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
That same day - 3:40pm
Angus was driving Kit's car. It had been a hoopty, on its last wheel before Ivan got his hands on it. Ivan had pimped her ride and turned it from a piece of barely drivable crap into something of great value. Kit loved this car, but not because it had been turned into an investment. She loved it because it had bench seats and that meant she could snuggle against Angus' side. She could get real close to her man. Oh, good God, she thought, I just called him my man.
"What are you thinking, Kit?"
"I'm tired, but I'm wired," she shook her head enthusiastically from side to side.
"Yeah, me, too. What do you wanna do?"
"This is gonna sound off the wall, but I wanna go see Tina. More than Bette, for years and years, she was there for me. I wanna go by and tell her about Nona and that I'm going to be recordin' again. You know what I'm sayin'?"
"Yeah, you wanna share your good news. You should do that. Hey, you know what? Why don't we play one of the songs for her? That song, Transformations is a good one."
"You think?" Kit looked up at him with skepticism.
"It's good as kind of a message song. It's not your best, but I think people, especially those recovering from some of the problems we see at the Center will really like an uplifting song like that."
"So you think the only people who will like Transformations have had some sort of brain injury?"
Angus turned to her, his mouth opening in surprise. "I did not say that. I totally did not say that."
"I know. I'm kiddin', Mangus."
"My man, Angus."
"It's a transformation."
"Kit, you're slaphappy from sleep deprivation. We should just go home."
"I am not. I wanna see Tina."
"Okay, don't pout. Those lips aren't for pouting, they're for kissin'." He kissed the top of her head, then her lips, and continued driving down the street. "So, we can make it rock, Kit. Let's do it. Maybe I can get some of the other patients together in the room to hear it. It'll do them all good."
Kit rubbed Angus' tummy as he drove. "Okay. Then you know what I want to do?"
"Go back to my crib, take off my shoes, get out of my clothes. . ."
Angus interrupted, "And sleep. We've been up over 24 hours."
"Sleep, yeah, but after I get myself a little taste of Mangus." She kissed his cheek.
Bette had promised Helena that she'd come back to her house in Malibu, so she went. She had considered begging off, but she enjoyed their talks and discovering how much they had in common, plus she wanted to thank her.
They were seated on the terrace in chairs that were turned toward the table, but allowed for a striking view of the calm Pacific Ocean. On the table were two fondue pots with fondue forks sticking out of each, a Lazy Susan with sliced apples, baguettes cut into diced bite-size pieces, as well as small chunks of chicken and beef, and various sauces. They shared a bottle of wine, a 1995 Napa Valley Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that was a blend of several grapes from the region and had received excellent reviews. It was a soft wine that had the barest hints of caramel and vanilla.
Bette turned her fork, dipping and steeping it into the cheese while she spoke, "Today, at the pool together, was just, I don't know, so amazing. It never would have occurred to me, Helena. Tina and I really related to each other in a way we hadn't since all this happened. We enjoyed each other, ya know?"
Helena sipped her wine, placed the glass back on the table and smiled. "It will help Tina tremendously." She raised her glass to Bette who also picked hers up and they clinked them. "Well done, you."
The Somerset fondue Helena had made was deliciouscheesy with a nice bite and the sliced apples that they were dipping into it added a sweetness making it a perfect pairing. "I'm happy." Bette said with a nod. "So, you haven't told me anything about this woman you're interested in. What's her name? Dylan?"
"Ummm. My god, Bette. She's turning me into a bloody nutter. I don't know if I'm coming or going with her."
"You said she's straight?" Bette bit into the fondue covered apple and wiped a bit of the cheese that had dripped onto her chin with the white napkin.
"Yes, she lives with this man, her business partner and lover, but she's the one coming on to me. I back off and she moves in. I can only fight it so long. Today, it went too far."
"Did you sleep with her?"
"I could have. She wanted to. I couldn't. I've asked her more than twice to settle it between she and Danny--this guy--and she refuses."
"What do you want?" Bette did want to help.
"I want her. But I want her exclusively. I don't want sloppy seconds. I've spent most of my adult life involved in clandestine trysts, promising women my discretion, and creating ample daily drama because of that behavior. I actually thought I controlled those relationships, but I've learnt that was never the case."
"So what are you going to do about her?"
"Try to forget." Helena played with a piece of baguette, pushing it around the plate with her long fondue fork. "Throw myself into the studio and my yoga class, more charity work. I have no idea."
"Well, you know, Tina was with a man when we met. I also knew that Tina was different, that there was something special about her that I had to know, that I-I needed in my life. I was relentless. I was always around, ready to listen, interested in everything she had to say. I knew Eric, the man she was seeing, quite well. We had a business relationship and he was the most. . ." Bette sighed. "Arrogant, self-involved guy. Every conversation always came back to him. The funny thing was that Eric wasn't such the prize. In fact, he was hanging on to Tina's coattails as she climbed her way up the entertainment studio ladder. She was far more successful than Eric, but he acted as if she couldn't do without him. I knew what Tina neededa woman who'd listen. That's what I did. I looked for signswhat did Tina need and I tried to be that."
"But other than shagging me, I don't know what Dylan wants."
"Then you have to focus on your desire, Helena. Focus on getting your needs met."
Three Days Later
Tina had two physical therapy sessions on this day and the last one had caused her to work up a sweat. The therapist pushed her hard, but Tina had kept up. Not only was she getting better everyday, but she could feel and see changes in her mental agility and physical ability every hour. Tina suspected that the anti-seizure medication had slowed her down. Without the Ativan coursing through her system, Tina had a sense of clarity she hadn't experienced since before the coma. She was not having vivid and odd dreams and the confusion between reality and those dreams was fading fast. And with her body cleansing itself of the drug, breast feeding Angelica was no more than a day or two away.
Tina's last physical therapy for the day ended at 5:00 and she went back to her room with the help of Deb, one of the assistants and for the first time bathed herself. Deb remained in the bathroom, but it was important to Tina that she try to do as much as she could for herself again. She only needed help stepping in and out of the shower and while she was in there, positioning herself on the special shower chair. Tina took her time bathing, not because she was having a difficult time performing the task, but because she was lost in thought. Her mind was on the conversation she had had with her mother. When she thought about it, she had to agree with her Mom, her happiest times had been with Bette. And those dreams she'd had about men were all abstract and unfulfilling, but the erotic dreams about the things Bette did to her and that she did to Bette were satisfying both emotionally and physically. Tina thought, I love her. I think she loves me or does she feel some obligation to help the woman who was once her lover? Bette seems genuine in the affection she has been showing me, but is it long-lasting? It seemed real to her. After her bath, she carefully brushed her teeth and spit the paste, not quite sure of her aim in the wash basin. Deb praised her and stood by as Tina started to dress. Tina raised her arms so that the aide could help her with her shirta pink tunic with white flowers embroidered down the collar. The aide helped her with underwear and a red pair of yoga pants with a drawstring. Tina tried repeatedly to tie the string, but finally surrendered to Deb who tied it in an instant.
She looked at her hair in the mirror. Shane was a hairstyling genius. What she had to work with had been about six inches long on one side and no more than an inch and a half on the other. Somehow, Shane had given her this awesome, hip, layered look that Tina loved. She hadn't been sure of it the first few days and insisted on wearing a scarf or her Durham Bulls, blue baseball cap, but today, she loved her hair. Tina ran her fingers through it, forcing it to spike into a kind of punk look. "One moah thing," Tina said to Deb.
Bette was on her way to the Center to have dinner with Tina. In the car, she thought she might continue her conversation with her from several days ago. She had avoided talking about their future during their last visits. Instead of discussing the issue of Medical Power of Attorney, they had swum; she had helped Tina with stretches and coordination activities in the exercise room. They had begun a game of chess that had been placed on a table in the room. Each day and on each occasion, their touching had increased; their gazes into each other's eyes had lengthened. She had wanted everything to appear easy and free-flowing, but the court case was looming and things had to get settled. Thanks to Helena and Nu Nu, she had had two days of relaxation and hours of uninterrupted sleep. Bette had met with Julia and they had discussed the exhibit at length. Everything was on schedule for opening night. Bette spoke a third time with Whittington March (or Whit) and once again, she bared her entire committed life with Tina to himwarts and all. He had asked tough questions, but she responded with an assurance and self-awareness that he predicted would push the judge in her favor. She dealt with the roster of witnesses from the Plaintiff with some angst, but mostly she wasn't surprised. She knew that it could get difficult, but that in the end, the judge would do the proper and right thing.
Bette was wearing a ruffled, white, silk blouse with buttons in the front, a pair of flared, black dress pants and Sesto Meucci black leather-woven slingbacks. Today, she had taken her time choosing an outfit that Tina liked. She had been coming to the Center in jeans, drawstring pants, and shorts, C & C t-shirts and tank tops. On days when she had business meetings, she dressed for those appointments and then continued on to the Center. Yesterday, Bette realized that she hadn't taken the time to make herself look good just for Tina. She was having second thoughts, now--it was a dangerous game Bette was playing-- wearing about $450.00 in clothing, yet carrying Angelica who could burp and throw up all over her at any moment.
As she walked down the hall with the baby in her arms and the baby tote hanging from her shoulder, she told herself that she had to find out where Tina really stood. They couldn't keep avoiding the subject and she certainly didn't want a replay of the cryptic conversation where nothing was resolved. She thought about earlier in the week and wondered if she had jumped to conclusionswhen Tina hadn't responded immediately about their partnership as lovers. Bette took that to mean that Tina felt that they no longer had a place in each other's lives except as co-parents, but the way Tina had looked at her the past few days gave Bette such hope. Bette reminded herself to take things slowly, that there was no need to rush to judgment; she needed to ask questions, wait for a response, and also answer any questions Tina had. She told herself to listen as she had in the first few weeks of their relationship when she was trying to win Tina.
In the room, Deb, the assistant smiled at Tina. She didn't know what her patient had planned for the evening, but she knew that Tina's partner, Bette Porter was due there soon. Since Tina's arrival at the Center, Bette had missed dinner with Tina only once and that was when she was in Washington. This evening, there was a vibe coming from Tina; something special was going to happen tonight.
Deb was walking out as Bette and Angelica entered the room. The assistant moved to the side to let the mother and daughter pass and then as she left, she turned to look at the three of them. Grinning, Deb closed the door behind her.
When Bette walked into the room, she couldn't believe her eyes. Tina was standing in profile at the table, flipping through a People magazine. She was dressed in one of her most flattering outfits that made her look like a sexy hippie from the 1970s. Her hair was outstanding. Her skin glowed due to make-up, but it was subtle and natural making her look vibrant and lively.
