Don't put any stock in that."
"But. . ."
"You've had no romantic dreams about women?"
"Yeah, I have. About Bette. A few about Bette."
"I wish that I had been as in love after eight years of marriage to your Dad. Don't you worry, girl. When you're well, all of that passion will come back in such a rush that you and Bette will hardly be able to withstand it.
Tina stared off blankly. She wondered if that was possible after all of the hurt they had inflicted on each other and the guilt they both wallowed in for different reasons.
Shane was in her Jeep when her mobile rang. She pulled it from the slot between the seats and flipped it open.
"Hi, baby. I'd love to surprise you just once, but you always know it's me."
"I've got a special ring for you."
"What is it?"
"Livin' La Vida Loca," said in a deadpan.
"No, I'm not." Shane made a left turn onto LaCienega Boulevard and headed north.
"Please tell me you don't have that shit on your cell?"
"Carmen, I do," Shane said with a laugh. "Ricky Martin is so hot."
"I'm gonna vomit."
Shane was about to vomit, too. She had just said Ricky Martin was hot. Nausea might set in, so it was best to move on to something else. "So, what's up?"
"I'm almost finished here. The other sound person showed, so I can leave. Sounds like you're in the car. Where're you goin'?"
"I'm on my way to see Tina. I got a call from Bette a few minutes ago asking if I could give Tina a cut, you know, try to even it up, something cool so she doesn't look like she's had tubes hanging out of her head for the past month."
"Oh, yeah. That would be good."
"I shoulda thought of it myself."
"I'll meet you over there, all right?"
"Yeah, I wanna see you. I hardly got a chance to look at you today." Shane's heart skipped a beat. She didn't know why she was saying some of the things she said to Carmen. It was so unlike her.
"See ya soon."
Trying to play off her private display of affection for Carmen, she said with an indifference and coolness that rang false, "Yeah. Later."
They disconnected and Shane inched closer to the neuro-trauma center in the mid-afternoon traffic. As she drove, she followed the cars ahead, while glancing down at her iPod that was hooked up to the cigarette lighter. She thumbed through it and found the song that her ringtones produced whenever Carmen called. It was a song by one of her favorite bands, The Cardigans and she had chosen it with care about two weeks ago when she realized that her feelings for Carmen were much deeper than she had imagined. She hit play and listened to the sweet voice of Nina Persson:
Hold me, don't ever leave me
Know me, never believe me
Stay here but don't get too near me
Leave me, leave me alone
But don't ever let me go
Show me, but don't ever teach me
Touch me, don't try to reach me
Hold me but don't ever keep me
Baby, don't ever let me in
And don't let me win
'Cause I leave myself to you
Yes, I release myself with you
I believe in me and you
So don't ever say you do
Love me, try not to need me
Need me but don't let the greed in
Feel free but don't ever leave me
Give in, don't ever let me
No, don't ever let me win. . . .
A more fitting song for how she felt about her relationship with Carmen didn't exist.
Boden had taken the stroller from the trunk of the limo and followed behind Helena and Bette. Bette carried Angelica who was just starting to awaken. At the door, Helena thanked Boden who nodded and left the stroller in the foyer.
"All right, then. I'll show you the nursery." They walked down the long corridor to the last room on the right. "I think you might be able to put Angelica down again. She's just barely awake. How long does she generally nap?"
"In the afternoon, about two and a half hours. She's probably been down about an hour. I think all of this moving around is getting to her. I hope she doesn't turn cranky about being out of her normal surroundings."
"Children don't know what's normal for them yet. Everything everyday is all quite new." Helena opened the door to the nursery and it was exquisite.
"This is amazing."
"That's what Tina said."
"It looks like it's for a princess."
"Today, we'll call her Princess Angelica," Helena said with a smile. "I'll let you settle her and then I'll give you a tour."
Stephanie and Dr. McPherson entered Tina's room giggling and laughing together. The couple looked relaxed and at ease with each other. When Stephanie saw Theresa sitting there, she shot her a warning glance not to start a debate in front of the good doctor. Theresa was about to jump into it, but Tina spoke up first. "Hi, Doctah Hen-ry."
"Hi, Tina. How are we doing?"
"I am well."
"Excellent. That's so good to see. I wish all my patients were like you."
"Henry. I talk to you?"