"Tee," Bette's voice quivered. Bette was in another time, another place. She was at home, opening the door, seeing Tina who had arrived from work moments prior, standing beside the table where they deposited the mail, flipping through a magazine or catalog, smiling up at her as she crossed the threshold. At this very second, an unstudied, uncalculated normalcy in her waking hours returned to Bette's life that had been missing for so long she had forgotten about it.
"Hi, Beh-ette." Tina turned and smiled at her.
And when she turned, Bette's heart skipped, flipped, danced, and tears fell from her eyes. "Tina." Tina faced her and Bette knew instantly that her earlier fears that Tina had drifted away and no longer desired her were false. The evidence to the contrary was before her.
"Beh-ette, baby. Doe ent cry."
"Oh, my God." Bette whispered breathlessly. She had become immobile and it was Tina who approached. Tina slowly walked over to them, but instead of appearing unsure and clumsy, she seemed to be strolling over. Her hips swayed and Bette couldn't tear her eyes away.
"Tina, you look gorgeous--so fucking beautiful. Oh, my God." Tina bent her head and kissed the top of Angelica's." She looked up at Bette and Tina saw it in her eyes. The love was still there. Each day, Tina had been feeling the bond between them grow stronger, but she worried that the bond was no more than a strong friendship. That look in Bette's eyes told her the truth.
"You're wearing the Tilhari necklace." Bette had left the necklace in Tina's nightstand drawer the night before she came out of the coma. Bette had brought the necklace and a few other items to perhaps strike a chord in Tina's memory about their trip to Nepal and the love they felt there.
"You know, Beh-ette, I dr-dr-drreamed abou' Nepal when I was in the coma. I think the night before I woke up," she took her time getting the words out.
"I dreamed of it, too, Tina. We dreamed of it together. I was here with you talking about it."
"I was not drrrreaming?"
"Yeah, you were. I took you back there. I sat here with you and I reminded you about it." Bette took a step toward Tina. Bette moved to the side so that she wouldn't crush Angelica in their embrace. She pulled Tina to her and hugged her with one arm. "God, baby." Bette stood back and took her in. "You look so good." What Bette couldn't say with her words, she said with her hands. Her hand gestured as she spoke, pausing in mid-air, then moving on, as she soaked up the Tina who had been lost to her for weeks. Apparently she was back.
"Do-ooh you like. . . the look?" Tina fished for more compliments.
"If I weren't holding the baby, I'd show you how much." Bette lifted a playful eyebrow.
This is what Tina loved. She had missed this with Bette. That odd yearning she had been having for men had vanished in the past days. The way Bette looked at her was her real longing. Bette's eyes washed over her. That look was enthralling in Tina's eyes. It had bewitched her eight years earlier; it kept her in love for yearseven when they had broken up. When Bette was seeing Candace and while Tina dated Helena, if she saw Bette, and Bette gave her that alluring and potent look with eyes that were like a mellifluous fountain of desire, Tina couldn't think, could hardly remember her name. Now, here at the Center, her only thought was how she could feel so much, how this hunger for one person could be so fervently exquisite? Tina smiled and it was radiant.
"Why doe ent you put Angie down?" Tina suggested. Bette's mouth remained agape. She had not expected this scene in Tina's room tonight. She had planned to have a serious talk, but maybe that was the last thing they needed. It was all so confusing. Was Tina flirting? Was she simply better? Did she have an urge to hold Bette the way Bette wanted to tuck her in her arms? Was she reading the signals correctly or was Bette reading something into it that just wasn't there? "Beh-ette, maybe. . . put Angie. . . down?" Tina proposed again.
Bette moved to Tina's bed and while holding Angelica, started to rearrange the bedding to create a wall of pillows to place around the baby. "I will hold her," Tina said, making her way to the bed and holding out her arms for Angelica. Carefully, Bette made the exchange. She made sure that Angelica was properly cradled in Tina's arms before continuing to create a makeshift bed for the infant. Tina kissed her daughter and made silly sounds while watching Bette. Bette was leaning across the bed, grabbing pillows and organizing them. Tina wasn't watching that, but staring hard at Bette's backside. Tina loved her ass. It was round, tight, and muscular.
Bette turned and was surprised to see Tina's eyes boring into her. She swallowed and said, "Okay?" Tina handed Angelica to Bette and then Bette placed the baby inside the soft borders of the bed. "Just for a second," Bette said to Tina while staring at Angelica. She turned to Tina. "I want to give you a proper hug."
Bette could do nothing more than stare for several seconds before she could move forward. Everything was happening in slow-motion for her. Five minutes ago, as she was walking into the Center, she had played mind games that had plunged her into despair, and with only a smile, Tina had transformed Bette's gloom into a state of glorious elation. Bette put one arm around Tina's waist and the other hand caressed the plane of Tina's cheek. Her hand snaked around to the back of her head and as she always did, Bette pulled her to her and inhaled deeply. Reluctance was abandoned. Bette pressed her lips into Tina's neck, then moved up and kissed her lips. Tina's arms went around Bette's upper body. She hugged her so tightly and when Bette kissed her, Tina kissed back, loving the reconnection of their lips. Bette ran her fingers through Tina's short, spiked hair. "I love the way your hair feels," she said when they separated again.
"I r-rreally like it," Tina spoke slowly.
Bette knew that Tina struggled with language, but the intonations and how she emphasized words and phrases caused Bette to have a powerful and guttural reaction. The fact that Tina was working so hard to get back to her life pre-coma was a show of the strength of Tina's personality. Bette had always loved when Tina had been in charge, but over the years, Bette's even stronger personality had moved into the foreground. Watching Tina's improvement reminded her that she was dealing with a woman who was audacious and spirited in her own right. Everything about Tina was splendid. She leaned in and kissed Tina again and when she did, she pushed her tongue against Tina's lips demanding, in an oh, so loving way, entrance. Tina accepted, giving Bette access as she opened her mouth to receive her lover's welcome. The hand on Tina's waist slipped down to her ass. Bette squeezed Tina's cheek, her hand massaging and kneading her butt that was less padded than it once was. She kissed her harder, now overcome with need that she had buried. Both women were breathing hard and Tina was just as much on the giving end of these kisses as receiving. She pulled Bette in, reviving those urges begun several weeks ago. As they kissed, Bette's tears began again, running down her cheeks and into their mouths. Tina drew back. "Doe ent cry."
"They're happy tears, Tee. I love you. I love you." She kissed her again. Bette's hand slid down the back of Tina's head to her neck. Her other arm came up and both hands worked the screw lock of the necklace until she had opened it. Bette caught the necklace in her hand before it could fall and draped it between her fingers.
"I taught. . ." Tina shook her head. "I th ought you would like it."
"I do baby. I-I just want to put it on you." Bette stared into Tina's eyes conveying her message.
Tina turned around and bent her neck for Bette. Bette ran the necklace around Tina's neck, catching both ends at the back. She took her time screwing the lock in and as she did, she whispered, "I remember our exact words when we did this in Nepal. We created our own meaning, didn't we?"
Bette and Tina had read about the Nepalese tradition that was strictly a heterosexual ritual; a necklace given by the new husband to his bride. Tina and Bette had changed it to fit their particular situation. She repeated it now. "The Tilihari necklace is given to the bride by her lover to symbolize a long life together. If you leave this world, I will follow behind for I couldn't live without you." Though it wasn't the Nepalese prayer, their promise had been said with honest feeling eight years ago when Tina locked Bette's blue necklace around Bette's neck and Bette locked Tina's red one around hers. The words, "a long life together" and the truth of there not being a life without the other were said on this day as they had been then--with that same belief in their never-ending love. "I love you, Tina. I want to put this necklace on you again and again for ten more years of eight. "
"Beh-ette, we will be abou' one hun-red and tenty," she said quickly.
Bette laughed. Tina hadn't lost anything in her arithmetic skills. "I know. I want to be by your side when I'm one hundred and twenty."
Tina touched the necklace of seven silver beads hanging from the rope of tiny, red, glass beads. Bette let her know that the necklace was secure by holding her shoulders and kissing her neck. Bette didn't suppress her actions. She had contained and denied for too long. Her open mouth pressed against Tina's neck; her tongue pushed against the soft skin, and soon she was sucking on it.
Tina moaned and turned in Bette's embrace. "I love you, Beh-ette. I nevah stop." Bette was baffled by everything and Tina took full advantage by kissing her hard. When she pulled away, she stared at Bette. She blinked, opened her mouth, sighed, and decided not to censor herself. "I th. . .ought it was gone, but it is not. You love me?"
"I do. No doubts, Tee. No doubts." Bette kissed her passionately. Their tongues wrapped around each other, lips moved against lips, and Bette's hand returned to the back of Tina's head, fingers in motion, relishing the softness of the new hair.
"Is this too much?" Bette stopped for a breath.
Tina looked at her, pulled on Bette's arm so that the hand that had been gently combing through her hair came down, too. She placed that hand on her breast through the shirt, and said, "Not neah-ly enough."
They stood in the middle of Tina's room kissing wildly. Bette was so bewildered that Tina actually guided Bette's hand that lay unmoving on her breast.
Tina's hand covered Bette's forcing her to lightly squeeze the full flesh. It was apparent that Bette was being careful, too careful as far as Tina was concerned. To show her what she wanted, Tina moved her hand to Bette's breast, but then pulled back, stared at Bette before placing both hands on her breasts. It was one of Tina's signature moves. She would look amazed and Bette didn't know if Tina was surprised by her body or delighted with it. Slowly, Tina's hand crept inside Bette's low cut top. She caressed the soft and warm breast and smiled when she heard the hitch in Bette's breathing. Tina was there for only a moment before she guided Bette backward to the vinyl chair. Bette fell awkwardly into the chair and Tina climbed onto her lap immediately. Bette was nothing short of astounded. She sat in the chair and let Tina do what she wanted. The short-haired blonde latched onto Bette's mouth and drove her tongue hard and deep trying to swallow her. When Tina came up for a breath, it was a quick one and then she was back at Bette's lips. Her hands held Bette's face in place and she kissed her thoroughly. Their lips and tongues met over and over. Bette pulled away this time; her head lolled back to hit the back of the chair. After a while, she sat up, still panting and stared at Tina with eyes that were glassy and hooded. Tina shook her head as if to tell Bette she wasn't going anywhere. When Tina kissed her this time, her hands wandered. She was back inside of Bette's blouse. She pushed her fingers between Bette's bra and breast and caressed her there. Bette breathed rapidly, but she didn't say anything, not wanting to break this spell or dream that she was having.
Tina shifted in Bette's lap, moving closer to her. Tina tried to unbutton the few buttons that held the blouse together but was unable to. "Help me," she whispered.
Prudence was swallowed up by Tina's kisses and Bette's fingers came up and undid the buttons. A second later, she couldn't remember having opened her blouse. Tina's hands were all over her and Bette groaned softly. Small, hands roamed over Bette's skin, touching the edges of her breasts that were exposed at the top of her bra, down to the flat belly which rolled like waves beneath Tina's hand. Bette leaned back in the chair, her long legs partially spread with Tina managing to stay atop her lap. Tina bent forward to kiss Bette again and while she kissed her, Tina's left hand ran along the waistband of Bette's black linen pants. When she pulled back, her smile was beaming. The look of astonishment on Bette's face warmed Tina all over. Bette could be so responsive when she allowed herself to be. So much was going to be different between them and one of the biggest things was going to be the way they had sex. In the past, Bette had controlled what went on between them in the bedroom, but weeks ago that had changed and Tina wasn't going back. Tina loved initiating and when she had taken Bette to a point that rational thought left her it had proven to be a tremendously validating moment for her. She wanted to go there again and again. Bette had intuitively known this. Whenever she thought about that afternoon in Tina's apartment it was with the knowledge that Tina had loved it in a way that was new to both of them. One of Bette's hands, rubbed up and down Tina's arm, gently gliding over the soft fabric. Tina's fingers pointed downward and slipped not into Bette's pants, but her panties. She stared at Bette as her hand moved down further. Bette's thighs instinctively opened more and she stared into Tina's eyes and Tina deep into hers. Neither woman said a word. Bette looked down, her chin close to her chest, her eyes watching the shape of Tina's hand moving inside her pants. When Bette's eyes returned to Tina's, she could feel fingers on the move again. Bette stared, her mouth parted slightly as she groaned, sighed, closed her eyes. It didn't take a degree in rocket science for Bette to know what Tina had discovered--Bette was excited as she'd never been before. Her arousal level was reaching new highs. She opened her eyes and looked at Tina whose own eyes had closed as she moved inside Bette's panties. A short time passed and neither chose to speak, but both were quite aware of just how much Bette wanted this and the depth of desire in Tina to give this to her. The corner of Bette's lip curled as Tina continued to touch her. Bette groaned and Tina sighed as they heard the sound of Tina moving through, against, in Bette's wetness. Tina's forefinger circled Bette's clit and Bette's mouth opened wider, her upper teeth bared and on display as she groaned. "Uuuh, uuh, uuh, uuh." Her voice quivered. "Tee." Tina licked her lips, opened her eyes, and stared hungrily at Bette. Their chests heaved, eyes locked on each other. Bette's soft pants and groans along with the sound of Tina's fingers dancing in Bette's juices were the only sounds in the room. "Oh, God." Bette felt herself rising. Her fingernails gripped Tina's shoulder leaving quarter-moon shaped pink marks in her skin. The other hand ran up and down Tina's side, the outer edges of her breast, the narrow waist, and back up. Her hand moved to Tina's face and she drew her down and forward, kissing her hard as her body began to shake. Her head lolled back, eyes rolled up in her head as the orgasm owned her. Bette's eyes were blurred and she was angled precariously on the chair. Tina, no longer wanting to hang on, slipped to her knees, and Bette lanquidly ran her hand over Tina's short hair and slowly sat up to touch her cheek.
Tina wanted to enter Bette, to feel her walls close around her fingers, dive into her warm, liquid depths, explore the swelling of ecstasy as she came again. "Pull yo-ah pants down."
Bette breathed through her nose, in and out, chest rising and falling, belly still clenching, and clit still shaken by Tina's talented fingers. "Tina. . ."
"Miss Kennard? Dinner," a voice called out from the other side of the closed door.
"Just a minute," Bette shouted while she pulled Tina off the floor and back into her lap. She grabbed Tina around the waist to balance. "Just a minute," she said again.
Tina smiled, her eyes not leaving Bette. Bette stared at her, too. Moment after moment after moment they lost themselves in each other's brown eyes. Bette cleared her throat. "She's going to stand out there for about one more second and then we're going to be embarrassed." Bette pulled Tina's head to her and kissed her againnot for long, but filled with passion. She looked at her again and started to stand, bringing Tina up with her. Tina stood inches behind her. Bette quickly straightened her pants and buttoned her blouse. "Do I look okay?" She turned to look at Tina.
"Beautiful, Beh-ette. I love what you are weah-ring."
Bette smiled. "I mean do I look put together? Buttoned up right?"
"Uh-huh. Auh you okay?"
"Really good, baby. Really good." She turned to the closed door. "Come in," Bette said and an orderly named Coco walked in carrying a plastic-dome covered plate.
"How are you, Ms. Kennard? Ms. Porter?" Coco said. She turned and saw Angelica asleep on the bed. "Oh, I'm sorry," she whispered. "I didn't know the baby was here."
"That's okay," Bette said. "How-how are you today, Coco?" She was convinced that Coco knew what had been going on in the room. Bette touched her fingers to her lips and knew they were swollen from the kisses.
"Couldn't be better, Ms. Porter. Thanks for asking."
"What's on the menu for Tina tonight?" Bette tried to sound composed.
"She requested a Middle Eastern mealpitas, hummus, eggplant salad, chicken breast chunks with feta."
"Oh," Bette said. "That sounds good, Tee." She turned around to look at Tina and gasped when she saw Tina standing in the center of the room, with the most innocent expression on her face while holding her fingers against her nostrils. Oh, my God, Bette thought. She's sniffing her fingers. Bette's eyes nearly popped out of her head as large as they became. She cocked her head and looked at Tina in way that asked, 'what the fuck are you doing to me?'
"Yes, Beh-ette. It smells good, too," Tina spoke slowly, looked directly into Bette's eyes, "I am sure that it will taste good."
It was 7:30am when Bette dialed Whit and waited for his voicemail or assistant to answer.
"Whittington March," the rich and mellow English accented voice said.
"Whit? This is Bette Porter."
"Bette, how are you?"
"Great. You answer your own phone?" She wondered what kind of fly-by-night operation this was.
"It's still a wee early for Erika to come in. I like an early start, when the office is quiet. I've been here about 2 hours."
"I should have called when Angelica woke me then." Bette laughed. "I've been up just as long."
"So, why the early morning call?"
"I don't think we'll need you, Whit. Tina is more than competent to make decisions for herself. We're-we're going to work out the matter of the Medical and Legal Power of Attorney on our own. We-we had dinner last night, talked it all out. We're on the same page; we're strong. She's going to talk to Stephanie. This insane episode in our lives is ending today. I know how hard you worked on our behalf. Thank you. Truly, thank you." Bette was relieved beyond measure. She had actually been terrified of having to relive some of her past mistakes before a courtroom of friends, enemies, and strangers.
"Bette, I'm going to need to speak with Stephanie's attorney, call the courthouse, contact the judge who will be hearing the case. Of course, I'd like to speak with Tina one-on-one. I can call you back later tonight to let you know exactly where we stand."
"Whit," Bette began and paused to get his undivided attention. "I'm telling you that Tina and I have dealt with this."
"I understand, but there's a process. We don't just call the Court Clerk and say, "Never mind. I will give Tina an opportunity to speak with the plaintiff and then I'll contact counsel."
Bette realized that he was doing his job. "Okay. I-I wanted to invite you over to my house tonight for a pool party and celebration. Tina is getting well, sounding more and more like herself, and I just want to acknowledge that. I'd love it if you could come over. Helena will be there and I suppose all of our friends that you've spoken with about the case."
"I can make it."
"See you tonight."
Bette was grinning when she hung up the phone. It had been a fib to say Angelica had awakened her. Bette had been too restless to sleep. Her mind was awash with thoughts of Tina and the night before.
All morning and early afternoon, Tina's room had been like Grand Central Station. Between her various therapies a quick visit from Bette, her friends, and Mom, Tina wasn't getting much rest and she was feeling unusually fatigued. Bette had come by shortly after Alice had left, but didn't stay long--she had to get Angelica to her sing along class and run several errands. They had kissed, held hands, whispered words of love to each other, but not with the intense passion of the night before. Their relationship had been solidified and both knew that they were headed in the right direction and had only been temporarily detoured by Tina's illness.
Angus had come by for music therapy and Kit was with him. Angus and Kit with the cultural and racial difference, the age difference, the level of life experiences were a couple that Tina knew was the real thing. Stranger loves had been known to blossomShane and Carmen; Dylan, the woman that Helena swooned about this morning, really didn't stand a chance once a smitten Helena set her mind on her prey. Tina wished that Helena had spared her some of the detailas far as Tina was concerned she heard way more than she needed about their physical interaction days earlier. There were some things an ex-lover really didn't need to know or hear especially that Dylan did for Helena with a glance what Tina hadn't been able to do--excite her to such a degree. I guess Stephanie is right about that. My heart just wasn't in it for Helena, but not because of money, but because of Bette. Even best friends Dana and Alice amazed Tina considering Dana had vowed never to involve herself with a bisexual and Alice had told her that the one thing she disliked about Dana was her lack of confidence as a lesbian.
Even though it had been a busy morning, the afternoon was slow. She knew Bette wouldn't have dinner with her this evening because Bette was throwing a barbecue in Tina's honor. Bette had promised to call to say goodnight and put all of their friends on the phone. Tina was looking forward to it, but mostly just so she could hear her lover's voice. Lately, she couldn't get enough of Bette Porter.
Tina looked at the clock and wondered why Stephanie hadn't come by. She usually appeared around 11:00am, but it was already 2:00 and she was so far, a no-show. Tina wanted to talk to her. She had been against this insane injunction from the start and now there was no reason for it. Tina was her own woman and she wasn't going to let her sister step in and make decisions for her. Tina would more than likely sign new papers giving Bette her Powers of Attorney. If it weren't for Angelica, she might have chosen to wait, just to ensure herself that their marriage was permanently on solid ground, but their baby's security was an immediate matter and her faith in her relationship was strong enough to go ahead with their plans.
Stephanie breezed in at 2:45. "Hi, Tina," she said breathlessly. "I'm late. Guess how long I've been up?"
"Hi. I doe ent know."