"Sure, what is it?" He pulled up another green vinyl covered chair and sat next to her. "What can I do for you?"
Tina focused entirely on her doctor forgetting about Stephanie and her mother. She had something on her mind and she wanted to address it immediately. "I doe ent want to take the medicine. I need to feed my baby."
"The anti-seizure medication?"
"I doe ent need it. I need to feed my baby. I can not breast feed if I take the medicine," Tina tried to explain.
"Tina, we'll be able to take you off of it soon, but you haven't been out of your coma very long. We can't risk setbacks."
"I am competent." Her eyes flashed anger.
"Yes, I have no doubt." He had no idea what that statement meant.
"This is not Bette's decision," she said slowly.
"No, it isn't. Tina, I'm thinking that you need to stay on the meds for another week or so. You're out of danger, but I'd prefer to err on the side of caution."
"I woe'ent take it," she said adamantly.
Stephanie walked over to Henry and Theresa noticed how she so comfortably placed her hand on his shoulder. "Henry, stop the anti-seizure medication. She wants to feed the baby and you told me yourself that she would be ready to leave the Center any day. This is the logical next step."
"If you think she should stay on it, then by golly, don't let these two girls influence you. You're the doctor. If you wanted her off the medication, you woulda taken her off."
"Well," he started, looking at Stephanie's legs as she sat down on the arm of the chair her mother sat in. She crossed her legs and smiled at him. Theresa watched him. "If Tina feels like she can go without it. I mean, I was going to take her off soon anyway. It was a precaution that, now, thinking about it, maybe she doesn't need. Okay." He smiled at Stephanie.
"Thank you," Tina said, surprising Dr. McPherson who was concentrating on Stephanie's long, fair legs. He swerved his head to look at her. "How soon can I feed huh-err?" Tina asked.
"It takes about three days to work its way out. We can rush it along with a regimen of fluids."
"Yes. That is good."
"Okay, Tina. We'll do that. You are off the anti-seizure medication beginning immediately.
The bedroom was dark and Dana and Alice were riveted to the screen of the laptop. Both women were flushed, their mouths slightly parted, every now and then they each licked their lips.
"Jesus!" Dana said. "How did she learn to do that?"
"I can do that."
"You are so fibbing."
They looked back at the screen. "This is so fucking hot, Al. Jeez, I'm so turned on. I can feel my nipples rubbing against my sports bra."
"That's gotta be binding. Why don't you take it off?" Alice's eyes were smoldering and Dana felt their heat. Alice moved her finger over the mouse and clicked 'pause.'
Alice nodded her head slowly.
Dana reached down and pulled her athletic top over her head and then yanked the sports bra over her breasts and head, throwing them both to the floor. Alice ogled Dana's breasts. The nipples were elongated and all Alice wanted to do was wrap her lips around them. "Okay, put the movie back on play."
Alice was dumbfounded. She shook her head, then turned back to the laptop and clicked it to start again. They watched quietly, but every now and then, one of them would comment on the way Ashley or one of the other girls looked in the video. "Do you think they're really doing that?"
"It's all real, Dane," Alice answered with her expert knowledge.
"Do you think they're nymphomaniacs?"
Conjecturing, Alice said, "I think they're business women who know what it takes to make a buck."
"I couldn't do it."
"Me neither." They kept watching.
Alice watched as twice Dana pulled on the hem of her shorts giving herself a bit of room in the crotch area. She raised her eyes to see that Dana's nipples were even harder. They looked like two peaks balancing on a pair of mountains.
"Look at that," Dana said. "My God, she's taking all of that. You can see how wet she is. It's hot. Fuck." Dana scooted closer to Alice and put her arm around her. Alice unbuttoned the one button that held her colorful jacket closed. The panels flapped to either side, exposing her chest.
"You're hot," Alice whispered in Dana's ear. She reached up and used her palm to make circles over Dana's breast, but Dana swatted her hand away.
Ashley, a newly graduated college student was completing her first full week as a teacher at an all-girls high school. The field hockey coach, a sexy butch who had befriended Ashley now had her stretched out on top of the table in the Teacher's Lounge. Ashley's legs hung over the side. The softball coach had spread Ashley's labia and was gently fingering her clitoris. She looked at her and said, 'You know, lover, I dressed for you today.' She dropped her shorts and out sprung a ten inch pink dildo. The softball coach's eyes closed as she rubbed the toy seductively up and down the shaft. 'Are you ready for this? I'm gonna stick it all the way in and fuck you good. And when you start screaming, every teacher is going to run in here to help you and once they see you like this, they're going to help themselves.' The field hockey coach laughed and Ashley moaned at the thought of it. The coach slammed the dildo into her and just as predicted, Ashley screamed out in pleasure. 'Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God." She panted and moaned, her body writhed on the table as the coach got her rhythm down and moved with her. Sure enough, Ashley could hear the sound of teacher's running down the hall. The door was thrust open and teacher after teacher entered. Every woman gasped in surprise and then delight. Several of them undressed immediately. The math teacher for the tenth graders walked to the side of the table and bent to suck on Ashley's 42D breasts. Ashley moaned. Another teacher went to the other side and worked on the other breast.
Dana was engrossed. Her chest rose and fell. Alice watched the movie, but out of the corner of her eye, she was just as focused on Dana. Alice turned and tried to squeeze Dana's breast again, but once more, her advances were rebuffed.
Ashley began to moan. 'I'm gonna c-c-cum. Ah, fuck me with that thing. Give it to me.' The field hockey coach plunged deeper, fucking her harder.
The principal, a prim woman in her early forties entered the Teacher's Lounge. She smiled at her staff. 'I'm so glad to see that all of you are welcoming our newest teacher. Ashley has so much to offer us. Her ass-ets are abundant. But really, Coach Kramer, I think you've had more than your share.' Coach Kramer nodded in agreement, but didn't stop. Principal Rodriguez pushed the coach out of the way and pulled up a chair between Ashley's dangling and limp legst. 'This is how an administrator gets things done.' She pulled Ashley's hips forward and bent to her center. 'This is what I like to eat in the Teacher's Lounge.' All of the teachers gathered round and cheered on their leader. 'Eat her out, Principal Rodriguez,' the biology teacher shouted. 'That feels good, doesn't it, Ashley. I was a new teacher last year. The principal really knows what she's doing,' another teacher said. Ashley looked up and moaned, then she grabbed the heads of the two women who had been sucking her breasts and ground them into her full cleavage. They sucked and bit and soon Ashley was bouncing up and down on the table. 'Fuck. Oh, yeah.' Her voice got higher as only a voice can in a porn film as she shouted, 'Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, oh, yeah, oh, yeah. Yeah (pant), yeah(pant), yeah (pant), yeah (pant), yeah (pant).' Principal Rodriguez lifted, sat back in her chair, and wiped her wet mouth. The two women at Ashley's breasts straightened and smiled. The principal looked at Ashley and said in a professional and authoritative tone, 'Who do you want to sit on your face? Whose do you want?'
Ashley rose up on her elbows and scanned the room of luscious women all in various stages of undress. Ashley licked her lips and said to the principal. 'I want to eat you and then I want to taste every single pussy in this room.' The principal smiled. 'I love a teacher who is willing to go that extra mile for her colleagues,' she said while pulling off her grey pin-striped jacket. She lifted her arms and took off the lacy, cream colored camisole, slid the grey pin-striped, tailored slacks down her hips, and left on the tiniest pair of lace tanga panties the color of a wild rose. Ashley said, 'I want to see all of you.' Principal Rodriguez climbed on top of her, spread the crotch of the panties, and slid up and down Ashley's legs, leaving a trail of her fluid. 'Ooh, a new teacher who works so hard at pleasing me. I think we'll have an excellent working relationship, but first ' She turned to her staff. "Girls, get me out of these panties. All of the teachers reached in when the principal turned onto her back to help her out of her underwear. Each woman who helped was able to have a quick swipe of their fingers on her vulva. Those women who had been so lucky licked their fingers clean as the principal straddled Ashley, and then climbed forward to place her hot core over Ashley's mouth. As the women watched, some began to play with each other. Coach Kramer pushed another teacher onto her knees and told her to suck her (her dildo) off. The woman greedily accepted the invitation and had her own taste of the hot, new teacher named Ashley.
"God, no more, Al. Turn it off. I'm about to slide out of bed."
"God, yes." Dana lifted her ass and pulled down her panties along with her shorts. "Aren't you in the same condition?"
"I'm a little liquidy. A lotta little."