"About an hour." Stephanie pulled up a chair to sit next to Tina who was munching on a fruit plate of melons, oranges, and pineapple chunks. "You're not going to believe what's been going on with me." Stephanie waited for Tina to ask.
Finally, "What's been going on?"
"Okay, this is the thing," Stephanie began to whisper. "Henry. . . Dr. McPherson and I went up to his place last night. He grilled tequila-lime chicken on this amazing gas grill that was practically as big as my kitchen back home. We sat on his lanai. His lanai, Tina, and drank margaritas and stared out at the lights of Los Angeles. We talked for hours. He told me all about his ex. She was a stone bitch. First, Henry is all that. He's cute, he's smart, he's a total man. You know? Oh, God. He's magnificent." Stephanie popped a piece of pineapple in her mouth and chewed. "And then Henry tells me how she complained constantly. He wasn't around enough, he didn't take an interest in her work. She's some graphic designer in Venice. Is there a Venice in California or is he talking about Italy?"
"That's what I thought," she said and picked up a slice of orange and sucked on it. "So what did she expect? He's a doctor. What does he care about graphic design? They had virtually nothing in common, but their kid, Mikey. He's got a seven year old he hardly sees. The ex has all of these rules about when he can see their son and it's always at her convenience. He's actually really kind when he talks about her, but that woman sounds totally harsh. So it started to get kind of cool outside, so we went in and god, we were just getting along so well. Tina, he started kissing me, but it didn't get all crazy. . . at least not then. He made a fire and he told me his life story. He's incredible, Tina. Really, just. . ." Stephanie's eyes fluttered up and she shook her head in amazement over her find. "The perfect guy."
"But. . ."
Before Tina could ask her question, Stephanie cut in. "So, it was like two in the morning and earlier, he had told me about how his wife used to use sex as a reward or punishment; that the last year, they didn't even have a normal sex life and their bedroom was like the North Pole. They actually slept with pillows between them. I couldn't believe that Henry endured that. I mean, the biggest part of marriage is sharing the physical love that God has given you. Just before they finally split for good, they had this huge argument and she told him that he was no longer welcome in her bedroom. Her bedroom? I would have walked out of her life right then, but Henry kept trying."
Frowning, Tina shook her head in pity for poor Dr. McPherson.
"Yeah, right. I was practically in tears hearing this. Anyway, it's about two a.m., and we're both tired of talking, but still have all this energy. Since it was late, he asked me to sleep over and he put me up in their old bedroom. He hadn't slept in there since just before they divorced. I don't know what came over me, Tina, but I wanted him to feel good again. I wanted him to get over that controlling wife and I thought it was high time he reclaimed his life and his bedroom. No more bad memories or sad times. The next thing you know. . ." Stephanie covered her face with her hands and dropped her head into her lap. She sat up and threw her head back, her long blonde hair flying around her while she laughed. "I was kissing him, he was kissing me. He backed me against the bedroom door and Jesus Christ, Tina--we did it standing up. He held me up. My legs were around his waist and. . . . If you think he's a big guy in general, you should see his you know what. Massive!"
Tina's mouth was gaping open, her eyes were bulging from her head. "Whut abou' Pee-tehr?" Tina was appalled by her sister's behavior and was having a hard time wrapping her mind around her doctor and sister getting busy. She was disgusted by it.
"I know. I'm going to call him tonight. I need to get back to Peter's relatives' place and take a nap. I'm so spent. Tina, Henry can go all night. It's like he does some kind of tantric sex thing like Sting. He was unreal."
"Pee-tehr?" Tina said it slower, making sure she was understood. "You cheat on your fiancé and say you are goin' call him? Stephanie whu-what is wrong with you? This is not good."
"Tina, don't be so judgmental. At least I really like him. You were sleeping with Helena Peabody only because she was loaded."
"If you say so. . ."
"I like Hel-e-na."
"Why did you do that with Hen-ry?"
"Because we wanted it. He wanted me. I wanted him. You know, you have no right to judge me. You have sex with women. One, that's gross." Stephanie made an ugly face that featured her smirking mouth and rolling eyes. "Two, you can't possibly be satisfied by that, and three it's unnatural, so don't judge me. All right?"
"God, who ah you?" Tina could hear that the diction that had improved was getting messy. She was too upset to care.
"I'm your sister. You know what, Tina?" Stephanie stood and paced. "I'm not going to sit here and listen to your shit. I have to do something really, really difficult tonight. I care about Peter. I'm going to break up with him on the phone. God knows that's not how I want to do it. I don't want to hurt him. But I can't let this linger. I thought Peter was my soulmate, but I see that Henry is. I don't know what we're going to do. It's moving really fast. It is honestly love at first sight. Tina, it's magic. I love him. I feel like I've known him all my life. He feels the same. Will I move here? Will he move to North Carolina? But you know, I'm not married yet. Peter is not my husband and I haven't made a commitment before God. Henry is single. I haven't committed some big sin, all right? You've been trying to run my life since we were kids. Mom was working or busy with her protesting and activities, so you filled in. I don't need another mother now. You did your job. What would be really nice. . . what would be ideal at this moment is if I could get some support from you. Instead, you've always got something to say about how I liveI'm too conservative, I'm too close-minded, I praise Jesus, everything you have a problem with. Well, let me tell you somethingonly God gets to judge me. Not you, not Mom. God. And I know that God wouldn't have had me out here and brought Henry McPherson into my sight and my world if he didn't want me to pursue it. I know this is right."
"You are mean."
"Heard that before. Thanks for remembering."
"You're getting all bent out of shape about me and you get all goo goo-eyed about the woman who fucked you over at exactly the same time you were recovering from a miscarriage. That's rich."
"Shut the fuck up. Leave."
"I, at least, listen to you." Stephanie stormed over to Tina and looked down at her. "You don't want to hear the truth. You don't want to face the facts." She began to pace again as she ticked off all of her thoughts. "If you think Bette will take care of you and stand by you while you recuperate and go through all of this rehab, you've got another thing coming."
"Yeah-ah, you told me auh-rrready. Drahp it.
Stephanie shouted at her sister. "When the going gets tough, Bette goes in search of a piece of ass. You told me that yourself. When she feels out-of-control or. . . wait, what did you write me--'when she feels like she's not the center of attention, she uses sex.' That's what you want? That's your future. She'll sneak around, lie to you, and you'll be so dependent on her that you won't even be able to help yourself. She's just like Dad. No different. You remember that. You remember all that I'm willing to do for you. In spite of your judgments and that self-righteousness of yours, I still want to help you. Tomorrow, you choose. But by God, if you go with Bette, you can kiss your ass goodbye." Stephanie paced her way out of the room without turning back to Tina.
Tina sat stunned, not realizing until Stephanie was surely out of the building that she hadn't told her that there would be no case tomorrow. She wished she'd never confided her thoughts to her sisterthey were all being used against her now.
Later that night
Bette had not entertained at her house in over six months; not since the impromptu pizza family night the day everyone had been invited to Helena's house for dinner. Her friends had proven to be loyal to her in a way she hadn't guessed. Tonight, her friends and family surrounded her again. They were out by the pool. This time Helena was there, toono longer an interloper, but friend. Whit had joined her along with Shane, Carmen, Alice, Dana, Kit, Angus, and Theresa. The group sat around a large table with a blue and green mosaic top eating burgersveggie burgers, turkey, and regular beef hamburgers that Angus had grilled, potato salad, corn on the cob, and tossed salad. It was a real family gathering and Bette felt loved.
It was a celebration, but Whit explained that the hearing was still on in spite of the private, out-of-court verbal agreement between Tina and Bette. Stephanie knew nothing of it and her attorney, D. Randolph McGhee who had flown out was demanding to see this through. Not going to court in McGhee's eyes would have been a waste of his trip. He was licensed to practice in California as well and Whit knew of his reputation. McGhee could be strident, a real personality in the courtroom, and a genius in the legal community when it came to family law. If he could find a forum to make his points against gay unions, he would take full advantage of it. Whit didn't tell Bette that he suspected that media would be on hand. That was McGhee's method of operationto play it out in the courtroom and in people's living rooms as they learned about it in the news.
Whit hoped he could circumvent McGhee's tabloid-esque tactics by speaking directly with the judge the day of court, but nothing was certain.
Bette was wearing a baby sling around her body and Angelica rested quietly in it. This was the kind of setting she had always envisioned except Tina was missing. She wanted their daughter to know all of these women as her aunts, as the women whom she could always go to, and who would forever love her. There were four conversations going on and so much laughter. Tina's returning health and Bette's vague description of the intimate time they had together the night before had everyone feeling a bit giddy. Bette longed for Tina and hoped that they would be able to get back to their lives againthat they would share in the laughs with their friends and family while sitting side-by-side.
Bette looked around the table. For years, 'the couple' had been Tina and Bette, now there were Alice and Dana, Carmen and Shane, and Kit with her kind and caring Angus.
Carmen took a bite of her turkey burger and she turned to Shane. With her mouth still full, she said, "Taste this turkey burger, baby. It's perfect." She pushed it against Shane's mouth and Shane opened up to take a bite. The whole time, Shane was doe-eyed and her expression was one of total devotion.
"Umm. That is good."
"Do you want me to make you one?" Carmen was already getting up to put together a second burger.
"I'm great, Carm. Just relax."
Carmen sat down, but instead of sitting in the chair, she sat in Shane's lap. Shane casually rubbed Carmen's tummy. Carmen's arm was around Shane's shoulders and she played with her hair just as nonchalantly. Bette thought they looked deeply in love and wondered if they'd professed it yet.
Bette's eyes narrowed as she glanced over at Alice and Dana. Dana was back from another successful tournament. She had kicked ass at the Laguna Beach Tennis Invitational and they were all celebrating that win just as much as Tina's good health. Bette guessed that they wouldn't last at the partythey were giving each other smoldering glances that told her they'd rather be doing something very different than eating partially burned burgers. To Bette, both looked like they were having a secret rendezvous with the other and didn't want to be discovered. They were physically at the table, but they were guarded, not making eye contact with the rest of the table and smiling mysteriously at each other. Bette was curious about what the two of them were up to. Having dated Alice, it could be just about anything. Alice was a freak in so many ways.