Dana moved the laptop to the other side of Alice and pulled her to her. They kissed deeply, both incredibly aroused and feeling it at every nerve ending. Dana pushed the jacket down Alice's arms and threw it across the room. Next, she reached for the button of Alice's pants, pushed it through the hole, then unzipped the zipper. Alice lifted and Dana pulled the pants down all the way, rubbing Alice's smooth legs as she did so. She wrenched the pants from around Alice's ankles so that they were both nude. Dana bent to her, kissing her again. Their breasts pressed against the other's. Dana's hand reached between them, moving against Alice's triangle of hair, then dipping in. She gasped at just how liquidy Alice was. "Fuck." Alice's hips moved against her hand, but Dana pulled away.
"You know what would be kind of neat?"
Remember that scene in the movie when Ashley is waiting for her lover to come home from the oil refinery, but she's late?"
"Yeah. Tiffany Glass is trapped at the refinery, but Ashley was expecting to have a hot night with her."
"So," Dana started slowly. "So Ashley had been thinking about her all day and now she still has to wait, but can't."
Alice's hands were moving over Dana's arms. "I remember."
"I really liked that scene. You know. . ." Dana turned red. "When Ashley. . ." She cleared her throat. "You know."
"Yeah. That was so. . .wow."
"Ashley knows what she's doing."
Dana sat up and stretched to the drawer of the night stand. She pulled out a large blue silicone dildo and its accompanying mini-vibe. "Would you do it for me?"
Alice stared at the toy. Dana had always used it on her. She wasn't used to using it on herself."
"You can do me, baby."
"No, I want to watch." She placed the dildo in Alice's hand, leaving the vibrator on the bed. "Please." Dana covered Alice's hand with her own and moved the dildo between Alice's legs. "Show me, okay?" Dana knew that Alice loved this toylong, the right diameter, and that titillating little curve at the tip that did as advertisedhit 'The Right Spot.'
Alice was only slightly embarrassed. She liked the idea of Dana watching her. "Okay." Alice cleared her throat. Aroused and feeling vulnerable, she fretted momentarily about her performance. "Okay." Alice rubbed the toy against her vulva, moving it up and down over her outer lips. Dana sat cross-legged on the bed near Alice's left calf and gazed interestedly at her lover. Alice bent her legs at the knee and spread them wide. When she did this, Dana re-positioned herself to get closer. Alice reached across the bed and snagged the Silk-E KY lube, snapped the cap, and poured some of the liquid on the head of the toy. The lubricant slid down the shaft. Alice slowly and erotically fisted her hand around it and spread the fluid over it. She tilted her hips and slumped down into the bed. Her hand still had lube on it, so she moved her hand to her breast and massaged the residue into her firm breast and rubbed it onto her nipple that was just as hard as Dana's. Alice looked up at Dana and smiled. Dana's mouth was open, her eyes hooded, her chest heaving, and her eyes were like a laser beam all over Alice's body.
Alice pressed the lubricated toy against her center and sighed. She was already stimulated after that movie, but she was more so looking at Dana sitting cross-legged on her bed with everything exposed. Unlike Ashley, Alice didn't have to use her imagination. She cocked her head and with an expression of sheer enchantment, gazed at Dana's labia. The lips were full and gaping. She could see her hard clitoris. When Alice's eyes shifted up Dana's body, she appraised the remarkably hard nipples.
Dana leered at Alice, watching as Alice tilted her hips a bit more and altered the position of the dildo in her hand. The tip of it was at her opening and she teased that spot by circling around it for long moments. She pushed the curved head of it in and her eyes closed. Alice licked her lips and groaned as she slid the dildo in the rest of the way. Dana stared at Alice's hands as they held the toy shakily. She slid it in and out of her with expert skill.
"Oh, this feels better than I thought." Alice whimpered. "I'm so full." She opened her eyes and looked into Dana's eyes. "I'm going to push it in all the way," she explained to Dana just before pushing it in deep.
Dana stared. Alice's labia were swollen and long, surrounding the toy. She pulled the vibrant blue-colored shaft out a tiny bit, allowing the curved head to roll across the patch of sensation at her entrance before slamming back in. Although the scene on the DVD had only been played once, Dana remembered it. She was surprised to see that Alice had perfect recall, too. Alice started to repeat what had been seen and heard on the DVD as she employed the same actions.