Kit had a terrible track record when it came to romance and loving relationships with men. David's father was in and out of her life so fast that she hadn't even been certain of his last name. After that, while Bette was a teen and in her early twenties, Kit was always bringing home a new guy, sneaking him into the basement, asking Bette to cover for her so that Melvin wouldn't find out. Once she left home completely, there were men from her band, men from other bands, fans of Kit Porter, producers and agents all promising to make her more famous if she'd just sleep with them. And she did. Recently there had been Roger, a musician who saw Kit only as an aging partygirl he could drink with, drive down to Roscoe's Fried Chicken and Waffles for a meal, then come back to her place (since his place was just a sofa in his best friend's apartment) to have a roll in the sack. After Roger, she insanely hooked up with Ivan Aycock, the drag king. Bette never understood that one other than to think that Kit had concocted a weird fantasy in her head that Ivan was kind of like a man without the drama. She learned quickly that Ivan had his own version of drama. When Bette walked in on Kit and Angus, her first thought was 'not again.' No two people were more different, yet looking at them now, Bette saw genuine sparks, a passion that neither could hide, and from Angus in particular, there was this need to protect. She had never seen another man want to protect her sister the way this younger one did. He was solicitous, watching out for her, asking if she wanted or needed anything, filling her glass with juice, and hanging on Kit's every word. How could Bette not be happy for her?
Bette glanced at Helena who smiled back. She wondered if Helena was reading her mind. They were on the same wavelength often. She had found a friend and comrade in Helena. Bette recalled what Helena had said in the limo on the drive from the airport--Stephanie would have to contend with her as well. That was an amazing show of support.
This night was a sign of allegiance that Bette wouldn't forget.
"Have you spoken with Tina about her testimony?" Helena asked.
"Not the testimony, per se, but we've talked about our commitment to each other and the importance of preparing for the unexpected."
"I spoke with Tina this morning and she did confirm everything Bette had told me. She's definite about Bette representing her if need be. It was just an interview, not a deposition, but Tina answered every question unequivocally. She knows what she wants," Whit offered.
Bette smiled, happy to hear these news, but she didn't want to focus on the upcoming trial. "Dana, congratulations on your win down in Laguna."
"Moved up two spots in the WTA ranking."
Alice grinned. "Honey, that's fantastic. When were you going to tell me?"
"I just found out."
"Congrats, Dane," Shane said.
Carmen smiled and said, "Yeah."
Kit, Angus, and Theresa added their congratulations.
"Baby, did anything come from Netflix?" Dana asked Alice.
Alice bit her lip thinking of a response Dana would understand. "Uh, yeah, we did get a DVD. Blue Velvet."
"Old movie and weird," Shane said.
Dana wasn't sure she understood. Were they really getting Blue Velvet or was Alice speaking in code. "It's not Blue Hawaii?"
"No, it's not. You've got the blue right, but the title wrong."
"Doesn't matter, I can't wait to see it."
"There's a huge difference between Blue Velvet and Blue Hawaii," Bette interjected, then turned back to Helena. "Tina says she just wants to end it quickly, state that she wants to keep things as they are, then get out of there. I feel the same way."
"Doesn't Blue Hawaii star Elvis and Ann-Margret?" asked Carmen.
"Elvis, yeah. Ann-Margret was in Viva Las Vegas with him, though," Theresa said.
"God, when I was a kid and watched old movies, I thought Ann-Margret was so hot. She had a body to die for." Carmen said dreamily.
All of the women and Angus turned to look at Carmen whose body was smokin'. Carmen was oblivious to everyone's eyes, but Shane's.
Bette tapped her wineglass with the long teaspoon that was at her place. "Guys?" Everyone turned to look at her. "First, I think I speak for everyone when I say, Dana your game has never been better. Whatever you and Alice are doing, it's working. . ." Dana blushed furiously. "Second, I-I just want to thank all of you for-for everything. I know I'm not the only one this has been hard for. We all love Tina, we want to see her well, and more than that, we want her to live a life filled with love and devotion. Tina's getting better and better each day and I suspect that she'll be coming. . . ."
The mobile phone that was on the kitchen counter was ringing, but Bette didn't hear it. Theresa excused herself to get the phone for her.
As soon as Theresa walked out, Bette said, "Her mom's great, but her sister is a fucking bitch. If she spent as much time doing something constructive with her life as she does trying to get to me, she'd be a multi-fucking-millionaire."
Everyone laughed except Helena whose smile was thin-lipped and guilty. Bette hadn't directed the comment at her, but Helena felt it to the bone.
Alice said, "Maybe we could get Tony Soprano or one of his Captains to take care of her once and for all."
The entire table laughed. "That would be funny," Dana looked at Alice.
"Is the guy who plays Tony, James Gandolfini in the mob in real life?" Alice wondered aloud.
Shane looked at Alice like she was nuts. "Nah, he's just acting."
"I heard he was a made man or was connected or somethin'. I mean, he seems like he really knows what he's talking about. What do you think, Bette? James Gandolfini? Mafia?"
Bette shrugged. "I have no idea." Bette smiled and shook her head. "Can I finish my toast, please, Al."
"Oh, yeah, Please do. Don't let me stop you." She rolled her eyes.
"Anyway, thank you for your support. Thanks for speaking up for me during this thing, and I really want to tell you that. . . ."
Theresa walked back into the backyard. Her face was stricken and she held the mobile out for Bette. "Bette," she said softly. "It's the Centah."
Bette grinned. "Must be Tina. I told her you'd all be over here tonight. You know Tee always likes a good party. . . ."
"Bette," she handed her the phone. "No." She looked into her eyes. "No."
Bette noticed what everyone else had gleaned a few moments earlier. Something was terribly wrong. Bette took the phone and her hand was shaking. "Hello."
"Yes." She recognized the voice of Jack Samuelson, the night nurse.
"I was calling to let you know. . . . First, Tina is. . . ."
"What is it?"
The table had grown silent; the cheerfully-in-love faces were masks of anxiety now. No one could hear what was being said on the other end. When Bette hung up a minute later, she pushed her chair out and stood. "I have to go to the Center. Tee-Tina's all right, I think. She's had several partial seizures this evening. Her night nurse said that-that everything's under control right now."
"She was convulsing?" Dana asked.
"Uh, I think she might be losing consciousness. Her temperature is a bit high. I'm not really sure. I'm on my way there now."
"Let me take Angelica, Bette." Kit and Angus both stood to help Bette out of the sling.
"Okay," Bette said slowly, not truly thinking, but moving by instinct.
"I'll drive you to the hospital." Theresa had already gone into the house, picked up her purse and keys and was standing beside Bette.
"She was doing so well," Carmen said.
"I told McPherson not to let those girls bully him into takin' her off of those anti-seizure pills before he was ready to do it." Theresa's face was etched with concern and she shook her head at the insanity of this situation.
Bette turned to her in shock. She hadn't spoken to Tina's doctor about doing that even though Tina had asked her. "What?"
Everyone looked up at Theresa.
"Tina was simply unbendin'. She told him that it was her decision and she was refusin' the medication."
"And-and he just agreed?" Bette's eyes blinked nervously trying to comprehend what she was hearing.
"Yes. And Stephanie was just as much a part of it. I believe my youngest has spread her legs for that man. And you know how men git when that happens? No matter how many diplomas and degrees they have, their brain goes down south into their pants. No offense, Mr. March."
Whit looked at her. "None taken."
"Stephanie's sleeping with Tina's doctor?" Bette was in shock.
"She hasn't told me, but I know her and I know how they're actin' 'round each other."
Whit was listening with rapt attention. The plaintiff was bedding the patient's healthcare provider. This put a new kink in the proceedings.
"I've got to go. I've got to get to the Center." Bette swept her hand across the table and said, "You guys can stay. Finish dinner. I've got to. . . I-I. . . Bye."
She and Theresa left their guests sitting near the pool with a lot on their minds and not much to say.
Alice leaned over and said to Shane. "When I saw Tina this morning, I think she might have blacked out or something for a few seconds. She was staring into space and not responding."
"Did you tell anyone?" Carmen asked.
"No, I thought she was still sort of waking up. I didn't think it was a seizure, but maybe it was."
Dylan Moreland slammed her tiny Motorola closed. She had been trying to reach Helena for two days. Everything was going down the tubes. Danny was demanding that she make contact with her and resume their plan, but she couldn't do that if Helena was giving her the brush off.
"Well. . .?"
"Still no answer." Dylan was sitting on the steps outside of their apartment building. She was wearing a pair of beige khaki cargo shorts and a snug white T-shirt. Her long tanned legs would have made any man or woman take notice, but not the guy standing over her. "The phone is going straight to voicemail."
"I fucking asked you to do this one simple thing. Helena Peabody is a goddamn slut who will fuck every woman she sees. We know this about her. We know this." Danny got up in her face. He shouted, spraying spittle on her face, "Can you not fucking seduce? She'll do any woman. What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I guess I just didn't play it right," Dylan said. She was ready to call this scam quits. Her heart wasn't in it or rather, it was in it too much. She didn't want to play Helena at all and so she started saying all of the things that would make Helena push back, decline the offer, and not pursue her.
"You'd better find a way to get back in her good graces and on your back in her bed. You'd better figure it out. I'm warning you."
"Do you. . . not care. . . about me at all?" Dylan asked.
"Dylan, do we have a complicated relationship?" He asked sarcastically. "No, we don't. I banged you a few times our senior year of film school. It wasn't all that, but we get along. We both want to make films. We've got this partnership now. The partnership takes money. We know where we can get money--in fact, get all the friggin' money we need for ten films. I set it up, got us the interview, got us in the door. All you have to do--and frankly, this is the easiest part of the job--is get her to want you, fuck her, tape her making demands, and we sue her ass. If she were a straight chick, I'd go in and ball her. She's a hot bitch. I don't think it would take me weeks to get a woody goin' to do her. What's your problem?"
"I don't have a problem." Dylan listed in her mind all of Danny's problems. No, he didn't have one, he had about twenty-two she could think of off the bat.
"Then keep trying. Find her at the studio, drive out to goddamn Malibu, hang out at that queer restaurant on Santa Monica where she goes. You know her schedule. Just be where she is. Get her legs open and take care of business, so we can fuckin' move on with our work. It's. . . easy!" He grabbed her jaw and shook her face before pushing her aside and stalking up the stairs.
Dylan rubbed her shoulder from where she had been smashed into the wrought-iron railing. She sighed, opened her phone, and speed-dialed Helena.
When Bette walked into Tina's room, Tina was awake and Night Nurse Samuelson was standing over her monitoring her brain activity. Bette ran to the other side of the bed. "Baby, how are you? You okay?"
"It is nothing. Fine."
Bette looked at Samuelson. "How is she?"
"I probably shouldn't have alarmed you the way I obviously have. Tina's results are all coming out within normal range now."
"Is she back on the Ativan?" Bette asked him, staring hard at the Nurse as if he were the one who had made the decision to take her off.
Tina stared at him, too. She wasn't going back on it.
"Tina's doing very well, now, Ms. Porter. I'm sure Dr. McPherson will chat with you later today or in the morning. Why don't we let Tina rest? He motioned Bette to the door. Theresa saw that they needed to speak privately, so she distracted Tina by grabbing a chair and bringing it over to the side of the bed.
"Tina, you scared us, honey." Theresa took her hand and tried to get Tina to focus on her, but Tina watched Nurse Samuelson and Bette out of the corner of her eye. She saw them talking in the hall, but their voices were hushed and confidential.
Outside of Tina's room, Bette said, "What do you want to tell me that you don't want Tina to hear?"
"Before you arrived, all she was repeating is that she needs to feed her baby and is choosing to reject the anti-seizure medication. You're her Medical Power of Attorney. I don't believe that she's capable of making rational decisions right now."
"She knows that she's having seizures, right?"
"She's blacked out, but has no recollection of the events. She's not going into convulsions, her motor skills aren't affected. She's having what are called 'seizures on consciousness,' meaning that physically, it might not be apparent to her or others who are with her. Her brain activity tells me that this has been going on since this morningtiny seizures lasting no more than a few seconds. She doesn't believe it. I really can't say too much about it. Miss Kennard's doctor really is the one who should and can explain this better than I. The thing is. . ."
Bette nodded as she listened to him, but her mind was elsewhere. Instantly, she had placed blame for Tina's current situation on herself and her needy sex drive. She was not the one recovering from a coma; she had no excuse for her behavior the night before. She should have stopped it, insisted that they wait. That sexual play had obviously been too much for Tina. She should have been more sensible. Why in the world would she have let herself get carried away with her own pleasure? Tina's arousal level must have put pressure on her brain or caused some other problem with synapses. Something happened to Tina last night and only Bette could be held responsible for it. She wondered when she'd learn that her desire got her in trouble. She fucked up so badly--again and she had done damage--again. Whether it was permanent damage or temporary remained to be seen.
"Are you all right, Ms. Porter? Do you need to sit down?"
"God." Bette shook her head. "Go on."
Samuelson yammered on, "The seizures could stop on their own, they could lessen, or they could become much worse and start to impair other aspectsmotor skills, ability to verbalize, or cause damage to her other senses. She needs to be put back on the Ativan for a while. Dr. McPherson has been called. Dr. Jones is on-site. Tina's most recent scans are being reviewed via computer link by Dr. Jones right now. I expect that she'll come down and talk with us soon."
"Put her on the Ativan."
"I can't. I've been doing this long enough to know that's what needs to happen, but I'm not the doctor and can't make that call, we'll have to wai. . ."
Bette heard the sharp click-click-click of a woman in pumps moving down the hallway.
"Oh, Dr. Frazier-Jones, I was just bringing Ms. Porter up-to-date. Ms. Porter is Tina Kennard's Medical Power of Attorney. Dr. Frazier-Jones, Ms. Porter." He introduced them.
They shook hands.
"She needs to be back on anti-seizure drugs," Bette stated firmly.
"Yes, immediately. I don't know why she was taken off so early. That's not the norm. I want to give her an I.V. of a stronger medication just to get it working in her body quickly. Then we'll move her back to the Ativan. Nurse, do you know why Ms. Kennard was taken off this medication?"
"I don't. You'll have to speak with Dr. McPherson about that."
"I know why," Bette said fuming. "Tina wants to breastfeed our baby and she can't when she's taking Ativan. Breastfeeding is apparently more important to her than her health and she has persuaded him, along with her sexpot sister who by the way Dr. McPherson is sleeping with. . ."
The doctor's eyes enlarged and her head moved back stiffly.
". . . to take her off early. Tina's mother. . ." Bette pointed to Theresa. ". . .heard everything. She even asked him not to do it, but they manipulated him into it." Bette was on a roll. "Frankly, this doesn't look good for the Center. It looks very bad. If anything happens to her. . . ."
Dr. Frazier-Jones placed a soothing hand on Bette's shoulder. "Okay. As her Medical Power of Attorney, you are asking that we do what is necessary to stabilize her, correct?"
"Putting her on anti-seizure medication? Absolutely."
"All right. We're watching her. These tiny seizures have been caught. Her temperature has already gone down. We're going to continue with the Ativan. She will be back in good form before midnight, I assure you. What I'm going to do now is give her a stronger dosage of another medication, along with a slight sedative. I think she's probably overwrought now, too with all of the commotion and anxiety over her health. She needs you to just relax and be calm. Take a deep breath and let's go back in and comfort her. Okay?"
Bette did inhale, letting her diaphragm expand. She nodded her head, breathed out, and they walked back in.
"Hi Tina, we've met before. I'm Dr. Jones. You gave us a bit of a worry, but you're looking fine right now."
Nurse Samuelson was gathering his supplies from the cart to prepare the I.V.
"Whuh he doing?"
"I'm going to give you some fluids and something to help you relax. Your blood pressure is elevated and we need to bring that down," Dr. Jones explained.
"No medicine that stops me from feeding mah baby," Tina said frantically, gripped with the fear that they were going to pump her body full of medication she didn't want.
"This is for your blood pressure. We're going to just let you get some sleep."
Bette looked at Tina and then the doctor. Tina stared at both of them as if she didn't trust was being said.
"Hmm, Tee." Bette bent to her.
"I begin to feed Angie tomah-row," Tina stated.
"Tina, baby. You'll have months and months to feed Angelica. You don't have to worry about that tonight or tomorrow."
Helena was in her Mercedes heading from WeHo to Malibu. She drove up Robertson to Sunset and made a left. When she was on the straight road west to home, she pulled out her mobile and checked messages. At the redlight, she looked down at her phone and saw that she had two new messages and eleven missed calls. She looked at the missed calls first and as she scrolled down she saw that each one was Dylan Moreland's number. This was the second night in a row that Dylan had done this. As the light changed to green, she pressed the button for her voicemail and listened to what the filmmaker had to say.
"Hi, Helena." Dylan sounded sad. "I was calling because I feel awful about the other day. I know what I want, but I'm scared of it. I think you know what I mean. I'd like to see you. Call me."
Two hours later, Dylan had left another message. "It's me again. I have stupidly called a few times, but I didn't leave messages. I'm an idiot to keep trying. You don't want to talk to me, that much is plain. I guess I'm calling to say I'm sorry. That's it." There was a short pause and then Dylan said, "I wish you'd see me. Bye."
Helena's grin went from ear to ear. She couldn't be more thrilled.
Two hours had passed since Bette had received news about Tina's health crisis. The same two hours had passed since the Center had notified Dr. Henry McPherson, but he still hadn't arrived. When Bette had left the house, she had grabbed the daily reports that the Center left for her each day. She had sat at Tina's side, after Tina was given the IV and read through each page carefully. There was not one mention of the change of pharmaceutical treatment. Bette wondered what other information had been excluded or facts distorted. Now, she paced Tina's room. Theresa sat beside Tina's bed staring at the monitor she couldn't understand. Tina's IV dripped slowly and she was going in and out of consciousness. Bette heard Tina groan and she ran to the bed. "Tee, what is it?" Tina didn't answer. She was sleeping again.
Exactly two hours and twenty-seven minutes since Bette received the call, she heard Stephanie and McPherson making their way down the hall. She was at the door when they entered. "Where have you been?"
"I'm sorry, Bette. I'm here now. Dr. Jones was on-duty and I understand she administered services to Tina."
"You're her fucking doctor."
McPherson took a step back, startled at the outburst.
"He has a life, too. For your information, you can't have cell phones on in movie theatres. We were at the movies."
Bette ignored Stephanie and stared at McPherson. "Your phone doesn't vibrate? You should have been here." Bette was in his face. "You have a responsibility to be here for Tina."
McPherson lightly pushed past Bette and entered the room, walking directly to Tina's beside. "Hello, Mrs. Kennard."
Theresa merely nodded. She was as furious as Bette, but it wasn't her place to say anything. McPherson read the chart at the end of Tina's bed, then walked to the monitor and watched as information appeared on the screen. He nodded his head, looked over at Tina, and smiled. "Well, she's doing fine now." He turned to look at Bette who was hovering over his shoulder. "I really apologize for my delay, but please understand that Tina was in good hands with Dr. Jones and. . ."
"No, no. Don't tell me she's in good hands when you-you took her off of her medication. Why in the hell would you do that? The night nurse doesn't understand it. Dr. Jones doesn't understand it, and I sure don't get it. And " Bette grabbed the daily reports from the table and waved them in front of him. "You knew it was wrong, so you didn't put it down on paper. You knew it was a mistake. You knew you were jeopardizing her health. Just who is your patient, Tina Kennard or Stephanie Kennard?"
"Now, you wait just a minute."
"I don't care if you fuck her, but don't let it get in the way of treating Tina." Bette hesitated. She gave herself a very short moment to decide her course of action. It took only seconds before she pierced Dr. McPherson with her glare. "No, no. You know what? It doesn't matter. I'm firing you. I want Dr. Frazier-Jones to take over as Tina's primary neurological specialist. I don't want you near her."
"You don't have any right or business doing that," Stephanie ran to Dr. McPherson's defense.
"Re-think that. I'm her Medical Power of Attorney and if I say that he's finished, then he's finished."
"Bette, this is really a minor setback, a blip in Tina's return to good health," McPherson pumped up his calming voice and the charm of his beside manner.
Stephanie wasn't quite as controlled as she yelled, "Tina can make decisions for herself."
Bette crossed her arms over her breasts. "Yeah, like refusing to take anti-seizure medication and now she's had a series of goddamn seizures. You two have some incredible fucking nerve. Seriously."
Stephanie moved around Henry to stand between him and Bette. "We're going to have a good time in Court. My lawyer is gonna rip you a new one."
Bette shook her head. "I-I really love the way you've embraced your faith. What would Jesus do? 'Hey, Judas, my lawyer's going to rip you a new one?' Bette actually thought of Stephanie as a Judas. Bette hadn't turned on Tina the way her sister had. Stephanie had ingratiated herself in Bette's life when she arrived, thanking her repeatedly for helping her sister, telling her that all of her support was appreciated and that the Kennards were thankful that Tina had her. It hadn't taken Bette long to pick up the truth, but the betrayal still stung. For years, she had thought that Tina was in some way ashamed of her, but the reason she and Bette didn't visit North Carolina was obvious now. Stephanie was one impossible bitch to deal with. "I can't wait to see you in Court. The judge is going to see through you so fast your head will spin. You can wear your big gold cross and pretend to be such an altruistic soul, but my lawyer is going to have you on the next plane back to North Carolina."