Alice licked her fingertips on one hand, then circled the nipple. She rolled her hard nipple between her fingers, squeezing it, making it even harder, the areola tightening, and she moaned loudly. "Oh, yeah. This is how I like it." Alice's pussy contracted, holding the love toy. With both hands, she lifted her breast, pushing it up and lightly twisting it to just the spot she wanted it. Her head tilted down and Alice's tongue snaked out of her mouth to brush over her nipple.
"Fuck," Dana groaned. Her eyes narrowed and she felt her clit throbbing and twitching.
Alice used her hands again to manipulate both breasts. Her head fell back and her eyes closed. Now, she was lost in the feeling. She reached between her legs and began fucking herself with passionate attention. Her hips rocked and Dana saw the dildo enter her up to the base. Alice had all ten inches inside her and her clit poked out like a pretty pink crown resting atop the dildo. Alice slowly reached for the mini-vibe and inserted it in the hollow opening at the base of the dildo. She turned the black dial and the soft hum, filled the room. "Oh, shit. Yeah. Oh, God, yeah."
Alice looked at Dana and saw that her nipples were over half an inch long. They were dark, erect, and so inviting. Alice started to play with her nipples, moving from one to the other while her other hand kept pumping and sliding those inches into her hot pussy. "I wish I could be touching yours right now, but you're so far away, Dane. I'll just have to play make-believe." She panted as she twisted her hard nipples. "I love sucking on them. I wanna bite down on them, circle them with my tongue. I wish you could feel that."
Dana stared at her. She was aching in an unbelievable way. She'd never felt this kind of intensity. It was watching the movie, but it was also seeing her lover satisfy herself. Dana's belly quivered, her hands were shaking, her clitoris felt enlarged beyond belief, her juices flowed onto the sheets. Whether she was breathing heavily or barely breathing at all, Dana didn't know. Her mind was a tangle of visceral emotions, primal need, and instinctual desire.
"And Dana, when you strap on and push inside me. It feels like this. I'm so open and full. It feels so good. Watch me. Watch me, sweetie."
Dana didn't have to be told. Her eyes hadn't moved. She was captivated. The scent of Alice's arousal screamed to her olfactory sense. That scent was begging Dana to grab Alice, take her, have her, while satisfying her own need. The way Alice moaned and panted, groaned and talked to her set Dana's auditory sense on edge. She wondered if Alice always masturbated like this. Dana was fairly quiet, a few flicks of her finger and a quick and silent orgasm was how she'd always touched herself. Alice was inspiring, indeed. "Oh, baby. Oh, god, baby," she heard Alice say.
Alice used both hands on the dildo pushing it in and pulling it out hard and fast.
Dana, though she wasn't touching herself, was close to a real orgasm. She could feel herself contracting. She bent her head and saw her clit peeking out between her opened lips. This afternoon had turned into something she didn't expect and what she was about to do next surprised the hell out of her. Stretching across the bed, Dana grabbed the Hitachi Magic Wand from the middle shelf of the nightstand. It was always plugged in, but Dana had never used it. Today, she didn't just want to try it. She had to try it. She returned to her position on the bed, pressed the Wand against her vulva, and turned it on. Immediately, she was jerking and writhing across the bed. Dana screamed out, "Fuck. Oh, God, Al. This is incredible."
The couple stared at each other as they performed their acts of self-pleasure. They moaned and groaned. "Ah, ah, ah. Oh, Oooh. Shit."
Alice stared at Dana and saw the expression freeze on her face. She knew that look and Dana's impending orgasm was all that it took to send Alice over. Her arm muscles flexed and tightened nearly cramping as she pounded the vibrating dildo slick with her juices inside. Alice used one hand on the toy and with the other hand, she slid her finger over her steaming and hard clit. "Oh, fuck. Dana. Dana. Dane."
Dana was on her back, horizontal on the bed, her upper body underneath Alice's bent leg, her face at Alice's pussy. She turned the wand on high and lurched forward and up as she came. Alice was with her. Her orgasm rocked her. The dildo slipped out and hummed on the bed between them. Dana turned onto her stomach, pushed herself forward, and crushed her face against Alice's dripping center.
"No," Alice said as she moved counterclockwise on the bed until she had moved Dana into a 69 position. "Now, yes."
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