'I have nothing to hide. You're not a blood relative, I am. You left her last year. You stepped out on my sister and then you walked out on her. I have every email that Tina sent. She confided in me about you. I'm going to use your own actions and words against you, Bette. You think you're better than everyone." Stephanie added using the tone of a train conductor, "Next stop--Rude Awakening."
Tina turned, her eyes opened and closed; she grunted and inhaled deeply, and then groaned once more, but Stephanie and Bette didn't notice. "Tina and I have decided that I am going to continue as her Medical Power of Attorney." Bette said with glee.
"That is going to change, I promise you," Stephanie threatened.
"Don't be so sure of yourself."
Stephanie smiled and said, "Tomorrow is a new day and I know the Lord is on my side."
Bette's words were low, but biting. "The law is on my side. I don't care at this point if she-if she doesn't want that medicine. She's taking it. Period. You can't stop it. She can't stop it. If Tina wants to breastfeed Angelica, she's just going to have to wait. There isn't going to be any breastfeeding until I say she can. Tina's going to have to get over it. Your Doctor McPherson was her doctor. I have decided that he is no longer going to act in that role. I have decided. Not you. Not Tina. I am in complete control here. You wanna go to Court? Let's do it, but when we're finished in Court, I want you to take your scrawny ass back to North Carolina or to the Valley with your new man. I don't care. This, I'll tell you, Stephanie--I'm going to keep you away from her. If it takes an order of protection, whatever, think of this moment as one of your last with Tina."
Theresa interjected, "Bette, please. You're upset. Let's not be hasty."
Bette turned to look at Tina's mother. With a coolness that dropped the temperature in the room several degrees, Bette said, "You raised a bitch, Theresa. I don't like saying it, but Stephanie is an evil little monster. Take a look at Tina. Take a look at your other daughter. That's Stephanie's doing. She didn't want Tina on the medication she needed to make a full recovery. I-I don't know what drives her. Jealousy, anger, hatred. Does she hate Tina?" She turned to look at Stephanie and McPherson. "Do you hate her?" Before Stephanie could answer, Bette had turned back to Theresa. "Stephanie has been a detriment to Tina's healing. She has undermined me, you, her doctor. On the other hand, you can't tell me one thing that Stephanie has done that has been helpful to Tina. The wigs? Implying that Tina was ugly, that she didn't look right? Tina's beautiful." She paused, turned to Stephanie and McPherson, and then returned her gaze to Theresa. "One thing, just name one thing, Theresa? And screwing her sister's doctor doesn't count."
"Henry and I are friends."
Bette looked at her and said, "So not interested."
Once she had arrived home from Bette and Tina's, Helena didn't rush to call Dylan. She had wanted to, but she was determined to think with her head and not her infatuation. She had done a bit of Shaolin Studios worksigning papers that her assistant had dropped off at her home, made two calls that would be collected the next morning to the animation department and the sound division, and read through her email choosing not to respond to most.
She showered and thought about work. Intentionally, she focused on all things not Dylan. Helena sent one long email to her children. She told them how much she loved and missed them, wrote about how she was spending time with Angelica, Tina's new baby and pledged they would love her. She ended the email by asking them to be good little children and to say hello to their other Mommy. When she closed her laptop for the night, she thought that Winnie would probably hire someone to find out what that last statement was supposed to mean. She had given Winnie reason to be paranoid, but tonight she decided to stand-down from what had become their perpetual quarreling.
Helena removed her dressing gown and dropped it onto the plush rose colored velvet wing-backed chair. She elegantly floated across the room to her bed. She was wearing a beautiful, Vera Wang nightgown, the color of a rich vanilla milkshake. At first glance, it looked like a simple gown, but miniature crystals trimmed the bodice, and it was 100% imported silk from China.
She pulled the duvet back and slid into bed. At once she picked up her mobile and called her.
Helena smiled. "Hello, Dylan."
"I was so hoping you'd call."
"It's not too late, then."
"No, I've been hopelessly waiting by the phone all night. I wanted to hear your voice."
"Well, here I am. You called. Is there an urgency?"
Dylan didn't waste a moment. "Yes. Yes, there is something urgent." Dylan rushed. "I want you, Helena. I'm scared. I film these gangsta girls and rappers and I never felt the kind of fear I'm feeling now."
"I've never felt like this. It's new."
Helena turned out the light. Dylan's voice was smooth and warmed her. The last sound she wanted to hear before she drifted off was Dylan talking to her. "How do you feel?"
"Crazy, mad, nuts. I can't stop thinking about you. I can't stop picturing you in my mind. I can't stop replaying our kisses in my head. And then my head starts to spin and I feel so much."
"Umm," Helena uttered. "That's nice to hear."
"It's more than that. What we did. . .what we started to do the other day, the way you let me touch you. I get excited when I think about you."
"Oh, come on, Helena. Are you going to make me spell it out?"
"Yes." One hand held the phone and the other delicately moved over her abdomen. Helena enjoyed the feel of the silk fabric under her hand.
"I get excited. Turned on. I don't know what it's like to be with a woman, but I want to know. I keep imagining what you might do and what you might like."
"Ummm." Helena sighed. "Tell me."
Dylan chuckled softly. "You're determined to embarrass me."
"Don't be embarrassed, love."
"God, your voice." Dylan exhaled deeply. "I don't know. I want to kiss you. I want to kiss you and keep kissing you. I want to touch every inch of your body. I've touched you there now. It's in my head. It's in my soul. I want to touch you over and over like that. I keep thinking that it might be wonderful."
"May I offer this? I've had the same thoughts."
Helena couldn't see Dylan's smile but felt it. "You have?"
"Oh, Dylan, you know I have. Surely you could tell?"
"I hoped. I wanted." Dylan paused, hesitating, then said, "Yeah. I'm not sure I should want you this much, but I do. I called you a few times tonight, but didn't leave messages." She confessed, "All night, I've been sitting here trying to work and then I start thinking about how you caressed my breast, how good it felt to have you put your mouth on me. Then I go back to editing and my heart races thinking about what it felt like to stroke you. I-I can't express it. It's what I've wanted."
"Ummm." Helena's hand moved from her abdomen and down her gown, gently dancing over her thigh, and then moving up again, past her flat belly and up to the lacy material covering her breast. She squeezed a handful of her breast and felt her nipple tighten. "If you were here right now, what would you do?"
"Helena, I wouldn't know what to do. I really don't have a clue. You tell me, how would I make love to you?"
"You seemed to know what to do earlier. Uh-uh-uh. You're the filmmaker; you set the scene."
Dylan cleared her throat. "Uh, I can't."
"Try. Go ahead, then."
"Are you in bed now?"
Dylan hesitated and Helena waited. Finally she said, "I imagine that I'm there with you--in bed, next to you. I turn to you and-and we kiss. When you kiss me my stomach muscles quiver and it feels like there are these tiny little hummingbirds fluttering around in there. So we're kissing and I feel weak in your arms. What are you wearing?"
"A white silk gown."
"Oh, God, Helena. I wish I was there. I wish I could see you in that."
"It's beautiful. Very soft. It feels good against my skin. I chose it with you in mind, Dylan."
"Really. Go on."
"Well, I start touching you or you know, your gown. I start moving my hands over your gown and it feels good to me, but I want to feel your skin."
"Yes, that would be quite enjoyable."
"I push my hand up your gown, pushing the gown up as I go." Helena did just that. "Since I was in college, I thought about what it would be like to be with a woman, but it was always a fleeting thought. Only when I saw you did I ever want to make my thought a reality and now, more than ever. The other day was like an appetizer and now I want the full main course." Helena laughed. She massaged the top of her thigh as she listened to Dylan. "Right now, Helena, I feel like I can smell your arousal. Just like the other morning in your office, when I inhaled, that brief whiff of you made my eyes close. This thing I'm feeling is stronger than anything I've ever felt. I'm with you this very second, moving your gown up, I see what I've been imagining for days and its-its beautiful and I don't know, I feel weird. Complete. Like I finally understand everything. Like that thing that's been missing in me isn't missing anymore."
Helena lifted her ass and pulled the gown further up. She left the phone next to her pillow as she sat up and removed the expensive sleepwear and fell back into bed.
"Helena? Helena? Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Thoroughly." The phone leaned against the pillow and Helena's ear so that both hands were free. Helena massaged her breasts and pulled and twisted her nipples as she listened to Dylan's low voice tell her what's been on her mind. "Do you touch me there, Dylan?"
"Yes. Just like a few days ago, but much better, I hope." Dylan giggled nervously. "I don't know how, so I just keeping moving up your body, slowly getting you naked. You lift and I remove your gown and your breasts are right there and I'm drawn to them. You have these beautiful tiny, little nipples."
Helena laughed. "Not exactly."
Dylan paused. "You have big nipples?"
"Ah, I like that." Dylan thought for a second and then said, "I see those erect nipples and even though I'm not sure what to do, I start touching you the way I like to be touched."
"How's that?" Helena said. Her chest rose and fell visibly as she twisted and pinched her own nipples, used her palms to make circles over them and the harder they got, the more her clitoris trembled.
"I think I'd pinch them and then bend my head to take them in my mouth. I'd suck on one, then move over to suck on the other. Back and forth as you moved under me and you'd wrap your legs around mine." Dylan was quiet for a few moments before she said, "You know what, Helena?"
"I'm so wet," Dylan said as if she were mystified by this revelation.
Helena breathed audibly, but didn't comment.
"Are you wet?" Dylan asked.
She wouldn't answer. Instead, Helena said. "Tell me, are you enjoying yourself?"
"Are you touching yourself?"
"What do you think?"
"I don't know. That's why I asked."
"Yes, Helena, I'm touching myself."
"Tell me how."
"I'm moving my finger against my clitoris. It's hard and my nerves are fully on the surface. It's just a tiny bit painful how turned on I am."
"What are you thinking about?"
"Your big nipples." Dylan laughed.
"And. . ."
"What it would feel like to feel your mouth where my hand is right now."
"What do you think it would feel like, Dylan? How would it feel for my face to be between your legs?"
"Fabulous. No guy has ever done that to me very well and I can only imagine what it would feel like."
"I can tell you, when someone does it well, it feels better than anything."
"Do you do it well, Helena?"
Helena had bent her legs, her knees were up and one hand opened up her labia while the other hand slid up and down the inner lips, moving all of her wetness over her vulva. Her hips undulated as she began to tickle her clit. She was completely juicy down there. She lifted and slipped two fingers inside and began to fuck herself. One hand moved back up to her breast and played with her nipple.
"I want you to do that. That's what I think aboutyour mouth on me that way."
Helena closed her eyes as she pushed deeper with her fingers and her other hand went back down to touch her clit. She rolled it between her index finger and thumb. Helena bit her lip and turned her head away from the phone as she sighed much more vocally.
Dylan grinned knowing that Helena was touching herself.
"Can you imagine doing that to me, Helena?"
"I can, yes."
"Would you put your fingers inside me?"
"I would. I'd love to make love to you. Can I ask you, Dylan. . .?" Helena was getting closer. She removed her fingers and moved them up her body to her mouth. She licked her juices off while she kept rubbing her clit. She was moving faster and faster over it."
"Ask me anything?"
"Will you come for me? When I go down on you and put my fingers inside of you and love you, will you come for me and say my name?"
"God, yes, Helena. Yes, of course. I'd say your name. I'd say Helena. I'd come for you and whisper your name." Dylan was quiet, then hoarsely she moaned and said, "Helena."
Helena's body came off the bed and her mouth formed into an "O" as she silently climaxed. Her body shook and bounced on the bed until she slowly came down, turning the mouthpiece of the phone against the mattress so Dylan couldn't hear the sounds she couldn't hide.
Dylan knew that Helena had had an orgasm. During this entire conversation, Dylan had remained upright, sitting in a cushioned computer chair, trying not to excite herself, but she didn't lie when she told Helena she was wet, and she couldn't hide her desire when she finally slipped her hand inside her shorts, stroked her clit three or four times and came, too.
She panted for Helena to hear because she wanted Helena to hear and because the orgasm was so powerful it couldn't be hidden if she had wanted.
"God. God." Dylan moaned.
Helena held the phone in her hand. "Dylan," she began tenderly. "I'd like to see you again. I think we can work things out. I have to be in court tomorrow, but can I see you in the evening. Will you come out to Malibu?"
"Oh, God," Dylan said with a sexual moan. She laughed and added, "I'd love to talk to you before we see each other. Can I call you?"
"I'll be in public all day. I don't think I could tolerate another conversation like this."
"No, just to say hello."
"But. . .Helena? Tomorrow night in Malibu. . .I'll be there for more than an hello."
Bette showered, changed into Tina's navy blue pajamas and got in bed. Her Blackberry rang, and she breathed a sigh of relief when it wasn't the ring that identified the Center. She looked at the number, but it wasn't familiar. "Hello?"
"Sorry to call so late, Bette. How's Tina?" Whittington March asked.
"She's doing okay. She didn't want to take her meds, but I made the decision."
"So you acted as her Power of Attorney?"
"Well, I still am, Whit." Bette sighed. Why was everyone questioning my role?
"I don't have a problem with that. What I'm asking is was she unable to make the decision?"
"Yes," Bette said no more.
"Bette, we're going to undoubtedly go through a full hearing, then. We're not going to be able to call this in. If Tina can't make decisions, then she can't say that she wants you or anyone else to act for her."
"She's doing better."
"Will she attend tomorrow's hearing?"
"I expect not."
"Then. . . ." Whit was thinking about his approach tomorrow.
"I-I really don't think I'll have difficulties tomorrow. I'd like you to add Dr. Selena Frazier-Jones to your list of witnesses. She was shocked to hear that her colleague had taken Tina off of her medication. She'll speak on our side."
"Do you know she will?"
"She knows the truth."
"I'm certain Frazier-Jones will want to protect her career and job. I'm not calling her to testify until I've spoken with her."
"Fine. Call her." Bette said curtly. Whit had not listened to any of her ideas. He had his own way. "How long do you expect this hearing to last?"
"There's no telling. The judge will hear all testimony from both sides, evaluate it, and shortly after make his judgment. You know, Bette, I want you to walk in feeling confident. You and Tina have discussed this; you have a long-term relationship with her; you're registered domestic partners in West Hollywood and in California; and Tina's mother is one hundred percent on your side and not even speaking to her other daughter. If I weren't a naturally cautious person, I'd say this is a doddle."
Whit laughed. "A doddle. Child's play. Easy-peasy."
"Let's hope for that."
"Bette, two more items before I end."
"Kennard's attorney is a media whore. He's probably sent press releases to the papers and television stations. Our judge won't allow cameras in his courtroom, so no worries there. But he'll try to smear your name. As you know Candace Jewell is on the list of witnesses. . ."
Bette rolled her eyes.
"Franklin Phillips, you've told me is not a friend and when I spoke with him, I'd have to say that you wholly exaggerated how much he likes you. That man hates you and knows his way around language well enough to not only ruin your reputation, but act like he's doing you a favor in the process."
"Franklin. Bastard," Bette said under her breath.
"He's not in your corner. According to Mr. Phillips, he attributes to you the following quote that was aimed at him, 'I'd like to murder somebody. Maybe you.'"
"He fucking fired me at my father's service. Surely you can point that out to the judge and make it favorable for me."
"Leo knows nothing about me. Not one goddamn thing. This is what I know about himhe came in and stole my job right from under me.
"Bette, this is just to let you know what we're up against."
"It never ends." Bette shook her head. "Okay."
"Get some rest. I'll see you in court tomorrow."
Bette hung up and slid down into bed.
Whit March and Bette Porter moved quickly down the corridor of the Santa Monica Court House. Whit was dressed in an expensive looking, pin-striped, black, stuffy European-cut suit. He looked ready for action. Next to him, Bette wore a Dana Buchman gray twill suit and black Enzo Angiolini pumps that clicked authoritatively on the marble floor. Together, they looked like a couple of means and power. Whit's hand was on Bette's lower back guiding her down the hall. They spoke in hushed tones as they turned the corner toward the room where their hearing would take place. Sitting on a bench outside the courtroom door was Candace Jewell. At first, Bette didn't recognize her. Candace's hair was completely down, wavy, and shiny. The navy blue suit she wore was tailored and becoming. Bette did a double-take and shyly whispered hello.
Candace stood. "I'm sorry I have to be here. You don't have to worry about my testimony. I'm not here to get back at you or hurt you. I like you too much to have them destroy you," Candace whispered.
Whit moved Bette forward. It wouldn't pay to have her talking to witnesses. Bette turned, tossed over her shoulder a soft, "Thank you."
When they entered the courtroom, the first person Bette saw sitting in the last row near the door was Roberta Colley, their social worker. It was one of the last people Bette wanted to see. Colley was already biased and whatever came out during this hearing would make it so much worse. Bette instantly saw her chance of legally adopting Angelica fade to nothing. She bit her lip and courageously moved forward. Stephanie Kennard and her lawyer, Mr. McGhee sat at the plaintiff's table shooting daggers at Bette and Whit when they entered. Directly behind them in the gallery sat Dr. Henry McPherson looking both smug and supportive. Bette frowned at him. The big asshole almost killed Tina.
Bette and Whit took their places at the defense table and sat patiently waiting for events to begin. Bette smiled over at Stephanie, remembering that the Buddha had arrows slung at him and as they approached, his mind was able to turn the tips of the arrows into beautiful, yet harmless flowers. She imagined doing the same and remained confident as Whit leaned over to her.
"The media didn't show. That's a good sign," Whit whispered in Bette's ear. "McGhee is going to get bored with a case that doesn't get him publicity. He'll just want to finish up and go. I think it's okay that Tina isn't here. We have so much going for us that her testimony isn't required."
Alice, Carmen, and Theresa arrived followed by Shane who took one last sip from the Styrofoam cup and tossed it in the nearby trashcan. The women walked down the aisle and to the bench behind the Defense table. Kit arrived a few minutes later and whispered to Bette that Angus was watching Angelica. Theresa leaned forward and touched Bette's shoulder. Her daughter-in-law turned to look at her.
"Bette, honey, I wish we weren't goin' through this. I think it'll say a lot to the judge that I'm over here on your side. I can't be more ashamed. I just can't."
Bette smiled. There was nothing else to say about that. Theresa had apologized dozens of times. It was unfortunate, but something had changed between them. Bette didn't want to blame Theresa for Stephanie's actions, but what she had said to her father in his hospital room kept returning to her mind'I am your creation.' Something had made Stephanie so spiteful and full of hate.
Bette took a deep breath when the bailiff stood, preparing to call the hearing to order. Just as he was about to speak, the public door of the Courtroom opened. Bette, Whit, their friends, and family and the group on the other side of the aisle turned to see who else was coming in and saw one of the Neuro-Trauma Center nurses enter the room, pushing Tina in a wheelchair. Bette was surprised to see Tina wearing one of those wigs, but she looked much better than she had the night before. Bette grinned at her, pleased that Tina was well enough to attend this farce of a hearing, and to have her say. The nurse bent to Tina and said something in her ear. Tina turned her head and whispered a response while Bette gestured to her friends to move down again to make room for Tina and the wheelchair. Bette expected that the nurse would push Tina down the aisle; instead, she pushed the brake down on the wheelchair, patted Tina's hand, and then scooted onto the bench next to Roberta Colley. Bette looked quizzically at Tina and was shocked to see Tina cut her eyes at her, roll them, and then lower her gaze to ignore Bette. Bette was dumbfounded.
Bette stood, desperate to talk to her about what was happening, but Whit grabbed her arm, pulled her back into the chair. "Now is not the time, Bette. You'll find out soon enough. Court's about to commence."
"B-but what is she doing? She saw me make space for her. What's she doing?"
"We don't want a scene. Settle in and when there's a break, we'll find. . ."
"Fine," Bette said tightly. She didn't want to hear Whit.
She turned to face Tina, but her eyes panned over to Roberta Colley who watched the scene between the couple unfold with interest. Bette's upper lip was close to forming into a sneer. Colley's face was impassive, giving nothing away, but Bette knew that whatever she thought she was witnessing between the two women didn't bode well for her adoption of Angelica. Bette looked at Tina again and mouthed, "Why?"
From Season 3
a) Kit and Angus say that they're going to perform the song Transformation for Tina (Season 3, Episode 8)
b) Stephanie telling Tina that she and Henry fucked against the door of the bedroom with his estranged spouse (Season 3, Episode 8Tina commits that betrayalto piss me off)
To Be Continued
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